Archive for ‘Lovesick’


Muse Sought

You’re lying next to me. Tomorrow, you will tell me your dreams. I’ve been staring at the ceiling. I can never sleep when you’re here. The ideas are firing. The pillow is not quiet, only the writing is. I slip out of bed, tip-toe to the other side of the room, and type.

What is it about you? It isn’t direct. I mean, I don’t write the things you say. You’re not a whisper. You’re more like a mood. Things come easier when you’re around. But I know there’s more at play. I just don’t think I’m meant to understand.

I’ve looked through your sketches, listened from the shower to your strumming on the ukelele. I also listen to you, but it’s more like listening to your voice—your words slip my net. I’ve heard you in your native language. You told me it’s Portugese. It’s not.

Sometimes I wonder where you live, what the rest of your life is. You don’t explain your coming and going, you don’t let me in on your plans. I don’t think you have any. I wonder what you get out of this. I barely pay attention to you. You look at my laptop like you’re jealous.

I know that none of this matters. I can’t explain why it works for me. I don’t need to try.

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Standing in the Rain

You were standing in the rain. In the story I tell myself, you were waiting. Maybe you were just smelling the rain. Maybe, like me, you just wanted to feel something. Now, this was a temperate rain and I thought I could sniff the tropics with it, but I’ll admit my imagination is easily influenced by meteorology. The clouds were formed south of Cuba, and had crossed Virginia and New York to get here. Your rain usually comes from the west, dusty from the shield and the plains, or otherwise from the north-east, cold and terrible. This time of year, your rain is close to body temperature. You were dressed perfectly for it. It must be a routine for you.

I wanted to give you something. It seemed important. It seemed like you were waiting. A mint canister was lying right there in the gutter. The image on top shows a rosy-cheeked girl with a rabbit. It looks too old, anachronistic, as if a ghost from 1912 left it here. Instead of taking it straight to you, I hesitated. So I still have it. I scrubbed it off using the rainwater on my finger. I popped its dents back out, even though anyone can still see where it was dented. Later on I found something to put inside, a curl of red plastic. It doesn’t take up too much space to travel with. I’d still like you to have it.

Before you continued on your walk, you brushed away a lock of wet hair that had stuck to your cheek. I thought you were going to say something, but you just opened your mouth to let in the rain. I remember how the drops were heavy. Once you were gone, I closed my eyes and lifted my own face into the rain.

I’ve been gathering more tokens in case I see you again. So far, there’s the cannister, the red plastic curl (a golden spiral), and a chain of paperclips I have been lengthening in my office. I also plan to wrap some twigs in twine. They keep twine in the supply closet, who knows why. I do know I might not find you again. I’d have to be in Montreal on another rainy day.

I’ve also been picking up pennies. I keep one at a time, always comparing it with the next that I come across, discarding the less shiny. The current champion was minted in 1985. When the rain clears, it will reflect a disk of promises onto your cheek.

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Secrets onto Paper Airplanes

It wakes me up again, a question that will not answer itself. You open my hand on the street in front of a bar that is covered in graffiti. You mark a black X on my palm and tell me that tomorrow it will mean something; that this is inevitable, and that it is also necessary for me to be confused.

The world presses on me; the people, the things they say, all so repetitive, all so alone. The cars (where are they all going?), the ads, the signs all screaming at me to pay attention. To what?

In a better world there are longer, greater distances, there is wide wilderness and anarchy. The city becomes a tiny speck, fragile as an outpost in the north, and the next city is a five day flight. But instead, this is the world we’re given (or that we’ve made)—crammed with people and even more crammed with symbols.

