For 3 years, we have lived 3,000 miles apart. Every day, California calls me or I call him, and the distance shucks off like the green that blankets an ear of corn. For a couple of years, I lived for that shucking, lived for the moments when the miles fell away and I was no longer just an East coast girl. I was his girl, his princess, the lady of his heart. More than that, I was bare as one of those ears of corn, exposed and vulnerable, ready to be eaten or devoured. Here I am, I felt like saying, when what I really said was a simple hello. Through words and letters, we wove our dreams together, pretending we wove our lives. Twice he flew out to see me, and for a few short days my life was all puffy clouds and daydreams only I wasn't dreaming. I'd pinch myself after he kissed me, leaving little crescents from my fingernails in the fleshy part of my arm. Now it has been two years since we've made love, two years since anyone has kissed me the way he kissed me, his hands cupping my face, his whole mouth drinking me in. I don't dare say we're growing apart, but when he shucks me now, the green no longer all falls off. California, my California, you've never seemed so far away.
You are poetry-- your words distilled, your personality fiery with a fierceness that I both love and fear. Elusive, I find you in the briefest moment between sunset and full dark when the sky's inky violet. Far off down my one lane country road, a pair of headlights comes careening. I step off to the side step into the rows of corn and hide until the lights flash by me, standing in the high corn until my eyes readjust and I hear the car backfire as it rides the bend. I'm halfway to the dairy farm a mile down the road. The sycamores are white as bone. Above and between them, bats slash the summer air with their chaotic flight, diving and twirling dark shadows that dip too close about my head. It is summer and you, you are oil to my water, rising--always rising above.
I'm splintering, fracturing. The monster inside me is winning the war. The room tilts, everything is bright, a sterile white, the shadows only spots that swim lazily across my eyelids when I close my eyes. I close my eyes too often now. The light is blinding, the absence of shapes confuses me. The couch, the walls, the Christmas tree still up in July. All blend into the brightness that pulses. This is not a drunken poem. I am not an alcoholic. I don't sit alone by my phone waiting for texts that never come. I am not a broken woman. This is not a shattered heart.
I'm lost again, rambling sideways and down, always half a step from the edge. It would take a stiff wind or a stiff drink to make me fall. I'd go down and down seeing the latter's rungs flash by me as I fell. Reaching out, my fingertips would tap tap tap taptaptap faster on the latter's rungs as I sped up on my way toward the rocky bottom. But I am not falling. I'm weaving, holding onto my altitude, recklessly, stupidly in love.
He asked her what type of animal she'd most like to be. Without hesitation, she replied, "An auk." He wrinkled his nose, confused and dismissive, skating over her answer to answer his question himself. "I'd be a lion," he said. "King of the jungle." They sat in silence, on the edge of the concrete wall that bordered the parking lot outside the youth center. Sweat beaded on her forehead, and a single drop slid down her temple. He jumped down and began to dribble the basketball, every so often tossing it against the wall and scrambling to catch it as it bounced back. She sat and stared, seeing not the cracked asphalt and peeling paint, but instead the glistening of the sun on the surface of the sea, imagining the salt spray and the whoosh as she, wings spread auk-like, dove down to catch a single gleaming silver fish. In that moment, she could both fly and swim. She wasn't too thick for the desks at school, too heavy to jump rope, too rounded to wear a stringed bikini. She was no longer the only girl she knew who couldn't swim, the only one who wore a bulky orange lifejacket when in girl scouts they'd practiced paddling a canoe in the deep end of the city pool. As an auk, she was sleek and beautiful, diving down and down into the glass green sea, finally in just the right body to be wild, to be free.
The day skitters past her, shadowy and elusive. She reaches for it, but it slips and wriggles like salmon fighting upstream, always upstream of her, just out of reach. The shadows lengthen, the sky greying as the fireflies punch through the gloom with their tiny lanterns winking and winking. His face lights up in the flash of a match behind cupped hands, and the scent of smoke snakes across the shadows that lie between them, secretive like the way he used to talk to her back when they shared a bed, tangled up their limbs and lives. He was always a sharp breeze away from closing off, always one whisper away from telling her he loved her, and she imagined some nights after they'd finished having sex that he'd grabbed her hair in his fists and pulled her face to his and kissed her open mouth roughly instead of pushing her face and open mouth down, always open mouthed and sucking further down.
“[…]apologies are like oxygen masks on a hijacked plane. Forgive yourself before you EVER forgive the person sitting next to you.”