February 2010


Though flight eight-eleven bounced and skidded onto Fijian concrete in the same unforgiving darkness through which I slept, by the time I exited the airport, the tropic sun was quickly hoisting itself to the top of the sky, breaking through hazy early morning clouds in that way that always looked like heaven to me. If I believed in such a place, anyway. Immediately after clearing customs, I made my way into the kind of stagnant humidity you wear like guilt and attempted to find a ride to Port Denarau. The first woman that approached me smiled and offered to help me with an earnestness I had learned to be skeptical of when traveling and asked me my name. “Taylor,” I said, and exchanged the same question to her. I abandoned my suspicion for the honesty in her words and smile and Vera agreed to take me to Port. She booked me on the Yasawa Catamaran to Kuata, a small nature reserve, two hours away by boat, and immediately I was three hundred Fijian dollars poorer. As I had missed the shuttle to the port and Vera was driving me in her car, we stopped to pick up her children and drop them at school on our way. Marie, 10 and Peter, 7 slipped quietly into the back of the car as I turned back to introduce myself. Apprehensive and reserved out of respect for their mother, they both shyly looked down at my cheerful introduction, barely uttering their own names in response. Their mother began to speak to them in the first bouncing, song like tones of native Fijian I heard, and slowly they began to relax and chat openly in their native tongue, though were still too shy to offer more than a word or two of English to me. Regardless, a smile stayed drawn across my face as the warm nature of the Fijian was the very first welcome I received.

heaven overexposed


After the confusing and costly check-in process at Port Denarau, I made my way immediately to the bar on the boat to taste my first Fijian beer (a bitter disappointment), and then immediately to the upper deck to absorb the paradisiacal setting that would be my home for the next four days . The tiny islands scattered themselves in hazy voids across the cobalt blues of the south pacific horizon, as if mirages, slowly gaining in size and detail as the large, quick vessel tore through the endless waters.

Island Mirage


Kuata, Yasawa Islands


As the boat approached the Yasawa Islands my body smiled in the glow of freshly found freedom, absorbing the majesty of these mountains rising from the sea like some ancient paradise lost. As we stepped off the boat we were greeted with a round of “Bula Bula,” a Fijian welcome that you quickly tire of being required to enthusiastically shout at every arrival, departure, and event. The fanless room dorm room was more stifling than the air itself, but as the seven of us that arrived together from Nadi got settled in our beds, the easy conversation of past travels began. Despite the fact that in America the large majority of people were shocked and scared for my spontaneous and open-ended adventure, the rest of the world seems to thrive on travel the way I do. Most had been roaming on one-way tickets for six or eight months, with plans to continue on for a year or longer. It is contagious to be surrounded by the kindred spirits of wandering souls and within moments I had already begun to plan a trip to Indonesia and Thailand when New Zealand’s autumn dipped into the frigid winter I had only just escaped. Of my six dorm mates that had been traveling around Asia and the South Pacific for the better part of the year, most had only run into a handful of Americans and I found myself once again trying to defend my fellow countrymen against the worldwide stereotype that we are moronic, close-minded, and ethnocentric. A difficult thing to do as I believe there is a good amount of truth in that stereotype. Despite the fact that there are plenty of exceptions. Will, a charming yet arrogant young Brit, dropped a statistic that eighty percent of Americans don’t even have a passport and I didn’t doubt its validity. Why is it that international travel isn’t important to American culture? I constantly desire to expose myself to as many new cultures as possible and yet a large and ignorant piece of our population actively chooses to stay put, insisting that they can find everything they need in the States. The thought made me sad for such people, but regardless, as the only American on the island I did my best to represent my country well. By the end of the boisterous night of playing drinking games to the lilting Polynesian strums of ukulele and guitar, I am pretty sure I convinced the group that all Americans are charming, witty, good-humored, well-traveled, reckless alcoholics.

