Bookends

I like to write things; this is where you can read them.

For Missing Him.

She wept.

She wept for missing him. The turns of phrase in a late-night conversation; the scratchy kisses; the snorting laughter; the books left on the kitchen table with a scribbled note: ‘read these’; the ukulele renditions of classic rock favourites. She wept with longing, to stand on the Pont des Arts, flicking the ash from a Marlboro into the Seine as the sun descends behind the Tour d’Eiffel. She wept for art, knowing that no matter how hard she might try she would never write anything as beautiful as those lines in his letters, breathed effortlessly on to paper in the jagged writing that she knew so well. For a moment she couldn’t breath as sadness ripped through her like a beast with many claws, crushing her lungs with its immense weight. She rocked back and forth, remembering when he hugged her goodbye at the airport and swayed gently, saying, “you can stay another few minutes; you don’t have to go right now,” and regretting her reply: “yes, I do.”

Then, quite suddenly, she stopped. She wiped the remnants of her makeup away from her lower lashes and sniffed heartily, before turning to the blank computer screen. She wondered how to write the story without over-using semicolons.

Where the Mountains Are

Three days of brilliant sunshine and all I can feel is dread for when it begins to rain again. She says, why did you move here if you can’t handle the rain, but the truth is I can’t handle snow or rain or sun or wind – it is all dark. I am cloaked in layers of heavy black velvet; someone wants me to mourn the life I lost. Is there still a sky somewhere. Is there still a sea somewhere.

The haze hides behind my eyelids so that when they see me they think, she seems to be doing well. When they are gone it comes out again and I stand alone, waiting to see what will come hurtling out of the fog towards me first. Sometimes I hope it’s death. Is there still a sky somewhere. Is there still a sea somewhere.

They are here, where the mountains are.

Porcelain

It was barely daybreak, and that new-morning feeling was in the air as we stood in the alleyway. He lit a cigarette then handed me the pack and the lighter. I watched him pull in a deep breath, the hollows in his cheeks like black holes pulling my gaze. As I lit one he exhaled with the back of his head against the brick wall behind him, gazing at the sky. The ends of his long hair brushed the faded beltloops on his jeans and I could just see the tops of his bottom teeth through the smoke.

I picked at the fraying rips in my jeans as I smoked, rolling up stray threads and dropping them one by one on to the asphalt. Close to my knee were his initials – he’d written them there in black pen the night we met, in the dark at a dirty bar, his hand on the inside of my leg. Mine were on the inside pocket of his paisley jacket; the pocket where he kept poems, or up until about forty-nine days ago, drugs.

When I looked up again he was watching me, unsmiling, but with a kind of burning in his dark eyes.

“What,” I said, feeling a flush rise to my cheeks.

He grinned. He had a really good grin; you could see very little of his eyes, since his whole face would scrunch up to make room for all his teeth. I’d seen him slip it to countless girls at parties and shows and on crowded streets. It wasn’t just for me, I mean. That grin was just how he was – he had everything he wanted and so he couldn’t fail; that abyss didn’t exist for him, so he just strode forward.

He put his cigarette out on the wall behind him and crossed the alley, bending his legs as he reached me and placing his lips at the base of my neck. I locked my arms around his shoulders, flicking the still-burning cigarette away and watching the smoke writhe through the air. My fingers wound through his hair and he began to hum, the notes vibrating against my skin right into my bones. After a moment he stopped, turned his head slightly to one side, and said, “It’s about you.”

“The song?”

He nodded, brushing my hair away from my ear as he straightened up. He was almost a full head taller than me, and when I needed to I could fit against his chest, tucked under his chin.

“You’ve already got one,” I said. He did, too. He’d written it on my bedroom floor two months ago, right before we fucked for the first time, and shoved the page into his pocket as he dropped the jacket on the floor.

“That’s a whatever song,” he said. “Shit. This one’s…”

I kissed him as he stared at me, trying to find words. But whatever “this one” was, I didn’t find out. A door slammed open a bit further down the alley and a curly head appeared.

“Are you guys still out here? Come on, Tony, let’s get going. See you on the flip side, Lydia.”

The door slammed shut. He sighed.

“Well,” I said. “Better go.”

“Yeah. I’ll see you in September,” he said, brushing my cheek with his hand, his eyes bright with the promise.

I smiled. That was his way: to love so fiercely that everything else was blotted out, every fibre of his being devoted. But then one day the love would just fall away, and he would float on until he found someone new to love. He plunged into love again and again, but we were the ones who fell. He would not see me in September.

He kissed me one last time and strolled down the alleyway. I didn’t stay to watch the door slam again, and if he turned back to smile at me before he left I never saw it; I walked down the alley and out into the sunshine as fast as I could. I didn’t look back. By September I was far away. I didn’t know if he’d come back, searching for my face in a crowded bar, asking my old roommates for a new address. I didn’t stay to watch.

It was fifteen years before I heard my song. My daughter brought home their new album and I listened to it late that night while she slept in the next room. Through the headphones I could feel his voice, still, against my neck and in my bones; his lips around my nickname.

Porcelain.

The Weaver

Shhnk shnk

Shhnk shnk

The loom echoes

through the house.

Tomorrow she will bring

a new blanket down

and press it into my hands, saying

take it; I have too many.

I will curl under it

while coffee is poured

and biscuits are snatched

guiltily from a tin,

and read and read

and doze.

Sitting in the car

under the blanket

on the long drive home

I feel a pang of regret

that my children will

never know her.

Winter Walk

A shaft of sunlight

Pierces the green canopy,

The brooding stillness,

And the cold outside

Freezes the ink from my pen;

A blackened river.

Puddle

I tell him not to jump in it,

(he’s just changed his pants and

I’ll have to take him back to his mother all wet)

but he doesn’t listen.

He shrieks with delight as water splashes up into his boots

I open my mouth to protest but then,

He grins like sunshine.

To bed.

To bed.

He sighs it softly,

grazing my shoulder

with his calloused hand.

To bed.