A Letter “On Kindness”

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Do you remember the time you were at Chipotle and you saw the lady with four children in tow and after ordering the food, four bowls total, she realized she didn’t have any money? And so you paid it for her?

And that was your kindness.

Obviously kindness, clearly kindness, without-a-doubt-kindness. As I read the poem by Aracelis Girmay titled “On Kindness”, I wondered about subtle forms of it, like when it isn’t just a hug or a peck or buying someone’s burrito bowls, but is, instead, your telling a wailing women you love her because she is yelling I want to kill myself I want to kill myself.

That love—that’s kindness too.

There are other forms of it that Aracelis Girmay writes about in her poem. The mail lady who says “hi baby” to you, and to the girl beside you, and to her cousin, and to her cousin’s best friend. The window that filters in light on a heady Sunday morning, reminding you have made it another day you’re alive you’re alive. The dog that comes panting up to you, looking overjoyed to see you, you, you—and that is kindness, too.

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Writing Challenge

Day 1: Things We Carry

The lint in our pockets and the grievances in our hearts (you have not forgiven) where Jung’s collective unconscious comfortably resides. We haul around our: keys, wallets, purses, shoes, bags, judgment, beliefs, luggage, wounds, clouds, assumptions, dreams, hopes, backpacks, jackets–

The things we carry

Fear, mostly.

 

Day 2: An Open Door

4AM: the only source of bleak light that tentatively floods this room

5 AM: is bleary and blurred and obscure (“I didn’t know”) some rectangular glowing patch I stare and stare and stare at

6 AM: and when the sun rises ray by ray the light pours in and illuminates the open door (my head is too heavy to fall) (“It’s okay”)

 

Day 3: Faces In The Street

that you look at but do not see

litter the empty spaces in your dreams

 

Day 4: Mirror

there’s one on the living wall of the first house we bought when I was small enough to cartwheel across

I peer over

my hair is short. my collar bones jut out. camera slung over one arm, book clutched in the other hand, posture bordering on “poor” so I straighten my back

as I stare out the car window later I feel frozen empty shrunken in time

 

Day 6: The Aftermath

I never let you see anything, except maybe an organ or two.

Like: this bloody fleshy thing, with all its pipes and nerves. With all the cars stocked to the brim, with baggage clogging it up perpetually. And on this street were trash-cans set aflame in a dreamt-up city where everything was burning down and I was running away (Ophelia drowned, the Little Prince ran away. The drunken man drank to forget, to forget he was ashamed, to forget he was ashamed of his drinking)–

And this was the aftermath.

 

Day 7: Very Loud

few things as deafening as

your silence filling the spaces

Day 8: Shoes

He’s posing in shoes that don’t quite fit. Her hair is neon and she’s been off running since. Grief is running in shoes that are too big; identity’s trying on countless glass slippers to see if they’re it. But don’t worry—we’re young and we’re twenty and we still have time–

 

Day 9: Nothing

2AM I feel oddly consumed and obsessed with absolutely nothing

 

Day 10: Anywhere

I don’t know what I’m chasing after

and I don’t know what I’m escaping from but

I’m starting to think that it isn’t anywhere in this world.

 

Day 11: Stars

We pointed our fingers towards the sky. Amid all the light pollution in Manhattan, New York you could still see the stars.

I counted thirty two.

On a burst on spontaneity we’d bussed to NYC for shits and giggles. By then it was nighttime and we had–cramped and crouched over our cameras–finished watching the sun set. Now we stood across from Manhattan’s beaming glittering skyline in mind-numbing coldness and heart-fuzzing company.

In 30 years, I remarked, this would be what we’d remember: impromptu trips into the city, staring out at the skyline. Silly wild moments and mellow quiet ones, flickers of dialogue that made no sense out-of-context. Soon we’d forget the exams and the stress and the bullshit, but we wouldn’t forget the shnow and spontaneity and the stars–

We had come up with different numbers. We must have miscounted. So we hopped back onto the ice-glazed blocks to count the stars again.

Day 12: Out of Control

And he’s off. Always on the verge of going but never leaving, has finally left, albeit temporarily, for training. I made him promise me a million times he’d send me his address so I could send him weekly Letters from a Sentimental Mop. He promised. I said I’d throw in Tall Tale Thuradays.

He’s always telling me I’m out of control.

A few days ago we visited the lake and sat there talking about aliens and spiders and other ridiculous things. I was wearing my Ender’s Game shirt.

“If you could ask an alien one question, what would it be?”

I didn’t skip a beat. “Where are the Missing and Lost and are they delicacies on your planet?”

