Boys on Boards Contest
Title: Gets Me So
Warning: this story is rated M for adult imagery, language and situations that may be a trigger for some people. violence, drug use, sexual situations, heavy love, and major angst follow. now, you know.
Disclaimer: All rights and respects to Stephenie Meyer who owns all things Twilight. Also to Blink 182, Henry Rollins, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Vincent Van Gogh, Banksy, J.M. Barrie, John Tsombikos and Bobby Fisher, Damien Rice, Lou Reed, Elena Kucharik and American Greetings, and my parents.
Word Count: (minus header and a/n) 9,999
Summary: "Tidal waves they rip right through me. Tears from eyes worn cold and sad. Pick me up now. I need you so bad. Down, down, down, down. It gets me so..." lone wolf meets ghost. E/B AH OOC angst-love-entry for the Boys on Boards contest.
June 3rd, 2010 - E
I've only very recently found a place to be still.
Born addicted and given up on from the very start, I spent the first years of my life just trying to catch up.
I'm pretty steady now, but I still don't like the bright and loud.
Learning to walk and talk didn't make me more family worthy as a son or brother. My words didn't come out right and I couldn't stand still for anything. I was in and out of different group homes for years, always back in the system.
People have said prison is like survivalism. No hypocrisy. Kill or be killed.
I don't care what anyone who hasn't spent his infancy, childhood, and adolescence locked in the great state of Washington's protective care says. If prison is like survivalism, the Department of Children and Family services is prison for kids.
No hypocrisy. Sharp-edged Darwinism.
My reminders are light now and I carry them quietly, but I learned scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue before I learned multiplication tables.
When I turned fifteen, social services placed me with a family of four. I tried to fit.
I was there a week.
The second the thought to leave hit me, my mind was made up. It wasn't anything against them. They were good people.
I just wasn't cut right to fit there.
Hood up, new Chucks on my feet from Carlisle, board under my arm and backpack full of peanut-butter on whole wheat sandwiches, I signed my name under thank you and I'm sorry. I left the note on the table and left just after one am.
I had no idea where to go or what to do, just that I couldn't stay there anymore than I could stay anywhere.
Outside the system survivalism is different. Before, whether I was placed with a family or not, I was never really left to be alone, on my own.
Suddenly and indisputably alone between the mountains and the ocean felt just as inherent as it did frightening.
I could see a beautiful world for miles in every direction, but I was born unattached to it. I was invisible.
I scraped tooth and knuckle all the way down to California. Painting the west coast connected me to it, while scar tissue as old I was shaped me up, and made me stronger. I fastened myself to my loneness and chose to stay by myself for a long time.
Homeless like a ghost down to Long Beach, past San Diego. Never still for a thousand miles, all the way to the border.
I lingered in excessive abandon, careless and hotheaded, fiercely self indulgent.
Chula Vista was salt and copper in my mouth.
It was Alistair and filthy habits, hot concrete, and two backpacks of spray paint.
It was up all night coke and waking up not knowing what day it was or what I'd done.
Furious at the world.
Stiff middle finger.
Digging like Hemmingway seeing red for the truth at bottom of everything, it was reckless and blissful, and violent. I was reckless.
I felt beyond invincible.
I crashed headfirst into bottom when Alistair overdosed.
Life doesn't break hearts, it crushes them, but the alternative to life -
I can see now how that time and place sort of saved me for you, how it made me stronger for you, but I don't ever want to go back to all that blind wildness.
I much prefer the still and quiet that I've found. Finally.
I much prefer the sound and feel of you breathing, easy and soft.
Ali's flatline cut me razor straight. Eyes clear, backpack full again, I worked my way north leaning only on my pain.
To die may be an awfully big adventure, but I wasn't ready for it.
I'm not ready.
I coloured the coastline back up, from Oceanside to Bakersfield, Fresno to the Bay, with doves and messages from friends I missed.
Sorry about your wall, the backside of Abbey Time Liquor on 8th and Cambell read for months that winter. Love, Chelsea.
Seat reserved for Ali, on a bench two blocks from Oakland Central Station.
It's still there.
I loved painting married couples, whole train car pieces, side by side. White mourning doves taking flight with black under their wings. Neon bright, rosy-faced love birds in love. Homeless homing pigeons, nineteen shades of grey and searching.
Honest hard work is an entirely other kind of surviving and it has shaped me too.
Wholly clean for more than two years, I've been living with Ben, Liam and Jasper for just over one. After I buckled down and got my GED, I pressed my nose and forehead harder to the gravel, and applied for every art scholarship I found.
And I am finally in this time and place where I can be still.
Sinking my teeth into the last bits of soft fruit left around the pear's harder middle, I pull back and toss the core toward the trees, swiping my hands back and forth across my trousers.
Late springtime in and around the Bay area is cloudless.
From my secret perch on the Hilton Garden Inn's roof, some fifteen stories up, I can see summer coming.
Light white fog floats easy with the sea spray around Treasure Island and further in the distance, it billows like ocean-smoke around the edge of San Francisco.
Summers here aren't like anywhere else I've been. Sunshine glints but doesn't burn and the wind warmed with central valley heat blows strong, but it's a salve of comfort, constantly renewing and reaffirming hope with all the strength endurance takes.
Relaxing in my loneness, I close my eyes.
The blue is so blue. I can still see it on the backs of my eyelids as I pat my hoodie pockets for my sunglasses.
Sunglasses on, I pull my hood on and kick my board up, making for the side fire escape.
Out onto the sidewalk, aware of the city all around me, I move with it.
I lean with the streets. I glide. I take my time.
I touch down again on Cedar, the soles of my shoes back on solid ground. I glance at my phone.
