(no subject)

To choose between love and adventure... it's a painful choice that we all must make, at least the adventurous lovers among us.  It's a choice I make over and over again.

Maybe both options are ultimately selfish, even hedonistic.  The first is taking, taking  physical and emotional pleasure, even giving pleasure and support is a form of taking, a way to feel more confident in your abilities to give to another individual. And the other choice, well, it's exploration of a new land, gaining pleasure from new experiences. To be human is to seek pleasure and avoid pain, isn't it? At least Freud would say so... something about the "pleasure principle," right?

Oh, sure, I too have had my flirtations with political activism, I've dabbled with organizations, wanted to help better the world and all that.  I've gone to protests, I've watched Gasland in horror, cried in the midst of Food Inc, had vivid nightmares about oil-spills and the Apocalypse, dead seagulls and wild explosions. I think about it every time I pump gas into my car or accidentally forget to recycle a can of soda.  I, too, feel the gnawing liberal guilt that plagues my existence daily, the tendency to over-think and over-analyze.  

But, at the end of the day, the road is calling me (and begging me to use cliches, apparently) and I just can't resist it.  My girlfriend is upset but too proud to show her frustration, she's been abandoned before, and in much more grotesque ways than mine.  It's not an active form of abandonment, really, and she'd be welcome to come if she could, but she has ties: work, school, debt, meanwhile I just get by.

This time it's farming, down South. I plan to make just enough money for shelter, food, and gas. To break even with the world without any possessions, save for a suitcase of clothes, and Delilah, my other girlfriend, the one who's an automobile. I might pick up a stranger or two on he way, other lost adventurers.  Give back to the universe, good karma to please the Gods of Travel who'll protect me as I speed forward into distant unknown roads.

I've given up on dreams of activism, of revolutions, and instead focus on LIVING, not "living...." the way most people live their lives, because this is the only life I've got, and I've damn-well got to live it. 

I don't have much time left here anyways, even without an Apocalypse.

(no subject)

I talked and read voraciously before I knew how to walk without wobbling, but handwriting was a challenge.  My parents gave me  an endless supply of blank sheets, which I quickly disfigured with massive Cyrillic letters, fitting only one or two crooked words per page.

That summer I wrote outside, at the balcony table,  periodically staring down at the yard three floors down.  Not a yard, really, so much as a hideous quad inside of the apartment complex, a half-parking lot, with a pointless broken fountain in the midst of gravel.  I stared enviously, at a neighborhood girl who was allowed to play downstairs.  She was a bit more dirt-covered and rough, and she managed to coax stray cats into allowing her pet them.  I was jealous of that too.  

Her apartment was directly across from mine, and I could wave at her when we both stood on our balconies, but shouting was painful.  So I started making paper planes. With giant, crooked letters, I wrote notes to her.  "Hi, my name is Sveta.  What is your name?"  But shooting paper planes horizontally is no easy task.  Out of a dozen paper planes, sometimes one would land on her balcony, and it was just as difficult for her to respond. 

There was a cascade of paper planes all over the yard, and a little grumpy grandmother sometimes screamed at us for littering.  What a strange sight it must have been for the neighbors, such a parody  of a ticker-tape parade in the midst of an ugly parking lot.  Lost, crooked words, tossed from a Pandora's Box of loneliness and desperation for friendship.  Lost flimsy airplanes with a glimpse of hope under their wings.

spring cleaning

There is a reason why we forget, why we cannot remember each crisp detail of the minutia of our daily lives. This kind of deluge of detailed recollections, a diarrhea of the past, would flood everything with countless unnecessary images. We forget because forgetting heals trauma and pain. We forget because otherwise we would not be able to live in the goddamn present, not to even mention the future.

And yet, people painstakingly try to remember, tuck away photographs and diary entries into our albums and our computers. Nauseatingly corny memorabilia. Waxing poetic about the good old days, the back when I was your age. False recollections splattered in unnecessary nostalgia and hindsight bias.  I guess people want to hang on to it, but to what? 

