memories

Tobacco and Peppermint

He didn’t smoke. But everyone else around him did. It was so easy back then to make conversation. Just standing next to a shivering person in the cold, asking for a light. It didn’t matter much to him. He didn’t smoke and everyone else around him did. He would just keep the conversation going.

He’d say things that I would find absolutely fascinating. Stupid things that I think back upon years later. How easy the lines flowed from his tongue. Captivating a shivering crowd just keeping warm from a storm. How he loved lines like “Tobacco and Peppermint”, how each item went well as a before and after thought.

Things about him made him seem off. He didn’t drive. After having his license revoked from driving recklessly in his hometown, he relied on other people to get him where he needed to be. Things I understood. Everyone drove me around and driving always seemed like an after thought. Stupid things I still remember. Why do I still remember these things?

They could have been twins. The same sentiments, the same sense of humor. They couldn’t have been more alike. His only downfall was a dry sarcastic humor that people believed made him a genuinely likable person. We saw through that. Making jokes and calling him every name under the sun. He was not the sun, but how he acted like he was. I don’t know why I thought of him today. Or why after ten plus years, he seems to creep into my mind. But when my head hurts I think of the last time my head hurt. How weather changes my emotional state and it comes back to him.

I always wanted to say goodbye, but I never had a chance to. I wanted to say so many things but every word came out wrong. Tongue tied with wanting to say the right thing but every word tying together and  coming out wrong. I find myself talking to him in dreams in cities far from my hometown.  In dreams the words flow out easily then they do in my waking day. Some days, it’s easier to see people in dreams then in my waking day.  Instead I left a space for other people to fill with words and stories. I live off the adrenaline of other people’s stories. The words that flow so easily off their tongues. When I am left tongue tied with goodbyes.

Tobacco and Peppermint. How I tend to think of that line often.

I think of that crowded bar and watching bands play. How easy they made it seem. How their emotions came out in song and I still struggled to express myself. How the room was muggy and how none of it mattered. The rain poured down and I see you walk with her. Hand in hand not thinking anyone was watching. Just as you walked through the door your hands break apart. Gone back to reality and gone to different ends of the room.  Why was I so fixated on that moment. Why that memory about everything else. How poetic it seemed to see people walk in from the rain and break apart once they found shelter. For a moment they were each others shelter, until the real world settled in. That night creeps back to my mind once the weather changes. When I think of rainy days and crowded rooms; finding shelter from storms.

How the singer of a band came up to ask for the time, and stood and stared at a button on my coat. Almost waking me from my haze of dream state. We both became silent for a minute. Maybe in that moment we were both in that dream state. Trying to find the words in waking day. Or maybe he was just staring at a button on a coat of girl that reminded him of something else.

You can have it?, I said
Really?, he replied.
Yeah. it’s just a button.

I handed him the button.
While, he stood and watched.

Tobacco and peppermint.
Before and after thoughts.

 

San Francisco, CA 2003

Self portrait with Chopped hair.

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We grow our hair like weeds for people that will never love us. To later chop off all the dead weight, once they leave us. This time, I wanted to do the leaving. I wanted to cut the man at the source, and resort to every dramatic episode I could think of. Because it was never his choice. It was my choice, my decision, and it was my turn to leave this time.

If you cut your hair, I will leave you.

How I watched every strand of hair grow to the middle of my back. How happy he seemed as he ran his fingers through it, paid no mind to the person before him. It’s when I think I have him, that he leaves without notice. His ghost that trails behind then lingers once he leaves. It’s when I think I have won, that I have lost everything before me.

When you believe you love someone, you’ll fall for anything. Even something simple as leaving every strand of hair on your head, just as they like it. I loved him, from the deep parts of my soul, to every long strand of hair that fell across my back. I watched as my hair became my shield, my armor from the world. My way of hiding these feelings of doubts and worries. My hair continued to grow into a tangled, tousled, mess. I continued to listen to his threats, as empty as the love he gave me. No matter how long my hair grew, he never came back.

