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three white horses

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i.

instead of breeding desperation
make me a pallet on your floor

“Wait.”

My hand’s hovering over the doorknob.  I’m ready to go. I don’t want to go. I was begging, inwardly, that I’d get to stay. Even if I have to sleep on the couch, in a sleeping bag, in a pile of pillows and blankets on the floor, for the rest of my life, or until we work things out. I'd have done anything. I was desperate.

All of these good parts of my life just kept collapsing in on one another, in rapid succession, and being asked to leave, that was the last straw. It was like everything I needed to survive had just disappeared on me.

But we were both desperate, and we both knew it. I think we were desperate for different things. I was desperate to stay, and -- well, the flip side of that coin, me wanting what I want, is just needing some order out of the chaos. I'm a hard person to live with, I know that. And all we did was feed off of each other. We're like... what was the phrase I heard once? Fun vampires. That's it. We're like fun vampires, we just sucked all of the joy out of our lives together, we found the other's insecurities and we both just picked and picked and picked until we got to the breaking point.

But I’m told to wait, and I'm afraid to turn back around, afraid it’ll be taken back, afraid my beloved is going to disappear, afraid I don't get a second chance.

“Wait.”  Again.

I turn back around.

ii.

here we go mistaking clouds for mountains

from: k
to: n
date: may 27, 20--
subject: growing up

listen i know
i know this isn't what you wanted
i know you wanted to stay but it's just so hard
we both need to grow up
we need to put away our childish things
and we're not going to do that if we're in the same space
breathing the same air
reopening the same wounds
over and over again
people keep telling me i need to make a change
i don't know who to listen to anymore
there are so many people telling me so many different things
i think i need to be alone for a little while
get rid of all these people trying to advise me
about everything – you school work my art your writing our home
so many people telling me so many different things
i'm through with them all
i want to move on and be an adult and figure this shit out on my own
our apartment's not the same without you
i look out these windows, down on the city from this great big column of glass
and i feel like i'm just lording over all i see
fields and people and trees and parks and cars and buses and those ugly bullshit new trains
and i want to make a joke, my kingdom for an insert-noun-here or something about how winter is coming
and sometimes i do
and you're not there to laugh at it
or say gravely “what is dead may never die” and then we go off on a tangent about how strong women keep getting fucked over even in fantasy worlds where anything can happen and maybe everything doesn’t have to be so goddamn misogynistic all the time because if there can be fucking dragons, then why can’t women be treated as equals
who am i going to have those conversations with now?
tumblr?
anyway.
i miss it
i miss us
i miss you
but i need time.
i need to make my own choices
and if that means that right now i'm running for the highlands
trying to get the fuck out of here
trying to sort out my own mind
then that's what it means
and i'm sorry baby
i really am
i can't afford to waste any more time mistaking bad things for good
and this is a real dick thing to say
but I don't know which column you fall into yet

iii.

did you give it away for free?
what would you have us pay?
i didn’t know that your love was a commodity


If I would have known we were keeping score, tallying up our lives into good and bad and somewhere in between, I would have tried harder to keep track of it all.  

I’m so tired of being shut out.  I’m so tired of seeing you give all of yourself to everyone else and have nothing left for me at the end of the day.

You hide in your studio for hours on end, and I’m not allowed in.

You spend hours with all of your art school friends, and I’m not allowed in.

You’re giving yourself away to everyone else, all your love, your time, your affection, and I’m left with nothing.

I just want to hide us away somewhere, just you and me, the way things used to be.  Cocooned somewhere warm and close and dry, where we could work everything out.

Instead, we get to have these long talks, these accountings of everything that’s happened over the years.

This isn’t what I wanted.

iv.

day trip in the desert makes this
boy and girl too wise

Every day I wonder if I made the right decision. Every single day.

I'm just trying to fix my own life. I couldn't let someone else break my heart, and I was afraid that's what was going to happen. So I put the brakes on, yelled halt, once I figured it out. I figured out that I didn't need someone else to break my heart. I was doing a good enough job of that on my own.

I'd stopped painting, for such a long time when we were together. I don't know if anyone even noticed. At least, no one ever asked about all the blank canvases stacked up in the studio. I think it was killing me, I think I was letting it kill me. If I was going to break, I was going to do it all on my own.

I didn't figure it out until we took that trip out to Coachella and I realized how crazy I was getting. It's sad that that's what it took for me to wise up, a trip out to the middle of nowhere to do some stressful camping with hippies.

At least it didn’t require Burning Man and lots of acid.  That’s gotta mean something, right?

I don't know.

