imagine if we could just
hands touching like
insects walking on water.
imagine if we could lay
on the couch
and stare at the ceiling
and laugh without fear of
imagine if we could turn off the tv
and turn on our minds
and dream of tomorrow's ideas.
if we could just look
at each other's eyes
about the stress of physical contact.
imagine if we could just
for one day,
sharing candy and laughing
without worrying about masks.
if we could just hug
without worrying about safety.
we could be lovers
without ever sharing a kiss.
midnight elegy (the stars cannot shine without you)
there are holes in our hearts, and they bleed tangerine juice--
sweet upon tongues, sticky on fingertips;
carve me into the effigy of an angel and let me sit atop your altar,
keeping you company even when words fail and the night closes in;
for if you ever look for me, my love, look beyond the place where darkness falls,
where the twisted wraiths burn temples to our brokenhearted brothers,
lost in the dusky nothingness and the thick smoke that fills our lungs,
rendering us to ashes, falling softly to ruin, crumbling to pieces at your touch;
i’m here, my love, no matter how many times the sun sets;
you can find me between the lines of a well-worn book, dog-eared on all the wrong pages,
rushed notes scribbled in the margins in a heavy crimson ink--
is it blood? i do not know, and you seem unwilling to tell--
and our bodies intertwine, two hearts singing the same song,
two mouths breathing the same air, one mind saying the same words,
words like ‘i love you’ and ‘i know’, ‘i’m here’ and ‘i’m not going anywhere’,
snippets of truth and fractured freedom and promises that shall never truly be broken;
for not even the darkness that spans us can separate our souls, not even the
slippery sirens singing songs of silence and shattering sorrows
shall send us back to whence we came,
because together, we are whole;
this is an elegy to the brokenhearted,
to the dreamers,
to the wonderers,
to those who live in the shadows,
to those who feel as though the world may just swallow them whole
and spit them out, chewed, chained, chastised, into hell
to burn in halfhearted rapture and manic sorrow for the rest of their days.
this is an elegy to you, my love, and to me, and to us;
perhaps even the stars fade away, my love,
yet we will not,
for it is not our earthly time to depart;
breathe me in, our hearts in sync,
our lips whispering frantic prayers to some unknown deity--
one who may never answer our calls,
but what have we to lose but ourselves--
and follow me through the darkness.
No More Virus Valentine’s Fantasy: Finally Free to Fly
I decide to treat myself to a long weekend in Lisbon. I pack my bags with lightweight clothing I can move in; the hills are intense in Portugal, and so is the dancing. When I come to the part I always struggle with - packing that tiny ziplock bag of liquids - it’s an easy decision to ditch the hand sanitizer for perfume. Perfume is like an armor you wear out into the world that makes you feel truly yourself. You want it to linger in people’s memory - that perfect scent that’s created when it seeps into your pores, combining with your body chemistry to make something uniquely you.
When the Uber arrives, I have no trouble recognizing the driver in the photo as the man in front of me. His face unobscured, I can see he has the same smile as in his profile picture. It’s somehow sensual - like he’s keeping a dirty secret - and his lips look full and soft.
“Kate?” He asks.
“That’s me.” I do my best to give him an equally up-to-no-good smirk because flirting is my favorite past time.
As I slide into the back seat, he tosses the last of a cigarette out the window before quickly rolling it up. “I refuse to let you catch a cold,” he says.
How chivlarous, I think, as I catch his green eyes in the rearview mirror.
“No worries,” I tell him. “I run hot.”
He laughs and turns down the radio. “I guess I haven’t gotten over the whole ‘better safe than sorry’ mantra from these past few months. Besides, maybe I can start a new business - Luke’s Luxurious Sauna On Wheels. You wanna be my first customer?”
I laugh and just say “sure,” as I try to play it cool.
“Wonderful. For now, let’s use our imagination. See the cigarette smoke still floating around in here? Let’s pretend it’s steam. Now just take some cleansing breaths and share this air with me.”