It's just after two thirty. Ben won't be back from class for another half hour or so.
Steps before I even reach the side door, I hear music: two soft-spoken poets singing over acoustic strumming, about walking on, looking for America.
Our house is Ben's uncle's. He lets Ben live here while he's in school. Liam, Jasper, and myself, and Garrett when he returns in the fall, all live with Ben.
I enter through the kitchen, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge to drink half of before I move further.
Two rooms deeper into the house, I smell shisha and kush, and hear two familiar voices, talking concepts and artists.
Taking my book from my backpack, I set my stuff down and step from hardwood to thick carpet.
This place where I can relax and live easy, the sound and feel of this place that is the closest thing to a home I've ever known, makes me smile as I turn the corner, water and sketchbook in hand.
"Cullen, hey, tell Peanut the story about Van Gogh being a ghost," Liam asks, trading Jasper the bowl for the hookah hose.
Notebooks and index cards on their plaid laps, they're stretched on opposite ends of the couch like two faded hipster caterpillars.
I mean lit golden.
I laugh around another pull from the water bottle and sit down across from them, dropping my hood back.
"About how he was named after his brother that came first, and was stillborn?" I ask, bending my left leg under myself in the overstuffed chair. The almost ceiling tall window-doors are open all around us, letting the afternoon in with the Pacific breeze.
Jasper quirks a brow.
"Yeah," Liam nods, waiting.
So, I continue.
"And how he was born exactly one year later, the very same day?"
Dragging my hand down my face, I laugh a little harder.
"That's the entire Van Gogh's a ghost story," I nod. "Suspenseful, wasn't it?"
We take it easy.
They're both waiting for Ben too. He texted this morning and wanted all of us together because of some news he'd gotten from home.
"Nothing bad, nothing crazy, man. It'll just be easier to tell everybody at once."
Which makes complete sense.
So, when Ben shows up twenty minutes later and tells us his you're coming to stay for the summer, I don't really see what the big deal is.
He says it's fine. It's cool. You're cool.
You're not trouble. You're not a girlie-girl. You're not going to cramp or crowd us. You're just coming to check out some colleges.
He says you'll stay in Garrett's room and it'll all be alright.
But two days go by and he brings you from the airport, and you walk in up-all-Starry-Night-eyed behind rainbow-bright seventies shades, and all I can hear is everything Ben didn't say.
That you're totally beautiful.
That you're broken. Really broken.
That you're my soulmate.
And furthermore, that you're his family.
And you're seventeen.
And don't, don't, don't touch you.
You're here and you feel so much like a ghost.
June 5th, 2010 - B
I felt how important he was as soon as he turned the corner.
Ben was introducing me to Liam and Jasper.
I hadn't even taken my sunglasses off. I was just inside the door and lifting them when he stepped from the kitchen into the living room.
Broad shoulders back, hands in his front pockets, dark and bright ink peeking there, and all across his neck, he was a tower of half-zipped black on heather grey, on dark denim, on a foundation of well-worn-in grey-black Sauconys.
He looked like a fortress and when he turned his eyes from me to Ben, and back to me, I felt ultra-aware of my heart. I felt my pulse beating strong in every carefully covered up cut I'd ever made.
I pulled my sleeves down further. I waved and was gracious with my manners, but I looked away.
Down at my espadrilles.
Up at the new house around me.
Left at Jasper's horn-rimmed glasses.
Anywhere except everywhere I really wanted to.
I wanted to close the distance, for there to be no space between us, to hide my entire self under his shoulders, so like wings, but I couldn't even look at him and not feel bottomed out with shame.
Guilty and wrong, and found out, I could feel my regret for what I'd done in my bones. It was shaking.
June 8th, 2010 E
It took three days before I realized separate rooms weren't going to work.
I knew I needed to be close to her, but had no idea how much.
The afternoon that starry-night-eyes got in, she took her aviators off and waved. She smiled and was polite, but she made for her new room and closed the door shortly after the tour, tired from the flight.
Jasper thought she was stellar.
Liam sang Hare Krishna at him.
I didn't have words.
I didn't understand what was happening, or what had happened, only that there was something was very right, and something very wrong.
My stomach pulled. I was aware of my heart. I could feel it beating. I felt it in my hands.
Our bedrooms make this sort of half circle shape around the second floor of the house, and three days ago our doors were never really closed.
The door directly across from my mine though, across a wide open, not unwell lit space, her door now, was.
Ben let her be.
Jasper left for Magpie's and Liam was unbothered in the living room, dug deep again into one of his final papers.
I left my door open, because I almost always left it open. And because the thought of closing it while she was here felt dishonest and wrong.
This is my steady ground, my still and safe place, and here she was: my own miracle.
My own personal proof of predestined promises, of everything happens for a reason.
Not only was I certain for the first time in my life that love and truth, and reason existed, but they were here, and she was shaped soft under a white lightweight sweater and a skirt the colour of banana saltwater taffy, still wax paper wrapped.
She looked unreal-ly soft, like she would give right under my fingertips.
I'd spent my life alone in a number of prisons. Sizing people up was habit turned nature. The way people shoulder their pain speaks volumes and she is stronger than she thinks.
Book right my hand, I stretched on my back in my bed and curved my left arm around my stomach, touching to feel hunger pulling though layers of fabric.
I felt drawn. I'd never felt so pulled in any direction before, least of all to another person. I'd never had a compass.
I tried to read, but more just listened to the quiet music coming from behind her door. I could just hear soft-key tones. I could smell grass, and when the sun dipped and gave us dark, I caught sight of the slenderest line of warm light between the bottom of her door and the floor.
It made focusing on anything other than it, fairly impossible.
