Hunting With Ian

Hunter crouches in the woods with his rifle and cell phone

The strangest thing about hunting was how quiet and still it was. Ian emphasized this before we went out — that it became a meditation, to stand or sit for hours in the woods and just observe, and he loved it for that.

At first I treated it like a game, to be a statue like this. I didn’t turn my head. I didn’t shift my weight. My breathing shallow, my heart an oyster buried in sand. Just the field in front of me, and my eyes scanning, back and forth, or settling in the waving reeds. For a minute, two minutes, what is time any more. When you’re listening with this much expectation, everything begins to sound like an approaching animal, and your eyes dart — is this the moment? Do we spring into action now?

After a while it would feel like a spell had been cast. What if I’ve forgotten how to move, I’d wonder. I’d test it out, slowly. Can I bend my knee, just a little? And every time there would be a moment, before effort overcame inertia, when the answer seemed to be no, motion is no longer possible, time has stopped perhaps forever, and the magic and the power of that was terrifying. And then suddenly — perceptible only by feeling — my knee would bend.

Full album: here.

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Tonight a 3-Year-Old Read My Tarot

First, I needed to ask a question, before I could get any answers. I thought about that for a moment. “. . . Where should I live?” I asked her.

She placed her pajamaed arms on the coffee table and examined the cards.

“This one says you should never live in a palace, or a castle,” she said. “And this card says . . . don’t trust anyone. And this one says you should remember to take a bath and use shampoo. And this one says, just go someplace, and when you get there, tell someone.”

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The Night I First Heard The Pixies

When I was sixteen I loved a boy who came up to my shoulders. We’d walk down the high school hallways holding hands, and to reach him my whole frame would shift about twenty degrees, which is I think why purses always fall off one end now. Back then we were blank slates, and attraction was a simpler thing; we had seen less advertisements and movies. We hadn’t lived alone or found necessary guidance in gender roles. Power was something our parents had.

He was beautiful: his hair was long and feathered. He was the fifth boy I wanted to kiss, the second boy I actually kissed, and the first whom I loved kissing. His smile took up half of his head and his teeth were whitewashed bricks. The first time we noticed one another we were at a playground near someone’s parents’ house. I had just jumped off a slide and landed inelegantly in a pile of wood chips. He said to me, “Adrianne, you look kind of like an egg.”

Then he grabbed my scarf and ran. My friend said to me, “I think he likes you.”

“Hmmwhat?” I said. “Who?” I watched him running across the field, my white wool scarf billowing behind him like some kind of ridiculous fantasy. My heart barged into my throat, where it remained for days.

Three months later:
He would break up with me in the school auditorium (a Teen Magazine quiz I’d taken just days before had asked: “How important is it to be a good girlfriend?” “Pfft!” I’d scoffed, confusing indifference with feminism, and circling not at all). I wouldn’t cry until the doors had closed behind me.

The first boy who’d kissed me would look up from his copy of Inherit The Wind. “What’s wrong!” he’d cry, running to me.

Four years from then:
I’d be visiting home on winter break from college and we’d go to the same New Year’s party — to ignore one another as we mixed drinks in the kitchen, then dance together near the DJ, and then pull one another deliriously toward a hallway. I couldn’t stop smiling. “Why do you keep laughing?” he’d ask.

I now know to stop kissing men who ask me this question; we have fundamental differences in our life philosophies and will never communicate properly.

Twenty minutes from then:
I hit my fist into the top of his head as hard as I could, stood up in disgust, knocked on Melissa’s bedroom door, and asked her to drive me home.

“. . . Adrianne? It’s late.”

“I know, I’m sorry. It’s just . . . I need to go.”

She wandered through the dark of her room, pulling on layers of clothing, while I stood a few feet away from his already slumbering form. He was still snuggled on the floor, dimly outlined against the blankets by a streetlamp’s light shifting through the venetian blinds. All grey and softness. I couldn’t tell if I wanted to punch him in the head again or hold him like a velveteen rabbit. We tip-toed around him and out the door: that was the last time I saw him.

