the collapse

There’s an inevitable moment that arrives
with everyone you’ve ever loved.
After all the late nights,
the phone calls,
a scroll of endless messages.
It comes after sharing secrets in the early hours
trading laughter and tears,
discussing joy and hate,
building each other up when they’re down,
loving their good days and caring on bad ones.

You give of yourself.
Your stories,
your fears,
your secret desires,
your nightmares,
everything you’ve lived through in a day.

Then it happens.
The collapse.
The words that can’t be unsaid.
The moment that can’t be taken back.

You feel it in your chest,
something breaks inside.
A hairline fracture in the tenuous connection
to the trust you’d held for them.

You’d gone against your instincts
(keep it to yourself,
you’re too damaged,
you’re broken,
they won’t be able to handle it,
just pretend to be whole),
reeled out your fears and love and trust,
wrapped them around this person who cared,
just to watch them cut the string
and feel yourself blown away
like dust in an icy breeze.

You did not deserve to be dismissed.

pulp fiction

We lie on a mattress in a dim basement
Light from the fireplace and a single bare bulb
There’s whiskey in glasses sitting on a milk crate
And two beat-up lawn chairs nearby.

There’s a movie playing against the wall
The hum from the projector’s fan behind us
Images dancing over our skin as we moved
Dust swirling in the darkened space.

And as we lay together with beads of sweat forming,
You talked about what you’d do with this room
About the corner you’d build just for me
So I could curl up and read while you worked.

We laughed and planned out this house together
The garden in the back, paint colors for the hall
Talked about making breakfast on each other’s birthdays
And where we’d put the Christmas tree.

And on that first weekend, we danced in every room
Made love between boxes, on floors and counters
Making sure we claimed each place as ours
And knowing we’d laugh at the memories.

I don’t laugh at the memories.
I just think about that house. Your house.
Her house.
My heart still calls it ours.

I chose the paint for that living room,
Bought the mugs in those kitchen cabinets.
And the curtains hanging in your bedroom
Were to block the morning light at my request.

I helped build the fence around that backyard
And I planted the flowers by those front steps.
I talked you into moving your couch
And helped you pick out that coffee table.

I wonder whether you think of me.
When you decide where to put up your Christmas tree.
When you look at the kitchen counter you lifted me onto.
When you see those flowers bloom.
When you work in the basement by the light of that bulb.
I wonder whether you ever think of your house as ours.

To the Man For Whom I Wrote My First Poem

I have written so much about you
that I have run out
of poem titles
and writing surfaces
and ink in my pens.
But not words.

You never had enough.
Words. Love. Attention. Commitment.

I hate that I spent that last night in your arms
and everything seemed simple and happy and real,
and knowing that memory is tainted now
because now I realize you were already gone.

I hate that you arrived before I was ready.
All the days I asked you to be somewhere
the jokes you made about how you never got anywhere fast
and for this, to break me, you were early.

I hate that you wore the shirt I bought you.
That I relived the memory of you surprising me at work,
laughing and giving me fuck-me eyes in the dressing rooms
not knowing you would never do it again.

I hate that it took you so little time to say it.
Three years ended in five minutes
when you dropped every flaw I had
onto my floor for me to review when you were finished.

I hate that you stood in the doorway of my bedroom to apologize,
six feet from a wounded animal, but you didn’t dare step closer
because I might get sad, or rage, or go wild,
and you knew you drew first blood.

I hate that I didn’t mean enough to you to bother softening the blow.
You knew the words would sit on my skin like slow-burning acid
but you threw them on me without warning,
because once you’d discarded me, I wouldn’t matter anymore.

I hate how fast you ran,
once I said those steady words to release you,
that only a few seconds clicked by
before you weren’t there anymore.

I hate that you didn’t come back.
I sat perfectly still, listening to that melancholy ticking,
waiting for the sound of your return
and for hours, not allowing the tears to fall.


