weeks on weeks

Karen taught violin and cello lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Sundays, though, she filed her teeth in front of an old parlor mirror she bought at a neighbor’s garage sale.

The day she bought it she was on her way to the farmers market to buy vegetables in order to make a stew a woman in her book club had told her about. She was lost in thought thinking about the preparation of the meal and noticed the mirror, with its silver backing peeling at the edges. It was propped against an old rocking horse, looking like it was wearing a pair of garden shoes that lay in the grass near its bottom edge.

When she first brought it home she had looked at it for a long time before she noticed herself reflected in it. Time had passed in drowsy ticks as she peered at the silver cracks that reminded her of when she was a girl and threw rocks out onto the frozen lake behind her aunt’s house. She peered into these cracks that were a stranger’s face, until that stranger held just enough of her so that all of her childhood -- and those cracks too -- raced off into the place of our brain where we keep ideas that have faded into one cloudless late afternoon light. A place that is warm water in a smooth glaciated cave. 

The first time she took a file to her teeth, was about a week after she bought the mirror. She had been working on her nails in a wooden chair near a simple table in her living room. A reflection of herself spilled into her peripheral vision: the mirror, still leaning where she had placed it the day before, had this image of her like a rounded stone sitting alone on a sandy beach. Water was nowhere to be found, but you could hear this lapping of shallow pools with a gentle tide flowing near them. She looked at herself, legs bent perfectly square at the knees, her one hand delicately holding the other, and she took the file and tapped, then stroked it along the bottom edge of one of her front teeth.

Every Sunday as she sharpened her teeth, she would think of an exercise she would undertake if she were ever to find herself swimming in the dark, in a cave made of stone. She would slide the file along her teeth and think of taking small pebbles and letting them drop from her hands into the water around herself. She would gently lay the side of her head into the water, one ear submerged, and she would listen carefully for the tapping of the stones as they hit the world below her.

the inside of outside

I used to live in an ambulance light. It was mirrored and bright at all hours of the day: conical reflectors, housing lights of red, white and blue, spinning with delight as I told myself stories beside these eternal fires. I did not roast marshmallows or stare into the sky and wonder about my future. I slid along the chromed interior, staring into a plastic covering that gave me back murky images of myself. From afar there were noises, muffled and damp, but for the most part the sirens ushered along my thoughts like daytime TV; interlaced and similar, always similar. Light from the day was fogged and muted — light that pressed into my space with the lethargy of cellular osmosis — making mine a space of clean, quiet, forgotten space; preserved, but forgotten. Thankfully forgotten.

Lights. And Noise. And Me.

There were slammed doors that put my tongue to teeth in order to keep the jarring out of my gums. Slammed doors that made the chrome in the light seem harsh and bright. There were even moments when the silver flared up and entered my veins hardening my movements and making my smile flash like a cat's eyes spotted by a hiker's flashlight.

It was a day of many doors opened and closed, when I woke up on a veranda of a house looking at a sun rise. Oranges and yellows charging forward with plates of appetizers; partygoers bouncing and glistening off the hoods of parked cars. It was a sudden shift of space, but each beam of light fell across my lashes, the hairs on my arms blossomed and bowed.

I then began the day.

lemon with my tea

We met for tea on a day when the limbs of trees were bent deep with thick drops of rain. The air was damp and my shoes felt cold even though I had on my good socks, the ones with no holes around the ankles. A teapot was filled with hot water, and the tea leaves scooped up in one of those steeping devices that looks like a small, elegant version of what people pick up trash along a highway with.

We made jokes about people we always made jokes about, and made plans that were the same future plans we always made and never did. 

The teapot filled with ribbons of flavor and aroma; rivers of memories focused around hot sun and a tender hand scooping them up towards focused eyes, with the creases in the hand telling stories and whispering songs from a long time ago. Someone once told me it is easy to forget stories, but hard to forget songs. I think maybe good melodies just help you forget that you are older and don’t remember things as they were.

I poured our cups of tea and offered a lemon and small bowl of sugar. He squeezed the lemon into the cup along with a heap of sugar. I did the same. Outside the world was still wrapped in saran wrap, with blades of grass tired and looking at nothing in particular.

A few weeks later I was gardening, and it was finally sunny. I glanced over at the compost heap and there was a half a lemon, sitting bright and yellow, behind the mold blossoming on two half eaten cherries.

