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Wild as the jungles they came from,
where boas flexed around their trunks —
like my other brushes with miracles,
the men who love you back, how they come
to you, gorgeous and invasive, improbable,
hemming you in. And you walk that road
blazing, some days not even afraid to die.

~ Katrina Vandenberg



I wanted to love him more than anything. Wanted to be the one to make his galaxy spiral, wanted to be the one, the only one. Maybe I was the one. Two sides to every story, and all that. I drew on his car with lipstick. Devotion professed with L’Oréal. I was hardly devoted. I couldn’t conjure a future where we existed together, so I stayed up late at night watching Andy Warhol movies I hid from daddy. He begged me to have his baby. The boyfriend, not Warhol. By then, Warhol was long dead.

Looking into those incredible blue eyes, I wanted so badly to surrender, but I didn’t. It was a pattern. A new one, but a pattern, nonetheless. I loved how he drove his own car and how grown up he was. How he knew how to check tire pressure and fan belts. How if zombies ever appeared on the horizon he could take them, or at least die trying.

I did not love knowing I could never bring him home to meet my family. His being a player with a reputation in our small town meant this preacher’s kid kept him on the sly. Maybe not fair, but better than goodbye.

 Every time I called to leave a message I’d get so nervous. Like I couldn’t remember proper phone etiquette, but I’d take off my clothes if he asked. It was ridiculous and could not be blamed on hormones. I was so totally in awe, so totally into him, so head over heels in wanting to fall in love.

Sitting in the first row on Sunday morning, I’d stare up at my daddy as he read Matthew 10:16. With a fervor of otherworldly belief, he’d say to the congregation, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

All I could think about were those lipstick hearts washed off the side of the car. A metaphor for us. If I looked closely enough, everything was a metaphor for the us that never was. I wanted this wild, divine love to seize me and sweep us away in a current where we eloped and never returned. Whooshed to a place where we loved into the darkest nights of our brightly lit souls. But he had a girlfriend. One who moved in with him, and I had to sit quietly in church on Sunday mornings listening to my daddy talk to God. So, we drifted. A boat with a raised anchor not yet set sail. I retreated into the poetry of Billy Collins and applied to school out of state. I showed up for my college interview wearing a pair of men’s underwear, swearing in front of the Dean of Admissions. Fierce shenanigans for sure. I’d followed the laws of decorum for too long, wanted to be free of judgement and sin. Wanted to cook all my tasty morsels on the burning edge of brimstone.

Acceptance into a new university meant moving. Moving meant no more lipstick hearts, and no more sneaking out of Wednesday night sermons. No more meeting up in parking lots one town over so no one would see us. We operated on will we ever be and the miracle of moments. Moments that came but didn’t stay forever.

Without the blessing of my parents, I was always going to be the one who got away on an average day. We got so close but fell so short. Instead of becoming the one, I became the almost, the maybe, the never.



Across the parking lot of my new digs in St. Louis there was this guy. This tall, broad shouldered, sexy guy, and he was like oh my God hot, and no one wanted to date him because he was such a player. Tragic to let such a fine specimen go to waste. His daddy was a porn king. The family business. His mom counted boxes of cock rings on the kitchen counter and watched satellite TV. She gave me peek-a-boo bras like candy. He was the drummer in a punk rock revival band called Ultra Man. I thought he was pretty ultra.

I was a freshman at Webster, impressionable, writing a book on spirituality. Swear to God. He loved my book. He’d read passages out loud. We never went on a date, to a movie, or an art opening, or a long boring holiday function. Just me and him and all those peek-a-boo bras. His house was like a carnival to a girl who’d gone to Sunday school every week for eighteen long years. My family was nuts. Everything was about Jesus. Everything was about not alarming the Lord. Strict obedience to the scriptures. Thou shalt not date a porn king.

He was in a fraternity. Me, a sorority. So, there was all this kappa kappa sigma phi delta and shizz.

Naked as blue jays in the middle of his bed, most days were spent listening to Natalie Imbruglia sing, “I’m all out of faith. This is how I feel...” because one of us had lost the Leonard Cohen CD. I laid naked and bare beneath his stare until I fell asleep and semesters ended. One by one I passed my finals, but I wanted to be graded on kiss tongue whisper.

Days before I moved out of my dorm he showed up with boxes, packing tape, everything I needed to move. Away from him. It didn’t seem fair he made it so easy to make like a tree and leave.