Frida Kahlo - Self Portrait with Cropped Hair - 1943

I wanted him back for all the superficial reasons I hated. I wanted to stop this numbing suffocated feeling of being alone that drugs nor alcohol could fill. My hair continued to grow and I continued to wait. He said I was perfect and to never change. If I cut my hair, he would only leave me. He would never come back. And I continued to wait. Until the weight of my hair became the weight of my worries. Until my hair became heavy, that I could no longer hold my head up to the sky. We do these foolish things for love but at what cost does it love us back? At what cost do people understand that we are people underneath all that hair? That our hair doesn’t make you love us any less. There were days I wanted to rip every strand from my head. Tear apart the existence of what I believed he wanted. Because for a brief moment I was perfect to you, don’t I ever think of changing.

I watch as the strands of hair fall to the ground. Inch by inch. The memories of you and the ghosts before you. If you cut your hair, I will leave you.  I try to keep myself composed. Hold the tears back. Love was never what held us together. The strands of dead hair that laid before my feet; bear witness to this change that comes over me. I am more exposed to the world without my shield. I am showing the world who I really am, beneath the hair.

 

When the final strand of hair falls, I will forget you. Someone will come in and sweep away the memories scattered on the floor. It won’t be me this time. For the first time, I have stopped listening to ghosts.

 

Tonight.

He was easy to talk too. Someone, I could come home too. Come home from a long day and talk about everything. He carried a charm about him, that I found myself enamored by things he would say. Every minute became easier to be around him.

Could he really be this charming? Or is it all the drinks I am consuming?

I didn’t love him. Maybe, if anything, I had tiny feelings for him. At this point, who don’t I have feelings for. I would have feelings for a lamp post, because it gave me light. But thats just who I am. I love people only to disappoint them in the end. If anything he just made me feel safe. Like I could be honest about everything without judgement. Some part of him would be familiar, as if I had felt these sentiments before. I just couldn’t pinpoint where.

“Stop looking at your phone. Everything you need is right here”

He didn’t mean it condescendingly. Some parts of it is a corny drunken slur. And yet, I believed him.

I don’t want to go home. As dark as it was at the Bar, I could have stayed here for hours. Maybe I did, I can’t remember. I found myself drinking this ache in my chest away. With every sip, I will cut you out of my heart.

Maybe not tonight.
Tonight, let’s just think of something else. Anything else.

With every sip of his beer, his words would slur into something more meaningful then the next.

I didn’t buy it at the time. At the time, I couldn’t think of anyone else but someone else. Someone I should have left in the dust of my memories. Someone I should never have brought with me in my new life here. The same person that made me check my phone dozens of times, instead of realizing “everything you need is right here”.

“That’s not what you’re looking for”
“What am I looking for then?”
“Me”

I could have kissed him right there. In my drunken haze, in this dimly lit bar. I could have.

But I didn’t.

No amount of drinks will rid the person that hurt you out of your heart. No matter how many boys you kiss, its not going to take the taste of his lips away. No matter how many times I cut myself, its never going to get him out from under my skin.

I feel stupid drowning out my sadness with someone else, thinking about someone else.

Everything I need is right here.

And I know better now.

Burbank, CA 2009

 

10/2/2015 – Day Thirty.

I have a hard time letting things go. Letting go is hard when its all you have left to hold on too. It’s in my nature to keep everything. Packed away until I am ready to let go. Things I should have thrown away ages ago. Ticket stubs, receipts, letters from people I haven’t talked to in years. Little mementos, relics of the past that seem like absolute clutter and trash to the naked eye, but mean everything to me. I put so much power behind these items that they become characters themselves. Its almost as if these memories manifest themselves into these mementos, that throwing them away throws away those feelings and sentiments.