Just before midnight, she finally cut the light out.
I felt curious and tighter drawn with the dark.
I felt her across the house, feeling unlovable.
It was strange, feeling so intensely intuitive about someone.
Just like I used to, like I always had, I was moving as soon as the impulse to do so occurred to me.
I wasn't leaving. I didn't want to leave.
I just needed to move.
Pulling my hood up and dropping my board, I took off from the sidewalk and flew toward the street to let my mind go.
Fast at first to split from my new instincts and to better feel the breeze, I didn't finally slow to a coast until Eastshore and the marina.
I sat down on the edge of the boardwalk and tried to regather myself, to be still, to understand my stomach ache and my heart beating in my hands.
Scripting scratches of consciousness and blurry-graphite stars for pages, I stayed out long enough to watch the chalkwhite fog come up across the Bay.
It was dark still when I took off again, but the city and the birds were waking up, singing to each other. I leaned on the breeze, listening to the good morning sounds, making my own against the concrete. Trying to reconnect myself. Trying to feel where I fit again.
The sky was just changing from dark blue to white when I touched down on McGee and kickturnedleft onto Cedar.
Her door was still closed when I got upstairs.
Leaving mine ever-open, I stepped out of my shoes and dug into my unmade bed.
I closed my eyes and sought deep sleep, but it was fickle. And shallow.
It wasn't an hour before a text from Liam woke me.
She was gone already. Her door was still closed when I got up to shower, but I knew with certainty she wasn't behind it.
Not knowing where she was or if she was safe bothered me more than I wanted to admit. It set me on the capricious edge of Tijuana and eighteen all over again, and feeling like I couldn't ask where she'd gone, like I shouldn't because it wasn't any of my business, only frustrated me further.
A couple hours later, when we were at Kinkos cutting stencils for later that night, Liam told me when Jasper returned that morning, Magpie was with him, and she offered to take starry eyes out for a sunshine day.
It helped a little, knowing she was in good company. It took the edge off, but when we got back to the house and she was still gone when we left again, hours later, well after the sun had set, uneasiness crept back up.
I carried it silently as we worked.
Liam had found this spot, sky high in the heavens of Oakland's business district, around 14th and Broadway, that was begging for a huge burner.
Hoods up, taking turns looking out and filling in, we painted the top left side of EMC Research - headquarters for the Urban Habitat Program - with paste and black roll-on paint. In the bottom profile of a lone wolf:
Break through what breaks your heart.
It's the lack of a lifelong mate or the death of one that creates such asolitary hunter.
The irony that wasn't there when we'd started sketching ideas a few weeks ago, wasn't lost on me there. Even through the rush of adrenaline and interconnected significance that always came with getting up in a great spot, my stomach twisted and pulled back toward a closed door.
By the time we got back and I helped Liam unload his car, and finally reached the top of the stairs, her room was dark.
There was no quiet music, but I knew she was there.
Against steps ingrained toward her, I dropped my backpack in my room, stepped out of my shoes, and went back downstairs.
I felt heavy with tired, but was too wound to sleep.
I showered and turned music on down low, and stretched on the couch. I flipped my book to a blank page to try to clear my head when all I wanted really, was to take the stairs two at a time back up to her room.
Open her door.
Close it behind me.
And just sit down right next to where she was and ask if I could feel my heart.
It took carefully conscious effort to stay put.
The need to seek and find her was a knee-jerk reaction to her presence here. More than an impulse. A reflex.
It felt natural like nothing I had to compare it to.
I'd needed help just to live and breathe for the first few months of my life. I'd taken years longer to learn things most people take for granted daily. Nothing had ever come naturally to me.
Except maybe moving, racing my instincts and I couldn't do that here. I felt like I shouldn't - like when I thought about it, my intuition said go to her, but all I actually had was certainty of my own and half a look two days earlier.
Wrapped in those words, it didn't feel like enough to knock on her door in the middle of the night.
I was up a couple hours later with my alarm, off the couch and heading out still tired-eyed.
My dream of sleep was still asleep when I left, her door still closed.
Light was peeking bright when I got to the community center where Jasper teaches. I was spending my daytimes this week and last in its empty auditorium, painting sets for the kids' theater department.
I sought the subtle zen I'd come to know in the quiet and still there, but I was so tired.
This girl - my twin heart and soul was in my life, on my steady ground, and it felt so much like she was hiding from me.
Allowing her the distance she clearly wanted was taking a heavy toll on my whole body. There wasn't a single part of me that didn't feel the strain.
Touching streaks of black paint to tightly stretched canvas offered some comfort in the moment, but it was temporary and not enough.
By the time I was stepping off the BART and onto my board again six hours later, I felt like I couldn't take it. I wanted to demand.
I wanted to fight.
I wanted a line.
I wanted ten lines.
I wanted to break the fucking hinges off her door frame so she couldn't close herself off anymore.
The closer I got, the less my mind felt like my own to try to make up. I knew blocks before I arrived that if her door wasn't open, I was going to knock on it.
Words would come to me in the moment if I needed them and how offended could Ben be with my just wanting to see her? Ask how she's doing? Shake her hand and actually introduce myself, warmer, with a little more welcomeness than our original salutations allowed?
I just wanted to see her.
Dropping my board and backpack in the corner of the living room without hesitation, I made my way upstairs straight like a crow flies, heart beating steadily-heavy in my palms.
It faltered when I rounded the top of the staircase.
Her door was closed as usual. Every bit as closed as it had been this morning and last night. Every bit as I'd expected it to be, but she wasn't behind it.
I didn't understand how or why; she just wasn't there. The deepest part of myself, unphysical but very much alive and pulling at my stomach, making my heart beat harder, told me so.
