take it back - first the words,
then keep unraveling the days
take it back, prehistoric, to a time
your emotional range hadn't ratcheted up exponentially.
imagine a time before that
night you missed the 5am greyhound transfer,
and they had fallen asleep, so you were alone, (more)out $80,and
a stranger pity-offered you a blanket, because you were
crying in public on a stained concrete floor.
take it back - further.
your father's open hand sweeping back the way it came
until it disconnects from the side of your head
and your perforated eardrum melds seamless.
your seven-year old self is lighter, floats
in the brine of the sound at
the outer banks, but she still writes wounds down her arms
in a spiral-bound notebook. she has to hide in the bathroom
during lunch - thinks her friends like her least -
learns the word "cunt" from a third-grader
who is caught out for stealing novelty erasers
from dozens of students the following year.
fill the depression of weighty memories on your mind,
run your entire fucking life in reverse, make
teddy baker in the second grade un-say your face is flat
and that's why he doesn't like you. take that away - cut it out ruthlessly.
take out all the ugly. take that out of the narrative.
She could have walked away.
Just stood up and walked away, but she didn't. Mrs Allen, fifteen years into a sentence as a junior high school teacher, had seen japes and shenanigans before.
This time, seven on one, surrounding the boy, shouting and jeering, pushing and shoving, calling hi(more)m weak, mocking his tears.
She knew the boy, a hard scrabble kid who was never going to be on the right side of any track. He'd lost his mother to a vague medical tragedy, but his father made sure he was at school every day. The boy was always early, and stayed late, until he was picked up or walked home. Bright enough, she'd noted, but neither blessed with good looks nor social graces.
The few times she'd managed to crack his shell, Mrs Allen saw the boy had a sensitive manner, and a generous heart, admirable qualities both, but no match for bad teeth and a tendency to panic sweat.
She knew there was a tendency to meanness in the school hallways. Tribal loyalties and shifting allegiances, teenage intrigue and high hormones, all made a potent social obstacle course.
She pushed through the indifferent and the curiosity-sated walkers and followed the jeering to it's source.
The girl continued to call the boy names and poke at him, a couple of sharp jabs with the knuckles grinding into the same point on his shoulder over and over.
She looked up and read the contempt in Mrs Allen's face, let the boy go. He slid to the floor, shaking and wretched.
The teacher fixed the girl with her gaze and helped the boy to his feet.
She was a good student, straight A, from a good family.
Mrs Allen looked at the girl for a long time.
Finally, the girl's tears started.(less)
Saying that anyone has grit is a blasphemy to all that's come before it.
Moments and spaces in time are disjointed, random, nonlinear. To have grit is to say you can handle it, that you can put forth with the sordid memories, the deep regrets, the quiet moments(more), all to disregard their flow. A reminder here, a tangible moment-- a touch of the skin, the lips on your neck, tangled up in strings beyond your knowing. A tapestry of red wire cut in the middle where the gaps are found.
She throws her head back in ecstasy, my face buried in her neck. I'm outside her door, hesitating to knock for the sorrow the lies within. Where do they connect? What parts am I missing? Where does the plot follow? Where's the common thread?
Can you bear it when you walk away? The hallways echo. Can you hear her voice?
I don't knows prefaced with quiet smiles. The tilt of her head. The wideness of her eyes.
Not here again. No hot toddies and plates of fries. A diner booth tucked in the corner. Her elbows on the tale.
Flash in the dark. Unstuck again. She cries into my shoulder silently, thinking I don't notice.
Daniel Day-Lewis on the screen. Poisoned mushrooms her and I.
There's a highway ahead. It forks toward the Tetons and toward Idaho. You know where each lead, but which is the preference? Equitable in their own rights.
I try to think in McCarthy tones. Long descriptors that flourish in their completion. Yet they elude me. There's no beauty in this world in its turning as to that of the human memories. Furnished for comfort, but never to please.(less)
one whole year of you
off on and on off
on paper, my terms
off script, your terms
(more) always your terms
you were too imagistic
i, too literal
she hadn't been engulfed in your spiral yet
(I'm often jealous of what sticks out of your head)
she didn't know the ruined holidays
the bruised friendships like fruit
(I'm often worried it died at the graveyard)
she hadn't been denied her poetry yet
or was she prose?
(I'm often jealous of what hangs out of your head)
handled in your palms
a muse that will fuse out
(they always do)
every month is a romance
a dance with bared teeth eventually
the charm beads off you like sweat
it wears off you like elasticity of the skin
you'd fall into the pattern again
I'd await the 4 AM beck of a notification
It was a dream of a wedding. Not a wedding of the real world where there is divided feelings, doubt, boredom, and dread. It was a dream wedding of beauty.
In the dream, she followed her best friend down the street. A playful chase. A destination on mind(more). A place was waiting for them. They were expected.
