Wednesday, November 26, 2014

on the future and the past

To my former lover's future lover,

You don't know me. At least I don't think you do. You may have seen my initials on a book you borrowed from him. You may have seen my clumsy twenty-six-year old handwriting on an old birthday card. You may have seen me in a doodle in an aging coffee shop planner. But you still won't know me. You can't. Because the man you love holds many secrets and by now, I think I may have become one of them.

So before the hours erase everything like tidal waves rearranging the shore, allow me to tell you everything you need to know. You must understand what happened between us and know that I'm not trying to take him from you. This is not a bent knee pleading for you to return him to me. All this is is a stern reminder for you to never let him go. Not a day goes by where I don't regret taking the first feeble footsteps away from the man you now call your own.

You can ask about who I was or what I meant to him. He'll tell you my name. He'll tell you where we met. If you play it cool (don't push too hard), maybe he'll even tell you how long we were together. But he'll never tell you how I was his favorite person. He won't say how I once meant the world to him or that at one point, I was the axis in which his entire life revolved. He won't tell you, he can't tell you that although I am but a fading memory now, at one point his heart was an anchor and I was the vast expanse of the ocean floor.

You can ask if he told me the same things he's telling you now. He'll tell you about the laughs we had and the tears we shed in the three years we were together. He'll tell you your love is different, that it's nothing like what we had back then. He won't tell you about the moonlight on the night we first met or about how we wound our watches back three hours so we wouldn't have to part ways. He won't tell you about the kisses he stole from me that night or how he tapped the cab twice as it drove away. Those images were ours although we let them go that night we broke our promises to stay true to each other forever.

You can ask if he held me like he holds you now and he'll tell you that your fingers lock completely with his. Like jigsaw puzzle pieces thought separated for years, the minute your skin touched his felt like coming home. But he won't tell you about how I once scrubbed my fingers so hard, my knuckles started to bleed. About how I felt my palms were never clean enough, never white enough to graze his. I stopped trying to put our pieces together because I knew I had to let him go. I did it so he could find you.

You can ask if he loves you more than he loved me. He'll tell you that meeting you was like ending a long journey – that I was a layover but you were always the final stop. That we had some great times but in the end, he was just preparing for the time he was to spend with you. What he won't say is that at one point, it felt like we were facing a million sunrises and sunsets hand in hand. He won't tell you the names of our kids, the dreams we both shared, or the number of hydrangeas we were going to plant in our backyard. He will tell you that I was the mistake that made him see how right your love was. But he will never tell you about that night I whispered the exact same words in his ear.

You can ask why we broke up and he'll tell you it was because I needed too much, because I demanded too many things from him. He will tell you I was selfish, that I was needy, and unkind. He won't tell you about the nights I stayed up watching him sleep, wondering what I did in the past to deserve such a gentle, perfect man. He can't tell you about moments I spent staring at my reflection in the mirror, wondering what he saw in me, why he chose me out of all the strangers in the crowd. He won't tell you how I questioned his love because I didn't feel I deserved it. He can't tell you I felt unworthy because he didn't know. I didn't tell him. But I am telling you now.

And so when you hear about me, see my face in a Timehop or a passing glimmer in his eye, I want you to know that if I could have loved him the way you do, I wouldn't need to write you this letter. Please take good care of him. He was and always will be my life's biggest regret. Love him with all your heart. Love him the way I never could. And though you owe me nothing, please love him all your life for me.

All the best,


♫: Rachael Yamagata | Has It Happened Yet? (2012)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

on how it's not in our stars

My lover is a Gemini. On a whim, he came to me one day. He picked me up, dusted me off, and said that he loved me. Truly, wholly, and without tiring. I believed his persuasion. I trusted the frailty of his words. He was such a puzzle, warm and alive one minute and deathly cold the next. I wrestled plain in his conflicting hands. I learned to listen to the butterflies in my belly. He moved so quickly, breezing into my life and without warning, rushing out of it. Nobody told me the butterflies were just on loan. He took them with him when he walked away, leaving nothing but a hollow of wasps inside me.

My lover is a Gemini but I wish he was a Leo. I want him to find the courage to see past my faults, to purify me in the fire of his love. To hold me when I am afraid. To be there in the morning when I wake up. I want to drown in his discourse, to bask in the light of his idealism and arrogance. I want to hear about his day, however trivial or mundane. I want him to be open to me, to be strong enough to tell me when I cross the line. But I'm just wishing on stars and a Leo, he is not.

I wish he was a Libra. I want him to be fair. Like a photograph that falls off the pages of a book, his memory finds me in the strangest places. How do you miss somebody who was never yours? How do you learn to forget hands that have never held you or lips you have never kissed? I want to weave my words around his heart, to find out what made him change his mind so quickly. I want him to be just to me. But I'm just wishing on stars and a Libra, he is not.

