Riley Ferver is Going to Save the World. (or, it isn’t going to be a bedroom time machine)
For Ellie. You will find it. You will, you will, you will.
It has come to my attention that every young person in a certain stage of life must experience some capacity of willing displacement in order to keep themselves alive. Children join scouts and go camping; it satisfies them. My mother incessantly quotes Eat, Pray, Love while laughing at the idea of her friends on Disney Cruises. We paint our lives in such a way that they look open, whether that be to adventure or hope or beauty, or maybe all of it, and then we hold off from the act of experiencing it for as long as we can. After all, how many garishly memoir experiences can one life hold? Don’t we want to do it right? If you’re going to find your “it,” after all, wouldn’t you want a perfectly timed sunset in the distance and every word of a prewritten New Yorker Arts and Culture piece flowing from it? We practice calculated restraint until it nearly kills us.
When I first saw the city I was nineteen years old. It was May and it was muggy and thick. I took my ultimate joy from the idea that I was running away and even if somebody had half the mind to care, they couldn’t stop me. I wore a lacey top and shorts I’d altered from a pair of my father’s old jeans. I’d begun taking a liking to the way my body treated clothes like a swimming pool. Through lack of choice, my nineteenth summer had determined itself to be the sort of period in a young person’s life very suited for baselessness, and in that I wanted every part of me to match. My internship had fallen through. The reasons were well enough beyond my control that I could blame God, so I did. Prayer was never a concept I could fully grasp–the act of speaking to an enclosed space felt mocking towards the mortality I hadn’t asked for–and despite my best effort to muster up my courage and do the damn thing, I didn’t seem to have it in me to approach God face to face. A bus ticket cost six dollars, though; I had a friend who had an empty apartment and a couch. If nothing else I figured my nihilism and I might enjoy the Smithsonians.
The question of why we leave, why we must, is one I have asked rather persistently, one I’ve attempted and failed repeatedly to loosen my grapple on. Ellie was leaving, this I knew with certainty, that when I moved back into school her apartment would not be her apartment, rather one overtaken by characters foreign to me. I knew she was not coming back, never fully, but it was also never my plan to stay either, so how could I of all people be a hypocrite? I’d read Aristotle, about motion and animals. I thought maybe I could be one of the smarter girls in my class, set apart, taking a small chair at a table that seats one, lecturing to a wall painted with faces. I knew my family would love me, but I knew they didn’t know what to do with me. School would start again eventually. Ideally, Ellie would call, but I wasn’t too naive to know there was a likelihood that she wouldn’t. She left because the city got lonely. I leave because I want that. Better, I assume, to shed singularity among the masses, where there may be some sliver of hope for connection. I figure cities walk a tightrope of humanity: it’s one thing to be independent and another thing entirely different to be truly and thoroughly alone, but worse even to be alone enough in the way I was, thinking that you must be the first person in the universe to experience an emptiness quite this vast…after all, I thought, if I wasn’t, how is anyone still here? All this to say I’m writing about summer and loss in the same way that I always do. I’m also feeling rather wordy, so this is the time to dig out the cheap wine. Drown yourself. It’s chalky at the bottom.
Contextually speaking, I did not come into the summer dreaming of a grand exit. Despite personal denial surrounding my return to the hometown I swore I would, in fact, never be returning to, there were attempts made to aestheticize the experience. I took my leftover pills from school by the water at night and wrote bad poetry once they hit. I hid alcohol under my mattress only to promptly dig it out and drink it all, rapidly. There were halfassed job interviews, forty thousand step days, antique stores, whathaveyou. People talk about regression, but coming back is more of an Eden: a sudden, unprompted nudity. No matter who you are, who you may have turned into, if you were a lonely child, still you will be a lonely adult. So, as it was with most lonely children, I decided the crown jewel and singular redeemable trait of my town to be the library, and my sole task for the summer was to read the physics section in its entirety. It was one shelf. Singular.
Youth is plagued with the notion that they can be the one to save the world, each one individually. Most people can medicate themselves out of that. I could not, though I have tried rather copiously. I say this so you will know that never did I actually think I could build a time machine. I said I’d try, but I’m not even sure that was the goal. I’d like to sleep through summer, yes, but my answer to that wasn’t forward motion. I wanted to go back. I’d read enough memoirs to know that devastation, utter isolation can be aided but never cured. Why move forward, save for the fact that there was nothing else to do? Why go forth into the wreck willingly? Why not relive it again, and this time do it right?