He chuckled. He said that he’d ask them where they’d come from and what language they spoke and if there were more of them. Of course there were more, I responded. I thought of Astronomy class and how small we were and this big hunk of rock hurtling around that we called home. I thought of this one star, the sun, that we worshiped and feared and didn’t stare dead in the eye and how there are billions of them out there: stars and planets and beings.

The sun set. We wandered around a bit. Skirted around the topic of politics through the drive thru. Later, we pigged out on milkshakes and waffle fries to DJ Khaled’s new album.

 

Day 13: Forgotten

except that I haven’t

 

Day 14: Home

10: like a sleepy warm embrace 9: the sound of hisses pots pans before dinner “o I just throw things together” 8: organized disarray groaning under its own weight 7: driving down winding empty roads

6: (tethered) 5: dancing, singing, stepping on my own toes 4: cardboard sign that reads FREE HUGS 3: cracking tilting falling apart but it’s not about the SHELL it’s about the PEANUT 2: happy slow light

1: and warm. very very warm

(Earlier I was reading Michael Mira’s (@journalofdisposablethoughts) post on how we all have to have a “home as a reference point….It could be at a railway station in Nairobi or in your wife’s loving arms.” Just something that keeps us 6: tethered–“we all need a single point in the universe to attach our roots.”)

 

Day 15: Witness

sea of fleshy shadow

 

Day 16: Small Things

Like freckles scattered across your nose and in the morning I wake up sloppy bright. I nod at your sadness because it makes you real and raw, rawness makes you real so life can touch you. And when the sun’s up and we’re swimming in a sea of faces I admit I’m only ever looking for yours

 

Day 17: Early Morning

I rewind in multiples of 3 6 5, count on my fingers when it’s orangey hot outside. I’m blinded at 8, sweaty-drowning at 4, despairing at 2, and counting down to 1 (12, 11, 10–)

Think Lua, Bright Eyes, cramped attics, friendship and sleepovers. How what’s ‘so simple in the moonlight/by the morning never is’. And today when I wake up it feels like hot winter in the middle of December.

Early morning ‘s forgetting when all I can do is remember.

 

Day 18: Warning

[708 days ago I trekked] onwards, onwards, [towards] the lit-up skyline [and] water’s reflected orbs [towards] the lost-and-confusion-inducing water that, every so often, would ripple with fish

[and they] leapt like the one catfish back home, the massive, lonely catfish that hung out with the turtles–

 

Day 19: Walk Away

I heard Nina Simone in Starbucks today; she sang this other song about walking away. It’s called “You’ve Got To Learn” and how you have to leave the table once love’s not being served. I liked the metaphor. I’ve always found dish metaphors to be interesting, like the one in Keri Hilson and Kanye West’s Knock You Down (“you see the hate they’re servin’ on a platter? So what we gon’ have: dessert or disaster?”)

But on the topic of walking away–

I mean, I understand the necessity of walking away. Sometimes you have to. Sometimes people are unkind. Sometimes people treat you badly. Sometimes people are traitorous or abhorrent or manipulative, and ain’t nobody got time for that. “Life is short. The opportunity cost of time is too high.” My economics professor said that two years ago, and I thought it was hilarious and true so I wrote it down. And it’s not easy to walk away from people or situations or what-have-you’s, but sometimes you.. have to, and it’s good for you. Like Miguel Ruiz says in The Four Agreements, how it’s ultimately a blessing when disrespectful or unkind people walk away, despite it hurting initially.

 

Day 20: Supermarket

My favorite place as a kid was the supermarket. Not the park or playground, not a friend’s house or my beige-walled room, not the blanket-hut I’d constructed in my mother’s closet (close second), but the supermarket. So every time my parents announced they were off to buy groceries at this supermarket or that, I’d cry for them to wait up, throw on presentable clothes and then skip off to join them. Embark all glittery-eyed in our not-particularly-adventurous adventures to the supermarket.

I don’t know why I loved the supermarket so much. Maybe it was the space or clean tiles or the way everything was so cleanly arranged. Toys in the right-back. Christmas trees to the sharp right. Milk, eggs and essentials in the left-back, real-real-back because, as I learned years later, marketers used this as a clever ploy to get you to pass everything you didn’t need before reaching the things you did. Or maybe it was just the way the supermarket made me feel, like I, eight and skinny and bony and small, could expand with endless curiosity and familiarity.

Nowadays, though–and you saw this coming, you saw this coming–trips to the supermarket are tinged with Adulthood. Like managing a Budget while crossing things off a List and carrying out this Obligation on whatever regular basis I should. It’s less of an adventure and more of an obligation, a matter of need and convenience rather than inexplicable childish excitement. I suppose it was always supposed to be the former anyways. It’s a grocery store with household items, not the local amusement park.

