I remember the burns along the inside of his arms from
working in a kitchen, so many burns, I wondered if some were
I remember how blonde his hair was, and how sweet
it smelled. He was warm, and it was easy to hide underneath the sheets,
hoping the day wouldn't find us.
I remember when he curiously
asked to hear reactions to his writing, any criticism would first be met
with a rough, "Fuck You" before he could take it in. I liked that,
because it was honest.
I remember holding onto his shoulders when
we made love. His back was broad and easy to wrap my arms through, so I
could hold on to him, like it was keeping me afloat, and keeping me
from falling each time I came while he was inside of me.
our second morning together, and my care free one-night stand with
unexpectedly perfect chemistry began to put me a bit on edge. In my
mind, I told myself I could let him go. My cold nose brushed against the
back of his neck, and I inhaled all of him and us, and I brought him in
closer, we had one more day.
When we woke up, we spoke of the
future. He put his arm around me and delicately smoothed my wild morning
hair, "You could move to Milwaukee ..." I gasped and then expelled all
the hot air back out on him in disgust, almost like I spit the
suggestion out on the sidewalk. "You know, your feelings towards
Milwaukee are really unattractive," he said. "Well, the fact that you
live in Milwaukee is unattractive," I tossed back. He brought me in
closer again, "Don't you like the idea of moving in, starting a literary
journal." He looked serious. "I have three dogs," I repeated- that
usually shuts these things down enough.
"We will have a yard at
the new house I am moving into," he shrugged. Huck was different than
the other boys, he noticed things others hadn't noticed, and zeroed in
on me somehow. He also was the first to act as though accepting the dogs
was perfectly fine as long as it came with me, and that made me feel
loved. Those couple years with Abe, I adored him and was willing to
compromise almost everything to move forward but my dogs, and to him,
that was too much. When you are in love, nothing is too much. You
make room. Huck made it look effortless, and that made me feel like a
got up, he threw that button up flannel over those broad shoulders and I
leaned in from behind, pressing my bare breasts against him, "We could
move to France. You would love it there. We could rent a little place
and write together." He stood still then said, "That sounds nice,
"You know, people have married out of the program
before," he said. "I don't think I would ever get married again," I
grumbled. That morning, I resisted the fantasy. France opened up a world
where I could do anything, and be anyone- which was the exact opposite
of what my marriage felt like. Every change you make, every decision you
make, every passing flirtation and new friendship deeply affects
another person. I am not sure I would want that responsibility again.
That said, I long to have a family- even if just one person called me
home, it would be a home nonetheless.
I made a shitty cup of
coffee using the machine in his room, and complained about it, but drank
through the watery muck to avoid a caffeine headache. The room was
bright when he opened the curtains, and the light spilled through his
silhouette making him look small and thin. Ahead of us, through the
window, was a freeway, congested traffic, a mall and smog hanging
overhead. "Look at this fucking place," he said.
our side of the window, the daylight made the wood finish on the hotel
furniture shine, the white from the bed sheets beam, and the steam off
my weak cup of coffee dance. I laid across the bed waiting for him to
walk out of the bathroom, "I could smell you in there," he said, walking
briskly out after slapping on the fan.
I blew the hot off the
top of my coffee, "Yeah? Smells like roses, don't it?" He laughed, "Not
exactly." I dumped mouthwash in the toilet to disguise the odor, take
note, that doesn't work. He crawled up on the bed, hitting a button on
his phone. "My Mom called again. And I thought our 45 minute
conversation yesterday was enough to cover it all for awhile." I
laughed. When he spoke about her, he never really looked me in the eye.
He always looked away and lowered his voice. "She can be needy," he
said, "I am worried about her." He stood up, kicked an empty beer box
and said, "Fucking bitch!" I buckled over laughing.
our email and finalized our paperwork on our computers, once again, as
we shared that desk. I played "If I Fell" and sang it with perfectly
awful pitch (to be fair, Paul and John alternated vocals because the
song is so difficult to harmonize in one voice). Oh, and I am just a
horrible singer. It’s tragic really. He swallowed the first part of his
laugh and then let the rest of it fly out. "I like your . . .
"If I fell in love with you
Would you promise to be true
And help me understand?
'Cause I've been in love before
And I found that love was more
Than just holding hands
If I give my heart to you,
I must be sure
From the very start
Would love me more than her
If I trust in you oh please,
Don't run and hide
If I love you too oh please
Don't hurt my pride like her,
'cause I couldn't stand the pain . . .”
He stopped laughing and said, "There is no her."
spoke about our exes briefly, mostly through our writing. I knew he was
still in love with his ex, and that didn't bother me. It still doesn't.
I am still in love with most of my exes- that is the beauty of a love
affair, you experience the best version of a person. Why replace all of
that color and life with bitterness? Though it softens the absence, it
makes you forget. I don't want to forget.