I want to kiss you in a riot, slip a piece of rubble into your pocket, from a wall they are tearing apart. When we meet again, it will be in a desperately crowded dance club. It always is. I will think you are dancing, I always do, but no, you will be fixed in the middle, barely swaying, almost standing still. I will go up with you to the roof, we will locate Sirius, Arcturus, Vega, Capella, Rigel, Procyon, Betelgeuse, Altair, Aldebaran, Spica, and Antares, all the stars the city, with its own blazing lights, will let us see. By then I will have planned an escape, complicated and unlikely. All that will remain for us to do is run, run and in our mindless, thrilling haste give it every chance to fail. We will post our secrets onto paper airplanes and watch them coast down to the street, wishes that must never come true.


Without Ever Planning to Meet

I want to meet you without ever planning to meet, just happen to be beside you on the subway the moment you choose to grab a stranger’s hand and change your destiny.

There’s a toymakers’ convention in town. It’s off the green line, a wrong stop for us both, a place neither of us has gone before, and therefore immune to our preconceptions.

We need to change our clothes, so we buy some second-hand stuff, but without tribute or irony: anti-definitions. Moving through the alleys, we find a cat that wants us to chase it. It leads us straight there.

It would be easy to crash this event—we could simply walk in. No one ever checks. But it isn’t sneaky enough, it lacks the spirit of crashing. We enter through a service door. At the end of a tile corridor, we’re in a city of lego. Around the floor are the best tricks of digital technology, of magnetism and mechanics.

We take photos. It’s impossible to capture, exactly, such places, such inventions, because the camera only picks up what struts the imagination. Even children know this. But we do what we can. In the hotel’s print shop, we make them into postcards to slip them under the doors of the guests. A postcard is a false memory, an imposter. So we label them that way, falsely.

Late afternoon, we return to the loop. We find a protest, teach an anarchist to sing. No revolution will succeed without its song. We break into the SPCA with toys for the animals. It is negligently managed—no one is even there. We find two gentle dogs they are about to put down. We set them free.

At sunset, we ride a glass elevator in the financial district. We share pies on the street, run in the park until we puke, find the oldest, cheapest apartment that we can, run up the stairs, shower until the water goes cold, with our clothes, a bottle of whiskey, and kissing to keep our lips warm. We vow to get ourselves fired for our honesty, to live on selling whispers.

We need new names, but won’t know them for at least a year, and we will refrain from our own voices between sunset and sunrise.


The Fall Never Ends

In the place I want to find, the fall never ends. A paper airplane, once it reaches the top of its arc, descends forever. A drink, once spilled, spills toward the ground forever. The leaves, when they drop, float slower and slower until they seem still. Every time there is a kiss, a green leaf turns yellow, a yellow leaf turns orange or red, and a new bud opens.

Once they have been falling for years, slower and slower, even the leaves and feathers, even the scraps of wrapping paper light enough for the breeze to have lifted, rest firmly enough to stand on. Rising from the middle of our sacred field, an android has gathered and arranged them into staircases, a maze wild as a briar patch, as colourful as November. At rest, he leans on his broom and his shovel.

You are a couple steps ahead of me, singing. Somehow you always are. By some trick of the dome of the sky, I can hear your voice behind me.

I have looked for the end of the world. I was cautioned against this. Many others, having seen it proven mathematically that we are all enclosed in glass, have looked for the boundary and failed. Some say that the android has touched it. Even if that is true, it is of no help now, slumped, as if in sleep, until there is enough material in the sky again to warrant sweeping it into a new staircase.

At a sharp fork in the staircases, you come almost completely around and begin a descent. These are the only times you face me. I want to ask you something, but you touch a finger to my lips, and now I am not sure what my question was, or even if I really had one. I wonder if your eyes always look like this, I rarely see them.

There are people, also, trapped in their falls. It is said this is the only way to become immortal. The fall never ends. You are right to avoid questions. There are no questions that ask, only songs.


Counted for Five Hours

I hear that one hundred thousand people pass through the nearest stop on the Metro every day. Numbers keep me up. I’m a quant, but that only makes things worse. Always estimating, always calculating the bounds of certainty. Very big numbers give me vertigo. I have this problem worse than most because I can relate to those numbers.

