Tag Archives: love

Love, Small Screen Style

One of our kids is going to be President. Maybe not my kid or your kid, but one of their friends, or Instagram followers, or someone they met at football camp will become the President of the United States one day. This should scare the crap out of you.

Do you follow your kid on Instagram? What about Snapchat? Don’t worry about Facebook, that’s for old people (like me). Do you follow their friends? I do. And it is eye-opening. My youngest son is a mess and he posts silly things that make me roll my eyes. His friends send me snapchats of themselves with goofy faces and I send them back. I double tap their Instagram photos from time to time. Sometimes I will comment about how pretty they look or that I am proud of them. The other 90% of the time I am mortified.

Studies have shown that so many online relationships result in marriage because 1) the people on dating sites are serious about having a relationship and 2) relationships formed and developed over the internet escalate faster that traditional dating relationships. There is a boldness fostered by the the computer screen. There is a disconnect that makes it easier to share opinions, reach out, flirt, bully, etc. Couple this with the trend of selfie-taking, self-centered young people who are all but attached to their electronic devises and you have a recipe for disaster.

Remember when you couldn’t go on a date until you were old enough to drive? Remember when there had to be a reason to go somewhere, like a school dance? Dating now consists of staking a claim on someone and promoting it on social media. Ten-year-olds are dating. They claim a girlfriend/boyfriend in the classroom, and then have an electronic relationship right under your very nose. Nothing irritates me more than middle school aged children proclaiming their love on social media. (Actually, that’s not true. Reading comments on Instagram where one boy will comment on another boy’s photo, “UR so gay” like that’s an acceptable way to participate in playful trash talk makes my blood boil. Especially when they come from families that have enough sense to teach their children that it isn’t appropriate to use language that demeans any group of people. Change the word from gay to retarded and I will also flip my lid.)

Back to young love. Young girl posts selfie (with or without duck lips) with some overused, cliche hashtag, such as #blessed, and immediately their 14 year old boyfriend will comment something like, “I’m so lucky, bae” [heart-eyed emoji, heart-eyed emoji, heart-eyed emoji]. Or young boy posts photo of he and girl together (usually in the school parking lot) and captions, “Can’t believe it’s been two months” [#blessed]. The girl will quickly comment something like #bae #truelove #justthrewupinmymouth. Oh, wait, not that last one. That was me.

Are you as a parent watching this? Are you showing these exchanges to your own child and explaining to them that this is not how life works? These kids don’t even talk to each other. They text each other. All the time. Have you read a text exchange between a tween-aged couple? Do you read your own child’s texts every day? If not, you should. My twelve year old has a cell phone. Or I should say, he has the use of a cell phone. I pay for it. It is mine. The content on said phone is my responsibility. I check his browser history, text messages, Instagram direct messages; you name it, I’m reading it. But I see these conversations happening openly on Instagram all the time. Where are the parents? Do they really think this is productive behavior? [Sadly, I have seen parents actually condone this by commenting heart-eyed kissy-faced emojis on these posts instead of telling their kid that four months of incessant texting at 13 years old isn’t actually what love is.]

If your 11-15 year old is having three week anniversaries, celebrating their love, texting a significant other four hours a day, and is feeling #blessed in general because of another human in the same age group; start cleaning out your basement. Little Johnny is going to be living in that basement about two semesters into college because he is either A) about to enter into the world with completely unrealistic expectations B) about to be involved in a teen pregnancy C) completely unaware of what happens twenty feet beyond himself D) all of the above. I used to wonder what parents were doing while their kids were behaving like this. But the answer is more than likely staring at a screen themselves. Just this morning I was looking at a Snapchat story consisting of a video taken in a common area. You can clearly hear the parent of the child in the background talking to someone else. They are completely unaware that they are being recorded.

This brings me to my next rant: adults who constantly interact with things/people on their cell phone instead of the living, breathing human next to them. But I will save that one for another day…

Another Man’s Guitar

With a subtle shrug of his shoulders, responsibility fell to the floor. He gently grasped history and began to strum the tune of his dreams. Timidly at first, soaking in the moment, he picked out the notes of his childhood. Soon the notes became chords and the chords became a strain – a symphony of aspirations suppressed but not forgotten. His awe of the instrument began to blend with his joy of the music and soon the two were so intertwined that he could not make a distinction between the harmony of his wonder and his revelry. Time that seemed to speed up as his body slowed down, suddenly came to a halt, and he was suspended in the moment. He clung to the old guitar just as the great ones before him. They had walked the line and triumphed through fire and fear and miles of hopeless desperation. Every sound – whether from the fingers of the man in black or the hands of the crowds that cheered for him – led up to this singular occasion in time. Every tear, every bead of sweat, every sleepless night or drunken stupor, every confession of love or rush of angry emotion; now lay softly on his lap. The melody swirled around him, awakening the child within, and renewing his passion. But time, cruel as she is, put life back into motion. And as the chorus faded into the air, he found himself back in his office. His profession beckoned; there was much to be done. Deadlines and details waited in tidy stacks for him to handle. Phones chirped and voices echoed through the halls. The guitar case was closed like a vault before he even had time to grasp his surroundings, much less bid the instrument farewell. But the strings of remembrance could still be felt on his fingertips and the contentment of his first love still rang in his ears. As he slowly stood up, dutifully ready to get back to the trappings of adulthood, the lyrics of his anthem  danced once more through his mind, “I’m old enough to have drawn blood, yet still young enough to bleed.”

My old friend, Dutch, had the opportunity to play Luther Perkins' guitar today. It was the guitar used by Johnny Cash to record Walk the Line. For one of the most incredible musicians to never make the big time, I'm sure this was an awesome experience. I wasn't there to witness it, but this is how it went in my mind.

I Can Handle That.

There is something about being honest with yourself. Sometimes I think we are more honest with other people than we are with ourselves. But then again, there are those of us that just hear whatever we want to hear regardless of what is actually being said. Generally speaking, there are a few phrases that tend to be confusing for many people. These phrases are “I just want to be friends” and “I can handle that.”

“I just want to be friends” is a phrase often uttered by a male to a female. What the guy is really trying to convey to the girl in this situation is “I just want to be friends.” But in many cases, what the female hears is “I just want to be friends with you right now, but I bet if we were to continue to hang out together, like all the time, and you did a bunch of nice stuff for me like my laundry or cook things for me or have sex with me a lot; I bet I would wake up one day and realize that I’m actually in love with you and that nothing would make me happier than making you my wife.”

Similarly, when a woman is in a conversation with a man and he says something like “I just want to be friends,” she may reply with the phrase “I can handle that.”  Now what the female really means in this instance is “I can tell myself that I can handle that and I can do my best to constantly suppress my true feelings for you while falling deeper and deeper in love with you, and then I will beat myself up over the fact that you were honest with me from the start and I was really the stupid one to think I could handle it even though I can’t so it’s really my fault and not your fault at all; and now the only real question is whether I should totally loose it emotionally and go off the deep end in a public place, preferably in front of your new girlfriend and your coworkers, or if I should eat nothing but Ben and Jerry’s until I’ve gained fifty pounds and only leave the house when I absolutely must go to the grocery to buy food for the seven cats I’ve adopted from the local shelter, most of which are mange ridden and unlovable – just like me, or if maybe I should just start using meth and become a back alley hooker.” Although this seems implied, many men do not actually take this away from that simple phrase. What they incorrectly hear and understand is, “She can handle that.”

So is it that we are not honest with each other? Or is it that we seem to just hear what we want to hear and say what we think people want us to say? I think guys and girls do this equally. Or maybe girls do it a little more than guys do. I’m not sure where I’m going with this except maybe this: If you love someone and they tell you they just want to be friends, just be honest with yourself. You can’t handle that. Just walk away. If you haven’t really changed, but you want to; don’t say you’ve changed. Say that you haven’t changed, but that you want to. I’m all for that “if you can believe it you can achieve it” bull-crap, but you know what? Saying it doesn’t make it so. If it did, I’d be a size two, tan person living off my monthly interest payments on my vast fortune amassed from sales of my best-selling novels.

Trucks in the Sand

She ran through the woods, breaking through beams of sunlight as her laughter trailed behind her. In the exuberance of her youth she was never winded. Her feet moved from dirt to water to leaves without thought as she chased her dreams down the slope of the ravine. Miles away, he pushed his truck through the sand. The sounds of squeaking swings and children’s voices filled the air around him. His lips vibrated with the noise of a motor and he maneuvered his vehicle across the sandbox, planning his upcoming attack. They had never met. Their eyes had never locked in a glance. He had never heard her sing to her baby doll and she had never watched as he tried to be brave after falling and skinning his knee. Yet years later as she lay in bed, twisting to find the ultimate position of comfort then drifting off to slumber as gently as a summer breeze through an open window; he stood guard in the heat of the desert, eyes alert and mind racing; as trucks rolled by in the sand. He would protect her with his life, this girl he’d never met; now a woman with children of her own. He would not question her devotion, but persevere in his. He was bound by honor, by duty, by destiny; and giving up his freedom to protect hers was as natural as the blood that coursed through his veins. She would never know him. She would never know why he chose to serve her. Some days went by and she didn’t even think of him. But in her heart of hearts she knew he was there and she took comfort in it. She prayed that a gloved hand would never pause above an officer’s brow as his mother clutched a folded flag. And whenever she saw one of his comrades in an airport or a grocery or on the street, she would thank him; even though she knew her words would never reach them all. Miles away, she was the last thing on his mind, yet he continued to fight for her as if she was in his heart.

Unanswered Letter

My heart lies somewhere in the bottom of a box. I poured it out with ink and tears. I stopped and started it a hundred times. I looked at it again and again. My fingers trembled as I folded it. My chest ached as I sealed it away. I cried as I inscribed your name. And then I let it go; closing it in a tiny metal casket and hoisting the flag. The days ran together, one into the other, and my heart drifted across the ocean. Guarded by a dozen soldiers, it traveled space and time. Then somewhere between the sound of gunfire and the blowing sand, it came to rest in the bottom of a box; forgotten in the madness of war.

Building a Wall

For a moment they forgot their task. They were swept away in the possibilities of daydreams; forgetting their reality and running hand in hand toward infinite potential. Their eyes danced to a symphony played on the strings of the heart. Their laughter rose into the night and reverberated among the angels. Their fingers shook off their usual chill and warmed themselves in the grasp of each other’s hand. They took turns, leading and following, in a game of coy smiles and glances. They exchanged a kiss, just long enough to be savored but not so long as to satiate. As their heads lay softly on their pillows, a similar smile was fixed on each of their faces. And as their eyelashes rested on their cheeks, their thoughts slipped into slumber and then into dreams, allowing their flirtation to continue to play in the landscape of their imagination. But just as day always greets the night, the sun broke through from behind the curtains and these sweet fantasies were shaken off with the fluttering of awakening lashes. In the bright morning light, hope faded and realism took hold. So each rose and gathered their tools and went back to the task of building their wall.

Arms of the Ocean

I stood at the edge of the water with my bare feet slowly sinking in the soft sand beneath me. With each supple current from the rising tide, I settled deeper and deeper into the earth below. Over my shoulder hung the moon; unashamed, undeniable, whole. Her glow too dim to cast shadows, but bright enough to illuminate my fears. As the moments passed, my breathing aligned with the rhythm of the waves. It felt as if we had become one organism, oscillating in the cool night air, flowing into each other. I was lost in the waves; absent from my thoughts, floating in my memories. My balance had become shaky now that my feet were completely covered; one heel resting lower than the other. Without disturbing my base, I slowly sat down on the cold granules numbering greater than my imagination. At first they were rough on my thighs, but as my limbs began to numb in the wind, the sand became supple and comforting like a plush blanket of velvet. A gull flew overhead, crying out into the darkness, but I did not try to locate it. My vision was blurred in the deep purple before me. There was no horizon in the night. There was no end to my sister sea. She wrapped her fingers around me as the chilly air filled my lungs and released me back into the darkness with each breath I exhaled. I was deadened to my sorrow. Nothing remained; no hope, nor sadness, nor fear. All that remained was a void that was meant to be. My eyes grew heavy and I longed for rest, so I leaned back into the cradle of the shore and let the arms of the ocean cover me.

