It only takes a chance encounter for the world to blossom again. Ten words, two eyebrows raised, one phone number. Close your eyes and remember the last time you met a stranger who later became your friend, your lover, a partner in life. It’s so simple to create interaction, to caress a minute into meaning something. I want to find a metaphor for my entanglements, an image to describe how everyone connects. I used to be able to trace people back to one night of the year 2000, but it grew exponentially. I know your friends before you do now. I can introduce you to your future roommate’s girlfriend, though we don’t know it yet. It’s a small city and I make it smaller every day.

There was a sound, that’s how I woke. A romantic comedy moment of The Girl digging under a pile of coverlets for The Phone, Ringing. I was a moment too late, answering to a dial tone. I could take that as my cue to begin my day but I was too tired for whatever hour my clock would show me if I put my glasses on, so I didn’t bother. When the phone rang again, I considered my options then answered it in spite of them. It was Matthew laying dibs on my day. As no-one else wanted them, I said, he was more than free to them. After hanging up, I swayed uncertainly on my feet in the late morning light and tried to sum how many hours of sleep I had accumulated since my eight a.m. bedtime. I figured not-enough while brushing teeth, unlocked the door, and went back to bed. Matthew can let himself in, I thought, then the buzzer rang. There was a delivery man with a large package on the other side of the door. “Are you Jhayne?” He didn’t ask for ID or confirmation, just looked me over as I stood sleepily in a shawl and my underwear and abruptly handed me the parcel before turning and leaving. It was surprisingly heavy, five pounds of mystery carefully wrapped in brown paper with Michel‘s name and address written so tiny in the upper left corner that I felt somehow like they were hiding.

I stood in my bedroom and looked at the package, turning it over in my hands. I fetched my knife from the shelf, but hesitated. Instead I lay the two items on my bed and contemplated what might be inside. It’s a book, I know that much, but what book? This has the weight of endearment and responsibility. What could be so heavy? I sat at my computer, intending to send him an e-mail before I sliced open the time-bomb, but as I raised my hands to the keys, I heard footsteps in the hall. Matthew arriving in time for the cliffhanger.

CAGES by Dave McKean.

I was torn between awe and a very carefully repressed acrimony. Inside was a long intelligent letter written on story-boarding paper, with no explanation as to why I had been sent the book, but a long monologue on a computer game I remember having myself, sometime back in the 80’s, where the player is to collect resources, one of which is beautiful young women. Thoughts flit through my mind of sending the book back after I’m finished reading it twice, but I feel somehow that would be absurd. I’ve barely flipped through it, almost certain there must be some mistake. It’s too beautiful. Heavy enough to be a murder weapon, it’s a work of art. Jessie and I have been sleuthing it. The ISBN put me at ease, as I was finding entries through Google which told of Limited Edition One Run Printings. This may be a trick, a lure to bait me into traveling cross country to fall futile at the feet of a comic artist. I can’t bear-hug kill a man long distance. Not yet.

I can hear both your voices

This morning was made of conversations. Moments hard like brittle notes strung together on the palest thread of my hair. I was wanting to see eyes tonight, to have hands in a strong grip and hold them. I’ve sent them to bed, all of them, every last declaration of need and love and memory. I’m alone now, talking to myself with typing fingers, continuing my chains of thought. My forged links of words leading into sentences to reach for a hollow place inside me where fear lives, where rejection hides. I need to find all the questions I never look at, all the needs I’ve managed to shut away from myself. I need doors opened and breath flowing into me from another. There’s no such thing as this, there can’t be, there’s no way for my sciences to explain it. I can take you with me into my dreams, but I don’t know if you meet me there or if I create you. First there was a conversation, on-line discussion of intimacy from across city. Around the topic rambling hit with the scattershot shrapnel of direct questions. We never knew we were such a hot topic, something to decipher. There’s a low sweet tone in the voice of it, a quiet talk on the porch. I’m curled in your lap, you never knew what you mean to me. I thought I would politely sleep in comfort, fending off nightly inamorato by lightly remembering fine gossamer certainties. Then there was a phone-call. A drunken brawl of a phone-call, shattering with vulnerability. I suspect that someone realized tonight that they actually need me. Desire has flown into unknown territory on wings of steel. I have crawled under their skin and wear it now. They taste my name on their fingertips and I can feel them crying.

“My greatest hope for you is that you don’t have to choose.” We can all feel it. It’s permeating the air, infecting the cells. You’re Mine now, I’m sorry. You know I never meant for it to be this way. I’m sorry I have access you never gave me, that I can see the place you lived when you were sixteen. I’m sorry I know what happened to you in the dark. You know I won’t let it come true. It’s too soon for you to think about. You must give yourself grace. This is a declaration to match your own, the one you are scared to say out loud. I would wear your ring, but I’ll leave if I have to.

I have to keep you safe, even from fire.