Of Bicycles and Boardwalks and Oceans and Ships

Of that first moment of love. Of a strand of hair. Of a grain of sand. Of finding you in me later, of your hair riding on my sleeve, brought to my mouth, to smell, to relish you. Carried you with me all day without even knowing. Carried you on my sleeve, and found you, let you ride, woven into my fabrics, become part of me. So welcome here. So welcome to ride with me, you are that welcome, that welcome to make your place with me, even just an evidence of you, your strand of hair, I would weave you into my head if you would stay, hold you, strap you in, tie you in place and carry you throughout the details of my day. We would go to wash together, ride the waves, be in the sandy boardwalk and ride bicycles together, all the way back home. I had caught you in a sea crest once, a minute before nine, and for the next seventeen hours you haunted me from shoulder to toe. Your paints were blurry and we only used the blues, washing lines into the canvas and bleeding outward from the brush. I could hear the sound of the paint, it was like a blurry piano, played with sophomore hands, all the pedals down. With speeding evidence, you brushed me upwards, my back was milled from silence, pinprick touch, and I took you in. Took you in like the lost. Welcomed you to my arms, brought you in from fear. We had that in our circle, a lack of fear, we were opened from inside! And brightbox upwards gleaming, invented words, conversation like drops of rain. Spattering on the glass. First choice, brought in from the very composition. Improv’d, made in magic, moments in front of the stage. Picking out the notes, we were the double down in a hand of cards, lovers of pianissimo, blinding only with a kiss. Your hands on top of mine, above the instrument, and our feet on the pedals together, you show me. We play, rhythm first, feeling the timing of the song, then after that the notes, the strings, the tiny hammers, inventions of the muse, coming back around with your hair on my sleeve, windblown fabric threatening to release you, but you stay. Stay on my arm as I walk the waves. Stay as I play frisbee with a group of boys. Stay as I cover my eyes to the sun. And do without knowing what you do. What you do to me. Do without ever knowing your effect, council me in grief, council me in lore. Council me in the story of how you forgot your scarf in the seafood place, and when you went back a little girl was wearing it around her head. Council me in all the stories of you, from the times you were a little girl to those lately, and all the stories in between. I love them all, I eat them up. Council me in the grief of your own loss, for you must go, there is no way someone as perfect as you could stay. You will go, like a dream, right when it gets good, or right when it gets too terrible to say. I’ll wake up and be without you, you will be back in the dream, and I will have no way of getting to you. I’ll fall asleep but it will be a different dream. No way to get back to the perfect image, the perfect feeling of you. It will be the seafood place, but all the people will be different. You will not be on your field trip, waiting to meet me, scribbling on a napkin, criticizing the receipt. I’ll wake up in my apartment and it will just be me on the futon, you will have never come, and I’ll make tea in an alternate universe. The universe without you. Which is not hell, and the universe with you in it not heaven. But simply the universe I want and that other universe, sterile, potential-less, alternate and quiet. Without your spark. Without the spark lit in me. Maybe I would look down, and there you would be, a hair on my sleeve, a trick reminding me that you did exist, and that I did exist with you, and that you were real and we were real together. Some token that it did happen. May I fall back asleep and wake up in the universe with you in it? May I? May I please? May I please travel backward through this hair, meet you where you left it with me, go backwards from there still, to when it was in your head and I brushed my hand through it, to when we were together in the same dream, not knowing we were dreaming, just in bright, bright air? Question me, pretending to interrogate, to suss me out, find that I am really a creep, question me along those lines. Find me all smiles, and simple ones at that. Find that there is a simple answer to every dark question you ask, that I am no criminal, that I’m light and ease. And laughter. You can’t help but laugh when you’re with me, because I’m laughing. And so your line of dark questioning surfaces, becomes a conversation of smiles and laughter. Inquisitive. You want to know that I’m not a serial killer. But you need two witnesses to convince you. Simply in the way I talk there is a lightness that impresses you, disarms you, convinces you from the very gut, that I’m ok. There is too much rushing to keep up with the laughter so that doubting has no place. Too much of us making jokes to worry about the ground we stand on. You blew me away with your simplicity, with your way of being here now, that I had to strip away some of my complexities to even deal with you. You stripped me of them. I could not carry them around you. I had to be with you, had to relate, to save my life, and so I had to drop them. You wouldn’t allow my complexities. With them I couldn’t keep up! I had to break myself down to the simplest self to talk with you. You had brought your simplest self to the table. Had already stripped down those complexities. I could see that in you from the start, with a facial expression. Could see it on your face—that lightness! No sorrow could weigh you down. You were planted firmly in the moment. If I had been too heavy you would have politely ignored me, we would never have been a thing. But I was the right lightness, plus or minus a little, to have us talk. And we did. We settled in for the conversation of our lives. You had every surprise for me and I had every surprise for you. We broke each other in pieces, by laughing. We were pieces on the floor. Our laughter was an unbreakable candle. You couldn’t have committed a crime around that laughter. It would have dissuaded you. It would have warned you off and pushed you back and made you reconsider your course. Of the faces you made at me, to convince me of your silliness, to test me to see if I could handle it, oh your silly faces. You made them with your hands and even your feet at times, came at me in such cartoon variety that it was as if I was flipping through the TV. Sticking out your tongue. Scrunching your cheeks. Folding down your ears. Stretching out your neck so that you looked like a lizard. You had me with that lizard face. Bowled over laughing. And I made a face too. Caught you in the middle of my seriousness with a cheeks-blown-out, bulgy-eyed monster. And you laughed. My fear is that you were just humoring me but you weren’t, you really laughed, you laughed from your gut and I held out my hand and you took it, and you looked down to see what you were holding, turning my hand over in yours like a seashell you were examining. Brush the sand off. Looking at the prints. Checking to see if I’m human, of human origin. Checking me out. And yes, I seem to be acceptable, seem to have been made for you, all the parts are to specification, you can give my hand back now and check your own, check to see if you’re human, maybe you’ll find that your DNA is from the stars and you’re just down here for a visit, and I’m not perfect enough for you, but you don’t find that you find that you’re human too, and we are ok to hold hands. Ok to cavort together. Ok to have innocent sex. Ok to play. Ok to take me in your arms for a turn and let me lie back against you, holding me like your baby. Waves might crash before us. We might have to move back further from the ocean. I might lie on you, and I might be too heavy. You might lie back too. I might lie between your legs. The day might not ever end. It might be made of millions of glimpses like this one and it might never go away, it might refuse to die. We keep hold of this moment and this one, this one by the sea and this one with you holding and turning my hand. We keep them. We keep them bright, we keep them meaningful. As long as we hold them the day cannot go away. As long as I keep your hair on my sleeve, you can never leave me. As long as it’s there, you will love me and keep coming back to me. Stay, hair, stay. You belong to my other, and as long as you stay we will be one. Of the way my feet would never touch the ground. Of my lightness, of the sky. Of floating some inches above the ground. Of standing above the earth. Of taking steps in air, even the little bit beneath my toes. Of tremolo. Of casual grief. Of it being in our every stare. In the coffee we make at work in the morning, we know one of us has lost one. Around that campfire, one of one is lost and it can’t stop us from going about what we would go about anyway, comings and goings, catching up and friend-making. We know you lost her, know she was close to you. And now you wear her hat, a beanie from Pacific Sunwear that has a cute little monkey on the front of it. That monkey reminds you of her, you keep it as her, hold it as her, take you with it. You two were made for each other, we could all see it. And now you go to the museum, you go to the beach, you go to places too bright to lose her, and you take with you a pair of sunglasses, to hide your tears. Tears at seeing the beach without her, tears in the museum at paintings she would love. Is she gone? I can’t see her. Is she here? I’ve looked under every rock and every stone. She is not with the shells. She is not with the gulls, floating over the surf, she is not there. I have lost her, she is in another dream. A dream like this one, but not the same. A dream to the side or a dream underneath, a dream beyond or a dream in the very middle of. In the very middle of my mind, in the very middle of my ache, that is the dream that holds her, somehow separated, now I have this hat. Carry it with me, over sand, over soil, over concrete. Carry it with me, and it smells like you. It smells like you! I have my sense of smell and it smells like you. I can smell across dreams, find my way to you on scent. Wrap this hat around my fingers, tuck it inside my windbreaker pocket, wear it. And you could come of this hat, come out of it, unfold and sit beside me, on this rock by the ocean, say my name and be whole again, be with me, be by me, be over me, be be be. Be everywhere, be shouting, be singing, be running, be flying a kite, be making tea, be drinking it, be in my bed with me, be kissing me, be doing your yoga, be stretching, be leaning, be yawning, be be be. Be one with the breathing, really meditate it out this time. Shake that old tendency to doubt. Know that you can trust it with certain people, know that they were sent here to help you. Shake that tendency to withhold yourself. Know that you can give yourself without giving yourself away. I am one of those people you can trust. I would never wish you harm, would only do things to help you, would only have your interests at my heart. And so I grieve you casually, grieve you in every moment, for in every moment you are leaving, heading for that alternate dream. We do not hold each other forever. We hold each other for a while. Even once we’re tied, we’re not each other’s property. We’re not attached. And that’s the way you like it, so do I. We’ve both worked to be unattached, it’s part of what is attractive to us about each other. So we have to remain unattached, even through marriage, even through child, so that we can be that pillar of what was first seen, what was first imagined when I saw you on the dock, what was first imagined when you saw me on my bicycle on the boardwalk. Because there’s that way of riding a bicycle, with your face up, with your back straight, and your feet not quite on the pedals, balancing. And there’s that way you were, perfect in a restaurant making eyes with the server, making sure their day is special, making sure the magic transposes, and they are left casting spells for the rest of the day. That’s how you eat at a restaurant every single time, you eat there with magic and with sparks in your eyes and everyone who sees you is transformed. That’s how you eat in a restaurant. Then you close your eyes. And you dream how everything should be. You dream the ocean and exactly what should be in it. You dream the boats, you dream the fish, you dream a whale. You dream the boardwalk and everything on it. You dream the seafood place. You dream the many shops. You dream the man who sweeps the end of the dock. You dream your boat, and every aspect of how it carries you and your classmates to me, carries your classmates back. You dream the sky. You dream me, dream each way and which of me. You dream my toes. You dream the space between my hair. You dream my hands, and arms, and shoulders. You dream everything. Nothing of this place would be here without you. I am only living in it. Only living in your dream. You imagined it so bright. You imagined it so good. Only someone of your height could have dreamed such a place. Imagined such a bright place. Imagined a place I would like as much as I do. It must be. Dear, it must be your dream we are living in. Do you deny it? Was this place a surprise to you too? Did you come into it just like me and marvel at the light? Did you marvel at the man who sweeps the dock and the one who collects my mail? Did you marvel at the bicycle shop and all the bicycles on the boardwalk? Did you think there could be so many? Did you ever imagine? Did you see the colors and wonder? Did you see the sky and stare? I think it must have been all your imagination. I think you must have dreamt even me, and all my thoughts, and everything I write about them. I think you must have thought me before I ever thought myself, and this little revelation of mine amuses you, being as it is a part of your thoughts, being as it is you, and yours, even though we call it “me.” I am wrapped up within you, everything is yours, everything I know something you also know, so there is no reason or way for hiding. I will tell you everything, because it is only you telling it back to yourself. I will hide nothing from you, because you would have no reason to ridicule yourself. I will say everything to you, because you would say everything back to yourself. That is how we met, inside the totality of you, inside your deep imagination, inside your mind. You’re like a child living inside her toy balloon. And inside the balloon is the ocean, is the sky, is the boardwalk, is the town, are all the people. And how did she blow up the balloon with all those things already inside there? We will never know. We just know that we are held there, inside your balloon, delicately cradled in a dream, susceptible to popping, we could go away in an instant, but for now we are suspended. Casually grieve the loss of that whole world when the balloon pops, when I come out of my trance, of my dream. A universe of details, lost to the whim of the mind. Entire terraces, people’s lives, the physics of waves, everyone playing games in the sand. Pop! Gone, forgotten by the mind. Entire love affairs, lost. Sit with me under such circumstances, sit with me by the ocean and pass an hour. Will we make it to the end of our time, the balloon holding? Or will everything come to an end, suddenly, our world popped and everything once held, dropped? Vanished, losing tendrils with the mind, evaporated, poof! That is how we labor, that is the contract that holds our world, a dream forgotten and everything is gone. Don’t forget me. Don’t allow me to go away from you. Don’t make it so easy for forgetting to win. Keep my world in your mind, keep us all! Keep dreaming, keep dreaming beautiful one. Dream your world and dream how wonderful it can be, how bright, how filled with ease. Dream that, and hold it. Hold it in your mind as long as you can before it goes. And when it goes, if you can, dream another dream. Maybe I will be in your next one, maybe not. It is of no consequence. The dreamer doesn’t care. She will forget me soon as keep me, only holds me while I’m there. Once gone, forgets, holds another, holds no one. Wander out of my life and see how easy I forget you. Wander in and see how easily you are there. She holds me while she holds me, not before, never after. Holds me while I’m there. Then she lets go, and the sea, and the boardwalk, and all the ships, my house, every bicycle is gone. Poof! I was a star. I was a father. I was her lover! Now nothing! We’re all forgotten! The balloon popped, and everything that was held in place, fell. How did she get us in there in the first place? Did we have to be built so unsteadily? Did we have to be so tenuous? Was it a miracle we existed in the first place, existed with senses to see and feel and smell and hear the ocean? That we existed in such a way as to be able to enjoy ourselves? To take in glimpses? To be, and be ourselves? To know that we were? To know that we wouldn’t always be, hadn’t always been? What a torture, to lay beside the waves and know that they won’t always be there. Of taking your hand in mine. Of taking the fingertips. Of playing your prints against mine. Of the palms and the tips. Of kissing of the hands. Of the lightest love you ever made, a finger-tip and a finger-tip, touching. Of the play of hands. And I took you in me, took your hand in my hand, and brought it up to my lips, and kissed you, kissed your hand, and you touch my lips, and fingers move to face, and eyes, and neck, and ears. There you are, lightness. There you are, sun. There you are, in little drops of light. Taking me, taking me with your touch. And moving me, moving me from my self, in speed and sound, in the lightness of unwinding, in the race of air. And I knew you in hands, in fingerprints, in joints and feet, in bones and in kisses and in arches and in tunnels and in rhymes. In blindness, touching my eyes as if you could not see, in exploration, in the savage touch, and the blessing touch, and the aching touch. Of apples, and apricots, and peaches, and pears. Of the name inside a name. Of calling me, of your voice, of your number. Of meeting under blankets