Welcome To My Bed

What I think about when the world feels like it shrank in the wash.

I am no good at this adulthood thing.  It's like climbing a buttered rope hand over hand.  First off, I have no upper body strength.  And secondly, who the hell came up with buttering a climbing rope in the first place?  I have the job, the apartment, the relationship, the closet full of daily costumes, the body full of shine, the food to fill a fridge and the pans to cook it in, the places to run away to when I fell broke down and suffocated.  But no spark left at the end of the day.  Why is that?  After all the struggle of kicking my own ass through college, getting out into the big, imperfect world early and sinking my teeth into all that mess, I am still exactly where I was before.  When do I get to exhale that deep sigh, look at myself in the mirror and say this is it?

When I'm handed a forty hour work week, I am grateful for what it affords me.  But at what cost?  Why does our country, our culture, hold wealth so high on the list of things to desire that rest and good company and creation suffer?  I do not want to be rich.  I have never wanted to be rich.  I might even go so far as to say that I hate rich people because of how distant they are from their own humanity, but this is a broad generality and not targeted at people specifically so much as the symbology at play.  Money means only what we let it mean.  There are ways to live that cost less than how I choose to.  I could move to another city where the rents are lower.  I could go back to the kind of work that I feel in my body at the end of the day.  Maybe I'm dissatisfied because the only thing I feel in my body about my job is the cloying presence of industrial fluorescent lighting and the migraines I get from looking at computer screen for eight hours a day.

I saw an article on the Atlantic's website the other day that said that office workers burn the same amount of calories as hunter-gatherers.  How stunning.  Which work is more essential?

A text message from a friend showed up during my mid-afternoon slump today, and I realized I haven't seen him in nearly two years.  We live in different cities, met while I was on tour too many moons ago, but I still can't believe I've gone this long without hearing his voice.  Our meeting was so essential to the way I ushered in the new phase of my life.  This one sans the structure of college.  But what seemed so whole and holy when it was just starting out has fallen into a new structure.  I am now a slave to an alarm clock, a social schedule, the pressure to keep trotting out my writing for journals and magazines that will not have it.  What kind of goals are these?  It seems nearly impossible to have any kind of spontaneous day.  Perhaps that is the cost of stability.

Or maybe I can shake myself out of this like a snow globe, let all of the pieces fall back down and rearrange themselves in a way that makes me smile.  I don't want to cut anyone, or anything, from my life.  I love my family, my friends, my city, making art (in whatever form it arrives).  The world just feels so small and limited.  It is time to start saving up to travel, to hatch an escape plan.  I am so thankful for the fact that I can afford to survive.  But I want to do more than live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of my days.  I want the world to feel as big as I know it is, and for there to be places that seem impossible to reach so that I can drive myself hard enough to reach them.

When I finished school, my writing had never been published.  I am already so far from that person.  There is a new kind of adult I want to be, one who doesn't sacrifice hunger and wonder for the sake of satisfaction.

What I think about when I am a month late on resolutions.

I am safely back from tour, getting buried in snow (again) but nestled into my beloved, frigid New England. This a quiet, Ryan Adams b-side kind of day. The sky and the snow are the same shade of nothing. I have spent most of this day reading a novel in verse about Los Angeles werewolves and answering emails. It feels good to stop spinning my wheels for a few days. The engine was beginning to smoke. When the year changed over weeks ago, I was too busy smiling to make any resolutions. I've never found them very useful, though I've always been vigilant about keeping a little list for myself. I leafed back through my journal this morning and that yearly list was nowhere to be found. So here's the short version: submit to journals (no matter how quickly my heart thwacks into my tonsils at the prospect), settle back into the city of my heart, fine tune the novella and let it loose on the world, never fall asleep without reading at least ten pages. Small steps lead to the largest movements. This year is a big one already. I have seen so many cities I never dreamed of seeing, loved so many people I never thought I would hold so close to me. I am full, if struggling. That must be what it's like to be alive.

When I wake in the night on the verge of a road trip, you get this.

There are many parts of me.

