You are not the Reader I address here, although you do, of course, read this; I know it. Sometimes, at random, when I haven’t written a thing in weeks, when my life is chuffing along like a good girl, when my life is working, when it’s sleeping, when it writes the occasional tidy poem, or accepts offers of coffee from handsome young men, I’ll look and discover someone has sat themselves down and read the lot of everything I’ve written here, from start to finish.
I know it’s you.
What you want is our story, not any real version of us; when we were together, I would ask you what you thought of any given piece, and you offered nothing but the same odd, insipid comment, time and again– I love it. No matter how I poked or pried, nothing, not a word. You were in love with a text. I was Scheherazade, writing for my life: never the girl who catches an eye across the room; I was singing for my supper, retelling our tale as we lived it: break-up, make-up, awash in a sea of tropes: old lovers. I reached for a life raft and there was nothing but a sliced jalapeno, remnant of the spicy soup we loved to eat on cold days. The seeds burned my hands for days, so I wrote about that, pausing to dip my stinging fingertips into cooling bowls of milk, returning: if only you could take my hand, lift it to your mouth, take the flesh of my palm between your teeth and bite, take my first finger, then my second, in your mouth, the way you’d sometimes do when… but if you were holding my hands in your own, or in your mouth, I was trapped: trying to tap out our story with a single hand, a failed and flagrant ambidextrous attempt.
We grew closer; our story withered. You were in love with a scribe, a bare-breasted woman nested in someone else’s silks, scribbling away with her good hand. The distance is delicious: that’s her, that’s him, and you and I watch the blowing up of us from the safety of the darkened theater, our hands touching in the popcorn, forever on our first great date, watching two projections mouthing the words I whispered into our luscious mouths with the ease of a good witch in a fairy story: look, you were sleeping the deepest sleep, and she told you exactly what to say to win me, to keep winning me, to keep me returning–
(last night you kissed me in a dream; we rode in the back of someone’s car listening to a record that exists outside of time, only in my dream: the first record, we understood, by that great band who later was famous, who everyone loved when everyone loved them, but we knew how great this early work was, this prototype: before any other woman wandered up to any other man at a club, dark with beauty, fit her body into his with the ease of a snake on flagstone, decided without words to go home together, or kiss one another right then and there, or slink into the bathroom or the alley out back or any of the 1001 other dirty little tricks we know like we know our own bodies, like we know one another’s, we are that faceless couple grinding to a song the whole world loves, as too we are riding in that car, faces turned to one another, the music urging your hand to my face, our lips barely touching– before anyone loved anyone else, you loved a story set to music about a boy who loved a girl and lost her, and I picked it up where it left off…)
Dear _________ — I awoke, awash in a sea of light and the sound of my son’s sweet breathing, to the possibilities of Monday’s coffee date, to a red-winged blackbird hogging all of the birdseed outside of my window, a sparrow whirling her lament– I awoke to a Springsteen song I might, by day’s end, come to hate– I awoke to a poem I wrote last night that needs any number of brutal ministrations– the sun was out and the birds sang, I felt like Clarissa Dalloway.
I will buy the flowers myself, kid. This is my life.