The Goddess and The Ghost

My folks, they left the TV on.
I was falling in love years before I ever met someone.
Like a prayer, you don’t expect an answer,
Though you ask for one.
Assured my love would come along–
Like a bird, and only I would recognize its song.
–Typhoon, “Prosthetic Love”

I leaned over with the sick feeling welling up inside my stomach.

On the television the characters said goodbye and did not kiss.

No, no, no. It’s not meant to be like this.

I’m a sucker for happy endings. The completion of the fairy tale gives me release, a sense of the butterfly bandage tightening closed on my heart. Like without that, what’s left inside me is some gaping wound.

I’m not sure when this began. Maybe it was the afternoon when I was 12 and the first boy I fell in love with led me up a ladder to the roof of my middle school. Gravel and blue skies.

I am afraid of love now. I think my fear is bound to what I’ve only just begun to understand: that love is not Love. That fairy tales are just fairy tales. That happy endings take work.

I thought I was smart. But somehow I fell into a trap that’s proliferant enough that I suppose we are all drawn toward it — in one way or another.

What I mean to say is this:

When I went to college, I met a boy who was unremarkable. He was not overtly generous or kind. His pursuits were deep and detailed, but mundane. His backstory was tragic but not incredible. He had occasional existential crises, which he worked through doggedly. He was okay with carving out a life of regular size. (Unlike me, forever the perpetrator of unreasonably large dreams and fairy tales.)

Unremarkable: I fell in love like a rockslide. Left with bruises and bloodied shins.

I believed in fairy tales.

My best friend fell in love like a whirlpool (she believed in fairy tales) and her love materialized. I felt myself begin picking holes in the hot flesh of my heart. She became proof of the real-world television love story that was so far beyond my grasp.

There was no way the boy would ever love me.

I have trouble watching TV shows. In every one, I become attached to a relationship, live and die by its highs and lows. I fall in so deep that I walk away from these shows feeling as if my own life has changed. They do me damage.

The past year has challenged me. Suddenly I am relearning myself. Relearning love and understanding that love is not Love. (I do not need to believe in fairy tales.)

I suppose what it comes down to is that years of belief are hard to undo. I thought the only lasting love I could ever have would have to look and feel like it felt with the boy. Dreamlike, miserable, feverish, impossible, beautiful. Endless. Tumbling stones and rips in my knees.

I know in my head it’s not like that. Even if it starts like that, it can’t live that way. All love is work. And good love, solid love, has its own magic. Something much quieter and more stable.

But some part of me wants the bleeding. I choose to live it out through the television screen.

I want to be happy — and it is a choice that I make. But I want to believe in fairy tales, too.

It’s a backwards take on the Book of Job.
His life was a wager, and mine’s a joke.
Give him what he wants, he will never know —
He’s tied up trying to let himself go.


One Day I’ll Write About This, But I Can’t Right Now

I’m hoping for a song that will come to me while I’m asleep
Because I can’t lie, so I can’t write
-Typhoon, “Hunger & Thirst”

“Pay attention while you’re teaching,” she says before I leave Arizona. “It will give you a lot to write about.”

“You should write these things down,” he says when I tell him the things that were said to me behind closed doors. “One day you’ll look back on them and realize. Maybe one day you’ll write about them.”

Writing is all I do. I eat sadness and spit out writing. I fall in love and spit out writing. I see empty benches and abandoned headphones and I spit out writing.

I write everywhere. I write on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. I write on my blog. I write text messages. I write poems on the Google Doc where I house them all, 55 pages and growing. I write in the small journal I carry in my purse. I write in the big journals I keep in my room. I write haiku on the white board on my fridge. I see everything and I spit out writing.

These days I almost write too much. I keep writing because I can’t capture, anymore, any of the important things happening around me.

It will give you a lot to write about, she says. But what about the things that were said to me behind closed doors? What about the bright, soft, innocent faces that greet me in the mornings? What about the stories they tell me—in the schoolyard, in the hallways, behind closed doors? What about my triumphs and my regrets? What about the stories no one tells—the secrets that play out behind closed doors?

I came to this work because I feel so much love it hurts. (I left the previous sentence purposely vague.) But it seems now I am stymied—limited in the work I love (the writing) because of the work I love (the teaching). Because Pueblo is a town full of closed doors.

I would like to teach for a long time. But at some point I will need to not teach, so that I am able to write. It seems like my whole life is tipping toward this, driving me ahead toward an unknown point, at which I am doing this one thing, this only thing. The point at which I am unburdened by the closing of doors.

I can’t get this idea for a novel out of my head. It’s not clearly defined, but what keeps drawing me back to it is the idea that I could, through fiction, create some accountability for all the things that have happened this year. Perhaps I could tell stories that taste the same as the ones I can’t tell right now. Stories that carry the same weight without publicizing the burden. I don’t know.

But even that novel, I can’t write. It seems like I’m carrying too much to plan out a fictionalized account that simulates this pain. I’m overwhelmed sometimes. I’ve slept for 14 of the past 24 hours. But I am sitting, waiting and watching.

It feels a lot like holding my breath. It feels like waiting in the cold for the tow truck to come. It feels like being alone in a room with one skinny window where the light never shines through. All I’ve ever wanted to do is open the doors. One day maybe I will, but I can’t right now.

A Personal Post, in the form of a poem

It’s snowing.
You’re alone.

You fell for someone who lives
where you once did,
shares your history only by the
convenience of place.

You drove home through waves
of white confetti,
flickering headlights,
a sputtering engine.

Out there, anything could have happened.
The streetlights forget,
as do your tires
and your heart palpitations:

Cobwebs have already formed.
You are not waiting for rebirth,
but rather the moment
when you look out the window
and the bones of the trees feel like boxes,
and your heart forgives you.