Friday, December 30, 2011

There is a tree

There is a tree in Central Park.

You find it if you enter from west 72nd street. You walk east past Strawberry Fields, down the hill, and onto the bike path. You come to a place where a large hill undulates and there, near the top of it, is the tree. Its roots stick out of the ground, but it gives good shade and it's the perfect spot for people watching.

You spread the blanket and take off your shoes, then sit down. You tuck one leg under you for a pillow, and the other runs along his side, foot level with his hand. He wraps his fingers around the place where the top of your foot meets your ankle, and you shift your weight to one hand and run the fingers of the other through his hair. He's talking about something that happened at work - you won't remember what, exactly, later - but you watch his face move and feel his body as he breathes, and you feel like you're in the right place. Nothing grand or earth-shattering; you just recognize that this is exactly what you want to be doing right now, and that's satisfying.

Your leg is falling asleep from the weight of his head, but it doesn't really matter. You look up from your lap and watch the people; this part of the park has a lot of babies and dogs, and there's a little girl that keeps running up to a group of thirty-somethings and interrupting their picnic. You laugh softly and point her out, and the two of you watch her for a while, listening to her voice and the wind through the tree above you.

Your arm is tired from holding you up, and you try to hide it, but he notices. He lifts his head and moves over, and you slide down next to him. Your head goes to that spot between his neck and shoulder, your hand to his chest. He encircles your wrist with his hand and you put one leg over his. This is familiar; you have laid like this before. You stay that way for a long time. Every once in a while you prop yourself up to look at the people and the sky and at him, but mostly you just enjoy the closeness and the company. You think, I like this. We should do this more. You say, I like this. We should do this more.

When you open your eyes again, your forehead is against his jaw bone and he's breathing softly. You turn your head slowly, careful not to put pressure on your hand to counter your movement. The tree is still, and the clouds are darker. You raise your head to look: the little girl and her family are gone. The thirty-somethings are packing up their things and there are people on blankets near you that weren't there before. He senses you stirring and stretches; the spell is broken. You don't want to leave, but he wants to eat and it looks like rain, so it's time. You stand slowly and gather your things: your book, his bike lock, fold the blanket. When you've put it all back together he takes your hand and you walk down the hill toward the bike path, the back wheel of his bike clicking as it turns beside you. His right hand steers the handlebars in a practiced movement and you wonder how many times you've watched him do this, how many more times you will see it.

For some reason you glance back just before you reach Strawberry Fields, and look at the tree. It's moving now, the wind passing through the branches, and no one has taken your spot. You wonder if the two of you will return there when the spring comes, and you're not sure of the answer, so you look away and watch the ground pass beneath your feet.

When you emerge onto Central Park West, the two of you stand for a few minutes, your hands resting on each others' hips. He's hungry, he needs to go back downtown for an appointment, you want to go home. But you don't want him to go. You say as much, and he agrees to come to your apartment after. You're happy about that, but somehow now you have a sense of unease, like that somewhere in the future will be the last time you come here - maybe this is the last time - and like maybe you only have a few afternoons like this left together. You wonder why you think that, and while you wonder he watches you and the way the wind is whipping your hair into your face.

He says he needs to go, and you say you'll see him later that evening. He swings one leg over his bike in a precise, practiced movement, and stands on the pedals to get up speed. You stand for a minute before crossing the street, watching his shirt ripple in the wind.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Come Back to Me

I always forget how tall you are
It's like a little surprise when you're standing beside me at the bar
And I put my hand on your arm
Your skin under mine was welcoming and warm

We find a quiet spot to sit
I keep saying you should talk to your friends but you won't hear of it
We look, but neither one will admit
We play with the glasses just to touch our fingertips

I know tomorrow you'll be gone
But I hope that if I try hard enough
You won't say away for long
So please come back to me

Later in the night we lean in close
When I ask if you want me to wait you tell me no
I know, 'cause baby in your eyes it shows
Every time we say goodbye I wish I had kissed you slow

I know tomorrow you'll be gone
But I hope that if I try hard enough
You won't stay away for long
So please come back to me
Please come back to me

Saturday, October 1, 2011

There are things to be said

There are things to be said.

These things are of all different natures. They are not new. They are things that have been said before, by other people in other places. They are things that will be said again, when my children's children have been dead for a hundred years.