I chuckle nervously for a minute, but decide to commit. I close my eyes and we both inhale and exhale deeply, while I wish I could get a buzz off the lingering smoke. I’ve always found the sensation of Nicotine swimming through my blood suspiciously similar to feelings of pure lust. I guess that’s why they say people crave it. As I settle into my seat, I picture me and my new friend Luke in the back of this Escalade, wearing nothing but towels. He pops open a bottle of champagne and pours me some in a slender crystal flute, looking me in the eye as he sucks the overflowing foam from the top of the glass. I feel my cheeks flush and can’t help but grin.
“See? You’re relaxed already - I can tell. Clearly, your first visit to the sauna mobile will be on the house.”
With my eyes still closed I say, “Well, I can’t resist a good deal...”
As we merge onto the highway the conversation hits a lull, but I don’t mind. My imagination works best when I’m at ease in the quiet. I picture myself already in Lisbon, sitting at a tiny, crowded bar, smoking and drinking port, laughing while a man leans in close to playfully critique my Portuguese. Outside, music echoes in the alleyways and, for just a short while, I’m transported before I’ve even gotten on the plane. I can’t believe it’s been two years since I’ve escaped the states.
Before I know it, we’ve arrived at the airport. Luke, my Uber driver that I am now officially on a first name basis with, gets out of the car and unloads my bag from the trunk. He opens my door and extends his hand to help me out.
“Don’t have too much fun without me,” he says, and I laugh.
I tell him I can’t promise anything and then wink before heading for the revolving doors. I immediately start shaking my head, wondering who I think I am when I feel my phone buzz in my back pocket.
“A belated Valentine’s dinner when you get back?”
I can’t believe he’s just texted me through the Uber app. I turn around to see him leaning against his car, phone in one hand while he waves sheepishly with the other. I see an airport cop to the right losing patience with his lingering in the drop off lane, but Luke doesn’t seem to notice. He flashes that smile again, and I yell, “If you’re lucky!” before heading inside.
The terminal is packed. Some people are clutching roses and heart-shaped balloons. Others are dressed like they’ve already arrived at whatever beach they’re headed to. (I’ve never understood this.) And I take a moment just to watch. My fellow travelers are standing shoulder to shoulder in line to check their bags, hunched over next to one another illuminated by the glow of boarding pass printers. There is laughing, shouting, crying and hugging. The world spins madly on before me and the noise is something beautiful.
I smile to myself as I head to security and try to think of a way to make going through it sexy, but I realize even I’m not that charming. Plus, I usually don’t let people see me with my clothes off until we’ve at least shared a drink together. Meanwhile, these security guards are seeing me down to my bones in that X-Ray scanner without so much as a hello. I am not feeling properly romanced.
Once I’m finally able to make my way through the security check and on to my gate, I see that nearly every seat at my terminal is taken. I do a squint and scan across the rows of seats until I spot an empty one, then casually speedwalk over to it to beat out any competition. Luckily, I make it unchallenged and uncerimoniously plop down into the plastic chair, kicking my feet up and onto my bag. I am the picture of vacation relaxation. Seated to my right, a man wears a shirt that reads “Don’t Tread On Me.” To my left, a woman with a haircut that screams ‘I work in a mall salon’ sneezes into a handkerchief. She puts it back into her purse and rests her hand on the arm rest beside me. I am completely unbothered.
When they call for first class boarding I try to look aloof, sauntering to get in line. In truth, I’ve never flown first class before and I’m jumping up and down inside. I picture Tom from Parks and Rec saying “Treat yo’self!” and laugh out loud. So much for maintaining my cool jet setter persona. I think that maybe I can save it if I pretend like I’m talking to someone on the phone, so I take one Airpod out of my ear and examine it like I’m making sure it’s working right before putting it back into my ear and nodding vigrously as if listening to a riveting story.
Once I reach my seat, I abandon my performance in an instance. I look up to the sky for a brief moment to confer with cupid. Luke who? I ask. I then look at my boarding pass and back up again at the number just above the row, to make sure I have it right. Thankfully, I do.
