When you were out with your girlfriend down in the boondocks and your truck got stuck in the mud and there was no way to call someone to pull you out and no GPS to tell you where the nearest house was or gas station and no smart phone to keep your brain alive until it died along with the car battery from playing Eagles Greatest Hits Volume II on endless repeat… the only thing that needed doing was staying alive long enough to get your ass beat when you got home. So while you might not have been able to send a hundred emails that night, because the smart phone had not yet been invented and you were not yet superhuman as a result of its magical abilities to clone you and speed up time … you did at least have the wherewithal to kill 3 snakes, drink an entire case of Old Milwaukee, finally make it to 3rd base with that busty cheerleader you’ve been chasing since 9th grade, walk six miles to the nearest house to borrow a phone to wake your cousin Clem (the only blood relative with a tow hook), and narrowly avoid getting shot at by the assholes spotlighting for deer at two in the morning. You were a different kind of superhero. With way better taste in music. 

Behind the door, it’s easier to see. Even in the dark room, the world is clearer. You can stand here and be still. Or you can walk a few steps toward the center.You can collapse from exhaustion or you can take a moment and remove the whole day from your body, except for the parts that were amazing.


You can leave those on, if you choose, and roll around in them on the bed, the one that’s yours alone, the one that’s on fire, or cool like marble, or soft like beginnings, or alive like ocean.


Maybe there’s someone there waiting for the garments, someone who knows every secret wish and desire, someone who never thinks you’re too much or too small.


Or maybe you’re alone and waiting or not waiting and happy for the solitude, for the freedom.


The freedom… of nothing. 


You can be still for a second...

You can exhale and close the heavy door behind you, wrestle it shut if you have to. You can lean against the inside of it and even click the lock, it’s up to you. You can choose not to be so damned accommodating of the hands and voices that pull at you and call your name. You can let them solve their own problems.


After all, you’re in here, behind the safe door, and you can make up any rule you want. 


You can decide that you’ve done your best. For today. For the week. For the lifetime you’ve spent trying to solve it. ­You can believe that it’s possible to be happy, truly happy. You can leave it alone, or pick it up again. You can add health and level up.  You can give in and walk away.


There is nothing keeping you here in this state of reckless apathy except an idea of wholeness, an idea of your own creation, an idea that may very well be full of holes. 


Things that aren't snow:
cheese puffs
bubble baths
hanging in there
all the time in the world
long nights
tell me where it hurts
paperback novels
phone calls
your crazy good heart <3
blank pages
clean slates
I've never been more certain
caller ID
good timing
craft beer
that play you saw last night
baby elephant memes
carbonated beverages
singing in the shower
singing off key
not singing
oh, you're gonna get it
lazy days
lists ;)
wasting time
easy tasks
college ball
friendly wagers
chill Pandora playlists
the sound of your laughter
really hot coffee
salted chocolate molasses chews
this moment
someone else's take on it
glasses half full
mom's recipe
having enough
having it all
Nerf guns
smart phones
dumb jokes
clean sheets
dirty hands
new obsessions
old standbys 
online shopping
the way you look in those jeans
bubble wrap
where did you find it?!
giving back
little known facts
white noise
telling the story
come a little closer
something to show for it
hide and seek
body heat
quiet time
taking ownership
loose change
classic movies
hidden stashes
warm laundry
is this legal?
learning how to love you
Chinese takeout
pizza delivery
I get it now
back scratchers
words in the right order
drive-by emails
tell me something good
because I care
closed doors
open hearts
big questions
good answers
remote control
extended hugs
things that make sense
losing track of time
heart shaped boxes
your hand on my back
your hand in my hand
your hand right there...
I'll be right over
"tragic" situations
can I get you anything?
logs on the fire
milking the bit
hot meals in slow cookers
big comfy chairs
all the things
things you'd forgotten and
  never meant to
peppermint tea
blanket forts
Lego sculptures
hard candy
grilled cheeses
don't stop
new love
old love
good love
your love
auto replay
beautiful messes
coloring books
eyes wide open
board games
eye contact
making it better
no expectations
glossy magazines
I'm glad you asked
reading light
hey, you
remembering things
wanting it
living a little
how did you know?
moleskine sketch
  books with coptic binding
the greater good
fat bellies
dance with me
valiant efforts
handwritten letters
you smell good
forgetting it
mulled wine
watercolor pencils
your own bed or someone else's 
binge watching
I'm sorry
a sight for sore eyes
you go first
something completely different
look what I made you
new toys
clever people
finding something in
  the place where you left it
not giving a DAMN
I'm so glad you're here
the Sunday crossword
kisses that last for an hour
friends that check in
getting one over on your kids
I love you
and words that don't
  end in 'pocalypse

Can we talk about something
  else now?