Some of these things are easy. Things like your favorite movie, or how work is going or how your dad told you once-. Things like I love you, or what you want for dinner. There are things like when I was younger and next week, things like I saw this and thought you'd like it. Things are asked for: books and backrubs and when are you coming back? There are things that are told, too, like what I'm doing some night next week or how you're trying to get your idea off the ground.

Some of these things are difficult, but you say them anyway. These are things like how much it bothered me; things like I love you. There are things that are hard to find the right words for, like how I feel or what I want or if I even do. Things like hi or you were seeing someone else, weren't you? or that feeling when you can't get enough air in your lungs- not like you can't catch your breath, but like the more you breathe the bigger your lungs get until you feel like you can expand exponentially. Things like I don't understand and the shit that's going on with your best friend and how fucking exhausted you are. Things that you know but you don't really want to know.

And there are things that are unsaid. Things like how her chemo is making her lose her hair and how for weeks I slept with your pillow beside me so that I wouldn't miss you so much. Things like how I actually really want you here or how it's really not that hard to send one damn message, or how that week was the best week of my life. Things like I really did love you, you know; things like stop. Things are wondered: what if and why can't you just and what if it's me? These things follow you through the years; they linger and repress and recur and never actually really go away because somewhere down the line something makes you think of it and you wonder what ever happened to- but you never bother to find out. There are things that the tongue cannot shape, things that the heart can articulate but the brain has trouble with. There are things that the weight of your hand on my hip tells me that your actions do not. There are the things that you think. There are the things that I think. There are things that I think I should tell you.

There are more things to be said.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Autumn Afternoon

I'm sitting at my desk, which is tucked away in towards the back of the living room. It looks out onto the living room itself so that I can still see anyone in it, so that I can look out our front windows. My desk is scrubbed pine with lots of drawers where I hide presents for the kids. There's an undeniable presence of life in this room, from the books piled on the coffee table to the footprints in the carpet. There are smudges on the TV stand and the material of the couch is worn, but I like it that way.

I'm grading papers, able to concentrate because the boys are in the back yard. My computer is in a drawer - it's too distracting - and I have on a heavy sweater and socks. My sleeves are pushed up as they always are, and my hair is back as it always is, and my chin is in my left hand as I read. I hear the back door open and steel myself for the sounds of sneakered feet running on the tiles and shouts of "Mom! Mom!" but I don't hear it, so I figure that the four of you must not be ready to come in yet. Before I can realize that the door hasn't open and closed a second time to let someone back out, I'm pulled back by the nagging insistence of the papers. I want to finish these so that we can watch a movie tonight, so that we can go to the park tomorrow, so that I can maintain balance.

I hear the shuffle of socks in the kitchen, but I don't look up. There's a clink, the sound of the fridge opening and closing, but I don't look up. A few minutes later I sense you. I can't explain it, really: the air gets warmer and charged and the hairs on my arms stand up and every single nerve is pointed toward wherever you are, and you walk up behind me. You stand just beyond my right shoulder, and bend at the waist to set a cup of coffee on the desk. I still don't look up. Your left hand rests on the nape of my neck for a moment, then trails down my upper back and settles in a grip around the top of the chair. We decide at the same time to move toward each other, and your lips and nose meet the top of my head. I still haven't looked up. We stay like that for a minute, and I close my eyes, thankful to you for the coffee and the affection and the boys and the life we've built. For how you want to keep building it. I watch you with them sometimes when you don't notice, how every moment you're teaching them, how every moment you're loving them, how every moment you're trying to be as good as they think you are. As I think you are.

You let go of the back of the chair, and perch on the desk, facing me, on my right. I set my pen down and finally look up at you: pieces of leaves in your slightly silvering hair because Jack probably made a pile of them while you were raking and you couldn't resist, red cheeks because Harrison is old enough to give you a legitimate run for your money, charcoal smudges on your hands because you were helping Luke get the hang of shading his drawings. There's a hole in the shoulder of your sweater that I've never fixed because I like to slip my fingers into it when we're watching a movie as my secret-to-us way of saying I love you. My eyes rest on it for a moment and then go back to your face, which has the same expression you've been looking at me with for years: eyes sparkling like you know a secret. You tilt your chin up and out towards the back door; "they're asking for you."

"I'm almost done. Are they cold? Should I make cocoa?" My right hand fingers your jeans; there's a grass stain above the knee that I'll have to remember to look for when I wash them.

