Tag Archives: London

Is there a way to live between the lines, to suspend time? You would remain in Manhattan with your wife and son, I’d stay in Berlin, but there could be a sliver of space we’d inhabit together, a shelf where you’d place the things you still have and I’d place mine between them, like the small objects in tarnished teapots and carved wooden boxes we used to give each other as presents: the dried end of a vine branch tapering to a perfect spiral; a thin slice of sedimentary rock interlaced with transparent hues of violet, perfect haikus in lieu of the more sentimental declarations we shied away from. I still have a collection of bellybutton lint, numerous tiny balls I imagine to be baby blue from a sweater I gave you, a color that matched your eyes. When I check to see, I discover they’re all in shades of gray with the exception of two, which are dark pink.

I remember the blisters on each of your knuckles from stretching canvases for that elderly painter—what was his name?—who was finally, towards the end of his life, having a major exhibition of his work. I remember standing on the sidewalk on Westervelt Avenue after the building almost burned down, the dogs on leashes and the cat on my shoulder, or on yours, and I was suddenly infused with a sense of joy and limitless potential—the joy of sheer survival, no doubt, because I can still see you heating up a can of Campbell’s Mushroom Soup and stirring in pepper and maybe chives and all at once the kitchen filling up with white smoke, it took a moment to understand that the soup and the smoke were entirely unconnected, and we had just enough time to grab the animals and run, a matter of seconds—and I said if we can’t live here anymore, let’s move to Europe. I remember a night you didn’t come home; I stayed up late working on something and cut myself with an X-acto blade and had to go to the hospital for stitches, and when I returned early the next morning you still weren’t there, you hadn’t had a chance to be alarmed by the drips in the sink, by the bloody gauze, I had nearly cut off my thumb by mistake and left behind what looked like a crime scene, the kind of thing we do when we need to externalize something, to make a thing obvious that we already know inside, but you hadn’t had a chance to see it and feel sorry. These were the things we never talked about.

I remember sitting in a bathing suit on a craggy shore in the Peloponnese, turning my head and suddenly seeing you instead of the man beside me, my first real relationship seven years after I’d left. It was as close to a hallucination as I’ve ever experienced.

The first time I came back to New York I walked around the old neighborhood like a Rumpelstiltskin; I stood across the street from that pub—was it Third Avenue?—where you’d rented a studio on the second floor from a man who was a friend, but who’d charged us fifty bucks to drive a few paintings downtown, a man who let us do all the carrying, whose jaw shifted as his expression turned smug and he decided to rob us, but you no longer lived in our apartment and you no longer worked in that studio, you’d packed my things into boxes and taken our cats and moved to the west side, and it was my first experience with returning to a former life and finding the vital parts missing, like being back from the dead and discovering oneself invisible.

What was possible, you ask? In the end, is it only what we choose to do? Would I have stayed, would I have come back if you’d asked me to—back in the time before cell phones and email, Facebook and Twitter, the distance unimaginable by today’s standards and a telephone call to London far too expensive. I still have them somewhere: letters and postcards and a photo of you with a bandaged thumb, an odd parallel, now that I think of it.

These are the objects I choose to put on the shelf today: a baseball you kept in a box of old stuff; a sepia drawing your brother had made. An old Polaroid of a sweet kid with a sideways grin, leaning on the arm of a chair next to a handsome and valiant hound dog named Red, the picture you sent me a duplicate of after I’d come across it in a box of old photographs. And a faded green canvas bag among the tools in my studio, the bag you carried your laundry in even before I knew you.

A hiatus due to book reviews, studio visits, translations, a second trip to London. But that isn’t it, exactly. I’m blocked. The hairs on the back of my neck bristle now, as though someone were reading over my shoulder; I hesitate. So kill off my character, you say. Is it that easy?

A month ago I rescheduled my next psychiatrist’s appointment for May. I took the S-Bahn to Botanischer Garten, walked down the street to the doctor’s office, and asked the receptionist for a new prescription to bridge the time. I smiled calmly, which always comes as a relief to the girls behind the desk. Hardened from dealing with the desperate and crazy, they are glib and snippy; imperturbable to the sound of the ringing and unconcerned about the drama unfurling on the other end, they no longer pick up the telephone. I handed over my insurance card and requested a package of 50 at 150 mg. The receptionist didn’t notice the reduced dosage, which just goes to show how dependent the system is on the principle of obedience, of asking permission.

