Dear Kelsey, 

Your lamp started flashing, accosting me, as soon as I took out my suitcase today. I’ve never understood his words; you acquired him while studying abroad at that Butoh studio in Prague. I found it odd that you had to go so far away for a dance class, or that there were enough people practicing Butoh in Prague to compose a collective. However, you made it seem normal at the time. That’s a talent of yours, the way you turn anything out of the ordinary possible.

Anyway, he wouldn’t shut the fuck up. The stained glass shade kept turning ‘round and ‘round,  rocking his copper base back and ford. He had a metallic vibration in his voice, which he used to call me what I assume to be every Czech expletive he could conceive of. I removed his bulb. The image of nativity on him went dark, and I was reminded of how odd he looked in a room with an otherwise sterile, off-white coloration.

Then, with lamp dulled and muttering, I heard the whole house murmur, everything talking over each other. Your unwashed laundry called me a bitch. I would usually wash it out on Thursdays, but the smell was too much that last time. It reminded me of the weeks before you got into grad school, when you wouldn’t sleep, wouldn’t talk, just wait and eat and at times stare at me. You thought I hadn’t noticed, but all your senses turn to touch with me. I always knew when you were looking, like a pinch at the base of my skull. 

My clothes went foul a while ago. My undershirts wanted to smother me.


Suddenly, I’m shot back to before. It’s loud, people loud, loud and sweaty and anxious. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m anxious, alone and anxious. I keep drinking, and then I can’t stop falling. I don’t know where I am. I don’t know where to go. A friend of a friend had invited me to this six-story walk up, a party where I know noone and I don’t know anything. I hear myself falling, against the wall, and I hear the wall squirm.


The noise of your world collection grew louder as I packed. The drapes were confused by why I hadn’t left earlier, months before now. The carpet was thrilled to see me go after all the wine stains, and your walls agreed. There was still a hole next to the mirror by the bedroom door, and it had assumed that I would patch it at some point. There were a lot of dents I had neglected to acknowledge over the years, so I understand the resentment.

Then there were the bookshelves, one in the bedroom next to the window and one by the front door, filled with stuff you’d never read because you had life to live. You were just buying the time it would take to read them, and the journals that were tucked away fulfilled a similar purpose, never to be filled. I don’t read, but I leafed through them occasionally. Sometimes you would read to me from a book you loved, and I loved those stories because they were then inextricably part of your voice.

It started to dawn on me, while I gathered my socks, how little I owned. I found a pair of gloves you bought me last summer on sale at Ollie’s, a painting I had made for a friend that I hadn’t seen since some distant August. I found headbands, t-shirts, 3 black dresses, a toothbrush, some other assorted toiletries, and a shoe box with unworn heels. That’s all. I borrowed the rest from you.

I zipped up the suitcase as best I could, as broken as it was from your trips and excursions. You go everywhere, across every continent, you’re trilingual, you want to see everything once. You let me travel with you from a safe distance, only through the stories you’d bring back, and the new things acquired with new voices. You kept them all in storage, with me, and they were to be preserved. Every memory should have stayed perfectly still, never faded, unblemished.


“Jesus, look, this girl is fucked out of her mind.”

“Who brought her?”

“God she smells, like, not just vomit smell but, like, something gamey.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Like something bloody or feral.”

“Maybe she just wandered in.”

“What should we do with her?”


I dragged out the suitcase from the bedroom while the bedroom told me to fuck off and die a better death. Their disdain repelled me, though if I were to look back on our bed I know I would have slipped back in. She had gone silent, frozen from the night my undershirts were soiled. I shut the door.

The living room was nearly empty. People had been over for the past few months taking things. Many objects seemed relieved in this, wanting to be anywhere but with me. The jade elephants had happily gone to your mother’s, the coats and sweaters to your sister’s, your Wheel of Time collection to Aunt Carol. Distant cousins and cousins of cousins came by and took the rest. 

I thought again about how little I owned, about all your totems, your conquests, your journeys. The four-foot fan you bought in Fukuoka, the grandfather clock you lugged home from Vienna, all the drums and flutes and other instruments you did not know how to play. And you had me, and I was always worried about how I stood in comparison to such wonders.

I put the suitcase down in the center of the living room and sat next to it. I looked at the exit, behind me toward the kitchen. It looked as though it had been through the most intensive bleaching process imaginable. I’m not sure why some rooms were easier to clean out than others. I never cooked, so I don’t have a connection to that place like you do.

