Dust Bunnies

A bouquet of dust bunnies in my head. Dirty, battered feet.

I didn’t want to leave this bed today, but I did, because I’m motivated by stupid, babyish things. Like that dress and sweater I cast aside last night, to wear today. With pantyhose three shades darker than my natural skin tone.

I grow paler everyday, and I think this gray tooth, it’s pretty much decaying. But that’s okay. Braces were something I wanted so badly, at thirteen years old. Nearing twenty-three, I realized any sensible person doesn’t care about how straight and flawless your teeth are.

I am that off-putting kid whose everyday happenings mirror that of a “Bad Luck Brian” meme. I don’t mean to, but when I just want to fulfill someone’s request to write a letter every once in a while, and only scare that person away, what’s the point of a pen pal?

If I were coordinated, and my parents cared to put me in dance lessons as soon as one possibly could, well, I would have left that showing of Black Swan thinking, “Woah, I can totally relate!” Just like every sad young girl who reads or watches something gripping and wants to somehow take a piece of that everywhere she goes. Primarily to job interviews.

I said I’d visit you back in September, but mid-month I decided not to. How in the hell do you start life anew?

The dust bunnies sit back, and drink their cognac and sing their songs. I grind my teeth at 3 AM, and rock myself back and forth. I almost hit the wall. The bunnies, the accidental boo boos, my abused molars. These are too real (well, maybe not the bunnies, but you never know).

But I do not need to be told, for the septillionth time, that they were birthed out of a scoffing towards God. It’s an unsolicited answer communicated so often that I wonder if it’s true.

And if those who so fervently relay the message get some sort of commission, amounts vary by circumstance.

Pre-order Connie Undone on Amazon. Or, buy a signed copy from me directly for $12. 

Birthdays

I don’t remember my birthdays. This is only to be expected, for I never had a birthday party, save for the time when the ratio of adults to children was eight to ten. But I realize it was just a ploy for my parents to announce my sister’s conception, amidst balloons, strawberry ice cream, cake, and my telling the camera, “I already have this!” as I held an Asian Barbie doll that slightly looked like me. The last party, and the last helium menagerie of short-necked giraffes bobbing along the sidewalk, sighing for air.

Exactly two months from my birthday, two years ago, I sat with a friend to catch up. She rolled her eyes, scolding lazy construction workers she almost ran over on her way to see me. The line across her lips was just as deliberate, her brows pigmented diagonally as I talked about ending my relationship. The only thing she had to say was “Think of your future.” I ran through the list as I always did, treating each item as if it was happening for the first time. Of course, only to me. His parents inquired about my finances more so than my own, the mother suggested I didn’t take care of him as we divided our cooking duties, and the father predicted I’d dance with Congressmen, share their suites, deny my clothes. This is what happens when girls with boyfriends continue their schooling out of state.

I showed her the text messages. And him too. Not the boy who gave me grief a good sixteen months after the breakup. Just a person with whom I developed a silly fascination with, someone who made me believe movies like A Beautiful Mind are historically accurate, that I could do anything in the wake of my twenties, that love motivates us to do what we never thought ourselves capable of. The lady whom friends jokingly referred to as my “big sister” could only shake her head as I insisted, “But it’s love!”

“You’re giving this unnecessary attention.”

Eyebrows rose as conversations stretched. Twenty minutes, sixty minutes. Three hours and fifteen minutes. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” a staff member barked, dropping a pile of copies on his desk with a scolding thud. She’d interject again to hiss, “Stop harassing her!”

“She’s not my student, so I suppose she’s fair game.”

His wordings and mannerisms were muddied enough for me to unearth, given my already existing difficulties in discerning attitudes and reactions in general. When he stamped his foot on the ground with a shudder, biting his tongue, blinking hard, I had a good idea. No one receives a pull on the trigger with a smile, and once that trigger’s pulled, no one lingers to provide a monologue with all the facts and details you need to write your review by the deadline.

I couldn’t comprehend the granola bars, coffee, the cute bacon sandwich. Offering rides as I walked to a bus stop five minutes away. You wonder, “Why would he waste his time?”

Additionally, the insistence on keeping in touch. “Let me know what you decide to do.” “Thank you for telling me how things are on your end.” “Hopefully we’ll catch up one day.”

When I came to visit many months back, my phone shook in my purse. One of my former instructors giggled. “And what does _____ say?” “_____ doesn’t text. In fact, he doesn’t really care for phones.”

“And you know this how?” The embers which singed my ears without a thought for private discipline revealed as much.

The last time we saw each other, it was over trays of sushi. He professed a fear of shallots as my tongue rested on slabs of avocado. A sliver of seaweed settled between my teeth and he only stared, hands clasped to mouth. I thought to bring up my friend, who wasn’t dancing with a Congressman, but someone kind of comparable.

He tapped the pinewood with a black chopstick. “We shouldn’t talk about this. But did I ever tell you our conversations remind me of the ones I have with my sister?”

I crunched on a sharpened ice cube, my forehead meeting his glance more so than my kohl-glazed eyes.

