Friday, September 30, 2011

The One Where my Mom and I Talk About Vibrators

“Can I ask you a question?” my mom asks me quietly, as I am driving us back home one night from dinner.

Here’s the thing; I don’t mind this question. Sure, it sets my teeth on edge, but I prefer this over other set ups for life altering conversations. (See: “We need to talk.” And also, “Where is this going?”) But when it comes from my mom I can ALMOST GUARANTEE some manner of inappropriateness, the likes of which I will never recover from, are likely to follow. My mama, while delightful, is notsomuch with the boundaries when it comes to me. My tactician’s mind is trying to jump a few steps ahead to see what she could POSSIBLY be about to ask me. The last time she uttered these words to me, I wound up telling her I had a girlfriend.

I need an escape plan.

“Sure you can.” Silence.
And more silence

Sweet queen Coretta.

“Do you… I mean have you… Or I guess do you…” She trails off more times than a suspect on the First 48 trying to figure out how to explain the blood on their clothes and gunpowder residue on their hands.

This is gonna be all bad everything. I can already tell.

“Do you have a vibrator?”

Monday, September 26, 2011


On Sundays, I clean.

I also assiduously avoid talking to people who are not QQ if I can. Sunday is my day to relax and unwind, to decompress and prepare for my week. For as many hours as I can manage, I let myself become the center of my own universe, cleaning my space, performing a number of beauty rituals (deep conditioning, facial, eyebrow shaping), and napping to my heart’s content. Unless, of course, I have a crush on someone.

Then my zen is all fucked up.

I don’t get crushes often. It is increasingly rare that I meet someone who gets me to remember their name, let alone give them my full attention. I find myself that woman I always feared I would become; the one who has seen it all, knows all the games and is generally apathetic to anything that isn’t genuine. And Lord knows genuine is on ration. When it comes to dating recently, I have become a lot like Daria in the opening credits of her show; I can barely be bothered to show up, and when I do, I can’t be bothered to participate.

But, Jesus, when I am actually in like with someone? God help us all. In between crushes, I completely forget what they’re like. Every single one knocks me on my ass like the last one and proves that no matter how mature and well acquainted with game I am, if someone who has your attention calls you gorgeous, you fall apart a little on the inside. I have to admit, dear readers, I am hopelessly awkward in the safety of my bedroom. I find myself thinking without permission, “Oh, I should tell him about this.”

And I don’t like it not even one bit.

My friends, well, they love it. They send me taunting text messages;

HAHAHAHA you thought this was him texting you didn’t you? Did you dive across the fucking room?

I get that message from QQ one Sunday, right after I, when faced with the deafening silence from my cell phone, gave myself a pep talk something along the lines of, “Can’t fall, don’t fall, ice cold.” I dust myself off from the super secret spy roll I just busted out to cover the distance between me and the phone before responding to her.

No! How soft baked do you think I am?

Soft baked as fuck, bitch.

I hate that girl so much.

I feel like at some point I should have gotten too old, learned too many lessons, seen too much, grown up far too much, to still be acting like a high schooler, sitting up having marathon phone conversations into the wee, quiet hours of the morning like I don’t have a damn job to go to. Laughing out loud at silly text messages we exchange. Failing at stopping a smile from spreading wide across my face when his name pops up on my cell.

Apparently, I have not.

That is the bad news.

The good news is, I am getting TONS of exercise, what with all the running from all over the house, diving, lunging, and rolling around in bed giggling I’ve been doing.

*sigh* I’m too old for this shit.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tied Up

This is a story in three parts. The first part is here. The second is here. The entire backstory of this saga is here.

This is the finale.

I want to disappear.

I know this before I even make it back across town. Before I realize I’ve cried so hard that my eyes are nearly swollen shut. Before I wake up with a start, having literally cried myself to sleep behind the wheel. He knows it too. It’s why he messages me somewhere around 4am when I’ve finally made it back to my aunt’s safely and I’m up pacing the floor in the last shreds of moonlight

You ok? You can come back. You can have the bed if you want to. I won’t bother you. I just wanted to see more of you before you left.
I don’t think either of us could handle that.
Worth a shot.
Are you ok?
Yeah. I’m ok.

I fall asleep, fast and hard, burrowed under the covers, as if the insulation will block out how I know I’ll feel in the morning.

So did you use the Men in Black flashy thing on yourself last night to forget everything?

His lighthearted message greets me when I open my eyes. I smile despite myself, rolling my eyes. He probably doesn’t remember, but he asked me the same thing the morning after he first told me he loved me. I hate myself for remembering.

All of it.