Theoretical physicists have for years debated the possibility of moving backwards. Particle accelerators make it so, in theory, we should be able to move forward (with recognition that we’d be stuck in whatever future we travel to) but there seems to be no scientific, logical way to move to a set past. I had a lack of dedication to the cause. I discovered the same thing that every scientist in the past hundred years has: there is a missing link. We don’t know what it is. I read the books and returned them and slept for three days, waking up to sob over the phone to Ellie. “I am grieving so much.” I couldn’t enunciate the extent at which she was a part of that. The next day, I printed the time machine equations and put them in the chest under my bed. I packed a bag of clothes and a book about space travel. It wasn’t going to be a bedroom time machine, it could be Mars or a city of similar volume. I left.
It’s a very good thing to be young and in a city, I think especially when you’re poor. I suppose everyone does it once, whether they mean to or not, but I held my consciousness of the whole grand scheme in a very high regard simply because I knew exactly what I was doing and I was doing it with a very calculated purpose. I thought of what I’d tell my father, if he ever chose to call: I figured it must be making me smarter or more interesting or prettier, because every girl here had the kind of look to her where you know that if her degree falls through, modeling may have been the more viable option anyway. I texted my friend, “everyone is so kind here,” and she called me, confused. “The men in the street call me differently than the ones at home.” I’m not stupid, but I am gentle enough to be mistaken as such. Anyway, it’s all a novel kind of lostness until you look down from the apartment balcony and watch, as your vape clears, two people fistfight in the alley below. The neighbors downstairs are fighting. Somebody’s screaming and you can’t place any odds.
I have yet to find a home. It’s been a theme and it will be one. But what I can find are places. This is to announce that I spent thirty minutes entranced on the second floor of the Air and Space museum. Yes, I cried at the planets, because everyone does, but the space suit made me numb. Thirty minutes I stared. What was it–something about the way an empty fabric body bag had seen more of the world than anyone gaping at it ever could? I couldn’t help but ogle, let my mind linger at what Neil Armstrong must have thought coming back to earth. How can you come back after seeing so much? Is there a way to come back or forever will I be stuck feeling as though I grew out of something? Can a person grow out of their world, the whole world? I went back to the apartment late and applied to a space camp on a whim, hoping they didn’t see timestamps on applications. Alabama. I’d been a camp counselor before, it wasn’t too far a cry. I’m not the kind of person who could stay in the South forever, I know this. But I’m not the kind of person who can stay anywhere. I figured I’d never left the east coast–it wasn’t going to be a bedroom time machine or a trip to mars or the sheets I’ve had since I was eight and I couldn’t couchsurf forever either–for two months, it could be Alabama. It wasn’t not a space suit. It could be Alabama.
You know how this is going to resolve itself. If you are reading this essay, you know I’m not going to get it and you want to see how that plays out, even if that may be a bit morbid. Instead I’m going to do that thing writers do–you’ll curse at me–but I’ll tell you that when I was eleven, I decided it was my destiny to be a singer. I couldn’t yet play guitar, but I figured out how to arrange my fingers so they mirrored a melody, wrote five songs and a letter to my parents and church leaders apologizing for leaving, but I really had to go. I put my dolls in a box at the top of my closet, sat on my bed, and sobbed. I took the box down. I brushed my hair. I still have the letter and it’s probably best that I never went ahead with my plan. I can’t really sing.
One summer ago, fresh into adulthood, I bullshitted my way into a ticket to Alaska with a church choir. The idea of seeing the world and saving it seems synonymous to me, likewise seeing the world and it in some way saving me. I think there is something unexplainable so intrinsically wrong with me, and if there is no God, if there is nothing, there is still the world; if I am still here I can still be saved. I thought Alaska would take that place. The vision was something along the lines of me lonely on a mountain, screaming my problems into the open air as I hiked up, coming down empty and free. I guess I should have prayed more, or not used the words bullshitted and church in the same sentence: the point is I got covid seven hours before the plane took off. I cried until I slept, and I slept three days until I woke back up to mourning. It’s a party story now until I’m drunk. If I’m drunk I’ll still swear it would have fixed me. So no, I wasn't shocked when I didn’t get space camp, if not only because summers and I seem to have a sort of track record. I did not grieve. I stole the keys and some hair dye, stained the shower and cleaned it, and then I went outside and thought about killing myself again. I called Ellie. I read myself poems and smoked and gagged down the side of the balcony. I went inside. The red around my eyes settled before my friend even woke up and I waited another day to tell her.
