The Kindle version will be available on Amazon on Monday, August 15.
Let me know if you buy it. Hope you enjoy!
The Kindle version will be available on Amazon on Monday, August 15.
Let me know if you buy it. Hope you enjoy!
I wiped a tear away from your faceand although it settled in the darkest spot just below your bottom lashes
my thumb was surprised by the chill.
And when I asked you what the matter was, you sat in my creaky rocking chair and said:
“I am forgettable
I am boring
I am plain.”
And I laughed because I thought it sweet
that a girl, who is so many, many things
could find no quality within herself worth redeeming.
I quite like to see you cry
because so many people choose to hide their weaknesses
but you embrace yours like several long lost loves
always accepting and never afraid
And when you bear all your nakedness before me
your soul so brittle it could snap at any moment
and you share with me your troubles
I cannot think of anyone more queer
I could kneel beside you and watch you exhaust all of your tears
until there’s no pain left inside of you to be freed.
Your colorless face finally turns to me, vacantly,
But what can I do to show you
that you are everything but
aside from greatly assuring you that you are not?
I take your dampened hands in mine
and thank you
not only for the coldness of your old tears
nor the flush of your skin
nor the wetness of your hands
Thank you for letting me see everything
and for being everything but
“I know exactly who you are,”I say, our bodies entangled in the bed I make each morning.
“I step into that steel grey room quite often in my brain,
With the hope that I can recall
everything about the instant our souls met, without a need for introduction.
But all I have is the idea that
It might have been you.
Your mind so aloof with thoughts of the next big thing
That you cannot recollect yourself.
I know exactly who you are,
You are the one who looks at me
Like I am a unicorn,
The prettiest of all the creatures that your eyes have ever touched
And I’ve spent many days since
In search of that feeling to catch
Of you, curiously agape
And my questioning why,
Someone can fill my heart with every ounce of selfless joy inside the earth.
I’d rob the universe to give it all to you.”
“I know exactly who you are,”
He says, and kisses my forehead in the middle.
“You are the universe, with all its love it gives so freely,
Asking for nothing in return.
I study from a distance,
Not because I am afraid.
But because you are the prettiest of all the universes,
And my eyes, they yearn to take you in in your entirety.
The infinity of existence,
Pale beside you.”
Here is an excerpt from my upcoming novel Unthoroughly Modern. More details on it coming soon.
A month after she met her dad, Millie had mostly returned to normal. Everyone stopped asking her if she was okay every time they saw her, and Fran chilled out on acting so motherly. It was hard enough having one overly concerned mom smothering her all the time, so two was just too much for Millie.
Sam didn’t tell her again that he loved her either. He must have felt really sorry for her and figured she needed to hear those words from someone–anyone–so he made himself the martyr. And then there was the kissing thing. Sam kissed her everywhere but her mouth. Forehead. Cheeks. Neck. Hands. Whenever Millie got too close to his lips, he would turn his head just enough so their mouths would fall short of touching. She tried not to let it frustrate her too much, but it was all she ever thought about.
“It’s getting super weird,” Mike said over breakfast in the dining hall one February morning.
“You need to have a talk about it,” Fran told her.
“I can’t.” Millie crinkled her nose.
Mike: “It’s an awkward conversation for sure.”
Millie: “He might tell me something really heartbreaking.”
Fran: “About him?”
Millie: “About me. Like maybe my breath smells. Or I’ve got bad teeth. Or my lips are too dry. Or–”
“There isn’t anything wrong with you, Millie,” Mike interrupted her. “If a guy wants to kiss you, he’ll overlook those things.” Fran punched him in the shoulder. Mike didn’t realize what he said was bad until he said it. He looked at Millie apologetically.
That was what Millie dreaded the most. That Sam just didn’t want to kiss her. It didn’t make any sense. Why would he spend so much time with her if he didn’t want to be intimate? There was something mysterious festering deep within Millie that demanded physicality to keep from becoming dangerous. It was the Mr. Hide to her Dr. Jekyll. Sam gave her some of him, but she needed all of him.
“I’ll talk to him,” Millie said, running her fingers through her hair. Why not? She was treading far too close to the dark side to let herself fall completely.
“Hey, are you still a size extra small with this?” Mike asked, pointing at his own shoulders.