It was raining out, so hard that the dirt embedded in the asphalt floated to the surface of the puddles. The flooded streets offered the hem of her dress a drink, and at the hem the pink turned grey. The dress was a fine one. The first gown of her life! Though it was only a dream:
Pink satin. Stiff, luxuriously thick. A mermaid tail and fitted bodice from a 1950s designer, still famous even in the careless waking modern world. An old gown from days when evening wear was inspired by beaches.
In her dream, she knew her dress was finer than the pure white lace of her friend's wedding gown. The pink was a blush colour, by chance suiting her better than white suits any bride.
It was an occasion of beauty, pure beauty, one she she had never known in the waking, mortal world. In her dream she knew her beauty was not just the freedom to run in a dress. It was knowing she was looked at. Looked at in love, and envy - not of looks, but freedom. Love and envy of the freedom we are each born into, and can maintain with only the purest hope. Her dress was a dress of childhood. Pink that can get dirty easily.
There was no suggestion of grooms in the dream. Just women running toward whatever waited for them, something they laughed in anticipation of.(less)
I sit idle, a hot twist of molecules in a river of radiating light. Stars are born and die around me, civilizations crumble, and my heart beats. Profound loves spark into life, and my heart beats. Better people than I can ever hope to(more) be succumb to unfathomable circumstances, and my heart beats.
And through it all I'm always, always too small to see.
The future is an event horizon. We see our tiny universe approaching a steady state with us at some tangential piece of the heart of it. The past is condensed in our minds to a few hundred muddled fragments about gods, cataclysms, and killings, but our own unhinged lifespan chugs along on a geologic timeline, taking all the time we know and seeming to go nowhere.
It's only because we are too small to see.
Nothing happening now is anything more or less than anything that came before. It seems small because we think about it in small ways. But our single cog is part of a turning wheel that interlocks with a vast universe.
Seemingly insignificant events in the past have gone on to shape our present in profound ways. There's no reason to believe that the insignificant events of our present can't do the same for the future.
Live your life, but know that every decision you ever make could matter. To someone, somewhere. To everyone, everywhere.(less)
I pulled over about 30 miles outside Seeley Lake, having been on the road for almost 20 hours. Mountains on all sides. Dense undergrowth and trees in a corridor all along the lakes. Dirt roads leading to trailheads and(more) homes so far removed it was hard to believe anyone could live out here let alone make a living.
As freeing as it was, as far away as I had run, it wasn't enough. It was all still there lingering just in the background. There's no where left to run, but the distance still wasn't enough.
"Hey there, you doin' alright?"
He chugged up in his Bobcat, the preferred method of transit around the sparsely populated towns. Summer tourists darted by, carving their way through the forest. The locals lingered, taking their time. Where did they have to be? They had all the time in the world.
"Yeah, yeah man." I replied, holding out a hand in greeting. "I'm all good."
"You sure? That your car making that awful grinding noise?"
"Well, why dontcha follow me up to Glen's? He'll get ya sorted out."
"It's fine. I can manage."
"I don't know about that."
"I said I don't know about that."
"How'd you figure?"
"That look on your face. Y'ain't from here and you have no idea how you're getting home."
I sighed, leaning back against the car. "Dunno if I have an argument against that."
"Ain't here to have an argument, just wanna help you out."
"Yeah, alright. I'll follow you."
He nodded and took off ahead. I climbed back in my car and followed. If ever there were a place worth staying, this would have been it.
Would have been, being the operative phrase.(less)
Rachel looked at the customer's ID. The girl was buying the sort of liquor that attracted minors: sweet as soda and the colour of Crayolas. It raised suspicion.
The girl was very clear-eyed and pretty, in a pain-in-the-ass kind of way. Born 1999. People from every year of(more) the 90s could drink and smoke and participate legally in vice, Rachel knew, although for her that decade had been one of innocence and a different sort of dirt.
The liquor would go to the kid's head. The world being what it was, Rachel reasoned, little chickie could end up a clip on Pornhub or some shithole Tumblr, overestimating the importance of her first taste of letting go and allowing too many liberties to be taken.
The smirk in the black&white ID matched the smirk leveled at her now. Where did girls get their confidence? At 40, Rachel still flinched under scrutiny. She couldn't say anything bad, or forbid the sale.
Blue eyes rimmed with purple eyeliner. Blue streaks in her hair. God, it had been so hard to be unusual or punk in Rachel's 90s. You couldn't find weird hair dye or makeup anywhere. Nowadays even Walmart has it. Rachel had spraypainted her hair pink in high school and wore a Masterlock to keep her jeans closed.
People born in 1999 and beyond can smoke. They can drink. Rachel handed back the ID and rang up the purchase. She remembered the days when a bit of wine cooler was enough to get her drunk. She remembered when being drunk cheered her up.
Her tolerance for alcohol had increased at the same rate her tolerance for people, parties, and bullshit decreased.
She wondered if her hope had ever seemed smug, if her gaze had ever been so naive it caused someone pain.(less)
He'd taken the hit as they escaped into the thick alien jungle; hesitating too long on a shot when the plasma bolt scored a line of fire across his face and caused him to stumble backward, falling into darkness.
