Tuesday, March 24, 2015

La La La

I couldn't figure out why today was bothering me. It's just a Tuesday. Nothing significant or even insignificant happens on Tuesdays. Tuesday is neither here nor there. Tuesday is meh.

But it kept nagging at me, an ever-so-slight twinge in my gut anytime I saw the date. It's that feeling I used to not be able to name; that feeling that things were slightly askew, sliding off balance, but the tilt was so subtle I could hardly perceive it. 

It didn't hit me until later, as I was stressing and muttering to myself while moving some meetings around on my calendar why I felt so uneasy all day; it’s your birthday.

I choose to gloss over what it means that my spirit still knows your birthday even when my mind is paying it no attention. It's better that way, probably.

If this was six years ago, I know what we'd be doing. We'd be packing and we'd be heading some place we'd never been. Probably somewhere with a beach, with you needing the sunshine and me needing the water. We'd be plotting on what to do and how to get around and where we were going to eat. We'd be excited and anxious checking in constantly; did you pack sunscreen (me)? Who's gonna smuggle the shorties on the plane (you)?

We'd both be planning dates the other would love in celebration of our birthdays barely a week apart. And we'd be trying to one up each other, because it's always a competition. We'd be staying up too late and talking about our plans.
We'd be talking, at least.

Unlike now.

We aren’t talking. And we aren't who we were six years ago. We might not have ever been. And we aren't going anywhere. And we probably never were.

But we were dumb, stupid in love, weren't we?

It kills me to feel like I'm not sure of the answer to that anymore.

I want to call. I want to call because not talking is new for us. Because birthdays are important to us, and because whether or not you'll admit, all day you'll be wondering if I might. And you'll be disappointed when I don't. And it won't ruin your day- I don't have that power anymore- but it'll sit, quiet and small in the corner as you celebrate, and you'll glance over it at least once right before you go to sleep.

I won't call. Because I shouldn't. Because it's done. And it's the right thing to do, even if it's not what I want.

Instead I stop by the liquor store on the way home. And I sit out on my patio in the twilight sending you love and light and hoping you feel it, listening to My Cherie Amor and taking deep, shuddering breaths rather than crying.

We are hole-in-the-wall restaurants and we are cheese fries. We are Baltimore and the life we never had in LA and kisses on a street car in Memphis. We are a silly shorthand language only we know and love letters and AIM messages and slow sex against the wall in a darkened stairwell. We're a CD where every song says my name. We're strip clubs in Yonkers and tiny clubs with dope music in Chicago. We are turkey burgers with the plastic still on and slow dancing in the kitchen to Stevie Wonder.
We are done.

I unload my brown paper bag from the liquor store, and line shorties of the rum we used to drink on the altar of the railing like an offering. I shoot them all back to back without taking a breath in between. The taste is less familiar when not mingled with your tongue and your cloves and your Chapstick.

I look at the empty bottles, the last vestiges of sunlight shining through their emptiness. I arrange them just so and look at them until it's dark out. And then I knock them over on my way back inside.

Yet another shrine I erected that feels like ruins.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Curtains

I was hitting my marks perfectly. Finding my light and delivering each line with grace and wit. I was being charming. I was being funny. And sexy at the right time. And smart at the right time. I was listening and reeling him in and saying the right thing, because that's what I do.

And I was fucking exhausted.

Thirty minutes ago when he walked over to introduce himself, a bit of a smirk leading the way, I knew who he was immediately, even before he told me his name. I recognized the confidence in his stride. The way he found the perfect way to invade my space without being overbearing. I knew the tone of faux intimacy in his voice meant to disarm me. I recognized his easy charm and the privilege of his handsomeness that carved the room open before him. I know him. Because I date him all the time.

We do the things people our age do when they're single and living in this city and trying to figure out if the person in front of them is someone they might one day see naked; we talk about where we work and where we live, where we're from and where we went to school, and compare notes about who we might know in common, which is really code for have you fucked anyone in this too small city that would pose a problem for me if I fucked you too?