The biggest part is a sleepy mess, scared shitless. But she has faith. Faith that today will be okay, and that tomorrow will be something else, and the next day after another breed, and so on. She is trying to be open to all possibilities. Thus far, the shows have been going well. We've performed our best across several states already and made friends, sold merch, and the biggest part of me is hoping we make it through the rest of the month in similar fashion. If thigs could go the way they went in Manchester or Jersey consistently, the biggest part of me will also be the proudest part of me.

But the biggest part of me isn't the largest part of me. There's a sizable chunk that's scared shitless. She's the one who hasn't written anything substantial in who knows how long. She's the one making excuses. I did just finish the better part of a novella and complete a pretty decent manuscript of poems, she mutters when confronted.

The cynical piece of me lights a cigarette and blows smoke in her face.

The biggest part of me sighs.

The navigator is pouring over her maps. She woke me up at this ungodly hour with endless dreams of road, of digging the car out of the snow in a few hours and hitting the dusty trail. She's the one who put us to bed far too early last night and then shook us all good and hard just now with the urge to run to the window and press our communal nose to it in excitement. "It's stopped blizzarding!" she squeals.

The worrier is revising her lists. The insomniac is creeping back. The smoker is lighting another one.

We're all chewing our bottom lip, waiting for something to happen.

What I think about when the year has turned and the room is too cold.

It's warm in the sun but the wind bites hard. I forgot a scarf today, a pair of pants on the floor of someone else's apartment. I am full-to-bursting of so many good things, so much good news. Two shows this week, and the tour starts in earnest. There will be family in those seats.
There has been highway in my life every week as long as I've had my car. There are trips in the works--Nashville, North Carolina, New Hampshire. A wedding at the end of September, the first I've been invited to. I am eating. I am sleeping. I wrote two poems today, edited a third. I'm confident this will be a good year because of how it's started, all unseasonably warm and full of pillow talk. Telling stories in the haze of the wee hours clarifies the details somehow--the only words you can manage pushing past your lips are those attached to the most important things to be said.

What I think about when I fall out of a dream crying not-unhappy tears.

I am plagued by deja vu. I have seen so many scenes of my life before they've taken place, though thankfully, all of my favorites were originals when they happened and never got repeated in that hazy, distracting "I've been here" way. Which is what makes the dreams lately so scary. Jericha and I are becoming more and more sure that our apartment is the center for some bizarre psychic energy, a power that is not necessarily malignant, but one that is far too intense to be taken lightly. All of our dreams lately have been proof of this. Even the most outlandish, emotionally disturbing ones have been finding a way to come true. I am bitten over and over again in the ankles by snakes, and I know exactly why as their teeth are tenderly pulled out and I am returned to a lover's bed. I am the fastest runner on a country road, I am dancing on the edge of a room with no floor in the center, meeting and re-meeting all the loves that have moved through my life and they tell me things, but not whole things. Even in the broken truth, there are kernels of what is to come. This afternoon, my sleep was full of endless lines, unsatisfied people, so many happy "hello"s I forced out of my teeth mirroring my day at work. And then it shifted. Someone I am sure hates me came back as a character in a reoccurring chase. Someone I am not sure at all about was in a house along the way with some tender surprise I am still trying to make sense of. Always, there are books, animals, objects from my life that make sense but do not. I do not speak this language. I need to know how to find what is being told here. Never have I felt such an urgency upon waking to parce my own thoughts, to ask questions of those that have acted with me and on me in my subconscious, to understand what so many would write off as absolute gibberish nonsense. This is all so deeply unsettling. And of course, tomorrow is Halloween.

What I think about when there is somewhere else I'd rather be.

I am not good at sleeping in other people's beds. I must keep reminded myself of this. I toss and turn and wake them up thousands of times through the night with my restlessness. I am very, very bad at keeping still when someone else may or may not be watching. I've never been able to figure out why this is. Let's blame it on dance. Let's say it's because I was a dancer for more than half my life and they always said things like, "Don't lock back on your knees!" and "Support from below your ribs!" and "Keep your face breathing even when your body is still!" A ballet studio's jibberish. I have been thinking a lot about how the not-sleep from my ballet days and the not-sleep from my now are very similar. Granted there are the obvious things that set one time apart from another--I am eating now, I am healthy and happy and taking good care of my body; the only exercise I have anymore is the three flights of stairs to my apartment; but the insomnia still strikes and my head goes eight billion miles an hour asking questions of me in a very loud ballet teacher voice. I keep thinking, "You're so talented at these things; sleep or dance, it makes no difference. Just apply yourself, silly girl. You'll get there." I catch sight of myself in a mirror and it feels just like five days of class a week again and I am too fat for music and flat-footed with poor extension and less flexibility than I will admit to. I close my eyes and my head is talking to me again and I will never, ever get to sleep. I want to believe I won't always be manic about the things that make me happy. Some days I just want to abandon myself and start from scratch. First position. Relax your back, hold your arms like this. Good. Breathe. Now, second.

