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I knew that you would be the one who missed it. It was the first time in your life that anyone had looked at you with hunger, that anyone had truly craved you. You took this opportunity to enact every hateful fantasy you'd ever harbored of making a woman weep, making her degrade herself for you. I was seeking just such degradation, and you provided it. Finally you had the power to hurt someone, and I wanted to be hurt.
But your power to do this was dependent upon my power to allow it.
I have withdrawn that power.
Your missives have no effect, they stir nothing in me. You are trying to replicate that result, furiously pushing the buttons that once elicited such intense responses. But the circuit has been cut.
I know you lie awake, incredulous, never sure that it happened at all. Was there once a woman who leapt eagerly into your lap, whose breathless kisses begged for you? Was there, indeed, someone whose wide eyes gazed up at you as if you were a god? Could such a thing have been true?
And what, do you imagine, are the odds that it will happen again?
After two days I am already falling behind. When did my weekends become clean-up time, catch-up time? "Quality time" - it's just another term for obligation. I need more fuck-off time.
I must not talk myself out of going to class tomorrow. I need this challenge, I need this outlet. I must not cheat myself of that. I will regret it deeply. Just as I will regret it if I slip off to bed now, instead of finishing this entry. Brush the gossamer from my eyes. Keep typing. Five more minutes.
I may still, however, talk myself out of going to work.
Rare Sonoma sunlight warms the bridge of the boat, while funny little ducks bob and dive along the surface of the bay. I watch them through the window. I have finished my work, for now. My cables lay coiled next to my toolbag, my wattmeter is tucked into its case. I rest in the helm-chair, feeling like a highschool girl who has just received a delivery of roses in her classroom. The buzz of my phone against my thigh - this means that, somewhere to the south, you are also resting in the sunshine, and you are thinking of me.
Control. After spending years of energy on making myself into the kind of person who doesn't rely on anyone for anything, it's both liberating and terrifying to hear someone say "Don't worry."
'Cause that's what I do. I worry. In relationships and in daily life - I send my brain out on scouting missions for every possible avenue to disappointment. Occasional shakes of that cynicism rattle me every now and then. Like when your body is relaxing into sleep and then suddenly jerks you awake. I think of every chick I know that's ever said "Oh, MY man's not like THAT."
On the terrace of a restaurant in La Antigua, Guatemala, listening to the cathedral bells signalling evening Mass, sipping soda while the waiter brings us fresh tortillas.
Smiling across the table at Two Beeps, our boots caked in volcano dust, entwined beneath the table. Whispering to him in Spanish (which he can't understand) all the naughty things I'm going to do to him once we get back to our room at the posada.
A cool breeze wafting down from Volcan Agua, a faint glow at the top of Volcan Fuego, and salsa music bouncing down the cobblestones of Calle Arco.
A big, floppy doll, pillow-soft, nothing solid about you. You were the only static element of the scene - the paramedics, the CHP, the boat crew stiffly and sternly busying themselves with details, while I watched from from the flybridge of the MLB. In the middle of all that hustle, you looked... serene.
I tremble when I see the bridge.
Sailing under it always meant that I was leaving home... or coming home. Peering over it, I am aware of the edge of a continent, the edge of a tectonic plate. It is a portal. Even, it seems, between worlds.
Watching the investigators fuss over you, I felt like a tresspasser. I saw them dig through your wallet, I listened as they read the soggy note you’d hidden in your backpack. These intimate details, these painfully exposed moments - they were not mine to witness. Somewhere, someone was going about the normal business of their day, someone who had more right to be near you. Someone who would be receiving an awful phonecall within the hour.
Or maybe there was no one. I will never know.
No one will tell me your name, but I hope that you are at peace.
As if it wasn't delicious enough to watch you leave the pier without me. I sat at the Marin-side vista point for two hours, waiting for you to clear the Bay Bridge. When you fired up that second engine, and that gigantic cloud of diesel exhaust inundated the bay, all the tourists started whispering: “Is that ship on fire? Should somebody call the Coast Guard?"
I had the exquisite pleasure of smirking, "That IS the Coast Guard."
I got your messages. No, I will not call you back. No, you may not have my e-mail address. Fuck you.
creased and incredulous
when I toss you those warmer words.
Are they really so warm,
or have your hands just been cold
for too long?
Tethered to the tower.
I’ve taken you one taunt too far
at the top of the ladder -
my wrist suddenly frozen
in your steel-calm grip.
And your silken gaze slides
from my shoulders to my thighs
like a tattered slip.
These same eyes -
by dizzying midnight headlights,
by fog-bent lighthouse sweep -
have guided me,
have guarded me so patiently.
