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Archive for December, 2011

I kept thinking about sledding through the trails at the park in Ohio near my house. That was the first time I had been sledding in years. I remember that tree tunnel arch and how you pulled me through it so I could look up at the branches. I want to go back to that and redo everything starting there or fast-forward to a time when we can walk under them in summer and look up to see the leaves.

I keep thinking about that weekend in January when I came to town to see you.  I hadn’t been so sick or so sad like that in years.  I remember the way you reminded me to take medicine and made me drink water, and you piled up the pillows so I could breathe while I slept.  I want to go back to that and redo everything starting there or fast-forward to a time when we can be in bed together, and you can put your arm around me when I sleep.

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I have changed so much in the last year I can hardly recognize myself.

So little about me has changed in the last year I can hardly believe  I’ve been able to survive.

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“It’s true, isn’t it, that each of us has two hearts? The secret heart, curled behind like a fist, living gnarled and shrunken beneath the plain, open one we use every day.”
 
My everyday heart is in the picture, and it asks for something simple and honest and consistent.  It wants just to be with Z without all of the complications, and it wants the exuberant, expressive love we had before he made me begin to seal it up tightly.  My everyday heart misses him, and it misses me when I was his best friend.
 
I hate my twisted heart for fluttering when an old friend starts texting, and I stay up late with him laughing about silly things I always used to talk about with Z.  I hate my twisted heart when it skips a beat when an acquaintance brushes his elbow against mine and leans in closely at the too-loud bar where I’m spending a too-intoxicated-and-too-confident kind of evening with a friend, and I hate it even more when he is thoughtful, and I hate it the most when he asks me out the next day.  Skiiing on Christmas Eve, no less.  I hate when my second heart whispers to the first that there could be something else worth exploring because my first heart is still betting on Z and maybe foolishly believing that in the Christmas season, things have to get better.
 
The second heart betrays us in other ways, too.  It clings to sadness when someone who used to fall over himself to impress me doesn’t anymore.  It churns up old feelings when it finds out an ex-boyfriend is in love with another woman already.  It criticizes the first heart when a man I went out with just a handful of times proposes to his girlfriend. 
 
This is where I am, trying to untangle those two hearts so the second one can’t overtake the first.  It’s being hurt that feeds the shrunken heart of mine.  It’s being hurt that lets me consider choices I’m not sure I even want to have.

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It’s 2:44 on a Thursday, in the fall, a college classroom with big windows.  Choose someone in the room to think about.  Say to yourself, “Just like me, he wants to be happy, he doesn’t want to suffer.”  This is how we prevent conflict.  Present moment, wonderful moment.
 
It’s 3:30, and I am walking out of my last class of the day.  It feels like I’m floating whenever I leave Mark and my classmates not because I’m so glad to be free, but because what happens in that room helps to free me.  Breathing in, I calm my body.  Breathing out, I smile.
 
It’s 2:15.  It always begins the same way.  We sit in a circle, names written on paper displayed on our desks so we can address each other by name.  Mark says with a smile, “Tell us about your good news.”  Someone says he passed his chemistry test, another that her mother’s cancer treatment is going better than expected, and another that his family got a new puppy.  The good news they do not print, yet ours is a daily edition.
 
It’s 9:38, and I’m in bed reading about Mev.  She reminds me of me, and I wonder how she knew exactly what I have been thinking, only years before.  I’m crying because it’s beautiful and breaks my heart.  My muscles can’t relax, and I have to take his words in small sections, let them digest, compost my thoughts before coming back to them again.  He doesn’t just ask us to be vulnerable.  He has offered himself first, and it makes all the difference.
 
It’s 2:27, and I’m writing in my notebook for 6 minutes without stopping.  My pen has to keep moving, but that’s not a problem because my hand is so much slower than my brain.  It has a lot to say and 6 minutes isn’t enough time, but he gives us an extra minute to finish what we started. I don’t put down my pen until I notice I’m the last one writing. 
 
It’s 5:15, and I’m still at the park with Matt.  We’ve been climbing trees and talking about med school – should we go, or do we want to try something different?  We find a fat praying mantis clinging to a branch.   He’s intrigued by my love of dance, and I’m intrigued by his love of climbing.  We both love moving, so it’s not surprising that our improvisation flows so lightly and naturally.  Our bodies aren’t meant for right angles, and stretching out from the day is just what we need.  We’ve been together for a few hours and will be for a few more.  As far as homework assignments go, this has been the most revealing.
 
It’s 2:31, but it sometimes feels like a lifetime of uncomfortable discussions.  It also sometimes feels like 16 minutes of clarity that will propel me through the rest of the day.
 
