Fire

The sheets with tiny pink rosebuds, incongruously innocent, are tangled beneath us.  Your lips travel slowly down from my earlobe down to my neck, marking your territory.  You stop at my collarbone; nipping it gently with your teeth before lifting your head to look at me.

Our shirts are lost somewhere on the floor, my bra discarded on the bed along with our socks.  Jeans and underwear create the only barrier that separates us from each other’s skin.  I want to know your skin as well as I know my own.  Every scar, every freckle, every tattoo, every perfect imperfection.

You hair is damp with sweat as you balance above me.  Your eyes are dark, intense, questioning.  I involuntary bite my lip.  I am already anticipating your fingers deftly unbuttoning, unzipping, removing the obstacles.  You take me out of my always busy head, reminding me that I am flesh, I am fire when I am with you.

Hangover (revisited)

I wake in a nest of pillows and blankets that smell of fresh straw and heather, blood and sex.  Way too much light is coming in for this to be my city apartment with its shades and heavy curtains. I must be in my crash pad, the shell of a crumbling building a couple miles off the highway. My head aches, my mouth is dry and I don’t remember coming back here last night. If I am completely honest, I don’t remember much at all of last night. What little I can recall is a kaleidoscope of impressions: a biker bar, the smell of leather and smoke, the taste of smooth whiskey. Raucous laughter, loud music.  The pile of cash spilling out of the pocket of my discarded jeans makes me think I must have had a good night at the pool table.

I untangle myself from the blankets, stand on the hard stone floor and stretch, working out the morning stiffness. It is then that I notice you sitting in the shadows a few feet away, staring at my unfurled wings. Thousands of white feathers stretch across the framework of these hollow bones. I note that I could use a bath or a shower. My feathers are dull and crumpled from sleep.

I am vain about my wings.

Your expression is unfathomable. You are not unattractive and appear to be in a similar state of undress. For the life of me, I cannot remember if you are last night’s lover or my prisoner. For a long moment, I consider our nudity, my swollen knuckles, your split lip. The dried semen on my thighs, the dried blood on my naked belly.

Could go either way.

Perhaps both?  I have had crazier nights.

You don’t move any closer to me. I can’t tell whether you are currently restrained or just cautious about approaching me. I wish again that my memory of last night was a little clearer.  I mentally promise myself for at least the 124th time that I will cut back on my drinking and start spending my evenings alone in my apartment with a good book, maybe catch up on Game of Thrones. Clean up my act.

Yeah, that’s going to happen.

“Are you an angel or demon?” you ask from your corner.

You sound more wary than frightened. I respect this. You have a pleasant voice, deep. An Irish accent, I think.

I consider your question, turning it over in my mind. I suppose it’s a fair question but it lacks a certain amount of. . . imagination. I grab the bottle of water next to the makeshift bed and take a long swallow before responding to you.

“What makes you think they aren’t one and the same?”

You lift your arm easily out of blankets to catch the partially full water bottle I toss to you.

One mystery solved.

 

After

Our breathing is still rapid, labored, but starting to calm.  Your hands are entwined with mine above my head.  Your lips look bruised from our passionate kisses when you lean in to kiss my lips again, then my forehead before you carefully untangle yourself from me.

I don’t know what comes next.  This is the first time that we have made love and everything is new, unfamiliar.  Our bodies are relaxed but the emotional intimacy between us is still fragile, as delicate as a globe of hand-blown glass.

You lay yourself next to me on your side, facing me.  I rotate my body toward you, now on my side as well. We are inches from each other.  I am aware that this almost feels more naked than when our bodies were joined.  I can feel the warmth coming off your body, the dampness of your skin.  Our scents mingle together in the air.  You must notice my goosebumps, my skin chilled without your enveloping warmth.  You pull the covers up to our shoulders and under the sheets you drape your leg over mine, offering me your body heat.

Your head is cradled on your bent arm.  I have never had this opportunity before to look so directly into your eyes. They are a startling blue, even in this low light, your lashes almost colorless.  Your reach out and touch my cheek, caressing it with your palm and then with the back of your hand. Your hand then moves slowly down my shoulder, brushing my arm, searching for my hand under the covers, which you clasp.

You bring my hand to your mouth and kiss my knuckles one by one.  You have not broken eye contact with me and I wonder idly what you are thinking right now but decide not to ask.  I will settle for the mystery and warmth in your eyes. Your hand again starts to travel up my arm slowly, resting on my shoulder.

I reach out and touch your face.  Your face is surprisingly soft.  I trace your cheekbone, finally feeling at liberty to really look at you, to explore you.  There is a new knowing between us but so much we still haven’t learned yet, despite our coupling only moments ago.  I want to memorize you with my eyes, smell your skin and breath, paint you using all my senses, creating muscle memory in my palms, in my lips so I will be able to recall the feel of you, the taste of you, the way you look right now in this moment.  In this after, when the rest of the world has fallen away and there is only you and I.

At the Movies

Concise expression was the topic of my creative writing class tonight.  One of our in-class assignments was to rewrite a famous book or movie in two sentences.  They were not supposed to be summaries but I was really challenged by this assignment.