"The world, we are told, was made especially for man - a presumption not supported by all the facts." ~ John Muir



We are capable of rich and life-altering intimacy--however fleeting--with the oldest of comrades, and the newest of acquaintances.


We can step away from the empty pleasantries that distance us from others and that "mask" the ill-mannered insecurities that cause us to neurotically and compulsively apologize for our chronic truancy and bad behavior.


We can acknowledge that our own self-loathing, though deeply personal, is not an exclusive phenomenon, but a universal and shared truth that can be expressed and shared in myriad and useful ways to disarm and engage with others who are similarly wounded.


We can ask better questions of ourselves and of one another and we can implore a heartfelt response. We can assert that we are not responsible for the suffering of the world while still acknowledging, as members of the human race, that it is in fact our collective burden.


And more to the point. we can actually take some of the pain away if we would simply choose to reach outside of the gravitational pull of our own self-centered agenda through sincere. purposeful. and conscious acts... of love.


The trick is to reach the door first. Slam it HARD and let it hurt and then nothing hurts after that.


You and your long goodbye. You and your reasons. Somewhere in that cold dark state of empty that you left for me, I can make out the crystalline fragments of another life. I pick them up, one by one, and bring them to my well-lit table. This can’t be good, I don’t remember these! A midnight drive to Galway Bay. A lighthouse down in Key Biscayne. I was happy?


I was… happy.


And then the cold set in. And I forgot myself or did I outgrow it? A lifetime later and you still don’t even know my name. But it isn’t your indifference that gets me. It’s the sheer vastness of time and how it folds back onto itself, knocking on our door like a drunk census-taker. How many plans did you have? And how many sleepless nights? And how many broken hearts did you say, not the names, please, just a total.




I slam the door. I breathe. My hand is a fractured geode that once held the earth. And now it holds a key and a map and some fragments from a place I don’t remember.


But surely, I must have soared at times? I must have reached and taken hold. I must have run fast, my chestnut hair chasing after and my eyes must have shone brilliant in staggeringly beautiful azure hues.


When I finally laid claim to the anguish in my own heart. When I understood it was of my own creation. I could begin to forgive myself for enslaving others to carry what was not theirs to carry. Something about ownership. It seems to me that our daughters are not taught about unrest. About what to do with the silence. We know to fill it with noise. With activity. To stay busy. But these are momentary distractions from the it that is. OK, so the soft remedy, the one from Vogue. A paperback. Some cardamom tea and cozy slippers. Always, some patch. But what if the source of the ache is really kind of boringly scientific? Some primitive reflex, a fear of rejection, a very necessary fear that kept us alive before we knew about fire and central heat and footed pajamas. And maybe a lack of that fear meant dying--actually dying--cold and alone in a cave somewhere with no one to sing to? Or lost in the woods with no identity, no family, no home. NOTE TO SELF: I'm really, really sorry for giving you so much grief all these years. For reminding you time and time again what a loser you've been at love. For not telling you enough that even when you hated yourself the most, the world had not forgotten your beauty. And that your desires, no matter how seemingly marked or misguided, were really just a fight to draw breath. To find warmth. And to live another day.


