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.

On Wednesdays they clean out
the fridge. Milk, two days expired.
A jar of homemade cranberry sauce,
unlabeled for the taking but you will
never eat. The bread dusted with
mold like an early snow won’t hurt
you. Be kind to the travelers. One gives
you peanut butter before he
leaves. They will always leave
their scraps behind with bigger
things to eat out there. Read long
books and sleep as much as your tossing
thoughts will let you. I know without
the wine restive feet will churn the sheets
to butter but you still will wake up
hungry. Toast peanut butter toast
free jam. But only enough for one
PB&J. Free tea, sugar, steal someone’s
milk, just a bit. Talk to strangers and
give up smoking. No, not when you’re
this lonely. I’d love a glass of wine.
Bitter velvet chill too soon passed.
Can I bum a smoke? But never take
their last. Call the one who always
understood this brand of poverty. Steal
his affections cloaked and stashed
like the squirrel who knows
there’s always a winter next. But those
won’t keep for long. Best if Used By:
someone else. Grilled cheese
grilled cheese grilled cheese peanut
butter toast clean the toilets make the beds
take a hike but you don’t have the right
shoes for that. Maybe steal hers
she’s left them out. What a foolish
girl to trust this world like that. No,
you aren’t that famished yet. Watch only
your tattered feet as you walk
sharpening ragamuffin eyes
to the elusive spark of change
on pavement. Stack five dollars and forty
cents into piles by your bed like discarded
trophies and watch them not go
anywhere. The very first thing you
have managed to save in your life.

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.

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.

The morning was bright and brisk as Faye, Anwar, and I began to prepare for our trip to Fityfo’s farm for his twenty-seventh birthday celebration. We were three of among around fifteen people making the forty-five minute drive out to his grandparent’s farm in the rolling hills of Virginia and we had all been excitedly anticipating this for weeks. We neglected to pick up the supplies we needed and as we passed a small general store on the way we busted a U-ie and picked up some last minute beer and Oreos. Unfortunately the tiny establishment did not carry bacon. You can imagine how distraught I was, but I managed to power through the disappointment. Continuing on our way we passed a sign advertising farm fresh eggs, apples and pears. Another U-ie was certainly in order for this. As we pulled up to the sprawling farm, a young boy greeted us out of the car and sold us two dozen eggs and a bag of apples. The tiny seven or eight year old boy formally regretted to inform us that they were out of fresh pears and with apples and eggs in hand, onwards we went.

As we arrived on the expansive property we walked up to the old house, quaint in its white painted brick exterior but inside a massive, winding domain, every surface in every room littered with hundreds of years of Americana and kooky antiques. The long formal dining table was set with twelve chairs and a smaller table with six sat adjacent, and a cornucopia of autumnal pumpkins and squash adorned the center. KK and Lili were making their way around the table folding napkins into bishop hats and setting the table. This place was incredible.

Silverbrook Farm


Schmancy Table Setting


Fityfo proceeded to give us a tour through the steep, narrow staircases and into each of the numerous bedrooms, all decorated in the same quirky country style. On almost every inch of every wall were plates, clocks, mirrors, and faded, cracked American artwork. We each claimed our beds with our suitcases and continued outside into the crisp early afternoon. Walking on the left of the house past the gravel driveway we approached what appeared to be some kind of nest. Up a six foot ladder made of branches was a round wooden platform covered in pillows and wrapped in several feet of twisting bushes. It didn’t just look like a nest, it was.

Me in the People Nest


That's right...a people nest


We decided instantly to head back there and smoke a joint the next chance we got. Fityfo showed us the outdoor bathroom with a rustic white bathtub exposed to the sky to enjoy the stars and everywhere we turned were wooden platforms and benches, most covered in pillows, overlooking the hills of Virginia disappearing into the horizon. The crepuscular colors of autumn shouted against the grassy green of the fields and we all took a minute to breathe and appreciate just how beautiful this place really was. We walked past the life size chess set outside of the original kitchen in the back and cracked open beers on one of the many porches as Fityfo finished explaining the long history of his grandmother’s farm and the way it had grown and evolved over the years.

Why is that one dude staring him down?

Though most of the crew had yet to arrive, the seven of us there made our way to Hillsborough Vineyeards, the first winery on our itinerary. After several U-turns and mistakenly driving up someone’s driveway while they were gardening with the thought that their massive house actually was the winery, we finally made it to the right place. When we walked in the place was quiet and nearly empty and our boisterous group of seven surely didn’t go unnoticed. Still they were happy to have us there and the warm staff charmed and accommodated us.
Once we finished the tasting we headed outside to enjoy our selections overlooking the vineyard. The sky had turned from bright to bleak but the conversation was easy and laughter lilted from our mouths as we filled and emptied our glasses again and again.

