Satellite Mind

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Satellite MindI have always staked a furious possession on boys that aren’t mine. I believed my desire was silently intuited, and it was an exquisite agony I could not bring myself to relieve, an aching crave that was not fulfilled—knowing the unknowable, perceiving that they had seen, they had witnessed, they understood. I didn’t want consummation as much as acknowledgment; I wanted them to look up and meet my fixed gaze.

I developed elaborate, compulsive, ritualized behaviors I was certain would, eventually, call their attention. Memorizing class schedules to determine his route through the halls, messaging on the anniversary of his first email, winding my car window down as I drove by his house, blasting a song that said what I would not. I was obsessed with obscuring my interest because I didn’t want to be desired as an echo; I wanted to give them the moment I was burning towards: the welcome moment of an unexpected confession. That thrill of revealing the secret longing, which couldn’t have been that secret—after all, the moon circuits overhead every night, ghost-pale, hidden cloud-cover or not. Constant. Present.

I locked and unlocked diaries, entombed lyrics into mixtapes I never sent, and sent. I practiced restraint until it finally pulled a boy into my orbit and then I strapped myself inside his heart, releasing my need into his, instantaneous ownership swarming his veins.

I have been secured behind the safe fence of that boy-husband for seventeen years, but when I heard Metric’s song “Satellite Mind” on an album called “Fantasies,” it was a flashlight between the chain links; it was the closest I’d ever come to being seen, to admitting that I had spent years exposing slices of skin at a bricked window.

I still long for the galactic darkness of undiscovered truth, for that nebulous light beaming off the one who offered to share his blanket at our sisters’ softball game, the one in my Italian class I’d silently follow back to our shared dorm, the one who asked me on a date before break but never followed up when we came back, the one who turned down my secondhand prom request and confessed he regretted it a year too late, the one in the butterfly flannel with the shaggy mid-90s hair, the teenage boyfriend, the one with the slim hips, the one with the sleepy eyes—all collecting into the ur-boy, the one who did not see me, and that is why I still want him. So I tuck my hunger beneath the marital quilt, roll onto my side, and murmur myself into the sweet, blind, half-true dreamlife as the thudding exposure of “Satellite Mind” reveals what I could not confess, what I wanted a boy to guess.

*

Hold it, I’m about to drop off—let me tell you my last thought: the satisfaction of settling scores in my sleep with the boy who couldn’t commit to release after he initiated it, the orgasmic flush of finally rejecting him when he comes back; willingly reentering fantasies with the full knowledge that I want to kiss him one last time because I’ll know it’s the last time, I’ll be the one leaving. We interact more often in my dreams than we ever did in waking life, more than double the number of encounters we actually had. But I keep dreaming him, so vividly that when I wake up I’m half-convinced something actually happened, something was resolved.

*

drift into a deep—hold that, dip lower into the weak-knees of “deep” before pulling back into the fog, lost like Scarlett O’Hara turning and twisting in her search, lost where I forgot to—hold it. Break the sentence. Hold it: I can feel you most when I’m alone. I can admit that. It is the necessary and throttling promise of loneliness, of invention.

*

The threat that I was coming home ‘cause I want to, and he knew I’d be driving through his town on the interstate that once brought me to him; he invited me to “stop by, sometime, stay the night even,” this once-boyfriend who never even touched my breasts though I tried so hard to magic him towards me, magnetic hunger rumbling low. I would return to the sites of our moments and recreate them, park in the same spot, sit in the same driver’s seat of the same car and play the same mixtape with the same lyrics he did not obey, though I’d whispered them into his ear. I would return to my backyard and lie in the same grass where I’d gotten dew-stained, waiting all night for him to slide open the door; I would hang out with a starlet, a starlette, a star fragment, a comet streak, wish on a star, reading the signs, the horoscoped insistence I knew, I knew and thought I could recast.

*

Once I got to my childhood bedroom, I would stare up at the ceiling at the neon-green stars I had aligned into formations only I could read, the half-curve of a C and an L leftover from freshman year, the two bumps of a heart I mentally filled in with a sharp V. It was a preview of a screening of the years to come, the teenage obsessions I wore long into college; my body never changed so my mind never changed, I never grew out of them. I reassembled my black metal four-post bed in my college apartments and as the old stars glowed, I would lie beside a boyfriend and before he touched me there’d be the lightning flashback of a feeling: the sick sense of a calling I would always answer, the siren I never even tried to resist, my ears trained to sonar search, holding perfectly still so I could interpret the exquisite changes in exhalation, the faintest rustle; was that a sharp inhale of interest or fear?

*

I heard you fuck through the wall I never broke through. But a desperate ignored girl grasping at any attention lets a boy talk to her about his girlfriend because it meant he was talking to her; like a sleazer looking for an easy lay, I felt like I had a chance at pulling him to me because I heard you fuck.

*

When I’d exhausted all my options, I’d flick a shoulder—an email, a message, a text, a mind-meld—the hum, the tuning to his frequency, the expectation that he left his dial turned up.

So I would declare it, defiant, warn it: when I’m bored, I send vibrations in your direction from the satellite mind.

I would repeat it, I would yawn it, I would extend my arm and undulate my wrist, spell-casting, yearning rolling off me in waves, so strong he must be able to detect the shiver in connection.

*

It did not work 98% of the time.

*

I wasn’t suicidal when admitting my failure rate; I just couldn’t get out of bed because I was drifting into a deep fog of illusion, a boy entering my room and asking me to slow-dance under my black-light, the moment we had laid on our sides on the rough beige carpet beside my bed and I’d propped one forearm under my head like a pillow and held his waist with the other and I wanted him to roll on top of me but he didn’t—but now he did. I lost where I forgot.

The collar-grab as I insisted hold it: I can feel you most when I’m alone to the boys who drew close, once. I wanted them to feel the finger-swipe across the back of the neck, content they never meant to give me but I got it anyway, I collected it anyway, I built it into meaning anyway. I can feel your ghost when I’m alone.

*

I came home. I wanted to. Stars crashing, staring up at the ceiling, and I’d let it slip on purpose, a hint to be seen, hiding and revealing. Feelings flashing back, the sick sense—the SIXTH SENSE—of a calling.

I heard the ghostly fuck through the wall. I heard he fucked some other girl.

But he would call, he would take me sledding, he would meet me at a restaurant with another friend, he would email me and repeat the phrases I had once asked him as questions and like the only sound I’d ever been waiting for, from his voice came vibrations from the satellite mind.

It sounded like mine.

The horrible insistent pounding that it sounded like mine, that satellite mind, the only reverberation the blunt drop-off of my own stunned sentence. It sounded like.

You bleating like a siren, a warning, heed Dopplering across the prairie, my rotating, pulsating need turning and returning as I continued to insist that he sounded like mine; the echolocation of you across the end, the tremendous pain of claiming and condemning that all along, the voice had been mine. Only mine.


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About Author

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Kristine Langley Mahler is a memoirist experimenting with the truth on the suburban prairie outside Omaha, Nebraska. Her work received the Rafael Torch Award from Crab Orchard Review and has been recently published in New Delta Review, Quarter After Eight, The Collagist, Fugue, Gigantic Sequins, and The Rumpus, among others. She is a nonfiction editor at Pithead Chapel and assistant editor for Split Lip Press. Visit her at kristinelangleymahler.com or @suburbanprairie.

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