She lays in the hospital bed as he watches over her. The tick of the machines signals another breath, in and out, digital pulses all that keep the oxygen flowing. The bleached air mercifully kept out of her by plastic and tape. Robotic lungs keep the stink of death and dying away from her, and for a moment he wishes it were him lying still underneath cheap starched cotton.

Flourescent lighting reflects gray off of sunken cheeks and closed eyes, and he wants to scream as they chant like monks how peaceful she looks. How the worst has passed, how the sunrise will bring another day, new hope. As though hope were measured by the passing of another man-made day. He knows better; the one thing that she gave him is understanding, an unconscious knowledge of what it is to feel.

And the days pass, and he passes, too; passing through habitual motion, as alive as the shape under the sheet in the hospital, and with less hope. The ceaseless tock-tock-tock of ceaseless seconds echoes in his head, no matter how far away the only clock in his home. He finds himself returning to her pillow, inhaling, breathing in her scent, tears that threaten to wash away the only physical reminder of her prescence and yet still they flow, a river that refuses the definition of banks, a healing wash that tears open wounds and leaves tracks that would make a junkie proud.

Pain junkie. Addicted to the hurt, the sorrow, the empty and all-consuming ache buried somehwere within.

And he listens to the slick and gravelly noise that comes out of her as the tubes are removed and the doctors and family and friends gathered around hope and pray that she will find her own breath, that her lungs will contract and expand like nature intended, and when she stops, the air stagnant before her face, they chant, “Breathe, come on baby, breathe,” and he chants along with them, silently yet deafening to any who would listen.

And he thinks, too: “STOP! STOP THE NOISE!”

And he thinks, “Let her go this is what she wants why should she be forced to carry the pain of life this is not about you this is about her and you know it let her go let her go lethergo”

He once thought he would die for her. He still would, and one day will. The red light in front of him stares back, unforgiving and accusatory, blurred through tears that won’t stop coming, his hands shaking so badly that they must belong to someone else. And he turns up the stereo to drown the noise, but the voices in his head are louder than he gave credit, and they sing, oh how they sing: a chorus of fear and despair and loss of what might have been, hallelujah, Brother, can I have an amen?

And he stands over her, the light of her last full moon streaming in through a curtained window, unabated by state-issued fabric, touching her expressionless face, eyes that still reflect the pain of the world. And he is calm, frighteningly calm, and he feels her again, inside. It’s okay now. Everything is okay. Only he knows that it’s not okay, it’s over, it’s over, she said it’s over and now is his last chance to say goodbye and he can’t bring himself to say the words because he can’t let go and one last kiss while she’s still warm, while the heart still beats and pushes the blood through her veins and her lips are red not blue and there’s still some chance that a part of her no matter how sleepy will remember and then the buzzing drone of another computerized signal that life goes on even in the face of death.

Twenty four hours pass, a memorial service with hollow nostalgia and too many people that never understood or tried. He stands among them, apart, screaming inside and smiling, say hello and share a story. Never has a shadow, so surrounded yet so alone. One drink, two, six, and finally the numbness sets in, liver processing anaesthesia, gray blanket over vision, head spinning, and he screams a gutteral sound that wakes the dead, and people stare and mutter.

And he thinks, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry that I couldn’t make it all right and you could have been a shining star and why didn’t I say goodbye and why can’t you come back?”

And he thinks, too: “I love you. If you carry that with you, then all is well with me, as I know it is with you.”

But the dead still sleep, and his apologies fall on ears that can no longer process sorry, and love is another word that drifts in the air for someone to ignore.


I dreamed last night I touched your soul. It slipped gently into my hand, flesh and spirit entwined, enmeshed. We stood at the center of the labyrinth of the universe, walls and floor and ceiling covered with memories of the future and unrealized dreams within dreams, no roadmap and the void of forever looming behind us.

And together we moved forward into the unknown. And you enveloped me in serenity as we walked, smoking too much, one hand always on the left wall. Our journey would last forever (a voice neither heard nor internal made this point clear), without hope of finding the way out, but between us passed the strength to hope, the dare to dream of something better.

