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He knows not what he does. I say: “I won’t remember that in 3 years;” he says: “I’ll remind you.” He says: “it’s good you laugh when I burp cuz you have years of it ahead of you.” He says: “we can’t ever get dogs” (amended: “...who sleep in beds”). He says: “it’s you, me, you, me. Believe me?” He says: “I love you, I love you.” He says: “forever.” He knows not what he does (or he’d likely do it more frequently). He knows not what he says or he’d ask me for something in return, I am certain.
What it feels like when he says these things that make me think he sees me in his future: that first refreshing gust of outside air after I’ve been indoors for too long; walking barefoot through soft green grass; spinning my niece around and around and around until we’re both so dizzy we collapse; the first sip of frosty beer on a patio in the sunshine; the chills of anticipation coursing through my body every time we touch; my inability to catch my breath when I’ve laughed so hard that I’m crying; it feels like this and that and everything.
I should stop trying to describe how I feel in words. As good as I am at choosing the right words and stringing them together to make a point, I cannot adequately describe how I feel about this in words. I hope like hell he can see it in my eyes, my smile. (I hope that’s why he says he loves them both the most.) I wonder: with him making me this happy, this full, how can I reciprocate? How can I make him feel how he makes me feel? I’m afraid I can’t do it; I’m afraid it’s impossible.
These are funny times, I think. If someone tried to tell me that I'd be hanging at some dude's band practice on a Tuesday after working two jobs for nearly twelve hours straight and then commuting back from Fairfax the next morning 12-degree weather, I would have easily dismissed that as impossible (and perhaps punched him/her in the face). Hell frozen over.... Pigs flying.... And so on. Yet, what did I just do? And what am I not remotely annoyed/ inconvenienced/ disgruntled about? And, in fact, what did I just enjoy wholeheartedly? And when, then, can I do it again?
I tried to walk backwards to work this morning. The sun was rising behind me, casting purple ribbons across the sky, and I wanted to watch in awe and wonder at all over which I have no control. That sun will rise whether I take the time to see it or not. I tried to walk backwards to work this morning, and I suspect—knowing me—that I will try to walk backwards home tonight as well ... backwards to watch the sun disappear and then sideways, forward to locate the man in the moon who will light my way.
My Left Brain beat up my Right Brain and left it for dead. Obnoxious dominant Left Brain—always trying to count everything twice, make exhaustive lists, work in concrete steps toward measurable outcomes. Right Brain laid sprawled silently in the dirty, dark alley for a time, feeling its blood oozing from the gash Left Brain slashed across its forehead. It—even wounded—is strong, a survivor, so Right Brain eventually crawled from the alley, picked itself up, brushed itself off, and went in search of a pencil and notebook in which to write. Left Brain grudgingly welcomed Right Brain back.
When you are not here with me, you call to tell me bedtime stories, and I’m close to you. When you are not here, I smile at my two-legged elephant and picture you carefully drawing, just for me. When you are not here, I wear your vest we both (simultaneously) fit into and know you purposely left it for me. When you are not here, I anticipate the next time a door will open so I can walk into your arms, and I am beyond excited. But when you are not here, who is going to button my new coat?
Thanks for talking to strangers in restaurants. Thanks for sitting on floors with your legs crossed until they fall asleep. Thanks for offering to let me talk about stupid intrusive email from man. [What you might not know is that my writing it at all and then sending it to you is me talking about it... and the fact that I am able to write it and want to share it with you means everything to me.] Thanks for gently putting me to sleep. Thanks for driving me to work this morning without your underwear on. Thanks for being you.
It is not that I have become purposely inconsiderate; rather, I have become dumb. This is what love does to me, apparently. I am loud and giggly when I once was quiet. I am awake when I once was asleep. I am distracted when I once was obsessively attentive to everything and -one. I am selfish when I once was selfless. And I am these new things in the name of: there’s this amazing man, and he loves me, and I him, and it’s nothing I’ve ever experienced before—so I want to do just that: experience it. Absolutely, completely.
But what does that mean to everyone else? It means I’m annoying as hell. I know I am because I’ve been on the other side of it. Everyone else says—"Who are you? Where’d you go? Are you sure you should lose yourself in him this way? Be careful." And I understand. But now I’m saying: I was wrong when I was on the other side. Yes, I should absolutely give this my all, my best. Yes, he makes me better, more creative, more secure, happier, and loved, and every minute is totally worth what feels like some temporary insanity.
