Like, Can You Just Not (Eat So Much)

Dieting is easiest for me when I’m devastated. The happier I am, the more inclined I am to celebrate with food. And once that behavior kicks in, my taste buds lock on and don’t really care what sort of mood I’m in or whether or not I just ate ten minutes ago. But oh, devastation? That’s an entirely other operating system.

If you have nothing, lost everything or otherwise came to a point of despair, your appetite goes away. Wanting food was a feeling, and yours are frozen. You think of the things you never accomplished, demons you couldn’t defeat, and they are suddenly equal with any other care you’ve ever had – in fact, somehow you could somber down that path just as badly as any other (your life having been leveled by a tank), so you somber. You start. One day, maybe you don’t eat. Another day maybe you think up some ideas for a restrictive intake plan. This world is over, don’t get your depression wrong, and the better you’d be at this would ultimately cause you to slowly, conceivably, disappear. It’s perfect from every angle!

So someone didn’t like you? Get rid of yourself and make someone new. Didn’t like yourself? There’s no need to accept that shit. Listen to the consensus. And develop…

The Plan That Works.

In phase 1 I picked two or three things that were easy to get, and I only ate those things. My go-to’s were a Fiber One Bar, Grilled Chicken Wrap with No Ranch from McDonalds with a large Diet Coke, or a spinach leaf salad with tuna fish and raspberry vinaigrette. Dill pickles were also okay. This was my menu for about two months, and while nothing of itself was particularly the best choice, it all equated to 500 calories a day. Nope, not safe. Did it anyway.

I was also eliminating EVERYTHING ELSE I had been consuming. All of the extra gluten, all of the extra lactose, all of the extra fat, carbs, sugar and calories. This ended up feeling amazing, as I no longer hurt from the opposite extreme. This is called an Elimination Diet where you back off all for a few safe foods and slowly build variety back in so you can see which sort of foods were contributing to your ailments. I had no dairy and didn’t miss it. No red meat, didn’t need it. No candies or beer, gave my system a detox.

Then I joined a gym and started walking on the elliptical anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, nearly every day. You go hard in the beginning because you just dropped a TON of cash on the membership. You’re doing something other people do, you are other people, you are a different person now. And you’re so empty with nothing else to do that it’s the only thing you make sure to accomplish. A few weeks in to that and I gave the swimming pool a try – added that to my weekly activities for a switch. Sometimes I did small machine circuits but everything seemed more daunting than just plugging in some music and hopping on that elliptical. Try stuff. Find what you’ll do. Music is key.

Phase 2, about 60 days in, and I have researched enough about supplements to add daily pills to my routine. Green tea with caffeine, apple cider vinegar capsules, Stacker metabolizers, and an occasional multi-vitamin. Sometimes I pop them twice a day depending on the convenience. Do I ever really feel anything? I can never tell aside from rare shakiness from caffeine, but sometimes the thought counts the most. Find your pills. Take your pills.

Don’t worry any more about working out every single day and realize you can pig out once a week to fool your body in to thinking that maybe you aren’t restricting. Or maybe the science is, the week’s end total calories in/calories out, however the pig day works it works. Keep the monster fed. BUT – on that day you eat more (which by the way can only be during a single meal), you can’t rest. You have to work out. That’s the rule. Proudly exclaim that you DON’T LET THE WEEKEND BE YOUR WEAK END. Mental mantra is key and those old pro-ana expressions don’t cut it anymore (“I want to be thinner, I must throw up dinner” is for idiots).

Weight was flying off this way. No more of that shit I was pumping in constantly, and more movement than I’d had in years. Stress probably helped too – I was trying to find, then learn a career in a jump that doubled by income and was building my life again from scratch. Stress burns calories so stick your neck outside of your comfort zone.

Occasionally I would enjoy makeup, or fashion, just looking in the mirror, more. Sometimes all of that seemed pointless and I just had faceless, dreary days. But every day I knew it was the tiniest bit different. It was the quiet, unseen thing not to disrupt.

You can tweak the diet ever-so-slightly, but the slope is slippery. You think you can eat a spoon full of peanut butter and maybe you do once a day for a week before you binge on the jar. A few frozen dinners where you understand all the contents are fine, just make sure they aren’t TOO tasty but enough to entice you as a valid option. Ditch the Fiber One bars and discover Atkins bars, ditch the chicken wrap and trade up to a salad with some chili on it from Wendy’s. Now I was cutting the flour tortilla, and I liked the chili salads better anyway. Try different diet sodas. Tweak your menu.

Sometimes I’d go downstairs and my roommates had ordered pizza the previous night. The leftovers, meat lovers pies, would all be sitting out, big bowls of ranch and bread sticks to the side. I could smell the pepperoni and it made me furious. It wasn’t fair. But it was the path. I’d had my pizza. Now I didn’t.

This restrictive diet with moderate exercise goes on and on and on for about 90 days when you wake up one morning and realize that by going as hard as you did against every doctor’s wish, you dropped several sizes. Your pants are baggy. You somehow, at one point, just suddenly notice this. You’re allowing yourself to look I suppose. Take note of the progress. But that was just to Phase 2. That was fatty walking around the block and shedding 2 pounds. That was water weight and the easiest stuff to lose.

Phase 3 is double those 90 days. 3 more months using everything you learned. Maybe one day out of the week you get the crazy idea to just fast. Do it again next week or don’t. I became so busy with my new job that 90% of my day was distraction and stress. Every now and then take a good swim. Hit the gym once or twice a week and make it a real event where you push your favorite songs for an hour. Skinny girls like cake just as much as you do, so don’t feel alone in the pain you brush aside. Buy Slim Slow shakes and use a few generous dashes as sweetener and creamer in your iced coffee. Daily calorie intake is around 500-850 calories a day. Volume, packing in the spinach leaves and topping your stomach off with diet soda is key. When you eventually take long, green shits, imagine the weight of that mammoth snake off your gut every time.

Yeah. It’s like that. You go pretty hard. Nothing to lose, everything to lose, you are somehow at both ends of the spectrum and phrases like “worth your weight” will never feel the same.

Several more sizes down. Who’s ready for phase 3.

Read a book, hit the treadmill, reflect.

I recently re-read an old book from my dusty shelves. I’m Not the New Me by Wendy McClure was something I bought from one of those generic-style media stores you’d see spotted here and there, the kind of place where everything was mass-dumped in piles and on tables, always a last chance for discounted stuff kind of feeling. I used to peruse those stores thinking I could find something at a great price that was somehow undervalued to everyone besides me. I could see the book was about weight loss so I gave it a go for a few bucks.

Oddly enough I remember it being somehow inspirational, probably because the tale was a memoir about how the author had created an online blog while battling weight loss with all the feels. Sometimes funny, sometimes sad, one of those “the real tea” tales. She had parallel thoughts, started at about the same size as I was, and by the end of the book she’d lost weight and started to look and feel different. Her story had an anti-climatic ending as she seemed to abandon her success story, caring less and less about her diet persona, and ended on just being whatever. I think.

I liked it because she expressed how it is, to obsess over the scale. How you’re treated by others for weighing more. The pain you go through, the hoops that family members before you jumped through at the same circus, the ugly balance between self-hate and still holding on to enough respect(?) for yourself to take the weight loss journey. I related, in part, for some time.

Reading it again this afternoon, I was in a very different place… I was on the other side. I’d come through a most nasty phase of suicide boot camp (about half a year of steadily working out, restricting my food and popping any green tea-infused pill that claimed to be a fat burning concoction) and read the entire thing after having dug out an old long-sleeved shirt originally from Lane Bryant, no less the same house-brand ‘Venezia’ that is mentioned in her story. I pulled it over my head this morning and the neckline almost went shoulder-to-shoulder, the sleeves to my fingertips, comforting me like a big blanket. It used to fit. I love how it doesn’t. I’ve never wanted to wear it more.

Some parts bothered me that I don’t think urked me before. For example, she attends a meetup of online bloggers and proceeds to make cruel jokes (behind his back, at least until published for the world) at the expense of some mentally-affected boy who you get the feeling thinks he is the greatest writer to ever live, who prides himself on his darkness, and who shares the same name as my brother just spelled differently. My brother has a similar complex, does not fit in, and for her and those other girls to mock his demeanor no matter how creepy it was, made my heart hurt for Kristofer and Christopher. I had to remind myself, sometimes people who point fingers are just trying to forget about how hard and often they point one at themselves.

The second time through I wondered if I liked her as much. She admitted jealousy as a follower became a popular fitness blogger herself, exceeding her body goals and finishing a triathalon. Why get upset when you could be supportive? It was like everything eventually just made her even more sick than the old Weight Watchers recipe cards from the 70’s that she reveals in all of their horrible glory (the beef boullion broth shake dressed with a celergy stick being one of my favorites to detest). Oh well. People are dynamic, and honesty shows integrity, I guess.

I looked her up back then, and I looked her up now. Years ago she had created an online presence that represented the times, and was associated with other blogs of the “fat acceptance” movement, an issue that I was torn over with my own battles of what size said about health and what should actually be accepted and by whom.

Today everything looked totally different although the URL was the same. It just sort of covered her publications and some light blogging was included along with the ever-rare photograph. Her image depicted a heavier-set person, someone who might not be bothering herself with seeing how much smaller she can become, who has capitalized on her talents and probably still sings karaoke now and then.

There had been a lot of pain that read quickly, often softened with a witty coping humor, but still communicated to me as “wow, this hurts”. If I had to guess by the badly-cropped angle her facial selfie was taken at, I’d say she would probably be a proper fit in this shirt today. She’s no doubt successful, even happy… regardless of size.

My story needed to read quite differently.

In Which There Is Much Running

I feel like a star that has been kicked universe after universe, away.

And I suppose that is okay. I mean you decide, at some point in your adult life, if it’s going to be okay or if it’s not going to be okay – no matter the issue. I, for better or worse, die hard.

You know, I never started writing or dared even live because I thought I was better or smarter than anyone else. On the contrary, I’ve always felt a sort of void that I figured kept me in my compromised state, forever assigning me to a life somewhat lesser than. Somewhat alternative to. Somehow, just almost.

It’s all in your head. You’re a victim of whatever you have going on up there. Better to know it than wonder and assume that the things going on have the final say – even if you can’t seem to help it.

About six years ago I was struggling to write about the era I’d fallen in to, and I sort of trickled out in the whole blogging department. Facebook became my thing as I accepted it was the scrap book/phone book of society and I’ve tried to make it work. I suspected before I even really started, that the social network was only as good as your best face forward – which would never be real, never be the truth.

Good luck with your Facebook life, some distant memory foreshadows now.

I’ve been asking myself for years, who my audience is. Who do I write to, who do I think to, when it’s just that source spitting out content in my head? There always seems to be so many seats in the dark theater, all spaces without names, while some are occupied by characters from every age. How do you write to everyone in your heart after this place has proven to change them and change you, after they no longer exist, I mean who exactly is in that big tinker with you, Autumn?

Dorothy says, you were there, and so were you.

This is very much just as well a shared experience that someone could hit the “thumbs up” button to and go, “You nailed it”, rendering me absolutely, worthlessly, unoriginal. Whether we’re all connected or we’re all apart, what matters is how I proceed. What I am doing, and where I might be going.

I really wish I had those answers.

My phonograph in cyberspace a million miles away, or just a laptop flipped open on a desk somewhere in Oakland County. Both, probably. Existential questions are for people with the energy to worry about what happens next – I’ve managed to make it outside of this one moment I am in, through and outside of this moment I am in, through and outside of this moment I am in…. and I have not advanced from here.

Dreams are not for the people running for their life. I told My Dan today, how we were like a zombie Apocalypse when I met him… how he was in the middle of the road with his hands over his face, eyeballs wide at the sight of his late wife with her insides all over the pavement, what do I doooo, what do I doooo?

Run. You take his hand and you run.

Then through the years whenever he seems to stop dead, you remind him of the one thing left to do. Run.

Shit really hits the fan and you’re blasted a billion steps backwards, and the sky starts falling down in great big red chunks that look like hell’s explosion, and it’s either this or suicide. Run.

I found his hand again and my god, have we been trying. So hard.

The world is hit with a virus we have no vaccine for and countries go under quarantine in an effort to stop the sickness from spreading. See, the story never had to be decided by you, it was always happening in real time, and you’ve been practicing for it, you’ve seen the zombies for years. It’s always been real to the runners. Something wipes out a huge chunk of the population, you think to yourself, about how your sci-fi novel has to begin, how it has to set up the environment. But you thought maybe it was going to be The Vapers, or the people who thought some sugar substitute was harmless, that set your story up for the future.

Remember in popular culture when the aliens came down, and humans gave everything they had, and it was the virus that took them out? One day the giant monsters just stopped moving in their captain’s chairs. Remember, how the aliens died. That was the thing. It’s here now. And there’s a little mask hanging from a magnet on the refrigerator in the kitchen if you wonder for a second whether or not that was just some weird… dream. Movie. Series made originally by a pay-as-you-go service.

Season four, episode seven.

Are you still running?

I’m not going to lie; my heart hurts today. I’ve been going down this path, taking each day as it comes with a “we” mentality, an “us” mind frame, and I was broadsided pretty badly. I was so happy to have air in my bicycle tires again, felt so free to be soaring downhill with the sun on my face as opposed to the slow death of a coach potato, I snapped a photo of my bike and shared it to that social network without thinking.

Someone, not on my friend’s list, was watching my profile like a hawk. The delicate situation I am in by association, the part I play by participation, I fucked it all up. I didn’t lay low enough. Someone eyeballed the fuck out of that photo, saw the corner of the white garage door and decided that it said something about her estranged relationship with Daniel that she didn’t approve of and the Bermuda triangle was aflame all over again.

My celebration of life and health and positivity, my happiness, is someone else’s pain and if I don’t make that my business then I pay the price. It has to be okay if he has a reason not to see anyone right now. It’s not okay to tell the truth that we are seeing each other. Not only are those the dysfunctional rules for the sake of keeping the peace – they are possibly the mentality of what brought people like Lennon to their demise. If they couldn’t have them, no one could. She has already threatened to take her own life.

Yes, my half-of-a-brain already knows that it’s not good. But there is this part of me, still fresh from the very first day, believing that it’s all just debris around us on the highway. It’s all the same thing, same zombies approaching, same answer, same objective. Get him off the ground and run.

After The Grenade

What exactly do you go over after an entry like my last one, having emerged from the abyss it was so clear I was falling in to even as I published it? How do you even begin to discuss the things you went through, when you were down there?

I saw a dragon and its name was Old. It was the worst beast I’d known, cast there many years ago. Wallowing at the bottom of the scum at the barrel’s base, the depths I retained only to remind me of where never to return. I visited it briefly, declared that if I could tear a sideways hole through time that I would reach out and actually touch it. And I thought YOU were bad. Hello, old friend.

The darkness did not reply, and I did not stay long. It simply resided, suddenly now, beside me somehow. One good thing, it maintained a sort of paralysis, as part of the past, not to follow me where I was going. I am so glad you never replied. 7 years, and 7 years, and 7 years, and 7 years time…

I imagine it must be what it is like, when you are sentenced to eternity.

Driving is the first thing I remember, coming out from that pit of hell. Or maybe it was my white knuckles clung to a shopping cart as I pushed it in to the coral, looking out at Party City as a woman was so, so blessed as her only focus at the time was on getting those balloons in to the car. I was wiping tears from my eyes, taking vows that had no words, sometimes excusing myself without permission to make several laps around the building in the middle of my shift because it was that or a kind of psychiatric suicide.

I’ve lost my love. I’ve lost my home.

I had to drive back there, every day, for a while. To the site of my trauma. The city, the people. Earning the same figures, having relocated to a condo in Saint Clair Shores, frightened all the time. The highway began to comfort me. I could not change the station from classic 70’s rock. The suspension between all fates was comforting, the vibration of the car, comforting, the horizon inviting as if at any time I didn’t need to go anywhere and could go everywhere, if I really wanted to.

One morning I dried my wet hair by rolling the windows down and exceeding 100 miles per hour. I was finding ways to grab the hand that tallied the minutes and slowly push it backwards. Impossible feats, one second at an excruciating time.

A job I had held for years and years, began to fail me. I’ve mentioned it briefly, afraid to ever tell the whole story in fear of what others could possibly do with the truth. I will say that not every leader is created equal. And after one of those leaders fucked with the wrong bitch, their business closed.

Those of us on the outside were the first to know. We found out before the people inside ran, scrambling for other jobs. The lease sign was set out front, and whenever I asked what was going on the naive middle waged employees would go, “Huh? What are you talking about?” Their HR representative would address them in a group some weeks later and remark, “I begged him not to set that out until I could talk to you all.”

You mean, until you could make them work as normally for as long as you could until you had to tell them at the last possible second that they were all done.

I was already in a higher paying position with a fraction of the stress. Ironically enough it was in the neighboring building and I walked over one day on my lunch and saw my supposed-friends, my only-to-your-face comrades, huddled together for security. When they turned and saw me, I simply waved that sort of wave you give as someone pulls out of the driveway.

Best Bye-Bye.

Once everyone had gone I made one last trip around the plaza and stopped in front of their doors. Quite literally, the last one standing. And I ended that chapter of my life.

Relationships are hard. Kind of like math, only without rules, which makes them even harder. I took a cold, hard inventory as the new loss prevention officer was training with me and he drew a line down the center of lined notebook paper.

“On this side, there’s you. You have,” he said, as he scribbled with the pen, “Limited. Resources.”

I thought I was going to be sick, every second, every day, for a while.

“He has,” he said, writing on the other side, “A degree.”

He wrote on my Haves, “Laptop.” Then he wrote “Car.” He was a guy in his 20’s going to school and living in Detroit, the sort of coach who knew to speak from experience having had to earn every thing he ever acquired. He was teaching me as I was teaching him, and we’d walk the floor looking for shoplifters while we spoke about how important it was that I had a future and was going to be okay if I was willing to fight.

I began taking online courses that were intended for my assistant manager. I studied that person, the things they said, the things they did. I believed that I could have her job. One day, (and we learned this later on during a confession to each other), we applied for the same job outside of the company we were working for…

and I was the one they took.

“I guess I need to learn to channel myself better during interviews,” she said. Putting my two weeks in was a blurry sort of time. I was still conducting my reports, still doing laps around the plaza, beginning to eat less and was studying business acumen when I was at the condo. Still making a long drive from there to work every time as glam rockers serenaded me with their tales of sex, drugs and rock and roll life.

One size, then another down. Every month something else in my closet became too large. The losses, the on-boarding, through all of it I maintained a relationship with the same person who had broken my heart and little by little we were finding our way back to each other, sometimes closer than we had ever been before. It felt like rising up from the edge of a cliff, turning around and helping him back up… sometimes only to slip until we were both hanging on for dear life once again.

The shock to my system was the secret ingredient to my “diet”. You never know how skinny you can get until you have the option to be skinny or die. In six months I cut myself in half. Loss is what I do. Trash bag after trash bag of treasured things carried down the staircase, and I’m still making cuts. Every little face of the My Little Pony I closed the top of the box on, every old garment, so suddenly numb to everything, I sacrificed.

Those Britney Spears CD singles I had collected since the millenium, I sold and paid my car off. My first few paychecks rolled in and I paid off every credit card. In an era of post-recession with no clear class divide I went from down THERE, to here. I spun around with dark colored hair (no one calls me Irish without my permission) and have acted like I was never on the brink of destruction.

An independent jewelry store was going out of business and I bought up a bunch of heirloom pieces for practically nothing. I hunted clothing racks at resale stores for Calvin and Anne Klein, DKNY, anything I could never otherwise afford, and revamped my wardrobe. I suddenly had money to do more things and began partaking in more events, making better memories, having better experiences. Look better. Do better. Feel better, sometimes. Work, sleep, and occasionally play. Don’t get fired. Repeat.

I was a baby when I met him. I didn’t understand the larger picture of couplehood with a widow, let alone one with undiagnosed bi-polar disorder. What I can say is, with everything that happened, the forces that are seemed to separate him from his grievence state so he could finally see me as a viable person to love. He calls me, he asks me out, he misses me, he seeks me. The tables turned. That plus my ability to forgive put us in a place where we can mutually decide how to proceed.

His counselor (yes, Mr. Former I Will Never Take Pills Or Get Help) pointed out to him, it was never unnatural for me to try to redecorate the house. It was never okay, the way his mother treated us. I was simply a bird trying to build a nest and it was completely normal. The Dead Wife, I had to find my way from her to Saint Koula, who became the mysterious accompanient when I had lost everything and the only thing that fit was a pair of her jeans…. which lovingly reside in a drawer as they have become too large. I was never “the other woman”, and it took a medical professional to spell it out for him that even with what happened, I was never “the other woman”…

“You have ‘A Wife’,” she pointed out, referring to the girl who set out his suits, made his sandwiches and kept the dark late marital house going, “And… you have a mistress now. You need to severe the snake’s head. I’ll be honest with you, if that had been me I would have left you in the dust…”

We were having a candlelit dinner at a Greek restaurant when I looked over at his phone and saw she had sent him a photo of her mother’s cabin on the lake with the caption “I will take you there next Summer.” That night I ran off on him, ran for miles like I had been practicing on the eliptical.

That other “woman”, which I say lightly, became a new figure in my life. It was his to deal with, and nothing could be changed or finalized in an instant. I suffered through all of that, her denial, her persistence, her badgering in to things that were not her business, having to choose my best distance from them every time. Play by play. They work together. She is a person too – maybe not one I have a lot of respect for – but she became a reality I continue to face as it is worked out day by day. It wasn’t about choosing one person over another, although it always felt like that. It was about mental health and the collateral damage brought on by a man who had completely gone off the rails in mid-life malaise.

There is a lot of healing to do and a long ways to go. I haven’t reached out to most of the people I knew. My mother fought cancer in the process and survived, which makes me wonder if she only found the strength in feeling like she had to save me before I would be gone, gone, gone.

“Autumn I know your heart is broken but if you do something you’ll regret I swear to God I will buy a gun, shoot him dead, and end my life with it.”

He could still lose me. Not from this world, not in that way. I have learned that. I will go on and there will be Future.

Dear Diary,

A lot of shit has happened. I still don’t really know what to say.

For Naught.

I couldn’t shake my bad feeling last night. It read 12:30 on my phone and I gave one last call.

A second before it switched to voicemail, the call picked up.

“Daniel, are you okay? Oh my gosh, you said to call I couldn’t get a hold of you. What’s going on?”

“Do you realize who this is?” her voice asked. Her voice.

