walking tour

Your ex has her nipples pierced, and I am the kind of girl who only talks about getting her nipples pierced. So I wake up, hungover and sleepy, and I dare myself to walk 20 miles.

I pack the essentials: notebooks, pen, chorizo, backup pen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, slightly old cheese, sunscreen, ointment for the road rash on my ass (note that I will never dare myself to go rollerblading again).

I walk all damn day. Sweaty men jog in Casa de Campo through the yellow grass and sparse, piney trees. Battles were fought here. I spit; I imagine it mingling with the blood and spit of Spanish soldiers and give myself chills on a sunny day. Five miles blur by and my feet keep moving. I’m a little bored, a little thirsty. I sit on a picnic bench, one cheek off the seat. “FUCK SOCIALISM” is etched in the table. I am here to write, to make something of this day and this grand adventure my life is supposed to be. But the wheels just turn like the cyclists whipping by, kicking up dust and twigs but no prize-winning words.

I walk to my favorite supermercado. I take my lunch to Palacio Real and sit on a shady bench under a low-hanging tree, where the tourists can’t see me and I can’t see them, and some dude is playing “Despacito” on the harp and I’m loving the quiet until I realize I’m sitting on a pile of fire ants. I move benches. I watch a couple take selfies for ten minutes. I hear a lot of Spanish, a lot of English (“Honey, what’s that art museum called again? The Prawdo?”).

12 miles. I sing to myself when I’m on lonely streets. I guess how many miles I’ve walked. I talk to myself, in Spanish and in English: “Stop overthinking everything all the time.” “Está bien, no te preocupes, we’re having fun.”

I meet a lot of people. An overly-friendly man in the farmacia who asks how much I weigh. A Spanish mother and daughter who hustle me into buying a terrible, billowy shirt (“¡Mira, guapa, esta camiseta es para ti, te queda tan bien!”). I’m flattered but unhelpful when asked for directions. I stop and breathe deeply when a cool breeze rushes down the narrow streets.

16 miles. I walk to Retiro, my favorite park in Madrid. I haven’t spoken more than a couple words all day. It’s late afternoon, and my phone has been off for hours. I’m dehydrated. I imagine you with your guitar walking next to me. I think about ridiculous things I would say, things I will probably never say: “You know, I’m very goal-oriented. We should rent a car and drive out west sometime and I’ll write a book and you can write music and we’ll never have to go inside again. What if we’re supposed to be together? You really have to try this churros place.”

Fuck, are my shin splints coming back? Fuck me. Fuck you. What if we’re not good together?

17.5 miles. I buy a tub of laundry detergent. I have to keep walking, I have to keep moving—two and a half miles to go. That’s nothing. I’m lightheaded and I’ve picked an inopportune time to buy detergent.

I walk a couple sluggish blocks. I’m reminded of the desperate miles I used to run, sometimes late at night, sometimes when I was supposed to be in class, sometimes when I hurt every time my right leg hit the pavement.

Miguel Cervantes stares down at me from the side of a hipster café on Calle Huertas. “Él que lee mucho y anda mucho, ve mucho y sabe mucho.”

I’m so close.

18 miles of walking, talking, singing, and swearing, and I’m at my apartment door. The soles of my feet are sore and my back is damp and the handle of the detergent digs into my fingers.

You really can’t run from anything.

Full poem available in Capsule Stories Summer 2020 Edition.

words to feel better

you have already made thousands of people smile. you have told jokes no one else will ever think of. only you will write the words that whisper in your head, only you will be your mother’s first daughter. you have already changed the world and there’s no going back.

you can’t do everything but you can call your best friend and ask her questions you stopped making time for. you can sit with her answers and not try to fix it. you can shut the door and cut the lights and breath in the quiet. you can bask in this gift of unstructured, unscheduled, unhurried time. you can learn a new instrument and not try to be good, play your favorite childhood game and not watch the clock, read books that are not intellectual or political or literary but human.

we’re resting and trees are still growing, tall and brave. we’re pausing and the gray fog that suffocates our city is receding, day by day. we’re stopping and the pigeons and squirrels and mice are still eating and playing and building and that’s enough for them, it’s always been enough. lake michigan is clear and healing and one day soon you’ll dig your toes in the sand and feel so goddamn grateful. our cities are still and the mountains have never been happier.

you can’t fix it but you can picture it, can’t you, the way the sun will be shining, the table will be packed with people you love, you’ll lean in close and linger late into the night because it’s been so long. we’ll work less and laugh more. we’ll go to the doctor when we’re hurting and rest when we’re aching. we won’t just tolerate each other, we’ll feel for each other, feed each other, love each other so much more than we ever have. we’ll give everything we don’t need and be light with gratitude. we’ll do less and have more.

you can’t fix it today but you’ll always remember: the world froze and the rain kept falling, the oceans kept spitting salt and air, the spring buds emerged, baby-green and hopeful. the world stopped and it was not the end.

we’re resting and trees are still growing, tall and brave. we’re pausing and the gray fog that suffocates our city is receding, day by day. we’re stopping and the pigeons and squirrels and mice are still eating and playing and building and that’s enough for them, it’s always been enough. lake michigan is clear and healing and one day soon you’ll dig your toes in the sand and feel so goddamn grateful. our cities are still and the mountains have never been happier.

you can’t fix it but you can picture it, can’t you, the way the sun will be shining, the table will be packed with people you love, you’ll lean in close and linger late into the night because it’s been so long. we’ll work less and laugh more. we’ll go to the doctor when we’re hurting and rest when we’re aching. we won’t just tolerate each other, we’ll feel for each other, feed each other, love each other so much more than we ever have. we’ll give everything we don’t need and be light with gratitude. we’ll do less and have more.

Published on The Voices Project.