He mentioned his
ex-girlfriend's roommate and how she told him that his Tumblr website,
where he publishes his poetry, would show up on her most recently
visited sites off Google. I could tell by the curve of his mouth, this
gave him pleasure that our two-day fling just couldn't. Again, I was ok
with that, but there was indeed a "her".
When we left the hotel
room, the door closed behind us and I wondered if I would ever be back.
He turned to look at me in the hallway, smiled and then galloped away
after a "Ha!". I skipped behind him, laughing. We were like kids- smart,
sexy, goofy kids.
We walked to school together, and he grew
paranoid about who would see us. It hurt my feelings a little but we
agreed to be discrete when we arrived to campus. So we climbed the wavy
roads behind Fox Hills mall, trail blazing through the strip malls and
office parks. We walked by an empty office building, "I used to work
here, a long time ago," I said.
"Yeah, I was a different person then. I wasn't even married yet. I quit and we sailed on a small boat from Nicaragua to Hawaii."
"Are you serious?" he asked again.
that's where I got this dolphin tattoo." I lifted the back of my right
foot. When my husband (at the time) and I finished a three week voyage
up the Sea of Cortez and across the Pacific to Waikiki, I wanted a
tattoo to commemorate the dolphins who escorted us there. Hundreds of
dolphins in various pods, each with a trademark trick they would perform
for us, followed the boat for several miles at a time as we sailed
adrift on an empty ocean. It was the only life we saw, with the
exception of a seagull we named “Hans” who spent one night on our bough.
worked with a tattoo artist in Hawaii who made a tribal dolphin for me,
and my ex-husband got a larger version of it on his back. I wonder if
he regrets that, or if he thinks of me whenever he passes a mirror or
explains it to a new lover.
"You have really lived, maybe its
time to settle down," he said, bouncing on his toes as he walked. He
kept reintroducing the domestic fantasy to me, and I had worked so hard
to rub it out after Abe, so I kept quiet.
"I walk on this side of
the street, because you see that tree over there, next to the fire
station?" he asked. I nodded. "There is a hornet's nest over there. I
have been meaning to tell the firefighters about it," he said. Later, I
would avoid that side of the street because of his advice and realized
that little mention was meant to protect me. He was being a gentleman.
Oddly, that is still one of the first memories I keep of him.
got to school, and hung out in the courtyard as everyone collected. It
was a busy day, we were finalizing our groups for the semester, our
paperwork for residency and finishing workshops, so everyone was there
at the same time. Huck lay on his back along the concrete bench and
played songs off his phone, "Will I see you . . . in September . . . or
lose you . . . to a summer love."
I jumped in on vocals, "I'll be
alone each and every night . . . While you're away, don't forget to
write . . . " He joined me in poor harmony, and together we sang as all
the depressed and fatigued writers collected around us. The classmate
who lent me Huck's story a few days before, walked up and said, "What a
surprise to see you two together." We ignored him and continued to sing
in duet, he just stood there with his mouth open.
"Have a good
time but remember . . . There is danger in the summer moon above . . .
Will I see you in September . . .Or lose you to a summer love . . . "
the nicer version of my assigned class buddy, briefly approached us,
then double backed, "You two are too happy to be around right now."
"Will I see you, in September-" we sang, then, out of time we corrected, "in December . . ." (December is our next residency)
"Or lose you . . ." I quickly fit in an awkward, "To a Milwaukee love." Huck laughed. So much for discretion.
parted ways for our mentor groups. The program incorporates "mentor
groups" which include 5-6 students who share one mentor (a faculty
member), a reading list and facilitate discussions on those selected
readings once a month. My group was (and still is) all women. It was
easy talking to my mentor after spending most of the week over-analyzing
eye contact and fishing for validation from the other faculty.
Something about my mentor reminded me about the film industry, and I was
in better form when speaking with her. The other students gathered in a
circle, eating sandwiches and wraps from one of the two over-priced
delis in the office park, and we all presented our mentor with a
personalized academic agenda. Mine was written wrong, of course.
we wrapped up our paperwork and paper wrappers, caught the napkins that
flew away and clumsily stuffed our papers back in our book bag, I found
myself in a unique, blunt conversation with two other students- one was
molested by a family member, and the other came home from school as a
child and witnessed her father's suicide. All three of us were so light
with our confessions, there was no reluctance. In fact, we even laughed a
little bit about the trauma, which might sound weird, but as one
student said, "What else can you do? There is no proper reaction.
Sometimes all you can do is laugh." I realized artists, not just
writers, started as little children who learned the day was determined
by sensing the tone of the room, the subtle behavior of our fathers,
details other children didn't need to worry about. We learned how to
survive by studying everyone around us- and that can make you a bit mad
but it provides you with the skills set to see people.
are children who studied to survive and were silenced in some method, by
trauma, by abuse, by life somehow, and grew up without the ability to
use their voice. In this case, we learned to write instead. What made me
the most proud of our sacred circle at school was how unashamed we all
were. Shame keeps us from identifying and understanding each other, and
now we were children in grown-up bodies who cheated the system and found
a way to make all the ugliness absolutely magnificent.
class and meeting with George, Cat, and my other classmates, I headed
back to Huck's hotel. He told me the day before that he needed to be
alone the night before his flight. I didn't intend to spend the rest of
the night with him, but I couldn't help it.
