the astronaut and the jar of tomatoes

I stand over the sink in my underwear, my hair waterfalling from the hair tie I’d shoved it all into. I snap the scissors open and closed, before lifting it to the strands and snipping away. The blades weren’t the sharpest, but they did the job…and I watch the hair fall to the enamel and gather round the drain.

I’d always found cutting my own hair to be cathartic- healing.
A quiet prayer for regrowth in all ways.

I remember pushing you down into a chair in front of the sink just over a month ago, insisting you could abandon your old Barber because you had a wife now. I could hardly believe how you’d indulged my nonsense; allowed me to take my blunt scissors to your beautiful thick hair and trim it as I saw fit.
I swallow, watching a tear slide down the white enamel. It was a black smudge against the stark whiteness of the bowl. I obviously hadn’t removed my makeup properly the night before.
Then there are more tears. And as each one drops from my face, I feel my chest grow tighter.
I hear our apartment door close with a light click, but you don’t announce your presence like you usually would, and I wonder what that’s about. Had you also had a “bad day”?

I can hear you moving through the space quietly, and I imagine that you’re looking for me. I mean, of course you are.
“I love you,” I hear you say quietly. “But right now… I’m looking for your mom. We can hang later?”  I know you’re talking to Freddy, and it makes me want to laugh. You always talk to him like he’s a person. And I guess he kinda is…our person. My heart pulls again. Just a little. I think about how – no matter where he is when you get home – he always rushes over and rubs up against the side of your pants as if to say ‘I am so glad you’re here. We missed you…’

“Baby…” Now you’re talking to me.  It sounds almost hesitant. Like you already know I’m crying. And perhaps the fact that I’m not sprawled over the couch, watching some shitty reality show, is the dead giveaway. I’m hiding.

Then you say my name.

“Bathroom.” Is my unmotivated reply, and I’m almost anxious for the moment that you will emerge through the doors. I don’t turn around to face them in anticipation, though. I just wait, lay the scissors down on the counter’s edge and lean on my hands. I look at my reflection in the mirror and narrow my eyes at my face. I don’t even assess my new haircut, because before I know it you’re leaning in the door way, observing me observing myself. I turn around slowly, my hands still braced against the counter.

Hi.” You say.  Your eyes immediately go to my attire – or lack there of. My white vest is stretched so terribly at the neck that it looks distorted, and a strap is hanging carelessly off my shoulder. I know this is not sexy though; there’s a stain from the chocolate milk I had with my cereal in the centre of my chest, and the panties I’m wearing are about two times too big. In my defense, I’m wearing two pairs. I am a mess, and you… you are not. Ever. I briefly think about how my grandmother had warned me not to ‘let go of myself’ just because I’d gotten comfortable in marriage. So this… this would shame her.

“Is everything okay?” Usually you’d be amused, but by now you can see the mascara smudge under my eye, so you know not to try and diffuse this with a joke.
“I had a bad day.” I say after a pause. You walk over slowly, taking your hands out of your pants pocket.
Yes. I hope you’re getting ready to hold me.
“What happened?” The question is soft – barely a whisper. Had you thought it or said it? I am unsure. We always joke that we can read each other’s minds anyways. But I guess there’d be no real reason for any conversation if that were true. And I like talking. I like talking to you.
I like who we are when we talk.
You take my hands into yours, your steady gaze holding my shifty one.
“Nothing really… I…” I take a deep breath, licking back my lip “… my period was late. And… I know it’s often late, but… this time felt different. I felt different, and …” I furrow my brow, trying to articulate the rest of what I was feeling that was breaking my heart. You still have my hands in yours and your gaze is still locked on mine.