Autumn, me and her are done. No more. My head is not there I promise you. I’m alone, I’m tired, depressed, confused. Stay with me, we’ll get through this we’ll figure everything out…who knows what the future holds…

“Autumn I’m with Doyle right now can I call you-”

“You said we’d have dinner together and you never even checked in with me, we just spent all day together and you said you were going to take a nap.”

“Autumn we’re just friends, like we’re just friends-”

The lady blew up. Started yelling and screaming at the bar for him to get the fuck out. Just friends? He had just told her that he was about to get a reverse vasectomy because he could see her holding his children.

She called me on her phone. We talked. She was never told that while he had been begging for her back, he was spending every day with me, miles between us be damned. Excessive texts. Phone calls. If I didn’t reply, where was I? What was I doing? Did I want to stop by before work?

I told her, how we’d hug and he’d begin to touch me. How we had kissed and fooled around and wondered if the local Old Navy surveillance camera wasn’t getting more than it bargained for.

Autumn it was never a mistake to make love to you.

I’d take you back to the house right..now…

He ended up calling me on my way home, as he pleasured himself. I had never experienced that before. I wish you were here…

I brought him the breakfast sandwich he loved. As we sat at the back yard patio for the last time, he looked at this phone before slamming it down in frustration.

“Doyle’s coming over. Can you please leave for a minute I’ll be right back it will only be a minute.”

He would try to hide the fact that I’d been there, but she had already tried to show up unannounced and had seen my car.

“What do the neighbors think when Autumn leaves and I show up?”

“Ummmm. She was…getting some of her stuff.”

Daniel, why are you lying again? Why are we still hiding?

He asked, at the zoo, why I wasn’t taking any photos. And I don’t think I had to tell him… it wasn’t ever about the goddamned animals. It was only him. And he had always said I couldn’t photograph him.

“You’re just prancin’ down this path with me, wind is blowing your hair and you’re happy as a lark.”

Dear diary, it was my last dance. I had decided to enjoy it. I was on the verge of telling him at dinner that we simply couldn’t go on… because I was too complete around him and utterly lost without him. I just wanted to be whole, one more beautiful afternoon. And for two hours I was.

Want you. Need you. Love you at any price. Rode that carousel, beaming.

“You know it’s funny. I’m sure plenty of people say stuff about me,” said the neighbor who had divorced her husband with eight children, “But this whole street looked at him and that marriage he had and it was painfully obvious that he’d married her for money.”

Koula, are you with me now? Did I do wrong by you? Who is Daniel?

He is a momma’s boy. Whenever things started to go wrong he gave her a call, sometimes every fifteen minutes, and he was calling her now while his lady was cursing him out at the bar for the second time… if you don’t count the time they had gone out on to the water and he’d gotten drunk and crashed in to another boat.

“He just hit my fuckin boat!”

She told me in detail, how embarrassed she was. Was screaming at him to get it out of the water, and he couldn’t figure out how to get it out of the water, and he’d asked why she was being a bitch and instantly she called it off between them.

That was the night he expected me to have been waiting for him, in bed. That I should have been so sorry about because I let fate slip through my fingers, and it was going to have been really special, too.

His mom started to call Doyle at 1 a.m. In an effort to make things better.

“His fucking mother is calling me, I can’t believe it. This guy and his mom. And of course he’s sending me a ton of texts right now. I love them but this is ridiculous,” and she ignored the call and continued talking with me.

“Listen. Autumn. We’ve both been played. I’ve just had my heart broken twice by this man. You can do whatever you want to do and I don’t hate you. If I had known everything and not just his side, I would never have pursued this but it has happened. We can’t go back. I can’t go back. You can’t go back. The man you love just stood next to me yelling in to my phone that he was done with you and to get your shit and disappear from his life. He’s not worth it, Autumn. You’ll find someone who treats you right.”

And so me and the person I have been, Daniel That Beautiful Man, and that withstanding, resilient glimmer of hope… we died, last night.

The After Shock

The next thing I remember is having a police escort, two cars actually, waiting outside after work the next day so I could pack my things. A friend took me in. Some nights were horrifying. I re-homed my dog back home with my parents. I was broken, admittedly poor, and absolutely lost.

Somehow we started talking again. The extraction process was gut-wrenching, having his mother in the house, always positioned somewhere near by where she could glare at me with all the hatred she has harbored over the years. I’d pack for an hour or so and would be unable to breathe anymore.

One day I was packing and Daniel came up with a yellow notepad so his mother couldn’t hear…

“I need to talk to you.”

I nodded, my eyes watered with tears.

“Are you sure this is trash? Why are you throwing all of your things away, Autumn?” he’d say, over and over, always lugging another trash bag downstairs to be dragged to the curb. I couldn’t bare to look at it, didn’t have the energy to sell it, and I just wanted my essentials in my new life.

Vases. Jewelry. Toys. Clothes. Trinkets. Cups. Plates. I scooped it all up by the arm-full and dumped it in to heavy duty trash bags. If his mother felt like he was speaking too much she would begin to walk up the stairs, thump, thump, thump. My heart would find a way to seize more, I’d look at him and he’d look back with…something?

He wrote on the notepad again:

You are my best friend. I love you, I need you, do you want to go for a walk.

I melted…all…over…again.

The extraction came to a pause because I couldn’t mentally handle it anymore. I had taken up an offer to rent a room in a condo on Saint Claire Shores and was beginning to learn how to have absolutely nothing, and yet everything in the comfort of my friend Markus.

“I’ve been through this. I wish someone had done this for me. You will always have a roof over your head.”

Daniel and I had started calling each other, relying on each other for when we felt lost or wanted to hear the other person speak. We began doing activities together, whether it was just getting a bite to eat or walking in the park.

We have talked, talked, talked. In circles. In hysterics. In calm, sometimes, too.

I took him to CJ Barrymores and surprised him with an afternoon on the rides. We put on glasses and shot at werewolves, rode go-karts and one great big romantic ferris wheel… where I knew I’d look down and remember the sky forever as I simply slumped beside him and buried my head in his shoulder.

I told him, that every time I looked at him, it felt like goodbye.

“Why do you say that, Autumn? We have to CHANGE, it doesn’t mean we can’t see each other anymore.”

We were walking from one attraction to another when I turned to him and said, “I fell in love with my best friend. I’m afraid it hurts too much. I don’t think I can do this. I’m so sorry.”

He has talked me down several times. I have raged and cried several times more. Each time we agree to face another day down together.

“You’re still beautiful.”

One night we drank too much and started kissing in the parking lot. I asked him if it was just friction for him, if he didn’t think with his heart, if this had all been regretful.

“Autumn it was never a mistake to make love to you.” We each went back to our own place. These times with him, every kind word, I began to make my lifeline.

In my head I kept thinking “someday, when things are different. When we’re different.”

Today he bought me a ticket to the zoo and I was skipping around under the hot sun, just happy to be with him. It was one of the first places we had ever gone and yet I remembered none of it because I had been so infatuated with him at the time. Here I was, again, as we occasionally took each other’s hand, rode the carousel, watched the family of camels.

He saw how hot I was getting, lifted my hair and blew on my neck.

I left in a state of upset. Some other thing that had pissed me off, caused me to rage. I said I was tired and needed a nap. He suggested we go out for dinner, to call him after my nap.

On my hectic drive home an officer called. He was re-hashing a statement I had given when police were there on what I refer to as Jerry Springer night. He wanted to know why I hadn’t delivered a written statement to him about the episode, particularly the cell phone accidentally flying up and hitting me. I declined all charges. My GPS would chime in on my phone and I’d miss half of what he was saying. He asked if he could contact Daniel and I said “no, absolutely not, this is over and nothing happened.” He said he’d record that it had been my request not to contact him. The whole thing was stressful. Was something going to happen, like legally, from all those times the police showed up during our brink of insanity moments?

I woke up from my nap… and Daniel didn’t return my call. An hour went by. Two. Until I realized there were no more excuses… this was the first time he wasn’t there for me, to talk to. Something was wrong. Something is wrong.

So I texted him, thank you for trying to be there for me after I was broken. I am putting all of this behind me. Contact me when you can, if you can. Love you, goodnight.

I don’t know if we will have a tomorrow, and my heart hurts all over again.

Leaving Colony Park

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Colony Park had become standard for me over time. Beautiful homes each with their own small blonde hybrid dog, it was the sort of subdivision people dreamed of living in. I was happy every day to drive my two minute route through the school’s car wash fundraiser, down Farmington Road to the place where I had taken a huge leap for love after moving in with a widower.

Despite the late wife museum I could never touch, I battled a dark energy that always warned me something was wrong. I made the partially finished house a home, learned the story of the woman who had fallen ill there and nurtured the man who no longer felt passion in his heart. I coordinated his shirt closet like a rainbow, hanging a suit on the door each morning to save him time getting ready. His lunch box was one of those long metal “honeymooners” pails that let him know he was loved every day. The annual cleanup event was hosted in the Michigan room while we catered to the neighbors and re-designed the entrance ways with arb trees and hydrangeas during his time on the board as groundskeeper.

We were pretty much inseparable going on six years. I had dragged him out in to the light so many times, he eventually anticipated where we could go or what we could do. In the morning we woke up beside each other and remained close until either one of us had to get ready for work. We came home to each other, bonded tightly as we figured out what to eat or which movie to see. Whether it was a simple trip to the local hardware store or the post office drop-box, he’d ask if I wanted to come along and we would prepare for the next work day or maybe he’d occasionally go out with some coworkers before we settled in together on the king sized bed where he would roll on to his left side and I would snuggle up behind him, putting my arm around him and burying my chin in his shoulder blade.

He says, he was content. For that time in that impossible era of grievance, we worked like a beautiful charm. People followed me online to see pictures of the garden. I’d post a photo and someone would comment “hashtag goals”.

“We lived together like husband and wife,” he said, reflecting as he mulched his front garden bed in the hot summer sun. All this time he had taught me that if any one of these dozens of beautiful plants around him were to die, it would be like losing his wife all over again. I had nervously tried to tend to every living thing as best as I could, though the property had steadily become more and more overwhelming. Well, imagine seeing him grabbing plants and plucking them out like a different man. Imagine him calling his realtor and saying that he wants to sell the house… because that is the direction this story goes.

I loved him so much. What better companion than the mature but troubled man some fifteen years my senior who knew all the old Rolling Stones songs my dad used to play. We would lie there after making love, my head on his chest, and he’d sweetly sing as I felt the vibrations through his body.

Dandelion, don’t tell no lies

dandelion will make you wise

tell me if she laughs or cries. Sing it with me, Autumn.”

And I would, with harmony. “Blow away, dandelion!

If something was wrong the man would fix it. Not just something with my car or the house’s endless challenges, but he would address my tears and make everything okay. When I lost my job – yes, lost it – I had a break down in the mall. At my heaviest weight I was horrified to locate the misses career attire.

“Where are yalls FAT clothes at!” I yelled, in tears, breathing heavily and telling him over and over again that I wanted to go home. He approached a mall associate, lead me to the dressing room and bought me a suit by Anna Klein.

When I was upset that our Easter brunch had been ruined by a receptionist who failed to take my reservation I threw my rosary down in the parking lot because it felt like He was never there, never allowing anything to work the way I wanted it to. Daniel picked the rosary off the ground and found a place for us to eat. Always saving the day.

We would tell people a short version of our story when we were out – people often remarked that they could see a chemistry between us which always sparked questions. I had basically watched him through my surveillance at work and began seeking him after he’d left with watery eyes for the death of Koula. He needed help paying for the house, I was ready for anything, and it was suddenly just me and him vs the wold thus far. Inseparable and loving.

“Best friends,” he said, trying to explain something that was very hard for me to hear 5 days ago.

“Autumn, you know I love you. I will always love you. You took care of me at my worst and put up with me through thick and thin. I could see the way you look at me every day – you’re the one person on this planet who would come all the way up from out of state if I called you and said I needed a hug. Which by the way, our hugs are amazing. I hope to always receive hugs from you…”

We had just seen the Kinky Boots musical and he was sitting in the living room crying. He’d been tearing up a lot lately but always fought it off quietly.

“Are you gay?”

He burst out laughing.

“Ohhhh, my God. Oh, I needed that. No, Autumn. I’m as straight as they come.”

He wasn’t gay. On the contrary he had finally decided that perhaps his life wasn’t over, perhaps he wanted to dream again, and so the man I’ve loved for six long years had woken up, seen the light and fallen in love…

with someone else.

***

Of course I refused to believe that my dream had died. I kicked everything in to high gear and declared that feeling urges for other people while in a relationship was normal but that every loyal adult cuts it off before messing up a sacred thing. I reminded him of our long history, all the stories we’ve told and roads we’ve been down. I began trying to be my best for him, because it was the reality behind beautiful closed doors that we had each fallen in to a deep rut. He had become anxious and obsessive about work while I had withdrawn inside myself, not showing much interest in things, sleeping longer, doing less. This was the ultimate eye opener and I was ready, ready, ready to love this man like I was going to lose him.

He said I was never an instigator. So I seduced him some three or four nights in a row, damned if I was going to keep my eyes closed, never shouting the endless need for him in my head. We had some of the best sex of our entire relationship. I couldn’t keep my hands off him and I ached, becoming literally shakey when we were apart for too many hours. What is going on? What is he thinking? What if he is really leaving me? What if this is the last time, oh god…

We started doing more physical activities. He laced my roller skates and pulled me across the rink, skating backwards, while I grasped his hands and looked at him in shock and fear, to his amusement.

“When I was pulling you, you had this look in your eyes like a daughter just trying to make sure her dad takes care of her.”

He’d just spent the night before in a motel after staying out late and feeling conflicted about what he was doing to his life. He’d brought in a case of beer the following morning and asked me to chill the bottles. He says he was alone there, only had three beers… and I briefly wondered why there were only two empty bottles on the counter.

We pulled in to the driveway after another night of activities together not unlike any other and I reached for my phone, only it was a little bigger in my hands, it was his phone. I looked down and it lit up –

I can’t wait to spend an entire night with you.

He had already started to walk through the garage. I couldn’t think. Couldn’t breathe. The lights in the car went off and I sat there in the dark, rolled my head back and closed my eyes. Then I could hear Dan knocking on my passenger window.

“I don’t know why she sent that Autumn! I don’t know what she means by that!” Always some sort of shouting match to follow, some endless torture routine that left a glimmer of hope at the end.

“Autumn, I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t give her an answer yet. I can’t give you one. Why are you packing up so fast? What if I come out of all of this, find it was just a mid-life crisis or what the FUCK ever, and I want to call you up and ask you on a date?”

One day he had somewhere to be, had to tell me in a way that conveyed I would not be riding along.

“I’m going to look at a boat. You know I’ve always wanted one. Just looking that’s all.”

This other woman, she could build an engine from scratch and knew all about boats. She was going to be there. While I paced the local nature trails wondering where my love had gone, he was dropping thousands and thousands of dollars on a 23 foot jet boat.

“Of course you can come on the boat! Autumn, who deserves to be on my boat more than you?”

“I’m scared,” I cried in to the dark while he slept. He’d woken up and heard me.

“Oh, honey,” he said, cradling my head against his chest, stroking my hair. We started to massage each other’s arms and legs, until we were kissing, until I was going to die without him. Then I looked around his waist as he texted from the side of the bed…

I can’t wait to spend all day on the lake with you.

This toxic poison, it was the only thing that helped. One more night. One more long glance in to his eyes. All the shit we went through to get this far, all the sorrow and fights over shelving space and flowers, the war of my life to in a ruined kingdom…

“Babe, you wouldn’t happen to know where the swimsuit is I bought the other day?”

Of course I knew. I was trying to get ready for work while my love was going to literally drift away. It was Boat Day.

I walked in to the bedroom where he stood, waited for his eyes to meet mine and held them for a moment before I turned around, opened the drawer and handed him his trunks.

Sleep hadn’t come for several nights and food was a turn-off. I walked around my workplace in a daze wondering what it was going to be like, to be suddenly alone, to be homeless,

To leave Colony Park.

“Things we grew to hate about Colony Park I’ll go first! Stingy neighbors!”

“Association dues!”

“No bonfires!”

“No boats,” and this went on for a while as we dared to peek at the reality behind the facade. We would hold each other again that night, and then he’d begin to touch me, but move my hand away if I touched him back. I’d learn later, he didn’t refer to it as “sex”.

***

In spite of everything, I had arrived at the conclusion that this was about the test to determine our forever together, going separate ways to find the long way around back to each other. His fling would die out and only after walking away would he have that moment like in the movies and realize all he had. By then I would have found my own footing and worked on my own issues and we would be stronger in a new era.

The hours ticked by on Boat Day and Daniel hadn’t called or texted, although we’d agreed on meeting up for time with each other. It probably took longer than I thought, to get the boat out of the water and situated. In any event I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening that went against the feeling in my chest.

I started calling people in my phone, calling for help. Saying there weren’t words to express, that my heart was hurting, that it hurt and I didn’t know what I was going to do, couldn’t see a way out. One of my friends’ boyfriends, a fellow loss prevention detective, offered to pick me up and drive me around until I seemed more stable.

We hopped in his truck and I listened to him go in to the rhetoric of heartbreak and how it gets better with time. A few minutes later Daniel called, absolutely furious.

“Where. The FUCK. Are you?”

Brandon took the long way around the house and I about lost it. “What are you DOING take me back now!” He called again. Get my ass home immediately. He shouted threatening profanities at the truck as it drove off.

In the bedroom, he was sun burned, his hair wet, and having one of the worst manic blow-outs I had ever seen him suffer.

“Autumn, I hope you’re happy. Too bad you couldn’t just wait a little while longer for me. You almost had your dream come true. But no, you had to be a SLUT and go out with that guy. Me and that lady? We’re done. Too bad, it was really going to be special. I’m done with you too.”

I begin to protest, like my dream had still been in my hands this entire time but had seriously, finally dropped and shattered on the ground. He said, if I called that guy up and brought him back and let him BEAT HIS ASS, we’d be good – I scrambled frantically for the phone, dialed it and he’d say “FUCK YOU”, taking back his word, screaming at me to get out.

“You are officially. Homeless. You fat, fucking, disgusting whore.”

After I couldn’t move from my place he grabbed my phone and threw it – it smashed against my cheek, the casing and battery went flying. He locked the bedroom door and I was on the outside sobbing, begging him to let me have the parts for my phone.

He moved downstairs and I followed him out to the garage –

she was there, in my front lawn, in her swimsuit dress, drunk and stammering.

The scene I watched unfold will be with me for the rest of my life.

At first it was shouting, pulling and pushing – not physically, but more the back-and-forth mania of alcoholism fueled by white trash. Then we were inside, all sitting down, all stating our case, one of us had to go. Daniel raised his hands to his hair and pulled, he knew this was the climax. This was the balance no more. This was all his work, exploding.

“Do you guys sleep together?” I asked her. She said, yes. When she asked me the same question I said, “It’s no one’s fucking business” – just like Dan had told me about the “relationship status” on my social media profile, just like he had told me to think when anyone asked, just like I believed it.

She said, that wasn’t fair. That I was being a bitch. And when I thought I couldn’t hurt any more, she found new and cruel ways to destroy me all over again.

He had never told anyone about me. In fact, he had said that I was a person who moved in to pay rent and slept in a guest bedroom down the hall. I’d stalked him at his workplace, moved in, forced him to take photos of his wife down and sure, we’d have sex every now and then…

This man. This man, who is this man?

She flipped the giant coffee table I’d sat at every morning, lifted it like it was nothing and sent it across the room.

She asked again, if we had slept together since the White Party. That had been the night he told me about, where I misunderstood and had picked up a new outfit for when he caught me getting ready in the bathroom. Dinner and dancing at Prime 29.

“Oh, Autumn, you can’t go.” Didn’t I know, it was a work thing. They weren’t bringing plus ones. Why did I always do this to him? He didn’t even want to go now… but oh, he had.

I said, That party was about a month ago. Of course we had slept together since. Just last night we’d been sitting at the bar when he typed her “I had leftovers”, singing those old Rolling Stones songs one more time in each other’s ears before rubbing our naked bodies together under the sheet.

One o clock, two o clock, 3 o clock, 4 o clock, five,

dandelions don’t care about the time

Classy cigarette smoking, stumbling lake wench stood up and went after Daniel with a fit of rage that would become the next few early morning hours of life. We both became so disgusted by him we took off, me jumping in to her car with open beer cans in the console, and we went to a bar at 1:30 a.m. where I proceeded to tell her the way things had really been for 6 years.

They had been out on a group date and someone referenced the boat idea. She found the boat, she helped pay for the boat, the plan was to get the boat and go out and have sex on it since day 1.

She showed me photos of him out on the boat. He’d been drinking and driving, the popular captain, posing for photos, the wind whipping through his hair and man tits beginning to sag, and after they snapped a photo a joke was made by her, “You should send that one to Autumn.”

I kept the photos. I look at them every day, to make myself see the truth. She said, they had sex on the boat. Twice.

Apparently he’d also crashed the boat in to another boat and called her a bitch before she broke up with him. He drove the boat back to his house because he was afraid he was too drunk to back it in to his mother’s yard where she has welcomed it, and this lady, for some time now.

Meanwhile at the bar he was texting her, she showed me,

Please don’t listen to her she is a manipulator she is evil. Please please this is better, she’ll be gone, it will be better…

This was my life? This was my love?

She lost her keys. She called Daniel to get her and he pulled up in my car. I knew I’d be stranded soon. I knew it, I saw everything now. Everything was wrong and this drunken woman is in my back seat and he is STILL BEHIND THE WHEEL OF MY CAR I JUST PAID OFF, it dawned on me,

“Stop the car.”

“WHAT?!”

“Stop. The car. NOW. Stop my car NOW.”

The woman reached up from the back and grabbed my gear shift, “YOU READY?”

We left Daniel on the side of the road and drove off on an adrenaline rush from hell.

Dannyboy called his mother. The one who has harassed and cursed me since day one, refusing to spend time with her son until I was out of the picture. Now mommy was involved.

All roads lead back to where Google knows – “home”. And I was back inside the house again, with the two of them. She was screaming about a broken promise, about not telling the truth, and Daniel turned to me and said, “Can’t you see what you’re doing to her? This is MY woman. You, are a pig. Get away from me, get away from my woman – you fucking fat, disgusting pig why don’t you go eat some food?” The mother was there too, somehow, all a blur, all welded together.

His girlfriend or his side piece, depending on who you are, approached the front door and smashed out a window pane. She would call a cab to the hospital and receive stitches. Colony Park had been watching this for hours and it was just another time that night the police were called.

I knew the officers, I work with them. They saw me, they looked at me surprised. I stood there on the porch, stepping over blood and broken glass, to say that my boyfriend had cheated and now the lady was here. I was sick, tired, broken hearted and I just wanted to go to bed. The police agreed that would be a very good idea.