South Pacific Sounds


After only one day in this remote crescent of more than three hundred islands I sank easily into what the locals refer to as Fiji time. Minutes drift into irrelevance in a place like this and lazing the days away weaving or carving any and everything out of coconuts slows the soul and loosens the limbs. I passed two easy days walking around the islands, snorkeling, kayaking, napping in the shade, and looking out over the South Pacific letting the beauty and tranquility of this place sing to my venturing bones.

Sunrise over Kuata


By the time I awakened to the breakfast drum on my third morning in Fiji, it was already time to head back to the mainland of Vita Levu and I knew I needed to return to this place soon. I had seen only two of hundreds of islands snaking their way in an arc around the two main bodies, and had seen nothing of the mainland itself. As it was, my time was almost up and I headed back towards Nadi with Sebastian. He was a smart, though somewhat humorless, textbook Aryan with white-blonde hair from head to toe and almost translucent periwinkle eyes. We met on South Sea Island the night before and talked for hours about traveling, the world, and life in our respective countries. As we were headed the same direction, we accompanied one another on the three kilometer walk from the bus stop to the hostel in the piercing sun and tangible humidity. My pack grinded and stung my sunburned shoulders with each step as we trekked towards the beach, our shirts soaked in tropic sweat, mouths stuffed with cotton, and dreamed of the first cold sip of Fiji Bitter that was sure to touch my lips as soon as we arrived. The heat kept us mostly in silence, until, in true Fijian fashion, a car traveling the opposite direction stopped and asked if we needed a ride. An older man in his late forties with an a smile that asks for nothing in return carved into his instantly welcoming face, and his plump, quiet wife happily turned their car around and we felt the forgotten relief of air conditioning with the weight off my pained, stinging shoulders. After checking in to the cheapest room on the beach at just fifteen Fijian dollars, I passed the hours in the shade of a small thatch umbrella letting the words to describe the unwinding I had felt since arriving find their way from pen to paper.

Peace.


Sebastian and Tom Robbins in the hammock


Hours are easy to pass in Fiji when the breeze sweeps the heady humidity from your neck and before I knew it the tranquil beach was a torch-lit club and I found myself making friends with a table full of locals and Australian ex-pats that had made their homes here. As once again the sole American at the table, the conversation immediately made its way to our egotistical and unwarranted national pride. Yet again I found myself defending the large part of our population that understands and attempts to change the antiquated idea of world dominance that pervades the worldwide American stereotype. After several hours of passing a pitcher of beer around the table from which you pour a shot and offer it to someone else (a friendly tradition I found promotes good will amongst strangers), the bar topped its bottles, closed its doors, and the handful of us sober enough to keep drinking headed into Nadi proper to Ed’s Bar. American hip-hop pulsed through the street outside as we approached and my body buzzed with alcohol and anticipation for true Fijian nightlife. The only girl among four intimidatingly large, but good humored Fijians, two greying Aussie ex-pats, and one Norwegian wanderer, we chatted and ribbed one another in playful jest while dancing to the same five songs on repeat the entire night. We shot a few games of pool, and threw back bourbon (a tradition I brought to the group) until the bar closed its doors as well and the boys congregated outside deciding where to head on to next. I was assured by the group as a whole that I had changed their opinion of at least one American, but I guess stereotypes are a hard thing to break down. Drunk, tired, and departing for New Zealand tomorrow, I was ready to head back to the hostel. Dee, a Guiness-toned native, whose formidable build belied his sweet nature, prodded me to join them at his house party. For the first time since I arriving in Fiji, I declined and instantly tensed at the bitter hint of unwanted pressure. Grasping the crook of my arm the way you would a petulant child he pulled me away from the bar in requests that quickly lost their playful nature. It is not often I turn down a party, especially not while on vacation surrounded by friendly and exciting strangers. But I also have a strong relationship with my instincts and the discomfort I began to feel spread to my bones like cancer, and the defenses that sit dormant in me most of the time threw up their stony walls. My tone and posture hardened and I pulled myself from the prodding crowd, attempting to find a taxi. Even, the soft, Norwegian traveler that had accompanied the group from the beach to the bar sensed my discomfort and the change in my demeanor, and found a cab for the two of us to return to the hostel. Conversation between us had been easy from the start and the long, fair-haired Scandinavian and I made our way to a hammock on the pre-dawn beach to drink the last beer I had found in my bag on the ride home. The desire to kiss the kind spirit came to my mind more than once, though never made it to my lips. And when the beer was done and it was time to turn in, I offered him to share my bed as his hostel had already closed its doors for the night. I laid my head on his chest under the cool breeze of the fan and we found sweet sleep together on my last night in a place I knew to which I would one day return.