But something in my skin
softens like summer
when you threaten me.
I spent about three weeks in Singapore last year, making the Albert Court Hotel my second home. When I wasn't out sampling the food, I savored the rare joys of a real bath, a real bed - and the company therein.
Every night I would fall asleep to the Mandarin channel, eventually finding myself hooked on a Chinese historical drama - Xiao Zhuang Epic. It was a Macbeth-meets-Hero, political-intrigue story. Lots of secrets, backstabbing and star-crossed romances.
We sailed out of Singapore with probably eight episodes left in the series. I knew I'd never get to finish it.
Dear Grandpa Growly-Bear,
I am heartbroken that you are gone, but so glad that the pain is over. This has been so much harder than I ever imagined.
I hope that wherever you are, you'll find blue water and big fish, good beer and old friends. I hope you have your big belly and your booming voice back, and I hope that you are snoring again. I hope that you and Auntie Rene are taking roadtrips across vast plains, and that you're getting mistaken for John Wayne at every gas station.
You will always be my hero.
- your Sunbeam
Your hips swaying with the curves of the trail, tracing the curves of the mountain. Your face flushed with the chill, transformed by your smile. Your eyes luminous and leaping.
You are in your element here, tearing through the snow, pursued by the children’s delighted shrieks.
You scrape to a sudden halt before me, scooping me up in a crushing embrace. The snow slides out from beneath us, we tumble into a frosty heap. The little ones nearly crumble with laughter.
Your blue-cold lips drag warm kisses across my eyelids. I have never been so in love with you.
Since my time has become your time, I'm doubly protective of it. Every minute past 1:00pm is stolen, and I want someone to pay. Every day apart is an injury, and I want blood.
Our symbiosis can be a beautiful thing - but its corollary is dependency. Much of my happiness now depends on you. I can't help but chafe at that knowledge, and that makes my rage even deeper.
But under the rage.... if you turn it over slowly, like a big thick quilt, it is the flip- side of a love so deep I sometimes forget to breathe.
No sound in Jonesport but the reluctant grumbling of our engine, no movement but the lights reflected in the shivering tides of Moosebec Reach. We leave the engine running, our breath-clouds mingling with the stuttering exhaust. The spectacle above shocks us silent. Pale green brushstrokes slide and dance, fade to white and flare to yellow, a writhing faery ribbon painted across the sky. I think of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue. I think of children in fuzzy pajamas, from Southwest Harbor to Saint Stephen, staring rapt from foggy bedroom windows. I think of all the fishermen sleeping right through it.
There’s no escaping the ants. The bloody omnipresent ants. I brush them from the mouthpiece when I pick up the phone; I smash them against the keys as I type.
I’m no coward. I have no problem with darkness or the inhabitants thereof. But these moonless nights will mess with your mind.
Two miles of antenna field between myself and the nearest human. Two black miles through waist-high grasses, lit only by the aircraft warning lights atop the tallest towers. Among the grasses live wild pigs, feral cats and little owls. None of these bother me in the least...
No, what worries me is the three-inch-long roach that scurried over the top of my boot as I opened the door to the transmitter deck. Will he find his way under the watch-house door? Will he crawl into my comforter?
And where is the centipede I saw in the stairwell on my last round? He was lying on the top step, ostensibly dead; at least, he didn’t curl up when I poked his upturned belly with my screwdriver. Now he has vanished.
I would look for him, but I don’t really want to find him, after all.
This valley is actually the crater of the ancient Waianae Volcano, its ruins barely recognizable except from the air - half of its rim collapsed into the ocean hundreds of thousands of years ago.
When you think of Hawai'i, you generally picture banyans and banana trees, not keawe and cactus. But I worked here for three years - tending and climbing fields of HF antennas in the Lualualei Valley, growing jalapenos and waking up to the crow of a rooster.
No air conditioning, no cable. Only the tradewinds sweeping down the mountains to cool us, the impossibly blue Pacific to entertain us.
Last night, you stood beneath a smoky sun, you and twelve orange-draped monks. That golden light. Your hands and faces covered in dirt, cradling fat, glossy tomatoes between your dusty fingers.
Words I could not read, a script i did not recognize, meticulously spread across a sheet of vellum. You unrolled this before me - this is your work.
Miles away, my work. Chasing invisible particles down endless corridors. I don’t know why they stop flowing. I only know when they begin again, but I seldom know why. I am paid to pretend I have something to do with it.
You – the one who crept into my room on Christmas Eve with a bowl of frozen cherries and two leather belts. Cruel friend from my deepest winter.
You expected me to be so impressed with you. I was, if only with your audacity. You feared nothing – not sleepwalking watchmen, not scalding hot pipes. You baptized me in battery acid.