A blur of impressions followed, a mixture of being(more) carried and stumbling along, his arm in a firm grasp, and when Lance finally had the wherewithal to moan Shiro's hand covered his mouth firmly, the message clear. The danger had not yet passed.
He wasn't certain how long it had been when his senses finally started to return, when he felt Shiro press a cool, damp cloth to his face and murmur at him in a low tone. "Lance, can you look at me? Can you open your eyes for me?" and, oh, that hurt more than he'd ever expected, cracking his eye open through the caked, dried blood on his face.
He squinted at Shiro in the low light of an alien dawn, the first of the binary stars that illuminated this system creeping above the horizon, and Shiro's expression was strained and not quite as relieved as he had expected. Lance reached to wipe the dried blood from his face and Shiro caught his hand before he could, kissed his forehead and said, instead, "wait."
"That bad, huh?" Lance said, trying for cocky but only making it through resigned.
"The plasma bolt cauterized it," Shiro said as he wrapped the cool, clean bandage around Lance's head. It did nothing for the pain, but it made Shiro feel better as they waited on evac. "We'll get you in the cryo replenisher, fix you up good as new."
Lance touched the bandages that covered his left eye, and said with a self-deprecating smile, "the med-pods can't replace what's been lost, Shiro." (less)
Ruth could open her eyes at almost anytime of day or night and not remember where she was. The consistent thing was her bed. It was a familiar rumpled den that smelled like her. But beyond that, the world was an ocean she was unmoored in. The easy forgetfulness(more) was like a force of nature or a superpower. The lapse in understanding whenever she opened her eyes was a lost, crawling feeling - like the sand scuttling beneath a tide that is going out - grains of sand trying to cling to their position despite the pull of something larger and hungrier.
In Ruth's case, so much of her life occurred in dreams. So many of her memories took place in dream countries barely articulated, nevermind explored. Sleep had a larger pull than wakefulness. In the walking-around world ambulances crawled the streets and people roamed and muttered furiously. Their rage spilled out of the margins. People drew guns for no reason; people walked off cliffs to relieve themselves of misery. Walmart tills jangled as people filled emptiness with DIY projects and discount groceries. Everybody everywhere waited for a friend to call, for someone to notice, for a kiss to feel like it meant something. Whenever Ruth woke up she knew she was too late for something - that she had been born too late - that life was not a matter of accomplishment or hope, but only forever catching up. (less)
I watched the embers of my torch smolder out. I tunneled in on the fading light, and it became my whole world. It seared itself into me, looming, and I let it. There was nothing else. I knew it was the last thing I'd ever see.
(more) Cave exploration comes with this risk. A team dives too deep, contingency plans fail. It happens. Steeling yourself for that eventuality is something we all try to do. No amount of training can prepare you for the weight of it, though-- the miles of invisible, hard, shapeless black that lie between you and everything you've ever known.
All the right precautions were taken. We laid lines of rope from the cave's mouth, miles of it, so that even in a blackout there was hope. Staged camps periodically throughout the chasm, ran supplies along the line, so that rescue was always possible. We had the resources. The prize was rumored to be great.
Somewhere along the way, the chain was broken. Call-outs yielded no response. The gear-drops prepared for us never came. A porter ran back for help, and didn't return.
Resources were running low when we finally turned back. But we had enough. We thought we would make it, right up until the line we traced through the flickering torchlight tapered off into a frayed, broken tip.
A lesson I'd learned from other explorers-- to go far enough for great things, we sometimes must make journeys that we can't come back from.
So I turned around.
The light hissed out and abandoned me. Still I followed the rope, hand over hand, back downward to its deepest lashing. When that ran out, I crawled blindly onward. Stumbling, falling, hands and knees slick with blood. I went deeper. Deeper into the darkness than anyone before me.
We watch the monitors. The man who stood in the room with us moments ago appears on the feed from a ship in near-earth orbit, emerging from a disc-shaped void full of churning, bright-white light.
The computer declares the teleportation a success. A cheer erupts around me. The(more) man who emerges on the other side seems unchanged. But a part of me still has doubts. Teleportation has been a fever dream for centuries; we've pondered its implications and speculated endlessly on how to bring it about, but never made much progress. And now, born out of the mind of an internet-based artificial intelligence, it is upon us.
Rumors circulate. The leap seems too great for most. There are simpler solutions (atom-by-atom duplication, for example) which, superficially, might achieve the same end. Perhaps a closed equation was achieved by overlooking the kind of inconvenient details that a computer-based life form might deem irrelevant.
Many doctors and scientists have tried to come up with tests that might prove or disprove it, but the neural network A.I. is pervasive. There's so little that any of us can know that it does not.
Those who've tried insist it works. But they would, wouldn't they?
As I approach the platform, a part of me wonders: do those far-selves on the other end of the glowing tunnel know the answer? Do they sense something has changed? Or do they believe? All it takes is one generation of blind leaping. Whoever those other selves are, if they can be convinced they are whole and unharmed, they'll keep going.
I think these things as I enter the pool of bright light and drop out from the bottom of myself, like the last breath of a bad dream. (less)