The Graduate:

Life after college sucks.  I advise against having sex with your girlfriend’s mother

Star Wars:

He wanted off his dreary planet desperately.  He answers when opportunity knocks and discovers himself the hero.

Romeo and Juliet:

A love so sweet, so passionate,  so star-crossed.  Who thought it would end so badly?

Pride and Prejudice:

Her pride was hurt by his assessment of her looks and suitability; she was prejudiced against him.  Fortunately, they got over themselves.

Indelible

Her ink was not merely art.

It was her truth, her history, etched upon her skin in indelible ink.

“I’m Still Breathing” coupled with a semi-colon on the inside of her left wrist integrated knife scars from desperate nights when the pain, loneliness and desperation almost won.  A tribute to survival.

“I Write for Fear of Silence” marked the inside of her right wrist.  Calling herself poet, she resisted the smothering silence that had tried to steal her voice.  Continuing to spin truth onto paper, onto the screen, shouting into the wind, “I am.”

The peonies covering the left side of her back, reminding her beauty that existed within and without.

Her right thigh read: “We define ourselves by the best that is in us, not the worst that has been done to us.”  This was where the bruise of his hand print had lasted for months after the brutality.  She painstakingly and defiantly reclaimed this territory.

The most recent tattoo had been designed with her lover, who understood and loved both her strength and her fragility.  The fierceness and the tears.  She now knew that no matter how lost she became, she was strong and would persevere.  It was a promise of faith they both committed to.

The words carefully inscribed into her skin, under her rib cage, below her heart read “Love Me Until I Am Me Again”

Fire

The sheets with tiny pink rosebuds, incongruously innocent, are tangled beneath us.  Your lips travel from my earlobe, kissing slowly down my neck, marking your territory.  You stop at my collarbone; nipping it gently with your teeth before lifting your head to look at me.

Our shirts are lost somewhere on the floor, my bra discarded on the bed along with our socks.  Jeans and underwear create the only barrier that separates us from each other’s skin.  I want to know your skin as well as I know my own.  Every scar, every freckle, every tattoo, every perfect imperfection.

You hair is damp with sweat as you balance above me.  Your eyes are dark, intense, questioning.  I involuntary bite my lip.  I am already anticipating your fingers deftly unbuttoning, unzipping, removing the obstacles.  You take me out of my always busy head, reminding me that I am flesh, I am fire when I am with you.

Flashback Retold

This is a piece that I last published on WordPress five weeks ago.  I have changed it  from a third person to a first person account, which for me at least, really amps up the emotional impact.  I will be sharing this with my  Creative Writing class on Wednesday.  I am hoping it encourages some thoughtful class discussion.


It is the flood of emotion that always makes me flee.  The triggers are unpredictable but the reaction is not.  It is like someone is ripping my chest open, using a rib spreader, exposing the fragile membranes around my heart to the glare of light.  I clutch my hand to my chest, as though I can hold the gaping edges of my body closed the way one would the sides of an unbuttoned shirt.

Gratefully, I make it to the sanctuary of the bedroom before the flood of tears.  I do not turn on the light.  The key is to make myself small.  I sit on the floor, back against the bed, feet under the dresser and pull my knees to chest, hugging them tight.  I envision the weight containing everything that is currently threatening to spill out.

For a while I simply sob, inconsolable, all of my emotions bleeding out onto the floor.  It is almost a howl of despair, at least to my ears.  In calmer moments I realize that I have mastered the art of crying almost silently.  But this audible expression of this grief, this rage, this tornado of emotion that can hijack me and destroy my careful control is almost unbearable to my ears. I dig fingernails hard into the palms of my hands, hoping that the pain will be grounding, try to calm my breathing, quiet these tears, regain some sense of mastery, of ownership.  I don’t try to draw blood but sometimes it happens.  The pain does break through the chaotic emotion enough for the chest pain to start to ease, for breathing to become easier.

There is a tentative knock on the door.  I am not sure how or if to respond.  We are new together and he is not familiar with nights when the wolves howl at the door.  He does not understand that it is nothing that he said, nothing that he did, but simply the threat presented by our growing emotional intimacy that triggers the flashbacks, sends body and mind into this panicked state that it is so hard to come back from.

He slowly opens the door.  It takes a moment for his eyes to adjust to the dim after the brightness of the hallway.  He is more shape than substance.  I think he might speak but instead he lowers himself to the floor.  When I remain still, silent, he crawls cautiously over.  Approaching as if I am a trapped, wild animal that might bite.  I am momentarily panicked but I calm when he does nothing but slide next to me, joining in leaning against the bed, our shoulders touching.  I allow him to put his arm around me and in a rush of released tension lean my head against his shoulder.

Hangover

I wake in the shell of a crumbling building that I have been calling home for the last few weeks. It may have been a church once, maybe an armory.  Anything that would have made this more clear has been long stripped from the cavernous space.  Large gray weathered blocks of stone tumble from a ruptured outside wall, the deep V allowing me to see the rising sun and the skeletons of trees in the distance.