of sun, in rivulets of light. Of our boardwalk. We here who are broken. Broken, as a constant state. Broken, in every moment. Wearing glasses to hide the tears and carrying reminders of the dead. It is the way of us, in every sip of tea and every footstep, you can see my ex in my most basic stride. See her looming in the way I move my hips, that self-conscious way I hold my arms, she is always there. When I make the tea I think of her, think of her in the teapot and the potholders, think of her in the leaves and the cups, telling me a fortune in tea, breaking me, breaking me innocent, and I rise with the steam. I meditated for an hour today. She was with me, on the fingertips, in the way my thumbs wouldn’t settle down above the knees, in the way that they rose. She is always sitting across from me, meditating too. Even though she’s dead, in one way of seeing it, she’s still here, because I think about her. Think about her meditating, and when I meditate I am with her. So is she really gone? She really isn’t. And it’s taken me all these years to see that. She’s really by my side, in every interaction, every relationship, pieces of her are with me, affecting me, counseling me, comforting me. My grief has passed, now she is just a companion, following me through this life. I don’t think she would mind if I fall in love. I think she would be happy with me, since we have transcended the Earthly ebbs and flows of passion and jealousy, we can’t ourselves commune on that level anymore, we are spirit friends, and wish the best for each other. She is beyond the realm of physical love. I am still in it. I wish her radiance. She wishes me simple happiness, the best we can have down here. And physical love, with its dripping, holding onto, clinging, aching, loss, that is part of what she wishes me while I’m still in this body, before I am just a memory. Before I am just a memory, hold onto me, pinch me, brush me, rub me, push me, pull me. I like to be pushed. I like to be pulled. We go in and out of each other like stars. Like a million stars, lighting each other in their dance of explosion and attraction and repelling and confounding and implosion and death and rebirth and arching and colliding. We collide. That is it. In these relationships, we collide. We hit it. We hold onto each other so tightly that all direction is lost. We’re without a compass. Holding onto that one thing that gives us a way. One point of reference. It makes all the sense to me in the world! She is the one thing that makes sense. He is the only one for me. And navigating to one point is about all we can manage. Some people manage to do it to more than one. But what we really need to learn is to do it to zero. To let go of navigating, to fall backwards in free-spin, to let it not make sense, to let it be alone. To not scratch that itch. But I am only human, so for now when I make tea I will make it with you in the potholders, woven into them like smoke. You’re in the steam, rising from my glass. I swallow you, you are in the tea leaves and you go down my throat, urging me to go with my instincts, telling me they are a map to cross the void, when I am faced with those impossible choices where it seems like there is nothing, to go with my gut, that it is there to tell me things, to show the way. That’s what you tell me as you fade away. And it takes years, this fading. At first you got brighter, you were more with me in death than you were in life. Since then you’ve faded, dimmed, or maybe it’s that you’ve lightened, and are no longer a burden but a fresh presence, a light touch, here with me when I need you and when it makes sense to have you, but not looming heavily anymore, tying me down. Our spirit relationship is quite evolved! We have come to be friends, not all bogged down by the details of your death, as we were. The details of death confuse us, distract us, from life, which is what we want to focus on. We want to be involved with the details of life, whether it be in a body or just in memories, in the memories of others. Death distracts us from that. We are bogged down in the trappings of funerals and bodies going away. Your body is no longer with me. You are buried in the ground, eaten by worms, or you are burned to a pile of dust. I cannot hold you, cannot keep you, though I want to. Before and after the death we can focus on life, the life of the person or being, what it was in its body and what it is in memory. The death itself is the collapsing of a star. I held you, once, held you in my arms in the front seat of my car, and we kissed, we used our bodies to pleasure the other, and I held your head in my hands. That was one day out of a mystery. Now I’m not afraid when I kiss. I was so afraid to kiss you. But you taught me something, or left me with something, which is the lack of fear of kissing when kissing is right. When kissing is right, I kiss without fear now. Most times kissing is not the right thing. But when kissing is right, I kiss without fear. Kiss with abandon. Kiss up close and kiss on the lips and tongue and teeth and ears. I learned to kiss with you, learned to really kiss in love, and now every kiss I kiss is in love, even a casual kiss is love. When I kiss in like, I kiss in love. People like kissing me because of that. A casual kiss becomes an intimate kiss when kissed in love. Since you, I can only ever kiss in love. It’s dangerous with strangers, who are expecting only a like kiss, or a lust kiss, when you kiss in love. I think once you have kissed in love you can only ever kiss in love, because love isn’t something you have with one person, it’s a state of being that affects all relationships. You’re not in love with someone. You’re either in love or you aren’t. When you’re in love, you’re in love with everything, everyone, you’re in love with your grandmother and in love with your nephew, in love with your sister and in love with your neighbor. You’re either in love or out of love. Since I met you I’m permanently in a state of love. Thank you for that. You opened me up to a world that I had only partially grasped before that. I was onto it, but I didn’t quite have it. With you, I had it. I saw it. You sort of forced me into seeing things this way, by your example. You made me love. I couldn’t help myself around you. It was like coming, like you made me come without my meaning to, but it was coming and it felt good anyway. It was like that with your making me see love. Like I just switched into a mode of love, upon seeing you, on simple sight, to see how you are, how you treat people, how you move. Thank you for being who you were. You have impacted me beyond reason, have been there for my spirit in ways I could have barely imagined at the beginning. You don’t mind if I make you into my tea, do you? If I imagine you there? No, you’ve become supple with your entrance to the spirit world, you don’t mind being anyone’s company, you have patience for us all, as we need you on our shoulders, need your voice in our ears. I know your sister keeps you with her, she made peace with you long before I did. And I know your brother keeps you with him—how could he not? So let me make you with my tea each morning, carry you in my mug, watch you rise with steam. I will treat you well, will not ask too much of you, only what is right. And we will be constant companions, even more present than when both of us were alive, breathing together in our meditation and talking about how wonderful a new person is. Come with me when I ride my bike, sit with me by the sea. Even come with me as a chaperone when I meet this new one of my dreams, when I become fascinated with her physical form and long to kiss her, you will be there. Be there when we make love, if we do make love, be there as a silent witness to the fact that we’re doing each other right, taking care of each other in every way, loving each other perfectly. You and I are beyond jealousy. We wish happiness for each other in pure light. You are bigger than the small you I knew down here, you have transformed. You wish me blessings even in my love for another woman, for you are not simply a woman anymore. You have become something brighter, a soul, captured in my memory and urging me onward, to find every bit of brightness I can find in what is left of my life, wandering this lane of shops and school trips and that ocean that lies beyond the ships. Of your toes, and your ankles, of your calves, of your foot. Of stretching, of reaching, of lifting and stance. Of a hop. Of jumping. Of skipping. Of glee. Of a cut on a knee, and a bandage. Of a kiss for a boo. Of healing there, under a plastic cover, and of your little bleed. That cut, that drop of blood, covered with a band-aid, smothered in love and a kiss and a pat on your way. That day. The moment you fell. The way you stood. And a finger dropped to touch it, catching elements of red. That is the way I remember you, before we cleaned you up and covered your wound, standing with that tiny drop of blood on your knee, from a stuck-out nail. I had a companion once, a brown-haired cute one, who sat at my side and we played music together on our iPods. She would show me how to use the music app in ways I never had before. I would give her songs, from bands she never would have listened to. And she would give me songs too. She rode on my back and we were close, physically. We worked together. This was in our shared office space. We made coffee and made things happen in the world of business and grace. She wanted to make love, and I said, is it worth it? We had such a good friendship, I didn’t want to ruin it, and at my suggestion we remained platonic. It didn’t hurt the friendship. We can still collaborate, me and that brown-haired one, still talk in childish tones and share music on our iPods. We came this close to fucking but never did, and it has made all the difference. With some you can do that. I don’t know what it is that makes a companion rather than a lover, and only once have I experienced the miracle that is both. Sometimes you have to break your own rule, and fuck the one who is supposed to be just a companion. Sometimes you have to mess it up, just to know what it is like. Break your own rule. See the world as it is, not as you want to see it. Quit the perfect job. Decide not to fuck where normally you would. Stop drinking. Keep it supple. Break it. Mold it. Let it move on its own. I was once in the perfect job. Moved across the country to live in a tent. It was the right move. You have to leave it all behind, even the parts that are you, to be alive. Leave behind little parts of you, let them float on top of the water, let them go away. Find that you’re not so tied to them as you thought. Fly. Become what you are not. Slowly become something beyond what is possible for you to imagine. And whether or not you fuck your brown-haired companion, do it true to the moment, in what the moment wants, in how the dice fall in that particular place and time. Learn to act without the music. When the track falls away and you are between songs, learn to keep dancing, through silence, until the music picks you up again in the next song. Learn to have the confidence to act without the music. Hear it yourself, in your head, hear the rhythm that is possible for you in that silent moment, then draw your line, draw it through the empty space and waver it with your hand. Make a definitive shape of you, that shape you’ll leave behind as you die in every minute of every hour of every day. Make it a bold shape, or make it a mild shape, make it quiet or make it loud. But don’t question it, just make it. Make it in every act and every word and every touch and every silliness and every tear. Make it beautiful. Make it touch others. Make it cry when it needs to cry. Make it need love, and need to love. Make it a fool for laughing. Make it juggle. Make it fearless. Make it nimble. Make it forget its own name. Make it stop in the middle of a sentence. Make it look around. Make it assess the situation. Make it continue, having found more of an anchor. Make it doubt the truth. Make it make up its own truth. Make it yearn for a star. Make it yearn for all the stars. Make it collect each and every one, in turn, plucking them from the sky. Make it throw them all back for fun. Make it forget. Make it an amnesiac. Make it lose everything that came before, and have to create itself anew, from starch, from the very chemicals of the universe, atoms and mores. Then make it erase itself, along the surface of its lines, make it go back to the beginning, before it was there, undo itself into a genesis, and speak to no one. Whisper. Invisible say. Tearing ourselves from silence. Touching gently. A cat sleeping on a chair. Some quiet companion beside me. And where is my brunette, my brunette work friend, who calls me from road trips and cries into the phone, regretting her job and wishing it was nothing more than trading songs on our giant iPads, so big we can sit beside them on the floor. Pressing buttons with our whole hand. You sitting below the iPad and me sitting next to it, coloring ourselves with music, knitting the touch of the menus into our brains. I wish it was simple, too. Wish we were playing with giant iPods forever, Platonically loving each other with back rides and music trading, knowing that you are the cutest thing in the world to me, your face, just what would pleasure me, just what I would imagine. And imagine for a friend, a perfect friend, non-lover, the perfect cutest coolest baddest reflection of me to be by my side and explore and play in all adult ways but one, all child ways but none, we have the most fun of anyone I know, even when we’re working. I’m glad we decided not to fuck. I wanted it as bad as you, you should know that. But it’s simpler this way, we keep our innocence and shrug those power games, pushings and pullings of character that we would have to play out in the roughest ways. Our way is inocencia, lightness, a smile. The brightest white plastic around the edge of the iPad, curving at the corners, lit up by our office lights. That is what we are like, like bright menus and plastic housing of a computer. We are lunches ordered in. We are articulated lamps. We are 100-watt light bulbs. We are Disneyesque office furniture. We are our ideas, our brilliant beautiful ideas about a publishing house we want to start. Our production company. Our screenplays. Even our flirting. We are the edges around sex. The fingers at the top of a pair of panties, no further. Touching that never quite gets there, rolling over and over one another. You riding on my back. Your hands on my shoulders, my neck. But we pull it back. You get down and we return to being collaborators, office mates. But when you’re up there it is without reserve, you hang on me with every tenderness, and I hold you with every jostling care. What would I do without my sisters, those of you who are in this position with me, those for whom sex is ignored, who know me like my own two sisters, with whom there is that strongest bond, unlike the lover? Take me to your house. Make tea. Spin me tales of what you’ve been up to, spin me into your drama, let me listen, take stock, take note, take me along as you make the bed, feed dogs, wash one last dish in the sink. Meet me in the park, companion, tell me about your boys if you will. Tell me about your girlfriends. Tell me about the plays you’ve been seeing, the plays you want to see and the plays you missed because you slept. You can sleep in the same room with me, it is safe, because we don’t do that. I can trust you not to play games with me. See, companion, see what we have gained? We have gained a universe of thought that is inaccessible to lovers. We are unclouded. We are freed up to focus on what is simple, work, projects, news, playing. We’ll agree not to have sex and will get in return a bounty, unfettered, endless fields. Art. Best friends could never have this. Lovers are too busy loving to work, sometimes to play. We have them all, have them all at a game. Have discovered this one true type of relationship. Not that others are not true, but this one is true, it is singular, it is clean and it is fun and it is difficult to arrive at with the pitfalls of sex abound. How difficult is it to not have sex? How rare, that, that some people never arrive at it, are always fucking their friends in one way or another. Fucking should be done discriminately, not to all. It should be done at times when lust outweighs love, and if that’s always happening to you then something’s wrong. And it should be done at other times, fucking, but it should be done when the relationship at hand is a fucking kind of relationship. Not all relationships are a fucking kind of relationship, and you have to know which ones are and which ones are not. Otherwise you’re just fucking the relationship, and to do this with everyone, how dark, evil, unprofitable and bound for hell is such a thing. I have met people who do this and they have the very kind of darkness in their eye. Always cutesy-flirting with people they just met. Think they’re gonna get laid by every stranger. Love to talk with you about other people’s sexiness. Don’t be like that. Cultivate a privacy about your sexualness, keep it to those you want to be sexy with, and make those a relative few or else you’ll be tied up in a whole bunch of wanting that goes nowhere. You want your wanting to go somewhere. It should be focused, focused, focused. And most of all, try love without wanting. That is companionship. The brown-haired friend. She rides on my back and puts her hands on my shoulders and neck but we keep it as friends, keep it as friends even though the base thing to do would be to try each other’s bodies, the base thing to do would be to see each other as objects, the foolish thing to do would be to mistake ourselves for lovers, when for some, we are friends. Of laying you back, of draping your neck over the pillow, of air from the window, cool in shade, of the dryness of June. Of some hard-won idea of getting you here, gone. Of easiness, of simple, of knowing you always belonged here. Under my hands, over my hands, over me and under me, side-by-side, in cotton sheets of pleasing and a gentle tease of a finger on your front, between your eyes, over your belly. There