From a Distance

I watch from a distance, but I can’t go back
I offer questions, but the answers are not mine to take
You were not mine, even when you were mine
Now you belong to whomever
Just beyond my reach; close enough to tempt, yet never within my grasp
You are not teasing; you are simply being
It is my own concoction to unravel
I cannot regret as the choices were not mine to make
But I can wonder what might have been
Silly notions and conjecture
Happy endings never to be written
I torture myself voyeuristically
Quietly watching a game in which I will never be a player
Falling, drifting deeper and deeper into adulation
Submerging any chance for hope under the cold waters of despair
If only I could turn my head; if only I would close my eyes
Perhaps you would melt away and your memory would dissipate into the night

A Valentine’s Day Poem

This is that special time of year
Lovers embrace their ones so dear
Cupid sends his arrows flying
Heart shaped boxes loved ones are buying
The cost of roses increases tenfold
Unusual amounts of chocolate are sold
Cards with foil and glitter and mush
Are paired with pink teddy bears made out of plush
Frat boys buy wine instead of kegs
Married women actually shave their legs
Men go to chick flicks without even whining
Stay at home moms get to splurge on fine dining
All this fuss about love is made
Even married people get laid
Kids swap “be mine” cards and come home with junk
That melts in their book bag and turns into gunk
Jewelry commercials are at an all time high
People actually buy things that say “cutie pie”
Couples photos are set as new profile pics
Girls get flowers from guys that are usually pricks
Romance and sweet nothings are everywhere you look
Until you take a peek into my little nook
I have no candy hearts, chocolates or flowers
No need to shave my legs, hell I didn’t even shower
I did get a Valentine’s text from my mother
Which is the equivalent of going to prom with your brother
But that’s fine, I’m okay, no need to cry and wail
Tomorrow I’ll go to Kroger and buy candy on sale
I’ll be my own Valentine and to myself be true
I’ll never cheat on me or make myself blue
I won’t even do anything stupid and make myself mad
Oh wait, I just got flowers; a dozen roses from my Dad!
That’s right; I got flowers from a wonderful guy
Who has always loved me for me and will till we die
Now I’m all smiles and rainbows and shouting hooray!
And can say without sarcasm “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

roses from my dad

Six Years

Six years and I still hear your voice
Booming loud above the noise of the world
Six years and I still hear you humming
Never waiting for the music to start
Six years and I feel your lap beneath me
Stroking my hair and playing with my fingernails
Six years and I still feel the floor vibrate
Rattling the window as you walk down the hall
Six years and you’re still scheming
Another gadget to slip into the house
Six years and it’s time for a jigger
Maybe a finger more
Six years and there’s no one like you
No one to fill your void
Six years and I still miss you
Forever my soul mate, my friend
Six years that feel like a lifetime
Yet only the blink of an eye

Floundering

Detaching from life
Reality left behind
Make-believe ahead
Never standing still
Moving rather than thinking
Avoiding choices
Happiness a myth
Hiding inside of laughter
Pretending to smile
No chances given
Giving hope the cold shoulder
The decision made
Why bother trying
Instead simply start over
Never to look back
Evade reminders
Fill each moment with nothing
Keep moving always
Disregard the past
Leaving the game unfinished
This time no one wins

Mine

My heart is aching
Even though you are not mine
You’re so far away

You call to my heart
Without even knowing it
Your soul draws me near

Tears fall down my face
I pretend it is nothing
But I’m missing you

We have memories
But they’re not without lament
Too late to go back

I wonder often
If you think that I’m a joke
Or if you might care

Time keeps slipping by
And our distance grows farther
Maybe it’s too far

My questions remain
Your intentions unspoken
Just as my feelings

I’ve given you hints
I’m just too scared to say it
I wish you were mine

Lights Out

All the lights were out, but they could still see each other clearly in the glow of the television. It would be easy enough for her to keep him distracted; all she had to do was smile. When she flashed her perfect teeth and the skin around the corners of her eyes slightly wrinkled, he was always stopped immediately, regardless of his word or thought or deed. They snuggled close together as they had for what seemed a lifetime. Her head lay tilted against his chest; his arm cradled her frame protectively, lovingly. They had seen the movie a hundred times. It was her favorite. The volume was hardly audible, but they didn’t need to hear the lines. She would laugh before the joke was told and he would grin because of her joy instead of in response to the pictures dancing on film. Each time he tried to speak, she would sweetly shush him and point toward the glowing screen. She kept her face forward, but she could feel his eyes upon her. They were caressing her cheek, running over her lips; they memorized every line and color and bend. “Watch the movie!” she would whisper and he would shift his gaze ahead. But she knew he was still watching her from the corner of his vision; trying his hardest to pretend to enjoy the movie although his mind was completely taken with her. She soaked it all in. Even as she chastised him, she was not watching the story unfold before them either. She was blushing and absorbing his admiration as she moved with the rise and fall of his breath and fell into a rhythm with the beating of his heart. Her eyes grew so heavy. She knew she couldn’t keep them open much longer. She thought of when their children were babies; how they’d fight sleep with all the energy they had.  She let out a little laugh at the thought of her babies; now with babies of their own. She turned to face him, meeting his gaze. With each blink of her eyes it became harder to pull her eyelids back up to continue their stare. She knew it was time to stop being silly and give in. As her eyes fell shut, still fixed on his face, she saw him mouth the words “I love you.” And as her lashes lay softly atop her cheeks, everything faded to black. He shifted slowly as to not disturb her and reached over the railing of the hospital bed. Once his cell phone was in hand, he pressed a single button. The call was connected with a subtle click followed by ringing that seemed so loud that it echoed through the quiet room. A groggy voice, fresh from slumber, answered the call. “She’s gone.” he said with a catch in his voice, and then he began to weep.

The Faded Flag

I rolled over, tucking my hands under my pillow, as the sun began to stream through the crevices around the roman shade. As I nestled into my new spot, my eyes came to rest on the faded American flag as it rose and fell with each breath of slumber. I wondered about the events seen by eyes so young. Excitement was found in a lesser man’s nightmares. Smoldering timber, burning long after the first spark, fell quiet beneath his boot as his smile cracked the mixture of dirt and soot and sweat that formed a mask on his boyish face. Comrades were made and contentment found amid endless sand and heat and waiting, a chance to validate excuses made for being a drifter. There was plenty of time for growing old after dreams had been exhausted. I was lost somewhere between the flag and his golden skin; my thoughts filled with speculation. I swam in the memory of our laughter, refreshed by the way our voices blended until they became one. Our smiles were laced with alcohol and our intentions were anything but pure. But we always lost control before we could act on our whims. We remained a comfort to the other, a place of solace and rest. For now this wandering soul lay still beneath the flag he served. He was mine completely to both lead and follow. But as ever, there was no time to revel, for his eyes fluttered open. He lifted his head and adjusted his focus and smiled to start the day. “Let’s go for a hike.” He said. “Sounds good,” I answered.

Note to Self:

We tend to look at everyone around us and cut them slack for their deficiencies, but we look at ourselves with a hypercritical eye. And so begins the process of settling. We try to talk ourselves through our fears and come to the conclusion that these simple doubts are actually shortcomings. Our mild insecurities become flaws. We look in the mirror and cannot separate the knowledge of our heart from the image we view with our eyes. We see our total selves and it’s as if there is a thin film of loathing on the mirror. Yet we look at those around us, both known and unknown, and give these friends and strangers the benefit of the doubt. Before long, we have degraded ourselves to average and built up others to heights to which they do not measure. Days or weeks or months later, we wake up and wonder how we got to where we are. We have not been lead astray down this primrose path. We have walked confidently down our road of destruction; our own lantern of awareness lighting our journey. It has been often said that we must love ourselves before we can love others, but I don’t buy that. Far too often we beat ourselves up, all the while adoring the least among us. At some point, in order to find fulfillment, we must stop overestimating the heart, the intentions and the potential of others and realize, understand and embrace our own. We must stop considering our desires for the things we deserve as pipe-dreams on some unobtainable wish list. We must become conscious of our true value and treat ourselves as the amazingly unique people that we are, understand that one size does not fit all, grasp that all men were not created equal and cling to the truth that we do indeed deserve the best and then resign ourselves to the task of not settling for anything less. Anyone can get a date. Anyone can have a boyfriend. Hell, anyone can get married. But if we want a date, boyfriend or marriage that is going to be fulfilling on the highest level, then we must not settle for less than what we deserve. Just because a guy is better than some jerk you settled for in the past, doesn’t mean that you are not still settling. But it’s not just about boys. It’s about dreams and aspirations and goals. It’s about life. We must learn to recognize the red flags and proceed with trepidation, or in some cases, simply run away. But we must never confuse self-doubt, fear or previous failures as inadequacy. So what does this all mean? Well, for me, it means that I spend a good deal of time hugging a pillow on the couch while watching television. But the alternative is hiring a babysitter to watch my children while I go on meaningless dates with sub-par suitors just because they asked. But the greater piece to this is when I get ready for bed and see myself in the mirror as I wash my face, that I see beyond the physical imperfections and internal critiques and see myself as I truly am: an amazing woman that is worth more than she gives herself credit for, that deserves the very best in life and love and will one day, if she doesn’t sell herself short and settle, find fulfillment in such a way that she can scarcely remember ever being without it.

An Extra Special Night

One of the best hours of my life took place in a community college cafeteria. I was surrounded by both friends and strangers as I watched a few people that I knew and several more that I had never met bare their soul for the world to see. As the first contestant took the stage, the novice emcee and the makeshift décor took a back seat to an extraordinary gentleman singing Michael Jackson’s Human Nature. As tears started pouring down my cheeks, I repeated to myself over and over, “Don’t think about how special this is. Don’t think about how special this is. Don’t thing about how special this is.”

I was at the first annual Extra Special People Awards pageant, and the ageless black man before me was not only singing one of his favorite singer’s songs, he was baring his soul for all to see. I’ve heard of them called retarded or handicapped or handicapable, but I was there to see Bobby, and he was not any of those things to me; he was simply my friend. I managed to pull it together for a bit, until Kristen took the stage. I knew her story. She went to my father’s church. I remember going to services with my mother right after my oldest child was born and being almost ashamed to carry my perfect, healthy child into the sanctuary in my arms. She had been normal by the world’s standards. She had been everything a parent could want, until just two years into her life; fever had left her soiled by the world’s standards. I couldn’t imagine how I would feel if that was my child. She was loving and vulnerable and sweet and all things good. And now I watched her on stage, singing into a microphone, blushing and bashful as ever, but beautiful and proud of all that she is. Any thoughts I had of salvaging my makeup were long gone.

I saw contestants sing and dance and even do comedy before Bobby took the stage to perform a dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. I had to admit, the man had skills. He had more soul that I ever would when it came to the dance floor. He even winked at the judges before he finished his routine. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand and they were soaking up every thrust and movement that he made. But unlike any stage performance I had ever witnessed, this one was pure and true. These Extra Special People were not on stage for the applause, or for the glory or for their fifteen minutes of fame. They were there for their time to show the world who they were and what they were made of, and it was beautiful.

The personality and talent and soul that walked across that tiny stage before me was bigger than anything I had ever seen. The local beauty queens and youth that volunteered their time before and during this spectacle didn’t do it for recognition or out of duty. It was oblivious that they had seen the amazing people that stood before me as some of the purest examples of humanity, yet so often overlooked if not scorned by society.

At the end of the night, as each participant was given a sash and flowers and crown along with an award that suited what they had brought to the stage, the crowd stood and applauded and those men and women basked in the glory of it all. It wasn’t a conceited moment that they felt they deserved or a moment that they felt better or normal or good enough. It was a moment when they knew without a doubt, that the people in that cafeteria, the people that had paid money to come see them; those people not only accepted them, but loved them.

I went to a pageant for mentally and physically challenged people tonight. I went because my dear friend has a twenty-nine year old Down Syndrome child and I thought I should go support him. I went because Kristen would be there and she had worked so hard to graduate from high school recently and I knew people that didn’t go to her graduation because she was retarded. I went because I love Bobby and when I walk into his mom’s coffee shop, he stands up, steps away from his cartoon and hugs me.

A group of volunteers put together a pageant for Extra Special People so that for at least one time in their life, they could shine and be normal and have one of the most special hours of their life. Little did they know when they were making the sashes and buying the crowns that they would provide one of the most special hours of mine.

My friend, Bobby.

