Flesh and Bone

I made up this whole world in my head

that revolved around you and me

in foreign lands, laughing and playing

like kids who had just lost their way.

I did not think of dishes and homework,

I did not factor in the cost of gas.

I only painted with the sunlight-

thick stroked on your smiling cheekbones

and the dark between the stars

to color in the hollow of your neck.

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M.K.

The Better Man Project ™

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“You could build any life you want. Because soon everyone will know about you. You have such an incredible opportunity right now to create anything you want for yourself. So who are you going to be?”

Every time I talk to you my world is turned upside down in the most perfect way. Don’t mistake my silence for anything but pure awe of the mental bombs you drop into my head almost daily. I listen because I know it’s sincere. I listen because I know that it comes from the depths of your heart. You have taken me under your wing, guiding my passionate cluelessness, but never talking down to me or discouraging me. You are a true confidant in a world that is plagued by the deserters. For that, I will always look to you for real genuine support and knowledge. But beyond everything else, you are a great…

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Dear Jake,

    I wrote you letters when we were fifteen and in love, and I did not have the spoken words to express things that were so much bigger than I could comprehend. 

   I wrote you letters when we broke up, and I was broken beyond repair, and I wrote you letters the whole time we were apart. I told you in every one that I loved you more each day, even when I was without you, and that you would always be the love of my life.

  I wrote you letters when I was in Germany, waiting to go home to you, waiting to finally set things right. 

  I scrawled a letter in the German airport, on my way to your funeral. I screamed that letter in the terminal. I wailed. 

  I wrote a letter after we settled you in Mother Earth. 

  Then I did not write a letter again. 

 

Dear Jake, 

    I want to tell you I still think about you every day. I don’t post on your Facebook all these sentiments anymore because it is overwhelming, and frankly, some of the other girls on there break my heart. I need you to know, though, that there is still no one I will ever love as much as you, and no one will ever knock me off my feet the way you did. I will never have the same undying devotion for anyone that I did for you. 

    I often think about how different life would be, if you were still here. We had both grown so much, I was looking forward to exploring a new and mature future with you. Sometimes I rage, sometimes I weep, sometimes I am at peace with all the unfairness of it all, but there is nothing I can do about it. 

    I used to write you letters that were pages long, pages long full of devotion and promises, but now I can only write you reminders. Reminders of the time in the ice rink locker room, when the lights flicked off. Reminders of the way you held me at the fair, the last time I ever saw you, reminders of the first time we kissed, the first time we met, the days at Dan’s house. (He has a baby now, and Jess, too! How utterly bizarre, Jake. You’re an Uncle, with another on the way!)  

    So, I just want to remind you , Jake, that I will always love you unconditionally. I will always love you the most, you will always be my number one. Everyone has a shining star in their life, mine is just permanently fixed in the sky. 

 

 

Stay close my Angel, 

Shannon

Un-Famous Dreams

She knew what two drinks he ordered at Starbucks (and she knew they were really real, the real ones he would order because he said it in an exclusive interview).  Katie also knew where his favorite place in the world would be (driving fast and alone down a long stretch of road, him and his car), it was in the same interview. She wanted to tell him that she visited Austin once and it changed her life, and she also wanted to ask him if he had ever been to that tiny town in France, that still had the whole surrounding medieval wall- what the hell was the name of that place? Her French was so rusty, she’d have to look it up in case she ever got a chance to talk to him. She wanted to talk to him, but he was made of Hollywood stuff, and she was a plain girl traveling around and trying to get flatter abs. Just an average college drop-out who finally made it to the West Coast.

She had wanted to be an actress once, you know, in middle school when teachers and parents pepper you with that question and squawk and giggle at your answer. Continue reading

Runaway Dogs

{Katie was my live-in land lord’s dog}

 

Katie the pup went missing

and I know you told me she wasn’t my responsibility

but I broken-heartedly shoulder the blame. 

She chose me,

like Jack trailing me out of the pet store…

She chose to love me unconditionally 

with her happy-to-see-me yaps 

and her sad-to-see-me-go yowls. 

The biggest kiss she could fit on my cheek…

 

I wanted to tell you I’m sorry I had to leave, 

I swore I was not to be counted on

or depended upon. 

I’m sorry you fell in love with me.

Bones

She was looking for any sign he’d been there, tears that surprised her gurgling forth upon her cheeks like fresh water springs. She swiped at them as if they were something that did not belong to her, looking for a sock he might have left, or something from his pocket. All she had of him was his piss in her toilet and the crinkle in her sheets, which she knew very well could have been from her own body. She stood in the quiet for a moment- it was always such a shock for those first moments. Her place had been full of people, all seemingly revolving around her one guest, and when they all left, and when she packed him up and drove him where he needed to leave from, she would come home, finding her apartment eerie in the afternoon light, dim without the lamps turned on. She stood, looking around, letting the quiet run down her bones like the springs dripping from her chin.