Today, I opened one of the little capsules and removed another third of its contents, and if the coming month goes according to plan, I will decrease it further. I am weaning myself off, and already I’m sweating less, feeling less harried and anxious. Only one episode of tears, in your mother’s kitchen, although I still can’t quite work out why. The two of you quarreling in the pub, on the way home? I am a sponge; I pick up everything, I am tuned into too many frequencies, my own and those of others, in languages I don’t even understand. It creates a cacophony in my head, I tried to explain this to you, but you were too angry to listen. You left, came back, cracked a joke and made me laugh, but then I cried again, because humor is also a way of avoiding things. But I am more stubborn than you know, and I need you to translate these foreign frequencies for me. How else am I supposed to understand?

wall shadows london


This must be fiction, you say, because you’ve never grown impatient. But I’ve left out entire episodes: long days spent in a hotel room, hours of lovemaking, of talking, lying together in silence in the dimming light as time seemed to stand still. The moment I arrived and saw you through the plate glass window; the way we sat and held hands and took each other in without a word. The moment I arrived at Gatwick. It’s all mixed up in my mind now, there’s no longer any sequence or story. Only a few weeks later, but already another kind of intimacy, a yearning all the more specific because it knows things now: a certain flavor of toast, the quiet pleasure of drinking Turkish coffee and watching the day go by through the huge windows of your mother’s apartment. It was like living in a time capsule, a curious apartment complex that reminded me of vintage James Bond, a movie set waiting for a movie, an address posh enough to flaunt at the time and still somehow grand, though the cement arches are crumbling and the paint flaking from the balconies. I want to make time stand still; I want to lie on your mother’s couch with my laptop. I want to let days slip by, wondering lazily if we should go to the theater, to the Tate, if we should cook at home or go out, wondering lazily if we should take a nap, or make love. It almost felt as though life could be like that: long stretches of peace and silence, a sun pursuing its gradual course across the sky as shifting clouds give rise to a corona of brilliant rays that light up the wallpaper and knickknacks in an other-worldly glow. A maid, a snoring dog; nothing alarming to intrude from the outside. Is it possible to feel that safe, with you? I am hounded by catastrophe and ruin; it is the poisonous underworld of my imagination, the dungeon of my worst fears. Time should be made to stand still—it moves too quickly for me, I can’t possibly do the things I need to, I want to rest, to be silent, to watch the sky in silence, with you next to me.

coffee cup



And V.? What was it like for V.? You grow impatient with me, want me to leave behind the past, but it’s not the past I’m troubled by, no, it’s some kind of potent distillate which permeated me and charted labyrinthine maps in my neural pathways and lined the slippery, bubble-like walls of my cells with its sticky gook. The past can never be left behind, it’s not even passed, its substance has seeped into mine and commingled with it and here I am, thinking I’m making a fresh start and finally letting go and all the while my own invisible homunculus is trapped a million times over, stuck in the oozing muck of everything that has happened to it, in the condensed slime of experience.

Why this capacity for pain? Take a look at V., he’s built to survive; he forgets, deletes entire episodes, leaves people behind like vagabonds on the side of the road hoping to hitch a ride in his streamlined, gleaming life. It’s equipped with all the latest safety features, but even still: hitchhikers present unknown dangers. They can steal from you, abduct you, they can seduce you and then, touching up their lipstick in the rear-view mirror, ask to be let out on the next corner. They can bring peril and disease into your life; they can blackmail you. This was how V. saw me: not as a promise that might have been, a shooting star in the black of night sent to announce its augured miracle, but as a potential threat to his otherwise perfect life, its possible downfall. But disappointment is not a part of V.’s universe; failure, insecurity, fear, doubt: all words that do not apply. Alarmed, and then industrious as ever, his mind paved over whatever connecting lines our encounter might have momentarily redrawn. No room for renewal—not now. He has done everything right, he strides resolutely forwards, has built a life so enviable that even he is almost convinced he’s happy. But then he cracks open the veneer just enough to offer a peek inside, and he will do this again and again: give in to the temptation, recite his troubles like an air-tight case against himself, ask to be shown the way out of the rigid diagram of his life, and what is there to do but believe him, fall through that crack.