We talk at intervals all day, treading lightly, laughing, steering clear of emotional landmines. There are more than a few times during the day that he implies he wants to see me again. Each time I laugh off the implication simmering under his invitations, certain that no good can come of it. I hide behind my schedule full of more friends and family I have to fit into this short, seldom trip home, but more importantly hoping to get as far away from who I was last night that I never have to feel that way again.

And then my mama is hit by a drunk driver.

I tell him about it, in a rush of messages, spilling all my worry and shock and tension through fingers flying across the keyboard of my phone. There, in the secret confines of the tiny message box, I am unhinged, as I can’t be out in the world while I’m trying to be stoic and manage the fall out.

Duck, are you ok? Let me know what I can do.

I can feel myself unraveling a little bit at his use of my old nickname. And his concern. And really, that is the root of why I’ve been falling apart a piece at a time since I saw him sitting at that damn bar; I’d prepared myself for his aloofness. His flirting. His charm. But never his contrition. His concern. His own heartbreak. Despite all the long conversations we’ve had over these last few months, IM’ing into the wee hours, talking about the trivial and tremendous, I’d shrugged off everything he said he felt except sorry. I didn’t listen. Couldn’t listen. Couldn’t bear to hear any of it. So it never occurred to me to prepare for what would happen if I looked at his face and realized what he’s been telling me all along; that he still loves me.

I need time. And space.

And so, I say nothing.

Days later, when I am back home and settled, having had hours on the road to myself alone with my thoughts, and days to turn my world right side up again, I send him a tentative BBM. It doesn’t go through, but I think nothing of it.

Until I see my phone again hours later, and it still hasn’t. I shrug it off, too consumed with the accident and moving and work and living to give it much thought, but deep down I know;

He’s gone again.

A month passes. Half of another, greeted with radio silence. I would like to be the type of person whose first thought is that something awful has happened. But I’m too old, my eyes too open for that.

And so I do a little digging. Ask a few seemingly innocuous questions of a few mutual acquaintances. Poke around online.

And just like that, it’s all laid out before me, mountains and molehills of evidence that much of what was passed between us was a lie, either of omission or outright, intentional misleading. Chief among them, the longtime girlfriend he’d had during all of our well-into the night phone conversations, the one I’d specifically asked if he had, because I didn’t want those types of problems. The one he was living with, had recently moved to a new apartment with.

You know, the apartment that, just a month before, he’d stood outside of kissing me. Begging me to come inside to.

That one.

Mostly, I feel angry. Angry at the unnecessary lies. Angry at myself for putting myself in this situation. Angry at him for unknowingly making me a cheater, a role he knows I would never play. I feel awful, so incredibly guilty, and I hope to God that she never finds out. Not because I feel I have anything to hide, but because I know what it’s like to have to get over this man, and I hope she doesn’t have to do it, or is at least much better at it than I was.

I sit with that feeling for a few days, simultaneously stewing in my own white hot fury, and feeling disappointed in myself. For not being heartless. For wanting so badly to have some sort of resolution to this whole sorted mess that I would put myself in emotional danger this way. I feel more stupid than I have ever felt in my whole life. I have been such a fool over him.

But then for no reason at all, standing in public and texting and smiling with someone else, it settles over me, soft and easy like a sigh. Underneath all the anger and disappointment, the guilt and the shame, the one thing I’ve always felt, but illogically didn’t want to admit, lest it dull the masochistic ache of the pain.

I feel intensely grateful.

Grateful that I’d been kept from telling him I thought we could at least be friends, as I’d reached out to say after seeing him again. Grateful that I’ve grown from being broken by pain, through feeling nothing, and then finally to a place of feeling honestly and authentically, if not always openly, but not being bowed. Gratitude fills me up, radiating out of my skin. Gratitude for never making it to that wedding in Puerto Rico or the kids we’d already named, and that I wasn’t finding out who he really was inside the confines of a marriage and parenthood. I feel grateful that, no matter what I believed way back when I couldn’t get out of bed in the weeks after he left, that I have found love, beautiful, bountiful, in my friends, in my lovers, for myself. Grateful that, as usual, the universe had helped me step over another pitfall that would have taken too much to crawl back out of.

More than I have to give

More than he deserves to lay claim to.

My eyes fill with tears as I turn them towards the sky and say the only words that I, in my overly eloquent, articulated life, can seem muster, “Thank you.”

And I am healed.

Far too many years later, far too tears and bruises and heartbreaks and disappointments and fears later.

But healed nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


This is a story in three parts. The first is here.

The second glass of Jack and Coke the bartender puts in front of me is much bigger. There's hardly any ice in it. He winks when I look up at him, and I turn to The Great Houdini with an eyebrow raised.