What I think about when the worlds around me are reduced to rubble.

For the first time in my life, I am the eye of the storm. Every romance or relationship or partnership or arrangement between two people that is happening in close proximity to me has a wrench thrown in the gears; I am watching these massive, reliable machines grind to halt and shudder at each other for lack of any better form of understanding. We all stay up late into the night discussing emotional politics. We follow each other from one room of the house to another, from bar to bar to bar, from Northampton to Boston and back trying to properly articulate what it is that's broken. And I keep saying we, as if I am involved in any of this. I am background noise today. My problems are small and self-contained: I own too many shoes, I don't know whether or not I will be moving in the next few months, there is never enough money to make me feel successful. Everyone else is questioning the nature of their commitments. I am happy to just be left alone. I have never been consistently single for this long a period of time, and I'm beginning to accept that it's my natural state. I am more than okay with this. Not only is it easier to be background noise in the dramatic lives of others, it is more acceptable to me to be a sounding board for all of the relationship insanity that my friends are going through. I told one of them last night that I hate the existence of empathy; I truly ache for any friend I have who is hurting, to the point that it affects my quality of life. I get physically ill in a room full of people who do not know what to do with themselves. But this is different--machines breaking down seems not only inevitable, but necessary for moving forward. In a lot of ways, I feel very zen about all of the destruction and turmoil. I think that I might be mentally well=prepared for any sort of apocalypse. I'm pretty positive that the only person I would ultimately concern myself with is me, and that's something I've never been able to say with confidence.

What I think about when things begin to come together.

Dear self,

You are too hard on your work. You did not believe strongly enough that by creating you would find your way to what you wanted to say. Look at the list in your notebook--every concern, every abstract you set down to write a poem about later, you have written about by now, the first day of October. You are months ahead of your deadlines. You have so much in your hands left to say. This is a good place to be. Stand in the rain today, drop your umbrella, sing to the street. The world is falling open now like the last flowers of Indian summer. There are big plans around the corner, the dearest of friends waiting in New Jersey for you to say yes to coming home to each other. You are successful, you are loved, you are loud and proud and ready to do ever bigger and better things with your brain, body and voice.

Last year, close to this time, a conversation in Central Square gave you the prompt that plagued you then but has turned into your mantra--what are your convictions? Keep answering, every day, in everything you do. Be reckless. It is the only way to be right.

What I think about when I am one year older.

Line breaks. Dechlorinated water. Fish food. Antique clocks for the new New Jersey kitchen. Shoplifting only from corporate stores. Leopard print. Loving my legs as long as they continue to be good to me. Taking naps. Not sleeping for three or more days. BEER. Playboy and pretzel sticks and tattoo placement. There is the omnipresent possibility of liquor for lunch now--how very odd a prospect. I had only four drinks at the bar last night, but I will venture a guess that they were all four much stronger than they seemed. The only way to know what force there is that may knock you on your ass when you try to stand is to drink everything straight. But I let myself get a little more than silly. A little more than sloppy. Everyone kept saying I had license to, which I did. However, this new club I've joined is an interesting one. I do not feel any different. Birthdays have never changed much for me. Yesterday, I bought a phone charger, had beers at the mall, performed a poem, was referred to by many near and dears as the "belle of the ball" and, for certain, it made me smile. I also told several people I love very much how happy I am for our friendship. They may attribute these revelations to my level of drunk. However, I am not in the habit of saying things I do not mean, drunk or otherwise. If I gushed at you last night about how awesome you are, I meant it with all of my heart, and I would mean it sober too. Forgive me my loud mouth and stumbling. Family are the people for whom unconditional love is not something that is ever discussed, but simply present. Cambridge will always be Thanksgiving, every single Wednesday. And for family dinner with words where the food should be, I suppose it makes sense I was cranberry saucy and dressed as tart as I'm sure I must've tasted.