He's telling me a story about a trip he recently took to serve as best man for his best friend and frat brother, and he's hitting all the notes of the song and dance. Sure, he's telling me the story. But what I'm supposed to be hearing is that perhaps he might be getting to the point where he's ready to settle down too, though we both know that's not true. And look how exciting my life is; don't you wanna be a part of it?

He's performing his monologue, and I'm listening and asking questions when I should and laughing when I should, and in my mind I'm saying to myself, "Six weeks. It would take me six weeks to break you."

And how do I know this? Because I know. Because I know this guy. I date him all the time. He's all young and handsome and full of swagger, drunk on the attention he gets from women and the success he's no doubt finding at work. He's smart and funny and charming as shit. He's probably amazing in bed, and thoughtful in that way that you are not when it's in your nature but because it's a means to an end. There's no doubt in my mind that he's not an asshole, but he's emotionally unavailable for some reason or another that has nothing to do with me. And that would be convenient for me- for us both really, but definitely for me- because I wouldn't have to invest. I wouldn't have to be connected or responsible. It could be all fun and flirting and great sex until it wasn't anymore.

Until one of us inevitably got bored or frustrated. Or started to wonder why the other wasn't wanting more, and couldn't handle what that might do to our ego. Or one of us wanting more and recognizing we'd never get it in this situation where we've wasted time building a bridge to nowhere.

I've just delivered a line that went over flawlessly. I pause and let it sink in. I time it perfectly. He reacts just like I knew he would. He and I have good chemistry and we play well off each other.

This shit is a disaster waiting to happen.

He asks for my number before he and the crew he's abandoned to come flirt with me for the better part of an hour leave for the next spot. They're much of the same; young and handsome and cocky in that mildly predatory way. 

I want to give it to him. I do. Because he's handsome and funny and charming. Because he's probably a great lay. Because this- this predictable back and forth and it's inevitable fall out- this I can manage. 

"I can't," I say instead. I watch his face fall a bit.
"I, um...," He falters and sputters. "Are you seeing someone? I guess I should have asked that."

But of course he didn't ask that. Because men like him don't ask that. Because there's some part of him that believes- in many cases probably rightly- that if he wants something, the answer is irrelevant.

"No, I'm single. But the problem is, I've dated you before. Dozens of times. I know how this goes. And I'm going to save us the trouble."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you came over here to talk to me because I'm pretty, yes, but also because I draw men like you to me all the time. If I had to guess I'd say you're probably already casually dating," I pause to decide on a figure, "two women. One of them is probably bad as fuck, but dumb as rocks. The other is probably a really good girl that you should be serious about, but you're not because you aren't really ready. But at your age, not wanting something serious is rapidly starting to feel less and less cool than it was in your twenties. Your friends are getting married and having babies and while you probably, maybe, want that too, you really don't want it anytime soon. But you don't wanna admit that because people judge you for it. Instead, you remain unavailable in every way for some reason- for you it was probably a heartbreak you don't ever wanna feel again because you don't seem like a predatory asshole- and pick women where you know deep down it will never be anything real. Because then you're just a victim of your circumstances, you just haven't found the right woman. Rather than it being what it really is; you just don't want it. Any of that sound about right?"
"No, you're wrong. It's three women."

We laugh, and it's probably the first time in the whole conversation where we've laughed heartily and genuinely.

"I'm not judging you. I just... I know how this goes. I date you all the time. And I think," I take a deep breath, "I'm ready to stop."

He nods at me over and over, a smile spreading across his face.
"I get that. I do. It was nice to meet you, La."
"It was nice to meet you, too."

He heads back to his boys, no doubt lying about having exchanged information or spinning some story about how he didn't ask me for my number because of some fake sin I didn't commit. I turn my attention back to my Makers and sigh heavily.

I think I'm growing up. Sonofabitch. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

An Opening

It's always fun when it's new.

When it's all shameless flirting and bubbling sexual tension. When it's texting long missives and witty replies and conversations that stretch into the late/early hours like you don't have anywhere to report to in the morning. When everything is laughs and life stories shared in hushed confessional. That place right in the middle of the bridge between This is fun and Oh, shit, could this really be something?