“I’ll miss you.”

I look across the room. All else stilled. It was the loveseat. Deflated, solemn, she became shallow and breathy.

“I’ve been missing you.”


I smell store bought muffins and coffee. The light peeks in through the skylight, and I’m curled up in fetal position with a Winnie the Pooh blanket. The loveseat is newish, it is soft and beige, it is supportive. I could sleep here all day. I could get used to this.

She enters from the kitchen barefoot in a black hoodie with Jack Daniels printed in white across her chest. She’s smirking at me like she’s waiting to ask me to do something for her.

“Do you like poppyseeds?”

“When there’s lemon involved, yeah. Is that what those are?” I say.

“Mhmm, I ran out an hour ago to grab them.”

“That’s so sweet.”

I start to peel myself from slumber.

“Don’t even think about it,”she says,”I’ll be bringing them out. I just wanted to make sure you were awake. Looks like I caught you at just the right time.”

She pats me on the hand that holds the blanket by my chin. She must have had her muffin already; she smells like citrus and sugar and menthol. Then she’s gone.

I close my eyes and settle back in.


“You haven’t slept out here in a long time,” said the loveseat.

“Why would I choose you over a mattress?”

The love seat sank some more.

“It’s not a logical thing. It’s just, y’know, you weren’t the only one receding. And isn’t the frame broken?”

“How do you know that?”

“I heard her last week. After she found you…”

The loveseat trailed off. Non confrontational as always.

“You can comfort her when she gets back from her world tour,” I said, 

“What are you talking about?”

I became statuesque.

“Is it just easier to pass if you think she’s away only for a little while? As if she abandoned you?”

“She’s only gone on vacation. Without me. Again.”

I breathe in, sharp.

“And she’ll come back here. You’re a part of her, you know that.”

“You people aren’t your decorations, not the pieces like me.”


It’s 5 pm. I’m in her bed this time.

 It’s been six months. At a certain point I had to tell her that I had nowhere else to go, that I could not trust myself. There she is, taking me in, sitting up, cross legged in front of me.

“How long have you known?”

“A little after I fell in your living room for the first time,” I said, “maybe since before then. I’ve always been good at hiding it, even from myself.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were a stranger at the time. And when I got to know you…”

She looks not in my eyes but at my forehead. She kisses the temple, rests her head on mine.

“Please try not to be so proud again.”

“It’s not out of pride.”

“Then just practice asking for help,” she whispers, “you’ve got someone on your side.”

I don’t know what to say. I let her kiss me more.


I stood up, ready to go, but I went too fast. I collapsed, catching myself on the side of the loveseat for support.

“Woah. Here, take a moment.”

She still felt warm. She was not as firm as before, but she felt just as soft.

“You smell like honey,” I say.


I’m in the doorway. It’s 6 am.

She’s out somewhere, and I’m back home. Her home, not mine.

I don’t own anything. I pull everything that isn’t mine from the cabinets. That is everything there is.

I’m slurring, and I begin to hear your home try to save me. 

You’re not here. What this place thinks is bullshit if you’re not with me to tell me I can trust it. That I can trust myself.

I love you. I love the way the way the way you make me feel and the way Tito’s hits the roof of my mouth and how it is like water that turns to tears the minute you drink it.


I was curled up on our loveseat.

“I can’t stay here anymore.”

“You can’t stay anywhere.”

“Nowhere must be better.”

“Nowhere doesn’t mean sleep, darling. Nowhere is a decision you make. It means you want to leave everything behind.”


There isn’t anything to replace me with, I know, and my head is spinning. It’s like before, I am spread out everywhere. The wall squirms, the floor squirms, my feet shatter, and my head balloons, pops, goes limp, rests upon my shoulders.


I gave way to the cushion. I sank into our place, your place, to somewhere I cannot be found. That suitcase is still there right next to the loveseat, next to me, where I wrap myself in Winnie the Pooh again. 


“what did you do what did you do

what what nonononononodon’tyoufeelme

 come on breathe say something.”


When are you coming home?




Bright and early this very morning, I challenged the rising sun.

Now within my winter years, I thought of this challenge as a conciliatory shake of the hand to that which is responsible for the persistence of life. I leaped out of bed, made my declaration in a booming baritone, and marched out the front door sporting only undergarments.