it was, there we had it. There was one of those moments, gone. Taken us with it, taken us out of it, savored, and departed. There it was, and we were with it, for a moment. I knew you for an instant, saw myself revealed, was next to you, and then it passed, and we were left by it, floating wispy in the air, while the moment, far below, became with the wind, blowing sails, below ships, beside my bike, shifting us, throwing us forward. Traveling us, making us newly, tearing us from one. Blowing us. And we ride, ride with it, we are in a passage, we are in a boat. Blown by the sea, on a bicycle, fastened by the street, pedaling. The sun above. An island cloud. This moment. This one right here. That is where I knew you. With my hands below your neck, and you underneath me—that is where we met, that is where we knew. And we had it once, and we would have it again, by different names, taken in missing night, where there was only sun, and wind, and blue before stars, forgetting us of space, making us think that this was the only planet, the only shore. That we would never need to travel to find our home. That we would never move. That this place, and only this place, could hold us. That this is all we’d ever need to know. That lightness, that breeze, that breath blowing, the blanket of that heat, that feel of the boardwalk under our feet, those boards and those nails and the cracks and the rails, that that is every single day to us, the only way for us, the hook that, and the line that, towed for us, our ease. I remember you in grace, walking spider-like over the bed, finding me out, you had me trapped between your legs, feet pinning me, and I pulled you down. Down to kiss, down to feel every part of our bodies humming along in tremolo, the bow of an ox, swinging there. You tip-toed from the kitchen, trying not to wake me, but I was already looking, watching you come, your spindly body marking time on the tile. I had a plan for you, which was to eat you completely, from your toes to the tip of your head, swallow you like lemon ice cream and let you go down so smooth, like a special drink, and keep you in my tummy, carry you around with me in cutesy cannibalism that lovers do when they partially eat each other in love and in love we licked each other and lay naked by the windows where probably people could see us but it didn’t matter. We were borrowing luxury from the greats, from those great French windows where lovers lay, from those harems where there is a great deal of nakedness, where chiffon curtains are all that separate you from the world. We lay naked like that, with our fronts to the boardwalk windows. The suggestions of our neighbors were always wrong. They suggested we play Pictionary. They suggested we come out with them dancing. We stayed in. We ensconced. We wrapped ourselves a puddle and lived in the waters, rowing ourselves away from shore with one oar and no rudder, drunk on each other’s limbs and drinking from each other’s ears. Your mouth made for a cup for me. My mouth made for a cup for you. We drank. We drank ourselves silly, dumb, numb on love. We fucked for so long that we would chafe. We fucked for so long that we forgot what not-fucking felt like. Fucking was natural, the usual state of being, and not-fucking became cold and naked and empty. We were inside each other. You took me and I took of you. We would lie motionless, inside, just feeling that feeling, and only moving enough to keep me hard. Just to stay like that for hours, almost napping, joined, we found a place we never wanted to leave, perfect tucking inside a perfect slot. No one wants to make love anymore, I mean really make love. It’s all so perfunctory, just about the orgasm, then gone, no one really languors anymore, languors in touch, feels one with fingers, brushes an eyelash across a cheek, stays inside for hours. This is all lost. A few of you still do it, I know, but it is rare, the true exception to the rule. I am the strings and you are the bow. Or I am the bow and you are the resin. Of moving together, like that. To really make love. Where nothing else matters and you completely fill the other person’s field of view. Where everything that comes out of red is the sum total of what goes into blue. Where everything that comes out of blue is the sum total of what goes into red. Where it becomes worship, eyelash worship, fingertip worship, cunt worship, dick worship. I saw you complete. Saw you in glorious coming, saw you take pleasure of an extreme degree, saw you die a little death with me. If you have seen me die then you know me a bit better than before. Seen me come to the point. Of forgetting. Of allowing the mistake to bring me off, in an accident. Using your left hand, the less experienced, to make it feel new, to make it all fumbling and virginal once again, but you still come. To do that with you, it is art. Art like dancing, but better. Body movement art, body stillness art, looking, tasting, that deep love that you can hold in your hand. You have taken me off, and I am nothing. You have seen me as nothing, now, seen me taken away and weeping, seen me in my weakest moment. You have seen me sitting on the bench, holding a letter from you. And shaking my head. Your words are too beautiful to me. I can’t believe you wrote them. That that hand and that head were what put those words together. It is impossible to believe that your head made that up, your simple head, is the author of unbelievable notes. I can’t take it, knowing how smart you are! I can’t take it, knowing how well you join words together! You amaze me, lover, and that you spend your time with me is a mystery. That I could be good enough for you is doubtful, but here you are. What is it you see in me, what do I provide that is that good, that you would be with me? It must be part of the mystery that you could see me in that way, too, could see me as your best, that you could hold me high. I make myself better for you—are you doing the same? Reaching for a greater you in the last minute, and becoming that for me. I do it every night, invent, elaborate, go on instinct, making up what the better me would do for you, what the better me would give you, what the better me would say. I have invented myself a thousand times in a thousand nights, all for you. Do you think you can wear me out? Do you think you can tire me of innovation? Is there any you I would not match? Move for move, step for step, play for play, we respond. I remember the first time we did it. We were happy. We weren’t too serious about it. It was fun, it was play. You spoke to me while I was going in you, we talked throughout. Is this what you had imagined? Do you like this? Can I make you more comfortable? Now we say these things with our bodies, but we still talk. I love when we talk during sex. I love to talk anyway, you know that. But I love when you talk to me, tell me things, tell me that you love me or tell me that you’re coming. I know you do, I know you are, but I still love to hear you say it. So simply, stating something so huge. I’m coming. I love you. Such simple words for such amazing quantities. It almost seems profane to tag those experiences with words, but it’s not. It’s wonderful, it’s beautiful, to do so. It is like it is the adult who experiences the experience and the child who says the words. Who has just learned to speak and is approaching such a monumental reality with baby words. I’m coming. I love you. Say them to me a million times, I love each one. Each one is special to me. Each one is stored in my memory. Each one is packed away for me to remember when I doubt. Yes, she loves you. Yes, she is coming. And shouldn’t you? Shouldn’t you love? Shouldn’t you come? I should, and so should you. It is part of our job, in these bodies, to love, to come, don’t shirk your responsibility to do so. Look for ways to love, look for ways to come. Do both at your earliest convenience. And do them together, if possible, with one wrapped up in the other and the other wrapped up in the one. I saw you on the shore, in a swimsuit, and I drew every curve in my mind. The subtle ones, the moderate ones, I drew you up and measured you and remembered you to my mind. For it is not just one thing about you, but every thing, that amazes me. I want to understand what it is about you that’s special to me, but it’s not just one thing. It’s every line, everything you’ve said, every way you’ve turned to me and every time you’ve turned away. It’s every little lunch you’ve packed and every ticket you’ve ignored. It’s the way you left your schoolmates for me, convening in the seafood restaurant, looking at receipts and trying to figure out what was wrong with ours, which type of printer it was printed on, and why the colon was missing half a dot. It’s the way you first tilted your head when you saw me, like I was some specimen, some crustacean, that surprised you. And I was. For you to miss your class to see me, for you to miss your boat, I was a special specimen. Could you see it on my face? You had to. So there is something to that, to being able to see a person’s soul from their outward look. I could see yours, right away, knew you were a spark, a special specimen, worth examination. I felt it was my job to examine you, as if I was a special looker to your look, I was the only one who could see you, really see you. Your classmates had been existing right alongside and they hadn’t seen it, seen your specialness. To them you were just another student. I could never see you that way. It was so obvious, so clear, so glaring that you were special, you were the only one to look at, the only one worth immediate attention. I picked you up and looked at you. You were interactive. You looked back, you reached to me, turned me in your hands, examined me. And neither of us put the other down. And we’ve been like that, ever since. Holding, looking, touching, saying things to, cavorting, gallivanting, galloping, and generally making lovely. Of the back of you, of your skin. Of the blue, and the wind. Of those white-board boats, caught to the sea, of traveling weekends, of moments off work, of families eating lunch on the back of that tiny sail. Of your swimsuit draping, of sparklets of water on your simple back. Of that time we went to the coast, of the train tracks, of the beach book, of sitting with each other in the sand. That’s how I know you, how I always will see you. That’s what you are to me, in shades of blue and bright, in the whiteness of the sun, perched on a mast, or railings, or benches, or surf. Walking right in the part where the water comes in, where the sand is hard and you can bend to find a seaweed that drapes itself over your foot. That is your name to me: seaweed on foot. That is your name to me: hardness of the sand. Your name is brightness, your name is tide. Your name is any of these names I have for you, whether air, or mystery, or sky. You could never be caught, not even on a word, and so my names for you are not tethers, nor ropes, nor leash. They are songs to you, they are praises sung to a god, they are notes in music, they are movements of a dance. They are symphony, they are glass. They are the infinite, never bounding. They are kites. They are the strings of a kite, hanging on air, tangling with each other, embracing, each, in a name. Calling. And coming short, never knowing you, never capturing you, but inflections on you, simply facets of your reflection, chops on waves. Of loose ties. And lace. Of nothing tying you down, nothing holding you here. There is nothing that could, no chain, no wall. You have infinite freedom, helium sway. Build your balloon to take you away. Saying goodbye to the people of Oz, off to your own fairytale. One of blooming and seeding and sunlight and stilts. A circus tent, flap open, letting in the dust and out the lions. Roaming, curious, yawning in the sun. You bring me a lion for Christmas, bring me that, and maybe we’ll call it fair. Breathing you, breeding you, breath upon you, untying the lace. Air, where your hair tie falls. Air, that breathes you into me upon that sea that comes in and in and in and in, rising tides, all the way up to our boardwalk, flowing underneath. I’m better now, I just had to think through some things. Had to process, had to bring along some of those pasts behind me, load them up, re-feel them, make them current, and go through the emotion again but more fully, to get it out of my system. Now I’ve come through it, the tide is falling, and I can let down my shoulders of all the weight they bear. Now I am lightness, now I can breathe freely, now I am known to no sorrow. So the tide goes down, past the boardwalk and the beach houses where the lifeguards stay, all the way out, and it widens our beach to the maximum skunk. Your lace lies upon your shoulder, an arm, your wrist, and shrouds you as you stand next to the circus lions, like some Cleopatra, made tall, wrangling them with your voice, low, low sounds. The lions frolic out a path from the tent, bowing to you, circling you, carrying you on their backs. You cover the eye of a lion with your lace and he sees the world chiffoned before him, supple, douce, and the lion smiles. Showing his big teeth. A silly-grinned lion, dancing drunk with you, paws loosely planting themselves in the sand. We had a lion in the Ferris wheel one time and it was unbalancing the wheel, you could see it come off the hinge and roll seaward, all passengers alive! But your lions stay still, almost still, peering through chiffon and calendar, boiling oil in winterfuge, meager towing their party all in a cave. I might have known this on Saturday, might have sung your praises on Tuesday, but then the callus would never have formed and your writing hand would be your weaving hand, and vice-versa. Drawn the cape, a girl whose name begins with a K and dancing lions preen the beach, she is nothing but an imagination, sung to me by mothers jealous of pristine babies in an an overrated breakfast joint. You whispered those verses in my mind when I called you. Left nothing out, garnered it, made it toil, broke it into pieces, mulled it, melted it, crafted it, pieced it together, hung it on the wall. There was a man born inside the matrix, call it Sam. Sam knew nothing but the fabric, was woven in it, bleached all over, tumbled dry and machine washed cold before he could say his name. Sam dreamed of a girl named K and they had dinosaurs between them, aching lions overcrowding an elementary school on election day. Sam’s name was Aching and Sam knew of purple alleyways where love loomed, quickly rattled, and a row of lights, overhead, ran the length of the department store. Sam adjusted his glasses. He spun around in the middle of the floor. And Final Fantasy sparkles came out from him like a spell, K was born, and the lions paraded around her, not a single Ferris wheel in sight. K was born of a revolution, not the spinning kind either. In K’s peaceful world only the spinning of an adder would bind her lace to the cloth. She used a staple gun and sheet music to overwhelm the tides. Heaven was understandable but still they spoke of it in halfway riddles upon the glom. A broken carousel was embedded in the sand. Rides were still given, but the animals sat still, riding neither up and down nor side to side. The ferry charged admission, though, two pence for a child, two pence for an adult, multiple rides admitted. Instead of going around the ferry took on sand, that was the change it went through. Stacked to your soles it rose, covering in one case the left nostril of a horse. It reminded K of a dream she once had, about a place called Crescent Moon, and the vegetation and light that grew there. There were columns in K’s dream, doric and ionic and Corinthian columns, with bathing mirrors and gazing pools, roofless temples and ivy. But most of all there was the moon, which sat in its narrow crescent, purple, blue. And there were snakes in K’s dream, moving through the plants, sometimes off the ground, sometimes reaching for the sky. K’s bracelet, untied. The lace falling away. She knows how to put a bracelet on but she knows more than that that a bracelet falls away. That’s all they seem to do here, bracelets, hair ties, rings, belts, shoelaces, they go away. On this beach, where there are no lions and no Ferris wheel and no circus tent, but boardwalks and beach houses for the lifeguards, on that beach with gulls and the bike path and the man who sweeps up after it all, on that beach ties and belts and shoelaces all go away, blown by the wind, unraveled in its fingers, lost on the path behind you. I had a hair tie once, she fell away in the sand on a Tuesday. I had a shoelace once, he fell away on the path on a Thursday. I had a lacy belt once, she fell away over the boardwalk railing on a Saturday eve. That is how they do here. With whatever intention, tied things become untied, wrapped things become unwrapped, fastened things come undone. It is something in the surf air, I think, or else a friendly curse of the ships, to undo us like this. Try it. Try me. Wear a tie, wear a bracelet, wear a ring along that boardwalk. See if you have it by the end of the day. Faded strings and sun-bleached strands, they are not yours, they belong to a stranger. Do you think loss is great? Is it greater to hold on? Even hair, here, is always leaving, strands of it cast to the sea. Blowing in the wind, guarding your face, strands in your mouth blown there like sand, everything is in each other’s way. You can’t leave the beach without sand in your shoe. Likewise, you can’t leave our beach without leaving behind a little of your hair, become nesting material for the gulls, trash to be swept away. Or just find a home in the sand, for some crab to play with. Maybe it’s a lesson to let go, that part of you is being taken. Maybe it has no meaning. It is just the wind. But the fact is we are taking from you some of you, in hair, and leaving with you some of us, in sand. Our beach likes participators. It likes those who get their hands dirty. It likes those who squat on the beach, who catch crabs and eat them. It likes those who patronize the shops on the boardwalk, who rent bicycles and ride up the coast to the nearest towns. It likes those who ride on ships and especially likes those who get off of