That's where we are. We're good morning texts and talking while we're sitting in traffic and pics of what I'm wearing to work. We're slick texts during the day out of the blue that throw the other off kilter. We're absent minded strokes up and down my back while we're waiting for our table. We're dinners that stretch until the waiters are stacking chairs on top of tables. We're languishing conversations until the wee small hours of the morning.

We're having one such convo around 4am on one of many nights I can’t sleep. We're about four hours post our last date and nine hours before our next one, and for some reason we've been laughing about The Boondocks for 15 minutes.

"You ever think about us?" He asks me outta the blue. And while I really appreciate how open and emotionally available he is, it still takes some getting used to. Some will power to not run the other way. 
“I, uh, think about where we’re going for brunch tomorrow. I think about if we’re going to go see Alvin Ailey.”
“You should. Think about us, I mean.”
“I’ll think about it.”
“You’ll think about thinking about us?”
“Yeah.”
“HA! I’ll take it.”

We continue on this way, laughing and flirting and discovering for far longer a time than people who have just left each other’s company should.

“I hate talking on the phone.”
“La, we been on the phone for like,” I can hear him pull the phone away from his face to check the display, “two hours and seventeen minutes.”
“You know, my grandma used to say that if you have that much to talk about with someone, you just need to go see them.”
“So, let’s do it.”
“What?”
"Get up. Come meet me."
"I just left you."
"I know. But come anyway."
I pause, weighing how reckless I wanna be here.

Year of bad decisions. I suppose.

"Ok. Where?"
He tells me where and I throw on sweats, figuring he can't expect much at 4am.

I get there barely 15 minutes later and he's beaten me. He's in sweats and a t-shirt but I can tell as I walk up he's freshly showered. He smiles when he sees me and takes a deep breath and I pretend not to notice and not to like it.

"You couldn't even be without me for 12 hours?"
"Nawl. I guess not."

We laugh and we talk until the sun comes up, making friends with the waitress and the truck driver on his way further south. Somewhere around seven we stumble out into the beginnings of daylight, our index fingers intertwined. He leans up against his car and pulls me into him.

"This was fun."
"It was,” I say through a yawn.
"I gotta tell you something."
"Go."
"I like you. And I like us. I'm interested.”
“Ok.”
“Ok? That’s all you have to say?”
“Yep.”
“I’m serious.”
“Ok.”
“You don’t believe me do you?”
“NOPE!” I say as we bust out laughing. “I’ve been dream sold too many times. But I’m open to believing you.”
“That’s cool,” he says, giving me a tighter hug as he turns and walks me to my car, “all I need is an opening.”


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sure

2014 was a year of reckoning. It was a year that sat on my chest, heavy and unmoving, leaning down in my face to sneer at me and ask, "Are you sure?"

This career you've been working at for 10 years; are you sure?
That man you've loved for years and you swear you want forever with;
 are you sure?
That thing you said you'd never do; 
are you sure?
That dream you have that you won't give up on no matter how you neglect it; are you sure?
This city and this apartment and these friends and this hair color and that date and this move and that decision; 
ARE YOU SURE?

I'm ashamed of how often the answer has been no.

2014 kicked in the door waving the .44 on me. After a fairly peaceful 2013, I wasn't prepared. I thought I'd reached a point in my life where I'd weathered so many of the worse storms. I thought I'd found some semblance of normal.

At that, 2014 scoffed.

There's been upheaval. And the ever present specter of loss. Some of it in my head, blooming wild from the deepest roots of my anxiety. This is too good, it always hisses in my ear. How will you fuck it up? When will the other shoe drop? What will you ruin? What will you lose?

It sits with me the nights that turn into mornings that I cannot sleep. This idea that what I thought I knew, I don’t know. The feeling that after only a brief reprieve my life has turned sharply and headed for the edge again. And unlike some other times in my life when I wasn’t at the wheel, I have in many ways willed myself in this direction. 

Objectively I know that this is a function of the beast of anxiety; this questioning, these machinations, this plotting and planning and trying to get ahead of problems that exist nowhere but in my own mind. I know this. But still, I pick at myself.

Why did you do that? Why didn’t you do this?
What were you thinking?
What are you going to do?
Aren’t you tired of making mistakes?
Are you going to fuck it up?
Can you trust that? Can you trust them?

