Patterns in a single drop of water
The water runs.
I prop myself against the door, holding it shut, knees tucked to my chest. I breathe in steam, watching liquid pool and turn itself into drops of illusions, of memory. It tries to flood, to leak out, to take over, but ends up just like me, crouching in the corner, off to the side, avoiding the closing credits of this dream.
I finger paint letters around the bathtub rim.
I run my fingers through them, staining my skin with my own dirt and decay.
I watch as the patterns spread, placing signs that point back to my own hands.
These lines, they are supposed to tell the truth.
I’m the only one left to tell our story now.
Promises, escape routes, twist and turns of broken pathways that lead me far from home, they speak up, pushing me to spell out each name.
I wonder if I carve up my skin, slide the razor across the center of each palm, could I mark my way to freedom, to disarray, to the start of something new?
I close my eyes.
I return to that moving truck.
The last load.
The final three boxes.
I trace the past back into me. I trace an outline of you.
We were riding along a cross-country change, a tri-state killing of self, an us just about ready to end.
I keep turning up the radio.
You half-heartedly sing-a-long.
But no matter how far we ran they still found us. Those sweepstakes calls pushed through telephone lines, and mile markers, inviting us back into the gambler’s game of “I do.”
They find you even with a change of address, of hair color, of birth names.
I wonder what happened to that picture we took that day, the polaroid with your sun-squinting eyes, and mine with worry swimming inside the gold specked brown and all those sleepless red lines.
We were trying to resurrect desire in the middle of that desert, summoning up want and need, offering a lonely heart’s trade to cactus, pretending we weren’t just a mirage.
I try to wash it off me, this memory.
I try to chase it down the drain, out to sea, and beyond.
But your voice keeps ringing in my ears. And all the broken pieces that scattered on that passenger seat, and bled into the coffee-stained floorboards, they still cut me open. I’m still bleeding that would-be firstborn out of me.
We’d sat there the next day, side-by-side in a hospital parking lot, offering each other temporary tattooed resolutions.
Playing the game of what if we’d never gone, what if we’d driven through the desert at night, and not in the mid-day sun, what if we’d made just one more stop.
You offered me some platitude about a higher plan, forgetting that god and I had broken up years ago. That he’d been the first one I’d ever asked to go.
At month’s end we’d found ourselves in another parking lot, this time in a red hatchback, smack in the middle of a “you go your way and I’ll go mine” goodbye. The sound of the car door slam behind you startled me, but I’d sat there, unmoving, flash-frozen, waiting to see if you’d turn around one last time.
Were you afraid of turning to salt? Of becoming part of the Santa Monica sand? Of disappearing?
Or were you afraid you’d just come back for more?
I step into the bath.
My body sinks beneath the surface, lemon rind bubbles tickling my nose.
My breath has gone electric. Senses set to high volume, switching over to the frequency of catastrophe, of colliding memory, of my pulse beating itself into a rhythm of youthful dismay.
I’m not that girl anymore; the one so quick to leap into lips and lashes, twisting herself inside out and backwards, opening wide enough to hold another’s gaping need.
I remember her though, that blue streaked tragedy girl. I grab hold of her now and try to drown her. I try to drain her out of me, so I can pull myself out clean, new, dripping in denial.
I imagine you in the next room sleeping, hands twitching in a REM patterned dance, your eyelids flickering in tandem – could the water remnants bring back life into your caramel coloring, your murmured heartbeat, your once needle free existence?
I wear the remnants of you on my own skin, you cling to my edges, your words collapsing into sinew streaks and white blood cells, leading, misleading, becoming mistakes covered in pale pink flesh, flushing red from the too hot tap water.
I wore a silver ring once.
I wore it with a borrowed dress made of doubt that matched your thrift store suit perfectly.
You held tight to my box of messy indiscretions, complimenting all my dressed-up issues, even when they tore at the hem and hung ragged around my ankles.
You painted over them, my body a canvas, turning my breakdowns into something just shy of beautiful.