But first, I was sixteen and he was fifteen, he had just grabbed my scarf a few days before, which I had spent filling a diary with declarations of his beautiful face, and now there was a party in a friend’s basement after we’d all gone sledding: our noses red with cold, bowls of chips on the coffee table, a movie on the TV, our friend Brendan sitting by the CD player and singing along. If man is five, if man is five, if man is five . . .

“Who is this?” I asked. “I love it.”

Everyone was distracted; musical instruments were brought out, Cheetos thrown. Melissa and Joel, married eleven years later, were possibly flirting. Nate was probably playing a keyboard or a bass or whatever he played. I’d loved him too, but earlier, and unrequited so whatever. What movie was on? I can’t picture it. I walked near the couch and the boy who called me an egg suddenly grabbed me around the waist and pulled me onto his lap.

And thus began a new happiness.

I’ve never been a person who touches other people. I didn’t hug my friends or cuddle with my family. My little sister used to try and snuggle up to me when we shared a bed as kids and I’d shove her away, pressing a jagged line into our sheets with my finger. “Do not cross this,” I’d say, “or I’ll kick you.” And as I grew up, it wasn’t that I didn’t want that natural touchiness my friends had with one another; I just felt like it was too late for me by then. I didn’t know how. I was a bundle of limbs and sharp angles. I didn’t have the right. To touch was to potentially invade.

But when the boy with the beautiful hair and whitewashed teeth reached out his slender arms and pulled me onto his lap, I melted into the couch.

In retrospect I was probably crushing him. He was like 5’2″. Still, he managed to surround me, fold me in. I was mute for the rest of the party, overcome with his closeness and warmth. He didn’t let go. Time stopped, everything was feeling. No other firsts would compare with that first time of being held.

Melissa drove me home and could tell I was trouble. I beamed and stared dreamily out of her car window.

“I just . . . don’t want you to get your hopes up so high,” she said. “It seems like this meant a lot to you, and maybe it was just . . . a passing thing for him.” Her eyes darted off the road to meet mine. “You know, I hear he’s kinda slutty.”

“I know, I know,” I insisted. “But I don’t care. We could never talk again. Anything terrible might happen tomorrow or months from now, we could date or break up or he could ignore me forever. It doesn’t undo tonight.”

When I got home I opened my CD player and slipped in my Rufus Wainwright album. I lit all the candles in my bedroom (it was the late 90s, we had a lot of them) and I curled up on my bed and I made a line of pillows and I wrapped my arms around it. I felt overwhelmingly safe. The warmth of his arms remained in my elbows, and I thought it would never leave. Loved! Loving! Happy, happy, happy.

Sure, easy for us, then. I didn’t know the sting of loss; I couldn’t dread that yet. I hadn’t built a library of ways to be hurt, evasion strategies, plan b’s. No bridges had been built to preemptively cross. Just me, on my desert island, an ocean shroud all around, with its mysterious creatures lurking beneath.

The main thing was, back then present happiness wasn’t predicated on the assurance of future happiness.

Last night I was walking back to my boyfriend’s apartment from at party at 4 in the morning. It’s been snowing and sleeting and raining pretty much nonstop the entire month I’ve been here, and the streets were a labyrinth of rutted ice and deep puddles. The wind rattled in the trees. And then, everything was quiet. No cars on the road at that hour, no bicyclists, no other pedestrians. Just the ice and wet streets, the gentle chatter of my boots. The party had given a glimmer of a feeling: that envelopedness, that excitement of something new, the ocean all around. I thought about being sixteen and wedged between pillows.

Also other tendernesses, other surprise sweetnesses — other ways to have been suddenly held. None of them lasted forever; each had its tip-toe out scene, its sting or regret. But so far, none of those endings have been what has stuck. When I think of you, I think of how we met.

