Please welcome my guest, esteemed poet and novelist Loren Kleinman back to the blog.
“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.”
I’m in love with the past, haunted. As a writer I live and love in that peculiar space of remembrance, of blurred memories and travels to far off places that I’d forever be in love with like all those boys and places I’ve travelled to. There was no way of knowing how much in love I’d be with the people and places that inhabited my life, this great wilderness under the tall trees.
I’d almost not seen how my life was so beautiful, so mine. I’d miss the mundane, the wind whistling through my cracked window scattering the pages of my novel to the floor, and the long walks through the wooded paths overlooking Mount Katahdin. I didn’t know then that I needed that forest, that I needed those pebbles under my feet and the faded pine needles. And I didn’t know that falling in love with my life would be a culmination of moments, of loss and heartbreak, of breakups and breakthroughs, of disaster and shame and time.
At 23, the road seemed an endless sentence behind the hood of a pick up truck. I smoked my last cigarette and the music blared drum and bass. I wanted so much then to be a famous writer. What did I know about being a writer? I wanted to pour myself on the leather interior, spread my legs, and let my fingers slide in, tilt my head back and forget about ever growing older.
Tonight the stars glitter over the houses below my seventeenth floor window. I wonder about the last summer and the summer before that. The night I took my shirt off under the cherry blossom in the school yard and grabbed the joint from the hand of a tall, blond boy. I think about the longing in my gut for more wine and the sky. This alcohol and cigarette delivery company provides the fastest delivery service on the planet. How it pulled back my hair, my heartbeat like a silver bullet to the chest.
I left for the University of Sussex in the summer of 2004 to go to writing school and to be closer to that blond boy I met that one summer—Aroosh, Aretski—Polish love. I’d be able to get my Masters while he got his Masters in his hometown of Warsaw, Poland. I convinced myself that by moving closer to him that we’d be closer, that we’d see each other more, that he’d fall harder in love with me—that he might even propose and we’d be forever. Those memories fill me up and make me glow like a hot doorknob.
I had spent the whole summer packing my bags for England, watching my father cry for the first time each time he saw me folding clothes into my suitcase. I watched my mother sigh and help me find a suitable coat for winter. I watched my clock, counted down the days until I’d be closer to Alesky.
I placed the one-way tickets on my nightstand and my head filled with images of us seeing each other for the first time in the airport. I knew I’d get there and walk through the airport, run off to the queue to an elevator and into his arms. But there was no way to know how it would unfold or how much more I’d love the idea of him. I closed my eyes and drifted off to the side of the alarm clock.
The next morning, the coffee danced through the kitchen. The eggs spat on the pan, sizzled in the storm of things I’d miss. I wandered my eyes over the long wooden table, ran my fingers on the suitcase handle and the keys I’d leave behind. I already missed the northeast highways and paved black tar strips. I took a deep breath, a step out the door towards the black town car. Inside it, someone I’d never met before nor would meet again.
The air smelled of fried food and booze, and the Newark Airport buzzed with the sound of rolling luggage. I found the nearest bar, drank three glasses of wine and wrote, “I love you” on the back of a torn off piece of book and stuffed it under a napkin holder on the bar.
On the plane, the pilot announced our take off and we ascended into the air, left the ground. I closed my eyes and squeezed the armrest, prayed to God we wouldn’t crash, prayed to God I’d make it to England to make love to Alesky, to write a book. I twirled my hair for the three hours on that flight and gripped Bukowski.
When I landed, Alesky was not there. In his place, a text message saying he had a paper to finish and that he’d be flying in tomorrow instead. I cried all the way to the queue, held my bags tight in my hand and got in the full bus. I cried all the way to Brighton that afternoon. I felt so alone, so desperate to see Alesky my stomach cramped.
A few days later, we met at the bus stop just blocks away from my flat. His smile stretched the length of his face and we hugged for what seemed like forever and not forever. We made love for five days and didn’t leave the bedroom unless we had to pee or eat or buy more wine from the liquor store beneath my flat.
We spent the full year traveling back and forth from London to Warsaw and meeting in Paris and Berlin and Prague. We’d arrive in these cities in a rush to see one another, desperate to fill the void those weeks apart created inside of us.
There was no way to know that three years from the time we shared that joint that I’d fall in and out of love with Alesky all over Europe, that I’d wind up chasing him more than he ever chased me, and that I’d accept his proposal under that same tree where we shared the joint. I had no idea that we’d break up at least seven more times before I’d sell the ring so I could buy myself a new coat, the last effort to prove to myself I didn’t need his ring to keep me warm. How could I know that two weeks later I’d find out I was pregnant, or that in two more weeks he’d sit with me through the abortion?