Still, I needed the boxes, so I shut up and stopped being so existential. We had sex on my roommate’s bed, and she almost caught us. Candles burning, MC Solar playing. He hid in the bathroom and my roommate handed him his jeans. He kissed me in the candlelight, and I wanted to say, “Let’s make this forever. Like forever and ever and ever.”

But I didn’t. That’s the funny thing about forever. It was never gonna come. The last night we spent together was at the Moonrise Hotel down on Delmar. I was so angsty, didn’t want to leave, but the way the stars shone in the sky made me think of divine connections and mystic rites, things I needed but couldn’t see.

In the bathroom stall someone had written in Sharpie: Begin a New Dream. Polite, discreet letters formed right in my line of vision as I sat on the toilet and contemplated my next move. Finally, I taped the motto to my dashboard and ran off to Montana. The booze was getting to me, but the bras were still a hot perk. Too many places to go. Too many things to see. I travelled north, winding along mighty roads. His whispers followed me everywhere. Into the darkest nights. All the way into the mountains.



In Billings I met a guy over chewing gum. I wanted a piece. It’s stupid to think about what you’ll do when you’re twenty-three and meet a hot guy. Even more stupid is the fact that twirling tape around your tongue actually works better than a first line. Not as cliché as the cherry stem tied with your tongue, which has its merits after all. Bubblicious. The great seducer.

Driving a ‘68 Mustang through downtown Billings, he was older than me, a demigod in blue jeans and rugby shirts. He was everything I wasn’t. Patient. Diplomatic. Disarmingly charming. I imagined our shenanigans looked like conversations between the Professor on Gilligan’s Island and the Mad Hatter. The voice of reason meets utter chaos.

Guess which one I was? No. Don’t.

So, he had this great apartment, this great car and was, well, great. Except we weren’t exactly serious. I showed up at 3AM demanding Midori Sours. Yelling up from the bottom of the fire escape at 1AM I pleaded for pancakes and cigarettes.

Each time he opened the door or picked up the phone. Patient was his tone. So dutifully patient. He came calling with bottles of tequila, Rosie’s Key Lime Juice, and Pall Mall Filters. It was like Rapunzel. Only reversed. Because I was the girl. And there was no hair. But I climbed a tower to the top floor, where it could have been love. Except he wasn’t the kind of guy you fell in love with. Never my boyfriend. Only my friend. Which really, come on, is so much better. Because you can call your real friends at 3AM and demand they unlock the fire escape door, and they’ll do it. Except most friends don’t have sex like that. The kind that makes you swear you’ve had some kind of holy experience. The kind that leaves you spent and satiated and begging.

Tequila erased all those nagging feelings. At least for a little while. One black light. Empty white walls. No curtains and Depeche Mode. The sweetest obsession. Words like violence. My own personal Jesus.

I still remember how he leaned forward, like a great and mighty tree bending toward a flower. I was a strange girl. A vegetarian who read macrobiotic cookbooks and ate rice cakes and raw vegetables for lunch. Walnuts and tofu. Puréed bananas and raw honey. I wore cock rings as bracelets. He welcomed my weirdness, embraced the fundamentals of me in a way that no one else had. He led with his stare, those ocean-colored eyes and easy voice that reassured me over and over and over when I protested.

Someone might see us, I whispered when he pulled me onto his lap.

Someone might walk into the room.

Shhhhh, he’d whisper. Come here, he’d say.

Every time our skin touched, two galaxies collided. This violent, perfect, star-filled event that made me forget my name. I went willingly. That’s the truth.

And then he was gone. Vanished. Left for California to help an elderly aunt.

Left standing in a courtyard in the bright sunlight, I wondered what happened to the mighty, towering god who knew how to reassure me. He did not return. Not days. Or weeks. Or months.

I was mid-feeling, just about to utter a single truth when he hopped on the highway. Suddenly, nothing made me happy. Not coffeeshops, or used bookstores, or the second floor of the library where I listened to operas, tormented by Verdi’s sigh. Not even the swing set in my favorite park. I was just a smitten kitten covered in ugh.

I tried to rattle him loose from all the crevices in my brain where his sighs and silences had taken up residence. Looks and whispers pushed deeper into my memory when I went looking to sweep them away. I did the only thing I knew how to do: I enrolled in an MFA program to divert my attention from childish crush to future employment. I wrote everything down on a single sheet of loose-leaf notebook paper. Then another. And another.