But I was in the city. I could not grieve inside. I smoked every square corner of the wharf, waiting twenty minutes for a swing chair and proceeding to not move an inch from it all day. I caught my reflection in a boat mirror and was shocked by my brightly dyed hair, my face losing its childlike puff. Adulthood had gotten up and shaken my hand and stricken me across the face with the other arm. I looked away from the water, in fear. I looked just like anyone else. A parent pulled their child away from my secondhand smoke, a man attempted to seat himself next to me. He may have been kind but I was no longer safe, not to or from anything. Later that night on the phone I whispered to Ellie, “I’m not going to save the world.” It was the first time I’d ever told the truth on the matter and it tasted like vomit on my tongue.
Ellie cleared her throat. “I know. But I think there should be something that means more to you–for you–than that.” And I couldn’t tell you every word after even if I wanted to, but I remember how her voice got, subtly quieter and steadying. I will tell you the world cupped me in its cracked hands and the city lights were dim and flickering, car horns blared, people screamed. It was a place. Anywhere was just a place. It wasn’t going to be here, and maybe it wouldn’t be anywhere at all. The only thing acting as a savior had ever been me, constantly, unknowingly moving myself forward. A body is the only time machine, and constantly I am putting myself in drive and considering slamming the brakes. I am not a Christ. I am a nineteen year old girl who is losing the ability to play pretend.
Ellie asked me where I was. I told her I wouldn’t do anything rash. I still don’t know exactly how she meant the question–I find my travels so frequent and unsurprising that I forget to give updates. I’d been in the city for nearly a week, and time had moved so strangely it could have been a month. I remembered but an hour.
My sadness is senseless, quite honestly. I may be the only person I know who runs away with this frequency. I also know that when you’re running, things get blurry. It isn’t fair to wish the world would slow so I could see it but I’m going to wish it anyway. I’m going to wish that when I’d moved out a summer ago I packed my room in full so there was nothing to feel bad that I couldn’t go back to. I wish I could sit. I wish I’d said better goodbyes to people, right now to Ellie. She’s pensive, very thoughtful. I know she’ll be fine and likely happier. I know this wouldn’t have mattered any more or less but I wish I could have said goodbye sober, looked at her and told her to be safe. Cities can be dangerous. I know she’ll be safe. I still wanted to tell her to be safe.
In a lot of ways I grieved, I grieve, myself. There is a lot I could have been, or at least I imagined so. I spent the earlier part of my teen years feeling caged and now the latter part rebelling. I feel like somewhere there is a middle ground and if I find it, there I'd find me too, much older. I haven’t met myself in a while. I don’t look in the mirror much. I’m a size small and I don’t like what I weigh. I wonder constantly how unattractive I must look, nicotine in some form dangling off my lips like a pacifier. Nineteen is a giant toddler, so selfish, so aware.
I spent most of what I think deep down I knew were my last couple days in the city in that same spot on the wharf. Retrospectively I’d like to be the kind of person that thinks it’s sweet that even in the busyness of the area surrounding me that spot was always open, but I think it was probably just the fact that nobody else had any desire to sit in the direct sun. I walked around, realizing I’d picked up lyrics and street signs and I grow into things fast. I could get around the city with relative ease. It wasn’t shiny, it wasn’t anything. It was a city, and I wouldn’t see it for the first time again in many years. Neil Armstrong and Ellie and the city and me–every story is the same, every aftermath unspoken.
There is so much I’m going to experience, so many people I’ll meet and so much I’ll lose, and maybe that’s all life really is. Maybe that is the culmination of youth, why it hurts so bad. I am watching all of these lanes converge into one, but the loss and the gain don’t ever fully cancel each other. I’ll get back to school and meet people and miss Ellie. I will love my family but live with the inability to live with them, refuse affection from my mother but want to plead with her to give me a chance, people think I’m nice. I will not eat dinner but my friend will make two servings in case, call me and tell me she’s waiting. I’ll try not to forget my cigarette butts. I’ll try to move quickly so her food doesn’t get cold. This place and all of its tourists–slow goddamn walkers.