ships, meet people, fall in love, and decide to stay behind. For in staying behind, there is the ultimate participation. Leaving behind your life on that distant shore and joining up with one or more of the residents of this beach, making this your home, and that’s exactly what one girl did, a high school girl, who met a twenty-something man. She turned her back on her classmates, turned her back on her teachers, she had found what she would never find again. She watched the boat board, and passengers, including her entire class, get in their seats to go home. And she watched this through the circular window of a sea food restaurant, with her new companion by her side, their heads pressed together, watched the boat undock, gain distance, float away. And she never went back, she never did. She turned her life around, literally, went another direction. She found a love to face, faced it, gave to him in mirror what he gave to her, made friends, became this her community, made the beach her home, rode those bicycles, did yoga by the beach in morning, and said goodbye to her family and all that had come before. It was easy for her. She had been looking to say goodbye. She needed to go, to move on, to be separate from them in the outward world since she was separate from them in the inward world already. She had to make the two right. She was the kind who moves on and makes a family for herself, not the kind who stays back and manages as part of the family she came from. Her school had just come for a trip, a day trip from across the sea, got all packed with lunches and telescopes and sunscreen, two to a seat and everyone leaning to look out the window. Most had never been to this beach before, our beach. We have the longest boardwalk and the widest boardwalk and the most shops and the widest beach and the most bicycle rental places and the biggest city attached to the boardwalk. Ours is one of the few places where large ships board. Ours is a port. And children come from all over to see it. Of flying things overhead, of the dot of planes. Of silver perches, of carrying us away. Of looking down, on islands, of seeing runways drift away. Of taking off forever, of leaving, and leaving behind. Of the last trip made to a place, of never going back. That is how we see it from above. And from below? Of passing, of visitors, of tourists, of those who come and go. Of hearing what I thought you said, and it not being quite right. Of leaning in to hear your lyric, of missing some final notes, of inventing my own words, of filling in, of improvising what you might have said to me. Of hearing nothing of you, when you’re gone, except what I made up inside my head. And when you’re back, seeing if the two match up, of how I imagined you, and of what you’ve been. Of the way the sun came through the window. Of the air plant, wisping there, gathering nutrients, growing from its infinite stem. Of always dying. In each moment. Of dying a little death every time you open your mouth, of dying a little death every time you say my name. And there is no need for you to die for real, because it’s always happening, with each movement, with each tear, in every stroke, in every minor key. Ice might cool me, arctic winds might freeze me, but I am warm under your covers as long as you hold me near. I fear the metaphor is running thin, and I borrow words from a long-lost companion who should have been more than, who was waiting in the wings, waiting to go on, waiting for her turn which never came. To need you, tears me apart wrenching, I move my bedclothes into the room and I’ll sleep there tonight, venturing out into demon territory, where no one has gone. It was a two-night obsession, obsidian, and then I was unafflicted, mentioning out runners who practiced in an underwater vault. Behind bars of smiles, a precious cat, and plundered strings deep to an overhead map. The light was on but no one was looking, you were visible from the yard. I had pledged to be sane for one month, maybe more, the moon landing vicious on a plot, and little Lasley girl was always reminding me that I had missed a play. We should have hooked up when we were younger, that was our mistake. We should have made it when the making was good, before it all got tangled up in movies and marriages and work. I attempted to squash my vices and new ones just popped up, it was as if I needed them to live. And it didn’t matter what they were, addiction to sand was just as good as caffeine, just as good as alcohol, it didn’t matter, I needed something to survive. Needed that thing just out of reach, that I was going for. My vice could just as easily be you, something to seek, I was just used to that going after and I needed to do it all the time. Before I blinked it was done, time falling out of me like sand (a reference), and the construction of a dream was not so difficult as I had thought. Of random reading and thistles, of carrying you into the bedroom, of newspapers and coffee, of repeated words and word associations, of games and clarity, you brought me into this world, made it clear, brought me to breath and showed me how to write, or maybe I had figured that out on my own. Hacked it together at first, out of sheer desire, then made the leap to showing you my first play, then written a second, and a third, gleaming, assailing, taking day trips to the spa, playing poker, getting my chest waxed for vanity, even though you liked it raw. There was a celebrity who had run up a bill at the hospital. She had liked it raw. And spent herself there many nights to detoxify her head. No permanent damage came to her. Just suitcase. And you lost me here, penning unfathomable melodies in the likeness of a dream. One association. Two association. Four. Making our way to the exit. Somehow spanning a lifetime of mirth. Playing caffeine dreams, surreally spinning a mystery, death from above, the numbers spelled backwards, shimmering artistry, eating from the microwave while I plot my love for you, whoever, the next, planning how I’ll be for you and plotting the love we’ll make. I’ll be a drug user in one form or the next. Addict myself to you. Stir you, sip you, watch you on the news. Map every route to you, burn you like a candle, type you like keys, drain you like water. Building every simile to a punch, the dynamics of the glass changing ever so slightly with a new cartridge. I had nights and nights of silence, to write my book. To think of you, to turn you in my mind. To push you and pull you. To write the words, and write around the words. You are my dream. I mention you in second person and flirt with your description. Everyone else had a job. Everyone else had things to do. I sit here nightly writing everything that came to mind, every false association from the ground up. Building you from a feather. Your hat, if you had one. Your mouth, if you had one. Putting you together, piece by piece, bringing you in. You arrived on a ship one Friday morning. You arrived on a ship one Friday day. You had come with your class. They had piled into the ship and wondered for a port with even bigger ships and lost suggestions and dismal dreams and runners, lost, who chased each other’s hair. Our port would do. I happened to be off work. And even though you’re younger, neither of us care. They will say I robbed the cradle, but with you and I it doesn’t matter, and when we’re older, no one will even know the difference. Wrapped you in a womb for two months longer, what difference does it make? A repeated word, against the rules, but it works better this way. Didn’t your mother name you? Did she not give you a name? I shall call you gladness, and light, and shame. I take you into my mouth slowly, taste your bitterness, get ready for bed. We shall sleep soundly tonight, my friend, none of this waking up in the middle of the night, we will sleep until morning, watching the news and making English muffins with your yellowish jam. Zero-calorie additive, stirred in. And a cat turned to the alpha chair. The motion sensor came on so I looked in the window, turned backwards, inverted Melville form, braised a light beast. It was just a cat. You like my security systems. They’re so elaborate, you say, but they’re not. They’re a simple lock and key. The boardwalk is home to many species of criminal mistermind, mind mistering, and you need an extra lock and key. On the second cup. Used a coupon for lunch. At the falafel place that’s before you get to the seafood restaurant. And the motion sensor goes off. Sip your tea. Maybe style was a funnel, and they funneled me. Put your rain-coat on the coat tree, dear, and join me for a deep breakfast of pure gray. I quoted that almost from a source who shall remain unnamed. I just wanted you to know that I know that. Sit with me on pillows and sip tea in the fog with the rolly curtains up and rain falling outside, we barrel forward. The experience is wrapped up in the experience. Hadn’t watched news in a year. You showed me the good channels, and we had ourselves a news fest. I hadn’t known they had so many graphs! And TVs photographing TVs, mirror infinity, it was hard to take. On the seat next to you was a magazine, a fashion one, you’re so trendy. It was on the ship, you didn’t even read it on the way over. But you brought it with you in case you got bored, but you never get bored, you look out of windows and into skies and make conversation with the girl sitting to your back and the girl sitting to your front as though they were the most important people in the world. And I repeat myself. But I repeat myself perfectly, and you can kiss my age. Somewhere I became a natural. And I could talk with you from the beginning. You were never a stranger to me. Maybe a strange element. But never a stranger. You played strings and I was the bow. You turned a page and I was the finger. You ate Indian and I was the mango. That’s how it’s always gone for us, in love. You carried DNA under your fingernails. When we brushed it off it fell below the doormat. I counted down from a hundred, hoping you’d still be there when I turned around. And you were, you were coining lyrics, coding them in tones and frolics and a kingly crown. Something had found freedom in an unraveling, a careful arrangement of the string around everything we touched that day, from the Ferris wheel to the seafood restaurant to the ship to our bicycles to the boardwalk and all the way up my street into the garage and up the stairs, the kitchen, the coat tree, the tea bags, the microwave. Stop me before I get to this part next time. I want to take it slower. In more detail. Stop me before I get to the part with you. Because we did fall in love, that wasn’t just one-sided. We did have it there for a moment, at least a moment, maybe more. My bird took flight, asked me to tell you a word. It told me to whisper it in your ear. And I did, and we had a word, between us, carried on the ear. That bird was right to ask me to do that to you. That bird has many plans for us. She asks me to take your right hand, and run that over my face. Then to take your left hand, and run that over your back. Then she asks me to take your lips, and part them, and kiss you with my mouth. She wants me to keep my hands on the keys. To play the instrument. She wants music. Without music she dies. That is our bird. She was born on a wing and flutes melodies in the morning. At night, though, she likes us to sing. And she will listen, will listen to the music we make. We have it easy. There is no need to work. We have it in our desire, every note that needs to be played. Of brightness, of beyond limitation, of the caring for a moment that you knew would pass, of the love of the day that goes behind, leaving only the new way to look at things, only the new self, the blank and the real and the present self, free from what it knew yesterday, free from how it felt before. Every little breath. Every dialogue. Is death. There is no need to talk about death, for it is in every moment, every scene. It is lightning to your John John. Callus to your finger. Rollicking, mi familia, movie cow decomposing fatty lips and bone hooves with hair fragments, they had a funeral for the bovine member and he shocked them with platitudes, goner goner goner gone. Plagued me with shrouds and shallow graves and tombstones, plagued me with services run by ministers who didn’t know the deceased, little black books of prayers and stoles and robes and fancy shoes. She danced on the grave before the service was over, little-kid style, showed us how to be happy with a loss, showed us how to party. I saw her eyeing the coffin, fingers tapping, she could hardly wait. And she didn’t. Got right up there and danced her feet off. Click-et-ey-click. Showed us right off, got down to the quickness. Tapping her baby shoes, running up an elbow. You’ve never seen someone dance on a grave like this one, I think she was dancing on graves from before she came to me, from before she boarded the ship that brought her here, from when she was little she was dancing thus. And she’d be dancing when she was old, even more roilsome in her eighties than she had been as a child. Some people are like that, they get younger with age, become more supple, break themselves again and again, relight that spark, re-read the book of their youth at eighty and ninety. They could tell you in a trance, of what you wondered all your life. They know. They follow fingers to happenstance, lighting fog grenades and go flash! flash! Flash, I dice myself with a teaspoon, coming up for air, ignoring the strings, amplifying the bass, getting all tremolo and carriage, mis-fired the sing-song of the ages, murmured me in a home. I had dancing boots from the start, hot tea caterpillar waving, click-et-ey-click-ing in a typewriter’s hue, step step step, I had the spotlight until the end of the curtain’s show. This muddled dream, this in-between, raking feathered gardens from a borrowed line of Indochine. I ignored all commercial material, that was my secret, what catapulted me into heights, ignored every seeming soapbox, tuned them out, volumed them down low, and ignored top ten lists and psycho recommendations. What school was best, what city best to live in. Ignored all that, cut my own path, listened not to people’s ideas of who was coolest, who I should throw my like at. I threw my like when I said so, let it go only when I really liked, not just when my Twitter stream showed some interest. My like was thrown upon you, beach dweller, bicycle rider, tea maker, thrown upon you like a lei, marked upon you, you looked different from that day on. For like changes a person. That I liked you, changed you. You were no longer just you, you were you liked by me, and that was the final day of your old life, I could see. How would I know when to call your name? How would I know how not to get too close to you, to let you live apart from me while we were together? This was not smothering. This was me partner you and me let you write your book while I did my yoga and approached enlightenment. We had to live upon peace wherein I never broke you with demands or bored you with my petty needs. I wanted to shop for my own tampons, have you not worry about it, wanted to make my own trips to the grocery store. And bring you special teas, teas you had never heard of and I had somehow found. Wanted to bathe you in special salts and special soaps and rub your scales with loofahs, rock you in dizzying arms made for holding baby birds, one at a time. You made lunch; I listened. You went for a run; I waited. I didn’t want to bug you being the wife who needed to go running with you. That was your thing, I respected that. I know you say I can come with you any time I want but that is your thing, I want to keep it that way. We have our things we do together, some of the grocery shopping, make love, clean the house, our trips to the bay. But it’s like when I’m meditating. We have our together meditation and we have our separate meditation. I am trying to elicit a certain result. You are not interested in that. So when we meditate together I tune myself into what you are doing, I meditate with you, I do and do together. There was a whirlwind outside the room, people who thought that you were trying to date them and people who thought that I was trying to date them. Even when we were just friendly with strangers, strangers thought that we were coming onto them. We had to cancel dates with non-date-ables and reassure them that we were ok with our spouse. I knew you weren’t going anywhere, I knew that by your eyes alone. And I hope you knew I wasn’t going anywhere, I tried to give you looks to tell the same. The real part of the dream was the part where I took you inside of my body and loved you there. You had every vantage point from which to know me. To know what I was about. I let you see me from every angle, we had cameras in the ceiling! And what came of it, just that you knew from true that I would never leave you, that I was addicted, that I needed you in order to exist! That in order to be me, now, I needed you. We had come together in a way that we would never go apart. If I had never gone on that trip I never would have met you, I’d be reading a fashion magazine in my room at home and listening to mother tell me to get my life together. Train, on track, get married and find a job and make kids and stop lounging around the house eating my doughnuts. That’s the boresome fit that was my life before I met you. Raiding mother’s doughnuts and listening to how un-practical I was with a life who favored practicality well I wasn’t practical what could I say? I was an air sign, crossed with fire, I wasn’t meant to practice practicality, Mom, I was meant to free-spirit my way through the college years, never pick a major and emerge the greatest actor of my generation. I would have done it, too, if I hadn’t met you. And I know you never understand, but picking a career after having met you is boring, there’s no point. I don’t want to be the greatest actor of my generation anymore. I want to be with you. I know some people don’t think being with someone is a total thing to do, complete within itself, but I do. I do think that, think that being your partner is enough, enough to do in life, and it’s what I want to do above all other, so let