I hate that after everything,
I still seemed “cold” to you,
when all I ever tried to be
was the girl you fell in love with late at night,
who stood on the catwalks and let down her hair for the first time,
who acted like she could take on the world and win,
and who was breathless when you leaned in for that first kiss.

I just tried to be the girl who waited in the shadows covered in paint,
whose spine you traced with your fingertips when no one was looking.
The girl you broke into places with after hours
whose hand you held as you climbed the stairs in the silence.
The girl who laid on the floor and looked right up at you,
who you said you were addicted to.

I hate that I changed for you.
I gave up little pieces, chipped away parts of me,
carving and maneuvering,
making myself smaller,
trying to fit into your life.

I never belonged in your life.
I hate that you didn’t tell me.


I feel —
I think.
I think you want someone who isn’t me.

You think you want me.
You do not.
I do not function normally —
I overthink and overanalyze.
I do not make myself clear.
I never know what I want —
I never make it clear what I want.

I am greedy.
I want everything.
I want all the options in the world.
So I cultivate them all.
I make sure that I can have what I want.
I am selfish.

I think you have a good heart–
I think you are a good person.
But you have a hamartia.


Your fatal flaw.
I can see it, but you can’t.
It will be your undoing, but you refuse to look.
You who have eyes, but do not see —
You who claim to see everything so much clearer.
You are blinded by your flaw.
You might love me —
You might think you love me.

Cannot process.


< / >

why she left

This year, thoughts of him didn’t cross her mind.
She’s busy these days;
The men in her life are cut from less-complicated cloth.
She chooses them more wisely now;
Asks them who they are, what they want.
“They all want the same thing.”
Only some of them admit it, and some don’t.
She learned that from him – to ask.
He could never answer.
It’s why she left.

This month, Valentine’s Day passed without him.
If he’d crossed her mind, it would have been
With a sarcastic twist of the lips
The dry humor of knowing he wouldn’t have remembered.
You know, if he had still been around.
He would have been with someone else that day.
He would never admit that.
It’s why she left.

This week, he was on her mind.
It was a bad week, and she remembered him.
She wanted to run, but that didn’t take her far enough.
Don’t look, don’t check, don’t go there.
But she went anyway, and he wasn’t there.
He’d never been where she needed him to be.
He would have tried to explain that.
It’s why she left.

Today, he’d left her mind again.
She was relieved to know she was back to normal.
As normal as life ever got.
It was the middle of the day when she figured it out.
Suddenly she thought of the watch, with the beautiful inscription.
The only time he remembered in six years.
He never knew how important those words were to her.
It’s why she left.

Today is his birthday.




Inscription: “In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.” -Dante Alighieri

About Last Night

Yesterday, I fell off the wagon.

By that, I mean I took a flying leap off the wagon, only to grab on tight by my fingernails at the last second to keep from hitting the ground.

Last night, I drove to the college he teaches at. I don’t know what possessed me to do it. As I sat in traffic waiting to take the exit that would bring me there, a place I used to go so often, I told myself a thousand times not to. I told myself that I should drive past that exit and continue home. To avoid the heartache that going there would inevitably bring. By myself in my car, I said out loud, “Don’t. Go home.”
But I didn’t. I sat through the traffic, and drove onto the campus.

I was surprised to find I still knew all the roads by heart, still knew which turns to make to get to the places I wanted to see. It was like I’d been there just last week, instead of six years ago.
The funny part is, I wasn’t going there to see him. I’d had a bad day, I’d been crying; the last thing I wanted was for him to see me and think I was a mess these days. Running into him personally was not on my list.
I wanted to see his truck.

It’s been so long since I’ve spoken to him, so long since I’ve seen his face or smelled his scent or heard his voice, that sometimes it genuinely feels like I made him up. That he doesn’t even exist anymore, or maybe that he never did. It seems odd that someone who was such an impactful and important and emotional part of my life just….isn’t in it anymore. It’s strange that someone I used to share everything with is now someone that I avoid talking about and most days, avoid even thinking about.

