Day One


If I were doing Project 365 this year, this would be day #1. Shall we pretend?

There are more from today, if you’re interested.

I’ve been realizing lately how talented I am at dividing my life into small, discrete boxes. The scary part is, I’m finding that each time I split off a part of myself, it becomes nearly impossible to re-integrate that splinter later. The part of me that used to write things like this is off living her own life elsewhere and I don’t know how to get her back. You can find her if you know where to look, but she has her own name now, and her own little living space, and — well, after tasting that kind of freedom, I don’t think she’d be the same person anymore, anyway. There are other bits of myself out there, too, like the one who’s taken many tens of thousands of photos in the last four years, FOR REAL. I know, right? You would never know.

I like to avoid thinking about the implications, which are frightening — would much rather slip away, all KitKats and snark, oblivious to my slow disintegration.

However! 2011 was kind of a strange, wondrous year, all told. I haven’t spoken much about it here — remember, boxes! — but I might just be ready to believe in the possibility of rebirth. Maybe.

Shall we pretend?


Dana and the Deep Blue Sea

Sometimes you read an email, and cry, and cry, and cry. In a good way. I didn’t know they could still do that.



It’s atrophied away, my language engine, and I’m not sure how to start it turning again. My days are spent in the black box, by night in white. Plans are made around me; the world spins round, but I am still — still, not centered.

There has to be an end to it.

I’m looking for a seed. Care and water, care and water, that’s all she needs. So say the instructions. But — let her fly before the sun starts its evening retreat. Better for all concerned.

I never was much for the green things.




Asperges me, Domine, hyssopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.


Again. I am here again, braced between void and stone, high above the black deep, feet unsteady on rock rough-hewn by ages of abuse.

Everything is as it was — ten? twenty? — years ago: before Maarten, before the children, before any of them had come and gone from my life. I know this is somewhere before the beginning, though I cannot place it in time, nor approach it as a real memory. I rememeber nothing before or after with which to anchor it.

There’s something too real about this, every sensation arriving in a brief infinity. I hear each raindrop in perfect clarity as it cuts through salt air, and the clean impact of its annihilation against earth. Beneath violent outbursts of dialogue between ocean and wind, I hear the muted voices of a battle as old as the world. And I understand, for it is a rage directed at me also: one thousand knives press my back, punishment for a crime I cannot recall. Only the roiling deep and an emptiness as wide as the horizon serve as reminder for a long-suppressed tragedy.

A death by inches, she said, or swift destruction. Either way, you are mine.

I know that this unnamed place is a light to shadow, a window into something lost, but true: buried beneath wife, mother, sleepwalker, suicide. If I am to be saved at all, it must be here. But I am so afraid!

I’ve chosen to hide, again and again. I have gone to both the knife and the deep, and yet — Here I am, forced to face the choice one more time.

We sit, frozen by fear of motion.

It would be so easy to let go, just like before. But I’ve made my decision. Oh my children, forgive me.

She has forgotten that I am also a thing of air and rock and water, and though broken and scarred, I am strong and eternal.


I could not have imagined it would come to this. To have searched so long and so single-mindedly only to find you at last — but still, and silent, and years too late. Fr. Rivera tells me that the end came quickly and without pain, and I can take some comfort in those words, but in my mind I see you as you were on that day in Heiligenstädt so long ago, as we broke our embrace and laid our plans against fate. You were so strong then! And I was the one who had to be pulled, lifeless, from the edge of darkness.

I’ve experienced beauty and thunder, cataclysm and renewal, on my journeys — been transformed by them, reborn, but still have never felt as safe or alive as when you held me beneath your coat. I was so helpless and small, and you… was it heat from your sheltering flesh I felt, or the flush of mingling fires of my love and shame? I still don’t know, and suppose I never shall.

They are closing the gates, and I must go. But I will return tomorrow and for all the days thereafter, until you awaken or sleep bring me to your side. I am here, and will not leave you again.


Jehanne et Alexa

They’re leaving now. It hasn’t started yet, but there’s a stillness in the air, as if the world is teetering on the edge of something inevitable. I reach for the blistered steel, hoping to find comfort in its cool permanence, but before my hand touches metal a groan and shudder announce the beginning of the end.

Softly, music is spilling down from above. A song of celebration, muted by travel between worlds. As it cascades down past my ears and across the wood beneath me, it seems to transform in the glow of the sodium lamps into something deep and base and lost. They are still dancing up there, I know it — but there is no more sound that I can hear.

I know I have no choice left but to go.

I’m moving now, along the dock, matching the ship’s movement inch for inch, while warm light bleeds through deck rails onto the wooden boards before my feet. Already I can see the far end, but I keep pace — and whether the deep or the wind off the waves take me, I will continue to follow.


cotton, thunder, shame

There is a name for what I am.

