Sometimes I think the universe is like a river and if I wait long enough on its banks everything I need will come floating past: an almost-like-new flat screen to replace my ancient beast, a free crockpot bigger and fancier than the one I broke in the sink, two perfectly serviceable bar chairs when everyone’s been complaining I don’t have enough seating in my apartment. Part of me figures I can do the same with you as well, that passive patience will trump active perseverance and if I wait, eventually you too will one day come floating down and I can scoop you like a leaf out of the water. That’s not how it works, of course, and another part of me, the part I really only listen to in the dead of night, knows that. Sure, you may be somewhere in that river, but I’ll never catch you by lingering on the shore. I’d have to wade into those dark depths, risk that unpredictable current, brave the long, cold swim that may never have an end. Yet once I submerge myself, can I ever climb back out? Or will I become another bit of flotsam carried along to some far, unknown destination? I’m not sure I’m ready to take that plunge. The shore is familiar, safe, predictable, and you know I’ve never been the adventurous type. For now I’ll remain on the bank and keep tossing my note-filled bottles into the waves, hoping somehow they’ll find their way to you. And maybe if I’m feeling bold I’ll dip my toes in the water.
Oh sister, don’t you see? Someone cannot become a ghost if they never existed in the first place. You are no specter like he; you are a figment, a concept, an ideal, impossible from the very beginning. It’s a terrible pity that he should live and die and thus be granted a phantom’s immortality while you, you who would have sucked the marrow of life to taste even its final dregs, will never have that chance. If any deserve animation or resurrection it’s you, my dear, but what can I do? These long years have proven I have no power to spark real breath from my words, that I cannot make you a thing of flesh and bone simply by desire alone. Only in dream may I glance into the mirror and find you staring back, slender hands pressed to the glass so I can pull you through. You aren’t in that mirror when I wake – why else do you think I never look too closely as I pass by? You do not haunt my dreams, sister. You are my dreams. And I haven’t the heart to tell you that it only pains me more to know you once in fiction than never in reality. Don’t you see? I would rather have never known the liquid lyricism of your voice than to wake alone when seconds before your laughter tickled against my ear. I would give anything for you, but I’m not a child anymore. I no longer search for fairy rings; I rarely check under the bed at night; I don’t believe if I stand at my mirror and chant “thee to me, sister, thee to me” you will cross over to this world. I know you are impossible. It’s time you accepted it as well. You can’t haunt me if you’re not a ghost.
But then I thought, what if I’m the sister dark? What if you’re the one who walks in sunlight and leaves me here on the other side to await manifestation at nightfall? I can see myself now: palms pressed to the cool mirror glass, begging for mercies you will never hear as you pass me by. Or worse yet: palms pressed to the unyielding barrier as you stare into the mirror and still don’t see me, the words of summon lost to you forever ( “thee to me, sister!” I cry, unheard, “thee to me!”) and so I as well. If that were the case, would you ever choose me? Staring into the glass but seeing nothing, could you ever have faith that I wait beyond your reflection, needing only those four sacred words to bridge the space between us? Take my hands. Speak the words. Draw me forth. We belong together, you and I.
Sister, sister, get me out of here. I’m being consumed. I’m being devoured. I’m being transformed. My head’s buzzing with machinery’s language, harsh hammering consonants and vowels like metal gears grinding together. It’s filling my head and I can’t remember the sound of rain or the voices of the waves or the keening, wailing wind. Sister, sister, get me out of here before I forget everything I never needed to learn. The walls are closing in. I swear, every time I close my eyes they creep a little nearer and I sink a little deeper in the well. I just won’t close my eyes, then. I won’t sleep because if I sleep the morning will come again and the cacophony in my head will thunder until I weep from its discordant pandemonium. Sister, sister, get me out of here, take me away from this place. I’m crumpled before the mirror, so for the love of mercy just clasp my aching hands and pull me through the glass. I don’t belong here. I don’t want to be in the well. Carry me over to the other side where the night is gentle and the Moon’s lullaby is a soft murmur on the water. Remind me of the languages I once knew, the hymns of the Wildland. They feel so far away now. Sister, sister, get me out of here while there’s still time. I’m not myself anymore. I can’t remember who I am. I can’t remember what I am. I can’t remember why I am. Sister, sister, get me out of here. Take me home.
“Hide and Seek”
forgive me, sister
I don’t mean to call so late
but aching fingers
still seek the comfort of touch
and still the words come
beloved and unbidden
thee to me, sister
I am a fool for calling
a fool for longing
a fool to face the mirror
but frozen fingers
still touch palm to mirrored palm
and still my lips move
whisper the incantation
thee to me, sister
I am going to attempt to be honest tonight. Honest with myself; honest with whatever eyes may read this. I do not know what words I will write here, but I will write words and I will not erase them.