The first place I went was the theatre building. I took a tiny little back road to reach the side door, where the loading dock was. Where he always parked, the back tires of his truck bumped up against the edge of the ramp. I figured at 630pm, he’d probably still be in showtime and would be spending late nights there, so I expected to see his truck where it always used to be.
It wasn’t there, so I turned around in a parking lot and drove up the hill to the scene shop — the workshop where he designed and built set pieces. I approached it slowly, hardly daring to breathe, looking for his truck. I wondered what I would do if I saw it. Drive past it? Get out of my car and touch it? Leave a message on it?
It didn’t matter — the truck wasn’t there, either.

So I sat there for a short moment, looking at the building where he fucked me bent over a table saw and where we had a threesome, the building where I showed up one night when he was working late and surprised him in a trench coat and heels, the building where we laid naked on a futon mattress on the floor and talked about getting married someday.
But the building was dark. He wasn’t there.

I left campus and was relieved that I hadn’t cried. I had expected to, assumed that the rush of emotions would break me down the way thinking of him usually did.
I pulled up to a red light, radio on, and suddenly saw a silver truck two lanes over from me.

My heart stopped. My whole body froze. I felt paralyzed. What if that was him? What if I had just driven around his campus, only to see him at a red light? What if he saw me? What if seeing me made him decide to call? What if he wondered why I was in this area at all?

I couldn’t see into the cab of the truck from the angle I was, and I didn’t move forward. When the light turned green, I drove off and didn’t look back. It probably wasn’t him, to be honest; there are a hundred thousand trucks just like his and the chances are small that he and I would end up next to each other at a light. But after seeing that truck, I was seized by an intense desire to get as far away from there as possible. I wanted to be somewhere, anywhere else. Far away from this town and this campus and the memories it held. I felt stupid for going in the first place. I felt crazy. I felt like a stalker. I felt dirty. I felt out of control. I felt like I’d failed myself by falling off the wagon and caving to impulse.

I didn’t realize I was driving 95 miles an hour until I was almost home.

I went three years without knowing or asking anything about him, and last night I went to his workplace. I left without making contact with anyone, without anyone seeing me, and without anyone knowing I’d been there.

I still feel like I failed myself.

My knuckles are bloody for the first time in years.

The X Files

There’s this thing, situation, person, that I never quite let go of. And the funny thing is, I didn’t even realize how much of it I was still holding on to until I went digging through past communications and went on such a wild ride of emotions that I suddenly felt totally out of control.

It begins the way a lot of stories do: with a guy. I’ll call him X. There was a way that we used to communicate that I’d all but forgotten about. I’d forgotten the cadence of his speech, the line breaks in the way he wrote, the chaotic subject changes and vague references that made up who he was. I adopted his style when I talked to him, in a way I’ve never matched anyone’s before or since.

I spent a long, long time being angry and depressed and ashamed. Years of trying to bury all of the emotional turmoil, trying to forget and move on, only to have it come up again at unexpected moments. I hated who I’d been when I was with X; was scared that he’d come back into my life; hated him for what he made me into. I was self-righteous and furious and terrified, and every time the subject came up, I felt anxious and enraged all over again.


Today, I reread some old communications I had with X; I don’t know why. I do this to myself sometimes. Maybe to remind myself of my past mistakes so I don’t repeat them, don’t fall into the same traps.

Looking back through all the things he said at the time, I believe that he was a genuinely unstable person who desperately needed help. I think that all of his issues — and probably a fair number of mine, that I picked up along the way — stemmed from a depression, a self-hatred, a loneliness, a fear. I think he was truly unhappy and needed someone to love, hate, laugh with, lash out at. I think he needed just one person who would be all of that love and hate and joy and rage for him, all at once. Someone who could take the punches, and care about him anyway. Someone whose buried rage and depressed insecurity could match his, step for step.

I think he found that in me.


