October rolls in and my lips chap every third hour, the patches of skin below my elbows grow rough. I throw split ends into a low braid, warmth for my neck, knots from my coat collar. My Brooklyn apartment suddenly feels too big, a vast wide open space, the couch not enough to fill it. I forget to worry about shoebox bedrooms and kitchens comprised of no more than a short row of cabinets. I forget, sometimes, that this is New York City, this is Brooklyn, this is how I learned to breathe in and out. “Do you ever just run across the floor in your socks? Slip and slide, you must do that all the time here.” I forget I am the silliest.
October rolls in and the night arrives sooner. I don’t finish my cupcake, the icing too sweet, and I bite my tongue. When will I learn how to exhale? I knew once. “You are a pattern,” they say, all of them, but I don’t even recognize myself. Some days I climb the stairs, pressing hard into my heels, and feel the strength in my legs. Muscles built by this city, I built these muscles, they carry me, and some days I think I need nothing else. Exhale.
October rolls in but I think it’s spring. A change of seasons. An ending, the summersault, head over feet of the school year concluding and the brand new buds blossoming. I am waiting to lose something, someone again. A chilled park bench conversation, sweat dripping down my back on the subway platform, a song on repeat, over and over and over again. Octobers give, a harvest, a bounty, a cornucopia, I am not ready to receive. November will come, brown leaves, bare branches, dried weeds along the ocean banks. I wonder what will burn. Red embers and gray ashes.
Dark night windows and tall ceilings, everything echoes, my quiet, stockinged steps. I spin and spin and spin and lay myself out across the hard wood floor. “Fall in love whenever you can,” we called it Practical Magic Crying because I was inconsolable. I’ve always mixed hopeful with hopeless, sweet and sour margaritas, dizzy. I am asking for magic. To circle time and tie its ends together, to bend the earth like it’s a map, I step forward, I step backward, I roll over and we are together, to put the world into a snow globe at midnight, to stand at the edge of a lake deep enough to hold our dreams and drown our fears, to feel strong and soft, young and wise, to find heartbeats in the darkness. October rolls in and I ask for magic.
Was just coming to post something for Malala.
Now THIS is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. THIS is what a lion looks like.
—Jonathan Carroll (via andnobodyknowsmyname)
Vermont and New Hampshire, this past weekend, where I ate maple donuts and maple candy and watched the leaves outside her porch turn to yellow and the trees on the mountainside run from green to orange to red and back to green again like slow swipes of a paintbrush. Where we talked and talked and talked, late into the night, and through morning coffee, and up and down the store aisles, and perched on rocks in the dry river bed.
"We have to write our own chapters," she said, "and if we don’t like the one we’re writing right now, it’s up to us to change it." We joked, years ago, that we had to "turn the page" when one of us inevitably got stuck on a conversation the others had already breezed through, moved on from, left behind.
Turn the page. Write the next chapter. I tell her I don’t know what comes next. “Don’t over think it.”
On repeat, I have a spotify playlist: All Those Years Ago.
We could have, of course, spent the weekend reminiscing. We share twelve years and three states and too many experiences to count. But the present came pouring out instead. Vibrant with depth and energy. Bright colors and pockets of darkness, the leaves on the mountainside.
The future uncertain but refreshing in its freedom. A blank page, a blank canvas, ready for the next colors, the next chapter.
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Don’t || Ed Sheeran
Two years ago, I was performing at The Punchline in San Francisco, and Robin came to the show with our mutual friend, Dan Spencer.
This particular batch of material was the first time I had touched upon my then still-fresh divorce wounds, and big chunks of it were pretty dark. The next day, I got a text from a number I didn’t recognize. Whoever it was had obviously been to the show and knew my number, so I figured they would reveal themselves at some point and save me the embarrassment of asking who they were.
The Mystery Texter asked how I was REALLY doing. “You can’t fool me. Some of those ‘jokes’ aren’t ‘jokes.” By now I knew that whoever this was had been through what I was enduring, as no one else would know to ask, “What time of day is the hardest?”
He wanted to know how my kids were handling it, all the while assuring me that the storm, as bleak as it was, would one day pass and that I was not, as I was then convinced, a terrible father for visiting a broken home upon my children.
I am not rewriting this story in retrospect to make it dramatic. I did not know who I was texting with. Finally, my phone blipped, and I saw, in a little green square, “Okay, pal. You got my number. Call me. I’ve been there. You’re going to be okay. - Robin.”
That is what you call a human being.
Floor to ceiling doors coaxing the breeze off the Mississippi to join the dinner table, for morning coffee, an afternoon nap. Even closed and shuttered, hiding the modern convenience of air conditioning, still luring the same steady breeze from 1910, 1820, 1730, carrying history with it. Green, green plants thriving in the humidity so high even dry hair becomes always damp and always, always curly. Engulfed and damp and swamp, words that became of a singular meaning, worn as one wears a cloak, wears a rain cloud, wears a slight glow.
[New Orleans, June 2014]
(Source: Flickr / emilykatherine)