Forward Rewind

(I know this is poetry but I can’t tag poetry so I’m double dipping, wee)

She changes nail polish like she changes
lanes and likes to look for
trapdoors in ordinary objects.

Timeframes of events bother her and
framerate could never be enough
because she just wanted things to start
and continue forever
because stopping scared her
impaired her from believing,
deceiving her into grieving for things that don’t go on and on.

Things always come to an end and that made her feel like the clouds were bright gray even if the night sky was shining
refining her reality with a brutality of the truth, the truth
there is an end to youth
the overwhelming proof
being that sunsets always happen.

Commitment

She puts fake tattoos on her skin because she likes the way they look.
She went to a hole in the wall Mexican food restaurant she had never been to before and ordered a burrito. Her sleeves were rolled back to her elbows and the tattoo was on her wrist.
“When’d you get that,” asked the man at the register. Thirties, wearing a hoodie, kind face, a sleeve of tattoos on his left arm, which facing her looked like his right.
She was confused because the question sounded like he knew her, like she had come in days and days before and didn’t have fake tattoos, and they had talked about life. It seemed like he knew her. She didn’t know if anyone knew her.
“Oh,” she said, looking down at her wrist. “It’s fake.”
That didn’t answer the question, but she felt like it answered the question.
“Really?” He looked like he was going to reach out his hand and touch it. She coiled internally but didn’t move. He didn’t actually touch her.
“Yeah, it’s kind of dumb,” she said.
“No, that looks cool,” he told her. She had to swipe her credit card twice because she swiped too soon.
It was a feather spreading across her veins. Beneath it, Free Yourself was written in thick script. She’d gotten them in a set from a store where everything was $1.49.
“Thanks,” she said, and punched in the four digits of her debit card. “I want to get one, one day.”
Her eyes briefly traveled across his arm. A mural packed onto a person, waves of color. A silver hilted sword reaching across his forearm and almost reaching to his fingertips, but not quite.
“That’s cool,” he said. “You should do it. Your total will be $8.96.”
She blinked as he handed her the receipt. “Thanks,” she said, and took the slip of paper.
She waited at a red chair that stuck to her shorts and stared at her wrist. The loop of the cursive F was starting to wear off in crumbly pieces. But that was okay. She would just wait and put on a new one in a few days. Maybe this time it wouldn’t be dumb. Maybe it would. It didn’t matter because if she tried it enough times she would finally find just what she was looking for, and nothing was permanent.
“Number seventy,” called the man with the tattoos. He wasn’t wearing a nametag.
She took her order and paused for a moment at the door but the man had gone from behind the counter. As she walked out the door she rolled back her sleeves out of habit and thought she might come back here next week.

Hands

I didn’t get much of a chance to know you but I think I would have loved you even more if heaven hadn’t wanted you so badly and I was old enough to understand maybe heaven can be a little greedy, too. I just want to say I think I have your hands. I look at pictures then my palms as I drive or wash the dishes and think that you used to do the same thing too with hands that look like mine before heaven wanted them to paint a picture in the sky. 

Frozen Summer

The names on that tree would upset her. God knows that they upset me. About a year ago they broke my heart, but I’ve come to accept that trees grow in seasons and so do I.
Your name looks like a six year old carved it, and perhaps that’s what we were at heart – six years old. Damning consequences because we didn’t know what they were yet.
My name is straighter, more careful. There’s a plus sign between us. You plus me. I realized how much those syllables added together meant to me. Now it’s you plus her but that tree will never know it. To that tree, the roots rising thick out of the ground because they wanted to be seen, too, to that tree it’s always you and me. To that tree it’s forever Summer.
To that tree, leaves never dropped and turned into Fall and you still call me on the phone to tell me how that conversation at work got you thinking about life.
Well, you got me thinking about life, too – it doesn’t know but we all do. I would like to be that tree, to be a museum frozen in a New York winter and to not know. To not know that there’s a new her and new syllables. To not know that it’s been cut down, that I had a new him, too. But there were termites inside my soul even though I called the exterminator. I think he got lost because even I don’t know the address.
I could drive over there and run my thumb over the clumsy letters in the bark, and it wouldn’t feel like the rough edges of my heart anymore. It would feel like the past and I would wonder if I could find the address to there, too.
I have been back to the tree. I’ve been back there many times when the sun sets and the tiny ants running through my thoughts run over there.
I pause in the dusk. I couldn’t pause what was coming. The part where we weren’t really six years old, and the part where neither of us knew what to say. I still wouldn’t know what to say besides the exhaust in your running car smelled good because I like the smell of gasoline. I guess something about me likes the thought of poison.
Sometimes when someone talks about chips I think about woodchips and axes and mulch. We drive around the city and cry under the same moon and move in and out of lives, but the tree just looks at its toes and never moves. One day maybe the exterminator will fix his GPS and he can fix me.
For now I’m growing. I’m growing up. I get rained on and breathe in the sun and whipped by the wind too. The difference between that tree and me is it will never know and I always will.

