Category Archives: First loves

Cliché in the city

photo

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

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Sixth sense

images

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.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Have you?

1355764748

You haven’t left your husband, he types.

How the hell would you know?

Have you?

Its not that easy. This is not you and Paula. This is me and Jake and two kids and a house we own and private middle school and two car payments and all of my friends who will become half of my friends and all of our family who will become half of our family and custody hearings and this city and your city and my lousy paycheck and his slow, rainy months and his hurt looks and my guilt, and all of it so much bigger than you packing a couple of bags and renting a place across town and getting a dog.

E, you know I can’t.

D, it shouldn’t matter.

How can you be so irrational?

(The cursor hesitates.)

You mean honest?

 

Photo credit: http://www.johnson-family-chiropractic.com

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

To free the coyote

IMG_8626

Another flight home in tears. Another resolution to stop throwing herself at him, only to see him sidestep her, like the road runner taking one purposeful step to the side to let Wile E Coyote race past and hit the wall. Another resolution to pack up her malfunctioning Acme Inc parachute and back away quietly before she hits anything else.

She wants so much to jump. To feel him there beside her, jumping too. The struggle is to reconcile the part of her that believes they are meant to be together with the part that recognizes she’s being rejected. Any other self-respecting woman of her age and opportunity would have moved on by now. God knows, she’s felt it. She’s even said it. But she can’t seem to believe it.

Which must be why the coyote never gives up, even though we all want him to, because we know he’s never going to catch the road runner. If only we could tell him what to do next, we could free him.

Photo credit: http://www.herbalistmanifesto.com

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The reality of silence

flat,550x550,075,f

Silence is heavy, and not quiet at all. At rare moments, when she is home on her own, almost afraid to breathe for fear of breaking the spell, there is a welcome stillness. But it is not silent. There is a tinny buzz in her ears, and the ticking of the clock is the heartbeat of a house that creaks and groans, as if stretching cramped limbs. The sound of a descending airplane is overhead, the crunch of tires on loose gravel is in the alley, a child is calling from a backyard somewhere down the street. The rain taps the window and dances on the roof, rivulets finding their way into the bathroom upstairs, steadily dripping onto the marmoleum floor. When it stops, the birds are so cheerful, she wishes she could join them, landing lightly on the branch outside her window, simultaneously eyeing the earth and the sky.

There is a steady stream of chatter in her head, a radio channel she wishes she could turn off. She tries not to think of Drew, she tries not to think of Jake. Nothing seems right, everything is off balance, the road ahead looks empty and grey, like the sky. How not to curl up into a ball and close her eyes, tuning the world out, keeping everyone at bay? How not to give in to the uncertainty and lose her drive, her determination to live fully, to live better? This is the anti-depressant zone, where she can choose to numb herself and force her body and mind to level out, the way her friends do with their knock-off, covered-by-insurance-if-you’re-willing-to-accept-the-diagnosis drugs. Or its the place where she gives up, where she gives in to the pain and despair that make her feel alive and alone, alert and yet emotionally unavailable, where she makes herself small on the couch and watches the rain fall, tucking the stillness in around her like a quilt.

The silence is welcome. But she doesn’t know what to do with it.

Photo credit: redbubble.com

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Judgement

DSC04712-Copy-279x300

Today, she is picking herself up, dusting herself off. Mulling a setback. Contemplating progress.

“And how does that make you feel?”

Jake’s answer to the therapist’s question yesterday wasn’t fair. None of this was really about him, he said. He really couldn’t do anything about it. He had shrugged.

Frustration had overwhelmed her. Why was she here with someone who could so easily throw up his hands, who didn’t want to be in charge, who would rather reserve the right to sit back, watch it all unfold, and then blame her. Her reaction was over the top, but she couldn’t hold it back. She felt angry about the suggestion that he was the victim, that there was nothing he could do, that this was all her fault, her decision.

Grow a pair. Sayeed said the words for her, with a question mark, so that she didn’t have to own them. Barely concealing a toxic mix of guilt and glee, she had watched him wrestle with this.

And then Sayeed named something else for her, saying it before she could recognize the shift in dynamics: judgement. Yes, of course she felt judged, she said. Jake was judging her, he was judging her, she was judging herself.

Somehow, this broke through. This word, powering a fresh rush of emotion, ripped the plastic sheeting separating the present and past rooms in her head, pushing her through a divide. As she struggled to focus, she sensed something moving in a recessed corner. She felt it heating her skin, accelerating her heartbeat, changing her vision. Something deeply buried—a box, the box, had been nudged and the answers living inside were vibrating.

She couldn’t get to it in time. Just as it began to take shape, as she felt she might reach it, as Sayeed’s face lit up in recognition and he leaned forward a little in his chair, as Jake let out a breath—their time was up. Session over. Back to work, to clients, to kids, her life framed above it, like a porch built over a place where flowers had once grown.

But the box had opened and she had recognized its contents—ragged keepsakes of accusation, aggression, derision, contempt, neglect. Memories buried or cast off, scars preserved.

Judgement shapes everything about us, leaving a patina, a shine, a bruise. It scalds us, freezes us, numbs us, nips at our heels, and locks us out. Or in. Sometimes it locks us in.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The art of tension

photo

The last text she received from Drew featured his silhouette. He was driving somewhere, north she thought, though it wasn’t possible to know. It was light outside his window, with a blur of green grass and some kind of white building in the distance. She kept pulling it up on her phone, looking at his serious face, wanting him to turn to the camera and smile, guessing at what he’d been thinking when he sent it.

She’d sent him a picture first. He’d asked several times, for the kind of photo always getting politicians in trouble in the news, the kind that suggests a weakness, a shortcoming. She had always refused, although she knew what she would send. Something sensual in simplicity and defensible as art, representative of a desire he might recognize as his own. A suggestion of where he might place his hand. This was something she understood well, foreplay from a distance, the art of tension, the crafting of a good story.

The picture had been snapped inadvertently. She’d taken her phone out to capture the morning skyline from the bridge. Traffic was barely moving, the cars in front of her crawling toward a merge at the highway onramp. The day was grey, the soft grey that comes from a lifting fog and the promise of a clear sky above. The water was smooth and reflective, and the port was quiet. With one hand on the steering wheel, she was attempting to center the phone when she’d fumbled and nearly dropped it, an audible click responding to a finger closing around the case. When she turned it over, there it was, a thumbnail in the corner of the camera, soft and utterly compelling.

Something about the image dissolved her resistance. It captivated her, the evidence, so obvious and real she could almost feel him in the car beside her, reaching over, insistent and possessive. It felt so very, very easy. So honest and legitimate to send it, so unreasonable to keep it from him. If it didn’t generate an equal and proportional response, if she didn’t feel a vibration in the air between them, she deserved every pound of backlash she’d risk to reach him.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.