They dance around it, they whisper it in the dark, these voices. They are free to say, they yell, taunting me, and my own mouth is bound, sealed with cotton, thunder, shame.

Here is emptiness, here is weakness, here is fear.

And I know! I am not so tiny. These are things by day which I can ignore, and I do, though they burrow and dig and wait. They sit inside me until night comes, because here I am small, and they have many mouths.

My voice would be feared, should be — but they know I am still powerless to use it. It would unmake me as soon as it would them.


(I am getting stronger)

There is a name for what I am, but I cannot speak it.



Solitary madwoman


Oh, this night air!

There is familiarity here, at this uneasy border between today and tomorrow, like a lost love returned from abroad — in how it transforms sound, enhancing the unfamiliar but muffling everything else, or the way it hangs heavy but high, as if unable to decide whether to descend and become morning.

There is power here — or is it fear? This lonely emptiness breeds one or the other, and there’s no telling them apart. Not here. We are all mad in our solitude.

There is temptation here, too, hours to spend in this moment, if only it had any to give. But daylight is held by the thinnest of threads, and is late, too late now. I know I should not be out, and remember: there are sirens in these waters.

Once, this was my element, but no more. I am worn, weak, too easily steered off-course. But still—

Can you hear? They are calling.


A death by inches


She is planning for me a death by inches, this shadow-me, and each day I flit between engineering her own, and entertaining the idea of just letting it happen. We are all too aware that there is no road on which the two of us, in traveling together, can join and become whole. Our roots will either choke for lack of space, or one will wither and the other flourish.

So we sit and plot, and smile stiffly at each other, frozen by fear of motion.

But on the other hand, Miranda, my skin is smooth and smells faintly of citrus and bergamot and white tea leaves — after all, if nothing else, we can live for these small pleasures.




She is here, my doppelgänger, and already more of a person than I am. And I? I am fading, fraying, graying, not yet gone but leaving quickly. To where? I can’t tell. That would require definition.

“You shouldn’t be afraid,” she says, pulling a cigarette from a gold case in her purse. She offers me the smoke and waits for the briefest of moments before placing it between her own lips.

“Your loss,” she shrugs, before taking a deep, long drag. Unfiltered. I turn away, feeling a phantom twinge of nostalgia in my undefined lungs, and I sense her eyes on me. She’s playing — she knows I’ve no taste for it anymore.

We exhale simultaneously, and the smoke hangs between us. Did some of that come from me?

“I was saying, you shouldn’t be afraid. Letting go is not the end. It’s becoming.”

You don’t understand, I want to say. I don’t want to be you again, or never, or before. You’re what I wanted to be, once, but now I want to be me. But it’s too late. I haven’t the strength, nor have I been able to speak for a very long time, now. I can only stare at this, my past, my future.

She looks back through golden coils, like the signets scattered before Carthage — a harbinger of doom.

I think, would it really be so bad?

And I know: one snip, one slip, and I unravel. The end.

I turn away once more, trying to ignore the weight of years of want. The sky is dark through the glass, deep and wet. A lost day, a day between days.

What do you do when you want to stop wanting?


The onyx snake


As I walk back through the park in the twilight mist, I pass a young woman. She is familiar but strange, an image from a funhouse mirror, features etched in a lost language. Her hair falls in ebony cascades, and she wears the sea on her back and dancing fire around her legs. She glances at me and gives the faintest of smiles, but I continue on through the dimming haze, and soon she is beyond the edge of my vision.

I cannot afford hope.

She passes out of my life, again — as she always has.

In my hand, a jeweled bracelet, black and deep as night — fair exchange for another shard of my soul.

Someday, I may turn and ask her true name, and the puzzle will be unlocked. But not for me, not yet, not yet.


Mother’s Day

Awoke with fresh tears in my eyes. Another visitation from my dream-daughter, the one who has haunted my dreams but speaks only of death? But no, I do not remember her: though there was a church, a waterfall, a long fall…

Sometimes I am there again, walking delicately through a rainbow bed of fallen foliage, as soft sunset light falls through the canopy overhead and brushes my hair. There is no noise, nor rustle of breeze, and improbably, the leaves do not even crumple beneath my bare feet. Here is where she appeared first, apparition-like, with her words of love, of loss — soft-spoken, but heavy as a drum. A gift and message from the future. A future, one not mine, but hers.

She says: I wanted to meet you, just once.

Once. The word is what it is: final, fatal, unambiguous.

But there I go again, and wait. Because I do not choose or know where I travel, in dreams, though tears remind me.