I’ve started painting again, but I’m not telling anyone else that. It's going to be my secret. I paint the same thing over and over again: it’s the city, the way I see it, the way I want to remember it.  It’s not the tourist traps that everyone wants to see, but the city as it is to so many of us: long, desolate stretches of industrial, urbanized wasteland.  Everything’s bathed in dark, with only the twinkle of street lights and cracked spotlights illuminating statues of long-dead war heros.  

Greetings from Chicago, I say out loud to the painting, city of lies, and then I white out the canvas and start over, because it’s still not coming out right. I’ve lost the thread somewhere.

There are ghosts everywhere here, and I’m going to paint over them all until I get it right.  

I want things to go back to the way they used to be. I don't want to do this on my own. I don't want to go through this on my own. Shit, as they say, is getting real, and I could use some help.

But not until I'm done breaking my own heart into pieces so no one else can do it to me, ever again.

v.

too many cooks in the kitchen
oh how the mighty must fall
but i can’t see the sense in us breaking up at all

from: n
to: k
date: july 1, 20--
subject: history repeats itself

Thanks for dinner last nite, it was great to see you again.

I miss you, but you know that already

I just wanted to put in writing something that I was having a hard time saying last night, and that's that I think you've got too many voices in your ears right now telling you what to do what to think who to believe. You need to listen to you, your real authentic self.

I'm not trying to talk you into anything, I think you know where I stand, but I just want what's best for you, even if that's not what's best for me.

But, okay, see.

History repeats itself, is the thing. Time isn't a straight line. It's a wibbly wobbly timey wimey thing, right? Yes, I know, this is dumb, making that reference, but you get it, right?

We both just remember things differently, is all, and it's not that you're right or i'm wrong or vise versa. Sometimes maybe we don't even know the truth.

I know you're spending a lot of time trying to separate you from me, trying to pluck me out of some of the things that have happened to you, to see what it would look like if I wasn't there. This isn't a movie, you can't just literally take me out of your past.

I'm sorry, none of this is coming out right. I'm making it worse.

I'm going to go.

I shouldn’t even send this.

Fuck.

vi.

no, there’s nothing wrong
there’s nothing wrong
when it starts to dive

I have this ritual whenever I get on a plane.  Every time, never fails.  I sit down, buckle my seatbelt, and read the emergency instructions. Some people might say it’s a little bit obsessive. I thought we were going to get into an argument on the plane, thought there’d be a full-blown fit right there in Economy Knees-To-Your-Ears Class, when we flew out to Coachella, because I went a little too hardcore on the safety thing. Told me I was obsessed, that it was a problem.

It's not a problem. I'm not obsessed. I’d say it was obsessive if I collected all the cards, swiped them from every plane. I don't do that. But it doesn’t matter, I have them all right up here in my head.  But I still read them.  I read a lot about planes.  A whole lot.  I’m not afraid of them.  I never was, not that I know of.  Some people are – big metal tubes up in the sky, you know? Kind of unnatural.

Anyway. I read the instructions, I pay strict attention to the demonstrations from the flight attendants or the videos. I know the chances of being in a fiery crash are slim to none, but I can't help it.

See, the way I figure it – if I prepare for the worst, then I won't be terrified if something bad happens. And when the inevitable something good happens, then I'm pleasantly surprised. And maybe the inverse is true, too: if I already act like I'm a survivor, then I will be. Because I'm not getting on this plane scared out of my mind. I'm armed with knowledge, and I know that the plane diving like that is okay. I know that turbulence is okay and, honestly, expected. I know that sometimes even the lights flicker.

I’ve never had the oxygen masks drop down on me yet.

That would be pretty bad-ass, though.

At the end of the day, I'm grateful just to be alive. But I want to know every detail so I can celebrate when everything goes right.

vii.

go ahead say something dumb boy
there’s no shame

We went to dinner, and it was a disaster. It was terrible, and awkward, and I don't know why we did it.

I encouraged it, of course. I thought maybe it was time for some closure.  I don’t have many opportunities left for that kind of thing, so why not try it now while I still can? I encouraged that line of discussion and so then of course I get this long email later, that's all I'm not saying you're wrong but you're wrong and I'm just so fucking mad right now.

It's like we're fighting a constant war, the two of us, just shooting the big guns at each other from across the way, waiting to see who sinks and who floats.

There's still something there between us, there always will be. It's like electricity, the two of us together. When we're on, we're on, and dinner was a reminder of the best and the worst of that.

Every conversation is fraught with landmines, RPGs, IEDs, tweakers wielding TEC-9s that they tuck under the floorboards.

One wrong step and the effort we've put in to being on the same page will just – bang. Explode on us.

I don't want that. I want things to go back to how they used to be, only without the hurting.

I don't mind not hurting.

