To the boy whose sudden surfacing still haunts,
to the boy who is suddenly surfacing and haunts:
Let me fumble with my house keys for a while.
It has been a while
since the last time the sun has fallen on the right
side of the horizon,—the unsupposed—since the windows have
been clear enough to show me dusk.
When you recognize, the pavement cries and the streetlamps
find a way to congratulate me mockingly. I am waiting
for the closeness, the itch in my fingers for when you arrive, the thrums
in the street, the drumming
of the little drummer, proclaiming He must be
here. I lied: I was not waiting, I was barring as much as I could
from the inside. Even the chandeliers disguised as carpets now
are whispering The waltz might yet begin, the waltz might yet die
again. If I ask you to walk away, will you
call on a deluge, screaming? Will you scream until I stop
asking you to leave? The chandeliers chant and I recall
having to recall you have yet to come. Soon
the storm comes; this house’s howling calms.
When you knock, your fist recreates
this house: its holy, its haunted, its haunting, its body,
my body. Begins to wake what is left of the wrecked
door, the crumbling porch, the Atlases we call posts.
Your hand wakes. Come in, please, would you like to
drink? What would you like? I can only offer
some tea, some coffee, the usual—
except it’s been years and even the cupboard is decaying.
Except it’s been years. I forgot how to offer
what I have. What remains untouched revolts. We remain
aching for the vine whose crawling blesses
whatever it may pass, whose passing blesses
whatever it entwines, that which crawls and passes,
and climbs and blesses, and twines and condemns
stillness. So: touch or revolt. Or both—this convulsion, this
resistance, ours. Will you hold? If I ask you to
dance, will you be a jester, a deranged knave, an unironic laugh, the promise
of laughter, the king in his preschool pajamas? Will you be
willing to be crownless, headless, spinning like the jaded
ballerina in a music box from long ago? I am not a lost child but lost
childhoods. I am the ogre mask, the drunkard elf, the beautiful fairy whose
ruin was forgotten
because unwritten. Let me teach you to dance, and you will
be given whatever story you ask for.
The living room breathes again. There are no other rooms, only
spaces gone before ever warmed. I will not
stop fumbling with the keys just yet but you may come closer
the dusty walls, the dusty dolls, the dust
if you dare hold.
What remains untouched revolts. We remain, we ache
for time. We let each other let this happen. I let you happen.
The morning happens.
We second-guess the dawn; I’ve let you in. The windows have yet to be
cleaned. It’s okay. I give you the (illusion of) freedom
to stay; take.
The Stranger rubs lotion on your back, you are giddy, the sun is shining brightly and the picture fits that of what is always drawn, what is always entered in competitions and ends up as the winning piece, that heartfelt moment even in cheap printer ink. You are straining again, the Stranger tells you to stop squirming for a moment and please, Jane, settle down for a while, your Mom’s setting up the picnic and the beach is just right there, see, it’s not going away but you have always been impossible and it has always been easier to stomp your feet and wait to get what you want because this is how it goes and this is how it is. The sand pricked them, you rationalize with a severely flawed rationality when your eyes sting and you work with the warmth the Stranger feels he owes you on holidays when it is acceptable to forge ice with ice and not have it turn to lukewarm bordering or easing into cold water. You are almost ten and this does not make sense. It does not have to. The Stranger only has to pierce the tiny marshmallow on a twig he found for you—he found for you!—while ambling along the shore before he started the campfire. He only has to take you into his lap like you are two again and keep on roasting marshmallows like they would account for her strangled laugh and her loss and your stitched lips and your loss but you do not think these things when Mom reprimands both you and the Stranger for spoiling your appetites before dinner. He only has to pick up that decades-old guitar and sing a song you know Grandpa likes very much too and it is natural to burrow in her arms now and say this is nice while she murmurs we’re okay, we’re okay in your hair and the Stranger does not hear but chuckles and dives into a narrative of when he first met her shivering like a stray kitten in a dark alley but pretending to stand tall so he had to creep in carefully and at the moment you’re watching as she swats his arm and pretends to glare. You are twelve now and you’re okay still; now the world has its way of making incidents so magnified and wonderful and she still does the greenhouse thing to keep her hands occupied and her tiny mouth—much like yours—silent but curved upwards every time spring comes. The worries have begun: the slender of your waist, pressing; the glasses perched on your nose, a constant catalyst of crisis; and then the pining. There is no time for Florida trips anymore; all that’s known is your Mom’s shifty gaze when the temperatures start dropping, and the wilting, yes, the inevitable wilting plants a metaphor in your head but metaphors are strangers still and the Stranger himself washes ashore only when you send him a formal Thanksgiving invitation printed on fancy paper and and sealed inside an envelope you scavenged his office for. She has your fire, dear, he laughs again at the dinner table and she has her dinner setup perfect and her lips tainted for the first time in weeks or months but it strikes you as funny when all you can think of is how strange and terrible he phrased his sentence. She giggles too, and it is as decadent as menthol cigarettes and this you could not have said then but you are saying now. Fifteen is tender, fifteen is fragile—but so is how it paved the way for sixteen when he proclaimed his name and you prophesied that he could only embody it from this point on because there are others now. Somebody Else’s hands are easing the tension in your back and teaching you the proper way to puff in hopes of parting—helping you part your lips, your legs, letting you part from all you deemed blind and right and childish because if everything was magnified then, everything is burning now and you’d rather not let the Stranger fondle and kindle your cold. This is safe, you say, this is warm and I am good but the Stranger never asks the way she finally stopped asking so you do not complain about the weight and just entertain yourself with thoughts of blistering other people. You dare come home with alcohol engraved on your breath—no, alcohol in your veins, isn’t what what they say?—and the Stranger does not strike you but one of the gargoyles in the house is struck by the punishment you are painting. The Stranger is cold. He does not bother wanting to murmur calming prayers to you when the lights in the neighborhood are off and the posts in the streets are swaying while you dance inside your room blocking thunderclaps and already planning a midnight trail. He thinks he does not have to do anything but get you expensive jewelry in hopes that he is investing and with the joke that he is still investing in you. You sit on the lap of a pretty boy whose murmurs almost hold gravitas but the Stranger never takes you to the beach anymore and you never practice knots on his favorite tie to wear for work anymore and he never asks if you are still his little girl. Everyone knows better now. The Someone Elses always ask to find you but you find yourself asking them for directions.