What I think about when things are finally falling into place.

There was a ladies dinner picnic at the Smith pond last night, a bottle of wine and a discussion of future love, life, and general excitement. I've been soupy in the head lately, the world swimming towards me, but seeing ducks and eating cheese with no knife helped still me and give me back my breath. The view from my new bedroom windows is of the mountains. I have a view of the Berkshires that is too gorgeous to properly speak of, a bed nook that will be cozy and wonderful. I have an apartment with two magic people, a space to finish my novel. I cannot get over the beauty of that, the way this place found me when everything seemed to be falling apart. There's so much packing and laundry and logistical bullshit that needs to happen between now and next Wednesday, but that does't even bother me. For the first time, moving hasn't crippled my sense of what must happen. I can see the building flowering out of its brick, the way our living room will grow around us. We have a purple kitchen table and a reading window and granite floors that will be perfectly cold on November mornings when I am not awake enough to remember how happy I am. White wine and hummus are good company for comfort. I am standing on solid ground again. I cannot drown atop a mountain.

What I think about on an empty stomach and an overflowing head.

How is it that July is colder than June? I fell asleep in long sleeves and pants last night, under a comforter no less. I snuggled with a cat. July is not allowed to allow this. I have been writing letters on the backs of "damaged item" tags while working the dressing rooms. They aren't meant for envelopes. They are letters to future poems I know will get written eventually , love letters that say, "I know you are awesome a few weeks from now." I don't have quite the heart to sit down and make these poems (or stories, or chapters of my novel) yet. I am buried in rain. No one ever knocks on the front door, they just walk into my apartment, or yell, "Helloooo?!" in a very confused voice, as if they are coming over unannounced. As of yet, no one has actually come over unannounced. We leave for Minnesota in about a week. I leave for Boston tomorrow night after work. I want lots of vacations, breaks from all of this tornado warning. There was thunder so loud two days ago that I screamed and dropped my phone. The sky turned muddy water. There was no one in the house with me to hear it. Just like there is no food here to eat. A little boy came up to me today and the sidewalk sale and his sister stood in front of him and said, "He has something to tell you." But he just stood behind her and shook his head, tucking his chin into his neck and wouldn't say anything. And then she blurted out, "He really likes your hair." And he nodded, and looked embarrassed. And she looked at me and smiled, said, "Look, she's blushing," and they both laughed and walked away. It was a happy laugh though, much better than the we-only-complimented-you-to-see-the-look-on-your-face-afterwards kind of smile. Lately there are so many things to think about and so little time to do any of the thinking. I cut my hair off again to get closer to the thinking, to let myself know I was still brave enough. I don't feel as brave as I used to when the wind was this close to my scalp. Maybe the razor loses a little bit of its magic every time. I sing a lot of David Bowie to myself when the car radio should be playing. I've taken up praying in French again.

What I think about in the interstice between table-waiter and register-jockey.

I need to not be so broke. Money makes me selfish, selfless, too many conflicting things. Carrie shook me by the shoulders and told me not to be a stripper. Selling my skin seems easiest. Selling my smile never worked as well as I wanted it to. Somehow, skin is more real to people than teeth. Or maybe they are just more honest about wanting skin than they are about wanting teeth. Hello, hump-day of summer. Four weeks until I am elsewhere. In four weeks I will be new skin and new hair and the dust of the Midwest and poems for a literal week and hotel swimming pool antics and space through my fingers and other people's beer and white sheets. Poets don't have jobs. Poets get paid to dream, and very little. Poets get paid and then they get drunk and then they get broke and then they write more poems, and so it goes. This is the place I chose to call mine in this heat. This is the bed I will not make. I am lying on my mattress with all the sheets on the floor next to me. It is too hot for housekeeping. We go to the laundromat and read books, go to the grocery store and buy beans. This living thing is simple, if quietly expensive. Perhaps there is a way to stay whole. To not melt. To kiss without losing my tongue. I have turned all my sharp edges into diamond cuts. I am polished well, if flawed. I can make correct change. Play well with others. Move things through space. I have hands. I like the word, "Hello". I have lots of skin, but a much more interesting mouth. I will use it to smile. I will.