I wish he was a Cancer. I want to be there for his famous mood swings. I want to understand his vulnerability, to warm my hands on the embers of his temper. I want to have long, tedious conversations about the frost on the window pane or the politics of living in an ant farm. I want him to be jealous, to wear his heart out on his sleeve. I want him to shake me when my heart wanders, to kiss me deeply to remind me why we got together in the first place. I want his desire to consume him like a fever. But I'm just wishing on stars and a Cancer, he is not.

I wish he was a Capricorn. I want to fall asleep on his stable chest. I want to feel my head rising and falling as he breathes me in. I want him to be loyal, for his eyes to never stray far away from me. I want his love to be as vast as a net. I could leap from the highest highs with eyes closed, arms outstretched. If cats knew they would always land on their feet, would they still be afraid to jump? I want my lover to catch me when I fall. But I'm just wishing on stars and a Capricorn, he is not.

But above all these, I know there is one wish that I would kill to make – I wish that love was in our stars. Because I know it isn't. Because I know that you're gone. But that hasn't stopped me from searching for your face in every crowd. It hasn't stopped me from leaning on the frailty of your words, on the butterflies in my gut. And so with the courage of the lion,the fairness of the scales, the passion of the crab, and the stability of the goat, I search the night sky for a shooting star. When I see one, I swear to God I will get down on my knees, shout your name, and wish that your footsteps would one day lead you back to me. I wish you would come back to me. I wish we had different stars.

♫: Nicole Scherzinger | AmenJena (2011)
Photo: Stars Above Haleakala

Thursday, November 6, 2014

on the games we play

"Come play with me," he beckoned from a park bench. He had careless hair and a crooked smile. He had one of those old-time chess boards in front of him with all the pieces lined up for a duel. His words wound up the key to my heart. Like a wind-up toy, my gears buzzed with life anew. I didn't stand a chance.

I was lost and ripe for an epiphany. I looked around to make sure he was talking to me. He welcomed me with a smile and motioned for me to sit. I sat across him, my messenger bag sliding from my shoulder to the grass. A few strands of hair covered his eyes as he aligned his pawns across an imaginary line.

"Do you know how to play?" he asked.

"A little, I guess." I lied. I was the class champion in my senior year but I'd gotten rusty throughout the years. "What are we playing for?"

"Oh! A gambling man, I see. Well, what do you think?"

"We can play for quarters. Let's keep it friendly?"

He ran his fingers through his hair, brushing it away from his forehead. He surveyed the pieces carefully, weighing the pros and cons of his battle with a stranger. He looked up, a quiet flame in his eyes and asked me, "Why don't we play for love?"


He explained that chess was a lot like love. All the while, his long, graceful fingers danced across the board with ease. Within a few moves, he'd captured a bishop and one of my knights. I barely escaped with his rook and a pawn.

His queen did most of his bidding, a dangerous but effective way to play. "The queen is like the mind," he told me. "She can move any number of squares and in any direction. She does what she wants. She temps, she taunts, but most of all, she can seize." His queen moved closer towards my pieces as it devoured my last bishop.

"Your mind is very powerful then." I surveyed the board and saw he was winning.

"The king," he continued. "is your heart. You must protect it at all costs. The whole ship could go down but you must keep him locked away." With one move, he had his queen at a straight angle to my king. "Check."

I quickly moved my king out of harm's way. This boy was a hustler and he had both my heart and curiosity piqued.

"And what about you? Has anyone claimed your king?" I asked. I began a relay to capture his queen, my knight setting up a trap on the northeast corner of the board.

"There'll be no talk of that," he said, his crooked smile on full display. "Don't ask questions you can't afford the answers to."

"So you've got a boyfriend. I've got one too. We're just playing chess."

He looked me straight in the eye and for a second, I could see a glimmer of a little boy drowning in those dark brown pools. Help me, he cried out. In my chest, I could feel the weight of a million promises starting to break.


We had major casualties on both sides of the board. Towards the end, he was left with a pawn, a knight, a queen, and his king. I had a rook, two pawns, my king but no queen. He'd captured my literal and metaphorical mind in five swift moves. We both knew the game was coming to an end. The gears of my wind-up were slowing and tiring as each second ticked by.

"See this is why you have to be careful," he warned me. "You have to stay alert and keep thinking. Otherwise, you'd be left with your heart out in the open." He tapped my king lightly, his touch rocking the piece gently on its felt base. His words started to sound more calculated, his tone growing colder by the minute.

"Maybe I wanted it this way. Maybe love is about abandoning logic for the sentimental. About throwing caution to the wind, devil may care."

"But no one wins by being careless. It takes skill, not luck, to be victorious."

