Stellar remnants

In which I define expectations

My night sky is scattered with heart glow – a bunch of flowers, just because; a birthday card with both sides filled; a glow-in-the-dark keyring from a long ago trip; a scribbled post-it in mother-tongue handwriting. 

Over time, a light might fade alongside memory, a dull white dwarf then nothing. But another always arises in that same patch of sky, burning fierce with love. 

One day, I’m scared that those dark patches will stay dark, as every note and card and piece of kitsch crumbles to dust, and she’s not there anymore to set the sky alight anew.

I will not live beneath a dark sky: I will seek someone who sows stars and together we will strew galaxies.

Writing on the wall

In which life hurts

There’s love somewhere in there.

I remember the feel of it, that blanket of trust and warmth and pride and ease. From the inside, it seemed impossible that anything could exist outside the golden globe.

But I’m on the outside now. And I can’t find a path back through the purpling bricks of disappointment and hurt. A wall started stacking the minute disillusionment hit, the minute I slid out of the golden bubble. Each brick whispers a memory, and as I brush my fingers against coarse surfaces, those jolts of remembered pain rip their way back in. 

And I jerk back from love.

My body built those bricks in response to threat: each one shaped around grit that would have scoured my heart raw. Each one is a warning that this love hurts.

To get back to love, I would have to pass through these mounds of past pains, feeling them anew. 

I know that love is somewhere in there. But it might not be worth the journey.

Time warp

In which I wait

Sometimes it seems they’re caught in amber, in beads cast down by a sweating Sun. And it’s a beautiful place to be – all golden light and weightless suspension, and they’re barely aware that the slide of liquid has stilled around them.

And sometimes the amber darkens to tar. Surface long unbroken, they suspend beneath a blackened crust accompanied only by the larvae of petroleum flies and the souls of all those creatures who discovered the afterlife was hot and sticky. 

And sometimes a light catches the tar and it turns to ice. They’re barely visible within, just shadowed potential, but the faintest signs of thaw mark the gritted grey surface. There’s no way to know if they will emerge from Schrödinger’s ice cube unscathed despite their years of stasis.

But each slow drip sounds like hope.

Raw

In which I’m a little sunburnt on the inside

The scent of the sewage works is sliding around the window. Not exactly offensive, just faintly organic. A nasal weathercock that signifies an easterly breeze.

It’s raining on the shed below (and, unsurprisingly, elsewhere), and each drop has its knees bent up, arms wrapped around for maximum velocity, and is making a satisfying thwack-splat on the plastic-wrapped roof.

Through the collisions of kamikaze rain come the sounds of planes, every takeoff and landing a slow, deep rumbling sigh in the contented chest of the heavens.

I can feel all those sounds in my bones, the smells trickle along vertebrae, and that grey light – so often loathed – offers a soft cloud buffer between the world and me. 

I’m a little raw today. 

Last night, I unlocked one of those boxes I keep in my head and spilled its contents out, despite my brain’s best efforts to squirm and wriggle out from under your mercilessly gentle spotlight. 

And under that light, the shadows of the Dread Shame might have faded a bit.

So I’m wrapping myself in greys and rumbles, bathing in the faint scent of sewage, and hoping I’ll have a while before doubt wheedles its way back in. 

Temper, temper

In which here be dragons

Ware the Mind, Gentle Traveller. 

Step not upon a neuron lest she feel the ripple in her web. 

She’s been sharpening her blades, testing them on unsuspecting thoughts, dousing the scene with flammables, and dropping matches with cheerful abandon.

Her tolerance gauge is whistling urgently, her wheel is jammed toward destruction, and she’s out of damns. 

No bumbling backtracking, plaintive pleas, or earnest excuses can be heard over her jaunty hum. 

Best you traverse this path another day.

Rattled

In which I remain a mystery

There’s a kneading in my chest, a drawing out, a punching in, a folding over. I’m not quite sure what the end result is meant to be (and I’m doubtful it’s worth all the commotion). My lungs are doing their best to press on despite the surrounding churn, thin breath in, thin breath out, a constant battle against diaphragm. 

Shoulders are corded tight, ratcheted two clicks past comfortable and tugging up toward my beleaguered neck. They too, appear to know something I don’t. 

It slithered in from somewhere, maybe alongside that dream last night with all that frantic dismemberment and panicked swipes of fingerprints. Maybe it came in as I drew away from the present and slid toward the past without shuffling my thoughts into order first. 

It’s refusing to answer questions in any case.

This feeling is the one that wants to consume everything in sight. Fill all bodily cavities until there is no room for churn or movement or tightness. There is only the sturdy counter press of repletion. 

It always passes, sliding out of my skin and into another’s without any pattern or cause. In the meantime, this mound of flesh I call ‘mine’ will continue to jitter and jolt its way onward, desires and motives entirely opaque.

Steel heart

In which smelting occurs

When I love I leave sticky fingerprints on every surface: remembering something forgotten, picking up something out of my way, gifting small joys like a cat dragging in half-battered birds.

My mother has always said that love is shown through actions, words are too easy. I took her belief and buried it in my heart, folding it again and again until rippled metal shone. 

My mother and I, we love in absolute balance, action meets action in a constant clash of sparking steel hearts. But not everyone forged their hearts this way. I run the risk of bruising or crushing, or of suffocating others with a barrage of gestures that I watch unfold with impotent horror. 

While it is easy to keep words under body arrest, it turns out I have only clumsy control of my actions.

This steel heart consistently runs the risk of stake raising. A gift for a friend that’s more extravagant than warranted, repeatedly putting yourself out until the other person feels a keen imbalance, giving when someone else feels unable to give back.

I’ve gathered ruddy rocks to smelt chains that can wrap this heart of mine tight and slow the pendulum swing. And maybe one day I’ll figure out how to wield it without wounding.

Let there be

In which someone listens

Being truly listened to is like standing on the edge of a sudden void, lit by thunderous sunlight and held in a silence so keen that moisture hesitates to evaporate. 

I fall into that void, cold fingers fluttering behind me like wings. 

And for the first time, I don’t curate my stories. I don’t shape tales to coax forth smiles, I don’t polish my thoughts to present their best side. And I don’t tuck the things that cut me out of sight. 

I keep tumbling, tears creeping into the corners of my eyes to burn at skin.

And then there far below, I see light blossom in the darkness.

Strands dance on lightning feet, orbiting each other before flying outward in a new direction. They hum with pleasure at the feel of the listening: words suddenly caught by an ear and held in the brain with the touch of gentle but curious neurons. 

Those strands weave as they go, forming a billowing net with edges that ever expand as words of understanding and tenderness wrap warm arms around my own. 

The void becomes a safe place to fall, the silvered net a constant assurance. 

All is let go.

Verge

In which I made a decision

I can’t get between my ribs to that stuttering heart.

(I think there might be something wrong with it, but the warranty ran out a while ago.)

My brain seems to have turned into one of those big glass bubbles with ping pong balls of thought flying in every direction.

New thought: utterly irrelevant.

New thought: completely nonsensical. 

Lungs still seem to be working though, focus on that.

There’s familiarity, sure, but also a realisation that there’s so much unknown behind the line you toed. Familiar never felt so strange.

In air cooled by rain long due, risk marries possibility and spins excitement into anxiety’s arms in a nauseatingly glorious waltz.

I can’t find another footing, the next handhold is in the dark, and it’s a bit of a bloody nightmare for someone who likes to satellite view every journey before she takes it.

That’s life, apparently. 

I’m not sure I’ve been designed to the necessary specification to cope with it.