Daniel had banished me to the guest bedroom and I was damned if I’d fulfill his prophecy. I went in to the master bedroom too, where I had been welcome all this time, so he turned the TV all the way up. I did one better, grabbed my portable speaker and started blasting the song he had just so tenderly sang:

prince or pauper, beggar man or king

play the game with every flower you bring

Tho you’re older now it’s just the same

you can play the dandelion game

“You win, bitch,” he said, retreating downstairs. I turned off the tv and pulled the sheet across my body… that’s when his mother started to come up the stairs and straight at me.

“How DARE you lie where Koula lied. You have come in here flat broke, you are a whore, you have messed everything up, get out you fat whore get out right now!”

“You don’t have any power over me,” I said in to her face as I sat back up on the mattress.

“You’re a whore and you’re fat.”

“Yeah. You’re Catholic and you’re a bitch.”

Then he – this person I have walked through fire for, forgiven everything for, was now standing beside her as they pointed down to me in some queer exorcism and chanted

“Whore!”

“Whore!”

“Bitch!”

“Bitch!”

“Fat slut!”

“Fat slut!”

I called 911.

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I woke up in just enough time to pull on yesterday’s uniform and race to work. Police escorted me back to the house so I could grab a quick suitcase. I spent the night with a friend, I got high for the first time with a THC pen, and wondered if that relieving feeling, that temporary trip where you don’t hate everything around you, would ever come naturally again.

Another work shift. I had to message him that I needed more things from the house. He was waiting outside, and she was there.

“I came here for closure. We’re done,” she insisted. There was a beer can on the ground. Tired and jaded, we sat on the large landscaping rocks trying to find words… trying to find tomorrow.

The neighbor woman walked over, never taking her eyes off mine.

“Autumn, are you okay? I heard a lot of smashing and banging, I was scared for you… are you leaving?”

I hesitated to answer, just stared in to her eyes like I had a secret I couldn’t tell. “Yes, I am.”

“Well, that doesn’t seem right. Seems awfully sudden. Just feels wrong.”

It was all over. I looked at her and said, “I’ve loved it here. I’m going to miss you… Did you think we were a couple?”

“Well, yuhhh! Of course.”

“Well apparently…we never were.” I was choked up, I stood up and walked to the house. I heard that Lady stand up and introduce herself as the third wheel. Maybe she finally saw, this had been my life, very different from the version she had been told. Daniel of course was not happy. We had just rehashed several crucial mistakes he’d made when he began omitting the truth. Now I was grabbing my blow dryer and I noticed that the bed had been stripped…

I told a lie before I left yesterday. It was a tiny lie. After I got the mail, I saw a piece of spam for him that I left in the box. He asked if I was holding all the mail and I said yes… I don’t know why I lied. My nerves had been pushed so far so fast, I didn’t feel like I owed him the truth anymore. I had been accused of lying for so long… but I could tell the difference instantly and it felt awful. I’ll always feel bad for that.

He said, he was glad the truth was out. He was ready to start over and he’d be sleeping alone. I could take as much time with my things as I needed, just call him before I came over to pack. Let him know where I was going, what I was doing.

The lady remarked, “I hope you guys get beyond this one day and you can still have dinner together.” She was different now, more sober.

He moved his arms out for a hug. I grabbed him, she saw the expression I made. She’d know as I drove off, that after all of that… I still seemed very much in love.

I thought I saw them say something as I opened my car door, she had leaned down in to his face and he had said, “Yeah.” I realized that I had no idea what I believed in anymore… they very well could have been trying to be kind to me, and wait until I was gone to put the new sheets on.

It didn’t matter, anymore. So humbled, so humiliated, I felt like less than nothing before them. I keep thinking about the blood, the broken glass, the ugly girl taunts, the open beer cans, one giant goddamned boat…

and can just as well imagine Colony Park instead. The smiles, walking with arms joined. Fetch in the park with the dogs. My nightmare was still a dream just a few days ago… just as I was now driving away from the beautiful man in the beautiful home on the beautiful street,

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Blow away, dandelion,

blow away,

dandelion

Believe In Yourself, It Pays Better.

There had been many downsides to my job which accumulated over time. Imagine being security, seeing malpractice by management, but having to answer to management. Yeah, that was a nightmare. If I spoke out I was subjected to backlash. The whole thing became a game of politics more than the job responsibilities.

There were department breakdowns. Lots of shady stuff swept under rugs. I also felt like I didn’t have a voice anymore. The other day I began to write but could not publish:

I am sworn to secrecy. I am trapped within myself. I am not able to state the truth. Every moment, every crucial part is confidential. This catastrophe brings ruin. It has already caused severe damage and life will never be the same from it.

I wish I could vent, speak my mind, share my true feelings. They are moot. They are damming.

How did I get here?

You know it’s bad when you’re watching the people in charge more than anyone else. And those people, young and new to their roles, are market favorites that were specifically placed there to help save a slumping environment so you’d better learn to tolerate the wrongs. I was catching people left and right – the guy who pulled a security device off a laptop and about to be conceal it, the people who came with keys to unlock merchandise, and yet I was no longer the hero. I was one to “watch out for”.

It’s a huge red flag when the manager says, “Eh, why would you say that you WANT to catch someone today?”

Um, because theft is going to happen and one of us needs to NOT cross our fingers and close our eyes hoping against the facts. Because I’m ready for go-time. Because…why do I have to explain this to you?

I walked through seven years of eggshells and politics. My store was broken in to because someone higher up didn’t have their alarm bases covered. Seasonal people up to no good would get pissed because I’d say something like “hey can you stop face timing your friend you’re on the clock” and they’d go straight to HR claiming I was a stalker. Then I’d have to wade through their “investigation”, time and time again jumping through the most ridiculous hoops just to keep doing my job. Management changed over and over again, meaning any raise I received would be up to someone who couldn’t review my performance let alone pay me more.

Friendships developed over years and years together. I would learn they were often not friends. Or perhaps they were, but they were doing dumb things. Then there were those who did everything besides support me and I had to pretend, every day, smiling to their faces, knowing my circle was full of fakes. The toxicity was real.

I became complacent and with every freedom I felt like I had lost, I came to accept. The freedom to be me. The freedom to speak up. I let the role change because it was desired. And never, ever let them know that you’re aware of everything going on because they’d hold it against you. “How does SHE know” mentality every day, like unwarranted harassment I didn’t need.

“The manager does NOT like you. He says you take things to HR anonymously and cause headaches for him.” I thanked them for the inside feedback (literally, as a leader was on their way out on their ‘quit’ day), and if I wanted to survive, I couldn’t even be “anonymous” anymore.

Clients began walking out more and more, saying the nastiest things. “This is why you’re closing.” “This is the worst place and I’ll never be back”. “You’re the only one who talked to me.” “I work at another location and I have to admit yours is an absolute mess.” “My manager refuses to accept any transfers from here because it’s where employees go to die and that’s it.” “You’ve got it made, doing nothing all day.”

Then the guilt set in. Knowing I wasn’t the best. Not anymore.

It wasn’t until my on-boarding process with another company that I began to confess. And the truth was, I was unhappy. I was in really bad drag every day. I didn’t like you, you, you, or you. I used to literally cry, my eyes welling up with tears, and have to pretend that someone had just told a really funny joke that had caused my eyes to water. I said for years that I wanted to climb the ladder and you always put that on the back burner because you said you “needed me here right now” and I allowed stagnation at a dead-end job to imprison me.

I started interviewing. I was scared. My emergency/crisis response work turned in to offers for medical facilities, data input, filing, and I learned that there were people hiring loss prevention associates all over the state. By the end of the week I had a handful of offers where people said YES, WE CHOOSE YOU. Shall we move forward?

“I’ve had some time to think about it… and I’m ready. I want the work.”

“Good girl. I’m so happy you said that. Get out of there and leave it all behind.”

New job.

Bigger position.

Higher pay.

Closer to home.

And a promise to myself, to never stay in my own way again.

Not This Christmas.

This Christmas, my boyfriend’s mother decided to ignore his phone calls and later screamed that she detests him because he has me for a girlfriend. I moved in too soon, I’m too young, and the vodka bottle on the countertop in our kitchen indicates that I am an alcoholic, etc etc etc. She says she will “never forget” coming to the house, walking in to the garage and hearing me “singing over the stove” because it was disrespectful to her deceased daughter-in-law. And recently she spotted a Christmas card at one of her son’s homes signed by me (the horror) which threw her over the top.

Every Christmas, this happens. It couldn’t get any worse. And I’ve never spoken a word to her (she has forbid having me in her presence from the moment she heard of me).

Well. I just slipped this in to her mailbox. She has one long overdue visit from a ghost of Christmas past.

Happy holidays, everyone. Don’t take shit from anyone.

 

***

If I could imagine such a message to be delivered, I would imagine this.

My Dear Dorothy,

I am praying that our Savior blesses you this holiday season and offers peace from the difficulties you face in your life. I am so sorry that you are struggling with these very real chapters in the lives of people you know. It would sadden me to know that your disapproval and resentments have hurt others I cared so much for while I was here, so here are some things to consider as you push forward.

My death is not one to be avenged by hatred or judgment. No lawsuit will make wrongs right. There are always circumstances no one can change, and a plan that only God can understand. The picture will never look perfect to anyone. You will never earn the perfect salary, never not have regrets, never not make mistakes, never be happy unless you can accept things for what they are and make a conscious decision to be thankful for your blessings. You can do everything with pure intent and still be the villain in someone’s story, which is why it is important to remember the saying: those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

My life on Earth with Daniel was our time together, and will always be meaningful. But the house I lived in, for the too-short time that it was, is not meant to be a museum of times gone by. I am not limited to or preserved in any ceramic or rug, and I would never want sentiment for me to prevent your son from love and companionship as his story continues. When I knew of my condition I told my husband that he would find someone younger – and who knows how I came to say that, but my wishes for him are more important than anything that would keep him unhappy, entombed by the tragedies of the past.

I never knew Autumn, and Autumn never knew me. Your harbored list of reasons to dislike her is unwarranted in the light of the greater truth: that no matter what and despite everything you may think, she was created by the same Father who made me, holds true love in her heart for your son and brings a smile to Daniel’s face. It doesn’t matter what you or any one else has gossiped about during trying times. It doesn’t matter what you think you can discover when you go through a person’s things. It doesn’t matter what you think her credit score is, what beloved thing she unboxed and set on the mantle, what her habits are or what her age means. None of those things matter – and I would hope you never measured my worth by those terms.

And please, don’t think you please me by believing that Autumn should not sing. I could never have heard enough music in that house! This season Daniel and Autumn went to see a movie after my own heart – the sequel to Mary Poppins, a Disney production, and as the story’s father and his children were mourning the loss of their wife and mother in a time of depression, Mary began to sing to them:

Do you ever lie
Awake at night
Just between the dark
And the morning light
Searching for the things
You used to know
Looking for the place
Where the lost things go

Do you ever dream
Or reminisce
Wondering where to find
What you truly miss
Well maybe all those things
That you love so
Are waiting in the place
Where the lost things go

If I could have looked down on them at that moment in their lives, I would have seen the tears in both of their eyes as the weight of the losses of this world pulled at their hearts. And I would have agreed with the nature of Mary Poppins, that a new adventure could not come sooner.

I made great efforts to keep Daniel on better terms with his family. So if Autumn sends a Christmas card when he is too busy for such thoughtfulness, do not see the greeting in someone else’s home as an evil deed. She, like I did, believes that it is never too late to tell a family member that they matter, no matter how estranged…

And she cares about you, too, in spite of all you think you may know. She is always making sure your son has an offering or a kind word for every occasion. When the two of you are at odds, she prays that you will be a positive force in Daniel’s life once again. She sees your excommunication, and raises you an era of new hope and personal growth.

God bless you, Dorothy. I loved my time on Earth, loved you and and love forever with my Father. There was and are those things that I’ve loved most: laughter, smiles, singing, dancing, children, company and celebration. Let go of everything else.

Only love.

A Far Cry

And when I grew old, I was riddled with sin

Locked my soul in the dark, never let the light in

I crawled to the gate, with little time left

I cried, “What have I done?” as I took my last breath

***

This Summer I tried something that I had only seen men do: I put a gun in my hand.

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A machine gun, actually. And a flame thrower. And a grenade launcher.

My introduction to the first-shooter world was Far Cry 5. I roamed around a beautiful depiction of Montana, through lakes, forests and countryside, assassinating predominantly white cultists who were taking over field and farm with a false religion.

It was absolutely exhilarating.

Stealth is just so quiet. So many slow crawls to vantage points and all of those deep breaths while you aim. I can only stand it for so long. I tried to use the technique, find nearby cliffs and silently snipe outposts one by one, throwing enough explosives to decimate the entire site without ever being detected. But after I had explored and hunted enough to level up, I had the tendency to run in to their camp with the most ridiculous automatic weapon and murder everyone in a circle as they approached.

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Help me Faith, help me Faith

Shield me from sorrow

From fear of tomorrow

Help me Faith, help me Faith

Shield me from sadness

From worry and madness

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I felt really bad about that one. My side mission was to gather eagle feathers and it lead me up a tall cliff where all of these eagles were flying around, so I started shooting them out of the sky. And when I kept missing and ran out of bullets I used the torch. It was modern ‘Merica. Then I realized I just needed to climb a little higher to their nest and grab the feathers from there. Whoops.

I’m not going to review the game – there are plenty of informative reviews out there. I’m just going to say that the concepts reached me. The songs with controlling, evangelical lyrics, friending a giant cat, destroying shrines emitting poison that seemed all-too-familiar, militaristic theology (“Cull the herd!”) and perhaps the thing that resonated most of all was, of course, Faith. I mean, who hasn’t reached out to her at one point or another?

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Lead me to the bliss.

Succs To Succ

I should have seen the warning signs. Green tea iced frappacinos, a three hour drive to a lake because it had a beach for dogs and made a great photo opp, binge watching older episodes of Dance Moms because I found out Abbie Lee was dying of cancer and was wildly misunderstood, I WAS BASIC BITCHING ALL OVER THE PLACE. The stage was set for sabotage.

Then it happened. I don’t know what I was doing at Home Depot, I don’t build stuff. Maybe it was a routine outdoor nursery stop, but I was bummed by the heat, didn’t want to plant a damn thing yet I was still going through the motions. Basic bitch blind.

I stopped and looked at the succulent display. How cute, how harmless, how could they ever possibly ruin my life? Look this little guy is 4 or 5 dollars. $. Ooh let’s add a little volume to the indoor plant collection. Ooh, there’s so many. $$.

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And look how many are online. Oh wow look how many different ones are online! My store didn’t have those. I know I’ll just head up to another hardware store. $$$. Score! Now I have 5 more but not those ones I saw online, I have to order those online… $$$$ A PROMO CODE let’s order again $$$$$

Oh shit, WHAT? Potting soil kills them? I have to buy what now? What the fuck is a gritty mix oh man where am I going to buy the parts for this soil. FOUND THEM! $. Oh look at these succulents I don’t have these. $$

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Plants, check! Materials, check! Now let’s spend HOURS AND HOURS potting them up, cleaning up our dirty shitmess from the kitchen counters, figuring out how to keep the windowsills clean, dusting them, watering them, and in our spare time when we’re NOT touching succulents we can watch YOUTUBE VIDEOS ABOUT SUCCULENTS!

My choir mate: How’s your summer going?

Me: My goal is to conquer succulents. Everything has lead me to this mission. There is no other news. Only succulents.

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Choir mate: I mean, people do that with kids…make them their life. It’s like the same thing.

Wow… there’s so much to learn. I didn’t know any of this. GOD WHY ARE THESE SO DIFFERENT. I have to repot them now. Fuck I spilled one. Is this one dying? What are these bugs? WHATS HAPPENED TO MY LIFE?

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Sucks to succ. If you have found or ever find this has happened to you, here are my core takeaways from succing.

  1. Research them online. There are like five different families of succulents that need different care. Learn their names. Kalanchoe, haworthia, echeveria, lithops, shit like that. Feel real smart.
  2. Succulents have to be in gritty mix that has only a little succulent grade soil in it. Perlite will save you, look in to it. Put it in the soil.
  3. They need lots of sun. If you don’t have a place in your house that gets hours and hours of good sun, don’t even start. You won’t win. And fertilize them like twice a year cuz that’s succy food.
  4. Succulents might love the garden hose in some states but in Michigan and colder climates, water touching them will kill them. And they hate humidity. Bottom water only, after their soil has dried out and the succs start to look crappy, and then water very little. If they get too cold they’re dead. You can’t keep them outside unless you’re in some hot ass climate. Hot hot hot.
  5. Gold and brown is sunburn. Yellow and saggy is over watering. Showing their stem between leaves means it is etiolated, google it. It looks bad.
  6. They often reveal little insects called mealie bugs. You get to remove them, swap out their soil and spray them with alcohol in the battle to fight pesticides. It WILL happen to you.
  7. If they get colder they go in to dormancy phase usually Oct-Feb and watering then will kill them. Oh and if you get less sun during the winter they will probably all die without lighting.
  8. Succs love being cramped in small pots with neglect. Water them like every 3 weeks or even less. They hate being “sprayed”, the spray bottle is meant to spray down at the base soil only.
  9. Don’t believe every online care video. They do the wrong shit all the time, things that would kill yours. You’ll hear about “top dressing”. Rocks and gravel shit at the top will maintain moisture in the soil and kill them all. Warning you now. Looks nice, ends badly.
  10. Stop (STOP STOP STOP EVALUATE YOUR LIFE) when you are out of room because you probably already hate yourself, went broke and now have to worry about what to do when/if they survive, grow bigger and need more space.

The one with the metal pokey thing.

One day you might find that you do not sleep alone. You’ll have spent your fair share of time on an experiment gone all too well, and spent less time in your personal space. Just when it seems to have become old routine, maybe, you will find yourself in the night, unable to sleep. The person next to you will be there, connected to the world you share, fast asleep.

But you will be awake. Unfortunately you may have responsibilities the following day requiring this to be a mini-reflection, a quasi-spell. The thoughts in your head cannot keep you for too long or you worry of the havoc it will cause on your body. Knowing that rest is not immediate, you very well may get out of bed quietly and walk away.

I can hear insects outside, and I can see the glowing of internet boxes lighting up a shelf in the beast of an entertainment console. It glows orange and red like a cyber fire. The last time this happened was years ago, and I remember seeing an old DVD VCR combo blinking the time in green, over and over again.

Just know that this will be normal. In case you haven’t lived or learned enough yet, it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong or right with your life. Sometimes we reach that odd combo of stresses, worries, anxieties, fears and what-have-yous, and without much focus on any one thing those unsettling ripples will come and go. You can get something to eat. Write. Pray. Whatever you want to do, because you just couldn’t sleep, and you needed a little time for the right chemicals to catch up.

Or it could mean that you are about to change your world. I know that I have come to feel swollen, tight in my skin, like I could hover over a sink, poke my arm with prongs and watch poison fall. Not in any sort of convenient rush, either – more like a small hole you have to squeeze for little drops. This could take a while.

I haven’t got that kind of time.

A few dreams can take you to a few too many places you probably didn’t need to visit. And oh, those unresolveds, those regrets. Just remember they lie within everyone.

I’ll always care too much about what other people think. It doesn’t matter how good I’ve tried to be, there will be people who put me in horns and made me the enemy. What’s important is that I never do that to myself.

My 1st boyfriend once got a message from his friend saying that I would be nowhere if it hadn’t been for him. I still remember reading it from a Razr phone. And there the fear was borne, that I would forever be nothing without other people. It took a while longer, but truth told that I could be something without the both of them. “Fuck her” was certainly how my chapter ended in their book.

I’ll always wish there could have been some magic way to make hurting someone okay. I’ll wish for the knowledge that I had qualified to dare, been smart enough to translate my own emptiness, felt strong enough to act on the fact that I was somewhere I would not stay.

An old pen pal thought I was atrocious. Someone I had drummed up as a hero found me after my adolescent demon had resurfaced, looked at me lost in its aftermath, and told me how disappointed they were in me. “If you’re not happy, GET OUT”, he said.

I would read his sentence several times over, like a question. Wasn’t that a crazy thought?

Wasn’t it nice, Codewriter, to live so many floors high in to the sky, and walk outside at night in a robe just like Spyder Jerusalem? A random pile of desserts and candy spread across the floor from the Asian market, a spreadsheet detailing just how much more money you spent in a relationship than without one? That feeling to be free, say whatever you wanted, do whatever you wanted?

Shame on me for thinking the monster was finished. That you can act like you just forget about shit and distract yourself and start building parallel and it never comes back to knock you over. I was always headed right there, inevitably, to deal with it in final form.

We were all flesh and blood. It scares me to death to even think about. The people, the memories, how the universe I had created had alienated me from ever really feeling here or now, with the physical things that moved past. It was where my voice was, and it was my voice that ever made me anything at all, and got me out of the world of trouble I would have been in had I stayed frozen in moving times.

I’ve gotten much better at bonding to the now, and it requires a lot of work. I give it parts of me, things go practical and I lose the fantastical.

I worry about my family because they’re still all right there, in the older journal entries. They’re in that same place, connected to all of the same things, and sometimes bad things happen. My brother struggles with alcoholism and has remained invalid, my father is on a breathing machine for half the day and my mother had mobility issues due to the need for a second hip replacement. They’re still in that house, dysfunctional but loving as ever, screaming and worrying about me from several hours away.

It doesn’t get better. My brother doesn’t go drug-free and functional. My mother doesn’t walk better. My father’s lungs do not de-crystalize. We can’t just go back and re-read. Each day is the most stable day I have left. And it’s hard. It breaks my heart, trying to celebrate it all when there are times when I could just as well cry.

My moon sister knows something is going on. She posted a photo of her eyes, which I saw in my media scroll before singing “Private Eyes” at the bar, before Dan heard it and it got stuck in his head, and I never told her because of a strange silence I cannot understand other than the simple fact that the moon has always been bloody.

Always been a dark world for us. Always been a part of who we are. And I have been thinking, how poor behaviors were imitated by a others who only brought light of them. Only made good things happen, became the saving grace that makes me smile about the entire goddamn nightmare…

which it finally feels like it is. Enough of a distant memory. Flashes, and who can remember exactly what was real or just real to some one?

Private eyes, clap

They’re watching you *clap clap*

They see your every move.

It is up to me, if everything is going to be alright. Up to me to begin tomorrow and start something over. Up to me, what is carried on…

Then you will simply slip back in to bed.

Gearin’ Up For Summer, Or, It’s Called A Belt Bag

This morning my boyfriend strapped on a fanny pack for his trip to Cedar Point.

