There are few times in my life I have been able to actually say my jaw dropped.
When I woke up, an old, throbbing sunlight ebbed from the blinds, yet I turned to the kitchen to make breakfast, despite the curious grey cloud glimpsed from the window. When I stepped outside, I inhaled greyscale, watched ashes flutter to the ground–then saw the flames in the hills. The fiery rage of a Greek god lashing out at the forest, helicopters hovering, planes darting in to the billow of chaos to fight the war. Snowy particles collected on cars in the parking lot. A flake drifted its way into my eye, stinging, tears coming to the rescue. If only the mountains could cry. I wandered through the day like a sick dragon, wishing my lungs could vomit up the carcinogens that burned inside. Smelling charred.
So this time was different, after all. My first effort was mostly sparks. The flashes shone on my flushed cheeks, brightness flying with fresh energy and shy hope. When they didn’t catch–well, that’s what my friend called “fizzling out.” Simply put and horribly disappointing it was, using flint for the first time. Then I tried matches and a lighter, for your pipe, for my Nag Champa. Our foreheads rested against each other’s shoulders. The darkness of night curled with smoke made a sweet and pungent silence, in a canyon of shooting stars, and I stopped fearing burn scars because all the colors were still shades of blue.
But they say things about leaving a fire unattended, how it can smolder even when it’s buried. And I remembered you telling me your favorite color was orange. The next morning, the ash smudges on my skin were difficult to scrub off, and the hills were scorched to cinders.
The Unfolding Present Engagement with φιλια
We band together and they determine to become my new family. My full circle of restoration. Barely acquainted, yet I am surrounded by smiling arms. The wise Owl speaks over us, People are more important than stuff, dammit. Eyes kind, hands so strong. We take a night trip to the lake and bare our bodies to the element. The water stark as trust, but the view of stars matchless, aiming at the heart. He could have sent the blow, the fierce wind to beat against my ramparts; instead, gentle sunlight allowed, and so my tears are shed to the sky. Trust, tell me now that I have engaged your soul. We talk about God. Getting lost together never so reassuring. It seems I am remembered. It seems I am born. When we kayak out onto the lake, the water invites, we speak to one another, and we race back to shore, cabin lights like planets fixed in the trees. Our forest home, we share together, and so I fall asleep next to you, wake up next to you. Single beds, empty rooms a fading lonely memory. We take up learning, becoming holy together with dirt smeared on our faces. Engage συνηθως. We give each other seats at the table, intertwine our nerves, reuniting ourselves when the day is done. Family is not a biological term. We commune, we eat bread and slowly become unveiled. Trust, I tell you, I am scared, I tell you, but I want to be known. Share my gaze, share my aches, share my mirth uninhibited. Our holy hymn, massaging sore wings, breathing in our scents, as we step to each other’s beats. Peace following me to sleep. And when I howl at the moon tonight, you all will join me, and the twilight world will ring with our dissonance and harmony complete.
συνηθως–A word to describe the bond of those who have walked trails together
Chapter V. (cont.)
And near the end, Hector my brother as well. You wolverine Jack Black, dark angel with a wingspan of heavens. We built ourselves on concrete, the fashion of electric guitars. You would tell me with a grin to stay, find a place, and consume, because you are ξενία. Sharing forks, burritos. And you are not afraid, not afraid of love, my brother. We slung broken chairs around on the asphalt, between the trees, and made it our wild night. Consolation for losing your Andromache. And you found me a sweatshirt, walked me home. Our communication, a wild peace, beckoning each other with howls vibrating in our throats. You told me my voice was golden, and I smiled again. My world tends to explode when I see you. Truthfully that is how things are, we take up shields and charge the trees, together wolf brother and wolf sister.
Chapter V. Another Awakening
When I woke up the morning after the red night. First seeing Hector and Aeneas, I could not speak. Second seeing Poseidon and Diomedes, feeling myself cracking a smile and leaving. When I turned to see her standing at my doorstep–the end. The fissures gave way to the breaking and there I stood in the midst of the crowd with water and salt on my face–my hands holding on to her spine, in her horsehair as if to keep me from falling farther into the dark. With a toss of her mane, she carried me away, prayed, opened her cabin door to a roaring fire, for me, that I might find refuge from the winter. That my blood might begin to thaw. Winter–it will not steal your substance, she said. And for what are beds made but to give friends a place to lay down their heads? A smile as strong as her lion heart. And you are not alone in this, she said. As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand…*
*Mumford & Sons, “Timshel”
iii. A Second Interlude
Sod this, I said. Sherlock, the machine–Mrs. Hudson had just been shot, why is he so unmanageably bloody frustrating, of course he’s always like this, except he’s more like this than he usually is, which is–wrong. Something’s wrong, and I can’t–I just have to go, he won’t let me in, I just can’t–You stay here, if you want, on your own, I said, turning to leave. Placidly he replies, Alone is what I have, without looking up. Alone protects me. I stared back at him. No. Friends protect people.*
*Stephen Thompson, “The Reichenbach Fall,” Sherlock
Chapter IV. (cont.)
