burning down the highway skyline

my lover brings me almonds. he feeds me- carefully, not lasciviously- beneath sunlight, starlight, no light. we share moments stretched thin like grains of sand slipping through glass curves. we own these dark spaces lit blue-black by the dashboard's glow. we spill sticky red wine on clean white sheets, smeared across the bed like blossoming wounds. and he knows i am hurting and i know he is fleeting, but we hold each other like time is running out. like we are both young. like we believe in endlessness. i am weightless where he anchors me; i am infinite beneath stars. the two of us study bones and practice language and worship words with every breath. i am perfect beneath his hands. he is flawless above my mouth. as the two of us lie still against ancient rocks. as we mimic what we have learned from restless books. as i say to him,

"i want to watch the world end with you."

earthbound, not injured

when i was young, i learned the names of human bones. i could take you apart in pieces and reassemble the etymology of your body. they taught me the names for hollows and curves, the ridged edges of each vertebrae, the interlocking framework of our fingers. but we lie in the dark together and i think of empty classrooms. nothing explains this- no textbook revision, no structured syllabus. my education fails me; you are made of magnets. graceful implied lines that draw tension, pulling me into orbit. angles i can't calculate, reversal of gravity beneath my hands. you teach me muscle memory in seven minutes, carve new paths across my sternum. and i am earthbound, free-falling, writing every fucking night.

 

personal cartography

all you need to know is that there is a scar on my face, i'm starting a new life, and i have a friend who is helping me.

 

a year and the pacific

i was working as a palliative care nurse that year, licensed and loaned for communion with the dying.  those hospital beds became homes, you know, sterile islands for survivors shipwrecked by their own bodies.  by degenerative neurological, by autoimmune, by AIDS, by cancer.

and he had a photo, yellowed with age, propped up against a cheap vase filled with crumbling flowers.  he was young in this picture, all mirrored shades and dirty hair, his arm slung around a pretty slip of a girl with pale curls and straight teeth.

"kelly," he said once, his eyes glazing over.  "is she coming back soon?"

and i told him yes, then dosed him with morphine.

i listened to grandparents calling out for their children's children, heard the aged and weary talk to invisible monsters in the clutches of dementia.  they told me about past lives, old friends, favorite haunts, estranged families.   i changed catheter bags and took confessions.  so i waited for him to tell me about kelly, but he never did.  and she never came.

non-hodgkins lymphoma took him like a bullet to the chest, pressing against his lungs with fluid malignancy, slowing down his breathing.  i watched his legs purple with bruises that blossomed overnight like vivid, terrible flowers.

and while he slipped in and out of comas, i waited for someone to come for him.  maybe even kelly, her hair silvering with age and lines of grief etched around a mouth that once beamed so brightly for the polaroid camera.

but his bedside always stayed empty, an unread invitation returned to sender.

and the last night i heard his labored breathing drag to a ragged, painful crawl, i asked him,"what do you need?"

he said, "give me a year and the pacific.  i will find her again."

 

write drunk, edit sober

forget my legs around your hips, forget your lips against my ear, forget my teeth against your neck. and replace you with the taste of strangers in my mouth, searching every night in the bottom of bottles but i can never fucking find it.  i have never even come close.  i can only know the hard edges of motel card keys, the smell of smoke in my clothes, your creased and folded obituary. i read it time and time again.  and i can't get this any clearer, can't fight this off- it's six months later and i am still always fucking graveside.  thinking about the time you said, mimi, i want to spend the rest of my life with you.  no drink lasts long enough.  no night is savage enough.  nothing ever comes close and i wake up to bruises on my arms and blood in my mouth.

monsters in the glass

sometimes it is the things that are not said between the things that are, a glimpse and a crevice of what could have been and who you could be.

my mind is a remote that skips away the possibilities.

you might as well be anyone.

and if our fingers ever click into place like metacarpal puzzle pieces, do not be alarmed.

we are only ever malleable metals shaped by need- press onto me.

i will bend before i break.