And what about you? The cups of Turkish coffee I turned over in their saucers in your mother’s apartment: you search the lines etched into their hardened grinds, examine the squiggles and trembling, dream-like shapes for signs that presage fortune, presage a life together: something more than the disaster and betrayal and loss of love you’ve known until now. A life between cities, between boxes in storage: is it a type of freedom, or has it become its own settled way? What are our chances for anything more than this: a trip to Berlin, to London, maybe Paris—we’ll see. Like me, I fear you are trapped in your own personal quagmire. The blind leap of faith required to let go of the past, the childlike belief to proclaim: these are my limitations, my scars, I will conquer them now as I’ve always known I could, I will take a chance that my future self has already made this decision somewhere in the space-time continuum, already knows what will come to be—can either of us jump that far? We run and holler in joy. We whoop up a racket, resolute as warriors with cardboard and tinfoil swords in hand; we plant ourselves firmly on the peaks of our own little hills. And each of us hindered by responsibility and the far sturdier binds of habit, by a dizzying oscillation between a belief in the beauty and inevitability of happiness and a fear of failure and self-delusion.

Mother: Let me see?

Me:         Careful, it’s fragile. She said to put it in water for a while.

Mother:  What is it? Isn’t that too much water?

Me:         No, it should be OK. There. I don’t know what it is. It’s dry, brittle.


No smell. It doesn’t seem to be bleeding in the water either… we’ll see.

Mother:  What are those?

Me:         Those are Jerusalem artichokes, and a small carton of soy cream. She sent them because I couldn’t find them here. They’re for that third recipe she gave me, a sauce for pasta. Here, smell one.

Mother:  Smells nice, fresh. I’ve seen them in the Arab stores. They get them sometimes. Artichokes from Israel?

Me:        Jerusalem. They’re just called that, for their taste, they’re not really artichokes. They are fresh. She wrapped them in damp paper towel. I have to purée them, mix in the soy cream, plus salt and pepper.

Mother: That sounds good! What else is in the box?

Me:        A book she made — it reads both ways, look. One sentence goes over all the pages this way, right to the end. Another sentence is upside down on the top, and it reads the other way — see? You have to turn the book to finish it. It’s fun, for the child in us — my thoughts down here, a cat’s thoughts up there, both streamed from watching water swirling down the same shower drain on each page, with each image different and unexpected.

Mother:  Oh.

Me:          She signed it in the back. In pencil. Her handwriting is elegant, distilled, spaced. That’s her signature, look.

(holds up book; mother remains silent)

It’s affirmed, omnipresent, swift — no going back.  It reminds me of Bonaparte’s.  Yish… I hope she’ll be indulgent with me.

Mother:  What did she write?

Me:         To me, dash, with love, period.

Mother:  Oh… Okay.

Me:         It also means this book’s mine, and you can’t touch it without white cotton gloves.

Mother:  Look at the plant — it’s opening up, it’s reviving!

Me:         Ah, damn it — I wish I knew what it was. She never said, she wants me to guess, it’s bugging me now. Amazing how it’s changing. It looks like some kind of flat circular moss. It’s beautiful. Should I taste it, in case it’s an herb?

Mother:  Don’t you put that in your mouth! What if it’s poison? Can’t you see? Stop trying to find out. It’s a message. She sent it as a message, that’s all it is.

Me:         What?

Mother:  It’s simple. First it’s all dry and grey and curled into a ball on itself. Now it’s unfurling, getting all big and green and alive again. She’s telling you your mind is going to expand again. You’re going to resurrect. It also means I’m making that Israeli puree tomorrow, because you’re still a blockhead and you’d just ruin it.

panta rhei 5

I receive an email from you that my package has arrived. Your mother steamed and puréed the Jerusalem artichokes with soy cream and served it over pasta; as instructed, you laid the Selaginella lepidophylla in a bowl of water and watched its desiccated spikemoss leaves unfurl.

We speak on the telephone for three hours. You ask me how many I’ve written so far, and how many I’m still planning to do, and when I say “Seventy, maybe eighty,” you sigh with relief. “So we’re only a quarter of a way there.” Your fear is that my interest in you will end with the completion of a book; mine is that a seduction has taken place purely through words, and that my person can only be an awkward disappointment. But you’ve found some part of yourself in me, and I in you, and for the first time I realize how wrong I was about V., now that I know what it means to be heard, what it’s like for someone to remember the things I’ve told him and to fit the pieces together, to care enough to do that. V. deleted each of my messages for fear of being discovered: imagine that! What could be worse than erasing a writer’s words?