What I want is a completely fresh start, a virginally clean slate, a purging. I want to open my eyes and experience the present.  When I drink a glass of wine, I want to enjoy the fucking wine, I want to feel the glass of the glass pressed against my lips, to sense every warm red drop sliding on my curious tongue. I do not want to think of nighttime Jerusalem, of tasteless Cabernet  in plastic cups and the Cali Crew and kissing Libertarian boys. I don’t want to think of Valentine’s Day, of baked ziti, jazz and duct tape roses, and I sure as fuck don’t want to think about wandering on a filthy, cigarette butt-covered Marshfield beach at 4 am. I want wine to just be wine. I want Spring Cleaning.

(no subject)

It's four in the morning.  I am wide awake.  I heave instead of breathing, and sweat is dripping down my forehead.  Goddammit, when will this fucking nightmare end?  No matter how many sleeping pills I take, the dreams keep coming.  This time,  my former fiance's vicious, grimacing face.  A common theme  -- that scowl and look of contempt.  As soon as I start to drift off, I can feel his palm slapping sharply against my soft skin, or his hands clenched tightly around my neck, while I'm suffocating,  struggling, trying to gasp for help.  Then I can practically feel him, tearing my blouse off, pushing me down... Another panic attack, another valium pill, another phone call to a crisis hotline because everyone I know is asleep, and I don't want to burden them with these nightmares again.  A few sleeping pills later, I begin to drift off, but the dreams.. they never end.

Years of therapy, even of hypnosis did little to help.  My friends and family keep repeating what I know to be the truth: that Jonathan never existed, that these vivid nightmares and memories came from within the depths of my own mind.  But the fact that my memories are of something that never happened, or so they claim... -- this only makes me feel more guilty for the pain I feel.  The pain caused by what never happened.

Memory is a strange thing.  It's my latest obsession.  People who live traumatic, nightmarish childhoods, and forget every trace of it.  Memories lost forever.  And then, false memories of abuse that were created in therapy, mostly in the 1980's, thanks to therapists' biases and pressure to unravel trauma.

I can feel his fingertips, clenching around my neck.  I recognize the precise roughness of his hands, his square face.. that strong jaw, eyes full of contempt-- I could pick them out in a crowd, close my eyes and picture them, glaring at me.  How can something that causes such pain be a lie?  I don't understand.

Maybe, just maybe, it did happen.  Perhaps I'm surrounded by amnesiacs, or else liars.  People who remember nothing, while I recall it so vividly.  Mass amnesia.  And maybe it's just a matter of time until they finally remember...

the story I wrote, but never posted

My text message said, "I'm stranded, can I crash at your place?"

The trains had stop running; the commuter rail had shut down for the night. My ride home, gone. I had no car, no bike, no transportation back to the comfort of my bed at Wellesley. Stranded on a bench at South Station.

I contacted Paul, the one who lived in Belmont, and who would provide me with a warm bed. I could have called someone else, or a cab, but tonight I wanted to see him.

He frustrated me; everything about him disgusted me, from his smug looks, to his cliché interests in hipster music and faux religion (recreational Zen Buddhism), to the way he would suddenly grab my thighs and slide his fingers further up when I least expected it, or the way he pressed my hips against the rough bark of a tree. His sparkling blue eyes, his warm hands… It wasn't anything serious, he said. It was hurtful to hear, every time; he had too much influence over me.

When we met in Porter Square, I saw his face frozen in seriousness, those lightning blue eyes, arms crossed. The usual self-satisfied look was gone, replaced by tiredness. He was annoyed and exhausted.

"I'm really sorry," I mumbled, flustered, "I shouldn't have missed the last train. I'm so sorry for bothering you."

He shrugged. "Well, I'm your friend, right? That's what friends are for." But he still sounded irritable.

We drove home, rain pitter-pattering on the windshield, sitting in stifling silence, intermittent with a stunted joke or two, then uncomfortable laughter.

When we arrived, the house was completely silent. "Do you want a b-e-e-r?" he asked, finally smiling. I stared at him, confused, unresponsive. I wasn't entirely sure why was he asking me to drink with him. Did it mean anything, or was he simply being friendly? Reading him was nearly impossible.

"A beer, do you want a beer?" he said, as if I hadn't understood the question, "Are you okay? Are you stoned or something?" he joked.

"What, do I seem like it?"

"Yeah," he answered, a little more seriously than I'd expected, "you seem really out of it."