I’d be lying if I said I don’t miss it sometimes, the artist strokes, playing the part of lover, and partner, and muse.
I’d be lying if I said I never miss you.
Dying never ended the missing.
I stand up.
Not sure where to step, where not to slip, where to balance as I let my body run dry.
I feel colder, older, and lost somewhere between the recollected wonderment of what if and that familiar clamor of responsibility that shouts out from the other side of the door.
The should-do lectures link arms with this memorial. We spin together, circling the drain, flirting with fatality.
I know we once dreamed all our dreams together, blowing bubble-gum kisses across a crowded room.
Even in sleep we used to swap secrets, stories, lies.
We traded skeletal confessions, and childhood fairy tales, pretending that monsters never win.
You tried to make me believe in the impossible. Your words doing their best to convince that there’s only one true love.
I never quite believed you. And you never could see past the confines of jealousy.
Even in the throes of our ugliest fights, though, I used to reach for your hand, ever trying to connect us without words, to transcend the confining labels, definitions, body language.
Trying to make us fluid.
Sometimes we both succeeded.
Some days I believed in ever after’s.
Other days you saw possibilty beyond our own bodies.
But most of the time we never made sense at all.
The last time, that last night, you asked me if happy enough would ever be enough.
I said I could ask the same of you, babe.
I could ask the same of you.
Maybe we traded those fleeting moments for all the marks of adulthood.
Maybe we let go of desire when the last box was lifted.
Maybe I had just too many permanent scars.
“I won’t be the one to let go first”
Those were the last words I’d ever here. From you.
But it wasn’t me who let go first.
No, I just bricked up a wall around me, of wishing, of wanting more, of defying impossibilities.
I’d peek over in the morning, forward leaning, defying more rules.
You threw a daisy at me.
I have it etched forever on my skin. It wraps around a name that’s no longer mine.
The first time we met I handed you a cherry lollipop. You bought me a box of Band-Aids, enough, you said, to mend all the pain that came before.
We tried to wear the wings of karma’s change maker.
I mean, this is the city of angels, isn’t it?
I can still hear the lilt in your voice, the tremor in your laughter.
I can still feel the way the curve of my spine once bent a little father at the sound of your voice.
But building those walls cut my hands up bad. They are still so bloody and torn. And these look backs, these glimpses, they make my stomach burn. Like too much caffeine. Like the back throat drip of cocaine. Like the taste of regret.
You never filled me up. No, you just mixed yourself up with me, never adding a not to my vacancy. Prolonging my fixated insomnia as I’d lie there on my left side, eyes to the wall, counting the steps along my rib cage, counting each step towards our finish line.
Sometimes I can hear you still.
Sometimes I still hear you.
You calling me your “Wonderwall”.
Me saying you’ll always be my “Troy”.
Maybe in these echoes, in this admitting, in my voice singing softly to your ghost, I have found my way back to okay. In this steamed up bathroom, in song titles and track listings, this tape unravels and frays. It finally breaks.
Music speaks where words fail, you see.
It’s always been that way. For me.
Those who can speak to me in songs, who accept that I can do the same, are cord-connected people, the ones you never forget, or cut out easily. Even in absences, in evolutions, in getting the fuck over it, I will still remember a song someone gives me.
I will still define each “us” in a lyrical array of feeling, and finality, and forever.
The music did not die with you.
It never dies.
Maybe this will read like denial. Resolution can sound more like attempted resurrection.
But all I’m really saying is life is sometimes beautiful, and sometimes terrible, and always strange.
If I could hand you a pen.
If I could hold the paper still.
We could rewrite perspectives, trade wish you were here postcards through some afterworld postal service.
I’d scrawl out the words I think I’m finally ready now.
To open the door.
Stepping out into the mayhem of now, letting you go.
My fingers are water-logged, creased up and marked on each tip. But my eyes, they are starting to clear.
Sometimes it takes an ocean’s distance to clear out the you in the me.
Sometimes it takes saying yes you once existed, and once we did love.
Sometimes it takes a water logged bathroom to say I can finally let you go.
Oceans :: Seafret