Finishing sentences, page after page of what I was doing and what I wanted and oh by the way WTF where are you. When the pages were too many for my book bag or desk, I slipped them into a folder and vowed to file them away. Forever. Banished to the file folder. I’d never said the four-letter word aloud. File. You’re nothing more than a file, hipster boy. There was no worse fate.

There was no forwarding address, no phone call, no postcard, no smoke signals, no message in a bottle, no text, no email, no fax, phone, carrier pigeon. Nada. Just a rumor that he’d landed in Santa Cruz and intended to stay.

Thanks for nothing.

Which wasn’t exactly how I felt. Not entirely. There was so much more to it.

Burned. Gutted. Drama. Violent tenderness.

 I connected all those complicated feelings enough to form coherent or semi-coherent sentences full of wonder and awe, frustration, and affection.

My creative writing teacher thought I was nuts.

“You’d be such a nice girl if you stopped reading all those Ayn Rand books and dating guys that are wrong for you. I’ll never understand why girls chase boys like that.”

Because boys like that understand that Collectivism is the angry mouth that devours your soul.

I wrote and wrote. All that angst turned into a degree. My final project.

Holidays came and went. Days were longer, not quite spring.

And there he was. In the hallway of my apartment building. Staring right at me.

He’d changed. Or become more of himself. Suddenly, everything in the world was real.

I wanted to scream, “YOU! Where have you been?”

Mid-sentence again.

I didn’t know how to tell him about the novel. In the silence, he asked if he could come over. Wink wink nudge nudge.  I don’t have to tell you the answer.

He laid across my bed in the warm glow of a spring twilight and turned page after page, eyes scanning from left to right, left to right. While I fidgeted nervously with the dry skin around my fingernails, then a charm on my bag, a thread on my skirt.

Until he finally looked up at me and said, “Why didn’t you ever tell me you felt this way?”

“Because you left.”

Slowly, he leaned forward and lifted my chin, and kissed me in a way that formed new solar systems in parallel universes. We stayed like that for a long time. Until the dark settled into the empty spaces. A magical kiss, like driving on a long, winding country road during a warm summer night, where you throw your feet out the window and think nothing in the world will ever be more perfect.

Suddenly, I wanted to live on his belly, undulating on the surface of his skin, feeling laughter and breath. To wind gently down his chest and occupy that space of power between hips and solar plexus.

And this is how it was for a long time. Leaving. Returning. Departures. Arrivals.

Every time, he simply appeared. No calls. No messages. I would just turn around and there he was. I was restless and filled up notebooks with notions of forever.

Then, one night, standing in the middle of a drugstore aisle at 4AM, my eyes swept across a box. A curious box. I opened it up in the near empty store and realized it was a singing toothbrush shaped like Lady Gaga. If you pressed a button, it sang Bad Romance. Over and over, I pressed the button, stunned at how accurately the entire scene mirrored my life. For way more minutes than I should have, I considered buying that singing toothbrush as a keepsake but, instead, I waited until he was working a double and packed my bad romance into the backseat and left. I drove into the long night, thinking about all the moments that make you, but don’t take you.



I took a job on an independent film. I had always dreamed of working on a film. I studied drama in high school and while theater was like a long romance, film was the thing that really held my interest. Not the glamour. I never once wanted to be in front of a camera. I always wanted to be behind it. Film is grunt work. It’s all taping wires across the floor, and rain ponchos, and 2AM call times, and the printer is your best friend. No one tells you that so it can maintain its elusive allure. Not getting a day off wore on me, but I was able to keep up the pace because prior to that I’d been unemployed since spring.

The production company shipped us cases of beer to keep morale up. I didn’t drink beer. I really didn’t like getting drunk in front of my peers, much less my co-workers. A quick and fast drunk, I knew I’d be standing around watching everyone else get blitzed on pilsners and lagers.

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed hottie that struck up a conversation with me wasn’t cast or crew. He had these dazzling eyes that glowed every time he looked at me. And I couldn’t stop looking at the party crasher. I asked him what he did for a living. He said he built towers to the sky. Then he asked me to go back to his room with him.

I said no. He asked me to go back to his room and talk. I said no.

Then he kissed me. An earth-shattering, mind-altering, DNA reconfiguring kiss.