The Dog and The Macaroon

There is an inlet to the north where rocks rush down to water carrying trees that leap on spindly rooted legs. The tides come and go whispering secrets to the waves that well in their pregnant stomaches; waves that are collections of thoughts like seashells staked neat in rows, full to their peaks in knowledge. 

A small boat with oars, named The Macaroon, drifts on these thoughts spread between continents to find this small place; this place with water deep with words. The moon is sliding up over the curve of the horizon, the inlet's opening a gunsight to a spotlight for this moment. The Macaroon sits near the western shore, her oars tapping lightly on her chest as the waves bob her about. The tapping is excitement and nerves: teenagers fingers knocking on their first loves window, trying not to wake the parents. It is the tapping of feet running in woods after bedtime. It is the tapping of rocks being kicked down the middle of a deserted road, while two faces can only see each other. 

A small dog appears on shore, his tail straight and precise behind him as he comes quick from the woods, carried by the trees that have all leaned in to watch and listen. The Macaroon floats nearer, and the dog springs to land in her bow. There is a rocking and lapping as the waves bow their heads and bring The Macaroon onto their shoulders. The lapping is a thousand dogs in hushed tones watching a new moon rise. Their eyes are fixed and faces drawn serious as this day will become one of many. The weight of the boat with dog, bring the waves to think of their birth; they talk of how they came to this place, a silent hurricane of mist laid gently down on this large rock looking wistfully towards a distant sun. The trees bend closer still, giggling and passing notes of pine and damp earth, and the waves sigh with their thoughts, and the air is thick letting the Macaroon and the dog drift up into the sky. 

They are alone for this moment to feel the gentle pull of the world on their bodies. To see the trees like grass below. The dog curls up in the bow with his head resting on The Macaroon’s worn wood edge. He sees the stars placed around him with a careful precision that reminds him to hope for soft ground under his paws and an awareness of all those thoughts buried in league upon league; thoughts that do not end, but are simple. 

The oars tap gently and the dog and The Macaroon, together, watch the moon rise.

Alone together, alone

The first time we killed spiders together we thought we were alone. We were riding the 11 bus from downtown to the valley. I sat at the front of the bus in benches meant for older people or those with canes and legs in plaster. My surroundings were lost as I starred transfixed on a small spider making its way from under the bench just a few inches to the outside of my left shoe. Maybe transfixed is a poor word: I was alone with that spider. I pushed my weight into my heel, lifted my toe, and pivoted my shoe so that a treaded ceiling loomed over those 8 spindly legs. The muscles around my ankle twitched as I waited a second before slapping my toes down. Each of my toes was a tuning fork struck by the crunch they felt below them. A crunch that blossomed and rose into a moment where all was definitive and I sat perfectly alone. A crunch that I realized was echoed about 3 feet away from me, where on the opposite bench I became aware of a pair of Hunter boots. One toe pointed straight ahead, the other askew, matching the angle of my marauding foot. Above the boot line peaked accents of bright argyle socks all belonging to a woman whose face had thoughts like mine, a face revealing a moment thought perfectly alone. We locked eyes and both slowly lifter our shoe to reveal to each other the small world that we shared with no one. 

This is how I met Whitney.

On our first date we went to a restaurant that occupied a basement of an older brick building. We drifted through most of the dinner, swimming along in the eddies of waiters walking by, and the swells of a maitre d' fiddling with the lighting. It was a background to a small moment, a prologue to the beginning of some story, until the moment where Whitney's eyes fell to the wall spotting a small spider following the masonry lines and my eyes cast downward to what looked like a black bean erratically crossing the floor. The sound of her hand on the wall and my foot on the floor almost sounded like a small symphony; rising tones and a violin trying to create innuendo. But if you could pause the moment and zoom in to those sound waves erupting like so many kids running towards summer, you'd see that they never mixed and dissolved, only touched and moved on. One was the conjugal visit to the other.

We killed spiders often. Over drinks. In the park. As we laid in bed listening to the neighbors tree tap the side of the house. 

Time passed.

The last time I saw Whitney was on the front porch of a house we rented for a weekend in order to get out of the city. My hands were limp at my side and I was out of words. She pressed her cheek onto her shoulder, her body trying to be small and warm at the same time. Her eyes swallowed up the deck; dark clouds with too much time. She slowly turned and walked towards the stairs. Her exit was swift, except for the one quick step she took out of tempo. 

