Heartbreak Summer: Compounded

I watched my best friend’s legs wobble
Struggling to stand against
The shimmering haze of summer heat
Carry her up the stairs
And into the bedroom
With the air conditioner on
With the curtains open over the alley.

90 degrees today
With a seven percent chance of rain
The swelling thunderheads gathering
In the distance, gray and pregnant with rain
Seem impossibly far away
I know, baby girl, I know
Breathing through this industrial haze
Is hard on anyone
Especially you, making your way
So fearlessly to the end of the road.

Sit at my desk
Stare at a blank screen
Shuffle papers around
Try to will the words
That will make sense of so much loss
From my brain onto the page.

Every few minutes
A nervous sideways glance
To the pile of pillows and blankets
On which your tired body rests
To nervously check for the labored
Rise and fall of your weary chest.

Six years ago, this week
You were sick
Tired and wheezing
At ten years old
I cried my eyes dry
Begged whoever might be listening above
For just a few more years
Of coming home
To the side of the best friend
I have ever known.

You and me, girl.
Wherever we were,
As long as we were together
We were home
Not everyone gets to be that lucky
In life and in love
I know that now.

Every single night
I tuck you in
Ache wrecks my whisper
As it makes its way to your ears
I tell you that when you are ready to go
To just let me know
I won’t keep you here, in pain
Not for my sake.

If these long years together have taught us anything
They taught us everything we ever needed to know
About a little thing called strength
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again:
The day you leaped into my arms
Pressed your face against mine for the first time
That was the closest I have ever come
To believing in love at first sight
The rumble of your paws
Romping across a forest floor
As you grew into them and made this ruin of a world your own
Rattled the dust of despair from my bones.

You, more than anything else
Washed a decade long death wish stare
From my eyes.

You braved sixteen years of this mess
To offer an unshakable love
I whisper to you;
After sixteen years of a love as unshakable as this one
I am strong enough
To brave the emptiness of a world
Forever without you.

Even though
I am uncertain
Which one of us
I am trying to convince.

Heartbreak Summer//Heartbreak City

It’s summer in the city
That I love
But could never love enough
Or half as much
As you love it
I sketch the skyline
To memory behind my eyes
Remember the first time
I watched your eyes light up
The night you talked about
How grateful you were for the ways this place
Too root in your bones
And never let go.

There’s a metaphor here, baby
Just below the surface
For sure.

The concrete and the pavement
Soak up the burning sun like a sponge
All that stone laid by hard working men
Absorbs the heat
Reflecting it back
Like an opaque mirror
Drinking every last drop
Of moisture from my skin

I’m all tears and sweat and a heaving chest
Sitting on the Highland Park steps
Doing my best to remember
How to take a breath
Talk my lungs backwards
To the days when inhalations
Came with ease
Without the weight
Of heartache pressing
Down on my chest

I cried (tough) every day
For a week straight
Then I cried for another week after that
Ran every toll between Pittsburgh and Philly
With barely a bite of food in my stomach
Listened to sad songs on repeat
Wondered if leaving wasn’t a mistake
Or some bad dream

The kind I would wake from
Turn over in bed to tell you about
Before dragging myself downstairs
To make your morning coffee
And brew my green tea
Just like any other morning
Lived in this hellish year without end
Except it wasn’t
This last year of dread ran us both ragged
Turning on each other all the way
To the end of the road

I know it was never time wasted
As much as it was time hard spent
With the days so fucking long
And so slow, slow as the despair that encroached
Like dust gathered in the corners and crevices of the room
So much
We could scrub and scrub
Never wipe the grime away
Enough make a clean break
To make the years last
As long as we’d hoped

It’s summer in my new city
Transitory as my time
Doc Marten stomping my way
Through the aching haze of heartache
On these dirty streets may be
We all know my story ends in the mountains, anyway.

The way people drive in Philly…
Relentlessly reckless
I know you would hate it
Someone said:
“It’s like every person on the road
Just smoked meth
And now they have to take a shit”
Two near collisions this week
And I’m already looking
In some quieter direction.

It’s summer in this city
The first one I feel in love with
I’ve been missing you terribly
Save for those quiet moments
Now and forever my own
Where solitude comes as a relief
In my tiny room
With the air conditioner turned low

I wonder what you’re doing
Are eating enough
Drinking enough water
Getting plenty of rest
How do you sleep
Alone, with the windows open
These nights when summer swells
The nighttime air in our room
(I guess it’s your room now)
Around you like a sweating soup

How are you filling the empty
Spaces in the house
That I used to inhabit
Throughout the home we tried
Our noble best to build
Together

I’m lucky I guess
Not having to contend
With vacant rooms in the house
Where tomorrow once lived
I find myself alone, in another city
Thankful for the books stacked
On the pillow next to me
(I still think of them as your pillows)
Like I did
At my bachelor best
Before you came along.