Traveler’s note: Our sweet and peaceful rest at Horizon Backpackers left me covered neck to toe in excrutiating bed bug bites. Lesson learned: ALWAYS use your sleeping bag, even if it’s a hundred degrees.

hideous, itchy, swollen bed bug legs

Advertisements

The last month of excited and nervous anticipation had finally come to its climax. Next to the door of Iva’s cozy Venice Beach apartment sat an overstuffed backpacker’s pack, a similarly overstuffed messenger bag, and a pair of Rainbow flip-flops, worn and dirtied with their travels thus far and ready to take my feet on their next adventure. As the minutes passed I rushed hurriedly to make sure there was nothing I had forgotten and it felt as though I was perched on a stove top, each following second bringing my blood closer to boil. By the time I tossed my bags in the trunk of her long, black boat of a slowly deteriorating Benz, I was electric. Every limb charged with an unfamiliar vibration, or rather, a stronger dose of a feeling felt before. As we sailed easy down the city streets with laughter on my breath and wonder in my eyes, I gazed contemplatively out the window as the reliable row of palms whipped past. Los Angeles to me was a heartless, grimy city that had always left a bitter distaste on my tongue. I recalled that last Thursday as Iva and I made our way downtown and I sat absorbing the city as it passed. It was the only romance I ever saw in the maudlin palms; silhouetting themselves against the ashtray gray of that smoggy Hollywood night in their sad, terrible postures. But this night was different. For the first time I saw their lithe graceful forms preen against the crisp illuminated darkness through which I would soon be flying. Or perhaps I was just feeling unusually sentimental for the sleaze and whore, the heartbreak and romance, of my last American city. This was the last, lonely thought of my country to make it through my mind. As Iva pulled up to the Air Pacific entrance of the international terminal at LAX, we got out of the car to say our last goodbyes for the year to come. With the heavy pack weighing on my petite stature, we embraced each other tightly and offered best wishes in both directions, knowing that our friendship was forever unbound by time or distance.

I made it to the gate without event and reached out one last time to those I love the most before boarding the massive double-decker jet. One shitty meal, two cocktails, and two Ambien later I spread myself across the entire row I had been provided on the sparsely sold flight. As the plane made its eleven hour journey through the blind black of the midnight Pacific, I slept, knowing when I woke that the constant buzzing of curious anticipation would finally be satiated by the start of the life I had been waiting to lead.

I am sitting in seat 18F on Virgin America flight ninety-seven, non-stop from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles International. In four days I will be on Air Pacific flight eight-eleven non-stop service to Nadi, Fiji. And on the twenty-fifth of February I will be on Air Pacific flight four-thirteen non-stop to Auckland. Three one way tickets will take me from the truest home I have ever known to a place I have never been, and where I know not a single soul, for the next year. A month ago this was all just a tempting joke, a crazy idea, a reckless dream, and now my plane is taking off. I press my head to the cool plastic of the window, refreshing against my skin in the stifling cabin, and watch D.C. miniaturize before my eyes. As eighteen-wheelers turn to ants, the white remnants of the third blizzard in this historic winter swallow the last detail of the landscape. Soon only the winding black veins of pavement, cutting through the mounds of dirty snow in mountainous piles around the city, are visible. As we ascend, the gritty city dirty fades away, and as the snow suddenly appears as pure as the moment it fell, I whisper farewell to Washington.

