You ask me how I’ve been,
how have things been.
Am I alright?
I say nothing. I smile.
I repeat your questions back to you.
You say that you’re great,
that things are going well; I know you
well enough to know when you are lying,
but I don’t push. I don’t call you on it.
That is a side of me you don’t like –
the one that never takes no
or the easy answer.
We’re standing in the aisle
of a grocery store; I’m not wearing
any makeup, and it makes me feel naked.
I try to pretend that I’m not still wearing
my pajamas at three in the afternoon.
You look good, like always.
I force myself not to look at your hands,
to focus on your eyes. It is harder
than you’d think.
It is two days before Valentine’s Day.
I’m buying enough chocolate to feed
a multitude of broken hearts. No one else
seems to soothe mine, so I’ve taken it
upon myself to fix it. I even bought glue
and duct tape in the form of Dove
and tequila. I watch you notice
while trying not to look. That makes me smile.
In another world, we are making small talk.
In mine, I am trying not to run.
I am trying to be the stronger, brave person.
I wish you’d go away, but I still
don’t want you to leave (story of my life).
You only have a few things in your hands.
No basket. No cart. Just enough
for us to keep our distance – no hugging,
no kiss on the cheek. There is, despite what people say,
safety in objects. I smile wider, telling you
I have to go. Lying: it was good seeing you.
What was that in your eyes? Was it sadness?
You don’t get to be sad. It was you who broke me
in half, like a cheap little rag doll. You don’t get
to be sorry about it. But you are. I don’t know
how to handle that.
You say goodbye, and I turn to walk away,
praying that my feet remember how to move,
but you say wait
and I turn toward you, again, though I don’t
remember moving at all. You’ve put your groceries on the ground,
and you are looking at me
with a question on your lips; those words, you don’t say.
Those things you don’t ask. You walk a step toward,
your arms around me, mine (somehow) around you –
you kissed me, softly, quickly,
hoping that no one would notice.
I did. I noticed. I wish you hadn’t done that.
I have this rule for my friends. I don’t have many. I am not a PITA (pain-in-the-ass). This rule, though, has existed since I was in college. It is: don’t call me late at night. (I have blogged about many times before, including on a different blogging site.) There are some exceptions to this rule (a guideline, if you will.) The exceptions are roughly:
- If you need a ride, because your car broke down, OR because you’re drunk
- If you are bleeding somewhere and need assistance
- Your husband/wife has just left you in a flurry of broken glass and angry words
- A relative died
- You have just accidentally set your kitchen on fire, and you’d rather not be alone
- The cat you’re sitting for has just begun to have kittens, and you need someone who is good with animals
(Some of those things actually happened.) My point is that it’s basically an [insert tragedy here] kind of privilege. That is the reason I keep my phone on all the time. In Case of Emergency, Call Ali. I’m good in a crisis. I like to help, even if it is just listening to you. That’s no big.
But when this courtesy gets violated, I get angry. I turn kind of Hulkish. I want to smash things. Once I get woken up like that, I have a difficult time getting back to sleep. I will attempt to repair this breach of rest with mass quantities of Java, but the mighty bean has its limits.
To me, it’s a matter of respect. I get up at the ass crack of dawn. I don’t run around calling my friends or ringing their doorbells. Why? Because I wasn’t raised by common sense lacking WOLVES. (Rest assured, then, that my name is not Mowgli. I am also, in case there was any doubt, not the Six Fingered Man or The Dread Pirate Roberts. The real Dread Pirate Roberts…)
Two nights ago, at three in the morning, my phone rang. I fumbled for it, looked at the number and didn’t bloody recognize the blasted thing. It was a local call. I waited, and a voicemail was left. It was a guy that I haven’t spoken to in about EIGHT years. EIGHT YEARS. Why does he still have my cell number in his phone? And, better yet, why the frak is he using it at THREE IN THE MORNING? (I feel like now is an appropriate time to reference Go the Fuck to Sleep).
I listened to the message, because hey — I was awake! I expected to hear a frantic warning that aliens had taken over the earth. That monkeys had finally learned to build lasers and were coming after our species. I expect a plague of locusts, flaming hail, and some kind of evil supervillian ready to take over the world through media! (Gah, as much as I love Jonathan Pryce, that was the WORST Bond villain EVER. Not to be confused with the worst Bond Girl ever, which we can all agree right now was Denise Richards as Christmas Jones.)
So, what did my long lost friend want? Oh, JUST TO CHAT. The entire message consisted of, “Hey, it’s [name redacted to protect the annoying]. I was just calling to say hi and catch up. So, give me a call back, ok?”