This is what I believe: I believe I exist for a reason. I believe I am a vessel. I believe I was born empty so that I might be filled, like a chalice waits to be filled with sweet wine or holy water. I was born empty so that I might be filled with memories, with knowledge, with understanding, with grief, with joy, with longing. I am filled with all the world. It does not matter if I give name to the Providence which has blessed me with such an immeasurable task, for it is not my part to question fate or deny my path. I have faith, and I cannot walk astray. I am a vessel for all that might be forgotten, might be overlooked, might be cast aside if not for one who will carry these things, all of these things, with her in every moment, in every breath, in every heartbeat. I am past and present always, part and parcel of the timeless worlds which have come before, which will come after, which coexist like shared harmonies. I do not claim to know the workings of these worlds, nor the truths of even the words I have ever spoken, here speak, but I am filled by these things nonetheless. The chalice does not question what it holds within itself, only loves that which has filled it to the brim and made it complete. And I am always being filled, always gathering memories of scent and sense and sensation to myself. I remember warm hay and cool grass and summer nights beneath heavy apple trees. I remember bare feet and tangled hair and birds calling from the shifting dunes. I remember my own life, and others’, and lives which no one has yet lead and may never lead. I am my own memories; I am the world’s memories. I am deserts where the mesas are painted in bands of red and orange and gold; I am oceans which surge against the white flour sand to embrace the land just once, just once before the tide ebbs; I am mountains which split open the sky and bathe in liquid darkness. I am everywhere at once. I am everything at once.
And I am more. I am the words; singular, plural, possessive. I am the music; thrilling, lulling, driving. I am the heartbeat of the earth beneath my feet, the hot liquid core which revolves and grinds in this revolution a pulse to which my own blood is attuned. I am the stones, the rain, the tempest. I am copper. Clay. Cotton. I am silver. Silk. Shells. I am the thunder on the grasslands. I am birds in flight, the Sun through dappled leaves, the Moon on unbroken snow. I am the tentative blossoms of spring and the fermented spices of autumn. I am the maiden. I am the mother. I am the crone. I am everything that has lived, that has been given life through desire or need or belief, that has been longed for and dreamed of. In every moment, I am everything. Nameless, formless, boundless, I am everything. My heart is not mine to give to another, for my heart has already been promised to this land, to the Wild Land, to the Otherland, to all lands. To everything. Everything.
This is the truth, and I know it to be so because it is only in this truth that I am able to fully recognize myself. I am Elyssa, yes, but she is not all that I am. She is a part of me, as they all are. I have been many people. I am many people. I have kissed Shakespeare’s Sister to know her taste of blackberries and salt, and I have woken beside her in a cottage by the sea and touched her skin so warm in slumber. She is a part of me, and she is with me in all moments. I have waited at the window with Tanim, and I have held him as he wept for love and longing. He is a part of me, and he is with me in all moments. I have lain in the darkness with Daren and felt him tremble, and I have taken his madness and his grief and his aching into myself forever. He is a part of me, and he is with me in all moments. And more. I have paced all the winter lands with the Darkelvenmage and shared the burden of her frozen heart; I have carried Bast’s child in my arms as he ushered me to the undying lands and have seen his spirit walk beside me even in the waking world; I have opened my lungs to the cold ocean as the woman who loved rocks left behind the land and walked into the water’s cold embrace. I have lived with them. I have died with them. I have loved with them, raged with them, broken with them and healed with them. I have known the goddess. I have touched the savior. I have cradled the Sun in my arms and closed the Moon’s eyelids in death and buried Shakespeare’s Sister in a nameless crossroads grave. They are all within me, carried with me, treasured with me. I am all of them. I am a vessel. I am a conduit. I am a blank page. I am empty so that I may be filled.
I cannot tell you how this is the truth, but I have faith for I trust in Providence and in love and in the experiences I have had, the things I have felt, the things I have been. I know who I am. What I am. How I am. This is the strange and beautiful truth. This is my meaning. This is my destiny. This is who I truly am.
Since Shakespeare’s ephemeral sister has been haunting my dreams of late, I thought I should appease my third muse with a list of songs which remind me of her. Tanim and Daren steal most of my attention, so I hope this restores the balance a bit. Enjoy. ♥
1) Sister Mother – Sixpence None the Richer
“My life is plagued/ By mistakes, broken love, slaps in the face/ But I’m trying to care, to dare to embrace your face/ Hug him like a brother/ Kiss her like a sister/ Let it be my mother for now/ I want to find where the maid in the street/ Is pouring her wine/ I heard she takes you in and gives you the words/ You need said/ If you’ll be her brother/ She’ll kiss you like a sister/ She’ll even be your mother for now”
2) One Day I Slowly Floated Away – Eisley
“And in the corner chair/ Soft and soap-scented/ My darling cries apologies/ We foresee the mercy/ That’s been shown my young limbs/ Will not go unthanked or unseen/ Wake up in the morning I shall/ Wake up and so shall you/ And I wake up, the sun is beautiful/ And it is warming you and I/ Fragile as we lie”
3) Margaret vs Pauline – Neko Case
“Everything’s so easy for Pauline/ Ancient strings set feet a light to speed to her such mild grace/ No monument of tacky gold/ They smoothed her hair with cinnamon waves/ And they placed an ingot in her breast to burn cool and collected/ Fate holds her firm in its cradle and then rolls her for a tender pause to savor/ Everything’s so easy for Pauline
