Category Archives: LONGING PROJECT

They Were The Darlings Of Heaven

They were the darlings of heaven; Van and Cecilia.  He was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.  God, how I loved him.  But she … she was the angel of songs.  Like crystal; and every heart was like glass around her.  Mine especially.

Cecilia smashed me almost every day, cut me up with the trinkets of her affection.  A smile, a kiss like a sister, druggy hugs and intimate secrets.

I introduced Van to her one night clubbing and paid the price in blood.  You could hear the violins when they circled eachother on the dancefloor, and my softly softly campaign for God’s own nineteen year old ended with a first night kiss.  No doubt about it, Van was the man and I was just plain old best friend, the third half of love.  Lopsided as fuck.

She said, “You’re my saviour, you know that,” and I knew what she meant.

He said, “Hey, man, why’d you keep her secret for so long?” but I’m sure he knew why.

And I said, “You two are so cool together,” and I meant it, every precious ounce of it.

They were a source of light, those two.  Georgous fucking sunbeams.  Everyone knew it, believed it.  Van and Cecilia proved the world still had a taste for sweethearts, for miraculous little petals who somehow withstood the air of autumn.  There wasn’t anybody who didn’t want it to go on forever.

What brilliant kids they were going to have.  Him, pretty Asia; her, classic fucking, knee buckling, breath stealing Euro.  Van played cello and had orchestras waving cheque books, Cecilia made films and got screened at festivals.  At parties, they were red carpet material.  In clubs, they were everyone’s honey bunnies, gay; straight and beyond, we all wanted a blast of that little dream.  Only the real hard heads raised their eyebrows.  Guess they sussed something none of us really wanted to accept.  Every cursed miracle costs.

But Van and Cecilia were more than the boring cliché.  At least I thought so; even though I hated it when she kissed him like that.  They were just too sharp to fall for the obvious sucker punch come down.  They saved money, made plans, ate healthy, kept the drugs in check.  Way too fucking pure.  Wide eyed love birds flying through a smog of absolute shit: all the fucked up exhaust of disappointment.

Surely some of that crap had to stick to those waxy wings of theirs.

But uni finished and the party kids went home.  Landlords and boss men turned up in their place and I tried to lose contact.  I loved them both but I wanted Cecilia more.  Another day of looking at her shop window curves was beyond me.  It was making me sick, altering my state of mind for the worse.  I couldn’t even sleep without seeing her in those skimpy, skintone undies she used to wear.  There’s only so many mornings you can wake up crying yourself dry.

I stayed out of range for a couple of years.  Got myself set up, wore the suit, sold the bullshit and papered the walls with cash.  It was a cruise; auto piloting along the freeway to bored middle age, with only the occasional fumble to ward to off the nymphs of loneliness.  To help me outpace it, evict it; eviscerate those seven letters still bleeding.

God, what surrender.  Take me, take me, take me.  Bring me to the foot of your stairs.  Oh Cecilia, I should have sung your name while you were still here.

And I nearly made it.  I would have, I’m sure, if I hadn’t seen her on the tram.  She sat next to me, our legs brushing, her smell forming clouds around my head, and she told me the tale of their troubles.  Jobs lost, chances missed, rent not paid in time.  La bella coppia on the skids.

“Hey, but we’re okay,” she beamed, and it was obvious that for all the downturns, their stratospheric togetherness had not been grounded.

I followed her home and found Van just the same; beautiful, a pristine golden boy untouched by the mould of the damp little flat he shared with his honey, honey girl.

“I had to sell my cello,” he said and I heard a string inside me snap.  I looked over at Cecilia, who smiled in a way that unleashed a wild river in my veins, and I knew that a grey world debt had been paid off by hocking the jewels of charm.

“But I got a new job,” she said.  “I start Monday.”

It wasn’t long before I asked them to move in.  I had the space … and the addiction.  Why the fuck didn’t I just bid them farewell that evening?

They were so damn grateful, like little kids.  No affectation.  It was sad.  How did they keep that innocence going?  Night after night I listened to them recount the story of their days, and what they were telling me, in effect, was that they kept walking into the same dumb arse traps that everyone else saw coming.  They weren’t just naïve, they were … I don’t know, not of this world.

Yet all the while, their love was as ‘printemps’ as ever.  I would catch them smiling at eachother; little flowers.

“Van is my well,” she told me one night.  “My sustenance.”

“None of it matters when she comes home,” he told me one morning over breakfast.  “Not a single bit of it.”

