Tag: free write

The Hindsight Looking Glass

Some nights get into me like fish hooks. Teeth marks left long into bleary-eyed mornings. Tiny scars to remind you that adventure starts with a simple decision.

“Are you coming with?”
“Yes.”

And then suddenly I am flung into my favorite headspace: sitting in the back seat, music turned up so loud you physically can’t think about anything else, a quick glance and a shared smile.

Let’s talk freedom. Let’s talk summer. Let’s talk that rumble in the pit of your stomach, that happy growl when you bend the rules, that lustful humming of  hubris. Let’s talk being as young as you’ll ever be again.

Nights like these are the ones I am always scared to write about. I can’t find a way to explain the feeling of youth. I can’t hold them long enough to examine them, to pick them apart. The memories don’t stay still. They wiggle and buck and skitter away into the dappled shadows of street lamps.

Your name melts into the folder of things I wish I remembered, but I can’t get the way your hands felt out of my head.

Until this year, I never spent a summer in Columbia. I fled, with the majority of my fellow students, to other adventures. Found home in cities far away from Missouri, from routine.  But from May to July I found myself, college degree (metaphorically) in hand, dancing in summer rain and crying in my empty apartment. Alone, but not lonely (except when I was).

It was a happy, sleepy, sweaty, stormy existence.  Half of it was the mundane pattern of food service closing shifts and finishing my research project. The other half was a fever dream of freedom, of clinging to friends and not acknowledging the countdown to saying goodbye.

Romanticizing the hell out of my life is something I do very well. I can take a stranger at a red light and spin them into a glowing golden lost love. Very basic human kindness sends me spiraling into a mess of metaphors. I am a sappy, ridiculous human being, all sadness considered.

But the months I spent in Columbia this summer practically wrote their own poems. When I was in the thick of it, it was too big to fit into 26 letters. I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough, couldn’t swallow enough sunshine, couldn’t hold enough rain in my hands.

I moved home and things slowed down to a quieter existence. I mostly drive my family to work, stress about finding a job and build my marketing portfolio. And, of course, write. Spare time presented itself to me shyly for the first time in ages, and I was excited to examine the life I had lived so decadently for two and a half months.

But every intention of dissecting my summer went out the window with a pain like a train leaving without me on it. I couldn’t look directly into the sun I was trying to write about. Nights blended together — was that the night those creepy guys were staring at us? Or was that the night we made dinner together? Before or after I closed my thumb in a car door?

I have tried and failed to convey how it felt to be there. The haze of vodka and beer, warm in the bellies full of cheap Mexican food and cheese pizza. Passing a cigarette around a circle of friends, unconcerned with sharing spit or lipstick smudges. A pile of humans and dogs in a too-hot living room, singing Action Bronson and Purity Ring and Frank Ocean.

It was art only recognizable firsthand that I am trying to drag back into my home. Records with songs we sang in the car, in your room, on the street.  Candles that smell like rain and smoke, like your shirt, like too much Chinese food. A shadow-box of every 3 a.m. I’ve ever seen: wet grass, ticket stubs, streetlight, bug bites shoved into a frame.

What I did, objectively speaking, was very standard. I went to the same coffee shop nearly every day. I spent too much money on brunch for the sheer nostalgic value. I made a shaky, nervous, giggly effort to flirt. I stayed up late. I watched fireworks from parking lots.

It was, for all intents and purposes, a very standard summer, so why did my heart feel fit to burst with light? I tried to talk myself down, but the warm, syrupy magic of it all never washed off my fingertips.

A misfit band of heartstrings tangled across the radius of downtown. We ran down brick roads. We shared hash browns. We split vodka sodas. We danced with strangers in dark bars. We dragged our un-showered bodies to McDonald’s in time for breakfast. We stood on chairs. We said goodbye.

Friday night, I went out with new friends. We raced down a highway at 11:30 p.m., hungry for beer and loud music and people we’ve never seen before. Or at least, I was. I wanted to tap back into my summer dream state. Less checking Glassdoor for average salaries, more moving through crowded dance floors. Less anxiety-induced shaking, more kissing cute people.

My CoMo summer sits apart from the tail-end of summer I’ve been living at home in Austin. It is a brewing thunderstorm I can’t tear my eyes away from. A beautiful bruise I can’t stop poking.

Andrea Gibson wrote a poem called “I Sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power Is Out.” I can’t remember if they read it when I saw them perform at MU, but I don’t think I would have got it.

I started asking the sun about the Big Bang

the sun said, “it hurts to become.”

I carried that hurt on the tip of my tongue

and whisper “bless your heart” every chance I get

so my family tree can be sure I have not left

you do not have to leave to arrive, I am learning this slowly

Facing truth head-on is much less terrifying when your bones have been warmed by the radiator that is your old heart.

So here are my summer truths: Summer ends because winter must begin, just as winter will end to make way for warmth once more. Noses must be pressed to grindstones in order to afford to buy the next round of shots. You can lose a pair of kind eyes in a crowd as easily as an earring back. Love aches in the best possible way. Long-distance friendships are just as painful as you thought they’d be.

Life can’t always always be a yellow-saturated dream about the madness of youth. It doesn’t have to be a constant grind either.

It’s okay to write 1,000 words about not being able to write down how you fell in love with the simple magic of being.

You can’t always channel heat lightning into your writing.
There is no way to nail a luna moth to your notebook.

 

***

Here’s a video + transcript of the Gibson poem. Get your tissues ready.