Last night, I stayed up counting. Not like “one, two, three…” More like the combinatorial explosion. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I wanted to put myself back into perspective, set my measure up against the combinations. We can call it counting. I didn’t intend to go at it forever. I intended to awe myself to sleep. You know that sense of tininess, of urgency, you get when you are immersed in a cathedral, a symphony, a planetarium, or in a small, quiet boat at night? That’s what I wanted. So I counted for five hours. I fell asleep as the sun was rising. I saw the street lights go out. How many lightbulbs must there be in the world? I saw the dawn’s first joggers.

My last girlfriend only ever wore sneakers. She would count her steps running, walking, jumping. At one million, she would buy herself a new pair. So that Metro statistic reminded me of her. She must know exactly how many steps she has taken over the past six years. I never asked her if she remembered specific ones. The thirty-six thousandth step. The ninety thousand, five hundredth.

It’s on the escalator into the metro I’m pressed the closest to strangers. Only a hug is closer. The only direction to escape, the only open space, is in the mind. How do you measure the distance between yourself and another, between disjoint imaginations? You, outside a bar with a friend you had never thought would hold you that way. The man ahead, in a spreadsheet, now seeing that he will lose his home and his retirement years.

If I slide my fingers into your hair, how many strands of it will cross my palm? How many times will your heart flutter because it knows you could fall in love right now if you were ready?

I want the rooftop at night. I want the streets before they are full of cars, the wide open space of a museum where the exhibit is space itself. I want to count the things that matter, list and hold them, and start by counting the shivers that go with a first kiss.


See Like You

The first series are pictures of me looking for this camera—on the table where I had left it for just a moment, on the other chairs, underneath, and apparently into the sky, as if it could have leapt onto the awning of the café or been stolen by a seagull. These photos were taken from close range, and if the camera could see me, I should have been able to see the camera. In one, I am asking other tourists. In another, I am looking straight into the lens. In the next few, I am wandering along the boardwalk and then the streets back to my hotel.

The second series are pictures of you. At least I assume they are. Your feet in sandals, on the pebbles. The arc of your hip, with the sea as background. Your hand grasping a blue scarf. Edges of shoulder, neck, earlobe, lips, always in a new location, apparently shot on the same day, between pre-dawn and post-sunset, and never in a mirror. Hints. Nothing that identifies you.

The third series are pictures of things I would never have seen without you. At least, I would never have seen them in the same light, from the same angle, with the same ideology, with the same patience. A seagull picking at a crab shell, unnoticed by the crowd tanning on the other side of a big rock. A particular tomato at a fruit stand as it is examined by five successive customers over the course of a day. A series of shots of an ice cube melting on your pelvis. It quickly meets the curve of your body, your skin with goosebumps. Then it turns to water, then it evaporates.

Next there are shots of a hang-glider as he runs towards a cliff. Somehow you are positioned to see his face, first in reflexive fear, then in perfect exhilaration. I had a dream like that while visiting. You couldn’t have known.

When I found my camera again, it was the last day of my trip, my bags were right beside me, and it was on my table at the café, exactly where I had left it. How did you know I would come back? Perhaps you returned every day, set the camera down and watched. It is such a crowded café. I suppose the owner must have been in on it. She always seemed to know something.


Like Turritopsis Nutricula

I came to the aquarium as I always do, when it is quiet. The crowds come for feeding time. They are chasing the agitation, the water filled with bubbles, the frenzy of desire. I come for something else, to watch the creatures swim slow loops or float, hide in their pretend reefs and wait. That is how we really live, isn’t it? Always returning to the places we just left, always waiting for something else to happen.

That day, you were standing with me in the tunnel, rigid and transfixed. The ocean under glass, you told me. A minute later you asked, did I want to see an immortal?

You led me by the hand into the research section, a place that reminded me of university—data posters on the walls, desks with computers and stray bits of equipment. Then into your office, full of the fossils of sea vertibrates hundreds of millions of years old. Some of the species you showed me live now. Some of them are extinct, including your favourties. I don’t remember all their names. I remember the jellyfish, Turritopsis nutricula, tiny and nacreous, never dying, but as you explained, a reincarnation that comes at the cost of its memories.

