A folded corner of a page in your life

I look under D for Didion in biographies, but find The Writing Life instead. The title draws me in, and then closer, as I open to a random page and find a half folded Delta boarding ticket someone used as a bookmark.
But you are wrong if you think that in the actual writing, or the actual painting, you are filling in the vision. You cannot fill the vision. You cannot even bring the vision to light. You are wrong if you think that you can in any way take the vision and tame it to the page. The page is jealous and tyrannical; the page is made of time and matter; the page always wins (Dillard, 1989, p. 56).
Closer still, Alexander flew from Portland to JFK airport on April 21st in an unidentifiable year. I picture him seated comfortably somewhere, a beige coat draped over the back of his chair, minutes before boarding call. As he makes his way to his seat and finally sits down, he tucks his ticket in the book and places it on his lap as he looks out the window and runs his palm over the smooth dust jacket. He looks into the distance, seeing particles in between like the stars in a night sky, and floats in and out of memories he can no longer tell apart from past and present.

All I know for certain is that what I feel is real, as real as the floor in this room, the weight of the bones and flesh of my body pressing against it.

Reading on the train, I surprise myself with a sudden laugh as I read a description of a woman watching her husband attempt to shoot down a woodpecker from the roof of their house. I look up from the page and notice the observing eyes of a little girl sitting across, looking at me, then cupping her hands over her mother's ear to whisper something. We make eye contact and she averts her gaze, crosses her legs, impersonating a grown up. I think of what I was like when I was her age, so impatient for life to begin.

This year I've felt more at home in my own skin than I've ever been. Through all the hurt and triumphs, I have finally come to a place of acceptance. I close my eyes and remember walking further and further away on a tear-blurred street, so as not to see or be seen by anyone. It was in the depths of miserable courses, I thought the finish line was nowhere near. Those two long years flew by and concluded the end of my academic endeavors. While finishing my degree is among my greatest achievements of 2019, what I've come to value most are the more personal lessons. 

I learned that time makes room for more beautiful memories that make the painful ones more bearable to live with. That no matter how much you love someone, loving is not enough to carry a relationship into the next chapter of your life and forcing it slows down and spoils the writing. Don't be afraid to let go, it doesn't mean saying goodbye although it feels like that and often times it does.

A flock of swans in the water at night look like ghosts. The couples float alongside one another, their graceful long necks gently touching and rubbing together. If I found them in a book, I would have folded the corner of the page to remember. 

To be a swan in the night is to live forever.


November

November brings rain, the crisp smell of fall has gone away to leave room for the burnt wood of winter. The coldness in the air brings about emptiness, a sensation of being out in the open in a vast place.

Walking on the jagged sidewalk, a Scottish white furred terrier is out for his scheduled evening stroll. The stride of his wide and short little legs looks defeated by the rain, walking through a puddle while other dogs playfully jump alongside its edge. His tail stands weakly upright, a slight sign of hope. His entire being seems to represent complete acceptance of being soaked, but devotedly continuing on in anticipation of the warmth and sweetness waiting for him at home.

Bordeaux is the cat's name, I find out surprisingly quickly through a vague internet search. The black cat with a reversed mustache who slept on a cushion on the windowsill in the wine shop. The cushion is no longer there, nor is the sign that read not to tap on the glass. It is highly probably the cat has died and it makes me sad.

For a while, I keep going to clothing stores after work in search of a new me. I recently browsed through racks in a fashion retailer and apart from the frustration of sifting through a mess of clothes, I was disgusted by all the litter. There were candy wrappers on the floor, an unfinished or finished (not that it matters) sandwich left in a shoe box, a plastic half filled soda cup in a coat isle, a banana peel on top of a sweater rack. The gross display of complete disregard for public decency makes me feel ill and envision living on a different continent, somewhere with quaint streets full of history and restaurants that keep tables outside without chaining them down to discourage thievery.


I take myself out to dinner/delayed lunch, any table for two and I sit on the high table by the window with Lily next to my cappuccino. It is too late in the evening for coffee, but how can I resist in a dim room with twinkling string lights? The first few pages were dull, disappointing even, until I understood. Her writing is like listening to a close friend who gets intimate, revealing facts that are rarely spoken aloud. It is the kind of writing I want to do more of, present and deeply personal. Lily (with one l) is alarming at first because she starts in the middle, in the inner-most parts of things.