 

sound the alarm, i've got a fire in my chest

you are beautiful beneath my fingertips, around my body, against my skin during those off-kilter moments when your mind is probably a world away but next to you my heart is pounding.

i feel like a third grade kid at her birthday party when i look at you. and i want time to solidify like glass windows and trickle down slowly, minutely. it makes my vena cava knot itself into a noose. i know that i could never have you forever. so for the moment, as my face tries to find a home against your shoulderblades and my fingers clutch at yours' like a child, i imagine putting on my birthday girl tiara and seeing everyone throw balloons and streamers.  you're my day of celebration, the moment that makes me grateful for being alive.

here in this bed, my heart is swelling past my rib cage.

if i had the power to make people feel this way about me, i'd be immortal too.

you said "i love you" and i really believed you

all lights are out and all bets are off.

we stand in the driveway of my childhood home, your lean lines a sprawling angular darkness against my car, my awkward hands anchored in pockets. i stare up at a face i've known for five years, loved for four, and resented for god-knows-how-many. here we are finally strangers because my tongue has swollen to a clumsy, unfamiliar mass and i am tripping over words that are an alien language. the semantics of relationship.

autumn winds are rising and this coldness is no longer restrained to the dead space between our bodies as i fumble for your fingers and they latch together like bad puzzle pieces.

remnants of childhood corkboard that has been pressed, pushed, and creased in the corners.

 

you wrote a story that you sold to me

today i read a love letter written by ronald reagan to his wife, commemorating 20 years together.

the whole article in question focused on the art of writing love letters, the importance of communicating romance with pen and paper. the author wrote 52 notes to his wife over the span of one year.  and i couldn’t help but feel like a spectator at a zoo, fingers pressed against the glass, outside looking in.  a mythical creature behind inflexible walls, dragged in from the wild to be watched but never known.

then i looked up the term “cynical romantic,” because i can think of no better description for myself.

there is always this part of a person, after crushing defeat, that says i will never do this again.  and you think you might have lost this capacity to believe that love is ever anything but an illusory compilation of desire and fear.  that everything eventually becomes water in your hands.  that there was never a lighthouse in the storm, just a desperate mirage that pulled you in to become wreckage against unknowable cliffs.  and you know that if you stop romanticizing it for even a minute, the gold paint will peel off slowly to expose nothing but lead- a broken and cheap imitation that fooled you for years.

so i realize that men who get close to me have always wanted something from me.  and i think i could give myself away in pieces, and never think twice about being hollowed out by loss.  that i could feel nothing, and treasure nothing, and never be fooled again by the ruinous perception of need.

and this is why i am cynical.

then, there is this other part.  this part that excavates itself from me in truetype fonts.

i have been writing love letters my entire life.  i have penned poems, verses, stories about this one person, this phantom love.  boys have pressed against my body, and their fingers have interlocked with mine, but no one has fit the prose, not truly.  no matter how much i wanted them to.

i remember a time in my past life, when i said “i want what i write.”

and he sneered, “fiction?”

my heart broke then, as it always did, as it always has.  and i stopped writing that year because everything i typed felt like a codified lie. the one about a girl who has been searching for love between dog-eared pages in a library book.

but deep down- and certainly bruised, so much worse for the wear- there is a fire still burning in that hollowed-out space.  i know that i will wake up one morning beside the man whom all these love letters were fated for.  and he will not be fiction, but flesh-and-blood, an imperfect human capable of perfect love.

and this is why i am romantic.

how to eat your own flesh

i keep waiting to feel it, but it never comes.

i keep waiting for it to hurt, but it never does.

you pack up your things in makeshift boxes, jumbled hurriedly in haphazard piles. she's waiting by the door, keys in hand.

you ask me if this is mine, or if that is yours, and how would i like to split those. i respond like an automaton, hollow and hardwired for monosyllable.