me do that, please. Let me revel in what is you and support you in your writing and be a part of you. Let me make babies with you and raise them and let them be our joy. That is not enough? Tell me how that is not enough. It’s all I can think of, that I would love to do. My career meant nothing. It meant nothing to me. I’m not a career girl, but a man’s woman, a piece meant to join with another piece to make a whole. Let me do that. Let me do that with you, please. Let me make you happy. It is worth a life, to me, to do that. That’s how much I love you. And don’t get weird about it, please. It’s not some subservient thing, I promise. It’s just that it makes me happy to see you happy, so if I can make you happy, I want to do that. It gives so much to me. Maybe we won’t be right together forever, and if that happens, I will be real with you, I won’t pretend we’re still made for each other. But for now, we are, I think you see that, don’t you? Don’t you see that your part was built for my part and my part was built for yours? Can’t you see that we’re perfect together? That it doesn’t get any better than this? I waited so long for you, needed you to come. And you did. You came for me, or let me do the same. You were here for me, I think you waited too. You waited here in the sands and in the winds riding your bicycle and ordering seafood and doing all the things you did while you waited for me. You kept yourself busy with other women while you waited. But they were never me, so you kept trying them out. I don’t mind. I don’t care what you did before we met, I only care what you do now. I think you needed more than those women could offer you. And I think I do offer that, I think somehow I am what you want, which is amazing to me since I’m as broke as a nail. But this collection of oddities and meditation is exactly what you want, I think. And you love my body. I let you love it. I, somehow, appeal to you, appeal to your senses, appeal to your very brain. It must be something in the shape of me, that you were missing a very similar shape from your childhood, such that we fit together like a hand and a glove, like salt and pepper, like a body and a grave. Of leaving here and never coming back, of going somewhere else. Of letting this be my goodbye, this time when I see you but don’t tell you I’m leaving, but just sit with you, in my mind. And in a week, or in a month, when you haven’t seen me, you’ll know I’m gone. But we needn’t do it with a hug, or a word, we can just have had that last visit, one of us not knowing a thing. And I’ll think of you, cutting out spaces in my mind and placing you there, on my shelves of laughter, of summer outings, of books, of days, of mornings, of beach trips, of running in the sand. Of you sifting me, timely, through fingers, strumming like a harp. And then I knew you once, and you are only in my mind, and you remember me at random, in fissures of recall, little moments not lost. And I’ll think of you that same way, here and maybe there, maybe now and maybe then. And that’s how you came here, looking for your home. This place I’ve known forever, this place I’ll someday leave, that’s the place you choose to stay. When you lay asleep, and I would cover you up from the wind. Your bare back showing, as you lay on your stomach, and you had gone to bed before me, you don’t have to be a genius to know that I loved you, that I gave my all to you, that you were safely in my care. I wanted to say everything to you, everything that could be said, wanted our conversation to extend forever and all the gaps to be filled in. Wanted to have every night from here to infinity to discuss with you, everything from the local news to weather to philosophy to our love for each other. And I’d cover you up while you slept, and wish you good dreams. And you’d be off in fantasy land while I finished up the night, putting back the pillows we’d disarranged, wiping the kitchen counter, sitting on the couch by myself looking out the dark window toward the boardwalk, feeling the night breeze. Wondering how early the trash would be picked up. Thinking about the shops across the alley, the coffee shop and the tailor and the ice cream parlor, all doing their thing. Opening each morning, collecting their customers. And I looked at the coffeeshop some mornings, becoming familiar with their regulars, seeing the owner sweep up the pavement, watching him arrange the chairs. I never drank coffee there, we always made our coffee at home. And our tea. But that coffee shop was like an extension of our apartment, like part of the family, and I felt I knew the owner even though I had never spoken to him. He worked in the morning and let his staff close up at night. I imagined him in some nearby home, and what did he do in the evenings? Watch the news? Do the books for his shop? Order supplies? Did his business go well? Was it losing money? Would he be here forever, or would the shop close its doors? The ice cream shop was new, before that it had been a sunglass hut, selling post cards and glasses to tourists. They must not have sold enough glasses and post cards. We’re a little off the beaten path. Not too much foot traffic down here. But it must be amazing competition to try and get a spot on the main boardwalk. The shops there are dense. Not everyone can be up there. Shops off the main boardwalk are better if they’re not tourist shops. Shops that do well are bicycle shops for the locals, not bicycle rentals, but bicycle sales, service. Other shops that do well are local coffee shops, not chains like the tourists like but independent shops. What else does well? High-fashion clothes shops for the locals, the rich ones. Private label, boutique. And hair salons. People on vacation don’t usually get their hair cut so the salons do well on streets like mine. It’s actually an alley, but we park on it and drive on it and it has a name. But all the backs of the houses and condos and apartments face that way. The entry to my apartment is on the alley side. Our main windows face that way, the way of the ocean. That’s the way we look out, across the street and over a few rows of houses, then the beach, then the water. You can see the bike path, cutting through sand, where tourists ride rented cycles up and down the coast. And the lifeguard beach houses, blue, wooden houses with a ramp up to the back and a front window that faces out toward the ocean. They’re set far back from the edge of the water. Life guards watch with binoculars, and they rescue beginning swimmers who are clearly having trouble staying above water. They maintain the surfing and the swimming lanes. I tried to surf once in this water, could hardly get up, went back to reading my book on the sand, which is all I really like to do at the ocean. Maybe wade out, feel the waves, go to where it’s chest high and feel the sea around me, rocking me, rolling me back and forth, the hugeness of the sea, the weight of it, holding me, carry me, spit me back to the land. Or pull me out, pull me farther and farther, pull me into you, pull my body, pull me into the deep and unknown you, the you that I cannot know, the you that stays a mystery, the you that calls me in tones too deep for me to hear, names me with words too folded upon themselves to understand. That is the ocean that I like, the too-deep one, the one who never explains herself to me. She is infinite, wise, subtle, she is power beyond power, she is unnameable, clever, but beyond clever, wise, she loves, she shelters whales, she is tall and wide, she is heavy and through that heaviness comforting, she never says a word, she contradicts herself, folds upon herself again and again, artfully bends her waist to avoid spears, allows boats (sometimes), and passes along travelers who she allows, stalling others, killing others, seeming not to care. She is great, in short, greater than any one of us, greater than many of us, she calls to us in darkness, makes her way upon the shore, makes her way to the shallows, makes her way to the boardwalk, underneath it, rising, burying the stilts. Then slowly retreats, gives us space, allows for some human passing, walkers along the lower path, by way of the boardwalk stilts, through that deep path that runs along low tide, where the gulls nest below the boards and empty bottles float above the shells. Watery, watery deep. Watery, watery hole. Buy me a few minutes within you, out before the fishers throw their lines over the dock, wade me, float me, rock me, roll me, under the surface my feet standing alongside clams and crabs and shallow fish, rippling. Does the ocean hear us? Does she follow our song? I think she’s deaf. I don’t think she cares about our boardwalk or our town. I think we have only borrowed her to put ships in her. I think she is destroying us, constantly. I think ships rust and boardwalks rot and float away. I think she does not hear us, but turns her ear upward, to the only moon. I think that’s all she listens to, all that gravity pulling her out of the ground. They are the ones who converse, the skies and the sea, talking past us in their monthly ritual, pulling us along with them, pulling our personalities, pulling us in cycles undeniable, which we read about in the paper. Hello moon, this is sea. Hello sea, this is moon. Where do we go today? How do we pass? What do we mean, right now, what do we mean in this particular passing through the sky? Rock. Roll. Quiet moon pulls me infinite, immense quiet mass of algae and fish, rising, making the world an oval. You came to me once in a dream, I dreamt you, moon, and you sang silently. Whizzing ’round the Earth, at delectable speeds, you pulled and caught me, and I became your slave. To unearthly brightness, to your place in the sky. I became your slave and you cradled me, cradled me, cradled me back and forth. Back and forth. Sang me a lullaby. Rocked me to sleep. I am the sleepy sea and you’ve made quick work of me. You were big enough to pull me, to make me yours, and I follow you to bed each night, avoiding you during some of the month and approaching you during other times. You are prickly and ashamed when you’re bleeding, wanting time alone and not handling the agitation of the water. When you bleed, I ache to be with you and sometimes you will let me. Saying it’s that time of month but I don’t care if you don’t. And I never care. Just want to be with you in every way in every possible way in every way inventable every way time could allow, all those ways plus one, plus one infinity, plus one. See your dried blood on me in the morning and love you even more for it, love that you bleed, that you roll with the tides and so do I, follow 30-day rhythms of potency and mood. We are both subject to the moon. Both guided by the sky. I don’t have the words to say it but I am in you like the sea. You are my ocean. When I go to the ocean, shells and sharks teeth and the roll of the water reminds me to get in her. That my job is to get in her. With you the same. When I am in you I am reminded to get in you. That in you is where I need to be. Get in me, you call, you call me to get in you, forever, for good. To be in you, as I am in the ocean, when she calls me, waves around my body, rolling me, in a regular rhythm, taking me and swaying me, swaying my tall body like a plant, swaying my bones, swaying my height, taking me in. In, in, in. Softening me, changing my way. Until I roll with her, roll, sway, her power taking me, turning me, sucking me in, spitting me out. Roll, ocean, roll. Roll me up in you, roll me in the tides. Roll me in your motion, dear one, strap me in. I will roll with you forever, roll with every rush toward the land and every cry to run from it. I will roll me in your arms forever. Of faces made to strangers, of glances, of love. Of that first moment, of a strand of hair. Of that touch of a hand, waiting in line for the Ferris wheel. Of faces made to strangers, the first time I saw you, with the strands of your hair falling between us, making hands in mime, pressing our faces together, looking with close eyes. Of the curl of your lips, of that almost-a-smile, of your steps, like a dance, to me, and back, and to me again, dancing closer and farther away, dancing up to me, dancing back, and then our dancing together, with hands, almost touching, in mirror, in time. Of how your prison of birth is my paradise. How you grew up here, and never escaped. How I came here later, and fell in love right away. Fell in love with the ships, fell in love with your boardwalk, fell in love with the ocean. Fell in love right away with all the little shops and the people here, everyone’s relaxed, nothing like surfers and skater chicks to keep it chill. I like that informal tone. I like the kids here, they look out for each other. The older ones look out for the younger ones. And I like the old people here, people who came here for the air, who came here for what the sea breeze could do for them, who came here to retire, because they always wanted to live by the beach. Or else moved into their summer homes, so they could spend all their time here. I like that it’s a place of dreams. Of dreaming of the ocean. Of dreaming of days spent reading and surfing and just watching the water where it goes out forever, never comes back, we like to sit beside it and watch it go. That little crest of a spot, right where the water meets the land, is so special that it gets crowded sometimes in the summer, so many blankets and so many coolers that it’s its own ocean of people, spread out across the sand. I like the less-crowded days, the fall days when the water is almost too cold to get into, when there are just a few people out on the beach, a few late sitters casting their views into the distance. I finally got my perfect day at the beach, late one summer everything came together. We smoked pot and drank spiced rum, sat cross-legged on my towel and got drunk before the sun went down, stumbling to stand up on our way home, tossed the spiced rum bottle in a dumpster in the alley, came inside. You went right to bed, and I followed you. We didn’t make love that night, we both snored and passed out on top of the sheets. That was my perfect summer day, not because we were drinking but because of these glimpses I kept getting of the sand, of your sandals, these little pictures I was taking with my mind. I realized I was going to die, and I knew that before that happened I wanted to spend as many of my moments like this as possible, lying on a towel with you, seeing just your finger, or just your side. Little snapshots that would last forever. I think that’s what forever is built of, little snapshots, little poetic moments between you and a sandal. Between you and the sky. Looking out from between my fingers, below my arm that covered my face from the sun. Little obstructed views of what’s right around me. Views of the ocean. That’s what I want to be looking at when I die. I want to be sitting on the beach, looking out at that water. Seeing the sky meet it, seeing forever. If I can arrange to die like that I will. Those tiny fragmentary moments adding up to a full life, a lifetime of snapshots, pictures taken in the mind. What will your pictures be? Which moments will you collect? Which people will be in your memory, which places will you have been, what events will dominate your mind? All those things add up to who you are, some you can choose, some it’s too late to choose. I’ll never forget that day, the day with the many pictures I took, the day of the snapshots. I take snapshots of you. Of your neck. Of your back. Of the place right above your butt. Your finger. Your thumb. Your foot. You in the yellowy dress. You in your underwear. Your nipple. A hair. One of those hairs I find on my sleeve, when you’re not around, is a snapshot of you. I carry you with me. You are amber, you are blush, you are rapture, you are grace. You step lightly out of the shower. You towel off gently. You pat your hair. You, sitting on a yoga mat drinking your tea. You, stretching, leaned all the way back, showing off your breasts, not meaning to, but showing them off anyway, stretching back, back. I talk about you when you’re not around, talk out loud to myself about you, about how wonderful you are. I draft monologues about you, blessing you, praising you, and present them to the room. You are worthy of speeches, worthy of a play. It’s incredible how bound I am to you, you have me wrapped around your finger, and I’m happy to be there, happy to love you with all my soul, you make me happy. I would do anything you say, and you would never ask me to do anything immoral. You would never abuse your power. You don’t even use it, it’s just there. You’re like an army that never fired a shot. Love, how did you get to be the ways you are, what rare childhood could have produced a you? What rare experiences must it have taken to mold you? Where did you come from, simply? How did you survive? How did you escape the volley of dulling, roughening arrows that assault a person, and become instead of something coarse, something beautiful and wild? You must have been protected by an angel. No one is as sparkling as you, no one shines. Tell me, am I special enough to be with you? Are you just putting up with me? Do I come close, do I add up to something you could love, love from the height which you come from? Are you just pretending, pretending to love me, to be close to me, to connect? I don’t know that I am as rare, or as wild. That I am wise enough to get you. That I am spiritual enough to be your partner. Why accept me? Was there no one else who could match you? We do match. We do match like two pieces of cloth cut from the same fabric. We do match like a mother and a baby bird. Not that one of us is the mother and one of us the baby, but at times you are the mother and at times I am the mother, feeding my baby whatever she wants, massaging her, putting food in her mouth, stroking her, listening to her. I drink you, I eat you, I take you in. I breathe you. I put you in a sentence, I don’t even know what I’m thinking with you. I’m unafraid with you—I forget to worry! With anyone else I’d be keeping them at a distance. With you I forget to protect myself, you’re so disarming. Give me a kiss, give me one more minute before you go, give me, give me, give