My life seems so invested in things I felt happened days ago, when in reality its been years. This power I put behind memories, I can’t help but hold on to things hoping to find that magic again. I look at these relics spilled on to the floor, falling out of books/notebooks, and wonder whats missing in my present that can’t help me shake the past. The past wasn’t perfect, I am no where near the person I was back then, and yet I can’t help but be in love with the past. I loved so many things, so many people and as years go by, I watch things fray and fall apart. I find myself romanticizing this nostalgia and everything that came with it.  Seems like only yesterday I was there. Only yesterday my heart was beating faster and I couldn’t shake this feeling in my soul. Even the bad has a beautiful memory, wrapped with a melodramatic soundtrack of my favorite band, and a filter only I could come up with.

Throwing these things away throws away the magic these memories hold. I just want to hold on a little bit longer. I want to hold on to every single word, every single moment, every single memory. Everything. Until I can’t remember a face, a lyric, a name, and a song. Until the band plays it’s last encore and we are left with nothing but the dust of the afterglow. This nostalgia will only break my heart but I can’t help it. I can’t help pretending that everything was once beautiful, even when everything was hurting. I want to be locked in these memories until I have nothing left inside anymore. Holding on to these ticket stubs and holding on to feelings that meant the absolute world to me.

I know this will all disappear. One day I will have to let go of everything that is holding me back. But can I stay here before letters turn to dust and photographs begin to fade. Before we all grow old and completely disappear.

Please?

Flashing Lights.

If something hurts you enough, you pretend it doesn’t exist. The less power you put on something, the more power you want to forget it. I can’t say I miss the past with it’s nostalgic cloud that hangs over me. I can’t say I miss you, without feeling like a fucking hypocrite. I love how memories form in between the liner notes. How melody haunts a montage of memories harbored deep inside of your soul. How people have a way of coming into your life, without physically being there anymore.

I should have said goodbye a long time ago. I should have written this elaborate “dear john” letter the moment things changed. The moment I couldn’t hear songs the same way. The moment I felt I couldn’t be myself anymore. I felt ruined, that a part of me stopped believing in the cliche kitschy things of yesterday. I lost, you won, and everything else that follows, but all of that is old news. This cloud of fog that follows. Opening up a series of smokey destinations, I didn’t know I wanted to exist anymore. Old distant news with headlines of the past.

Smoke and mirrors, and shooting stars. Waiting, wanting, and longing for things that never had a place with me to begin with. Even after all this time, I can’t help but wonder what was the biggest illusion. What was your biggest performance. This belief of being greater and better then the rulers of the past. The lights flash, the lights dim, and I can’t help but still wonder. Even stars fall, even lights dim, eventually the darkest nights make way for the brightest mornings. The further you fall, the closest to the ground you become. All I could ever want is to see you crash and burn, just like the rest of them. Maybe you need to hit rock bottom to see how it feels on the other side.

I would never wish bad things upon you, but I could never wish you well. Seeing the last of our memories behind the glass, in photographs and songs, I just can’t help myself. I was never the good, I was never the light, but I could be the darkness in all it’s glory. I hate myself for believing in all the wrong things. Believing in sinners dressed up as saints in their perfectly tailored suits. Watching the fog clear, watching the smoke disappear and everything has changed. Songs have a different meaning, once you can listen to them again. Melody fills the cracks where the light once hit. Sooner or later, I start to feel like myself again.

I don’t believe in shooting stars, but I never believed in the ghosts of memories you gave me.  You never wanted me to hate you, and I don’t. I just want to forgive then forget you, then move on.

2/15/2009

9/24/2015 – Day Twenty – Seven

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When you love something so much you place it high upon a pedestal. High above the sky it becomes completely untouchable. Nothing can beat this thing, this moment, this feeling is untouchable. Others have tried, failed, and been nothing but cheap imitations of what you hold dear. When you’re young nothing can reach you, no matter how hard people try. Nothing and no one can come between what you love. I have done a lot of foolish things in my life, but nothing I regret. I loved and I lost, and I put feelings into things that weren’t certain. That’s human nature and as much as you escape the past, all you can do is move forward.