Every city is a small city if you’re expecting something to stay vast, and the anticipatory nervousness surrounding it is not a friend that lingers. You will get lonely. You will want humanity again. Likewise, every man is just a man and I am just a girl without a frontal lobe. The city didn’t bore me but as July approached with its vapidity, I began to experience the nostalgia that comes with comfortability in a place: I missed the smell of cheap detergent. I applied for positions in the town where my parents lived. It was time. There was a desire to see the space suit again once more before I left, but I never got to it. Knowing how novel emotion is, though, that may be for the better. I never said I was going home. The whole point is that there is none. But in the way that I can catch a cheap train and sell all my clothes, the ways in which I am young and summers will stay long and dire, if it kills me, I will find it. I will, I will, I will.
So in this, there isn’t a conclusion, no definitive answer so long as I’m alive. This isn’t another essay about killing myself, but it isn’t exactly not. I’ll keep on going if I can, for as long as I can, growing as old as I can bear to. Maybe someday I’ll sit somewhere and realize I’ve grown up from nineteen: my “photos” and “baby photos” folders all convoluted and all the things I’ve seen will have montaged themselves into a sort of unreadable humid mist, every kitchen the same unreflecting stainless steel. I might not remember it, but I hope I see a lot. I hope the beauty, the knowledge of it, doesn’t fade too quickly. That will be enough. Now it’s enough. Maybe it’s all that ever has been enough.
Um. Hi. It's been a minute.
I don't really come here anymore, at this point I feel like I'm a bit old and it's all a bygone from an era that I've successfully lived, loved, and love still, but don't feel the need to re-enter. Something I've found about writing is that there is no poet like a sixteen year old girl and I've mourned that fact heavily. Every so often though, I'll write a piece (like this one) and remember how at sixteen or seventeen I would have anticipated comments and critiques for it. So please comment. Critique.
I turn twenty this year (crazy.) I'm getting a degree. After that I'll probably get another one. I'm trying to be a professor, for whatever that life update's worth, and I focus most of my time on mathematical philosophy. If I knew you, I love you. If I have yet to know you, hi. I'll probably take this down in a few days. I don't know if anyone will see it, I don't know if anyone's still here but I'll use my old tags and be curious. Maybe there'll be something else posted like this someday, maybe not, but everything else will stay here. A relic. It's a pleasure to be young.
You promised me a forever. I tried so hard to not let myself believe in that forever you painted for me. I knew one day you’d leave like all the rest and I knew that when you did, it’d hurt me like all the others. But maybe I haven’t been hurt enough, or maybe you meant too much to me, because I believed you like the fool I am.
I believed in that forever where we’d still have a place in each others’ lives. One where we’d still meet up and text and talk to each other. One where we’d still keep in touch, as if we weren’t going to entirely separate schools 382 miles away from one another.
You gave me hope that it wouldn’t end like all the others. Where I wouldn’t be waiting, always waiting, always hoping that you would still want to stay my friend. And I was bracing myself for that ending, because you meant the world to me, you still do. You meant so much to me and it hurts knowing that I didn’t mean as much to you. It hurts knowing that I simply cared for you more than you cared for me.
I let myself hope for a single second that you’d keep your promise. And just as I began to believe in it, just as I began to open my heart, just as I began to envision a future where the two of us were still friends, you broke your promise.
Because now I’m waiting for texts from you, whole days passing in between our messages. Now when I reply, it’s like you don’t want to be a part of the conversation. Now it’s like you’re forcing yourself to be my friend. And I have to wonder, what did this friendship mean to you? Because if it’s that easy for you to walk away from it, the laughs, the smiles, the fond memories, then maybe it simply meant nothing to you. Maybe you aren’t the person I believed you to be.
It hurts. I’m not going to lie, it hurts so incredibly much. Because now I’m left wondering if maybe I did something wrong. I’m left asking myself if you even still care for me as you once did. I’m left grasping at the question of whether we’re still friends or not. I knew it would destroy me, and that’s why I didn’t want to let myself believe in a future where we were still friends. And yet, you made me believe and I fell for those sweet lies, drunk on that taste of forever.
I wanted you to be a part of my life, I wanted you to keep having a place in my future. But I guess you didn’t think of me the same. I guess you were ready to say goodbye sooner than I was.