We could play a game like that, take a drug that prevented the formation of memory, meet each other again and again for the first time. Unlike these jellyfish, we could take notes for our future selves. But I know those movies have been written, and I know all of humanity has come before and left us their notes, history and literature. You added, all of natural history has come before and left us its notes, and you put a fossil back onto your desk.

I remember the poster you backed up against, algae populations against ocean depth, as you drew me to you. Not the lips, you said, opening the neck of your blouse and bringing my head there.

Who would not want a return to childhood, to live again and again, endlessly grow old and revert to innocence? But even the immortal medusae are vulnerable, you said later; even the most wonderful of creatures are sometimes lost.

You must know that I still visit the tunnel under the aquarium.


Something that Will Never Last

Yesterday I got rid of all my old photos, my old letters and emails, my old trinkets and souvenirs. Isn’t all nostalgia false? As I scrubbed, I examined these things, things for years I had saved like treasure. I am glad I remember the truth. These were not honest records, let alone mature or expansive ones. They were poses, apologia, propaganda, wishes—separated by voids of convenient omission.

Isn’t it a terrifying thought, that one day you could lose your memories and in their place absorb from your own shoeboxes and shelves of talismans the frozen smiles of snapshots, the bias confirmation of postcards, the revisionism of letters, the tawdriness of keepsakes, and the oblivion of the unmentioned, as true? As you?

I want us to make something that will never last, that was never meant to. A winter dusting while the city sleeps. A snowflake caught in an updraft, lifted but not melted. My breath, a mist that vanishes and resurges.

I will take my shovel to the roof and form a sculpture of pure expression and snow, something beyond irony or reference or didactics, and that only a handful of people will ever see, the executives still at their desks at midnight, the janitors, the security guard taking a break from his beat to gaze down from those great heights surrounding me.

An instant can last until the instant you die, but what takes years to accomplish is brutally abbreviated by memory. I want a second in slow motion with you, the silence anticipating your laugh, the steams of our breath touching, with snowflakes fixed into this picture like a constellation.

I want to call a perfect stranger and tell him that I love you, that I am bursting to tell you so. But I will not ask for advice, I will not want to be released. I will hope the need will never leave me.

Photographers take thousands of pictures to keep just one. I want to spend a day with you, culminating in a look, a touch, a sound I will never forget, and perhaps if it is perfect, I will never see you again.

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Owe Me Nothing

I have attached love notes to helium balloons, sent them into the sky. Folded into paper airplanes, they will find their way somewhere. I am a realist, and I know the messages will not carry the weight of their burst carriers. But where they land, it will at least look like they did.

Too many people ask, do you love me? The question is not an invitation, not even a dare. It demands so much: either be kind but be claimed, or be cruel but be free.

A valentine should ask for nothing except the impossible. It should not ask for an answer. It should not ask for a favour. It should not ask for the reciprocation of love, it should not be obliging. It should simply ask the recipient to love. It is, at its best, anonymous, but without the suggestion that the author is watching. The saint sought nothing from the jailer’s daughter when he slipped notes through the bars, not even for clemency. The next day his head was on the block.

You owe me nothing, you have already given me so much. Your note is in the air somewhere, and I wonder how much snow can land on its balloon before it stops rising. I wonder where it will fall; into the Danube? Into the grounds of a palace built for the administration of an empire, now abandoned? The least likely of all is that you will find it.

This city is two things. One is a living thing, one is a ghost. I hate how the heart is written up as if it were the avatar of love. Doesn’t the whole being feel love? The heart is just an organ, like a capital city. It does one thing, then another, and it has never stopped beating.

Fortresses into museums, graveyards into parks, factories into lofts, walls into gardens, records written over the partially erased records that came before. In love, also, what came before co-exists with what inhabits you now, though one is a voice and the other is an echo.

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