                He had come, in the broad light of Easter, ducking out of a stranger’s car in the back of her driveway. She had been sitting amongst neighbors playing horse shoes and drinking, enjoying the festive afternoon, and had looked up to see a familiar shadow moving towards her. He was just skin on bone before he stepped into the light, and then she saw him, in that mussed hair and sinewy muscles. The way he strutted towards her, his gangly walk a little less dramatized after years of wandering the roads. Before she even knew she knew him, before his name came hurtling off her teeth, her bones were pulling her forward, towards him, down the little slope, and into his arms. It had been three years.

                She had pictures of him from high school, his hair shaved down, his eyes like this crusted jewels perched upon his high cheek bones, his thumbs stuck in his suspenders, tie hanging lose if not already yanked off. The first time she had met him he had bent down to tie her shoe, then stood up and shook her hand. After that, they were friends. He would spend long evenings imprinted on her mother’s couch watching Harry Potter, her favorite series. Whenever she caught a cold, which seemed often, he would walk all the way to her house with hot cocoa and soup, and sometimes flowers, and spend the evening folded up next to her.

                She remembered arguing with him, it had been so long since they had had that much time together, to argue, for him to claw at her nerves. One time she had demanded he leave her house, he was driving her insane.

-Just walk to the store with me. Buy me a pack of butts. Pleaseeee.

-It’s a blizzard out, Zak. And I’m sick. I’m not walking anywhere.

-Just down the hill.

-I’m going to kick you out.

-I’m out of cigarettes.

-I don’t give a shit. Get out. You’re driving me through a wall.

                He hadn’t even started smoking (again) until he had started hanging out with her. They were slinking around the back parking lots near the McDonald’s and the movie theatre in their tiny town, beneath the shadow of their prestigious prep school up on the hill, and she was chain smoking. He took a drag, looking around for teachers and townies that would rat him out. She was just getting ready to turn 18. They ducked behind some shrubbery in the parking lot, trying to loiter unobtrusively. He smoked a whole cigarette then, hacking after each drag, and ducking whenever a car pulled up to the drive thru. She laughed and laughed, telling him to relax.

-No one’s gonna see you back here. Cut it out.

-I can’t risk it. This is sketchy. Can we go somewhere else?

-There’s not many other places. Just don’t worry.    She pulled on her cigarette, leaning heavily on one leg.

 

                For years to come when she described him she would tell about his Bob Dylan songs. She wrote a poem for him once, after they had fallen out of touch over a stupid fight, and she wrote of his walk, with his pelvis thrust forward, his legs too gangly for him, and she wrote of his fingers plucking at the steely strings to a Bob Dylan tune, and she thought she had done him lovely justice, that she knew him well.

                She did know him well. She had learned very much about him on the days he would walk her home, or most of the way home when he could, insisting on carrying her back pack. Sometimes they would stop just a ways before her house, sit down on the train tracks, and smoke a cigarette. She would gush over Christoph, a mutual friend, smoke rolling off her lips as she begged of Zak, why why why.

                It was one of these times, if she could remember correctly, that he sat and told her about Savannah, a love he never knew he could house. The two girls would later become great friends, with a bond as thick as her and Zak’s, but on this day she knew only what Zak said of her, this gypsy girl with a flower in her ear. He said she could sing as sweet as any bird in a tree. She was happy for Zak, and they would spend many hours on those cold tracks as the color leaked from leaves, exchanging words on how to love, and how to give, the musing and wonders of two old friends.

-We almost had sex, he’d say, pulling on his cigarette.  His chin would always be pointed slightly skyward. 

-Did you?

-No. I’m not ready, and I mean, she’s not either. We don’t even need to. I’ve never loved someone so much.       Draaaag.   Exhale.   I mean. I think it will be her, when the time is right.

 

                She would think of this, in the quiet of the night, when he showed her all he had learned in the last three years, with hands guided by confidence, sliding over her as if he had known the route of her body all along, like the roads he hitchhiked for years. He would spell out the lessons he had been taught on nights similar to these, similar and yet so very different. She would marvel at how he had grown, from the gangly boy she knew into this wiry man, his skin a taught sundried hide over his bones, hair wrapped in colored string and matted in places, pulled back into a bun or a ponytail at times. She would follow the slope of his cheekbones with her perfectly manicured fingers, so proper against the cliff of his cheek, and she would just marvel at how time brought him back to her. And how time would take him away.

                In high school he had run away. He was a boarding student, and she had always thought of him as a bird in a cage, the way his mind was always in the clouds, only resting upon the tops of mountains before racing across the sky again. He had taken off, though, and went out to the woods to live, in a tent. It was with much convincing, and she had done a lot of talking on his behalf, that he had come back to finish his junior year, with a promise of continuing his senior year. He ran away again his senior year, and that was for good. That was the last time she had seen him, sitting over a cafeteria dinner, next to his new girlfriend she was grilling. She was upset he’d left Savannah, her now dear friend. She was getting ready to go to Ireland, and she had come to say goodbye. He was grim over the series of events, and grim to be back in this fluorescent setting. She was trying not to fume at him, as she leaned across the table, candidly being a bitch to the pasty little girl perched next to him.

