FYI- This is a work of fiction that I am preparing for Nanowrimo. Every day I add new parts and pieces to it. Sometimes you will see me upload individual posts to this blog. Some of those posts will be included in their entirety. Some won’t. But I am trying to make this blog a storehouse of the entire body of work.
This will be updated several times throughout the night and the word count will increase.
My name is Jack. I am a single father who works as a journalist for the local paper. I have a a bi-weekly column that is read by more than 1 million people and I am the author of three books, with a contract to write more.
On the weekends I coach my son’s soccer team and drive my daughter to dance class. I have two girlfriends who really are just that, girls who are friends. Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between a girl friend and a wife. They both tell you what to do and neither put out.
I suppose that the real distinction is that the girl friend doesn’t receive a piece of my paycheck each month so that they can live in my house with Rudy, the flying Dutchman.
I know, that sounds overly bitter. My therapist told me that I should be happy about this. She said that it would be good for the ex to have a man in her life, that it would make her happier and as a result she would be easier to deal with.
I tried to look at it that way, I really did, but there is 6’2 of stupid preventing me from doing so. The same 6’2 of stupid that is shtupping my wife, sleeping in my bed and enjoying the house that was the fruits of my labor.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re better apart. It was a long time coming and something that I should have done years ago. I didn’t mind her taking the house because it was easier than uprooting the kids. But I won’t lie about being irritated about the cold Germanic figure that lives there now too.
We might not have had the greatest marriage, but we had a great house.
And now instead of having a bad marriage and a great house I have a bad apartment and a lot of freedom. So I suppose that there is something to be said for that. The girl friends keep telling me that if I moved out of the bad apartment I’d find it easier to date.
I keep telling them that I don’t want to date, but they ignore me. So then I tell them that misery loves company which is why they want me to get involved with another woman. I think that it is hysterical and every time I say this I crack up.
For some odd reason they don’t. And for that same odd reason they aren’t interested in hearing about what I think women are good for. That is ok, I don’t really want to tell them.
A while back my daughter found some old love letters that a lost love once sent to me. She had a field day with that. Ever since then she has been pushing me to try and look her up. She tells me that she can tell from the letters that she really loved me and that no woman who wrote those things ever stops loving the man she wrote them about.
I smiled and thanked her. She smiled back and told me that I was too young to give up. I think that the girl friends and her must be talking about me when I am not around, because I am getting tag teamed.
Anyway, I am on deadline for my next column. Since the ladies of my life are so intent on pushing relationships upon me I decided to show them by writing about the end of relationships. Something really bitter and biting, that ought to shut their mouths.
So here you have my first draft of my next column. I think that it has real potential.
Always On My Mind– Willie Nelson
Thanks to technology there are a million new ways to break someone’s heart. A million new methods of letting someone that you once loved or perhaps still do that you just can’t do it anymore.
In the age of instant gratification and social media it won’t be long before we hear/read the tales of dismissal. Husbands who let their wives know they are leaving them by unfriending them on Facebook or girlfriends who let their ex know their new status by tweeting it.
It is kind of funny in an I am not smiling kind of way to think how these time saving tools of communication can take the intimate and personal and turn it into something mechanical, cold and sterile.
What do you call people who do this? Awful, callous and cruel come to mind. Descriptive words that fail to capture the essence of how truly horrible being dumped in this fashion can be.
But let’s face it, being dumped isn’t a pleasant experience. It is not necessarily easier to stand or sit in front of someone and listen to them tell you that they have lost that loving feeling. I suppose that it doesn’t make a difference, even if they haven’t lost it, but are ending things because circumstances make it impossible to continue.
In the end you still ask those questions. You still wonder what you did or what you could have done. Surely there is a word or gesture that would have spared you the angel of death speech. Had you only known then they would have passed over and you’d be ensconced in your cocoon of love and happiness.
The End Of a Marriage
I’ll say this much for divorce, it makes for great blog fodder. There is something wrong about that, isn’t there. Shouldn’t there be some rule that says that being this connected is wrong. Isn’t there some rule or law of silence about this. I am not really supposed to be able to communicate such intimate thoughts.
The pain of a broken heart isn’t really something that you should be privy too, or maybe you should be. Maybe that is the point of all this. I act as the exhibitionist and you act as the voyeur. I pull aside the shades so that you can look inside the window and see just what is that I am doing.
And that is how you get the great image of “6’2 of stupid that is shtupping my wife, sleeping in my bed and enjoying the house that was the fruits of my labor.”
Really, I should be more grown up about this than I am. I should be happy that he has taken the burden off of my hands, but that is not totally true either. The end of the relationship is a mixture of relief and sadness. It is a mixture of success and failure.
I try not to tell the girl friends about this feeling because every time I do they interpret it as a sign that I need a new woman. They read the last column and told me that they thought that it was brilliant and that I was dead on about how awful breaking up by email is. Apparently this sort of thing is far more prevalent than I realized.
