heaven

When I was young I thought that generosity was something I would develop as I got older, like hips and breasts and secondary sex characteristics. I kept waiting for it, waiting to step into adulthood as though it were a place I could arrive to—a house somewhere warm and golden and blossoming, where everything was graceful and made sense. But instead my breasts stayed small and I felt like a child even though I was doing adult things and it was hard, often, to be kind, even when I wanted to be kind, and especially when I didn’t.

I am relieved to not be the scandal of my family this Christmas. Instead, it is my aunt, the second oldest sister in a family of six sisters, who wants to renounce all her worldly possessions and passions and become a nun. In the mornings, early, around sunrise, I hear her go to the altar room and pray, her voice climbing in circles through an hour of Buddhist chants. My childhood bedroom is right next to the altar room, so close that sometimes the smoke from the incense comes under the door, and its proximity means that I am near the presence of something sacred and at the very least I should maintain a veneer of respect at all times but all I do in my room is sleep, facetime the person I like, and masturbate. I pull the covers over my head, close my eyes, come quickly thinking of. Of.

At some point I gained ten, maybe fifteen pounds this year. I think it might have been stress, or maybe it was just the onset of some kind of second puberty, my body teaching me now what it was like to be soft and womanly. I don’t think anyone’s noticed but me, but I like it—I feel like a peony, blooming in warm water. I like the way it feels now, too, to be held and fucked. To feel tender, quivering, bodily, like something melting upon contact.

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I don’t believe in heaven. I don’t believe in life after death because I’m afraid of death, and anything after is like a wall thrown up, like a hand in front of my face in the middle of the night. I don’t know if you can believe in things that you’re too scared to think about. There is a barrier around them. Still, I believe in something, like how sometimes I’m in bed with you and I feel the heavy liquid pulsing of my heart reaching out for your heart and then, I have to, I have to know there’s something beyond the ordinary language of this plane. Or. September, late summer sun high in the sky, a fog machine rolling over the pool, a tab of acid going to wet cotton under my tongue. That’s when I really feel like the universe is really more than just strange math. Divine is for the way you look at me through your eyelashes. Divine is for the spangles in the bottom of a glass of water.

Still, I want to be good. I want to be so good that nothing bad could ever happen to the people I love, so good that my goodness is like an umbrella, or a beacon, or a shield, I want to be so good even suffering takes a break and goes to the club, knowing it has nothing better to do. When I’m happy, I imagine myself dancing. When I’m really happy, I imagine myself dancing under strobe lights. When we were in Europe together, Jaime and I had an inside joke. We were always out late, we kept waking up in the afternoon, missing meals. Our coffee went cold even under a heat lamp. So heaven must be where your drink is always the right temperature, we said. Heaven is a thermos. Heaven.

I don’t really pray, but I do when it’s asked of me, or at least I have a conversation with my dead grandparents in my head while incense burns and everyone around me is solemn, and sometimes I try to let their responses come to me, as though they were really talking to me, and sometimes it feels like it works and sometimes it feels like I’m just play-acting at reaching other worlds on other planes. But I want to tell you about something now, which is that when I was asked to pray today and and tell those watchful spirits what I was going to do this year my heart cracked wide open and all I could think to myself was the word generous. Generous. I want to be generous this year. I want to be generous with my heart. I want to be generous and kind.

Because I’ve learned that it doesn’t come. It’s not a house you show up to, unannounced. That you have to work at it, and work hard. Work at opening the door of your heart.

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When I really want to protect something I don’t write about it. That’s why I haven’t written here in so long. I’ve also been learning, which is hard to write through, if writing is not the primary method by which I’m learning. Which has happened before. I have written through so much; this is different. This is what I want to tell you about, now. I have gone out into the world and come back to you. There’s so much I want to tell you about, in time.

Earlier this year, I almost did that thing, the thing where you leave it all behind to go find meaning in somewhere newer and sharper and better. I wanted to. I could have done it any number of ways, could have thrown away my old life for another, and another, and another. I can understand why my mother's elder sister gets up early and prays, why she has turned her whole being toward the purpose of being without, why she has moved toward something no one else can sense the way a leaf turns toward its sun. I can understand wanting to cleave away the parts that don’t matter, wanting to refine the self like a blade.

The other day there was a dead animal on our driveway. We don’t know how it died; we only know that we didn’t kill it. I knew immediately it was a rabbit from its long, soft feet, and after my brother parked the car I went back outside and crouched down to look at it—its gray fur, speckled with tiny raindrops, its velvety ears filling with water. It was so beautiful that I couldn’t help myself: I took a picture, just to save it, the fur with its thousand little drops and the tragic smear of brain and the closed black eye, and now it haunts me. We buried it. There’s snow on the ground now. It is still falling, silently.

x
LP

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