Monday, September 29, 2008

brilliant trace #9

I was sitting with my back to the door at Twilight Exit nervously fiddling between picking at the coaster underneath my pint of beer and adjusting my hair. Then I heard from behind, "Nessa!"

I turned and was immediately embraced by your friend. I looked up at you and instantly recognized your warm bearded smile and kind eyes that I'd seen in pictures on your MySpace profile. I could tell you were just as nervous as me, and I was relieved.

It had been a month since I sent you a simple message in November stating I was intrigued and amused by a man who lised an advocacy center for the homeless, a small-town newspaper, the U.S. Army, and Pizza Hut among the places he's worked. We shared a number of stories and jokes with each other over the course of that month and finally decided to meet in person.

I almost backed out of going through with meeting you because my relationship with brilliant trace #4 started in a similar fashion and I was still healing after being shattered from the inside out by brilliant trace #8. I was also wary of becoming a rebound girl given my experiences of falling into that role for not only brilliant traces #4 and #8, but also #5 and #6.

Luckily my friends convinced me I was projecting too much of my past onto something new, and that I should trust myself in knowing when to tread water and when to swim away.

Our first meeting led to a six-hour date the following day. We went to brunch, walked in circles around Cal Anderson Park for about two hours, and then had a mid-afternoon coffee. We talked so much I started losing my voice.

By the end of our second date the very next day my voice was completely gone. It was dusk and you took me to Volunteer Park to see the sunset over Seattle. I still don't know exactly what it was, but our time together felt easy and uncomplicated. It was exactly what I needed.

My friends implored me for details. Despite our great time together, I still wasn't sure what I thought of you other than I wanted to know more. That's when someone I consider to be a great voice of reason say, "Good. That means you actually have a chance at finding out if there's something real between the two of you before jumping full speed ahead."

It wasn't until New Year's weekend that we had another date planned. You were going to take me to the symphony and I was supposed to stay with my friend in Seattle. The day before I left North Dakota my friend canceled on me saying she had other house guests who were staying longer than she originally planned. You graciously opened your apartment to me and Izzy B saying it could be as "platonic as a nunnery."

Between me, my iPod, and the open road there wasn't much to think about other than the excitement of seeing of you. I said over and over to myself that I needed to take things slow and be sure before taking any major steps with you. Then, as I crossed the Washington state border with the sunset in the background, my iPod shuffled to the song "First Day of My Life" by Bright Eyes.

I realized I had finally reached a time to not just tread water, but to lie back and let myself float for a bit while fully absorbing the excitement of feeling giddiness about someone for the first time in more than a year.

When I got to your apartment there were nervous butterflies frantically fluttering in my stomach. But the feeling from our first few dates instantly came back, and I felt comfortable and at home in your presence. We stayed up late taking personality tests and discussing our mutual appreciation for the serial comma and disdain for superfluous words such as utilize. The word nerd in me grew giddy as did my attraction to you.

The next day we hung out in our pajamas and rearranged your apartment. We later got all gussied up to hear Beethoven's Symphony No. 5. The next day was New Year's Eve and while we were walking back from the grocery store you gently reached down and held my hand. It was the first time, other than a hug, that we made physical contact. The butterflies in my stomach started fluttering again, and I soaked in every moment of it.

Later that evening we decided to take a short nap before heading out to meet our friends. Right before we went to sleep you asked if you could kiss me and said you were going to wait until midnight but couldn't.

Instead of napping we cuddled and talked about how strange the comfortableness was that we had with each other. There was so much intimacy built into the weekend, and yet we had only held hands and shared one kiss.

Right before we met up with our friends we promised each other that no matter how drunk we got we'd take things slow. Then you grabbed my hand, brushed a bit hair from my eyes, and said that for the first time in your life you felt you could share something real with someone.

The next weekend you came to the Olympic Peninsula to spend the weekend with me in LaPush. While sitting in a dingy pizza place in Forks, you told me a story about something earlier in the week, during which you referred to me as your girlfriend. I looked at you and teasingly asked, "So, I'm your girlfriend now?"

