A life in the valley.

Before I left, he threw me onto the bed and asked me what I wanted. What I would ask for if he could give me anything in the whole entire world. The early spring sunlight had filtered in through the dirty windows, their beams casting light onto the skin of my bare thighs, dry and white after such a long, brutal winter.

“I think I belong in Napa,” I said, after giving the question some thought.

I could see it in my mind already. The rolling hills set into rows of blooming vines, lifting and dipping with the shape of the land. Equal parts working girl, designing labels and scheduling shipments of barrels, bringing life to a fledging winery through social media management and some brilliant sorcery involving public relations. And then the other half…afternoons in dusty jeans, pruning branches bent with the weight of mature fruit, tanned skin scratched by vast brambles of pinot noir grapes. Some wealthy couple to fund the place, be the business brains while I tended the land, night after night in a guest-house decorated with iron chandeliers and hand-scraped walnut floorboards.

My Californian dreams and a Midwestern lust for land. The perfect marriage.

“Ha!” he said, dipping the mouth of a bottle further into my glass. “This is the closest you’ll ever come to any of that, sweetheart.”


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Hot child in the city.

It was so hot that day in Marissa’s back yard, I thought that the sweat was going to start bubbling right out of my skin.

Marissa was restless. She writhed around on her sunscreen-coated towel and squinted in the sun. The radio we had set up on a rickety TV tray next to the garage blasted tinny pop tunes through metallic speakers. Sounds of the summer.

It was the end of July and the grass beneath my beach towel was dry and prickly. I squirmed on my towel just like Marissa, two pieces of teenage bacon, jumping and popping in a skillet. Twigs poked my back through the worn towel. I adjusted my blue bathing suit, turned to ask Marissa to tie the straps under my armpits and behind my back so I wouldn’t get any tan lines.

Neighborhood kids squealed through an oscillating water sprinkler nearby.

“I’m so fucking bored,” Marissa droned, bolting upright on her towel.

I propped myself up on my elbows, and squinted.

“So. What else do you want to do?”

Just then, we heard a knock on the side door. Marissa arose slowly, the sinew of her browned limbs stretching in the heat.

I craned my neck to see what the noise was around the corner of the house and followed Marissa to the back entrance of her house. A tall, scruffy man with brown hair and a sweat-stained t-shirt was attempting to clasp a leather tool belt around his waist and maneuver the metal screen door open at the same time.

“Are you the TV guy?” Marissa asked, tossing her blonde hair to the side. Her cable had been out since last Thursday and the subsequent days had been fucking torture. The black void of No TV-land  had driven us out of the cool air conditioning and into the sunshine where were had browned and baked and bitched and moaned for three days.

“Yeah,” the man said, fingering a pair of pliers at his hip. “I am. Anyone inside?”

“Nope,” Marissa said. “Just us.”

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Prickly thorn, sweetly worn.

I’m going to be that girl.

I’m going to be that girl that you wonder about. The one you think about when you go to sleep at night and tuck the covers in under your lonely chin. When you take her bra off, you’ll wish it was mine. You’ll pass someone on the street wearing a coat like I used to have and you’ll turn to see where I’ve gone. You’ll miss my knees. My hair, my eyes, my smell.

I’ll be a thorn in your side, till you die.

There won’t be a day that goes by that you won’t think of me. You won’t be able to walk past a restaurant without looking in the window to see if I’m there. When you go to a movie, and the lights darken, you’ll turn around to see if my face is illuminated in the crowd.  You’ll wake up in the morning and make her eggs the way I’d want them. You’ll drink your whiskey neat because that’s the way I like it.

I’ll be a thorn in your side, for always.

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Islands in the stream.

“All right,” he said. “The happiest day I ever had was any day when I woke in the morning when I was a boy and I did not have to go to school or work. In the morning I was always hungry when I woke and I could smell the dew in the grass and hear the wind, and if there was no wind I could hear the quietness of the forest and the calmness of the lake and I would listen for the first noises of morning. Sometimes the first noise would be a kingfisher flying over the water that was so calm it mirrored his reflection and he made a clattering cry as he flew. Sometimes it would be a squirrel chittering in one of the trees outside the house, his tail jerking each time he made a noise. Often it would be the plover calling on the hillside. But whenever I woke and heard the first morning noises and felt hungry and knew I would not have to go to school or work, I was happier than I had ever been.”

-Ernest Hemingway

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Two chambers.

Somewhere deep in your heart, a sharp line cuts a divide between two ventricles. Just as much as this reddened muscle beats to survive, it also throbs to live. To breathe deeply and want for everything.

Your ventricle. His atrium. Aortic tricuspid. Pulmonary pulsing. A superior vena cava and a mitral valve, rolled up in bed together on a rainy Sunday. Your papillary muscle. My coronary orifice. Tangled in the linens.

Beating. Throbbing. Pulsing. Pumping. You inhale and you exhale, but it isn’t always so simple as that.

Love in, love out. What could be hotter than a heart?

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The tracks.

The train horn whistles at 2:33 a.m. on a Saturday morning. The sound is delightful, and I don’t mind waking to it. But you stir, rolling one way and then the next before pulling the covers over your ear and groaning, softly. I smile quietly at the ceiling and watch while the curtains rumble, a soft tremor through linen as the cars roll past. If I try real hard I can hear the clanging of the blinking road barrier.

Don’t cross now, traveler. Don’t cross now.

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Home steady.

It was just the other night when you and I tromped by your old place. Snow driving down before the yellow street lamps, and hands warm within our mittens.

A few beers at the local watering hole was more than enough to remember how good it used to feel when we could just stumble down the block and collapse into bed.

Gauzy curtains hid the light of a new family going about their new lives on the third floor. I bent down to scrape the sidewalk for pebbles you could toss up at those windows. Just a few little rocks to fling at your past.

We admired the memories that swirled around that building. The ivy that shrouded the front door. You shouted a love poem towards those dusty red bricks. Towards the place you used to call home.

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