Jasper and Ben were still at work.
Liam was probably on campus.
I stood there a minute, sort of stunned still.
In my all my overriding determination to just to see her, I hadn't even thought about her not being there.
The sick-feeling in the pit of my stomach from yesterday morning twisted to get back into place.
I knew she was strong, but I knew there was something wrong too, and it just felt so much like she was here for me to protect her, and I couldn't do that if I didn't know where she was.
With no way of reaching her, I went back down the stairs for my backpack and a bottle of water, leaving the light off when I returned to my room. The buzz-hum of cicadas and early evening sun filtered in through my open windows, but the house around me was quiet.
Taking a long drink, I shed my shoes and socks, my paint smudged pants and tee-shirt, and got between sheets that were cool against my summer skin.
My mind wasn't ready to stop just because I'd lain down, but my body was exhausted from days and nights of strict self control.
Sleep took me deep under before I knew it. I was out for hours.
I know because it's dark when I wake again, surrounded by the softest feeling.
"Shhh, your door's open. Everyone's is..."
The soft feeling overwhelming all my senses is her shadow of a whisper voice as she kneels on my bed and comes down on her hands, toward me.
I blink, trying to adjust my eyes.
There's the slightest glow of city light coming in through my windows. I catch sight of her in blurry, unreal looking angles.
Her feet and ankles.
The side of her calf and thigh, up to her sleep-shorts.
Her left shoulder, moving as she moves.
The thin curve of her bicep.
The bend of her neck.
So much bare skin.
"Is yours?" I ask of her door without a second thought, shifting to meet her halfway and to reach for her as she crawls closer.
She's moving slowly but it's all happening.
"No," she shakes her head, taking hold of my forearms when I touch my hands to the soft crooks of her elbows.
Twenty fingers close tighter at the contact.
My heart rushes harder. I can't tell if it's my own I feel in my palms or hers in her arms, or if my own is so strong that it's beating through to her, but I can feel the heavy blood-rhythm, everywhere.
She makes a small sound behind her lips. I feel her working to breathe.
"I'm sorry," she whispers, her warm voice greeting my neck as I bring her closer, loosing my grip, unable to keep from moving my hands up her naked arms and back down them again.
"I'm sorry; I didn't know..."
Her words don't make sense, but she moves her hands as I move mine down from her elbows. She curves her right up, around the back of my neck and I hear myself hum at her touch and feel. She moves her left hand up too, but keeps it between us, resting it precariously against my sternum.
Our legs bend and fit together, seeking more skin on skin.
She feels warm with me, cozy-cool under my sheets and in my arms. I can smell her shampoo and her toothpaste, and her skin, all clean. All girl.
I feel calmed like I haven't felt in days.
Maybe it's strange not to talk, not to ask questions, just to hold onto one another in the mostly-dark and breathe together, but it doesn't feel strange.
It feels right and best, and closer to coming home than anywhere I've ever been.
She makes another small sound when I dip my fingers under her top, seeking her stomach, her back, more skin. I feel her under my fingers. I know her.
I feel her secrets.
They're just as barely there as every other part of her, but there on her bottom right side are countless, unmistakably self-carved cuts, years healed.
I'm not without my own damage. I know what colour they would be in the light. I can tell by their feel she used the corner of a razor.
She shifts and rocks again, away from my fingers with her hips, closer to my chest with hers, still careful with her hand between us.
This is how we talk without words.
I bring my own hand up to collect hers and feel her wince when my thumb grazes the inside of her wrist.
She sniffs a breath in and blows it out carefully, shaking as she lets me have her hand.
"Please, don't let go of me."
Her soft sad voice surrounds me again and fills me up, and everything - days and nights of exasperating unknowing, needing, and wondering - slides and clicks into place before I even touch my thumb to the small bandage.
The cut I know to be under it drops my stomach out and makes my heart feel like shifting fault lines, ready to break the earth open.
Her words all make sense, but are far from necessary.
I've already forgiven her - she's my own heart; she doesn't need to feel or be, or say she's sorry. And I have no intention whatsoever of letting her go.
Not for any secret scars she's come to regret.
Not for the world.
Curving my right arm firmly around her back, cradling her close, I reverently shush her quiet crying and bring her wrist up in my left hand.
To kiss across the small rectangle shape of her bandage.
To talk right to her newest wound, her shame and her fear, and her heart.
To tell her over and over that she's beautiful.
And so important.
She sleeps eventually, head on my chest, breathing soft and easy, fingers resting on my cheek while I endear to her most fragile secret all through the night
I stay awake, but not because I can't sleep.
I want very much to drift peacefully with her, but the sound of her heart and lungs cooperating so effortlessly, finally relaxed and calm, moves me.
I don't know what daylight will bring, but that sound feels precious enough to linger in for three sleepless nights.
Longer if heaven exists.
June 19th, 2010 B
The ink I couldn't make out on the tops of his hands that first afternoon are intricately pretty Day of the Dead skulls, blended with sugary flowers and brightly coloured birds, flying through the dark that winds all the way up both his arms.
There are others across his chest and stomach, his shoulders and his hips, and down his left side, but I catch only glimpses of those, in his room, in the dark.
He's completely unhinged my oldest and most basic survival convictions.
I came here to leave, to disappear and never go back, to get off unstable battleground and build my own. I never intended to stay even this long.
I fought it until I couldn't see straight, undertaking a heavier hold on my self control than I'd ever carried, for almost three days before I buckled.
I was instantly attatched. Before he touched me. Before he woke up. Before I even made it through his doorway, I knew.
And then -
And now -
And every day -
I'm not afraid he won't love me back, because I know he does.
I'm afraid of not being strong enough to stay and be loved.
