REPORT A PROBLEM
We have tests of the emergency broadcast system calling out warnings of danger across the Mall. We have fire drills sending lines of folks streaming down stairs onto sidewalks. We have emergency preparedness events that halt the Metro. We stage mock terrorist attacks to practice medical triage in wide-open fields. We think if we practice, if we put ourselves in these nearly-real situations, that we will know how to react later, when the actually-real emergency arises. But I am standing here alone wondering if I've ever seen
before and knowing that no imagined scenario could have remotely prepared me.
This is not the time to think about what happens beyond tomorrow or (perhaps) Thursday. This is not the time. So what - he said 'Forever' - neither of you know what that means. This is not the time to try to figure it out. This is only the time to breathe in and out and feel his fingers brush over your right thigh. It is only the time to close your eyes and listen quietly to the tiny kisses he whispers over your stomach. This is only the time to hear his sweet words, relax, and breathe in and out.
“I'm cold, I'm cold, I'm cold," I said like rapid fire into the phone, "where are you?" And then he yelped and I thought he'd been hit, but then he laughed, and I was relieved and giddy that he wasn't. And 20 seconds later, he pulled up in the green Prius (I could have sworn it was blue) to rescue me from the chill and my need to ride counterclockwise around the park and my hunger and my boredom and my selfishness and my sometimes loneliness. Is that too much to ask on a frigid, cloudy Monday evening, I wonder?
I was fat. I was fat but I didn't care because he loved me and he didn't care. We were fat together, and we didn't care. And then one day (or over time) we didn't care about a lot of things until eventually I had to leave him. Then I was fat, and I was alone. Then I worried what people saw when they looked at me, and I knew it wasn't a potential lover. But I was still fat, and I stayed that way for awhile because it was hard to care after not caring for so very long.
I sit and listen to someone else’s words and think: I can do that. And then I think: no, no I can’t. (This happens frequently.) But it’s possible—only possible, not necessarily probable—that I can. Or rather, we can; we can. When he sings my words—and he gets them right—when he sings my words, I think I’m dead. I’m dead and in heaven because nothing else works like this, him going into this soul I didn’t know remained, finding the missing pieces, painting them in peace, and creating a canvas more wondrous and complete than existed before.
I carry around anger like a well-worn backpack I will never return even though it’s under lifetime warranty. I carry around anger like that third extra water bottle weighing me down on an 8-mile hike to Virgin Falls. I carry around anger like a big dog looking for the perfect place to hide the new t-bone but finding it impossible to release—despite his full stomach. I carry around anger, which may not be evident considering I cloak it with laughter and optimism and hope every single minute of every single day. Nonetheless, we shan’t forget: I carry around anger.
He said “I love you.” I listened very closely for the “but,” but it didn’t come. He said, “I love you for this” (points to my brain), “and this” (points to my heart), “and this” (points to everything else sitting naked in front of him). I listened very closely for the “but” that never came before I answered “I love you too of course.” Did I say out loud: I’m so very afraid; I’m so very afraid of trusting this; I’m so very afraid of us; I’m so very afraid of love. I don’t remember if I said that aloud.
We happened upon a plaque memorializing the day in 1960 that Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated a building to veterans of war. It happened to be today. “It is an important day,” I said; he said, “I know.” But I wasn’t talking about Eisenhower, I was addressing the shift that occurred in me over the past 2.78 days. A shift from terror to giddiness, a shift from distrust to calm faith in him, in me. And in honor of Eisenhower, I am immeasurably glad that the two of us do not fight in war, we don’t have the hearts for it.
Do you believe in angels? Angels who stop by every-once-in-awhile to say: stop smoking or walk faster or pack your bags or smile or stay, stay, stay, stay --. Angels who say: we know what you don’t, and you must listen (for your own good), listen as we tell you to stay, stay, stay, stay, be still. I doubt them, I
do. I say I invent them to serve my own purposes. But then – against all odds – we walk down this random street where you see the yellow version of my white crosswalk tape man, and I believe.
