I am stuck in a cloud and I can not get out. I didn't ask to be up here. Sometimes I just feel myself drifting, and no matter what I grab onto it's not strong enough to keep me down. Or maybe I don't even try. It's hard to say once I'm up here, staring out at the same sights I always see but from a new perspective, this time with the included fear of heights. I view everything from a distance and I can't simply step off, I must wait until one day soon I wake back up on the ground.
"Okay I'm gonna jump!" All eyes turn and watch, and I smile surrounded by my adoring crowd. I go for the gold and make a splash. Growing up with a pool, jumping into it is magical. The act itself of throwing yourself into a large body of water is fun, but it's more than that. When you're standing on the jumping stone, you're special. It's your moment to shine. Quick, turn the camera on, Max, get this. I'm gonna cannonball 1....2....3.... uh one sec let me prepare. I've done it a million times so no, I am not scared. I look around and laugh at their warm faces around me. Anything to make the moment last. Okay lemme try again. 1 2 3 SPLUNCSH and the water goes flying and they all giggle and I stay under as long as I can until my lungs beg me to resurface. My presence quakes the pool, waves swashing back and forth, reverberating, slowly dying down until I push myself up onto the edge and run back to jump again.
"Can you change it to something more mellow?"
I pop in Local Natives and we cruise, coasting through the dark twists and curves of the road. Lights poke through the trees, and soon we're cradled by stars. We don't speak, but we don't sit in silence, we're surrounded by a city night. We pull up to the cliffs and park, and I follow him up, climbing through the top and onto the roof. Wow. The darkness is broken from all directions, from the moonlit clouds and the twinkling wharf lights and the lighthouses framing the water, and the occasional dancing beams of car headlights. We sit until our minds sober up like our bodies, and then we drive some more.
I slowly sneak through the dark, eyes desperately seeking little bits of light, grasping for the door. Inside I'm overwhelmed with brightness, soon settling into a dim glow, somehow comfortable but cold. Clinks and pangs echo from the kitchen, the roll of wheels, a running sink. Shoot! and then Darn!, and eventually Shit! Dorky laughs, jokes so bad they're barely jokes with people who know just one little piece of me. Labeling, dating, hah hah hah, and maybe a cookie or two at the end.
"Listen. That's your poem."
Distant waves sizzled and crunched. Wind pushed through leaves, framing silence with subtle sighs.
Tonight I met The Best Poet in America. I met a writer who believes in a God, a combination I always find pleasantly surprising.
"Dictionaries are word graveyards," he said, "they make words static. Every word has life, but dictionaries make them flat."
Occasionally I meet people who pause everything in motion for a moment, who command all the bustling noise in the world to stop and listen. Who pull me out of my head, which I love, but I find that I have a horribly hard time getting back. And as for now, I'm lost.
I want to sit in bed and cry. When this time of the year comes I shrivel into my mind, shutting everyone else out and embracing only myself. When I start to taste summer I always switch back, I try so hard not to be isolated and for a month or two I believe the beautiful lie that I'm not. Everyone's lonely. It's an inescapable part of being human. But as the sky gives up earlier and earlier each day, I tend to follow, shutting out the world and crawling into bed and warming myself up from the outside in in hopes that maybe the numbness will melt away. I suppose at this time I put on dreary goggles that make me see the sadness in everything and everyone, and I can't get them off until February or April. Or maybe that's when I put them on, goggles that blur the pain and focus in on the sunny glow of faces. I can't say which. Am I a happy person or a sad person and to my dismay the answer is boring and bleak and beautiful: I am simply a person. And sometimes in my extreme moments I suppose I forget that.
The boy who speaks entirely in meaningless cliches makes my stomach drop and my heart ache. He twists the dagger on a daily basis, and the butterflies that once filled my stomach way back when, although they've been dormant for many years, have now been poisoned with caffeine and then toxic gas. They tell me that good things come to those who wait, but the longer I wait to stop caring, the sicker the thought of you makes me feel, as it festers and fizzles and pops. However I guess it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Or is it? I don't even know anymore. It's about the journey, not the destination, and I've found I have no destination anymore, I just expect to be hurt and then I am but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. What else can I say? If you love someone you have to let them go. And I think that's the cliche I like the least of all.
A silent bed, half unmade. One side smoothed perfectly, sharp edges, sleek slate. Layers upon layers neatly tucked away, asking not to be touched. The other side crumpled, wrinkled sheets thrown across the the surface, layers peeking out here and there in a chaotic swirl, a crispy mess of what-goes-where swallowing itself up and begging for attention. The cold bed sits there alone, empty, only sometimes half filled. Cars pass by at all hours, lights flash, shudders screen out the too bright world. This room isn't a part of the house, it has no pulse. It's not alive. It simply lays there hiding, afraid to be seen by working eyes. I hold my breath as I walk through, keeping it from sucking the life out of me. It sits and spends its few remaining days already dead.
