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.

 

Of Dancing and Pilot Lights

I read for the first time in over a year. It was a graphic novel so it flew by in specific colors without the need for much focus. Something sparked and I said, “Damn” so I read a book. It wasn’t easy; I kept finding myself scrolling through the lines with my own thoughts, completely missing what I was reading. Or the television was too loud, and then the music in my earbuds would be just as distracting. But gradually, my speed picked up and the story in my hands was the only thing before me.

Hot damn! One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to force myself to either read or write. Put my dull brain through the sharpener and see where it went from there. I reached for another novel and a few pages in I kept hearing the sound of my pug’s nails across the kitchen linoleum, though her food bowl is a step down on carpet. She was in front of the door. Waiting, then pacing around, waiting again. Tapdancing to get outside.

I let her out and began to feel the polarities of the balance, my own dance, moving through me. I tried to figure out whether or not I was hungry. It seemed for over the course of a year I had been doing the domestic tango, wearing a chef’s hat most irregularly, going through the motions of trying new recipes back-to-back, around the clock and then not, resorting to that feeling when you’re past full and it feels comforting, fulfilling, an attainable happiness, and the photo-posted quotes on social media had told me that caring for the ones under my roof was greater than any craft I could be dicking around with, outside…

Was I hungry? I had just eaten a few hours ago. Wasn’t I just feeling a little bloated? Maybe I didn’t eat enough. Is it HUNGER, then, am I hungry. As if I suddenly don’t know what I knew.

Daniel is in his office, making a presentation and as I walk by I see a slide that is asking the class something like WHAT IS THE POINT OF THE STORY and as I make my way up the stairs, his stairs, I say to myself: TO SAY SOMETHING. Either for the point of saying it or maybe even more.

It goes deeper than that, sometimes. Even when it doesn’t, it’s still good if it’s genuine. Why worry about whatever specific point the piece was made about? TO SAY SOMETHING ABOUT WHATEVER THE HELL THE TITLE IS. TO GET PUBLISHED. TO GET PAID. TO BE GRADED. ‘Why’ is suddenly so relative and I think, THE TEACHER SHOULD COME UPSTAIRS AND READ IT TO FIND OUT.

He’s so cute in his Oliver People’s glasses, those wide, geeky, Wallstreet frames I picked out. They’re s much better than those narrow, condenscending drames he always wore, always looked over to see things farther away, like he was looking down on everything else. Like an asshole.

Looks can be deceiving. I considered changing the title of my blog to Tales From The Other Side Of The Garden Fence.

Yeah, I scaled over the bitch. And not being the most coordinated person on earth I landed on my ass. I can bring you the inside scoup. Though, admittedly, I don’t always because the lines are blurred but thin between the big white boxes and my waking life, these days. If I tell the truth about everyone in my current time, they may not look so hot. And if they ever read what I wrote, they may get hot. The risk of it doesn’t entice me – the leaking tabloid life doesn’t reward my spirit. It just gets me in to trouble.

Last year I joined FaceBlah and sent a message to Justin, the main character from my Flint Chronicles. This year I thumbed to his profile again, only saying, “Happy Holidays, Jbird.”

He answered right away, seeing that he’d missed the previous year’s instant text. He claimed having no idea how it had gone unnoticed and wanted to catch up right away. Not expecting to actually revive that dying light, I refrained from answering for a while. Then in slow bits between noneventful moments I would answer a question or reiterate that I was glad to have found him, again.

This morning I saw a message he had left at 2 a.m: Are you still up? I can’t sleep.

Back then, in that 18-21 coming-of-age era, 2 a.m. was somewhere around 9:30. And having known Justin, it was still probably pretty early for him. But I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of his lonliness, his untimely gesture to reach out. It made me sad. I had been in situations, phases before, where I may have been wandering the grounds in the wee morning hours, seeking a connection. And I have a younger brother who may very well get the urge to text me lyrics to Van Morrison even later than that, and it makes perfect sense to me.

It didn’t make sense, to Justin’s wife when she saw what he had done.

His number called a few times while I was at work. I answered when it called again, after my shift. Attempting to greet an old friend again, Justin began rattling on about his current plans for an uncertain future, the kinds of events that you just know may never transpire. And just like old times I mostly gave him the option of ranting on. He was always good for stories and you never assumed that they were truthful. Unfortunately he had awkwardly tried to explain our history, of my accompanying him through Flint, MI for the sake of everyone’s energy and the story of the city – and how our relationship to each other was entirely void of the kind of attraction he sought chasing after promiscuous girls.

Of course, he didn’t say it like that. He didn’t know to. That was my perspective. He knew I had been there, enjoyed the trips through clubs and tattoo parlors, and that I stuck around a while after the other supporting characters, nearby residents and schoolmates of his, had started to go separate ways. Uninspired and without a lot of options, Justin had enrolled in the Marines a few weeks after I went home one day and never came back.

He wrote me letters from Iraq, like he did to his mother. My mom helped me put together a care package and we mailed it over, possibly the only thing he received from any of us. Then Justin had his elbow blown off. He came back a hero with a purple heart and I was still too immersed in my own world to go see him. Years passed. An entire era passed. The vagina-chasing, compulsively lying, directionless scrub from Flint had turned his legend around and I never congratulated him. My chronicles ended with rusting street signs, the looming fear of a doomed city, and the absence of closure that comes from our never-ending lives.

“My wife was so upset when she looked at my phone. She thought I was cheating on her. I told her, it wasn’t anything like that. I said, ‘We never even dated! She was never my girlfriend! She was my best friend.’”