I am 6B, and there in 6A is a specimen of man who looks like he could be Theo James’ twin brother. I’ve spent an embarrassing number of nights fantasizing about the actor as of late, since I just binged yet another period drama in which he also happens to star. I will never quite understand how they were able to make a man and a woman simply touching hands while rowing an old wooden boat seem pornographic, but I would recommend it to anyone. I also argue that at least some of that sexual tension had to do with the man himself. Theo is everthing - simultaneously brooding while tender, statuesque yet rugged. His skin has a beautiful golden tone that makes it look as though he radiates with a gentle warmth at all times. His hair is always perfectly tossled, and his voice is what you might expect an exotic dark roast coffee to sound like if it could talk. And here I am, standing before his equally jaw-dropping doppleganger. I take a deep breath.
Here goes nothing.
I point at my seat and say, “I’m just there,” as coquettishly as possible.
“Ah, sure,” the doppleganger replies, with a rich tone and a lovely accent that I hope I’ve heard correctly. When he shifts, his cardigan clings to him as if wet, showcasing the muscles of his arms, stretched taught across broad shoulders. Once he’s in the aisle, his eyes meet mine as he says, “Here, let me help you with that.”
I let out a puff of air. I was right; he’s speaking with a sing-song Irish brogue, my absolute favorite kind of accent. And what’s more is he has the same smoldering gaze as Theo, but with eyes that are a lovely shade of gray like the Wild Atlantic sea that I imagine him emerging from, flush and dripping. He has the kind of look that says ‘I’m hungry, and I might just devour you.’
To that I say, here’s your fork.
When he takes my bag and lifts it into the overhead bin, I try to start conversation veiled as an exchange of the normal pleasantries.
“Aw, thank you. I really appreciate it. If only I could grow a few inches, I could handle this myself. But unfortunately,” I gesture to my small frame, “I think this is as good as it gets.”
I notice his eyes dart quickly from head to toe.
“But good things come in small packages, right?” He chuckles.
I resist the urge to squeal and instead let out a loud “ha!” that I’m immediately embarrassed of. But I’m also relieved. As beautiful as this man is, he’s also saved me from my typical airplane awkwardness. I’m usually stuck trying (and failing) to hoist my bag above my head before someone takes pity on me and helps. I’m a smart, independent woman, but I can’t defy physics. Thankfully, he jumped in before I could further humiliate myself.
Once my bag is stowed, I slide into my seat. To do so, we have to face each other, our torsos softly grazing one another for few short seconds. In that time, I discover that he smells like oak and leather and bergamot - basically, his perfume armor is that of a very sexy fireplace.
I haven’t even managed to put my book in the seat pocket in front of me - not that I am hoping to get much reading done now that I’ve met my seatmate - when the flight attendant comes by.
“Would you like a cocktail sir?”
It’s 10:30 AM and the plane hasn’t even finished boarding yet.
So this is first class, I think.
“Ah that’d be grand. I’ll have a Jack on the rocks please.”
“And for you miss?”
“Well I guess I shouldn’t let him drink alone. Prosecco for me, please.”
When she turns to make her way to the bar cart, he places his hand on my forearm.
“Hey now, don’t go blaming your poor life decisions on me. I’m but a humble man in desperate need of the cure.”
“The cure?” I ask, geniunely confused. “What’s 80′s rock got to do with this?”
“Ha, right. I believe you Americans say hair of the dog.”
I blush. “Oh, okay. I was about to go on a tangent about new wave for a second. But in this case, I say I’m but a humble woman on vacation, where I make my own rules. And today’s rule is that drinking must begin before 11 AM.”
“A woman after my own heart,” he chuckles. “So are you off to visit your long distance Portuguese boyfriend for Valentine’s weekend then?”
“Nope. This is a solo adventure. Though if I play my cards right, I might head home with a long distance Portugeuse boyfriend.” I smirk, anxious to see how he’ll respond.
“Hmm..But I’m not Portuguese. So how’s this going to work?”
At that quip, I nearly die and go to heaven, but God says she wants me to have a religious experience with this man, and I decide I must do as I’m told. Besides, it’s rare that I meet a guy who can just keep up with my banter, let alone hold his own so well. Every time I serve, he cracks it right back to me. I have to rush back to the net to volley, sweating. I am playing a Serena level flirting game at this point.
