Every time you close the door behind you with your carry-on bags and
overweight plans, I have to take my own hand, sit myself down, remind
myself not to worry. Remind myself that for 27 years I learned how
to be alone, was really, really good at being alone, mastered how
to be alone. Remind myself that there is a pile of books I haven’t
read, a queue of movies I haven’t watched, a lonely box from my
old apartment I still haven’t unpacked. Maybe I can order a whole
pizza for myself, or maybe I can make dinner, something fresh and
green and right; maybe I can have friends over. Maybe I can talk
to people I haven’t spoken to in years, ask them how often they
feel lonely, and whether or not they think that will ever go away.
Maybe I can pack my own bag and go off on my own adventure
while you are busy with yours, maybe I can tell myself that although
fun isn’t my strongest suit I am reliable, and trustworthy, and I know
how to take care of myself. 27 years of practice, a steady hum
of progress—there are things you don’t leave behind.

And there are things you do. There are things that no longer work
like they used to, things whose mistakes have caught up with them,
things that are bursting at the seams with hurt. Sometimes I ask myself
why I let the pile of books grow in the first place, why I can’t sit still
through movies alone anymore, what the contents of that lonely box are.
There are goodbyes that break you and goodbyes that shape you, but
there are also goodbyes that do nothing except make room. Space. Empty
out parts that have been too full for too long.

But know this: every time you come back with your eyes dancing and
your skin burning and your stories a tangled mess, announcing your
return with three swift knocks as certain as your place in the world,
your place in my world, I will take your hand, sit you down, remind
you that you are home now, remind you that you can stay.

january in numbers & colors

At the start of the year we watched two lovely people vow to be true forever as I shivered in a red lace dress made for a 13-year-old Spanish girl. I can probably be friends with a 13-year-old Spanish girl, if she'll let me. In Paoay I bruised my hip repeatedly on a 4x4, as billions of golden grains of sand stretched out before us and burrowed into our shoes, our hair, the backs of our ears. It took a week for the bruises to fade. We discovered it was too cold to swim. We shared two and a half steamed crabs so fresh we could crack them open with our bare hands, their tangerine shells crumbling underneath our fingers. A 12-hour drive in which I promised not to sleep, but did anyway. You didn't mind. Three days and three nights in Singapore crammed with roller coasters and good coffee and convenience store runs and subway rides and sudden rain and Chet Faker and yellow chicken rice. Sam Herring says he tried hard just to soften someone, and perhaps nobody should even have to do that, because we need skin that doesn't crack open easily, doesn't fall apart at the slightest touch. I missed you when I went away on my own, like I always do. It's been two years since I stopped being able to see clear blue without thinking of you. There are 11 months lined up in front of us like pools we have to dive into. We will. It'll be too cold to swim but we'll swim anyway. Try not to bruise ourselves. Remember not to soften. 

this year, I want to love you

the best way I know how, and try to remember that it is different from
your best way, or anybody else’s. This year, I want to love you not
desperately or impulsively, but thoughtfully and purposefully, the way one
would water something healthy and fine, not something weak and dying,
because too much of too much never keeps anything alive. This year,
I want to love you while I love myself, not before or after, not as a
cause or effect, and I want us to know happiness that isn’t immediately
shared, that is just yours or is just mine, at least in the moment it finds
its firefly glowing way to either of us. This year, I want to love you
well, so that I will never give up on it, never grow tired or distrustful
or cloudy or dull, and so that I can still love you next year, and the year
after that, and the year after that, and the year after that.

the lonely writers' club

Six years is a long time. Long enough to land a job, get promoted two or three times, meet friends, lose friends, move houses, move cities, move countries, and either give your personality an overhaul or completely come to terms with who you are and what you can offer the world. But when you’re single, six years feels even longer, time stretching out like your delicate patience, weighed down by your earnest, hopeful waiting. To me, six years of being single meant six years of making mistakes, sending and receiving mixed signals, navigating rejection, giving the benefit of the doubt only to be proven right, overthinking, forgiving and being forgiven, and learning and unlearning and relearning how to be alone. It was also six years of honest, heartbreaking writing flowing freely from my soul. In those six years, I wrote all six of my novels and short story collections under Summit Books, and while coping with a particularly devastating heartbreak in 2011, churned out my favorite project, From This Day Forward, which I still can’t revisit today without shaking my head in disbelief at how all of that had actually come from me. I was lonely, of course, but I figured I had my words, and I had people who were willing to read them, and perhaps that was always going to be enough.

Then in the final weeks of 2012, I fell in love—spontaneously at first, then carefully and deliberately—and everything changed. I thought my newfound romantic happiness would inspire glorious, romantic pieces on soul mates and destiny and puzzle pieces finally fitting together, but most of the time I was left staring at blank screens and empty pages, frustrated, wondering where the girl who used to spend her Saturday evenings cradling a soy latte and writing poetry in bed had disappeared to. (No, actually I knew where she was: out on movie nights and dinner dates, busy soaking up some seriously addictive relationship bliss.)

