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new year’s eve/new year’s day

You say if you could leave him

stranded on a day

in a past you both shared

you would. You would

leave him standing on

the Jersey Shore

sight lines set on sea

and you would

whisper to the waves

the caries of love that

carry you back to his

tongue.

And when he calls your name

the sea responds

wave, breaking

wave, breaking

wave

of all the words

you will speak

when you’re gone.

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30. Mr. Softee’s Song

On Thursday, the weather spiked into the mid 60’s and Mr. Softee returned to the streets of the northern Bronx. Everyone could hear the poor speakers of the ice cream truck emitting that all to familiar childhood nursery rhyme. One person who anxiously awaited behind the screen door of their house said, “That song reminds me of a jack-in-the-box.”

All of the heavy wooden doors were pulled open on 227th street. Every resident, of each house, stood either behind a cracked open screen door or on their respective verandahs with loose change and singles in hand, slippers sheltering toes. 227th’s residents, who’d barely seen each other over the course of the winter, especially because there was no snow, reacquainted themselves. The adults asked common, perfectly impersonal questions for the sake of passing the time. The children, who made friendships based upon age and summer, screamed at one another from house to house.

“I got a new bike for Christmas!”

“For real? Lucky! I got a skateboard and some rollerblades!”

“Will you let me try them out? When it gets hot enough?”

“Of course! We’re gonna race all summer!”

And those children could not wait.

It was 9pm when Mr. Softee finally turned onto 227th street. Most people only waited half an hour and all of the children who had crept to peek outside, through the legs of their parents, were not shooed to bed but allowed to of receive their first ice cream cone for the year.

The truck looked the same — as the children had remembered from the summer before; as the adults had remembered from flashes of their youth — white, boxy, a rectangular opening that could be closed by sliding glass back and forth.

The residents of 227th, rushed to the middle of the block, spilling into the street, waving dollar bills in their hands.

“One at a time, one at a time,” said the ice cream truck driver.

Parents conferred with their children, spouses double checked with each other. Everyone knew what they wanted: cones and milkshakes, sundaes and ice pops.

Mr. Softee didn’t leave the block for an hour. Not because the lone ice cream dispatcher couldn’t fulfill orders expeditiously but because he had been able to serve everyone so quickly and had some time left over (his route was complete) before having to return to the ice cream truck depot. The same neighbor who made the connection between the ice cream truck and the jack in the box, invited anyone who wanted to hang out for awhile to come sit on the stairs leading up to her house. About thirty people came, chocolate smeared around their mouths, maraschino cherries falling into laps.

Those who congregated on the steps, shared stories about how they felt when they were growing up. The wars they’d seen. The love they’d experienced. The scraped knees and sunburnt skin. They spoke of the escape from boundlessness only to fall into more boundlessness. The children who’d been allowed to stay up, remained silent and ingested these stories just as they swallowed their ice cream. The adults laughed and sometimes, when the conversation had taken an unexpected heavy turn, the adults administered respect by way of silence.

Eventually, the driver of the Mr. Softee truck said, “It’s getting late. I’ve got to go.”

“Yeah, you’re right!”

“Man, it’s way past my bedtime.”

“Kids why didn’t you tell me it was so late? You’ve got school in the morning? You need your rest.”

Mr.Softee turned off the music from the truck — which had been playing all along — although the song was unnoticeable when everyone was talking. The driver waved goodbye, all of the residents of 227th street went back into their houses, and went to sleep.

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29. On Letting Go [Blue in Green]

The hardest part about losing a lover is figuring out the line between letting go and forgetting. Sometimes the two terms, the two actions, are used interchangeably. And to use those two terms as each other — to say letting go is the process of forgetting, once you’ve forgotten something you’ve let it go — reduces the feeling of loss into an unhelpful binary of good versus bad. Instead, I think, letting go is carefully storing memories in chambers of the mind where they do not hurt you;forgetting is creating a new reality in which the past does not exist.

I had a hard time reestablishing an equilibrium after the departure of my first great love. We met at a distance — he was a resident of one state, I another — and we separated in the same fashion. Perhaps that makes the situation all the more complicated. The only way in which I could allow our love to survive was through a long, arduous process of keeping memories so active they became a part of my reality. Because of our choice to enter a relationship, knowing well that there wouldn’t be a chance of us living in the same place and thus disallowing us from taking advantage of the reminder that is close physical proximity, my first love existed as a memory in motion, a feeling, an ephemeral being who I had to remind myself was real.

So when it ended, when he and I parted, I was not leaving a person, but the memory of a person. It was the death of a spirit that told me to keep moving. That if I moved quietly enough, with my heels always pressed to the ground and if my unwavering hope never concerned itself with faltering, I would someday catch the spirit of the love that he had created within me. And he would be something I could grasp at once and forever. If we remained steadfast enough, our states of being would join into one.

When it ended I had to sort through a handful of moments that outlined us as a couple. There was no day-to-day interaction between us. Our relationship was punctuated by bi-monthly visits, which were tremendous in the way those visits defined the entire dynamic of our relationship. I sorted through moments some people might easily forget. I clung to the days of brightness and fury and I didn’t have the option to forget, although I wanted to (although I tried).

I deleted him digitally; I placed cards he gave me, in a box he gave me and hid it; I stored his emails under a label and archived them — I made him less immediate. This would have worked if he were an immediate person to me. But he wasn’t, of course. His pneuma somehow etched itself into mine. My thoughts would wind to him not out of laziness or self torture, but because he had become just like any thought that precedes an action and my heart was still thoroughly entrenched in love.