There is a strange feeling slithering around me, squeezing my limbs slow and strong as a snake, as I hold one foot over the edge, eyes wide open, more than ready to follow with the next. It is excitement that electrifies my skin, tinged with nervous curiosity that tightens my belly, and pangs bittersweet when I think of the ones I love and left behind. It is a feeling that I have never felt before and though people tell me i should be scared shitless, and making a plan, or predicting the future, I am not. I want to not know what is going to happen. I want to stumble from one place to the next as the universe guides me blindly through strangers and coincidence. I want to be ready for anything and open to everything and say no to nothing and find that something that feeds my wandering soul, that has kept my roots from searching the same soil for too long. And no part of me doubts that I will.

As I wake from a painfully uncomfortable excuse for a nap, my eyes burn with the need for real sleep, fighting my racing mind and famished body. Raising the window shade, bright white pierces my heavy eyes and I realize I slept through the long, eventless stretch of fly-over states. The Rocky Mountains rise jagged like scars on the vast body of America, and pure, powdery white tops the ridges and valleys past the hazy edge of the expansive horizon. As I gaze down on the formidable landscape, I wonder how the birds see New Zealand, with which strangers I will find love, and what kind of girl I will have grown into when I find myself wandering back to the family of people I love in the District. The best part is not knowing.

As the plane touched down in the soft crepuscular light over the Hollywood Hills, I twisted my aching body against the seat, and reestablished communication with the outside world after five long hours of clear skies and red eyes (say word). As my luck of late would have it, my inbox held a fortuitous inquiry: a strong travel writer available from March through April needed to come to South Africa, all expenses paid, to assist in finishing a travel guide in time for the World Cup. Amazing. With the thrill of possibility already rising in my chest, I read on. The ideal individual is able to eat out three times a day and go out to bars on weekends, is comfortable with living in hostels on a budget, is flexible and has a sense of humor, and has experience traveling, preferably within Africa. Unbelievable. It was like reading a synopsis of my life, a description of the very dream I had been chasing. It felt as though the moment I let go of certainty and control, the universe opened up to me.

Everything was aligning effortlessly and those bittersweet pangs that haunted my contemplative mind on the plane were quickly overwhelmed by the sweet, addictive high that comes with a new unknown adventure and boundless possibility. If they could fly me round trip to Africa from New Zealand I could be back in New Zealand by April with nine months before my visa expires. It’s perfect. Still just a hope, an opportunity, I wait to learn upon where I stumble next. Perhaps in two weeks I will cross the South Pacific only to continue on over the Indian as well, and find myself in the cradle of humanity once again, exactly one year from the first time I journeyed there. And if the winds don’t blow me toward South Africa, then I’ll take my wandering soul to the Northland and learn how to surf in the last sweet weeks of Kiwi summer.

After the boisterous whirlwind of Christmas was through, nine of us headed up to Anwar’s cabin on Deep Creek Lake where we continued the holiday binge for five days straight. We celebrated the New Year (and my twenty-sixth birthday) in raucous style at the relatively secluded cabin. Anwar, Faye, and the teddy bear spun fire poi atop the tables on the porch, burning fervent trails against the stark darkness of the frozen lake, the lake from which the boys fashioned a home-made ice luge. We even had a ball drop. The party was happy, and sloppy, and bingy just as any proper New Year should be. Though as the first minute of the new decade rolled in, and I was a year older, I couldn’t help but feel that silent sting of December slowly return as the poet remained out of touch. Despite this, I hid the last remnants of my longing well, and devoted the entirety of my energy to the teddy bear, and enjoying the constant entertainment that my tight-knit group of friends never fails to offer. On the first night of the new decade we ate the last of the chocolates I had brought with me from Charlotte and the Autumn of Mushrooms officially came to an end. We watched the Princess Bride, we danced to Sam Cooke around the living room, we read fairy tales, and we laughed in careless enjoyment of the company we kept. Through bottle after bottle of booze and meal after delicious homemade meal we continued the streak of the best holiday season we had ever had.

