Her name was October. She wears funeral dresses underneath big hoodies. And if you asked her why, she’ll say she always wanted to look pretty when death comes swiftly. She has brown-emerald eyes, almost like a murky pond. She reminds you of peculiar dolls on old town stores. With her cherub face and lollipop smudge tongue. The mismatched knee-high socks and ballet shoes. The sparrow tattoo peeking out her nape, the remembrance of losing a mother she never really knew. That half-smile she does, when a song plays ironically after an awkward moment. The way she takes her coffee in a rain day: two cream, three sugar. She prefers birds other cats, but she always loved having a dog. She cries easily on movies and in weddings. Her fingers smell like old library books and lemonade. Her alabaster skin, and how the sun hits it as if there are braille inscriptions waiting to be read. And how your heart pounds the ground you stand, just by staring at her— looking at you. Her lips are succulent strawberry pillows, you’d forever linger. The taste of her, like your favorite song on repeat while you smoke pink smokes in the air. You drown in that beautiful capture and hope in all your might it does not end. The feel of her in your arms while you lay in bed, the serenity you sought untrue but it does exist. And you cry, happy tears streaming your face. And her delicate finger wipes them away, and smile that wonderful, bright smile. And right there and then, the sun should be shamed and the moon could be sold. You had everything you need, right there in your hold.
You need to remember all these things.
Pieces of who she is, she was and she will ever be.
The only bright sun and beautiful gray cloud in your life.
You need to.
You have to.
Because, she is not just a part of your life. She is the life you will always keep repeating. A life well-spent, indeed. To be hers, and her to be yours.
You love her, and always will.
You have to, need to—
The rush of muse is like the hot, bubbling stream of a geyser, drenching and burning you to your core until you’re volcanic, ready to boil over with condensed creativity. It hangs on my mind, my lips, my fingertips like a farewell kiss swollen with the sharp ache for release, begging to erupt from my soul to paint canvases and flavor journals, smearing materialized emotions across the face of reality. Clear the cache, release; restart, refresh—start all over again until you’re at peak, needy, aching, teetering on the edge. Art, music, literature, dance: the grounding, the bolt, the tether to sanity. It’s soul gravity; get up, get down, filter in, filter out. You and I. Let’s discharge. Breath. Release. Be free. ((Repeat))
Just ran the most tranquil run beneath the redwood forest canopy, their feather leaves cushioning my pace. It was completely silent, save the ravens that discovered me snaking through the mellowed trails that stretched their healed incisions through thickets of shamrock and huckleberry heavy with their black-opal droplet fruit. Vetches of blackberry vine hung their surrendering lengths in and between bosky stream beds and I grabbed a gushing handful to fuel me further and deeper into the place. It was only shadows and thick air with me, I fought with the thought to take some photos but instead insisted on keeping it a selfish secret.
Tomorrow, we burn our flags. We’ll watch the colours shift to hues of orange and blood. We’ll let the ashes run through our fingers like riverwater. We’ll drink up like it’s the finest wine until our throats are clogged up and we’re all as drunk as the guy with a thousand glass shards for a heart. Tomorrow, we burn this house down. The windows will explode inward, the roof will fall through. Brambles and dandelions we tended to out back will strangle each other to death. The children will pick them by the handful a year from now, I imagine, and sell them as necklaces down by the wharf. But the ocean’s miles from here, you say. If anything, this place is a desert, with occasional rains to dampen our moods. Oh, but the oceans will come to us. Because tomorrow, we drown. The vultures will die, the sky will finally meet his dancing sister. The clouds will weep and weep and weep. And you will float towards the light whilst I sink into the moss.
He ceased as I turned back, my spine to the long, narrow street whose aromas itched my nose and watered my eyes by firewood making my heart pulse—I was unsure if I was awake.
I could smell him too. The lines of Autumn air leaking from his veins into the night sky that became lost as I opened the door. A fragrance, a house, earth plucked out from strands of my hair and tips of my teeth. England, old and new, cinder and cider like black diamonds and aging trees.