Girl with the parking lot eyes/ Margaret is the fragments of a name/ Her bravery is mistaken for the thrashing in the lake/ Of the make-believe monster whose picture was faked/ Margaret is the fragments of a name/ Her love pours like a fountain/ Her love steams like rage/ Her jaw aches from wanting and she’s sick from chlorine/ But she’ll never be as clean/ As the cool side of satin, Pauline”
4) Marvelous Things – Eisley
“I followed a rabbit/ Through rows of mermaid entwined shrubbery/ Ah ah…. / Oh what marvelous things but, they are, they are, they are/ Giving me the creeps/ Dark night hold tight, and sleep tight my baby/ Morning light shall burst bright/ And keep us here safely”
5) Hide and Seek – Imogen Heap
“Where are we?/ What the hell is going on?/ The dust has only just begun to form crop circles in the carpet/ Sinking feeling/ Spin me round again and rub my eyes/ This can’t be happening/ When busy streets a mess with people/ Would stop to hold their heads heavy/ Hide and seek/ Trains and sewing machines/ All those years/ They were here first”
6) Kiss Me – Sixpence None the Richer
“Kiss me down by the broken tree house/ Swing me upon its hanging tire/ Bring, bring, bring your flowered hat/ We’ll take the trail marked on your father’s map/ Oh, kiss me beneath the milky twilight/ Lead me out on the moonlit floor/ Lift your open hand/ Strike up the band and make the fireflies dance/ Silver moon’s sparkling/ So kiss me”
7) Exile – Enya
“Cold as the northern winds/ In December mornings/ Cold is the cry that rings/ From this far distand shore/ Winter has come too late/ Too close beside me/ How can I chase away/ All these fears deep inside?/ I’ll wait the signs to come/ I’ll find a way/ I will wait the time to come/ I’ll find a way home/ My light shall be the Moon/ And my path the ocean/ My guide the morning star/ As I sail home to you”
Again, she haunts me. Again, she taunts me. In my dream I stood in front of a large vanity in a dark, featureless room. I turned to my reflection in the mirror and saw that my hair was bound back in a thick braid which reached past my waist. On the vanity lay a silver dagger and a single match. I took the blade in my hand and sliced off my braid at the level of my chin, piling the dark coil of hair before the mirror. Then I lit the match and lowered the little flame, igniting the severed braid. The flames which consumed the offering did not burn orange and choke the air with a reeking smoke, though, but were a bright silver and burned cleanly. When I glanced back up from the blaze, I saw that my reflection had changed. The woman in the mirror still wore her hair in a single long braid, but where before it had been black as flint, it had grown white as bleached bone. Her eyes had changed as well; instead of reflecting my own expression back to me, her sharp gaze peered out from beyond the glass itself and seemed to know my inmost thoughts and desires. In that moment I wanted so terribly to complete the ritual by holding my hand out and commanding “thee to me, sister, thee to me”, but I could not raise my arm. I could not say the words. We watched each other, my sister dark and I, and the understanding passed between our locked eyes. I could not offer my hand to her. She could not move beyond the glass. We would remain separated, only briefly united in this muddled dreamworld. I woke, then, hating and loving the lingering weight of her gaze upon me.
So I have been thinking about muses a lot lately: how different people understand the nature and role of muses, as well as how they listen to and interact with their respective muses. A couple days ago, I got hooked on the idea of presenting your muses with offerings. What forms would these offerings take? Would they be different for each muse? I have been ruminating over this idea ever since and have finally come up with what I, at least, would offer my own muses*. I wanted the offerings to be something I could easily obtain (though I may never actually set physical offerings out for my muses), so I limited them to one drink and one food per muse. This is what I have come up with:
Milk – here milk represents femininity, childhood, nature, strength, and motherhood. I chose milk as Shakespeare’s Sister’s drink because she is the embodiment of both the classical idea of a muse and of feminine energy itself. She is a manifestation of both the mother, sister, and the lover, and in my eyes milk is a substance inherently linked to that sense of womanhood. Milk is also a substance which has long been offered to muses and deities alike, and I have always seen Shakespeare’s Sister as a personal reincarnation of the timeless muse. Therefore, milk seemed fitting for her.
Chocolate – here chocolate represents childhood, whimsicality, inner peace, relaxation, indulgence, and intimacy. As I said before, I consider Shakespeare’s Sister to be mainly a feminine muse and nothing is more feminine than indulging in a rich piece of chocolate after a stressful day. Shakespeare’s Sister is also in many ways the muse of my childhood, so she would of course be delighted by an offering of anything sweet. At the complete opposite end of this spectrum, chocolate can also represent shared intimacy when Shakespeare’s Sister is presented in the role of lover.
Hard alcohol – here hard alcohol represents a need for calm, numbing, removal from a situation, and purposefully ignoring one’s sorrows. I chose hard alcohol as Tanim’s drink because Tanim is a high-strung man who often becomes focused on one thing to the point of obsession. Since he is often focused on either his own emptiness or whatever heartache is generated from his interactions and/or relationship with Daren, Tanim often turns to alcohol to ease his misery. Not particularly healthy, but I believe a shot of whiskey to calm one’s nerves is a fitting offering for Tanim. The poor guy could use a break.
Baked goods – here baked goods, especially breakfast foods, represent abundance, indulgence, devotion, and generosity. Despite the fact that he spends a majority of his life alone, Tanim is a very devoted man who really wants nothing more than to dote on the object of his affections. Since his generosity is often channeled through a desire to stuff his lover full of food, I thought an offering of baked goods would especially please him. Baked goods, after all, require time, effort, forethought, and especially love to produce a tasty final product. Also, most baked goods, like waffles or scones or cookies, are considered food that you want but do not necessarily need. Baked goods are an indulgence, and therefore a symbol of the baker’s devotion.