Ridiculous Bloody Marys

The Midnight Ball Drop

Homemade Ice Luge

Cozied up watching The Princess Bride

Black Light Fairy Tale Night Cap

By the time we got back from the cabin, two-thousand-and-ten was already underway and though my original plan was to start looking for a job in the new year, I thought it would be infinitely more fun to take a little unemployment romp over to the Left Coast. I had recently discovered that two good friends of mine, one who was my fuck-buddy in undergrad, and one who I met randomly through my sister in Newport News some six years ago, somehow found each other in San Francisco and moved in together. The surfer was a blonde-haired, blue-eyed dream boat with an impeccable body; a relaxed and easy man who knew his charms too well. Though he tended to fuck three or four girls at a time (without their knowledge, of course) he and I had always had a unique relationship as the girl that knew about his boundless ways, and usually every few years we would find each other for a weekend of booze and meaningless sex. Great meaningless sex, but meaningless nonetheless. This was not one of those weekends, but I was glad for it with the number of boys I felt had been occupying my mind of late. The skater I had met only a handful of times, but we had stayed in touch sporadically over the years. He was shy and sweet, and his demeanor belied his towering stature. He was a nice guy who stayed true to his stereotype and always finished last. The second time I met him we made out like high schoolers in a warm summer downpour, perched on the edge of his balcony, but that was as far as it ever went. Despite the fact that both boys were former queue members, they were my friends, and I decided to ignore whatever latent sexual tensions there might be and booked a ticket for a five day weekend to the City by the Bay. Not a day or two after I booked this ticket, Nate, a close friend and big brother figure, who would kill someone for looking at me the wrong way, asked me to come to Seattle, where he had just moved from Charlotte. Nate had been in prison for two years for habitual DUI until just a few weeks before I moved away, and as he was one of my closest friends (despite the violent and belligerent tendencies I have always tried to calm in him), I was upset that I couldn’t afford to go. And then he changed the game. He offered to pay for my ticket from San Francisco to Seattle and back home. Of course my peripatetic mind started churning out ideas at the mention of complimentary airfare. The teddy bear lived in Santa Fe and had been asking me to come see him. Though the flame I felt for him settled to embers as quickly as it sparked, I still believed I wanted to go. Or maybe I just wanted to get somewhere new (something for which I have been known to have a weakness). I could fly from San Francisco to Seattle, then to Santa Fe, and then back home, and all I would have to pay for was the one-way ticket back. I could spend three weeks out west catching up and bumming around with some of my favorite boys, come back to DC, and worry about getting a job then! It was perfect. Of course, as every story regarding travel in my life goes, it didn’t work out as planned.

The day before I was to leave for San Francisco, Nate informed me he had to travel to Georgia for work and wouldn’t be able to fly me out there. Now the one-hundred dollar one-way ticket home turned into a three-hundred dollar multi-city fare and I had to find an alternative city to visit between San Francisco and Santa Fe. Of course I could have just stuck with my original five day San Francisco trip and skipped Santa Fe, but once my little head got used to the idea of a three week romp around the West Coast, there was no turning back. I decided to stop in Venice Beach for a few days to see Iva before I made my way to Santa Fe, and I would be back in DC by the twenty-seventh. As you may or may not know, In addition to this little excursion, Faye, Anwar and I had been planning a trip to New Zealand. We bought guide books and had been excitedly talking for weeks until, on my second day in San Francisco, Anwar broke the news that he couldn’t get the time off work. Knowing that going to New Zealand and spending the last of the money I had to bum around with was wildly irresponsible wasn’t enough to overwhelm the knowledge that I probably wouldn’t have the money to do it ever again. Rambling to the surfer about my travel plans gone awry he uttered a few simple words that proceeded to change my life: “Why don’t you just move there?” It was so simple. I had no job, no car, no lease, and nothing but the people I love keeping me in DC. I had a few grand that I was using to bum around the District, why not use it to bum around New Zealand? As the next few days passed and I found myself exploring San Francisco, a city with which I instantly fell in love, and slowly trying to find reasons stopping me from moving to New Zealand. I couldn’t. Within three days I applied for a twelve month working holiday visa, and by the time I got to LA it was already approved. There is a certain feeling that accompanies making decisions you know are right, and a way that they come easy to your soul. And my latest decision, probably the biggest I have ever made in my life, still overflows me daily with that very feeling.