I'm afraid I'm too damaged to love him all the way back, like he deserves.
I'm afraid that the holes in my heart are too many, too big to hold love.
I'm terrified to death inside of how much I need, that no matter how much even he gives, I'll never be able to have enough love.
July 11th, 2010 E
The sky is so close to white every morning now, full and wide with so many ultra-light colours. That distinct and special kind of blue-white-bright, like it's rained and the sun is just coming out, or sometimes both at the same time, every daybreak.
I know, because I'm up and flying through it every day to clear my head after she unfastens herself from me.
Summer is here, full tilt, and she's still wearing long sleeves.
I didn't think about it the day we met. I knew right away she was in pieces, but I didn't make the connection. I had my hoodie on too.
Now though, when she's not wearing thin sleeves down around both her wrists, they're covered with oversized iridescent bubble cuffs, wooden saint beads and old fashioned snap bracelets.
Strands of pearls and glass.
Twisted friendship knots.
She hides well and we don't talk about it, mostly because she doesn't want to. The rest because I'm more naturally partial to giving in to her than I know how to handle.
When I get too close and she pulls back a little, I ease up.
When she asks me to tell her things, to talk to her sleep, I whisper to her crown in the scattered low-light for hours, into the dark morning sometimes.
After she's fast asleep.
Just to keep her comforted through unconsciousness.
I tell her about places I saw through blurry eyes and thought were beautiful before she lifted my heart-lids, before god and evolution's wildstyle masterpiece raised her hand and waved at me.
When she says hold onto me, I hold her.
When she says love me, I kiss her secrets.
When she says sleep with me, I set an alarm, to vibrate-wake us both before the sun and everyone else, and I bend around her like a big spoon. Like I've never lain with any person before her.
When she says don't, I don't.
I try to be my best for her, but I'm not a miracle. And she's not a saint. I'm scared of not being able to fix her and she doesn't make it easy.
I don't even know how to really talk to her outside of my room.
What can I say when I know everything?
We're soulmates and I almost lost you. Not because I could have died anytime, anywhere, any number of years before now, but because you almost did.
You tried to die.
I almost lost you before I even met you, and now you're here, and you won't even let me in.
We're quiet most mornings.
Sometimes I cover her hands with mine and hold them to my heart, my eyes still closed, seeking just a few more minutes.
Sometimes she curves on her side, bringing herself nose to nose with me. Her eyes closed too. Seeking those same few minutes.
It doesn't matter.
It all ends with me letting go and her leaving.
During the day she's just as removed from me as she is from everyone else. Except Magpie and Sweet Jane. From the outside looking in, it looks like she's made good friends with them. I catch them around town sometimes, in and out of the house, on and off campus.
Walking down Fourth Street in the sunshine with snow-cones and open mouth smiles. String bikini tops tied in bows at the backs of their necks.
Pouring glass-bottled Coke over mugs of homemade ice-cream on the back porch. Knobby knees peeking playfully out of cutoff skinny jeans.
Coming home yesterday, jelly-sandals in hand, wet from head to bare feet from running through sprinklers. Damp hair pulled over left shoulders.
They match in their own way, but I've only got eyes for her.
Soaked sky-blue cotton stuck to her hips and nipples, and soft dips that curve her small shape. She looked so alive, thirty two flavors of bodacious and completely untouchable.
She untied the strings holding her top up as she climbed the stairs, holding the front to her chest and hip as the back sides came loose. Her bangles and pearls clacked together, cutting me to the quick, reminding me just as they kept her hidden, that this isn't okay.
She isn't okay.
She's going to take off any day. I can feel it.
And if this is love, I need her to give me more than that.
On my back, I curve my arm across my stomach, hand under my tee-shirt just to better feel the pull.
I almost lost my balance this afternoon.
The distance she sets between us pushes me closer to the edge every day, and when I got home from Fort Cronkhite with Liam a few hours ago, just in time to see her letting some dopey hulk of a motherfucker out of her bedroom, it nearly turned me wild.
"Thanks for the mixes," he waved at her as he passed me on his way to the stairs, his other hand full of CDs.
She smiled politely from her doorway, leaning against the frame.
I saw Jasper and Magpie behind her, stoned immaculate and I knew in truth that nothing even close to anything had happened, but my legs said turn and stop him. Drop him like a bomb for overstepping his bounds into my territory.
He had fifty pounds on me easily, but jealousy was heavy in my hands like solid iron.
It still is and it shouldn't be. He's not the one at fault.
I get more of her every night than everyone else does and I know it; she just pulls so far back from me in the light.
It's not because of Ben. It has nothing to do with Ben.
She's made other friends here and kept me at arm's length because I know her better and it's not right -
I want to close my door just to spite her, to hurt her back, to show her how it feels, but I can't. I couldn't shut her out if my life depended on it.
She's everything to me, my calm and my wild, my mate, and I've gone so many miles and been so lost without her.
My chest aches.
I hate not knowing where she is.
It scares me.
I rub my eyes. The back of Ali's pinkie ring on my pinkie is cool against the side of my nose.
I swallow straight fear.
I want her to come home.
I want her to be real with me.
I want her smile.
I don't want to fucking lose her.
It's after midnight when she finally returns from wherever she went with with Magpie.
It's a couple hours later after everyone else is asleep and she's out of her bracelets, and into thin pajamas.
I turn at the quiet sound of her door opening and closing.
It's dark; I can barely see her walking across the fifty feet or so of carpet. A shadow of a silhouette, all but invisible.
I half sit up, pushing my sheets back to let her in.
"Emmett's nobody," she promises, truthfulness full in her soft voice as she pads toward me on her knees, feeling her way to my hands, feeling for her.
