Afghan

One day, I won’t crochet, or run, or walk or sleep without you. The owl returns to its crevice in the picture window tree trunk view from our backyard. I’ll be alone and homeless and foraging through garbage cans for my next meal, crazy as a loon. In my dreams, I am already halfway there, foraging through the remains: pictures of my husband at a carnival when he was young, well, and alive, toy guns inside a plastic red toy briefcase when my son trundled his dead grandparents’ things through a grove of orange trees, still safe and sound, untouched by Death’s random markers.

After midnight, I listen to the rain outside.

I’m scared.

Time Travel is People

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For Dmitri.

When I first heard him play, the notes beneath the notes sparked a small firefly in the back of my memory, behind the rushed marriage proposals and the late-night radio sessions — after trading SuperMan for Casper and before my first broken heart in Linda York’s unsanitary, birdshit shed.

His voice sat with me in the dark, with only these memories of past sunsets taken in flickering doses on the way to the woods where I waited an eternity for the fateless basketball player to whisper a kiss on my right cheek and would pay dearly with a split lip.

We pick up on the conversations of other people’s children: comic book superheroes, detective novels, the soundtrack of our youth poking holes in the fatty stars above us every summer. It’s like he never left.

I’ve forgotten so much already, just as he holds on tightly to every passing year.

In my mind, we are young again, chasing the dimming light in a field of cattails and honeysuckle, racing death. We are two Peter Pans in a dozen, outliers on a hunt for a second chance at NeverNeverLand.

He is my time machine.

Heart Collector

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PHOTO: Joel Filipe, Unsplash

“That means so much to me Carol. I’m honored to know it’s made a difference.” -Donny McCaslin

Thank you so much for these wonderful pics throughout the season. I have saved a few that we will enjoy for generations!” -Merrill Leonard

“You’re an inspiration—keep us posted on your journey.” -Lululemon

I was submitting my writing the other night, feeling like shit, feeling overwhelmed when a thought entered my head out of nowhere: I am a collector of moments that feel innately, incredibly, quietly, deeply human, a heart collector if you will.

I’m forever captured by these moments that stir my own heart.

Today, I walked around my wooded neighborhood for an hour, racing the thunder storm and lightning show. With five minutes to spare, I made it back home, the back of my right foot opening in a Nike blister, head awash in music meant to love me back.

Along the way, the beauty of nature struck me, like scenes from a movie or me scrolling through online contact sheets after a lengthy photo shoot: The scent of spring flowers, lilacs, clean, fresh Magnolia with dew forming around the edges, a man and his dog fetching mail in a shower of cherry blossoms, the way the pink blossoms hung low over the blackstrap tarp of the road, one branch flung away from the others, reaching out toward a sky heavy with slate that I could almost smell, and suddenly, out of nowhere, that faint familiar smell of Bobby the summer of ’77.

These moments stir inside me, waiting to get out. Maybe in a story of my own, buried in the sidestepping riddles of a forgotten poem, or a word-for-word transcript masquerading as an important interview.

When I am with people, I sit back, wait, and watch for those moments, taking pictures of the images and the feelings they evoke deep inside my well-covered heart. I painstakingly take each picture out in my mind for later, in the safety of my windowless room, aching with loneliness and self-loathing.

Your words add to my collection. The praise serves as a balm for my battered soul. It’s ridiculous how much I hunger for recognition, validation, just for one person in a crowd to see me standing there…

Every so often, when I feel brave, I am able to reach out to someone with my collection, sharing pieces of these moments, so the person will not be sad, or borrow the strength of my conviction for the five minutes it takes to go on after a terrible blow.

I am that singer in a B movie who is known for copying others but afraid to show herself. I am the patient recovering from major surgery, clinging to the idle gardening conversation of masked strangers waiting for their lunch break.

They forget my name as soon as I say it. But, I forget theirs. I don’t forget their smiles, the funny little laugh of recognition, a pat on the shoulder in between my patches of psoriasis, the things that matter.

