peter

i thought you were
invincible, until
the day you showed up
with a cut the size of
a door nail on your
forehead

you were snowmobiling
without a helmet
the fear of death
manhandled me
the way the waves
did one summer
choking on seaweed
and salt

your hands are always warm
they brush my hair back
tucked behind
my ears

i remember them
cupping your mouth
every september
on the sidelines, you yelled
you were always there

i wish i could
stand on the tallest mountain
and yell until my belly bursts
until the world around us
knows how incredible you are
how important you are

so they stop
driving you insane
on the highways

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.

small town

Lacy always gets bitch seat. She doesn’t mind it’s kind of cozy and that way she can keep her eyes on the road because she doesn’t always trust the person driving the car. It’s not great when the seatbelt is missing or broken which happens a lot because she can’t stop thinking about her head going through the windshield.

The bass ricochets through her eardrums and she doesn’t care much for the music but moves her head to the beat anyway. It’s the middle of July and the air is wet and sticky, unlike yesterday dry as a bone, and that’s typical for a New England summer. The Driver’s air conditioner is broken in his ’99 Civic so the windows are down and she wishes she could put her arm out but it probably wouldn’t make a difference.

The Passenger hands the spliff back and Jenna grabs it. She inhales and exhales and passes it to Lacy and Lacy passes it to Emily because she doesn’t know how to inhale without coughing up a lung and she’d rather not. Lacy is looking through the windshield and The Driver is speeding up because they are on Westboro Road by Tufts Campus and it’s really long and really straight and drivers like to go fast here. She hates when the drivers do this because she doesn’t think it’s cool to get into an accident and die over something small like this and that’s all she can think about as the speedometer hits sixty in a thirty.

Jenna asks The Driver to slow down and he does.

At night this town dies and life happens inside of cars and basements and parking lots. In fifteen minutes they are on the other side of town and The Passenger passes back the second one and Jenna grabs it and this time Lacy takes one hit and she coughs for five minutes straight. She asks if they can stop at Cumbies for some water.  They pass the high school on the way and in the parking lot, they see Joey Silva’s Mazda and later find out that Sara Strindberg was with him and left her ring at home. They pass the Stop and Shop on Pleasant Street and see all of the F-150s decorated with Confederate flags and the kids who drive them sit in the truck beds and have no idea what any of it means.

‘We can go to Paul’s,’ The Passenger says.
‘Do you guys want to go to Paul’s?’ The Driver asks.
‘Sure,’ the girls say.

They pull into Cumbies’ parking lot and Lacy sees the Black Acura. She looks at Jenna and Jenna is looking at her and Emily says, ‘should we leave?’

Lacy gets out of the car and walks into the convenience store and sees him by the slushy machine.

‘Hey,’ she says.
‘Hey.’
‘Where have you been?’
‘Around.’
‘I’ve been calling you.’
‘I know.’
‘I miss you.’
‘I miss you, too.’
‘I don’t get it.’
‘You know how it is.’

His eyes are bloodshot and it seems like he might be looking at her but he’s really looking just past her. He’ll never remember this conversation and it will live inside of her head for weeks.

She waits for him to ask her to come with but he doesn’t and when she walks out she sees Her in his front seat and it hurts. She starts to cry but only a little, no one notices, as she crawls back into the middle seat and waits to leave.

They head to Paul’s and they sit at the Millbury Street stoplight for what feels like hours and for some reason The Driver didn’t put the music back on and it is very peaceful. The crickets sing songs in the tall grass in the open fields and in the distance there are tires screeching and an engine revving and Lacy likes this music better.

Paul lives in the south part of town and his mom is never home and his dad lives in Florida so there are always kids in his basement drinking Sparks or Red Bull vodkas or both. They walk in and it smells like dirty laundry. Paul looks up from his water pipe and smiles.

‘What you guys do tonight?’ Paul asks The Driver.

The Driver sits down and grabs the pipe. As he exhales he says, ‘Nothing. Just drove around.’