Scream. I am standing against a wall on the opposite side of a room with a man. I cannot.

Why not?

I am uncomfortable being loud.

I'd like to say more on being loud. I have been making an effort to escape all the noise.

On the side streets at night I find peace with the crunching of the leaves, the volume turned down on the world, the headlights shining on a fluffy rabbit sitting still on a lawn. In a coffee shop, the music makes me uneasy and a girl that works there is making noise as she takes away the trash bags for closing time. At home, each drop from our leaky shower breaks my heart. It really does. The slightest sounds often do. I'd like to say more on how a whisper can make the loudest of sounds.

Crimson sky

On a night walk to the market before closing time, the insects buzz and chirp. The pulse of the summer grows harder in certain trees and tall shrubs on the path, under the opened windows with a faint glow of warm light shining from the inside of a beautiful home with an elaborate facade. At night, on those special streets hidden under the city blanket, I can see the twinkle of stars in the sky and puffs of white clouds that remain clear as day in the cluster of street lamps glowing in the distance.

Fall starts with rain, the heat of summer still clinging to the air. I lean my elbow on the foggy windowsill of a rush hour train, and concentrate on the book I am holding in front of me over the plump bag on my lap. A passenger seated beside me presses against my body when the others push in and out of the train, and I feel almost unaware of any physical contact as I devour the pages of the book one after the other.

Why is it often the case, we find ourselves under a downpour only to see it over by the time we reach our front door?

I still do not own a proper pair of shoes for when it rains.

A wet coat hangs on the wire fence outside, in place of a purse, and then two, that stood in the same spot days before. It is as though someone left their clothes outside the way one haphazardly places them at home. I wonder if whoever left their coat, soaked in the rain, will pick it up tomorrow on the way out.


On the beach, the water is warm and the sand is soft and white as snow. Our blue and white stripped towels are placed in such a way that their edges are touching, so not to have a gap of sand in between. I use his coral linen shirt to cover my head, making a little tent to shield from the sun. Then I join in slumber, lying down on my side, and place my arm on his chest to make sure he's there while I fall asleep. We listen to the gentle rush of waves and faint sound of tropical music playing across the harbor. I drift away with the warmth of the breeze, and then awake to the sensation of drops of rain on the back of my thighs.

The sunset is more beautiful after it has set. Afterwards, the sky turns into brilliant shades of orange and magenta. The sunrise, on the other hand, is most beautiful before. The sky is a smooth pastel pink and violet, cool and warm all at once.

The summer ends with a crimson sky.

In my diary, I cross out the past and future tense verbs, practicing being present.



Compliment for my hands

I am looking at a photo taken of me
petting an old golden retriever
who lay sprawled in the middle of a street
under the heat of the summer sun

my arm is outstretched
captured in a moment of caressing
the soft fur of his honey colored ears
warm to the touch
my hand turned in a gentle gesture
long fingers and
blue veins visible through thin skin

I have been told I have graceful hands
hands that should hold brushes
pluck at strings
hands that create

for a long time I believed
I destroyed everything I touched

studying the photo
I look down at my hands as I write
moving like tiny dancers
beginning to understand

When a heart breaks

When a heart breaks
it scatters into a thousand pieces
in days
months
you begin to notice

one day
walking across your room
you step on an unsightly shard
you didn't know was there 
until you got cut

Sweetness of sound

In the dark, after the sun has finished setting
pink and purple washed away with the stroke of a wet brush
the glow of my laptop screen reflecting on the frame of my glasses
an empty chocolate ice cream carton and a silver spoon in need of washing
the remaining taste of sugar and bitter ointment on my lips

I opened a folder titled Voice and listened to recordings of
rain tapping against the windowpane
the sinking weight of piano keys without notes
a raspy voice singing softly to an orchestrated sad arrangement
transports me to an empty room where the carpet smelled of dust
my young and my parents' voices laughing in a coffee shop
where we awaited a college tour

wanting to go home

Stopping in the middle of a short story
on the train from work
we live in museums,
I read the line over and over
and feel watchful eyes touching my left temple and cheek
an older man sitting beside me crosses his legs
when I stand, the push of the train throws me forward
gripping the bar
looking for a door out