San Francisco was amazing (I will post those tales, I promise, I left my possessions irresponsibly strewn down the coast of California and one of those possessions was my journal of the trip) and I made my way to LA with nothing but New Zealand on my mind, spending the large majority of my trip lounging at Iva’s place making plans. While we had wanted to explore the city, my curious luck with Los Angeles weather continued, and cold winter rain fell on each of my six days there. Regardless, we ate well, got drunk, and enjoyed the rare company you find with old friends you don’t often see. I was to fly out of LAX to Santa Fe on Thursday and as the day approached my stomach turned for the teddy bear. Knowing that my feelings for him had waned, and understanding what he was expecting from me when I arrived, my guts boiled searching to find the right answer. Finally, on the day I was to depart, I couldn’t ignore the uneasiness that had plagued me for days and I made the decision not to go. I knew he was going to be crushed, and letting my cowardliness overwhelm my sense of obligation to his heart, I waited until the last minute to tell him so. To my surprise, he took the news in stride. He agreed that he would not have wanted me there if I couldn’t have shown him the same affection as before, and he may not have known that my heart and body have never been capable, nor willing, of faking it. We talked about life and heartache for a while, about the endless cycle of hurting and being hurt that we all continually endure for that chance at happiness and agreed that the time we had together was still worth the shit that inevitably follows. When we got off the phone I felt I had done right by him, and reminded myself why honesty has always been the one thing I hold in the highest regard.

As it was, I stayed in LA an extra few days, dropped another hundred and ten bucks on a third ticket, and wasted two more flights in the process. While in LA I purchased a one-way ticket from DC back to LA, another one-way ticket from LA to Fiji, and a third from Fiji to New Zealand. All-in-all I had dropped more than two grand on tickets in less than a month. Even I felt idiotically reckless, what’s done could not be undone. Departing from Washington on the sixteenth I gave myself three weeks to get my totaled car out of the impound, sell it, give away the large majority of the last of my belongings, pack a bag and head westward. Way westward.

As I sit here tonight, unsatisfied with the words I am about to post, I know they must be said. For in less than two weeks the page will turn and the next door will open and I will have a new story to tell. I have just five days left in DC and though I will miss the familiar comfort of close friends, the rush of endless possibility that courses through my arms and eyes every time I think of what the next year holds is as much of a drug to me as the myriad other addictions I possess. Wish me luck.

haikus are easy
but sometimes they don’t make sense
refrigerator.

You are correct there.
Plus they have to mean something
This one is just form

nothing has meaning
but the snow is too lovely
to think otherwise

even robots think
bourbon is so delicious
11001

I think I like you
but happiness is fleeting
it all goes to shit

our meaninglessness
says suicide or love are
our only options

Always those options
the same as for everyone
they live between them.

how long do you think
we can keep on conversing
solely in haiku?

as long as it takes
structure is irrelevant
talk is always talk

those who understand
are better at the bullshit
think i like you too

why bullshit when you
know the truth? though honesty
is often useless

I think honesty
is the most important thing
existing between

Honesty to self?
Or honestly to others?
Or else just to life?