I said that I was just tired. He walked me downstairs, pointed to a nearly empty room with a large white bed, told me I could sleep there, and walked away.

All I could think about was the girl, the girl, the one he had chosen. Pacing around the room, I stared at the crisp white sheets, the phone, the white blank walls, the pillows. I shuddered; the room was so very lonely and empty. And all I could think of were the white white walls, the white sheets, and the girl that he took seriously. The blinding white, the suffocating white. I could hardly breathe.

I walked back upstairs. "Hey, couldn't sleep after all." He shrugged indifferently, and mumbled, like a frustrated parent trying to calm his sleepless child,

"Okay, I guess you can hang out here for a while." He was lying on the bed, staring at his laptop, paying little attention to me. We spoke, and I talked not to say anything in particular, but just to speak with him, to be near him. Nonchalantly, I began stroking the soles of his feet with my fingertips. Conversation faded. His eyes lit up, bright blue. I kept stroking his soles, his toes, his ankles rhythmically.

"Hey, do you want to give each other foot massages?" he suddenly asked.

I lay out on the bed, put my foot on his lap, and he placed his near my chest. I rubbed his feet, his soles, his toes, pressing his skin closer and closer to the crevice between my breasts, and my toes slowly but deliberately between his thighs. And the entire time, those eyes stared, stared right through me. I caught him, for a second, glancing up my skirt. That gaze, so overwhelming and serious. He was no longer massaging my feet; his hands somehow traveled all the way up to my calves, my knees.

I stood up, unexpectedly, abruptly, sat on his lap, and kissed him clumsily. Pulling off my blouse, I asked:

"Are you allowed to be doing this?"

"No," he answered quietly.

"Do you want to stop?"

"No," he said, his voice colored slightly by sadness, as though he wanted to say yes, but couldn't. As though he had no choice. And as I slipped off my blouse, I thought of how much he disgusted me. He was scum, after all. He was spineless, he was weak. He was a traitor. A liar. And I felt powerful when I slipped off my skirt. He had proven himself worthless, and I was joyful, very joyful, that he had chosen her and not me.

(no subject)

His mind was mush, a great puddle of it.  The bright light poured from his window straight onto his eyes.  The sunlight was too bright, and his eyes opened to a very blurry world.  A muddled version of reality.  So he'd had one too many last night, and suddenly he realized, that he couldn't remember what he'd said to her --

He couldn't remember at all, and the more he thought about it, the worse his migraine became, until the world turned into one throbbing, pulsating, much-too-loud mess.   
Nearly half a year ago, they  tried to share a small apartment, but he was no good at sharing -- an only child.  He was prone to theatrics, to spewing his emotions at the spur of the moment.  He exaggerated constantly, because everything small that he felt erupted like a volcano on the inside.  His paranoia, his panic attacks, his bitter fits of jealousy -- it all made sense, but only to him.  

"I don't love you anymore," she said one day, very succinctly.  He didn't ask why.  He didn't want any explanation, he did not meditate, and he did not tell her how he felt.  Instead, he knocked one of her favorite vases over with his fist.  "You are a child," she sighed.  He walked over to the kitchen, picked up a plate off the counter, and smashed it against the wall.  "I'm taking our cat with me, because I don't trust her to be in your possession."  

Another plate landed on the floor.  "I know why you are leaving.  I know that you're sleeping with Ben.  You've been fucking everyone, haven't you?"  he hissed. 

And she left, just like that.  Of course, he'd been wrong about Ben; she was honest and faithful, and he had become what..? An alcoholic, overwrought by jealousy.  And catless.  Most of all, he missed the cat.

in betweener

I was writing passive-aggressive post-it notes when I received another phone call from Sven.  Ignoring the call, I focused on the post-its.  My roommates had not been doing their share of cleaning recently.  The kitchen was a complete mess: sticky pots and pans everywhere, flies buzzing around the filled-to-the-brim trashcan, dirty socks strewn all over the living room.  They worked fewer hours per week than I did, but spent so much time lazing around and watching bad TV and drinking cheap beer.  I was stuck washing dirt off the walls, scraping sticky chunks of food off the pots, and even mopping their vomit when they came home a bit too inebriated.  It wasn't really fair.