Are you sure?


Too often the answer is still no. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas


I’ve blocked out large swaths of my childhood. There are large, gaping holes in the landscape of my memory, my mind acting as something like a psychological gopher, digging underneath certain places in my memory until the earth falls in beneath them. It’s a coping mechanism I’m sure, one I suppose I will eventually have to confront, but if the things I do remember are any indication, I’m not in any rush to till the land.

I remember one Christmas in particular. I remember the house we lived in. I remember the living room, and the tree standing tall and bright decorated next to the fireplace. I remember waking up early, as children are prone to do on Christmas morning, but laying in my bed terrified that I would get in trouble for waking anyone else up. There’d been a fight the night before after I’d gone to bed. And I didn’t know what I was walking into. I remember realizing, after laying there a time, that I would probably also get in trouble for not waking anyone up; for not pretending everything was great and normal and that I was any other kid with any other family. That my tardiness would delay the rest of the day and that the tension that would result would lay at my feet. I got up quietly, sliding down the side of my high poster bed. I stood outside my parents’ door for a long time, my heart a gong beat in my chest, before quietly entering and whispering as quietly as I could manage for my mom to wake up.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Thinking Out Loud

It happens at the times I am usually least on guard for it.

I’m over the most acute of it, the times when it would hit me unexpectedly and I'd have to stop in my tracks, my breath caught in my throat. When I'd need to talk myself through it, remind myself to stay present, in that moment, with this feeling, and and give myself permission to feel as I saw fit right then. I’m past the point where it consumed my days, where it filled every inch of the quiet spaces at night and kept me awake far into the haunting hours. It is no longer sharp, sudden, intense. I felt every pang of that.
Now, it’s the little things, the seemingly innocuous things, wrapped in unexpected melancholy. It’s when I’m putting on my watch in the morning. It’s looking up and realizing I'm walking past a club where we once went, remembering us tipsy, sweaty, in the middle of the floor molded together like art. It’s a song that shuffles on unexpectedly and smells like a summer night. It’s the radio silence in which we exist now and I know it means I can’t share something funny or sad or stressful or beautiful. It's in the memories I still bump into moving around my apartment, the edges still sharper than I prefer.
This is a lesson. And unlike the many other times I have been presented with the opportunity to learn this lesson and turned resolutely and headed in the other direction, I’ve learned it this time. I’ve learned how to bear the full weight of my emotions; to surrender to them and allow them to come. To not always feel bound by the need to be reasonable or graceful or unaffected. To process without drowning. How to allow a feeling to exist without existing for the feeling. How to baptize myself in proverbial emotional waters and emerge renewed, rather than being sucked under. I know that I am not weakened by loving, by losing, in a way that I have not always known. That I can remained unbroken even when I am laid bare. It’s a lesson I needed. That I, someone who tends to run, who tends to avoid, needed to learn.
I just never thought I’d be learning it with him. 


Monday, November 17, 2014

Push and Pull

He caught me at a weak moment and he knows it.

I am tired- weary, really- worn down by scaling mountains of work and managing my bad decisions. So when he calls me and says he's in town and coming over and cooking, I know he only does so because he knows I don't have the energy to debate the fact that he's telling me instead of asking me.

He shows up at my door a short time later, short enough to let me know he's been hanging around my neighborhood awhile. He breezes in loaded down with grocery bags and smelling like the cologne I once bought him just because back when we were trying to be We. He smiles at me, that bright, disarming smile I love and he says my name like a song he feared he'd forgotten the melody to.

I smile, taken by the ways I can at once feel drawn to him and yet completely disconnected. I don't say a word.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Back

The phone rings while I'm somewhere between sleeping and waking; I'm not asleep enough to sleep through the ring, but I am asleep enough to be confused by it.

I reach for it blindly in the dark, mumbling a hello into my pillow. 

"You know what I was thinking?"

His voice is so clear and so crisp he could be in my bedroom and not in another city. I recognize it immediately, but I'm still a bit thrown by it not being who I expected it to be.