You know the kind.

And I couldn’t stop. Could not pull away. Like if I did, the entire fabric of the universe would begin to unravel like a single thread. A kiss full of crazy neutrons and protons, excitedly crashing against one another.

It was everything.

And nothing.

Like the space between two people where they meet but do not pass through.

You get the picture.

I was in my car, and he was standing outside the window, and the whole thing just pushed all my buttons at once. I wouldn’t go back to his room, but I took him back to my hotel at 2 o’clock in the morning, because that’s a safe, well-thought-out decision. It didn’t occur to me until the highway that I might have a total psycho riding in the passenger’s seat. All the men in my life rode shotgun. Every single one. I wanted to love. But loving was hard. So, I drove down the highway as mountains rose up on either side of the car. Behind us, a blue haze in the east shifted fast from the dark, ancient earth I’d spent years traversing.

Thanksgiving was around the corner. My family was Cherokee, so we were a mixed bag when it came to holidays. On the one hand, Indian tribes helped the Pilgrims out. On the other hand, we know the rest of that story. I found this little black dog starving on the side of the road and took her back to my hotel room. She was wild and ate the trashcan, but she loved the bed, and her and I became fast friends.

The blue-eyed hottie joined me for Chinese buffet. Holidays our way. Laying in a hotel room watching The Whole Nine Yards, it occurred to me that our love was plastic. Gas station checkout counter plastic. Glossy. Slippery. Stick on. Scratch and sniff. Sometimes stories started in mid-sentence. Ours did. We laid in each other’s arms like a box of red hots melting on the dash of a Chevy. Hot cherry-scented breath transported me back to hallways in Junior High. I giggled, tempted by the fate of sighs and thighs. The tattoo of a Thunderbird stretched across his back. Sweet honey breath tickled my hair. It was Sunday. Respectful people were praying. Remote control, ice bucket, and little plastic cups became the holy items of our sacrifice. Caught in-between the edges of lives that only fit us sometimes, we hurled ourselves headlong into the middle of a South Carolina winter. It snowed that year. Piles of powdery snow clung to Palmetto trees. Held captive by weather in a mirrored motel room, rich with the thick scent of Mongolian beef. The paper menu said he was born the year of the snake. I believe that now.

One night at 2AM, I came back to the hotel early. Like a crack in the fabric of time, I saw where he was going. I saw the endless nights, the dark rooms, the white powder, the needle, the vein, the pain. And I could not go. I could not make that journey with him.

I knew it with a fierceness and finality I’d never felt before.

That was his journey.

Not ours.

A terrible monster roared in me, because I wanted to be the one to go with him. I wanted to be the one. The one to hold a bright candle up to a soul that found no happiness, no contentment, no sweet surrender. Me. And only me.

But I could not, would not, make that journey getting to know his habit.

How badly I wanted to drink and devour him, be filled, until he peeled my layers back to reveal a skin worn to the bone, ground to a fine white powder that he inhaled. Intoxication rippled across the surface of his sighs. A placid lake of decadence lived beneath his flesh in the garden of a lush dark soul.

That night, I asked him what it felt like. He said that shooting heroin felt like floating on a cloud of titties. How I wanted to be that pair of titties. Soft, floating upwards, where the ceiling met the sky and merged. But I couldn’t go that high, couldn’t get that high. So, I packed everything in my hotel room and carried it down to the parking garage when the film wrapped. No floating for me. No pillows made of titties. Just me and my dog, and lots of time driving away. We burned across the pages of winter, a trajectory of made love never meant to last. We burned so hot for so long, but everyone knows plastic always melts.




I took another job on a film in a small mountain town. On a road headed away from intimacy, I distracted myself with work. Exhausting years of angst left me ready to watch crimson sunsets melt down into the dark shadow of a mountain ridge framed perfectly in my hotel room window. It was the last thing I saw when I returned from work to greet the homeless dog I named Harper Lee.

I thought about all my possessions packed in a U-Stor-It in Montana. Stacks of poems covering a degree I didn’t even use. With no kitchen, a neighborhood deli became my grub hub. Roasted vegetarian sandwiches, bagel with schmear, hot Angel’s Kiss coffee, and the best beignets this side of NOLA. A chick checked me out every day. I pumped coffee into my paper cup and made small talk. Except I sucked at shallow, so her and I ended up in some pretty deep conversations. A recent Florida transplant, her and I had some things in common. Raised in Winter Park about a million years ago, I’d grown up on gulls gulping popcorn I tossed in the air, sermons, saviors, and sea spray.