Yes, that’s exactly what it feels like: temporary insanity. I am barely recognizable to myself, and I am starting to enjoy it. The hardest part? The hardest part of tying to experience “this” is un-telling myself all of the things that I have been telling myself for so long. [That I had my chance and blew it; that there is not anyone who can make me better than I already am; that I must know what’s next always; that I am my own family forever; that I am too old, too stubborn to fall in love; that nothing can last…]
Spring is here. Tra-la-la. I stood in my grandparents’ bathroom crying and holding my heart in my chest while listening to these two beautiful men talk about nothing. My grandfather, age 93, tells stories in his deep quiet voice to Chris, who he met less than 24 hours ago but welcomed into his home. And Chris—(hell, I just met Chris, if you compare it to the 93 years that my grandfather has lived)—asks sweet questions, listens to the answers, responds, laughs. I cried and held my heart in my chest and prayed that neither of them ever go.
So now I sit here at the kitchen table in his apartment while he works, waiting for him to return. Us: just back from our first road trip to visit part of my family; a successful adventure, I’d say… a 2,417,928 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being awesome). And all I want in the world is for him to come home, kiss me, be a little disoriented because I am here, and then decide it’s okay, good even. And so I patiently wait and wonder what he’s thinking about during these hours that pass with us apart.
Walking to work today, I was wondering if I’d made the right shoe decision given my still bruised and swollen ankle when I nearly disregarded an angel. A deep voice from behind me: “You need one bag.”
I ignored it.
Then: “You have two bags; you only need one.” I did in fact have two bags, and I was in fact struggling with them—so I turned around to see a kindly, white-haired gentleman, tall and thin, glasses, and he said again: “You need one bag, on your back, if you are going to carry around all of that stuff.”
He proceeded to tell me about his new backpack, his commute, the sale at Sports Authority, the benefits of 17” laptops. And while we chatted in the safety of the Library of Congress hallway, I forgot about my ankle, my shoes; my two bags were light as feathers; I didn’t worry about the work I needed to do before 2:45pm; I quit envisioning variants of my future. So this unlikely angel – this unlikely angel who appeared on a random April morning – reminded me the pleasure (and necessity) of me, like a blossoming flower in spring, emerging from my own head.
I still don’t look back fondly. The fact is: I hate you. I hate what you gave me—symptoms to recover from, behaviors to guard against, painful (and sneaky) reminders cropping up unexpectedly. On my better days: I am immensely proud I survived you; on my worst days, I hate myself for what I became for you, or rather for becoming what you wanted me to become, then having to turn around and un-become it, simply to survive, simply to not die. Now, now I wait for the day when I don’t look back at all—when will it come?
Alternate ending: I still don’t look back fondly. The fact is: I hate you. I hate what you gave me—symptoms to recover from, behaviors to guard against, painful (and sneaky) reminders cropping up unexpectedly. On my better days: I am immensely proud I survived you; on my worst days, I hate myself for what I became for you, or rather for becoming what you wanted me to become and then having to turn around and un-become it, simply to survive, simply to not die. Now, now I wait for the day when I don’t look back at all; it will come.
I don’t want to dream if it won’t come true.
But I do dream.
I tell myself that I won’t.
But I do.
I try to forget the dream when I wake.
But I can’t.
So I surrender and admit to my dream.
And I think it will come true if I say so.
It is this:
Those things won’t happen to us. Those unpleasant things they all say will happen when our “cute phase” ends, when we’ve been together longer, when we get married, when we have kids. Those unpleasant things will not happen.
That I sometimes inexplicably disappear. That you sometimes find me elsewhere staring into space, smiling. That I often stand in the corner of crowds quietly watching everyone interacting, laughing. That I don’t always want to hear myself talk. That when you listen carefully, I might be funny. That clouds sometimes float behind my eyes when I think. That I plot my time (my self) on a line or a chart or a map or a poem or an electronic photo album. These qualities should not come as a surprise to you; I met your dad—I think we share them.
Mili said, “you’ve had other relationships you thought would last forever and they didn’t.” That reminder: a knife sliding into and then out of my gut. She went on to say, “you need to ground yourself; you are not you.” That statement: the knife jammed into my kidney, resting there for a moment. No doubt she thinks she is helping; she is not a mean girl. But with friends who have this perspective, it’s really no wonder I am so doubtful. And no wonder I tossed and turned all night wondering if everything ends painfully, as it always has before.
Rescission — to change your mind about giving, usually money. As in, he promised me $4,000 and then issued a (silent) rescission. I never saw the money; so, with his rescission, the only “take back” involved was the promise.
Is this an appropriate analogy for how this might end? You (silently) change your mind, take back a promise? But I touched you, so in that sense, you’d be taking back more than a promise. You’d be taking back warmth and hope. When I consider it and consequently cannot breath, my only recourse is to rip “rescission” from the dictionary, from existence.
