I moved to New York City in summer 2018, and I arrived with a laundry list of things to track down. Knife block, reading chair, barber shop, gym, general sense of direction. Life was a fresh page in the open air. I got to write in whatever direction I wanted.
Those early, hopeful days were exhausting and invigorating. One evening, I walked home from The Container Store with two fifty-pound shelves, my arms shaking as I weaved in and out of everybody going everywhere. I arrived home and sprawled myself across the rug, groaning and laughing. What was I doing?
They were lonely days, too. Packing up and starting a new life in your late twenties means sorting out community all over again. I read books in gay bars, wandered the park, met boys for dates, banking on the hopes of stumbling into somebody who felt like home. It was, for some time, a wash.
I began a ritual: On Sunday afternoons, I slung my messenger bag over my shoulder, bid my apartment adieu, and wandered to the closest coffee shop. There, every week, I would write –– write whatever came out, words jumbling out of my fingertips, heart spilling meaning out onto the coffee-stained table.
I called these Sunday posts, and I shared them every week. If it matters to you, I’ve told presentation audiences several dozen times, give it time, energy, and space. Each week, I gave writing the room, and my spirit flourished at the opportunity to commune with itself.
As my first New York winter melted and gave way to spring, I joined a kickball league. We played on Sundays, mimosas and vodka sodas as vital bookends, and my Sunday posts became Saturdays and Wednesdays.
In 2020, the world rocked off its axis, screeching the world around us to an eerie halt. With all the time in the world, I placed my fingers to the keyboard, and nothing would come out. The tap felt dry. The meaning was missing.
So here it is, a Sunday in the back half of 2021, and my laptop is cracked open on the bus ride home.
Time. Energy. Space. Meaning.
It is in writing as it is in love and athletics: Picking back up, after a fall, takes courage and clumsy momentum.
Time and time again, I’ve written about learning to run on wobbly ankles, new skin stinging against the open air. I blame this recurrence on two things: my tendency to stumble while running and my need to find meaning from life’s scrapes.
And love. Well, love has too often been a scrape against rough pavement. The abruptness of its endings, the intoxication of the world soaring underfoot while it thrives. Never are we more conscious of the fabric of our lives than when we are healing; everything (every meal, every laugh, every rise from bed) becomes a deliberate act.
Picking this back up is an act of trusting the world to fall into rhythm again. It is a stone cast in the direction of hope, listening intently in the dark for its landing, hoping for some sound –– any sound –– that will resonate.
There is so much I hope you will know. There are so many phrases I hope you will etch into that notebook you carry within you. I hope you will trust the magic we saw together, in those days, that it will light something in you on the dark, hard nights. That you will look in the mirror and believe in your beauty, fully and without caveat. I hope I have not erased every good by stepping out into the night and making my way home alone.
I hope and hope and hope. It spills out of my mouth every time I’m not mindful. I hope, and I hope I can keep my hopes from drowning out what’s here and now.
I’m sorry. I wish my words could do more and I wish I had the wherewithal not to dump them out on the floor like they can.
I hope you will keep love letters until they yellow, and then I hope you will keep on keeping them. I hope you will go on believing that nothing dies, that those melodies go on circling several mountains ago, mountains you can visit. Close your eyes, tap your feet. Remember.
I’m sorry. I hope, and I hope, and I’m sorry.
It seems to come as surprise that I do not cry very easily. Perhaps I seem like a crier, a gentle spirit, a man unafraid of his emotions. But, when I feel the floods of anguish rising and crashing against my sternum, something in me holds those tears back.
I cry the most when I write and run. I write and I run on my own. These are facts, and I don’t think they exist by coincidence.
I am terrified of being alone, but I think I am more afraid of being rejected. I wonder, sometimes, if I have made a terrible habit of packing my things and slipping out because I cannot bear the thought of being ushered out. This worry weighs heavily, solid, in the indigo nighttime. In the gold-soaked morning, I find, it is often nowhere to be found.
I’ve written since I was young, told stories since the moment words found me. Writing is simultaneously an act of letting go and keeping hold. I rearrange words until I think I’ve really said it, the closest thing to what I’m carrying around with me, and then I can be sure I haven’t missed anything.
And yet I go on missing everything and everybody. Building ahead and wondering at the people who didn’t come forward with me. Spilling words across the floorboards and racing to tidy them up. I cry when I write, and I hope, and I’m sorry, and I go on hoping you will know.
the city is a museum, haunted, and every exhibit is your face, and yours, and me, memories grafted by a hundred thorns, new skin against the open air, i tremble with feeling after feeling, the after, and why were you so easy to learn
shut my eyes on the train, tilt my head, and it plays like a DVD scratched, looping stammered speech and trembling lips, anger and bruising, shut this off
there are a hundred things i want you to know, but only one of them matters, not the flowers i planted in your name, nor the way i hate every fucking thing i’m going to miss, just that i’m going, and i know it, i know it, i know, but i go on rambling anyway
there are rivers wrung down my colorless face, lift my gaze to find a woman watching, teary, she nods and i do, community amidst the roar of forward motion
home is a lonely finish line, the soft gold glow, and i collapse to a rest, love by attrition, cracked wide open for the sake of tomorrow, and you linger alongside me, so very hard to unlearn
fuck, my cry fills the living room, shard of glass in the rug, glare it down, rake my palms over and over and over and toss it into the trash to die alongside a kleenex with a single kiss of blood
the next morning there are two, and then four, and then i am piling them up, jagged pieces on the countertop, wonder aloud can i make a whole of all these sharp edges?
