13 September 2011


I meant to write something more straightforward yesterday, but I ended up making up a story (?) instead. I revised it a bit just now, though I'm not sure if it's better.

Before I get to that, though, what I meant to write yesterday was, Martin and I broke up two weeks ago. It was the result of as grown-up a conversation as can be had with one person (me) sobbing, and I am sad as hell, but I guess it's time for us now to figure some things out separately. We are still friends, though.

I suppose that takes away some of the mystery of what I've written, but anyway—


When they dig us up at reunion dinners and birthday parties, they will find the ruins of an unfinished temple, abandoned because its builder-priests had simply run out of time.

To be sure, there had been a deadline, though it had been pushed back and back by so many interruptions, until the priests had simply agreed that they would finish in good time, eventually.

The diggers will climb the gentle staircase of the temple’s foundation and note that early construction had been easy enough, with slabs of granite faith and the cement of ardent promises. They will find the memories, too, painstakingly carved into the inner walls and preserved in glass jars, made airtight with fondness.

“Look here,” they will say, “dirt and flaming petals from an old ledge, crumbs from a crispy catfish salad, pine needles from Sagada, a boarding pass to her hometown, a paper star.”

Then, where the next walls went up, there will also be the first crack, hastily filled with panic’s plaster.

“Here is where the morning priest had some crisis, the kind that's notoriously difficult to avoid but still looks childish in hindsight. See the receipts from Butter Diner, the keys to separate houses across the city? She dropped her hammer and sealed herself off in a room for 90 days.”

Annoyed by the delay, the evening priest occupied himself with letters from the crown. They will see that building resumed after the cloister was torn down, when the morning priest had heard silence outside its walls as well as in. Its cracked stones form the base of the pillars, which might still have stood solid and majestic, eagles and lions carved into the basalt, if lightning hadn’t struck.

“Look: worn bandages, a broken crutch, an empty golden tin that once held methyl salicylate, tear- or beer-stained scrolls. This time, the evening priest was abed for nearly a year, and building slowed to a near standstill.”

That year, the foundations were strengthened somehow, but nothing could rise till the builders were stronger. In the meantime, the morning priest made new blueprints, for the city that would surround the temple: smooth streets for easy walking, simple houses that shared single courtyards, open markets, large enough barracks, and parks larger still, for children and grandchildren who already had names.

“Here the books and ticket stubs mark the new year, and the evening priest vowed to continue their great work. Over the beautiful pillars, which they would finish first, he said there’d be a gilded roof to last for all time. But look, the limestone blocks never left the quarry. He left to accept a regency."

Hammers are not as heavy as crowns; his is half-buried beneath tall grass. Forgotten, dropped, or thrown from his cart, no one can tell. Some digger will trip over it on their way to climb the steps. And they will go to the very top, see the invisible pillars, and gaze from the dais over the jungle, grown where houses would have stood. They will explore the niches, open the jars, and catalog everything carefully for display in their own faraway museums.

They will not know how we passed hammers to one another, prayed for peace under the open sky, admired our own handiwork—how I traced your eagles’ wings with my fingers; how you caressed my lions with your palms—and promised with tears in our eyes that this would be the greatest temple, a shining marvel to all the world. They will see only the bones of the morning priest, sealed off in a stone room to die, clutching blueprints to her chest.

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