I am a heart collector, waiting to be reborn.

Mochi

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PHOTO: Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash

Boots on the ground. Someone asks for breakfast. All I can find are one or two eggs sitting on the counter at this favorite diner in the middle of Tokyo Town in the Mid-West. I look down on my eggs frying in an ashtray, as the old Japanese lady lay dying by the open window 12 feet away.

She ran the diner with a firm, gentle hand, singing out her bento orders, surrounded by the small talk of young people ready for bigger things. Small and frail, she would always make room for me, saying my name in Broken English, “Ca-dole” very carefully.

On Fridays, I’d find pink, heart-shaped mochi in my pocket on the way out.

I could feel her last breath fill the room as the sound of those boots pounded in my head, surrounded by the love of the weak and the helpless, drained by compassion. I am sickened by my servile design, desperately searching for another egg that will not crack the yolk. I am running out of time.

(But I only wanted to sit quietly by her makeshift bed, with a handful of the others, waiting to die.)

Fugitive

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PHOTO: Derek Liang, Unsplash

Dear Diary,

I had that dream again, the one where I run for my life — what’s left of it.

Like Bobby Axelrod in “Billions,” he went to all the places he knew I’d go, waiting around for me in Maui at the end of our chapter.

I ran because I broke his precious laptop, the one that cost him so much time and money to jury rig. I was doomed the moment I stood up, pulled the gray metal box away from him, then carefully, intentionally slammed it against the hardest part of the nearest wall.

I heard little tiny pieces of glass shatter inside the machine, as I eyed the nearest exit. Before he could rise and roar, I left the room grabbing my purse.

Suddenly, as he stood waiting to mafia me somewhere between Lahaina and Kaanapali, I sat huddled in the corner of a random bus. The tail end of a parade passed, green and white leis, a waft of sweet through the half-open window, reminding me of eighth grade. I dare not breathe deep. The Merrie Monarch Festival, in a blur. Keauhou, I must be close.

This would not do. I pictured myself in a nowhere town in the middle of Texas maybe, Nebraska, …

I woke up thinking about South Dakota. You never hear about South Dakota.

But there is no beach.

“Zealous in the beginning, unfaithful in the end.” —a recent sermon somewhere in Everett

The Time William Hurt Schooled Me in a Corridor

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CORRIDOR PHOTO: Daniel Tseng, Unsplash

It was William Hurt, my college crush, staring at me in that way he did in all the movies I’d binge-watch.

He loomed over the room in a shadow, about to shoot from behind until I turned around to face him. With a mix of rage, frustration, and something I couldn’t identify until he spoke, this actor turned into every man I’d ever loved.

“You want to know why I’m still standing here when I’d rather end your life right now?”

He began to stroll, then crawl on his hands and knees toward me, narrating the story of my life in the footnotes and in parentheses… the extras I never noticed, taking me back to my first language.

These were flattering, surprising, perplexing revelations, dropped like flower petals that rotted at my feet as I backpedaled then scooted from one room into another when a casual conversation through the vents grew louder.

By the time he reached me, resolve disappeared, leaving him to show me physically in one, long, drawn-out affair I will never forget. The salty sea air, fresh linen breeze, moms hanging their shirts out to dry in the afternoon sun, and fresh paint, as he tried to warm my cold naked body with his mouth.

When he finished, laying there helpless — the dying eyes of the besotted — we both saw his penis oozing blood into a puddle next to three perfectly shaped tablets of pain pills.

Rings

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PHOTO: Dev Benjamin, Unsplash

“Mail it now. In a few days, this world will go away.”

By the time they took his soul, in fleshy parts he never knew he had, a stranger with a smirk knocked on this strange silvery door (I just walked through) and handed me an innocent package. The brown paper box reminded me of freshly mowed lawns, Easter Egg hunts, and you blocking the noon in the desert between then and now.

Your rings, gold and worn, almost warm, I wear them now, waiting for the men in the gray coats and the foreign accents to come for me.