The road is infinite
and our time is so short
the algorithm of missed chances
deconstructing four minutes
of furtive glances
and reciprocated smiles
and a familiar road suddenly
a place for discovery,
for glitches in memory
staring at space where just
the day before there were
a million things you could have
done to materialize a desire,
not even a number,
just a name
and so much would have begun
wishing the matrix would falter
and toss a morsel of source code
onto your lap, fold time into
not the same dream
repeating and ending
at the same intersection where
he and his car disappeared
before he could
snap your heart open
and answer one question
like a conjuring trick
a temptation delivered
and you’re all alone,
with neither beauty nor sin
telling anyone who would listen
you want the one thing so badly
you would pay for it
with the other
The road is short
and our time is infinite
history will repeat
we will one day remake that moment
and this time have it mean something
back in the day it was all I needed
two intentions intersecting
like strangers on a zodiac
and one thousand and one nights
I was Scheherazade and I had time
we had all the time
to make every night different
to make the stories worth
falling in love for
and if the heart breaks somewhere
it was just a casualty of summer
the seasons come back around
so many symbols in our hands
like nuts and bolts
and little firecrackers
or fatal conflagrations
and we ignite at a moment’s notice
now they tell you
the length of the movie
down to the minute
you arrive with just enough time
to get popcorn
and the kissing is dampened
even if it happens
and subtlety is dead
and I’d just as soon drag your
number on the screen towards
the little trash can icon
and forget you
for something you said
and sleep soundly because
everything that breaks is more
expensive to repair than replace
and the little seeds and sea glass
in my pockets
bear no weight compared
to the boulder on my shoulders.
But I come back to this same part
of the road at the same time,
Sometimes in search of you.
When the difficult questions
go home and slip out of their armor
When even the most rigid lines look up
and acknowledge the otherwise faint flicker
they occupy in infinity
When unconditional compassion for
a long buried, never spoken shame
rises from underground
an imperfect redemption
and loneliness runs in torrents
down the streets
like howling misfits
the piano keys disconnect
from the dainty hammers
the dancing shoes are abandoned
survival is an olive and gray Hopper painting
shadows and footfalls are language
and not everyone speaks
There are no messengers
or prophets locked in debate
over what the verses mean
When all conversations are in free fall
gravity being the only truth
Which of these silent stars
is the right word for found?
One day I will see you.
One day I will connect the dots,
the constellation of decisions,
paintings I can’t forget,
moments of déjà vu,
songs that won’t let me sleep,
that make up the continuum
of my life finally leading me
to your cobbled streets.
One day I will deftly put my thumb
over your pulse and listen to
the marching and the drumbeat
from old wars that made you
who you are and shaped your story,
even the outlying voices that
protested your dark surrenders.
To love you properly, not just on paper.
To feel your sensuous syllables
on my tongue and tease
the etymology of every nuance.
Catch the ghost embers
of your past lives on fire.
To drink the Aegean breezes
that gather in front of your
temples and basilicas
and seek, in person,
the poetry of your goddesses
and try to be worthy with my own.
To weep at your sunsets.
To trace the contours
of your twilight haze and
be able to recognize your face
in photographs, from every angle.
and I’m thinking about my
Francophile friends for whom
seeing that icon up close
had been a personal milestone.
They have come far
from the hot, muggy nights
at a cybercafe in Ermita,
agonizing over a high school
paper on Claude Frollo,
to dressing to the nines
and proposing to a girlfriend
at the grand lobby
of a Singapore theater,
still high on the encore
of “Do you Hear the People Sing?”,
to finally getting that Schengen Visa
on their green passport
so they could set foot at the place
that began all that stirring,
all that passion.
I still have the postcards they
sent me, pushpinned to my half-
heartedly maintained vision board.
I also remembered to feel sorry
for myself for not having made it
to Paris yet at age 35, broke
and still not having the prospect
of travel on the horizon.
Does this mean I missed my chance?
There is a scar, a blotted out
paragraph where a dream used to be.
Finally I say a prayer for the
locals and the faithfuls,
for whom this tragedy, I’m sure,
is an infinitely sharper knife,
the aftermath an infinitely
larger wound to heal from.
More than the setting of novels,
but a backdrop of lives, home
of flesh-and-blood memories
now in danger of being erased.
It starts with being around you
making me feel like I’m
wearing a Dollar Tree cosplay
of an efficient, functioning adult
with just a healthy amount of
wit to make me likeable and
an acceptable proportion of cynicism
and grace to make me relatable,
when underneath I don’t know
what I’m doing and I’m about
to be exposed any minute.
It ends with the room you occupy
being too toxic for me to exist in.
And in a shock of self-awareness
I realize this is probably more of
an octopus situation and all your
big words and confident voices
are triggering this ink in self-
defense, murking the waters
and distorting everything.
That maybe I’m the toxic one.
Every next movement is noise.
The space for clarity gets smaller,
and everyone feels more and more
trapped. Until my own state of mind
gets uninhabitable and I cease to be
viable for this social experiment.
I don’t think I belong in this box.
“Sometimes the bravest thing you can do is reach out for help,” said the poster on the bus, advertising the suicide helpline.
I made calls and left messages to a total of 47 unique phone numbers of mental health professionals with facilities I could take a bus to.
15 of them did not call back.
9 of them are willing to have me come in. Cash payments only. A month’s worth of groceries per session.
23 of them work with my insurance but aren’t taking new patients.
But at least I did “the bravest thing”? I imagined myself a soldier in the trenches, not gaining a single inch for days. I hadn’t bathed and had been eating nothing but junk, so I guess that fit the metaphor a little.
The exchanges of fire raged on around me and I stayed in place, resigned to my fate.
It was when the bottom of Lake Michigan became a disembodied voice telling me to jump that I decided to try being brave again.
I now have a weekly appointment at a decrepit, windowless building on the West Side, with a social worker who walks with a limp and has the most soothing voice I have ever heard. A voice that can cleanse sentences of judgement and rearrange meanings. He tells me, but in different words, that he knows how brave I have been.
I reckon he’d been through some war himself. He and I are both soldiers.