“No, no. I mean, it’s not like they’re the same. But they’re similar. And that’s a good thing. You remind me of her!” The clasp remained tight against a budding grin.

“I text people at 2 a.m., only for them to text me to go to sleep. I’m rather inconsiderate.” Similarly, my tone grew brusque, my back no longer cushioned against my chair in what was a state of calm.

“And she calls me at 3 a.m., which means it’s really 5 a.m. where she’s at, and it’s always about something work-related.”

“I always say it’s a good story.”

“Yes! She does that too!”

“But at this point in life, we can do that. Do whatever we need to do the next day, forget about the party three hours before, you know?”

“Yes, I remember that time. Maybe you two should exchange emails. You’re really a lot alike.”

My forehead glistened, while the cherry blossomed lamp swung back and forth, threatening to fall and oust the mango ice cream in its porcelain bowl.

“No. Well, you’re different, but you do remind me of her. She turns twenty-seven ten days before New Year’s but we never did anything because, you know, Christmas and the stuff that comes with it. I’m buying her something today.”

Thankfully, he didn’t have to drive me this time. Home was a ten minutes’ walk, headphones blaring annoyances only Fiona Apple could sing about.

Two weeks later, as the office packed their bags to embark on winter’s vacation, my colleague handed me a yellow envelope.

Hurriedly, I tore the paper, and opened a high gloss card with a koala’s head concealed in a bucket.

“Your birthday is never a secret!” He scrawled niceties below.

I remembered my birthday that year, and the sear of misunderstanding.

what it means to be overbearing

I look it up in the dictionary
because like many other words,
I’ve heard and used it so many times
that I’ve exhausted its meaning.

usually, I think of a mother
crying loudly at night, demanding
that you drive to the nearest rural convenience store
to fetch some Nyquil for her imagined flu.

or, the boss whose list of directives
lengthens like the phone calls in her office
with a daughter who never listens,
a daughter whose flaws you’re told of.

I will leave you alone,
to the extent that you knocked,
every three hours, several weeks
when I was busy too.

eventually, the adaptation will fail
and I will worry,
seeing you’re back in the air,
flying kites dampened by melodramatic poetry.

I show these to the friend
who compared me to a headless rooster,
the one who gently told me
that everyone has feelings.

a search result mentions domination,
excessive energy, insatiable want
that I’d say you exuded openly,
myself the one at your call.

the most gratifying experiences
you claim you’ve had
in shorthand, prose, and video
the same day you request.

and like the boss, you had a list
and because I am a fiend with pens,
checkmarks, planners, Post-its,
it irked me to see things undone.

so I unraveled the spool,
each time you rang
in every color available
as I wanted to give you the world.

naturally, the more time spent with you,
I gave away pieces of my world,
finding comfort in our pseudo-anonymity
in an arrangement we both thought fruitless.

in spite of the things you’d divulge
and dismiss as things you’d never say,
or fantasies you’ve been denied access to,
you remained fairly silent.

my cups of water had spilled
to where I couldn’t mop up the mess,
and as the room began to flood,
I gathered the voice to call out to you.

fumbling again towards failure
as impulsivity grabbed what grew
exactly at the root, obscuring the light of chance
before the battery could even charge.

the best definition I settled with
discussed the application of emotional force
and the exhaustion suffered by one struck
with yearnings and aches unprecedented.

a positive side to this

you must have knocked
nearly a dozen times
and with those confessions,
opinions I shared,
you might have wanted
to know some more
about a girl
who was more than confident
she would marry a cat,
but you entertained
some slim possibility
of showing me
“a positive side to this,”
that being so far,
studious, yet typing
paragraphs of hypotheticals
at two, sorry, three
in the morning humidity,
you could not possibly hurt me
and I could very well
offer the most favorable appraisals
that your exes left you
regarding the curves of your pistol,
shining sincerities in our
soda can moonlight
the way we imagine
monogamy should glisten
across the full lower lip
of an actress selling beer
as if it were sweet sangria
or some aloe vera fragrance in a bottle,
petite like a frugal waitress
determined to carry a dozen plates.

letters from North Texas

you promised me letters and yes,
they were delivered.

so much meaning to a girl who
never had a birthday party, as
birthdays near Christmas bring
enough cheer as they come to
recover snowflakes’ edges so
rounded and spliced within life.

you had a point when you said
I could use a spine, and not the
kind between glossy covers with
cherry blossoms, peaches, the
hope that graced my evenings
before you came home to speak
of yet another disappointment
that could only emerge from my
off-white inexperience, marred
further by old crayons I still hide
beneath my almost-bed, these
almost-goals refusing to say they
are done with me, my failures in
following through with plans that
look so pretty on the porous face
of “Thank You” cards I wanted to
send, and for some reason, I did
feel that I owed you one, as well
as the signature that no one could
read in high school; they told me
to re-write it, or simply provide my
initials because we weren’t signing
anything the President reads, just
like I would be folding your grayed
boxers dusting every inch of some
up-to-date gadgetry you felt you
were entitled to, as entitled as men
should be to that perfect woman
I was, wasn’t, but could be if I only
took it easy on that small bright pint
of cookie dough ice cream, and all
the sugar I thought would stay, atop
my tongue that welcomed and asked
you to stay because you said I was
different, and I thought that this alone
was enough to fall asleep, a grin so
wide and hands enjoying the calm
of two admired breasts, awaiting an
admission of your follies and a pledge
to be yourself, to do away with deeds
you’d only distrust as an obligation.