“You had something to do with this.”
“I did not. I told you the drinks were strong here.”
“You need some water.”
“I’m fine.”
“You’re stubborn.”
“Shut the fuck up, sir,” I say, raising the glass to my lips.

We are cracking jokes, talking to strangers at the bar, and trading insults. I pretend not to notice that he is leaning closer to me than he was when I first arrived, his body heating up my entire right side. I am in the middle of saying something when I notice he is starting at me strangely.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Like what?”
“Like you’re looking at me right now.”

He opens his mouth and closes it, then again. A look passes over his face that I have only seen once before in our entire sorted history.

Immediately my brain starts sending my body distress signals.

“It’s just that… I dunno. After all this time… I just still think you are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.”

I want to run. More than I have ever wanted anything in my whole life. Because what was light hearted and fun just a second ago has taken a turn down exactly the darkened street I didn’t want it to.

“No, just listen. I’m sorry. I am so sorry. About all of this. Everything. I hate thinking that I hurt you in any way. And I hate that I fucked us up. I’ve just missed you for so long and I always wanted you to know that what we had was real. That it was not fake. It was once in a lifetime and I-“

In his abrupt silence I find the courage to move my eyes from the bar top I’ve been assiduously studying, willing myself to go as numb as possible, and look up at him. Ribbons of red unfurl across the cinnamon skin on his cheeks. He has dropped his eyes from the side of my face where most of his outburst landed. Finally he looks back at me, and my heart drops to the floor. His eyes are red, tears streaming down his cheeks and I feel paralyzed by the sight.

“I’m just sorry.”
“It’s fine. I’m fine.”
“No, it’s not. And no, you’re not.”

We stare at each other, the strangers around us on mute. I am such a mess, so hyperaware I think I can feel every individual goose bump rising on my skin. I take a deep breath and soundlessly will them to stop betraying how affected I am.
“Let me go...” he says, and he’s off his stool and heading towards the bathroom before I can respond. When he's finally out of sight, I let go of the breath I’ve been holding. I need to get out of here. Immediately. I am trying to figure out how to run without being stopped by the bartender who might think we’re trying to skip out on paying our tab, and how I can weave through the crowd to get back to the rental car safely before he returns. I am pushing myself off the stool when he is back at my side.

“I think we should go,” he says. I look around and without my even realizing it, last call has come and gone and the bar has started to empty out. The lights are brighter. The music has stopped. Our tab has been sitting in front of me for God only knows how long. I missed it all.

He pays and we walk out in silence, him saying he will walk back to his place, and me insisting on driving him across the busy intersection that separates the bar from his complex. The silence stretches on once we get in the car, punctuated by his occasional directions that have us arrive at his front door.

I pull up, refusing to even put the car in park, my foot light on the brake and my eyes concentrated on the steering wheel.

“Get out and give me a hug. I might never see you again.”
“You might,” I protest, still not moving.
“Not if you have your way, I won’t.”

I put the car in park, my blood a jet engine in my ears, and get out. By the time he comes around the car to my side, I am still standing in the door, as far away from him as I can manage. He lifts his hand out to me, and I stare at it like I’ve never seen it before, despite the fact that the shape of them, the weight of them, every line etched in his palm was once home to me. I hesitate for awhile before I take it, steeling myself as he pulls me in for an embrace. He hugs me longer than he needs to, his hands low and intimate on the small of my back.

“I mean it, you know. I am sorry. This was all my fault. It was nothing you did or didn’t do. And no matter what you think or have to tell yourself, we were real. We weren't a lie. I mean that.”

I pull back as much as I can with his hands still planted on my spine and look up at him, taking in his fresh tears and his face in the moonlight. I know he means it. I just also know it doesn’t change anything.

He kisses me before I can tell him he’s forgiven. His tears have made his lips salty, but his kisses are exactly as I remember them, just flavored with all the bitter and the sweet that has happened since the first time he pushed my hair back from my face and kissed me in his bedroom years ago. I pull away, more overwhelmed than I care to admit, tears stinging behind my eyes.

“I’m sorry, " he says, and trails off, looking at me as if to gauge if I am going to break into a sprint or not.

“Why?” I say, my voice small, not nearly as powerful as I intended it to come out, and he knows I am not asking about tonight. That I am not asking this kiss or his words or his tears. We’re both struck still by the silence. And I realize, I don’t want to hear the answer.