I love a lot of things, but as I got older this love changed as the images did on this status symbol. I loved a lot of bands, a lot of people, and a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have.  A part of me wants to hate these images of the past, but the more I close my eyes wanting to forget, I can’t. The foundations of this pedestal is crumbling down and with it, I want to watch all the memories come tumbling down as well. Yet, I find myself disappearing to fix and fill the holes in the foundation. I hated this band for all the reasons I shouldn’t, then loved it for all the reasons I should. In your memories nobody ages, everyone remains the same. You keep conversations in your head and faces sealed in glass cases of everything you want to remember. Even if it hurts you, you still want to keep it. Close to you, when you need it the most.

Few grey hairs later, pit scars healed, and ear drums finally back to normal; I think of this band. This band that seemed completely untouchable. That could do no wrong in my eyes. Even when the worst was bad, I still had the music to hold me through. As I sit in this seat on my way to see them for the first time in years, I get nostalgic for them. I hated this band for so many things through the years, that it’s taken me a great deal of time to come to terms with how I feel. When you grow up you forget that everyone else has too. Maybe in a way this was my sad attempt of holding on to the past, that I have desperately tried to escape. While I have alienated legions of former friends, I realized I missed that nostalgic connection of recollection. Listening to albums and singing every word puts you right back where you started. An insecure person afraid of the world but in love with literal words that are entangled in melody. I am too old to wish to be 18 again. Too old to sleep on floors and dissect every words in every song.

Today, I am transported back to a time where being stuck between lines of a song, and singing along with your best friend was all you could ever ask for. For a moment, I could live forever. Even if it’s just for a day.

Photograph.

I want to leave a piece of myself in every place that I go. In oceans, in woods, in big cities many people call home. Roam the earth and haunt the streets. Kiss a thousand strangers and leave my feet firmly planted on the ground. Beneath the streetlights that illuminate night skies. Where nothing feels as broken as you feel. Where everything feels like a completely new beginning and experience.  Leave pieces of myself in everyone that has left ghosts of their former selves with me.

Nostalgia, why do you continue to let me down? Letting me believe that photographs are what is left of our memories of the past. That something so simple is left time stamped in a photographic memory. The sooner the years pass, the sooner we leave our memories behind us. Deep rooted in the ghost towns of our minds, where words are never spoken but constantly replayed melodies form instead. I watch the cities that I love, continue to sky rocket and change with the times. Meanwhile, I watch the town I grew up in flourish then turn to dust. I watch the ghosts of my past fill the empty spaces with open arms and hollow expectations.

All these photographs I keep of people long forgotten in stories I can only tell myself. Of cities larger than my hometown. Of boys that played games with my heart that turned into men that always broke my heart. Photographs scattered and framed in a million places waiting for a retelling of a nostalgic fairy tale. Friendships that would last forever, until we grew up and become the opposite of what we were afraid of. A piece of me in every frame of the photographs that keep hidden in my memory. It’s the only place I don’t feel alone, it’s the only place I don’t feel broken.

Let me leave these pieces of me in everywhere I go.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

12/20/2010

Swing away.

You never mean to hurt the ones you love. You say the words that cut down their roots, but you never meant to break their trust. You love and protect, you forgive and forget. Apologizes are just words that bleed rust but have no meaning anyway.

Everything hurts.

I didn’t mean to show you all my fears. I didn’t mean to cry when people said goodbye. I didn’t mean to pry in the things that had no meaning to me anyway. Here I lie with the words that seem unclean, that hurt the longer I pour salt on all these wounds. It only hurts if you cry. Only hurts if you focus on the pain. This blood is thicker than water, but the water has been washed clean.

4/12/2009

8/8/2015 – Day Two.

I had every intention of being productive. I find myself saying that a lot. Every intention of starting and finishing something in the day. Every intention of getting up early, going to the gym, getting coffee, starting a million little ideas and finding ways of finishing them. That was my intention but like all great ideas, some of them just stay ideas without the follow through. You have these ideas of expectations of how your life is suppose to react, then life gets mixed up with reality. I wasn’t feeling really well and by the time I started feeling better it was already 11 am. Which of course I could have just started my day later but the momentum of starting just became the biggest killjoy.