and i think about the day you moved in, the day we drank cheap boxed wine and started painting the walls lime-green. and we gave up, laughing, so you played grand theft auto while i slept in your lap. it was 20 degrees outside, but we stayed so warm. we ordered thai food and i wore that blue dress, but the paint was still drying when you pushed me up against the wall and slid your hands up my legs. and that dress was ruined but we were still drunk and and everything was okay. that night, we slept on the living room floor and you whispered i'm gonna love you until the day i die.

you are dead now, and so am i.  she waits for you, red lipstick and tight jeans.  and i wonder with no real curiosity if you will love her too. if you will make her a home in your arms, if you will put a ring on her finger. she steals guilty glances at me while you pack the last box of clothes. she says i'm sorry and i know that she isn't but none of it matters and i barely hear the sound of your keys dropping against the kitchen table for the very last time.

years ago i would have wrecked these walls with blood spray and holes in the shape of my fists.  years ago i would have lined up ten shot farewells to chase down the memory of you.  that bitter fucking pill.

but now it is november, and texas has never been quite this cold.  i'm alone in the living room, staring at that half-painted wall.  and i am waiting for the wound that isn't there, the heartbreak that never comes.

untouchable, unbruised.

i wouldn't change this if i could.

i wish i was a little more delicate

dreaming those nightmares again.  of being pressed against him, our fingers intertwined, while he says the words that puncture wounds in my vena cava.  and then i'm mimi from my previous life- bewildered, hurt, wanting.

but now i wake up without cold sweats, without the fear of loss.  i just wake up alone and think about getaways.  think about traveling somewhere- anywhere- just a plane ticket in my hand or the gas pedal beneath my feet.  think about leaving the imprint of my body against hotel room sheets, kissing strangers, weak light through cold windows in the mornings.  i want to go, go, go.  i've been hearing people say "i need a vacation" my whole life, and now i finally understand.  fifty states don't seem like enough space to weather my restlessness.  i want an ocean at my back and a long road at my feet.

sometimes i don't even recognize myself in the bathroom mirror.  a different person in a different time. happier and more free that i could have ever been.  disentangled from a life of being rooted, stuck, and always wanting.  now i am a monster in the glass, and i will never have those chest pains again.

these are times that can't be weathered and we have never been back there since.

 

staying alive

when you were young you lived in stagnant ways, with bottles piled around your pillowcase and my underwear littering your dingy room. sold your soul for motel card keys.  the stage was set to collapse.  it wound you up and drew you in. you with those stained sheets and bloodshot eyes. rubbing your wrist. fumbling with your hair. my anemic arms around your waist and the die had been cast to spill.

when you were young, you kissed me on the mouth and pushed back my unwashed hair so you could feel the pulse of my neck below your fingertips. because we were rarely alive. it tied you down and made you cry. you with those tired eyes and indifferent air. veins like crystal. mouth like starving.  and those nights i was not enough, our skin strained and i tore my hair out screaming as you pushed me off your bed and took whatever could fit into your syringe. shook it off with pills and booze. it filled you up and sucked you dry.

when you were young, you lived in a hospital bed. and you memorized the sterile ceiling tiles in order to replace my smudged lipstick smile. sold your body for anesthesia, the city was built to crumble. oh my god the world was carved in so much white, so much fucking white and fluorescent lights- it drew you shut with corset eyes and i screamed and i screamed and i fucking screamed. with a voice that was not loud enough. a voice that was not strong enough.

close the windows, love. i don’t want to see the world outside. i don’t want to hear the paramedics shouting or watch the glow of the ambulance follow us here. here where the nighttime is cool and soft and your eyes can finally open. here where i can hold your weightless bones and give you my ragged, primal breath like we are young again. it holds you still and stands you up. you with the hollow body and exploding veins.

we will survive. we will survive. the stage is set to start again.