I think I saw you in my sleep, darling. I think I saw you in my dreams,* Green Girl. You were with Rosary and I felt touch. A return to our gentler years. Green Girl, I was looking into your eyes for the first time since the season passed. Since our apocalypse. Since the time when love was not enough.** When dimly. When trumpets. When convictions, followed by the escalation of rage: flashes of red, the screaming, the running out the door. The change leftover from childhood now utterly spent, the fabric of the walls ripped to shreds with those screams. Eyes watering, might I go blind. Might I be blind. Your pills and your booze a tornado in my head. Our conversation, a tsunami. First comrades in holy war, now rivals in bitter jihad. I screamed Medic! My friend is dying is she dead or am I dead. Those walls were painted in green blood. Oppression over a bag of pistachios snapped my grace that cried to keep giving us time. When they pulled me out–when it was over, I kept wondering how many voices did you have. Which of them were speaking to me in our first year. Which of them were speaking to me on your bunk bed wet with tears. Which of them were speaking to me in finality on that red night. My dear comrade, we were fallen. Pink paint splattered on our faces, but our wings so sore and torn. Two girls coughing to keep our heads above the crowd, trying to offer my arm for your hands. How desperately could I try to sling your nightmares on my back. Riptide, I watched the way your eyes dissociated. Then the inevitable attack, grab, pulling under of the attempted rescuer. But I am born, and my own fear of drowning gasped for me to untangle. When they let the line down, I grabbed it, best as cold hands could, choking. Did not look back, feared I would turn into my own pillar, rigor. Yet the memories are before me, like the flowers you gave me after he disappeared. My thought that you were in my life, for life, now upside down and withering. Yet wondering is still before me, where did I leave you, could you keep your head above water. So when I say I saw you in my sleep, believe it, darling. And when I say you were in my dreams, believe it, Green Girl.
*La Dispute, “Such Small Hands”
Chapter IV. (cont.)
Declaration: My friends are gone, my friends have left me. For better things and for better families. I’m filled with hate and scared of grace. You’ll never take what I create…My friends are dead.* Or am I dead. When I looked up, the roof over my head was no longer gold. Its structure as a stronghold, a memory. I looked up and could see the holes, neglected, the weathered damage caving to the snow and rain. My house leaking over my head and so are my friends dead or am I dead. This coffin punched with holes as I lay dying. Dissociated from my reflection in the mirror. Dissociated without my associations. Where are my associations. I stare in the mirror with no associations and so dissociate. So are my friends dead or am I dead. When would I wake up and know who was dead.
Chapter IV. When Love was not Enough
Because my Cancer: when entering rooms, familiar paths to familiar faces–how I saw them looking over my head.‘Cause I’ve got friends in all the right places, I know what they want, and I know they don’t want me to stay.* This carved out my shell. My voice not audible, I dared not speak; my hands I couldn’t see. Estrangement, embodied. This carved out my shell. So sick for the sound of singing. When I need you, I need it quickly. And I needed it quickly; but I knew–knew you didn’t want me to stay, as I longed to write Love all over your walls. Diomedes and Achilles to name a few. Always asking: could I look into your bright eyes and know I was born, worth the ground you walked on. Always asking: could I hold your head in my hands and laugh with sweet unanimity. My Cancer, thinking I needed you so quickly. I’ve got friends in all the right places, I know what they want, and I know they don’t want me to stay. When you would look over my head and I couldn’t see your hands so I would just turn inside and walk away. In fact, you’ll never know…when I need you, I need it quickly–
*Manchester Orchestra, “I’ve Got Friends”
Chapter III. (cont.)
When I fell asleep on your couch, I wondered how I could ever thank you enough. ‘Cause you love, love, love when you know I can’t love*…I sat at your table until midnight with my eyes spilling over. Your calm words and your patient eyes–you love when you know I can’t love. Your midwestern Grace, your red cowboy boots. You opened your ears and you fed me at your table; I was poor and you, my refuge in my poverty. My city would hold together, you spoke over my jaded proclamations. Because you love, love, love when you know I can’t love…Your words and silence, lines of twine, holding me together. When braided, strengthened, not easily broken.** French braids in your brown hair. The same that I would tousle with hands healed, as you feel like falling asleep. When I would be smiling for the first time in two years. After I finally had the strength to turn around. Because you love, love, loved when you knew I couldn’t love. And I wondered how I could ever thank you enough.
*Of Monsters & Men, “Love Love Love.”
Chapter III. When Love was Enough
I walked barefoot in the rain. He did not let me in. My “home” locked: the keys, misplaced, not in my pocket. I becoming a reflection of this incident. Following my last effort. The door hinge yawned until I saw your face. Without knowing much, I entered on frigid feet, under rain-fringed hooded hair. My bones heartsore. Your ξενια did not necessitate speaking. Your words becoming a blanket and hot soup. Sick for some singing, I was sick and wasn’t listening. In my recollection, I can finally read; your words a blanket and hot soup and letting me in. The warmth is just and it lingers. And when you left for class, you let me stay, and I was able to sleep.