“How presumptuous of you, sir!” I say. “I don’t even know your name.”
“Well that’s an easy fix, isn’t it? I’m Ian. And you are...”
I extend my hand toward him, as if I’m about to give him a formal handshake.
I shift my hand abruptly into the air and delicately wave my fingers at the flight attendant like I’ve long had experience summoning the help. I’ll find time to be disgusted with myself later.
“Excuse me, miss, can we get another round, please?” I ask, as I settle back into my seat and smile at the bemused look on his face.
While we wait, I tell him I need a sip of what’s left of his whiskey to tie me over. Carefully, I place my lips right on the spot where his last left the glass, leaving my cherry lipstain behind. I can feel him watching me, so I gaze over my shoulder and lick the moisture off my lips.
And at that, the engines of the plane begin to roar. We surge forward, our bodies vibrating as the force pushes us backwards into our cushy first class seats. I wasn’t paying attention, so I’m startled and instinctively grab his hand. He leans in close and whispers.
“Don’t worry. The takeoff’s the best part.”
We spend the next seven hours of the flight bouncing between this kind of flirty chit chat and peppering each other with questions that are usually considered off limits when first meeting someone. (I can’t in good conscience pursue someone who has anything other than feelings of utter contempt for Mitch McConnell.) We also do some dozing off while leaning on one another instead of airplane pillows because day drinking is tough in your thirties and as nice as first class pillows are, they’re not as good as a warm body. I’ll admit, I also spend some of this time wondering what it might be like to join the mile high club, especially after I’d gotten several glasses of Prosecco in, but I decide that my fear of accidentally sticking my foot in the toilet and being sucked out of the plane is greater than any other urges I have right now.
During our marathon conversation, we discover that we’re both staying at the Palácio Belmonte, a former palace turned boutique hotel in the historic Alfama section of Lisbon. At this point, I was starting to think I was being punk’d. This place has only has ten suites - what are the odds he would be staying there too? Besides, it didn’t exactly strike me as somewhere a bachelor of his age might go to stay. It’s a former 15th century palace and akin to sleeping in a museum, decorated with the art and fixtures of the time, restored using all the traditional techniques - a period romance lover’s dream - but I couldn’t see him being taken with it in quite the same way, so I say as much to him. This demands some explanation other than divine intervention.
“Ah, did I forget to mention I’m a history professor? Trinity’s footing the bill for this one. I’m researching the origin of azulejo tiles, and the Palácio Belmonte is home to Lisbon’s largest installation of them. 3,800 of them, truly massive.”
Though this is impressive and I want to know more, I’m not sure I can process anything properly after I hear the word “professor.” The man is sitting here, casually evoking my school girl fantasies. Cupid, you beautiful little cherub, you.
“No, Ian, you failed to mention you are just as big of a nerd as I am. Please tell me you have some tortise shell glasses in that bag of yours...”
Ding! Just then, we are interrupted by the plane’s speaker system.
“Boa noite. Good evening, passengers. We are approaching our final destination of Lisbon, Portugal. The local time is 10:30 PM. It’s a clear night with the current temperature at a pleasant 68 degrees. We hope you enjoy your stay and would like to thank you for choosing Delta.”
When we land 20 minutes later, it’s as if a spell is broken. In the air, I became made of it - light and unconstrained - but on the ground I feel heavy, faced with the reality of what could come next. Ian is a stranger I met mere hours ago. I can’t expect him to carry on with me in Lisbon. Like Uber Luke, I must tell myself it was nothing more than a fun way to pass the time, to make sure I’ve still “got it”.
I am a strong, independent woman.
By the time I decide that all I need is ten gallons of water and a greasy Francesinha to make me feel better, Ian grabs my bag from the overhead bin and says, “So, do you fancy sharing a cab to the hotel then?“I stand there for a minute in silence, possibly with my mouth hanging open.
He must see the surprised look on my face because he quickly follows up with, “Ehm, it’s the economical thing to do isn’t it?”
I laugh and touch his arm, raising a mischevious eyebrow. “That’s not the only good reason, is it?” I say, trying to let him know that I’m absolutely definitely totally not trying to ditch him.