A Lead Balloon

There are moments that seem to last an eternity while you are in them, but in retrospect, they are but fleeting thoughts. It’s like running to your car in a rain storm. With every step it feels as if your body is being drenched, but when you make it to the safety of your car, the drops of water evaporate almost instantly, leaving you with nothing but a single shiver. I was surrounded by a sea of umbrellas when we laid my grandfather to rest, but all I remember is the flag draped over his coffin. Sometimes promises are broken more by circumstance than by intent. Bron-Yr-Aur plays and I find myself crawling around inside of my own head, picking up scraps of memories and taking a few nibbles before tossing them away to the side with hardly getting a taste. There was one that unintentionally broke me down only to unknowingly build me up decades later. He’d made promises that no one could keep, but in his imagination they were pure. The totality of all things spoken and words never uttered resulted in heart break that formed courage. The demise of our dreams was the foundation of my determination. I don’t think I ever thanked him; for my appreciation of Zeppelin, for teaching me to trust my instincts and for stripping me down to my very soul. Our lives are rarely what we plan, but it is the unexpected detours that often lead us to amazing destinations. We lay in bed discussing logic. I believed he could be the star he knew he was. We laughed and on occasion we cried. I promised to be home before the sun came up and I was true to my word. But somewhere between our dreams and reality, we ended up in our own lives – lives with more rewards than regrets. Carbon copies of ourselves now learn from our example. They are thankful for our missteps. Our failures gave them life. D’yer Mak’er begins to play and I close my eyes as I sway in my rickety chair. It’s funny to me that this song always makes me smile; like a happy anthem celebrating aspirations never realized; hopes that fell from the sky like a lead balloon. As I tap my fingers on the desk, keeping to the beat, those moments that seemed to last an eternity are now but a fleeting thought.

Feature Presentation

I sat in the quiet darkness of a house that was not my own. As I eased back into the chair, I leisurely rotated my thumb on the dial, inching up the volume on my iPod to drown out the subtle sounds of slumber that drifted down the hallway. The chords of Si Volvieras a Mi flooded my senses and for a moment took over my thoughts. I shifted my position and slowly closed my eyes. I’d had just enough alcohol to sharpen the edges of nostalgia.

My mind began to load unedited reels of memory to be shown on the screens of my eye lids. My nostrils were filled with the stale smell of hours old Benson & Hedges cigarettes mixed with the sweet musk of intoxicating skin. Although it was only a memory, I could smell it as fragrantly as if it were hydrangeas outside of an open summer window. It had been twenty years since I’d inhaled the bouquet of that skin, but it was a scent still so familiar that I could almost taste it. I still heard his voice from time to time; always steeped in humor. But when I played it back in my mind, it held the unmistakable tone of regret. It was a longing that I couldn’t comprehend. I knew the sorrow of dreams not realized and the pain of aspirations falling from my fingertips, but I had never simply denied myself as a result of fear or doubt or uncertainty only to awake one day and wonder what could have been. His happiness was never fully realized. That was the most painful part.

With a delicate puff of breath, I blew the hair from my forehead. I remembered blonde bangs that spilled into dancing eyes just above a playful, sideways smirk. His posture could only be described as a trouble-free, clumsy hover. He towered above me, ever relaxed yet seemingly expectant. I didn’t wonder how the years had shifted his stance. He had found his happiness and was far from my worries. I woke up just after a November dawn, his sister sleeping next to me under an antique, non-descript quilt. My lungs were straining as I opened my eyes, and I could see my breath in the beam of morning sun that poured through the window. I wondered if the tightness in my chest was from the bitter cold or from the deplorable discovery I’d found hidden away in his suitcase.

I lay like a pile of limp, wet clothes on the cold, rocky earth. The weight of a Toyota 4×4 held my body in place. All was dark and for a moment, silent; until screams of horror pierced my ears from the shortest of distance and ripped me from my euphoric state of suspension above the madness. Pain manifested itself in every crevice of my being, forcing me from consciousness. I forced my eyes open and the harsh, blue glow of the computer monitor stung my eyes.

I sat dazed for a moment before I noticed the writing in front of me. It was the familiar, easy penmanship of my father in the only letter I had ever kept. I could see the words before me on the yellowed paper as if it was actually in front of me and not just etched in my brain. It read, “Although I am a man and you are a woman, when I am gone and you remain, you will continue the person that we are.” I wondered about my own children. Would my boys carry on the person that I was? Could they ever even know the person that I was, considering I wasn’t sure I knew her myself? Would they ever read any of the thoughts I had plucked from my mind and transferred to paper?

There was so much missing time. Or perhaps it was just hidden. Laughter was lost. Stagnate tears pooled in a forgotten place. Stories and faces and sounds and smells, all trampled under useless trivia; buried under dates and lists and obligations. In these quiet lonely times they were pulled out and dusted off; ready for screening, but as soon as they were viewed, they were gone again, as quickly as you would swat a fly. It occurred to me that my iPod was no longer playing. Perhaps that was my cue to go to bed.

Driving Home

Each of us has our own sorrow; our private losses that will never be shared. Others so easily solve our problems, but never really understand them. My friends can’t comprehend why I like to travel home late at night instead of sleeping in their guest room and making a fresh start in the morning. But there is something about driving home under the moon that I love. There is solace in the darkness. I know the route so well that I could maneuver it with my eyes closed. Driving with the music blaring and the windows down gives me comfort. The night air reaches into the cab of my truck and runs its cold fingers through my hair. I inhale deeply and allow the smoke to slowly seep out of my mouth; watching it briefly dance as it begins to dissipate in front of me before it is grabbed out of the safety of the truck and tossed into the darkness.

I’m sitting on my grandfather’s lap. He gingerly strokes my fingernails as he hums a tune in his loud, gruff voice. The melody rattles around his chest beneath my ear as it is pressed to his heart. A deer looks up from the grass and quickly looks away. The wind gently plucks out a single strand of my hair and quietly places it on my hand. I shake it off just before it starts to tickle.

I leave Lee County and enter Russell. The caution light flashes at the stop sign and a large truck flies by shaking my vehicle. I’m in the passenger seat of a Camaro. The driver holds my hand as we roll over the snowy hills of North Alabama, our fingers intertwined as if they were made for each other. The closeness of his body warms mine, but my heart feels cold. I know the end is near.

The harvest moon hovers over me as I sit in a lifeguard stand. The white beaches of Gulf Shores appear eerie as deafening waves crash on the shore. A new chapter begins, but it will not be a long one. The yellow reflective lights down the center of the road twinkle like the eyes of my child. Scout holds my hand and positions his body on mine so that if I try to escape after he falls asleep, surely I will wake him. The injustices of the day melt away beneath my fingertips as they slowly rub his back.

The cries of a baby with colic drown out the sobs of my own pain as we sit in an attorney’s office. I have no idea where I am going. This is an adventure for which I had not planned. I light another cigarette. I turn on to Highway 431 and wish that I had windshield wiper fluid. I catch a glimpse of a black dog running on the side of the road and I find myself on the banks of Lake Eufaula, standing in the October leaves. I watch a dog and his master as the crisp, fallen leaves crunch beneath my boot.

I’m only 30 miles from Eufaula. I see my sister sitting by a table, holding her beer bottle in the most awkward way. My brother sits with his legs crossed in the easy, relaxed fashion that is his manner. They don’t understand what holds me to this place, this family, this land. I don’t understand it myself. It is my Tara. I am bound to it and by it. The land holds me still.

Four lanes merge into two and the orange and white traffic cylinders fly by like reflective pieces of candy corn. I’m that much closer to home. I toss out my cigarette and it dances around the bed of my truck like a firefly before it spills over the back and onto the road, soon to be crushed by tires and time and the bright sun. Arcade Fire plays Neighborhood #1 and I still hear the grumble of my grandfather’s humming. I’m almost to Mott Farms. I sit on Kristi’s bed. We hold hands and cry. I’m consumed with sadness for her now empty womb. I’m covered in guilt for the life that still grows in mine.

More candy corn. I’m back on four lanes. I’m lying under the trees just outside of Auburn. In the darkness, a man I hardly know tells me he loves me and I convince myself that I love him also. Twenty years ago there would be a billboard right about here. He would make a joke as we pass it and I would know that our love was not meant to be. Roseland is on the left up ahead. I wonder about my dad growing up there. I wonder if he was a happy child. I’m just a kid sitting at my great-grandmother’s house. Death hangs in the air like the smell of fried chicken. I think I was happy then, but I’m not sure. It seems too long ago to remember.

My grandmother sits at a desk next to a lonely lamp. She writes yet another letter. I can see her handwriting that is now so scratchy, smoothed away with the weight of sixty-eight years. The ink flows from her pen onto the paper and then to New Orleans where my grandfather will soak up every word about his wife and family as he lays on a cot hundreds of miles away, buried under the burden of war. I think I may have time for one more cigarette. There is always time for one more cigarette.

I turn on my blinker and turn down the stereo to an acceptable level. I’ve only three more turns and I will be home. I’ll be home to my own bed, home to my comfort, home to my completion. I turn in the drive and take the last sip of soda. The songs have ended with an uncanny timing and the headlights turn off. My key opens the lock and I am greeted by silence. The longing to be lonely by myself instead of with others has been fulfilled. I suppose I should feed the cat.

Another Chapter in an Unfinished Book

The thing I don’t like about the movies is that they give the viewer a sense of false hope. What is hope anyway, but the simple delaying of certain future disappointment. The guy gets the girl. The geek finally fits in to the cool crowd. The underdog comes from behind for the win. And the whole time, the audience cheers them on. That doesn’t happen in real life. I should know. I am the underdog. And I assure you my life is nothing like the movies.

Oh, I started out with as much chance as anybody, I suppose. I was born into a perfectly normal family. I don’t have many memories from my childhood. I’m not sure if my memory is faulty or there is just simply nothing really worth remembering. I have flashes here and there – my red coat, catching salamanders from the creek in the backyard, numerous episodes of unreasonable tears that only a painfully shy child could understand. I guess I remember a few stories.

When I was in kindergarten, I went to a private Christian school in Birmingham, Alabama. I remember going to the bathroom with a girl named Renee. She wasn’t allowed to go to the bathroom alone. She lived with her grandmother. Perhaps I overheard an adult talking about it, or maybe she knew, but her father was not a part of her life for some reason or another, and there was a fear that he would try one day to steal her away. In retrospect, it seems that sending another child with her to the bathroom was putting the other child at risk more than protecting Renee. I have no idea whatever happened to her. There was also a girl named Diane, or something odd like that. She had beautiful hair that was cut at an angle. It almost looked like a rounded triangle falling down her back. The day I saw her hair was the first time I can remember feeling inferior to someone. It was certainly not the last, however.

I always stood up for myself. That is something that I still find hard to grasp. I have one of the lowest self esteems that you will ever run across, yet I have one of the loudest barks. There were two girls that lived in my neighborhood, Betty and Alice. There were shelves of some sort behind my bed. We would use these open shelves as a home for our Barbie dolls. One of the girls, I think it was Alice, would always follow her demands with something to the effect of her being company so she should get her way, or if she didn’t get her way that she wouldn’t be my friend anymore. I remember the day she wanted to use my Barbie instead of her own and she pulled the “I won’t be your friend anymore” stunt. I can remember standing tall, looking her in the face and saying, “I’ve got plenty of friends. If you want to leave, you know the way out.” She left. I learned then and there that if you bluff, you must stand firm. She and Betty were the only two friends I really had, but watching them leave was easier than not being true to my self. I’ve watched so many people walk out since then that I’ve lost count.

We had a huge basement in our house on Mountain Oaks Lane. In the bottom of my closet were some small holes in the floor. I could lie on my belly and look through the holes and watch my brother playing below me. He would play with his chemistry set, his army men or catch the large camel crickets that seemed to love our basement. I don’t know if he ever knew that I watched him, but I would watch him for hours.

The holes were there because the people that owned the house prior to us had a special needs child. Again, I don’t know how much is true and how much is speculation pieced together by a child from the snippets of conversations of adults that were never meant to be heard, but my recollection is that it was a girl. She was homebound. She had something that made it where her body didn’t grow at the rate that it should. Anyway, they had installed a sink or some sort of equipment in the closet and when it was removed; my little voyeuristic windows were left in the floor. I can remember lying in bed at night thinking about the girl that once lived in my room. I wondered what went through her mind as she lay in confinement, trapped in a body that would never catch up to her mind. I would get lost in my thoughts of her.