The sound was small and brutal.

the day the moon turned 6

Some people, called the Mayans, said something about the world ending in 2013. Or that's what the moon heard. There's a flagpole that some tiny little things from Earth planted right above her left eye that catches radio waves and they vibrate down into her brain where little quips and nonsense rattle around in her inner ear. The moon shakes her head and groans at these revelations that come dancing into her mind. She's been spinning and spinning in a hissy fit since her 5th birthday and now, exactly one year later, she glances around to see if any of the other cosmological features are paying any attention to her. They aren't. These phases pass for young things like the moon. They wax and wane, so to speak. Orion glances over and shakes his head; he once held his belt high above his head for almost 2 years trying to get Cassiopeia to pay attention to him. He would spit on her in gym class and cut in front of her in line for the bus, but she wouldn't even seem to notice. She'd look around like he was a ghost: a boy made of points, spread far and thin. This is a time when he swam in an ocean that he called his, and she floated above him; both below skies that only held clusters of ideas. His points are dense now and that was a long time ago; he must have been 11 or 12. Now he his filled in and his belt is in the proper place. 

When the moon first learned to speak, when she was just turning 2, her voice yanked tides around the cosmos; abrupt and erratic. It was the sound of uneven stones bouncing down spiral staircases. The smooth rhythmic tone that is her voice had not yet been found, just as her place in this dark ink called space has not been found. All the ink in the world and nothing to write.

She spins and cusses under her breath, waiting for everything.

when something sad becomes perfectly inline with the past

March 3rd, 2005. 9:43 AM. Coffee shop on corner of Pike and 11th, Seattle WA.

"I met her right over there by that dumpster." A man named James is pointing across the street to a single blue dumpster hogging the sidewalk kitty corner from where he is sitting. His finger is narrow and delicate; an icicle holding desperately onto the wheel well of a tropical car. If we follow his finger, draw a dotted line like so many instruction manual diagrams, and rewind 10 years, our line would hit a single spot. The spot exactly half way between two people, turning the same corner, looking up as they almost bump into each other. Our line would sit right there in the middle of two eyes that have just seen each other for the first time. It would sit there anxious and waiting; a vibrating muscle in a racehorses leg as it waits for the gate to open. This race has not been lost or won, yet. It has not started.

"I wish I had gone some other way home that day". James pushes the handle of his coffee cup causing it to rotate in its saucer. His friend across from him just nods and stares out at the rain.

August 2nd, 2008. 4:13 PM. Bar on Marion Street, just off of E Colfax Ave, Denver CO.

A woman sits at the outdoor seating of the bar, using her thumb to blot out sections of the sidewalk across from her. She closes one eye hard and pans her thumb down the sidewalk, people and entire parts of buildings popping in and out of view. She stops at a certain point. Her thumb is cutting a perfect tunnel entrance from her vision. Racing down this tunnel, there are twists and turns, her thumb the conductor for a slideshow of time that sits in its lap all smudged with fingerprints. So many finger prints. We pull up to a vignette -- a scene perfectly domed with the actors in a spotlight in the darkness. A young girl is holding the hand of a man. He is on the phone and starring down the street as he lets loose short sentences. His eyes oscillate between small slits and round sockets of something like fire. He finally drops the girls hand to gesture at a point he is making. He walks out of the frame, out of the tunnel and into the darkness. The girl stands alone: a single pane in a triptych whose other panels are a long dirt road through a forest and an empty parking lot illuminated by a buzzing halogen light.

February 21st 2001. 2:01 AM. 18th and Columbia. Washington DC.

Ryan stumbles home; his feet jog and slop in front of him. What looks like a stone, but if examined closely would reveal itself as a worn piece of broken cinder block, lays along his path. He gives it an off balance kick with his toe and it clatters against the brick of a building. The sound wave is like a heartbeat: clack, tick, tick, tick. A sound formed on a uniform background of grays and an endless nighttime ocean; a figure of stone floating on its back as it stares into a low hanging cloud. The sound is the turning of pages. Click, tick, tick, tick. Moving backwards through chapters on chapters to a boy sitting on a sidewalk curb, his toe thoughtlessly trying to burrow into the concrete of the street. His thumb is trying to keep up with his toes -- jealous maybe of the big toe and its need for balance, which is jealous in turn of the thinking thumb and its need to hold on to something -- flicking at the pages of a journal. The ink is dry and iridescent, a ballpoint pen emptied onto lined pages.

The boy looks down at a trail of dirt marking the way to a storm drain and sets the pages beside himself. He places a stone on top of them and walks into an empty street.