me you. That is what I want. Just you. Just your body next to mine. Just your mind. Just talk to me, I love it. Write me notes. Eat dinner with me. Let’s drink tea. Be my bicycle companion, ride with me down the coast. Come out walking, get seafood, humor me while I fly a kite. You make me want to do things like fly a kite, light things, bright things, beautiful things. I would never fly a kite on my own. I wouldn’t ride bicycles as often. You bring out the me in me, the me who wants to come out, the me who has fun, who meditates every day and does my writing and keeps myself healthy. Without you I’m just a shadow, I’m inoperative, I’m lonely. I need your piece to go with my piece, need to know that there’s someone out there like me, who is a spark and who needs for the world to be brighter in every moment, who cares for people and smiles and wants us all to come to some sort of realization. I’m that hopeful, and I’m that naive, except it isn’t naiveté, it’s venerated and wise, it’s not some fancy, it’s the way the world should be. You’re bringing it about one person at a time. So am I. We’re the magicians for the magicians, we keep ourselves amused. We brighten the world for the ones who brighten worlds. You brighten me. I brighten you. This is how it works. When you’re dim, when you’re lost, I’m lost with you. When you can’t get connected I can’t either. When you discover something new I discover it with you. You’re like my medicine, and without you I’m sick. I think I was sick before I met you, malnourished, too skinny, lacking essential elements, and you fleshed me out. We can be doctors for each other, cure each other’s disease. Take out organs that are causing problems, shave off growths, recommend exercise regimens and new diets, listen to the heart, see if it’s making all the right noises, put down the stethoscope and tap on each other’s knees, checking our reflexes, then tickling the bottoms of our feet to make sure we tickle properly. I’m saying be my doctor, not play doctor, though you can play doctor too. I’m saying look in my ears to make sure I can hear what I need to hear, check my breathing, check my throat. I came to you broken, and you fixed me, you healed me, you made me right. I think you needed a little bit of my medicine, too. Think you needed my patience and my encouragement, needed someone to help you get out of your rut. You needed someone who believed you could do the impossible, so you could keep doing it, keep lighting the lives of others the way you lighten mine. I need you to heal me, so I can be the best I can be to the world. Of a crab, scuttling, in his tiny world. Of his walk within the sand. Circling, and circling. Of his avoidance of the gulls. Of their screeching, above, and his flight. Of the gull, diving, snapping the claws of a crab. Of my ticket. Of tickets and passage. Of misheard lyrics. The feeling I get when I can’t quite hear you, when you’re just that far away. When syllables are lost, when it no longer makes any sense and I stop listening. When you whisper to me, when you sneak words past my ear. When too much other noise is drowning out our words, when we have to speak above a carnival, then I hear you with clarity, then I hear you, right on. The trees wave and it might have been a little dangerous to drive, with the wind. You were playing with caffeine that day, drinking three cups of coffee to see what it would do to you. You tapped your feet more than normal, couldn’t keep your hands still. Folded them in your lap. Unfolded them. Set them on the car door, the part with the window. Folded them back in your lap. It was a bulletproof day, nothing could hurt us, nothing could distract us from the fun we were having everything looked clear, melodies were strumming, a leaf landed on your shoulder and we had to look to see where it came from, there were no trees around. It must have floated from inland, must have come a long way to see you, lighted on your shoulder to mark you, mark you specially, out of all of us, as the one with the leaf. You are the one with the leaf, that is your indian name. And we broke the rules, one by one, starting with drinking too much coffee and ending with always calling you by your name. Your real name became too much of a drag so we changed it, right from the start, changed it to something that suited you better that day. You could have been Betty or Marge or Ace, and Candy never suited you, even in play. We had to find the right perfect name, elevate it from our lips, make it real for just one day. And if I happened to call you that later, on a day or two, then so be it, that was your name then. Quietly, we played with names. Just that day, we played with names, like you were trying on a dress. Running back into the changing room. I couldn’t go in because I was male. I had to wait for you to return, with the new dress, hands smoothing your sides. And you tried them out in bright sun, there was so much sun we couldn’t avoid it. Your dress looked right in the sun, looked right with a leaf on your shoulder, to mark you as the one with the leaf. You are the mark-ed one, the hyphenated one, you are the free association one, the one who thinks with her eye. Everything is on the surface with you. You would never hide that you were in love, you’d tell everyone, your family, your little sister, your mother, a woman you met on the bus, the person you were in love with, equally, the same. So we drove that day, drove through coastal swamps and by sandy turns in the road, with rusting guard rails and the sea, just beyond us. You hummed us songs when the radio was off, and I liked your songs more than anything I could hear, I liked it especially when you hummed so high that you got to the edge of your voice, could hardly sustain the notes, cracked, broke. That it showed a finite you, a limited you, an only-human you, that’s what I liked about it. You chose notes that laid out a melody in line, hung on your voice. I like that I can hear you even when you’re not talking, just when you clear your throat. That I know your voice well enough, and that enough of your voice is contained in a throat clearing, that I can tell it’s you. I can tell it’s you in the sunlight. I can tell it’s you in the rain. I can tell it’s you at night and I can tell it’s you in the day. I can tell it’s you by the way you leave the sheets after a nap. I can tell it’s you by the way you set down glasses after a drink. I can tell it’s you by the way you put food in the refrigerator. I can tell it’s you by the way you cut an apple. I can tell it’s you by the rhythm of your typing. I can tell it’s you by your hum. I can tell it’s you by the way you leave the water running when you brush your teeth. I can tell it’s you on the way up the stairs. The way you step, then step, then stop, then step. I can tell it’s you in the pause to take your shoes off. I can tell it’s you when you run the water for tea, can tell it’s you by the way you set down the tea kettle on the top of the stove. And then you come in the bedroom, and lie on top of me, and I can tell it’s you. You uncross my arms, place them around you, our feet touch, and you press my eyebrows, press them aside, leaving the stress from my face. I can tell it’s you by your breathing. Even if my eyes were closed, I could tell it was you. You put your finger on my lips, open my mouth, kiss me. We were animals, made to do this, and somehow we found each other and figured it out. Think of all the couples out there, who have figured it out. Figured out how to love, how to cuddle, how to be close, in all these different ways we’ve figured out how to love. All those embracing couples with their special embraces and secret ways they do it to each other. A train whistle. We’re crossing under the tracks. I’d know it was you if it was just your touch, if it was just your hair. If just one hair of you fell on my sleeve, I’d know it was you. I know you by your smell. I know you by your footprint, water on the bathroom floor. I know you by the way you hang up the towels, by the way you grip the handlebars when you’re riding your bike. I know you by the paths you choose, how you like to ride close to trees and park near a single gull. You think that gull is you, in the next life, think you’re communicating with a spirit version of yourself, think the gull needs special company. You ride as close as you can to it, then park with your front wheel facing her, and you think your bike is a spirit, too. You name her and give her feelings and talk to her and she carries you, you don’t just ride her. She carries you along, beside the beach, carries you in the wind, carries you as if you were her child and she were the mother wing, carries you among the clouds and lets you drink from the sky. The sky, a giant ocean. Two oceans, one on top of the other, two horizons, two sets of storms, two tides. Each pulling the other, inviting it up. Here sky, meet sky, and here sky, meet sky. You riding between them. Sky meet sky. Turn upside-down, sky, and turn upside-down, sky. Let my fish jump into the clouds. That lake is salt water, it has dolphins and manatees. Let them jump into the sky. Let the clouds form underwater and let the moon sink to the bottom of the ocean, let it lie there like a dish, unbroken, to light the deep. Let them not rush together, let them guide slow, join like molasses, each spinning into each other, syrup stirring together sky and sea so that one drips up and the other rains down, and there is only one. Let the wind blow across the bottom of the ocean. Let me fly a kite underwater. Let schools of fish convene in the sky, let them hold meetings and conferences and fairs above the water. Let rocks fall up and make a splash. Let the beach join clouds. This is where I live, where the sky meets the water, this is the imagery I play with, this is my home. Where ships dock and people board, unboard, coming to our shores to play. Where locals surf and skate everywhere, where people like me are welcome, even though we moved here later. Where the sand meets the water, where bodies lay out to absorb the sun. I call this place home, even though I’ve only lived here eight years. But as much as any place, these train whistles and whistles of ocean liners and skater kids and outdoor seafood restaurants have become my thing. I wear sandals everywhere. I go barefoot on the boardwalk sometimes, ride my bike barefoot, walk all the way from my apartment to the ocean with no shoes. Go for walks in the morning and think about all the details, but by the time I get to the sea I’m nothing, not thinking anymore, just a looker, just a feeler of the power of the waves. They make me forget myself, their constant cadence, make me forget that I am a man in love with a woman, even, make me forget work and my marriage to it. They make me forget that I was born, and that I’m going to die. It is just the waves, their constant crashing, their receding, their coming and and their going out. Their gravity. Their fluidity. Their infinity. That they never stop. That night and day, like a heartbeat, they’re on. That they were here before I was. That they’ll be here after me. I stand and watch the waves. I feel them at my feet. I watch them crash, and I see them further out where they’re bigger, and I wonder, I just wonder. Of that seat on the train, the one you used to sit in, that I can still find empty if I look, with scratches and old marker stains, near the window, that used to hold you as you looked out on the boardwalk, watched it ride away backwards as the train moved. I love that seat. It’s the only one I ever ride in. Or, sometimes: next to, as if you were coming with me to work, riding that train in the morning, with the first light coming in. Talking through our usual circles, with that empty seat next to me, gesturing in hands, looking over at you occasionally, seeing your smile, hearing what you have to say on the matter. Knowing all your points, right up to the point where you surprise me, and then my imaginary you falling apart, and it’s just me on the train, with that empty seat beside me, where you would always sit if you were here. Of bare backs and skin. Of the swimsuits we wear, showing ourselves to the sun, cradling here under its brightness. I remember the first time I saw you in a bikini, though the one-piece is really more your style. Of the first time you let me take it off you, uncovering your skin that way. Applying suntan lotion, letting me rub your back on the beach, you untied your top so I could get under the string, there were voices telling us that anything we did was ok. Voices turned on the wind, voices coming across the sea, telling us that anything, anything, was ok. We had to get rid of those voices from our childhood that told us we didn’t get to enjoy a day in the sun, that told us we weren’t good enough, that told us to feel guilty. We had to get rid of those, let them fade away with every wave and let them fade away in the mind, let them fade away across your body, so that they were far, far away voices, from across the bay. Your mother gone across water and mine equally far away over land. We had to become our own mothers, love ourselves, love ourselves with soft voices and eliminate anything harsh that had come before. Mothers didn’t mean to make harsh voices, but they had, had stroked us with them from time to time, and they stuck, but we let them go. Let them go with the going of the water down the shore, let them go with the wind over the waves. And then it was really silent for a moment, before we started to fill in all the voices with our own. But then we made a song of it, filling in with only love, with soft caresses and bubbles, made a bath of it, washed ourselves softly, let all the water run out of the tub. Felt the crest of it falling along the skin, that tickle the bath water gives when it washes down, slowly running out, touching every part of your skin. I meditate in the bath like that, letting the water run out slowly, waiting for it to run out completely before I stand. You respect my baths, let me do them in solitude, you know, I think, that it’s part of how I meditate, and you would never want to interrupt my meditation. You let me soak for hours, thinking, ruminating, going over my life. That’s part of how I think, it has been since I was little. I used to read in the bath. Now mostly I just sit there, refill the water with hot once it’s cooled down, do that three or four times before I’m done. Being in the ocean is similar, getting your nose splashed with salt water, standing in the waves. Can just stand there for an hour being rocked back and forth, seeing all that is around you. The water is clear where we are, you can see down to the bottom with its shells and shell fragments. I have a big piece of pink shell I keep in the bathroom sink. It looks like a tooth, it’s pointed at one end. It keeps me grounded, to have a piece of the ocean in our bathroom, it reminds me always of the ocean and to get in her. She needs to be gotten in. She needs to be explored. It’s amazing that a person could forget to explore her! But thoughts slip away, and even when you live right by the ocean you can forget to go visit, can go through weeks or months where you just forget to go or avoid going for some unspoken reason, until finally you get over yourself and return to her. That first step into the ocean after having been gone for months. You forget how cool she is. And how wonderful is the sound of crashing waves. How the sky looks over the horizon. How the shells feel beneath your feet. And it is wonderful to come back, to be in her again, to know her. Is it the same for you, I wonder, do you have this same relationship with the sea? Is she a she to you? Is he a he? Do you make love to the waves underwater, do you cherish her in some similar way? Or cherish the sun, or the sand, or some other part of this looking glass we have to peer into? I think you must. Even if your metaphors are not completely the same. I think I see you doing it when you pick up shells. I think the shells are magic to you, think you love to listen to them and feel their textures, see their infinite patterns and enjoy the search for them. Your shell collection on the windowsill. The way you arrange them in lines, concentric circles, categorizing and interleaving them, placing all the pink ones together, then making them every other pink and white, pink and white. They’re a constellation to you, a map. They’re a map of your experiences at the beach. A map of days. You have special ones you give me. I keep them on the dresser. They’re the most beautiful, the most striking ones you’ve found. There’s that one that looks like crystal, sparkling in the middle, glitter. I think that’s my favorite one. It’s you, to me, you’re that shiny shell with the glitter center, that looks like it must have been made by humans, no way it could have come about naturally. But it did. Somehow, in the depths of the ocean, that shell came about, got formed through tumbling and some small animal who lived there. Then there’s the one with the perfect spiral, so delicate, so fine, that it seems to have been made by machine. But it wasn’t. It too was made by the sea, somehow drawing that oh-so-perfect spiral on its top, in almost-white over cream, so delicate you almost can’t see it. That one reminds me of you, too. You’re my perfect shell, the shape of you formed by some natural miracle, every posture, every line of you, every spiral, ideal, flawless. Added together like a symphony. Do you tire of hearing how much I love you? Does it wear you out? Do you wish there was an end to how in love with you I am, how obsessed? I could never tire of telling you how much you appeal to me, how driven I am to love you. It really is an obsession. I hope you don’t mind. I think you were made perfect for me. Others don’t see you the way I do. They like you, yes, most of them. But they don’t know how perfect you are! They cannot see! What a crime it is to see you as average, and I know some of your girlfriends, even boys, don’t see you like I do. They’re fools, not to recognize you, but how lucky I am to be the one who can see you, who gets to be with you because of that. What a treasure you are! What a bounty, hidden by pirates, buried in sand, who was just waiting