the sepia self

She always did love the idea of coffee – the smell of it, the feel of it, the way it made her seem sophisticated whenever she made it. She loved the way it looked when the milk made patterns in the steaming sepia liquid before disappearing into the foam.

But she hated the taste.

And it was the same with cigarettes. She always wanted to be a smoker, to carry fancy cigarettes and fancier lighters and to be able to ‘pop out for a smoke’, but, as hard as she tried to force the addiction, she got nothing from cigarettes except a pounding headache and the urge to never touch them again.

And oh, how she wanted to go to parties. She wanted to sip champagne and wear slinky black dresses and be asked to dance by talldarkhandsome young men and they’d twirl the night away to smooth jazz, played live of course, and she would have legions of admirers after her, begging for her hand, but she’d turn them all down with a tinkling laugh because who would ever want to settle down when they had a life like this, and the very air surrounding her would be filled with mystery and excitment and

and

the cold night air blew roughly in, blowing the eviction notices from her spindly old table. She blinked, the smooth jazz fading out of her mind and the sound of sirens taking its place.

The shadows under her eyes were big enough and dark enough for all her childhood monsters to hide in and her hair was hanging limply around her face, but she was smiling a slightly off-balance smile as she slowly poured some sour milk into the stained cup in front of her.

And her smile grew as she watched it make patterns in coffee she’d never drink, while her fingers toyed absently with cigarettes she’d never smoke.

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[always a] work in progress

[a certain list poem
of all six regrets
of a certain writer
teenager
s t o r y t e l l e r
girl.]

i always wish that
i had said thank you
that i had told you just how sweet you really were
because when you made me that cupcake [with the little candy heart]
and got all dressed up [just to ask me to dance]
it was the most lovely thing a boy ever
ever
did for me.
and i shouldn’t have left you hanging.

and i wish i didn’t give up
so easily
i wish that
when i decided to do something
i would actually do it
because being lazy and unreliable can weigh you down so much.

and sometimes, just sometimes
i wish the stories in my head didn’t feel so true
because people never understand that when i write something sad and they say
‘then just change it’ or ‘don’t kill her!’ or ‘you’re the writer, just undo it’
it makes me squirm
and i have to explain that it wasn’t a choice
or filler
or a plot device
it was just what happened.

i wish i hadn’t ever thought about the fact that
in a few years’ time, all these moments
every fleeting thought and desire and emotion
will have been forgotten
and i wish that this thought hadn’t struck me in trigonometry
because mini panic attacks can be very distracting, and
math’s hard enough as it is.

i wish that i had never identified myself as
the quiet one
the shy one
the ‘ohpleaseleavemealone’ one
and i know i should have waited longer to decide who i was
because an identity is like a broken bone
if it sets wrong, you have to break it all over again
just to fix it.

and i wish that i had never forgotten how to
think myself happy
because when i was younger i knew that i could choose
to have a good day
i knew exactly where to find my smiles
and then i grew up.
and i forgot.

    [but now, oh, now i’m remembering. better late than never.]

never forgotten

her hair was lit up with traces of red as the sun trickled in, fighting its way through the dust to reach the creaky wooden floor. and her knees, her knees were pressed into the floor too, and they were sore from splinters – but she barely noticed. all she wanted was that

box.

it was old and worn, and when she pulled it towards herself she moved carefully so it wouldn’t break. and then slowly, slowly, with her chipped orange and blue fingernails, she peeled the tape off.

and she closed her eyes as they washed over her – images of playing in the grass until her feet turned green, of running and running until she couldn’t breathe [but she still managed to laugh], of eating dinner as fast as she could because all she wanted was to go outside and play with the trees and the sun and the sky…

we’ve been waiting so long, whispered her memories.

they drifted around her head playfully as she looked through the box; sometimes she would see something and one of the memories would pop out, giggling excitedly as it danced in front of her eyes. and other times, as she was searching through old papers and polaroids and mac-and-cheese necklaces, a little memory would creep shyly forward. and it would tap on her shoulder, so lightly she almost wouldn’t feel it; and then, then it would drift into her mind with a sigh of relief because finally, oh finally, it was back where it belonged.

and she couldn’t help wondering, as she cringed at her school photos, what had happened. she couldn’t help wondering how all these pieces of her had been trapped, locked away in a dusty old box. she couldn’t help wondering when her childhood had disappeared into the attic.

and as she stood up [with some difficulty] she rubbed her rounded belly, feeling the little kicks coming from inside. the memories flooded around her, probing curiously at this new little life; and then they settled again in her mind, knowing that soon, soon they would have so many beautiful new memories to play with.

she closed her eyes and breathed deeply, letting a few tears drip down her face.

“when you grow up, little one,” she smiled softly, “never forget to remember.”

yes.

have you ever loved someone so different
so out of reach, so
e t h e r e a l
that you might as well be in love with the stars in the sky?

and have you ever wondered about
ghosts?
about the unseen and the otherworldly and the
just
plain
bizarre?

have you ever wanted to
t
h
r
o
w
your computer out the window
because the backspace key keeps sticking
and you feel like that must be some kind of ironic sign?

have you ever listened to the stories
dancing around in your head?
or seen something
[a look, or a smile, or frosted tree branches glittering in the sun]
that needs telling
rightawayrightawayrightaway?

have you ever felt like such a stereotypical
loser
like you should be in some teenybop movie about coming of age
like you should just crawl under a rock
like you want to burst into tears at your desk
just because no one wants to sit next to you?

have you ever wondered how other people’s brains work?
how their thoughts float around
how they see the world
what the voice in their head sounds like, and
what sorts of things do they imagine, anyway?

have you ever felt so exhausted and
so overwhelmed and
so messed up
that you just want to scream?

just a little walk

He always loved the city; he loved the way it could swallow him whole.

And sometimes he would walk for hours (and hours and hours), and at first it would be beautiful because the late afternoon sunlight turned everything gold and pink and lovely, and warmed his pale skin. And, before the sun set, he always noticed things; nice things that made him smile. He noticed people playing and laughing, buskers giving loud, friendly compliments, trees swaying serenely in the breeze, and for a while he would feel like he was part of something bigger and better and happier.

And then it would fill the air – the soft smell of dinner cooking, twisting and turning gracefully in the breeze until it reached the noses of the children playing outside. And they would all run back to their apartments, and the sun would sink behind the skyline, and he would still be walking because there was never anything better to do anyway.

He would get lost in the sound of his sneakers pound-pound-pounding into the cracked sidewalks.

And he would pause sometimes, because the windows of a house would be glowing warmly into the night. And sometimes, just sometimes, he would imagine he was inside too, where he should be, and he was safe and comfortable and laughing with his family.

But then it would get later, and the only lights still on were in gritty, dingy buildings that no one should ever want to set foot into. And he would see figures in shadows, mumbling to each other, and men laughing too loudly, and women in short skirts and strawberry lipgloss and click-click-click high heels.

And sometimes he would notice one of the women, and wonder what it would be like to crush her lips under his, what it would be like to feel and taste and touch and think about something other than his own life. And sometimes he would find out.

And other times, other times he would set foot in the gritty, dingy buildings, and let the music shake his soul and block out his mind. And he’d sit under the flashing lights and take things that made the world swim around him, and he would watch the music dance and listen to the thoughts trickle out of his head and when people laughed he felt like the sound was scraping along his skin and maybe it was a bad feeling but he couldn’t really tell and

and

and

he would wake up the next morning in some old alley he’d never seen before. His head would be pounding and his feet would be aching and he knew it was stupid, but he still always loved the city.

He loved the way it could swallow him whole.