be honest with me
i will be honest with me too
it’s the only way

Is honesty just
never lying? or is it
complete openness

personally i
believe in being open
as much as you can

For someone open
you seem too mysterious
tell me about you

I’m a crazy girl
capricious and impulsive
I do what I want

Could be dangerous
living just in the moment
you could hurt someone

Yes, I have before
but have been burned myself too
cycles are endless

Sometimes a cycle
in reality’s a spiral
and should be broken.

i continue hope
that one day it will break and
i will be content

you ask me questions
but i know nothing of you
and am curious

I’m an open book
if it’s not in my profile
feel free to ask me

what is it that you
want to get the most from life,
you can’t do without?

A cliched answer.
All I want is happiness
trouble is what kind.

i laugh syllables
don’t we all want happiness
but what makes you smile?

Gaining new knowledge
and turtles, and knowing that
I am not alone

mmm….i love turtles
but giraffes are my fav’rite
we are not alone.

Giraffes look awkward.
Physically we are not.
Other ways, maybe.

awkward is ok
in any way, shape, or form
we are all crazy.

Perhaps you are right.
that does not mean we are all
crazy together

i am not quite sure
what you mean when you say that
please tell me more, dear.

In my adventures
craziness can isolate
is what I have found

There is not that much
closeness or camaraderie
in any nut house

haha very true
i think i am drunk. time to
smoke a cigarette

Think I am jealous.
Cigarettes and alcohol:
keys to happiness

i love every vice
that i cling to so dearly
should i be worried?

Only when sober
Which is not a state that I
ever recommend.

The golden rule’s weak.
Hedonism always wins
happy life beats good

if you cant be good
be bad, really fucking bad
time to make coffee.

The last few months since I moved to DC have spun me inside-out. And the bender that started sometime around August of last year in Charlotte has only increased its frenetic pace. This Christmas season was no exception and we seemed to stumble from one party to the next, endlessly tearing through handles of bourbon and tripping more frequently than ever in our lives. We prepared for twenty inches of snow by stocking up with a handle of Beam, a handle of vodka, another fifth of Beam, three cases of beer, and a fifth of Kahlua. And it wasn’t enough. We awoke groggily that Saturday morning, with hungover bodies littered around the living room, to a thick slab of snow covering everything in sight. Easily already ten inches had fallen and the less-than-delicate flakes came down hard and angry from the sky like wasps. Despite the formidable wind and frigid temperature, it was breakfast time, and I needed bacon. A couple of boys I had recently met during my brief stint waiting tables had made their way to the party at around four that morning and they agreed to accompany me into the blindingly colorless void that had become Columbia Heights in order to search out my beloved bacon. An odd couple they were: one a lanky and easily excitable ham, the other a short, relaxed personality with dreads that swung down his back in thin black ropes. With the sidewalks impassable, we trudged our way down the middle of the half-plowed street, the sharp wind chewing our faces, searching any convenience store that had the balls to be open in this torrent of snow. Despite the boys’ seemingly conflicting attitudes, they shared the same off-the-wall sense of humor as I do, and the frigid biting of the snow was eased by the raunchy laughter we shared. As we made our way onwards, one establishment after the next disappointed on the bacon front and we eventually had to settle for a package of turkey bacon and another fifth of bourbon before making our way back to the toasty comfort of home.

As we ate the satiating feast with Christmas approaching the conversation naturally wandered to the story of the Nutcracker. Between the six of us that remained in refuge from the storm, not one could remember the plot. Struggling to recall details of rats and sugar plum fairies, we eventually decided to turn to Google. And so was the birth of the fairy tale trip. As we read the story of the Nutcracker aloud to the group, the heinous details of the original story appalled and entertained us. Clearly none of us had ever heard the real story before as we learned that in order for the king’s daughter to have the curse of her nutcracker-head broken, she had to find a man who had never been shaven, and never worn boots, to walk seven steps backwards without falling down. Seriously? We sat rapt as my delightfully intense new friend continued on through the engrossing tale. And when the girl finally fell in love with the nutcracker and the curse was broken, we only wanted to hear more. Considering we had nothing but time, booze, and a bag of mushrooms, we passed those snowed-in hours hiding from the arctic air, reading stories aloud from a book of Grimm’s fairy tales, and discussing with horror the terrifying choices made by these beloved and loathed characters. For twelve hours we stayed cuddled cozy in the living room through the last bottle of bourbon as the snow continued to fall silently onto the cold, white streets.