Before this – before you – I had always found eye contact confronting. Intimate and uncomfortable. Like I was being made to deal with something about myself that I wasn’t ready to face. Or maybe…like looking into someone else’s eyes was more about what I was afraid they’d see of me when they looked back into mine.
But this was your thing. And it was my favourite thing about you. Though I referred to everything I liked about you as my ‘favourite’ thing – this was The Favourite of my favourites. You always looked everyone in the eye. It was intense and unwavering, but also… soft. Warm.
If you were talking to someone or if they were talking to you, there was nothing that was distracting you. As though there was nowhere else you’d rather be than right there, in that moment with them. You made whoever you were listening to feel like they were telling you The Most Important thing.
So yes. You were a great listener.
It was something my mother had noticed about you too. And that’s how I knew to trust that it was true – your goodness.
“Your period was late…” You urged softly, bringing me out of my own head again. I nodded and looked down at our hands briefly, then back up at your face.
Yeah…and…and I thought to myself…what if…what if it never came, ya know? what if there was a baby instead?” my voice was quiet, but there was an audible break in it on the word ‘baby’. You were nodding, your eyes dropping from my eyes to my mouth, then back up to my eyes again.
“Do you wanna have the conversation again – the baby one?” You bite your lip.
No, we already did, and we said no baby now, right? I mean… that’s why we got Freddy…right? And he’s already ruining the couches.” I flung my hand out dramatically like the cushioned puff he’d shredded was right there in the bathroom with us, a witness to his destructive ways.
“And a baby?” I shook my head disapprovingly, “A baby would ruin way worse. They’d ruin my body. And… and our sleeping schedule, and we both love and value our sleep. We’re not ready for that….” My hands were still flying all over the place, like I was just so hysterical about this baby we didn’t have and all the havoc he or she was bound to leave in their wake.
I felt my nose prickle and my waterline grow heavy. We were both quiet for a moment.  “… did you get your period?” you whisper softly. I nod and a hot tear rolls down the side of my face. And I know what we are both really saying. There is no baby this month.
I shrugged, “And I want to feel relieved… but I just feel, I dunno – grief? And… I don’t know that I’m allowed to feel that, because…it’s not like we’re trying to have a baby. I just… I feel sad.”
“It’s okay. That’s okay…” You smooth a hand up the side of my face, your thumb dabbing lightly at the soft, tear-soaked skin under my eye. “Sometimes I get sad when you get your period too. Or when we go to your sister’s, and I see how great you are with her kids and how much they adore you. Or when we’re out and about and every infant child is just so charmed by you and your face – like they would leave their own mothers to be held by you…”
I draw in a ragged breath on a sniffle. You aren’t a wordy person, generally. Especially not after a long day. And I can tell by the fact that your sleeves are rolled up and your tie is off, that it had been a long day. I love that you’re giving me all of this anyways.
“I get broody too.” You conclude with a shrug. “Often, actually. Like sometimes I’ll just be at my desk at work, drawing up a report and I’ll think: maybe …maybe I should get my wife pregnant?”
“Agh, that’s so sweet…” I tease with a pout.
Yeah. Really thoughtful.” You nod vehemently, “In fact, when I was booking our tickets to London, all of a sudden I had this bizarre concern: how on earth would you fly if you were like 11 months pregnant? Is that even allowed?”
This. This made me laugh. And I know it’s why you said it.
“Now I’m concerned. If we’re ever gonna be parents, you’re gonna need to learn a bit more about the gestational process. For example… it doesn’t last 11 months.”
You laugh too, and push my freshly snipped bangs out of my eyes.
“Point is… I get it. But nothing is written in stone. And we can always go back to the drawing board…”
I love you, I think but I don’t say, touching the collar of your shirt absentmindedly.
Fuck the five year plan.” You whisper, ducking slightly as if to catch my gaze again.
“We could make that baby tonight if you wanted…”
I laugh and roll my eyes, picking up one of the tampons that were strewn carelessly on the bathroom vanity. I wave it at you.
Right.” You drag a hand through your hair, and shrug. “Next week then.”
I lick back a smile, and a small silence settles.
“Everything is okay.” You say after a moment, and rest your head against mine. And it really is okay. And it occurs to me that you are the first person I have ever believed.
“Remember that dream I had?” I lean back slightly and look up at you. I’ve shared hundreds of my dreams with you, so I am certain that you will have forgotten this one. “The one where there’s a nuclear explosion? and somehow we’re the only people who survive-“

You cut me off to my surprise , “And the city’s just a massive crater and we head for the mountains with nothing but-“

“- a jar of tomatoes.” We say at the same time, and suddenly I’m laughing again. Because you’ve remembered the jar of the tomatoes. Just like in the dream.
“Yeah.” I nod, and smooth a hand up the side of your jaw. “Yeah that one.”
“What about it?” I love that we’re both whispering even though there is no need.
“Nothing, it’s just… the world had ended and you said that to me then too.”
“What?”
’Everything is okay’.”
“It’s my catchphrase.” You say with a smirk.
“I know. And I always believe it when you say it. Even in the dream. I just… stopped being scared. Immediately. It didn’t matter that meteors were dropping and the whole sky was falling apart because… we had our jar of tomatoes and… I had you.”
You smile and its slow – indulgent, almost – and I’m sure you’re about to tell me how incorrigibly cheesy I am. But you don’t.
“I have something for you.” You say, and gesture in a direction beyond the bathroom.

