Early May in New York State
my father on the edge of forgetting himself
and I, so sick I couldn't see
did not understand where we were

A silver diner in the middle of no-where
two open-faced roast beef sandwiches
he talked about Rohack's and his life as a child
and I, with muted ears, trying so hard to listen

more than anything
we should be proud of ourselves
in the end

see this how I see it now
For three or more months most of my conversations were based on what the other party thought I should be, and I am a very nice girl, so I did my best to believe what I was told and act accordingly. And when I was alone I did not exist. It would have hurt like hell to exist. Hence "wasted summer." I was living in a hotel for students, mostly international students, to whom I was kind, but not particularly friendly. I had little occasion to be so anyway, except in the kitchenette (I had no fridge and no cookware, so if it wasn't cafeteria food it was Nile soups or Korean bowl noodles or baked potatoes). There was one greasy-haired black-eyed white boy who used to hit on me in the dining center; he was so very smooth he would ask for my ID number over and over again and I just began to glare at him. Later he was busted for running a meth lab, in the hotel. The hotel was white and organized in three wings; from the air it would look like an injured swastika.

I had my own bathroom for the first and so far only time in my life. The shower was tiled bright blue, and I used to sit on the floor and let the water spray my face. It was also a perfect shower in which to sit and cry. There were twin beds on the opposite ends of what had been a three-person dormitory-style room. I had bought The Breeders' Last Splash in June just after I moved in, and many nights I put "Divine Hammer" on repeat play and bounced on one or the other of the beds. I was old enough, I told myself, that no one could tell me not to jump on the bed; but young enough that I didn't own the beds myself and couldn't give a shit about damaging the springs. One night I took a walk around town - ending up at the railroad tracks, where I tend to gravitate in any given town - and whispered to myself, "You are as free now as you ever have been or ever will be." I was 19 and had nowhere to be the following morning, so what I had to say to myself was true, yet I did not quite believe it.

One night a few weeks in the summer I was tripping on the morning-after pill, having lost it to a boss at my newspaper job. The next few days I walked around with a tense, bloody, aching cervix and a backpack full of nerves and fears. In the middle of the night I figured out I was a day late already (or roughly that: I am bad at keeping track of these things).

Early in the a.m. I tracked down B. At five a.m. it was of little consequence that this boy B would not have me. We shared more intimacy linking little fingers than M and I had with our bodies enmeshed. We sat up against one of the beds and he was quiet, mostly. It is one of the things everyone notices when they meet B and tell me yes, they have met B, but often they seem to mind, and I don't. When he gets very quiet I remember to be quiet too, and can hear myself think. I was on a ride the likes of which I hadn't experienced before, haven't since. Literally, alternately howling, giggling, crying, shouting and gripping my knees like a frightened child. There were good, clear moments, too, but I don't remember how any of it went.

I knew I was a day late and was terrified what the ride meant. I did not tell him any of that. I got up periodically to blow my nose. I don't remember what I said. I have diary entries that say it was wrong and flawed and I hated it. I couldn't think of anyone to blame, but I was waiting for M to talk to me, to admit it, which he never really did. B had been at work all night and once I was dry from crying he gave me a hug and got on his bike and rode home in the rising sun. After that, sometimes he'd come over and throw rocks at my window, or I'd see him on the street and we'd wrap each other in words and summer air like blankets. We got through a winter and I got through a week in his house with little conversation. But easily, B is still my favorite, he never falls off the charts for long.

5 a.m. We're both used to staying up all night. We're both high and I've been spending the night tossing words at my screen and seeing what sticks. I've built up a lot of energy but I've been waiting for you to say the words.

5 a.m. You say you want to smoke one more bowl and go to bed. So we do just that. But when we go to bed we do anything but sleep.

We start out lying and staring at the ceiling, moving gradually closer as a heady need for closeness finds us tangled in each other's arms. The pads of your fingers trail down the back of my neck. You're tired, but I won't let you sleep now. We've got all day.

And we use it. After countless hours of hinting at the pleasure to come, with teeth and fingernails and soft breath in the ear at just the right time, we indulge ourselves. When your body is finally too sensitive to continue, I pull you against me and hold you as sleep takes over. I'm not too far behind you.

I have never cared for sleeping next to someone. But then again you've introduced me to a world of unknown treasures.

BrevityQuest11 Word count 209

I'm dreaming of the sea these days, and sometimes of gardens that seem impossibly lush to me, even after the deep, fern-filled woods of the Iron Range and the the brilliant gardens full of marigold and moss-rose and brambled black raspberries I grew up with. Brighter than the orchids, turning their faces up in the Arboretum, and a thousand other things that these flowers are not.

There's jungle, there, birds of paradise turning out flame-tongued petals around pointed knives of vivid indigo. In among them, birds riot, a soft, humid haze falls, and vines spill over from thick, tall trees. Beyond them, the ocean is roaring, in and out, in and out, shouting and murmuring and whispering. My lips are covered with the salt of them, my nose is filled with the scent of them, and when I wake, my cheeks are stiff with weeping. I cannot tell if it's happiness or despair.

Sometimes, it is night, and the fog has rolled in, and the flowers are blooming. Sometimes it is morning, and Venus is rising over the grey and blue of the waves. Sometimes I am walking the beach. Sometimes, there is a city that insinuates fingers of concrete and rebar into my garden. Sometimes, the vines and moss spill over onto the sidewalks, slowly reclaiming the unnatural growth into the natural. Ivory vanilla flowers scents the air, their pods rattling together in a warm seaside breeze.

There are steps here, you know. They wind down in a spiral along a hill, around a great cement pillar covered with clumps of overhanging marigolds and columbine, paved in round, polished stones. Glass floats, still intact, poke up amongst them.

But when I wake up, all I can smell are the dirty clothes left over from 96 hours of restless, not-sleep, the electric smell of the routers and computers humming away in my room, the air conditioning of the apartment building. I shamble around servers and piled books and a toolchest, I trip into the bathroom over bags still packed from my July trip. I shuffle into jeans, t-shirt, workboots.

My nights are illuminated, florescent lights: the servers wink at me grimly, the routers hum along. The air handlers are howling. Shadows lurk in the exposed iron girders. The air handlers howl all night, despondent, the pager is a counterpoint, a shrieking, clownlike noise. I have been here for hours, I will be here for hours more. It is either too hot or too cold, too revved up on caffeine, not revved enough, and always dehydrated.

I dream of green, but when I'm awake, the lawns are manicured perfect, trees planted in ranks, and when I take detours for five minutes, the sight of condos brings me to tears. I, who am used to broken-down Victorians, clunky apartment buildings made from 1900s hotels, skyscrapers, churches for God's sake, rickety storefronts, a difference between one home in the next. The gardens here are expanses of regimented petunia, sculpted bushes, marigolds made orderly. Ginkgo trees lovingly tended.

I want the scent of decaying greens.

I want to smell moss, want to smell the decomposing grace of the forest floor, feel leaves and mud under my boots, want the smell of the ocean, the rush of the icemelt, the roar of the Columbia, tea on my lips, want to be on the range in the hills of the Tri-Cities with a rifle on my knee and my friends at my sides. I want the sunlight golden on my face, and so, I dream of it at dawn, at evening, at noon, turning my face up from this unreal garden to bathe in the buttery light until human voices wake me.

And in the howling of the cooling systems, in the roar of the server fans, I drown.

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