I understand now
when I was young, I was searching for a way out
that sad and sweet little voice
all this time
only wanted to find home

So long as I don't touch the ground

I notice the shift in the air as I move from room to room, the soles of my feet stick to the creaky floorboards and the sound of insects buzzing at night tell me summer is here. The humidity in the house warps my journal, its wavy pages become as soft and delicate as flower petals. Sometimes I sit on the bench at the edge of the bed and glance at the journal lying closed on top of the dresser, my mind racing or thinking of nothing in particular. I pick it up to hold it in my hands and feel comforted by its weight, as though the energy of my thoughts can be absorbed through touch. I do not open it, perhaps afraid of tearing the pages the way I was afraid to touch the wings of butterflies in fear of breaking them as a child. My childhood memories surface in little flashes of light.

On a walk at the harbor, I remembered those special weekends my mom and I took the train to the city. Where we walked and went shopping until our feet hurt, eating calzones and strawberry and chocolate frozen yogurt we were so excited about because it tasted like real ice cream. 

The wear and tear of time has drawn two wrinkle lines between my eyebrows that form a letter M on my forehead when I frown, like a cat.

I was sitting in a cafe, staring at the foam in my cappuccino, when this occurred to me. I've come to understand that I experience love like a wave, it comes over me all at once and leaves for days at a time. I pictured the low tide, a memory of walking on the exposed ocean floor. I walked into the horizon and met another young girl who was collecting seashells in a small plastic bucket, disturbing the tiny marine creatures who scurried in panic or lay lifeless on the wet sand. I remember walking further and further away from the shore and at some point, having not found the ocean, I began to feel scared and turned back. 

Which brings me to another memory, being scared of the unknown. I remember feeling the ground shake and climbing the wooden fence with my childhood friends, clinging to it for dear life. There were horses grazing in a neighboring field and we were afraid of them. I remember the anxious beating of my heart and holding on tightly to the fence, as if being up there would keep me safe so long as I don't touch the ground.

There was a period of time where I could not stand reading or watching films told from a child's or young adult's point of view. Revisiting the struggle of youths irritated me. In these past few months, seeing my shadow walking alongside me, I feel my silhouette has taken a childlike form. I wear my hair in a long braid and have grown a liking to wearing turtleneck sweaters, resembling the uniform of my younger self, back to a time when my heart shook violently as if it were trying to break free from my chest. 

feeling of home on a windowsill

There is a tuxedo cat with a reversed mustache
who makes an appearance in the city wine shop

on cold days he tucks his paws under his chin
his back turned to the window

on warm days he sleeps stretched out on his side
his well fed belly exposed to the sun

a sign on the glass reads
The cat is real
Please do not tap on the window

each day I walk past
searching for his furry little body
amidst the bottles of wine

sprawled out or rolled into a cinnamon bun

the warm feeling of home on a windowsill




The unveiling

in the monochrome exhibit room
a wave of inquisitive eyes gaze over
photographs of Frida's bathroom

the black stained bath drain
assortment of medicine bottles
enema cans lined up neatly on a shelf
a harness hanging on a hook like a dead animal
or an undone corset
wrapped so tight with the will to live

in another room,
a lipstick kiss on a letter penned to a lover
steps out from the chill of death
and into the warmth of life

what remains is a ghost of
how you connect with what you live 
with what you dream, 
and what you dream 
with what you do


The life imagined

When I was a child, a girl with a voluminous head of blond hair sat in school at a desk a few rows ahead of mine. She wore plain pink sweaters and trousers and everything she did looked beautiful, because she was beautiful. All the other children crowded her because they wanted to be beautiful too. A wave of pink hues spread across the classroom and hallways, but as we outgrew the corridors the wave receded to make room for dull colors. The family portraits leading up the stairs to her room revealed her hair was naturally brown, matching her eyes. Her parents allowed her to dye it to enhance her beauty and she felt obliged to continue to, fearing what would become of her if everyone in school knew the truth. That humble vulnerability made her even more beautiful.