In the spare room they made love like movie stars, her soft little moans like nectar.  Her eyes sparkled when she padded out to the bathroom and I would be there waiting for the leftover light, my little scraps of heaven.  I collected them; treasures she forgot to bury.  On my knees, on the other side of the wall, I begged for something more and searched for the will to want nothing.

All this glittering loveliness and not a penny to show for it.  No new cello, no more festival invites.  It wasn’t a lack of talent or effort it was just not understanding the bloody rules.  Being too beautiful.  Failing to say the right thing when all it needed was a practised word.

I became protective.  They became my children, adult fairies I was keeping safe from small thoughts.  The world that paid me handsomely had no way to remunerate people like Van and Cecilia.

I confess, I thought about how I could separate them.  There was so much more I could offer Cecilia.  Comfort, contacts, any camera she could name, and abject devotion.  But of course, I knew it was nowhere near what Van gave her.  He had magic in his kiss.  That was plain to see.  To see and shiver darkly.

It was time to get a lover and break the rapidly poisoning habit.  Other girls, distractions, the oblivions of sex and borrowed tenderness.  Get me out of myself.

And for a while it worked.  Tina, Sandra, Francesca.  Until it hit me: they all had something of her.  They were a way to love her more, not less.

I began to think strangely.  Was I damned to watch this divine sideshow?  Had I been chosen to bear witness to the last living miracle on the face of the earth?  Fuck it, is this my doomed epistle?

Just about then things got bad for them.  There was no work and plenty of time to wonder how the promise of earlier years had amounted to the churned up, mangled charity of another.  They seemed to sink, the spell at last not able to sustain them.  Both of them got ill.  Watching them fall from the sky was unbearable, a rain too hard to keep out.

Seeing Cecilia’s brightness slowly dissipate was cutting me.  Sharp, slashing, wrist opening lines.  Van tried to help her up but it seemed he could no longer concoct perfection with his elegant fingers.  He coughed his way through afternoons of too much dope.  My dope.  The stuff I supplied him.

It wasn’t a rapid decline, that would have been better.  It was an erosion, a decay full of awareness.  Not enough for screams, just a gathering of sighs.  They spoke about getting well and having kids and then one night they announced their engagement.

“I don’t think the world really wants people like Van and I,” she said.

‘We’ve never belonged,” he added.

“Only to us,” she concluded.

That was it, wasn’t it?  Their attraction was such that it kept them in a loop around one another, always dancing in inner space.  They had excluded the world, too busy loving, and the world had shunned them in return.  The darlings of heaven do not belong in the dirt with the rest of us.  We do not want them because they show us up for the ugly fucks we ttruly are.

On my own little patch of ground I longed hard for her, or maybe just for the right drug fucked moment to say the words that had been carving a statue out of my life for too long.  So nearly done, my love; this splendid figure dedicated to you.

Too much to carry.  Too hard to watch.  These dwindling angels in my apartment.

So sorry, Van.  My fault.  I should have said.  Acted.

And Cecilia angel.  I only wanted …

It was much too late, of course.  Oh, yes it was, my children.

I bought the stuff, made sure it was just like them.  Too fucking pure.  “Let’s party,” I said.  It was Friday night and they were in need of a little lift.  I cooked their favourite stir fry, played the tunes they first danced to and dropped the little pills onto their pink little tongues.  Saw her smile like the Buddha one more time.  Kissed her for first time.  Terrible, wonderful, tragic lips.

Van was the first.  She helped me get him to the bathroom, by which time she was nearly gone.  Her eyes reached out for me but I let her go at last.

Cecilia angel, I only …

You weren’t meant for this world.  I’ve always known it.  That is why I never …

I couldn’t drag you down into my filth, my ordinary world of money worries and compromise and bad sex and tired, cruel words.  You only spoke in song, my love, and I had no voice.

My third half of love is kicking in now.  The job is done.  I have saved her.  Saved them both … from people like me.

The Woman I Am Not Supposed To Know

I sleep, so as not think about you. Like running into shadows, escaping the eye above, doing anything, anything, anything to get away. All manner of distraction, every denial you could imagine, keeping secrets from myself so that they do not spill out in front of you. Every kind of logic. Because, because, because, …

Because it cannot be, can it, my love? So much in the way, all that baggage, all those excuses, so much fear and habit and not knowing if this is what it is. You can’t. Won’t. Never promised me a thing.