But do you know what hurts more?
Knowing that you hurt me and still holding onto you. Because I’m still waiting, I’m still hoping, I’m still letting myself believe. You put that knife through my heart, but I’m the one twisting it deeper inside.
I can understand you wanting to end it. But if you’re going to do it, then please just do it. Please just cut me off, because it’ll be easier that way. It’ll be easier for me to grieve, for me to mourn, for me to begin to heal.
We Only See Each Other at Weddings and Funerals
Their family reunion is abruptly set into motion by Ba’s death.
The last one was for a wedding—Shi Jinghui’s, actually—which ended sourly in divorce, so their track record for good moods and family bonding is clearly superb.
Shi Jinghui scrunches his nose in mild disgust as a film of dust implodes into the air of his father’s office. He waves his hand quietly in front of his face to avoid the debris.
They probably weren’t poisonous spores. Probably. Considering his father, it was a very real possibility.
/He always did say we’d be dead if we stepped in here alone/, Shi Jinghui thinks sardonically to himself. He sighs, tucking his face further into his cardigan. /Maybe some things never change./
“Old man really must have kicked the bucket if you’re in here,” a unsubtly delighted voice says from behind him. Shi Jinghui doesn’t have to turn to see the newcomer, closing his eyes instead and letting out a quiet huff of amusement.
Zhang Yuting lounges into the room, barely sidestepping a precious artifact from Egypt that had been so carefully maintained on their father’s private bookshelf. Shi Jinghui watches him silently from his perch on the desk as his adoptive brother languidly tosses various items onto the teakwood floor in a silent inspection.
“I reassure you, he’s rolling over in his grave,” Shi Jinghui answers. “If that’s your intention.”
“He’s too busy playing poker with Stalin to care,” Zhang Yuting says. He pauses, then fully turns to Shi Jinghui with an eyebrow raised. “Was the mothering personality triggered by coming back here, or are you still like this all the time?”
“Ha-ha.” Shi Jinghui deadpans. He opens his arms to the other man, who lets out an amused breath and obliges to step in and receive a brief hug. “Still blunt and charming as ever, aren’t you.”
“Things from the Academy hardly change,” Zhang Yuting says, stepping back to lean against the windowsill. He lets out a deep sigh, scanning the room with narrowed eyes. Shi Jinghui recognizes the bitter nostalgia in his gaze—the resigned disdain, the numb disbelief. He wonders if the others will think to head to the same forbidden room.
Or if they’ll even decide to come at all.
After several moment of heavy silence, deafening with the buzz of both of their minds flitting through memories a decade ago, a creak sounds from the doorway. Shi Jinghui turns to look back—then jolts to himself at the sight of the figure standing with his hands in his pockets.
“Room for another in this party?” Cheng Bowen drawls icily. Shi Jinghui watches as Zhang Yuting instantly tenses from his spot, his posture tightening from his loose draping over the windowsill into something more reminiscent of a fighter preparing for a next round.
He can’t say he blames him.
When neither of them answer, their brother raises an eyebrow.
“No,” Zhang Yuting says at the same time Shi Jinghui answers, “Three isn’t too much of a crowd, is it?”
Cheng Bowen’s eyes gleam in thinly veiled amusement at this as Zhang Yuting turns to Shi Jinghui with a displeased glare. Shi Jinghui elects to ignore him, instead turning away to pick at his nails in forced nonchalance.
Zhang Yuting lets out a resigned breath, then turns back with a steely look to Cheng Bowen, who tilts his head.
“Then I’ll just let you two … catch up,” he says tightly, rising from his spot. He gently touches a hand to Shi Jinghui’s side in parting before he levels Cheng Bowen with another irritated glance, taking his leave and leaving behind an awkward air.
Shi Jinghui doesn’t know if he imagines the softening in Cheng Bowen’s expression. If it’s just selective perception. After all these years—he’d like to think—well. Nobody in their family’s ever been good at reading each other. Much less Cheng Bowen.
“I didn’t think you’d come,” Shi Jinghui offers into the silence.
“Neither did I,” the other man answers. No elaboration.
Shi Jinghui hums at that. He doesn’t know what else to say, despite the incredulity of the occasion—always the mediator, and never his own voice when it came to his family. Even though his siblings would disapprove of this conversation itself.