I kept sneaking away to you, knowing you saw nothing in me but Florin trash.
When I caught her car in your driveway, I wept with anger. Not because I loved you, but because I had scattered my pearls so carelessly.
You – the one who bought me a chain-mail bra for my birthday.
You loved me, I believe that now. You allowed me the mortification I required, but in a safe space. Bent me over, bruised me with a wooden spoon... then poured me a hot bubble bath and a glass of sweet champagne. Called me slut, whore... then bent to tenderly kiss my sticky lips.
I chased you away. I believed those words I’d begged you to say. Battered your kind eyes with my indignant insistence – you could not possibly love such a twisted, vile creature as I.
You – the one who still calls me “querida”.
You worshipped me without my permission – or your wife’s. Partly my fault, yes – for pushing, teasing, to see how far you’d go to please me.
On your knees while I lounged on my bunk, your head bent over my toes, your fingers stained with purple nail polish. Orly’s Berlin Swing.
You didn’t even hesitate when I told you to take off your shoes, now, and paint your own toenails.
Eight years later, you proudly snatched off your sneakers to show me that your toenails were still, and always, painted with Berlin Swing.
You - the one who wanted to save me.
You would wax messianic about rolling me up in a rug and whisking me out of the valley. You fed me like an orphaned child, you swore that I only needed a “real man” to take proper care of me.
Your sound system, that amp beneath the passenger seat – I could get halfway to climax in just one Fugees song.
Your cologne, your expensive clothes, your ridiculous gold chain. None of it impressed me – I just wanted to ride forever down Sonoma highways with the bass turned all. The way. Up.
February in Victoria - shivering as I race down the pier, the radio squawking at my hip. My April fool, slumped between two shipmates’ shoulders like a frosty crucifix – your failed experiment with La Fee Verte.
Where was I the day the Pope died? I was with you, stealing wormwood from Monticello’s gardens. That plush Williamsburg hotel, the redoubts snaking across the lawns.
You, my literary tequila hangover. Me, the tragic turtle tattooed on your arm. Like that icy night on the pier in Victoria - I would never wish to relive it, but it makes for one hell of a story.
Five o’clock finds my left hand sandy-numb beneath the pillow, my right hand clasped with yours and curled between my breasts. Purring kitten draped across my ankle. Your stuttering eyelashes fluttering at the back of my neck.
Outside, a storm is stamping across the bay. Within our nest, all is garnet velvet, gossamer curtains and warm yawns.
My skin cringes where I’ve peeled it from yours, like a snail pulled from its shady brick. Your silver chain, your Saint Chistopher medal branded pink into my back.
Sleepy kitten stretches and tumbles into the space I’ve left between your arms.
She lounges beside you on the sofa while you and I talk.
I watch as she stretches against your thigh, throwing one arm carelessly over her head, exposing her throat to your caresses. Your hand slides across her body absently, but your eyes never leave mine. She doesn’t notice, your touch lulls her into languor. She sighs deeply and slips into sleep, leaving us alone.
I have your undivided attention now, but still she has those patient hands pressed against her shoulder, those gentle fingers curled warm along her jaw.
Never have I ever so wished I were a cat.
A manila envelope stuffed into my mailbox. My breathless dash back to the apartment. The kitten’s impatient howls as I elbow her aside to peel open the stubborn, sticky flap. A date stamped in purple, blurry against white printer paper.
Today I am free.
I toss aside my baggy work clothes and dress for a celebratory dinner. I dial a few numbers and bait congratulations. After dinner we will dive into our velvet nest and enjoy one another for a few fevered hours. Then I will louche up a strong measure of Marteau Classique... and write.
Tonight I am yours.
Buzz-buzz. I have another message.
I allow you certain liberties. I tacitly agree to this role, because I need you to fill yours. I need someone to scold me when I crack open a Diet Pepsi for breakfast. To worry about me when I have to drive in the rain. To tell me I look pale, to ask me if I’ve slept enough this week. Someone to tell me tech-boom stories, while I listen wide-eyed. To teach me something I don’t yet know about ETF’s and CDO’s.
“Say ‘Berkshire-Hathaway’ a few more times. I’m almost there.”
Somber lustre of titanium. Swaying song-span of the Bridge. Bouncing blue toss of the bay. And hopefully, enough sun to warm my shoulders. You and I shall set sail to become “we.”
But when we step back onto the pier, we will mark no mysterious transformation.
We will know nothing new that day. Our journey began so long ago, I believe we would barely note the passage of this milestone - if we had not decided to celebrate it with our dearest ones, and with the cold blue water that drew us together.
You are my ship and my harbor.
The Tip Jar