She said look at all this. Take a good look. Red lace and violet pumps. Long legs and cowboy boots. She is tangerine. She is purple hair and a borrowed sweater. Curves and luscious, tall and dark, butterfly scarf and 4 inch stilettos. She is blonde and blonder. Mouthy as hell, y'all. Ice blue eyes, the tiniest hands. She is scared and anxious. She worries about critics and other stupid things, like assholes with opinions. She says my mom is gonna freak. So that's what she looks like in person. I love your dress. I never pay retail. I can't write about mine, she's still alive. When do you open? Seriously!? I remember your play, I've never forgotten. I stay off Facebook, it's all too much. This box is heavier than you think it is. Hey cowgirl! Do it, I dare you!!! She's soooo nice. Does this chair make my ass look fat? This is all too much. Raise your hand if you're in rehearsal. Raise your hand if you're freaking out. This is why I switched to writing. Your first full-length, oh my gosh! Congratulations! I'm going to puke. Where's Ally Currin? Oh, that's right, she's being a parent. That sounds like fun. These lights are hot! Does anyone know what the hell we're doing? Relax, relax. Now face this way. I'm too old. You shut up! I hate my arms. You look amazing. Is that vintage? No, it's Nordstrom. Is this really happening? What did he say? I'm going to die. I need a bucket. We're playing Tetris. I can't feel my feet. Stand right here, the air is cooler. You can Photoshop my grease face, right? My hair blocks three people. Even my sweat has sweat. I just need to hug you. You had me at vodka. What if they hate it? We'll just go drinking. She sounds like my gynecologist. It's almost over, you're doing great! I'll walk with you. I'm probably crazy. No one gives a fuck about critics. Stop slouching. Be brave. Did you forget we came here to change the world? Women's Voices Theater Festival #‎womensvoicesdc‬


I want to rewind to the part before our hearts shattered all to hell and we knew any better or anything at all and just sit here at the sno-cone stand until our tongues turn purple and the sun melts into the pond. We can feed the geese and that one cute turtle and you can tell me again about your plans to save the world and I can rattle on about the hole in my flip flop and the price of prom dresses and all the other inconsequential life or death conundrums while you push me on the kiddy swing into nightfall. And then we'll just skip all that stuff about lacerated hearts and stripped-bare souls and all the other minor nuisances of world-destroying loss and just end this thing like they do on television - four easy steps. I'll kiss you hard and angry on the mouth and do a slow burn like maybe 10 degrees toward somewhere else and then shoot you the bird cuz that's how we do as I drive off in my truck to become someone else's nightmare. Or dream girl. Can we do that? OK, cool. Meet you at the place.

Love is a black truck waiting, heels on the dash, on your running board. Love is a drive South, speeding. Love is a white shirt collar, yanked from behind or a shiftless sloth, eyes bright for pulling you out of yourself and into THIS MOMENT. Love is an undertaker. Love is an interred secret, love is a bound kept promise and the slick stare of collusion from the grave digger’s cat. Love is an old blue tick hound -- love is all his boon relations, at your feet and in your bed. Love is a cool dry morning. Love is the I don't care. Love is a new flag flying. Love is a muse and what they "see." Love is a fist, rigged and able. Love is an outstretched wing, Love is a big fat hand HARD SMACK on your big fat something. Love is the ground you walk on. Love is the air you breathe. Love is the night you held me. Love is the day you left. Love is the life we planned on. Love is a WIDE OPEN gate. Love is the bright moon calling, wanting to know when you'll be home. Love is a corn dog supper -- with mustard and slushies and you. Love is the let’s go walking. Love is the heartache, love is the calm. Love is a pub and a pint and a phone call. Love is the joy. Love is the fall. Love is a life there waiting. Love is the “won’t you trust?” Love is the NOW-not-later. Love is the me, and the "me" with you: 

Love is the "let me see you?" Love is the "I don't know...." 

Love is the LET ME SEE YOU, let me SEE you, let me see you, let me see you, let me see you, let me see you, let me see you, let me see…