"They're ok for a while yet. Luke says the cold makes it easier to see things more sharply."

"And the rest of you are running around enough that I suppose it doesn't matter?"

Your hips push off of the desk and your ankles come uncrossed. "You suppose correctly. We'll be out there when you're done."

"Okay." You are already most of the way out of the room and I have already picked up my pen by the time I'm done saying the word. You pause in the threshold between living room and kitchen, late afternoon sunlight making a puddle at your feet. Your right hand is on the frame, your upper body rotated toward me. I look back, and we smile, and then you are gone through the back door to play in the yard with our sons until I join you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

On Wednesday

We agreed to meet at Penn Station and take the LIRR to the beach. It was a Wednesday, and I was reveling in my three weeks of vacation. You found me at track 18, and we boarded the train, stealing a row of 3 all for ourselves.

On the ride out you lay with your head in my lap while we talked. I ran my fingers through your hair, my other hand in your pocket. The curve of your hip fit perfectly in my palm: I remember noticing that.

We spread the blanket and towels out, and ate the food we'd brought. While your pita fell apart I rubbed sunscreen into your skin. We lay down, but soon you got up to go in the water and kept asking me to come with you. As you walked away I relaxed into the sound of the waves, the heat of the sun, allowed myself to smile because I was there with you. You made me happy, and it felt good to admit it.

When you came back we lay side my side, usually touching somehow. You read- seeing you propped up with an open book always makes me happy - and I dozed. I woke up too hot and we went to the water. You were so sure of yourself; you kept asking me to come in deeper but I wouldn't, even when you reminded me that I'd promised I would if you were with me. I know you thought it was because I was afraid, but really it was that I liked watching you splash and smile. I liked watching you return to me.

We walked back and slept. When I woke up you asked me to put sunscreen on you, so I passed my hands over your chest and arms slowly, carefully. Your breathing changed and I'd know that sound anywhere, so I leaned in to kiss you. You caught my elbow, holding me there for a moment, then let me go. I rubbed SPF into your calves and when I looked up, you were asleep.

Later we packed up and got on the train home. We snacked and joked and flirted, and then in a silent agreement pulled our books out. You turned halfway in the seat to lean against the window, and I nestled between your parted legs, my elbow on your left knee. You rested the spine of your book on my back, and your hand, too. There was something about that moment: it was so familiar, so comfortable, it hinted at a life that could be built. It revealed a life that existed already, in some fashion.

You pulled me into a corner of Penn Station to tell me you'd had a really good day and to say goodbye. We made plans for the evening, though it was already evening, and we parted ways. When I got home, the sand in my suit made me smile.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

In the Crowd

I sit and I watch and I wait
for you to glance my way
'cause I know when you do, I will look at you
with a blank face
it hides all that feelings you stir
as you're telling me about her
though you are not the one and we are long done
I still miss you sometimes

I still look for you in the crowd
even when I am worn out
from thinking of you and caring what you do
I just wish you'd go away
How is it that I've come to hate
every move that your body makes
I once loved all you did but you broke me of it when
you broke my heart

I wonder if you've figured out
I can't bear it when you are around
only fake smiles from me
never thought I would be glad to see you go
you feel like a dream I once had
I don't know if I'm happy or sad
that I've felt your skin, and that I let you in
guess I can't change it now

Friday, July 1, 2011

One Morning

One morning, I will open my eyes
I'll open the curtains, I will rise
I will make coffee, I'll pack my bag
I'll walk out the front door and into the day
And I will not think of you

I'll wait on the platform and I'll wait my turn
for a seat that will bear me all the way to work
I'll go through my day and I'll laugh at the way things are
I'll come home hungry, and I'll come home tired
And I will not think of you
No, I will not think of you

I'll tell my sister goodnight and I'll read before bed
When I start to get sleepy, I'll lay my head down
And despite my best efforts, despite how I try
I can't stop from wishing you were by my side
And then I will think of you
I don't want to think of you