My sensible conclusion was to respect our differences and let him use an appropriate tool for his generation. Either they’re back in all of their glory and he will be a fashion god or those junior high kids are going to laugh their asses off on that field trip.

“It’s a nice one,” he explained as he snapped the plastic ends together, strapping it on. “My wife gave it to me.”

Then he pulled out a plastic bag of weed, a glass pipe, and whatever else. Whenever he touches something old the past is guaranteed to manifest itself.

“This was the joint I rolled for her, her last one before she died.”

Every day for the past four years this woman has died. I deal with it according to my mood, or according to things going on. That and the house, and all I am surrounded by, they’re all a constant reminder that my life will never be a certain kind of normal. It will always be my whatever-I-decide, whether that’s normal or abnormal or good or bad.

It seems kind of fucked up and doesn’t seem to have made any sense to anyone else, but what matters is what makes sense to ME.

And anything I struggle with, or bitch about, or laugh at, it’s part of my normal. How absolutely bored I’ve been, how soul-searching, the more my life was hunky dory. Dark days dressed in mediocrity just disappeared into repetition – taking innocent bystanders with it. I am happy – genuinely, happy, that those days are behind me… or wherever they went.

It’s so much better with a million questions.

Goddamn fanny pack is right.

Garden Season Commences

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I did not have the strength this spring like in the past, when I was fighting for everything to stay alive. Rehoming, pesticide treating, watering, pruning, experimenting, always planting something, I forced away English ivy so I could gather my hostas together like soldiers grouping for impact. I kept tabs on all of it and made sure I did everything I possibly could to gain footing…

As winter was coming to a close I would pace the foyer, staring at where the tulip bulbs had been buried. I was told that rabbits would eat them. They started growing and I was assured deer would find them. But then they bloomed, beautifully. And they were just fine.

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I didn’t realize that everything else was coming up all on its own, earlier than last year, without worry. The bleeding heart shrub has quadrupled in size. I didn’t even watch it grow. Gladiolas that are supposed to be dug up and over-wintered, seem to be just fine. Strange hostas in new areas are all poking through the topsoil, the true test of whether or not they would stay and fight. The hydrangea no longer looks like a dead stick. Lily of the Valley is taking its own course around a tree. Solomon’s Seal has new stalks. Propagated, divided and spread out…It’s all…here. Even things I thought had perished.

It’s so strange, telling myself that I can just… pace myself. Spray some repellent here. Rake a little there. It all started falling in to place without having to push and shove for every inch.

And that massive pine tree I bitched about for over two years as its needles and cones pulverized everything below it? It just…died. And let in the all the sun I needed. Dan had to pay to have it cut down before it killed someone. Now there’s just a stump.

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Not that any of it could keep me from the nurseries. I escaped to several in an effort to get away from the overwhelming community event I had to host at the house…and of course, it was impossible to leave without something nearly every time. A silvery shrub, summer snowflake, Rose, and the list easily went from one or two to about a dozen new plants.

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I germinated morning glory from seed and have the seedlings hardening outside. Twenty or thirty of them…which will produce enough vine to grow over absolutely everything (evil plans await). That was my greenhouse project for the year. I also have oriental lily in the fridge, creating 3 months of cold weather for bulb formation, but I do not keep my hopes high for a seed that is difficult to grow. I bet Dan wonders why the bottom crisper drawer is full of dirt.

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The cleanup event was a huge success. I went around promoting it at the neighborhood progressive party (although most of the attendees claimed to be too busy to put in any real work) and stole everyone’s e-mail addresses from our secretary’s ‘send-to’ field in order to remind everyone about the event. I campaigned it really well and by noon, about twenty people were pulling weeds at the entrance signs. A beautiful thing. Way better than the dwindling attendance of 6, and I didn’t spend any money on fliers. Plus I shaved 50 bucks off the expense tab. This stingy old place needs a lot of help, and I helped it. It feels good, being proud of that.

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I’m pleased. I can work with this. Let’s start snapping photos. Let’s tell a story.

A Power Player To Dress The Part

She had been discovered in the windy city sometime in the early 60’s. They called her Chicago Peace. She was summoned, one week ago.

Although it looked like there were many more to choose from, for some reason she had been brought in from the outside to fight a very private, highly classified battle.

“Why didn’t you pick any one of the others who were already local?” she wondered.

It was unclear to her, how the territories worked. She had just landed the role and figured those abstract shapes and muddled colors would all make sense once her vision of the kingdom had sharpened. Some things just took time and the right exposure, which she already knew well from personal experience.

“I’m counting on you, Rose,” said the queen.

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Down To One

When I first moved in, Daniel showed me the rooms his step children had occupied and offered them to me for my things. I thought it was odd, thinking back now, as we were hauling in my piano and the person helping us asked, “Do you want to keep this downstairs?”

Immediately Dan had answered for us, “No.” There was no room in the house for the piano; the piano would go upstairs in one of the spare bedrooms. Back then I figured it would take time to really find a place for everything… I didn’t really understand the place was permanently in the step child’s old bedroom.

For a while I had all of my “living” furniture in one room and my dressing items in the other. (I don’t share space in the bedroom – though it is master size, with four closets and a large dresser, every drawer and door is filled with his things.) Sometime during our first year together his step children took him to court over various furniture and he agreed to give them several large pieces that they had probably known all of their life. This opened up space in one of those two rooms.

Then he got the idea to purchase, with my discount and tireless hours shopping with him, a large screen TV, surround sound and recliners. He even made custom shelves to fill with every video game action figure he could buy. My involvement became my blessing, I suppose, as everything I had in there was eventually crammed in to the one room for his entertainment.

The piano is three feet from the desk, three feet from the book shelf, three feet from the table and so on, and I maneuver in between everything in order to get dressed. I did as much as I could to work with the windows and arrange everything so it looks like a living space and not a storage space. It’s hard, sometimes, seeing all of my things in one area while so much of the house goes un-lived in most of the time. Losing the room didn’t change my monthly monetary contribution. Sometimes I’d get angry and ask myself what I was paying for, only to be defeated by the thought that my rent wouldn’t cover my own place anywhere in this town. I really couldn’t afford to want more.

Tonight I learned that the two chairs in the gaming room are very misleading.

I went in there and booted up the PlayStation 4 so I could play a video game – one I paid for and downloaded to the console. At some point during the process I noticed a weird piece of plastic on one of Dan’s many larger statues and picked it off. Unable to figure out what it went to, I thought nothing more of it. The statue was on a tall speaker beside the TV, so I figured it was from something he had been lifting up and down from behind the unit during installation of some thing or another. Who knows. I played my game.

Daniel came out of the room after I had gone downstairs, tiny piece in his hand, and demanded to know where it had come from. Then he ordered me to tell him how I had come to notice the loose plastic if I was “sitting down playing a game” – a mortifying, grilling interrogation as if he was going to uncover what I had done wrong while being in his room…

The room I gave up, that we built together, with two chairs.

His replies and further questioning told me that he wasn’t going to believe the simple truth. He didn’t remember, like I did, how many times he fussed with the antennae on Thanksgiving so I could see the parade. He didn’t remember bumping in to the statue. His thoughts were far from blaming himself and he just wanted to know how I had broken something. Full-fledged OCD and selfish possession reared their ugly heads as I was shamed further from him.

We’re talking about a foot-tall video game character wielding a guitar like an axe – the odd- colored piece was apparently from the guitar. He found out because he had taken the time to match it up, followed by more questions about how the figure had become chipped.

I refused to elaborate. I just kept shrugging; I had no idea how he thought I would be involved. If I had broken it, I would have said sorry and bought a new goddamned toy. Seriously, I didn’t appreciate the way I was being treated.

He stormed up the stairs and slammed the door to the room like a teenager in angst. That left me, downstairs, listening to him….slide things across the floor. Move things around. What kind of fit was he throwing up there, exactly? Was that the sound of my piano losing the one shitty spot it had?

Sometimes these bad things happen and I tell myself, Autumn, everything is not okay here. This isn’t good. He isn’t right.

I picked the laptop up from beside my chair and began to write this, hoping it would all come together and make sense, even produce an answer for when the dysfunction is so thick I think it’s going to suffocate me.

By the time I got right here, he was back downstairs with a dusting cloth in his hand at 11 P.M, leaning against the fireplace.

“Thanks for finding that, Babe.”

Thanks for finding that, Babe? Do you have any idea what you just put me through? How absolutely miserable you make living with you? I didn’t want anything to do with your shitty PlayStation, your shitty little room, or even you, anymore, because you’re clearly insane.

“You scare me.”

“What are you talking about?” It was as if he had time to adjust his perspective and come back down to Earth, never mind the way he had looked from outer space.

“You verbally attacked me over something I had nothing to do with, made me feel terrible-“

He talked over my words. He simplified. Acted like he had always been grateful. He just wanted to thank me again.

There may be two chairs in there, but I know better now.

I am never, ever, going back in there again.

In Which There Was A Broken Strand

I took Daniel to see the movie ‘Jackie’, thinking it was going to cover more about her entire life and womanhood in general. I didn’t realize the movie would begin with the assassination of her husband and never, ever, move on. Together we saw through a very grim story and I found myself relating to the first lady who had never really owned anything, merely walked among it, before unexpectedly being separated from everything. What would happen to me, being in a relationship that was heavily-dependent on the title owner? What will come of my haphazard blueprints for Camelot?

When the movie was over I grabbed my purse and stood up to leave. The house lights were still off but the credits were scrolling, and Dan pulled my chair back down again. I thought he wanted me to make sure I hadn’t left anything so I started to raise my purse to show him I was on top of it… then he grabbed my hand and said, “Sit down.”

He looked up and I could see the light of the screen reflecting off the tears streaming down his face. He didn’t want to leave because he had started to cry, lost in his own similarities between Jackie’s loss and his own. I felt bad for him, sat down and told him I was sorry.

On our way out of the theater, my pearl necklace broke. Without a sound, the little beads quickly rolled down my shirt and began to sprawl across the carpeted lobby. I was in a bit of shock, empathizing with Dan, and seeing my broken jewelry going everywhere felt entirely surreal. It felt like a moment, that’s supposed to be saying something, only I couldn’t understand other than the part that said THIS IS NOT PERFECT AND NOT GOOD.

“Oh my gosh, her pearls!” a woman yelled before bending down to gather them. Then there were more people, all older, all lowered to the floor to retrieve the beads for me. I was speechless. I was thinking of Jackie’s pearls, the movie, my life, and how things just don’t always go the way you intend them to.

It’s difficult to come up with an answer for what’s good about a problem. Sometimes I just want the problem to be eliminated, and not have to work with it. I want to figure out how to change it, get as close to making it go away, than move in the direction of appreciation.

For example, the bird feeder in my back yard has caused me a lot of stress in the past. Dan agonizes over what to switch around if and when squirrels figure out a way to reach the seed. I have to plant around it. I’ve gotten pissed about the mess the birds leave, how the seed casings seem to pierce fragile hosta leaves and attract animals that like to devour my plants. I have hated the bird feeder.

But today I saw it, blanketed in snow, unable to hurt any living things underneath it, and I saw something different. I saw a variety of birds eating from the different hanging feeders; I saw a unit working as it is intended to. I saw the tall shepherd’s hook that must have come from my boyfriend’s late wife, my own feeder working well off one of the hooks and the energy my boyfriend has used to pull everything together so the birds could eat. Everything combined to create something nice, and the beauty of it really touched me.

Something like a bird feeder out under the tree is so easy to ignore, but I felt like I really saw it today, the trifecta of caring people. Suddenly it was much easier to answer what was good about it. Suddenly, it worked.

I have hated living in a pre-furnished house. It hasn’t felt like me, like my home, but rather like a museum I’m not supposed to touch. I have HATED having my things stored in bins and closets and being unable to play with colors, textures and style.

Rather than resolve to be entirely against the cluttered shelves of blue porcelain, I decided to work with it yesterday. I took everything off the china cabinet and divided it in to “looks like a nicer piece” and “fucking hate this awful shit”. Then I shopped the house and pulled different mediums that all fit a color pallet and just started redesigning.

Something as simple as an old tin would show me a parallel between its colors and the rose on my teacup…then I could see a matching saucer from another cupboard, and eventually I could work other colors on to the blue hell shelves. I could work my things in to her things, in his house, although it made me nervous to try. Dan doesn’t like change. In his head, the exposed interior walls and hanging speaker cords are pure perfection because they were from a time when everything was perfect and he had his saintly wife, so even making an improvement can result in backlash, argument and hurt feelings. I try to remind myself that it is touching, how firmly he believed in his Camelot, how strong his grip is on it – even if not always for the better.

When I was done, even the “hate this shit” items gave their weight and contrast to balancing the final result. Everything had a place. And it began to live, breathe and tell a story. Something as basic as decorative shelving gave me a rewarding feeling I can’t begin to describe. I wasn’t embarrassed by the design. I wanted to be in there. I had created love.

Top it off with a table cloth from my lifetime ago, like an old friend thought dead, and I could have just cried.

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I still can’t arrive to any certain message from my broken pearl necklace. Maybe a message isn’t really a message if you can’t clearly understand it, or maybe some of them are meant to be understood later on. I just know that I love the beautiful things, want for them, tell myself that they WILL BE MINE… but what is beautiful and what can be possessed is always changing, coming and going, like loved ones, like birds to a feeder.

My brother called.

“Autumn. I’ve made a huge mistake. I need your help.”

All of my previous drama is drowned out, the very volume on my life going down as I press my ear to the phone.

“A girl lured me online to Detroit I came down here and when I got to the house I was concerned because it looked boarded up but she was outside and she said ‘hey C’mon In'”…

The idiot, he actually got closer, still wanting to cling to the idea that his online soulmate was just feet away…

“And then this guy tried to get me to go down to the basement…”

He ran away. My brother got away.

Daniel stopped me several times from bolting from the house to pick him up. He said they could be trying to lure me too… that my brother might have been forced to call me…

He made it to a greyhound station just across the way from Windsor, where I got him a taxi to me, then we made the hour-and-a-half drive from my house back to my hometown. But that time in between almost killed me.

It’s over. It’s over. It’s over. He’s home. I’m home.

He had to struggle to figure out where he was. I had to struggle to understand if he was really free, if he was safe…his phone died before his ride made it to him and I just had to hope…hope… I can’t explain. I’m too tired.

My brother peered in to a boarded up building in Detroit and certainly saw death waiting in the dark.

I am hurt, in a panic, shaking even now, at the very thought.

 

 

 

 

 

No Problems Here.

I am NOT having a Christmas eve day episode.

This laptop isn’t even really here. I never think about the time I was on my laptop and Brad came in the room, tripped over the cords and wrecked the aux port on it before he bought me this one. I never wonder if any random troubleshooting need would be necessary if I had never gotten this device, or feel guilty for wondering those sorts of things.

It’s just, not really here.

My brother didn’t recently leave his girlfriend in tears, having broken up with her for someone else and reasoned that it was no different than what I did.

He says, he had to follow his heart. Maybe we never fought about it. I might never have blocked him on social media after reading nasty things he wrote publically, about our mother, who had lent his girlfriend hundreds and hundreds of dollars that will probably never be paid back.

Which means, he never went to jail. Was never told he’d be there without bond. I wouldn’t struggle with the idea of knowing he’d miss Christmas in the state’s attempt to punish without any means to correct. I didn’t send him a friend request in sadness…

Never saw that he had accepted it a few days ago. Never failed to understand why someone would be given a literal ‘jail break’ before having to serve the rest of their sentence at the end of January.

I didn’t struggle with mixed feelings about knowing he hadn’t stayed there long enough to receive the Christmas card I’d sent with the little picture of my dogs wearing ridiculous holiday clothes.

Maybe I kid myself about how much thought I put in to making sure there were good presents for my boyfriend to unwrap tomorrow. It probably didn’t take all month to figure out more than seeing something and asking whether or not it suited him and if I could afford – ahem, if Hello Kitty – could afford it.

And it’s no big deal how upset he sounded, realizing gifts existed and that my previously announced “absence of Christmas spirit” only meant no decorations. He didn’t try to figure out how much everything cost.

I wasn’t annoyed that he was the guy who wrote “gift card” on his secret santa profile at work.

“We could just stand face to face and exchange hundred dollar bills, but that would be missing the whole point of giving,” I never tried to explain (in the car on the way to Costco because he needed something and where ‘maybe [I’d] find a gift’-

“In BULK!” The sarcastic remark never escaped my lips.

I hardly struggled to keep Christmas in focus. It wasn’t hard, planning the meals or making sure chores were done. I didn’t seem to have depression or shrug it off as holiday stress. They were all just any other day.

Confusion was not my reaction when his friend asked him to visit on Christmas. I didn’t wonder why he was leaving me tomorrow to pick up his mother (who still refuses to acknowledge me) and drive out of town to see his old neighbor for the afternoon.

It was because his friend was in remission from cancer and just wanted to see him, so it didn’t hurt my feelings. I never wondered what I would do by myself on my one day off that had orchestrated the entire ordeal of December. I didn’t think it was weird that he was suddenly visiting his past life on our Christmas Day, cause Cancer is the magic safe word.

I never wished that I…had cancer, too. I don’t need his attention. There’s no need to pick any other day for a visit. My countless, willing sacrifices made on the daily have totally added up and I see enough of him as it is.

He didn’t feel obligated to go out during my work shift to find gifts, so it never made me feel bad. There was no need to wonder why he honestly had never thought about it, to ask myself if he really wouldn’t have gotten me a single thing if I hadn’t set out his presents. It’s just stuff.

The day didn’t suck before I made it home, landed in a chair and called him to ask for some chocolate covered cherries on his way back. I know better, because that would be sharing my thoughts about something that I want. He wouldn’t start asking jackassy, objectional questions with disapproval before I hung up on him and drove off to get them my fucking myself.

I didn’t call him back and bitch him out over the phone, apologizing for the burden I must be…never tossed his clothing off the banister and on to the floor because JESUS CHRIST IT’S NOT A PERMANENT COAT RACK.

I mean, it IS. It’s totally cool, not taking your shit with you when you go up the stairs. FUCK it. Fuck all of it.

It doesn’t matter.

We’ll Have To Get Together The Next Time We’re Both Free.

If I could just sit down and write for a while, but the while is never convenient. I suppose the upside to that is realizing how the upset, passion-fueled mind has not been roused for While.

While,

I had a moment between chores today when I realized that I was enjoying my life. I like where I am, I like what I do, and I hold a hopeful frame of mind. Thanks for that.

Sincerely,

Your beloved victim of time.

The holidays are here, ya’ll. I know you know. How are you holding up so far?

This year I joined Reddit’s holiday gift exchange which clearly states a $20 gift minimum for all secret santas, so I assumed it meant “around a twenty dollar gift”. I found star wars electronics on clearance, bought gourmet food, dog toys and crammed a good $60 value in to a box that was ten more dollars to ship, hoping it would suffice.

Today I got an e-mail that ONE of my gifts is a Vinyl Me, Please membership. I was stunned. I cannot keep up with these online merry makers. I had that on my BUCKETLIST as a LIFE goal, not as a gift idea. Anything fancy like that tends to be taken care of by my Hello Kitty credit card, for me to deal with over a long period of time with interest. I can’t afford Vinyl Me, Please. That’s why it was a goal.

Hello Kitty has been paying for more than I like to admit, with things like “tax rebate” in mind. It doesn’t help to have my finance ambitions taking hold during the freaking holidays when I just want everyone to have something nice. Those two things are opposing forces. I’m trying to leverage with stuff like baked goods and mix CDS. Personalize and mass-produce, another contradiction now that I think about it.

My family is stable. I get along with everyone and recently added more family members to my HR-Safe virtual home of Facebook. It’s a place with sprinklings of me, finely filtered, just bland enough to go with everyone’s feed. I can add my doctor, my lawyer, the defendant, the suspect, the mom, the coworkers, the real friends, etc and they can all gel together like an amazing 70’s gelatin mold: Gets the job done with something left to be desired.

The fun stuff doesn’t always have a showcase. That’s precisely why I am hoping to get the chance to sit here more and empty my brain.

If you’re out there, if you’re reading this, I want to invite you to my annual Christmas card exchange. A chance to build rapport or just participate in something fun, please leave a comment if you are interested or shoot me an e-mail to autumnmay@gmail.com. I’ve got cards and I wanna send holiday cheer, dammit. So do it. It’ll be good for you.

Now that I have an Xbox One I am afraid several titles are calling my name. New gamertag, needs to develop a decent gamer score. I’m thinking of racing through Rock Band to rack up some achievements. If you’re on there as well, give me your Gamertag. I’ll add you back. Warning: I like taking screen shots of pretty CGI parts and posting them to my activity feed.

Although it may seem a run of the mill posting, this is actually a wall coming down. I don’t think I have ever successfully linked myself to other realms. Enough people in the waking life find you online, enough online people stalk you in real life, it all starts to blur for me. No one likes to live in the dark, anyway. So this is my house. Here are my windows.

If you throw something, please use heavily-weighted chocolates, fruit cake bricks and graphic novels. I’ll clean up glass all day.

Happy holidays,

Autumn May

Proving It.

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Rose pruning. Plant IDs. You can never have too many friends.

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The front porch is lit. Crap is climbing out of everything.

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These are the hostas left in the ground. Animal and bug deterrent is working. No more cracks, no more holes. I see a pine cone I’m throwing it across the yard. Don’t fuck with us.

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I mean, goddamn. Beautiful.

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You know what, St. Franky? You’re welcome.

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No scraggly shit on my watch. Ugh, visible base block for the angel? Bitch please. Fixed.

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Some flowers, some shit in the middle. Like it’s easy. Because it is – ON THE EYES.

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Can you BELIEVE I posted that pic of the scraggly hostas? Well LOOK AT US NOW. WHAT NOW? COME AT ME. Is that VULCAN with the white???? Of course it is.

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Solomon’s Seal is ringing the choral bells. Cheer for the joyful sound until the license plate rattles AGAINST THE CAR SMASH A GUITAR FUCK SHIT UP.

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Still one of the best things ever. Not going anywhere. Birds can shake off their mites somewhere else.

 

Now hush. I ain’t even done.

It’s All Going Down…

liliesreadyI’m telling you, these lilies are in showcase shape and will be blooming any day now. I babied them with every trick I knew and they are going to explode on to your feed in the form of a million lily photos that will make you wanna unsubscribe, they will be hitting you so hard.

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What? Hostas were failing? I just potted them up and treated the hell out of them. Once they’re stronger and better, they will go right back in to the ground and be the ultimate collection they were intended to be.

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Yup, all of this is happening. Blue. yellow. Muthafuckin polka dotted, who knows. They will not be stopped.