All morning long and all afternoon it rained and rained at the healing house. I call it the healing house because of its magical ability to slow down time. And when I’m here I do feel better, as do most people who walk through these gates. It is an unassuming place. You wouldn’t know it from the street, but miracles happen here. We wander the gardens and the pond. We drink the wine. We sing the songs and hold on to one another. And it doesn’t take long. A day. A weekend. The dogs appreciate my company while their humans are away and they manage quite ably the people who frequent this place. The neighbors bring by fresh tomatoes and pumpkin, a delivery of propane or wood. Sweet treats and baked goods during the holidays. But the two ridgebacks, so thoroughly habituated to the comings and goings of others on these two acres, are more like shop dogs than house dogs. Two of my humans stopped by. They brought more wine to this place with all the wine. Katy showed me her reasonably priced slow cooker and prepared the comfort food while we read my new story. Matt drank two Dos Equis and made eyes at his wife when she wasn’t looking. Outside, the rain was sheeting sideways. We fed the beasts their supper and quieted them with treats. We ate the comfort food and passed through to the comfort room where the giant creatures made a carpet. We warmed our feet on them and draped ourselves unapologetically across the various furnishings. We covered all the topics and no one seemed to notice as we sank into a sort of slackened catatonia. The more cogent arguments on religion and slavery gave way to ones more lurid, requiring no energy of edit or verbal servitude. We listened to the little horses snore and chase lions in their sleep. We commented on their noxious odors. Outside the modest bungalow the torrential rains are letting up. Matt and I find the red flashlight and venture out into the night. The ferocious hunters follow us for protection. Zeka stops suddenly and looks intently in the direction of the hedges. Calculating. His confident gaze is fixed, but the noise isn’t close enough to warrant any movement on his part. A deer maybe? Groundhog? Something’s up, but I dare not second-guess him. I scan his face for clues. He exhales sharply and yawns. The danger has passed…for the moment. The rain has stopped and my bare feet are now coated in grass clippings. I look around at the varnished landscape. It is a heavenly place. There is nothing like it. Nothing. The wind chimes waltz slowly in the breeze. I cannot imagine why anyone would need to travel to some other paradise. Matt and I dig through the shed and locate the electrical fan to lessen the loud silence of morning. We walk back to the house and I show them how to find their way in the dark. They brush their teeth and tuck themselves into the middle room with the periwinkle walls and the impressive magazine collection. I pour another glass of wine and wander outside to the hot tub to ease my aching back. My throat needs soothing too. I cannot recall a time when I laughed as much. Twelve solid hours of howling and hollering. Baton passed to the neighborhood cats… now caterwauling near the bamboo hedge. At this time of year? Zeka bolts up the hill past the frozen fig trees. Punda can’t be bothered. She rolls her eyes at her litter mate and peeks her head through the fog of the hot tub. She nudges my shoulder and whimpers softly for the love. I look up at the purple sky, which for all the world appears now to be calibrating for this perfect moment. The yellow moon is showing off and the stars are angling.


From this time last year, and because my yard is covered in a carpet of purple clover right now. She said to him wait, I like the wild violet, don't cut there yet. And that made me smile. Because I know her heart. It happens every spring. When the ardent rhizomes, climbers and creepers insist on their moment. I'm recalling a time when I drove home to our farmhouse in Alabama a few summers back. The little house had been closed up for the winter and the few acres of brush land had not been touched since late September. As I pulled into the driveway, I wondered if I'd got the wrong house. I turned the ignition off and sat there utterly ruined. The most magnificent purple profusion... a great undulating carpet of wild iris blanketed every available inch of land, almost knee high... god, it was breathtaking. I went and stood among the rightful owners, stepping lightly here and there, palms petting the velvet petals. Hot as blue blazes already in June, I looked around, as far as the eye could see, nothing but iris. It was here. All along. All these years. I felt almost ashamed for the not knowing. There was no one around with whom to share the moment or the blame. And it was a moment to be shared, it was. I found the spare key under the ceramic frog and pushed hard with my shoulder, coercing the kitchen door into submission. I brushed past the cob webs and layers of dust. I dug in every cupboard, every corner, scoured every shelf, gathered every mason jar, every water pitcher, every vessel I could find. I worked for hours, trimming and cutting and arranging, embellishing the big broken porch with jar after jar after jar. And when I was done, I stood at the edge of it all, my summer dress soaked with sweat, caked in dirt... and I looked back at all of the milky lavender and purple glass, glowing white and cobalt in the late afternoon sun. My god. There are times when my heart absolutely aches for Alabama. And at that moment, it all came rushing in. My eyes misted over as I recalled those precious twilight hours on the porch with family, elaborate rustic suppers of cornbread, greens and roasted chicken on that same barnwood table now covered in crazy. Translucent silhouettes now, flickering like fireflies, in and out of focus, echoes of howling laughter, each trying to outdo the other, but happy to be outdone. Someone buzzing on Miller Lite. Someone playing Sinatra out of his truck. Someone avoiding the conversation. Someone with arms outstretched between the squabblers. Someone rustling up dessert. Someone making a run to the store. Someone who has had it “up to here” and taking a ride with the other someone needing the “fresh air.” I must have stood there for 45 minutes, frozen, lost in memory, figures slowly losing shape. A great sadness began to wash over me with the knowing that my elaborate homage would only stay like this for a day...maybe two. But I smiled with the realization that someone ... someone I love dearly... would show up in a week or so and try to make heads or tales of the remains of my handiwork. I made up comments in my head... "Gypsies? Secret elf wedding? Someone broke in and had a prayer circle?" When the shadows grew long across the yard, I knew it was time to go. I pulled out of the drive and onto Route 10, headed North … waves, convulsions of sadness overtook me. Down, down, down came the deluge, pounding on my windshield, the kind that obscures the road and the rational. The kind that says... PULL OVER. And I wanted to. I wanted to so badly, the ache was crippling and all the air was gone and I knew I'd never see this place again, and the hollering call of dirt road sirens tumbling after: do it... DO IT, no, you're NOT delirious, no, twilight never lies! But it does. It lies like a cut throat cheat. I knew the sky was clear. And I had no time to stop. And those tears, a great cleansing torrent of tears, poured out from my aching heart for a hundred miles or more. They settled for a spell around Montgomery and returned with a shotgun just inside the Georgia line.