It’s 2:53 and as I reflect upon stories about Vietnam, I listen to a woman talk about how they remind her of a summer spent in Egypt.  Of the dust and how tense daily life seemed even though she only understood part of the language.  Of the immense hospitality and the curfews and the doors and smiles that opened easily when she asked.  I am amazed that her life is so vibrant.  And it’s not just her.  I am amazed that I finally have a chance to connect.

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Our house is full of the things of an old woman. We went exploring today – this time under the bed. Not just her things but also some of ours start to creep underneath.

“Our stuff is deep in the crevices.  We’ve been sleeping on a good foundation.”

His face is beautiful when he’s serious or sad.

It’s deep and yet he’s rummaging through even deeper crevices, acting like he’s fallen into them.  They were there before me. There’s a tug in the chest – the tug of reading old notebooks, feeling old loves join you in bed after so many years, as many what-ifs as you can fit into the tiny, cluttered bedroom that acts as a living and dining and loving room, too.

He might not be able to put it down. He falls in love with writing women. Their words ensnare him, and I become afraid to ever show mine. Mine are strewn across the bed I made, in the room I cleaned, in the house that feels lighter, if that’s possible, because I put on an apron and scrubbed and piled and washed and organized.

So he’s over there, entranced by Rachel Corrie, probably wishing and thinking in ways I could never inspire. I only get half of this attention when I’m naked. Blame the puckering on my thighs and the stretch marks spreading across my hips and ass. Blame too infrequent blowjobs and newness worn off, and even I don’t recognize what I wrote about last summer. Gazes that don’t ask for anything, being constantly reminded he thinks I’m beautiful, so much more than I’ve ever felt.

And it’s gone. Fell into crevices. The old lore is back, the too-fond memories creeping up when real life threatens to take away the pleasure.  When tall women ruled and he could seduce anyone, when he sought out he adventures of artists and carefully composed words to woo them.

There’s enough space between us for a grown person to be comfortable. I’m wrapped up in his grandmother’s quilts – 2, yellow and white both – and we have our pants on.  The rule that we’re breaking is no pants in bed. We’re breaking it because we’re finally breaking, seeing the hairline cracks, letting reality and incompatible personality types wedge in between and pry it apart.

He can have all my books and write in them. He has felt all my affection and seen the completeness of my rage. It’s only a matter of time now. Shared meals and memories of them only keep things together so long and now that we’ve stopped talking, it’s all about to go.

I never finished writing about Jeff, and it colors all of these spaces with Z.  I wanted to for a year, but I think I’m abandoning the ending. The keys are gone, the constant reminders are packed away. One panicked moment when I thought I could reclaim my coffee shop. But I walked up to the door, looked in, and turned right around. So it’s there. I don’t know what to write about now. It was in 2008 and 2009 and too much of 2010. It was almost two years of holding myself back for a faint outline of love and maybe just a hint of something real.

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It’s the summer of 2010, and I’m in St. Louis. Summer heat in St. Louis is miserable, but I’m enjoying the sun and how happy it makes me. I’m teaching kids in a summer program in the inner city during the day, and I’m spending my afternoons playing outside, drinking lemonade, and dancing.

The only complication is that I’m living in a tiny studio apartment with my ex-boyfriend. We’ve been trying to stay friends, but it’s clear he’s still not interested in giving up on us. He’s also not interested in giving up the other girls he has been chasing for months.

I’ve been talking to an old friend for about three weeks now. I have started going over to his house after work. We watch movies, I bring meals I’ve cooked to try to impress him, and we kiss for hours. We have plans today to go to an orchard nearby, Eckert’s, and pick peaches, but they have to be put on hold because my car was towed. Another careless thing my ex-boyfriend did that I have to clean up for him.

When I finally get my car back and make it to my friend’s house, seeing him is all I need to relax and start enjoying the day. It’s still miserable outside, and I’m sweating off all of my makeup, but he doesn’t seem to care. As we wait for the tractor to pick us up and take us to the peach trees, he pulls me in for a kiss. Our first in public. I am so happy.

We eat as many warm peaches as our bellies can hold, juice runs down our faces and arms, we laugh and swallow up summer as the bumpy tractor takes us back to the store. I would make mini peach pies when I got home and deliver them to my friend the next day. We would spend another afternoon in his house with the lights off and the shades drawn, trying to stay cool while kissing again for hours.

Summer tastes like peach juice and mini peach pies. It smells like nuzzling my friend and feels like wiping sweat off our foreheads.

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