I stayed up late, not like I used to, not like seeing the sun come up from the long windows of the computer lab. Not like seeing the clock read 4:30 am, and knowing you have class in four hours and there you will be in the back row, hair unwashed, digging your fingernails into your soft palms to stay awake. There was no Tim Horton's to go to for coffee. No hill to loop around in your car. No small, sleeping town. No one to call. No one up on the east coast. No one up in the Midwest. No Mary. No Paul. No Erin (hi Erin).
No snow even to meet me in the morning, meet me early and ask, What have you been up to?.
But somewhere in the midst of the night, I remembered my friends. More and more of the names I see in the papers are my friends. And I know you were up late too, friends: my Bread Loaf roommate, my Vancouver roommates, my Austin roommate, the poet in her attic room in New York, the poet on her bike in Chicago, the poet on his bike in D.C., the poet with his cats in Michigan, the poet with her daughters, the poet who works at the newspaper, the poet who teaches high school in LA, the poet who teaches English in Italy, my new friends here on the other side of the bridge. I know you were up too, and it could have been disheartening, thinking of all these writers working hard to enter the same contests I am, but it was the most heartening thing. It was like the dark room filling suddenly with light.
Hi friends. I like you a great, great deal.
And I stayed up too, up like I used to, up alone. Drank my one and half glasses of red wine. Listened to my Johnny Cash, my Big Love. Spread my poems around, and around, and around midnight, it started to make sense. I started to see it: the key to the garden, the way through the maze. I saw it and I followed it, and I found my way here.
The first and last words of my poetry manuscript are: Forget willingly.
And I think that's important, although that is not, not, not what I am doing. I will never forget.
The fortune in my cookie says: Stop searching. Happiness will come to you.
Here I am. There's no apartment number. The cross street is____.
It's the ugliest house on the block, but in the backyard, we have a garden with apples and lavender and limes. And you can see the light over my desk, in my window, clear to the hills of Bernal. And I can see South San Francisco on a good day. And I am the one with the long, wild hair and the missing buttons and the good intentions and the wave-swell of sadness she is holding back, letting the small pieces of hope slip through like shells, collecting at her feet.
I wish I had the key to that door, the drunk man says when I walk out into the street. A beautiful girl lives there.