We fold into and around. On our sides together.
"He was with Jasper when he picked us up-"
I shake my head. It doesn't matter.
I know already. And what I feel right now isn't about that. It doesn't matter.
She wraps her arms up around my neck while I feel my way down her back, pressing mine against two small dimples to bring the bottom of her stomach to the bottom of my own.
Both our shirts ride up as we move, making us both hum at the feel of skin on skin.
She glances up and I catch her honest eyes in night light. Her daytime defenses all down, she's sincere with me here, tender to the slightest touch and lightest tone of my voice.
"It's okay," I tell her, wrapping my arm all the way around her back. I close my eyes. I kiss her forehead.
I feel my anger dissolving to make room for gratitude and benevolence. I don't have it inside me to be mad at her when she's so afraid and is trying so hard to stay.
"You're okay here," I whisper lighter.
She tucks her head under my chin, resting her cheek on my haggard heart carved to hold us both, cut to match hers. She breathes an entire day's worth of surviving out and into my skin.
The feel of it is better than flying fast and catching perfect air.
I love her every way, even when it hurts, even when it makes me rage, but most of all I love her right here. Easy in my arms.
I stroke her tailbone with my thumb. Under her shirt. Up her back. I touch the sun-kissed freckles on her shoulders, moving my fingers under lavender straps, sliding them away.
I feel her hands moving, her fingers in my hair and at the back of my neck, softly grasping to hold onto me. I feel her legs, curving and hooking around my hips.
I kiss the top of her head again, wrapping my arm more firmly around her back, gently securing my hold on her.
I feel her breathing start to shake.
I kiss her hair again and hold onto her, and sink with her when she goes under.
This is how we seek love without light.
For as mad with fear and frustration as I feel most of every day, I am beyond content in these moments, moved inside by the love and thankfulness I feel at having her here, so glad keep safe and sound.
August 1st, 2010 B
In a crowded bungalow of at least fifty, I know three people.
I came with Sweet Jane, for the candy she promised, but our strawberry shortcake hasn't shown up yet.
Everyone else is here for this guy's birthday. Carmen's boyfriend. I can't remember his name.
I know those three and that's it, and Carmen and the birthday boy, I just met.
Jane and I have been here a few hours.
My hair's finally dry now from the dip we took into the ocean earlier. The cut under my bracelets tingle-stings a little, but I'm not worried. My stitches have been out for nine weeks. It's sealed and healing; I can cover it safely with just two Band-Aids now.
Holding a red cup in my left hand, I smooth the front of my sundress down with my right, pearls and frosted glass beads clacking together.
I don't like beer, but I feel better holding a cup than I feel not holding one. So, I sip it slowly and look around, waiting for Sweet Jane to come back inside.
She stepped out to answer the phone. Her friend with the chemicals was on her way and needed better directions to Point Richmond.
I take another sip and hate the taste, and think about leaving. About how I could just leave.
I could slip quietly out the one of the side doors, head for the streets and never turn back.
I wonder how long it would be before anyone would think to look.
My heart beats harder in my wrist.
I want to close my eyes and be wrapped in dark arms, safe under cozy-cool sheets.
I push the thought away.
I don't want to be attached.
I don't have the working parts inside me for healthy, wholesome love.
My parents didn't send me here to check out colleges. Neglect and ever-present abandonment, addiction and codependence: Charlie and Renee - let me walk right out the front door when I told them I was leaving.
He was her high school fuck-you to her parents. She was in love enough.
When she got pregnant and told him she was quitting pot for unborn-me, he was glad, but kept going on his own, unwilling to give up his right to have a good time to anyone.
He held me once when I was a baby.
Weak and self-centered, stuck in a life he'd come to regret, Charlie started trading leafy green for twenty milligram baby blues and forty milligram yellows.
Weak and self-centered, stuck in a life she'd become ashamed of, Renee drank. A lot.
The first time I thought I found him dead, I was fourteen. I'd never been more afraid. Renee didn't talk to him for two days. We stayed with Gramma.
I was sixteen the second time, less than a year ago. I ran away for three weeks.
He scribbled repeat apologies with repeat promises, and stuck them on the fridge.
She said she wouldn't take anymore, but she does.
So, I could blame my issues on them; I guess, but my choices have been my own to make for years now.
My pulse throbs in my wrist.
I know now what I did was wrong, but knowing so doesn't make me any less afraid.
I'm terrified of living long enough to become like either one of my parents, but I know that I was born with his selfishness and her fear. I'm addicted to escape, to detachment. My isolation is for my safety and sanity.
For my own survival, I left alone and will leave alone again.
I know Edward is strong.
I know he sees me and I know he knows exactly where I am inside, even though I feel so lost.
I know he knows because he knows. Because he's been this lost too.
I know I can lean on him. I know I could go to him or could call for him anytime of day or night, from anywhere and for anything, and he would come scoop me up. It's just so scary, feeling how much I love him, how attached I am to him I am already, against my will.
I've tried so hard to hold my heart back, to protect it, but it's like it doesn't even matter. I can feel myself needing him.
And I know that needing leads to depending, and that depending leads to hurting, and I flew solo from Phoenix to avoid more hurting.
If I don't need anyone, then I won't ever be disappointed by anyone. I won't ever feel like I matter and then find out I'm wrong.
My heart beats so hard it hurts.
But he holds me and knows me, and tells me I'm strong, and beautiful, and special like the sun and the rain at the same time, and I want that so much.
I want to be that.
I want to love him better.
"BB!" Jane calls, jumping in the crowd, pulling my attention.
There are at least ten people between us. I can see her excited eyes between all the unfamiliar faces when she pops up onto her tiptoes.