Red wine – here red wine represents blood, namely Tanim’s, and therefore devotion, loyalty, oneness, sacrifice, and bondage. I chose red wine because it is often used as a substitute for blood in actual spiritual offerings (though theoretically I could also use Tanim’s real blood as an offering in a literary form). Red wine obviously represents sacrifice and devotion because the offering is of one’s own blood and thus a submission both of body and of spirit. By consuming that blood, then, Daren accepts Tanim’s submission and is therefore forever bound to the man. However, the interesting thing about Daren is that I had an incredibly hard time choosing offerings for him because there is nothing he wants from another person. Devotion especially troubles him because he does not want to be elevated to the status of deity or obsession, something which often occurs in his interactions/relationship with Tanim. So while an offering of blood or red wine suits Daren because of his integral role as the object of both my and Tanim’s affections, it is also an offering which seals Daren in a bond he does not necessarily accept willingly.
Recovery food (soup, toast, oatmeal, crackers, etc) – recovery food here represents healing, warmth, comfort, being cared for, and wellness. I chose recovery food as an offering for Daren because he struggles his entire life with a body highly susceptible to weakness and illness. Compounded by a poor diet and sleep constantly interrupted by night terrors, this leads to Daren being sick more often than he is healthy. Since he often cannot take care of himself, recovery foods like soup or toast not only represent a chance for healing, but also the presence of another willing to care for him (namely Tanim). Also, unlike Tanim’s baked goods which are considered food you want but do not need, recovery foods are food you need but do not necessarily want when you feel fine; yet in the midst of a serious flu or fever, dry toast and soup can be the most comforting meal in the world. Such an offering would speak to Daren’s need for strength and healing.
*To be honest, I’m not entirely comfortable calling Tanim and Daren my "muses". I just use the word because I lack a better one at the moment and everyone else seems to use it for their own characters/creations/inspirations/whathaveyou.
The muse builds a cage
to house the errant songbird
and draw forth her words
In my dream I sat breaking bread at a worn wooden table in the kitchen of a house which smelled of fresh-picked blackberries and pitchers of creme. There was light in this house, sure enough, come through the watery windows in lazy dust mote shafts, but when you threw open the door you gave off an illumination all your own. Too beautiful a day to waste inside!, you exclaimed. Why should I sit at a table when I could picnic outside and wriggle my toes in summer’s cool grass? You took my hand, then, and led me out of the house. The sunlight bathed your skin in caramel hues, lit your golden hair like a crown and danced a thousand times mirrored in your ocean eyes. Entwining your fingers with mine and leading me down a cobbled garden path, you told me of last night’s dream. You said you had dreamed of soft cotton and fresh bread and wondered what these symbols might represent. I said I wasn’t sure, but perhaps some Egyptian god or goddess had come to you in the night to offer these tokens of prosperity. My answer made you smile and that was good. That was meaningful. You trusted your dream so deeply that I believed it as well, believed and loved you for your awesome faith that some Nile goddess had chosen to send you, my goddess, such a vision.
As we walked I recalled my own dream from the night before, though I did not reveal this dream to you. I had dreamed of a vast pool of water, a whole world of ripples and tides and floating islands. I had been young in this dream, just a child. There was another girl my age in the pool and she smiled to me, laughing in the clear, bright language only children may share. She showed me all of the water Wonderland’s secrets, how we were surrounded by fairies and spirits and ghosts, creatures that were women and trees both and little dancing lights which had neither body nor soul. The spirits frightened me with their gaping black eyes and long tendrils of hair but the girl told me we were safe. She wanted to share this world with me. She wanted me to stay forever. But I was afraid of her fervent eyes and the water which seemed to creep ever higher up my waist, my chest, my throat, and so I ran away. Although I said nothing, a part of me wanted to describe this dream to you because I wanted to know if you would have stayed in the otherworld if the girl had held your hand and revealed to you the monstrous fey, the will-o-lights, the water clear like glass and sweet like wine. Yet I did not reveal this dream because when I glanced to your eyes, as rich and deep as all the seas in all the waking and dreaming worlds, I understood. You would answer any call to myth or magic, my dear, and never once look back. In a heartbeat I would lose you for all eternity to Wonderland, Neverland, Otherland. That is why I did not ask. That is why I did not say that when I fled the girl in my dream I came across an apple tree I had played under as a child, why I did not admit to you that I buried my face against its rough trunk and wept for a childhood so far in the untouchable past.
Funny, for waking now and knowing I have never actually gazed upon your wicked wonderful eyes or touched your electric skin, I want to weep anew. The water world was beautiful and terrifying but you were more excellent than any realm, beloved. As I lay alone in this darkness I am torn between seeking sleep again, in the hopes you may return to me in dreaming, or clinging to wakefulness and the last vestiges of your touch.
Sometimes I see her at night, as I stand on the dock and toss my bottled messages out into the arms of the dancing tide. She is a flickering within the water, a momentary wake of silver ripples through the Moon’s aqueous reflection. As my bobbing bottle makes its way seaward and I turn to retrace my well-worn path, she begins her song. In the dark she is only a silhouette upon the jagged rock, all silken seaweed hair and wave polished skin, but her pale eyes gleam like mirrors in the light of my solitary lantern. The call of her song is very familiar to me; its ancient, foreign words paint brilliant pictures in my mind. She sings to me of cities beneath the sea, of underwater staircases and statues carved of pearl and marble. She tells of banquets served on seashells, of storms whose thunder is the roar of crashing waves high above in the liquid sky. She serenades me with promises of the deep, of the dark, of the undying and the unending. Her song laps at my feet like eager little waves franticly yearning to draw me into the black waters, but as on every night I resist its seduction. My heart is earthbound and she cannot call me to the sea. Her soul is governed by the Moon’s pull and I cannot call her to the land. As my bottle drifts out to sea, we go our separate ways once again.