I slid out of a dream last night and reached over to touch you, but you were not there. And then I thought: "tomorrow" and slid back into my dream wondering if I was narrating it again, only for myself. Later, when my alarm sounded, I tried to remember the colorful, unsettling emotions that compelled me to seek comfort in your presence, but I could not. Then I marveled at how quickly I adjusted to the idea of you here with me—considering the occurrence rate of only four nights to the thirteen-thousand two-hundred and thirty-two of my entire existence.
I was fat, and I stayed that way until my friend sent me an email saying: “you should try my diet if only because I’ll tell you exactly what to eat for the next two weeks.” I was very busy – working, studying, partying – so him relieving me of choosing food for two weeks seemed like a boon (a boon that was disproportional to the reality of how much time / energy his dictating my food intake might save…). And an hour or so later, he sent a menu and my grocery list, and I thought: “what the hell, why not?”
“I have a belly roll when I bend over like this,” she exclaimed as she leaned down into the bottom drawer of the refrigerator to retrieve the feta for our salad. “Yeah, ha ha, me too,” I laughed. The difference of course being that she’s pregnant and I am not. The other difference being that she’s accustomed to being smaller (or as small as) probably 98% of people and I am not. The other difference being that even though she successfully lost it before, she still worries she won’t and I do not (because I have no doubt she will).
At first, it was a control issue. I relinquished control to someone I could actually trust, as opposed to my normal choices (see entry about “the chasm I once fell into”). Jamie told me what to buy; I bought it; he told me what and when to eat; I followed his instructions; when in doubt I simply asked him what to do. At first, it was a
Jamie is in control
issue. But then one day, perhaps four weeks into this diet, I bought myself a food scale and starting weighing my strawberries. And that was when I took control.
I am glad I knew and already liked you before January 31 else I might worry I was attracted only to you standing on your toes and singing, playing (okay -
) unabashedly to a small crowd in a strip-mall restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia. I am glad I knew and already liked you before February 14 else I might worry I was attracted only to you choosing to go “shopping” for Planet Stacia at the planetarium where we instead found a black hole right here in our very own solar system and beautiful photographs of Saturn’s rings and moons (Enchiladas, right?).
You walked into my life as one person with one goal and then became a truer person with another goal, and I wonder when you are not beside me: “what’s next?” You were an independent tough guy – a rockstar – you knew what you didn’t want and you said so. And for a bit, it was me. Then, you went into yourself and thought (and felt, I hope) that you can still be an independent tough guy – a rockstar – who feels something deeply. An epiphany later (but not a metamorphosis), you are independent, tough, loving and kind, and you are mine.
I weighed my strawberries as step one, and I counted my beers (a first ever) as step two. Then I woke up one morning and asked my part-time roommate if she thought I should go buy “the patch” on my way to work—since I was out of cigarettes anyway — if I should tackle smoking cessation too. Nonchalantly, she said “sure” and then she became my biggest change cheerleader, and I will never forget. From then on, my three-member cheering squad of Jamie, Kelly and Kimberly pushed me forward, deliberately, under control, now (a first ever) moving forward for myself.
He drove his car off a bridge into a ravine. He fell asleep and never woke up. He was choking (and alone) so no one gave him the Heimlich Maneuver. He was bitten by a dog and refused to go to the hospital so died of an infection early this morning in his own bed. He bumped his head on the racks of lumber at Home Depot and is now wandering around with amnesia. He ate a poisonous Thai burrito yesterday and is still puking in the shower, dehydrated. Or worse, he just doesn't want to talk to me today.
What happened yesterday:
He was green and wrinkly and covered in warts, scabs, and random wiry black hairs. He wore round glasses with painfully thick lenses. He was short, rotund and his nose ran like a partially-clogged faucet. And he whispered suggestively in my left ear: "You. Can't." Then he lopped around to my right ear and again: "You. CAN'T." He must have had a direct route to my brain (where I felt a jarring jolt) which had a direct (though convoluted) route to my heart (which slowed and quickened and slowed and quickened ad nauseum) because I believed him instantly and completely.
But a few hours later...
It only took a few hours (which seemed like an eternity to me too, I promise) before I stopped and said: "Wait. Wait. I can't what? Who are you—little green goblin of doubt— to tell me what I can't do? I can do anything. I can even need help; I can even ask for help; I can need and ask at the same time I give help. And that's strength, not failure, and if received from and given to good people, that's beautiful. So I flung the little green goblin off my shoulder into the gutter where he belonged.