She makes her way to me through the crowd, smiling wide.
"She's almost here. C'mon, come dance with me."
We move together in the living room for a few songs, until someone calls for her from the doorway. A redhead with flowers in her hair, flanked by two brunettes, smiles, nodding her head toward the stairs.
My stomach does flips.
My conscience knows better this.
My brain knows that drugs are bad.
My heart beats harder and I want to leave and go to him. The intensity of my want unsettles my balance on my own two feet.
I catch myself before I trip.
I need him.
I resent how much I need him.
And I need him some more.
The five of us girls sit together in a room on the second floor, smoking, trading cash for pink pills stamped with hearts.
I hold mine in my palm and lift the beer I'm still nursing in my other hand, wrinkling my nose when the sour scent hits me before the taste.
Sweet Jane half giggles, half snorts.
I pause, lowering both hands. I feel my heart.
"You don't have to drink that," she says.
I lift my brows curiously, turning the two little valentines over and together between my fingers.
Two. I want to be feeling no pain.
"Carmen has some orange juice. It'll be better."
So, we move back downstairs together and my heart sort of triple skips on the last step.
It's like I feel him a split second before I see him, and when I see him I'm completely disarmed.
Our eyes don't even meet.
He's turned away from the stairs, talking to the birthday boy and I catch just the corner of his face, the side of his neck. A glimpse of bright Dia de los Muertos marigold petals and sharp jaw.
The pills in my hand weigh a hundred pounds.
I feel naked in my fear.
I see him and I can't lie.
August 1st, 2010 E
Detaching from her in the morning is never easy, but today actually, physically hurt.
She was gone all day yesterday. By the time Liam and I got back from dressing up freight train cars across the Bay, it was after midnight.
She was stretched on the couch with Magpie. Bikini bottoms tied at their hips and naked legs bent together, pullover hoodies pulled over shoulders and stomachs, hoods up, long sleeves down, they were sharing a bowl of soaked fruit and laughing.
They'd spent the day making sangria. She was lush when she finally came to my room.
I know she's lost and I know she hurts, but it's just cruel sometimes really. She knows I want to love her so much. And she only ever feels brave enough to let me when she's tanked.
Her defenses waver when she's drunk. She lets me feel her need. She wants me to.
She pulls my hands between her legs and lets me feel though her sleep shorts how warm and soft, and wet she is for me. She pushes me onto my back and presses her light-hot weight against where she feels me, where I'm so hard for her it fucking hurts.
She rocks and draws her breaths faster, and my heart beats hard in my chest, and in my hands, and in my dick, and she begs in this breathless, broken little voice for me to love her, take her, break her apart.
But I don't want to break her.
And I don't want her to turn my touch and my love into something she cuts herself with.
I want her to trust me. To know that when she goes, she will not go alone - that she can place her faith in me and it won't be a mistake. That it won't be wasted or mistreated.
I want her to know that love is real, and here, and ours, and that it doesn't have to hurt the way she's been hurt. That she deserves sincere devotion and care, and respect.
Downing the last of my water, I say goodbye to Eleazar and turn toward the kitchen to throw the bottle away.
I wonder if she's still gone or if she's back at the house yet.
After she left this morning, I showered and spent the day moving with the streets, closer to the trees in and around Tilden Regional Park, flying on four scraped up wheels to shake off what frustration I could.
Peter got into to town around two for Eleazar's party. Loosely, we all three were connected to the same crew from a few years ago.
Peter wore Ali's other pinkie ring. He shook his head when he said he hadn't heard from Chelsea in over a year.
It was sad and it twisted my stomach inside, but it was so good to see him, up out of the gutter, straight and soaring.
He's somewhere in here now with Liam, catching up with other less familiar friends.
I'm glad I came, but am ready to head out.
It's already August.
Summer will be over so soon and I feel more and more like any night with her could be my last.
I swallow hard and turn toward the front door, looking for fresh air.
I find dark starry-night eyes.
She looks so small in the crowd and my chest aches, down into the top of my stomach. It's the same feeling when I see her door and know she's not behind it, when I don't know where she is, or if she's alive or if she's ever coming back.
There are people packed around us, but I can see her holding hands with Sweet Jane, moving toward the kitchen.
She looks away.
I lick my lips and I feel like I can still taste her voice in my mouth from last night, brandy and cabernet, and strawberries -
"Right here," she touched her lips to my lips, curling our fingers together and touching between her legs, her hand on top of mine, her softness so soft.
"Don't you want to kiss me right here..."
I want to pull her from this place.
She glances up again as they move closer. I realize she's just come down from upstairs.
I can't help myself. My brain defers to my gut and all my gut knows is pure truth. I move without a single thought.
I step toward her.
She's bare under her glittering eyelids, open and honest like she is when we're alone. She looks up at me from where she's walking and looks at the same time like she's dying to be held and like she'd give under the lightest contact.
I shoulder past people, stepping closer.
She doesn't let go of Jane's hand, but she strays sideways from the line of girls, in my direction.
Sweet Jane turns at the tug her friend's steps create.
I step forward, right into her path.
The other girls stop and she lets go of Jane's hand. Her other is closed at her side, just like Jane's.
She looks up at me and doesn't say a word, but I can see her clearly. I can feel her, needing help.
Instinct tells me to reach.
"Hey," one of the other girls calls like a warning when I take her smaller, closed-up hand in mine.
I look up before I open her fingers, watching her eyes instead of whatever she's holding onto.
"It's ecstasy," she tells me, watching my eyes right back.
"We were going to get orange juice and going back upstairs to take it."
"BB!" Jane's exclamation pulls both our eyes.
Reckless summertime looks from Jane to me, to the other girls, back to me again.
