the water’s edge

I have one hand leaning against the polished stone, fingertips gripping the fern moss that freckles the walls of the soaring Central Valley waterfall. I look out to see the laughing faces of our friends as they tread in the small, tepid pool and the red-winged bird singing from a feeble branch wrapped in flora and the shimmering of a half-complete rainbow on the wet rocks lining the water’s edge.  All hardly visible, as we stand behind the falling water, peering through a glistening rain that blurs everything in sight with the exception of a few fleeting moments of clarity. My other hand weighs heavily on his hipbone, my thumb slipped between the elastic band of his swim trunks and his flush, olive skin. I put more weight on his body than I do the rock wall. I am looking down at my wiggling toes, as they navigate the slippery rocks beneath them, trying to find comfort and stability before I look back up at him. He lifts my chin with the length of his forefinger. His eyes are narrow and focused, a hazel more green than brown. His hair is wet and when he tosses it back using a hand comb, it has a flow that frames his face perfectly. His chest is glossed over with an after-rain dewiness I’ve only seen in a place like this. There is a single breath between the moment our eyes lock and the moment he presses his soft, timid lips against mine. His mouth frames my upper lip and holds on for what feels like many, many years. I feel the tip of his tongue only briefly before he tugs at my bottom lip gently with his teeth.  My hand, the one against the rock wall, slips away to grab hold of of his angular, unshaven face.

I trust he will not let me fall.

3.17 in paris

It’s raining today in Paris. I overpaid for a small room on Rue de la Victoire. I’m only upset because I know I could have found something better. C’est la vie. I took the train by myself which I’m most proud of. I walked 1.6 km to Hotel Mogador which took 22 minutes and wouldn’t have been a big deal if it wasn’t for the pouring rain and the two packed bags thrown over my poor right shoulder. I should’ve taken a taxi. But, when I arrived at my closet hotel I was glad I saved the money.

I walked out of the hotel and said à bientôt to the concierge and had no idea where to go. I walked towards the Seine toward the garden I had been to with the kids the day before. After walking aimlessly for a bit I settled at a place called Capri Saint-Honoré

I sat outside because they had heat lamps. It was already 2pm and I was hungry. I ordered a cappuccino obviously and a Cesar salad. I almost ordered pizza but need to stop eating like I’m on a forever vacation. It was a good salad anyway, and they served a full basket of bread with olive oil and balsamic and pepper all of which I barely touched but loved the aesthetic of. I started reading my book and eating and this older guy in his forties sat next to me. I figured we’d start talking eventually, he was sitting very close to me, and we did and it was pretty nice. He’s on a two and a half week long euro trip. Did some cool things in Iceland. I didn’t get any reading done and didn’t write at all and now it’s 4 o’clock, but if anything was to get in the way I’m glad it was a conversation. I’m glad it has something to do with people and their stories.

He ordered macaroons and we shared them and then asked if I wanted to join him to tour the opera house. If I had more time in Paris I probably would have but on a day like this – it’s snowing now – I just want to sit somewhere and write.

Now I’m at L’imperial on Rue de Rivoli right by the Tuileries Garden. I ordered a glass of Merlot because it’s the only glass of red wine I knew I could pronounce. It’s good though. I plan on being here for awhile. There’s a couple my age next to me and they are speaking English so I’m trying to eavesdrop. Maybe I will try the place Bo mentioned for dinner. I guess it depends on how much energy I have and how long the walk is.

Paige was supposed to meet me in Paris today but decided not to because the train tickets got pretty expensive. I thought for a minute I wouldn’t go into Paris on my own. The weather wasn’t looking good for walking (and it’s not) and I didn’t want to pay for my own place to stay when I could stay with the family an hour north. But, I knew I had to see the city. Even though my room sucks and I don’t really know what I’m doing it’s just nice to by myself. 

(later…)

This morning I went to the Arc de Triomphe which was full of tourists and two German guys took my photo (because I took theirs). Then they wanted to take a picture with me on their phone and on my phone and that was weird. Then at the crosswalk, a Pakistani man asked to take a selfie with me and that was even weirder.  It reminded me of that time in McDonald’s in Mumbai. After the Arc de Triomphe I had breakfast at ____ and then I walked around the Eiffel Tower once more. Pretty. I went to a cafe nearby called ____ and I think it was my favorite of the whole trip. I sat outside by the heat lamps and it was so hot I kept rubbing the top of my head to make sure it wasn’t burning. I had a cappuccino and finished my book (all the light we cannot see) and I felt my brows furrow because the ending was so good and so sad and in one fell swoop the entire story came together in this wonderful way. I would read again.