I look down at the gigantic wrapped box, then back up at you. It’s smack bang in the middle of our living room which is also our kitchen which is also our dining room. It’s not my birthday, and even if it was, we’d already decided against gifts. Neither of us cared much for them.
But this is nice. Maybe specifically because it isn’t my birthday. But here you are, presenting me with this box that looks like it belongs under a colossal Christmas tree in the centre of the mall.
The paper is a pearlescent dirty pink – my favorite color – the ribbon, only slightly darker. It’s wrapped meticulously, and I know you’ve done it yourself. You’ve wrapped all of the gifts we’ve given. So maybe this is why your tie is no longer around your neck, maybe this is where your long day ended. I don’t know what you’ve gotten me yet, and it doesn’t even matter – my heart swells with affection anyways.
Freddy is playing with one of the strands of ribbon, eager to tear it all apart. I nudge his fluffly body with my sock-clad foot, and crouch down to touch the wrapping gently as though afraid it will detonate.
“What is it?” I ask. “ Wait…Is it the X-Files box set?” You shrug, but you’re wearing your trademark smirk.
Oh!” I widen my eyes, like my next guess is the best guess- is the one. The right one.

I’m bad at guessing. X-Files wasn’t even on my list of most urgent series to binge. I mean, the next thing to come to mind was…

ukulele.

I wasn’t even sure I wanted one of those. I wouldn’t even know what to do with it. My eyes flicked to the vintage piano that was chilling in the corner of our quaint space. We’d gotten it at a yard sale in a neighborhood we didn’t even live in, even though neither of us knew how to play.
“We’ll learn.” we’d both promised the previous owner. He didn’t care of course; we were paying him cash.
Needless to say…we hadn’t yet learned.
But every now and again we’d sit in front of it and pass our fingers over the keys like we were moments away from playing a soft and graceful duet.
I smile, and narrow my eyes at the box in front of me again.
“Is it-“
“No guessing. Just unwrap it…” you bite the side of your lip, and fold your arms across your chest. I undo the ribbon slowly, before running my finger gently along the seam of the paper, waiting for it to get caught under a strip of tape. I do this with each side, even though I can see how badly you just want me to get on with it, as though you cannot wait for me to uncover what’s inside. And when I do… I understand.

“You didn’t! two pairs?” I furrow my brows before I gasp again. “No ways- you’re gonna…”
You hold out your arms, “If I’m gonna fall on my face while on wheels, I wanna do it with you…”
I cock my head to the side and touch my heart.
“But that’s not gonna happen because…” you scratch your head, “I’m the Michael Flatley of rollerblading.”
I laugh at the Riverdance reference and remember the night we stayed up til two, trying to learn Reel Around the Sun.

We were terrible, absolutely awful. You in your socks, and me in my suede block heels and satin pajama set because it was ‘elegant’.
I remember how tight my tummy was from all the laughter, and how we lay on top of each other in a pile after our 100th rehearsal, where I curtsied and you offered me the slightly wilted bunch of sunflowers from the vase on the dresser.
I was supposed to have chucked them out two days before. But there’s something about throwing flowers out that I struggle with – that feels sinful.

I look down at the two pairs of rollerblades – one pink and the other black – then back up at your face. There are two sets of knee-pads and elbow pads tucked between the boxes too.
I want to tell you that I feel like I don’t need it – all of this extra padding. All of this protection. Because everything we do together reminds me of lying in the sun. Reminds me of the smell of freshly cut oranges. Reminds me of being cocooned in our obnoxiously heavy bedding on a stormy day.

Which is to say that it feels safe.
Which is to say that it feels like home.
Which is to say that I’m here to stay.
Even if ‘here’ is always changing.
Even if it’s always just us.

 

HAEVEN

in some life we’re together.
in a cottage that’s completely overgrown with ivy.
tucked in the nook of a quiet residential area where trees arch over the roads so densely only a few strands of sunlight spill through.
and all of the doors are unlocked and all of the windows are open.
there’s nothing bad to keep out, to ward off, to drive away.
and the neighborhood kids ride their bikes outside and play hopscotch and eat ice lollies that turn their tongues bright pink and orange.
and there’s a beautiful, golden-fleece lab and no one knows who he belongs to,
but we’ve decided his name is Buster. obviously.
and Buster’s really friendly so i’m not afraid of dogs anymore.
[i’m not afraid of anything anymore.
here.
‘fear’ is a word i’ve never heard, and never spoken].
and the postman throws the paper at our big, red door [the color of the lipstick i’m always wearing].
and we hear it as it hits the wood – a soft thud.
[there is no bad news. everything here is slow and soft]
you’re on your third glass of OJ, because here time is nothing and your coffee does not turn cold.
and there’s French toast and maple syrup and we’re never full but never empty.
we’re never empty.
and somewhere in the back garden we’ve got that pale lilac tree that won’t stop blooming,
so all of our overgrown grass is laced with lilac too. and Melody Noir is playing on a loop we never get tired of, from a record player we can’t see and don’t question.
i sit on the sunbathed porch bricks and see how many blossoms I can shove into my wild hair, and you watch me.
and it’s enough. everything here is enough.
even though it seems too good to be true, here,
nothing is a lie and everything is exactly as it seems – as we wish it.

nobody really knows what heaven is,

but maybe it will be this.