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Little Henry isn’t so little anymore. He’s going to kick some ass.

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Whaaat? I’m cleaning all the other beds and taking care of everything else too?!? Yup. The shittiest plant is my weakest and I won’t run a shitty empire. This is all getting fixed.

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Groomed golden doodle overlooking the transition. Duchess, you take a shit wherever you like. This is ours.

You’ve Always Been

An annual conference with the queen

Third summer since new root

New neighbors, needles evergreen

A strange land to dispute

 

We are the crown, we drink in reign

And raise our brandy glass

We give our thanks in memory of

The boy who mowed our grass

 

No matter what for each farewell

We wish we’d kept them all

Divided we sing, united in dreams

Of old Carnation Hall

 

We pay respects to grapevine

That grew along the fence

Goodbye, forsythia in the spring

Our meeting must commence

 

I have been working very hard outside this year. With each plant strategically repositioned last year, we conquered. Lily patches have become focal points, two massive armies of pinks and warm colors that are coordinated and multiplying rapidly. Hostas that were lifted from poor soil are thriving in their new spots. They’re also making friends, learning to pair with the natives and are stronger for it.

Today I went back to the garden bed where plants weren’t looking like they had in the past, and I approached with a heavy heart for every broken leaf and hole. I didn’t know where anything could go if it wasn’t doing well where it was. But as I began to dig, I realized that the items in question had heavily multiplied….

Each seemingly suffering plant was easily trimmed and became three plants. It was like magic as I pulled each section away from the main root ball. It was like Christmas. I ended up dividing everything and lopping off weathered parts that wouldn’t be missed. I even took samples of everything and potted them so they could grow on the porch like extra copies.

All I had seen earlier were the imperfections and I totally missed the fact that everything was so much bigger – that being crowded was a compliment to progress. I wasn’t losing anything. I was winning. Gaining.

I was queen again.

Saint Patrick’s Massacre

Daniel came up to me at my workplace to buy a video game and he said, “There sure are a lot of St. Patrick’s Day events…I was hearing them over the radio. Maybe we can do somethin’ comin’ up…”

What I took away from that was, “I’ve never really celebrated Irish heritage or gone out for that occasion. And maybe I haven’t been feeling well. It would be nice to have a good time.”

So even though I didn’t feel very good when the day came (bloated, bad day at work, ghostly tonsil pains and other stupid shit), I “started over” after work with a fresh shower and “built myself back up”, telling myself to be psyched for my boyfriend. Once I was ready I took us to an Irish dive bar just 20 minutes from the house. I figured he could get the green beer, silly costumes, elbow-to-elbow comradery with a live band and decent food. Those were my goals.

I let him drive my car.

Of course the place was packed by 7 p.m. I asked a more conservative-looking couple if they would share their table, asked a waitress for the chair she was using across the way and hailed Daniel over. We happened to be front seat to the band and had a great view of the walkway where everyone paraded in their green gear. Once Daniel was handed a menu of Irish specials I really, really thought I had done a good job.

Well. I had just set us up for disaster.

Over the course of the 3 or so hours we were there, the woman we sat with became increasingly drunk and loud. Daniel would look at me as she raised her arms and screamed the lyrics to classic rock songs and I gave him a look back that said: just appreciate the enthusiasm and laugh. The couple seemed to really like us, wanted to talk with us, thought we were great together and yadda yadda. Then the woman (Maureen, I learned when she showed me her Facebook), started calling to other gentlemen to approach the table – young men walking to the restroom, waiters, other customers… she always had something flirty to say and I held my breath, giving sympathetic looks their way although everyone mostly obliged by accepting the attention and hugging her or what-the-fuck-ever.

I shook their hand every time, nodding, trying to excuse them from the table. It worked pretty well aside from the guy who had a green hat painted on his face. He asked us, “Would you ladies like one too?” and re-appeared with big, tacky temporary tattoos. Ecstatic, Maureen fetched a glass of water and I applied the tattoo to her cheek and then she did the same for me. I didn’t want to admit that I was appeasing a drunk, trying to salvage my night, and I downsized the threat of Maureen as I clapped along with the songs and tried to keep my eyes forward on the band.

The guy Maureen was with had a sophisticated green hat. He was older and seemed like a decent, relatively quiet counterpart. He would routinely remark that he “loved us” and he had to get right in Daniel’s ear in order to be heard. What I didn’t realize was that Daniel was not happy with the seedy atmosphere. He didn’t like the noise level. He didn’t like the common people (he would refer to them later as “blue collar”). He didn’t like the band and had somehow talked with the bass player who made a remark that he didn’t appreciate…

“I used to be in a band,” Daniel had started to explain. The bass player proceeded to insist that there was a successful, much bigger band out of Detroit with the same name. He basically called Daniel a garage copycat and I would have to hear him screaming later, “FUCK those guys, and we NEVER would have played a fucking place like THAT. If it didn’t have a stage, we didn’t go on…”

I am always pursing my lips, asking for a kiss. I try to take photos of us together, sometimes, using my phone…Daniel either looks away or doesn’t smile. I chalk it up to his complex over “glory days”, his dread of a bad photo…I wish he understood the power of not looking your best but smiling really big and looking happy and winning, anyway.

Eventually Maureen grabbed me and pulled me to the few feet of dance floor between the band and our table.

I had to smile big and prance and turn around like it wasn’t a big deal. Play the part. After about thirty seconds there were two or three more people pushed right up against us. Then I realized this guy in front of me had his hand on my hip and started to grab harder –

I grabbed his hand, pushed it back over to his body and patted his shoulder in order to show no hard feelings. The advancement caught me off guard and was definitely not invited. A little more saving face, big smiles and I went right back to the comfort of our table.

As I put the credit card in to my purse, Maureen caught on that I had just paid our tab. She shot a look across the table and said to him, “We have to talk.” And from then on, she eyed him differently…like she was cautioning me… They would never talk. We promptly left.

What I learned later – what Daniel drove us all the way home before revealing – was that in his mind, he looked over and saw me “dancing with another guy”, so I got an earful about how “disrespectful that was” to him, how inappropriate, how I should have “ran right over to my man”…

There was some silence as he sat on the edge of the bed looking out. He said, “I don’t think you should be with an older man.”

Every time he said something, I had no idea where it came from. It was like poison from his mouth to my heart.

The other part I couldn’t believe, was that he claimed that nice-looking older man had gone up to Daniel’s ear and explained through the blaring noise that he liked to “dominate his women like in 50 Shades of Grey” and that if Daniel ever wanted to “explore the dark side, to give him a call”. No fucking kidding. And whether it was made clear or not, Daniel perceived that as the old man proposing that we all leave together and sleep together.

Eventually he said that if I was “one of those people” I should leave and not come back.

“I don’t make an effort to keep someone like that. Bye.”

After two years and everything I’ve done he said, “Bye.” With a dismissive, purposeful southern accent. “Baaaah.”

Baaaah.

I was in shock. This was not the first time Daniel had lost his mind over something he heard or saw while we were out together. There was a couple at an Applebee’s bar a year ago…I was talking with them, being friendly, and Daniel had blown up and told me that they hoped I would “leave him and go home with them”… the time we went in to the furniture store and he saw me talking to a male salesman, accusing me of flirting with the guy… little things that told me had issues with jealousy and some delusion from trust issues…

Were these episodes worth it? What if he threw me out one day, over one, and I lost everything? Do I really want a relationship that teeters on his emotional stability?

Maybe I should just wear a burka.

Maybe it’s time to make some new resolutions…

When I grabbed my purse he was almost certain I was going back to the bar…that’s how messed up he was…

“I’m taking Duchess and I’m going home. I’m going to see my mom. She knows…about your fits. Everything I’ve done done for you, everything I do, and you’re throwing it away over 30 seconds when someone jumped in front of me-“

I broke down, started bawling, and started talking about how I should have known better.

“Only, always only, without other people. No one else can be around…you get crazy…” Now I’m freaking out, doubled over, gasping, tears running down the ugly tattoo on my cheek. I don’t know what to do and the person I love is breaking my heart.

“Why do you hurt me so much?”

Daniel changes, like night to day. Something about my reaction, the things I’ve said…for some reason my mother has a sobering effect on him. He stood in front of me and asked for a kiss… I couldn’t do it. But I hugged him and felt my tears fall off my face on to his chest.

I dreamed of Billy Joel.

I was holding glasses like he wears, a concert souvenir, but they had broken. I was walking through a plaza looking for him after a show…I found him twice and both times I could only stop twenty feet from him in fear that I would burden him with the usual OMG SO I LOVE YOUR MUSIC AND YOU ARE JUST SO AWESOME fan gush… being so close, before someone so great, afraid to lose him and unable to approach him. Billy, why have you stopped writing lyrics?

Today I was sending these digest texts of this very passage to Daniel’s phone. I know he had started reading them because he called me despite being in class. The first time I didn’t answer because I was afraid. He called again immediately and I answered.

He was acting super nice. Suggested I go to his desk and grab a Starbuck’s gift card so I could start my day with a cappuccino. I mean just real off-the-wall nice.

Maybe he knows he’s crazy.

Maybe he knows that I know.

I’ve Been Hearing Some Things About Saint Valentine.

Everyone at work knew I had the weekend off to entertain my family from out of town. I bragged on social media about balancing full-time hours with baking and cleaning between shifts. Just hours before my mother and brother arrived I managed to bring things around like personal touches and past purchases (crap, where’s that oil burner) to really show them how much I cared.

Leading up to the weekend I would get this frustrating flash of thoughts across my mind: What’s the point? Why? Who am I doing this for?

Don’t forget the night before when I fought with my boyfriend because he said some random thing that pissed me off and caused me to turn off the vacuum and retire upstairs before I had everything done. Recipe for disaster. Just meant more to cram in the day of.

Christopher was pissed that we had declared it a drug-free weekend. He almost didn’t come because of the nights he’d been keeping prior to my invite. The moment he arrived I caught him trying to find liquor stashed away. It was a big second chance/redemption effort on his part, as he hadn’t visited in a year since becoming belligerent, verbally assaulting everyone and coming close to violence.

Mom had taken him home, embarrassed. Exhausted. So sad.

My goal was to entertain for two nights with home-cooked meals and quality time. The first night was a success. I had a new Valentine’s card to set beside ones from previous years. They loved my baked goods as well as the pot roast and everyone seemed to be getting along. For a while we were all sitting together, reading separately. Chris kept having to go outside in the cold to smoke so I gave him my old e-cigarette and all of the pricey little accessories that came with it. If he didn’t like sitting close to someone else on the couch, a chair was always free for him. Anything I could do or give to accommodate, I did.

On our second and final night together it seemed like I had gotten the great idea of going out to eat. Chris “heard” there was a bar and he appeared to be all in. Mom warned him to pick up his own alcohol tab and that nothing was to be brought back to the house. In reality, Chris has been texting me from his first few minutes after setting down his luggage about how sick he was, how he was going through withdrawal, how he was upset and bored and miserable and so I CHANGED THE PLAN, straying from what was a strict decision made under heavy stress. I didn’t want my brother to remember his visit as a torturous one. I wanted to make him happy, too. I told him I was going to suggest dinner out and then I made it happen like a secret between the two of us.

It was a decision that would cost me everything.

I thought I could see tears in my mom’s eyes during dinner, but it was just too dark to know for sure. Chris had produced a $20 bill for his bar tab (from my wallet earlier on, because I know he doesn’t have much and I wanted him to feel like he didn’t depend on Mom for everything) and after 5 beers in, got the total for $1.25 over what he had money for. Mom, again, to the rescue. Louder and more freely speaking, Chris wasn’t the only one having beers, so I didn’t think anything was going to go wrong with so many reasons to celebrate.

Mom retired at a normal hour and went upstairs. Chris proceeded to destroy the night. He aggressively claimed two beers from the fridge as “his beers” and demanded to know where the liquor was kept. Dan and I were tired and about ready for bed but my brother kept getting louder, singing, shouting…

Then the insults started. He said that my boyfriend was an asshole, that his own girlfriend was sleeping around with other people, that he hated the world, his life…and he wanted to fight us. He charged at the dogs and they thought he wanted to play, but quickly caught on to a bad energy that frightened them out of the room. Chris leaned over in a chair to bite the leaf of a house plant, and almost fell to the floor.

“I hope that wasn’t poisonous.”

“It is.”

Spitting the leaf bits in to his hand, he asked the plant’s name.

“Peace Lily.”

My mother could hear the fuss going on and was texting me her hopes and prayers that he would tire quickly. I wouldn’t know until later that she was crying, leaving the Kleenex on my bedside table for me to find later on.

Chris grabbed Dan’s guitar, held it high, and I could tell he was looking for our reactions. He wanted us to warn him, to be afraid. But we weren’t playing along, instead tending to our own tablets, and that seemed to infuriate him just as well. He carefully strummed the strings and put the guitar back against the wall.

Constantly complaining about a God that wasn’t real, a life that we couldn’t begin to imagine the horror of, he would start crying, crying tears, and then he’d turn it to a Joker laugh, the one from the Batman movie, that he had practiced and mastered. Showing off, breaking down, getting angry, manically cycling and pacing the house before he started really picking on everyone and telling us we weren’t shit. That we disgusted him.

“Babe. I’m going to have to go upstairs and ask your mom to leave. I’m sorry. He’s threatening us. He’s out of control, Autumn.”

Finally losing my patience and damned if I was going to have my mom depart early, I ordered Chris to get his shit because I was driving him home. He realized I was serious and he tried to calm me down but I was done. I asked if he wanted to go home and he said, “Of course, there’s nothing I want MORE.” So I now had an hour and a half to drive each way, around midnight, to salvage what was left of my weekend.

The brother part had failed. His second chance was not a success. One year later, no lesson learned. To think that Dan hadn’t even hesitated to allow him after last time…

On his way out Chris ran after Dan. I grabbed him by his coat and pulled him back as he screamed, “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING WITH A GIRL THAT YOUNG.”

Then he shoved me back, pushing me down under the garage door as it was closing. I recovered my footing and PUSHED him back, screaming that if he touched me again, I would call the police and they could give him a ride. I warned him to choose quickly. I was shouting, loud enough for neighbors to hold hands over their children’s ears.

Mom insisted on riding with me. Several times on the way home Chris opened the car door like he was going to jump out while I drove down the freeway. Mom would cry, shouting, “Please Chris, stop, please Chris don’t”…

Again she was crying, so tired, so wrecked, that it made me furious. I was over Chris and the pain he was causing.

“YOU LEFT ME ALONE FOR TEN YEARS.” Which must have meant, from the moment I went to college.

He remarked about my mother’s marriage, how he had no idea why Dad had put up with her. He continuously attacked us, digging up every piece of guilt, every memory of pain, relentlessly. When the road began to wash with tears, I widened my eyes and got a grip. It was a nightmare.

Once in their driveway, Chris shouted that he had stolen things from my house. I said, “I don’t care” as he chucked my Joker library book in to the back seat. With him gone, I put the car in reverse and a weird siren went off, like my rear camera was malfunctioning. I hopped out to check on it and my mother screamed –

“-AUTUMN HE’S COMING BACK-”

And when I turned my head, the headlights were on my brother, charging at the car with his body. I jumped back in the car and locked it, but it wouldn’t start because I had locked it with the remote start key fob first. SO STUPID. Chris’ body slammed against the passenger window, against the hood…

“WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU STILL IN MY DRIVEWAY?!”

This is happening within seconds. I’m trying to start the car, fumbling at the remote start key in the dark, still wondering why the fuck a continuous alarm was going off at this horrible moment. Mom was opening her door, trying to yell “it’s her camera, her camera is why we’re still here!!” and opening the door after I’ve locked the car from the inside with my remote start causes all of the alarms to start blaring, preventing the engine from starting –

Chris is now running at the car with a large, metal show shovel.

I SLAP my mother across her fucking face. She stops moving and making noise.

“MOM. CLOSE THE FUCKING DOOR NOW. WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE. SHUT UP AND CLOSE THE FUCKING DOOR.”

The car still thinks someone is breaking in and turning the key isn’t working. Everything. Fucking. Backwards. Within seconds. Wrong seconds.

Reverse. Reverse. No engine. Reverse. Reverse.

My mother quietly looked at me and calmly said, because I had smacked her, maybe because it looked like his drinking had been all my idea, “I will never forgive you.”

Then she opened the door again (sirens wailing) and walked off.

UNLOCK. UNLOCK. UNARM. SOUND OFF. CAR ON. REVERSE.

My tires started spinning over the snow before I got myself to slow down and get out of there as fast as I could. I had to put miles between us. Miles. After so many minutes I finally… realized that my mother would be without her vehicle. Without her bags. I had lost my company. Had lost them both. And had escaped something…I cannot put words to…what that was.

I woke up with a Very. Broken. Heart.

There isn’t enough sorry in sorry, to apologize to Dan. We have spent Valentine’s Day together just being at the house, tired. Speechless. I went in to the kitchen and had a piece of the cake I would not be sending back. I opened the oven and tossed little cherry pies in the shape of hearts, in to the trash.

I grabbed the Valentine’s cards and put them away. Blocked my brother’s number until a day, if a day, that he is out of rehab. When my mother pulled in with my father this morning, she asked for her bags. I grabbed them and gave them to her. Moved my car so she could get to hers and follow Dad back home. I did not look at them once.

I haven’t felt pain like this in a while. That real brokenness makes the other stuff seem so petty. It’s grabbing my chest like a hawk holds its prey to ground with its claws. Like the pain is waiting for me to die. This is something that wasn’t supposed to be compromised.

I wish I knew what to do without my family. But I don’t.

They were supposed to be the point. They were why. They were who I did everything for.

In Which I Have Gotten On the Good Foot.

I can remember feeling like I was living a life void of passion, like nothing ever happened. It gave me the impression of being excluded from a bigger part of the world. Substance, meaning, purpose, enjoyment – they all seemed fractured and even avoided, as if I had somehow made choices that gave me an alternate, non-eventful outcome on a daily basis instead of a “natural” course.

It was, in many ways, asking for drama. I wanted infatuation, adventure, big slices of pie… and I got all of it. My knuckles became white from holding on to a man with my life, everything got crazy and the pie went straight to my ass.

I’m often reminded of how this is all a different part of my story. This is my new life. I’ve been struggling with it, crying over it, pushing and shoving it, all in the attempt to grab it and turn it into happily ever after.

The truth is, I can’t control it. I didn’t ask for comfortable, or control, or easy. I asked for the insane.

When I consider the various obstacles I’ve faced, I feel bad for the girl who wasn’t sure whether or not she was loved. And I am embarrassed by some of the things I insisted on in order to tell myself that I was.

Things have progressed enough with Daniel that I finally feel legitimate. My fingers don’t curl around a wedding ring, anymore. I get invited to his social events. When I need help he’s there. Mickey and Minnie have made room for Hello Kitty. Living things are thriving under my care. It’s more like a family, and more like home. Enough give, enough change, enough time and I feel a lot better, now.

I haven’t worried about my relationship in months. I’ve learned that I am stronger than any element that confuses me.

2016 has been good so far. I wake up a few minutes earlier to sit with a healthy breakfast and ask the intangible, and myself, for energy, balance and focus. I am thankful for the day before and look forward to tomorrow. I decide on something that I can do for my boyfriend, for the house, for the animals and for myself. Then I tackle the day.

Happy New Year, indeed.

 

US vs. US

Oh my god so the females are not backing off.

Seriously, Dan’s female coworkers are ringing his phone from the time he gets home until after bedtime. And because he handed one of them his phone and said, “Here, put your number in”, her fucking little chipmunk face is popping up on display nonstop.

Dumb questions, personal bullshit, gossip time kill – it’s happening when we’re eating, lounging, going out – I blame Dan for not setting any boundaries. Now that I’m voicing my concerns about this, Dan is making excuses for his “clueless” colleagues, claiming that they rely on him and he has no choice because teaching sixth grade is like working on a group project every day. Then he says my problems with it indicate insecurity, and unwarranted at that, and he’ll go off listing reasons why he’d never, ever fuck any of them even if he was a cheater.

I don’t even. Know. What to. This isn’t about trust. Holy shit. This is about the energy I see him giving others, during time with me. This is about NEVER MENTIONING ME like I’m Duran Duran – something you might LOVE when you’re alone with it, but would never admit to anyone else.

He makes me feel like Duran Duran.

I don’t get it. No matter what we’re doing – I could be taking him out on my gas dollar and paying the tab when they ask what he’s doing and he says, “Oh, nothing. I was just grabbing a bite to eat, what’s up?”

That’s weird, right? Something isn’t right. Why the fuck does he keep doing that.

He called me today, after I texted several really depressing thoughts, and he said, “Just remember. I love YOU.”

…What, kind of. He just made me out to look like I’m insane, corrected by a simple statement.

And I think I know why it’s bothering me. It’s more than the fact that he clearly needs to adjust the whys and when they call. It’s the fact that I’ve done that, before.

I’ve let anyone, any time, reach out to me like I wasn’t part of anything more important. I’ve lived different parts of my life like different planets where one never knew things about the other. I’ve kept secret about my significant other, before… because there were reasons in my head why I didn’t want to admit he was the one for me…even though he was the one with me, and happy to be.

I’m worried he sees me like that.

Gardening Is Like a Strategy Game

It has felt so good to have the past several days to actually step outside and pay attention to my plants. To actually grab the hose, twist off the stupid fucking pressure nozzle and let it gush buckets and buckets, splashing over leaves and rinsing away the dirt and shit that’s stuck to them. And though by mere millimeters, I believe I can see the millimeters of improvement as my living things begin to shift from under the tyranny.

None of that paralysis on the couch as I see Daniel tinkering around the yard with the hose on “shower”, pitter-pattering drops that merely keep the big picture alive as a whole. Now with him in the classroom I don’t have to worry about his eyes on me as I water until my heart’s content – as I should, seeing as how I’m paying 100% of the utilities here. Freedom!

Today I went hard, answering cries for help. After everyone was accounted for I grabbed a shovel and went for the four soldiers who seemed mostly to be saying goodbye. Digging them out, I imagined lifting them from the seas to a helicopter ladder, as their parts released they seemed to take my hand and say, “Anywhere but here.”

Do you SEE this birdfeeder, here? Do you SEE all of this bird shit and seed shells? YOU DON’T PUT PLANTS HERE. Correction, if you must disagree I will answer factually: YOU DON’T PUT AUTUMN’S PLANTS HERE.

