raw meat

To think that there are people out there who have felt that first day of spring some 70 times or more. It's not such a large number, you can do it on your hands with your fingers in 7 tries. But christ jesus, what a thrill, what a lifetime of pleasure. It evens out the pain, if you're lucky, and seven's lucky, let there be no doubt.

My one reference, my rock, my one sure thing let me down. It's no more than I deserve. But the night my application materials were due, I stood up watching my email, thinking, “He'll get to it. He's been busy. But he has til midnight. He wouldn't have said he'd do it if wasn't about to do it.”

The front of my scalp ached from dusk to dawn, and I could feel the cells die and promise barren fields of fetid turf for what time I have left. I woke and sure enough my greatest fear and insecurity were sitting at the table having breakfast, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. Somehow I was granted a reprieve, begged and pleaded with another co-worker to write that goddamned letter and sent it in past due. The school I was applying to was in Boston, and apparently there was some sort of attack against our national sovereignty and sense of security, so exceptions were being made. Anyway, I found out today I was accepted, and a couple of years from now, I'll have a doctoral degree and a life's lesson.

Not that you would know it to look at me. I show up to work bleary-eyed and hopeless. Sixteen books in a row (16, no lie), and every single one the same goddamned themes, namely horses, men of god and poverty or hunger. This last one is just too close, and I sat behind the wheel in the parking lot just an awful heap of a mess.

* * *

They used to sell these pocket histories, but nowadays, I suppose all of written human history could be squeezed onto a stamp-sized piece of silicon. Do you know that you can squeeze your whole body through a stamp, given the right approach? You can.

Instead of pocket histories, I live pocket lifetimes. My dreams of late have been so out of the normal, sometimes I swear I wake up with a foreign accent. God, my chest hurts so much, it feels like someone has hung lead weights on the four corners of my heart. At once we are walking hand in hand down cobble stone streets, our lungs full of fish guts and niter, then we're at a tiny table ordering le plat principal. Do the faces know us? Is this weekend a pocket lifetime? I can imagine pressing it closely against my hip.

Once a year, I cannot sleep. I anticipate you sneaking into within, in the dark. In the dark, I say I know this line like footprints of a ghost, I know this tiny spot on your cheek. I trace the ridges of an eyebrow without ever touching, how well I remember the contours. You smile, and my hand recoils, the muscle memory of electric shock.

In the morning I open my eyes, and you, cheek-in-palm perched on elbow above. Have you been standing guard all night? I ask, and the faintest nod. I sleep like I’ve forgotten there is a world at all, it is my great shortcoming. The corners of your mouth turn up into the faintest of smiles, but your eyes say nothing.
Near our house there is a storm pond, and in the afternoon a boy and girl walk its banks. The boy throws stones into the water, while the girl fans out her hair in the sun, and I lament this is all gone, all in the past. The arc of the stone is a path you can see, but never hold. Her hair the threads of a museum tapestry you can ponder, but never touch.


Claire said…

Will you be in Boston or doing some remote/long distance learning?

If the former, you'll be in my quasi neck of the woods. :)
Brandon said…
They opened a Seattle campus, so the studies will be out here. There is no residency requirement, but I will probably come to Boston once or twice. I am embarrassed to say I've never been!
eclectic said…
Congratulations, B. That's fantastic news!
Brandon said…
the best news is that the classes don't muck up the enchantments trip. yikes, it was close, though.
Summer K. said…
This is lovely in that frustrating way reading you always is. (I can read the words, but never know your mind.)

Also, congratulations. Your insufferable-ness is sure to reap many of the rewards associated with doctoral study. I fear for your poker associates, though.
Kerri Anne said…
Congratulations! Doctor. That accolade suits you.

Brandon said…
Summer, i do not always know what I'm thinking myself.

Kerri, I've suffered long enough as Mr. Rogers.
I'll be finishing the long road to the Ph.D. this Fall. The irony of the Doctor of Philosophy thing isn't lost on me, since my training in biochemistry lends me nothing in the realm of an appreciation of or ability to explain Camus. Nevertheless, I want to fly to wherever you are in two years' time just so we can greet each other repeatedly with vigorous handshakes while blurting out the title, 'Doctor!'. This would make it all worthwhile.
Brandon said…
Don't forget prescribing painkillers. We're going to prescribe lots of painkillers.

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