I was sick of being the only one cleaning the apartment, but the notes were supposed to be half-jokey half-friendly little nudges.  "Mr. Sock, do you belong here?" and such.  Gently letting them know that I would no longer be the apartment's human doormat.

After filling the apartment with tiny yellow sticky notes, I finally checked my voicemail.   Sven wanted to hang out again... he had tried calling yesterday, and the day before that.  I was frankly a bit fed up with his phone calls... I knew he didn't really want to see me, or really even care about me.  He just needed the comfort of another human being.

He had broken up with his girlfriend about a month ago, and was still not-quite-back-to-normal.  Not quite a fountain of gushing emotion, spewing tears everywhere (Sven was never really like that), but still quite sad.  Listening to Hissing Fauna, You Are the Destroyer  on infinite repeat.

He needed someone, and I was too kind.  A warm body, a good listener, a believer in the idea that human nature was inherently good.  I made him dinner, slept next to him in bed, and listened to his break-up stories with undying patience.  Trying to avoid this strange, hollow awareness of what I was becoming.  An almost, a second best, an in-betweener.  Not quite interesting or beautiful or talented enough to be anything but a caretaker.  A warm body.  Someone to turn to in between girlfriends.  Maybe someone to go on a date with while in an open relationship with someone else.  A secondary, not a primary.  I knew that as soon as he'd start another relationship, he'd stop calling me.  My services would no longer be necessary.  He'd stop talking to me, like so many others before him. 

Suddenly, I was angry, frustrated at myself for being so goddamn selfish.  How dare I worry about the future, when he needed my help, and needed it desperately?  Some people are meant to be house-cleaners, warm bodies, in-betweeners, and bridesmaids.  How dare I feel so selfish? How dare I question my role in this world?  God put me here for a purpose.  Even if Sven didn't appreciate it in the long run, maybe at least God would.  "So please please please God, don't be a bastard.  Christ knows she deserves something nice for a change... someone to love her, volcanically." 

I tossed the sticky notes into the trash.  What's a few dishes, anyways?  It wasn't worth the arguments, the confrontations.  Good Christians sacrifice, they don't start conflicts.  I could handle a few more dishes, a little dusting and washing here and there.  No big deal.  I was a good housekeeper, naturally good.

Then, I picked up the phone and dialed Sven's number, same as always.  "Hey, oh... I'm doing well, but i'm a little concerned about you, as always.  Tell me, how are you doing?...   How can I help?"

(no subject)

I found myself recklessly rushing through the streets of Boston... I hardly knew where I was going, my mind was so filled with restless, racing thoughts.  I rushed forward, shoving my way past  all those self-indulgent hipsters of Newbury Street, with an iced coffee in one hand and a ratty, half-read copy of The Sun Also Rises in the other.  The weather seemed nice, much nicer than last week, at least.  Sunlight flooded from a clear, blue sky, and most of last week's snow had quickly dissipated.  How quickly Boston shifted from winter to spring.

None of it really mattered.  I pushed some teenagers aside to catch the bus from Newbury Street to the airport, and accidentally dropped my Hemingway somewhere in the middle of street.  I never looked back; it was a cheap, used book, and I had to catch this bus to get to the airport in time. 

Amelia had called me only five hours earlier to let me know she was flying into Boston.  She kept insisting, "You really don't have to meet me at the airport, I'm not even sure how long I'll be in Boston for.  I'm thinking of taking a bus to New Hampshire or Connecticut to see friends there instead," but I insisted that she should stay with me until she got settled, mostly because I could tell it was what she really wanted, but was just too proud to admit it.

At the airport, I barely recognized her, but she noticed me right away.  "Charles, it's been ages!" she exclaimed.  I looked just the same, but she was so different.  She never quite looked the same. 

"Amelia, when in god's name did you dye your hair purple?  And anyways, is that a new lipring?"  She just chuckled.

"I was in San Francisco for a year, you know, and things have changed.  It was.. so different out there.  Anyways, let's go outside.  Airports are depressing, I was on that plane for hours.. and it's beautiful out.  And goddammit, I need a cigarette."