I started to note how much gardening is like a strategy game. As I rototilled the little patch of soil I had mistakenly used for lilies, I came across some bulbs still underground. I turned around to the next island, brushed away the layer of mulch, made a hole and planted the bulb before covering it all back up, the only who knows it’s hiding there, waiting. My shrub at the far end of the yard might be removed from the rest of the army but it is strong, happy and dominating from the opposite side.

henry

I was so used to one large, moving unit that just sort of continued to grow larger and take over. This has looked like a failed attempt but maybe it has been a different battle plan.

hiddenlily

Then I made my boldest move. Once my fingers had tended to the dead leaves I put the four wounded soldiers in to the flower bed. I imagined Daniel in a fit, outraged that I had gone and put hostas there. Autumn’s hostas are not border plants, I thought, as if I had to argue with the very thought of him. I knew what wasn’t going to make it. Before I lost them, I gave them what they wanted. Why can’t he ever do that for me?

thepatch

Taking an unused pot from the garage, I dumped its dry soil around the hostas. It’s mixed with that white stuff, a light styro-foammy filler, and spreading that out always seems to give something to the plants. I believe this works. Sometimes believing creates a magic of its own. Then I covered up with mulch and cleaned up the mess.

Little by little. Every day, a difference.

We are here to win this war.

Something Will Need To Be Done

flower

There has got to be a way that everything I have now, can be used to find the answer that I’m looking for…even if it’s the answer to a million more questions.

Yesterday I went out to water my plants for the first time in weeks, maybe even a month. My hosta bed, more commonly known as the floor of the bird feeders, is not faring well. The leaves have tears, holes, browned spots, wilted parts. They are all kissing each other too soon, without the right amount of space to grow. I pulled weeds from around them, clearing water that came to my eyes as I remembered how lush and beautiful they were before I dug them out and brought them with me.

There is a patch of lilies to one side of the house that I had to draw blood for in order to secure them that spot – only to find out that the tree “canopy” provided entirely too much shade, causing each tall stem to lean out in an effort to reach sunlight.

It was a battle I had fought and won on sour terms. Daniel was angry that he had to clear a patch of his groundcover and move it over somewhere else (to another large batch of the same shit).

“We were going to let this all –“

We, who is ‘We’? Right, who it always is. Daniel and the Dead Wife.

It was going to be this beautiful section of plants from my army, strongly displaying my harmonious reign amidst a sea of ‘We’ soldiers. But the sun never shined, there. The lilies all learned out and as I went around the grounds checking on my loyal subjects, they had leaned so far in that one spot that they’d pulled themselves right out of the ground.

They were sideways, uprooted. Drying out, and dying. Just like the chipmunk that laid on the walkway beside them, having been hunted by his indoor-outdoor cat.

I used a spade and tossed the dead chipmunk body in to an island of Daniel’s plants before he could see it and feel bad. I didn’t take the time to bury it, though, and it landed feet-up, contrasted against the black mulch, in the most “ugh I’m so dead” pose one can imagine for a chipmunk to pose for. There was a little of that smell that only comes with rotting and I imagined how much worse a larger corpse must stink – those that have smelled a dead body claim to never forget the smell of death.

Then I grabbed the lilies and quickly assigned them spots by the others, not caring if they were all color coded or in the perfect position. I just had to get them back in the ground and hope that some of them still had enough time in the season to take hold. As I filled in the holes with dirt and pushed the top layer of mulch around them, I apologized.

As if I were addressing the entire outfit after a natural disaster…one I had lead them directly in to.

“I am sorry.”

I could let it all overwinter and as they are coming up next year, move them one more time, likely back to my mother’s, where the soil doesn’t seem to be such an aggressive problem.

“I thought I was bringing us to a better place. I wanted to be Queen. I didn’t anticipate the hazards and we have lost some of you. I do not feel victorious. I will be addressing this, and forming a plan. I fear we may actually be in captivity.”

I kept imagining Daniel with his big fertilizer spike, striking the ground and squirting steroids wherever he could. I never had to fertilize. Never had those sort of plants. Never had city water. Or pine trees littering needles, adding acid to the dirt. I had no idea a place of this size came with so many complications.

He always runs out in the morning to a large garden bed by the road, puts his hands on his hips and stares intently at the thorny roses. His love, his concern. His We. And because I do not approve of a sprinkler system, I will take the hose and thoroughly soak my plants at ground level and he will comment that I only see my plants. That I am “a trip”.

Old women walk by the house and tell him that we have the nicest grounds in the subdivision, that his late wife’s English garden is their favorite garden. There are plants everywhere. Why don’t I feel like I am in paradise?

I feel negativity inside of me. Resentment. Jealousy. Judgement. I continue to come to loathe things I ordinarily might like. I keep saying that I need to respect the grieving process, need to wrap my head around the fact that I moved in before that could even take place…but then what of me? What of me, being who I am, and everything else stifling that?

A single yellow snap dragon has grown out from my hanging basket, a tiny spec of color in his backdrop of ferns. It seemed to speak, “We are still here, your majesty.”

“Thank you” was all I could say.

Some girls have men who hold doors for them. I usually have to break them open myself.

Yesterday I surprised Dan with gourmet sushi since not too recently he discovered, with my relentless persistence, that he actually loved the stuff. He had a chance to guess what my surprise was on my drive home but after a lewd guess I knew he wasn’t gonna get it right. Certainly something special like that would mean he’d try to be pleasant for the rest of our evening at the house.

He got a phone call mid-way through our dinner in front of the TV which he instinctively put on speaker phone. Luckily for me there’s something about holding the phone and pressing it to his ear that he finds difficult so I often survey his conversations.

A woman was stuck in traffic, trying to find the name of some street so she could get to where she needed to be. Explaining that the road she needed to find had some odd name and was right by Great Lakes Crossing, she wondered if he could help.

The first thing I did was grab my phone and try to google the right name for her based on how she thought she had heard it spoken. After my best guess, Daniel repeated it and she said, “I don’t know who that was but tell them I said thank you.”

He didn’t tell her who “that” was. In fact there was an odd silence about it as he made sure she was okay before hanging up. When I asked who it was he played it down as an “annoying coworker”. Then I thought to myself, if you’re lost…who the hell would think to call him? Ask a friend. Family member. Google that shit.

Later on she texted him: we were all way off! It was actually [whatever the hell it was].

I texted back: My girlfriend wasn’t even close, lol.

Then I deleted “his” response. No matter what is said after by either party, if that one little word is any consolation, I should be able to tell if there’s a problem.

My mother has tried to decipher for me, that throughout this realization of how Daniel fails to regard me to his world, I need to understand the situation.

“You two started dating right after his wife passed. He probably worries that people will judge you guys and see him in a bad light. He is still grieving. That would be practically impossible to explain and he wants some time to pass.”

I just want people to know that it is inappropriate to act a certain way with him. They should know he has been seeing someone for over a year and then they can decide whether they want to try to whore it up or not. I’m looking out for my lost boyfriend, my bad bitches, and the queen incognito.

Admittedly, these are not the battles I was expecting to be fighting on the new shore.

Today I asked to see utility bills and he freaked out, needing to know my purpose. Holding tight to his most recent statements, he declared some numbers out loud and proceeded to walk away.

“Daniel, hey, hold on.”

One of them showed a $200 credit being applied, and only a fraction of that being the actual reflection of energy used. Another was not a monthly bill, but needed to be divided by three. Impossible to know exactly what I was looking at in one instant, he pulled away again, never asking if I wanted to write anything down.

“Well when my wife died I accidentally paid a bill twice, so that’s the credit on there…”

That was over a year ago. Sounds like one hell of a bill.

I compare the numbers I saw to my monthly rent. It is interesting, to say the least.

Later on he sits in his gaming chair in front of the 70 inch TV and asks, “Were you in here today?”

“In the gaming room? Yes. It was my day off.”

“What were you doing in here?”

“…playing video games, Daniel.”

After being unable to hide a disapproving look, he made a comment that the remote for the little screen downstairs was on the end table. It was his subtle way to suggest I keep out of the gaming room.

**

As Daniel approached me, I folded my laptop down. He wanted to know if I was interested in playing a co-op game with him after having spent most of the evening in my room – which has begun to resemble an abandoned storage locker. (My things aren’t a part of His House.) Dark, towering items cleared away at the center for my desk where I sit at the center of what’s left of Me.

He noticed that in the process of my writing session, I had removed the bracelet he bought me – or, rather found still in the box, in his house, and gifted it to me. It was lying across a CD case.

“And there’s my bracelet, because you don’t love me anymore.” I was quiet. Daniel doesn’t express me to his world. He walks around without his wedding ring and that’s the message he sends. Maybe I shouldn’t be different.

We play, and he seems agitated for the remainder of the evening. He calls his mother in bed, which I miss because there is a towel over my eyes to block out the television. He asks a question that I answer before I realize he’s actually asking his mother – who would very much not appreciate hearing my voice “before bed” time, or any other time for that matter.

The next day he goes to school to decorate his classroom for the approaching semester. He calls me at an odd time and I hear women on the other end. He asks me to hold on and I think I hear him tell someone that he “already has” me “on the phone”. For some reason Daniel starts talking to me about having a craving for lobster.

“I was thinking, maybe we could go out to dinner on Friday if that’s something you would like to do.”

Umm hmm.

So what do you think is happening here?

Summer Recap, Outlook: Better

I was coming around the side of the house – no, limping, as the scripture has since revealed, when my feet were stopped by a pile of peculiar garbage. It seemed that as Daniel had been weeding, fertilizing and everything else in his beautiful Eden, he had lifted the broken, hokey ornaments stuck between plants and discarded them in a heap of metal poles and dirty plastic.

Oh, halleluiah. The gaudy girl in a bonnet was gone. The lady bug fly thing, whatever sort of hideously large insect, was in the shitpile as well. Daniel was slowly starting to question the bigger matter of taste and has taken it upon himself to clean up. Not all things left by the dead wife were meant to remain as appropriate ornaments and I give him a lot of credit for being strong enough to handle that truth.

Sure enough, the Disney toys slowly started disappearing from the decorative shelves. Her certificates came off the wall. Now he wants to paint the foyer, over the partial mural of Greece that was never completed. Waiting under the last remaining return address labels splattered with rainbow colors and Tigger, several new pages await of a black and white monogram for Mr. Daniel.

I am not lost in a fantasy world. I know that it will never seem like enough, quickly enough. It will always be sad and complicated and I will always be the first to be made in to a bad person for preferring my own things and styles in the home where I live. Although it was straight outta the “Don’t Do After Death” book, Daniel let me try on all of the dead wife’s clothes, keeping what I wanted to keep. I was honored and troubled the same, as every garment he doesn’t recognize me wearing before is met with, “Is that my wife’s?”

No. Whether it was mine then or is mine now. The answer is no.

He’ll be sitting with me in a co-op Xbox game and his mind is racing with indecision over which pattern of flowers should border the dead wife’s headstone. And because he is used to sharing, he shares this with me in the most dysfunctional way. We are well aware that we have been doing it our own way since day one, against every cautionary tale.

His first day back to school was Monday. I still worried that he would be asked what he did over the course of the summer and he would say, “Nothing.” He did NOT go on a Disney cruise. He did NOT go to Jamaica with his dead wife. He may very well have told them that he did nothing besides work in the hot sun and design his dead wife’s “tombstone”, which always leaves me feeling so confused when I know that it’s the sort of long, patient marble with enough empty space for his information to be added one day.

How exactly, does that work? Does he zip up his pants, die and fall in next to her, asking her what he missed while he was living with me? Where does my jealousy and bad feelings come from? Am I crazy to feel weird about it? Should I be thinking about what it could all mean on a larger scale?

If you ask Autumn, here is what she tells you:

Daniel bought me a Huffy bike and we started going for bike rides. I have not ridden a bike in years and I love it. I worked in Dan’s yard, though not to the extent that he did, but I certainly planted more lilies and maintained what I had. We shot off our OWN fireworks, a first for both of us, which was a blast. We found our new favorite place to eat, a pretty big deal considering it has a live female vocalist performing who also plays the fiddle. We rode around Detroit on the People Mover, attended the Maker Faire, Daniel disappeared hours at a time for some sort of investment planning stuff he keeps separate from me, we played ‘Never Alone’ and ‘Chariot’, found new shows to watch on Netflix, went to the driving range, played tennis, visited my family, helped Daniel with tasks as the association’s groundskeeper, and one day after drinks he spontaneously invited some of my work friends over to the house before proceeding to take too many hits on someone’s pipe and he got so stoned and sick that he passed out from partying like a teenager.

That’s far from nothing, if you ask me.

The Thing With The Leg

The funny thing about the wrong thing is that it isn’t always so blatantly, entirely wrong in the beginning. Sometimes it’s something a little off, or not quite right. But with life being imperfect by design, we accept the nature of the beast and carry on with our mild concerns in the back of our mind. Then we worry about other shit.

In my case, that little something was pain. Being a professional yo-yo dieter and treadmill extremist I am well aware that my body will ache from strains, from time to time. Feeling a little discomfort in my leg? Life is discomforting. So I handle a little discomfort getting in and out of my car, after long shifts on my feet and anything else that seemed to agitate the issue. I learned to move my legs, sit a different way, elevate my feet or what the fuck ever, and work around it.

The human being has the potential to be incredibly tolerant. Because I have not currently been enrolled in any sort of medical insurance, the thought of an actual doctor’s visit has been the furthest thing from my mind over a little hip pain. Besides. The pain seemed to migrate and settle for a spot right in the back of my leg, opposite of my knee. Out with the old pain, in with the new pain. So what if I eventually couldn’t sit on those bar stools for very long before I couldn’t walk properly? I shouldn’t be at the damn bar, anyway.

You get used to it, the pain. And you slowly get used to the ways that it slows you down. You’re no longer met with surprise when you go to move one way and it doesn’t go so well – in fact, you’re in the pattern of knowing very well, what you can and can’t do. You live around it like a disability that can’t be fixed. You officially walk slower. You know, that when you go to stand up, you’ll have to stand there for a moment until you can put your weight on that foot and walk without limping. Don’t make it look weird – just act like you’re checking something on your phone on the way out of the restaurant when you’re actually waiting on your body to work again.

I was going up the stairs to my cleaning boss’ gazebo to fetch one of my last checks that she would have waiting in an envelope under a rock, when her boyfriend saw me.

“You’re limping,” he said. I don’t think about it all of the time. I have sort of divided the problem between when it is really bad, and when I’m just cruising along. I was just cruising along, and hadn’t really given much thought to how I must have started to walk improperly all of the time. Doesn’t that asshole know that sort of thing can really give a female a complex?

“Oh, yeah,” I answered, dismissively, “I have a weird leg or something.”

He proceeded to tell me that if I kept walking on it that I would develop a gait. Likely too late. I can remember being a kid at the rink, wondering why it was so hard for me to skate because my left foot simply would not leave the floor like my right. It was like I was always scootering, my left foot, the scooter. There’s no way we missed a problem like that for so long…

30 year olds shouldn’t be limping. So there’s that.

I really don’t want to think about it.

That Whole Cleaning Thing In 500 Words

I quit my housekeeping gig. A lot of it had to do with my car. When you’re getting paid the bare minimum and having to use your own vehicle to constantly travel, you’re making even less for gas compensation and wear & tear. Dirt roads, highway miles and shitty driveways equaled wear. Then there was an incident that resulted in a small tear in my front bumper. I was as pissed as I was done.

Now I always assumed that I was the sort of person that dug adventurous explorations but being in other people’s houses was just plain creepy as shit. I never got used to it. I hated their accumulative smells, their photo arrangements, their children’s toothpaste splattered on the bathroom mirror, their little dog eyeballing me from room to room… it was always the same. It was never my home – just a bogus find every time that I had to wipe down and make nice before I could leave.

The absolute last thing I want to do when I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing a floor is make idle chit chat with the homeowners and pretend to be interested in their open houses, gardening projects and basement remodels. Why yes, I’ll make sure to take my toothbrush to your Jacuzzi jets. Oh, you had guests and so there is an entire extra wing of your home that will need a good clean?

Then I would be running in to my full time job, throwing on my uniform in the security room and walking immediately to the floor for the last half of the day. Food did not get bought. Dinners did not get done. Everyone else’s home was cleaner than mine was. I knew it just wasn’t working for me.

Sometimes my employer would assign me to her home and I would go over there and proceed to clean her house from the basement up while she went about her business. One morning she told me to go out, grab the leaf blower and get started on her back deck. Then she might have me shucking corn or dicing mushrooms. It was unnerving and oddly unsettling for to work for the lady who was supposed to be the best example, who used “us” when she referred to the work that I did – but seemed to have everyone else doing the work. Then again, perhaps it was the best example of how a team of slaves help you live the good life.

I will say this much: I can clean the fuck out of a toilet, which I had never bothered with, before. I learned about high dusting and various chemicals for different surfaces. I got to use an assortment of vacuums and products that helped me form my own ideals for getting jobs done. And I learned that no worldly possession is worth slapping on to a credit card that requires a second job in order to pay off the balance.

And then one day, things started to look different.

Daniel recently accepted a board title as groundskeeper for his suburb and I jumped at the chance to steal some of his projects. There is a spring cleanup event that I took the responsibility of budgeting and planning. People meet at the house for breakfast (continental style), work in the park and then come back for a lunch of lasagna (bon appetite). I also worked with a few landscapers on a design for a front island/medium and flowers to go around a brick sign with the community’s name. I liked taking the different ideas and tweaking them to fit appropriate estimates. All of that allowed me to do things my way, and it kept me feeling involved.

I’m working two jobs. On several mornings a week I have been a housekeeper for a small company of less than ten women. It forced me to go outside my comfort zone, traveling to nearby cities and working inside of other people’s lives. The money is decent and I’m trying to show my boss that I’m the real deal – one of the best – and I’m going to see if I can’t get some more incentive for the adventure I’m on with that sort of career.

You know, it’s weird doing things that can easily be seen as “below” someone. The half of me that wasn’t even sure I could handle it is learning new skills, and feeling more self-worth. The half of me that felt “above” it is learning to be humbled with every toilet I scrub. It’s a very flip-floppy experience and I totally accept this challenge right now.

With the extra income I have been paying off credit cards, paying more things sooner in general, and the feeling is great. I even bought myself a few hair tools to help control the mop on my head. I haven’t had time to try the curling wand or ceramic straightener, but hopefully I’ll be messing with my new toys soon. I even got an epilator, which is like an electric shaver only it rotates several tweezers and rips your body hair out as you drag it along. Some women think it’s a torture device. I will soon see for myself.

My boyfriend and I have had some pretty incredible fights. I have been trying to express the depression and stress from feeling like I live “under” him, which he doesn’t understand. Then I attack his method of communication when he says something like “how dare you put this on me”, which I see as a manipulative tactic to turn the tables and victimize himself, to have him screaming back that he wants me out of his house.

“That, right there. That’s why I don’t feel like this is my home.”

So there’s that. But there are more good days than bad, and we always come back to a silent understanding that we both just want everything to be okay, and we go on doing our best. He finally took the photos of his wife off the walls and out from the other rooms. He put his wedding ring on his other hand. I became involved so early on that these things feel like half-baby steps to me, and I am struggling to find patience and tolerance for his grievance. His speed is his own and could never match the speed of how I wish things were.

He says I have a princess’ fantasy of everything being perfect, and that it just isn’t possible. He says he cannot give what he believes I want, even though we never specify the sort of things that I want. I’ve been told not to confuse hope and promise with a sunbeam shining on a piece of shit; I’ve been told to be very careful and that sometimes, people never change and all you do is waste your light on them. I am choosing to believe that my situation will improve – that my relationship will evolve, that we are both still young and we will find happiness together.

I’ve been on the wagon for a while now when it comes to diet and exercise. I’ve stayed the course and my jeans are no longer as taught as they seemed last winter. I want to need a smaller size by the end of summer and I aim to continue conquering that particular demon. But food is so much fun. It’s hard.

I wish I wasn’t as lost as I actually am. I wish I didn’t seem as hopelessly lost as I obviously am. I wish I had more things already figured out and established, but I don’t. All I can do is continue to try. Today I asked myself to pretend that I’d already lived a perfect life, and had already lived in the perfect house with the perfect flowers, lived through a long marriage, raised a kid, and then I asked myself, “What do you want to do now?” I like to think that the stuff AFTER what society brainwashed me in to thinking was “the ultimate”, will reveal the sort of things I actually want to do.

And I thought about changing. Changing like my name. What if I didn’t even like flowers anymore? What if I thought all of that shit was entirely stupid. How fucking cool could I get?

I didn’t arrive at any answers…I sort of got lost in the imagining, and sidetracked by responsibilities.

We will see.

He Saw Me Fall Into Depression. He missed the part where he shoved me.

We had a dinner discussion that turned sour, not unlike previous dinner conversations. He would say or ask something and I took long sips of alcohol whenever the words were not right there to give. I was thinking. I feel that I owe calculated answers.

“You drink more when you’re nervous.”

He had put a crack in my heart Valentine’s weekend, which I had taken work off for, when he saw the gift bag on my record player. This was just before dinner out.

“What’s this?”

“It’s your Valentine’s Day present.”

Upset, he sighed. “Autumn, I wish you’d stop. I can’t keep up with you.”

As he struggled with getting ready, getting dressed, getting his keys, pretty much simply gathering himself together to walk out the door…he announced as if the task was all too much, “I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.”

I don’t know why he asked me why I looked so sad, eating lobster tails. I couldn’t get his expressions off my mind. I refused to explain. Tears would well up, but never actually fall. I somehow managed to suck them back down my tear ducts every time.

When I ‘pushed my gift on to him’, he seemed upset that the Armani cologne was not the cologne he already had, from his lifetime ago. But then he said, “I used to buy this”, as if to say that it was not only his lifetime ago, it was discarded from it. Or that he had simply been there, sprayed that.

His late wife had bought him the scents from the other side of the counter that are made to smell clean, but to me reek like baby wipes and Febreeze – therefore reminding me of assholes, ass wiping and covering up the smell of ass.

“’My blue guy’, she’d say,” because something is probably called ‘Blue’. All I see is that huge Febreeze bottle, spritzing over ass-covered couch cushions.

It’s fine for people who like that. It’s fine for me, that I like Armani and have a bottle of D&G stored in the closet for his birthday (along with a shirt that has a floppy disc on it and says OLDSCHOOL, get it?).

Smelling better helped. I do like my scents. His gaming room has been spritzed with Britney’s “Hidden Fantasy” more times than I’ll ever admit.

‘I never tell/tell on myself/ but I hope she smells my perfume’-Britney Spears, “Perfume”.

He took me out twice that weekend. I’ve learned to keep my head turned away from everyone else and never make eye contact with them. I can see Dan’s eyes roaming around, ever since I had painted his face for Halloween and noticed how they tallied everyone’s movements carefully. This is to keep him from ranting later on, about how he thought I was getting too close to a stranger or was somehow behaving inappropriately.