I should take this raiment of silk I would drape around your shoulders and tear it to shreds. If I was any of kind of man I would walk away, drift away, quietly, nobly, almost imperceptibly from the woman I am not supposed to know. She would not even know I had gone, her life would go on, and I would just … get better.

I don’t know what you see, my love. You can guess, I’m sure. How can you not notice the blood? How can you not tell that it is hard for me to breath around you? But you have warned me, I know it. You have your life. You might not like it but you’re not about to change. Not now. Not for me. Not for the dream of another us.

Only in idle fantasy will I kiss you. Only there … such blinding tenderness.

So I’m drinking. Killing, killing. Tearing up this sudden flurry of flowers. Smoking. Drowning. Scratching around for the kill switch, severing all the threads I can. All because … because I know it’s right. It’s wrong, unquestionably wrong, and no amount of loving will ever change that.

You believe in stars. I do not – but still the planets never aligned for you and me. That first smile, that light in a room full of darkness, those obvious signs, they mean nothing if they run parallel. We walk alongside eachother but our hands, though outstretched, cannot puncture the divide.

You knew this right away, didn’t you? So much more real than me.

I have this unpragmatic love, like a burn. You have such beautiful hands, such alabaster skin, such imploring, imprisoned eyes. I sit across from you, swallowing, playing the game to feed on atoms of you. I try to think of a way to speak that will not make you get up and leave. I search for a miracle in the breaks between breaths. But no. A polite half hour and you kiss my cheek as you always do.

I stay awake, so as not to dream of you. I cower in a world that’s real, bandaging myself with platitudes, wounded, bleeding to set you free, hoping I will turn a corner one day and not see you there.

This is me getting up from the table, looking at you, closing my eyes on you. One last photograph. A final outline. Oh Lord – please burn it into me, let me come to know her at last, this woman I am not supposed to know.

He Knows Where I Am

He sings to me. His voice, I hear it in the aching grind of the earth’s steady turn. It calls to me from the radio, seeking me out like a cat in the shadows that never pounces. Strangely, this gives me hope.

I’m a cynical bitch most times. I believe in nothing but I play the game just the same. I commute, I consume, I wear out men like shoes. It looks tough but anyone who knows me understands it’s a way of keeping everything down.

My husband loved me before he got his band of gold on me. I loved him too, even after the unmasking. I loved him because I wanted to love rather than hate. I loved him because to admit otherwise would have made the comfortable hell of house and home intolerable. It was everything I ever wanted – and I was stuck with it.

But he’s different, I know it.

He’s never commented on my weight or questioned me about my drinking or tried to make me his handbag. He’s still the promise of the one. I know he’s out there. He has to be.

I surround myself with him sometimes, wrapping my arms around myself to have some semblance of his embrace. I kiss the back of my hand the way he will one day, just to know that lips can feel like that. His song fills my senses like sweetness in the veins, like the desire to pass out. So narcotic.

He hovers near, eyes flashing in the dark of the forest. He is the rustle heard off stage. Ominous but reassuring. He is on his way.

Most days I wonder how I can go on like this. I ponder therapy as a way to get perspective. This is such an unwarranted faith. Surely a sensible voice will yell down this delusion. There must be a pill for this malady, a cure for love.

My heart is like a dam cracking, fissures in the wall widening by fractions, each beat breaking another layer loose. I want it all to end in a flood, knowing that the waters of cataclysm will soon form a placid lake.

This is my world, my imaginary universe. I catch the train to work subsumed in the insane poetry of it. Yes, he sings to me – but why do I sing back? How is it that a jaded, somewhat faded career hack can hold onto the certainty of miracles? I am so clever, so switched on normally. I know this is not good for me … but still.

But still …

The sun wakes up the day, the tides rise and fall and earth returns to earth – and like a wheel I spin, in love with the idea of the one who will love me. All my logic, every ounce of my common sense overwhelmed.

Truly there are oceans to drown in.

Yet I will forget all this clamour when I wake in his arms. His kiss will wipe clean the world.

Detail is a liar dressed as understanding – and it will all mean nothing when I feel his weight next to me.

He’s there; I know it, just outside the perimeter. In the next carriage. At the café I walk past. Around the corner from the gym. He is as real and invisible as the chorus of my latest favourite love song. I find myself dancing in a swoon whenever he’s on the airwaves.

I don’t tell a lot of people this; for obvious reasons. It’s a little too crazy, too real. But when I cut it all down this is who I am.