Where were you the day he and I met in Soho for a late breakfast with a hotel reservation hanging in the air between us, the things we’d said we would do to one another? Had you come soaring through the window in a full-body leotard and cape and landed in the hotel room with a dapper swoop, would I have allowed you to stop me? I can still see him lying on his back, slick with sweat; I was kissing his chest softly, we were whispering to one another, and all of a sudden he asked, Why are we whispering? and we both laughed. And at that very moment, the very moment we had become most tender with one another, he checked his watch, cleared his throat, and said it was time to go. Time to what? After telling so many lies, was he unable to make up a story, explain to his wife that he’d run into a high school friend and had decided to stay in the city a few more hours, drink a beer or two to catch up?

If I could make a film, this is what you would see:

(Pennsylvania Station, just outside the Eighth Avenue entrance on the corner of 34th Street)

1. A woman, no longer young, but more beautiful than she’s looked in a long time because a man she once knew as a cocky kid who’d moved into her cousin’s old house has made her feel absolutely gorgeous;

2. A man standing next to her, glancing around fretfully, afraid, no doubt, that someone might recognize him and blow his carefully constructed cover.

A last kiss, and then another, and then she watches him enter the building with his backpack slung over his shoulder, step onto the escalator, and disappear from view. He doesn’t look back: this should tell her everything she needs to know, but for some reason her mind doesn’t go “ding.” A moment ago they were licking the salt off each other’s skin, and the next thing she knows, her lover has transformed from a reverent troubadour into an emotionless automaton with a forward-slanting, harried gait, a button-punching robot.

(She doesn’t know what to do with herself; she wanders toward the corner crossing in a daze. Suddenly, she turns around, struggles with a violent urge to run after him, and then feels herself go limp, like a doll.)

She surveys the lights and advertisements around her as though she were seeing them for the first time; she enters a stream of people headed downtown, picks up her pace, and is quickly carried away as electronics stores and fast-food joints blur by. She is in love, or at least she thinks she is; she should be happy, but she feels she is about to cry out. She walks faster, she will walk all the way down to Tribeca, anything to keep the feeling of loss, of fear and dread from overtaking her.

At one point she stops to sit on a bench; she can’t quite understand where she is, or why. They should be nibbling softly at one another now, groggy from the day’s intoxication, their thoughts drifting to food, to restaurants, a dinner of pungent, interesting tastes. Instead, he is crammed into a seat on a crowded Amtrak train, pulls out his iPhone, and texts his wife that he’ll be home in an hour and fifteen minutes. Because he is a chronic worrier, he double-checks MoMA’s website and bolts upright when he discovers that the museum isn’t open on Tuesdays—to think that he could have blown it over something so obvious! Luckily, he has enough time to fabricate a new alibi. To him, it is a misdemeanor that will cause him an occasional twinge of guilt: a minor infraction he will get away with. To her, it is like a movie scene in which all of a sudden a knock comes at the door and police or gangsters burst in and wrench one of two lovers away, hauling him off shouting, arms and legs flailing, leaving the other behind with a bedsheet pulled up to her chin, shivering uncontrollably. It should have told her everything, everything there was to know about their story, but for some reason, her mind didn’t go “ding”—and she would go on imagining, month after month, for a long time.



Mother: You left your email open, you went to the kitchen. I didn’t “read your email.” 

Me:         And you just happened to walk by??

Mother:  It’s my living room, I go as I please.


Mother:  She’s really got you pinned down, hasn’t she?

Me:         You can’t be reading my emails. You can’t do this.

Mother:  I’ve been thinking the same for years. She took the words out of my mouth.

Me:         Good, now you can call back Ilse and gossip some more about this “souls meeting in thin air” business. You think it’s amusing, don’t you?

Mother:  That woman you married, I’ll never forgive her for what she did to you.

Me:          Is that all you got out of it? What are you really telling me?

Mother:  I’m telling you that you never should have allowed it.

Me:          I put up with things I can’t change. Look how I’ve been putting up with you!

Mother: “Remember who you are…” How can she know you like this? She’s never met you.

Me:          You know, I think you need to be told a thing or two.  Maybe I should unleash Andrea on you, she’ll say it better.

Mother:   Andrea—what a good, lovely name.

Me:         Remember it. She fights with her fists.

Mother:  She supports you two hundred percent. It’s amazing.

Me:         She wears jackboots!

Mother:  I like boots.

Me:         Not that kind you won’t.  She’ll kick you right across the Thames with them.

