ding-dong. it’s the ocean of space between us. figuratively, literally, whatever. i’m dumb as hell and flinch when the bell rings, like the sharp clack of bullets that are just too easy to get ahold of. the eighteenth century widow that haunts my chest waves her scarf from the walk and disappears in flock of gore-crows when she remembers you’re not coming home. she never learns, still living with pennies trapped between her fingers and the taste of lemons on her tongue. she knows it’s not the same, but says it’s better to have broken pieces than nothing at all. she watches as the electric lull of lightning kneads the sky and the bell fades into nothing but the sound of waves throwing themselves to violent deaths.
ding-dong. it’s the blush of sunset, flaring like the tip of a cigarette before fading into the pallor of night. i’m reminded that some stars can’t be charted. nose to the ground, soul in the spaces between, making slacklines out of telephone wires and wandering the earth ’cause the only thing worse than leaving is sticking around. i’m close behind, bottle of spirits in one hand, butterfly net in the other. truth is, i don’t want you to think of me as someone who’s prone to flooding her consciousness with oak-barrel novocaine, so i wrap the bottle in brown paper and take solace in knowing you won’t be close enough to smell it on my breath anyway.
ding-dong. it’s the truth. my truth, that is. i shaved off pieces of my shadow and tied them in linen, pieces i’ve never shared with folks who know me a lot better than you. i wasn’t afraid, not for a second. you gently unwrapped them and dusted them off. held them to the light while i watched, massaging the bones of my fingers, tired from clutching them so tightly. does it scare you? i asked. should it? you replied. i don’t know, i said. i’m not what you’re used to. ding-dong. i never will be. and sure, we’re all sullied in some way, but i’ve never gotten the blood out of my sheets.
ding-dong. it’s the grief. i wasn’t supposed to feel it, and God knows i punched it hard enough to break my own knuckles. ding-dong. ding-dong. this one won’t run away. i alchemize my pain into art and it’s shakespeare, it’s sondheim, it’s vincent van gogh taking shots of yellow paint to kill the darkness inside him. ding-dong. i’m reading the book you recommended but the words bleed together like storm clouds. ding-dong. you stare at the horizon like a lover. ding-dong. hemingway said to write hard and clear about what hurts. ding-dong. i hate him and i’m sorry, but i can’t help it. ding-dong. ding-dong.
ding. it’s the almosts. the not-quites. it’s okay—i’m used to filling that space. or maybe the problem is that i don’t fill space at all. i’m a prayer that dimmed into sleep, a pair of hands that can’t settle inside themselves. i write about myself because it’s easier, and you’re forgetting me for the same reason. one time you curled against me like the shallow dip of a coffee spoon and when i tell you about my dreams it’s ‘cause that’s the closest i can get to touching that memory. see, in my head you’re here, you can’t break things, in my head you’re still the apostrophe pressed into my back. you laughed ‘cause my hair was in your face. i laughed ‘cause for a second we weren’t just two halves of something that can’t exist.