“You can’t see yourself when you drink, Autumn, you don’t know.” And yet I’ve never had this problem, or any like it EVER before in my life, to which he explains, “You were with a stupid, young person and you’re used to doing whatever you want.”

A part of me says, “Or maybe I was just being social at the Applebee’s bar”, and I have a feeling that I’m right and he has some sort of problem. But we all have problems.

Daniel received a bouquet of flowers from me, to his classroom. For the second time in the year we’ve been dating. He kept asking me why I did it, but it was too hard to explain, “Because it’s February, and the living room in fucking February should have some FUCKING flowers on it, but I trust you not to know that.”

We went out – correction, I dragged him – to the Detroit Institute of Art recently. He gets so upset before we go out because he says he has to get back to work. Having neglected to eat before the visit he was “gonna pass out”, and I nervously walked through the rooms with him. For me this is like regretting your time with me before it has even started.

At one point I was looking at a stunning oil painting of a volcano and he answered a phone call from his mother. Always on speakerphone. Always mutually sounding so upset, my background music, of those two people complaining about how much work there is to be done. On the drive home he was cursing about the time he had lost and he asked what my favorite part had been.

I hold back a lot of tears, in this relationship.

He says that his late wife understood that he always had to work and that she left him alone. “She said it was enough just knowing I was nearby. THAT’S TRUE LOVE, Autumn.”

As opposed to? SO SORRY if I felt a kind of magnetism. I’m sorry I wanted to be close.

At the dinner during my long sips, he had both hands on the table. They were two individuals.

“This person lives and grows this way, and the other person grows SEPARATELY and grows along WITH the other person.” He was being the teacher, teaching me about how relationships work. It immediately pissed me off.

“What about when one of them is always ever making a hard left”? I asked, and I grabbed his hand and pushed it backwards. “I feel like I can either constantly tag along or I have to get lost.”

“You always take what I’m telling you and then you twist it and only see it YOUR way, Autumn. I can’t believe you just had to hurt my hand to make your point. You should SEE yourself right now.”

He had been making these very separatist points for a while, now. My attachment style seemed unappreciated – he even made it a point one day to say that I had “latched on to [my] life, because that’s what you do.” Really?! Figuring out ways to help someone who claims he never has enough time to have a life worth living, and I was being clingy?

I took all of this constructive feedback and I detached.

Just started taking steps back.

Skip a few days forward, over more of the same, insert streaky little static marks like a speeding VHS.

This morning Daniel says to me about his framed photos on the bedroom wall where I’ve slept for a year, “Hey, Autumn. Do you think you have six photos that we can put in this frame?”

I never thought he’d ask. Yet at the same time, something inside of me gave up on ever believing that thing would come down. The night before I had reached out and touched the jewelry organizer under it.

“You can use the one I bought for my wife,” he’d offered, when I said I was trying to organize my things in my one room I’m allowed-

Oh, don’t say that, I’ve let you put shit all over this house, he’ll say now, because I waged absolute bloody wars for any inch of mantle I could wrestle from Americana fauxtiques and decorative cats. But believe me, all of my s-h-i-t, is in one room upstairs.

I was looking at that jewelry organizer, under photos of the late bride, something I would have never, ever picked out as it stood empty because it was hers and she died and her jewelry is all probably appraised and in a safety deposit box somewhere, and I just said, “Fuck this thing.”

“Fuck, this. Fuck everything here, that isn’t mine. I’m never touching it. Don’t want the shit,” I decided, as I fell in to bed. The same one that was theirs. To be fair, I’ve had to pick some or leave.

Do I have six photos. I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know, anymore.

I don’t go down and have coffee with him anymore. I don’t butt right up next to him on the couch. I don’t wait up at night. I’m finding time to do other shit.

I haven’t decided if I’m still fighting.

He all but spelled out that we needed to be separate and my life is NOT taking the course of a constant hard left. Gotta move forward. And now he has to bring everything up. Says it’s a pattern – even though he didn’t KNOW me before – and that my time on the treadmill and off in another room playing on my laptop is all part of getting ready to leave him.

“It’s nice just knowing you’re somewhere, around, somewhere,” I answered, flailing my hand, “It’s TRUE LOVE, you know.”

Somewhere Between Helping and Hurting

Everyone’s got a past filled with the other people from the world. They have histories of living and loving before you came along. Each relationship is different, existing on its own account, whether brief or everlasting.

While it’s true that most breakups devastate at least one of us (the lyrics “When a heart breaks, it don’t break even” come to mind), sometimes both parties unwillingly separate. We don’t all choose to end it. But we do choose to begin anew.

Despite the harsh turns our lives take, none of those people in yours should be (or be made to feel) like your last chance leftovers. They are not the ruins of your previous relationships. They are not defaults or plan B’s. Don’t ever look at your partner and tell them that they came from your past without them.

To say that you’re holding their hand only because you can’t hold someone else’s is wrong. It’s hurtful and pointlessly devastating to the both of you, to live by this methodology. Life would be different if things were different; this is basic science – it’s not the basis of a relationship.

“When I was with someone else, I wasn’t with you.” No duh. Neither was I.

“If I could have stayed with someone else, I wouldn’t be with you.” Why does that matter, now?

“The only reason I’m with you is because one door closed.” Hold on there, dipshit.

For the record, I am not ONLY, ANYthing. And I’ve been with you because I’ve chosen to, and that’s what matters. That is the only direction to go with this. I’m not a crappy band-aid for your losses in life.

I’m sorry if you think your last partner was a bigger jackpot. I’m sorry that you’ve loved bigger and better. I’m sorry you didn’t win. I’ve been here, focused on you, giving you all I have and I know you’re hurting. You should be trying to do better. That should be the point.

Don’t treat someone like your consolation prize because they’re not.

You’ll lose that, too.

Sometimes Baby Steps Are Not Enough

Dear Koula,

I have spent the better part of a year struggling with the many ways you remain.

I am frustrated with the foreign Greek culture because it is alien to me, as if the household is rooting for an opponent’s team. The hand towels say “Greece”. The decorative plates have people wearing long, Grecian robes and there are strange canned foods in the cupboards with funny names. Sometimes one of the discs in the CD changer kicks over and starts playing a peculiar noise that I have to come to know as your Greek music. You started a mural on the wall in the main entryway and though far from finished, I assume that is Greece is well.

One of my goals this year is to incorporate more culture in to my new year. I think it’s wonderful that you celebrated your heritage and loved it so much. You have made me want to enjoy my own. I added a Celtic station to my Pandora app and I am proud to be Irish.

For better or worse, I moved all of my things in to one room in your house. Daniel said it was best, because his house was full. The shelves are lined with Disney porcelain, ceramic bowls and all of the things that you accumulated during your lifetime. Sometimes I try to mix my things in between, but it feels like a battle of forces that usually ends in tears as I look around and realize that there is no room nor will I ever fully appreciate your fondness for “rustic, country” décor.

There was nothing wrong with your personal tastes, and there is nothing wrong with mine. I respect you for every shade you selected and every shape you carefully placed – but they do not have to be my ideals. I see so much potential for updating and modernizing, and making things look lavish and luxurious. I will continue to develop my own style, and as I accumulate things of my own I hope that it is okay if I store them somewhere while I am here. Someday I would like to enjoy my own visions, like you did.

I hope you don’t get upset when I cancel your magazine and commercial subscriptions. I would gladly forward them, but I do not know where you are, now. There is always the philosophy that you were “supposed” to be here. And if your death was a mistake, then I am a snowball effect of people being in the wrong place. I hope you know that I am trying to grasp on to this idea of your former home as my current one. The usual signs that I use to decipher this are no longer there, such as looking around and seeing myself, and reaching in to the mailbox and pulling out my name. Please let me know if you have ideas for getting that sense of home back…because my heart hurts, terribly, over having lost it.

I wonder if you learned many things about Daniel after you parted from the world, what you never knew, and how you would have felt if you had known. Just as well I wonder what you were able to see and know about him that I have not discovered. He does not like my invasive nature, but it seems like every time I go exploring I uncover something peculiar. It is not always an unflattering discovery, but never ceases to amuse me. Is there something you want me to know?

Daniel loves you very much. So much that he can act like the past 4-5 years from his fifty were the only years that ever were. He does not think of me as the wonderful person that you were to him. It left me feeling insignificant and insecure. I had to remind myself often that you had no roots to my emotional heartbreak, whether you were the perfect saint or human as they came. It was Daniel that caused me many hours of pain and confusion.

I think he tried to love me, too. I think he wished he could. But lately he just remarks that everything is downhill for him and that he is just waiting the rest of his life out.

I can see now, that it was never about detesting where you were. It was about where I was not. And that was home.

Koula, I have really loved him, but I cannot live and love a partner with that outlook. It is destructive and abusive. As if you don’t already know, I don’t want to be around your every belonging any more. I don’t want to look on my bedroom wall and see another woman’s wedding photos. I think that Daniel would really rather be with you – not only as if you could only come back – but I think he prefers your needlework to my anything. And he always will.

I think he prefers Greece.

So Koula, let it be Greece.

I will work on finding my Ireland.

The Most Spoiled Person Without Any Money

Sometimes I think about being the guy on the other end who had lost his main source of income. That income also being his romantic partner. So I’m sitting around in unavoidable debt and I’ve just lost one of the most treasured people in my life. I’ve lost everything and all I can do is scramble after any leftovers that will determine my misshapen life.

I meet someone who is interested in me, seems to like me as a person. They are a little strange, but not necessarily in a bad way. For some reason I feel like I can trust them and I am lonely and confused. I take the sheets off the windows and let them in to my home. I like this girl. Maybe we could help each other.

Let her move in less than thirty days later.

Wow. I mean, think about that.

No wonder I heard his mother screaming on the other end of the phone.

I could have been addicted to drugs. I could have been a thief. I could have misbehaved as a roommate or partner. I could have been someone who was unable to pay their bills. I could have been someone who did not help the situation whatsoever.

And I got upset because we drew up a contract. The landlord, doing one of the only things he is familiar with, designed a lease that would allow me to prove that I had rights and was paying rent – but I was afraid of the papers, threw my copies in the trash and hoped I hadn’t signed away anything I couldn’t get back.

I took a huge chance on this person who is me.

So many things have happened since I last wrote… There are times when we take turns wondering if the other one isn’t just taking advantage of us for the unknown. There are times when neither one of us is ‘OK’, and we say things that seem so particularly inappropriate, later on. I have become more like The Child, and he is revealed as The Old Man, and sometimes we start slapping each other until we start laughing.

“I empower the powerless, and I can take it away any time I want,” I said as I willingly agreed to a demand for orange juice.

“There you go with your unnecessary deep thoughts,” he says, unsure of them.

I accidentally broke a dish and he showed every bit of concern…for his dish. As I picked out shards from the sink, cutting open my fingers and drizzling red down the drain, he wanted to know if it had a maker on the bottom and whether or not we could replace it at Macy’s.

I needed him to learn. When your girlfriend crashes your car, you don’t bitch about the car in fear of something more important, being fractured. I would stay upset over this, re-evaluating my stay in his house, for weeks afterward. Because that was just a dish, and I have not finished being imperfect – so I consider the many times-suggested ‘Exit Strategy’.

Then I dropped the top of my slow cooker on to the kitchen floor.

“Are you okay?”

There it was. The right reaction. I could stay, after all. We would keep going.

He recently called me “The most spoiled person without any money” in a way as though he couldn’t figure out what I used for tender.

And so we teeter on this fragile line between good and bad, forward and backward, wondering what’s about to happen. There are too many things wrong with everything else, to have problems with each other, but we let no single issue overshadow another.

Today I stepped back and rewound it from his side. There he was, the man I immediately wanted everything to be about, standing in the kitchen asking, “Could you feel safe here?”

I am the one he asked to share his misshapen life with. I wanted to kiss him.

I still do.

What’s With All Of This Old Shtuff.

I’d like to apologize to anyone currently subscribed to my feed in a way that notifies you via e-mail of any activity. I’ve been looking through the things I’ve hidden and, deciding to no longer cast shadows for convenience, I’m spell checking and returning them to public status.

It’s no longer my burden, if anyone else believes that my life has been unacceptable. Been there, did that, don’t agree with all of it, either, sorry, move along.

WordPress will notify you of a “new post” when it’s really not. I’ll be done with it by the end of the afternoon. Thank you. Let there be light.

I Already Had My Happy Ending, then I re-wrote it at the last minute.

brad

I have a confession to make. A big one. My online journal hasn’t been telling the whole story for a very long time.

I would flip back through the entries of my life over the past several years and note how free they were from scandal. From story. From excitement. I only made this observation after an old love came back in to my life. I managed to drum up as much of that “life” as I could, and I started going crazy, again. My writing was more interesting, to say the least. And for a while I thought that it meant my life was “moving again”.

I believe that my previous love interest was a catalyst for the downfall of my ten year relationship with Brad. Before that we were happy, boring together, filling our days with too many dinners out and Netflix in front of the TV. But you would never have known it, after what happened. I proceeded to go behind his back and communicate with Glendan and his family, pursuing MY destiny like it had always been MY OWN and not one with Brad.

I had gone in my journal, found the times I had talked about us and I hid them as if I didn’t want them to speak for ME. I was ashamed of my body and had told Brad to never put me on Facebook – but I also didn’t like the idea of being linked to him like a chain, limiting and defining me beyond my control. Just writing those words hurts my heart more than I can explain.

Brad was Mr. Right Now, because I needed him in every way. Mr. In the Meantime, Future Pending, because I didn’t know if I wouldn’t end up in a different story for some reason.

I became involved online with that other person because I thought they’d always had my romantic heart. What they really ended up having was my 16 year old heart, preserved and repressed in the perfect condition for ruining everything I managed to make for myself once I “got over” Glendan and went out in to the world with a real boy.

Once I finally put my affair in the past (which I came to realize and admit was such), Brad looked past it like history. He knew it had happened, but he thought we could learn from it and make our future better after it. He forgave me. He knew it had been a dark, manipulative, heart-wrenching thing I had gone through and he gave most of the blame to the self-proclaimed “phantom” who had haunted me.

It didn’t help that everyone in my life would say, “Really? Brad?” as if he was a poor match and I had settled. Their unkind words left bad impressions in my head, and through the years down the road I would make Brad feel bad for not being “intellectual”. Sure, he loved to talk – he was friendly and good at sharing – but I was preoccupied with criticizing everything about him. I brought him down. I never said it but I made him feel like I thought he was stupid, all of the time.

I have had mental and premenstrual-related issues coursing throughout me for years and those became considerably worse. I had to have control of everything, control over Brad, and when something made me upset our life together had to be put on hold until it was made right, big or small. I stopped cooking – hell, had never started, house chores had become difficult so I stopped doing those, too – and I had to be reminded by him to at least “please greet me when I come home with a hug and a kiss.”

And so it became, almost mechanical. I wish I could have seen now that it was depression and my inability to just believe that I loved him truly.

Meanwhile he was taking care of me. He did everything for me. He showed me how the world worked, got me my first bank account, my first phone, showed me how to drive around, and he was there to listen to my every complaint. He paid the bills, worked the hard job, cooked the meals, and kept us going when we would get in to a slump. He tip toed around me, was careful never to lose his temper because he knew it would cause me to be upset, and he always made sure that everything around me was perfect. He wrote me poetry, made crafts for me, bought me gifts – and I stopped doing a goddamn thing.

Although I’ve always been very self-oriented and selfish, I started to separate and become one person more than ever, since that online affair. I wanted to start losing weight, because love doesn’t care what you look like and I had not taken care of myself. I went on a diet and went in to a separate world. When we lost the communion and the celebratory factor of food, we lost a lot of touch. Then as the world started noticing me again (funny, how our image really is everything) I was faced with factors and a reality that I hadn’t felt since my initial weight loss in the early 2000’s, when I had met Brad.

He would be quick to point out that he knew me and was interested in me, before I ever knew who he was. Before I ever started starving myself. So I just want to say that. I met him at a smaller size, but he liked me way before that.

Brad really did love me more than I did, and when that song “All Of Me” came on the radio one night, I started crying in the passenger seat.

“Why does it make you sad?”

“Because he loves all of her, completely. I could never love myself that much.”

“Do you think of someone, when you hear it? Someone other than me?”

“…No.”

But there was an incompleteness I didn’t understand, and I romanticized it and rationalized it in to mean that there was some distant destiny I couldn’t reach. I would look at the moon and think that I was preventing myself from going there with the life I had. And that meant, Brad.

In reality it was me, criticizing and being a bitch about our life together. I was NEVER satisfied. Only ever focused on the ways that I was unhappy, disgusted, turned off, what wasn’t done or maybe I would just sit there in that beautiful home (I felt trapped in) and cry like a baby because my piece of cake wasn’t big enough. It had too much sugar, it was too small, I wanted more.

I couldn’t connect Brad with the world in my head. I rarely dreamed about him. I was completely compartmentalized, inhibited, and split almost in to different personalities.

We connected in the most basic way. Meals together, games together, laughing together, drinking together, and him showing me how everything worked, keeping me alive, and kissing me. He literally made an unhealthy person function and had created an alternate sort of environment where she could do whatever came naturally and survive.

I got really sad in the apartments. I started to pace, look out the window and cry. He asked what I wanted and I dreamed up the idea of a home, a more permanent and acceptable scene (because my apartment life had been criticized by an old friend from Adrian and that planted a seed that grew). So what did Brad do?

He bought us a house.

We had been together a good 5-6 years. Neither one of us were planning on doing much else. So I tackled the project. I did all of the paperwork, made sure he had everything in order, sent all the e-mails and info, and then we had a home he could barely afford.

That caused more stress for me, but it was good whenever I did something like, decorate the mantel, or host a dinner, or play the part in the pretty little box. I did have a love for it, even if I hated it the other half of the time. I loved decorating, loved the control, and I dwelled there with Brad. Nested, but like a maniac.

After so many years of listening to each other pass gas and eat Halloween candy right out of the bag, I lost a lot of attraction to him. I wasn’t sure if I could do anything about it and it made me sad, made me feel like there was no passion, anymore.

I should have known that we had just grown so close that the sparks would be harder to create. We’d sit at dinner together, comfortable, exchanging smiles and people would ask if we were brother and sister.

He said once, after I hopped off the treadmill, “I’m scared to death that some richer, older man is going to sweep you off your feet and get to fuck the shit out of you.”

By the time I was so mad, stressed, yelling and going off on tangents that I was actually moving out in a haste (even yanking my flowers from the ground), he warned me,

But at this time that shield I had crafted for a long time, in my defense and in my anger, was held at my chest,

“Autumn, you are impulsive. You don’t always think right. You don’t know how hard I have to work, to keep you somewhat level. You don’t know because I never tell you. I think you need help. I’m afraid you’re going to get out there in the real world and not know what hit you, I’m afraid someone WILL hit you. Autumn, you can’t treat other people the way that I let you treat me… Autumn I love you I will do ANYTHING for you…”

Emotionless, I stood there and watched him break down and cry. I heard the words but they didn’t hit me. My lack of reaction rendered him speechless…not that I ever seemed to take much interest in listening.

Through his tears, he tried to piece things together. If I was doing it because of US sucking, or because Autumn found something else. He heard me talk about Mr. Walton, the principal who had just lost his wife. How I had seemed drawn to him, talking with him when he came in to work…

That was exactly where I was headed when I went out the door for the last time. I wasn’t in love with Mr. Walton – it was a safe place to go, but Lord knows I felt attracted to him if I wanted to rent out his house while he lived in it.

And so I let the greener grass call. I looked at that gaze I always held out of the passenger window and I followed where it went, telling Brad that it would be OK, that I was sorry but that I had to go and follow the sensation that was leading me.

And that’s how I lost him. I left him. I left the house, my home, and the man who loved me unconditionally since he was twenty.

Brad was the sweetest, most giving, one-in-a-million guy. “Has the kind of heart that anyone would die for” as the song ‘How Could I Want More’ goes. I used him, abused him, fucked around, let him be the perfect boyfriend through it all…and then I smashed him in to a million pieces and he actually missed me when I was gone. He cried so hard and got so sick that he couldn’t move.

You didn’t hear about Brad very much, did you? My readers of old? No, you didn’t. You’d almost forget he was around. Many of you would think he was never there.

My first entry, though…Dear Live Journal, I have a boyfriend. I’m going to keep him.

That shield I talked about that I had built around me, as I have been taking care of Mr. Walton and his estate, slowly started falling off. The other day I came across Brad’s baby picture and something hit my shield at the seam, causing the lot of it to crash off in one startling moment…

And I grabbed my hair with my hands,

looked around me in a place I didn’t recognize or feel connected to,

Started to feel the mass of thousands and thousands of days together,

Flashes of my awful ways, his beautiful, beautiful support and love,

And I started screaming.

Today I admitted that I was wrong in the things I had been fighting for. My goals, my thoughts, my beliefs, just a whole swarm of fucking buzzers resounding in my ultimate wrongness. Formerly the Girl Who Knew Everything, even Formerly the Bitch Who Thought She Knew It All. I. Fucked. Up.

And I brought people in to this earthquake with me, luring them, making them believe in solid ground and then I shook the foundation. Changed people’s lives in all the ways I used to be so proud in being influential. All so I could say, “Stop. This is the wrong way.”

My foundation is brittle and we could all fall through.

I’m sorry. Everyone, be careful. Slowly, slowly make your way… well, uh… I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I want to go home.

I just want to go home.

Choose Your Own Adventure

I’m not looking forward to Halloween. Dan wants me to dress him up as the Mad Hatter and as fitting as that may be, it’s also half of the contest he won with his wife when paired with none other than the Queen of Hearts. I feel like he wants to be half of a different twosome.

I’m a skeleton. I got one of those Spanish headbands with the skull and the roses, and I’m dressing in black with face paint. I bought him a black shirt with skeleton bones on it so we could be similar, and we did go out earlier to a haunted house as such:

skellies

But this weekend is children and candy and the marital house and having to go out in to the massive garden planted by another woman so that it can be weatherized for winter. In short, lots of work and emotional landmines.

We were at dinner on Friday and he showed our waitress that he was the only one wearing a wedding ring. Insta-whore sitting on the other side of the table, I gave a humiliated look and wondered if things were ever going to seem like Dan and Autumn.

There was a fight because I had taken some of the Halloween candy and stashed it in a drawer. He woke up from his nap (which he invites me to sit with him and accompany him for, resorting in his snoring and my staring ahead blankly at whatever awful thing he cued up on television) and caught me eating the candy before he emptied the entire drawer in a fit, declaring that Halloween was cancelled. As if he had the power to nix national holidays at his whim.

