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.

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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.