An Open Letter

I took a book off the shelf. It’s a book that was intimately tied to a specific time, and a specific place. But we can forget that. I can even disregard the inscription on the inside cover. I mean, who reads the inside covers of books they already own and have read? I flip to my favorite chapter, the one that I have the first lines memorized:

Bring your ear down closer. Put your hand over the other ear. Think of seashells. There. Now you can hear me.

A photo falls of us, kissing in a photobooth. I studied each slide and how we looked, where your hands were, where mine were. We were younger then and it even looks it. Our brows were less knitted, our smiles much wider. I was wearing someone else’s dress. You were wearing someone else’s shoes. And nothing, not even the clothes on our backs, belonged to us. Not really anyway.

Did we dance that night? I can’t remember. With whom did we mingle? I forget all their names. I remember looking at a dodo bird. Not a real one, of course, because those are all extinct- dwindled off by their own stubbornness to reproduce for the survival of their own species. I remember penguin servers with trays of hors d’oeuvres. I remember your eyes when I took off my coat.

How did it come to this? My present arachnid state. I was young once, I was beautiful, I was sought after, I had picturesque robes and exceptional talents. I uttered portents in caves: there were lineups, there were waiting lists for them. How did I come to be so tiny, so translucent, so wispy, so whispery?

For all the times I’ve hid treasures in borrowed library books for others to find- train stubs, unsent postcards, little doodles in the margins- I never surmised that I would find my own. All at once, I am regretful, I am proud, I am rendered helpless, I am better off, I am missing, and I find myself, crying- for what I’m not sure.

Fear is synonymous with the future, and the future consists of forked roads, I should say forking roads, because the roads are forking all the time, like slow lightening. A road is a process, not a location.

I feel as if I’ve missed an exit, for the rest stop. A place where we can sip coffee slowly, and find relief when we’re bursting at the seams. And like most interstates, expressways, turnpikes, the further away from the missed exit, the harder it is to turn around. The less justified you feel. The further you travel, the more you hope there’s another comparable stop in the future, one that you surely will not miss, not this time. One that has a cafĂ© that serves soy chai lattes, at the right temperature.

Regret will follow this open letter, a hurried mistake for which I will burn my tongue, but perhaps I’ll learn to wait. Or I’ll learn to keep my foot heavy on the pedal. Or perhaps I’ll learn nothing and instead always wonder. But for now you are a photograph, and a story whose lines I’ve memorized. We promised always.

We are both the kind of person who takes the corks out of bottles. Not bottles of wine: bottles of sand.


Autumn in New England

Friday October 17, 2008
7:56amEating biscuits, grits and eggs (over easy) in an unnamed restaurant chain fashioned after a country general store. As I spoon the last of my grits into my mouth, each piece conveniently finding a wedge between my teeth, I look up at the mounted deer head on the wall and below it, also mounted, the shotgun that presumably killed it. I wash it all down with some coffee. I think there was bacon in that hash casserole…

11:10am - Point Judith-Montauk Point Ferry to Block IslandMy brother and father are arguing over a dentist appointment. Dad reaches for cigarette, before he realizes there’s one already fuming between his lips.

I watch Montauk fade and think, I would have waited forever. I give up on coincidence and have another cup of coffee.

2:13pm - Mohegan Bluffs
Flashback to family vacation, same place, 13 years ago: Climbing the 80+ rickety stairs down the cliff seems less daunting. It’s either because my legs are longer, stronger; because I am braver and more adventurous; or maybe because, according to Daddy, they’ve been rebuilt.

When I was 8 and my brother was 6, we sat in the same place, near the water’s edge, in our matching Navy sweatshirts, picking snails off the rocks. It was especially gratifying for Justin when he was able to throw a snail and have it bounce off another rock. Personally, I thought I was saving them- returning them to the sea, to their homes and families. It wasn’t their fault that their undersides were sticky. My dad watches us atop a large rock, contemplative.

Now, my brother throws fist-sized rocks at larger rocks. It’s particularly gratifying when they burst into pieces. My sister is giving herself an oceanic Facebook photoshoot. I’m balancing rocks atop each other to make “fuckin hippie sculptures.” My dad watches from atop a rock, contemplative. His beard’s a little grayer.

I feel this is a good representation of my family.

5:00pm – BeachHead Tavern and Restaurant
Jen: I haven’t seen any cops here.
[Immediately I flashback to RA training, city tours. Of course I have noticed that there are not many cops. I’ve completed a sociogram of the hotel staff and shop owners we’ve met, I’ve proactively met my neighbors and I’ve done a demographic scan of my environment]

Daddy: There’s probably only one or two. Not a lot of people here in the off season. Fire department’s all volunteer.

Justin: What happens if that one guy gets shot? Probably just get another from the mainland. Oh man, that guy’s prob so pissed. ‘fuck, Block Island duty’

The gulp of Dogfish Indian Brown Ale I just took is fully expelled through my nose, into my hand. After realizing that our plates have been taken away, I let said expelled beer splatter on the table, absorbed by the paper placemat. I would have been embarrassed if we all weren’t laughing so hard and if my nose didn’t burn so bad.

8:30pm: The National Hotel, Water Street, with an ocean viewWe all shamelessly go to bed and immediately fall asleep. There’s a big orange man made of cheese outside our window, but the wind blows cotton over his face to make a fluffy beard.

In 13 years I’ll be back here with my children.


“Give me liberty” -or- “Give me death"

My ancestors lassoed a velociraptor
In funky wooly mammoth sweaters

In sweaters we don’t need right now
Because God, with a capital ‘G’
Is giving us an extra big hug
With just a little more smog

We walk streets glittering with the American Dream
-or- shards of last night’s Colt 45
(guess we forgot to recycle)

Passing beggars who don’t want your coins
They want

Can we?

Because I’m not so sure.

When we rear our own ugly heads
When someone else looks into our eyes
To see into our souls,

What will they see?

g-stringed pandemics when we can’t get food on our tables

slur gunslingers in cities supposedly built on brotherly love

where killing a man, makes you more of one
but where loving a man, makes you less

Turning our noses up when we peep into our neighbor’s windows
Coveting their mail order wives
We should ask what they see, just past our patchwork curtains

We have lost boys in our own backyard

We have men that beat their wives in the room down the hall

We build bombs in our own basements

But I’m not saying that we’re wrong
Or that we’re right

but “we are”
-or- “we can”