for someone to see you like I do! It is funny that I happen to be the one who sees you for what you’re worth, my bumbling little self. It is funny what accident brought us together! If you hadn’t come on your school trip that day, if I hadn’t spoken to you, if you hadn’t turned around to listen. If we hadn’t made eyes and been all smiles and if we hadn’t squeezed our heads together to look through that circular window to see your ship sitting there waiting to take you home. If we hadn’t hyper-examined our receipt, hadn’t investigated its every letter, its every colon. You told me you thought it had been photocopied. We were detectives. You showed me your notebook. I read a page. Then put the notebook down, and looked you in your face. This is what had come from this person? This most beautiful writing, this most beautiful soul. I wanted to show you my notebooks, to show you I was the same, but they were at home. How could I show you that we were cut of the same stuff, that we were alike? I didn’t need to. You saw it yourself, by your own devices, I don’t know how you did it to this day because I’m not very good when I talk, I’m much better in writing. In writing I can express myself. In talk I am a bumbling clown. Maybe you liked clowns. Maybe you could see the look on my face when I finished reading your journal. Maybe you could see that I could read you, and that was enough. Maybe, like it was for me, it was partially for you the way I moved. You could see it in my body language, that I was no threat to you, that I was happy and childish, misusing words for what I think they mean. Maybe you could see I was unafraid, I was unafraid to look at you for what you really were. I wasn’t afraid of your power. I wasn’t afraid of your intensity. It fed mine and mine fed yours back and we were a fire, fire and wind, one heating the other and the other fueling the one. Dear, I was never afraid of you. I was never afraid of your pain. And I know that super-happy people are always full of pain. Your lightness had some dark elements to it. You were a demon, as well as a goddess. You scare some people, I think. They’re not ready for someone who comes at them full on. They’re not ready for someone who comes at them with no apprehension, someone who comes at them without fear, who is ready to dip all the way in the water at the very beginning. Of grief, of wearing the black shirt, or the black tights. Of your scarf, that lets me know you’re mourning. Of the lost, of the loved, of those missing. Of the look in your eyes, when I see you think of him. Of the way he’s still with you, of the way he’s there with us in the quiet of a room, even our bedroom, of the way he never leaves you. Of his name, that I’ll never know but that you repeat in your mind, over and over, to keep him with you. And there are questions I know not to ask, places I know not to go. Wounds too deep in you to touch, conversations we shouldn’t have. For that is your loss, and I could never share it, could never meet it in you. It could never be transferred. Only you were there, and only you were there with him. I can only sit with you, and know that I can never know, but sit with you and hold your hand. And sometimes even that is too much, you have to be with yourself, and you have to sit on the edge of our bed and cry. I would never keep you from that, from what you need to do. He is your ghost you carry with you. I can see him sitting beside you, can see you reach for him, can see you touch, and see him touch you back. And see you starting to forget him, and see you hating yourself for it. See him starting to fade, in the time you spend not thinking about him, when we’re getting ready to go somewhere, see him fall behind. And I almost miss him myself, knowing he’s a part of you, and myself, don’t want him to go away. For who would you be, if you didn’t miss him? Would you be someone new, someone whose pain could not bring us together? Would you be less careful? Would you be stronger? Would you need me still, if he were truly gone? Would you move on, would you leave us both at the same time, and fly out of here, never coming back, would you let us die away from you and become someone totally different, would you shed your bags and step onto a plane with nothing but your ticket and a backpack, would that be the end? So I see you mourning, and I love your lover all the more for being in you, love that he died and love that he’s still here, love it all and love your sadness, love its taste, love its shape, love it in the quiet of you when you’re putting your clothes on. Love it in your stare. Love it in those little pauses we have at dinner, when your mind goes and you never really fully come back, where some part of you is left behind, and part, and part, and what is left, after all those pauses, is it still you, or is it just your grieving, and you don’t even understand it anymore? You don’t even know why it remains, why you wear that black scarf around your neck, draping you in memories of someone who has forgotten you, and forgotten you forever. The way you take your time. The way you’re not rushed by anything. Folding the sheets. You let me take one end, we bring them together like in a dance. You press the cloth together, take your time going to my linen shelf, place the sheet on the top shelf, return to the dryer and we fold the socks. I didn’t used to fold them before you came. I just placed them in the drawer in a pile. You take your time. With you we fold the socks. With you there is no rush. Everything is done right. You hang up all my shirts, buttoning the top button so they hang properly, touching them like you were touching me. And when I fold your pants, it is the same, I touch them like I was touching you, like it was you beneath my fingers, and I was putting you away. Then I make breakfast and we sit in the living room, the corner room, and eat our eggs. The sea breeze comes in through the open windows. We can hear the man across the street readying his shop, putting out the chairs. The horn of a fire engine, going to check on someone. Then you place your plate on the coffee table and lean back, and look at me. It’s a faraway stare, like you’re summing me up. I look back at you like a child. I smile, but you don’t exactly smile back. You’re too serious today, arranging us in your mind, trying to figure out what this is we’re doing. I think you trust it, I think that is what’s behind the confidence in your stare. I think you trust us. Trust us, my love, trust that I’ll be here tomorrow, and that you can stay. That you won’t have to go back home across the waters, to live with your mom. After what you’ve seen, after what we’ve been together, that wouldn’t do. You’ve traveled now, you’ve seen the other side of the shore, and what we’ve created won’t go back in the box. It’s out, now, and we have to see it to its conclusion, whatever that may be. Probably we will grow apart, because that’s what people do. Hopefully that will take years, and we’ll be entirely different people then, look different, talk different, have grown outside our current incarnations. I could see us breaking up, when you get more serious about your spirituality, your quest. Could see us growing apart then. Or if I wanted someone younger, some day, some new spark to revitalize me. I could see it happening. Just because you have to be realistic. But today, no. Today we are perfect for each other, today we are young love, needing each other as much as we want each other. I think I needed you to become myself, needed you to get me going, get my fires lit, have a reason to do so. Before you I was dead, deadened, to routine and my little way of life here on the bay. I had become too entrenched. I had come to expect everything that happened, had my ways of observing the world around me, was never surprised. I need you to come and surprise me, and you did. You came into my world and un-seated me, got me off my track and gave me something to be excited about. I needed that. I needed something so special that it was worth trying for, something that I would fear to lose. I fear to lose you now, fear that you will decide you don’t like me, fear I’ll do something so boring that it will make you lose interest. It gives my life excitement, having you as my audience, having you know when I take a shit and when I brush my teeth and when I exercise. You know when I come. My passion is on display for you. You know everything I eat. You know when I’m off coffee and when I’m back on. You know when I skip my morning walk, and it troubles you. I have you as my witness, you see my life in every detail, are part of its every detail. I see when you meditate, and I know when you’re rushing. When you’re only doing it as a ritual. When it’s not real. I see when you get flustered, when that normal composure turns into off-balance flittering. Now I know you well enough to know that your magic doesn’t happen all the time, that it’s an act, a show, and one that takes time to prepare. You are not happy all the time. You are not super-bright all the time. You have worries, and bad days, and sometimes you’re just not connected. Oh, how you worry, worry that you’ll never get back to center, never get back to the you that makes you you. But you always get back. It just takes time. It takes you moping and it takes you sleeping in, sometimes. It takes your ritual of cleaning and making everything right. Then going for your run. Then making your coffee. Then making love. Then your face returns, the real you, the highest you, the brightest you, the you who can put a smile on the face of anyone you encounter, who operates from a place of strength and has seemingly endless wells of energy, that you who can be an angel to a child, who can connect with every stranger, who is light, pure light. It takes a while for you to get to that state, I have learned. It is part of a fullness. And you need your off times, your times when you lie in bed, when you read spiritual books and check your email. I have my times like that too. Mine is going to restaurants, sitting in the corner and writing on my notebook, I have to listen to moody music and work out my words, have to get beyond the small talk and all the noise of everyday conversation and find something exalted, something simple and pure, something artful. I need to get moody. At first you didn’t understand that about me, you thought I was sad and you tried to help me get out of it. Now you just say, are you in one of your moody moods, and let me go through it. You let me be. You understand it doesn’t mean anything that I don’t invite you along for my solo trips to camp in restaurants and write. It’s just part of what I do. I need that time to recharge. And there is something sad in me, something that needs to be alone. But it’s not all sad. Once I’m alone for long enough, like in the bath, or walking along the beach, I get happy. Or I get peaceful. I get back to that magic state of me, where I see expansively, where I can find the good in anyone, where I am the deepest listener in the world, those things about me that others find attractive. I am my own kind of magician, I know it. Know that there is not someone like me and that I bring a specialness to the table. I can see that in me, if someone like you is attracted to me. That I am a spark, that I have that brightness, that I glow. And you’ve come to know my recharge times as part of the package, that I have to get moody and gloomy, that I have to be alone. We are a strange pair. We both have our outward-facing selves. But then we have our inward-facing ones. I don’t know that you could say either of us was an introvert or an extrovert. I think we’re both. May I leave you alone when you need to be left alone, may I respect that. May I be there for you when you need me. And I know you don’t need me all the time. But I know you do need me some of the time. I love both. I love that you’re independent, that you don’t need me. But I love that you need me, love that I’m part of your routine, that without me you wouldn’t be the same. I need you to need me. For now. Maybe not forever. But for now I do, need you to need me like a fish needs water, need to be such a part of you that without me you cannot breathe. It does something for me, gives me some meaning, that you need me like that. Neither of us could be taken away from the other without being devastated. That is how we are right now. We are like every young couple, who thinks that the other is our world. We mean that much to each other. Maybe it seems silly but you are that much a part of my life, you are that important to me. I don’t think people were meant to be alone, not all the time. We were meant to find each other, and make each other our worlds. You have become mine, there is no doubt. You have made me complete, you have lit in me what was missing. It’s not that you complete me like a puzzle. You complete me like a flame. You brighten in me what was dim. It was there, it was just dim. And now it’s lit again. Light me on fire, breathe oxygen into me, set me aflame and cup me in your hands. Let me do the same to you. Be your brightest self to me. Be that impossible you, the you I met one day in a seafood restaurant, who instantly showed me I was in love, who opened me up, who got me out of my shell. Be that you to me. Brightness of where you used to be, my love. Brightness of your ghost, knowing all of us, driving us forward, friending us in odd moments, in blank chairs beside us, taking our hands. And you warm me, warm my shoulders instead of being cold, as ghosts are supposed to be, you warm me. You blind me with light. You pass above, not below. You tumble and tumble and tumble and tumble, and never fall. You try my ears with noise not meant for this dimension, rolls and bells so bright, so, so bright I cannot hear. And you web my mouth, unspoken. Dust, and shafts of joy. Of the day where you used to be. Of your running. Of your shouts. Of your laughter in the bed. Echoing. And I’m arching for you, reaching, and I cannot find. Cannot find you. Waiting in a station for a train that never comes. Of placing your clothes in a basket. Knowing you’ll never wear them again. Of the dust in the air above. The lack of the sound of your voice. And knowing that I’ll never hear that voice again. We used to know you. You used to be beside. We used to feel you. You used to feel inside. Of a love note you never sent me. Or maybe I just pretended it wasn’t from you, pretended I found some stranger’s note, and read it like that, like it was someone else’s, a lost communique between people we’d never meet. What if you spoke to me like that, as a stranger, like we’d never met. I pretend that, sometimes, when you’re talking to me, pretend I just met you and this is the first time you’re speaking, to hear your words differently, see you new, see you as if it was the first time. I need to hear you like that, to keep things fresh, need to treat you like I did the first I met you, when I cared the utmost if you liked me back. Need to treat you as well as I would a stranger, someone wild and unknown and who deserves the most I can give them. You are strange to me, the way you speak, your grammar, your ideas. I don’t know if I believe in all the spiritual stuff you tell me, but I love to hear it anyway. Love to hear what you’re up to in your mind. It’s your life, it’s your spirit, it doesn’t matter if I believe it, I want you to keep telling me forever. Need to see the new things you brought home from the grocery store. Fruit I’d never heard of. They have that at our grocery store? It just took you to see it. I would have walked past that aisle a million times and never seen it. I took your note and folded it in half, then folded it again, and again. Put it in my top dresser drawer. I had found it on the bed. Pretended I didn’t know who put it there, that it mysteriously showed up in my house and I had no idea how it got there. I want to keep you strange when we make love. Pretend it is the first time I’ve felt your body, pretend I’ve never been there before. Explore you, make you come. Find myself coming with you, in you, as if it was the first time. Each time, the first time. Each time, the only time. Breathing with you. Hearing your breath like music. Knowing where you are, by your breath. Can we make love like it’s the first time? Like it’s the only time? Can this one tonight be the best and wildest and cleanest time there ever was? Can you allow yourself to feel pleasure with me? Allow me to be part of it, while you let yourself go? Do you tire of all my questions? Because I have many questions for you, dear. Questions about how you got here and where you came from, how long you plan to stay with me. Can you make your home here? Is it suitable? Do we have enough in common? These are all the questions I ask, because I want to keep you, keep you like some exotic animal, which is what you are, an exotic animal. With special needs and special care instructions. Needs to take a bath at least once a day, preferably followed by a shower. Needs plenty of reading material. Needs to converse with a sympathetic human many times a day, needs conversation more than air, needs it like a plant needs light, to make her grow. I’ll have to break myself anew in these conversations, really push myself, find the limits. Discuss art, philosophy, discuss matters of the spirit most of all. I will need to be fearless, for in these conversations we will uncover areas that are hard to look at, areas where we need to grow. And growth will be painful. I will not want to do it. It will require effort, and will I be up for it? She is an animal of conversation, an animal for it, taking it on wildly and passionately. She needs a mate. Must be full, and deep, and wide. Must have thought about these things before. Must be able to open her eyes sometimes, open them to something new that she had never thought about. Must be a fearless explorer. Must be willing to learn her love preferences, what she does and doesn’t like in bed. She is fire in bed, as she is fire out of bed, and you must be willing to be fire with her. To kindle. To improvise. To burn up, if required. Burn with me, burn us all the way to the ground. Burn until there is nothing left. Be my phoenix, and fly with me above