Millie clenched her face. “What does this”–she mimicked his shoulder pointing–“mean?”
Mike shrugged, desperately trying to phrase himself correctly. “Well, you know, now that your shoulders are bigger.”
“My shoulders aren’t bigger.”
But her shoulders were bigger. She’d gained ten pounds since she began her tire flipping class, and her clothes were fitting a little more snug. Her shirts fit tighter and would make weird ripping sounds whenever she leaned forward or tried to take them off. And jeans…She’d stopped wearing jeans entirely.
“They’re not like huge or anything,” Mike added. “You can just tell you’re strong.”
Millie made sure her shoulders were covered by her cardigan. “I guess I’m not totally an extra small anymore.”
“You look awesome,” Fran nodded. It was easy for her to say. She was Audrey Hepburn thin.
“You do,” Mike said. “If I was some creep I’d worry you’d be the one to attack me.”
On the first night that Millie stayed in her dorm room with Ophelia sleeping in Fran’s old bed, she got very little rest. The second time she stayed awake for awhile but eventually dosed off. By the third night she was sleeping more than half the night. She just thought so much about the person on the other side of the room, being very aware of Ophelia’s existence from the way she breathed in heavily and exhaled through her mouth while she slept, to the way that she seemed to switch positions every thirty minutes.
Millie didn’t really act this way with Fran on the count that Fran was such a silent sleeper. She didn’t move or make a sound. If Ophelia had been a silent sleeper, then Millie wouldn’t be so obsessed with listening in agony as Ophelia tossed and turned throughout the night.
And Millie didn’t have a problem with Ophelia. Ophelia was a nice girl. She was always trying to hang out with Millie, inviting her to this vegan place called Cafe Veinticinco every time they would cross paths in their room, which Millie ensured didn’t happen very often. Millie just didn’t want to live with anyone. Maybe she would live with Sam, but they didn’t even kiss. Living with him would be like having a platonic roommate that you spooned every night.
Millie’s morning class had been canceled, so she stayed in her room to read a book for her Unconventional Fiction class.
After an hour of reading, she set her book on her bed. She took out a can of furniture spray from the closet and cleaned off her dusty desk. She thought it might be nice of her to clean Ophelia’s desk, too, so she removed Ophelia’s only desktop belongings (her laptop, an empty fruit bowl and like seventeen crystals), wiped the desk clean, then put everything back. She even sort of wiped the crystals down so they were shiny.
Ophelia walked in with a recyclable grocery bag. “Hey girl,” Ophelia smiled at Millie and placed the bag on her desk, pulling out two clear bottles of organic shampoo and conditioner. She was breathing heavy, a sign that she walked to the farmer’s market a mile away from campus. Everything was a mile away from campus.
“Hi,” Millie said and went back to reading.
Ophelia was silent for a minute, taking out all of her market finds, when Millie heard her ask, “Did you touch my crystals?”
Millie looked up from her book. “Um…”
“They’re facing away from the window.”
“Because I wiped your desk.”
Millie shrugged. The book moved with her shoulders. “Furniture spray.”
“You put chemicals on my desk?”
“Your desk has had chemicals on it before,” Millie said, getting defensive. “A few more chemicals won’t hurt it.”
Ophelia held her hands up in disbelief. “My crystals are facing away from the window.” She took a deep breath. “And that’s bad luck, child.”
“One, I’m not a child, I’m a year older than you, and two, you can make it all better by facing them toward the window again.”
“How long have they been like this?”
“Twenty minutes or so.”
Ophelia screamed. She shuffled all the crystals so they faced the window once more, then she turned to face Millie. “Don’t touch anything on my desk again. I can buy something to clean it with. Open the window.” She walked over to the tiny window and opened it, putting a little force into pushing it up. “To get the chemicals out. Our lungs deserve more love than that.”
“My lungs get plenty of love, thanks.” Millie went back to her book.
“Doesn’t it bother you that you’re breathing in deadly toxins?”
Millie kept reading. “Not really.”
“I’m bothered for you,” Ophelia walked back to her desk. She said some things about how awful it was that we were still using chemicals to clean our homes (they should be treated like temples) and called Millie a child again when there was a knock at the door.