There was a covered bridge a street or two over. Our backyard was a mountain drop off filled with boulders and trees and fun. I was a tag along to my brother and his friend Dale. Dale was a bit older than my brother, but he was always so nice to me. He often went to UAB because he had juvenile diabetes. He didn’t seem sick to me. He just seemed like a nice guy who always made me feel a part of everything.

A girl named Shelly lived next door. She had an older sister named Mandy, I think. Mandy never came around much. She was much older, and like nothing I had ever seen. She sat in her room and listened to music and still cried that Elvis had died. Shelly wore black eyeliner and had Bee Gees posters on her wall. I remember thinking her black eyeliner looked trashy before I even knew what trashy was.

Someone had a yard sale down the hill from us. Me, my brother and Dale wandered down to check it out. There was a wood panel station wagon parked just a bit up from the house. In the backseat was a child, more like a toddler, asleep in the backseat. I don’t know who had the idea, but it was brilliant. We took a snubbed out cigarette butt from the side of the street and slipped it into the kid’s sleeping lips. When his mom got back to the car, there was Junior chilling in dream land in the back seat with a stogie hanging out of his mouth. I bet she never left him unattended after that.

The same people that had the yard sale later had a moving van parked in front of the house. The movers would bring things out and place it on the truck and then return to get more items from the house. When they left, we would jump up on the truck and take small pieces off and put them in the front yard. When the movers came back out, they would find some random piece sitting there. We did this three or four times before they got smart and ruined our fun by leaving someone next to the truck to guard it.

There was a kid named James on the street. His dad worked for the power company. Of this I am sure, because every time anything came up about any topic under the sun, he would know the answer and was sure it was true because his dad worked for the power company. Not a day went by that he didn’t remind us of that fact. In retrospect, I wonder why it never occurred to my brother or I to rebut him with the fact that our dad worked for the power company, too. Later when we were teens, we went to an Auburn football game. We were sitting by ourselves for some reason, and sitting directly behind us was James. We recognized him, somehow, and I remember one of us asked him if his dad still worked for the power company. He did.

I broke my collarbone for the first time while we were living on this little street. My cousin and I were in a little red wagon. We decided to roll it down the hill and ride in it like we had done so many times before. We tumbled over right in front of the house where we had caused so much mischief. That little stunt sent me to the hospital and resulted in a back brace and sling. I remember Dr. Simpson showing me the X-ray of my shoulder. There was a piece of rice from dinner stuck in my throat that was visible in the X-ray. This everyday accident resulted in my self consciousness increasing tenfold. It is also the reason that I am ambidextrous. We were learning cursive at school and I was right handed. I had no other choice than to learn script with my left hand. To my knowledge, that was the only perk of having a broken collar bone.

A woman named Danna lived in our partially finished basement at some point. I have no idea why she lived there. She gave me a ring from Avon and I loved it. I kept it for years and years. She was beautiful. She primped and always looked like a million bucks. She was also very gullible. My brother and I took pickles out of a jar once and told her we picked them from the pickle tree in the backyard. She believed us. They were still cold from the refrigerator. That is when I learned that there is much more to being a woman than looking fabulous. I think that is when I figured out that I needed to concentrate on my mind and stop worrying so much about being ugly if I didn’t want to end up twenty something years old and living in some people’s basement.

We had a hamster that ate a plastic Obi-Wan Kenobi’s head off. We had hermit crabs in an aquarium in my brother’s room. I loved to sleep on the top bunk bed in his room. I always picked off the popcorn stuff from the ceiling and always got chastised for it. I got caught giving the dog, Oliver, the crust from my toast and tried to pretend I was just “petting the dog.” My brother tricked me into eating dog food and a banana pepper. A construction worker taught me the proper way to color using crayons. My brother stuck up for me for the first time. We made prank phone calls in Shelly’s basement. My sister was born.

We moved from Birmingham in the middle of my second grade year. Betty and her brother Calvin threw us a surprise going away party. I sat on the steps and cried like a baby. I don’t know if it was that I was leaving or that I was overwhelmed that someone threw us a party or what it was. Actually, I do know what it was. I didn’t like the attention of the party. I felt awkward and insecure. The surprise part of the party is what bothered me. I really needed time to grasp it. Before the night was over, I went from feeling stupid just because I was me to feeling stupid because I had cried in front of everyone. It was a good thing I was moving. I don’t think I could have faced everyone after that moment of being me.

It was time to recreate myself. It was time for a fresh start. And I needed one. I was in the second grade and I felt like a failure. I was ready to be someone new. I was ready to try again. On to Eufaula.

Waiting on the Mail

As I sit here at the little desk in my room under the dim light of the lamp, I look over and see Scout sleeping peacefully in my bed. I think that most mothers look at their sweet children sleeping and wonder about what they will become and how precious they are. I look over and wonder what I would be doing right now if I didn’t have kids. Sometimes I’m curious if I’m that different from other people or if most people just aren’t as honest about how they feel. I have a bad day at the office and wonder if I’m simply a malcontent. I get teary eyed and lonely after watching chick flicks and wonder if I’m depressed. My kids do something stupid and I get pissed off and wonder if I have anger issues. I think I may be a mental hypochondriac. When I go to the mail box each day, I open the door, do an inventory of what is inside, and if there is nothing good, I push the mail back in, close the door and leave it. The next time I check it, if there is still nothing good, I leave it all again. Usually around day four, something that is interesting will arrive and I will remove all of the mail that has built up and will handle each item appropriately. But I don’t want to actually get the mail out if there is nothing good in there. At times I feel like my life is like that. I wake up each morning and open the door to new and unexpected possibilities, but nine times out of ten there is nothing interesting awaiting me so at the end of the day I merely close the door and leave all the mundane things to be handled later in conjunction with something good. I rushed through childhood, I rushed through high school and I rushed through college; looking for and anticipating this end goal and now I am at a place that I wonder what the hurry was all about. I rushed to get here and here is just ordinary. The decisions that were made to get me here were made by someone that I used to be and now that I’m who I am, I’m not sure I agree with what the other me was thinking. On occasion I wonder if the other me was even thinking at all. I certainly wasn’t looking out for my best interests. It’s like now I find myself chasing someone else’s dream. If only my own desires were clear, perhaps I could alter my course, but I have no idea what the hell it is I want. I’ve always lived my life without regret. I firmly believe that I would rather do something and live with the consequences than to not do something and always wonder. But I’m getting to an age where I can clearly identify decisions that were just pure asinine. There is no way to undo those choices, and there is no benefit in weeping over the past, but good grief; sometimes the mere knowledge of them is overwhelming. I’m stuck somewhere in the middle of the woman desperate to be loved, clinging to every opportunity that walks through the door or the bar and the woman that has a freezer full of lean cuisine and watches the Food Network surrounded by her fifteen beloved cats. I don’t believe in fairy-tales and I’m not sitting around waiting on some pipe-dream to fall in my lap, but there has got to be more than this. There has got to be some level of fulfillment on earth, not from others or from something spiritual, but from me. There must be something I want. If only I could figure out what it is…

Top Ten Ways to Get Me to Close You on eHarmony

10. Misspell the name of your hometown on your profile.

9. Respond to the Three Things You Are Most Thankful For with “My kids, my iPod and sex.”

8. The number one thing you can’t live without is “beef steak.”

7. You are most passionate about “Eco-Nomos-Axion” and some additional information you want me to know is “my BBS occasionally…. it is unique….you got to crazy love it or absolutely hate it…”

6. You have too many pictures available including one of you and your daughter getting ripped at a bar and one of you from 2003 when you wore a mullet (and you misspell mullet when sharing your obvious pride in the photo caption).

5. You claim to be on eHarmony to meet people because “it’s not safe to drink and drive anymore” and in your profile picture you are holding a large piece of bacon.

4. Some additional information you want me to know is you are not allowed to drive.

3. When asked how you spend your leisure time you respond “It’s hard to say.”

2. You say the first thing people notice about you is “People tell me I come across very confident but I’m not sure about that.”

1. The one thing you are most passionate about is “tractor pulls,” you can’t live without “the scent of diesel fuel and Oscar de le Renta perfume” and your profile picture was taken with your prized 1985 Trans-Am that you have named Munch.

Muddy Water

She stood in the shower supporting most of her weight with her head leaned against the cold shower wall. What was left of the hot water trickled down her back and swirled around her feet. Her eyes almost blurred as she stared at the shower curtain liner in front of her. The places where water had been absorbed into the coarse fabric made designs that reminded her of ink blots. She wondered what her interpretation of them would say about her sanity. Sanity really was overrated in her opinion. Everyone seemed to function within their own definition of reality.

She was tired. Her son had politely waited until she had gone to bed just after one to begin expelling the contents of his stomach. She hated it when her child was ill. There was a sense of helplessness about it. Not only did she hate that she could not help him, but she dreaded the inconvenience it would cause her. She didn’t mind washing multiple sets of sheets, or cleaning vomit from the floor where he had just missed the toilet. It hardly even fazed her that she had never gone to sleep. But she needed to work and that would require owing her mother. Her mom was always more than happy to help out. As a germaphobe, she would arrive at the door with a hospital mask on her face, but at least it was someone free to watch her son. Well, monetarily it didn’t cost her.

As she dried her hair and began to put on a little makeup she started thinking about how she got to this place. It started as going through a mental list of what her son had eaten, who he had been in contact with and all the things that could explain his ailment. Then it turned to every decision she had made that had lead her to be a single parent who would walk out on a sick child to go to the office; afraid to miss too much; afraid that she may not be able to provide for her family. She wondered about the age old question: if you could go back and do it differently, would you?

She tried to pinpoint a single decision that could have been changed that would have somehow made her life different. But each time she thought she had found the perfect one, she would realize that the decision had stemmed from her attitude or level of confidence or feelings of rebellion; not as an innate quality but as a result of a previous choice. Before long she was back in her childhood pondering alternative outcomes to clearly irrelevant factors. There was no clear winner, no obvious screw up. Well, there were obvious screw ups, but there was more than one.

As she put away her makeup, she heard the sound of liquid hitting the hardwood in the next room. Before rushing to clean up the mess, she glanced back at her reflection. The eyes she saw were those of her high school eyes; eyes that had no deeper worry than who she would sit with in the lunchroom. She had not lost her dreams. She had not cast her aspirations to the wayside. She was certain that one day, she would find her fulfillment. She would reach the greatness of which she was capable.

A few moments later she looked beyond the railing of the bridge out into the murky water. It had rained all night and the lake was like a pool of mud. It was fitting, in a way, for the water to be so twisted with dirt and sand. It fit her mood. As she took a drag off her cigarette and pressed the accelerator, a smile crossed her tired face. She knew in a few days the water would once again be beautiful blue. The sun would shine down on it and the fish would roll and jump and make the water dance again.

One More Day Closer To Nothing

I found myself in a sudden onset of pure desperation. The children yelled and ran and laughed but they were a silent slow-motion blur moving around me; hardly discernible in my peripheral vision. It was past their bedtime, but I didn’t care. When the phone rang, I didn’t have to look at the screen to confirm it was you. I almost ignored it, but to let it ring seemed like lying to you. Life was in the way again. There was so much to say but no real reason to say it. There were no goals. No anticipated event to signify the fruition of dreams. When I was a kid in school, I would mark through the day on a calendar before I went to bed each night. I counted down the days until summers and birthdays and graduations and weddings and babies and moves and all the milestones that people celebrate with generic Hallmark cards. I realized the other day that I was still marking off days on the calendar, but even though I struck through each day, each month; when I got to the end, I simply turned the page and continued the process. I wasn’t looking forward to anything. There was no destination. There were no dreams. I wondered when that happened. I wondered when I had become satisfied with merely existing, or rather when I had settled for dissatisfaction. I became desperate. My stomach was hollow and my throat began to swell. And then sadness swept over me like a veil of smoke from a cigarette. In that moment it occurred to me that I wasn’t out of sorts because I was no longer clinging to impossible dreams. I was sad because I realized that I no longer found those fantasies worth pursuing.