“I suppose it’ll be a good craic with you in the car as well,” he says, trying to tease. I take a minute to savor the way he says, “cahhr.”
It’s just a short ride to the Palácio Belmonte, and when we enter the lobby Ian asks me to join him for a drink and tapas at the hotel’s terrace bar. Both of our body clocks are out of sorts, so we’re still wide awake and ravenous. We’re also in luck that late night food is Portugal’s specialty. It’s not rare here for you to see people going off to dinner at 10 PM, with some restaurants staying open and serving until 2 AM. And as one of the main reasons I came to Portugal was to eat as much meat and cheese as possible, I am more than happy to take him up on his offer.
We agree to meet at the bar in an hour, after we’ve had some time to unwind, unpack and freshen up. I wasn’t sure I could possibly unwind, my mind running wild with the possibilities the night might bring, but I could try to do the other two. I dump my duffel onto the bed and contemplate putting on the slinky black dress I brought for dancing, but decide against it in favor of trying to look more effortlessly sultry. I opt for black flowy tie-waist pants and a black crop top that shows off the Joan of Arc tattoo on my rib cage. I refresh my lipstain and tie my hair back into a sophisticated chignon, with just a few tendrels loose to frame my face. Before I leave the room, I dance under a few spritzes of the perfume I packed. I look in the mirror and tell myself, you are a glorious redheaded female warrior before making my way down to the bar.
I get there before Ian. While I wait, I step outside and it’s as if my body awakens from a deep sleep. From the terrace, the view of Alfama and the Tagus River is something of story books. The city pulses with life, lights bouncing over red terracotta tile roofs, the sound of Fado music lingering in the cobblestone alleyways, the laughing and shouting of lovers and families and friends as they make their way home or onto the next bar. The night air carresses my skin like an old friend and I take a long, deep breath. It’s then that I feel a hand on my shoulder.
“I don’t think I can wait any longer to do this.”
Ian stands before me looking effortlessly chic and seductive in linen pants and a collared shirt, the first few buttons of which are undone. He leans down and tucks my hair behind my ear before cupping my face and kissing me like we are lovers that have just reunited after years of war. I stuggle to maintain my balance.
When he pulls away, I say, “That was great and all, but what I really want to know is if the rumors are true about Irishmen. Can you make me a great cup of tea?”
He laughs and wraps his arm around my waist, pulling me closer.
“I guess you’ll have to stay with me until the sun comes up to find out.”
“I’ll do anything for a good cuppa,” I say as I slide my fingers into the belt loops of his pants and kiss him again.
Over the last two years, I’ve missed human touch like this, but what I’ve missed even more was the feeling that I was truly alive. Isolated and unable to escape my house, let alone the country, I’d gotten used to living with this hollow feeling - a hole inside my gut that I realized I’d only ever been able to feed with the things and people of faraway places. And don’t get me wrong - Ian is unreal. He’s like Portuguese street art that sprung off the wall and straight into my life in radiant technicolor, his spirit glowing a warm orange, his body buzzing with a quiet intesnity. I can’t wait to see how our adventure unfolds. But even if this thing is fleeting between us, I know I’ll be okay. With the coronavirus finally gone, the only things I need to keep going are a backpack and a plane ticket. Travel makes me whole, and the journey will forever be my first and greatest love affair.
But for now, I’ll see if this can be one hell of a runner up.
Restricted from tousling my hair, outside it is windless, except for the subtle breeze invited to kiss my skin. The sun is shining without overworking, covered here and there by a passing cloud with
all due respect. Winter has taken hold escaping a deep
frost, authorizing the tender annuals to survive
a bonus season.
Inside the fragrance of rose petals magically permeates every room, while the bushes they once occupied sleep deeply in Winter's repose.
Resting comfortably atop scarlet dishes all throughout the house, unboxed smooth dark chocolate is readily available for the taking.