Somedays when we are out and about on a walk, we are spontaneously guided by Open House signs and enter untrodden territory. We wander the corridors and room to room, noting the height of the ceiling and the detailing of the trim work. We admire the bay windows and windowsills large enough for a tabby, or a bouquet of dried flowers that catch the morning sun, or for the breeze to gently caress a translucent curtain partially drawn open. Our lives wear out the floorboards. In some homes, clothing and sentimental items in bedrooms are curated and displayed to look aesthetically pleasing. In others, everything is scattered as though we intruded while the house is in its most natural state - while the tenants are away and unaware of their uninvited guests. I never touch anything, pacing myself to merely observe and get a sense of the space. The life imagined. In new constructions, homes are devoid of character, with their vacant rooms, spotless walls and shiny appliances, and soft floors that were installed too quickly and eager to sell.




Select memories

In the dimly lit museum hallway, she reached the front of the coat check line and the young man handling the hangers came to the forefront of her mind the way one sometimes has to stop when walking through a shop and overhears a familiar song on the overhead. His light blue eyes looked at her, equally puzzled, unable to find the words. She furrowed her brow as a catalogue of faces raced through her thoughts, and taking her coat, suddenly he said her name aloud and the memory formed a context. They were in grade school together, eons ago, and he said he remembered she was a good student and always had all the answers. Now his tall figure looked suddenly odd, the body of a little boy stretched in time with the same face. She smiled and felt both flattered and aghast, because she immediately forgot his name again but thought how nice it is to be remembered. If only she had all the answers now as she did then. Time seems to erase fact the way black ink smudged off her wrists in geography.

Poem about my green and white polka dot umbrella

Do you have anything, still, to remember me by

Today I stood facing a wall to close my umbrella
to protect its ribs from breaking in the wind

I remember us sitting undercover a bus stop canopy
I offered you to take my umbrella
you hesitated and decided not to
so it is with me, still

my green and white polka dot folding umbrella

It rained on the day we met, 
and the day we said goodbye






The seagull

It was her first venture halfway across the country. The flight landed after dark and she unfolded the itinerary in her pocket, following the instructions she had carefully mapped out in advance. She found the train station right away. She was surprised there were no barriers or gates to go through, just a ticket machine where she felt a bit of panic when she heard the rumbling of an approaching train and decided to run up the escalator up to the platform. She boarded the train and forgot the ticket altogether. There were few sleepy passengers slouched in their seats. At some point, a man walked in with an old fashioned boom box blaring on his shoulder and woke them up. Later, in the silence of the street at night she became aware and irritated by the rustling of the fabric of her red rain coat.

In the morning, she opened the window and was surprised it opened all the way and had no netting. She sat on the edge of the bed and looked out at the rooftops and blue sky. There was a billboard on top of a building, blocking the view, promoting an iPhone or something or other. A group of seagulls sat underneath it, their white bodies slowly starting to show movement. She listened to the sound of the city waking up, enjoying the cool freeze. Suddenly a seagull landed on the windowsill. Its large wings stretched the entire width of the window, then folded like a cape under the mass of white feathers. It stood there, turning its head sideways, eyes like shiny black buttons peering into the room and then arriving at hers. She did not move and worried what would happen if the seagull decided to come in. The bird shifted its weight from one leg to the other, and after an undetermined amount of time, flew away.

Hold on

If you're feeling sad and all feels lost, hold on. Give yourself some time, a night, a day, even a week if you need to. Don't make emotional decisions in the heat of a moment, because no matter how impossible it may seem - that moment will pass. Tomorrow you will wake up and your heart will hurt for a different reason, a better one, one of love.

A vintage photograph

For three dollars
You can buy a memory someone left behind 
out of context
Like footprints in the snow 
Going someplace you can't remember
climbing or descending
there's no knowing which is which
only fading in time 

When I write pieces of my life
there is a subconscious desire to be remembered
as if to say 

"I was here" 
"I loved"

I love
I want to live forever
There is a desire in me to share, to connect with people - while at the same time, retreating back within myself, far away from everyone and everything.

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© 2018-present by the author. All writing found on this blog is copyrighted material, unless otherwise referenced, of the author. Use without permission will cause incessant hiccups.