I am the dream of love.

Yes, I read the advice, I chant the affirmations, I book myself into the meditation retreats; but thus I remain. Right here. Where he can see me.

Please don’t ask me to stop dancing to this song. Not now. Not when he’s so close.

I can touch him, feel the static buzz of his hand just a razor’s cut from mine. I am already hearing the muted circles of his breathing, so nearly tasting the skin on the back of his neck.

Is this him knocking? This his shadow on the doorframe? I am caught out, not quite ready for the smell of a man on my skin. But I cannot keep him out. The key to my room is his will.

I know he will … because he knows where I am.

[This letter is an excerpt from a series of related short stories called Longing.]

A Distance Not Measured In Miles

Is it a thousand miles? I could drive there in a day but still it wouldn’t bring us any closer. The space between us is measured in silence now.

Every day I read the weather forecast for the far flung town you now call home, yet no matter how I try to imagine the way you will sweat or shiver all I possess is a number in plain ink and a vague idea. This is what remains of years.

But I – we – are not alone in this.

Robert, 44, lives a few streets over from his ex-wife and never sees her, not even in the local shops on a Saturday morning. He still can’t imagine how it all came to nothing.

Julia, 20, wonders why the man who took her virginity doesn’t call her anymore. He emails but never speaks. His embrace has become a series of letters on a screen, her disembodied lover. She could catch a bus to his flat but she is terrified.

Anthony, 73, recalls a girl he knew for one week when he was a teenager. His partner of forty eight years, Gail, knows only that her husband is a bit removed; always has been. He never mentions Penny to her. Gail has often wondered where Anthony goes when they make love but he has not said. He sees Penny everywhere but nowhere; and it still runs a knife through him. Slowly, he is bleeding to death for a girl composed entirely of memory.

I am afraid that I will end like up Anthony, stirring ashes long cold, hoping perhaps that some chance wind will shift them into the likeness of you.

It has not yet been two years since you took the last of what you considered to be rightfully yours and left big gaps in our house. Spaces not yet filled, except by horrifying stillness.

Veronica, 39, says much the same about the quiet that greets her when she gets home from work. Her lover, Marianne, an older woman, passed away not long ago. Veronica remembers that the aroma of Marianne’s cooking used to welcome her. The pots and pans are still there, close enough to touch, to pick up, to use as if they were hers; but the kitchen seems a long way away most evenings.

Jeremy, 18, plays his guitar and thinks about the girl who detonated inside him. He is full of teenage intensity for his love. She is at the same party. There she is, so divine. Just two metres away. But untouchable tonight.

Like you on the other end of the phone. I know the number off by heart. I am ten quick digits from the sound of your voice, from something you might say that will help me feel okay before I sleep. Of course, I will not, do not call. The time for that has passed. You have moved on and I respect that.

Stewart, 55, struggles with the idea that his wife has decided to strike out on her own. He finds it hard to accept that there isn’t another man, an ulterior motive. Whenever he visits his wife and sits opposite her he feels that he needs a telescope to see her. Somewhere along the line he lost sight of her, and she stopped waving.

Yungchen, 29, left her country of birth for a love she thought would bridge the miles. Six months later she finds herself alone. She calls him and leaves messages, knowing that her words will swirl in the air around him, will get inside him. At times she feels that she is right next to him … but then she opens her eyes.

Dreams are like light speed travel, swiftly jetting me to the strangely configured house where we sit and talk it over, where we almost work it out. It hurts but you are near, and that I can bear more than the invisibility of waking. Dawn always rises like a ocean and you vanish over the horizon.

Satoro, 35, is on an oil rig, working hard for his future bride. All around him sea mist and equally lonesome men. On land, without him seeing it, she is drifting. The weeks apart are too much, the weeks together too little. Meanwhile, love waits a little closer at hand and she is sorely tempted.

Gayenendra, 13, knows he shouldn’t. There is a whole world between him and the older girl who works on his father’s farm. Still, he hangs around, enjoying the way her limbs move and the sound of her occasional laughter. He hovers nearby but remains at an impossible distance. She is too busy to notice.

For all this constant thinking of you – you are – I’m certain – simply going about your day. Your choice is made, your grief washed out of you long ago by tears that no longer well. This drama of mine falls on deaf ears, plays to an audience of no one. How is it that people who share everything end up with secrets?