Mother:  I’ve been trying to dislike her.  Very hard. But I can’t.

Me:         I can’t believe this!

Mother:  What?

Me:         What you just said, that you’ve been trying to dislike her.

Mother:  I’m even starting to love her.

Me:         I’m so happy for you! Just don’t read my email anymore, OK?

Your friends are reading over your shoulder now, hello B., hello D.—will it change things? Is it time to introduce a seduction scene? My tongue sliding down your chest to your waist, my cheek brushing against your body hair, nibbling at it as I inhale the smell of your skin. I unbutton your pants slowly, nudge my tongue into the opening and tug at the elastic waistband with my teeth; I pull them down enough to lick the inside of your thigh where it meets the groin, and a soft moan escapes from your moist lips. But that’s not what this is about, at least not principally. How to explain?

Did I find you, or did you find me? I’ve done so many things wrong in my life, I’ve fallen in love with the wrong people, for the wrong reasons, and I’m skeptical now, a skeptical dented can on a shelf, a skeptical perpetrator, but of what? I don’t trust it, or myself, don’t understand what we’re doing, whether it’s strange, or beautiful, or just an excuse for me to write again—fervently, irresponsibly, staying up all night and sleeping away the day and giving myself over to the task completely, to the near exclusion of all else. A chance to make up a story and live inside it, to escape reality, all the obligations piled up on my desk, deadlines that hound me in my sleep: the editorial work, the essays, the translations, the reviews.

Running shoes that make squeaking sounds on hallway floors; socks that fall down awkwardly every ten steps: that’s what’s missing, everything that goes along with having a body, or rather being a body—why is it that neither of these verbs applies? What are we, really, when we distill our existence down to mind and soul? A voice. I want to press my cheek against your chest, hear your heartbeat, and although I am allergic to every perfume in existence and am still not quite sure if you understand the larger implications of this, I want to breathe in the smell of your body—and while my head swoons as I feel the warmth of your skin against my own, I will wonder if you’ll notice the hives swell up on my face and neck, recognize the symptoms of anaphylactic shock, and rush me to the nearest hospital before I, gazing at you adoringly, die pale and lovely in your arms? Or will you have saved me just in time? We have an entire repertoire of movies and fairy-tales to create our imaginary world.

Last night, you walked down Shaftesbury Avenue to Piccadilly Circus and up Regent Street, through an excited Saturday-night feast teeming in all directions. The broad sidewalks were jammed with people, everyone was dressed up and on the prowl, some of them prancing and preening, some ruing their bitter reality out loud for everyone to hear. A twenty-something couple in the throes of an argument, she a bleached blonde storming ahead, shouting like a fishmonger: “I can’t do it any more! Yew’ve gone too far!,” he trying to catch up with his shorter legs and his black hair waxed up into a pointy crest on his head, pleading: “Look, Oy’ve been troying! Yew could at least give me that!” And I, opening my mail and reading it the next morning, laughing out loud, delighted at the thought of you carrying me with you through nighttime London. I am afraid of this evaporating into thin air the moment we meet—poof! there it goes, the illusion you have of me, that I have of you, but no, that’s not all, surely there’s got to be something more? The part of you that hears me, understands me, picks up the faintest of signals; that sees everything, registers everything, forgets nothing, how can that be?

It’s not possible, it’s not possible. When I leave this room and close the door behind me, turn the key in the lock with precisely the same movements as I would normally employ, switch on the hall light and walk down the steps to the outside door and then out of the building in exactly the same manner as any other day, when I walk down the sidewalk in a gait typical of anyone with an errand to run or an acquaintance to meet, careful to maintain this perfect camouflage and thinking all the while of you, concentrating on nothing else but you, seeing all the while an image of you before me as I guard my features in order not to betray you, how can it be, if I direct my entire concentration toward this impending moment, when the door to a particular building is bound to open the very second I am passing by, how can it be that you do not in this moment appear, emerging from this doorway? Where else could you possibly be, than at the locus of all this attention?

Me:       The supermarket!  I’ve got to run back before they close.  Please, can you call her for me?

Mother: You must be out of your mind to be thinking I’d call her.

Me:        Why?

Mother: She’s fine, she’s out, she’s having dinner, leave her alone. She’s going to think you’re suffocating her.  Don’t do it. Look at you, you’ve gone mad!