You were so embarrassed and stumbled over your words. Then you stopped talking, looked at me, and said, "I would very much like you to be."

When we drove back into LaPush, a full moon was casting a pale glow over First Beach. It was freezing cold, but we walked to the beach where we each made a wish on a shooting star while shivering and holding each other tight.

The next morning you rolled over and whispered, "Universe of two." I looked at you confused, then you explained it was something your uncle always says to your aunt, and that you had waited more than 20 years to find someone you could say that to.

We realized that both of us were fragile and coming from places of being completely hurt by someone in our past. Being together started melting all of the pain away and the shattered pieces of my heart slowly melded back together. It was in that moment you made me make a second promise that if the day ever came where you started pulling away and the rusty hinges on your heart started closing, I should remind of you of our universe of two.

A month later we went to Victoria, B.C. for a Valentine getaway. I brought along a mixed CD titled Universe of Two that started with the song "First Day of My Life." I had previously shared the song with you and told you about the sunset as I crossed into Washington right before driving through the night to meet you.

After I put on the CD, you took my hands and said the line in the song "I'm so glad I didn't die before I met you," rang true for you more than I realized. You then opened up to me about the darkest time in your life years before we had met.

After we got back from Victoria everything changed between us. Both of us had allowed ourselves to get closer with each other than anyone prior. Our bond continued to grow and things were absolutely beautiful for about another three months.

Then a subtle but noticeable change happened and you slowly started shutting down and pulling away. During this time I saw your intake in pot go up and your interest in me decline. I gently reminded you about the rusty hinges on your heart and that I was trying to be patient and understanding, but time was running thin. You thanked me and said you were working on keeping your heart open and wanted to make it work.

Before we had hit our rocky patch, we made plans to vacation in San Francisco with your mom and step-dad. Every fiber in my being was telling me to swim away and not go on the trip, but I listened to your pleading reassurance instead. Despite a wonderful vacation, minus a 24-hour bout of stomach flu, you called me on the phone a week later and ended things.

There are parts of me that can rationalize the connection between you shutting down and your self-medication with pot, but I still can't fully understand what happened in the course of one week to completely obliterate everything in our universe of two. You didn't even want to hear from me, much less give me a reason as to why.

I still can't listen to the "First Day of My Life" without getting teary-eyed, but I learned from you that I'm able to swim away and start anew even if I never get an answer to the simple question of "Why?"

Status of brilliant trace #9: Unknown

brilliant trace #10

Thursday, September 11, 2008

one from thousands

eight forty-five am
the morning my life began i stepped outside the gym


papers falling high and trickling in the sky
a parade today we'll see?

no. No. NO!

specs of metal glittering in the sun
i should run, i need to run--are all those people gone?

A bomb? A bomb?!

showers of ash upon my head sped with confusion and fear
my office, to my office, they'll know there

It stings to see. It stings to breathe.

she asks, are you okay
what happened?
a plane, it was a plane
you mean a bomb


my building rumbles and through the windows it's the second tower

a woman screams and a the man on the radio says it's another plane
i gasp, i tremble--are we next?

they gather us to the center of the room and our safety is assured

five minutes later--"An upgrade in your safety has been issued. Please evacuate immediately."

Fourteen flights of stairs
round and down we go--goodbyes and laters as we flee

I'm okay. I'm okay.

but at the bottom there's flying debris
and as i squint to see my breaths become shorter, my panic longer

then a hand, placed in mine

our bodies numb, we run

I wrote this poem about month after surviving the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. My mind had been running at a fervent pace trying to put all the pieces together. This was my attempt to gather them in one place.

I meant for the piece to continue as I worked through all the emotions of post-traumatic stress, but until today I hadn't been able to revisit this piece since I wrote it. It's been seven years, and I'm finally finding it easier to process the events of that day. I've written a full article about those thoughts and where our country has come since then.