Agnieska, 32, still can’t figure how her boyfriend kept his affair from her. She thought she knew him inside out. Now she feels defiled, like he knows too much about her. Even though he has since moved to another city she can still feels his thoughts, his insights, nesting inside her. She wants to buy a ticket to the other side of the universe but she knows that this will not cut him out.

You, 36, have asked me not to call. Not in so many words but nonetheless. You are posting divorce papers to me, which I will dutifully sign. I could drive for a thousand years then and still not get anywhere near you. We could share pleasantries, knowing what we know, yet not dare to venture across the newly dotted line that redefines, that annuls us.

Me, 40 … I listen to the CD you sent me for my birthday, an old favourite from the collection that was once ours. In the case you stuck a note saying that at long last you understood what they meant by love will tear us apart.

Distance, you said, exists in the most intimate spaces, like that between atoms. I feel it now, my love. I understand now what you had tried so hard to say. If only we had been a little closer.

[This letter is an excerpt from a series of related short stories called Longing.]

What Is A Fire?

She will drift around like mist, almost not there. Close your eyes, shift your focus for a blink and she might be gone. It’s a risk you take; but what is a fire that does not promise to make ashes of everything? I know you know this.

An old fashioned quill has scratched beautiful calligraphy across your chest, just above your heart. Maybe she can see it through your shirt, ornate swirls as delicate as the tendrils of affection: I feel like this a miracle. You’re right, it is, but every miracle is also a test of faith.

Her eyes, for all their fathomless splendour, are sharp and they are searching you for something, peeling back the drapes that hang around you. She is walking inside you, her curious, supernova smile casting light and throwing shadows into corners so recently cleaned. You have renovated your soul, everyone can see it, but will she find what she’s looking for in there?

People think she’s air but you know she’s blood. She gives the impression of walking on clouds, of flitting through the world, of the loveliness of feathers, yet you have sat in her room past midnight and she has lifted that veil. There is a language that very few speak and she is of that tongue. For all that, you understand; not everything but enough. Together you have translated the world and both the thunder and the deafening quiet make more sense tonight.

There are a million theories but it is the singularity of knowing that brings you here, to this point of everything and nothing. Is it simple circumstance that has nudged you closer to her? Has the deck been blindly cut, or is this meant to be? Don’t answer. That is not the point. Your compass is your compass. You have this ship to sail in and the ocean is certainly wide enough; so tell your story of currents and islands and once nameless stars and let the rain be rain.

Every now and then a star explodes, that is what you want to say, and she is one such sun. That fear which is trapping your breath, not quite in, not quite out, is to be expected. What is a fire that does not burn the careless hand? Tell me of a light that is not also the outline of a shadow.

You are sifting the sand for anything that sticks, hoping there are clues in those grains. There are no answers in this sleuthing, in this trying to narrow the odds. Only more fear.

This is one of only two things we can ever truly grasp: it is the terror that comes with the prospect of loss. Everything else is a river of sand through your fingers. In time, if you are prepared to let it go, your fear too will trail away and you will find your voice.

She wants to hear you, that much is clear. She wants to know if you have the courage to feel what you feel. Do you? Is the sensation of flying too much for you? Have you room in your soul for a visitor who may choose to leave at any moment?

I know you do, your breathing has changed; so before you suffocate, before your silence and your vague approximate hinting cuts the oxygen to this miraculous flame, add the fuel. Her response is not yours to imagine, but the hymn of your love is for you alone to recite.

Say it. I have loved others before. I have loved and tried to possess and I have loved at the other extreme too, forgetting to care. The price has been paid, it was nearly too much, but now I have a lightness, an almost divine poverty, an emptiness that is full of you, my love.

You, my love. You, my love.

Can you feel it now? She may welcome you to her bed or ask you to leave and none of that matters because love is not a beggar. You are learning to love her for her and not just for you. Love burns despite.

Yet what is a fire that does not warm the soul? Flames dance the same in both light and dark, giving birth to planets and returning everything to the heart of stars. All of creation is carved in fire.

Ah, you are ready. You are walking to the foot of her stairs, little pilgrim, with your kernel of light. Shine it, boy. Let it blind you as it shows you the way.

She is waiting like a shimmer, like a petal drifting … unpossessable. Be as a river in this moment and you will come to know one of only two things we can ever truly grasp: the divine cascade of loving. In time, if you are prepared to let it flow, your hunger will also float away and you will come at last to the sea.

And that is where she too will be.

[This letter is an excerpt from a series of related short stories called Longing.]