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!”
“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.”
“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
I called 911.
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,
Blow away, dandelion,