I believe that everything is okay, despite this momentary fear. Problem: I don’t want to be just okay. I want to be happy and be with him and feel that love and laughter and safety and kindheartedness I felt when I put my head in his lap while he drove me home, singing in his many voices and resting his strong hand on my contorted hip. But what if ... we don’t want the same things? ... he wanted his leg back? ... he wanted to sing louder and not worry about waking me? ... he wanted/wants to be alone?
Two-legged Elephant and Giant Squid met at the bar to play chess. [They’d invited Turtle, but Turtle was late; Energetic Bird flitted around the rafters, oblivious.] “Oh go already,” urged Giant Squid—his strategy (circling Two-legged Elephant’s King on the periphery, striking Pawns and sacrificial Knights at will) relied on distracting Two-legged Elephant, drawing an error. But Two-legged Elephant remembered Giant Squid’s every move and how he himself averted attack; these memories rendered Two-legged Elephant virtually unbeatable. Giant Squid—sensing imminent defeat—departed the bar in favor of the ocean where, still, he was the biggest thing. [Oh so predictable.]
"Biggest thing in the ocean, my ass," thought Red Seahorse angrily. "Who does he think he is, leaving me here alone? He yanks Turtle and Two-legged Elephant out from under me, waves Energetic Bird along, then ditches me?? Hell—Two-legged Elephant wasn't even headed in the right direction; neither was Energetic Bird, matter a’fact. Biggest thing in the ocean, that bastard. I'll slurp these shrimp until I'm strong enough to swallow that Giant Squid whole. Snakes can do it. Yep -- that's what I'm going to do.... Oh look, here he comes... 'Oh, Giant Squid! Giant Squid! I'm over heeeeyerrrrrrre…."
I thought she had it all squared away—a 3-year-old, a husband, humor. She said her husband was her soul mate. She gave good advice about family, lovers, friends; she listened, laughed. I thought she had it all squared away, and I admired her. But today, in the sunshine against the white-washed wall of the LOC, she said he’s leaving them. He’s given up, and she’s trying to make it okay in her head. As we walked and talked, I discovered she doesn’t have it all squared away; instead (and better), she is strong, clearheaded, human, and I admire her.
Riding in the front seat of that old silver SAAB while we navigated through San Manuel, Arizona, I envied the folks watching us expressionless from their porches on green plastic chairs from The Wal-Mart. I thought, "Oh, if only that were enough for me." But maybe sitting there watching other people drive by wasn't enough for them. Or maybe it was for some and not for others, just like anywhere else. Some played checkers, this I know. And as much as I alleged to envy them, I did not go home, set up chairs, and invite a neighbor to engage.
After a little stint with tearfulness yesterday, I employed a new technique. No thinking. Here’s how I got to work this morning. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. For 22-odd minutes. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. And so on.
Don’t. Please don’t. Please don’t let. Please don’t let me. Please don’t let me run. You might not notice it right away. I run slowly. I will make a series of choices, no one big enough to cause alarm but in totality.... I ask you to hold tight. I ask you to hold tight, because I am telling you right now, definitively, I do not want to run from you, us. It’s a habit—like cigarettes, coffee—I will break. But I ask for help, support, and jokes... ——— Knock knock. ——— Who’s there? ——— Yeah, I still don’t have any idea.
He said he fell off the planet
I said “take me with you”
He said “but who are you?”
So I sat down, gulped my warm wine—
Now drunk, licked my wounds,
Blood red, twirled my hair—
And hoped a black hole sucked him through
Knowing full well he’d find
A whitehole to bring him
Back to me when he’s ready
A whitehole to fling him
Into a swirling wormhole
That spits him back through space
Straight into my arms again.
He said he fell off the planet
I said “have a safe trip”
He said “yes, I love you.”
I lost my keys.
I ate cookies for breakfast.
I tripped up the stairs—twice.
I cried when I heard that sweet, sweet, happy song.
I snapped at my mom for asking too many personal questions.
I remembered what it felt like when Maggie curled up in my belly at bedtime.
I heard what he said and twisted it around to make it awful, twisted it to make it ugly.
I entertained the idea of moving into Karen and Dan’s basement.
I ate cookies for dinner and drank five beers for dessert and grumpily crossed my toes for sleep tonight.
Iced green tea tastes delicious.
The shining sun warms my early walk to work.
I know we are in an unique sort of love and that we’re doing the very best we can in a new (and wildly entertaining) life situation.
Working hard for many different people actually kind of relaxes me.
I crave salad—avocado, eggs, 1000 island—bananas.
The word “future” excites me; I meet it head on and know I can handle what comes.
I eat dinner with a good, supportive friend, and we plan our next steps on yellow lined paper.
Red wine too tastes delicious.
The Tip Jar