I want it to be this.

we are all just strangers, crying in public.

there’s nothing like seeing a stranger, crying in public hysterically,
or fighting with their lover over the phone to pull you out of the routine of an otherwise selfish and self-absorbed existence-
get you present to the fact that we’re literally all out here doing the same thing:

buying milk and bread.

struggling to parallel park.

setting 76 alarms for that *one* thing.

cutting our bangs too short.

trying to find ourselves.

trying to find something sacred- ANYTHING sacred,

something to sanctify.

Looking for GOD.

Finding Him.

Wandering off.

Finding Him again.
And again.
And again.

Dancing around the edge of the ditch we swore we wouldn’t fall back into.

Falling into it anyways.

Once.
Twice.
Three times.

Not forgiving ourselves.

Forgiving ourselves.

Trying to find love.

Terrified of losing the love we already have.

Terrified, period.

It’s okay. It’s all okay.

We are the same. 

So.

ease up.

And try not to be an asshole.

 

 

I will be trying too.

for you. [from the astronaut]

I wanted to give you all of the flowers in the whole damn world.
because no one had done that before.
And I mean, with good reason.
It’s ridiculous. And most importantly- impossible.
I wanted to be so… ridiculous for you.
and with you.
and I didn’t know I could be that person –
stupid-smiling to myself, looking at rings in shop windows,
thinking about camping beneath the northern lights.
naming all the stars we could see.
how trite.
I can’t believe you made me want to name a star for you.
After you.
After us.
After whatever it is that this is that I can’t get myself to name because nothing is big enough.
nothing is beautiful enough.

I was taught that love was brutal work. Hard work. Hard learning.
But this
this is as effortless as breathing.
And I always thought I resented those kinds of relationships- felt like they couldn’t be real.
couples who Eskimo kiss and hold hands all the time – even in the sweltering December heat –
and intentionally colour coordinate their outfits so that they look like a couple.
Ya know- the kind of couples who say “baaaaabe” in an annoying, whiny voice,
and then pout at each other.
Yeah, oddly specific.
What I mean is…

cheesy couples.

I resented them.
But if I’m honest…I think I was bitter that I didn’t know love like that.
I was bitter about my own cynicism and lack of faith that two people could choose each other on purpose.
every day.
in spite of this ugly place [I mean, not to be a Negative Neil– I know you know how hard that is for me].

That’s how you make me feel;
Like I could give up all the bullshit-
the distrust, the self-sabotage, the dark, dark past that I accused of shadowing me [but I was willingly towing along].

I don’t want any of it anymore.
I’m tired of pretending that I do.

I want the sun.
And your fingers in my hair.
And the long road.

I want a whole world with you.
one where we’d never hear the police sirens.
and we’d cook pasta every night – gluten free, [because I want to take care of you and I won’t let you ignore your allergy]
I’d call you ‘baby’ even when I was mad, and you’d tie the apron round my back, and read to me from that book of literary essays you have somewhere on your shelf [that you bought at that second hand book store in 5th avenue].

it’s boring as shit, but I love your voice.
and I’d listen to anything you had to say.

I’d hear it.

 

the astronaut 1.0

 

“If you were me… which would you get a friend?” You held up two completely different books. One was an autobiography by some supposedly important person. The other was a cook book.

Odd as options pitted against each other.

I was so confronted by the fact that you’d come up to me, that for a moment I just looked at you. I had been looking over at you from the shelf I was hovering in front of for ten solid minutes. I was just so …taken by your face- it was more structured than my entire life.

It was such a nice face. Continue reading

the astronaut.

 

“… outer space is incredibly sexy…” 

I laugh, “how do you figure?”
I put down the book I’ve been “reading”. I’m only on page seven. Have been for the past half an hour- for the past three nights. Because of your finger tracing the birth mark on my elbow. It’s soothing but also distracting- the kind of sensation that makes me lazy and drowsy. A perfect lullaby. It’s routine, but I don’t think you do it consciously.
“I just… I’ve always thought so.” Continue reading