Somewhere between when the morning and afternoon came together, I decided that since everything got off at an awkward start that I would clean my closet. I’ll be honest (this honestly thing becomes a recurring theme in my life), I have let a lot of things fall through the cracks. My room has sat in the same position for the past 2 years and my closet is just as pathetically disgusting. I don’t understand it. I am a fairly neat person, I hate when my room is filled with clutter and chaos. By the time I come home, I just don’t want to be bothered by anything. I see books clutter open spaces, I see clothes overlap chairs, I see stacks of papers and unopened envelopes collect dust on every desk and table as far as I can see. My closet is no exception. I get an idea in my head of how my closet should be, and a few months of this feng shui works fine and then the rest of the year its utter chaos. I am a packrat when it comes to clothes. While everyone else hoards memories with material objects, I have a hard time letting clothes go. Sure I’ve sold a few new items on social platforms, I’ve given clothes away to family members or friends, but even through that cleansing I still have a lot to go through. In a way I could get rid of every last item in my room but my clothes are the hardest to let go. In a way my closet is like my Toy Story and every article of clothing has a living breathing purpose and pulse. Every piece tells a story better than any photograph could.

Even with all these stories and adventures, I just can’t seem to find a purpose in this closet. It feels like everything is falling apart in this closet, even though no one else can see it but me. I purchased a garment rack over a year ago and due to the weight of clothes, it was slowly falling apart (literally falling apart). Clothes were spilling out from every side of my closet and slowly were spilling out into my room. They say your home is a representation of yourself and at this point, my room was telling me my life is a mess. I don’t have an organized process to clean my closet. I usually just start throwing things onto my bed and then go from there. I started moving everything from the back of the closet to into the front and realized how many things where hidden in the chaos. You start going through your nostalgic reasons for having things and then you realize how silly that makes you seem. On top of an almost tragically broken garment rack, I found an old collage of a band that I used to love hidden behind all the clothes and shoes. This collage that once served a purpose in my life was now just a distant memory hidden in my closet for no one to see. I guess in a way I felt bad that I wasn’t taking care of my stuff, let alone my own life. I watched how things I had long since forgotten, just happened to be found within the chaos of my closet.

I guess you can say it started with the garment rack and ended with the dresses. It was like something hit me hard in my chest and worked its way to every single one of my feelings. I became frustrated fixing the garment rack that once it was fixed, I just wanted to rip everything off the hangers. Of course I can’t go into anything in my life lightly. I have to go into dramatics, throw my hands up in the air, scream a variety of colorful words, and have a complete meltdown. This didn’t feel like a normal meltdown. This felt like a million different fingers pointed back at me, for a variety of different reasons. I can’t let go of the past and being in this closet assured me of that. I felt the weight of a hundred dresses and their stories pointed back at me for everything I had done or was doing. Somewhere between the garment rack and the dresses, I hid myself in my bathroom and cried. I can’t keep it together anymore, I can’t even pretend to know what I am doing with my life anymore. The longer I hide things deep in my closet, the sooner its going to spill out into my life and mess up my present. I wish I could say I knew this was going to happen, that I could pinpoint the exact moment that everything started feeling like it was falling apart but I can’t. I can’t because honestly I don’t know. I keep so much of life inside that when I can’t anymore, anything and everything becomes a trigger. Even a tiny garment rack and a closet full of dresses.