Hillsborough Vineyards


Skipping.


Winery #2


On the way to the next stop again we passed the entrance and were cursed with several more U-turns, an ongoing joke of the weekend at this point. We rambled drunk around the farmlands filling our bellies with bread and cheese and wine in the brisk autumn afternoon. We found a place on a dock overlooking a small duck pond and packed up the one-hitter watching as the sun broke through the grey, silhouetting the wiry branches of bare trees lining the edge of the pond. At the third and final winery, Sunset Hills, the remainder of our crew arrived, including Eve and BoBo, sisters back home from New York and Los Angeles for the Thanksgiving holiday and we sat in happy, raucous company enjoying the steady friendships we shared with one another.

The Crew.


Perfect.


We headed back to the farm before sunset to begin preparations for dinner and the bonfire. Fityfo’s sister was already busy in the kitchen making the chili and the rest of the girls began work on the appetizers. While the boys took the tractor down to the burn pile to get set up, Eve, Faye, BoBo, and I climbed up into the people nest to smoke a joint under the scattering of stars in the sky. In the idyllic moment we spoke of friendship and love and in that moment I felt that everything was finally right. After years of feeling tortured and out of place, of making shitty decisions and drinking my regrets from my mind each night, I finally felt true and free. The friends I have loved for years, but from whom I have been apart, are all that really matter in this world, and sitting with them under the stars I smiled a furtive smile believing I was finally beginning to figure it all out.

Closest of Friends.


Seeing Red.


While dinner was cooking and the booze turned voices and faces red, a few of us went to take a ride across the acres in the back of the truck. With Fityfo in the driver’s seat and the four of us standing in the back with cocktails in hand, the old rusted, red and grey pick-up jerked forward into the darkness and we were off. The air stung the dry skin on my face as we skipped and jumped over the bumpy gravel road. As we squeezed our ghostly knuckles around the metal frame surrounding the bed of the pick-up, Max lost his balance and fell into me, pouring his whiskey on my legs and feet, his glass shattering to pieces that clinked around the bottom of the truck as we went on. Fityfo pressed his foot to the gas in the enveloping darkness, the headlights illuminating but a few feet of the vast landscape ahead. Entering into the muddy field Fityfo turned the wheel hard into and sudden into donuts and Sylvia tumbled into Matsui, her wine tossing itself into the air and all over each and every one of us. In the back of the jostling truck the four of us howled in drunken, uproarious laughter all the way back to the house.

By the time we got back dinner was almost ready and we made our way into the formal yet cozy dining room for Fityfo’s birthday dinner. The table was full of booze and food and friends and we filled our plates and glasses and bellies in easy fashion.

Happy Birthday Fityfo


Fityfo and the Birthday Spread


As the meal wound down and we cleared our plates, it was time for dessert. I ran quickly upstairs to my suitcase and came back down with several handfuls of psychedelic chocolates to trip while we lay in front of the bonfire. Some decided to stick to liquor and once we ate our candy we began to gather what we needed to bring to the burn pile. The tractor sat out front of the house and we loaded into the back with our blankets, bongo drums, iPods, speakers, booze, cider, cigarettes, lighters, and anything else we could think of. Matsui sat across from me next to Sylvia and I couldn’t help but think I sensed something between them. I had been nervous about Matsui coming on this trip, and whether the awkward remnants of our failed relationship would continue to hinder the friendship I was trying to foster with him, but instead the opposite happened. We floated back into familiar rhythms without a problem and by the end of the night I would think that I almost preferred an awkward distance between the two of us. Knowing that nothing good could come from getting too close to the man who tore my heart out and to whom I reciprocated in the same callous manner made me hold my breath and keep my distance. We were always doomed, the two of us, and I won’t be a silly enough girl to make that same mistake again. Besides, there was another man on my mind more often than not that day; and there wasn’t room enough for the both of them.
As the hayride came to an end, Sylvia’s dog Serena jumped off the tractor and ran to chase the cows and bulls mulling about the fire site. Worried for her dog, Sylvia chased after her into the darkness and as the sound of ton-heavy bulls trampled against the wet ground we sat entrenched with worry for both Sylvia and her dog as we heard her cries for Serena echo unto the great emptiness. Luckily after fewer minutes than what it felt, both Sylvia and Serena returned unscathed. As Sylvia and Serena found their way back to us, the boys and KK hopped off the back of the tractor and went to start the fire. In the cold November night, most of the girls stayed in the trailer, sitting on the bales of hay drinking whiskey and hot cider and rum under blankets to keep us warm as we felt the slow tingling of the chocolates begin to invade our bodies. The boys struggled to ignite the pile of damp wood on the windless night until after more than thirty minutes, the flames finally rose from the burn pile and in the light of the first flare of fire the hallucinations began. The rest of the girls and I climbed out of the tractor and down towards the bonfire, laying out blankets on the cold ground around the intense heat. We laid our bodies on shukas and passed bottles of whiskey around to warm our insides with the slow growing burn of fire water in our throats and stomachs.