 

when two become one

i once knew this man and woman.

real snazzy, power couple in our social circles. they had been dating for a few years; not long enough for a ring but certainly nothing to scoff at either. he did something-or-the-other for a living and she was a so-and-so, i can’t ever remember and i’m not sure it actually matters. all that remains when i think of them is the glow on her face when he put his arm around her waist at parties, the way his eyes crinkled when he heard her laugh. we all wanted to be them, the golden couple, the trophy pairing. all of us shitheads at the time, single and broke and miserable in our shoebox apartments, sat alone eating takeout at night and thought about how much better our lives would be if we could fall asleep with someone at night.

so some of us fucked strangers and some of us dated fleetingly. no one ever had the staying power that they did. when they moved in together there was a housewarming party, all soft lighting and catered food and a tv the size of my mattress. i brought a pineapple upside down cake that no one ate.

at the party she pulled me aside with a quizzical look etched between her eyebrows. she told me that the weirdest things were happening between them. just last week he found his money and stocks in her bank account. two days ago she went rifling through her closet for all her underwear, and found them in his bathroom cabinet. i offered rational explanations with consoling noises (although there is nothing rational about seeing your best lingerie stuffed in a box of q-tips). in the end she laughed it off and poured me another glass of wine.

but nothing ever seemed quite right with them after that. it was hard to see, like making out a landscape through fog clouds, but that couple started to fall apart at the edges. they still made their rounds through bachelor parties and baby showers, smiling and telling all the right jokes, but here and there the discrepancies in their perfect relationship made sly appearances as well. one time they showed up for a dinner party wearing each other’s’ clothes. once during a movie, his hand seemed to be fused to her shoulder for about forty minutes, and i watched the two of them prise and tug at his fingers anxiously long after the credits stopped rolling.

the rest of us couldn’t help but talk about it. we made jokes to ward off how uncomfortable it had become. where it had once been cute to refer to them as “two of a kind” and “made for each other,” it became awkward as they took on each one another’s features. she called me at 2 am once, sobbing and raving. she had woken up in the middle of the night with the strangest sensation in her jaw, as if it no longer fit properly. she examined herself with horror in the bathroom mirror, realizing that it was his teeth in her mouth. she and i had never been that close, so i didn’t know how to respond and began to make conversation about the weather.

soon after we found that we could no longer avert our eyes when he carried her purse and applied her lipstick, could not pretend to not notice once their legs became attached at the ankle and they fought over which shoes would cause less agony. he was cold and scathing when she complained that she could never use their shared arm for any of her own needs. she yelled at him and called him a dick in front of everyone at a restaurant when his food allergies caused their neck to swell up. we stopped inviting them to our get-togethers and they stopped calling too. what was worse than watching the slow, inevitable fusing of two bodies and two lives was realizing that they could not communicate any better for being one person.

last i heard, they had gotten married. i suppose they realized that they could not leave each other, and resigned to a legal commitment to match the physical one. my friend told me that his cousin told him that the bride cried through the wedding night all the while her husband complained that her tears were preventing him from watching tv properly.

i sent them some candles and an apology for not being able to make it to the wedding. i received a thank you card with a nearly illegible message. they had taken liberties to cross out each other’s’ words to replace with their own sentiments until the whole card was a mess of ink, and the only sentence they could agree on was “we hope that one day you will be as lucky in love as we are!”

i burned the card and stayed single.

 

i will swim to you

i am thinking of you, you know.

of your body heat like liquor, pouring over me.

the lines of you sprawled across my bed, your perfect symmetry.

i am thinking of the pressure of flesh:

the weight of you, pressing me hard-

dragging me down deeper and deeper.

your hands closed around my tiny wrists, pinning me against cold walls.

the way you move against me,

my breath ripping from my lungs.

of your mouth, ever-hungry and beautiful-

seeking me in darkness like a weapon, bringing me to my fucking knees.

your heartbeat drumming against my ribs,

our call to war,

as i say "i need you closer."

i am thinking of the drip-drip-drip of that bathroom sink-

your fingers tangled in my hair, pulling hard,

and then we are only speaking in sweat and moans,

that guttural language of your teeth at my neck, my nails at your back,

your savage hands gripping my hips.

and how i taste you-

god, how i taste you

- in this pitch-black vacuum.

i am thinking of you, you know.