“Where’s Xixi and Gu Kang?” Cheng Bowen asks. His face, his tone—reveal nothing about his feelings on the topic, even as Shi Jinghui’s hands ball into fists on the desk.
“ … Gu Kang,” Shi Jinghui answers, letting out a weary breath as he crosses his arms, “filed for divorce eight months ago. And Xixi, I—he got custody. So.”
Cheng Bowen mouth curves downwards at this.
“But anyways,” Shi Jinghui says stiffly, hopping gently off the edge of the desk. “That’s neither here nor there. I hope you’ve been—well. With your … job. I suppose.”
In another room, the family’s mansion’s housekeeper—their android of many years—dusts the wall next to a dimly lit oil painting in the likeness of a young girl poised on a velvet chair, the right side of her mouth quirked upwards.
The girl in the painting above the fireplace, with a shock of bone-white hair against a sanguine background, does not answer to Yan Siyuan’s hums as she dusts.
sticky note poem
burn the backs of eyelids
& shower shadows slower,
why is your love so narrow?
do my echoes linger or am i pretentious?
collarbone skins, relentless forgiving; i crave the lips of a deity—
there's got to be more the world's not offering me. i promise to pray
if you're willing to become something worth more than the broken
dreams of pennies i'm collecting.
i come back once every 4 months to write about the same damn thing
She had the face of a wax model made for someone else, the second draft that was almost there but missing something crucial. Was it emotion? Imperfection? She had the face of something otherworldly, one that you couldn’t fault but couldn’t love, no matter how long you looked.
The sky was overcast as she made her way down to the mailbox. It looked like it should’ve been humid and warm, but it was cold: the aesthetics of June set in the reality of a Long Island February. She had grown up in this weather, having stomped and galloped and trudged on this same path to the mailbox every day for the better half of seventeen years. She supposed it felt different today because she knew she wasn’t coming back tomorrow. Sure, there was winter break and next summer and next year’s winter break, but that was different. This was only home for a few more hours.
All her life, she had blamed her unloveable face on the eyes that perceived, on the size of her hometown and the fact that the boys here had colorblindness to anything that wasn’t blonde or blue. She had worked herself to the bone, excelling in every sector that wasn’t romantic attention, all with the steadfast conviction that it would pay off, that someday she would feel worthy. But standing at the mailbox, staring into its emptiness, she felt the first trickle of doubt that the world was small, that the same eyes existed in every face, and that hers would always only look that way. It was Sunday. She was leaving tomorrow.
flowerpower learns about the origin of the universe
everyone always thinks i’m talking about god.
i’m starting to think his image is just too similar to flower’s,
form too invigoratingly passionate and
i just don’t know what i believe in sometimes so
i’m screaming about hands gripping
plasma membrane screens like toddlers trying to keep safe,
the phantom press of her body leaning into mine.
whispers “this is what i’m here for.”
watching hair fall staticy onto the back of her
abyss colored sweater and how her high top
laces have to wrap around her ankles to keep her in her shoes.
i ask flowerpower if she believes in anything external
and she says yes, love, but she doesn’t say what it is.
we’re digging through storage bins at her dad’s place
looking for posterboards. thirty-one out and icy.
we don’t want to walk to the store.
i ask flowerpower what the bloody hell she’s even doing,
what science project is worth this much trouble,
not just accepting a fail and moving on and
you already got into college; i ask flowerpower
what she’ll even report on this late.
her perfume smells like frustration and the density of hollister
polos, how you wait for them to cut off blood flow to your chest like
seeing your best friend in a jessica rabbit costume on halloween, but
everything around us is science, she says.
she points to a spider on the wall and i back up.
it is science. i am science. you and me and the spider and the ocean
and that’s pretty encapsulating too. if that’s all there was i’d believe in
things so much easier, wouldn’t you?
flowerpower does her project on the lid of a
rubbermaid and says that’s the grittiness of being nowhere…
the way we’d walk for miles in summer and be in the same town, the way we’re
trying on each others clothes and the vulnerable practice of
cinching and swallowing and disagreeing on who’s who in it.
letting her tags brand me with each letter
spelling out on my flesh: i am your best
friend. this is my memoir of loving things deeply and leaving them,
prying pasts like leeches.
flowerpower comes home three weeks later with a c+ and
cusses loudly like a god that no teacher would care that the project filled her.
she grabs me and swings us around on the breaking wooden porch
letting it dig into my feet. ground me, i want to plead.
let me be grounded. let me stay.
she points to the ocean. you see that?
you see it?
you know it’s all there is?