But I will think of you


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


One morning, as my conscious surfaces, I will open my eyes and I will not think of you. I will check my email, and get dressed, and still I will not think of you. When I am ready, I will not imagine your sleepy form turning towards me for a kiss goodbye, and I will walk out the door, down the stairs, and to the street. I will get a coffee from the corner deli, large, and I will wait on the downtown platform, and I will not think of you. On the train, I will not wonder as we pull into 86th street if this is the morning our paths will unexpectedly cross, and I will not be secretly disappointed when the train pulls away and you are not there. At work, the students will be loud and boisterous, the staff tired but dedicated, and I will not think of you. I will not save little stories to tell you, because we will not speak. I will spend my subway ride home reading or grading papers, and I will not think of you. At home a song will start playing that I associate with you and I will smile, but I will not think of you. I will read before bed - my book is really good - and I will not remember how you would accidentally fall asleep, face buried in your pillow, while you waited for me to get to a good stopping place. I will lay the book down, and shut off the light, and in the moment when your hand is not there to hold mine, then: then I will think of you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Before and after

Each time it felt like coming home. The taught ropes of his thighs, the thin skin connecting them to his hips, the subtle swell of his ribs like a ladder to be climbed. She knew his body better than her own and loved it better, too, its warmth more desirable to her than food. She was hungry for it; each touch was nourishment and she wanted to only ever run her fingers over his back or cross her ankles with his. She knew where to bite, where to apply pressure, where to linger, and in return his body responded to her attention and returned it.

She knew before he said it that it was over. It was one of those times where you just know, and you know you are not wrong, like gravity or blinking. She could feel the inevitability of it following her around all day, attaching to her like a thin film. She thought maybe if she walked fast enough she could shake it, lose it somewhere in the crowd, but it clung to her. When the words finally left his mouth they traveled through the steam rising from the tea and curled around her eardrums in little wisps. She sat there, fears confirmed, and said nothing.

When they’d started, she had been totally taken by surprise. It was like her mom always said: just when you’ve driven the last thought of it out of your head, it comes barreling down on you at full speed. He’d joked with her, been articulate and thoughtful, called her out when she needed to be put in her place. He was, in short, respectful and responsible, and she remembered thinking oh- there you are. When she’d left the bar to meet a friend for a movie, he’d walked her across town and hugged her goodbye, telling her how happy he was to have met her and her friends. She thought when she finally sat down to look at Robert Downy Jr.’s face, 20 minutes late, that her heart was pounding because she’d been in such a hurry; but no.

They made a pact. Their first night together, they talked about their fears and how overwhelmed they were by what they felt, and that conversation stayed with her. A few weeks later they were in his apartment, listening to that Nancy Sinatra song from Kill Bill. When the song changed he’d pulled her up from the couch and held her close and started telling her a story- a short film he wanted to direct set to the piece they were dancing to. She saw his ambition, his willingness to work, and she knew then that she loved him. When the song had finished, she waited, and then said to him, “let’s do this right.” He smiled, and said yes, and they resumed dancing.

Someone asked her in the days after it happened if she was angry. She wasn’t; but she was sad for herself and sad for him and sad for how she had tried. They’d had a lot of long conversations at the beginning, confessing demons and their pasts and asking for help from the other. By the time she realized what was happening, he was too deep into his old pattern for her to shake him out of it. She’d trusted in his ability to get through it like he had before, but that hadn’t been enough. In the end, she listened to him ask to be friends and knew that those words had come out of his mouth more times than she wanted to know about

She watched him sleeping next to her, face buried in the pillow, blankets rising rhythmically. His watch glinted in the streetlight coming through the window – he’d forgotten to take it off – and she laughed softly, remembering how it had caught her hair. He stirred, and she reached out to smooth her palm gently over the stubble along his jaw. As she drew her hand back he reached up, eyes still closed, finding her hand by instinct, and settled them both on the mattress near his mouth. His fingers tightened around hers; she drifted off.

In the mornings she would get up in the dark and slip out of bed to wash her face. When she came back to get dressed he would be facing away from the door, blankets almost covering his head. He slept while she got ready, and before it was time to leave she would crawl back into bed for 5 more minutes next to his skin, next to him. When it was time to go she moved slowly, lingering in the space between his shoulder and jaw. He pulled her close even though she told him she had to go, and as she kept coming back for just one more, he would frown sleepily and tell her that he loved her. She smoothed his brow, and left for work.

His reasons were typical reasons and she reacted typically. There was really nothing else to do, truthfully. She was quiet for a while, and then, for the first time in her life, said exactly what she meant to say exactly when she should have said it. She wasn’t rude, or vindictive, but she was honest and that was hard. He told her when she was finished that he felt like an asshole for making her feel that way. She thought, well, you should.