"In chess, maybe. But in love?" His eyes were transfixed on the board, calculating each and every step. I wanted to reach down into his heart, wondering who could have damaged it so severely that one would have to press an ear to it to hear its mellow ticking.

"There's got to be some merit to keeping your head in the game," he said. "No one's ever died from a broken mind but many have fallen with a broken heart."

"So you'd rather think about love than just feel it? I don't think you can call that love."

"What do you call that then?"

"I don't know." I told him. "The name escapes me now but I know that's not love."


In the end, his queen took my last rook in three moves. My heart, defenseless, was suddenly his for the taking. Within seconds, the game was over. Checkmate. He shook my hand and congratulated me on a game well played.

"You said you only played a little. I think you lied." His voice sounded cocky but his face betrayed a tenderness that lay beneath.

"Well you said we were playing for love. Were you lying, too?"

"I don't know."

"Well now you have my love. What are you going to do with it?"

He shrugged and shook his head. We sat there in silence for a moment then he got up and placed all the pieces clumsily back into the box. Soon, imaginary appointments were made as we both rushed to opposite sides of the world. It was too late when I noticed that a lonely chessman had wandered into my bag. I reached in for it, the crown digging hollow pits into my palm.

It was his heart.


I don't think you can call that love, I told him and so he asked me for its name. It escaped me then but as soon as his figure left my horizon, the words came rushing into me like a wayward breeze. It was Self-Preservation.

I still keep that wandering piece with me, a prayer that one day we'll meet again. The grinding gears in my wind-up spin one last time as it slows to a halt. In my mind's eye, I still see him on that dusty park bench – careless hair, crooked smile, chessmen ready for battle. Come play with me, he'd beckon and these four little words would wind me up once again.

♫: Vanessa Carlton | Pretty Baby (2002)

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Sunday, November 2, 2014

on time

It's a Thursday in 2011. I'm gonna be late for work but I don't really care. I'm finally going to meet you. You emerge from the fog and into my life. You take my breath away. We have dinner and then coffee and then you walk me to my cab. I had a lovely evening, I said when what I meant was you look like the man I imagined I'd be with for the rest of my life.

It's a Friday in 2012. They say the world is ending in a few months and though I'm not a prayerful person, last night I got down on my knees and asked for a little more time with you. You tell me you're off work early and you could spend the weekend with me. You arrive shortly after dinner, melted strawberry sundaes in your hands, and you tell me you've missed me like the sea misses the shore. Like the breeze kisses bed sheets swaying, like the sunlight misses the sunburnt skin on my nape. Your backpack is bursting with clothes, the first few rays of the rest of our lives. I run to you, my heart fevered with a silent wish. I know you said you can only stay till Sunday but you know, you can stay here forever. Like um, if you wanted to.

It's a Saturday in 2013. The world did not end. Perhaps my prayers were heard. You've traded in your backpacks for suitcases. I now awaken each morning to your light snores, your stubbled chin, your all too familiar scent. I wish I could lay back and enjoy the comfort of your arms but the voices came back last night. He's going to leave you, they said. You're not good enough for him. There's always going to be someone wiser, someone younger, someone who's just a few notches above kind. I hold on to you, feel your breath on my cheek as I wait for the voices to fade away. This is a call to arms.

It's a Sunday in 2014. You leave early in the morning. I could feel your exit in my bones as you walked away. Where are you going? I wanted to know but there were no words, no answers for a calloused heart. It is nighttime. You emerge from the darkness. You set down your things and you hold me. Your backpack bursts open as it hits the ground. I count five shirts, three briefs, and a fresh pair of pants. You were going to leave me. What made you change your mind? You tell me about the bus, about how each mile it set between us felt like a knife in your gut. You tell me about how you ran from the terminal back to our street, how the front door practically flew when you swung it open. Your left cheek twitches as you tell me how each step on the staircase felt like bloody murder. There are no apologies where there are no sins. You hold me and it feels like you've truly come home. It feels like you've come home.

The sea teaches me love is a wish
not for safety but for destruction.
I am not ashamed to admit it:
I love you the way water loves.
Which is to say
I wish the world were through with you,
so you could return to me ravaged, upon this shore:
a shell held tight inside my palm.

Gift, 2
J. Neil C. Garcia

You still look like the man I imagined I'd be with for the rest of my life. But it's a Sunday and I'm not in love.

♫: Rachael Yamagata | Miles On a Car (2011)
Poem: Gift, 2

It's a Monday in 2064. I am a fossil, the last embers of a love that burned brightly. We’ve weathered the storms – all 6,396 I made myself – and I'm sorry. I can't always say it for I fear the taste will soon seem pale to my lips but from the deepest corners of this ashen heart, I loved you. I love you. I will always love you.