ricotta and jam

i met a girl
at a coffee shop
in europe
i said hi

we got to talking
she said it’s time i get out of here
but i don’t know where to go
i said the same thing
to myself yesterday

follow your heart
what else could i say
her half smile, a crescent moon
her dark eyes, nothing special about them
she fixes her hair
her words flat:
i can’t take that advice

because my heart built a home
in a polished seashell
the one that lies on the coastline
of a ruined city
seventeen hundred miles away

disguised as a lipstick stain
on the rim of a red solo cup
filled half way with liquor
half way with lust
lust at a frat party
i am a passerby

it makes hootch
in the rainforest
and dances to the sound
of languages it can’t understand
makes love to flamenco
in cobblestone alleys far away in the past

i always forget that
it sits idly in this coffee shop
waiting for visions to become words
ten thousand words, ten thousand more
my fingers like rocket ships

my heart takes rest in a city
blooming in frondescence
wrapped up in auburn curls
curls that do not shed, i shed

underneath a sticky bar mat
in a busy city center late night
conversations of substance, or not
company of substance, or not
i’ll make you a white russian
with my eyes closed

my heart salutes the sun amongst the Joshua Trees
a place where it never rains
my heart hallucinates
the clouds put on a show
i could stay,
what happens if i stay
if i leave
do you see?

if i follow my heart
ill be stretched so thin
my skin will blanket the galaxy
my bones will float mid air

if i follow my heart
my elbow will live in France
while my toes march the rockies
my lips will sing country songs
in dive bars and dorm rooms

my ass will sit on a train
with a one way ticket to nowhere in particular
just because the thought of starting over
tastes as sweet
as this ricotta and jam
this ricotta and jam, have you tried it?

i have
how’d your heart get there
to all of these places
the wind, i guess.
maybe you should follow the wind, i said.
maybe i should follow the wind

the perfect winter table

Her face tilts upward, as the sun fully reclaims the summer sky on this particularly warm day in July. She is wearing a red dress that hangs off her shoulder blades, melts to her midline, and billows out like the mouth of a tulip. Her hair is neatly tied back into a low bun and rests on the base of her neck, because he liked it like that. Three years ago, when they lived here, they only stayed long enough to see the dreary winter months of grey. Yet, it all feels wildly familiar, even now.

The sidewalk is full of life outside of Salut Salon. Mothers with their babies and couples with their feet tied and eyes locked and old men with their hand-rolled cigarettes. She has never seen it quite like this. And though tempted by the cascading summer light and the innocent laughter of children and the open table on the corner of Werdstrasse and Weststrasse, she opts for the table inside. The one by the floor to ceiling window in front of the fireplace and tall shelves of German literature. The perfect winter table. The one they’d occupy every Thursday and Sunday afternoon, sometimes Wednesday when he didn’t have to work so hard. He worked so hard, always writing things down and keeping the folded notes in the back pocket of his favorite blue jeans, the pair she’d always check before throwing in the laundry. It was an obsession really, the way he’d pause in the middle of conversation to announce a new idea or roll over in the middle of the night to send an e-mail or pull her in so close she could taste the hint of lavender soap on his hands, whispering “you’re going to be so proud of me one day.”

Beautiful day, she thinks, and orders a cappuccino and tries to remember what it’s like here when it rains. The empty chair on the other side of the table is heavy with grief; the feeling of loss as raw as it was the day of that unthinkable accident last September.

The stranger behind her cracks his knuckles in sweet succession, all eight fingers, four on each hand, like a bad habit turned ritual of necessity. She closes her eyes and does not turn around because it’s not him, but it might be the closest she’s been in what feels like the most debilitating eternity of all time.

She stays there well into the evening, and watches the envious summer afternoon turn into a brilliant thunderstorm symphony, knowing if he were here with her now she would cup her hands around his gentle, angular face and say, “I am always proud of you.”

a short story someday

citrus winter

one day I’ll tell you
about the citrus winter
how it made me shiver
had to shed skin
to find a thicker layer
I’ll tell you about
the tips of the pines
how they came to resemble
my heartbeat lines
I’ll take you to september
where we’ll flirt with the coast
and the nicer weather
remind you not all souls will
dance together forever
I’ll show you the creatures
who light up the sea
in a part of the world
with bare feet and fruit trees
we’ll meet a girl named Jessy
who sews and makes tea
one day I’ll tell you
what it feels like to sleep next to
the man of your dreams
wake up hungover
too much wine,
too much cheese
one day I’ll show you what I mean by
you are the most beautiful thing
making maps out of freckles
swinging our hips
you’ll never feel like
you have to give anything to him
one day I’ll tell you
about the click of my heels
down foreign city streets
in a place as surreal
as the corner of your heart
where I’ll live the rest of my days
citrus winter, wild summer
tasteful spring, auburn fall
you and me
through the thick
of it all

– to my future daughter