1: i knew the stars, once.
before city lights swallowed the last of the starlight and spit out a black, black sky
a sky that beckoned and beguiled until I became one with its shadow
i can hardly recall the stars, anymore; hardly recall anything but the darkness that swallowed me whole
5: i see the constellations in dreams, withered and weaving their way into my consciousness
I wonder how a memory of beauty can exist among the ruins of destruction.
and so Memory Lane has become a wasteland of dying stars and long-forgotten dreams
how i wish time could be turned back to those shooting stars once more
the visions of stars, though bright, are faded and blurry inside my head, and i know they would not accept me anymore
10: and yet, and yet. here i stand, arms open and eyes unraveled.
welcome to another poem written by us! i cannot believe how long it took me to get around to posting this but thank you so much to everyone who participated!! much love to you all, tagged in the comments < 3
On Ms. B and Aching for Love
It snowed, heavy. The kind of snow that covers the earth and leaves roads slick and me wondering if summer has ever actually happened and if it will ever happen again. I am a summer person. I tell this to my friends and family; I live by the beach, I am a summer person. Cause and effect. I wasn’t born here but the water, it’s so encompassing. Despite my attempts to meander into fall or spring, this life, this town, that godforsaken warm weather season has seeped into my veins.
My beach is a dirty beach. Last summer the sand was covered in cicadas, littered like clothes on a bedroom floor. When they all washed away, it was still dirty. The scents of sex and day-old perfume linger in the air all seasons. The water is filled with sewage and assorted waste from the nuclear plant down the street. Warnings are posted on every tree to "swim at your own risk" and I always swear I’ll never go in but still somehow I find myself wading up to my shoulders on a rare July day when it’s too hot to do anything else. I like to go so far out that I’m only a little blip of light, that the water soaks through the cutoff patterns of my jean shorts, curling them up and tattooing them onto my skin. I always have a farmer's tan in summer, no matter how consciously I try not to. That water is frozen over now and the path is unshoveled. I feel oppressed. I feel safe. I want to go back and keep inching toward the sun.
I had a teacher once who said I burned like a Southern girl’s first winter North. I think about her constantly, about those words and how my state won’t get claimed by the North or the South, how nobody wants the middle. Because of this, I have spent the eighteen years of my life trying to sway to one side of things, trying to corral myself. I am a summer person. I walk towards the big star. I wonder if when my old teacher looks up, she remembers me. My family listens to my findings and they tell me to go outside, clear my head for a while. The snow is fun, they say. I remember I am three in a family of five. A perfect middle. Passion, my teacher told me, is a burning that takes the shape of ice.
So: it snowed, heavy, and will snow again in a day, but while the roofs on my street melt into the first drops of this season’s baywater, I will at least try. I go out, letting the shoveled piles swallow me up. Farther, farther into the distance and suddenly I am nothing but a tiny blip. The snow melts through my leggings, freezing them onto my legs, and I think about what it might take to crawl out of this perfect dragging rhythm I have. Would anyone really notice? Would anyone really care?
thirteen point five
decembers are the hardest of all.
often i lie down on my back
and let my blood turn cold let my blood
freeze to death.
i've never been less content or more lonely-
there are no more beautiful things.
sometimes i cannot seethe at my misery.
sometimes i look at you and my heart gets so full
sometimes you look back and i crumble down
my fingers ache for a touch of your skin.
my heart longs to be loved back.
the winter air smells like cheap old mattresses and
stale death. i cut my wrists and bleed out red
i look inside my throat and claw out veins in disgust.
in the night
sometimes i dream of cradling you in my arms
sometimes i wake up and cry.
(is this what Yeats said was love? that bastard)
love is a laughable thought and yet
i write in the dark on yellow dog-eared pages hoping
love will find me hidden away
in the folds of your flesh one day.
words are blasphemous when love is god)
sometimes I smile quietly at you
sometimes you smile back and slowly,
slowly i break down into tiny little pieces-
digestible, (and perhaps slightly) loveable.
(Yeats always did know what he was talking about.