                Then she was gone, off to Ireland, and he had been very upset with her behavior before she’d gone, and he would not respond to any apology from overseas. Her inbox exploded when he left again his senior year, when he disappeared to live in the woods with the pasty girl’s family. Have you heard from Zak? He dropped out again. Have you talked to him? No one’s seen him. Zak dropped out again.

                That was the trickle of the news she would gather on him for a year or more. For what felt like forever. Sometimes when she was home sick in that foreign green land she would weep at his absence and wonder where the hell her best friend was, and why the hell he was so lost he had even erased her off his map.

 

                There he was, though, crude tattoos looped over prevalent parts of his body, like his forearm and calf. A black and white stick and poke of a sunflower with a beanstalk wrapped around it, and a fire stove with words that said where? In the plume of smoke. She traced these with fingers, trying to reconcile this man with the boy she had fought bitterly with, until they begged each other’s forgiveness.

 

-Are you surprised? He asked her, his fingers strumming her spine like his ukele.

-No. I didn’t expect it, but I’m not surprised. ‘Specially after your drunken confession.  She beamed up at him and he blushed.

                He had written her online, when he was drunk, saying that all those winter days buried on her couch he had butterflies, and he had wondered. She told him, she had wondered too. But they had been best friends.

 

                When word spread he’d made it to town, her mother called to say hello, her sister, Brenna, got on the phone without knowing what to say, but just excited to hear his voice. When Brenna was younger they used to tell her Zak was going to buy her for an arranged marriage.

-He’s giving us fifty bucks.

-Yeah, and I’m going to beat you and make you clean my house and do my laundry.  They would laugh, and her little sister would punch her in the arm, or pout and say No he’s not!

                She recalled these little things when he hung up the phone, and they laughed about it together, recalling fondly those nights sitting amongst her family, how he fit in like many of the vagabond souls she brought home for her mother to love and feed. He was a special one, he was one who had spent many a long hours there, draped around the house like the rest of her children.

 

                Yet, now he was gone. She had just a few hours before she had to get ready for work. With him had come the onslaught of all she had been questioning, if what she was doing was what she truly loved, if she was happy. She thought of her sister growing up, all she was missing living hours from home. She had showed him her modest apartment with pride, saying look, Zak, look how I have grown up and provided for myself quite nicely, with a lot of work of course. And he had curled around her on the couch, Harry Potter already playing before he had even arrived.

                But he was gone again, she had watched him in her rearview, strolling down a hill, his thumb stuck out, tendril of his mussed hair being picked up by strands of wind. He had promised to return, to meander his way back to her soon, but for now he had to go, and she knew that the most she’d ever have was a piece of his little gypsy soul. She never knew she would wish for him so badly, she had discovered in the years that stretched between them, and she was prodding the depth of that longing as she watched him disappear around a bend, the quick glint of sapphire as he turned one last time to wave to her.

                She had said that morning, as he curled his arm around her, that she could write a whole short story on how her gangly best friend had grown into this meandering wise man. He laughed, but in the quiet of her apartment, in the dim light of the day, she sat and she wrote, and she thought she could feel him in her bones, that’s how close they all these years grown. She felt a little relief as she let the words out. She let him go.

 

 

               

 

Why Do You Hide

Someone explain to me, please fucking explain to me, this whole thing about loving the chase, these hard-built iron fucking defenses around ourselves, and how you suddenly hide the heart you wear on your damn sleeve when someone finally, finally! cares. What is this nonsense? I told him, I told him plainly, that I understood.

He said, with long lashes shielding his down turned eyes like curtains, he said he did not want anything serious. I agreed. I told him I was in no position for a relationship myself. Who had the time, between school and between work, or phones and laptops, and everything else. Everything else.  I agreed. He said he really liked me, but just nothing serious. I was flattered, and I was happy. This was perfect.

With his body baring down on me he smiled. He kissed my nose, and he kissed my cheek. My chin. His lips found the hollows of my heart, and my soul, and he dazzled me. It was all temporary, of course, and I was OK with that. I loved him. I loved him right then, for that moment, for that beautiful bedazzling moment, just as he was. I knew he would zip up and go home after, but for that moment with nothing between us, no games, no chase, no phone, no clothes, just his kisses, I could see all his imperfections, and how they were just the shadows to highlight his perfections. A dash of white paint here, and an artistic flick here to show the exact slope of his chin, and it was beautiful.

Then he stopped coming over. It was not a set thing to begin with, but it was lovely. He would be nervous when he was there, nervous until my hands found his hair and pulled him to me. He said he didn’t want feelings, that he didn’t want it to become more than it was, and I told him it was all fine. I reminded him he was beautiful.

When he held me, it was like he never wanted to let me go. But he did. And the one before him, and the one before him, and the one before that. I wanted to love him just for that moment, I wanted to show him the landscape of beauty that was chalked into his chest, but he slipped away in the fog of these “games” that people play. He hid in the shadows of the walls he’d erected himself, that I’d scaled and sat atop with late night laughter and nude hugs.

He disappeared, and left a beautiful flower to die in sudden drought.

I only wanted, for the little time he would let me, I only wanted to show him how utterly beautiful a person he was, and then let him go.

When I see his pictures, I am only sad that he does not know just how glorious he is. I am sad that I could not say, thank you.