Me:       (calmly) I am not nuts. We have been writing every day since early November. Every day…  you understand?  She doesn’t just drop out.  She’d tell me if she so much as had to go to the bathroom.  No emails from her all day today.  It’s past 8 p.m. now in Berlin.  OK, if she was out, she’d have her mobile, but I also texted her, no reply, nothing, so something’s wrong now.  Please… just call, will you?  This is her land line.

Mother: I’ve never seen you like this, your eyes are bloodshot.  Call her when you come back.

Me:        I’ll do that anyway, just help me get it off my mind for now.

Mother: Look at you.  How can you be like this, you don’t even know her. Meet her first.  Then go crazy.

Me:        Please.

Mother: No.

Me:        Yes.

Mother: No. Besides, what would I tell her? What if I get a man at the other end?

Me:        You’re a woman on the phone.  Just find out if she’s OK, that’s all.

Mother: And if it’s her, what am I supposed to say?

Me:        Like that’s a problem for you.  Tell her how much you loved her recipe last night.  You raved about it to Ilse.  So, rave again.

Mother: (beat) Take back that wok, it’s too big.  Get me a large frying pan instead.  My old one’s finished.

Me:        Done. Tell me when I get back.

Dom Perignon Vintage 1976


A £700 bottle of vintage Dom Pérignon your mother had been saving since your stepfather died; I barely heard the cell phone ring over the fireworks. Happy New Year!—an hour too early for London, but Berlin already aflame with Roman candles and bottle rockets and Bengal fires and those eerie red lights drifting across the sky like distant planes, their course curiously wiggly: yuan xiao lanterns pulled along by a southwesterly wind, a few weeks ahead of the Chinese New Year. And then you called again an hour later and we celebrated in your time zone, I in the quiet room this time and the magical hour striking elsewhere, for you. We absorbed each other’s voices, a sudden, startling intimacy that required periods of silence in between, and in the background of that crackling static I heard a siren, an ambulance with someone inside somewhere in London on the last day of the year, struck ill and raced to the hospital, entering my consciousness 930 kilometers away as the crow flies not as a person’s life in the balance—this only occurs to me now—but as peripheral noise. Did that person survive? And why does my mind stray this way, like a shopping cart with a sluggish wheel always pulling me off to the side; it takes effort to keep it on track, to complete the sentences I cast out like nets to collect my scattered thoughts, my mixed metaphors.

I had been wondering what the chances were that you were real, that we could face each other free of our phantom film loops, memory fragments repeating themselves over and over in the spinning vacuum of the otherwise erased. Until V. came along, I’d carried on too many loves in the echo chamber of my imagination, but now there were two components that joined to produce an explosive mix that sputtered and sparked and blew me right out of my own unsuspecting mind. It took me a year to find all the pieces, and then, when I’d glued them all back together, I discovered that it leaked, that the goo was everywhere, that I’d made a mistake somewhere and had to begin again from scratch.

And then it was all darkness and cosmic wind and meteorites flying around. Duck! Sit down, find a bench. Close your eyes. I couldn’t look at the world anymore, the colors were hurting me, piercing my eyes and drilling right through to the nerves. I was porous, tuning in to the frequencies of other people’s inner voices and unable to shut off the transmitter. Is that what it’s like to go mad? Panic-stricken, I called T., but T. didn’t pick up and so I squeezed my eyes shut and listened to teenagers gathered around the bench nearby, hoping their shrill braggardly voices, their spasmodic, hormone-induced laughter would beckon me back to Earth, but no, not this time, and I began to worry: what if they notice me, that strange woman over there pulling her coat around her, what if they look across the grassy triangle we’re sharing, a gathering of three benches wedged between two sides of a street and a cross-street with a few empty bottles on the ground and a trash receptacle overflowing with little plastic bags of dog poop—what if they decide to have a little fun?

How far can you walk blindfolded until you topple over that cliff? I never heard myself hit the bottom, perhaps I was asleep, or caught myself in time, but I’d still like to know what that is, why that sweet, sweet force does its Möbius-strip twist into blind annihilation, why the loss of love can bring down a kingdom, close the curtain on a thousand-year dynasty, extinguish a galaxy for all we know—what is that? I don’t want to imagine this time, I want to smell it, I want the Velcro on your jacket to catch onto my stocking and make it run, I want to sneeze at your aftershave, feel the discomfort and the nervousness and everything that goes along with bringing your own awkward existence before the other and whispering: Here, this is me, will you take me as I am?