There was no way to know that three years from that moment, far away from that small doctor’s office, we’d part ways under that same tree where we first met, and never speak again. And that three years later, I’d meet the love of my life, publish the book I wrote in England and return to Brighton on a book tour, alone. There was no way of knowing that I’d come back from that trip and return to that same tree and write the opening line of my first novel.
I never thought I’d miss Alesky so much or so little. And what if I’d never went to England to be with him? What if I never took a chance on so much, on the unpredictability of my life? Maybe I would’ve never written the poems that had become so much of my healing, of my moving on—that had become so mine so lovely in their shape and face.
All of these moments that make up my story are everywhere, so me, so holy. My past, as close to me as my present and as far away as my future, but I can always return to that tree because that tree is me, that tree is my body and those stories are my branches. Who knew I’d also fall in love with my life, with those stories that built me?
There were times I yelled at myself for moving to England for a man and not for my writing. But then I’d just be denying myself my life, denying myself the chance to fall in love with myself, with the people around me, with the words on the page, with the memory of my first love, of my search for myself.
Tonight I fall in love with my story, all of them, all the boys and jobs and books on my dining room table. I take a deep breath and feel at peace with the keys under my fingertips, fall deeper in love with nails and skin, my dog’s whiskers.
And tonight, especially tonight.
I love tonight.
Excerpt from This Way To Forever
In airports, sounds echo off the hard floors as feet and suitcases shuffle. A voice, muffled and bored, intones the next departure. Someone says, hello. Goodbye. I’ll miss you. This standard micro-drama, with no deviation, offers little of import, unlike the people inside. This building is the shell, the bubble that keeps the harried hustle from falling apart and shattering into chaos.
What I’ve realized, though, is that people are the stories, all with unknown beginnings and endings. My favorite stories are the ones about love. Because love never ends up the way we expect. Love is the most uncertain story we’ll ever know.
No one love story exists, only those we’re told from a young age: man, woman and happily ever after. Forever. But forever and happy are half-baked concepts that make us feel incomplete, even alone.
I used to believe in forever, in the script. The same one that implies falling in love is easy. The one that says love will save us, make us happy and whole. But there’s no script in this story, at least not now, not here, in this airport, as I wait and scrape the cuticles from my fingers.
Today I reflect on my own love story. Not one, but two. The first is about a young, naive girl who thinks a lover will save her, while the other is about a girl who realizes the best kind of love is a choice you make, a promise to yourself. I wanted to write about this. You see, that’s my other love…writing. As I wait in this crowded, story-ridden airport, my fingers fidgeting over picked skin and knees knocking, I think maybe my love is the third story in this mess.
Not that telling a story is easy with its twists and turns, choices and decisions, especially when faced with deciding on an ending. I need to make a choice. There are two guys, two love stories, both walking towards me. The truth is, deep down I know which one makes the most sense. I’m just not sure if there’s sense in love, and I’m not sure who to choose, or even if I’ll choose. At least not until we reach the end.
Sara Brody thought she had met her soulmate in Tad Bolak, a charming exchange student. Their whirlwind romance includes nights staring at the stars, declarations of love, and promises to talk often when Tad must return to his native Poland to complete his Master’s Degree. But Sara’s idealistic view of Tad and plans to be together when he gets his degree come to a shattering halt when he admits to having a fiancee back home. Heartbroken, she vows to keep her heart safe from men and and focuses on her own studies. Until she meets Ethan. Sara discovers that no relationship is perfect, especially when one still mourns past loves. Tad never gives up on her. Ethan wants her to give their relationship a chance. And Sara wonders what will become of her sense of self if she gives in to either man.
This Way To Forever is available here:
AUTHOR BIO: Loren Kleinman’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Drunken Boat, Nimrod, Wilderness House Literary Review, Paterson Literary Review, Narrative Northeast and Journal of New Jersey Poets. Her interviews appeared in IndieReader, USA Today, and The Huffington Post. She edited Indie Authors Naked, which was an Amazon Top 100 bestseller in Journalism in the UK and USA. Kleinman is the author of four collections of poetry, and her memoir The Woman with a Million Hearts released 2016 with BlazeVOX Books. She publishes personal essays in Good Housekeeping, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, and Woman’s Day.
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