From between my bones and his wilderness, I bled like the holocaust. I walked, pale, like the headless demon of stories; pining and black from head to toe, hunted by a crane, dripping truth from my fingertips that were rested inside parentheses.
Once more did he stretch out his arm and unfold his hand, placing it on the arc of my shoulder…and leaving it there, though only as a ghost. Once he was gone, he was gone, so how dare he remain.
He left me.
He left me with his ash in the fireplace and the sculpting of his bones embedded in the wood paneling. His morning moans and evening sighs, burning wood and dust in the Halloween air, marigold glows of orange lighting on my porch combative with a distrustful silver moon. This was his memory.
I can never go home.
Blooming Grove. A one-horse town surrounded by real birches for real forests that almost set the sky ablaze in cooler weather. Those who wanted to look only visited for a short time, but those who stayed ardently did so with a holy assertion no other place with such tranquil folds in its countryside was worth calling home.
We danced at the edge of Fireside Lake, where the trees glowed the brightest, where she admitted the place could never be her home. Her olive skin and tawny hair matched the landscape perfectly, but she resisted me as if resisting an influence for her to remain. “It’s too late for you,” she said solemnly, “but will you promise to let me go when the time comes?”
I said I would, as anyone might say right from that first moment when love took hold. In the weeks that followed, when an equinox slanted into a solstice, we lived forever. Everything we did together was done for the first time. And with each acknowledgement, we shaved whole off decades yet to occur. She knew this without my saying a single word, and something changed in her that couldn’t be changed back.
"I don’t want to live here with you forever," she said as we stretched out on a bed of damp birch leaves under a night sky, cold and filled with the hard shape of stars. "Come with me to a place we’ll grow old together, where we can die in a place that won’t remember our names."
Despite my protests that we could do the same there, in the quietude of Blooming Grove, her sighs interrupted me. Her audible breaths punctuated my every word with absolute resolve. Though our talk was no good, our heads swam with the intoxication of pilfered wine while our bodies drifted in a pulsing afterlglow. “No more talk,” she said at length. “Let’s sleep.”
The night slowly unfurled like a dream hovering delicately over the water, where my heart repeated her sighs over and over. One by one, all the women I loved had visited me, each kissing me gently on the forehead before they waded daintily into Fireside Lake. My heart watched with deliberate sadness as they disappeared into the water. The procession went on and on, lasting until the moment I awoke with the sun in my eyes.
She was gone. I knew it as one knows the absence of warmth that is expected after a night spent in the company of another. In spite of my efforts, I couldn’t recall if she’d taken her turn at the lake. The coldness that followed was short-lived. There were other women who followed in time, though none touched me quite the same way she had, the way someone stirs a deep fiber that never stops echoing within every ensuing dream.
Yes, there were other women, but I always recalled her.
After a considerable time—decades, perhaps—I saw her again. She’d grown old, but those subtle features radiated from underneath her graying skin and sunken lines, unmistakable now just as they had been in her youth. For a long time we beheld each other and said nothing, preferring to hold the moment as long as possible before the magic was broken forever. “You haven’t aged a bit,” she said in a hoarse voice.
I told her not to be so modest, but she held a mirror up to my face and revealed the image of the boy I’d always been. Nary a line blemished my face, just as smooth as it had been all those years since she left me, and after I’d had my fill of the view I looked up to find her tear-streaked face glaring back at me with wonderment. My arms gently wrapped around her shoulders, where we remained for along time.
Only then did I understand why she wanted me to leave with her during that night in the forest at Fireside Lake. And since that night there had been many women, but none like her. It was doubtful I’d ever have that again, no matter how many enchantments I shared. At once I knew my curse and again for remaining in Blooming Grove. If I had been there once, I had been there forever.
You had me at “when an equinox slanted into a solstice”