Ophelia, still talking to herself, went to the door and opened it. Sam was standing outside with his hands behind his back. He smiled at Ophelia. “Ophelia,” he said.
“Hey, boo boo,” Ophelia said with distress in her voice. She turned around and headed for her bed.
Sam walked in, looking at Millie sitting quietly on her bed, and Ophelia frantically trying to gather her things to get far away from their toxic space. “Did something happen?” Sam asked cautiously.
“Millie cleaned my desk with furniture spray.” Sam raised his brows. “And she faced my crystals toward the wall.”
Sam gasped. “Millie, how could you?”
Millie threw her hands up. “How was I supposed to know?”
“It’s bad luck.” Millie rolled her eyes. Sam sat down at the foot of her bed.
“I’ll be out for the rest of the afternoon,” Ophelia said, swinging a tote bag over her shoulder. “That imposter smell of lemon should be gone by the time I get back.”
“Stay safe, Ophelia,” Sam said.
“Thank you, boo boo.” Ophelia shut the door behind her.
Sam turned back to Millie. He tapped her foot with a pointed finger. “Do you know what this weekend is, particularly this Sunday? It’s a very big day.”
Millie thought about it. “February fourteenth?”
“Precisely.” Sam held up his index finger. “But this weekend is a very special weekend. Because not only is it Valentine’s Day, it’s also someone’s half birthday.”
Millie furrowed her brows.
“It’s yours,” Sam smiled. He was talking like a commander giving an inspirational speech just before battle. “There’s more. I got to thinking about the awesome things we could do on your Valentine’s Day/half birthday weekend, when I realized that we’ve been together for two months now and we haven’t even had a proper date since North by Northwest. Where I take you out and pay for everything.”
Millie didn’t say anything. She just listened, so Sam continued, “So then I got to thinking about what great things we could do for Valentine’s Day/your half birthday/our second real date.” He titled his head to the side after he listed off each event. “And I got an idea.”
“What are you thinking?”
Sam’s mouth grew wide. “Dinner and a movie.”
“We did that last time.”
“Exactly.” Sam placed his hand on hers. “And I want to do it again.”
“So dinner and a movie for Valentine’s Day/my half birthday/our second date?”
“That’s just Friday. On Saturday I want us to go camping at Pyramid Lake.”
Millie lowered her chin. What was he thinking? “In a tent? With like, bears and snakes?”
“In a tent with nothing to be too concerned about. The bears and snakes will be outside.”
“Um, okay. Let’s do it.” Millie nodded enthusiastically.
Sam smiled. “Great,” he said, his smile fading as he looked into Millie’s eyes. He leaned forward, his curvy lips going into a pout. This was it. It was finally happening. They were going to kiss, and it was going to be awesome. Millie leaned in closer, and shut her eyes. Then she felt a quick gush of air blow in her face. She opened her eyes. Sam was staring at her attentively, but his focus was on something below her eye. “You’ve got an eyelash that won’t come off.” He wiped it away with his finger, then gave Millie one nod of accomplishment.
What was he doing here? He wasn’t allowed in here. This was my place. He didn’t know that this was my place–my sanctuary really–but he didn’t have to. You should just know these things about the people in your life. Like the high school basketball star has the park down the block from his house, the one with the courts that he can occupy himself in the quietude of the early weekend morning before the rest of the world rises. Or the surfer who always finds herself at the surf shop on the boardwalk just outside the ocean, even though she has no intention of getting a new board anytime soon.
Much like these dignified people, I–Clementine Schwartz, writer, reader, coffee drinker–have Gideon’s Cafe and Bookstore. Okay yeah, it is a public space which does technically make it up for grabs, but that doesn’t discount the natural urge within man to claim his space in the world.
When I approached Steve I placed a couple of fragile fingers on his warm arm, in fear that too much contact would give away that my hands were shaking a little nervously. He turned to me so vacantly that I worried his lack of surprise to see me meant that he saw me ordering my latte, rummaging through my purse to find the loose bank card that I had tossed into the tiny bag moments before leaving my house. I was hyper aware of how impatient the barista/cashier at the counter was getting with me and how I kept apologizing to her, one hand shoved into my purse, because I knew Steve was just right across from me quietly browsing a shelf labeled New Releases. And if he had witnessed that atrocious transaction, then he must also have had no intention in greeting me. He was to let me on my way, ignoring the universe’s grand attempt at bringing together two stars that normally orbit different parts of the galaxy.