realizations arrive like the weather but my feelings are a climate shifting, slow to act, slow to wrench these damn fists apart, let go of the rhythm of dying things, but once the blood collides with white cotton it will not go unremembered
no more sad poetry, i chide these hands, and there i am, rolling out the rug, musical clatter of my broken edges spilling across the cradling floor
boardwalk beneath the knowing moon, left the party in our wake and we don’t look back, count the blue-lit planks as we swap stories like trading cards, holographic detail, holding each of our outstretched histories, and here we are
there is so much noise here, did you know a group of expectations is called a commotion, and suddenly there is quiet, steady splashes of water licking at the edges of borders manmade, yearning out loud to kiss that old, broken shore
in my hands, on this bench, i twist the truth out in plain sight, and you see without blinking, singing about the threads of fate in a moment we both know to be singular, somehow, the rarest, most exclusive party of the evening
there is flourishing in the breaking apart, joy in the absence of artifice, all that we let go to make room for what might bear fruit, truths immemorial and newborn, here in whispers
backwards hat and sideways smile, always laughing at the inside joke you just started putting together, a treasure trove of misplaced trivia, galaxy indigo and gold
heavy is the heart that wears itself too seriously, you lift a glass to the hard-earned magic of finding levity in the broken places, hands still committed to holding every feeling in hard-edged honesty
sorry i’m running late, you say, it’s just i bumped into an idea i hadn’t before considered and my palms wouldn’t rest until they pushed magic out into this dreary realm, and i’m here now
twist of phrase, eyes like breaking dams, at once ironic and sincere, devotee to mischief for the sake of mischief, wandering bard, singing from the depths of crushing dives, indigo, indigo, and here now
so many song lyrics fell off the page, spilled themselves into bright wild color, the moment you wandered into the room
some bundle of months ago all my poetry was lonely and wanting even the most hopeful stanzas stained with ache ’til the gray came to pause, glowing idea: the next man to place flowers in my open palms, already out there somewhere
lion stretched out beneath the gold-flecked sky, can you fathom the fields of flowers you’ve left planted in the wake of your touch, do you notice the way i exhale poetry after every inhale of you, the soles of your feet against my outstretched leg, hold my shoulders steady while you sleep on the long train ride home
you are the spark of wild freedom against the dimly lit dance floor, the full body laughter echoing golden ripples into the living room, passion and purpose, the flowers handed sweetly over after the gentle kiss hello
i am writing, hands moving feverishly, the fight to capture every inch of this, snapshots of a life under sunlight, flourishing, flourishing, tectonic shifts frozen to this young, free, breathless moment in time
a love that wanders in and rearranges all the furniture, places plants along the windowsill, stretching toward the sweet ache of sunlight, makes a home of these empty arms, the new beginning of finishing touches
a thousand crumpled-up loves on the floorboards, the love that felt like a hurricane chase, wind-swept hair and heaving lungs, the love that felt like shaking in the rain, shared umbrella, can we make a world of our own, loves that whisked me along city streets, loves softly scribbled on coffeeshop napkins, loves sung on drunk night walks home
a summer in wine-soaked sentiment, images rising from the bright orange blur, the clink of glasses against nighttime melodies, a kiss, like a dance, and our eyes widened, do you feel it too, a tangle of arms finding each other in the dreaming hours, this, here and now, the story exhaling and stretching itself across these open palms
bare my shoulders beneath the wanting sun, footstep slaps against the concrete walkway, i am missing your lips on my outstretched neck, cut my inhale short so as to make room for your name, the things i have pulled down from the walls so as to adorn them all with you, and
please don’t fall in love with your pleasant reflection in my open eyes, please don’t like me best when i’m shifting shapes, or break into a smile only in the moments i give chase, my collarbones catch the sweat in small rivers, pooling on top of my suntanned skin, i need to believe you’ll still love me in the January gray
i wish we untangled as naturally as we tangle, wish the knots didn’t have a knack for finding themselves once our fingers wander away, i wish i’d unlearn, once and for all, that my love is too heavy, pretending on the couch to rest my full body weight against yours and you whisper, why are your elbows shaking?
catch my reflection in an abandoned storefront and i am surprised at the golden slope of my shoulders, eyes open and wanting, i am mouthing along to the melody, believer in holding the love we deserve in our fate-etched palms, what distance can we carry one another, and how do we train fists to let go
we were all there once, fire burning in our bellies, sealing ourselves shut at the windowsills, choking back smoke and calling it air, as though we might change our shapes by lying about our names
someone tells me i kiss like i’m hungry, and i wonder if it’s because i believed for so long i’d go starving, decided some passions would stay out of my reach, do i kiss every time like it might be my final meal
peel myself back from your body for the moment, take you in, here we are, wanting and taking in the light of day, teach me how to whoa in the bedroom mirror, laugh between kisses because we still can’t believe we grew up to be seen quite like this
you will not have missed pride if you don’t get the tickets, cannot forget what you paid to be standing here now, all our bodies are prisms pieced together in the shattered aftermath, spilling color by nature of our existences, climbing the concrete walls