April 2011

The boy across the bar believes he has mastered the art of building something out of nothing, and maybe he has, but he doesn’t know the first fucking thing about making something into nothing, and there’s an art in that, too. The ability to turn what you want when it’s within your reach into just another quiet empty room is something you have to work at, something you have to hone, something you can’t just stumble into. It requires talent to ruin everything worth ruining simply by entering the race.

He won’t understand that and so you don’t tell him. You listen and you talk and you listen and you talk, and you wait the appropriate amount of time between sentences, you pause, you smile, you nod, you place your hand on his shoulder in what you hope is a conciliatory fashion at just the right moment, and you shake your hair, you avert your eyes, you play for him the woman he wants you to be, and you talk and you say nothing worth hearing.

You say nothing worth hearing and you say nothing worth saying, and you know this to be the only way because you know this way to end the same as every other way. It wouldn’t make a difference if you offered him the world between your eyes alongside the world between your thighs, because the end would always be the same and you have already learned how to hug the pillow so it seems like a comfort and how to hug the floor so it tells you what you already know, and you have already learned how to say goodbye without saying anything else.

You have already learned.

You lean in the right amount, you lean over the right amount, you lean back, you lean, you lean, you lean any way but on him and you learn what he wants you to be and you be it. You be that thing, because the thing that you are has only the oxygen to breathe and not any left to keep breathing, and you be a thing instead of a person, you be so much less than free. You just be.

You have already learned the science inherent in losing, and you play only the game that gets you there.


There are 28 windows on 2 of the levels of the boat outside the window. There is one of me staring at the four of you sitting in two of the windows, watching the world outside you with no particular desire written on your tired American faces. The end of the day is spelled out in tiny lines across the language of your eyes, and you are lost in a grace you do not know.

You are not being watched as long as you think that you are not being watched. You are not ending the day with eyes on your eyes as long as you think that you are not ending the day this way. You are left alone with the rhythm of waves and the tiny failures of being you today, and you are alone as long as you believe you are alone.

My heartbeat matches the movement of the water beneath your feet, and I am with you. I am here and I am watching, but I am not a part of the world you know. As long as you do not know me, I am not a part of the world you know. It is the idea of anonymity that balances your every movement, and you believe beyond belief in this, the idea that you are unknown outside of the people that you know, and I cannot be the one to tell you a different truth. I cannot be the one to tell your story in lined lips and limited smiles, I cannot write your wrongs in a way you’d understand, a way you’d know was true.

Your feet move, stutterstep. For a moment microscopic, you turn my way and I think that you saw the me watching the you that watches the world this way, at the end of this and every day. For a moment microscopic, I know the you written between the lines between your eyes, and I can sleep.

Dear ______,

I know that little about me makes sense to you. I know, too, that in this script I am supposed to shrug despondently and tell you that little about me makes sense to me, and I understand your confusion. I am supposed to say that. That is my next line. I am supposed to deliver it with a weary care, a note of  sadness.

It isn’t true and I’m so very tired of lying.

There is a pathology to my emotions, a precise science to my highs and lows, my wild swings from a place you know how to find and that wild country beyond. I have studied me my entire life, I have gone beyond my doctorate, I am an expert in my field. I know how to repair myself, and I can map out the more important place, the area that shows you how not to break me.

When we met I thought about writing you a technical guide to the thing that I am, but I know that things like that are in the category of reasons that I never win. It would make perfect sense and someone else could know me, too, I could have a colleague in this, my life’s unwilling work, but to give you the book implies a belief that you want to know. I am far too frightened a field to ever suggest such a thing, even when I believe it may be true.

This is one of the most important things that you do not know, this fear that leaves me wild-eyed and breathless behind whatever I am pretending to be. I am afraid of all the things you think I might be afraid of, but I am afraid of so much more.

 I am afraid that you will not like what you learn, that will find behind the skin of me a blood unbearable, a thing that is so many things you never needed to know. This I suspect you know, and know you suspect.

 I am afraid that this machine that I am was manufactured to live landlocked with love. I am afraid. I am afraid.

But I am also afraid that I will not want you studying me. I will not want you wanting to know all that I know, all the ways the tiny wires connecting the meat of me make me the things that I am and will be. This is where my science becomes as cruel as science tends to be, and makes the scientist mute. I can’t tell you that I fear I am only saying your name in reverent tones and while sweating because I need to say something, I need to know someone else’s name and believe that they know mine, and you are here. You are here.

I am afraid that I am always right when I am afraid, and I am afraid that this tested result is consistent.

 I am afraid that you will never ask what I haven’t told you yet, and it isn’t simply fear that makes me know that if you don’t I never will. I could tell you all the ways I work, all the things that leave me on the ground two steps too close to the edge and unable to work my way back. I am afraid that you are just another you, and not something different entirely. I am afraid that I know all of you now, and there is nothing new to learn, I am afraid that you are only what you are and not any of the things I think you could be.

I am afraid. I am afraid. I am afraid. I am accustomed.