Storm

So I went outside and stood in the rain.
It didn’t feel good. It felt wonderful and uncomfortable and like I had found exactly what I was supposed to be doing at that moment in time.
Something I think about a lot is what I’m supposed to be doing. Can we ever do anything in any moment other than what we’re supposed to? I often get the feeling we can. It feels like vine branches, inching up my spine and taking nauseated hold of my stomach, my hands.
This felt like rain. Liquid medicine dripping from the cloud soaking straight through my flannel checkered pajamas to my skin. It was cold but it burned, sizzled on my freckles and straight down to my toes. I’m sure at least one person dry inside looked out their window and thought, why is that guy standing out there in the rain like it’s a sunny day in July?
I didn’t care. It had been a long time since I’d seen a sunny day and this felt like the first one in a while. I was listening. The rain was talking. It was saying, stop worrying about picking up your pieces. This is a storm. And you’re standing in it. But storms don’t last forever and your sunny days will come again.

Preview

“I don’t think we have time for that,” Patrick said. “The movie starts at nine.”
“Sure we do!” Her brown eyes gleamed. “There’s always time for Ferris Wheels!”
His hands were shoved inside his sweatshirt. He hadn’t seen her in a year and three months. In that time she’d gotten more piercings than the digits of her phone number and the heavy handed make-up was a new touch, along with the streaks of blue in her hair. That shine of freedom in her eyes, though, that would never change.
“Okay. Fine, fine, we’ll go on the Ferris Wheel.”
“Woo!” She fist-pumped the air.
“I don’t even like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” he muttered, but they ambled up to the line anyway. He kept pushing down the feeling that there was something he was supposed to say. How’s school going? Does mom still tell you that you can’t eat bags of marshmallows anymore like they’re candy? Did learning to drive scare you? Or was it the prospect of being seen at the helm of the 1992 mini-van?
He’d already asked all those things, and they’d settled into habits of conversation like a favorite old sweater. They laughed about cavities and the nicknames of stuffed animals. But there was a big bubble in his chest, some pocket of air between them that he couldn’t blow away that said, everything is different now. Going into the military tended to have that effect on people, he supposed. He just never thought it would be between him and Teresa. She was his little sister in a big world that he had felt the calling to explore and protect. Everything would be the same when he came back home, even if it was just for leave.
“How many?” said the man taking tickets. His hairline was receding and his tall, reedy frame filled the booth like he was born for this job.
“Two sir,” Patrick said, and shelled out the ten dollar fare.
“Sir? Sir? Who are you, Patty?” Teresa dragged hum into the swaying seat and for a second it felt like someone had let out the air in the balloon – normal.
“How safe is this thing?” Patrick said as they got on.
His feet dangled off the ground and he grabbed the pole next to him, his knuckles slowly turning white.
“Afghanistan – it’s not scary! But get him four feet off the ground and he almost tosses his cookies -”
“Hey, hey, no fair, Afghanistan is not a big revolving hunk of metal that – woah!”
Teresa buried her laugh in her hands as the ride began.
It was buoyant, smooth, and scared him a lot more than it should. But so did a lot of things. Are there any guys in your life? He wouldn’t have even said that before. How are Dad and Mom doing together these days?
“See, not bad, is it?”
They had floated halfway up the world, and the city he grew up in sprawled across the background, clouds hanging onto mountaintop in the starlit sky. The outdoor mall sparkled at their feet and he guessed he could understand why people went on these things.
He wondered briefly where the ground was – after all, wasn’t the ground just something to stand on?
People below him were standing on the gum-spotted concrete, and his feet rested on the metal plank of the swing seat. And this was different than the steel cabin of an airplane. This was just you and the air pressed against your sides, the winking signs of the storefronts below. The people walking a casual pace, strolling with plastic neon bags in hand. The theater columns rose brightly next to the shoe store and the pretzel stand.
Teresa looked at it all with her head tilted to the side, black-blue hair spilling over her shoulder, content in silence.
“This is the preview,” she said.
The bubble in his chest grew almost to bursting. Can a year really turn a sugar addicted, punk-rock listening, high school attending sixteen year old into someone who wraps their viewpoints around the world like she did? She was his little sister who wasn’t that little anymore.
“What does it make you think about?”
They were at the height of the wheel coming down, and could see the tops of people’s heads beneath them.
He realized how tightly he was gripping the seat pole and folded his hands back into the pockets of his sweater. “There’s nothing like this, over there. I think about that sometimes.”
She looked up at the sky instead of at the people shopping. “I think about that sometimes, too.”
The ride was over and both their feet swung gently onto the ground.
He checked his watch. “9:01. We’re definitely missing the previews.” He pushed her shoulder playfully – she was right. This was better than the previews.
They walked to the theater, exaggeratedly avoiding the cracks in the ground so they didn’t break their mother’s back. They chose a seat in the very middle, the undisputed seating arrangement for optimal viewing.
“Popcorn?” he asked, as she was always the designated snack provider.
“Sure,” she said, then handed him a handful of something she’d sneaked in through the entrance in her purse.
He laughed when he looked down. Mini marshmallows.
“Your teeth are gonna fall out of your head,” he joked but she shhhed him because the movie had started.
She even still got the green and pink ones. He thought about how no matter how people changed, there was still so much about them that was the same, too – what’s on the outside is just a preview.

