the seeds, the trees

"But once in a while there's a great dynamite-burst of flying glass and brick and splinters through the front wall and somebody stalks over the rubble, seizes me by the throat and gently says, 'I will not let you go until you set me, in words, on paper.'" – Richard Bach

You called me

 You called me because we were meant to get lunch one day soon. Just Friends. Even though we used to be best friends, even though we used to wake up together always, even though you loved me more than I loved myself, even though I think I made a mistake when I said, “Go,” even after you cut off your hair because I said I was cold.

Through the plastic and wires I could see your face in my head but only your sad face, the one with big, dark, empty eyes and a small, frozen mouth, the one you wore after I told you, years and years ago now, that I had slept with someone else.

And I heard my own sad voice and you kept saying, “What?” and asking me about friends I don’t talk to anymore, and then I said, “I’m getting tired. I’m gonna go,” and you started to say, “It’ll be OK,” but then you said, quickly, “Bye,” and we didn’t make plans to see each other.

That was the first time we’d spoken in a year after speaking every day for five years.

I don’t think I’ll see you again and my heart is an endless hole with wind whistling over it and trash swirling around and there’s nothing at the bottom and nothing on the way down.

Mermaids

I fell off a boat and my body turned to water.

I felt heavy and light and all of the mermaids

I always knew were there put their silver-skinned arms around me,

and I didn’t drown.

Instead they gave me time to think, an hour or so or a thousand words.

So I thought about my mother and the plants she cared for like children when I left

and the soup ladles hanging above the stove and I thought about

bricks and sugar and cold,

and I thought maybe I could stay here and never say good-bye

like my father who said good-bye to his first daughter too late.

The mermaids listened with their eyes like my mother’s rainbow lullaby.

I wanted them to ask me to stay.

I wanted to tell them I wasn’t afraid, but I knew they would know I was lying.

And I decided then in between the stillness and hug of the water,

hard and gentle like the pulling of a weed,

that I wouldn’t be afraid, and I truly believed I was good.

How life feels to the humans

What does life feel like to the humans?

Like hundreds of hearts beating and a tree growing really fast.

Like no trees.

Life feels like…it will never begin and it’s already at the end.

What does life feel like?

Running clouds and golden moons.

Life feels like our mothers,

who love us so much they strip us bare.

We see them in our heads

in so many pictures and sounds and tiny pieces,

in the only way we can see someone who has known us longer than we’ve known ourselves.

What does life feel like? They ask.

Some humans are confused and wary, hurry away,

white-knuckled, holding grocery bags.

Some smile and smile again, or cry, say nothing.

Some are angry because there’s no money or water

or hands holding their hands.

Some say, Life is like nothing anyone has ever had,

nod their heads, good day. 

Survival mode

I come home from the gym around 8 at night and my parents are glued to the TV, like usual, like the bugs that crackle all night long outside by the fluorescent blue death light. They’re watching a TV documentary on D-Day. It’s near the end and there’s a commanding officer, or someone like that, saying, “Freedom is not free. We pay for freedom with lives. Freedom is not free.” My dad says, to me or my mom or both, I cannot tell, “I mean, can you believe what they sacrificed?”

His voice sounds tight and scratchy and it’s obvious, to me, that he’s about to cry. He’s done this once before. Some time in my early college years he was reading some book about some war involving his idol Winston Churchill and, for some reason, as I can never imagine how on earth this happened, we were sitting on the couch together and he read something out loud and he started crying. I called him out on it and he said, choking up, “I mean, can you imagine what they sacrificed for us?”

And it really bothered me. I’ve only ever seen my dad cry twice – once after his younger brother died of lung cancer and once after mom tried to kill herself. Actually, make that three times, since she tried to do it twice. So now, today after coming home from the gym, that makes it five times in 25 years that I have witnessed and almost half of those were brought on by the deaths of strangers more than 70 years ago. And I know it sounds selfish and pathetic even but come on! That’s all you got? That’s all you can muster for us? How much do you think I’ve sacrificed living here with you, being raised by you? How can you show so much compassion for these ancient soldiers when you’ve been nothing but a brick – physically and emotionally – my entire life? When you know more about what’s going on in Chechnya than in my tiny, bubble life? Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I’m so tired of that excuse. What a cop out. Meet me half way, old man.

Anyway, so I come home after the gym, dad’s choking up about D-Day and mom’s staring blankly, crushing red wine, per usual these days. She gets up from her chair, a bit wobbly, which I can’t tell is from the wine since it’s how she seems to walk now – always on the verge of toppling over – and says, “Give me a hug,” and smiles her weird, stretched, fish-eyed smile, the one that’s taken over her formerly big-mouthed, squinty-eyed face since the overdosing and wrist-slashing. I’m extremely sweaty – literally dripping sweat – and I don’t want to hug her, although I wouldn’t want to hug her, sweat or no sweat. It’s awkward, like most our hugs these days. But it seems to satisfy her. If I had the power and turned into a couch cushion at the moment of impact, I doubt she would notice. She doesn’t notice anything anymore, like popcorn burning in the microwave or her friends’ dejected looks when she doesn’t say hi to them in the street. Things like this used to make me cry. It only happened four months ago. It’s incredible the horrors we get used to so quickly.

Whenever they find some girl who was kidnapped eight years ago, living with her captors unrestrained and almost happily raising four kids, people always say, “How did she do it? How she could possibly have survived?” I know how. It’s not a choice. Survival mode. Incredible thing. You cry A LOT and you get mad and then you don’t. Then you start making jokes, still crying on and off, of course. Then you start adapting, changing little things that you do each day – not cooking as much to spend less time in the kitchen where you know she’ll be listlessly lurking. Then you get comfortable. Then you forget. Then a piece of you dies. Then you feel the hole and you can’t remember what everything was like before it fell away. Then you feel really fucking hopeless and watch Netflix instead of thinking about your feelings. Repeat. Life goes on.