I walked into the hotel room, to find him laying across the bed with a book in hand.
he peeled himself off the bed, I remember the afternoon light turning
his hair to gold, and he said, "I told my friends back home I may have
met someone who is a keeper." My same old joke, "Oh yeah? Who?" He
recounted the conversation for me, describing me to his friends. I
remember thinking to myself yet again, "Don't fuck this up!" but how
don't you fuck something like this up? I love Huck, I do. He is
beautiful and talented and made me feel like I belonged with someone, or
at least somewhere. He and I were magic in the same room together, but
it was an intoxicating combination of vulnerable, proud, content, weary-
so much was there I wanted to keep and protect, but at the same time it
left me feeling completely powerless and uncomfortable. I would have to
let him go the next morning. The distance and time would dirty and
confuse the bond, maybe even break it.
I couldn’t run to his
doorstep on a bad day, and get stoned watching Seinfeld with him on the
couch. He couldn’t stop by for conjugal visits when he was drunk and
horny. We couldn’t sit, eat and talk about our day, face to face, or
rely on the other person being there, in the flesh. Develop a routine.
See the other person’s face when asking them something, confessing
something, venting about something. Those are staples to any
We both held each other as the afternoon light
dimmed. "I don't want the sun to set," he said, his head buried in me
like a child. "I know, me either, but . . . the Sun Also Rises," I said
slowly to really nail that punchline.
"Oh God," he laughed.
skyline blackened, with chalky clouds of pollution drifting out to the
ocean. I held him and waited for my phone to deliver directions for the
night's festivities. My friends were planning on going to a lesbian bar.
Huck wasn't thrilled about that plan and hadn't committed, but it was
unspoken that we would spend the night together anyway. Our bodies were
done with sex, they wouldn't work, despite our starts and our stops, our
oral acts interrupted by random conversation points or laughter.
safe word is 'hugs', by the way," he said, on top of me. I stopped what
I was doing and said, "How can I say a safe word with your big cock
stuffed down my throat?"
I was sore and we decided we wouldn't have sex again, to save our bodies and hearts the pain.
classmates called and asked us to join them in Venice. We paid for a
taxi and rode in silence. I was smoking more than usual. He held my
fingers and said, "I could break your little finger in this position."
can't scare me with your insanity," I said, turning to look out the
window. He was testing me, and it did scare me a little.
arrived, we were grouchy from fatigue and famished. We stopped at Cairo
Cowboy, a mediterranean restaurant right next to the beach. Conversation
was strained a bit, mostly, I believe, because our brains were in
overdrive, not just with each other, but school and going back home. It
was hard taking my eyes off of him, it was delightful just studying his
mannerisms, how he tightened his jaw after saying something he wanted me
to take seriously, how he didn't like to move his drink when sipping
out of it, how simple and almost short he was with our waitress- who was
stunningly beautiful. I took pictures of him, and he asked, "Can I do
actually got the sense that taking pictures made him nervous, as it
does with most people. Its a shame because I just really love the
pictures I take of people. He rattled off some excuse why he didn't take
pictures of me, but I didn't care. I just wanted to remember him this
way, just in case, I never saw him again. Or worse yet, if I saw him
again and nothing was the same.
Outside, a homeless man sang Led Zeppelin in acapella for us. "You can't pay for this kind of entertainment," I said.
friends cancelled, everyone was tired. I was insecure it was because of
me, but Huck and I analyzed and refuted the theory before paying for a
taxi to take us all the way back to Culver City again.
We crawled back into our lair, and slipped back onto the bed with beer. "Do you like to be strangled during sex?" I asked.
"Yeah," he shrugged.
I adoringly pet him, as he lay on top of me, gently stroking his hair. "Do you like to be hit?" I asked.
"I like to fight," he admitted.
"I don't hit."
"Its not the only thing I like," he said.
"The girls that you have sex with, do they battle with you?"
of the last girls I had sex with, it got kind of ugly. I accidentally
ripped out her earring during sex, so there was blood coming down over
her, and I kept fucking her and slapping her. She liked it, but . . . it
was just fucked up."
I was quiet. Stroking.
taking notes to use this?," he charged, "Are you going to write about
everything I say, is that why you are asking me these questions?"
"I am always taking notes," I said, "But I won't write about you unless you give me permission."
"No, you can," he said after a few seconds, "but I don't want to talk about this anymore."
reached for my beer and tried to drink from it without lifting my head
off the pillow. It spilled. "Why can't I ever figure out the secret to
drinking while lying down?" I said. "Its called using a straw," he said,
I would struggle to fall asleep that night, and I
struggle to end this blog. I would do almost anything to slip right back
in under his arm and feel everything he was all over again. It was the
last time I was truly content.