I didn’t stop crying once I left the bathroom. I didn’t stop crying when I fixed the garment rack and I didn’t stop crying once I sat on an empty space in the closet hugging all my dresses. Maybe, I am truly crazy. Maybe, I shouldn’t be here. Maybe, everything I am doing in this life is wrong. I wanted to disappear and run away. Run away from everything that was sitting in front of me. This hurricane of clothes that overtook every inch of my closet. This hurricane of memories and nostalgia that can’t help but continue to keep me down. I wanted to go hide in the dark and return to my self destructive nature. Cut up every single one of my old scars and burn every last one of the feelings I had inside of me. I wanted too. Anything that would take away these feelings. But I didn’t do any of those things. Not any of those things. Instead I sat with my legs crossed and picked up every dress from the floor and removed the hanger. All hangers in one place. All dresses in another. The past has a funny way of hurting even after everything has been said and done. On the days you’re hurting the pain of ghosts seep right through you. I have never been immune to that. I placed the pile of dresses on my lap and couldn’t help but rest my head on them. Then I continued to cry.

“You never finish what you start”

I sat there paralyzed in my own bullshit, because thats what this was, it’s complete and utter bullshit. I thought of 1000 ways to die. How life would be better without me but that was all bullshit. I will be honest with what I have to say, I was missing people. It doesn’t matter how much a person can hurt you, what hurts the most isn’t what they did to you, its the vacant feeling you have in your heart once they leave. Thats what I have been feeling. I was missing people I should have forgave and forgotten a long time ago. I was missing things that no longer exist. I was missing a person I no longer was, in favor of what I was doing. That is not healing. That is not moving on. It’s amazing what your mind does when you’re upset. Flashbacks, conversations, and photographs. I am really good at keeping everything hidden inside of my heart until one day everything starts spilling out. In that moment, I thought about the dresses. Each dress distinctly different in style and color. I thought about the last time I wore each dress and if they served their purpose. I thought about memories I thought I had forgetten and memories I can’t seem to forget. Then before I knew it, I stopped crying.

I know I am not where I am suppose to be. I know that I have done a lot of things differently than I had expected. I know that I have let a lot of people hurt me and I in turn have hurt a lot of people. Its not my quest to be perfect, and as human as I try to be I will continue to make mistakes. It took me to clean out my closet to realize that at this current moment I am not good to anyone right now. I can’t keep my life together, what makes me expect the same from others. As much as I miss people, I can’t help them and they can’t help me. People have lives to lead and follow. I have to do the same for myself. I’ll always have the closet full of clothes and the hundreds of dresses waiting to be worn. But my memories don’t live there anymore.

Before I could shed another tear, I picked myself up and started putting the dresses back on the hangers. Followed by color, then by style. Dress by dress back on the garment rack. Memory by memory back to the racks that hold on to life on every plastic hanger. Everything back to it’s right place.

Homecoming.

Do you think about me now and then. 

Home is where the heart is, but my heart’s already broken. You could always come home. Come home to the familiar sounds, from the familiar streets, where the familiar faces meet. Come home to where the roads point back to the familiar memories, familiar stories that make up who you are. You could always come home, you tell yourself. Home is where the heart is, but my heart has been shattered. Where do I go from here?

Life doesn’t stop because you’ve left and gone. Life goes on even when you’ve forgotten where you came from. People grow up after saying they never would. People change when they said they’d stay the same. But I’m still figuring out this life I see before me. Failing, falling, sinning, and watching everything that’s familiar change before me. We’re all in a changing game and memories are all that’s left of this nostalgic ship that’s sinking. But I can’t change when I am not ready too. I can’t change when I need something to hold on too.

Watching seasons change in my hometown, the colors turn from gold to brown. I could always come home. Come home to the people that grow up from their juvenile tendencies. Watch familiar faces start families and mold their kids to make up their past mistakes. We’re afraid of our pasts, so we grow up in our present. Breaking hearts in ourselves that don’t dent the armor in our future. Don’t be like me, don’t be like you, change everything you once were into something you could never be. We all need a clean slate to change into who we want to be. Leaving hometowns and starting some place better than this.

I could go from here to there and everywhere, but coming home always breaks my heart. Faces are changing faster than seasons do. People are leaving before they get driven out, because everything that was once familiar is dead and gone. There’s nothing for me now. There’s nothing in this town but coming home means starting over and changing everything now. Home is where the heart is, but I don’t know where home is now.

Where do I belong.

3/13/2009