What I think about the morning I apply for another job.

I was standing at the bar yesterday, waiting for change for a hundred dollar bill, and I realized how utterly ridiculous money is as a concept. Trading paper for real things? Who decided this made sense? My mother is fretting at the kitchen table about how she is going to continue to afford to trade shit for other shit. I don't like it. I don't like writing checks. I don't like my money box, however practical it is, because it reminds me of how valueless my time is to some people. Here I am, blue hair and tattoos, trying to make ends meet. I rearrange my resume, trade one euphemism for a better, more vague, counterpart. I debate wearing the dress I bought yesterday afternoon at Uncle Margaret's. I want to crawl into a pile of vintage clothes and never come out, even if all of it smells like armpits. I've been reading Salinger's Franny and Zooey and wanting to go around chain smoking in well-structured dresses and gloves and little hats, though the book doesn't really have any one in it like that. I want something simpler. Not financial aid paperwork that still goes unfiled because I know nothing about my parents' Social Security numbers, not waiting tables for far less money than I hope to have at the end of each week. I don't want to be a slave to a paycheck. But problems keep barreling towards me, like I am in an ice field with no choice but to go down with the ship. I have a reoccurring dream that I have to put my little brother through college, and today, that possibility isn't too divorced from the truth.

What I think about on the day I get my new bed.

I am tired of floors and couches, tired of the armrest of my car pressing into my face. I want furniture again. I like the idea of having all of my things in my car, moving around with me, but it's not a practical choice, especially when three trips isn't nearly enough to get me moved in. I got my keys at 2 o'clock in the morning, banged up and down the back stairs with two typewriters, a sleeping bag, the lucky cat for the kitchen, and a bunch of clothes I can't hang up yet because my hangers are sitting in Wayne's garage. I'm pretty sure the neighbors already want to murder me and it's not been 24 hours. This afternoon, Cass gets back, I pick up a U-Haul, and we get real serious about moving. I can't wait to cook my first meal in my lime green kitchen. I can't wait to buy a cookie jar that moos or some other garage sale nonsense, just because I can, just because I have my very own place to live now. This is a much bigger deal than I expected it to be. I have no internet, no TV, nothing in the place but boxes and bags just yet, but already it feels like mine. Pop Tarts on the counter, a cigarette clipped and left on the porch. Until September, this will be home. A claw-foot bath tub and every hole in the walls. I am in love. We have a porch. A PORCH. The magnitude of this overwhelms. I want to shout from our porch that tonight will be the first night of my life that I will sleep in a bed that I bought, in a house that I pay rent for. This is good, this adult stuff. Especially when I know I'm going to treat it all like summer camp. Those Pop Tarts are 'smores flavor, and I ate fro-yo for dinner last night. I want Cass to get here already so we can live like children, buy ice pops, have kitchen dance parties, make too much noise. Oh. And jump on my new bed. Cos y'all know that needs to take place.

What I think about when I am too tired to sleep.

Will inhaling the smoke of too many Citronella candles kill you in the long term? Mosquitos just have kids to feed, man. I want Maggie to get the massive crack in her cement pool fixed so that we can go skinny dipping any night of the week and not have to bother anybody else to do it. Or skateboarding. That would also work. I always forget that I like vodka tonics. I don't drink enough Slurpees. Every cashier at the Hillsdale 7-11 must think we are crazy. Especially the Arab Frank Sinatra. I haven't seen him there in awhile--I wonder if he quit. He had the best hair of any convenience store cashier I've seen in a long time. Cept that one who looked like Don King somewhere along 95 between NC and NJ. How much force does it take to split someone's lip? I wasn't paying proper attention last time. I am very bad at keeping my own secrets. Maggie bought me a new-to-me typewriter, and it is probably the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given me. She remembered the brand and everything. I was almost crying in her kitchen, it was so beautiful. I read her the poem I wrote for her about my favorite words, the one that finishes off the new chapbook. There were lots of hugs afterwards. Maybe friend love is the only love worth working for, because it lasts longer. Maybe the only real commitment left in a post-divorce world is to the families we all construct for ourselves, the people we select from the crowded rooms and set apart, saying, "This is who I want to laugh and cry with. This is important enough to stay."