how to find heaven without leaving the suburbs (conversations with straight men)

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Yes. She was beautiful. She was almost holy. She looked at the world with eyes full of wonder that resembled nothing less than moonstone. We spent days sharing mittens when the snow came. Nights were spent on top of stained quilts, close, but never touching. She sang like a robin in spring, and created worlds with the touch of her index finger. She made videos of me singing to musical theatre soundtracks, and laughed at my ridiculous mannerisms. She held my hand once in the dark. When the winter came for us once again, she took her things in her father’s car and drove towards New Mexico, shedding pieces of me out the window. Interstate 25. 434. 376. Santa Fe.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

No, but we’ve watched hundreds of films, and I’ve thought about kissing her hundreds of times. She makes my skin itch. We were never closer than a head on a shoulder or a kiss on the cheek. We never did. We never have, and I’ve danced on the edge of action with her so many times that I’m afraid she might break if I touch her. I think it’s possible to love a girl too much to kiss her.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

Briefly, in high school. She was stony-faced but straight laced. She wore combat boots but always did her math homework. She self-identified as ‘butch’ but loved winged eyeliner. She lived her life on the in between’s, a perfect balancing act of can’s and can’t’s, should’s and shouldn’t’s. All of my fears burned up in her atmosphere. She taught me how to climb barbed wire without scratching my palms, that fear is pointless, and that there isn’t a thing that can’t be solved with rumpled sheets, cups of earl grey, and David Bowie. She forgot how to love me. She was everything, and then she was nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

On a date, once. She was bathed in swirling lights; pink, yellow, lavender. We danced in a crowded room of strangers. Her hands were smaller than mine, and when she kissed me I lost track of time. She shielded me from the eyes of strangers. We talked about her plants, her ex, her brother. There was mold growing in her lungs, destroying her from within. She took pride in becoming nothing.

 


 

“Have you ever been with a girl?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I reply.

“That’s hot.”

restless/reality


I don’t think I can run from it anymore-the sadness is inevitable, natural, even, and nowadays the realization of my own life causes a certain restlessness within me that I can only chalk up to complete denial. I don’t want to be inside a human body, or any body for that matter. 

I can still feel the pulse in my veins, although it feels as if I have ten million hearts running around outside of my body, threatening to rupture at any moment. Sometimes they do, and I am reduced to utter nothingness. Sometimes I find myself lost between the should’s and the shouldn’t’s, the can’s and the can’t’s, and of this world, I expect nothing. 

I can’t help but feel the small rupture between my heart and yours- a distance that I can blame on no one but the two of us. I never expected anything of you, though I sometimes do wish you had stayed. I feel your presence with every step in this city, although I’ve never felt further from you. I would never wish ill upon you, I hope that you’re happy, even, yet I still can’t say I want you back. Most of my friends don’t even know what you look like so you’re all mine, and a terrible liar. And a sloppy kisser. And even a sore loser. 

Of you I expect nothing, but I do hope that you remember how it felt to love me. Remember that I loved you. 

But please, don’t expect anything of me. 

My darling, I have nothing left to give. 

i wrote this when you left

It’s rare nowadays to find beauty in such an industrialized world when smoke clouds the air and fills your lungs. But driving down a road in the middle of the night and listening to an unknown song can finally allow you to breathe and see the beauty in the darkness; the girl who yells profanity at her beloved but knows she will always return to him; the face that appears in the smoke. 

I have learned at last that happiness is not an obtainable entity, but rather a state of being, just as hell is not a location but something that you carry with you. 
I can feel my own hell start to pass through the wonderful ache in the soles of my feet as I feel strangers hands on my hips and waist and remember when the only hands on my body were those of softness and familiarity. I remember you. I remember you from a time when your hair was as dark as the night sky and you told me every day that I was beautiful until one day you stopped and told me that I was too much for you, too much. 

I remember the waves of hurt pulsing through my veins as I thought of my button-up shirts driving you away. I cut my hair the very next day because I couldn’t stand to be your version of me anymore. 

And I am not, I never was. And here, driving through the darkness and feeling the rivets in the road and the stars above me pulling me away, I know that she is there. 

I know that she believes I am. I am. I am. And I know that she will love the stars as much as I and that she will love my button-up shirts and the way I hold her hand. And I know, with complete certainty, that she is here. 

About that time that you met god at 3am outside a gas station:

He kinda hated you. 
Not that you’re particularly surprised, though you did think he might be a bit more sympathetic to your cause. To be fair, however, there are people dying in other parts of the world and you-

you can have anything you want,

although you’re still just as terrified that you will equate to nothing as always, regardless of the water running through the faucet and the roof over your head. 

Your pristine sheets seem to tell you nothing but of the ways in which your anxieties lie within them;

How dangerously they feed off of each other. 

I know you’re trying to remember a time before you questioned everything around you. I know that you’re wondering why you exist at all, and how in the world it’s possible to love nothing and everything all at once. 
To feel nothing and everything

all at once. 

Remember sitting in your childhood bedroom, illuminated by brilliant streaks of lightning. Remember the drawings you made when you had tried to capture the light within your notebooks. Remember how you couldn’t, and wonder if maybe that’s why you still see yourself as a little girl with brown hair, bangs cut above her eyebrows. Maybe that was the moment you started doubting yourself. 

When a little girl within a body that she cannot yet fill meets god in the middle of the night-

3am, to be exact, outside a gas station-

he might hate her and leave gut-wrenching words echoing within the deepest corners of her mind. 

she must learn to be okay with that. 

dear ex-lover,

I thought that you should know how often I think of you. The first snow is melting, and I can’t help but remember the snow on the ground the first time that you kissed me. The cold reminds me of you, and I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. I still can’t say for certain whether my memories of you are shrouded in the warmth I once felt from you, or if I’ve yet to remove my rose-tinted glasses.

I fell in love with your handwriting before anything else. Then came your seafoam eyes. Then your hands, dancing along the fret board of your guitar. I still remember how it felt when you ran them through my hair, grazing the back of my neck. I fell in love with your lips, and I can’t tell you how many times since last June I’ve remembered how you tasted, and how heavy your heart was. I could tell so much from the way that your lips felt on mine.

I fell in love with you on the couch in my parent’s basement. I fell in love with you in the backseat of your car – I fell in love with you beneath the lights strung above our heads. I still can’t turn on those lights without feeling your ghost blow across my body.

I fell so deeply in love with your heart, but still – I can’t say that the earth shattered as our eyes locked. I can’t say that the earth recognizes our steps. And how lucky we were to have nothing expected of us.

I couldn’t count the amount of women I’ve tried to put in your place – you keep coming back to me like an old melody, floating up behind vodka sodas and new dance partners. And in the time that I’ve spent without you dancing in my presence, I can’t say that much has improved. I still lock myself in my room and paint for hours, but I no longer show you my paintings. I don’t call you when I can tell that you’ve had a bad day. I just let the feeling pass. Maybe someday, my heart won’t be so inexplicably drawn to yours.

I want you to know that I wish you nothing but happiness. You are one of the best people that I have ever had the honor of knowing – of loving. I hope that you find someone who can give you the things that I can’t, and love you in the ways that I never could.

With the purest of intentions and more love than I could ever express –

avh