In Praise of Blood and Noise

He smiled; she didn’t. He fell for it, hard. How she seemed to believe her own fantasies eliminated all noise and blocked all escape routes. He knew he’d hold the image in his head for a long time after the moment had passed, like an object you already know that you love dearly and grow too fond of it to ever put it away again. "I like your stories," he said, flickering through it. She weaved words like a vivid tapestry in her stories, the kind one thinks of when it’s breakfast and they’re standing in the shower for over an hour, bar of soap in their hand, soaking in the light, wishing they could crawl inside a second skin and relive them reborn, wild-eyes, free. "Good, you’ll likely be in one," she replied, struggling up, smiling strangely. She looked like the edge of a map, the place where things are uncertain and dangerous and make little sense. Here be dragons her face read, and he wanted to be in her every town, on her every street. Alive. Alive was what she was, with her running, gushing, swirling blood, and amongst all the noises of the world. [...]

On Fire, But Not Burning

Most of the time Melanie’s expression said I am still here but I am already gone. Some found her mysterious and provocative and learned to like that stare, like a dark hint. Others found her gentle-souled but didn’t take her stare for a hint; there was nothing behind it. No inner force of the mind shaking the thunder from the skies, no creative courage of the young heart, no play in her eyes, no fire; just dry logs. Poetic as it might seem in retrospect, in the moment it was just ugly and exhausting to be Melanie. The tiredness only made room for more of the same. She wanted to detach herself from her body often, fast and loud, like a car crash. Run out of her skin and bones and muscles and fat and nerves and let it all fall out on the floor like a piece of clothing she’d been waiting to take off, fold up and never put on again, so rough it felt and so badly she wanted to scratch it off. Most people looked comfortable with how they’d turned out, but Melanie’s body felt like a strange thing she seemed to have picked up in a hurry on her way to becoming, in the wrong size and dullest colour. [...]

To the Lucky Ones

This letter comes to tell you a few things I know to be true, in the naive hope that you won’t mind me not always leading by example. You see, I believe that love, even the love radiating from a stranger’s writings, is better than no love at all, and this is my way of passing it on. Love, as you know, is the only mechanism there is that can put both your warmth and your strength into motion, make you both gentler and more self-assured, sing you to sleep and ready you for war in the same voice. I will spare you the kind of love that social networks, extended families and old lovers are for – that yes, you are beautiful, unique, cared for and always welcomed home (wherever, whomever or whatever your home is) and no, not everybody can love you the same despite this. Instead I’ve got others, wrapped in just as much love, I promise you that. Take a deep breath. Read on. [...]

I Am a Work of Fiction

It was going to be either me or this world that was going to make it – and it was going to be the world, no doubt. The world as we know it can not be unwritten, and writing in small letters on top of the script will only create chaos and confusion. I learned that it was not the way to ask others to read me in my voice; they couldn’t decipher me, and abandoned me after my first paragraphs. I could blame them for not learning to read between the lines, or I could rewrite myself from scratch, swap my past for the new and present it to them instead. And if they bought it, I could paste it into a hugely absorbing novel with a vivid style and a mad girl for the main character, like they don't make them anymore. And whatever corner of the world they'd have gotten themselves chained up to, when they'd read me they'd say, More please. And they'd think it was just a work of fiction, when it was me they read through all along. [...]

There’s Nowhere To Go

A pneumonic hurt lived quietly in her lungs and hid in her breathing and whispered in her ears at times. You've been real. You've been lovely. You're one of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to. I kneel down to the lashings of yellow and tell them: 'She’s the one.' I will take you, and I will love you, again. But she could not crack her soul wide open anymore, like the little girl used to when she thought she had become interesting and full of wonder. Whatever the outside world was made of that fascinated her, it was now shut out completely. She took only what was necessary, and erased the door when her masterpiece was complete. What little was left of her wildness was too silent to be heard, and hurt too little to damage her creation. Nothing could affect her, no revelation, no crime. She was like a sad story, like leaves in the street. She repeated herself like a song. [...]

No Matter How Many of My Cells are Replaced

"Pull up a chair, I’ll pour you a cup of coffee. You don’t have to disappear to prove that you are there," I said right before she burnt to ashes in front of my eyes. She was a figment of the most clever, ingenious, but incomplete imagination. I shouted her names from balconies and rooftops, I whispered it in pillows and in my sleep, I scrawled it in ink on the back of photographs, and I knew I will never slid over and put my arms around her sleep-warmed body or stretch across her lap again. In my mind, she will always have all the names I tried to call her back, in the light, in the dark, on the side of the bus, sour and delicious, secret and unrepeatable, names forgotten and reinvented, names forbidden or overused, all the names Siken wrote about but didn't work for either of us. [...]

Badland

"Don’t let others tell you who you are. And if you do, at least don’t believe them," was her grandmother’s secret advice for her. Up there, as a child, she learned about the monstrous things that the humanity took part in, and silent terror descended on her mind every night as she recalled them. Unable to sleep, she used the books she read as kindling and her imagination as the fire starter to fall in love with her own monsters night after night. She made up stories that went on and on long after her grandmother and her books were no longer around. The parents of the New World never mentioned the monsters under the bed to their children, but in her Kara’s case, they would have seemed completely harmless compared to the ones living inside her. She was grateful, but only for her grandmother who furnished her formative years with books, and for the little girl who hungrily opened her eyes to a world far from her sight. She lost her grandmother early, but she would never lose the little girl. [...]