The longest night, darkest night, coldest night approaches. Oh beloved, on that wretched, sacred night will you entwine your fingers with mine and draw me away from the heartache of this empty page? Will you beckon me to bed with promise of warm blankets and warmer embrace? Oh darling, I do not know if I have strength enough to write this winter’s tragic tale. Could I not be granted just one reprieve? Forgive me for this idle longing, but all I want is to shut my laptop lid and crawl into your waiting arms. I crave your body beside mine, so warm, so solid. I hunger for your breath on my goosebumped skin. I hunger for all the blessed words which tumble from your upturned lips. All I need is to feel your fingers gliding through my hair as you murmur in the darkness, “once upon a time, the Sun and the Moon were in love…” Could I sink myself into that moment, just once?
Only the final fall of night may manifest this fleeting moment. The room melts away as I close my eyes and out of its ashes rises the golden hall, its vast burnished ceilings and hewn oak columns swathed in shadows. The floor beneath my crossed legs is polished cherry wood worn smooth by a thousand years’ treading of bare feet. Around me the sunken braziers form a wide circle and the cedar coals smoldering in their shallow troughs shed no light, only dance through muted golds and deep reds. My only illumination is the single tallow candle which rests before me upon the wooden floor. The solitary flame casts a small ring of flickering light. I sit at the edge of this golden ring and opposite me, beyond the candle and at the light’s farthest extent, she sits as well. Cross-legged, back straight, upturned palms resting upon her knees. Her eyes are closed, her gaze denied to me, and she is very still. I am reluctant to speak lest I break our silence, loathe to move lest I disturb this fragile moment. I am afraid to lose her, my sister dark. She, like this moment, like this golden hall with its polished wood and burnished copper, is only temporary. With morning’s first pale light she will vanish and I will be alone. They are one, the golden hall and my candlelight kin: I am drawn to them both, though always they are beyond my fingers’ reach; I long for them both, though always they fade like mist as the new day rises. Open your eyes, sister, I wish to plead before the dawn separates us once again. Look to me. Yet she would not, and so I remain silent. Step into the light, sister. Come closer. Come closer. Yet she would not. I do not want to leave this moment – it is so hard to recapture in the harsh awareness of waking. Remain with me, sister. Walk with me. I do not want to be parted from you. Sister dark, remain with me.
Fiction begets fiction, mother, and I am an unlikely daughter. You’ve no footsteps which I might follow to carry me through this safely, so I am picking my own way as best I can. My path, however, seems naught but these old familiar circles I’ve trod so many times that my feet might wear down even stone. Yet what else am I to do? Where else am I to go? I can follow nothing but my own heart, and my heart delivers me ever back to this place, this moment, this uncertainty which has been my constant companion since childhood. It is not unwelcome, this place, this moment, this uncertainty, but my knees are bloodied from stumbling in my efforts to follow my chosen road faithfully. Mother, what is love, that it should lead me down such a strange and solitary path?
Fiction begets fiction, sister, and we are unlikely twins. Does it not grow weary, this pacing? I wish to lay down but you’ve no voice to soothe this aching head nor fingers to smooth away these troubled dreams. I wish for you to lay down beside me so that I might touch your soft skin and feel a heartbeat I have not penned into fictional being, but that is an impossibility which mocks me in my every wanting. And though I wish, though I want, though I need to close my eyes and listen to the words tumbling from your lips like rain water over river rocks, I must force the words from my stiffened fingers instead. Sister, what is love, that the absence of words could cause me such a heartache?
Fiction begets fiction, daughter, and I am an unlikely mother. The words won’t come these days, fickle children them all, and so I’ve no lullabies to usher you into peaceful dreaming. What am I to do on such nights when even my heart seems unwilling to translate its passionate beatings into tangible expressions? My chest might burst, it seems, to set free the desires building like a thunderstorm in its confines of flesh and bone. And if not, if this pressure cannot be alleviated and my fervor given outlet, then surely I might drown in my own need. Daughter, what is love, that the force of it drives me to such constant and fervent creation?
So you claim you are warm from the oven, a lightly browned and freshly baked mixture of all the ingredients I love. Is your hair, then, spun of silken cinnamon? Are your lips flavored with apple cider? Surely this must be a mistake – your skin could not naturally smell of flour and sugar, could not naturally taste of honey and sweet crème! You are a confectionery coquette, a sugarplum succubus seasoned to my liking and topped with a tart red cherry. Oh, you are a dangerous treat but I cannot resist just one little nibble. The days are so long, after all, and so hot. You cannot blame me for seeking the candied comfort of autumn, the spiced flavors of fall…
Oh, never mind, just forget all these saccharine musings! My tongue and heart are treacherously desirous, starved and craving such a multitude of exotic and forbidden delicacies. I can only do my best to ignore their restless grumblings and feed one a bit of pilfered chocolate, the other a moment’s indulgent daydreaming. Any more than a taste and I risk a hopeless romantic’s addiction.