barely alive & nearly up all night

on clear nights like these, i think will keep driving and never stop.  that i will keep going until my tires burst and fail, until my engines die, until i'm broken down on a lonely stretch of freeway.  and i will pull myself out of the car and walk the rest of the way.  i don't know where i'm going or where i'll be, but i know that it is never far enough away.

and i can write love letters in weak fluorescent light, paper strewn across cracked formica tables in shitty diners across the country.  i can slump over in dark green vinyl seats, shiny and worn with the imprints of a thousand tired travelers.  i'll drink my coffee black and by 10,000 miles i won't even notice the chest pains.  i will stay up night after night, smoking way too many turkish jades, writing stories about brake lights and cold mirrors.

and from new york to l.a., i will carry you with me every step of the way.  i will always be back there, behind the italian restaurant, laughing in your arms while we waltz to muzak.  i will always be caught in that thunderstorm downtown, when you laid me down against cold, wet rocks and kissed me as if you'd die without it.  i will always be trapped in the passenger seat, screaming as yellow headlights wash across your face and the last words you ever said to me play on loop like the soundtrack of my heart slowly failing.

sometimes the only way to handle it is to romanticize it.

the needle and the damage done

ten more steps toward you, and she freezes in horror.

her eyes refuse to recognize what she is seeing, but her mind knows it is real, and that tall crown on your beautiful hair is made of flames.  it wreathes you, chars you, and you are screaming but she cannot hear it through the sounds of buildings toppling and car alarms jangling.  glass crashes against glass and sickening crunches echo all around her.

she is locked where she stands in the eye of the storm, paralyzed by horror while your skin melts like waxwork dribbling and the sickening red blisters give away to black wounds blossoming across your chest like burning flowers.  you are screaming until the very end.

only then does she rush to you, knowing that it is too late.  the glass slices her feet, and smoldering fires blister her legs as she tries to wade past her own chaos.  she parts time in molecules, trying to run but it's not fast enough.  it's never fast enough.

she reaches for your burnt fingertips, straining desperately.

five steps away, another car explodes and the shrapnel flies in every direction.  it catches her in the chest, drags her back through piles of broken clocks.  she screams your name but then the rubble comes down and now she knows nothing now but hot pain and black.

accident when we needed

they buried you on a sunday.

so many hands were touching me, so many consoling pats and kind brushes and arms clasping and mouths moving, all i could see were tears and lips and teeth. the funeral was a many-limbed monster of grief and i was its prey standing in silent repose. all i could do was stare at the ground. wet and sinking slowly, the dirt became mush and the mush became quicksand, and all the stringy, glossy ropes of grass were not enough to keep you from being dragged beneath the earth. i could not save you from falling.

the grief monster wreathed me with its fawning arms and told me anecdotes about you, jokes you used to make and sentiments i might never have heard. the monster smiled with its multiple mouths, said you would always love me. it gathered up its purses, umbrellas, prayers, and left in a flurry of tears. it had places to go and people to see, homes flooded with yellow light and warm hugs upon return. someone to hold and fall asleep with at night.

i stood beside you and thought about bones.

about your clavicle, where it met your sternum. about the hours i spent lying tangential to your body geometry, the hours drifting like dust particles in hot sunlight. you always framed me perfectly. when we were young we memorized each other with fingertips, as slowly and seriously as reading braille. written on your body were secret, invisible texts. i studied with hands and you taught me with skin. with muscle. with bones. your beautiful limbs like sun-warmed marble spilling moonlight across dark sheets, the topography of my love.

now your bones were falling away from me, and lifetimes would pass before time and rain and change could erode away the earth to bring you back to me. by then they would be cracked and yellowed with age, unrecognizeable by wear. and no archaeologist would ever know that you were a man who loved a woman, whose body imprinted hers through a thousand sleepless nights.

bones and rubble and dust and dirt.

lancelot & guinevere

i watch your figure pause in the doorway, curves cut out of the liquid yellow light like a bad advertisement for menthol cigarettes. brightness surrenders to the firm lines of your flesh so that i am gazing upon the shadow of a shadow.

i am sitting here foolishly, hands twisting the blanket that brings me no warmth. the only heat i have come to know is the friction between your body and mine. living like this has altered my senses, shifted my tissue, and rearranged my circulatory system.

i am madly in love with you, but you will never know.

