Good morning, loss

Early, at first light, first thought, a space. A gap. A pause. I’m permitted the brief length of a breath to believe you’re only a dream.

sun-622740_640Beleaguered roommate, I’ve learned to live alongside you. Familiar like the bathroom rug followed by the mirror reflection, reflecting back what you see in me. Which is open space.

Sometimes you sleep late, demanding the sheets, edging me out. Sometimes you get up early and make coffee. Regardless, I’m obliged to entertain you.

Dear loss, my low-grade fever. Soft blow with a blunt object. Empty dinner plate. Passive intruder. Frequent contributor. New black. Dear loss, slowly unfolding wonder, leave me.

Loss, be a different color. Make yourself new again. Compose another line. Let’s forge a deal. I’ll put on a fresh dress, maybe linen. You say something else. Something else entirely.

Anatomy of a Story

This body is a living memorial. Here lies a moment in the crook of my arm. There, I found that memory under a fingernail. One morning in November on my kneecap, one sullen Saturday in a strand of hair. Every cell starts the story this way: I thought nothing would change.


Stories begin in the blood, fresh and fast and throbbing. They are unborn, embryonic, waiting for cues. Sometimes a story stays in the lungs, going in, coming out. Other times it is alive in the liver, behaving like a screen. Plot gestation is a real process. It is just that nobody ever told you this is how stories unfold.

It is time to tell a story when she leaves your body for your brain. She takes the elevator up your spine, stopping on each floor, of course — a story will not ever be rushed. But when the doors open on the frontal lobe your nerves will shimmer. And it will be time to let her go.

You will not get away without dreaming. Prose slips into bed during the lucid pre-dawn. This is how you know you have held her too long. Pull back the sheets and lie naked in the cold, clear morning. After she leaves, admire the scars as if they were chapters.


The pedestrian heart

I don’t want my old heart back. I’ve thought a great deal about this.

rope-667267_640As hearts go, it wasn’t bad. It clocked in every day: tick. Tick. Clock out. Tock. It was sturdy, dependable, reasonably good at reacting when called upon during a run or musical or while petting a dog. I once heard my heartbeat during an EKG. There it was, ka-thump, ka-thump. Steady companion. I had never before heard the sound of my own insides, of that soft soldier muscle, completing its unremarkable task though no one had ever asked it to, though no one would tell it when to stop. What a lonely job, beating away at no one, nothing. Because you’re just built that way.

I have a new one now. It’s a heart-shaped supernova; a big burst of light streaking across a dark ending. It’s not yet fully formed, though I try to bulk it up with little losses here and there. It’s just so hard to give your heart away and trust that it will come back in the same condition. But here’s one thing I know: it won’t. Ever. No matter how big or how little the transaction.

I spent years saving myself up for the right person, the right job, the right resting place — holding my softest parts in reserve for the eventual apocalypse. And then there it was one day, the apocalypse and the high-pitched whistle of the morning after. All that remained after the blast was a long winter and my old tender parts, stored on the top shelves like rations for a new age.

On some other morning months later I crossed a line that I did not even see. And now the game is all new — the object is to give myself away at every turn. Though, truth is, there is nothing at the other end of the rope except my old, pedestrian heart, beating reliably at no one, nothing, until it stops.




This is What a Lull Looks Like

CelaGrief is like a prison sentence of undetermined length. I keep ticking off the days in chalk, one hundred, two hundred, a season and then another season. Distractions vary–half a short story, a piece of chocolate–and so do disappointments. They are not anything and they are not nothing.

Many things feel like a super mega huge epic deal. They are usually things that are not a super mega huge epic deal. I keep touching the stove to see if it is still hot. Reliably, it is. But I cannot help myself. There has not been anything better to do. Because there is nothing to be done. Reach out, recoil, repeat.

This is what it feels like to give your heart away a thousand times a thousand times a day. Micro pangs, hidden in the plain wrapper of routine. His name still on the cable bill, that book you loaned me in September, her eyebrows shaped like a reminder. Each one a tender spot, a pinprick. Another hash mark on the wall.


Ode to Endings

It is a hot and rainy morning in New York–a condition reserved exclusively for our urban enclave. Nowhere else on earth can buildings capture the hot and wet and hold them together in this precise way. It is also a condition of the soul, I’ve come to discover, after years of waking to mornings like this and feeling the way I do right now; like I am holding the hot and wet in my heart as if I were a building among buildings, too. It is a city of steely contradiction. I am at home in it.




Even now, the rain is finer than it was a moment ago, which means that things are changing. This morning, trolling for quotes about loss that could do the heavy lifting for my heavy heart, I found the following from Mailer:

“The only faithfulness people have is to emotions they’re trying to recapture.” 

It calls to mind basements. It calls to mind former houses and former spouses. It seems to say that in spite of knowing we shouldn’t, we always try to hold on a moment too long. And it is the holding on that we refer to as “fidelity.” I wonder if we can be faithful instead to things that haven’t happened yet; if we can pull the plug and slip it into another outlet–one that acknowledges there can be no beginnings without endings. I am not interested in relics. Are you?