She hadn't brought a suitcase, only a small backpack, insisting that she didn't want extra clothing or belongings to weigh her down. "I'm a nomad from now on," she kept insisting.  I didn't press on, and tried not to worry about her lack of clothing.  Last I'd heard, she was living with a "gorgeous folk songwriter" in San Francisco, and was working at a clinic for schizophrenic patients. 

"I fucking loved my job, Charles, but after one of the patients threatened to kill me, I just couldn't stomach it anymore, I had to leave" she told me in the most recent e-mail.  Then she mentioned something about planning a cross-country road-trip with the folk singer.  Then, suddenly, a few weeks later, she took a plane to Boston and never explained what caused the sudden change of plans.  It didn't really matter to me.  She knew my door was always open.

As soon as we walked through the doors of Logan, she grabbed a cigarette, and I lit it.  She eyed me slightly suspiciously, "Why do you always carry a lighter?  You don't even smoke," and I shrugged.  She finished one cigarette in pensive silence, flicked the butt onto the ground, and pulled out another.

"You always smoke so gracefully," I couldn't help noting, "And I wasn't sure if I liked the lipring at first, but now it's really growing on me..."

She laughed, a little condescendingly.  "Charles, you're much too nice.  I have no jobs, no plans for the future, no family to speak of.  Here I am, tramping across the country, broke, and foolish.  And here you are, complimenting my lipring when you oughtta be smacking me upside the head for my stupidity.  Goddamn you, Charles, you never challenge me.  The problem with being charismatic is that no one has the sense to tell you when you're acting like a goddamn fool."

(no subject)

Wanderlust is not the right word to express what I feel.  Wanderlust is a word that means.. wonder, joy, pleasure, the innate desire to travel and expand.  What I feel right now is fear, absolute fear that this city of Boston has entrapped me.  Boston has claws.  Cambridge, Medford.. they have a way of sticking to you and never letting go.  What I feel is an utter sense of dread, a desperate need to leave to escape the hold this city has on me.

This is not just a frivolous desire to travel and see the world, but rather the desire to leave because I'm afraid.  Afraid of becoming too much a part of this city, too entrenched.

2008 was not a good year.  I lost my job that January, as well as my apartment.  I stayed with kind acquaintances, since I had lost most friends by then.  I lived, also, in my car, huddling in layers of blankets and keeping myself warm with cigarettes (which I shouldn't have smoked inside that vehicle, anyways).  Over and over, I kept repeating in my head: No one is entitled to anything, not to a job, not to an apartment, not to friendship nor happiness. We work for what we deserve.  We are not entitled.  Over and over, I kept reminding myself. 

I had nothing, no commitments, nothing keeping me in the streets of Boston, no real reason to stay.  And yet, I couldn't leave.  I could picture it in my mind.  Entering the highway.  Driving to the other side of the country.  Pure freedom.  Escape.   Seattle.  Or San Francisco or Portland or Eugene or San Diego. 

I could almost feel the sunshine on my skin, maybe instead of snow and cold air.

And yet, I couldn't do it.  Boston sucks you in, and doesn't let go.  This is dread.  Not wanderlust.

(no subject)

The bed I sleep in is no longer my own.  This apartment belongs to someone else, and the woman who claims to be my wife is a complete stranger.  She strokes my fingers, gazes lovingly into my eyes.  I feel nothing, not even a vague recollection of closeness. 

I find myself each day at work, laboring over one task or another.  I receive paychecks.  I say hello to my coworkers, say goodbye to them when I leave.  Then, I return to the house of the family who claims to be my own. 

Over and over, I switch from one channel to another, searching for the life I once had, the identity that I lost in a crack between alternate universes.  The warmth, the kindness, the sense of self.  The empathy.  I scroll through the channels, one after another.  Visions of death and warfare.  The moist eyes of dying children.  I feel nothing.

Again and again, I search for myself on my computer.  I skim the news stories, scroll through internet profiles.  Stare into the frozen eyes of strangers, trying to see in them my own.  Glassy eyes behind a glass screen.  None seem human enough.

The woman who claims to be my wife tries to pull me away, back into that foreign bed, and she shudders slightly as she grabs my frozen hands.

"You haven't been acting like yourself recently.  Is something wrong?"  And all I can do is is shrug and mumble that everything is fine.