New York

New York

A Story by Sam

This is really more essay than story, and it is currently incomplete...

The moments that come to really change a life most often go unnoticed. It's a clock set 2 minutes too fast, a missed step, a decision to sleep in, deciding to stop remembering, obsessing, expecting. I want to remember the moment that changes my life, I want to carry it around as a secret hidden in my innermost pocket, sunscreen for sunny days, radiant electric heat against soft winter mush.

I remember the moments I once thought would make my life. I remember falling in love, crashing into it, blinded by it, foiled into misdirection and a man whose butter browness soothed every burn, the pain eagerly satiated if his touch came after, his kiss, his reassurances that fell like rain and evaporated misty and unclear. I remember the end of what were to be definitive things, I remember the empty weightlessness of a ring finger, I remember with a voracious palpability the splintering of parts so borrowed and used they no longer felt like my own and still I mourned each crack, crease, looked at the shadow of myself and thought how sad, how very sad that girl must be.

I would like to blame love, that selfish, greedy, encompassing spirit of a thing. I would like to blame nights just cold enough for offered jackets and hands that scream to be held. I would like to point the finger at a body that responds even when instructed not to, a body stubborn and scolded by a mind attempting to maintain control. On days like today the sun is full and taunting. Time is slow and melancholy, the taste of every passing second hangs heavy in the air and I breathe faster gulping, desperate to consume this day quickly.

I thought he might have called. It played itself scratched and hesitant in my head, an old sitcom on a black and white TV. His call late at night and me ready, expectant, reserved. It would be the ultimate resolution; it would release the weight still finding room to stretch and re-adjust across my chest. That final group of words, a bunching of letters and sounds bursting from his lips; "I still think of you". No more or less, his love left track marks and I have learned to live with the scars but my body could never again shoulder that affection. I desire instead to know that there can be something left. That eight years, days and nights, the vibration of his laugh against my ear, the safety of every promise amounts to more than never speaking, acquiescing, washing your hands of the borrowed destiny once believed to be the marrow of your life.

I have friends coming over later. They are determined to shake from me this blanket of displaced longing, need to be part of a thing no longer desired but present, amorphous and sneaky, it seeks a place to feed if for no other reason than I was chosen first. They will speak of everything but the looming unspeakable thing, they will make me laugh and build back parts of me without realizing what they do. They will sing happy birthday with the subconscious reserve of those who know you well enough to realize you will only be celebrating for their sake, that the bulk of your energy will be spent counting breaths, halting thoughts, trying to not hate people who still find reasons to hold hands, share kisses, graze fingertips over exposed shoulders or slivers of lower back with an ease built from realizing how much those things matter.

They will talk and a wedding march will play in my head, first ours, the one he sang to me when it was our day, when his half smile meant he wanted me closer, when he called me wife over the phone, when the saying of vows seemed an arbitrary thing for what was known to be known.

It was a Stevie Wonder song about love and always and forever, I wonder if he still chose the same, wonder if he maintained anything from previous planning, wonder if he's aware he will be marrying her when he should be thinking of me, that their day will come and go, come and go, come and go, remembered always as also my day, my birthday, I wonder if he made it a conscious decision or if I am so far gone that it required no decision at all.

I've given myself this weekend to let go of self-monitoring. I have re-claimed all bad habits, I am brazen and unapologetic, I drink scotch, smoke cigars, I swear even around children, I refuse to cry, I have conversations with God and discuss how resilient I am expected to be. I expect Him to be angry at me, I have already fallen short. I don't go to church, they will be married in a church. I pray in halting short triumphs of composition; "Hold on to the ground" "Their happiness plus mine" "No hard hearts, my heart" "Forgive me for not being better" "Forgive me for hating him" "Forgive me for loving him" "Heal me" "Manifest." "Real." "Love." "Please remember me."

I have been grappling for the passing of this day. There was first the expectation, it is coming, it is coming. And then the living of the day, it is here, it is here. I am unable to not think it, unable to not go back and forth between his smile and the tears I know he will shed when she walks down the aisle, he always said he would cry and that was for our half love, how much more true that must be for the one to which his promise found reason to stick, stuck like glue, like cheap drug store super glue bonding even those things you'd never intended to; I think of that smile and tears and I think of stepping to the other side, leaping over and never looking back. I would like very much to get to the other side, I'd thought I was close, closer but the truth of all of this has dragged me back a distance I may never know. I cannot even begin to shake it off and it makes me wonder what could possibly be left?


When I was younger, much younger, before you even begin to think about the brutal reality of love and loss and the need to be rebuilt I thought about my wedding only once. My sister had a binder full of billowy cotton dresses, pages of pink and white and flowers whose names she would circle and then write down again in her round lilting handwriting on college ruled paper. She had song lists and perfect man lists and bridesmaids, guest lists, she had dreams and things to be built upon, she had the perfect fodder for disappointments.

I had no notebooks, no lists of perfect men, I thought even then what a rarity it would be for anything perfect to exist but I did think of my wedding once. I'm sure much later than most women do, I was 12 and laying outside under the neighbors sprinkler. It was what we called wavy hot, the struggle of the air to move from one beat to the next could almost be seen, waves of determined heat stretching its way through humid indifferent air. I lay under that sprinkler in that motivated heat and thought how this was my favorite time of year, the feel of heat, the laid on summer impetuous to do nothing at all, the feel of sprinkler water making its way over closed eyelids and down cheeks, the water that would pool in half open hands, the love of every small thing, the sound of passing cars the hum of their tires on the road, the wet solid slobber of the dog on the porch, the hum of every tune of summer in my ear.