"When we first met, we'd stay up for hours talking. Til the sun came up. But not even when we first met. We were always that way. Why don't we do that anymore?"
"Because up until a couple months ago we weren't speaking?"
"True."
"Besides," I say, finally flipping myself over so I'm not face down in my pillow, "that was back when we thought there would be an us."
"I fucked that up, didn't I?"
"Mmhmm."
"I do miss it though. The way it was in the beginning."

And isn't this the way it always goes? The beginning is all laughs and long talks, unfolding the layers of each other gently. Deep, suffocating gulps of one another, each conversation new and exciting and intoxicating, sunrise be damned. The beginning is when you talk constantly. When you flirt shamelessly. When you listen. 

And then comes everything else.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sister Circle

(It’s likely no coincidence I was finally inspired- after sitting on it for months- to complete this on today, my favorite Libra’s birthday.)
 
I was once one of those girls. You know the ones. The ones who proudly proclaimed that they had no female friends. That girls “didn’t like” them. That I preferred the friendship of men, that it was inherently- and thus was I by virtue of possessing it- superior.
Oh, how young and dumb I was.
Don’t get me wrong; there is still no small ratio of important positions in my life occupied by men. I adore men, in innocent and not-so-innocent ways. But the fact that I was ever foolish enough to think I could exist without the women in my life makes me cringe. 
I cannot imagine who I’d be, where I’d be, if not for these women who love me, even when I am my most unlovable. Who lift me up and call me to the carpet. Who protect me and encourage me. Who selflessly wrap me in bountiful prayers and encouragement and real talk. 
My male friends love me. And they are wonderful humans. But they do not cradle my head gently in their laps when I have a migraine. They do not bring me food when I can’t get out of bed for days at a time. They do not, cannot know what I feel when I am heartbroken, and they don't pick up a corner of that pain to tuck into the course of their own day so that I don’t have to ache alone. They do not know the communion of sharing our favorite wine and trading sex tips or war stories or chastising bad choices without judgment. They cannot see me, stripped and unvarnished in the depths of my ugliest self and fiercely, lovingly demand I stand up and be beautiful.
These women, my women, my village of magnificent creatures and ferociously beautiful sisters, gird me up on all sides. They stand in my stead when my own strength fails me. They are my safe place, where I go to be my most genuine me and the shelter that protects that tender truth. They inspire me. And they open their lives to me in ways that I did not once deserve, all young and stupid and somehow thinking sisterhood was inconsequential.
Over the last few years we have been through the best and worst that life has to throw at us. We have relocated and fallen in love and gotten married and had babies and lost babies and gotten fired and gotten promoted and had our hearts broken and lost parents and gotten divorced. We’ve bought houses and we’ve travelled and had great sex and taken risks and been changed in awesome and awful ways. Through it all we have remained intact, growing and evolving all while managing to stay a unit. We have laughed and cried and screamed and sat in silence with each other through it all. We are better for it. We are wiser for it. We are stronger for it. We are made whole. 
 
I am a whole hearted believer in love letters. This one- my favorites, my village, my sisters, my loves- is for you. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Growing Pains

(For Robyn. For me. And for You.)

We've been dream sold about what it means to grow.

All the self-help tomes and personal journey movies would have you think that growth is a thing that happens when you go to a beautiful place and watch a gorgeous sunset, the vastness of the earth’s marvels humbling you, making you feel small, putting your problems in perspective. Or when you hit some milestone birthday. Or when you fall for someone that makes the very edges of your soul dance. There’s a couple tears, sure, but they're silent, glamorous tears cried on lush sheets or in a circle of sister friends.

But here's the real talk of it: growth hurts. It hurts you down to your bones. It makes you weary, and unlike much of the other things in the world that make you weary, it follows you home to your refuge to invade your solitude. It rearranges everything it touches. You're on that beach looking at that sunset because you're scattering the ashes of someone you love. You found someone who makes your soul dance because you once felt the excruciating loss of someone who sang a song your heart will never sing again. And the crying isn’t elegant, restrained crying among your friends; no, your friends are busy trying to keep their own lives strung together with old bubble gum and tape and your tears are big, ugly sobs that reduce you to a trembling mess on a dirty floor in your apartment that becomes another thing to berate yourself about failing at even as you cry yourself dehydrated.