I was not in a good place emotionally when I met X. I had been involved, for months, with a man who was not allowed to be with me, who was not good for my mental or emotional well-being. I’ll call him P. At the time I would have claimed that I was fine with the status quo, and that everything was just the way I wanted it to stay; at the time, I would have meant it. Looking back, though, I was just trying to convince myself that the way P wanted things was the way I wanted them. That I didn’t want anything more from P even if he had asked me for it.

Truth is, at the end of the day, P was using me, and I was letting him, and I was deeply depressed and insecure and confused about it. I buried it in bravado and detachment, pretended I was in control, pretended none of it mattered. Pretended so much and so often that I really believed it. Fake it until you make it.


X was the first person who both knew about P, and called me out on it. I had all this false bravado about the situation, made jokes about it like it didn’t matter, and X would just look at me and know. He knew I was in love with P, knew I hadn’t figured that out yet, knew I’d never admit it even if I had.


He and I had what is still, to this day, the strangest relationship I’ve ever had with another person. There was this mutual unspoken agreement not to get attached, not to acknowledge feelings, not to discuss anything too deep or too personal. If something painful or emotional came up, we talked about it in a self-deprecating, aloof kind of way; we were really into irony, and the humor in suffering. We told each other about important things and pretended they meant nothing. We mocked each other if one of us got too emotional about something. Feelings were for the weak; we were too strong for that. I think we loved and hated each other in equal measure, underneath it all. Like we were simultaneously concerned about and disgusted by each other.


In rereading our conversations, pages and pages of text, certain lines stand out a lot. Coming from X, the boy who was so detached and cold, some of the phrases made me angry at the time because I thought he was mocking me. If I said something important he’d make fun of me; if he said something important I’d brush it off. Now I wonder if those moments were him searching for a cue, some sign that he could finally be genuine with me. I think maybe he let me lash out at him so that he wouldn’t have to admit he’d said something vulnerable and real. I think he and I spent so much time trying to pretend that we didn’t care about each other that we didn’t know how to emotionally connect by the time we actually wanted to. We got stuck in this emotionless, fearless, loveless trap and we couldn’t get out of it once it snapped shut on us.

And then, much as I’ve blamed him for this over the years, we both spiraled completely out of control.


It’s easier to see it now. Now that it’s been years, now that I have some distance. Easy to see how a depressed, confused, lonely girl would fall into step with a depressed, confused, lonely guy. Easy to see how two people who were starved for attention would act out to catch each other’s eye. How they would bond over their mutual bitterness towards people in general, how they would both go out of their way not to get attached to each other. X and I had both suffered enough by that point; I think we felt safe around each other because we were equally cautious and cynical of the other’s motivations.


By the time we finally had sex, it was just another thing we did. No emotions attached, no kissing or cuddling. We never talked about sex unless we were in the middle of having it. We never touched each other in public. We never held hands, not once, in the entire time I knew him. We never kissed in front of anyone. It was careful, it was cynical, it was calculated.

Not that it stopped us from talking about it. We had intensely passionate, overwhelming, aggressive sex, and we didn’t hide that. We showed off handprints, hickies, bloody claw marks; let people check out the injuries on our shoulders, hips, backs. (Later, when things got worse, I stopped showing people and made every effort in the world to hide the marks, which was precisely the wrong thing to do; it made people suspicious). We made it obvious that we were sleeping together, but gave vague answers about it whenever someone asked directly. We thought it was funny, I guess. Just looking for attention. Looking for a way to prove to each other, to other people, that we were wanted and desired. Looking for a way to prove it to ourselves, by shoving it in everyone else’s face.


