“01 – to feel what it feels like”

Issue 38 by Rachel Elam

“01 – to feel what it feels like”

01- to feel what it feels like

when i was eighteen

i lost sensation

in my cheeks. it was only

years later, once i felt the

slightest tingling

return to that same skin

that i let myself mourn

its absence (easier to numb

with positivity and denial

than to recount

the beauty and

brokenness

that led to its loss).

that's how it felt today

seeing you. you were sitting

on your fire-escape

six stories high

with that damn laptop and its

silky smooth keys you love

so much. the sun was

intoxicating, beaming a sweetness

so delicious after its six-week

sabbatical.

and just last night,

i saw J on the sidewalk

in front of your apartment,

hunched back in his expandable

chair, watching people

pass by.

in an instant

it brought me back

to last time i saw him

inside your apartment

with your high ceilings and colorful walls,

we were sleepy and effortlessly in sync

from the night before. he came by to pick up

the old computer you

generously offered. defeated, he revealed

that he just returned from the hospital – his sister

found him weeks prior (his unit right below yours) lying

in a pile of darkened blood on his mattress

with hundreds of tiny

cuts across his arms and the inner periphery of his

thighs (where its hardest to

stop the bleeding, he told us). and each time

i think of J (which is often) – it’s met

with a reconciliation,

as i remember

the first

time i met him,

how

palpable – almost

overbearing – his

joy

seemed.

it was right

before we went

to Emily & Ben's – the night

they asked you to officiate

their wedding: a night

so perfect, that

then and now, its

laced with a gentle

gripping thought:

this is the feeling

of true happiness –

we saw J

on our way out

(i smiled politely behind sealed

teeth, inching toward the door – we were

late, they were making shrimp

linguine). we were

trying on a new label

of exclusivity, buzzing

in a glowing

mutual affection,

and we had survived

our first of what would later become

a series of “talks”

merely moments

before.

i observed how you listened

to J with such care, such presence (while

i nudged you,

relentlessly, i did not want

to be any minutes later

than we already were);

i recognized a tingling

sensation in the whole

of my body as

a waking up, an uncovering

of sorts, an unexpected,

unequivocal side effect of

falling for you.

J

greeted us

with an infectious warmth, nonchalantly

detailing triumphs of his week

in place of casual conversation:

how his coworkers hazed

him (mice feces in his locker) – “nobody

fucks with J” we said – how his niece was

back with her abusive ex

(“relationships

are complicated" you said) and just as we

were finally

about to walk out the

door, you turned to J with a

rendition of Paulo

Coehlo’s words: "when you

want something badly enough

the universe conspires

to help you achieve it."

do you really believe that?

i asked, our fingers interlocked

for the next couple blocks, wrapped

in each other and a cool January breeze.

you said, “of course i do,

the proof is that i am now here with you”

(i shook my head. cheesy in a way

that only you could pull off).

for what it’s worth,

i do believe you – it’s just that now

you must want

so badly

to be alone

and

have wanted

so badly

to push me away,

to give up – to let

me and this go,

while i was

ready and willing

to keeping fighting.

and if the universe is

conspiring

now, with each

of our evolved dreams,

perhaps her idea of a dramatic

comedy is to wedge

a global pandemic

between us

(though we both know

that’s not really what’s

standing in the way).

sometimes

i wonder

what narrative you are telling

yourself, about yourself, about us

and

i wonder

if, late at night, when your

guard is down, if you still tell

yourself

that you are

a monster (your words,

not mine) because you know,

deep down, i couldn’t possibly see

you as a monster. when in fact,

i see you as

your heart,

one of the most

stunning and expansive hearts i have

felt in my lifetime

in spite of everything

and because of everything.

in a world of before and after,

i hope that your after

is filled with

protection, of your

self and against your

self, and that you believe that

you are worthy.

and maybe

one day

on my morning walk

again soon

when the streets

carry me toward you (as they always do),

i will look up again

in the direction of the sun

and see you on your fire escape

and i will be ready

to feel

what it feels like

to say hello

again.

About the Author

Rachel Elam

Website

Rachel Elam is an emerging poet in New York City. Rachel is the Founder of Glitter+Soul and her work has published in Origin Magazine and in 2012. Rachel leads Mindfulness and Social Good efforts at Facebook Inc.