As I Ready Him To Leave

We lay next to each other in the dark. I didn’t have to open my eyes to see his profile. It was forever etched in my brain. The only sound was that of our breathing slowly synchronizing. I could feel his hot breath on my face. As he stroked my fingers with his little hands, tears silently rolled over my cheek and fell to the pillow. He was almost asleep now. His hand on mine slowed to a stop. He would never know I was crying as he drifted off to dreamland. There in one of my favorite places; the comfort of complete acceptance and unconditional love, it hit me. I realized like never before that I was preparing him to leave me. Every action and word and worry was shaping his future; his departure from me. I squeezed my eyes closed tighter and more tears slipped from the corners and over my nose, eventually finding the pillow below my head. I prayed that he would find the happiness that had eluded me. I prayed that when his children one day left him to find their own way in the world, that he was still left with a hand to hold. As cynical as I am, I still cry when I watch romantic comedies. I still think stupid movies where the girl and the guy fall in love in fifteen seconds and overcome all odds to be together are great, and I will watch them over and over again and smile and cry and sigh and snuggle in my bed and daydream while I hug my pillow before I fall asleep. I can’t think of a more pitiful way to go; dying while holding a pillow. For now, I will clutch that little hand. I will bask in the warmth of his breath. I will take comfort in the lullaby of his subtle snoring that drifts across the hall throughout the night. And when the time comes, I will watch him go. And I will take the pillow from his bed and breathe in his scent as I drift into my own dreams; dreams of when my children were snuggled next to me, dreams of past ambitions and memories of romantic comedies that played out on the screen before me.

Way Less Than 50,000 Words

Syd challenged me to this thing where you’re supposed to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I said that I would do it, and I even thought it would be sort of fun. People are always telling me I should write a novel. I just have never figured out a topic that seemed novel worthy. Now, it is time to face the facts and give the reason that I will not be writing 50,000 words this November. It isn’t because I am lazy or that I don’t have the time. It isn’t even that I don’t want to do it, because honestly, I do. The fact is that the only topic of which I am compelled to write is the story of me. I’m not ashamed, and I would enjoy sharing my story with the world, but before I can do that, I must realize the story in its entirety, and there are all of these sub-plots; things and events and thoughts that I am not ready to face. I am not too complex. I am pretty simple. I am corrupt and greedy and desperate. I find myself clawing at any scrap of hope that I can find like a crazed prisoner clawing at their cell blocks, trying desperately to escape but never finding progress; only bloody fingers. I’m drowning in a sea of uncertainty, flailing about grasping at anything I can find that will allow me to stay afloat, yet sinking into mediocrity as I choke on my own desire. I acknowledge my flaws and accept my self-destruction, but I still cling to the knowledge that I deserve more and blindly believe I will one day get what I deserve. I don’t know what I want. I can’t comprehend my insecurities. I intellectually know my worth. I can see my reflection in the mirror and I know what it is that others see, but all I see is the quiet desperation behind frightened pools of blue. I’ve started writing, Syd, I promise I have, but just as the story begins to get good, just as my keystrokes lead me deeper into my past and my thoughts and my memories; I find myself in uncharted waters. I find myself in cloudy, gray areas where I must find an explanation for my mental state or finally concede that I have consciously chosen the path I have traveled because of my heart’s true wishes. Perhaps I have sabotaged myself from the beginning. Maybe we all get a bad break every now and again. I don’t know what it is. I don’t feel like I can move forward and find the unknown happiness that I still psychotically think is out there until I figure out why I am where I am now. But I just don’t have the balls to do that right now. I don’t know if it is because I am scared to discover what events or conversations triggered my low opinion of myself, or if it is that I am scared I will discover that my seemingly warped, harsh opinion of me is merited. I know I need to get there. I am getting closer than I ever have before. I have had epiphanies and holy hell moments more often recently than ever before. But I don’t think I am going to get there in 50,000 words, and I doubt I am going to get there this November. For now I am content to hide in my semi-charmed life, occasionally faking a smile but more often than not simply scowling; letting people think what they want and not giving a damn until I am in the privacy of darkness falling into my dreams. Another day, another time, another place, or perhaps never at all; I will allow myself to slip into the steam of my consciousness and either reach the other side, wide eyed and gasping or merely let my limbs fall motionless and allow the current to sweep me away. If it is the first option, perhaps I will write all about it; if it is the latter, perhaps someone else will.

Giving Up

My feet continued to become numb even under the fleece blanket. The sound of the waves was so loud it almost drowned out my own thoughts. I sniffed a little, either from the crisp wind or the tears I had shed earlier. The events of the day were becoming a blur. The wine remained in the refrigerator unopened. It was too late to bother opening it although the thought of it making my mind murky was rather appealing. I was sad. I was sad that I wasn’t there. I craved the laughter. I craved your hand giving mine a squeeze to steady me. I wanted to be there so I could be with you, my friend. I also wanted to be there to get lost in the fake happiness and false sentiments. I wanted to be the punch line, but my absence made me instead the butt of the joke. What thoughtless cruel things were said and brushed under the rug by those who once confided in me and cried to me and wanted my help? I didn’t think it malicious, simply all they were capable of. I wanted to cry and get it out, but I’d been stifling tears for so long that they just weren’t there. And then I just sat there lost. Not in thought, but in lack of thought. I don’t even know how much time passed. Either the cold had penetrated my skin and reached my bones or I had successfully rendered myself numb on the inside. There was no longer an ache or desire or longing or fear or sadness. There was just nothing. I was void of all feeling and emotion. I had become apathetic to my own state. And then a thought finally crossed my mind. I wondered if this is what it felt like to give up.

The First Chapter in Another Book I’ll Never Write

She lifted the lid from the small box and carelessly tossed it on the unmade bed beside her. As she unwrapped the candle the scent of pomegranate citrus filled her nostrils. She had been saving this candle for something special, although exactly what she was not sure. Tonight perhaps she thought the combination of pomegranate citrus and Riesling would inspire her to begin her daunting task.

She noticed that the wick was unusually short and somewhat buried beneath the fresh wax. She held the flame from the lighter to the wick allowing some of the wax to melt around it, hoping it would ignite. It caught fire briefly and snuffed itself out. She tried again to light it, but to no avail. The third time she held the flame steady until the metal of the lighter began to get hot and became uncomfortable beneath her fingers. Using the other end of the plastic lighter, she began to dig a little moat around the wick. The fourth try resulted in success and she took a sip of wine to celebrate, holding it in her mouth an extra moment to experience the first taste.

She had opened the bottle a few days ago and the liquid’s life was almost gone. It was a sweet drink still, but it had begun to lack the kick that the first sip usually provided. She glanced at the candle. The damn wick was about to go out again. She stared at the flame, mentally willing it to burn. Her chair creaked beneath her. It was quite possibly the world’s most uncomfortable chair. Her grandmother had caned the chair and given it to her as a gift. It wasn’t so much sentimental, as nothing really seemed to provide her with sentiment, but she had placed the chair in front of the small desk next to her bed because it was little and didn’t take up much space.

She had sat in that chair, squirming to get comfortable for hours on end over the previous months; downloading music, e-mailing friends, aimlessly browsing the internet. With the smallest of crackles, the wick finally took off; a full size flame now dancing above the yellowish wax. She took another sip of wine; more like a gulp. It was time to get to the matter at hand: a book.

For years people had told her she should be a writer. It always pissed her off when these statements were made. She already considered herself a writer. She had published poems and written articles for magazines, but it appeared that she would never really be considered a real writer until she wrote a book. She wasn’t opposed to the idea. In fact, it was one she had toyed with on numerous occasions. But she had always decided against it because she didn’t know what to write about.

She had heard it said that one should write about what they know. She wasn’t sure, however what she actually knew anything about. She sure as hell wasn’t going to write a self help book, or a cook book. She damn sure wasn’t going to write a childrens book; which was what her mother always told her she should write. She honestly found it hard to believe that anyone would find what she had to say interesting enough to read. And after all, isn’t that why people write books? So that other people will read them? Perhaps they write them to be cathartic. Now there was a novel idea – self appreciation and relief through spilling your guts on paper.

The one thing she knew most about was loneliness, and she doubted that anyone would want to read about that. She was a classic example of a dumbass. She was a woman who had spent decades trying to fill a void within her by making poor choices. The candle had gone out. Perhaps it was an omen.

She lit it again and continued typing. She was just over a page into her first rough draft. Her whole life seemed like a rough draft. She had just thrown things out there and amended them as needed to fit the scope of whatever her goals were at the time. Hell, the goal was really always the same. To find someone who would love her. To find someone who would even like her. She longed for someone who would accept all of her flaws and insecurities and would want to be with her in spite of all her shortcomings. She had found several candidates, but no one had ever stuck.

She leaned back in the chair and stretched her back a bit. She reached down and gave the roll of fat just above her waistband a little squeeze. After thirty-seven years, two kids and countless chicken fingers, her stomach area was a little bit out of control. Fine, it was a lot out of control. She smirked as she thought about how many times she had made herself throw up, or taken diet pills so that she could go days without eating. All the pounds she had lost and gained and lost again were too many to keep track of.

The tower of her computer was making its usual annoying humming sound so she gave it a little kick. Kicking a computer is probably not what the manufacturer would recommend, but that is what typically made it stop making the terrible noise. Also, she had never really been much for doing what was recommended. In fact, as a rule she did quite the opposite. It almost surprised her that she hadn’t screwed her life up more that she had. The candle was out again. This time she decided to pour the hot wax out of the glass container and into the now empty box.

She picked up the box from the bed and gave the candle a quick tilt, dumping the wax into the bottom of the box. It started to harden immediately upon contact with the cold cardboard. She lit the candle again and then stared at the wax that was coagulating in the bottom of the box. It reminded her of her last relationship. It had taken a similar course. Everything seemed to be in order for them to have a good run, but like the candle, it just didn’t work out.

They had been friends as children. She had kept up with him through the years through his mother, who was good friends with her “second parents.” He had contacted her via Facebook after years apart and one thing led to another. Before she knew it, they had decided to see each other in person. Being with him again was comforting. There was a familiarity to their relationship that was immediate. Perhaps it was because they had been friends once before, so many years ago, or maybe it was because they were both lonely and desperate and in no real position to truly give or receive love.

This wound was still fresh. She had poured her heart out to him earlier that evening, and much like the hot wax, things began to harden as soon as she had spilled it all. She interpreted his inability to nurture their relationship as failure on her part. Certainly it was because there was something wrong with her. After all, history was repeating itself and it wouldn’t be statistically feasible for every man who had ever left her to be the one that had the problem. It must be her. Logic would dictate that to be the case. Or maybe the only part that was her fault was the fact that she seemed to choose emotionally unavailable men.

She stood up and walked to the front door, grabbing her cigarettes off the small antique table on the way out. She gave her folding chair a kick to make sure no roaches were on it and plopped down. Between long drags and yawns she listened to the crickets and realized how tired she was. The three hour drive from his house to hers had been unusually long tonight. Every song on her iPod had seemed sad. Every text she had gotten from friends as she drove seemed hollow. Except for the joke she had gotten from her friend from back home. That one had actually made her smile. But that bright moment was gone now.

She put out the cigarette and let herself back in the house. She locked the bolt and began turning out lights as she went through the quiet house. She grabbed the half eaten bag of popcorn from the kitchen table. Maybe she would eat a handful or two before bed. She opened the refrigerator and took out the second to the last Fresca. It was unfortunate that there was only one glass of wine left in the bottle.

She returned to her room and squeezed the can of soda into a koozie. She took the last gulp of wine then blew out the candle. She watched as the skinny stream of smoke drifted up and into the air. She knew she would eat the whole bag of popcorn. It was time for bed. The book would have to wait until tomorrow. She wondered if she would actually continue it, or if it would be one more unfinished project on a long list.

And So I Cried

And so the years slip away into a blur of memories. Laughter long forgotten; tears evaporated into time. I sit six feet above my best friend and listen to the Glenn Miller Orchestra as we did so many times before. There is no need for words. We share our silent understanding as only we can. The horns blend the melody of In the Mood. Almost five years now have passed since our fingers have been laced together. As I remain with a content heart, I am surprised as the first tears for him finally flow. I’ve come to him so many times since the morning he lost his voice, each time quietly hoping that I would be able to weep for my loss and feel the peace that sometimes only tears can bring. Today, I come to tell him that my stage of repair is a good one. Suddenly from nowhere, tears finally come. They are subtle in size but tremendous in significance. Each salty drop that rolls down my face and lands on my paper with a thump refreshes me. I dare not wipe them away, but allow them to take their own course and travel from my soul, across my cheeks, onto my words and slowly disappear with each passing thought. So I smile at the thought of him, the one who knew me so well and chose to love me anyway. I’ve often wondered what he would think of the woman I have become. I know in this very moment that he would love me and accept me now just as he ever did. A breeze blows the pages of my journal. A second gust blows a wisp of hair across my face and the final tear falls from my skin. The past remains precious to me. I cradle our memories in my heart. We’ve come so far; adjusting and changing and adapting with each new bend in the road. He was always one to keep up with the times. It’s time to shift from the melody of reminiscing. I want to play him a current song that makes my soul sing now. It’s time to tell him about the terrain of the road I’m traveling. My voice finally breaks the silence, “Allow me to re-introduce you to your granddaughter, she’s been far since you saw her last. I think the tales of her latest journeys will make you smile.” So I lit a cigarette, turned up my iPod and began to cry with a freedom like I haven’t been able to in the longest time, and I thought all the words I wanted to say that wouldn’t be able to be heard by him even if I yelled them.