When we started trying to figure our shit out, I said, “you can say anything to me, just be honest,” but I don't know if I meant it anymore.

viii.

they say you don’t look
‘cause it’ll drive you mad

from: n
to: k
date: september 29, 20--
subject: it'll drive u mad

Is this a “if you love it, let it go” kind of scenario?
B/c this is kind of bullshit.
It’s not your fault. I’m mad at, what, god, the universe, whatever.  Not you.
I didn't want to let you go in the first place and now this happened and I can't even look after you anymore.
I just want you to be okay
I just want you to come back
I miss you. I would go to hell and back for you. There isn't a single thing I wouldn't do for you, to keep you safe, to bring you back.
I've fucked this up, haven't I?
You're not even able to read this. I don't even know what i'm saying. It must be the whisky at this point.

I just keep looking over my shoulder, I keep thinking that I see you there just a couple of steps behind me. Anywhere. Everywhere. Outside, at work, at the coffee shop, grocery store, on the train. I stopped on fourth and grand the other day, just as the light turned, and I could have sworn you were there. You weren't, it was just reflections off the skyscrapers playing tricks on me.

People keep telling me that I need to just walk away, I just need to start over, that I can’t spend forever wanting to take back this or that, can’t spend forever trying to change the past.

But this hurts so fucking bad
I just want to know that you're still there
That you're coming with me
Please.
Please.
I miss you.

 

ix.

and when the late summer lightning fires off in your arms
will i remember to breathe no i never will

Our timing was always shit.

We loved each other from the start, but it was never right.  Things never lined up.

And now we’re both just grasping at things that aren’t there anymore, hands outstretched, fingers bent and pulling, nails sharpened into claws. Desperate. Grasping at straws. Clutching at thin air.

I wonder, sometimes, if things had been different, if it still would have wound up like this.  If maybe we’d met earlier, were best friends from the age of nine.  Or if we’d met later, in neighboring rooms at a nursing home.  Something, instead of somewhere in between, where everything has always been so volatile.

Where everything hurts.

I can’t even paint anymore. I got the desire back, but now my hands shake too much.

I’m not going to make it.  That’s what everyone says about me. They think I don’t know that they’re talking about me, but I know.

I know everything. I know everyone’s secrets, even the ones they didn’t think they were telling.

I’m a ghost now, or I may as well be. Not a robot, despite all the machines. A ghost.

I just want the story to end before I go. I want a song to play me off.

Exit music. Yes, exactly.

x.

if you could see right through us
you’re gonna run into your homes and lock your doors


I’ve learned too much about myself.

I wanted this to be easier, and that’s selfish.

I’m selfish.

All my rituals and rules and needs and little picky things, none of them mean shit.  I would give them all up, if it meant I got to start over again.

I just want things to go back to the way they used to, but that can’t happen.  Not now, not ever.

I feel dirty, now, tainted.  Like everyone knows my secrets, like they’re looking at me and knowing all the gross truths that I’m hiding.  Dear dirty, they’d all say, they’d all condemn, their eyes boring holes into my soul, and I just want to flee, run from it all.

This was my fault.  People tell me it isn’t -- I don’t have any control over sickness, the body rebelling -- but I can’t stop but from looking at the timing.  Tally everything up, one column for my fault, one column for your fault, and it’s all me, every time.

You’ve gone home, and I’ve looked back at all we had and now I just feel empty.  Bereft.  I haven’t hit the anger stage of grief yet, but I’ll get there.

There’s so much I left unsaid.  So much I’m afraid of.  I never let on -- I spent so much time keeping up with all the rules, weighing the odds, measuring the consequences -- and now this.

Everyone would be right to scorn me.  It’s okay.

I’m not hoping for redemption, but maybe someday, it’d be nice.

xi.

there’s a hole in the ocean floor
who’s gonna stop it bleeding

This is nice.

Nothing hurts anymore.

But of course, all I can do is watch.  Every day, I sit back and wonder, who is going to fix that and doesn’t anyone notice that person is broken?  but I can’t do anything about it.

I wake with a start, sometimes, thinking I’m back in my old life, but I’m not.

It’s too quiet here.  Too calm.

I’m painting again; this time it’s all fields of wheat and corn, and ramshackle little barns out on the edge of nowhere.  I never lived somewhere that rural my whole life, and I don’t know where the scenes are coming from.

It’s the sunsets, though, the sunsets that do me in.  I paint these huge swaths of reds and pinks and purples, these wall-sized murals, and I'm destroyed by them. I just weep for the beauty of it all.  They’re tears of joy that I cry, and I can’t find the words to explain it to anyone.  There’s a sort of beauty, a peace that I don’t think I’ve ever quite understood until now.

Nothing hurts anymore.

I’m not looking back. Not now, not ever again.