I tore up each and every letter today,
realizing I’ve had enough time.

some dehydrated thought

there was once a time when I thought hazelnut
truffles fell from the sky, and I asked in the
middle of downtown morning traffic.

who am I to even mention traffic? I haven’t
had a car in years.

it’s an ethics thing for me, like not wearing
wooden square-bead bracelets showcasing
saints striking ten different poses.           don’t
press the gas if you can’t turn the wheel.

and don’t start conversations about certain
people who’ve received the same amount of
confidence you’ve placed in your sad self.

I watched a documentary on husbands who
can’t feel.           They mumbled their vows as
their mothers cried, like the brides would in
several months. occasionally, I stare at the
ceiling, crumpling napkins in colorless fists.

I wonder if I’m anything like these men, if
I’ve ever really wanted anyone.

undoubtedly, I’ve always envied the act of
being, but I’ve never met someone who
taught this.           pedagogy is a loaded word
long hallowed by some who can’t order fries
without leaving behind some slap-worthy smirk.

the hazelnut truffles rest on my countertop
that begs for Clorox, just as my eyelids
calmly give up their strained resolve.

listeria

he crossed a boundary, sturdy chest pressed
by a thin, pale finger (slightly bent).

plastic ring, the sparkling pink
invites a smirk to dance:
trivial moments shall upset
this one dry face.

composing some song, uneven tempo
that awkwardly mocks mixed signals
perceived weeks before autumn.

she lost her page, calendar torn
and no one provides the correct date.

three weeks late and stalled
at another rusted bus stop.

deadline on the yellow slip,
facetious detention with which
he threatens her between four
brittle walls, barely there.

honest warnings, clipped
and tucked for years, into
striped inner pockets of
a favorite purse with color
at its fullest, unchanged.

this new emptiness grabs her
by the chin, shaking her head
as boys of the past grab busted
pens, scrawling their numbers.

to discount and disconnect
all over again.

Cats No. 112, 113, 114, and 115 of the 500 Cats Project

our barest vacancies

Plastic, glass, transparency.

You who have given your best so freely while the vanilla
inside the busted freezer solidifies so stubbornly
and stabs all youth’s sides.

Go ahead.

Run in this finicky heat and tell me if you’ve won
today’s crackling debate.

Apply all you could know into the pores, some large
and some like the point on a pencil sharper than
your thesis statement born on foggy mornings when cars
kiss backsides with force and unfulfilled hunger.

Streets keep winding regardless of the time
your eyes spent lost in smeared fine print that
never seems to make up its damn mind the longer
you take to wrap a bow around runaway reasons.

Even in houses with manicured lawns, Swarovski
figurines convulse on clean tile floors.

as he talks

you could do whatever you wanted with
shallow graves and the scales of a goldfish
who overstayed his welcome during the flood.

he was a nice man, sharing his adventures
and gently asking me why I wasn’t making
anything out of myself, although my attempts
to figure out what I truly want continue, gray
blinds remaining flat like a composure that
once spilled over, staining my frayed bluejeans
as he lost himself laughing at his own jokes.

someone could say “I miss you,” and yell
my name while I stand under bridges, confused.

such a dizzied state, encountering those
you think you’ve seen before, in the suburbs
or a busy intersection choked by sticky
hands of teenagers we sometimes resent.

satisfaction awakes us like tart and big cherries
but like wedding rings, it sometimes escapes.

we point and ask if anyone’s seen it and
if luck had itself a merry little morning, perhaps
we’ll find that shimmering solidity nestled
in nothing more than another denim pocket.

I appreciated his sentiments while the clock
swallowed hard, and I took my time to chew
on imperfectly recited advice, even if it soured
out in the open like a lonely yellow Starburst.

on resourcefulness

I press myself dutifully against the creases
of my first sofa, curling pink toes and taking
a breath here and there because I cannot rely on
the increased intensity of our 2AM releases while
we’re both so grounded in not exactly knowing how
to spell something other than “astronaut” after
they continue to ask us what we’ll come back as
when there are no more shops selling milkshakes
within the hours we both gasped at just how good
it feels to wear everything backwards (everything).

slow it down, the lights don’t sleep like you
assume I can’t, and this is unusually fine with me
as you stub your toe on tables in ways I don’t
understand like the laws of physics multiplying in
heat while anyone with pity says my fear and lukewarm
speechlessness run to each corner of my faded paper
brain that’s more like a balloon skidding across a
sandy road with the shortest string trailing behind.

making the most of what brevity rustles on your
front porch and the flimsy reminders of old windowsills.

that’s all we have to do, and we will be just fine.