"he'll be back in twenty minutes," you remark, distant in your position against the door frame. your voice is cool and sophisticated. it makes me wonder why i am here, with my skeletal frustration, my clumsy hands and awkward voice. every night, i am a little boy all over again.

you change my temperature. you shift my time. you make sure i leave every night at nine. before your husband stumbles in, work-weary and tense. before he is too slow to love you and too quick to come. and then the two of you sleep back to back.

"i know," i say, and untangle myself from what we construct for an hour every night.

i dress myself quickly, fumbling with buttons and zippers, hastily making an exit because lingering brings your flesh braced against bone, your beautiful sleek lines and the way you bite your lower lip. lingering brings your goodbye kiss and it is that which catches in my mouth, my clumsy mouth full of teeth and spit and half-formed words. it catches. it stays. it haunts.

there is no dialogue lost between us because you don't love me for my words, my vocabulary, my impeccable grammar that recedes into darkness when your tongue seeks mine. you don't love me for the way i run my rough, large hand down your tanned cheek and kiss you so softly that our lips barely graze before i lower myself over you.

you don't love me at all.

i leave your house unceremoniously, front door shutting quickly. i walk a block to reach my car. i climb in quietly, fasten my safety belt, drop my head on the steering wheel. i sit in my car and cry.

one day he will trick us and trap us and catch us. one day i will spend my eight o' clock alone in my lifeless apartment and you will find some other way to pass the time. you might even take a vacation, fly away to milan, paris, london. i can see your delicate, long fingers laced in thought as you sit in first class and search for an alternative to your dreary life of settling. but you will never think of me again.  and i will sit in a worn-out couch with another woman filling my hands and whispering dirty, stale, meaningless words into my ear. and i will always be thinking of you. i will always be back in your bedroom with that chenille blanket worn thin by our passion and the shiny mahogany furniture turning a blind eye to my presence. i will always be back inside your arms, between your legs, above your lips. drowning in coffee eyes that wake me and shake me. eyes that bring me alive. eyes that betray casual sex.

i will always be back there, making love to you but you will never know. years after you give birth to your husband's son and the two of you move out of the city to raise a family, i will always be back there, an imprint of the only time i ever really lived, the nights that became a river of something romance novels have yet to define.

my fossil love trapped in your bedroom- the closest i will ever get to you. but you will never know.

 

i am the shipwreck; you are the island

sunlit, sunlight.

somewhere he wakes up to white, white sky and a landscape of ice that erupts and cracks. every blink is dazzling gold. he does not know where he is or why he is there. he walks across the tundra until his feet first swell with a rush of blood and then give way to hardened black stumps, crusted with snow.

he slips, he falls, he continues.

he is thinking of you, you know. he is remembering the way that thin cotton t-shirt stretched beautifully across your chest, your tousled hair in the weak morning light as you ate bowls of cereal with minimal amounts of milk. he is not quite sure if he is walking towards or away from the warm shapes your hands formed against his rib cages during all those nights you slaughtered in his bed. he does not want to know the truth.

he does not know where you are now, months after you stopped calling and he stopped trying. you closed the door and he lost his keys. the two of you returned to the blue glow of late night sitcoms in separate apartments, separated by an ocean of city lights, smog, and indifference.

he cannot feel his cheeks now, and somewhere deep down he is aware of losing appendages, losing limbs, losing track. none of it matters. somewhere just beyond the horizon, the sunlight threatens to spill itself gloriously across the landscape. it is the color of your hair when the two of you slept in through the afternoon.

somewhere in the distance, the cries of seagulls.

i need you so much closer

there are so many things i want to tell you.

sometimes i think about calling you, dialing your phone number as reflexively as breathing, to hear your tired voice across channels of static after the fourth ring.  i want to tell you, baby i am falling apart at the seams.