the pyre. Leave nothing but ashes. And blow my ashes into the wind, sink them to the sea, let me have not much left from when you met me, let us grow together, let us revel in how much we can change. Are you who you were when I met you? You’ve changed. You’ve grown. You’ve become this new person I never could have imagined. You’ve grown with me. You’ve gone through the fire. You’ve come out on the other side illuminated. You are, my dear, you are illuminated. Blinding light. You blinded me a little the other day. You were putting on your socks and I caught you in just the right way. And I could see. You’ve got it. You’ve got that spark we’re always talking about, you have it in your bones. I would lie with your bones, if that was all that was left of you, I would kiss them, and be happy. The way you move. Even just putting on socks! I can’t explain it, it was a mystery. But I knew, that day, that you had become illuminated, that everything you did was an act of love. You made tea with love and put on your socks with love and looked at me with love and opened the window with love and arranged our living room with love, setting the chairs just right, perfect for company, perfect for us to sit. I wish I could be like you, I wish I had that love in everything I did, in my sitting, in my breathing, in my writing. Wish I had that love so pure that it comes as reflex, didn’t even have to think about it. I think you practice that kind of love, like you practice a sport. I think it takes routine to get it into the bones, takes a skill that has to be developed, that doesn’t come naturally, is not there at birth. I think you have that kind of love, and that is what I love about you most. That you are pure love, when you talk to the man across the street who runs the coffeeshop, when you talk with homeless people, when you talk to me. Everything I have learned about you is subject to notice. You put me on notice. I can never slack with you, can never coast, because you are breaking it new in every day, in every moment that you are alive. I like that. I like having to stay awake, to keep up with you, to keep pace alongside you. Keep me with you, as you change. Keep me with you, while you grow. Keep me as your own wild pet. I pray I keep you interested. Pray I am enough for you. Pray you don’t get bored. Please, let me be as wild and as unchained and as free as you. Let me be free. Let me roam our little beach with my own spunk, with my own spark, as I go to work and as I converse with shopkeepers of my own. And let me have my own friends, my old friends, who you don’t really like but you understand why I do. Why I am with them. We’ve known each other so long. We converse, too, in our own way. It isn’t as expansive as your an my conversations but sometimes I need to not be expansive, I need simple talk with simple friends. You know that about me. You’re not the same way. You like it exalted all the time, you’re trying to get into a state of pure awareness all the time. I need breaks, need to go to the bar with regular people and shoot the shit. It does something for me. There’s something exalted about that too. It puts me back together, in a way, grounds me. And you’re always telling me to get grounded. That’s part of how I do it. But I always return to you, and you let me sober up, and you don’t give me a hard time for not being spiritual all the time, you know I’ll come back to you and we’ll have our time. I think that’s why I want to meet your mother, your sister. I want to see who you’d hang out with, if you had people. Who are your people? Bring them to me, even if it’s only for a day. We’ll hang out at the seafood restaurant, we don’t even have to leave the dock. You can pack them back away, board them on their ship, just let me meet them. It means something to me. I know you’re embarrassed. Someday you’ll meet my mother, but she’s so far away. Your family is close, they deserve to see us happy, to see the way we are with each other. I want your mom to see that, want her to know you’re ok with me, that you’re ok here. Let her see that we’ve made a life, that we make life together. Together, we make life. Say it with me. Together, we make life. There’s a mantra. Can we use it next time we meditate? Sure. See? There are mantras everywhere. They’re waiting to be plucked from the sea, from language, you just have to fish for them. We used to see you. You used to see us and see every motion we made. You used to see our waking and our leaving the house. You used to travel with us, to the beach, to the shore, you used to come with us in our bags, escape with air when we opened them, circle us in the sand. Now there is nothing. No air, on opening. No following. You’ve moved on. Haunting someone else’s bag, someone else’s beach trip. Or you’ve gone away, to wherever spirits go when they’re done with earth. We remain. You’re in archways and high glass ceilings. In train stations, in fresh pots of coffee. Sometimes you spin around flowers, with purple trails, like a spell. Sometimes you’re found just above a wave. Running parallel. Flying to the shore and then dispersing, breaking apart in a zillion pieces, going upward. Up, and up. Blanketing us, like stars. Who literally puts tape over her mouth so she will not curse. Who censors herself. Who wants to be the utmost in every moment, who is honing herself to be a spiritual master. Who needs this for some reason from childhood, but needs it, above all. Who amazes me with her spirituality, who literally amazes me, with her centeredness. You are truly unfuckable. I am the deep one and you are the light one. You have worked at being light. In a way I’ve worked at being deep. Together we are the light and the deep. And we pin together to make something else, our couplehood. How do our friends see us, other than perfect for each other. How do they think of us as a pair? It’s beyond me to imagine, I can hardly figure out how to think of us myself. And maybe I don’t need to, maybe it’s just enough to be. To be me and to be you, that takes enough effort. To just be us. To wake up in the morning and be yourself, throughout the day. It’s enough. It’s enough for you to be you, throughout the day, to make it to your bed at night still you, having changed a little but not lost your character. Think of all those tiny changes, made over a period of years, that we’ve gone through now. Of you waking up and going to sleep a slightly different person, I see it time-lapse, in fast motion, you brushing your hair and making it slightly different each day, it growing and being cut and growing and growing and growing. What are two hundred days? Are they the beginning and end of you? Most of the time they’re not. Are they some segment of you? Of you becoming you? I wish I could see it all at once, an overhead view of us cleaning the apartment and making love and going out to dinner and walking on the sand and taking our trips we like to take and coming home and going to bed, us sleeping, breathing at night. And we’d wake up again the next day. Clearing our heads of anything negative, all those looks you get from people and unkind words and rude actions that happen throughout a day. We cleanse them, like we’re washing clothes, so we can always be clean. Clean of rudeness, clean of minor hate. It’s a commitment we’ve made to each other, to be clean of all that. We strictly don’t do it to each other. If we feel like we’re about to, we stop. But coming clean of it as is collects on you from out in the world, it takes energy. To come clean of pettiness. To come clean of idiocy. That’s how we try to maintain it, clean, clean, clean. Clean energy. Burning clean. We want our house to have that energy. You can feel it when you walk in the door. When people come to our house they behave. They follow the rules. It isn’t spoken but you just don’t do mean things in our house. We never invite anyone over who would, so it’s less a matter of following the rules than a matter of no one who would do that kind of thing is ever there. We only have special people over to our house. You have to be a spark. You have to have cultivated in yourself that kind of highness and rarity and even a certain kind of perfection before we have you over. We always talk about a new guest before we invite them, talk it over between us. Usually it’s someone we’ve both met, but sometimes one of us vouches for the clarity of a person. Vouches that they’ll be safe. That they’ll be true. That they’re of a certain worth. Not all people are of the same worth. Everyone deserves to be loved, but not all people are the same. Some are rough. Some are clear as a bell. You can’t pretend they’re the same. We just like to be around clear people. There is enough roughness in the world, and you have to deal with it if you leave the house. We’d like at least our house to be a holy place, a place where rare things can grow, where gentle things are protected. Because you are a gently thing, and so am I. We’re not rough people, we don’t fight, we don’t yell at each other, we don’t make fun of people who are less fortunate that us. We need a place where gentle things grow, where it is safe to be you, where delicacy thrives. Where we don’t curse. Where we are gentle with language, and with touch, and with the placement of things. Our house is full of pillows and low tables and sitting on the floor. We take our shoes off outside, and wear bare feet inside. We make tea and make coffee and make comfort foods. Our bed is covered with a big white comforter. The couch is soft, but encourages sitting up straight. It’s a French couch I got down the street, from an antiques dealer. It fits two. When company comes over we sit on the floor. You do your yoga there, in the corner room, with windows facing the ocean, I find you standing on one foot with your other leg stretched out high above your head. Or sitting cross-legged singing om. Burning incense. Plants all around you. Vines curling in from outside the window. A pebble bath where the water continually flows, making a trickle sound that you can hear all the way in the bedroom when we’re quiet. Not much street noise since we’re in an alley. The sight of the curtains blowing in the wind. The smell of your coffee in the morning. The sound of you sipping it, then placing your mug back on the table, little clink. The sound of me closing the door to go out, leaving you at home to do your thing. Then the slight street sounds, a car far away as I go down the stairs. Then the sounds of the coffeeshop, of the espresso machine and people scooting out chairs and rustling the newspaper, people tapping on keys, writing. Then the sound of my sandals on the concrete, as I walk away. All this is the sound of our apartment, in, around, near. A garage door opening, grinding upwards. The slap of a newspaper on a porch. A door closing. The gulls. The sight of them overhead, circling, coming to rest, competing for space on the top of a building, then taking off again. And if you listen, you can hear the sound of the waves, just a rushing sound, behind everything. And beyond that, the sounds of the boardwalk, once you get closer to it, the sounds of people buying things and meeting up and jogging and riding their bikes, boards creaking underneath. Those are some of my favorite sounds, the boardwalk sounds, the sounds of people shopping and leaving and arriving and a shout here and a yell there and a child asking for cotton candy, pointing up at it with his index finger, nodding his head. That is the one. Right there, that ball of blue, that is the perfect one for me. I will have it. Please buy it for me. I love that interchange. I love the interchange of a jogger coming through, passing on the left, in spandex, the juxtaposition of his speed with everyone else’s. I love the interchange of a pair of bicyclists, old people on rentals, swerving and picking their way through the pedestrians, making s’s when they pass. I love the interchange that happens when a train stops, and people get off and on. All this pent up energy of the people on the train, let out at once, flowing onto the boardwalk, then the drizzle of people getting on the train, filling in empty spaces, using up the same seats, headed for the city. I love the fishers at the end of the dock, who sit on lawn chairs and have paint buckets full of fish and multiple fishing rods per person and they have this fisher look about them, it’s something in the fingernails and the type of hats that they wear. They sit there, staring at the sea, hoping it will bring them something to sell to the nearby restaurants. And I love the path below the boardwalk, the bike path, where people roller blade and skate and run and use new rolling devices I don’t know the name for, but that carry you along just the same. I love the skater chicks, girls who have grown up on skateboards and have mastered them, flying by even the bicyclists on that path, skating backwards, on one foot, however they want. I love the vendors down there, selling airplanes made of beer cans and scraps of wood with paint on them, driftwood paintings, the fortune tellers and artists with their framed and matted work from art school, ready to sell to locals for decorating their homes. The sea food restaurants, where you can stand at a bar and eat crab from a paper basket, order a daiquiri, buy a t-shirt to commemorate that you ate crab from such-and-such a place on our shore. There are a million places like that, all with similar names, painted bright yellow or bright blue. I still like to eat at them, even though they’re for tourists. I ate at them when I first got here and I never got out of the habit. I like how informal it is to stand at a bar while you eat, not worry about seating and servers, not even have your own private space, but just elbow-up with others enjoying their lobster or crab or whatever fried seafood they’ve chosen to eat. I like those places because I feel like a stranger, maybe it reminds me of when I first came here. Sometimes I want to be a tourist. Of putting on your hat. Of putting on your glasses. The dark sunglasses, the ones you wear to museums to see a painter you like. Because you know that seeing his work in person will make you cry, and you don’t like to share your tears with strangers. They’re yours. Cry them at museums. Cry them at home. Sometimes, I see you cry them in restaurants, when you tell me what is true. Sometimes you cry them in bed—but not often. Put on those dark glasses. Adjust your hat. Find that black scarf, wrap it on your neck. Ready yourself to go. If you could wrap everything about you in black, you would. Wrap yourself down to the soul so that even if I looked inside you all I would see is blackness, in the loss of him, I would find him missing from all your insides, find you lost without his breath. Where the cardinal rule is to throw away. To throw away madness, to throw away depression, to throw away your upbringing, to throw away the things that your parents did that were unhelpful, to throw away things from the schoolyard, to throw away early friendships and to throw away lovers, even, gently, but to throw them away. To throw away what was hateful, and it’s hard to throw away this. For what is hateful wants to hang on, it wants to incite you, it wants to keep you pressed, forehead to forehead, with rage. But to let it go, to put it in the can, to bag it up and take it out to the street, this is what I am talking about. To feel yourself getting freer, to feel the muscles getting looser, to feel your breath slowing, evening. That is the kind of throwing away I am talking about. To feel your shoulders lower, to start to forget the enemy. To let them sink back into the sand, like a washed-away sand castle, to let them blow away like trash, forgotten. Feel yourself relax. Feel the reaction flowing out of you. Feel yourself becoming peaceful. Feel yourself not-caring what that person did to you. Feel yourself becoming yourself again, not wrapped up in someone else’s plight. That is their plight, their downfall, their evil, and let them take it with them to their grave. Let them carry it, and let them carry the full weight of it. Don’t offer a single hand to help with that burden. Allow them to crush under the weight of it. Allow them to go their own way. And when the pang of conflict comes back to you, feel it, then let it go away. Let it subside. Let it flow back to its owner. Keep yourself out of conflict. Keep yourself working on the positive. Allow others to find their own way to happiness. You don’t need to teach them, you don’t need to show them how, you don’t need to be there by their side. Let them walk their own path, let them fall. Let them fall away, if they do, let them go out horribly, let them sink, let them drown, let them decompose, let them be brought back in the form of flowers, their only benefit to the world. Let that happen if it needs to. But don’t yourself be bogged down by another’s conflict, they need to have that fight themselves. Be free of it, be weightless, be light, be unencumbered, be a flying creature, winged, spreading your wings to circle upward on the wind. Ride it like a roller coaster, ride it until you cannot breathe, until you’re so high you cannot breathe, only then come down. Only then come back to Earth, when you need a breath of Earthly air, when you wish to feel gravity pull you, down, down, down, and light on one of the posts of the boardwalk, near a trash can, to look for food. You bite into a leftover ice cream. And it’s bitter. It’s the bile of past conflict. Someone threw away this conflict and it’s still fresh! It’s not ready to eat. It needs to melt and flow down through the cracks in the boardwalk, soak into the wood, before it loses its pain, before it loses its punch. Put it down. Search for something else to eat. Find something that is fresh and good for you. Find something not laden with the conflict of another. Find something that is just right. Here’s a sunflower seed. Here’s a packet of Splenda. Chow down. Have you forgot the conflict? Have you let it go? Check your shoulders. Relax them again. Breathe in. Let your out breath happen. Breathe in peace. Breathe out conflict. Breathe in contentment. Breathe out hunger. Breathe in elation. Breathe out doubt. Breathe, breathe. Breathe. Breathe in