“You owe me a bag of candy.”

I wasn’t cool with that. I left the house without a destination. He called and apologized about candy.

“It’s just candy. You’re right.”

I reasoned it as a much needed “time out”, a session that can’t be had in a place that embodies the entire problem itself. So I stayed gone for a few hours and he texted about possibly having a fire, something we haven’t done.

Later on that night we sat in front of a starter log, each with a glass of the wife’s favorite wine, and we fought by the fireplace, shouting and crying. I started sleeping on the couch and some back pains later I hiked back upstairs to find that he had locked the bedroom door in his own communicative stint.

“It sounds like he’s got candy at the end of a stick, and he’s poking you with it,” my co-worker sympathized. I laughed an awful laugh.

I wrote Dan a letter in the convenient form of e-mail explaining how inappropriate it is for me to hear every other word about his romantic relationship with another person. He had cast her shadow at the cider mill we attempted to enjoy when he guided me to the entrance and declared, “Me and my wife would always sit over there”. Totally spoiled. It wasn’t our moment; it was theirs, and mine never happened. The e-mail goes on to explain how much I need for him to deal with his past, find additional support, and try to move forward while giving me occasional consideration. All in the form of an ultimatum that merely points out the fact that we either continue to sink slowly and die, or find a way to change.

Dan calls the e-mail a “book” and indicates that it was probably too long for him to read.

“So he’s either ignoring it or he read it and won’t admit it,” someone de-coded.

“He took a napkin at the end of dinner, twisted it in to a ghost and dipped his fingertip in spilled salsa to make eyeballs. That was charming. I took it home with us.”

“That’s not taking a turn for the better. That’s a brief plateau before another plummet in this relationship of yours.”

It was suggested that I print and read my letter out loud, but it has its own snarkiness that may be ridiculous all the same.

“It has the line ‘you can’t have your dead cake and eat mine, too’ in it. I’m not sure it maintained decency or understanding.”

“But being in-the-moment offers you the blessing of improvisation,” Kyle pointed out. “I dunno, Autumn. It’s time for you to figure out how this terrible Lifetime drama ends.”

I just know that Halloween happens next. And that I owe Dan one bag of candy.

A Little (Too Much) Off the Top

I’m just a big ball of hormones, I’ve come to realize. Granted the stress has left me on edge, always on the brink of tears, but my moods have been drastic and my perspective, ever-switching. I picture my predicaments and people one day and see it all accompanied with a golden glow, just to have the same scenarios and relationships in a totally different light some hours later.

In short, I am crazy. And I just typed “perdicaments” because that’s how I say it when I get this odd southern accent going from unknown origins. Spell checkin’ this bitch.

If it is possible to be a desperate whore by food, then I have accomplished that these past few months. I found myself jetting from work over to the local McDonald’s, stress eating on a very restrictive lunch period, stuffing my face with fries just so I could handle going back to whatever the hell I was doing before – an odd combo of absolutely dick, and tons of shit. It wasn’t enough old habits to actually go up a clothing size, but let’s admit it – jeans stretch.

Does anyone remember that old animation for Charlotte’s Web where Templeton the rat goes on an eating rampage at the fair, drowning in lemonade, swallowing entire foods whole in a colorful kaleidoscope of culinary delicacy? Yeah. I did that. From like, May to October.

I’m back on coffee and electronic cigarettes, today. Because I’m crazy, so extremes are the only thing I understand.

Daniel is incredible. An incredible piece of fucking work, and a work of art. He thinks he’s waking me up with a ‘hey, Autumn’ when I’ve actually been listening to him running around, groaning and growling, and he’ll say something about how I could help him, or something that needs attention, as he continues to dread before work. Once at work, he hates his job. Then at home he enters grades and works on teacher stuff until the early morning, cursing and screaming all the way. I have prepared a meal, made his lunch for the following day and set out the next day’s clothes to crawl in to. We see each other briefly, long enough for him to tell me that his day “sucked a big, black dick” and for me to “take care”, then the cycle repeats.

In between these days when he swears there is no time for anything else, I try to get him to do things. I took him to a fundraiser walk for the Michigan Humane Society last weekend. During our stroll along the river he kept complaining about how he had to get home and work – and he wouldn’t stop bitching about the dog.

Oh, the dog.

His dog is one of those mutts-on-purpose, a poodle crossed with a retriever. So it has shit all over its face: long whiskers and chin like some kind of schnauzer, and hair growing over its eyes. Its chin is constantly dripping from lapping up water, which gets smeared all over you when the dog is nudging its snout. During a grooming session, I took a little too much off the top and turned this:

start

In to this:

end

Which he will simply not forgive. He kept saying how bad he felt for her…even though she had no idea what she looks like. And you know…can actually see things, now.

Everyone swooned over my pug. A cameraman came in for a close up when I was holding her, and Duchess took her paw and put it to the side of her face in this totally perfect model dog moment, because my dog is the people’s dog. She can’t help being perfect.

When we got in the car to leave, I was wishing we could have stepped off the path on Belle Isle to admire the other dogs. I felt like everything was cut short. And I thought about how Daniel was just going along to appease me even though I had set the whole thing up to stay involved with him.

I started to cry on the way home when he said, “You’re not happy.”

After I told him why, he made me look at him by turning my chin, and he leaned over from the driver’s seat and kissed me.

We attended a Detroit Symphony Orchestra concert recently. His school is affiliated with a church that DTE funded the community event for, which meant free admission. Which meant sniffling children, clapping along, crying babies and everything else. But it was still beautiful. I had been wanting to hear an orchestra play, to which Daniel reasoned that we must have been “thinking alike”…

It was the conductor’s birthday and the playlist consisted of his favorite pieces. They opened with the ‘Wedding March’ and I fought back tears a good five times. The whole thing made me think about how Daniel says he “can’t get married for at least ten years” because of some social security he will inherit on account of who I have lovingly been summing up as ‘The Dead Wife’.

“How’s Dead Wife Guy doin?” someone will ask me. “Hey, are you bringing ‘Dead Wife Guy’ to dinner?”

It’s a dead wife thing.

Have you ever seen a cartoon where two super figures are fighting, each having shot out a beam of light from their palms that clashed at their center point? The opposing forces, the streams of energy are going back and forth, one trying to overtake the other… that’s how I feel a lot of the time. I get to mediate that, to fight for every little thing I want to do, for every little moment I want to have. It’s exhausting.

Sometimes I don’t know why me, Daniel, The Dead Wife and those awful fucking curtains can’t all just sit back, tip back a beer and have a good laugh together…then I remember it’s because there’s nothing funny about it. And because neither dead wife nor curtain can drink.

It sucks to be all of us, right now.

But enough of the trivial shit (too bad it’s all trivial shit). I gotta get ready for work. This weekend I get to drag Daniel from his study to carve a pumpkin with me, which he is already not looking forward to. Then I cart his ass to a haunted feature that’s outdoors; it takes a good half hour to walk through. I know it will all be good for him. And I have to remember that for everything he swears up and down that he detests, I will often look over and catch him not-so-secretly grinning about.

Like a circle through a square peg hole, we’re working.

Like A Wrecking Ball

The last time I finished free writing, I looked at my entry and said, “Shit. This is totally a break up letter.”

The following morning I looked at my undelivered break up letter and refused to give up. I dropped a ridonkulous amount of money on plush bath robe replacements by Ralph Lauren, tackled the 27 piece Waverly bed set from hell by toning it down with neutrals, and when I asked Daniel, “Tell me something good that happened today” and he answered with something negative, I repeated myself.

Yeah. I’m not fucking around.

We attended a Tigers baseball game last week, which he seemed to enjoy. I had never seen Comerica park before and I swear to God, the moment I sat in my seat and realized he was appeased, I just about collapsed with a much needed exhaling.

“You’re no fun. You’re like an old lady,” he remarked, bouncing around. It made me think of when my mom would take me and my brother to the mall and she would rest in chairs out in the hallway.

This week I sent him flowers to his school. The ‘Golden Autumn’ bouquet, quoting Eleanor Roosevelt, “Love is an education in itself”. Maybe he’ll learn something.

Last night his Xbox suddenly wouldn’t power on. All he could do was look at me like it couldn’t have possibly been because of him and his lifestyle patterns – it had to be me, the disruptive force, that broke it. I informed him that his beloved, always shedding, always jumping up in the most disrespectful ways and champion chipmunk murderer cat Dink, had been chewing on the cords. He didn’t want to believe it. Even after I pointed out the chew marks on the cord – which I wondered if he thought I had created with my own teeth – he insisted it was because I kept the cat indoors.

I figured it was a good time to point out that Dink had also been pissing on his school papers that he had set aside on the basement floor.

“This is a goddamn petting zoo. I need to just sell this fucking house.” And it’s not that I wanted him to break; it’s the realization that his elaborate shit mess was no paradise, that I had been hoping for. It’s hard, living here. He needed to admit it.

Yesterday I rearranged all of the shit on the porch, taking his tall plant urns and putting them to the back, so my things weren’t totally blocked behind them. Now the front of the slab is clear for real-deal jack-o-lanterns and not just the gaudy plastic ones he’s waiting to unleash on the yard. Yes, I will show this man what beautiful is. Yes, I will find that autonomous space if I have to make it myself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to continue being wonderful.

And That’s The Story

When his late wife’s morning glories – the same kind I’ve planted – didn’t come up last summer, Daniel was upset. He talked about it whenever we stood by that spot by the fountain where they once grew. Personally, I didn’t sweat it – the flowers were cheap, easy to replace, and I didn’t think it was the worst thing in the world to show him via landscape that things change over time.

The widower’s home is something he never dreamed he’d have. It was a good deal in a lousy market in an area he thought would always be beyond him. Once those two moved in he began doing renovations and, of course, the wifey instantly filled it with the belongings she had accumulated over her fifty years of living.

Spiritually, Danny believes they will be reunited one day in heaven. He waits.

My name is Autumn May. I’m the consolation prize.

I have been feeling like a visitor in their home, very much like I just don’t belong. I am 33 years old and in the stages of creation. I’m learning about table settings, patterns, styles and all of the wonderful things that make home, home. Dan has informed me that every fabric, every color, every item tangible with their sentiments intact, shall remain right where they are, forever.

Last night I saw no reason to make it through the Pottery Barn magazine (issued in her name). I just threw it away.

Well then. That’s a shame because the red and white checkered curtains look like a picnic cloth vomited all over the windows, and I could too easily go on from there. So that’s kind of a real bummer. But it isn’t the permanently outdated fashions that concern me about this little house ruling.

His home is the material conclusion of everything he possesses. Some women would date him for the house – I am not one of those women. As a result, I am feeling crowded out. There are simply limits to how accommodating, understanding, and ultimately boring I can be. And our relationship requires a space that’s all our own to flourish in to US, but his little fixer upper in Farmington Hills is exploding with someone else’s shit.

He calls me crazy for having issues with this. The painted paneling and wooden floors are his obsession and he is ready to devote his life to every material and texture. In his mind, he bought and arranged the perfect box for the perfect life and the objective to live together with his wife inside of it was tragically ended prematurely. That doesn’t seem to have stopped him from trying to play out the same story line minus the main character, anyway. In fact, he thinks he is generously making room for me when he plants my hostas under the bird feeder and gives me my little operation in his marital home.

Yes, his entire scenario was threatened but he refuses to let go of the slightest part of his broken dream. I watched and helped him with several projects last summer and if his step children desire anything more they will have to win in court for it. He can’t see why I am suddenly proceeding with hesitance down this path of material sadness.

I made the decision to co-habilitate with him very early on. I was headstrong in love, confident in my feelings and I couldn’t imagine any sort of “stuff” getting in the way of my relationship with him. But I would instantly and always tip toe around her, her memories, her possessions, as if she was going to be home from the store at any moment. It was easier to look past the creep factor and just remember that she was never coming back, when I still had so much more to figure out. As I came to envision a real long-term relationship and not just a “in the meantime” guy, I began to consider what “forever” meant, and I realized that our environment was not built to last.

He doesn’t consider us. He doesn’t consider our future. He doesn’t care to know which articles are a stinging trigger for me, and even those he is aware of, are looking at me from every angle. His structure is a dark castle that separates him from the onward world outside of it. Every item is a weight that keeps him firmly planted in the time capsule I not-so-lovingly coined as “The Dead Wife Museum” the other day in argument. The way this is all going because of how it has to look – he wants it, and has forbid me from changing it.

He is basically telling me that I cannot stay. And I have to acknowledge the way he sees things and confess that I am not the kind of girl to kill time with until you meet back up with the wife in the afterlife. I deserve negotiation and equality to start, and love to last.

This morning the long-lost morning glory wove a late vine around some leggy daisies and bloomed for me to see before I went to work. Beautiful, bitter sweet flower. It said to me, that Dan and his wife are the ones meant to live there. They are the item, waiting on their next date. After everything I did and how hard I fought against everything and everyone, this truly breaks my heart.

I wanted to be with him. I wanted to be a real world, real girl, real chance opportunity for a good life filled with love and happiness… but it will never come at the cost of this melancholy house rental agreement (literally, I have a lease and I pay rent). The love of my life is probably not going to insist that his Irish girlfriend be drowned in Greek décor and someone else’s name embroidered on the bathrobe hanging on the chair.

Autumn, I know that you picked him. But it might not be a good thing.

Maybe one day he will meet someone who makes all of this clear to him. Maybe he will catch on that women will typically not want to be replacements in his marriage. Maybe he’ll find someone who uses her coffee mugs unabashedly and even fits in to her clothes. Or maybe he will never let his heart be spoken for anyone besides his late wife.

No matter how it plays out, I wish him peace and joy in his life.

Things do indeed change over time – but I didn’t expect it to be me in this scenario. I really want him, morning glory.

Too Quickly, and So Slowly

I didn’t find my rhythm, but a rhythm found me. Practicing how to prepare meals, learning how to iron shirts and picking up on all of the things that Mr. Walton can’t accomplish in time, I was also building a pattern. It is the most considerate that I have ever been for anyone besides myself, in years.

Introduce more technology than he knows what to do with, but quickly leans to do well. Roku, Netflix, LG Tones to replace the guy who was always broadcasting calls from mom on speakerphone, the replacement parts he needs, the software to look in to his late wife’s locked iphone, the 3DS that admittedly sits more than gets used because ‘Mario is gay’ and ‘where are all of the shooter games’…I guess not everything translates.

Wake up when he does. Stumble downstairs and listen to ‘Breaking Bad’ playing from the den while you make a lunch. Put the food into the little dome-top, construction worker style box I found for him to replace the plastic sacks he had always used. Slip in a quote, this time, one of his own profound lines of wisdom.

“Fuckin’ A, swear to God.” –D.Walton

Feel happy when strangers approach you to compliment on the appearance of your couple hood, whether it’s because you ‘look cute together’ or because you’re bickering in a grocery store and everyone around you is laughing, insisting it’s love… then nonchalantly stroll off in to the void when he tells those people, who have just seen you enter their scene as a twosome, that his wife just died.

Oh, you must be the redheaded whore! It’s a pleasure to meet you.

Go with him to the radiology lab because he thinks his side pain could be cancer. Write in the journal, already filled with things about God’s love and the occasional torn out page, why you are there and about the TV show you caught Mr. Walton up on.

He enjoys ‘The Walking Dead’ and I believe it’s because people lose loved ones to a zombie outbreak and nothing is the same ever again – the tomorrow they anticipated is forever gone. I catch him wiping away tears as the main character, a sheriff, leads his pack of survivors through to the uncertain, unknown…

When I look at him I see a leader who is lost but a leader still. That’s why, when I see him struggle, I think, “Keep going, sheriff. I need you.”

Laugh with him later about how they neglected to tell him that the chalky sludge he was required to drink for his scan, would make him suddenly have to shit uncontrollably. In my car. Much later. In fact, we don’t laugh about that yet. His pride is an obstacle.

Take back a shirt because it says ‘fitted’ and he needs ‘classic fit’. Find better colors than the ones that Call Moms Cell selected from the Easter Parade Palette. When you get your schedule wrong and arrive at work too early, refuse to go home because you know his mother is there and still refuses to look upon you for the blasphemous way you came in to his life.

Drive aimlessly for hours, considering the concept of ‘home’, ‘hope’, and ‘worth it’.

“You don’t want to disrupt the balance of the universe. I love that about you,” he will offer, hearing of the afternoon I spent in hot parking lots, crying over how nothing ever seems to be working out.

When you warn him about the seemingly impending doom and he feels like you “threatened to leave”, find yourself speechless when he asks, “Notice anything different about the room” – and her photos are no longer on the mantle.

Act like you don’t notice, because you hadn’t. You were trying to look past them for months, anyway. Give him some credit and understand that he’s trying. Don’t push.

When you walk in to the formal dining room to water the plants, it takes a couple visits before you look up on the tall dresser and realize…the photos were never taken down. They were just moved.

Wonder if you ought to push harder, then…just don’t. You’re tired and officially know nothing, again.

Pick up the dry cleaning. Clean the house. Gather trash for him to push to the curb. Get better at ironing. Move some things around in the laundry room that cause him to bitch a fit, because he is neurotically obsessive compulsive, and have his mother insisting “that girl has an agenda, Danny. I KNOW it.”

She still doesn’t know that you have been sleeping in the same room. Always.

Try to look past the tacky Disney décor that She saw fit to put in every direction. Every Pooh bear, every silly, gaudy cartoon porcelain thing will be like he’s screaming ‘Team Dead Wife’. Pledge allegiance to The Mouse.

mickeyhat                                                    “Oh, Mickey, what a pity, you don’t understand.”

Let him take you out. Let him show you how to pick up the golf ball before the last hole swallows it and run over to the other side of the course and play more putt-putt for free. Roll your eyes when he says “Let me teach you something”, because he always says that, and love to hate him a little when he proceeds to make a hole in one.

Bring him to absurd places that he thought was beyond him. When the ‘Tiled Kilt’ waitress brings him a ‘blow job’ shot and everyone insists he takes it without using his hands, he will abide and they will all cheer. And when some of it proceeds to come out his nose on to the bar, they will cheer more loudly for him than before.

Smirk silently when you hear him say, “Mom, I can’t hear you; I’m at Hooters” and all you hear on the other end is Old Woman Screaming.

When he tosses the neighborhood picnic flyer away, pick it back up. Uncrumple it. Write a check for the two of you to attend and bring canned goods for Forgotten Harvest. When they call you and ask you to run the children’s games, say OK. Include Mr. Walton, who needs to get out and make friendly with the community. He will tug of war, speak through the megaphone, blow his whistle and everyone will love him for it.

You will bake a peach and pineapple upside down cake for the bakeoff and win that mother fucker. It will have to do with the power outage leaving many without ovens, but you made your entry ahead of time. You deserved to win, anyway.

princesses

When I saw the Disney towels in the other room, I suggested he give them to the little girls next door. This is them looking at their new reflections in the garage hutch.

Do so many things together with so much curiosity and good intention that he has to eventually admit that he is moving on, having fun and finding parts of himself that he had lost long before he lost anyone else.

When he’s off to work, open his closets and hold shirts up to ties until you coordinated a beautiful suit. Hang it on his bathroom door to save him a few minutes the following morning. When he asks where the ‘hook’ came from, you know he always means to ask if it’s something that came from you or something you found in his house of wonders.

Of the things that are yours – which he is slowly learning, are more than he realizes, answer, “I don’t remember. Too long ago.”

Wonder, when you see him moving on to the white coffee mug with black scrolls across the top, if he realizes that’s not another one of his late wife’s mugs that he has taken a custom to. It’s one of yours… but don’t ask him if he knows. When you feel brave enough to test and see, just say…

“That’s a really nice looking mug.” And decide in advance, when and if he says, “It’s my wife’s…”

How you are going to respond in this delicate relationship that flies by too quickly but changes so slowly, the two of you tend to overlook it.

That’s Not My Name

It was my idea, when he asked what he was supposed to say when the tenants asked who I was.

“Can I be Jane?”

And so his cousin Jane accompanied him to the property on Lighthouse Drive, and we walked around as Daniel realized that everything outside had gone neglected for the entire three year lease.

“That will have to be redone. This deck needs to be power washed. Look at all the dead shit. This was a beautiful tree…”

I worked, and I worked, and I worked like I had signed my life away. Not my home, not my idea of a good time, not my burden, not anything like the rest of what that town was doing for the Fourth of July weekend. I was on the ground in the kitchen scrubbing grime. Then I was taking a shovel to the root balls of hostas and hammering them apart, getting them properly divided and replanted. Meanwhile the lake was crowding with boats, jet skis and men standing in water to their waistline as they held fishing poles. I would see them all on our runs to Home Depot for tools, riding along with him, dirty, waiting to be whatever assistance he wanted.

Sometimes I wonder if there isn’t some kind of reward at the end of this.

“There’s just so much bullshit to catch up with Mom,” he said in to the phone. Always Bluetooth, always playing through the dash while he drives. ‘Say a command.’ ‘Call Mom Cell.’

“You and her shoulda gone out there every year, Danny-“

“She wouldn’t have come out here, Mom.”

By the time we were done Daniel was hungry. When he says we’re going out to eat, I don’t have the slightest disagreement.

He took me to a local Chinese place that he and his wife had frequented. When he looked down at the paper placemats he read the zodiac symbols for him and her.

I have a Chinese Zodiac, too, I thought to myself. I was starting to feel left out.

Later, during one of our unpleasant conversations he would reflect, “I’m sorry. I missed it.”

The Asian waitresses came over and recognized him. He relayed the news about his wife. He relays the news about his wife at every single opportunity, with every person he encounters. I don’t blame him – it’s just that it so happens to be every person I encounter as well, we when we’re together. We can encounter a lot of people. And it does begin to sound different towards the end of the day.

By the time we were done with our meal, he was standing at the counter talking with the staff and I found myself seated alone, watching everything as I always have, one world apart. I was nobody. I was just Jane.

Jane got really sad, hopped up and ran in to the bathroom to pull herself together. Jane fights with bouts of jealousy and depression because she’s the brilliant one who thought there was nothing wrong with letting her heart go to Daniel. I would suddenly seem different. I wouldn’t smile or look at him. I’d hold my head down or look out the passenger window until he made me tell him what was on my mind.

“Let’s not ever do that again,” he suggested on the drive home. I think I knew, even the moment I claimed it as my idea to be Cousin Jane, that it would only cause a problem. It had made me think of a song.

“So alone all the time at night
Lock myself away, listen to me, I’m not
Although I’m dressed up, out and all with
Everything considered they forget my name

They call me Hell
They call me Stacey
They call me her
They call me Jane

That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my name
That’s not my…name”

Maybe I just had to try to forget in order for me to remember.