Ah, so now you have begun invading my dreams as well, beloved? Taking on the guise of familiar faces to mask your true identity as you seek my welcoming arms? What a pointless deception, my dear! I will always know your gaze, even hidden behind the foreign color of another’s irises. I will always know your words, even synthesized into another’s melodic voice. You cannot fool me yet, least of all in my very own dream realm. So why not abandon this tiring charade and reveal yourself to me just this once, darling? Peel back those old mummified personae and let the wind kiss your milk and honey skin! Or are you so fearful of vulnerability that you, nothing more than this poor sleeper’s mirage, would still withhold the truth from my willing heart? Come now, there is nothing in this harmless fantasy to fear. Dreaming is but the second of a lightning’s flickering in my slumbering consciousness, after all, nothing more than our lips lightly touching in a way I could never allow in my waking thoughts. I cannot let such temptations bleed over into my wantings, my needings, but none could blame us a moment’s slip of fancied tongue and expert fingers. Will you offer me this brief encounter, at least? Tonight when I lay down my heavy head and close my weary eyes, will you show yourself to me? You taste of sweet, sharp things I cannot quite recall and even so many hours later I touch my lips in hopes your flavor lingers still.
I should not let my mind wander so, conjure so, and bloom such fairytale images. I should not create so many false memories for the future, for expecting them to become truth will only bring me falling, as I reach for the Moon, into the cold river below. However, though I know my folly, I smile at these thoughts of you despite it (or perhaps simply to spite it). I give myself like gifts these brief glimpses of you, who may never be, and I, who may never know, and try to find peace with them. I cannot escape, it seems. I am helpless. Suddenly (or was it oh so gradually?) I desire strange things. Suddenly I dream of drifting fingers, delicate and teasing. Suddenly I long for smooth skin, warm lips, stifled giggling and stolen kisses. Suddenly I wish for you, and that you were beside me. I am slowly ruining myself, falling in love with you who are barely more than a fairytale romance. You who are Alice, Annabell, sister of Shakespeare. You who are rose petals, raven wings, ivoried skin. You who are barely a fairytale. You who are my ruination.
You grin and it glints in your gypsy eyes, candlelight sparking embers in their mischievous depths and throwing golden aurora shadows across your cheekbones. When you laugh like that I believe anything, everything. Lean in just a little closer as the candle dances darkness all about us and tell me one more story. There are ghosts in the walls, yeah? Elves in the forests? Mermaids in the water? The night cloaks you in authority, the escapee Alice fresh from Faerie with pockets full of leprechaun gold turned grave dirt. Licking expert fingers and dousing the single candle, you don bardic cloak and begin recount of the tale of thrice whispered Bloody Mary. Wide eyed, I am hung upon your every word, so much the goose-bump fleshed sailor helpless in the siren’s song. Oh beloved, self-crowned Mab, how loathe I am for this moment to end!
See? It has been so many years. Darling, I feel old when I think of you. I imagine a girl I never was, young in a way that feels so far away from this moment, and my mortal hands seem so arthritic now. Stiff and aching, they are unwilling to type another letter lacking an addressee. Am I beyond fairy rings, my sweet? Am I aged past midnight swims in Moon-washed oceans? You laugh, but I am afraid. I am afraid of time in a way I never thought possible for this fearless, ageless psyche. Is that another wrinkle in my Sun-browned skin? Is this a newborn tremor in my dancer’s wrist? Time wears down stone and dries out oceans, and in us the cells age and age and we grow no longer, only shrivel back to infancy. The seconds pass, beloved, oh how they pass. Can you blame me for my fear, then? The worry that I will be parchment skin and wired gray hair when you come, when you the angelic are finally found? How will we dance in the rain if my legs tremble with weakness? How will we hunt will-o-wisps if my eyes have gone cloudy? I fear, my love. I fear–
Oh, this is such a fool’s mistake. Longing is the love of your possibility, but acceptance of longing brings me not a step closer to your reality. Where will this revelation lead me, besides to a clarified loneliness? You are not now; you are not tomorrow. Acceptance, admittance, will bring me nothing but waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Oh, what a mistake.
I see it now – you’re just like him! Cut of twin cloths, molded of kindred clays! Are you then, beauty, sister-lover, spectered Moon as well? Am I your pining Sun? Surely I am a clever artist, shaping female form from wire mesh and papier-mâché clichés, but a casting of hardened love letters does not flesh and bone make. So to protect the heart I was long unaware I possessed, I tell myself this is only a game of messaged bottles, just a curiosity of cherry chapstick and inexperience. I bury inklings in muddled metaphors and misinterpreted song lyrics, hoping that in the morning I won’t still wonder and search my mirrored eyes for some hint of an answer. See, dear, even these run-on sentences are crafted just so to distract my addled mind from the problem at hand.
Problem? Problem? Your voice, dear, in all music and all wind! Your eyes, beloved, in painting and charcoal! Your smile, darling, in rain and sunlight both, hinted in shadow and rippled bedsheets! Oh, oh, this is something, yes? Undeniable? Oh yes, a wanting, a wanting I am unaccustomed to, uncomfortable with. Words I can handle, sweet, but not where such words may lead. I am not soul-searcher enough to accept such stark vulnerability. If this is truth or juvenile fabrication I still do not know, but there exist no words which hold not an ounce of truth for their maker. When, then, will I face the truth of mine? Or will I always walk these circles and skirt your reality?
Ah, damn, sister. Ah, damn.
I hope for your sake that you aren’t in this city. I hope for your sake that destiny will not bring us together here. This is no place for dreamers, my dear. This is no place for magic. You know what they do with broomsticks here? They sweep. You know what the cats say when you pass them in the alley? Meow. They do not speak, nor lead you away to some fantastic adventure. This city has dwindled all its adventure away. There is no mystery left in these confines, no wonder or enchantment lurking in shadows and mirrors. No, no, not here, not anymore. The only rainbows are in the gasoline puddles and the only fairies are in the gay bars. The only fantasy here is fake and fabricated. Nothing good is left so stay away, stay away my sweet! This is no place for your kind – your wings won’t work here.