“I think we should break up so I can start writing again,” I told my boyfriend. I was kidding, obviously, but secretly I thought, what if that was the answer?

Spoiler alert: There is no concrete happy ending to this story yet, at least not as far as my writing is concerned. But there are promising little flags leading toward that happy ending, none of them involving any sort of breakup, and I am picking them up as I go along. This summer my friends and I worked on a short story collaboration, Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival (which you can purchase on Amazon and Buqo right now), and while I am not proud of the fact that it took me months to write a 10,000-word story, I did finish it, and I do like how it turned out. During the last few weeks before the deadline, my boyfriend would sit quietly beside me while I typed furiously on my laptop, patiently answering questions and giving me honest feedback on whether or not a paragraph made sense, or if a sentence sounded awkward, or if the characters were being weird, or if a plot twist felt like a copout. When I was finally done, he was the first person I asked to read it, the only person I trusted to be truthful but gentle with me. (P.S. He loved it.)

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from this is that you won’t derive inspiration from the exact same source all your life. You can’t. If I was deeply inspired by my solitude and longing and sadness when I was single, maybe now it’s time to be inspired by things outside of myself: bigger, happier things. Things that are better when shared. Things that spread out easily like smiles across faces. Things like traveling. Or making new friends. Or building a profound, genuine, comfortable companionship. Or sincerely supporting each other’s dreams. Or collecting memories and experiences and, yes, stories together. Or all the times you look at each other and just know you’re both thinking, “I get you. I really do. We can do this.”

The well of loneliness may have run dry, but in its place there are pools of possibilities, lakes we have yet to dive into, oceans we can allow ourselves to drown in. Most of the time it still feels like the current is against me—there are still a lot of blank screens and empty pages—but on some days, good days, I can float on the assurance that my words are still safely within me, only swimming in a way that’s different and exciting and daunting and new.


When a man dies, his loved ones take turns trying not to fall
asleep. They sit in front of a coffin keeping their eyes wide open
and their hearts firmly shut to any slivers of pain that might
slip in through the cracks—not tonight, please. Not tonight.
They pass around coffee cups and stories; it is a competition
on who knew him best, who collected his secrets
like blood-soaked possessions from the passenger seat
of a crashed car. When a man dies, his loved ones gather
in a funeral home in a quiet part of town, away from
skating rinks and bowling alleys and pizza parlors, and think,
Here is our life. And here is yours. Someone will keep
an eye out for a beautiful woman dressed
in black, sobbing silently in a corner, avoiding conversation
and questions. This happens a lot in movies but maybe
there are plenty of real-life thieves who are brave enough
to show up, too; maybe what was stolen is returned
once it no longer belongs to anyone. Someone will barge in
and throw himself onto the floor, and someone else will offer
a box of tissues, a glass of water, still, a paper fan, calm
in any form. Someone will bring cookies, gingerbread and butter.
Someone will eat all the salted peanuts from the bowl
on the table; someone will finish the last can of Coke.

When a man dies, there are things that have to be said.
“He was a good brother,” for instance, or “He was the best father
a daughter could ask for.” There are things that have to be decided:
who will put all his clothes in a box, who will pick out a tie,
who will cancel his flight to Hawaii in the summer, who will settle
the remaining credit card bill, who will call his employer,
who will write the obituary, who will take care of Mom.
There are things that have to be remembered. “He watched
all my ballet recitals,” for instance, or “He had the heartiest laugh,”
or how about “He told me once to think of his love
as a campfire song, a bag of candy, a stack of new books, a puppy—
whatever makes me happy.” There are things that have to be said
again: “He was the best father a daughter could ask for.”
There are things that have to be forgotten.

When a man dies, his loved ones take turns trying not to fall
asleep. Here is another cup of coffee. Here is a slice of banana loaf.
Here are flowers from the first company he worked for—can you
picture him in his early twenties, all ideals and hope?
Here is money folded into squares. Here is the grieving widow.
Here is a row of children, all too young. Here is a girl
in a pale pink leotard. Here is a smile that will never
be the same again. Here are more flowers. Here is a photo, look:
look how handsome he is. Here is our life. And here is yours. Here is
the night. Stay. Don’t close your eyes just yet.

All text original work by Marla Miniano. Powered by Blogger.


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I write books and edit a teen magazine for a living. I also: take photos, attempt poetry, make travel plans, snore, do the dishes, daydream on the treadmill, and dress like a loose grandma. For feedback, questions, and invitations, email me at marlaminiano@gmail.com.