“Hey,” he said breathily, extending his arm out like it was already in his arsenal to brace me in a hug (the kind of equipped when you’ve already seen the person).
I pressed myself against his chest, wrapping my small limbs around his narrow body, feeling the hardness of his thinness. It gave me the sensation that I’d crashed into a wall. I pulled away.
“How are you doing?” he asked. Then suddenly he wasn’t looking at me anymore, but at the front counter. “Sorry,” he told me. “I’m looking for a book.”
“Which one?” I asked, as if I could offer him a hand. “Actually, I can’t help you,” I corrected in case he thought I was serious.
“Do you work here?” he joked and made his way to the counter, just as an artsy looking barista/cashier (a different one from the impatient woman for which I’d dealt) was steaming milk from a silver cup.
He told the barista/cashier (his name tag read Mike) about this book he had reserved. Then he gave his name, Steve Munson. Mike informed Steve that they had set a copy aside for him, and he proceeded to pull the book off a little rolling cart behind him.
“How’s your sister?” Steve asked me as Mike rang his book up.
He may as well have asked, “how’s the only thing I know about you?” Everyone knew that my sister was sick–stage IV leukemia–but Steve was the only person I had confided in that she may not have much time to live and that she would be be going in for surgery in a week’s time. That was two months ago. She was doing okay. Alive, but just okay.
“She’s well,” I informed him. I felt a surge of anger at Steve’s question. He was merely trying to make conversation, and perhaps he was concerned about my sister’s aliveness, but it bothered me that he’d made no attempts to ask about it for two whole months. It was just another reminder that our kiss meant little to him. The kiss where he held me close so that our noses touched even after our lips broke away from one another, his fingertips sliding down my cheek as he exhaled a breath that felt warm amidst the coldness of that January night. It was a reminder that my hand in his didn’t incite the fluttering butterflies in his stomach as it did in mine. And when he drove away after dropping me off at my house for the last time, that I wasn’t on his mind like he was on mine ever since.
He was completely unaware of the way he made me feel. That he had more power over me than anyone, to some extend even myself. And I know that I should be careful about who I hand over such power to. I was reminded of this when the very sight of him sent me crashing into a madness of my own doing.
“That’s good,” he said and grabbed the book from off the counter. “How’s the coffee here?”
“It’s okay.” I shot my eyes over at Mike, hoping that he wasn’t expecting me to hype up Gideon’s mediocre coffee simply because I was here almost every every day after school.
“I truly have to go,” Steve said. It was just like him to use words like truly, an otherwise unnatural adjective that sounded perfect coming from his lips. The way he spoke could be its own unique form of poetry.
“Yeah,” I said. “Me too actually.”
“I’ll see you soon,” he said, even though the moment we parted ways meant we were returning to our respective posts on opposite ends of the galaxy to serve our roles in orbit, he thinking little of me, and me thinking very much of him.
Sam was here.
Anxiety began to stir up in Millie’s stomach as she heard the rubber sole of Sam’s old, dirty shoes tread lightly down the stairs. She could see them make their way down now. All Millie could think about was how much she hated those shoes, scuffed up from daily wear, probably as a means to distract her from the confrontation she’s been dreading all day.
Sam stepped down from the stairs and made his way toward her. Millie darted her eyes to the ground and smoothed the tips of her hair nervously. It was much more attractive than biting her nails, another nervous habit she couldn’t seem to break.
The urge to see if Sam was just as afraid as she was overpowered Millie’s fear of eye contact. She glanced up quickly, as if to get it over with and her eyes locked with Sam’s. He looked down at her, his brows raised expectingly. He was as calm and patient as always, to Millie’s disappointment. Why was she always the only anxious wreck in the room?
“Thank you for meeting me,” Millie said to the ground.
“Sure,” Sam shoved his hands into his jean pockets.
He was effortlessly cool. Probably because he’s older, Millie thought.
Millie copied his stance by sliding her hands into the pockets of her hoodie. It made her feel protected, but not cool.
“I wanted to apologize last night, but I’m not very good at these things.”
