the squishy middle

the fan buzzed, spinning damp heat uselessly around the vague light of the room. 

i felt the weight of your body pressing into the mattress next to me but the blades whirling near the ceiling were louder than your breathing and you hardly moved. 

catching myself, i drew my eyes away from the rise of your shoulder. of course you were still breathing. if i turned away and imagined an otherwise empty bed, i may have been shocked to remember you lying there, so unimposing. 

but my brain whirred, tempted by the pattern of the fan.  

you know how i get when i'm alone. 

my body, tense with awareness, felt the presence of inevitability.

like you had been prescribed to me. 

dozing in and out of early morning sleep, the subtle smell of drinks from the night before rose from the furnace of your skin. your closed eyes flickered, resting contentedly, as if this routine belonged to only us.  

i could feel my own skin contradicting yours, cool, tense, awake. 

the thin sheets stretched across the small bed, tempting to pull us together somewhere in the squishy middle. i had already spent an hour here, pressing myself in the other direction, wary of the glow that lingered in between but aware of the immanence of sleep. 

i woke to the heated curve of your back pressed against my chest.
i blinked once.
your hand reached for mine and i fell again – this time without hesitation – into the weight of warmth.
of knowing.
of inevitability. 

into a place where no contradictions remained. there was only softness: pliable and led onward by the gentle pull of what had always been.

go home

i peeled off the red lid, tightly sealed to the rim of the clear plastic tupperware i carried you in. it kept you from escaping in the truck, bumping down the dirt road to the river. 

i smiled at what was left of you, fleetingly wondering what exactly that was, and sank the transparent cube into the icy lap of the river's edge, water licking the back of the box. 

i watched as the ashes sank into the dark silt, lingering in the pool near my feet until the current caught them, sweeping them,
down, 
out,
away.

into the night

the combination of dust and dog hair woven into the blanket wrapped around me made my nose run. the itch of wool, brown like dirt, left my cheek feeling hot and chapped. the air outside was inky; the kind of thick blackness that makes you strain your eyes open, begging them to see. the vibrations of the Toyota lulled me to sleep only a few hours earlier and it was supposed to have lasted longer. i had crawled into the bed of the truck, covered but not sealed by the green camper shell, my face tear-stained and angry. your brother drove, his wife in the passenger seat. speeding quickly into the night, i'm sure, the movement of the tin shelter that held us felt drawling and unhurried in an entirely misleading way. i wanted to go no further than we had since we left the base, watching you wave wearily from the balcony in skivvies and a sweatshirt. i also never wanted to see that place again. not the cold, grey barracks. not the soul-crushing beige of every other surface in sight, parched and lifeless.  

rumbling somewhere outside of Barstow, the truck's tires kicked rocks up under my head, muffled only by the makeshift pillow, a few sweatshirts packed for the cold Mojave nights. i blinked into the night, sandy eyes burning, depleted of anything natural – no sleep left, no tears left. if i could have ceased to exist in the bed of that truck; if i could have melted into the ragged carpet, undone in wrecked confusion, in sorrow, in self-hatred; if i could have begun again, somewhere new, as someone else, i would have chosen that moment: wool scraping my skin, head pounding with each pothole, and Jennings' croon, stifled inside the cab. 

stars hang on tiny strings, my dreams are made of memories

once everything made sense, now i get so alone that i can't sleep

will somebody please tell me if this is where i'm supposed to be

bottles on the table and socks on the floor

trying to remember what i started this for

mute

he didn’t want his entire life to be a series of unintended consequences. he pined for a time when the plans he'd spent dozens of hours making and documenting would have fuel to become tangible, alive. he longed for a version of himself that included drive and determination. and energy, above all. he saw his own truth unfolding as the person who ages without perspective on his own life; looking back, at some point close to the end, advising all those living next not to take it for granted.  

don’t waste it.  

it’s all happening now.  

live it.  

but he couldn't pull himself away from the melancholy. the grey february fog shrouded more than his already poor vision. it was the mounting pressure between his shoulder blades. it was the static in his waking brain. the chaos in place of sleep. it was the lead weight of his feet. and the sensation  - much like being chained - that arrived when he rallied the strength to try. to try anything at all. there must have been many beautiful things happening in the life he led. he hoped someone else might know it.  

from this dust

i have dreamt of this place and the secrets it holds. and i have dreamt of the things that drove me away. and as fleeting as dreams, my thoughts were found scrambled, unaware, unavailable, and complicated by time. so eager i was to say the right thing, to choose the right direction,
to
do
it
all
right.
so easy it was to buy into seclusion, to tuck away into grief.

but it flowed through the gaps, as inevitable truths do.
i pressed it into the cracks of the weathered wooden bench under the rain-beaten tin of a young mother's roof. i left it stained in the earth, punched loose with my fist,
bloom here, please grow, bring life from this dust.
and i left it behind on the torn paper sheets, balled up and buried in a bin in the square sterile room.

there's something about this autumn rain, the darkness that falls early and lingers late this time of year - something much more revealing than in the bright white summer sun. perhaps all this sat still, waiting for a gentler glance. maybe i needed to be more patient. it seems i have always needed to be more patient.