You Are Here

You give your life, your love, your all to someone; a union of your hopes and dreams; expecting the person to whom you have devoted yourself, to cradle your heart in their hands and they simply place it to the side, almost forgetting it is there yet expecting it to remain where they left it when they decide it is needed. You find yourself cast aside for other priorities, waking to find the course you have taken one filled with emptiness. At the moment you realize that your world is not as you had built, you also find the necessity to continue as if it were for the sake of your legacy, the tiny souls that are looking to you to show them the way. Minds that view you as the answer, watch your every move; mimicking your acts and thoughts and deeds. There is not time for grief or understanding, only a need to continue, to cope to deal. And you maintain as if all things are normal for the sake of others. Your peers relish in your strength, never understanding the weakness that lies beneath. There is no time for tears or longing, only the need to persist. When you speak humbly and honestly, the players smile and make nice, they congratulate you on your vulnerability and move on as if you are indeed fine. You point out that they are not hearing the words that you are blatantly screaming and in return they nod and give you the answers; answers that are not your own, solutions that will never work, phrases of false encouragement. You are strong for the sake of your future. Little eyes are always upon you; learning the ways of life. And in stolen moments of solitude you slowly heal yourself; finding the person you really are is not exactly as you thought yourself to be, nor the image you portray. But in the stillness of the night, in those brief moments of clarity, you understand that you are in repair. It is slow progress, but progress nonetheless. To be dissatisfied with the present is not cause for despair, merely a sign that you have not yet been mended. You are a progression of learning. You are a collaboration of your experience and desire. You are smarter and more determined, yet guarded. The happy medium is not the goal; it is but where you currently reside. Those that envelope you as true companions may cushion the blows, but only you can absorb the brunt of the force of life. The hardest part isn’t moving forward or beyond, it is accepting where you are, and more than sheer acceptance, being content with your place; knowing that the road ahead is long, but the end is obtainable.

Billiards

Shall we play billiards?
Roger will direct my shots.
Who’s really playing?

We need a dollar.
You can get one at the bar.
Same price as L.A.

One more drink, William.
Make this one in a tall glass;
Diet Coke for me.

Clean break. Balls scatter.
Of course, you got a ball in.
Will I get to play?

Smoke rises. My turn.
What do I do now, Roger?
Easy said, not done.

Lucky shot, I guess.
My skill is not a factor.
My turn is over.

Back and forth we trade
Turns, bright smiles, happy laughter.
The game is over.

Now I must play him?
I’d rather be playing you,
But at least you’re close.

This should not take long.
My inexperience shows.
One more lucky shot.

Eight ball side pocket;
If it goes, the game’s over.
Dammit! My stick slipped.

We continue on.
I should have already left.
One more Diet Coke.

One more game? There’s time.
There is nowhere else to go.
I don’t want to leave.

Leaving means goodbye
And I am not ready yet.
So rack them once more.

I watch while you play.
I want a little more time
To memorize you.

To soak up your lines,
To etch your smile in my head,
Your voice in my brain.

Something to take home;
A souvenir of our night
To remember you.

Why’d you make that shot?
That means it is time to go.
Nothing keeping us.

Two thousand fourteen:
Roger looks forward to it.
William is still lost.

We walk to the truck,
One step closer to leaving,
Closer to good bye.

A Good Night

The interstate stretched out before me, speckled with long distance truckers and weary travelers. My normally heavy foot was content to keep the truck merely hovering over the speed limit. The darkness settled in around me and I fumbled in the console for my Nora Jones CD. Twisting blue lights reflected in my rear-view mirror as one of whatever spit-town’s finest pulled over the weaving vehicle I had passed only a moment earlier. It seemed like every other 18 wheeler was marked with the familiar eagle of the US Postal Service; hauling bills and birthday cards and letters to loved ones far removed but not forgotten. The restlessness that had become second nature to me over the past few months was comfortably buried under a quiet contentment. I waited for my mind to race with thoughts of work and kids and things beyond my control. Instead there was only a curious calm. My typically overactive mind seemed to be at a rare rest and I could feel my muscles relax and almost melt into the driver’s seat. I thought for a moment of how we had spent hours talking on the phone; easy conversations that seemed to fly by in minutes. I don’t think I had bothered to have expectations for the evening, even still it occurred to me that the typical moments of brief awkwardness had not presented themselves, nor had we spent the night chatting away about days long past as so many old friends do; almost as if they are not sure how to blend the familiarity of the past with the possibilities of the future. I lit a cigarette and watched through my peripheral vision as the smoke danced out of the open window and into the shadows. Random images floated through my mind: the bend of your arm as you leaned against the dingy pool table preparing to take your shot, the furrowing of your brow as you ridiculously debated how to split the check. As I moved my hand to propel an ash into the wind, I was reminded of the feel of your shoulder blades beneath my fingertips. Then my mind settled in to the remembrance of your kiss; comfortable and perfectly inviting, a kiss that felt like home. I sliced through the early morning fog as the sun rolled over the tree-lined highway. It was almost six o’clock. I should have been tired. But I felt easy and rested. Nora Jones sang softly, “the sun will rise with no reprise; the long day is over,” and as I turned off the main thoroughfare onto the rough county road I could hear the songbirds coming to life in the pines. It had been a good night.

Are We There Yet?

I’ve been suppressing my aspirations with others expectations for so long, that I can’t really even remember what it is I want. But I am finally coming to a place that I realize that not knowing where I am going is acceptable. I’ve always loved getting in my truck and heading down some country road with no destination in mind; letting the wind toss my hair as the radio blasts and the sun bakes the dust and humidity on to my face. I think it is time to wander. It is time to rediscover my soul and figure out not what makes me who I am, but who I am in spite of the circumstances around me. I lay in bed this morning drifting in and out of sleep, images of the ones I love appearing before me on the screens of my eyelids, then fading to black as I slipped once again away from my thoughts. I wondered when I lost my way, when I sold myself short and settled for comfortable instead of exceptional. I’m getting too old and tired to chase dreams, rather I need to grasp my convictions and desires and hold them firmly as I make the steps to the next stage of my life. I don’t know where I’m going. And for once, I think that’s o.k. But I am convinced now more than ever that there is a place that feels like home and I’m ready to find where my heart is. If you pass me along the way and I look confused, please don’t try to point me in the direction where you think I should be going. For I am traveling my own road now, and although I don’t know where it leads, I’m ready to enjoy the ride and not wonder when I will finally get there.

The Truth As I See It

People say that the truth is black and white, but I find there to be very few actual universal truths. I think that we all have our own perception of the truth, and that is the foundation on which we base or reality. When we grow and learn or even simply look at things from a different angle, we often find ourselves feeling as if we have been misled or that we were lied to. However the realities that were always before us were just skewed by our own perceptions.

I have a friend whom with I really enjoy correspondence. I used to think that it was because he was smarter than me and more creative than me, so I found him to be challenging. Recently, I have realized that I really find him challenging because he is honest. He is honest to a level like no other. Not because he will state something without sugar coating it, but because he is honest with himself. Like many of us, he bought his own bullshit for a long time. But unlike a lot of us, he woke up and embraced that he was buying his own fertilizer. He made tough decisions, ones that changed his life and resulted in new tests for him to conquer. But honesty with himself was paramount. He was no longer going to believe the hype that those around him easily accepted.

It was very strange as I spoke to him last on the topic of my insecurities and low self-esteem. He asked me to give examples of how these issues presented themselves. As I thought about it, and thought about when I doubted myself, I kept finding that these times were difficult and that I had uncertainty, but that I worked through it because I had to. It isn’t just me, I told him. I do not have the luxury of failure. I have to survive for my children. And then he asked me if I thought I was so insecure because I had been telling myself that I was for so long? Had I slowly overcome my insecurities out of necessity? Was I really that insecure or was I human? Sure, I doubted myself on a regular basis, but I didn’t doubt myself and give up. I doubted myself and worked harder to prove that I could survive. I worked harder to more than survive. I worked harder to thrive.

I used to embrace Kurt Cobain’s theory of “I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.” But then, I would sometimes find myself adjusting myself to fit someone’s image of what I should be. Changing ever so slightly to be the person someone wanted me to be, so that I could be someone they would love. I think now more than ever, I am really happy with who I am. I see the flaws that are there, and instead of getting down on myself for not being perfect, I can just accept that I’m human and almost even enjoy the imperfections that make me interesting.

It’s funny how sometimes someone who hasn’t laid eyes on you in twenty years can look right into you and see what you have been overlooking for years.

The Neapolitan concept

So you are at the grocery store in the frozen foods and you are thinking about buying some ice cream. You decide to purchase a large container of vanilla. It is a little more expensive but it is going to last a really long time, and after all; vanilla is your absolute favorite. So you take the vanilla home and put it in the freezer. Each day when you get home from work you have a small bowl of vanilla ice cream. You love it. It is wonderful. You don’t even need to put chocolate syrup or peanut butter on it, because it is just perfect all by itself. Then one day, a friend comes over to watch a movie and they bring over a small pint size container of strawberry ice cream. Half way into the movie, you decide on a snack. Your friend offers you some of their strawberry ice cream. You don’t need it. You have your own ice cream. In fact, you don’t really even like strawberry, but you know, you haven’t had anything but vanilla in a really long time. You are just going to have a little bite, and you can go back to vanilla later. The vanilla will still be there for you whenever you want it. So a few days later, you are at the grocery picking up some essentials when you happen down the frozen food aisle. You don’t really need anything. After all, you have plenty of vanilla ice cream at home. But you see those little containers out of the corner of your eye and before you know it, not only have you put a small pint of strawberry into your cart, but also one of chocolate. No big deal, right? Variety is the spice of life. But what about the vanilla at home. You have been eating out of that container for so long. Certainly it will last a while longer. These other containers are small. They will not take long to finish, and they could never replace your love of vanilla. You just want – no you need – a change of pace. So you take the containers home and each night you have some. Soon, the new containers are empty. You get home from work and go to the freezer. You realize the chocolate and strawberry are all gone, but you smile as you see the vanilla sort of pushed to the back. You open it up; happy to see your old favorite, but to your dismay, there is a small bit of freezer burn on the ice cream. With a little work you could easily scrape the frozen part away and have a bowl of your long time favorite flavor, but instead, you are disappointed and you put the container back in the freezer. You decide you will just skip the bowl of ice cream tonight. Now when you come home, you don’t really want a bowl of ice cream anymore. It just doesn’t seem the same as it used to. And your large container of vanilla ends up hidden behind the Lean Cuisine and a bag of frozen broccoli. One night you are sitting in the living room feeling a little down and you remember the vanilla. You run to the fridge and dig it out. But as you remove the lid, you realize that you have left it for too long. The once mild freezer burn has now frozen the contents to the core changing the appearance, the texture and even the taste. You hate to do it. You hate to admit that it has been wasted, but you determine that you have to throw the vanilla away. It just can’t be salvaged.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY: Buy Neapolitan. You get equal parts of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate in the same container. You can have a little of one or a little of the other whenever you like. You can even put all three flavors in the same bowl. There they are, right next to each other, side by side in the same box. And after some time, if you find that you are always finishing the strawberry first, or even throwing out the rest of the vanilla and the chocolate and buying a new container, then you can start buying full gallons of strawberry. But until you are sure, maybe you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one flavor. If you do, a perfectly good container of ice cream is going to go to waste.

I can honestly say that personally, I have never bought a container of Neapolitan. My favorite is Rocky Road. Sort of funny.