Hope Was Her Favorite Color

She was tired of being a stereotype. She wanted to throw that part of herself to the wind.
Yeah, yeah, new year, new you, do great things, resolve to be greater. Her Facebook feed was like a blender of self help books and she didn’t want to learn about what you did this past year from the pixels on a screen. She wants to breathe it in with you, figure out the way your mouth looks when it’s smiling in a daydream.
So she didn’t know what to do. 1/365, they said. Write the first page of your story. She wanted to burn the history books and set fire to everything that’s the same, rain on ideas of renewal and just do something, something that makes life worth living.
She was starting to feel it, creeping silkily into her veins, a shot of liquid fireworks. Exactly what she needed even though she didn’t know what it was, an energy, a light, after months of living with that kind of sadness that pokes its head in the door then settles in and becomes a friend, a constant companion. The kind that always says, I don’t want to go there or do that because I am afraid and the shadows told me not to. The kind that keeps you from meeting those moments where you suddenly find yourself crashing through the way the perfect song fills your lungs and makes you feel like your breath is infinite and beautiful.
She turned up that song on her old blue iPod, the kind of thing you own that only other people notice because its been in front of you for so long.
And she drove through, on toward memories. Somehow from a wrong turn or maybe a right one, she made it to that stretch of road she used to drive on two summers ago in the sun and the mountains of a perfect expanse of time.
This time it felt different. She rolled down the windows so that the air became the rushing soundtrack in her ears.
She smiled to herself because she didn’t want to be a stereotype, but that sunset was singing like she’d never seen; hope was her favorite color, burning bright, tigers butting heads and bursting into a screaming mosaic of yellow dreams.
It made her feel all right.
She’d still lost the people she lost, she’d still miss the people she misses, not everything was going to change, and her friend sadness would always find a way to reconnect. But she felt it, in that fire painted horizon and the way her car climbed up the hill across the lake sprayed by the flecks of gold in the sun. Possibility in the fire, in the rain. The next year was going to be okay.