going home

first published by great weather for MEDIA

I hid inside the closet way before I knew about its implications. Had two in my bedroom as a kid, but only one which I coveted as my hiding place. In it, I fit my flattened pillow (shape created before I learned of its ability to inform pleasure when rubbed between my thighs), my radio/tape player and a poster, which my memory fails me to envision.

I listened to music, wrote in my diary, and ate food, which I snuck upstairs to my cave-closet. I thought of secrets, fell asleep, cried until I forgot how and chatted on the telephone.

I’m not sure how old I was when I decided to carve out a hidden passageway in my closet wall. You know, like they do in the movies. It was far more difficult than I imagined, realizing the many layers of wall, that caused me to eventually lose steam. But for awhile, my closet floor looked like a cocaine den, with the dusty innards covering the wood.

I’m not sure what I would have hidden in the walls if I had succeeded in my dig. Poems? Love notes? Recipes?

I came out of the closet metaphorically at nineteen. Literally at around fourteen, when my growing body could no longer fit comfortably. By then, I hid in other ways through drugs and secrets.

But this is not about that.

This is about what it means to go home. To remember the hiding places, the sticker and postcard collections. To remember the pile of notebooks with revelations and scratched out coded language. This is about the smells of childhood that still remain in the walls. To remember what it was like to morph into a different body and not be ready for its mutation. This is about milestones and misery.

Going home.

My childhood home no longer exists. Or it does, but is now inhabited by a different family with different problems. That hole has probably been patched up. And my purple-painted bedroom may be white now or striped. The yellow sticky notes I hid in various pieces of furniture in my bedroom are long gone. Ink faded so I probably would not have  been able to decipher its reminder.

I still have dreams that my room still exists. That it needs cleaning. That my mother finds my hidden stash of pills crushed up into powder to snort like the actors in those movies.

Recently, I got to experience the childhood home of my mate. Untouched bedroom, preserved in invisible plastic wrap. Felt fourteen again as I found myself following rules and curfew. Sleeping separately because of our queerness.

I have a bedroom in my father’s house, which I lived in during my early twenties, going to community college. Still searching for my self. There is a book shelf of the books I read at that time: horror and feminism, Plath and Salinger, writer’s market books and various dictionaries. When I visit, I can still see the twenty-three year old me struggling with my vocabulary. I was a lesbian then. Briefly a bisexual. I was a poet. Briefly a children’s story writer. I was a baker and a novice of hope. I was a recovering drug addict and a daughter. I was the past tense of so many things I still am but can no longer pronounce.

To go home is to be brave. To remember. To revisit the selves inside the self you are now. To study photographs and the accumulation of dust.

And then, to walk toward the real home. The one where you pay your bills. Where you can walk around in your nude and not have to call yourself anything but human or animal. To smoke pot or drink as much hot chocolate as you want without judgement. To remember all the homes that led you toward the one that finally feels like one.

love in a disemboweled cigarette

Hair in its infinite stages of death can be far more beautiful than any orchid or moonlight or kiss.

This is what I was thinking when I watched the German with long, blond dreadlocks, parading death down his back like frozen stalks of sun, speak to me about getting lost.

We were in the front room of Bob’s Youth hostel located on a street in Amsterdam I still have difficulty pronouncing. I had been staring at him for what felt like hours, burning my hazel into his whole milk skin. I finally got up and sat across from him, asking if he’d write a poem with me.

“Yeah,” he said, “but I don’t really know how.”

“I don’t really either,” I said. “But if you can rummage inside your gut for the words which feel most potent, I think,” I paused, “I think you may find something there.”

So I gave him my tiny red notebook given to me by a lover who I had just started learning how to kiss, given to me to fill up during this two-week trip away from New York.

This was supposed to be an adventure on how to move toward who I was or who I wanted to be. My relationship with a different woman had ended just a few months earlier, one which I thought was the one I might marry, even though I did not believe in such a word.

It was a mourning trip.

I watched as the German, fingers sprinkled with fine commas of bleached hair, pressed his handwriting into the pages.

His dead knots became whispers soaring past his shoulders, for as he wrote, they shook. I wondered how many secrets were hiding in the decease of his hair.

“One must get lost,” he spoke. “Where are you from?” he asked me, handing back my pen and closing the book.

“Brooklyn. Quite a faraway land from here,” I said.

“Leave your maps behind, Brooklyn,” he said to me.

“No need,” I said. “I never carry them around. I get lost even when I do not intend to. But I like your reminder.”

He smiled. He had a tiny chip in his front tooth like the curve of a hammock. I wanted to lay in his mouth and nap beside his ridges.

He told me traveling is about connecting to the land, not the pages that speak about it.

“You’re beautiful,” I spat out. His eyes walked over the length and width of my face. I could feel his lashes even though we were an arm’s distance away from each other.

“Yes,” he said. As though I had asked a question. Or maybe he was answering something that he had heard much earlier. Either way, I enjoyed the oddity of his syllable.

“I’m trying to lose myself here. Bring another version back to New York,” I told him.

“Smoke enough hash and that will happen without trying too hard,” he smiled.

“I am trying to let go of a love. One so big, my heart still has stretchmarks.”

He smiled.

“There is not enough smoke to inhale, which will get rid of that,” he said. “But how about this. Actually…” he paused. I watched him remove the tiny, hand-rolled cigarette between his fat, slightly blush lips. With the tip of two fingers pressed together, he put out the fire on the end. Then, I watched him peel it open, drip the nicotine out and hand me this frail rolling paper, half wet from the spit of his mouth.

“I can see from the rest of your notebook….pardon my snoop,” he interrupted himself, “…that your handwriting is bitty. Write what you want from love on this.”

I held this disemboweled cigarette in the palm of my hand. As though it were a tiny space alien, which had fallen from the sky from a spaceship that our eyes couldn’t quite fathom. With the fingers from my other hand, I poked at it.

“It may not even be words,” he said. “The love you lust may be symbols.”

I thought about every word I ever learned. The ones I kept and the ones I could never quite remember. I wasn’t thinking about limbs; instead, my brain began to conjure up images of smells. Music of taste.

I dropped the cigarette from my palm and grabbed my pen.

The German smiled and I could feel him get up, though never let my eyes wander away from the paper.

I began to finally get lost.

your wrists.

We made love while on opposite sides of third floor Brooklyn. A slug on your left wrist and my gaze stuck on the story of dark pink interruption on your bright white skin. I spit three ounces of gender into your mouth while your right leg wrapped around my long day. You have no name; I have no emotions. We are greyred margins marked-up rewrites. Denim and laces surround us. A dancer slips whiskey between my palms and reminds me what I need. I feel slurred when I reach empty and cannot help to wonder if I am here to fall in love again. No one knows the directions to lost but if I can just remain here for five more minutes, I may find that detour.