…originally published in 40.2 of The Florida Review.
In Italo Calvino’s version, the world began at one point, and Mrs. Ph(i)Nk_0—with all of her love, she made noodles for the boys—and then, like that, stars appeared. Land, the moon. Ocean waves, curling and releasing. Doves. Palms.
In my version, I am not as pivotal as Mrs. Ph(i)Nk_0, and I may never be, but I made noodles for the ones I loved: The woman I was dating, and the man who asked me, softly—“Can you teach me how to put on makeup?” And I said, without hesitation, “Yes,” and the woman I loved—she helped, too. I remember this: We went to the drug store, and I pretended the makeup was for me. He chose red, plum—the colors of autumn. And then we drove to my rental room, and Douglas sat on my bed, and Anna did too. I made spaghetti. We opened tubes of lipstick, palettes of eye shadow.
In the time it took for a woman’s love to become the land, tell me—did the sky stretch and open? Did the boys press their hands to its boundary, cupping each burning star? I’ll never fully understand the journey from one point to many, but I can tell you this: Every day we create worlds.
And in my rental room, on my bed, Douglas and Anna and I—we navigated a world that felt new, its boundary moving outward like a wing, or like oak leaves fading, then deepening, into umber.
If nourishment is the link between our true selves and the stars, then I wonder what can ever be their undoing. Bullets, golden and sparkling. A false map that says: Love is not love is not love.
The night of the massacre, music played, humans kissed. Queer humans. It was Latin night. Douglas, Anna and I stayed home.
With one bullet, the land and sky caved in.
And another, and another.
This is not the story of finding oneself. This is the story of how the universe became one stone.
Sometimes poetry is not enough to bring us comfort.
Sometimes, not even the language of the human heart can cup autumn’s colors, hold them dear in their becoming.
Sometimes we tell stories of love, of how one kiss can fill a soul with abundance.
Sometimes we go to sleep, and when we wake up—so much has vanished.