I squeeze the handle twice, coaxing it to open. We slide in each side and he reaches for the ipod. I situate the duct tape under my thighs in hopes that this time it will not leave a sticky residue on my skirt. The car grumbles for a moment and then pushes on. We follow the coast, salty wind spitting in my hair, and I reach down the side to lean the seat back. It blows over the top of me as I'm shielded in the warm embrace of cracked leather seats and shiny cork that has lost its luster around the corners. I close my eyes, sinking into the smooth bumps and motions of the ride, and he laughs a little bit, and then I laugh too, and we follow the curves, racing the waves and the seagulls and the setting sun.
So many. Our lives are entirely made up of them. Every day. Every minute. Every second. We are faced with decisions constantly, and our only solace is found in eliminating some of these choices. We pretend that we have no choice in many matters when we actually do. That makes things easier. Because despite the reasoning of my daily assumptions, I don't have to wake up at 6:35 exactly to go to school and I don't have to speak to anyone and I don't have to wear clothes and I don't have to do anything. But I guess that's why we need structure, we need rules. Because I do wake up at 6:35 and each day I'm pretty darn convinced that that's what I need to do. Because if I decided to wake up at 10 I would be late to school, and punished by the school and then if I continued this choice every day pretty soon I would have no opportunities at education, which is the path I've chosen to take. Choices contradict each other. Once you're set on one thing, there are rules you must follow to achieve it, and those limit certain other choices.
So yes, everything is a choice. Do I do this do I do that and the answer is usually why of course, you must, and the overwhelming idea of choice is eliminated and you feel great.
It all starts with a siren. Two, three. Finally enough for you to notice. "Honey come downstairs, come look!" I slip my phone in my pocket and scramble down, flip flops on, out the door. More sirens, and loud chatter, and more and more people arrive by the second. I look up and see an ocean of grey, dancing, snaking through the air. The smoke coughs, sending burst after burst up, until a constant river forms, choking the blue out of the sky. "Where is it?" "Is it a house?" "Yikes!" A parade of cars crawls up, the drivers sticking their heads out the window as they pilot slowly for a good view. Emergency vehicles line up behind, frustrated, anxious, and an officer calmly directs the spectators to leave. The smoke lightens, in color and flow, trickling out to a mild puff. People evacuate, entering their houses with relief that it wasn't them, and a dark, lifeless house is left alone at the scene.
Little kids line up in front of the giant sign filled with pictures of colorful faces. What would you like? hmm I don't know they respond shyly. All they know is that they want their faces to look different for a little while. What's the appeal? From a young age it is a wonderful delight, a special treat, to have a stranger paint a picture on your face. Something pretty, something scary to show off as you stomp around outside with your friends. Sometimes it's refreshing to not look like yourself. We put so much stress on appearances, and most days you're stuck with what you are. Mirrors everywhere you look, it's a nice break to not have to look like yourself for a little while. Dressing up, dressing down, whatever the appeal is, it is certainly there. Go ahead and hide, or go ahead and loudly display something other than yourself for once. Go ahead and play pretend and live another life until the paint washes off. You look beautiful my dear.
Why is it so easy to let go? Maybe because I've already been letting go for a long time now. "Easy" may not be the right word, it has certainly not been comparable to stealing candy from a baby, or picking up desperate middle school girls. But I suppose it has been "easier" than expected because the blow has been dispersed. It wasn't the usual overwhelming hit, it has creeped up on me slowly, and my poor attempt to block it out resulted in it dripping through the cracks anyways. But here I am. Do you recognize me? I am still the me that you once knew, minus the big, soft part of you. Where you once saw comfort you will now see callouses, gnarled, the kind that say "I give no fucks, you're no threat to me anymore." After so many stinging, raw, potent exposures, I am finally immune to you. It's too late now. Take a good look. This might be the most I'll ever let you see of me again.
Traveling improves me as a person. Every time I live a life different from the one I routinely accept , I think. And my thoughts turn into "why don't I do this back home" and that turns into change and voila. Living different variations of my life, my own life but somewhere else surrounded by different people, it helps me to see what I carry with me, and what is no more than my surroundings. What is stuck to me like glue, what is fluid and open to change, what isn't even a part of me, just a comfortable habit? I get to know myself in a truly unique and unparalleled way.
They started days ago. They snuck up on me and kept me awake. Every time they seemed to cease, they exploded right above me, loud, shaking. I walked to the window and they stopped, I walked away and they began again. There's no escaping them. So I sat and thought and cried a little. And then I took another look. I sat at the window and waited, and I finally saw what I'd been only hearing. Brilliant bursts of magic and sparks and courage and a smile bursts onto my face and my eyes light up with the sky. Every direction I look, surrounding me is a show, the sky is a stage, and this show is wonderful. They keep coming, one after the other, and I feel myself grow brighter with every spark. They slow to a small stream, they trickle out, they crawl. But I'm still left glowing.