We passed the miles with stories and memories, songs and fantasies, pictures and fears, two lost spirits refusing to admit the inevitable. As days grew to years and decades, two souls became less lost and more than either had ever hoped, expected, dared to become.

And when the end came, with the the goal of finding the exit unfulfilled, neither of us noticed.

Nor did we care.


Forever would not be enough, and now was all I had.

It was San Jose, I think — maybe Oakland, though. The memories blur together so badly in the autumn. Ghost images of one city lay across the next like an incomplete transition. We run and run and run, chasing the future through night laced with cigarette smoke and the sounds of broken guitars, one place to the next and the last is another casualty of our shadows.

She’s asleep on the hotel bed, her mascara tracing haunted angles on her cheeks. Another night of us against the world, three empty bottles of wine and a game of tag in the park outside the school, and as she pressed her naked warmth against mine in the cool night air and whispered the last night’s dreams in my ear, and I couldn’t shut out the music playing from the apartment nearby:

“when you say now
well when exactly do you mean?
for i’ve already waited too long
and all my hope is gone”

The city lights steal in through the open window and crawl across her body, greedy fingers teasing porcelain skin. I light another cigarette and time races forward and back as I watch her breathing, watching over her, and as her chest rises and falls steadily, naked breasts gleaming with soft dawn sweat, I know that it’s time to go again. She’ll rise, sleepyhead good morning and the taste of dreams on her tongue to mine, and then we’re off again to parts unknown, her hand in mine and the dust and brine of a new country on our clothes.

And it was somewhere in California that I realized my legs would never tire while I was running with her.

In time, we would forget why we left in the first place; eventually, even where we started would fade. This was our adventure, the rediscovery of the world that the world itself had forgotten, the remaking of anywhere and everywhere into new, home without an anchor, and the whole of the earth was ours to remake as we wished.

Does believing in dreams make me a romantic?

There’s a firefly buzzing around outside of my bedroom window. It’s really loud, which is odd, since last I checked, fireflies didn’t buzz, much less loudly. But there it is, and I’ve left the stereo in the other room on, and it’s a lot louder than I meant for it to be, but the firefly is even louder, deafening, and why haven’t the neighbors called the police?

And every time the little bastard calls out for a mate, it’s nuclear winter times ten, blinding, night to day in a millisecond and back before my eyes can register anything but snow. I can see nothing but snow, covering everything, a frozen blanket for the world outside my window; water, water, everywhere…

Flash and I’m blind again, and I wonder where my curtain has gone. I feel a hand on my shoulder, cool and soft and calming, and I close my eyes against the supernova outside. I hear your voice in my head, softly singing, Ani DiFranco musing on car crashes and gravity. I ask if you’ll start over; I tell you I love your voice and the feeling of your breath on my cheek, and I can’t hear you over the buzzing outside; and you tell me that it’s not a firefly but the sparks of a dying sun and will I hold you until morning?

And I notice that my cats are rehanging the curtains, though outside it is snowing again and the light is no more than a full moon reflecting off of the white that carpets the world. I turn to you and you are asleep and have been the entire time; through a tangle of hair, one eye drifts open and meets my gaze, and you smile and reach your hand to my face, running a delicate finger across my cheek, tracing a line that burns a path, hot iron to wax. And you reach into my hair (long, the way I always remember it in dreams), and pull me to your lips, and I feel the heat of your soul melting my eyelids and searing my brain and blistering my skin and then cool, cool, cool, your mouth on mine, soft exploration of the undiscovered, and I taste the sweetness of your breath and my heart explodes. And I’m suddenly aware of my hand on your hip, silken skin covering a frame that fits perfectly in my hand. As we pull toward each other, I hear the buzzing start again, 100,000 notes in the night sky, your hand on my chest to hold my heart inside and the scent of you envelopes me and I am surrendering to the gravity of you and all is dark and perfect.