It is impossible to be buoyant if you are too married to gravity. All you will feel is the pulling, pulling, pulling, down, down, down, back, back, back, until you have ended again at the beginning. And then you will have to let go all over again. Let us become untethered, there is no reason not to. This is what it feels like to loose the grip, untie the knot, dissolve the mass, clean the closet, close the door, open another, polish the glass, free the horses, cease operations, release the prisoners, flip the switch, take the needle off the record, conspire with optimism, hope for the best.

Do not resist. Let it happen. In so doing you will witness the miracle of the uncharted heart. Maps are helpful, but we have far too many. We’ve known exactly what to do next a hundred times over, but it never seemed to stop what was coming anyway.

Here is our encounter with the open road.

It Could All Be So Simple (But you’d rather make it hard)

Manifesto: Next time around, I want to be adored. End.

They say whatever one’s heart prays for the most…

May I find adoration at the least.

I am mind-mapping in the mornings, investing in the brain as an agent of change. Or, at the very least, a more malleable organ than the heart. Do not worry about the how, they say. The how will follow. And so I X-ACTO tiny paper images of the future and attach them to the branches of my brain. This is an act of faith.

Neuroscience is the only reasonable path to coping with unknowns. That and Buddhism. Buddhism and a social life. A social life and prayer. Prayer and compassion. Compassion and Pinot Gris. Back to neuroscience.

It is another perplexing day in our perplexing world. The documentary I watched last night stole a moment from a miracle. Or rather, described this moment as the miracle. Out of the quantum field of possibility; out of a billion plausible scenarios; out of all the outcomes in the wild universe, came this: me at a computer, typing. At this computer, typing. It is a miracle.

My mind is a stallion. I am not in the saddle. This is not a religion, per se–this kind of knowing. It is a relief to accept that thoughts are not trustworthy companions. They’re not even worthwhile refuse. They are a distraction from what is. A fertile pack of lies. A disruptive chorus. A disappointment.


They are louder than the blitz. They are The Blitz. Oh, unknowns. What is their choking hold over me? Why am I enamored of abstracts when they are so unwilling to crystallize themselves into being? Seriously, it would be easier to hold on to a thread inside a typhoon.

Manifesto: Next time around is now. Right now.





The Art in Loneliness, Part Two

Still (new) Life, Redux: Sunday mornings

Frederick_Leighton_-_SolitudeIf one were to query Websters for the definition of the word “lonely”, one would find the following:


Kate awakens to scattered spelt cracker crumbs in the folds of the sheets–evidence of a late-night health food binge.



Kate details her bedspread with a Q-tip drenched in bleach, as though the Q-tip were a sword with which she could combat silence.

“…go ahead, quiet, make my day…”


Here’s what I’ve decided: you can’t understand The Cars until you’re over 30.

“Drive” is the sound of divorce on vinyl. That’s just something you don’t get when you’re nine and obsessed with boys who wear blush. And there are many, many more things you don’t get until you are on YouTube conducting a search for the sound of divorce. But when the pieces eventually come together, there you are, feeling differently than you did when you were a child about Rick Ocasek’s strange, long face, and realizing that you now feel differently about everything.



The Art in Loneliness

Still (new) Life, Part One: Making Food for Oneself

Is smoked salmon a lonely person's food?

Is smoked salmon a lonely person’s food?

First Friday: There comes a point in every ending when she realizes she can no
longer go on eating only in the presence of other people.

Making a meal for herself is perhaps the first real act of courage she
has performed while wearing solitude’s new skin (however aware she may
be that sending an email while eating isn’t really solitude–it’s
still grasping for company. Baby steps, people).

This is What Injustice Fatigue Looks Like

I’m a consumer of news. This is my character flaw. I especially love radio news in the morning of the NPR variety: human interest stories I’m interested in because I’m a human, necessary information on farm subsidies…you know, the material I arm myself with before boarding the N train and commuting to midtown Manhattan to walk down Second Avenue in my athletic shoes and business casual cotton dress just like every other girl.

But something has happened this week that the evening email from Jezebel aptly labeled “Rape Fatigue”: I have grown tired. I have weakened in my resolve to stay abreast of all the currents running through the culture in this very charged time. What I realized when I sat down at my desk to attend to the company receivables this morning is that mine is wider than rape fatigue, mine is injustice fatigue. We’re talking minutiae to mega in size–because everything becomes an obsession when one feels she has so little control.

The four holes that have formed in my duvet cover seemed this morning as wide as river mouths. And so I did not make the bed. The N train stopped between stations on an elevated track so that one entire side of the car leaned toward the ground below, and I caught the eye of every rider simultaneously wondering, what if it just…fell over? It could happen, you know. So much else has. Before I read the Jezebel email, I read another one from our giant corporate temporary office space with the subject line, “Holiday Cleaning Schedule for Labor Day.” Jesus Christ, who cares?

Today would have been Gene Kelly’s 100th birthday. Before I opened Outlook I went to YouTube to find the dream ballet from An American in Paris. I wanted to see feet tread lightly–ever so lightly–across the sound stage floor. I wanted to see those same feet kick to the wings the residue of Akin, South Africa, and Billy Baldwin on Piers Morgan talking about super PACs as if he is some sort of authority on the subject. Goodbye, injustice residue. You are ephemera. You just don’t know it yet.