and i know you'd laugh and shrug it off because every day i function like a normal girl.  my lungs expand and my blood circulates, i can write with steady hands and speak without a breaking voice.  i can pick up ripe fruit at the grocery store and nod and smile and thank strangers automatically.  i can laugh at jokes in dim restaurants, surrounded by friends whose hugs last a few heartbeats too long at the end of the night.  i sit up straight at work in my ergonomic chair to reply and forward emails for eight hours without pause.

and i want to tell you that this is the easy part, the automation of my life, the ceaseless functions that move my limbs and fix my smile.  but inside i am hollowed out.  there is nothing in a physiology textbook that can explain this, but every minute my chest is clawing like i have been drowning all my life.

i know you wouldn't understand, you'd scoff and tell me i'm fine.  you were never delicate, never tactful.  but your love was there, below the smoker's cough and callused hands.  beneath the blunt words and raised eyebrows.  it was always there.  and so were you.

these are the simplest things to tell you, the sentences that are the most coherent.

the rest is harder to explain.

i want to tell you that i'm sorry i didn't cry at your funeral.

i stood by your grave, hours after hours, and the tears never came.  i could only think about your bones, your beautiful body, close enough to touch but never again able to feel.  something hysterical, deep-rooted in my nerves, screamed for my hands to close around yours for one last time.  and i knew if i held you one last time, i would hold you forever and that six feet would never- could never- come between our bodies.

and i want to tell you that i can still drive that stretch of freeway, even though all my friends thought i would never be able to face 635 after the accident.  but my hands don't tremble on the steering wheel and my eyes still focus straight ahead.  i want you to know that this is the bravest i have ever been.  you used to tease me because i always let those japanese horror movies sink in during the middle of the night, and i'd curl up against you with terrified urgency, clutching at your arms to wake you up as well.  but i drive past that guardrail now, still crumpled and folded in like a horrifying art form, and i try not to see the flashing ambulance lights scattering neon colors into the night.  and thousands of commuters follow me past, their tired eyes peering over paper cups of coffee.  they grind their teeth in bumper-to-bumper traffic, feet jammed on their brakes beside the place where your blood once painted the gravel.  it is just another unbroken line of city scenery, and i do not want to remember you here.  this road is not sacred, this metal is no memorial, and i will not look back through the rearview mirror again.

and i want to tell you that the bullshit people say about time healing all wounds is the emptiest promise ever made.  that this gaping, clutching void inside me has never lessened, not for a single second.  and it feels like i drag myself across the daily landscape with a stomach wound that no one sees, hemorrhaging with your absence.  and i'm so fucking angry that we spent so much of our lives together, irrevocably searing your memories into anything and everything.  i wish it could be as easy as this one song, this one movie, this one place or memory that i could burn, sell, or lock away.  but you fucking permeated everything and no matter where i am, i was there with you first.

and time does not change this, does not lessen this inescapability.

and i want to tell you that i always wake up at night feeling your body in bed, against me, but my eyes open to emptiness and a blank stretch of sheets.  and you'll laugh, but for months i kept a body pillow under our comforter.  so that if i tried i could almost imagine your back curved away from me, your sleep-flushed face buried beneath the blanket.  this is the best part of my life these days, when i close my eyes and sink deep into the warm and golden place where your smile and your hugs are polaroids with blurry edges, flaring softly to life in my dreams.  and i want you to know that every time i wake up, it feels like losing you all over again.

and i want to make this clear to you: that the talisman is not the worst part.  i know that i will take this empty chest with me to the grave, that i will be this hollow forever.  i know that i will see those flashing lights and hear the metallic squeal of brakes until the day i die.  i'll carry it everywhere, but i have accepted this burden as the price of loving you.

i want you to know that the worst part exists in those moments i break down and call you.

your voicemail picks up after five rings, and i'm muffling my sobs in my arms so that i can hear you through the phone.  you tell me you're unavailable right now, but that you'll call me back if i leave a message.

so i leave one.  i leave several.  i fill your voicemail inbox and you haven't called me back.

you'll never call me back.