The illusion of clarity


Losing one’s rationality is a terrifying feeling. There have been moments, recently — walking through the sunny city streets, or gazing at dew-spotted flowers fighting the breeze — where I can feel reality beginning to slip. The world changes, and it becomes easy to believe that with one lapse of concentration, just the tiniest of nudges, that the waking dream would take over, with no past, no future, no consequences…

And sometimes, there are moments of clarity, where things burst into brilliant focus and I know exactly who I am and I am who I want to be, and the sun is brilliant against the glass and metal of Seattle without blinding, and the wind blows coolly through my hair, bringing flying petals which paint the world in color: streets, cars, trees, people, buildings, life — everything! — beautiful, beautiful, and beautiful.

But these are just two faces of the same coin, and for just an instant before the beauty fades, the old fears return: is this the biggest lie of all? And it’s gone, gone, a thousand years gone, leaving just a memory of one barely remembered, perfect moment of… sanity? madness?

But see? I’m back again.


Belfast, midday

Walking weather: too warm for a coat by day, but evenings are still chill, and with constant threat of rain, it’s hard to decide what to wear. Trust me to pick the wrong outfit, every time.

Hear New York has hit the 80s — ugh! So sorry, Miranda.

Watched Sideways and am finding I really, really want a glass of Pinot Noir (apparently, am not alone in this reaction). All I have is Riesling, which’ll do for now.

She lies asleep in a cheap hotel room, legs wrapped around the lone tendril of blanket remaining on the bed. It is midday in Belfast, a hot summer’s day; unobstructed, bright rays of sunlight stream through the windows and illuminate the peaceful expression on her face.
The room is a small one, barely enough for the twin bed and the nightstand next to it. The only other piece of furniture in the room is a wooden chair, its presence inexplicable without an accompanying desk, or table. At the moment it serves as a closet; over its back is draped a black, leather overcoat, stylish but outlandishly inappropriate for the weather. Leaning against the legs of the chair is a medium-sized travel bag, locked shut. Next to that sits a small, metal case, the sort that could probably survive a nuclear explosion. In small piles leading from the chair to the side of the bed are various pieces of clothing, haphazardly discarded in the haste to retire.
Outside, a bustling city street, unusually active for a Sunday afternoon. A man with a prosthetic hand is walking three dogs on leashes. A florist leaves his stand momentarily to chase after a customer who forgot her change. The doorman of the posh hotel across the street takes off his cap so that he can wipe sweat off his brow. A minor car accident has blocked traffic, almost directly under the window. Two men exit a limousine which has become caught in the snarl. A faint movement—there, in the alley, but there’s nothing. Perhaps a shift in the light, or a random shadow?
She lies on the ratty mattress, sensing none of this, and it is the most comfortable place she has ever been.


La luna


There were times, late at night, when she knew in the depths of her soul that she was a broken person. Sometimes she would emerge from the shower, throw herself onto the mattress, and as the air cooled the water on her skin and in her hair, the chill would seem to numb her sense of self. In these moments of disconnectedness, her thoughts took on a cold, computer-like pattern, and she would feel trapped, as if she were just a prisoner of her body and of her life. Surely she was meant to have been someone else; anyone, anything except herself, or maybe even nobody at all. These feelings of wrongness and illogic were so strong that it was impossible to believe otherwise, but then, slowly, the warmth would return to her body and she would be back, anchored firmly in the reality of her own existence once more. That was possibly the worst feeling of all.
She had lived with this all her life. As a young girl, she’d prayed often to the full moon to take her somewhere else: someplace where she belonged, where she could feel correct. She’d studied meditation and other techniques designed to free her from her shell, and into a more perfect form; all without success, leaving only growing disaffection with her existence…




This pretty much sums up my mood last night…

I’m beginning to hate that blinking text carat in Microsoft Word!

[update (2005/03/18) — so does this comic…]


Breakfast in Oyama

The eatery was like most in Oyama prefecture—cold and dark, certainly not inviting. Though its four sides were almost fully open to the afternoon sun, the interior remained extremely poorly lit. Tasmin had ceased to be discomfited by such places, although it had taken almost a year of living in this town to reach that point. This establishment in particular was not one she’d visited before, but its gloomy atmosphere felt instantly familiar. Clammy notes of soy, spring onion, and musky beer hung in the air around her, advertising the day’s fare; there were no menus in a place like this. She realized that she had already forgotten its name.

Read “Breakfast in Oyama

This was based on a dream I had over the weekend — strange stuff, to be sure, though stranger once I put it into words.


Subtractive Light

More writing:

Blue, a blue car.

Appearing as the faintest hint, a premonition, just around the corner. The light is blue, the sky is blue, the world is beautiful, idyllic. No need to see the blue car, but it’s there, at the edge of my vision, nagging at me. Then, in slow motion, almost inevitably, emerging. A sound of steel against steel, and…

this is not happening.

Read “Subtractive Light

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