Category Archives: Affairs of the heart

Debris

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Pulsing underneath, always, the vein of creativity begging to be tapped. But some days it runs so deep, there is too much excavation needed to get there. There have been many of these days lately.

photo credit: thewritingvein.com

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Cliché in the city

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She is in the big city, alone. She finds a popular bar on 7th Ave, one with a crush of young people just off work and ordering Bud Light in bottles. She lays claim to one bar stool, because there is always one solitary bar stool available in a crowd, even in the busiest of bars. This is a universal truth. Some folks think the world shuts out single people, but she actually believes it reserves spaces for them, single spaces that groups are reluctant to fill. 

She orders a Stella and a burger. The Australian tourists next to her are watching the Billy Joel concert on the TV above them. John Mayer is playing guitar, his eyes closed. The bartender takes care of her, with a charming Irish accent and one eye constantly scanning the crowd, anticipating the next order, collecting payment, trying not to drip beer on her sleeve. Thanks, he says with a practiced grin, over and over again, money exchanging hands over her shoulder. Excuse me, his customers apologize to her, as if they are interrupting.

She’s here because she can’t be alone in her hotel room. It’s the silence and the spaces that unnerve her. It’s knowing that Drew is out there somewhere, between the posts, behind the friends they have in common, beyond her barricade, but not unreachable.

Maybe it’s knowing she’s getting too old to be this cliché. Maybe it’s that she’s reached the age at which she feels invisible to anyone who doesn’t know her, who didn’t once truly know her.

This must get easier at some point. 

She gets up quietly, smiles at the bartender, and heads back to the hotel.

photo credit: ek2014

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Secret space

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When you consider that she was the one who imagined it, and that she could have created any number of comfortable, plush, or natural settings, it’s the strangest room. There’s a narrow corridor with a window at the end, and she’s always hurrying down it, toward the last door on the right, as if someone is chasing her or someone might see her. When she enters, she quickly closes the door and locks it.

All of the furniture is along one wall. There’s an old brown couch, maybe leather, though she’s not sure if it’s genuine or some kind of vinyl imitation. It’s cool to the touch, not particularly inviting. Butting up next to the arm of the couch is a black metal, four-drawer filing cabinet that never opens. She thinks it might be empty. Sometimes there is a small, high window, opposite the couch. Other times, the room is windowless. It’s always quiet.

This secret space is where she used to go to be alone in her head. It was meant to be a safe zone, where she could slow her breath and still her mind and visualize the future. Later, this was where she went when she wanted to talk with Drew. This is where honest and soulful things were said, things that were deceptively simple, that still resonate.

The room feels hollow now, without his voice to welcome her, without the intensity of those conversations to give the room warmth and texture. She still goes, leaning with her back against the door to make sure no one followed, listening for him, to see if he has missed it too and come back.

How can he not feel her heart breaking?

She desperately needs a new door to open, but the corridor is quiet.

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Tremors

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The hotel room was dark when she returned from dinner, and for a moment she stood still, to see what it felt like to be alone and quiet. It came immediately, as always, sadness rolling over her like the fog she had watched from 10,000 feet a day earlier, great drifts of cottony cover, settling heavily over the coastal mountains.

Her eyes adjusted to the dim light. She kicked off her shoes and turned on the TV, flipping through the channels, immune to the news and the drama. What she wanted was an unconditional conversation with Drew. In lieu of that, a good cry. Instead, she opted for a beer and M&Ms from the front desk. She went to bed with her contacts in, face unwashed, clothes dropped carelessly on the chair, pajamas in her suitcase, ignored.

At 3:20am, the world began to roll. In her dream, she was floating on waves, the rhythm insistent and unrelenting, forcing her to relinquish power, to relax her grip, to give in to something larger than herself. But the groaning building woke her, its protest low and mechanical. She gripped the sheets as the bed undulated, and in the darkness, she felt as if she were in the hull of a boat, adrift in large waves, insignificant and powerless. After a moment, the waves rolled away, moving on, the undulation getting softer and softer until it was gone. The hotel walls were once again quiet.

Wide awake, heart pounding, she thought about a tsunami. She wondered if more waves were coming. She wondered if her sorrow might be tangible, strong enough to liquify the earth and roll her away.

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Balance

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The fan revolved slowly in the wrong direction. Others along the veranda turned at a clip, stirring the air, but this one didn’t. She didn’t mind. The breeze off the gulf was warm, and it lifted her hair from her forehead.

The view from their table was of the marina. She watched as a sailboat went out, a skipper at the helm, one passenger sitting quietly at the bow as the boat turned toward the bay, others laughing and sipping drinks in the cockpit. Another boat was motoring back in, the first mate moving carefully along the starboard side, throwing fenders out over the railing. Two pelicans flew in formation overhead, as if mimicking the fighter jets that live at the nearby base.

They ordered the mahi tacos and happy hour beers. Neither said much, content to sit side-by-side, relaxing in their anonymity and the stillness. Sweat from their glasses pooled on the table, soaking their coasters as they ate. She smiled at the child who walked by waving the crayons she’d secured from the waiter. He ordered another beer.

After a while, he leaned back against the bench. She sat back too and leaned into him, feeling the softness of his shirt sleeve and the warmth of his arm under it.  She felt him exhale.

She began to keep count. For every sailboat that went out, another came in.

 

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Sixth sense

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On Monday, I passed a burgundy-colored FJ Cruiser on my way to work. And though I know believing a car can be a sign makes me sound crazy, your doubt won’t sway my belief that seeing it meant something. Maybe the truth is that anything can be associated with anything else. But there’s always a point at which frequency tips coincidence toward meaning and I’d crossed it a while ago.

I hadn’t seen this make, model, and color in over a year, which corresponds exactly to the amount of time I’d spent consciously trying to let Drew go. A year is the amount of time I’d spent practicing the art of living without Drew in my head, of not looking to him as my sounding board and savior. It was the amount of time I’d spent practicing the visual equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and singing la la la, trying not to see this particular sign, like a small child trying to tune out what she can’t control. 

At this point, for all I know on any given day, Drew is doing fine. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. And then I heard. His father had passed away unexpectedly. He’d had a heart attack. 

I don’t know which sensation is stronger—the painful awareness that he’d suffered a real loss for which I could offer no comfort or the ache-filled acknowledgement that my sixth sense connection to him is still alive and well.

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Settling

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I cut my hair yesterday. I knew I would feel like Samson losing his locks, the length having represented confidence and a freedom from conformity. But I was weary of caring for that long-haired person’s ego. I felt like she was higher maintenance than she needed to be. 

I thought I would be brave and go short, sassy and stylish, dialing up yet another side of the new, fearless me. But I let my hairdresser talk me into a mid-length cut, a safe cut (her words), one that wouldn’t freak me out (still her words.) I realize now that she was talking to the other me, the one she’s known for almost 20 years. And that me responded in meek agreement.

It takes a lot of energy to maintain momentum. It requires more calories than I can take in, and more space than I can consistently fill. As the barometer drops, dialing back the winds of change, I find that my bravery is dissipating. Never mind being more authentic, or feeling more alive. Complacency is settling back in.

Is my midlife crisis done with me? This settling feels like wind dying down, after a tornado has swept through and lifted the house from its foundation. Everything is dropping back into place, leaving little evidence of the seriousness of the storm.

After all this, will I be unchanged?

 

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