My days were spent collecting observations.

A cop in a patrol car yawning. A gray-haired man in ratty Bermuda shorts carrying a half-dozen roses wrapped in green wax paper. 99 cent special Chicken Cordon Bleu, large drink, small fry, now hiring. Two punk rockers sitting on a park bench, streaming World Cup games. Viva la France.

Morning fog obscured the mountains, so they looked like they were erased during the night. I slipped out of silence, into pale morning light. Autumn shifted into an Indian summer, and the perfect weather was hypnotic. Back and forth I drove from set to production office. Light fell across trees like it fell across the altar of the Winter Park Baptist Church on Sunday mornings, when my mother squeezed my hand in the first pew, my father pontificating some remarkable parable under the golden rays of God.

At the red light I closed my eyes.


Wondered why.

Go, the green light said.

Flow back into the disco of life.

Love was not a part of my diet. At least, not then. Consuming men had been the only thing I’d ever craved. A box of tenderness was not as appealing as the sip of a scent of a man. I obsessed over wanting to love, but false starts had been agonizing. All my wanting to love had taken me on a rollercoaster of emotion that dumped me off in the middle of nowhere.

I was a single girl who hated single-serve options. A complete contradiction, confused.

All my friends were getting married. Like the biggest ugh I’d ever conjured, I drove them back and forth to weddings with the same verve I’d crisscrossed the country for almost a decade. I skipped the weddings and fake hugs, opting only as driver and emotional support to those who were sad to see brides and grooms taken off the market. Long nights in my hotel room stretched into dawn. November, uncommonly warm. I took Harper Lee to the park before I went to the set. One by one, I watched all my friends marry the wrong people. I left early to avoid the awkward flirting.

Love was mind-bogglingly complicated, and what most people thought was love wasn’t really love at all. Cool kids turning thirty worried about their futures and what their parents thought. Those were the odds. They settled, here and there, for platitudes and comforts. Signs proclaiming live, love, laugh. Stubborn and unyielding, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Restless, I blazed on. Long, winding roads led me back to my bed, where I collapsed in piles of sleep.

I arrived at 5AM for a warm bagel and coffee and told the girl behind the counter everything. About dumb things we do in the name of friendship. Old grudges and grownups weeping over Shakira songs in my car on the way to rehearsal dinners. Convinced the only meaningful relationship I was ever going to have existed in a parallel universe I couldn’t access, I watched everyone say I do but me.

She told me she had to be away from work for a while. Had some things going on. Would tell me later. It wasn’t like we knew each other well enough to pry. But I missed her while she was gone. Missed the dark speck set into the green of her left eye.

Months passed. I scored a photography exhibit. On opening night, I mingled, watching people admire hand-developed black and white prints. All the strange things I’d seen for years hung on a gallery wall. The contents of my mind tagged and laid bare.

I got hired on a new film, and my dog and I split to live in a motel on the outskirts of Albuquerque. I didn’t have a life, but I had a bunch of shit to do, and sometimes, in the right light, if all the planets magically aligned, it felt like I had one.

Walking to my car one morning with a travel cup full of coffee, a flock of birds suddenly descended to the grass in front of me. Alarming and strange, surrounded by crows, I counted. Twenty-nine. I was twenty-nine years old and found that to be an odd coincidence. I read more Kerouac and a little Bukowski to distract myself from days that rolled endlessly into a passage of time I could no longer compute. I bought a Magic Eight Ball from a consignment store in Taos. I made all important decisions with the ball.

Terrible insomnia kept me awake every night. I started taking my dog to the park at 4AM. People drifted in and out of my life. When the film wrapped, I shook the ball vigorously and asked if I should go back to the mountains.

It is decidedly so, the ball said.

One day in early summer, I rounded the corner of the deli and found a guy standing on a ladder. Cargo shorts, threadbare Bon Jovi tee, big broad chest, hairy legs.

He stepped down and smiled. It took me a second. That disarming smile made me feel wanted, dead or alive.

“Dang, girl.” I stared straight into the dark speck set into the green of his left eye. “You’re a hot dude now.”

He laughed until he cried. “Something like that,” he said, pumping fresh coffee into a paper cup and handing it over. “Leave it to you to sum it up so succinctly.”