All logic was absent. No abnormality of health loomed over my head. I oversaw operations at Mast General Store the day before, as poised and dignified as a veteran manager can be. Not even a week earlier I had jogged into downtown Waynesville with my baby girl Necia riding upon my back. This had always been her preferred mode of transportation.

All this being said, I had a spontaneous yearning to throw myself toward open sky, and death was but a small part of that glorious provocation.

I galloped nearly fifty feet from the front porch, from the home that I built, that my wife had once painted what was now a fading sepia. I laid with outstretched arms at the base of the steepest hill. My bare back settling into the muck, the earth hummed far beneath the mire.

In an instant, a weight came over me. This force upon me, it made me sink into what was now a bubbling brook, formed perfectly around my body’s outline.

Finally, radiance curled across my hillside, and I embraced the day. All below disappeared, and I was sinking into open air.

What had once been my world was melting over me. All within me was to be illuminated. I became a lone lantern, a tributary beacon. To what cause, I do not know. At long last this silence, this true divinity, this unspoken word, this deity, came to me in the most terrifying of forms; memory.

My weary, bloodshot eyes wrenched open, not of my accord, and peered out from within a youthful mask. I had been thrust within my previously shed skin, a misplaced garment from my youth. The flesh fit soft and tight, both forgotten sensations. I relished in them.

I was a boy again.

All came into focus,

And there he was.


We stand together deep in the forest where he raised me through boyhood. It was his settlement, a promise to himself, his only security. A cabin with shoddy foundation, this is where I grew up much too fast. This is where I stopped remembering, retaining much of anything. At this point, Momma had long ago lost a hard fought battle with the “shakes”. That’s what papa called them, “shakes”.

A summer breeze whips around my hairless legs.

I saw him. I saw Papa about to take his nightly walkabout. I was not worried, never worried, because sure enough he would always stumble back. Tonight, however, he left something behind. Shining, silver-lined, leather bound, swinging gently from a hook near the front door.

I wanted to take away my inside pain. However frightening the night may be, Papa held no fear. Before me was his secret to chase it all away.

So, I took it.

I took his medicine.

Not much later, I took to the toilet.

Bile like boiling water singed my gullet, liquid colliding across the bathroom floor. I dropped the flask in the mess.

Then all went numb.

I picked it up. I kept it.  I took a step. I fall, and I’ve become the mess.

Early morning. Still laying in sick. I squeeze the bottle, holding the cork in place with my pointer finger. A hollering in the distance prompts me to pick myself up, saunter into the kitchen, and peak out its window. Papa’s galloping back, sweating. He falls across the fresh grass like he’s torn a hamstring. From a clearing in the trees, a halo of luminescence revealed a smile a mile wide spread across his filthy face. He laughed to himself. Then, noticing me at the window, he tilted his head back and howled in delight. I smiled back and became his echo. We were the same. We were both entirely the same.

We were both entirely the same until Papa laughed one too many times.

I drank that day.

The memory from that point shatters beyond salvation. I looked on as it all fell apart.

Then warmth, without warning, fell upon me. I turned to clay, an amorphous making of a man.

All around was a comforting, midnight green glow. I looked to my feet in the dark, wiggled my toes. The ground beneath them, I noted, had turned to a clear, vibrating glass that tickled my soles. I had a premonition that a storm was gathering. As soon as such a thought crossed my mind, clouds condensed above my head. I looked to them, and so it began.

Cascading floods rained upon my naked body. The downpour filled my eyes like uncontrollable tears, but to me it was a cleansing shower. Purification seeped into every crevasse, fracture, empty space.

What was once water then became the biting, vengeful drink. I drowned, and against the drowning I did not struggle. There was no air to reach for, and sleep soon found me. It would have been perfect farewell to consciousness. If not for a gentle yet powerful hand, which pulled me out by the hair, back into the world.

Necia holds me. She is a woman, self-medicated in her own way. The child is dead and gone.

Her disappointment, her shame, her love; all attack with a ferocity beyond anything I had experienced in all my journeys.

She helped me to my feet, led me inside. From there we part ways.

I attempt to persuade her. I’ve been gone for so long, but I’m finally back. I am changed.

Necia reminds me this isn’t the first time I’d thrown myself away.

Tomorrow I’d be the same. I’d be entirely the same.

“I fought against the rising sun.”  I declare.

Despite herself, Necia produces a weak, wounded smile.

That was all I needed.

Throwing back my head in laughter, I begin my tale again.