I am in a nest of pillows and blankets that smell of fresh straw and heather, blood and sex.  My head aches, my mouth is dry and I don’t remember coming back here last night. If I am completely honest, I don’t remember much at all of last night. What little I can recall is a kaleidoscope of impressions:  a biker bar, the smell of leather and smoke, the taste of smooth whiskey. Raucous laughter, loud music.  The pile of cash spilling out of the pocket of my discarded jeans makes me think I must have had a good night at the pool table.

I untangle myself from the embrace of blankets, stand on the hard stone floor and stretch my naked body, working out the morning stiffness. It is then that I notice you sitting in the shadows a few feet away staring at my unfurled wings.  Thousands of white feathers stretch across the framework of these hollow bones.  I note that I could use a bath or a shower.  My feathers are dull and crumpled from sleep.

I am vain about my wings.

Your expression is unfathomable.  You are not unattractive and appear to be in a similar state of undress. For the life of me, I cannot remember if you are last night’s lover or my prisoner.  I consider our nudity, my swollen knuckles, your split lip. The dried semen on my thighs, the dried blood on my naked belly.

Could go either way.  Perhaps both?

You do not move any closer to me. I cannot tell whether you are currently restrained or just cautious about approaching me.  I wish again that my memory of last night was clearer.  How much did I drink last night?

“Are you an angel or demon?” you ask from your corner.  You sound more wary than frightened.

I consider your question, turning it over in my mind. It’s a fair question. I grab the bottle of water next to the makeshift bed and take a long swallow before responding to you.

“Does it matter?”

Wedding Day (Creative Writing Class Assignment #2)

This week’s Creative Writing Class assignment is to write autobiographical fiction that is filled with lies.  I approached this as imagining what things in my life might look like in an alternative universe where my parents stayed together and had those four kids my mother always wanted and if I had stayed in Boston for grad school instead of moving to Philadelphia.  Hope you enjoy.


I stand at the open bedroom window looking out at the backyard below. It is a beautiful October day. The air crisp and cool and the trees a riot of orange, red and yellow. I am surprised at the butterflies in my stomach, a mixture of excitement and nerves. I have been looking forward to this day for months and now that it is finally here everything feels like it is moving too fast and I want to slow it down.

“You look beautiful,” my sister Charlotte says, putting her arm around my shoulders.  She is stunning in emerald green, her hair piled loosely on top of her head.  She has always been the family beauty, her heart as radiant as her skin. “Ready to get this show on the road?”

I nod my head and turn to check myself in the mirror one last time. Not out of vanity but more a reality check. The white chiffon dress is simple but elegant floating out around me. I don’t quite recognize myself—I look like an actress in those glamorous 1930’s movies we used to watch together as kids. Charlotte interrupts my reverie to hand me my bouquet of vivid fall mums and dark greenery.

“Do you have the ring?!” I ask Charlotte, raising an eyebrow.  Char is known for misplacing her cell phone and keys on a regular basis. It was my idea to attach the ring to her bouquet with a ribbon, assuming that it would be much harder for her to lose something the size of a bouquet.

“See?” She holds her bouquet up for my inspection so that I can see the wedding band securely tied to the bouquet.  “I’ve got this.” She gives me a quick hug before offering me her arm as we exit the bedroom.

Charles and Jeff are waiting for us at the bottom of the stairs. Jeff is pulling at the collar of his shirt, looking awkward and uncomfortable in his suit.  He would much rather be in his usual uniform of jeans and a flannel shirt and I love him for agreeing to wear the “monkey suit.”  I have promised him that he can lose the jacket and tie the moment the pictures are done.

Charles on the other hand looks born to be dressed like this. He looks damn good in his well-cut suit and tie and knows it. I smile at my brothers before I ruffle Jeff’s hair affectionately, earning a scowl, and accept Charles’ hug.  “Looking good Magpie,” I smile at the old nickname, bestowed because of my childhood habit of collecting shells and sea glass, bird feathers, glittering rocks and shiny objects I found.

It is just the four of us for a moment, standing at the bottom of the stairs of my aunt’s house.  I am filled with love and gratitude that my siblings are here to stand beside me today. It has just been the four of us these last five years but our lives are busy and we rarely are alone together anymore.  Their support means the world to me.  Suddenly our cousin Claudine pops her head into the hallway and says, “Everyone’s ready.”

I look one last time at my siblings before looping my arms with Charles and Jeff as Charlotte leads us out to the yard where the big white tent and rows of chairs are set up, filled with friends and family.  On queue, my friend Daniel pushes play on the sound system and Handel’s Water Music starts to fill the yard. Charlotte proceeds us as both my brothers walk me slowly along the left aisle of the chairs.  Out of the corner of my eye, I see that our walk is mirrored on the right side of the aisle but I don’t want to look until we meet face to face in front of the guests.  I want that moment to take my breath away.

And it does. Shireen is gorgeous in her red wedding sari, her skin glowing, her eyes sparkling and full of welcome. Once our eyes meet everything else fades away. She is my heart, my home. She suddenly notices my shoes—converse sneakers covered in silver sequins- and starts to laugh and looks at me with affection.  As I take her hand and look deeply into her beautiful brown eyes, I realize that the butterflies are gone.  I am exactly where I want to be.