But there were detractors. (Aren’t there always?)
People who thought: she’s in crisis; she can’t pull this off; she works too much; she’s under too much stress already and now she’s just needlessly applying more; she’s not coping with loss appropriately; she should be sad, not strengthened --
People who frown when they notice her pants loosening --
People who want her to indulge in dessert and fried potatoes and certain substances she no longer consumes --
People who extend her favorite cigarette (Camel Turkish Golds), smile eagerly when she considers smoking one, then grimace when she ultimately says no.
To the detractors, she said: “Join me, please. If you want to quit smoking; if you want your pants to fall off your waist; if you want to survive what might be the worst possible devastations of your heart and soul—the complete wreckage of self-esteem, the ultimate demise of hope, the trappings of a tunnel without light or any end at all—if you want to learn to survive anything, join me.” But apparently, phoenix rising was difficult to watch if you wanted phoenix to stay down, as all detractors did. And so she walked away from them too.
He says he doesn’t dream, which is evident from the peace settling on his face while he sleeps. He looks like a tired old man and an expectant child at the same time. I study him, memorize his face, his quiet, calm. When he awoke, I said “I need more seconds in my minutes with you, more minutes in my hours, more hours in my days, more days in my weeks, more weeks in my months, more months in my years with you.” And then I was lost until he said “more years in our forever.” Is there any wonder?
I think these things should go away—but nothing goes away (easily). All I do is get better at recognizing and coping. I am baffled by the ease with which he agrees to vacation with my sister 4-months out. I had an 8-year relationship without planning that far ahead… because we were never sure we’d be together tomorrow even. Eight years of that; it doesn’t go away (easily). C is not B, I know this—they share absolutely zero resemblance outside or in. I know this. C is C. He will make plans, and I will stop doubting the possibilities.
People told me I looked great, and I knew logically that I was no longer fat. I sensed them doing a double-take, nodding (sometimes greedily)—strangers on the street (even beyond the inevitable construction workers). Still, still I did not know what I looked like. What do they see when they see me? Because I see nothing. Being less full didn't make me any more full, and if anything, it introduced a new kind of troublesome emptiness—an emptiness stemming from this startling realization: I was no longer fat, but I wasn't any closer to understanding what I was instead.
The answers to that question came (and still come) in spurts. I know what I am — then I don't — then I do—then I don't again. Remembering my old iterations is most disconcerting. Who is that girl hyperventilating on the Alaskan glacier with a group of energetic but argumentative friends? Who is that girl in the hotel in Yuma dreaming of the man who just slipped out? Who is that girl hiking on Mt. Lemmon with two Jack Russell Terriers? Who is that girl who couldn't get out of the goddamn bed, broken and on the verge, on the verge?
"You are fiercely independent," he said, shaking his head at me as I donned a scarf, hat, gloves, a second coat, and boots so I could walk myself home in this storm instead of taking the ride he offered. He was not complimenting me. He shook his head in frustration (disgust even) and I know the words he thought but didn't speak: "Do what you want; I tried; I give up." I've heard those words before (although not from him until tonight); they are the very reason I think I want -- no, I
-- to go it alone.
Then, as sure as I am breathing, I do not question who I am. I am a caretaker of many; I am flexible, malleable, yet strong, secure. I take risks but I weigh them first, carefully. I am no longer fat because I chose not to be and fought like hell to shrink. I am no longer smoking because I chose to stop and still fight like hell not to re-start. I am no longer surrounded by poisonous people because I chose to evacuate and fought like hell to remember why I was fighting like hell in the first place.
So I take it back, my prior statement. Being less full did in fact make me more full. I am more full of confidence and strength and hope and trust and life and love and friendships. And not only is that something, it's everything. So thanks to my support and my inspiration; you know who you are: KBD, SJ, JDE, ST, DB, ACW, CMA, MD-J, RD-J, CJ, PSBBG, WB, KB, NC, CC, JC, RGC, RS, KO, MNM, MR, SR, KA, JM, MM, JLM, MsC, JP. My understatement: I am so, so glad I don't really need to go it alone.
The Tip Jar