If you want to survive in Dorset, and maybe England in general, you must talk about the weather. “It’s not as bad as we were led to believe!” or “awful, isn’t it?” or “lovely weather today!” You must keep an optimistic skepticism, as my dad called it, an umbrella in your car. If you want to be British, apologise for the state of the weather. Apologise when you want to squeeze past the aisle. Apologise for the cheese that’s a little too hard for your liking. Try to find every opportunity to tell people what you’re sorry for and to thank them very much.
Vegetables don’t seem to be the staple; it’s truly tea and coffee. Coffee in the morning, after lunch, sometimes after dinner. My favourite thing is crumbly, soaked, buttery cookies. I was only offered one, but I wanted another. I liked seeing people waiting for the train with a Starbucks in hand and a book in the other. On the MTR in Hong Kong, heads hang like beans on their stalks, looking onto phones that make obsolete reveries and conversation. I saw a fifty year old couple on the train in England, sharing a packet of gummy worms. And a group of kids that finished a packet before the train even started.
I’ve been indulgent with dessert and family, watching my dad in his element. What’s a man like around his mother? It’s very telling. With a glass of wine, a hearty dinner, he’s smiling and energetic. He rips open the plastic of a magazine and lets it float to the ground. Care-free and careless go hand in hand. Grandma will pause what she’s doing to answer your question. Like dad leaving his soup to help me find an adapter. Both their tongues wag in concentration, and they say “ooh yes” in enthusiastic affirmation. Kind and yielding seems to run in the family. After lunch with my grandmother’s sister and her husband, I feel as though I’ve made some very good friends. I was sorry to see them go.
One thing led to another,
or several things in four dimensions,
and it feels like it’s your fault.
Sometimes mine, you’d agree.
I don’t know who said what first,
or who missed a beat.
For the hopeful, “later” means “soon”
and “no” means “yes”.
I mean what I say-
Are you a hopeful too?
I have my theories as to why
people are cold and step on toes
but I only know what I’ve got
and not how we got here.
There is no sequence:
Minds are not equipped for when
things happen all at once.
It’s like opening your mouth
when your jaws are locked.
It’s like screaming
when the music is too loud.
It’s this tangled feeling like,
I want to love you
but I can’t stand you.
And I don’t know how to fix it.
Feel the tangles of my heart, how your fingers are caught in the sinews.
I cannot express how crumpled I feel in the palm of your hand.
How does one say goodbye? Should it be implied in the slow turning of the shoulder? In the shy glance away, the delayed response? In paragraphs typed and deleted. In the way a mug is moved, never to be seen again? In the careful stashing of memorabilia; a laundry list in my writing? Here, hold onto that.
Maybe I’ll run into the night, like I never existed.
Sea foam, like erupting clouds… As if the sky had fallen. Beer bottle aimed down my throat, you are a speckle that seldom dances behind my eyelids. I don’t even mind the coarse sand against my shin, between my inadequate thighs. Salt. I like the salt, even if it is too sharp a taste, too difficult to wash out of my hair. And I’ve stopped fighting the sound of your berating. Yes I am all of the above. What now?
Serenity: It lies somewhere between realising that some messes don’t need to be fixed and knowing that you can coexist with chaos- because it will follow you until you silence it with a knowing look.
For you my dear I’d lose my petals
stamped between your pages
what use are they to me?
I don’t need birds or bees
For you my dear I’ll count my blessings
something for my tendrils
in case of rain or drought
For you I’d bend my stems
away from the sun
but the one
thing I’ll ask of you is:
please don’t uproot me
Ah! Have a seat, I’m so glad you’re back. I was wondering when you’d turn up… well, if you’d ever turn up.
My hands find themselves grappling the coffee table, unable to bring my eyes to her face. Friend.
Uh, are you comfortable? I’ve plumped up the cushions for you.
I pat the seat around her, taken aback by my cordial manner and continue.
I notice that as time has gone by, you’ve… you’ve grown quieter. Probably because I don’t pay you much attention. I was beginning to worry that I’d-
wait, I’ve got to get the cookies.
My hands shake as I carry the smoking tray out of the oven. I kick the oven door shut with one leg, arms out and tongue hanging from concentration, trying to keep the cookies from slipping off. I settle the tray on top of a silicone mat. The cookies smell divine.
So yeah, I was worrying that I might never see you again.
I motion to the cookies.
Have a chocolate chip. No fuss, I just printed the recipe off the internet. Wanted to try a new site. Anyway, I don’t blame you for running away. I’d be sick of straining my voice as well. Sorry about that, really.
I look her in the eye and say it again.
I take her hand and press my face against it.
I need you.
We hug each other and I can’t stop crying for the longest time. It feels good to feel bad.