A Bad Hand

The person I am is hollow. A shell that’s empty with the exception of the faint echoes of his voice bouncing around my memory. My mistakes are laid out in front of me like cards in the game of solitaire that I played as a child. I continue to shuffle them in hopes of moving them out of the stack and discarding them to the side. Again and again they are shuffled into the deck until I finally admit defeat and acknowledge the hand that’s been dealt is one that cannot win. The tears I cried are gone now. Hope has disappeared as well. Hope and excited anticipation fell away and dried up as the salty tears that welled in my eyes and slowly slipped over my cheeks and rolled heavily off my face. Time has numbed me but hasn’t healed. I remain in waiting like a dutiful dog, too well trained to abandon the cause yet too dumb to understand that the command has already been given. There is no reward for my diligence. No treat for my loyalty. I’m just an abandoned, homeless little dog that sits as a statue and ignores the well meaning passersby who try to coax me to let them take care of me. And so I continue to deteriorate, refusing to admit I’ve been discarded, even though it is painfully obvious.

Move it along, please. There’s nothing to see here.

It’s funny sometimes how life is. There are days that you can feel completely alone. You feel like there is no one on the planet that could possibly ever understand who you are or how you feel. Then there are the times that you connect with a person on a level that you couldn’t have imagined possible. It is as if for a moment there is this hope of being understood and appreciated and even maybe loved. These people make you think about things in a whole new light. And in return you challenge them to see themselves for who they are. Things become clear in a way that they never have before. And then they slam the door in your face. It is so hurtful when this happens. It is so easy to think that this perfect partner has changed their mind about you. Perhaps you even think that there is something wrong with you. But upon closer reflection, you realize that it has nothing to do with you at all. Just because you have accepted the person that you are and are willing to share yourself, flaws and all, doesn’t mean that others; even the ones that totally get you, are ready to be so open with themselves. As much as I find it comforting to have someone understand and accept me, for some people this may be a little too close for comfort. Often our facades are more interesting and acceptable than the true people we are. And as great as it is to have someone love the real inner you, it can be difficult to let go of the exterior view of ourselves and allow someone to fully see the inferior beings that we are. And when someone sees the real us without us even vulnerably allowing it, it is even scarier. We realize just how thin our shell really is. We realize that although we are fooling ourselves, we are not fooling many others. And so we find ourselves at a crossroads. We can take the path of utter and complete acceptance and love or we can go the route of illusions and friendships built on false foundations. Although that perfectly imperfect person has totally understood us and chosen to love us anyway, we are not ready to love ourselves. And so we walk away. We walk away from all the things that we have deeply hoped for but slowly given up on. We walk away from our shot at happiness and pull our persona around us like a warm blanket hoping that it will keep the chill away instead of just letting someone else in.

I’m sitting on the balcony typing away as these thought come to mind. John Mayer is singing Wheel through the ear buds of my iPod. “People have the right to fly and will when it gets compromised. Their hearts say move along, their minds say guard your heart, let’s move it along.” Although I have the music turned up way too loud, it still doesn’t drown out the sound of the waves crashing on the shore below me. I glance beyond the screen of my lap top just as the sun sinks into the ocean amid a blurry pool of orange and pink and blue. I hear each individual wave as it beats the sands of the shore with a thump. Just as you can feel your heart beat in your ears at times, I can feel your words hitting me in the chest with a velocity that rivals the white caps below; each word knocking the wind out of me. As cavalier as it would be to chalk it up to your loss, the truth of the matter is that the loss is shared. And John Mayer sings on, “I believe that my life’s gonna see the love I give return to me.”

My Grandfather’s Grave

Winter and death and cold and sadness do tend to go hand in hand. I feel energized when I hear the crunching of leaves beneath my feet and smell wood fires and know that fall is near. I even enjoy the winter. At some point, I will hit a wall and feel cold and not be able to get warm. I will begin to think of death and sadness. I will mentally prepare myself for the next day. I will tell myself that this is the year that I am going to cry and let it all go. And then, more than likely, on Saturday, February 7, I will go sit on the cold earth and get a chill in my toes that will stay all day. I will feel my cheeks go numb in the wind and my nose will start to run from the cold. I will talk to my love, my soul mate and friend, and will tell him how I wish I was with him, or he with me and how nothing could ever be the same. I will tell him I still long for someone to love me the way that he did. I will tell him that I desire nothing more than the simple acceptance and adoration that he had for me. And then I will sit in silence. I will sit for as long as my bones can stand the cold. And when the tears still do not come, I will rise and drop the flowers from my hand, tell my grandfather I love him and walk away as I mutter, “Maybe next year.”

Scars of the Soul

I think over time each of our individual heartaches and disappointments become one collective bundle of pain. As we forgive and move on and get over them the pain lessens and becomes much like a scar on our skin; it blends with the rest of us but is always just a little numb. We even tend to forget about them until something hits them at just the right angle and make us remember exactly how it felt when the wound was fresh. A word, a gesture, a song, a face – so many things can conjure up the feelings of old, yet the single sting of the situation is muddled with the remnants of so many other moments of disenchantment. It doesn’t seem to be quite the same with happiness. I can remember each singular moment of bliss as a separate entity in my mind. For some reason those happy times stand alone. Perhaps that is why it is said that misery loves company, for it appears that my past sadness is lumped in a heap and is as difficult to separate as a pot of overcooked grits. Maybe that is why when we feel let down by other people; it seems to echo a despondency that initiates an urgency for self reflection and even accountability. Hurt me twice, shame on me syndrome. Possibly we just take things a little harder the older we get. Knowing the value of a friendship as an adult makes loosing faith in those friends harder to accept, more wretched than when we were children who promised our loyalty as a bribe and threatened to retract it on a whim. It would seem impossible for me to become more sensitive as I also become more cynical, but at times that is how I feel. I can’t decide if I care more now than I ever did or if I just don’t care at all.

The Phenomenon of Classical Conditioning

It seems like we are always given two choices. It really doesn’t matter what the situation, there is always a choice. The obvious: paper or plastic, yes or no, left or right. But even when things are handed to us and it seems like we do not have control, we still have the two choices of accept things how they are or don’t accept things and try to change them. Survive or give up. It is almost like the classic fight or flight concept that they teach in early psychology.

Although many of us find ourselves stuck in a Pavlovian rut, we do have the ability to change things. The hardest thing to change sometimes seems to be our very minds. We easily believe what others tell us, especially if it is negative, and soon we feel a despair that is so heavy that it is pulling us down. I think women do it more than men. This sucks. It is like an abusive relationship. Women tend to stay a lot longer when a man would have just walked away. I can totally empathize to a point. Having been in an abusive relationship myself, I think that the metal and verbal abuse just lays the groundwork for what comes next. It puts us in the frame of mind that we can’t do any better – or worse – that we don’t deserve any better. I am fortunate that I was able to break the cycle early and leave when it was time. But there are so many people who suffer for so long, or forever.

I am struggling now with the workplace. Working for a volunteer board has always had its challenges, but when it is so political that the people who do the work are treated like they are worthless and the “glad hand well met” is treated like royalty even though they are merely vessels of hot air and empty promises; it can start to get to you. So now the choice: leave or stay is the gut instinct, but even more so is the accept it or change it concept. The latter is such a difficult thing. If you accept it, then you have accepted defeat. If you try to change it – wow, what a long road. It is almost like a game of espionage. How true are your allies? Who is really in bed with whom? What deals are unspoken that you do not know about? Who is a sell out and who is not?

There are a lot of us that face difficult decisions every day. Single moms can really have it hard. Trust me on this one. Dealing with illness weakens us. Cancer sucks and rips people and families apart. Mouthy kids coupled with self doubt breeds uncertainty. Are you doing the best you can? Could someone else do it better? Did you make the right decisions? Would you do it differently if you could do it over? I hate that question. Let’s say we get a do over. If I did it over, I would screw up just as much, just in different areas.

I am struggling right now with staying focused. Keeping the eye on the prize is sometimes hard when you aren’t sure what the prize is. I don’t need a long dissertation about the heavenly prize, that isn’t what I am talking about. I know that God is in control, that all things come together for His good; treasures are being stored for me in heaven and all that stuff. I am talking here and now and this life on this earth and these everyday situations. I mean how many times did Pavlov have to ring the damn bell before the dog salivated? It makes you wonder how many times you can get kicked in the teeth before you accept defeat.

I love to get fired up about stuff. I love to get hot under the collar and ready for a fight. It means I am living and confident and ready to take on the world. But when too much happens at one time it makes you go beyond the passion and the fight and just feel flat. That is what I hate. I don’t want to accept things. I want to be a catalyst for change. I want to create my own future and mold my own destiny. I don’t want some figurehead or doctor or chamber executive in a badly fitted sear-sucker suit telling me how my story is going to end. I am stronger than I look. I am NOT going down without a fight. I am determined and I AM going to defy the odds.

An Unexpected Apology

Sometimes bad things happen to us that seem totally out of the blue. The sort of stuff that seems to knock the wind out of us and we can’t breathe. As hurtful as some of these things are, they can be equally confusing. People say that everything happens for a reason. There are times, however when it appears that there is no reason associated with our plight. After a few days or weeks or years, we move on. We heal from the pain and the need for reason subsides. We chalk it up to just being part of life. We consider it a character builder. And on the random occasion that our mind stumbles across the memory, the remembrance is fleeting and little if any thought is given to searching for answers. And then one day, for whatever raison d’être, a man sends you a message and tells you that his life has accumulated few real regrets, but that one of them is hurting you. And twenty years after the last time you spoke, he tells you that he is sorry. And then he tells you why he did what he did. And you sit there with your mouth agape and read the words again. For one of the handful of times in your life, you are speechless. You are thankful. You are overcome. You know the reasons. His vulnerability is humbling and you remember why you ever loved him to begin with. And from that point forward, on that rare instance when you hear that song on the radio that reminds you of him, you can smile.

Thank you for telling me. It means more than you know.

Waiting To Be Played

I feel like Willie Nelson’s guitar, Trigger. I’m sure when he purchased the instrument, it was in pristine condition; an anxious tool just waiting to display to the world all the good that could come from it if properly handled. Over time, the music produced from Trigger has inspired millions and led countless people to laughter and tears. With time has come damage. The exterior of the famed guitar is worn, to say the least. If it were left on a park bench, a passerby may even mistake it for trash. But the melodious sounds that still come from the device are just as hypnotic as the day it was first strummed.

Sometimes I feel like the world has chewed me up and spit me out. There are days that I feel tired and worse for the wear. I feel like my outside is tattered and scratched and abused. But I still feel like I have much to give. I still feel like the soul of me is pure and good. Sometimes what one sees with the naked eye is not what is really there. Sometimes we mistake possible perfection for disheveled deficiencies. Sometimes we just need someone to look past our external flaws and appreciate us for the potential we have to achieve beauty if tenderly encouraged. So I remain; sitting on the park bench being regarded or rather disregarded as useless; just waiting to be played.

Promise Me One Thing: Nothing

Words are just words. You can take them or leave them. Believe them or not. Actions are what count. I’d rather have someone never promise me anything than to break the simplest of vows. It is so pessimistic to hope for nothing and be pleasantly surprised if something good happens. But when you examine that philosophy and compare it to one where you expect even the mundane and it doesn’t come to fruition, I would pick the cynical view any day. The sad thing is that some people just overlook the simple things and never realize that these empty promises are the ones that hurt most. It is unfortunate that people can be so absorbed in their own absolute universe that they never realize that they are surrounded by amazing things; things from which they will never be able to benefit because they are too busy taking advantage of them.

Losing a Friend

One of the hardest things in the world is losing a friend to death. It is so final. So abrupt. So totally life changing on the inside although nothing on the outside changes. You will never be able to talk to them again. You will never be able to hold each other when you hurt. You can never confide your secrets to them. Or simply hear them laugh. Sometimes death comes like a thief in the night and takes a part of us that we never knew we needed so badly until it was gone. I think even worse, however is when you lose a friend who continues to live. You could talk to them, but they just won’t listen. You could hold them, but they won’t let you. You can’t hear them laugh because they have taken that gift away from you. When someone dies, you at least have the consolation that it wasn’t planned. It wasn’t a premeditated act of removing your friendship. But when a friend walks away, every time you wish that you could talk to them you have to face that not only are they not there for you, but they are not there for you because they don’t want to be. You are not important enough to them for them to stand tall and weather the storm. And as heart breaking as it is that you no longer have them in your life, it is almost unbearable to know that they are not there by choice. And as you struggle to forget them, you wonder if you were so easily forgotten. You wonder if it hurt them to walk away or if they simply never cared at all. I assure you that the ignorance of their intent is anything but bliss. It is torture. And so you continue on with a hole in your heart and a sadness in your soul. Wondering. Waiting. Never knowing.