Suddenly the absences made sense, the surgery, the cryptic excuses.

From she to he, just like that. In the time it took to make two films. The line between girl and boy blurred fast before my eyes. Once upon a time, a girl stood behind the counter checking me out, but roses are red, violets are blue, and she was now most definitely a dude.

Looking me dead in the eye, he asked me what I was doing that night.

There had been guys I wanted to love. Complicated emotions that swung and dipped wildly, but none truly genuine. None like the scene unfolding before me.

Weeks later found us in the front pew holding hands, my pilgrimage home. Sun slanted down on our fingers wrapped tight. Daddy glanced in my direction, smiled.

Walking across the wide-open meadow behind the church, night came fast. Under the silent cover of stars, we gleamed across the surface of a rocky singing planet. We vanished into the half light where he plucked a sprig of verbena to cool my cheek.

That night, we sat on my childhood bed, legs crossed, digging Fragrant Chicken and Kung Pao Tofu from cartons. My journey, full circle back to the Oasis poster on the wall, the Hello Kitty clock glowing on the nightstand. I’d learned a lot about love, but more about leaving. Love had been elusive, like a unicorn, or jackelope. Something that showed itself when you were looking the other way.

There on that bed, I remembered how to forget, to let go, to fall, to become. A feeling so foreign it escaped translation and hovered just below my skin.

I want this, I thought to myself.

The sounds of Jeopardy travelled up through the floor from the TV in the living room. Doors dividing galaxies flung open. I saw the symbol of myself carved in the dark speck of his eye. The color of wind, isolation and invitation. Electric rays burst in the tiny space. I trembled. No longer did I crave chocolates and fingertips. Flowing in and out of a timeless eternity that twisted and surrendered to a thin blade of light looking to feast on anything, I whispered words I’d never spoken before.

He sucked each one into his mouth, letting them play on his tongue. His eyes were the greenest I’d ever known, clear, distinct. Smooth skin, masculine. We sat up, facing each other, and he pulled his tee off, tossing it to the floor. The tattoo of a snake on his belly wound all the way down to his sex. A symbol of something between us. The snake stayed with us, like a madman trying to find his way out of a labyrinth. Always the body of that snake, curling down, when I closed my eyes. Even now, as I write this. But then it was more so.

Like a miracle, I realized it was never about guys I wanted to love, and always about those blazing roads that led to my destiny. I remembered that day so long ago.

 “Be ye therefore wise as serpents,” echoed as my head crashed to the pillow and my logic came undone.

Like this, he whispered, like we were in the backseat of a car, like we were sneaking off to a back room. The bright bare bones of my bastard soul laid bare, crooning songs of sin I could never tell my daddy, songs about guys that hemmed me in so tight I shed them one after the other like strands of hair fallen from the head of angels with six faces and terrible grins.

A vision quest looped me back into the wild jungle, the same one I’d emerged from a over a decade earlier like a blind prophet looking for answers in the dark. But they came. One by one, they came. Out in the wide open space. Without the prayers of my daddy I saw despair volleyed about like the heads of enemies on stakes. Waging war with myself taught me a thing or two about keeping secrets, allowed me to slide into the homerun of who I am. A self saving princess who realized in a single instant, on the bed where it all began that it was never about guys I wanted to love. It was always about learning that I am the one. The only one. Under the glow of a lava lamp the magnetic attraction we held for one another crackled like lightning. In the still, balmy air a naked searching for feelings just below our skin exposed our precious layers to the world. If we slipped deep enough then quiet moans erupted and his hand pressed to my lips.

We retreated down to the boathouse, in the hot, tomblike air, breathing in the scent of jasmine blooming beneath the window, the scent of me blooming in his hands. We lit stars with our fingertips, called sunsets into being, rain, storms.

Sometimes loves takes the long way around, waits for us to stay up too late,

walk around the dark corner and surprise ourselves. Under a canopy of stars, our hands a wild catalog of exploration, we slowed down into dreams of humble means patched together with seams that connected intricate lives. The heat inside me was enough to light up the atmosphere. We were trying so hard by not trying at all.

Tell me the future, souls of the earth, I thought as I leaned back against the wooden boards of the boathouse. Tell me the future, souls of the earth, I begged but the goddess in me leaned forward, opening the gates to the Kingdom, letting the snake into my garden.