But, I mean, it was still oddly magical for me. It was where I went with my parents. Where I quietly pined after toys (cough, sputter–Barbie Jammin’ Jeep Wrangler, Pink). Where I prepared myself to run into other fourth graders at any minute. It was where I splurged on back-to-school items and bathing suits I never wore and ice cream I finished too fast. It was where I felt like a kid, was happy as a kid: the supermarket. So every time I go home, I visit the supermarket again. And I can’t say it brings me the same expansive happiness, but I still get to revisit it for a while, the place and the feeling.

 

[30 Day Writing Challenge]

Lights & Sights in NYC

christmas carols
blare from the
sidewalk speakers
on saks 5th ave

slow-moving
bustle of bodies
of tourists shuffling
from one street to the next
of families waffling
of citygoers incensed

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we dart into stores
pretend to be buddy
pretend we’re at gimbels
pretend we’re all elves

when we leave the store
we weave the crowds ’til we reach
the rockefeller tree
rockefeller tree!
it stands in all its large
towering
majesty

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like a small building it
shines as
people glide
its evergreen branches
a sea
of rainbow LED

with our iphones
we pretend to snatch
rockefeller with our fingers

check the time–oh,
time’s almost up
we’ve got 50 blocks to go and
30 minutes til
the bus leaves!

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the uber goes, but then we’re stuck
so! we run, run, run to the
station, skid through
times square
/take a picture of me!/
psychedelic ads screaming
from the boardsmake it just in time
watermelon soju sloshing
in our stomachs

this! is the magic of christmas with
the magic of new york
smothered and buttered
with HOLIDAY CHEER
with adrenaline
with honey greek yogurt matcha tea boba
with carbonara pasta rich red wine
with all the sights and lights and
people to see

what a merry(ish)
christmas

Lights Under My Eyes

81

two twenty. AM. 2:21. AM. Two 21. AM.
why am I so restless?
coffee. wheat thins. crumbs. caffeine. caf

–feine. feign. feigning
kindness. questions I have for
insomnia:

are you neurological? genetic? psychological?
physical? are you the thoughts churning through my head rapid-pace
without regard for gravity, space, time?

are you
the 100 grams of caffeine laced in my vanilla-creme 2-sugar-packed
coffee branching through my veins?

are you concern?
are you anticipation?
are you planning? are you planning something? are you so busy planning something

you
can’t
sleep?

the irony of sleeplessness lies in the
heaviness of my lids, of my eyes–I just
thought they’d have been lighter, with everything lit up under my eyes

lit up under my eyes lit up under my
eyes crumbs all over my keyboard
cover lit up under my eyes

bad cliffhangers

jan-15
my memories keep me
warm until I
remember they're just
memories

I wrote that in the summer
first I was defiant
then I was tired
then I was reminiscent
but mostly I
was sad

sometimes i wonder
what the sheer durability of
emotion says about humanity
and whether it says
anything at all

and i wonder whether it's a
reflection of openness
or brokenness or
the inability to fit into
social narratives

it's hard to imagine
that i used to stay up late
for the sake of it
that i'd stay up late 
to talk

to scour the internet
to find articles i'd read not
once or twice but
maybe
eight dozen trintuplion times

at night i'll want explanations
revelations
soul-retching
heart-baring
confessions

when i revisit late-night
memories, there's
an buttery hazy glow that envelops them
which i'd get lost in
during the summertime

June 2016

June Bugs in the Winter

skysunseti.

Saturday morning. I woke up at 5 and we arrived by 6, the wind so cold it bit into us like knives. I wore my frayed red scarf as we boarded the bus, skies were purpley blue. I watched the sunrise through the sketch of back roads, blues and oranges and rocky gravel.

ii.
Countless love triangles zig-zagged their way unrequited among the best friends. Among him, you, her, me. Your best friend. My best friend. My best friend’s friend’s then-best-friend, then his best friend, or your best friend. I was to you as he was to me; she was to him as I was to you as he was to me. Now he’s little to them and we are nothing to each other.

iii.

Cycling through obsessions like a broken washing machine. I am: drawn to the same aesthetic like a film-drunk moth. Film, film, film and light gossamer. And beautiful people in beautiful places.

Last Night (Five Months Ago)

I looked at a trash can strewn and crooked and swore it was art. Saw shadows fanning light and searched for the source. Thought how can this be? and how are we here? and I’m glad everything just is. I kept these things to myself until I realized, in steady sobriety, that this was reality, that this was the nighttime, that this was the glittering town spread beneath our legs, strands of hair spinning free, stories up above the ground, city sprawled beneath the bumper.

July 2017