No Longer Believe

The bony creature that stares into the mirror and sees a fat girl looking back. The wounded soldier who continues to fight the battle and never realizes that he’s been hit. The red eyed, crying child that insists he isn’t tired. Call it denial. Call it ignorance. Call it whatever you’d like. We all believe things that the rest of the world mocks. Perhaps it is merely hope or aspiration or desperation. Maybe we have all gotten to the point of building our own realities because so much of the world is trying to steal our optimism. All I know is that I no longer believe everything I think. I can’t decide if this is liberating or debilitating. I have moved from a space of confident anticipation; challenging the world to prove me wrong, to standing in a puddle of numb awareness; demanding those I respect most to prove me right. I envy the ignorant with their pipe-dreams. For if ignorance is truly bliss, total awareness is indeed brutal. I can’t breathe. It is as if knowledge, or rather acknowledgment, has knocked the wind out of me and left me gasping for air. I long for my false hopes as one longs for the dead – wishing they were still with me to comfort me, but knowing they can never return. They are irreplaceable. They are just fading memories of happier days long past.

Pin Point of Light

One of my dad’s favorite movies is The Never Ending Story. I’m not sure why. But I remember the part at the end when the imaginary world has all but disappeared and there is just a single spec left. The princess hands the granule to the little boy and tells him that it is all that is left of her world, that the rest has been devoured by the Nothing. She tells him that it is up to him to recreate it and make it bigger and better than it was before. Sometimes I feel like I am surrounded by darkness; a dark so pitch that my eyes can never adjust. But it seems that even then, I have a single tiny pin-point of light. I can hear Norah Jones sing, “My heart is drenched in wine.” I see the profile of a man as he rips the filters off of cigarettes and inhales each one almost as quickly as it is lit. I dispense ketchup into a small, paper cup at Burger King and hand it to my child. He smiles with glee and asks, “Is that one of your many talents, Mama?” “Yes, it is, Scout,” I reply. Dozier puts his arm around my shoulder and pats my arm, almost like I am his child and not the other way around. I smile. I look down and notice that the pin-point of light has grown. Every day as the sun rises, the night is dispelled around me. Yet even as the sky turns orange and pink and bright, some days I still find myself surrounded by the dark. Yet I always seem to have that minuscule speck of light; that microscopic ray that allows the darkness to envelop me, but never engulf me. And I begin, once again, to create what my world will be, and I am given the opportunity to make it bigger and better than before.

I Have No Idea

It occurred to me at some point last night that I was really more concerned with someone else’s happiness than I was my own. I have to admit that was an odd thing. I don’t think I have ever felt like that about someone other than my kids. In a way, it was comforting to me. I didn’t allow myself to look at the clock. I knew the phone wasn’t going to ring. And that was o.k., too. This wasn’t about me. This wasn’t about me not being good enough. This wasn’t about there being anything wrong with me. I have realized that I am good enough. And you know what? There isn’t anything wrong with me. Sometimes people make decisions based on their abilities and not yours. Sometimes people just can’t get past their own insecurities or the demands of their life or whatever it is inside of them that makes them decide that the risk isn’t worth the reward. The future is uncertain. All we can do is prepare ourselves for what we think may be ahead and go along for the ride. Even a perpetual planner like me knows that there is no such thing as a sure thing. But I still hold true to the belief that I would rather regret things that I have done, than to regret things that I didn’t do. It makes me sad that there are people all around me that can never go back and do the things that they wish they had done. They go to sleep wondering “What if?” I don’t know what lies ahead, but I know that I am not going to miss opportunities because I was scared to be me. Scout crawled into bed with me early this morning and snuggled up next to me. He asked, “What’s going to happen today, Mama?” And instead of telling him all of the things that are planned for the day like I normally do, I simply responded, “I have no idea.” And we were both o.k. with that.

Life

I was thinking about writing the story of my life, but I’m not sure if my life has really begun. I mean, I’m thirty-seven years old, have a good job, a nice house and two kids; but sometimes I don’t really feel like I’m doing anything that is really living. Sometimes I feel like I am standing on the corner and cars and people and birds are just whizzing by me in fast forward while I am standing on pause. What am I really doing? What is the reason behind it all? You go to sleep so you can make it to morning. You get up and go to work so you can make it to quitting time. You go home and get everything ready for the next day. Where in all of the repetition is the life part?

Scout goes to bed every night holding my hand. That feels like life, but it is so fleeting. It is a split second of drifting between the waking giggles of an adoring child to a serene little mouth agape beneath the curtains of dreams. His grip loosens and I am left alone watching him sleep; merely covering his hand with mine. The connection is lost – the moment of sweetness now almost bitter.

Dozier will wrap his arms around me and I swear I melt into him. It is like our bodies blend into one big mushy blob of perfection. He kisses me with the rough tenderness of a ten year old and leaves a wet reminder on my cheek. But in a flash he is angered that I insist he go to bed, and his affections that were given so freely quickly turn to contempt.

My heart skips a beat when someone I care for makes me laugh. One of those laughs that I have to take a breath in the middle of. And when I do, I hear him laughing, too. Like two parts of a melody blending together to form the perfect harmony. But just as quickly the moment is gone, and as I drift into my own slumber the sound fades and can hardly be remembered.

Is life made up of these glimpses of contentment? Is there something that holds them together? Is there some paraffin that congeals all the indications of true happiness so that a person can feel completely whole? Everyone wants someone to love them and accept them. Everyone wants their Jerry McGuire to complete them. But the thing is – I am already complete. I don’t need anyone to make me who I am or make me better. I am the most perfect version of me that I could possibly be. Maybe we all just need someone to take us for who we are. Maybe we all just need someone who gets us. We need someone who is as endeared by our flaws as they are by our brief moments of splendor. Maybe I just need to stop listening to my Nora Jones CD.

14 Lunches Later

In the summer of 1995, I was walking down a sidewalk in downtown New York City, New York, with some friends. As we passed an ice cream parlor, I noticed an old man sitting alone eating a strawberry ice cream cone. About a block later one of my friends noticed I was crying and asked what was wrong. I told her about the old man. It was so sad to me. I love old men. There is something so venerable about their frail bodies that are hunched over with the weight of a lifetime, their eyes full of history and their wrinkles laced with memories. I decided that night that old men should never have to eat alone. Since then, whenever I see an old man eating by himself, I ask them if I can join them. I have enjoyed the company of fourteen gentlemen since that day.

I met Sid in Union Springs, Alabama. I pumped his gas for him and then we split a pack of cheese crackers. He told me about his grandson, Darius, who was attending Auburn University. He was the first person in Sid’s family to ever go to college. He cried as he told me about him.

Farmer and I ate hot dogs in Bayou la Batre, Alabama. When I asked him how he had made his living, he told me he was a farmer. Before I could smile he said, “What else could I do with a name like Farmer?”

In Paducah, Kentucky, I ate chili cheese fries and drank a strawberry shake with Emmett. He was a retired physician. I asked him how he stayed so young looking. He told me that he always paid attention to nutrition. “I mean look at this meal. We have had all the basic food groups in one sitting!”

In the airport in St. Louis, Missouri, I met Franklin. He told me he had been in love with the same woman for fifty-seven years. “The only real problem with her” he said, “is she is married to my brother.” I told him that he was breaking my heart. “Then I guess we should order a beer,” he replied. We did.

In the airport in Newark, New Jersey, I ate cheeseburgers with Spencer. He was waiting on his grandson to arrive. He was about to meet his great granddaughter for the first time. Her name was Isabelle.

In Jasper, Alabama, I dined with Lexington. He had a twin brother who drowned when they were ten years old. He had chili and I ate a grilled cheese sandwich. It was the anniversary of his brother’s death.

George and I met at Durbin Farms in Clanton, Alabama. He and his wife Delores had been putting up peaches for over forty years. He didn’t think two less peaches would hurt, so we sat together and ate two of the most perfect peaches ever grown. While peach juice dripped from our sticky fingers, he told me about his daughter. She had become addicted to pain killers after a car accident that had taken her husband’s life. She had been addicted for years. She had tried several times to get help, but things were never the same.

Bobby and I met in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee. His son had been killed in Vietnam. He still had the flag that the army gave him at the funeral. It was on his bed-side table. We ate ham and cheese sandwiches.

Reginald and I ate home made fried chocolate pies at a little gas station in Sand Rock, Alabama. He was a carpenter by trade. When he got married, he made his wife a bed out of cherry as her wedding gift. Two years before we met, he had built her casket.

On the river bank in Augusta, Georgia, I had a liquid lunch of cheap vodka with Sanford. We shared a game of chess and talked politics. He told me about how he learned to read sitting outside the window of the white school house. He beat me badly at chess.

Richard and I ate barbecue at the Smokehouse at the Pineapple/Greenville, Alabama exit on I65. He thought his son was gay, but was too embarrassed to bring it up to him and tell him that he loved him anyway.

Charles, “I just hate the nickname Chuck,” was finishing his meal in Fort Deposit, so I joined him for a slice of ice box lemon pie. He had been a high school football coach. The Hornets were undefeated his last season.

Robert was a “dealer of formerly cherished, fine antiquities.” He had the best junk store in Mentone, Alabama. He found early on, that if you word things just right, that people will pay more for something. “They buy the story just as much as the furniture.”

Jerry was having tomato soup in Leeds, Alabama. I just had a soda. His daughter was married to “a real jackass, but their kids are real cute.”

Fourteen lunches later, I can remember these mens faces. I can remember their stories. They are forever burned in my memory. But the face that I see more clearly than them all is the one that belongs to the story that I never knew. It is the most intriguing one of all – the cutest little man sitting quietly alone on a hot summer night in New York City slowing eating a strawberry ice cream cone. I think if I could have one “do over” in life, I would go back to that street that night, walk into the ice cream parlor and simply ask, “Mind if I join you?”

Welcome to Wal-Mart. Do You Have a Return?

I have heard people say over the years that there is someone for everybody. Everyone has a soul mate. Whatever. I really don’t think I believe this. I think that there are some people who are meant to be alone. I don’t mean in the crazy cat lady sense, but some people who don’t need a Jerry Maguire type to complete them. The two biggest problems with this thought are that A) I believe in the bible and it says that man is not meant to be alone and B) I have been to the local Wal-Mart.

Nothing gives you better perspective on life than your local Wal-Mart. Feeling like crap? Feeling fat? Think you are ugly? Maybe so, sister, but head on down to your local Wal-Mart and I guaran-damn-tee that there are at least 7.6 other people fatter and uglier than you ever thought about being. There are also at least 4 out of 10 people with fewer teeth than you, worse body odor than you, worse hair days than yours and nastier feet than you. I have heinous feet and I can even find people who should not be allowed to wear flip flops more so than me. Now that is saying something.

The thing about Wal-Mart is that you see some of these biological enigmas and they are attached to a second genetic wonder. Their un-groomed, hairy knuckled fingers are intertwined with another set of oddly grotesque fingers. These heroes of the skirted palace have found another person with which to spend their time. After the clock has been punched on Friday, they know what they are doing and it involves items that are canned, charcoal and their red hot burning love. Although most of these people should not mate, many if not most do, and they in turn will find others like themselves and continue this cycle. So where does that leave me?

Joe Bob with three fingers on his left hand (and yes, he will tell you all about the time he made homemade sausage) and Cindy Sue with her green eye that points east and her blue eye that faces south, have found each other and are happily shopping for drill bits and dog biscuits at the local Wal-Mart. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, there is a perfectly good heart surrounded by a none-too-shabby body and engineered with an above average brain that is blogging on facebook because there is nothing better to do and no one to do it with. So is there someone for everybody? Is there really a soul mate for each of us? Or perhaps the better question should be if there is someone for everyone, how the hell are we supposed to end up together?

All I know is that I am one step closer to therapy and the local psychologist is female, and so that’s not how it’s going to happen. My assistant at work signs for all of my UPS packages, so I don’t see any “special deliveries” in my future. So short of getting hit by a car and meeting….no, that won’t even work. I have already met all of our EMT staff. So what? What? Can I get an answer here? And before you go and say that it is because I am too discerning, or that I’m intimidating, or any of that crap, just go ahead and shut the hell up. Because there is someone for EVERYBODY, remember? I still don’t know that there is.