In the place where we live there are frames of times past, of memories cherished, slicks of spit and glue, of strong craft beads, of craft paper, fabric. There’s no sea. Landlocked, a lake swarmed with thick flies, our tongues dry with dil and ketchup, the open bathroom window which we always forget to close. Steal grapes from dry vines, barefoot and drunk, my dress transparent and slick and sour and skin in our teeth. The sky big, path narrow, laugh, lick. I drive into sheaths of sequin, paper dresses, spiked wood.

In this town where we live or won’t live, there are children missed. I think of my infertility. Cold heart, head strong. That’ll never be me. It makes me feel confused but lighter. You drive. You choreograph bends of the road delicately, smoothly. A road you’ve mastered. An art. I’ve mastered my art. Six years of highlighting cash with illuminating pens, two phones, who are we? 

In this town where we live, there are door knobs, silhouettes of our mouths. Lips tight and then wider, teeth close and then closer. Photographs, winter coats, and the sweat on the bridge of your nose in the Italian restaurant where we eat pasta with clams and worry about the future. We buy half of a six pack and trudge through the snow, wonder if it’s oak or maple, what makes us sleep, how can we be better?

In the town where I live, I assess every hour. I watch and observe, and speak unsure if you’re listening or not. I see you. Every part of you. I know you but you do not know me. 

In the town where I live, I visit the same coffee shop for the same barista who anticipates my order before I stutter over my words. I drink, sip, write and read, make scenes of real or fictional families, they argue and clink glasses of coloured water, juice, babychinos, table of stacked pomegranates. Fake family, real family. Pretend we’re always together. In town, pizza, £1 per slice. I have to pee. You wave from across the street in the dark. I insist on noodles. Pretend we’re telling stories, kick leaves, my mother calling. We look to our mothers and wonder. Pretend we don’t speak. Sweat behind my knees, worry about breakfast. How much do we have? Open our palms and show the coins there. My grandmother coming out from under the ground, pretend we don’t speak the language. Her frozen kitchen, naked in her big red coat. My grandmother at eighteen, at twenty five, at fifty five. In May just before she died, it’s exam week. Sweating and turning, and in her black blouse she said, “I’ve got a lot of moves.” How she never stopped dancing, how she never stopped loving. Scared and packed bags, moved back for her daughter, my mother, me. Always looking forward. Even on that last day, looking forward.

“Our plans are impossibly large. Our loves are impossibly various, and stacked, and broken wood, it’s always cathedral, almost now. Forget who’s listening and leave the windows open, and wear transparent clothing. You are magazine beautiful, we are California beautiful,” and the sky over where I live turns foggy. “Try not to notice luck or doorknobs, or all of the other signs.”

You’re naked and I want you. Packets of sequins and paper, glitter, kicked ketchup and the sun setting or rising. Which coast? Look faraway from the photograph. Maple syrup, £6. Let’s show dad how real we are. Without the dirty money who would I be? Smile for immigration. We’re careful to do things for ourselves. I want you to drive. We’re careful. We’re careful to be hungry, to love words like ‘lousy’ and ‘camomile’and ‘slick’, never ‘moist’. Count the steps. 34 or 5? I’m still hungry. I’m naked and unlocked, and then we give it all back. We’re naked and making adventures with our heads. Connected. We’re not afraid. 

We’re not afraid. Let’s never be afraid. Let’s never, let’s not, let’s never be afraid.

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