First published by Kawsmouth in issue 15, April 2014. The issue, “All These Things At Once” was titled after a part of this.
We wait for old screams to turn into a whisper, a knock on soft wood, a battle on paper. I listen for the ringing to melt away. I listen while traveling through the city and I am listening for the city. I am listening for silence. I am listening for my own assertions, for a song you once sang in German, and maybe for even a chant.
When language does something awful it grows and lifts and expands slowly above the city. It is bright and loud like the windows downtown, where collectively we unfold the visor from our cars. It is spreading like a stain and like the reach of tyranny. Today I feel these words are the reluctant fog hanging above me. But who knew you could have been so cool about it? Your laugh is the fan blade that cuts my sentence apart and I am more grateful at that moment than you can imagine. I can block out the light but there is still a way inside. If I’m not looking for a way around it I am vulnerable as well.
Perhaps the subtle cold is not to be appreciated, but feared and respected from a distance. I knew a woman with a dead father who didn’t like me at all. I sat on the couch and looked right at her. For days I walked around thinking: bourbon. Her eyes were the color of bourbon. Her eyes were the color of many things I see everyday, but not in other eyes. I couldn’t believe a word she said anymore.
The funniest thing is when I feel nothing. I drove around the city until I felt ok. I drove until something went wrong with my car and I didn’t have to think about you anymore, I had to think about my car. It’s funny when I can’t find you, or when I don’t know you, or when you are near me but I am inattentive. It’s funny when you stand outside of the building because I have entered it. Leave the building. Leave the city. Leave it all for me. I’m ready to possess it now. I’m ready for your memory to die in a yearlong struggle. I will squeeze out every usable memory you have given me. I will use you to my advantage and then I will discard you.
The city contains a written list. The list is long and disjointed, but all items are lucid and about one thing turning into something else. Make a list of all the things I am allowed to be: Alone in a room when you pass and look through the window. Walking away to the car on the phone. Considering a group of words to see if they mean anything else. Considering a single word: ennui. Unavailable to others for days at a time. A stack of books with the titles facing away. A memory of a houseboat in the weeds. A fish dipped in water by the tail. A bucket of slugs for the chickens. The fading memory of a very cold July. One small word after another. I am allowed to be all these things at once. I am allowed to be forgotten.
One long tone. One bell ringing. One terrible wind. Many suns in the window. One or two failing traffic lights. Two days until the weekend. An undiscovered number blinking out a sign. Several days into the month, we become so bored with counting. Several months later we almost ignore the bell. A year has passed and if you said the word “reversion” we probably wouldn’t understand. We pay attention to wine on glasses and dresses and tables and snow that sits politely between the wheels. The month reigns supreme above and around us and we are celebrating with little to no reason at all. Take the wine away from me and clear the snow off the car. Get in the front and drive around the good part of the city for a while until we can point out the window and say: “See, there’s no more panic. We fought it and now it’s here and it’s ok”. The sun hits the visor above your head and the way you can smile anyways tells me it is perfect.
Regression is serious. Anger is a crazy animal. It was cold but it was not unpleasant. It was troubling to feel that way. It was a celebration of time. It was nothing but a partial rain. Two conversations out of four, there is a very specific mention of the weather. Six out of ten conversations are about a tailored memory. If I am able to achieve just one of these today, I will fly out the door to embrace the chilly air. Wind resists the afternoon lull and intrudes my sleeping body. When I sit up I check my pulse. Can you feel two things at once?
I had a dream about bruises. They were resting on daily objects. I felt around the pillowcase and discovered a soft one. I drank a cup of water and the same thing happened. I noticed discoloration in the kitchen window but I was afraid to touch it. It was caution in the plural form. The day after the dream nothing happened which I found poetic, but I did remember it was your birthday.
(A little girl had some thorns, then grew some thorns. She became a small statue in a modest garden. She was sold at a garage sale. She sat on the house key. She betrayed her duties and the house was destroyed. What else would you expect from a girl who wished spikes to sprout from her skin? The weather turned warm and I went to see the garden statue. I didn’t feel like I had to say anything, so I didn’t. In the dirt I heard the muffled beginnings of new sentences. The statue was given no alter, no alternative.)
When it’s nice enough to walk around, I do. When I have a clear and active mind in the summer I am happy. When I lay in bed and you are already asleep, I am afraid all happiness is balanced with a little bit of sorrow. I am making a list of cities that become a list of words used to describe you. The cities become the words. You become the cities. There is a city for admission, a city for fondness, a city for irreversible error. We remain locked together in the city of totality, the city where everything you are and everything I am and everything the other cities are live together on a single map. You overwhelm the territory and you bleed through the pages. I am asleep in my car in the heat. I have you nearly memorized.
It isn’t passion that rises from the hot cement. It doesn’t know the art of weapons, or what happens after you have become a vapor. In a yearlong cycle of seeking and forgetting I realize they are not opposites. The other side of a circle is just a matter of location, not inversion. In a matter of time—or rather, lucidity—I will seek it out again and remember the list in its entirety. I will reconstruct the list to suit a gradual fading of attachment and eventually, after I have revolved around the circle again, you will become lost in the orbit of the city and I will repair.
Memory is the blade with five or six edges. Forgetting you is a tall order. The only way to travel is by exiting the highway. At one point, a plane ticket carried meaning. I could only be sure if it were pressed against my skin. I could only be sure I was leaving if I could feel it there. Today, I don’t even have a ticket, but I have a number. I recite that number over and over. I recite it when I wake up. I repeat it when I get to work. I say it every time I am angry or excited. I say those numbers again when I get home and it helps me fall asleep. When I am at the ticket line I say them one final time, and I lift myself onto the carousel and I make my presence known. I lower my sunglasses and I receive that plane like boat to fast water—like something coming at me from the sky.
Initially, there is nothing significant about it. The plane rests, then approaches, then detaches. I watch the ocean, bleary eyed and drunk, and think of you in Alaska. Same ocean, perhaps same plane for all I know, and I know nothing. The only thing I have memorized is an event that may have never even happened. You came to me. You said, “I’m sorry. I knew my mistake the moment I made it. I can’t wait to see you.” And I close my eyes and say “thank you,” but I feel very empty as you take me inside you. The plane drives ahead because I forget we aren’t on the road and we are together and everything is perfect and the pain is burning but it is slow, so incredibly slow.