Reckless Romance


I wake in the familiar haze of hangover. I have been back in D.C. for less than two months. In two more months I am moving to South Korea. And two weeks from today I am leaving D.C. to head to Charlotte. I let the next two years flicker through my head, a series of still frames in which I am always alone. I roll over sleepy in his silent bed. He is an old friend. We have been fucking since I got back from New Zealand. It is new and fun and perfect. We are both leaving. It is always only sex and we know this. He tells me about all the horrible things he does to his girlfriends. We laugh. I am attracted to him. I am fucked up. I slide my panties back on realizing he is going to break his promise to fuck me again in the morning. I didn’t get to come. He is late for work. We sit in strange silence on the way to the metro, everything still, we are paused, suspended. The same stoned silence the night before. Something feels different. What is different? Why is he being so strange? He didn’t touch me the same way, I know it. I am crazy. Everything is fine. I am positive he doesn’t want me anymore. Or maybe it is the other way around. My eyelids drop and flutter with the hum of the beat-up van and the breeze swings warm and soft on my face. Something has changed. I can feel it in every piece of me. I am often wrong.

“I have a strange feeling that was the last time I’m ever going to fuck you.” I shatter into the silence. Only silence follows.

We arrive at the metro and he kisses me on the cheek chiming, “Have a nice day, honey!” some sick twist on the domestication our once weekly sex sessions so flippantly mock. We were always friends. We are only friends. “Have a good day at work, dear” is my usual response. Today I mutter “see ya” and hop out of the van. What is wrong with me? I do not look back.

I push headphones immediately into my ears and let the weight of whatever it is push me deep into the ground. Was he really the one being so strange? For over a year this is all I have known. An endless string of boys who I leave or who leave me. Always running, keep moving, don’t get stuck, don’t let them get you cause you know you have to go. Two weeks here, six more in Charlotte, one in Denver with the boy I know I could fall in love with. Maybe. I think I could. But I won’t. He thinks I am perfect. He is wrong. I won’t let him find out. Gone again. What happened to the girl that threw herself on the tracks at every chance, begging for a train wreck? Since when do I push them all away? Now cautious, cold, and calculating. I say cruel things to remind him I don’t really care. Our affections are only for the sex, for the show we are putting on. I like kissing him. We do not care. He will never get to me, no one can catch a girl running so fast. But he is perfect because he will not try. He’s a runner too. We laugh broad and free at how little we care. We are invincible. It is perfect. No strings, no emotion, fuck whoever you want, play house when you like and never call. I want him to call. It is just sex. It is all I want.

But now I am sinking stones. The ground breathes and heaves beneath me. It is swallowing me whole. I let the maudlin strums of Nico Stai drown me. I am enveloped. I am invisible. I am suddenly made of sorrow.

He is not the only one I will throw away. Not the first, not the last. Another name, another month, another dick, another run. Another year of garbage to collect, of hearts to discard, of self-inflicted wounds. I will tell him when I fuck other men so he knows he is not the only one. He tells me when he fucks another woman and I don’t care. Fuck her the same day you fuck me. Give her the tights I leave on your floor by mistake. I do not care. I remind him what we are. I remind me what we are. He is not the one that needs it. I can’t get stuck, can’t let anyone change my plans. Not this girl, I am stronger than that, I am independent, I am utterly alone. I will tell myself this is what I want. I will travel the world. I will meet boys and kiss them and fuck them and love them and leave them and hate them for leaving me. I will run until my bones are dust, until I am the only one left alone. Because that is the only thing I know how to do anymore. Leave.

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Last October I thought I fell in love with a poet. Pieces of our costumes lying scattered as words across an ever messy bedroom floor he spoke to me artful and quiet and breathed me in nanometers. Though I couldn’t have known it then, it was the last night it might have all been true.

I spent the month of November pretending it was.

December brought the one I broke. My saccharin pawn, unwitting elastic, I let him play a part I didn’t know and kiss the scars he couldn’t see. He did everything he could, except the one thing he couldn’t.

January stumbled over a jazz saxophonist in San Francisco. The awkwardness arrived before the dawn and didn’t have the decency to leave as I did when the sun breached the stranger’s bed. I ran for a taxi forgetting his name with the cliché on the nightstand, holding only to hope that he wouldn’t remember mine.

February was the best friend of December who so wrongly had me rapt. Despite whatever could never have been the staining raze of its inescapable impossibility had me longing for the graceless unknown of that shy San Franciscan saxophonist…what was his name again?

March took me to New Zealand and the original domino of an Irishman. But again I missed, kissed the wrong friend first, and found myself swimming surreptitious in disaster, impossible as it is for a girl with no self-control to exercise something she doesn’t have. Despite slight glints of his wavering willpower, ultimately we were a stalemate: an immovable object against an unstoppable force.

April gave me the first tense tease of satisfaction: a painfully sweet Scot who made it the way I remembered. But with just a few fleeting moments of that long elusive comfort his ticket took him home. When he left for Glasgow, I left for Wellington, and the promises we made lay stuffed at the bottom of our backpacks.

In May I met the Irishman who stayed. Handsome like a lonely streetlight, he and I wandered the same alleys. But when it came to the thing that everyone’s after, it consumed and escaped me in inexplicable flashes. Too scared to break another, I left. But made a promise to come back that I still intend to keep.

In June it was a Scotsman in Malaysia. Though lacking the syrupy brogue that paints itself round every word and buckled my knees back in April, he was effortless as a day in bed. But as camaraderie began its inch around the corner, he had his ticket home as well. His last three days on the island were the only three days it could never be more, and so the universe continued its creative torture on my wearily addicted limbs.

July held the worst of Asia and of the Irish. Fucking me the wrong way, he saw the taut, shadowed cells of schleroderma that have rested between my shoulder blades since I was six. His mouth a rictus of fear at this memory of a burn or a childhood scar I barely recall, he lost it. As I was forced to assure the horror of a boy I hadn’t “given it to him,” he walked out of the room to my shamed stone glare and I twisted my skin and bones back to the door in used, unadmittable, regret.

August brought me to Vietnam and found an Irishman who enveloped me sudden as a syringe with possibility. But sunrise rooftop sex is far more romantic in notion or ideal than after six hours of whiskey buckets. When he left in the morning, he kissed me as if to tell me it was only one night because it had to be, and I sighed like a sinking brick with the trying futility of it all.

In September I made my way to Laos and found a group of friends I liked too much to leave. In the eleventh month of the curse of wasted fucks, forgettable boys, and half-loves gone awry, I finally didn’t kiss the boy I wanted, the one I knew I shouldn’t. Thinking, knowing, there must be a purpose to eleven dead ends. Watching the fastest heaving through the ribbon I realized this isn’t a race I’m meant to run right now.

Yet as the leaves are again turning tawny reds back home, I find myself keeping a promise to a streetlight, lonely as we are together. And while the buds are greening above our grins, beneath our hemisphere, I suddenly see the nature of such seasons, and know, at least for now, that I can only cross this bridge as it’s crumbling beneath me.

eight thousand
six hundred
and seven
thoughts crossed a lost
wanderer
sauntering soul, slow
eyes high, shoulders low
Who was the last to know?

He comes, he comes
He goes, he goes

she burned off her hair
chopped her ribbons and bows
turned in her shoes
for dirty bare knuckled toes

she showed him the future
of sticky fire-tarred roads, tolling
soles scalding
suitcase in hand on a highway of ash

gave him the last
of the baggage they’d packed

and with the crooked division
of a traveler’s math
sliced the half-sharpened smile

said she’s not coming back

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.

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.

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.

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