Lonely bedroom bullshit, again.
I can live with it.

It hurts the most at night
Lie awake in bed
Replay our last hours together
After we accepted the end
All that staggering stagnancy
Heartache and bitterness
Finally falling away
Cutting words, quiet now
The unkindness that sundered us
Finally softened
To reveal the bittersweet tragedy
Of missed chances
A story of almost making it.

On the street the next day
A kiss goodbye
Cup your face in my hands
“I love you I love you I love you”
Like a wish
A hope
That those three words could suture the wounds
Left without meaning to
I never meant to hurt you, you know
Just like I know you never meant to hurt me
Hearts so tender taken for granted
On this fucking burning planet
Inattention to detail is one kind of failure
Barbed words rising to be heard are another.

At night I sleep
I pray for an absence of dreams
Or if the universe cannot meet that small mercy
May rest at least off us a path back ruins undone
To hearts beating strong and unbroken.

I hope you
Are remembering to stay hydrated
And that your dinners are always
As delicious as they are filling
That your worries wane with the warming days
Anxiety is a conniving, heartless motherfucker
That you never deserved
Anymore than one of us
Asked for time that forgot how to be gentle.

I hope your dog never gets sick
I hope your time together is as long as it is tender
That the two of you are as blessed
As Hope and I have been
I hope he learns how to play fetch
Please give him a scratch behind the ears for me
If you happen to read this

I hope all the dust and the clutter and depression
clear
I hope you keep loving yourself
And that every job you get pays you well
I’m sorry that I lost myself
Somewhere in the noise of could have beens
Most of all
I wish you well
I wish you the very best.

5/2/21 – 1:21 AM

Fuck, man. This is going to be a short post. It’s been one of those weeks, an absolute bruiser of a week. Everything hasn’t been going wrong as much as it has just felt like the ground has been just a little too unsteady beneath my feet. In my isolation and introspection, music has been like mainlining memory straight to my skull. This week’s playlist includes some of what has been gracing the turntable around here this last week. Not everything, just the highlights. I wish I had included some newer tunes here, and not so many sounds that have been echoing in my ears over the decades. But when you’re in the pits, I guess you what is going to offer you solace, and make the nights pass easier. 

I swear, I hear those first notes from “The Kiss”, and I’m 14 years old again, standing in the cemetery with my skateboard, just as the sun began its journey beneath the horizon one spring evening. Inhale, and I’m there. I can smell the blossoms coming off whatever those trees were that they planted around the cemetery so amidst death, blossoms would remind mourners of rebirth, of life every spring. I just shared a first kiss with a crush, and I know I’m out too late on a school night. My mother is going to be pissed when I eventually make my way home, but whatever unfolded in the cemetery tonight is intoxicating, and difficult to let go. We kiss one more time. I put skate shoe to pock-marked blacktop, the rumble of polyurethane wheels. I combination skate/run all the way home. 

It’s past one in the morning. I have the windows open and I can hear the city settling into sleep. The sound of cars on the street has dwindled to a trickle, an occasional passing late-night bicycle or laugh emanating from the neighbor’s window. So much of this week didn’t turn out how I hoped. I spent today trying to look my best in a second-hand Ben Sherman, hoping I would start to at least feel a little better. It worked, mostly. The trip the sweetie and I took to get ice cream for both us and the dogs certainly helped too. 

And then there’re the sounds, the sounds, THE SOUNDS. Always drumming in my ears, offering solace when so much else falls short. Reminding me that living inside me is a kid, always skating home, praying my wheels don’t catch on an errant pebble, or chunk of last winter’s undissolved rock salt, sending my homeward race to a sudden stop. 

Hey, take care, okay? I’m glad you’re still here. I’m glad you’re still breathing. Thanks for reading. If you decide to listen (and I hope you do), enjoy the tunes. I hope you have a song out there somewhere, floating on some decaying airwaves that remind you why you hang in. I hope it reminds you of a moment where you fell in love with living. 

This week’s Mix:

  1. The Cure–The Kiss
  2. Cold Cave–Night Light
  3. Generation X–Kiss Me Deadly
  4. Swingin’ Utters-Last Chance
  5. Motorama-Normandy
  6. Get Up Kids-Lowercase West Thomas
  7. Sham 69-Borstal Breakout
  8. Siouxsie & The Banshees–Trophy
  9. The Templars–Visions Of A Future
  10. Billy Idol–Catch My Fall
  11. The Specials–Ghost Town
  12. Megative–One Day… All This Will Be Gone