I look from her to the pills, to Jane, and back to her.
There are flecks of blue in her starry night. I can see her struggling to reach out for me.
I shake my head, brows tight as I glance around, toward the door and back to her.
"Fuck that," I tell her gently.
"Come home with me."
I can see her reaching for bricks to build walls with.
She turns the pills over in her hand.
"Will you do these with me?"
Sweet Jane goes from affronted to covering giggles.
I can't say the idea turning our love and want up to that kind of heated beat doesn't appeal to me.
But I want to be enough.
I want it to just be me.
My hesitation draws hers. She closes her hand to pull away.
"Yeah," I nod, heart beating so high in my throat I taste blood.
Her stars open wider.
I nod, turning her hand over, taking the x and pocketing it before I reach to curve my fingers with hers.
The blue light in her eyes is so blue. I close my own when she turns away to say bye to her friends and can still see it on the backs of my eyelids.
Like summertime light.
I feel like I knew she was coming, somehow, months ago.
I feel like I don't know who or how to be without her. There was nothing connecting me before her.
She's where I belong. She's where I was cut to fit.
She doesn't let go of my hand when we step outside.
The heartbeat between our palms booms echoes in my ears.
Liam gave me his keys when he left with a blonde over an hour ago. His car was mine to drive back.
I open her door first and close her up before I get in.
She presses both hands together between her knees, hair falling around her face as she looks down at her lap and breathes out.
I can feel how nervous she is before I even reach for her.
Sliding my right hand with care between both of hers and feeling her squeeze, I start the car and drive with my left.
I can feel the pills in my pocket, heavy like all bad ideas are.
I can feel her legs around our hands, shaking.
I tell myself if I can just get her home, it'll be better.
If I can just get her to my room, I'll be able to be on still ground and I'll make it better.
But when we get to Cedar Street, I'm still all wound up inside with everything I want give her and everything I want to be for her, with how I want to love her and save her, and have her.
With every step we take toward the front door and through the living room, closer to the stairs, I feel more and more protective her.
The house is empty; we're alone.
When we reach the top of the steps, I stop thinking. I give myself completely to my intuition.
Without stopping, I pass my door and head for the bathroom. Her left hand still in my right, I fish the x out of my pocket and flush it before she can speak.
"What are - What -"
She stops, taking her hand away to push both of hers through her hair.
"I can't do this," she says quietly, pulling her hair over her shoulder, carding her fingers through the wavy ends.
"I can't stay here with you."
I swallow the pleas and demands I want to make and reach for her right hand silently.
Slowly and without a word, I take her bracelets off one by one, placing them in a pile next to the sink.
She tries to pull back when I reach for the last strand of light pink pearls, but I hold her gently and slide them away, leaving her arm naked save for two Care Bears Band-Aids.
When I go to take them from her skin, she pulls again.
"Don't," she tells me.
"Don't do this. You don't have to do this."
"I want to," I reply, holding her hand in both of mine, stroking her palm with my thumbs.
"Please, let me in."
A few hard swallows and deep breaths later, she opens her fingers the slightest bit.
Moved by the little giving of her trust, I feel my way slowly up her wrist and carefully remove both Band-Aids.
My greatest fear is small and well-healed, and I move soap, and warm water, and my own fingers over it with tender attention.
She presses her lips together and holds tightly to the side of my hoodie with her free hand.
I pat her dry with a clean towel and pad Neosporin softly over the cut with my pinkie.
I pick her up and carry her out of the bathroom, away from mine, over to hers.
I open her door, letting enough hall-light in for me to find her night stand lamp and turn it on. With her still in my arms, still holding onto me, I take a few steps back and close her door.
She's shaking when I lay her down, leaking tears.
I move with care, coming down on my knees above her.
Starting at the edge of her dress, I nudge it up her thighs, uncovering her in the soft light. I nudge it up over her bikini bottoms, higher until I can see the faded pink lines on her side.
I can smell saltwater on her skin.
I kiss along and between each scar, and tell her she's so beautiful.
That I love her, and that she's stronger than she knows, and that she doesn't have to be afraid.
She clenches fistfuls of blankets violently tight, shaking harder, leaking more tears.
I move to her hands and kiss her fingers until she opens them, and holds onto me.
My hood back falls back and I stop to unzip it, to take it and my shirt off.
I bring her hands to my secrets, to scars from fighting to just survive and learning to fly. From carving myself, just as she has.
I kiss the little crescent shapes her nails dug into her left palm and let her right feel how we match, and it's so slow going, but I can feel her, trying so hard to let me in.
I stretch and lie down next to her, brushing my thumb against her temple, near where she's closed up her eyes again.
"Please, let me see you," I ask her quietly.
She presses her dark from crying lips together, shaking her head.
"I'm scared of how much I need you," she tells me, eyes still shut. "I'm scared I can't give you love back right."
My heart beats so hard I see light stars in the edges of my vision.
"Love heals scars love left," I tell her quietly.
"I fit with you, here," I curve my hand under her jaw, stroking my thumb along her cheek, showing her.
Her eyes close tighter. She breathes through her nose.
"And here," I wrap my other arm around her waist, drawing her to myself like she's drawn me for months.
"And here," I kiss her forehead, the tip of her nose, just under her wet eyelashes.
"I've spent my whole life lost and homesick, and I've finally found you. You're home to me. Please, don't hide..."
I don't breathe again until I feel her fingers, uncurling from my beltloops.
She brings her hand up to knuckle-brush her tears away and to rest her hand over my sternum, just like our first night.
And so slowly, she lifts her heart-lids with her heavy lashes and meets my eyes, giving me the smallest start of love, and bright summer-blue night-light.
She lets me come home.