Despite all the fun we were having, the poet was still on my mind as I struggled to find what I needed from him. Something had changed since I left Charlotte behind, and I found myself fighting for even the smallest shreds of the affection he used to offer me freely. His warm, cloudy eyes turned to steel, and his soft words sharpened, slicing my shallow skin as I continued to hope for the return of the man I knew before. Snaking my way through the bar on Christmas Eve’s eve, pushing past hoards of drunken hipsters, I saw him in his familiar posture, seated where he always sits. Though he had yet to answer the questions that had been clawing my chest from the inside out, my eyes still alighted incandescent at the sight of his quiet face. But as I approached, and sweetly greeted this mystery of a man, his eyes met mine with an apathetic disdain that pulled the air from my chest like smoke. His arctic, silent reaction to my eager, earnest face left me hollow. It was the last straw my weary back could take and, dejected, I walked away without another word. I headed straight to the upstairs bar to the easy comfort of my friends, and the sweet burn of bourbon. Their frank and raucous company was a welcome distraction from the disappointment I was trying pitifully to hide. As I drowned my belly in bourbon I slipped into the lilting rhythms of flirtation with a boy to whom I had just been introduced. A long ago face from my friends’ collective past had come to town this Christmas Eve, and Anwar was quick to push me in the direction of the man that will be known as the teddy bear. I probably should have considered the significance of walking away from one man and instantly falling into another, but at the time I was simply grateful for his gentle demeanor and candid eyes. He veiled me in the warmth of being wanted and it was effortless from the start. For the next two weeks we were inseparable. He made me laugh and kissed me often and on Christmas night, the lot of us tripped in the comfort of our wonderfully familiar living room yet again, and felt like a family in round agreement that it was the best Christmas we had ever had. Though the poet had fallen from my favor and bruised me in the process, the teddy bear held me in the way I had been missing, from Christmas through my birthday, and unknowingly bandaged the wounds I was quietly nursing before his arrival. We were a fast flame, I was content, and thoughts of the last burn had fled my tired mind, at least for a moment.

while my voice tempts you now
with intrigue and grace
and honesty pours from
the look on my face
i am scared for the day
that it turns to distaste
for i’m a disgrace
disguised as a woman
who capriciously cuts men
and leaves them in ruins
but among the poor souls who lay dead in the streets
i don’t want to see your face at my feet
so make your retreat and i won’t repeat
the history that i just can’t seem to beat
the mystery of why i’m still incomplete

love to me used to be honest and pure
but lately it feels like i’m casting a lure
unsure of the tryst i’m fishing for
and i’m wishing for peace
as my battered heart beats
tattered and weak as he walks out the door

we’ve been shattered to pieces
by our previous thesis
but love isn’t something to reach us through teachers
it’s something we learn from the scars on our backs
taking our turns to be whipped and react
we are curious creatures
who run from our pasts
chasing shadows of gestures
we know couldn’t last
now damaged and running
we’ll use the last of our cunning
for a moment, a chance
that couldn’t be passed

I talk to you now with one foot out the door
as I cower and scour trying to settle the score
and devour I might every fool in sight
who strikes and ignites
but then falls to the floor
to the pile of ashes
of those smoked before
but I grasp this last match
with the tips of my fingers
and it burns as the flame
it flickers but lingers
it singes my skin
but still we begin
this cycling history
we know we won’t win.