So, I kiss him again, falling into him like I’m exhausted, because I am. Exhausted from carrying all the hurt and all the questions all alone all this time as I have been. Tired from pretending I'm ok even though I didn’t deal. Like I don’t care, like I didn’t love him with everything I had. I try to tell him that, all of that, in this kiss, my hands finding a brace against the solid wall of his chest, his arms wrapped tight around me almost to the point of breaking. After awhile we pull away simultaneously, panting and wild eyed. I know, more than I have never known anything in my entire life, that I have to get out of there right now. Because I cannot hold on to myself much longer.

“I need to go.”
“Absolutely not.”
“You shouldn’t be driving.”
“I’m fine.”
“You’ve been drinking. And it’s late.”
“I need to go.”
“Are you sure?”
“I need to go.” He sighs above my head.
“I want you to stay.”
“I can’t. I need to go.”
“If I begged would you stay?”
“I need to go.”

Resigned, he moves me back towards the car, my legs seeming unwilling to cooperate with me, and closes the door after I am settled in.

I pull off and make it all of two feet before my body collapses in on itself, sobs rushing up from the pit of my stomach, slumping me over the steering wheel. I barely slam on brakes before I run into the gate.

I am still crying when he makes it to the car, opening the door and reaching across me to put the car in park and undo my seatbelt. He scoops me out of the car like I am nothing, bracing my violently shaking body with his.

I am ashamed. More than I have ever been about anything. I vowed I would never shed another tear over this man, let alone where he might see them. But I cannot stop fucking crying.

He’s holding me, rubbing my back and whispering into my hair, words I pretend not to hear because I can’t afford to hear anymore. I am emotionally bankrupt. I've spent way too much on us and the thereafter. My emotions are in the red. I can't give anymore to this, to these words, to whatever it is he's saying. I just don't have it.

Before long my pride takes over, my tears dry almost instantaneously and I right myself, pulling out of his embrace.

“I should go.”
“Are you sure?”

He walks me back to the car as he had just moments ago. He lingers like he wants to say something, and I stare straight ahead with both hands on the steering wheel, trying not to give him an opening and mentally begging him not to say another word I cannot bear the weight of. Finally, he closes the door with a sigh, stepping back and watching me pull off again, this time the tears flowing freely. It seems like it takes forever for the gates to open so I can drive through to freedom, but I am determined to leave this and move on to what’s next. Unlike the last time I walked away from him, I give my eyes to the rearview. He is standing there, his arms empty at his sides, watching me, hoping I turn back.

Instead, I drive forward, broken in ways I can’t explain, but ready for whatever comes next.

Part 3: Tied Up

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This is a Story About Control

“The thing about control is that we never have any. Some of us are comforted by the idea that we maintain some control over things, but by submitting to the need to control, control is controlling you. Funny little paradox huh?

Thought: that which we view as weak is our biggest fear. We act in spite of it and that is why that, which we seek to control, controls us. Thus, we are ruled by not our strengths, but by our weaknesses. To defeat this, one must make not an enemy of weakness but embrace it. Only through yielding can one conquer.”

I have been getting a lot of messages about surrender lately. Giving in. Giving up control. Handing myself over to some force- God, the universe, love- that is greater than myself. And in my characteristically stubborn way, I have been ignoring them all. Steadfastly, willfully, foolhardily.

I could say it’s because I am an action oriented person; I thrive on doing. Not thinking. And certainly not feeling. I could say because I am not particularly invested in esoteric, grandiose ideas of life, I don’t find myself particularly thriving in the gray areas they created.

But, let’s be real. That’s all bullshit.

The truth is I’m a coward. I am afraid. Every day. Not of the things you SHOULD be afraid of; driving too fast, talking to strangers, jumping out of planes. Those things exhilarate me. Rather, it is the things that should bring me peace and balance and joy that make me fearful. Giving up the control I think I have. Risking a lot to move to a city I actually want to live in. Falling for someone I’ve probably been falling for for years. Moving my career in the direction I want, not just the one that makes the most sense.

And then Jess sent me this quote, as we were emailing back and forth about me breaking things. I’d seen it months ago on her blog, and it resonated with me then, too. It was another one of those things I’d stumbled upon that I needed to take to heart and promptly pushed out of my mind for the comfort of the way things are. You know, dance with the devil you know, and all.

But I need to keep this in mind. I need to work on this. On being ruled by my strengths and not my weaknesses. On being comfortable admitting that my need for control is just as much an illusion as my thinking I’m in control is. Not making an enemy of my weaknesses, since they are just as much a part of who I am as all the great things. To learn to admire my own flaws as much as I admire the human fallacies of everyone else.

I might not be able to do all these things. At least not as perfectly as I’d like. I might not get this right and it might not be pretty. I might not be able to be all emotionally available and demonstrative and self-forgiving. I might not always be able to be the type of person who can surrender when I should.

But I can at least be brave.