That’s it. Nothing life-threatening or illuminating. I should also point out that he did not leave a last name, and it only happens that I only know one local person with his (very COMMON) first name. I was completely dumbfounded. I was still dumbfounded when I listened to the message later on in the morning. And still, later on in the afternoon when I played the damn thing again. I kept hoping to make some kind of excusable sense out of it. I did not.
You don’t call a person at three in the morning just to say hello. If you really want to say hello, wait until at LEAST the daylight hours, preferably AFTER I’ve had my coffee. Otherwise, I cannot guarantee coherence. Unless you’ve turned into Lestat, Edward (please don’t sparkle near me, dude), or one of the Salvatore brothers — there’s no need to call me JUST to say HI in the middle of the night.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to practice my Buffy moves for a bit, just in case this guy turns out to be the Master — with a serious case of Fruit Punch mouth.
This weekend, I had a friend visiting from Montreal. I had a geek-tastic good time (discussions on BSG, X-Men, books, and the fine art of sarcasm were had). It was the kind of visit without pretense. Just fun. Talking about whatever came into our heads, often in rabid-fire succession. It was brilliant, really.
We did simple things, like cook, grocery shop at a farmer’s market, walk in the woods, see a movie (Kung-Fu Panda 2 = awesome), and just…talk. I’m sitting here drinking my coffee, still trying to drink it all in. Drink it all in? I hate that phrase. It sounds pretentious. Moving on…
The funny thing about life, sometimes, are the people who end up being closest to you. The ones who see your scars and mistakes, who look at you when your dog has just drug you across the lawn (true story) and ask if you’re ok (possibly while laughing — which I was too. I looked like a cartoon).
My friend and I have known each other for years. We’ve emailed a lot. This was the first time we’d met in person. And she’s exactly who I’d thought she’d be (thus, Made of Awesome). Sometimes, there is a disconnect between who a person seems to be and who they are — in everyday life, and in other forms, too. Gayle Carline (hi Gayle!) had this discussion not too long ago, about people’s online persona not exactly matching up with their in-person one. Some people only write witty or boldly. Me? This is who I am, warts and all. Sure, I could pretend otherwise, but WHY? Who has that kind of time or energy? Not I, said the cat. (Childhood story reference ftw!)
So, my dear Canadian friend was a wonderful guest — and I absolutely cannot wait for her to come back. And I definitely plan on going to visit her. I apologized in advance for the amount of calories that would be involved, and I’m pretty sure I lived up to the Italian stereotype of Overfeed Your Guests. My mother taught me well, and my grandma would be damn proud.
On the docket for today, writing and helping my Best Friend. Tomorrow’s blog will be on why you should never call me at 3 am. Stay tuned, darlings.
A Conversation About the Love Poem I Wouldn’t Write
One Sunday, between coffee
and taking care of the dirty sheets,
you asked me: would you ever
write a happy poem?
I told you no. I said
that chaos dances better
on my tongue, that desire
dreams more vividly
than any shiny
happy thing – so no I wouldn’t
write a happy poem.
Fine, you said. I knew you didn’t
understand, but you were trying –
and that has to count for something.
What about a love poem?
With one hand dirty, the other hand clean,
that stopped me mid-smile. What about a love poem?
Could I do that? Make something
that shines with our secrets, that dances
through the darkness, that comes out
on the other side of silence – warm
and pleased, like a lazy cat?
Love. Is that what that is?
Is that how it’s supposed to be
or seem? I didn’t know. I still don’t.
I must’ve smiled
and shook my head. You looked sad
for a moment, and then left the room.
I called out to you, saying
I can’t write you that,
but I can write you a lust poem,
something that’s still slippery
in the dark, but not easily grasped.
It’s harder to explain love
than lust. One is complete need. The Other
is a combination of need
and everything else.
You didn’t reappear. I heard you
call back No, I already know
how lust feels in my mouth; I wanted
to taste love for just a moment,
salt and syllables
boiled down to stanzas
and line breaks and word choice.
And if I can’t do that? I asked.
I was afraid of the words,
afraid of the question. It’s always easier
to ask forgiveness, not permission –
but sometimes, the lie
is easier to hear than truth.
You didn’t say anything.
I heard the shower start running.
The bathroom door shut
with a click. Something ran
out of the room then, limping
and wet, shadowy and impossibly quick.
I don’t know what it was.
I might if I saw it again.
All I know is that it did not come back.