My heart was so flattered, even if it was a title I knew I didn’t deserve. How about the guys from childhood, the other ones I wrote about? What about my then-sidekick, Mandi, who had originally brought me in to the whole thing? What about the other redhead who was getting me to drive out there because she dared to follow her heart? The two of them made a lot of mistakes together… what about her companionship?

It all made me stop and think about where we all are. The dances we learned vs the ones we’re doing now. I can just see Justin’s shirtless, skinny, 18 year-old-self breaking it down, leveling with us about the shit we’ve mucked up and and shit we ought to do. He was never one to speak but he spoke, alright.

I think about the years I was cooped up in my hometown, an eccentric hermit, believing I had a tortured old soul even though I hadn’t even really ever made my personal adventures the main story, yet. I had written a passage about a dark barn where old, black machines were covered in tarps. Occasionally there would be a spark or a noise, the idea of it in my head. And I longed for the romantic brains of an engineer who could recognize the once-oiled parts and declare that it all still worked – that I, could still operate on potential.

I feel the weight of the tarps now, more than before. The dust itself adds weight. I’m blinking and muttering. I’m not sure whether or not I’m even hungry.

And I can feel, at the source of the levers and wires, that there is Good. Still good.

Still good, Autumn.

So maybe we need some polishing. Maybe the horizon is still way over there.

Grab an extension cord, girl.

Let’s plug this fucker in.

In Which I Manage To Break An Already Broken Family

Daniel’s father re-married a woman who has a daughter. Her name is Courtney. Courtney is about my age and still lives with their father and Daniel’s step mother. For reasons that were never explained, Courtney had her mail forwarded to our house whenever her parents left for trips to Florida. Maybe she worried about having her own mail sent out-of-state and found it easier to pick up her letters at her brother’s place.

Getting Courtney’s mail was not exactly easy because I had to remember to tell her it arrived and have it arranged to be picked up. Sometimes Daniel didn’t want any company and would be loafing around in his bath robe – not a scene I would invite company over for. Even so, we made the best of it and eventually her parents would be back from Florida and her mail would go back to her house again.

This time, I thought her parents were back from Florida. They were all together for Thanksgiving in Michigan. During the dinner, unfortunately, there was a heated discussion and Daniel became vocal about whatever topic had been raised. Allegedly a few women excused themselves in order to gain distance from the table. I wasn’t there, but I heard later on that it was considered a “blow-out” and I instantly stopped hearing from Courtney.

We had literally texted about watching the parade from our own televisions before I’d sent her a photo of the breakfast scramble Daniel had surprised me with. I sent him off later that day with a chardonnay bundt cake and had asked Courtney to tell me if it was well received, as I’d be working and missing out on the occasion. Everything was fine until the argument.

Daniel had collected the bundt cake on his way home and neglected to retrieve the Christmas present Courtney had given him hours before. I came home from work and saw my baked good in the refrigerator. Later on Daniel told me what had happened. It was disheartening but I couldn’t change the past.

Courtney refrained from contacting Daniel, and from contacting me. All of the thoughtful text messages, social networking and phone calls stopped. I waited in silence to see if she wondered if he was okay, if there was anything she could do. I waited for her to ask me if I knew what had happened, but she offered absolutely nothing… and meanwhile, her mail continued to arrive.

One day I finally sent her a link about correcting the technical issue. Wanting a prompt response, I thought I could save her a trip to the post office so I gave her the link to the USPS site where she could correct her mail route. I never heard back. Not a “thank you, I’ve been busy” or a “hey is something wrong”. Nothing. Silence.

Several days after that, Daniel got a call from another family member who told him that Courtney had read my text, assumed it meant that Daniel didn’t want her mail there anymore, burst in to tears and phoned her mother – who was already back in Florida. I had no idea they had only come home for the holiday (which meant that Courtney had still intended to forward her mail). In reaction to the misunderstanding, Courtney blocked us on her phone. We were officially bad guys to an entire side of his family and apparently excommunicated. Just like that.

All because I had cleaned up the kitchen, looked at a letter and decided that I didn’t want Courtney dragging her feet on getting her mail routed correctly. It was admittedly one more thing I didn’t want to deal with, especially after the sort of shouting that alarmed people and would probably require considerable time and healing. Misinformed, I had sent the USPS link to her at a bad time when I hadn’t done any following up on my end. Instead I was fueled by the bad vibes from her unexplained silence and the worry of how to get the mail to her.

It looked like we were saying, “And one more thing. Stop sending your mail here. Buh Bye”. Like it was somehow related to Daniel’s argument, or maybe just its own isolated moment of dismissal.

We were still Facebook friends. I told Courtney that I was sorry, that I didn’t know her parents were still away. I said that my comment about her mail was not associated with Dan in any way. I apologized for the way it all seemed and I mentioned that she didn’t exactly help matters with a complete lack of communication. I was blocked within 24 hours.

The whole thing has made my connection to Courtney seem artificial. Everything was great as long as she was happy. Now I’m nothing. I wanted the mail thing settled. I wanted her to say something about the dinner but she offered nothing. She could have at least corrected me about her parents being back in Florida – I would have been willing to work something else out. Surely I didn’t cause everything myself. I wasn’t even THERE that day…

Seriously, what just happened? I’m torn between feeling bad and feeling like it was a casualty of circumstance. Was I supposed to act like my boyfriend had done something to the rest of them? Was I expected to ask the questions? Is that the side I was supposed to take? And if that’s the extreme reaction, how much should I let this shit bother me?

I’m no longer “the young girl who came out of nowhere who couldn’t possibly hold substance”. Now I’m “the nasty, young girl who came out of nowhere who couldn’t possibly hold substance”.

Awesome.

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?