Saturday, July 25, 2009

Newton's Third Law

She touched him on his back. About three-quarters of the way up. Halfway between left and right.

In that place behind the heart.

“I’m claiming this spot as mine,” she said. “It belongs to me.”

“Oh, really?”


Her fingertip followed the edges of a mole’s imperfect circle.

“And why is that?” he said.

“Because it’s the only place on your body that I can reach, and you cannot.”

“Not true. I can’t touch all sorts of parts. My pancreas, for example, is just out of reach.”

Her nail dug in a millimeter. Or three.

“You were saying,” he said.

She resumed the soft swirls, and smiled at the gooseflesh rippling up and down his back. Thinking suddenly, and mistakenly, of Newton’s Third Law.

For every action . . .

“I’m even going to give it a name,” she said.

“Make it good.”

She brushed the spot with the back of her fingers, like a petal scraping up sunlight.

“Don’t leave me in suspense,” he said.

“Okay. Just thinking.” She cleared her throat. “So I hereby dub this country The Land of—”

She broke off.


“Pay attention, dummy. I’m trying to spell it out for you.”

Her finger slid slowly down, and then flicked to the side. Like a person deciding at the last second to cross a street.

“L,” he said.

Her finger circled the mole, which sat in the land behind his heart, and a scapula rolled in response.

“O,” he said. “But this is too easy. It’s reminding me of my least favorite superhero. You know the one? Master of the Obvi—”

Her finger curved, and curved again. Stopping just shy of infinity.

“Esss,” he said, and frowned.

“You should have more faith in me,” she said. “Even when I don’t seem to deserve it.”

“I'd agree to anything right now.”

Her finger drew vertical and lifted. Then a slash through the middle of the line. To make the last letter, but also a symbol of sacrifice.

“There,” she said. “All done.”

She brushed her hands together and placed them in her lap.

“Mm,” he said. “I see.”

She stretched out beside him on the rug so that they could look into one another’s eyes. Her feet curled to the bend of his knees. The shadows of the fireplace’s flames licked at the walls of the room and danced across their canvas skin. Painting perpetual motion.

She smiled at his pinched forehead. “I confused you.”

“I’m just not sure I get your meaning.”

She got a little closer. So he got much closer. They found the equal for every body part, and its opposite, too.

“It’s simple. Whenever you’re feeling lost, I’ll touch you right here.”

She placed her palm and fingers over the spot—about three-quarters up his back, halfway between left and right, in that place behind the heart—and pushed his full weight into hers.

“And I’ll find you once again.”


I'm sure most of you saw this photo awhile back.
But I'll link to its story in case you didn't.
Photo courtesy of Archaeological Society SAP.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Here, There, and Everywhere

At some point, it must be asked.

What if I’m ordinary?

I mean, would that be so bad?

Would life become a hollow enterprise, and would my bones care after I died?

There is such a drive to be special. To have that specialness make people love us. Because that’s what all of us really want. To be loved. That’s what I want, anyway, at my most basic level. Whether it’s the love of my husband, which cups me gently between its palms, or the love of a reader who’s never met me, which isn’t really love at all, of course, but more like the warm silence around a song.

What would happen if everyone in the world loved me, either like a warm silence or like a cup? Would that kill the urge to be special? To make a mark?

I doubt it.

You just have to look at celebrities—and I’m not talking crazy celebrities like Lindsay Lohan, but good celebrities like Paul McCartney—to know that the need never really fades. Maybe Paul doesn’t think he needs to be loved. Maybe he sees his music as something like rainwater from galoshes: it just has to be poured out. But why still distribute and perform it, then? Paul McCartney’s not going to get any more special. Once you’ve written, “Blackbird,” you’re about as special as they come. But the man wants to know that he still matters. I was here, damn it, and look how much they loved me (and more than John, right?). I just packed the new Citi Field Stadium, for god’s sake, 44 years after making thousands of girls lose their voices in Shea. I was The Cute One.

All in all, the drive to be exceptional is probably a good one if kept in proper perspective. We get things done. We aspire toward new heights. We create art. Impress others. We want people to love us, and maybe they’ll be special in a way that sings to us and we’ll give them our love in return.

When it becomes dangerous is when the need to be loved, to be validated, to make that eternal mark just doesn’t happen. Maybe we’re not that special. Or maybe we are, but not how we want to be. Not enough. Never enough. That’s when the need to be special just clobbers the heck out of a different kind of love.

The love for oneself.

My husband (another Paul) and I talked about this last night. I was down because I’m reading this truly great book by Jonathan Safran Foer, called Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, while also working on my own novel. I said that I could never write anything comparable to this book. Not even close. It's like apples and oranges. A Mozart opera, and "Rock Me, Amadeus."

He very sensibly told me that I didn’t have to. Write that book. That my writing is a lake, and Jonathan’s writing is a lake, and lakes don’t drain one another or cross. My goal is to focus on my lake (okay, he said all of this much better than I am). I liked that. I felt very much like I was cupped, gently, between his palms.

Now to hang onto that feeling, without doing anything at all. And then to focus on that lake. That rainwater in my galoshes. Because I want to let it pour.

Without sucking the soul dry.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Like Water for Wine

Feeling for the last place on his body untouched by scars, he slashed its skin with her blade. Massaging his wrist, so that blood might flow as swift as memory.

A glass waited.

Two years. For two years, he sacrificed precious drops so that she might drink the living wine, and know his heart. Into every bottle he corked sang his song of the hour. Poured for her hunger, from a longing to be tasted. They could not talk. Or touch. Her father would not permit the union.

But love scoffs at smallness and laughs at divisions. And so she nightly drank his contraband emotions, dropping some token from her window to demonstrate her understanding. To let him touch her intoxication.

A red ribbon from her hair after gulping a smoky pinot noir. Days later, a copy of Don Quixote to clot despair's dry-dry river. Later yet, a pocketknife to cleave his pain in two.

He pressed the blood from its puckered wound. More sluggish now. The glass shattered and reassembled within his lucid dreaming. He reached for her final gift.

A dress. It smelled of skin and sex. Sorrow, too. He buried his face in its folds. No water left in his rind to squeeze any tears.

The night before, upon consuming the most potent blend of his ardor and need, she flung off the dress and erupted into flames. He watched her hair ignite, the ashes dancing downward to finally caress his face. To kiss his lashes.

To weep at division.

He drank from his glass. Allowed the liquid to take its final shape. Ready.

His eyes widened as the heat arced and scattered within him. Mapping the bitter, but also the sweet. The room wobbled, then flipped like an hourglass. Shady molecules sharpened back into atoms.

With his last drop of strength, he grabbed her red ribbon and circled the tourniquet around his forearm.

Pulling with the ageless wisdom of teeth, bones and terrible sinew.


Although I didn't take part in Jason's In Vino Veritas short fiction contest this time around, I have been reading some of the wonderful entries. And sure enough, was inspired to come up with something of my own. If you weren't aware of his contest yet, you have until July 15th at 11 p.m. EST to enter a piece no longer than 250 words (er, don't count mine), based on his theme and photo. Best of luck to everyone involved! And big applause to Jason and his co-host, Jaye Wells, for another great contest.

I also wanted to say that I have been taking a break from blogging lately to focus on my family and novel. So I'm sorry for not getting around and responding like I should (because of my delinquency, too, you shouldn't feel obliged to comment here...I'll feel too guilty!). But I truly hope you're all enjoying the wonderful season!!