When I was a kid, my dad was my soccer coach. Sure, I may have given him a run for his money (I threw up on the field once; another time, I ended up with a sporadic bloody nose), my dad coached my team. He also came to every chorus concert I was in and even the one competition we did at Great Adventure. (No one calls it Six Flags. Sorry.) He taught me how to fish and how to crab — and how to use a drill, saw, and change a flat tire.
Whenever I got lost driving, I called Dad. Okay, let me be REALLY honest: I still do. He is a human GPS, and he gives directions that I can actually follow (“You should see a really big tree soon. When you do, you’re going to turn left.”). One morning, when I was in undergrad, I spent four hours on the phone with my dad, because they closed just about EVERY road I needed to take to get to my school. Patient to his core, he handled my panic, “THIS road is closed TOO!”
My dad is a good person – one of the best out there. He not only helps every member of his family without hesitation, but anyone who needs it. He gives up his seat if an elderly person needs it. He changes flat tires and fixes broken, well, anything. (He’s the handiest person I’ve ever met.)
Granted, Dad has a dry sense of humor – and he likes to tease (me) a lot. It is a sign of affection, really. It’s when he DOESN’T pull your leg that you have to worry. Also, if he sounds serious, he’s probably joking (like the time he told me that the bathtub was blue, and I – silly me – believed him).
I couldn’t have asked for a better dad. He couldn’t possibly be a better person. He might be impossibly difficult to shop for (“I don’t NEED anything!”), but that’s okay. We all have our flaws.
To my dad on Father’s Day – thanks for teaching me math (even when I thought I couldn’t understand cosigns), thanks for putting up with my faults and flaws (who left that drawer open? Ummmm, that’d be me), and thanks for always being there for me. Love you, Daddy.
I wonder if we try to make things work too often. If we force things instead of just letting them be. I was thinking about that idea last night as I was trying to sleep. This morning, the thoughts are still with me.
How often have you said (or heard someone else say), “If I can just change this, everything will be better?” Or “If I try a little bit harder, this will work out?”
We say those things a lot. And I’m all for putting in the necessary work, whether it’s the pursuit of a personal goal or relationship. Everything worth having is worth working for. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen.
Over the years, I’ve learned not to push things (and people) to the point that I used to. Things don’t fall in to place like some magic from a fairytale. You have to get your hands dirty. And you also have to be willing to look at any given situation and SEE it. You can’t will something to happen. (I’m sorry. I’m shattering illusions, here. But The Secret? That’s a load of crap that boils down to…think positive! That’s not a revelation. That’s an attitude.)
If it’s not working, stop doing it. That sounds simple, doesn’t it? But hell, it’s often so hard to do. We get stuck on ideas and people, like a skipping record. Whether it’s simple for comfort’s sake, or because we’re fixated on the IDEA of a person or adventure, it doesn’t matter. The result is still the same, and we often suffer for it.
So, let me repeat that: if it’s NOT working, STOP doing it. Stop banging your head against the wall, expecting different results. See, insanity. And, also, a doctor. You probably have a concussion.
Why waste that kind of time and effort on something that either isn’t working or is making you miserable? It’s far braver to recognize the damage and do something about it. Like the human version of Spring cleaning. Sift through what works, what doesn’t work, what MIGHT work, and what could never in a million years come to pass. It’s its own kind of freedom, getting rid of that weight, that Albatross of Maybe that really is the Albatross of HELL NO.
Otherwise, your new name is Sisyphus, and you’ve made your own boulder.
I’ve started to write this blog twice. Each time, it’s come out wrong. Let’s see if I can get it right this time.
There are ghosts in the walls. Of course, the walls are metaphorical and the ghosts are not literal. But all the same, they are there. These things exist. Memories and habits, quirks and bits of the past, mulling around making noise.
Like any proper ghost, you can’t see these things. They manifest themselves in snatches of quivering reality, a slight chill or a familiar smell. Just enough truth to rule out the lie.
What do you do with your ghosts? Your lesser moments? Your ever-present haunting? It doesn’t matter if these things are pleasant or not; they are, without exception, always there. No person is the sum of his/her past. It’s merely a part in a larger parcel. A piece.
But sometimes, these things wail. They scratch at the things that bind them into silence. They bloody well throw a fit and struggle to get out. What then?
I can’t pretend to know. It just strikes me, lately, at how many different kinds of ghosts there are. Bits of old friendships strutting about. Lines torn from conversations long since silenced. These things remain, even when we squeeze our eyes shut and pretend they are not there. That we do not believe in them.
It doesn’t matter if you believe in them. Certainly, they believe in you.