“I know,” Sam said, matter-of-factly.
Millie shot her eyes at him.
“And it’s totally okay,” he added.
“It was unfair of me to be upset with you the other night. I acted out because I wanted you to notice I was angry.”
“I definitely noticed,” Sam nodded as he recounted the other night.
Millie saw Sam with another girl. A blonde girl she had never seen before. Sam and Millie were not dating, but there was an undeniable connection between the two of them, an unspoken truth even. Millie couldn’t help but storm out of the theater after her poetry reading at Sam’s weekly talent showcase. The standing ovation from the audience after pouring her soul out on stage. The praise from Sam as soon as she stepped off stage. It all meant nothing to her as the foolishness seeped in upon witnessing Sam sit next to the blonde and wrap his arm around her.
“I wanted to ask you what was wrong, but I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries,” he told her.
Boundaries. Since when were there boundaries between the two of them? Since the mystery blind showed up. That’s when.
And Sam knowing Millie was upset explains why he was so accommodating to her last night. Asking her if she needed anything. Making sure she was comfortable. He wasn’t head over heels for her. He was afraid of making her angry again.
“I know I can be a bad friend,” he said.
Friend was the only word Millie absorbed.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Millie said lowly.
Millie looked up at Sam. His voice was gentle. Kind. Loving. Things she didn’t want it to be, because it was a reminder that Sam wasn’t in love with her, he was just a good friend.
“Don’t ever apologize for your feelings.”
Millie nodded, tears swelling in her eyes. She removed a hand from her pocket and wiped her tears away with her hoodie.
She knew that this was the end. Not indefinitely, but their friendship wouldn’t be the same again. They wouldn’t go on lunch dates anymore, and she would cease coming to his talent showcases. The ones she would only go to to see him. The showcase she signed up for to impress him. That definitely had to stop.
Things would have to be quiet for awhile, and it was a shame because Sam was a really good person. He wasn’t like Fran and Mike, Millie’s best friends, who always had something negative to say. Sam had a good energy. Always had something witty to say. He made sure you had something to drink. That you didn’t walk to your car alone. Even when you were mad at him.
Sam was refreshing. Millie had never met a person like that before.
When Millie realized she hadn’t thought those words, but actually said them aloud to Sam, she was even more shocked. She didn’t tell guys how she felt about them, because it was always unrequited.
“Thank you for letting me know how you feel,” Sam nodded assuringly.
Oh, God. Millie just poured her heart out to Sam and he didn’t know how to respond except to be polite.
Millie waited for the embarrassment to hit, but it never came. Instead she felt relieved. Finally she told Sam what he meant to her, and even though he didn’t think of her the same way, all the bad stuff that Millie thought had permanently made a home inside of her evaporated.
Anxiety must be withholding information, Millie thought.
“Promise me this,” Sam continued. “You stop apologizing for how you feel, and I won’t be so hard on myself. Deal?”
Millie forced a smile and agreed. Sam gave her a tight hug, resting his chin on her head. Millie recalled the first time Sam did this: he held her, hesitating at first, but when he finally tapped his chin to her head and searched the right spot, they were a perfect fit.
The heartache was afloat after Sam left, but nothing overwhelming. Millie wanted to live with it for a little while. And she especially wanted to be alone. She owed herself some loneliness.
With nowhere to go, and nothing to see
I carry your memories with me.
Like the bones of someone long since dead
They’re old and worn;
A symphony of rotting.
The scent of unrequited love is quite grotesque-
It hits my nose and lingers.
Despite the urge, I hold on tightly.
And even though you left my heart undressed,
I cannot leave these bones to rest.
Our galaxy you left so nonchalantly,
Mundane to you, but everything to me.
Like the bones of someone long since forgotten,
They attract all that is unpleasant.
As I embrace optimism, my only friend,
Passionately I kiss deceit,
With lips as salty as the sea.
And even when I try my very best,
I cannot leave these bones to rest.
This ghoulish party that I throw
Has left me hopelessly aglow.
This flow of conversation feels complete,
Albeit one sided; obsolete.
The madness in me I must digest,
As ignorance passes through my soul.
It is with great sadness, I’m forced to forget.
And even though it will forever sting my chest,
I could never leave these bones to rest.