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.


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.


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?


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


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.