I thought I’d buried all my feelings about him. I’ve spent so long being angry at him, being afraid of him, feeling panic setting in when his name is mentioned, that I’d forgotten that I actually did care about him. I strapped down any fond memories of him, such as they were, until they almost didn’t exist anymore. Somehow, reading the words that he had typed all those years ago brought them back out for me to examine. I experienced a rush of overwhelming sadness that I hadn’t been expecting. I don’t know why; if I felt sorry for him, or for myself. Maybe I regret what I did to him, what he did to me; the effect we ultimately had on each other’s lives. Maybe it was the first time I actually looked a the situation and actually took some of the blame. I guess it made me realize that my life wasn’t the only one turned upside down at the catastrophic end of our relationship. I’d known that, in a logical way — but I’d always been so self-righteously angry that I’d never spared a feeling on it before. Maybe I needed distance for that piece.


Hidden in the things he wrote are phrases from movies, references to conversations, links to websites I forgot we used to visit. It was like opening up an old photo album and breathing in old memories you forgot you still had. There were the bad ones, obviously; I’ve lived with those in my head for years now, they’re embedded forever. But there were a surprising number of good ones; moments of understanding, moments where he’d make a reference to something I’d told him in an offhand way. His own way of telling me that what I said mattered, that he was listening, that he knew the things I’d mentioned were a bigger deal than they appeared to be — buried under a facade of total indifference. I didn’t see it at the time. I genuinely believed that he hated me, that sex was just this vengeful hate-fuck and nothing emotional. But maybe he cared. Somehow. In his own way.


That’s not to say anything he did was right. I feel like it’s been long enough, now, that I should work on forgiving him, but I’m still not quite there. I still can’t bring myself to that point. I don’t forgive him. Maybe I never will.

But I can see my side more clearly now. I can see that I also did damage to him. That when our own personal apocalypse arrived, I also handled it very poorly. I went off the deep end, too — just in a different way. We reacted separately, selfishly, refusing to help each other and in some cases making life more difficult for the other, and that is a perfect summation of our relationship.


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dream sequence

I am sitting in total darkness.
I am trying not to breathe too loud.
I’m surrounded by silhouettes.
My eyes are adapting to the dark.
He’s out there.

All that stands between us is a line of doors.
Five doors.
I’ve locked them all. It doesn’t feel like enough.
If I move, he’ll hear me. He’ll know.
I stay perfectly still —

His fist on the first door.
I take a breath. Quiet, now.
Be silent. No movement — he’ll see.
He knows I’m in here.
He’s coming —

The second door.
I suddenly wonder how old those locks are.
I wonder if they were built to lock out this much hatred.
Somehow I don’t think anything is.
I peer through the dark —

The third door.
I wonder whether I should move.
He’s stronger than I am; his hands grip much harder.
I have reason to know.
He’s close now —

The fourth door.
Breathe. Breathe.
Don’t make a sound.
Maybe he’ll give up.
He never gives up.

I hear his footsteps.
He’s close now.
I can see the shadows of his boots beneath the last door.
He’s only feet from me now, doesn’t know it yet.
Too late to run.
I should have run —

The last door flies open.
I’m blinded by the light that pours in.
I see the outline of him coming for me —

house always wins

The house always wins.
…..whose house?
Love’s a gamble we all want to make
but no one wants to admit
they might have chosen wrong.

Happiness is painted differently
when you change who holds the brush.
They’re all the right choice.
They’re all the wrong choice.

You were sawdust and ladders
salt kisses on empty beaches
quiet looks across crowded rooms
and secrets in the shadows.

You were hotel room keys
late night phone calls
a single flower, a kiss to the neck
and making them all jealous.

You were fireworks,
amusement parks and sunshine,
singing in the car with the windows down
and mint-chocolate milkshakes.

You were wine while cooking,
debates on books
weekend breakfast dates
and curling up on the couch.

I can see these threads,
different futures, different lives;
beginning here, but ending over the horizon
where joy might exist, or not.
I can reel the narrative out so far,
and then watch then curve and disappear;
choices are just guesswork, after all.

These lives laid out before me,
King – Jack – Ace,
awaiting my choice for who completes my hand,
and yet I’m hiding behind a Queen,
blending without belonging,
taking chances,
hoping they don’t notice that
I was never one of them;
that though they are skilled players,
we are not playing the same game.