For her birthday, he made her French toast. She couldn’t eat very much because she already knew somewhere in the back of her mind that he was going to end it, and her body had decided to get a head start on the grieving process. When she’d finished, he washed her dishes and asked if she wanted her present. He made her wash her hands, then close her eyes because he hadn’t wrapped it. As she leafed through the book, her hands reverently turning each page, he watched her. When she looked up, she saw in the split second before he could hide it that his eyes were empty, and she pretended that her tears were because she was so touched by his gift.

They spent Thursday nights in the park. They showed movies every week outdoors on one of those big inflatable screens, and after work they would get dinner from somewhere and take the A train to Brooklyn. When they were finished eating they would lie on their backs and look at the clouds, searching for shapes. As the sky darkened, they would sit up by degrees, reluctant to leave the spell of being low to the earth. The movie would start, and his arm would go around her, and she would marvel at how simple it was. When they walked home through the crowds of people they were often quiet, finger linked with finger in the dark.

She wondered later if he missed her now that he’d left. She thought not, she knew not, but knowing and believing are two different things. All she knew was that she was not the same, that something was fundamentally changed, and lost, and that he had to fell it, he must feel it. The last time they talked she told him she’d been ready to see him; he was nowhere in sight.

Monday, April 11, 2011

An Open Letter

There are certain things that I remember most.

 The scratch of your stubble always reminded me of how we were really real. Some days I'd wonder if I was victim of some elaborate fantasy of my own making, but when I reached up you were there and the roughness under my fingertips felt a little bit like home.

There's a particular shade of red; the color of your couch. I don't see it often, but when I do it means summer and sunlight and an inability to be near each other without touching.

I remember low ceilings like a womb. We'd be raised up under them, cocooned in blankets with pale stucco hovering over us. I remember in particular how you always made me switch sides in your parents' loft because you were afraid I'd fall out of bed. Your dad built that loft; I could never look at his hands without also thinking of the bed we shared.

I should say something of your parents. The first time I met them, it was like I'd always been there. Your dad hugged me like I was coming home. Your mom made me tea. It was easy to see you in them- the basic love that went into everything.

There are other things that are not so easy to remember. These things are not as fleeting. They take effort and willingness to recall; they take effort and willingness to dispel.

You had this way of detaching, like what was happening didn't matter. You didn't always do it; mostly you were present and willing and I loved you for that. But more and more toward the end there would be this elsewhereness in your eyes, this way of putting up a wall when I needed you most not to have one.

There was a basicness to the things you did. You would wipe the sand from my back at the beach, or pull the blanket over my cold feet at the movies in Brooklyn. Without my saying anything, you would put your hand in mine as we drifted off to sleep or on my chest as we lay with our heartbeats slowing. You knew somehow, and there was a tenderness there I have not felt before or since.

I would often watch you at simple tasks: washing dishes, cooking breakfast, driving, and I would feel that I would never tired of it. I never did; I loved seeing my plates in your soapy hands and hearing your typing from the other side of the room. I loved the every day of it all. I loved every day.

Monday, January 17, 2011


It's been a while. I'm sorry about that. Sincerely.

But it'll be worth it. I've got two new songs, and here they are.

You ask me to talk and I'm pretty sure that sounds pretty bad
But like always, I just say yes
When you walk in I think my heart might pound right out of my chest
You've barely sat down, and I ask where the bathroom is

The porcelain is so clean that I'm afraid even my heartache might dirty it
Elbows on knees, forehead in my hands, don't think I can stand
And the tiles look like a maze I can't figure out

You sit there so calm and watching the storm in me

You want to be friends
Baby, I'm not sure I can give you more than you've already taken from me
My heart's on the floor
And it sounds like you've said this many times before
Don't worry, I won't take it personally


Go On
So now we see
When it really comes down to me
You are done
As I sip my tea, you ramble on
You're leaving me all alone

You played the part, you didn't want to be cruel
You stole my heart, and I feel like a fool
I try not to let the end ruin the early days
'Cause I know your pretending wasn't always the way it was

How do I go on knowing your love is gone
How do I go on when I'm sure you're with someone
How do I go on when I miss you all the time
How do I go on wanting what is not mine

This might be your biggest mistake
I don't know if I can wait
I'm pretty sure that I am through
Who am I kidding, I still love you

How do I go on knowing your love is gone
How do I go one when I'm sure you're with someone
How do I go on when I miss you all the time
How do I go on wanting what is not mine