At the dock, which is really a concrete platform edging into the Atlantic, hard blue waves whip up sending a pale mist across naked ankles or nude hose or the hems of stark white pants. Some of the other families have hired photographers to catch the spouses standing beside their sailors. They curl around each other, creating the scene we all know: off to war, last kiss, and then-
You and your daughter do not match these scenes.
It’s 6:15 in the morning. You’re both wearing shorts and tank tops, your hair still messy from sleep. Your husband takes off his sunglasses, hands them to you. Drop them in your purse. Watch your husband squint while his eyes adjust to your face under the sun. Watch him pick up your daughter. Hug him with her body between you. He kisses her hair. He hands you your daughter and turns away. Carry her in the other direction. Fold her into her car seat. Drive her home. Your husband’s boat drives him out to sea.
Traffic is heavy on the way home, the interstate filled with military spouses, all of you sliding into your independence, your bodies vibrating, trying to contain the space between this minute and the minute the sailors should return home in eight months.
Continue Reading . . .
Xena Warrior Princess with an iron
bra sprays Downy wrinkle release
on khakis & I say thank you. I am gentle.
There’s a little nipple on my new pen
so I can draw on my intelligent pad, 15
dreams of when I was a violent man-
sized version of Brahman. Full of unseen
colonies, my hands could summon
cold. WASH ME written on the passenger
window covered in salt. I water the Shasta
daisy with Mt. Dew, the rare old kind
that makes grasses grow & water flow
in a free & easy way-gone part of me still
alive outside Limerick, rousing a cup of tea.
This is a story that doesn’t end well. It doesn’t begin well either.
I received the first suicide letter in 2014. Maybe it was a year earlier. Maybe it was 2015.
You hardly know me, the notes often began, but I feel as if I know you so well, better than anyone.
I don’t know why they’d chosen me. Maybe—like they wrote—they felt they really knew me. Better than anyone. Maybe they felt I really knew them too.
I had been going around the country telling people things, mostly getting paid for it and writing books, too. Writing books, signing books. I wasn’t telling people how to live, I was only telling people how I live. I got pretty good with my penmanship. Pretty good with a pithy note that meant so much more (how much?). Pretty good with a signature reduced to a swath of repeating letters. Pretty good. One picks these things up. One picks up on things too.
I was 29, living in a spare studio and almost always broke, spent, simultaneously broke and spent, more prone to suicide—or at least writing a suicide letter—than anyone I ever met on my travels. Anyone I ever heard from in the letters I began to receive, sometime after 2013. In those days, everyone I knew either lived off their parents or with them, or both, so I figured I had achieved something, whatever that was. Living in a spare studio on the edge of Atlantic Avenue and Smith Street.
It wasn’t a bad existence. It wasn’t as bad as I make it out to be. I was writing every morning. Every morning, every evening. Nothing to do but to do it, and the rest of my life to do it…
This is what I do in the dark, I told a packed amphitheater once, standing at a lectern with my book in one hand and with the other, making emotive gestures which mimicked, I think, the dialogue in the passage. I hardly ever use microphones, something about the way the transducer alters my voice; something about the way the machine changes me.
But the truth is I do it in the light, usually the morning sun but also the light produced by the three strobes above my desk in the spare studio. Suffering but also smiling, on the inside, at least, smiling and singing to show you something you already know, something that has been there all along.
The goal of the novelist is to tell you about yourself.
Continue Reading . . .