"Rave on fool, hell ain't half full yet." That was hers, and I can't take it and I have a version of that I will private message you or put in my book one day, but there's no way I'm posting it here, you might think less of me. She drove an '82 black Plymouth Champ hatchback. In Pensacola, Florida. Flip flops, always. Ex Catholic (but who isn't?). Bartender. 8 teeth. Fearless. Fond of winning all arguments (not just a modest few), so I got used to saying "you know what, you're right, you are absolutely right" just to finally wind down the 3 hour "conversation." One time I made the mistake of answering her call when I had just put Nair hair remover on my legs.... this did not end well. See, what she did was keep me honest. There was nothing false about her. Crazy blue eyes. Black hair to her waist. Mouthy as hell. ALWAYS there in a jam. Took nothing from no one. Ever. Husband was an ex-con, heart of gold, and he lived under the hood of his Oldsmobile. I walked past in June... "carburetor." I walked past in July... "carburetor." I walked past in August..."fuel pump... and carburetor." They lived on nothing until he got hurt on the oil rig out in the gulf and then they built a little house at the end of a dirt road (down Fin & Euba way) and lived on just a little more than nothing. Every summer, she'd take me in and for 2 months I did things her way. This is where I learned about creamed corn. And rice a roni. And Little Debbie Star Crunch. All the things I was not allowed to have at home. This is also where I learned about "ma'am," and biting my tongue, and loyalty... because nothing in that house was sacred... except her word. She did not believe in leftovers. The dog ate those and nothing else. And do not sit in her chair. Just-don't-do-it. She toted us to summer camp, toted us across the bay, toted us to the skating rink, toted us to the bowling alley, toted us to Walmart, toted us to Church's Fried Chicken and then over to mahmaw's so they could argue in person. One time they got in such a fight, mahmaw refused to answer the phone, and Aunt D. sat there and let that phone ring 337 times (yes, I counted). I hated her. I loved her. And I understood the contradiction, as that was the case with all us Barnes women. We are not to be avoided. And I bet she's still bitchin, too. Wherever she is.


I cannot know you the way you know you. The way your brother knows you. The way your lover does. But I can hear your heart bursting, and I know it to be human like mine. I know your pain is a vast caldera, the void endless and un-refillable. I know this because I see it in your eyes, how they've lost half their light, how they search the horizon. I know this because I feel your vibrations, your guttural cries. They reach me and tear at me and tug at my bones. They vibrate and abrade the landscape as they echo past, like an iceberg calving or a landslide ripping away from its mother. And I look up to see an endless hole where something fine and intricately carved once hung. Its jagged new face is the other side of birth. What grows there now is more pure for the carnage, like a forest in carbonized relief. It feels endless. It feels empty. But it is once again in its mother's arms. I want to reach for you. I want to get to you and hold you. I want to tell you it will all be alright, even though I know it will never be alright. I feel helpless and fraudulent and all too safe. I feel I haven't given enough. Or picked up enough rocks. Or carried enough of the weight. Please believe me, when I say that my heart is with you. The world is with you. You are not alone. LOVE IS AN OUTLAW. It is reckless and hungry. It is raging and virulent. It takes no prisoners and is without filter or judgement or master. It will never stop. It will never relent. It cannot. It must not. We stand with you. #‎WeAreOrlando‬ ‪#‎LoveIsLoveIsLove‬ ‪#‎OrlandoPride‬‪#‎OrlandoUnited‬ ‪#‎GaysBreakTheInternet‬ ‪#‎OneOrlando‬ ‪#‎PrayForOrlando‬

Image: Sarolta Bán

© 2020 Audrey Cefaly

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