go back with me. go back, go back, go back. we are holding hands in memory, watch the year unfold again.
painting gold branches on byzantium walls (how fitting, how right), early morning sunshine across unwilling faces. the pink and gold of the sun burning down. crisp, cold walks with excited puppies across bridges of light and concrete paths. frost flowers that obscure the window to new worlds. light caught and refracted a thousand times. fairy pools. putting it together, piece by piece. roadtrips. always the roadtrips. sunset after sunset on miles going by. small places to stop. white blonde hair. neon water. feeling put together. saucy burlesque, the man in the dress. building this edifice, this digital monument, piece by piece. i worked for this. i fought for this. wisteria, like magic. petals floating on water. raindrops, wet moss. bare feet in grass. the heat growing around us. silence of bamboo and initials in a thousand languages. is the fish a star? can you make a wish on it? memories of ghosts and hair like rope. incense burning in open windows. black leather. lace. skin. crystals soaking up moonlight. seeing through someone else’s eyes. stars caught in mugs of dark liquid. reflected dreams. the smallest churches. puddles of forgetfulness. loud music, joy, bass like thunder in my chest. looking like a doll. scramble of panic. flying across the country. hot city, cool thin air outside. the endlessness of prairie and its chittering dogs. so many strangers. air again, excited crew members. the lights of vegas. the endlessness of the days. the grand canyon, where rock and air meet and make love. the hoover dam, the weight of the death it contains. so many vistas, they all bleed together. underneath it all, fear and a cough that won’t quit. trying to forget it. trying to ignore it.
it doesn’t work.
the flags are all dead, at the tops of their poles. you weren’t enough. he left you again. do you remember? you do. but you forgot for another chance, another chance, always another chance. how many times do you forgive? you’ve lost count. you try to forget.
the air is like water around us. we go for walks among trees, beside rivers, canyons of wood around us. to breathe is to heavy. everything fractures behind my camera lens. i watch them smile, feel so disconnected. lost. i sink myself into the smallest moments. the personas to save me. the alien. the artist. the ingenue, still. i draw and write and wander new places, alone. and you are wearing on me, wearing me down. wearing me down for another chance. of course, i say, of course. yes.
lana is in my head and i’m singing to myself when the tiger lilies show their spots. i lost my full time job, my easy ride, my cushion of money. of course i did. i was foolish, and ill, and those are never a good combination. i make up the time filled with guilt by laying flooring and looking for work. there’s a little construction worker inside me, now. she makes conversation with the rest of me like all the others do. her favorite topics are how to put things together with her hands, or maybe take them apart. maybe she started it all.
my birthday happens. i think that was the beginning of the end. the sweet spot, before reality crashes in. brilliant haze of days. the high of summer. i’m still building my nest, piece by piece, making magic, filled with hope. you have plans, dreams, goals. you’re going to make it happen. i believe you. i always do. i find another job, another part-time, to fill the time. i make friends with frogs. i try on new faces. i cast spells built on faith and hope for a better tomorrow. the weight of the compliments almost drowns me. i was never good at the spotlight, it’s an acquired taste.
you’re here, then. and the days pass in a blur. wilmington, sand and sea foam on our toes. late nights. wine. the ocean breeze in my hair. adventures downtown. new things, always new things. we are both plotting. how to make each other happy, i think. i’m more the witch than i’ve ever been. the art flows out of me. i managed to get a full-time position. it’s not the best, but it’s good enough. i’m planning for school. i’m making steps. the unease is setting in.
halloween, just before. my hair a bright red. almost orange. i wanted a change. i’m ariel in skirt of the deepest crushed velvet green. we gather around the fire and tell stories. roast marshmallows. pretend that we aren’t all adults and that tomorrow doesn’t hold all the responsibilities we’ve let go of in the now. in the moments away from everyone else, the fear sinks into my bones. your words cut me the same as they always have. my heart is crying.
i’m making friends at work. again. you never liked that, when they were men. i mention one of them, and that backfires so i don’t mention the others. maybe i just wanted connection. maybe i just want to know that i’m not isolated to this small circle that you rage against. but you never wanted what was best for me, not truly. not sincerely. i learned that too late.
i make the mistake of inviting someone new over for a social night. it is too much, too far. your anger is beyond containment. on the back of words only days before, this the end of the ending. my anger is volcanic. i will not back down. i will not surrender this last vestige of respect that i hold for myself in the face of everything i have been with you. it’s done.
i didn’t know until it was over that i had been waiting for it to be done for months. that the last time i shouldn’t have tried again. that was my mistake.
i’ve never felt more free. not in recent memory. not in further memory. and that is what keeps me strong when you come back, back, back again, asking if it’s really over. this is my fault. i let you come back so many times, this time just doesn’t seem real to you like it does to me. the difference is that this time, i have nothing left to give. i feel emptied out. i’m a shell, the ocean roaring in my ears. i can’t hear the words you’re speaking. i can’t understand them anymore. i’ve let go. i’m drowning in this water for a new beginning.
and the year ends, sliding out as it slid in. slowly, imperceptibly. i am distracted, as always. new things. new beginnings. new hopes. new plans. when you find a good thing it is difficult to believe its reality in the face of what came before. i am trying. i am trying so very hard. this is so small. a slip of green against the earth. a baby chick, beak cracking against shell. the first light of dawn. i will grab onto it with both hands until it gives me reason to let go.
in the middle of it all i am holding myself. so gently. so carefully. so completely.
because that’s all i ever really needed to do.