On March 7, 2004, the lifeless body of 62-year-old Spalding Gray was pulled from Manhattan’s East River. He had been missing for two months. An actor/storyteller who wrote and performed autobiographical monologues for stage and screen—his most well-known is Swimming to Cambodia—Gray had apparently committed suicide.
Gray became famous by talking about—among other things—his experiences in the warm waters of Southeast Asia while working as an actor in the acclaimed 1984 movie, The Killing Fields. But he ended his life twenty years later in the cold waters off New York City. Was he aware, during the last moments of his life, of that morbid irony? …
The smell of roasting coffee mixed with the funk of old coffee shop swirled in the air, just underneath the tang of stale cigarette smoke. Classic diner music played overheard as the rubbery seats underneath my ass cried under my shifting, restless weight. With the exception of a few lost souls sitting solo at the bar, coffee cups wrapped intimately around their index fingers and cupped warmly in their palms, we were the only two people in the out of the way truck stop at three in the morning.
I watched her across the laminate tabletop, her eyes fixated on the cup she swirled between her hands. A cigarette rested effortlessly between her cracked lips, it’s pungent plume flowing effortlessly into the depths of her diseased lungs and then back out into the air between us. I never understood smoking, but drastic times call for drastic measures, I thought, as I slid my hand across the table and removed one from the pack for myself.
For a week, the rose lived. Nightly, I brushed my nose against petals, preferring you. This is what I know: when a rose begins to die it gives up its color. At the edges, hardness and darkness take shape. Inside, blushing red petals cling to each other. This is a final intimacy, a softness enduring.
I know because I pulled at the petals till I got to the core, and I held the petals against my outstretched palm, fascinated by the natural bends, the blends of red—I don’t want our love to take on these darker shades. I want us as the last two petals on the stem. I remember Vermont and Italy and the miles in between; my belly without your hand; your chest without my head. We don’t wait under different time zones now, but I’m still asking you to come home.
Last February you were late enough to our date that I pictured your stopping at a busy street corner to get the flowers I told you not to get. I didn’t think I needed flowers to tell me that you loved me. I’ve learned not to walk away, so I ordered without you. When you rushed through the door without flowers, I wanted not to want.…
Madeline knew it was her last day alive. It had to be. When something as natural as breathing takes every effort to do, it’s only postponing the inevitable. She was surrounded by her family, and even though she loved them dearly, she could not help but feel envious when looking at her grandchildren and of all the things they will know that she could not even begin to imagine. The future was uncertain, that much is sure, but the unknown had always held a special kind of allure for her. And now she had finally arrived to the most mysterious unknown.
Life, she thought, was both the longest and shortest experience she ever had. It really did flash before your eyes before you die, and as she inhaled the last breath she would ever take, she finally ended the eighty-seven-year blink that was her life.…
There’s a piece of trash at the gas station
Stationary, sitting on the sidewalk
Walking towards me is a woman
A woman that says,
“Hey boy, want some company?”
And when she asks if I want company
I do want company
But company shouldn’t present as it does presently
It presents as
Looking for you across the room
Room to grow in the space you gave me
Space that let me lean into uncertainty
Like I leaned into my mother’s arms
The day you left and when you left
I was all dressed up for church
It was a robin’s egg dress shirt
A blue to match the sky
And a tiny blazer that wasn’t quite my size
And you picked me up and kissed me…