You’re leaning over the counter top, your sleeves covered in sawdust — “Actually,” you say, “I forgot to ask — do you want to grab dinner sometime or something?” You’re sitting on top of a bronze turtle at the zoo, one hand raised to the sky in victory; I snap the photo. I’m wearing taffeta and your sleeves are cut off: the bottle points to me. We’re laying on a conference room floor surrounded by popcorn kernels and our shoulders are connected by an electric current: I lend you my sweater for a pillow and afterwards it smells wonderfully of your hair. (I know this because I brought it to my own face, to inhale; I know this because I hoped it would.) Your hand is on my waist and you’re spinning me around the room, telling me this is how your parents met. We’re on your porch and it’s getting cold — I say “I’m going to just scootch next to you, if you don’t mind” and your hand naturally falls on my shoulder, like it had always been there. It still is.

Warm, assuring, close, whatever might happen later. We could live this way.

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You’ll Never Find Them Here

The next day all I remembered was thinking I’ll never find them here!

I awoke assuming it was probably just a remnant from some dream, and stumbled blearily to the jewelry box. Empty. I wandered around the apartment like a headless ghost searching for its heart.

“I can’t find all of my rings!” I mourned to Janaka. “I may have . . . hidden them from myself.”

“Did you try the bathroom shelves? The living room table? Did you look under the couches?” He looked askance at a slumbering Michael Dracula. “Maybe the kitties got to them.”

Everywhere. The pockets of all the clothing I’d brought. Purses, drawers, ziplock bags for make-up and shampoo. I crawled on the floors and slid my hands into cushions of dust beneath side tables. In the days that followed, I looked underneath every object I picked up, examined every possession as if it were something new: a clue, a code, a breadcrumb to another breadcrumb, a trail. I thought, “if I just see the right thing in the right light, I’ll know.”

Forks jumbled sideways and upside down in the silverware organizer. That painting, slightly askew on the wall. The uplifted corner of the rug. Don’t change anything! I’m trying to remember something.

The clarity of the few seconds preceding my ring set-down have been relived to the point of fiction. Okay, I think. I am pulling each one off my fingers — each ring associated with a different place, a different person, a different memory, each ring a thing I would twist around its finger during times of duress, boredom, the replacement for my “uh”s in speech. This is for high school and the slow, enchanted retail job with the snowy windows. This is for Portland, a mailed birthday present opened in an attic room. This is the stone that symbolically cracked in half. Yes. I am in my pajama pants, wool socks, a long sweatshirt. I take each ring off its finger. I stand there, clinking the rings around in one hand like fated dice, looking deviously around — what room, what room was I in? I’ll never find them here!

“Were . . . you sleepwalking?” Janaka asked. “In your memory, is it dark in the house?”

I closed my eyes and tried to think. “I don’t know,” I said.

It’s been two weeks. Where the rings once were I still twist, shift, clack. I barely even notice their absence any more; this is the new habit, a lot like the old habit. Most days now I forget to look, forget to examine everything, forget that something once so integral to my history is missing. My hands are empty totem poles. The jewelry box contains two barrettes.

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The Wait

For the first time in my life the plane ride was serene, which is kind of strange because we were flying in a rainstorm and couldn’t seem to land. It was around midnight and the sky was all black and wet, scattered with clouds like plumes of train smoke. No one but the pilot had spoken in hours. Put your tray tables up, he’d said (I thought briefly “what if I became one the few female captains”), and so we did. I had just finished my sad book, stared despondently at the cover for a while, wondered if I was capable of that much evil. I curled up into my seat like a little kid, watching the tributaries of rainwater split across the window, examining each peanut M&M before popping it into my mouth like they were something foreign — which they really kind of are (the majority of my life has been spent hating peanut M&Ms, until that one time I got stoned in the summertime and we rode through New Hampshire with the windows down and sang along to all of the songs). You are a brightly colored asteroid, I thought. You are an undiscovered mineral, you are the exoskeleton, you are the fossil left by the exoskeleton.

We had been circling over Boston for a half an hour: the plane dipping up and down, turning on its side to give us windowfuls of stars. The slender man behind me was pressing his gleaming head against the glass, a fringe of white hair glowing in the reading light. I pressed my head against my window too, and we were just inches apart like this, oh here’s the sky, oh there’s the ocean, we’re coming in for a landing, no, wooosh, back up we go. The stars blinked knowingly. I thought, if I just opened this window I could crawl out, and float down to you.

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