it was in that little black
Honda Fit, after ten hours in the car
on the highway in the rain
and the music was on shuffle
I was scared of dentists and the dark
I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations
Oh, all my friends are turning green
You’re the magician’s assistant in their dreams
and I still get a lump in my throat when I
hear Vance Joy because those words were never wrong
you were my riptide, dragging me out to sea
as I fought, ceaselessly against the current
when I ought to have drowned in you.
Sometimes there is no reason
to love who you love
to be who you’ve become
but you do anyway and I
want to want
want you to want it too
maybe it’s not soulmates
not destined for glory,
but I don’t believe in fairytales
I could believe in you if only
you’d want me to
here is the thing…
you’re in my head, my heart, my soul
it hurts the marrow in my bones
and maybe it’s not you at all
rather the idea of it —
love at first laugh, I mean.
It got to be so bad, didn’t it?
All the anger and fights
fleeing, and the time I yelled at you
to get the fuck out of my car.
But I mostly just remember instead
the silent way the snow fell as we
on the nineteenth of December.
And this is my thought—
that I will die alone surrounded by cats
after a lifetime of watching as everyone around me is
enveloped in love and achievement
while I whither on the vine
a spinster, a hag, has-been who never really was.
So I’ve relived that sweltering June afternoon in Arlington Cemetery
a hundred times, maybe more
as we hiked the hill and saw Washington’s monument
eyes filled with tears, drenched in rain or sweat or both
and that day was hard but
filled with possibility
as I drove away from you, soonafter that city
sad, but confident thinking I’d never look back
… not once.
But I was 23 then, 25 now and in hindsight I know
when I drove away it was
without direction, speeding along
not bothering with maps
and here I am
floating in an infinite abyss.
I lost myself in you, while you found yourself in her.
How many minutes, hours, days will it take to find a map
back to that place where life simply was—
when you were yet unknown?
I was half me then, before you came and wholed me up
but that’s still a half more than
the shell that you left behind.
Quite often I feel indebted to my writing for the successes I’ve experienced. Oddly enough, these successes were usually born out of failure in another area.
As a junior in high school I was given the opportunity to audition as a artist in the Virginia Governor’s School program. I had so dearly loved to paint and the opportunity to be one of only fifty students deemed worthy enough to attend seemed unreal. Thoughts of being the next Rembrandt dabbled my dreams with thoughts of NYC galleries and hopes of lush infamy.
After filling out the tedious written portions of the entrance application, the time came when I had to prove my skills in clay, paintbrush, and pencil worthy. I’d succeeded in almost every area, but then it was discovered in the “figure drawing” section, that I simply could not handle people… It’s always been something about the eyes, the inimitable quality of the face that ultimately dashed my hopes of being an artist. I all but knew it was over, until I received a letter in the mail from the adjudication board.
I drew little solace from the words encased in the envelope. They had not granted me the honor of joining the program (of course), but the woman who had written the letter wished to inform me that if this had been a writing contest, I’d have taken first place no doubt. She further detailed in an email to my school counselor that the essay (whose prompt was, “Why am I an artist?”) I’d written was the most inspired piece they’d ever read.
Painting had consumed my life and all my aspirations suddenly seemed for naught. I was mildly flattered by the woman’s kind words at the time, but my disappointment led me away from what was important about what she’d said. Reflecting on it now, I always seem to find that writing is there to pick up the pieces for me when everything else falls apart. It has really always been my constant solace. I often think I write because I fail at everything else, but maybe it is that I fail at everything else because I am simply meant to write.