I found time in that created space to think of my husband. He would be tall and brown but every other feature in this forward memory was blocked by the brilliant summer sun, save for his smile and his laugh, he could do both easily and often. Our wedding wasn't thoughts of flowers and dresses proper music and seated dinners, our life the joining of lives was complete when the brilliant man cloaked by sun took both my hands in his, kissed the tops of each and smiled at me, laughed with me saying everything in nothing saying we were a deal, wrapped tight and binding we were forever, and it was that dream I pushed deep inside saving from everyone, even myself. The idea of trusting someone with so much knowing in the end they could only offer a smile a laugh in return.

It stayed there, the reason behind every decision. I loved but never enough to think of loving forever. I mourned and cried, I wanted but never enough to picture someone standing beside me to fight for a picture I'd never fully formulated in my head. I reminded myself that the magic of smiles was as ephemeral as dreams as ever after and no matter what. I'd wrapped love up tight, packaged around the idea of a man whose face I couldn't see and instead built my life against other loose dreams. In college I welcomed the four year distraction, I watched others who would change the world, who worked a life plan so structured that they automatically placed one foot in front of the other and I tried to gather up each lose part of myself, each thing I was always too scared to voice to anyone else each crazy impractical idea of how to best live a life, how to best live my life.

I wanted to create, I found myself surrounded by people who wanted to change the world, better it and I just wanted to add to it. I wanted to throw little pieces into the cracks I wanted to insert myself over and over again, I wanted to matter without having to justify why. I wanted to write and I wanted to love it, I wanted to love. So I wrote and never shared it, stored up pages and pages notebooks and floppy disks full of the beginning, middle and end of things. There was energy there and expectation, I'd begun to build the bulk of dreams around what would be the best of all those things.

And then I met a boy, a brown boy who smiled at me, voiced his desire to make me laugh and in exchange I gave him every part of me, even those he didn't ask for, even the ones he never knew he owned, especially the ones I'd promised to always keep for myself. I handed him my package of a sun-backed faceless man, the only idea of love I'd ever stored behind the shade of my soul and waited to see if he would find in it every reason, every joy, every need to stay. Maybe over time it had grown stale, tasty on the outside not so much one consumed. He offered it back, digested and ravaged, useless even to me and went on to accept another one, sparkling and new from someone else.

The funny thing, the funny thing he also took with him, that last day, in that last moment he also took with him any desire I ever had to have him back. It was the only time he walked away and I was not running behind him pleading with stories and memories of better times, begging with my mouth, my skin my breath for him to love my love. But this time, this last time my need for him, desire for those things snuffed out like a candle between wet fingers.

I think it was the promise I mourned more than anything, the loss of the deal that I'd once been reminded of by looking down at a diamond always just a little too big, a diamond of intention that I was eager to swap for a true symbol of life or death commitment. I mourned the idea of being chosen, I mourned a man who intended to make me laugh, I mourned knowing something with certainty with being sure of one thing even when all the others adamantly defied definition. I wanted what he promised. I wanted more. I wanted to not have to start over, I wanted to not still be alone, very much alone while he gave that promise, that deal that he'd offered to me to someone else and sealed it, sealed it with a kiss, a band of commitment, a day full of my sisters book of white and pink and lists and flowers that would die by the end of the day.

I was uncharacteristically optimistic when the end was the end. I told myself there would be better things, better men. I steeled melancholy against the buoyancy of first dates, first kisses, first looks, first butterflies. I built the promise of the next man against everything that my other was not. He would be many things, a list of things but more than that, he would stay. He would look at me, splintered moody writer yet to share a page, guarded, goofy unsure and see someone he wanted to see everyday.

© 2012 Sam

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I'm not sure of the opening sentence:
"The moments that come to really change a life most often go unnoticed."

I think it's the 'come to' that trips me up: for me it has at least two meanings. One is that which you intend, the other is "eventually grows to / fulfils".
Perhaps the positioning of the speaker as referring to hindsight would help. Something like:
"Looking back, we notice that the moments that really changed our life passed by unnoticed at the time."
This also involves the reader more (it's a bit of a cheap trick, but I like cheap tricks).

I think the second sentence is excellent, but perhaps it could contain something more shocking. Something that the reader would only see as potentially life-changing with a bit of rumination, after an initial 'what?'.

The third sentence implies the speaker's struggle against the uselessness of memory to enfold causation: if you brought this out it would make the first paragraph and whole concept of the piece more dramatic. I think you're talking about wrestling control over your memory of your life -- actually having a sensible narrative about it that approximates the truth. What I enjoy is the fact that this fight already abdicates the fight for control (self-determination / free will / volition): we just want to know what moments created us.

I think the piece turns into something else, then, more of a search for an overall pattern than the recognition of the sand-grain moment that slipped through your fingers and altered the heap just so that you slid down one fateful way.
I will read it again, later, to make sure of this: but I don't see a moment that changed everything.

Posted 5 Years Ago


5 Years Ago

Thank you for the inspiration ("I expect Him to be angry at me, I have already fallen short."):
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5 Years Ago

"I think the piece turns into something else, then, more of a search for an overall pattern than the.. read more

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Added on November 10, 2012
Last Updated on November 10, 2012



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