Unapologetically, a man I once knew sits across from me in a living room intensely watching as my hands crave creation. Without asking he gets
up and turns on an unfamiliar sultry song I will be hearing for the
first time. Approaching, before he asks me to dance I will put
one finger over my lips signaling a shush. He will obey
by lifting both arms outstretched. Prepared to
embrace, he will pull me in close and we
will dance to the music for longer
than I suspect
There are nights where we sit knee-to-knee in my dreams
like we're in elementary school again,
waiting for storytime.
but this time the stories are penciled between almost-words.
a glance away.
Hair falls into your eyes and I tuck it behind your ear,
hesitating a moment too late,
my fingers resting along the edge of your jaw,
tilting your face up until our eyes meet.
They say young love is supposed to be all butterflies and reckless abandon,
but you've never been a fan of fairy tales,
so maybe this is enough.
Maybe 'us' ends here,
frostbitten fingers and firefly hearts
flickering for a moment before fading away.
wishes from the heart
i want to open the mailbox
a white metallic prison
expecting what i always expect
bills, notes, the occasional flimsy magazine-
but instead discover flowers
clusters of bouquets,
of roses and daffodils and violets
petals raining on the sidewalk
i want to take one glance
and know exactly
who they're from
This Magic Moment
I take the dress out of the bag upstairs in the bathroom. He is downstairs getting himself together, shaving his face, never has to touch his hair because it is always so lovely-bountiful brown lush curls-he always looks like he stepped out of a Renaissance painting. I can smell his spicy cedar cologne dancing up the steps, creeping under the door as an invitation for me to come down and play. I cannot wait to float on down. The color of my dress is blush pink-just like in the pictures. The shoulders are sheer and puffy and the sleeves are sleek, silk and lace with gems of pearls glued throughout. The dress is ball gown style, flowing with layers of more pink lace from my cinched waist. I am so in love with it, and it slides over my head easily. Fits like a charm. I curl my hair so I look a little like Shirly Temple, and I powder my face, redden my lips and cheeks. I curl my lashes and spritz myself with vanilla. I am his sweet cake tonight. I hear him call my name, and I walk out of the bathroom and towards the stairs. There he awaits, at the bottom holding his hand out for me to take. He looks stunning. Like an old time movie star-Charlton Heston, is it you? I chuckle to myself. I can tell he loves the way I am dressed as well by his smile. His eyelids lower a bit too, like when the back of a dogs ears are being scratched. I take his hand and into the kitchen we glide. He pushes a button on the CD player that is sitting on the counter, and "This Magic Moment" by Jay and the Americans starts playing. He puts his hand on my back and pulls me into him tightly, our chests pressing against each other. We slowly dance in circles, sometimes clumsily stepping onto each others toes, and laughing, but all the while never breaking eye contact. This is a magic moment, because a couple of months prior I was bedridden and could not walk. A couple of months ago, he cried on top of me, while my body seized, and I thought I would never dance with him again. And here we were, dancing like a king and queen in the middle of our kitchen as if it were our grand ballroom.....during a quarantined Valentines day.
" This magic moment
So different and so new
Was like any other
Until I kissed you"-This Magic Moment
That’s the tea, no sip.
I was engaged for six years
without ever trying on a wedding gown
my tits are tired
from the turn around
my sister bought the silk
to make my dream dress
show off that
I'm tripping on romance
I'm the x
questions are the
masturbating to kill time
well I'm a burger
I like it my own way
looking for a knight
any man that
wants to play
just give you those good
fall for my penned
I'm a depression
you'll find me
forgive me for these flowers
I throw them to the next
say girl I've got your back now
the sisterhood of the
you'll find me
birthday candles in one hand
you'll find me 2/14
wishing it was a
a sucker for the wish
it never comes true
cause I'm left swallowing all my hopes down
Best. Time. Ever
I've always liked my secluded writing times, making this quarantine one of the best things that has happened. Quiet time to write, no rushing around to go somewhere or do something. Comfy pants and a baggy sweatshirt are my ideal clothing pieces of choice.
That leads me to my perfect Valentine’s Day fantasy. No where to go. No plans to make. Just me and my novels, enjoying each other's company. Typing away from sun up to sun down. That is my fantasy. In real life, it will be just my husband and I eating junk food, cuddled up on the couch watching a romance movie or perhaps an episode of Caribbean Life. I'll take that, too!