Wednesday, June 15, 2011


You come to sit here with me, on the half-heartedly upholstered bench. Roll cigarettes so that, later, your fingers will taste of leaf, and so I can watch your tongue tease the cigarette paper. Let the lurches of the bus roll us into momentary intimacies. Your hair, which escapes all attempts at discipline, always floating, an aureole of glints and guessed lines. Against the feeble gray light of the bus window they're curves drawn by the finest Rapidograph: the expanding ripples of the splash of your ear, its curls and infoldings barely visible.

Everyone has a signature story, the one they have to tell you before they can imagine you know them. It's the one they tell you after a silence has settled, and they're not sure you're awake any more, but the bus keeps going and the impulse to be known can't be resisted any more. It's always a story of misunderstanding and disappointment. Often enough trivial, the gift of a trinket declined or a promise to meet for coffee broken, but it becomes the frame for a life.

I wake from these bus rides into a hollow house, and lie a while in the dark, looking at the shapes my hands make silhouetted against the skylight, listening to your breathing. Outside, the sidewalks are shrinking in the coolness night, and the braids of caulk loosen between their slabs, and small creatures run over their surfaces, searching. I try, but fail, to imagine their urgency, to imagine needing so much. I need nothing. I am a sea anemone: it all comes to me.

Only, like all intertidal creatures, no matter how soft and pulpy and flowery you look, you have to be able to sink, twice a day, into that dark, and bear the enormous weight of the tide, and the suck of currents trying to drag you off the rock. That's the real trial. And in those hours there's no one on the bus beside you, no story to distract you. You hold and you wait, that's all.

It's the breathing of the ocean in the dark, I suppose. Its own dreams must be dreams of gathering, of pulling the things that are too tired to hold on any more into the deeper, colder spaces of its heart.


Zhoen said...

We live by our stories.

Lucy said...

I keep reading and re-reading this, it seems to have depths like a rockpool peopled by ear-like shells, and sea anemones.

alembic said...


I've been on that bus. :)

[Odd, the word verification for the comment right now is "runsuns," which is exactly the kind of mood your post evokes for me: the sun running down the road, ahead of the bus, always just out of reach....]

rbarenblat said...

Oh, dale, this is gorgeous.


Jayne said...

Dale- This is magnificent, and it speaks--at least to me--deeply of the importance of presence. Of just being. And of the weight that would be lifted by allowing oneself to be. Present... like all the creatures and plants and moons and seas of our universe.