Fire and Blankets


Bonfire.

As the night and the trip rolled on, the beat of the bongo and the smooth wavering of jazz clarinet wafted into the air around us. We lay upon one another laughing and watching the orange embers of the fire twist towards the stars like fireflies, overwhelmed with all the beauty in the world. As our trips grew in intensity, so did the drunkenness of those around us and soon the peaceful beauty of the night erupted into belligerence. Friel (our resident Irish alcoholic) decided to be a dick for no good reason and toss a cow paddy into the face of another drunken friend. Within moments there was shit flying everywhere and Aman, the victim of the attack, ran at Friel with his fists flying, pushing him into the shit-covered mud and pounding his hard, angry knuckles into his head until he was finally pried off of him. Not five minutes later, an obnoxiously drunk Max Power ran full speed into the towering flames of the burn pile and immediately ran back out amidst a cacophony of screaming pleas for him to stop being such a fucking idiot. In my opinion this is just one more argument that alcohol is far more dangerous than pot and mushrooms.

As the fire wound down we found ourselves inching closer to the initially overwhelming heat and as the bottles of bourbon found their bottoms we loaded ourselves back into the tractor and found our way back to the house. Sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace we drank wine and played games into the hours of early morning. Slowly the large group thinned out as one by one the long day of drinking took people to their beds. Suddenly, as the last few of us still awake sat quietly talking and drinking on the same warm rug, a thunderous crash split through the house from the upper floors. Sure someone had been hurt we ran to find what had happened, and help whomever it had happened to. As we came up the stairs to the second floor we saw a dresser lodged against the wall at the bottom of the flight to the third. The dresser, filled with linens must have weighed at least two-hundred pounds and was topped with several pieces of pottery, which now lay shattered in pieces strewn across the old wooden floor. Upon turning up the steep staircase, we saw Ben pulling himself from the top of the dresser, he and Max Power in a heated argument over some ridiculous bullshit, the details of which I am still not sure but which ended with him pushing Ben into the dresser and the two of them tumbling down the treacherously steep staircase. Thankful that Ben landed on top of the dresser and not the other way around. We cleaned up the thick shards of clay-colored pottery and sent the drunken boys to bed, Max now officially crowned as the biggest idiot/douchebag of the weekend. There’s always gotta be at least one.

As the hours wound on, the last five or six of us Mohicans smoked one last joint out in the shivering cold and headed to what we had named the orgy room, each finding warmth under covers on one of the seven beds that wrapped themselves around the wall of the icy basement cove. As I lay on my back with Matsui in the bed next to me, the room continued to shift and breathe to the beat of music in my mind and I knew I would not find sleep yet. Barefoot in the dark I took my journal and a pen to a random couch next to the laundry room and began to write of the boy who would not leave my mind as the house slept in silence. After an hour or so, as the twisting colors of hallucination gave way to slow shifting, I made my way into bed and let my mind find its way to sleep.

The noise of pots and pans roused us from sleep in too early morning and we slowly awakened and made our way upstairs. The house was littered with solo cups, wine glasses, half-eaten pies, and the rest of the scattered remnants of the ineffable night. As we worked on washing the massive amount of dirty dishes we had created we reminisced on the best (and worst) events of the evening and unanimously decided that it was an unparalleled success, especially considering that no one was seriously injured between running into a bonfire and being pushed down a flight of stairs with a two-hundred pound dresser for company. I gave a piece of my mind to Max for his extreme idiocy as we drank mimosas outside on the beautiful day we had been given after the most beautiful night. People started leaving the farm early to get back to wherever it was they needed to go and Faye, Anwar and I, who had become an inseparable threesome of late, sat on the wooden platform surrounding a towering oak, drawing, reading, and writing. We were in no hurry to leave this miraculous place. As the time wore on and our appetites grew we decided to head back to Hillsborough for a bottle of wine and some chili, bread, and cheese before we finally made our way back home. We sat, occasionally chatting with the sun warm on our faces, and felt utterly blessed for the incredible lives we lead. Truly, la vita è bella.

The Creativity Tree