We met at the top of a building of glass and steel, on a night when the roof seemed to scrape at the Moon itself. I was entertaining the thought of jumping, but not too seriously, mind you. More like the way one ruminates over dinner choices or what movie to watch on a rainy afternoon. Easy, you know? Amused contemplation, you could call it. I did not entertain the thought of jumping seriously but the way the wind tugged at my coat made it seem like a suitable way to end things. I stood at the railing and imaged myself falling down all those feet, with the clouds and air and atmosphere rushing past me and all those seconds before I hit when I would be suspended in that inbetween, neither grounded nor flying, just falling falling falling like Alice through the rabbit hole.
I was just watching myself spread out my arms and tip over the edge when you came up beside me. I watched out of the corner of my eye as you rested your elbows on the railing a few feet away. The city lights gleamed in your eyes and your pouted lips suggested the serious whimsicality of a dreamer. A dreamer, I should say, like myself. A dreamer waiting for the fall. In love with time. Dancing when no one is looking, singing when no one is listening, collecting words and notes and rain. I stayed where I was, with my eyes on the distant skyline, and you stayed where you were, with your eyes on the thin rivers of concrete and streets below us. We did not speak. We did not motion. We did not call attention. The wind tousled your hair and kissed your skin and somewhere far off the me that had jumped smiled and laughed and stretched her arms out as she fell, with the great wide night sky above her feet and the ground so far away below her head.
We met at the top of a building of glass and steel. I was entertaining the thought of jumping and so were you. With ice and wind and night in our hair, with cityscape lights in our eyes, we leaned over the edge.
Can you blame me, sister, for calling on you at such a late hour? I know I’m a cliché, up at three a.m and searching for your voice in Imogen Heap lyrics (it’s okay, you’ve just got to trust me) or whatever old songs remind me of rainy mornings back in high school. I have no where else to turn, though, and no one else who might answer. The world doesn’t accept excuses. But can’t you at least see that the songs don’t mean much now? Can’t you see the words have lost their hold? Tomorrow looms and I am so unsure if I can handle one more day, if the definition of ‘surviving’ isn’t actually a bar too low to really keep me afloat. I’m beginning to suspect, you see, that physical survival is so much easier than emotional survival but that the only one they really care about is the physical. I hate this place, you know, and I hate this body, and I hate this time and this moment and this repetition. Oh, they are draining me dry. They’ve robbed me of my words and my passion and my energy. They take everything from you in a steady siphoning of your self-worth. I’ve been strip-mined to the core of me, and now all their machines grind at are my bones and my soft organs. Can you blame me, sister, for never leaving this room? For not wanting to be parted for even a moment from the only things which make me feel safe and remind me of the self that is so easily lost? I’m tired of lying to make myself sound adequate. I’m tired of conforming to pass as at least average. Where can I run to, if I cannot escape their scrutiny? I wish you were everywhere, dearest, and everything, but you are nowhere and you are nothing. If I toss this bottle into the ocean, the waves will dash it upon the rocks. If I press my hands to this mirror and whisper “thee to me, sister, thee to me” I will look into no other’s eyes than my own. I am a logical dreamer and I cannot stop searching. I am a logical dreamer and I have already given up on finding you. I am a logical dreamer and these sides cannot be reconciled. Can you blame me, sister, for calling on you at such a late hour?
Let’s escape tonight, you and I. Let’s take the last bus out of this hope-forsaken town and ride our souls into the glittering City. There’s something living there, a steady heartbeat pulsing beneath the pavement that you can’t feel anywhere else. Everything’s electrified, glowing neon and buzzing with an energy that we’ll never find in the slumbering town we left behind. See those pinnacles? They’re monoliths of steel and glass, temples to dark gods. The pinpoints of light inside are altars burning and incense smoldering. See that tower in the center, how it’s so tall it pierces the great wide sky itself? That is our castle, and we are here to reclaim it. We’ll run past guards, fight off captors, race up a hundred and thirty twisted spiral staircases. We’ll hoop and holler and feel our hearts thunder in our chests like war drums. At last, breathless, we’ll break through the door and burst out onto the rooftop, our private throne room. You can be Queen and I’ll be King and together we’ll reign over the midnight world stretched out below us like a river of concrete and headlights. Let’s hold court here at the top of the world, you and I, just for tonight.
We are the only ones who have ever felt this way. We are the only ones living in this city, the only ones looking up at these stars and this Moon. We are the only ones who have ever danced on these rooftops and echoed down these alleys. We are the only ones who have read these books, sung these songs, watched these movies in the cool darkness of the theater. We are the only ones who have ever held these hands or kissed these lips or gazed into these eyes. We are the only ones who have ever spoken these words. We are the only ones who have ever felt this way. We are the only ones. That’s what we tell ourselves.
You have to stop telling me fairy tales about mermaids and princes(ses). You have to stop scaring me with ghost stories in the dark. No more dragging me out of bed to hunt will-o-wisps at midnight; no more crawling into my bed to sing lullabies at dawn. We have to stop this, you and I. Don’t you see we can’t survive this way? Can’t you see the world’s not like this? You may have the heart of a (day)dreamer, but I have the mind of a scientist. You’re all impulse – I’m all (il)logic. How can I believe in fairy rings? How can you believe that stars don’t actually fall? Really, my dear(est). What an odd(ly wonderful) pair we would make.