It took months to realize he was still with me and that my futile attempts at forgetting were wearing on me much more heavily than I would have liked. I wrote him out of me. Writing him out like I am doing now. I circumscribe him with a pen when the sensation of loss becomes too great. I wrote him into stories and characters and poems and I even wrote him into people I knew. If I brought his memory into a tangible something, then I could break him apart and store him in a chamber of my mind. There are file cabinets situated in my grey matter occupied by only him.

***

Here is an example of letting go:

 One summer he went to China and when he returned, I surprised him at the airport with his parents. We stayed at his parents house for a few days before going back to his apartment. It was early August, and the air was balmy, and the bottom floor of his parent’s house had a way of capturing light so even after the sun had descended their house was still full with lambent light.

He was different upon his return and perhaps I was too. We spent the first few hours of being back together, apart. He was preoccupied with playing the piano; I was trying to find words to explain the changes that had happened to us. He was known for playing the piano rather crassly — slamming on the keys, uneasy transitions, graceless — and, at times, he did not sing well. I didn’t often have the heart to tell him to slow down because he was exposing a part of himself through his music and my opinion of his art was irrelevant. But I remember sitting in the television room of his parents house, dazzled by the soft folds of daytime hours. And I heard this really tender sound. The song began as a fall, if that’s possible. I imagined walking down a spiraled stair: having my name called from above me and walking up; then having my name called from below me and moving down. The song undulated freely and for the first time, his musical voice became very clear and very painful. That song cycled through beauty effortlessly and I felt oppressed and before he could dance his fingers on the white and black keys again, I left the house sobbing.

If every person is an incarnation of God, if our intuition is really God speaking through us: God was telling me our love had already crowned.

He found me crying and I could see in his eyes he didn’t have the energy to console me or to extract my feelings from me. I said, “What was that song you were playing? It’s so beautiful.” He told me a story about his experiences in China, and he asked me not to cry, and he said the song needed lyrics. He asked me to write them. Despite numerous efforts, the words never came and the song, for better, exists without a voice to cloud its message.

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28. Marjorie and Gregory [excerpt from a short story i’ve been working on]

Marjorie,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ve been so distant. You’ve been making my favorite meals every night for the last month. I should have said ‘thank you’ for being so loving. Things have been difficult. Not with you but I’m sure I’ve made you question yourself. Please don’t question yourself; I love you. It’s been work, Marjorie. I’m run down and I don’t know why but I know every reason why. I hope you read this in the afternoon- I hope I didn’t wake you this morning- I hope your dreams are keeping you safe. You are too good.

I have to bring justice today. They’re giving me as rifle and a mask. Like the mask is enough to make the rifle disappear. Like the mask is enough of a barrier and so powerful my actions are no longer my own but the actions of a just state.

I am looking at you now and thinking about all of the things I haven’t had the courage to say over the last few weeks. I see that your face has pressed itself into a smile and I can’t help but think you’re beautiful.

I want to tell you everything (really, I do), but what is there to say? Why does everything and nothing seem to produce the same silence within me? Why does everything and nothing push me away from you? Why do the events in my life always get categorized into everything, something, anything and nothing? I feel trapped.

I’m thinking about all of the times you sat on the sofa, in the spot you always sit in, looking at me with those almond eyes that I hope to never forget. And you waited for me to talk. And you waited for me to be better, to open up, to tell you the truth. And all you got from me were a few grumbles and a lot of silence. And I’d see a little glimmer in your eyes that wasn’t hopeful at all but a sheath of a twisted sadness. I looked at your face and read all of the memories you tried to recapture to justify my distance. Every word of mine became a journey that I wasn’t ready and am not ready to travel. But I have to. It’s my job. That’s a fucking terrible excuse, but it is.

I’m going to be lined up with other executioners, cloaked, holding a rifle and have to shoot at a man. My rifle might have the fatal bullet. It may not. I’ve been thinking in terms of what might and might not be. I don’t think there is an answer. And that’s why I haven’t spoken. I don’t want to give you an answer that’s not actually an answer but just words that have the ability to pose themselves as such.

I want to lay in bed and wrinkle with you. I want this morning to be yesterday’s morning and yesterday’s morning to be the morning before. And each subsequent day to be the previous morning until there is nothing but light.

I didn’t have the words on our wedding day to write my own vows. That was one of the many things I did to hurt you. That’s 25 years old but I still think about it because I am confident you still resent me for it and I can’t blame you. On some days, as soon as I wake up, I come up with a lot of different words that could be vows. After awhile none of them make sense. I’m thinking of some vows now but “I’m going to be putting a bullet in a man’s head” are the only words that tell me something concrete.

I have to go now because it’s almost dawn, it’s almost time. I just wanted to tell you, for all of today I won’t think about you once. I can’t. I don’t want to drag you into this mess and distort my image of you. If there’s anything that mask can save, it’s you.

I will be home around 7, if traffic isn’t too bad. Whatever you make will be perfect and I will say thank you and talk as much as you want.

Yours,

Gregory

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27. Slack-tivism

For those who believe neo-colonialism is not real, for those who blame the victim, for those who wear wrist bands instead of ideologies, for those who are programmed and waiting to repeat words that demolish realities, for those who think race is a card, for those who think gender is an excuse, for those who sail on the wings of good intentions but aren’t courageous enough to exist as goodness, for those who think guilt is a burden, for those who rally at a pride parade but wince at the sight of two men kissing, for those who find subjects interesting but fail to accept the real lives and real faces that interest them, for those who’ve taken one sociology class and think they’ve got it, for those who claim reverse racism is real, who think it’s not about anything except for class and status, for those who tell some of the bravest voices in the world to stop talking and start doing something:

Show me where Uganda is on this map.  Show me the magic of assigning facelessness.

 

I’ll wait.