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#FreeWriteFriday: Things In My Dreamcatcher

12:04 p.m. 

I dreamed about meeting you in an airport. Saving my pennies for a plane ticket. About falling into your arms, about crying with the sheer joy of finally getting to put my hands around yours.

We are jumping on hotel beds. We are watching terrible TV movies and laughing to tears. Building an impressive blanket fort in your basement. There is a dog there, and he curls into the small space between our sleeping bodies. Everything feels right and slow and warm.

In my dream, I am thin and beautiful. You are you before sadness stole your light. You play guitar absentmindedly and I croon along. I sound like Joni Mitchell; You smile like the sun.

It all ends like a sun-speckled dream sequence from a Sophia Coppola film. Flashes of the five Lisbon girls smiling, miniature supernovas of teenage freedom before the darkness comes rushing back. You and I tripping through years and years of “come here, come here, come here,” stumbling over our I love yous because they can’t come fast enough.

***

There is a mystery boy who lives in the very back of my memory. He kissed me over and over, little pecks until both of us were laughing. When I woke him up with the same kisses, he grinned. Tucked his arm around me, tracing his fingertips along my arm. “This is perfect. Let’s just stay here all day,” he said with the sleepiest sigh. I was afraid he could hear my heart fluttering.

He made me roll my eyes and laugh when he threw the cutest tantrum about getting out of bed. He held my hand in the back of my friend’s car, then disappeared.

I don’t think about him often, but sometimes the way the light comes in through my bedroom window puts me back there. Kissing him was a flash of a fairy-tale, a sleepy summer night with the last chapter missing.

***

I miss him with a faceless innocence. I miss you with a painful, misplaced ferocity.

These are the just ghosts my dreamcatcher caught. I am not sitting on the floor on a hotel room with you. I am not drunk on freedom, pointing out fireflies.

I am sitting at my kitchen table, listening to old records and drinking coffee. It’s no longer hot, but I don’t have the energy to do anything about it. My body doesn’t move right. It is big and heavy. I stare into mirrors, screaming silently at myself to change, to stop crying.

You don’t like coffee. I have no idea if he does.
I dump the last half cup down the sink.

12:58 p.m.

I haven’t posted a FWF since April 2014. Whoops.

TFLNM: Weathervanes

He didn’t understand what he’d done to her, but he would by the time she was finished.

She was bee stings, she was hungry mouth, she was lightning eyes. Coffee-stained everything. Her back arched, somehow serpentine, when she stretched every morning. She turned toward the sun every afternoon, desperate for warmth. She laughed with the genuine sort of rumble that shook her entire body. Restless and impatient and kind.

He was quiet with a loud heart. He played guitar in bed when the sadness seeped into both of their shaking hands. He was morning coffee, he was nighttime skylines, he was feet that never seemed to be warm. His movie watch list was a mile long. Always making hot chocolate. Tucked himself around her every night.

Heartsickness hung on her like fog. She did not know why he loved her, or how. But her heart was bird wings, summer rain, new moon, when he said her name. And, oh, when he told her he loved her. “I love you.” Without condition. Without hesitation.

She was her own hurricane. And he was the calm before her.

He didn’t understand what he’d done by loving her, but he would by the time the storm stopped.

This is a new thing I’m trying on this blog called The First Line’s Not Mine. I’m using a random first line generator, courtesy of Claire, and then letting my creative juices flow, however hesitantly. To write fiction (or fact) for the sake of writing. I hope you’ll consider joining me. It’s hard and a lot of fun. 

#FreeWriteFriday: “A Half-Fiction Saturday”

4:52 p.m.

You tucked a hair behind my ear once. It was storming and I was complaining about how long my hair had gotten, how it needed to be pulled into a ponytail. It happened and we froze. We never talked about how it made me want to kiss you right there in the middle of the sidewalk. How you looked at me, nervous and breathing slowly. Neither of us brought it up again.

Two weeks ago, you were in my dream, out of focus and out of reach. I woke up with hands shaking like my window frames during the rain that lasted three days. My lungs pulled in and pushed out just like they have every day of my life, even on the days when your eyes smile at me and I think my heart might stop.

I woke up with your voice stuck in my head, and I want to hear you reading old Emerson poems out loud while I dry dishes over the sink. I want to hear you humming while you scribble something down in the back of an old journal.

I leave my hair down in the wind now.

5:25 p.m.

This is a mess, but I guess that’s kind of what free writing is all about … right?

#FreeWriteFriday: Rivers to the Atlantic

12:57 p.m.

I believe in my bones like I believe in the dirt on the ground.
I am able and solid and if you don’t take care of me,
I will wash away into the ocean and settle at the bottom.

I believe in the beauty of my body like a fairy tale,
collecting dust on the bookshelf of my childhood room
because who has the patience for lies with illustrations?

There is a pull like a black hole through my whole body
when I see you happy and never needing me, like I am
nothing but dirt you can’t get out from under your nails.

You laugh like sunlight in my eyes, you smile like you have
known me forever without ever learning my name,
and you miss me like you don’t.

My heart is warm and humming, beautiful and soft,
until that painful wave of not being the first choice
or the second best or even on the cutting room floor.

And all the 20-year-olds with no clue about what is is to live
are wringing out their hearts onto journal pages and wishing
to be his, her, their kind of pretty-funny-cute-perfect.

So I will stare out of windows and write in blood
and fall in love with every kind face I see.
I will keep myself from the bottom of the ocean.

1:26 p.m.