Here I am, back to these old circles, stringing out the old words I’ve worn through with my pacing. But how can I not pace? How can I not be restless, running on adrenaline and the transcendent? This isn’t me clinging to my childhood. This is me building on something I have put my heart and soul into creating. This is me understanding! This is me knowing! I don’t want to lose the one thing I’ve devoted the core of myself to – that’s not fair. I don’t know if I can be happy in the absence of this love, or even if I want to be. I don’t know if losing it would be a gradual growing up, as they say with their lofty misunderstanding of completeness, or a true loss, a missing I could not ease with time. Some things do not ease with time. I need to talk to someone who understands, to someone who recognizes this as a viable, valuable form of love. I need to know if this fear is justified, if I am justified. There has to be someone who has faced this. Who do I turn to? Who can counsel me? Am I the only one who feels this way? How could that be possible? I know there must be someone else. How do I find them? Are they looking for me, too? Are they wasting away their weary fingers writing these words as well? I don’t want someone who listens for politeness’ sake. I want someone who listens out of desire, out of hunger, out of a need for words and worlds and a twin in understanding. I know there must be someone else. How could there not be? How could I be alone in this? No, I am not alone. I am not. I refuse that possibility. I refuse, and yet who will know if I write here or remain silent? Who will care if my words are of any worth? Who will find any worth in my words? It isn’t enough on my own. I’m tapped out. There’s no one left to tell the stories to, no one to beg for one more before sleep. No one, no one, no one. I feel like Shakespeare’s Sister, lost and so pent up without an outlet, like I might blow my brains out in desperation and be left, like her, to some shallow crossroad grave. And then I think, what if I’m making all this up? What if I’m just childish and obsessive and can’t understand what my own emotions mean? But then again, what if I’m not? I’m not! I can’t be. Sometimes at night I lay awake and wonder about her, my fictional metaphorical other half, this girl that isn’t mine but could be, should be. Did she have a world in her head that she couldn’t get down on paper? Did it make her feel so restless, so empty, so anticipatory like me? Did she toss and turn at night as well, grasping at impossibilities, wanting to shout her lungs out? She could be the one. Perhaps we just have tragic timing, her and I. Perhaps she is the one and a hundred years ago she sat at such a desk, scratching out hopeless nameless longing, and now I a hundred years more in this moment send nameless hopeless longing back to her. Or am I just digging myself in deeper for thinking this? Do I have no idea what the true definition of love is? I mean, if I think that what I feel is love then it should be, right? It must be, right? I can’t second-guess myself. I won’t! This much at least I know, and this is what grounds me in these moments. I’ll unravel bit by bit if I question what I believe is a fundamental love, a thing so deeply ingrained that even I could never put the exact right words to it. I know it could be, after all, so why is it impossible? Am I not capable of devotion? No. I am, and this restless desire is a testament to that devotion. I am a testament to that devotion! It’s just that I don’t know how to achieve the next level; I don’t know how to jump-start myself to greater heights, or even if I can do it all on my own. This is all I know. I’m doing everything I can. What more is there? What fresh spark can alight within this dry tinder if my fingers hold no flame? I feel desperate. I feel scared. I feel alone in this. I don’t know what more I can do. Am I fighting the inevitable or am I waging a good war? Am I brave for this or am I a coward? Everything is a search for tangible proof of this intangible creation. I just want one person to tell me my love is justified. I just want one person to recognize and understand and reciprocate.
They have written sonnets for your pale Moon face, your skin like fresh-fallen snow, your ruby lips and ebony tresses. They have composed ballads and arias from the fire of your eyes, the timbre of your voice, the tenderness of your touch. They have preserved you in poetry through all the years and all their lives and all your incarnations. Of course, you would mock such a verbose declaration of adoration should it come from my lips or my furiously typing fingers. “Such a fool,” you would say, “such a hopeless romantic!”. You would demand the inclusion of the freckles on your cheeks. You would command that I invest as much time in describing the laugh lines at the corners of your eyes, the stubby fingernails you always chew, the notes you accidentally sing just a little off-key. You would argue that your lips are too pale, really, and that your hair gets so frizzy in the rain, and what about how bad you are at math and how much you pig out on junk food? Silly. Do you not know I would gladly write of all those things, and more? The hoodie you wear so often is covered in cat fur and sometimes when we part I find myself covered in it as well. I could write of that. Sometimes when you fall asleep in class you drool a little on your notes and when you wake you hastily wipe it away, hoping no one noticed. I could write of that. See? I notice those things too. I cherish those things too. So if you do not desire love songs, I understand, but never believe for a moment that I can help writing them in my head. I cannot. Do not for a moment think that I can help believing you are perfect. I cannot. I am just that hopeless of a romantic.
I will not erase what I am about to write here.
I will not bury my words tonight.
I will not let myself run.
I will not let myself hide.
I cannot hold onto this woman.
I cannot keep this vision during the day what she becomes during the night.
I cannot remain the woman I am at this moment when I face the next morning.
I cannot reconcile her with the woman I will be when I wake.
I have such trouble saying these things.
I have such trouble facing down your truths.
I have such trouble accepting your lies.
I have such trouble letting go.
I believe I could remain this twilight woman after dawn for you.
I believe you could reconcile my many fractured selves.
I believe I could keep hold of this moment right here if I could keep hold of you.
I believe you are the one.
I believe I am right.
I know I am wrong.
I know I will always regret these nights.
I know I will always repeat them despite this.
I know I am ruining myself.