Just my luck really. I was trying to portray myself as being bitter, cold and unfeeling and they took it as being sensitive. Or maybe they didn’t. Maybe this is all part of the stupid plan that they and the daughter are trying to put into place. You know, the whole lost love deal.
Earlier this week the girl friends slipped it into conversation, how some people never forget walking down Coventry or chasing each other through grapevines. The whole gist of it was their female version of some romantic tale in which I contact that great lost love of mine and we suddenly find our way back to each other.
I must admit that I find a certain attraction to it. I have wondered what she is up to and where she is at. From time to time I have remembered things and wondered if she has too. But that could easily be me. After all I am the one who is in this position. I am sure that she is happy with her life. I am just a good memory relegated to the unimportant and irrelevant pile.
At least that is what I suspect, but I admit that part of me wonders if that is true. I also admit to relearning the finer points of being heartbroken. I hadn’t ever planned on becoming reacquainted with it. I rather imagine that it is similar to a prisoner revisiting his cell.
You know all the corners intimately, but you never really want to step back inside, even if the door is open. Except in my case the door swung shut behind me.
The good news is that all of the crap that I left here is still here. Same books and toys on the shelves just waiting to be played with again. The bad news is that all of the crap that I left here the last time is still here. The questions and hard feelings and the sense of loneliness. The empty ache is back, an old friend that I didn’t want to see again.
But the good news is that I know from experience that this isn’t a life sentence. I’ll bust out of this joint like I did the last time. Only this time around things will be different.
Of course I said that same thing last time, but this time it is true. This time it is going to be different because this time a million people will read about this in my column. Not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but we’ll find out.
Stay tuned to this bat channel and assuming that the paper doesn’t fire me or go under from a lack of advertising dollars and you’ll find out what happens, or not.
A 21st Century Break Up
“Well now, everything dies, baby, thats a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.”
Went to lunch with the girl friends and the daughter. It wasn’t my choice. I was far more interested in hiding out in my apartment. It might not be much to look at, but it is mine. Simple furniture, my books, music and a decent television. Reminds me a bit of how I described my first place after college to my parents.
But there is a difference this time around. The refrigerator is full and there is more than $25 dollars sitting in my bank account. Not to mention that the furniture isn’t a bunch of hand me downs from friends and relatives.
The best part is that it is mine and mine alone. I am happy being by myself. I don’t worry about who left dishes in the sink or if there are socks on the floor because if there are, I know who is responsible for it.
I had intended to make myself a sandwich, grab a beer and watch football. Later on I was going to take a nap and maybe start reading that book about the history of Scotland. It was a good plan, but the girls had other ideas.
When the telephone rang I didn’t bother to check the caller ID because I already knew who it was going to be. She called every weekend to check on me and every weekend I gave her the same response. Told her that I was fine, but if it would make her feel better I would let her iron my clothes and perform other services as needed.
It was the sort of obnoxious remark that I used as a shield and on most people it would work, but not her. After 30 some years of friendship she ignored it. Didn’t faze her, in fact I am not even sure it even registered.
But I was wrong about the caller. This time around it was my daughter. As soon as I heard her say “Hi daddy” I knew I was screwed. I am a lot of things, but I am not stupid. It didn’t take a genius to recognize that tone of voice. It was the same one she had used her entire life with me, that one that girls use to melt dads heart.
I placed my hand over the telephone and cursed. “Damn!” But there was no point in arguing with her. She is my girl and she is just as determined as I am. Better to just roll along and see if there was an easier way to get out from under their scheme.
Earlier that week she had shared her thoughts with me. She had told me that she was very concerned about me, that she didn’t think I gave myself enough credit or that I did a good job of taking care of myself. I had thanked her for her concern and reiterated that I was quite capable of taking care of me. Been doing it all my life, now wasn’t much different.
She smiled and wrapped her hand around my bicep and asked me to make a muscle. Damn, damn, damn. I keep forgetting this kid has made a life time project of studying dad. But I didn’t crack. I made a muscle and asked her if she wanted a piggy back ride. She laughed and told me that she was too big for one. I told her that she never would be too big and changed the subject.
Not that it mattered. She just went with it and here we were a few days later, the three of them and me. As we sat at the table I made a crack about feeling just like Hugh Hefner. It was met with a stony glare and sighs all around. Because I am both stubborn and prone to stupidity I told them that they were wasting their time and that we should find a different project. Maybe we could go out and save the environment.
Instead I was treated to a story about how things work in the 21st century. They told me that the Internet had killed the idea of a clean breakup and that now it was really easy to find people and or check up on them. I smiled at the three and reminded them that I probably knew more about computers and the net than they did.
That earned me more stares and sighs. And then I learned that all of them had googled the name of an old boyfriend once or twice. They assured me that it was just curiosity that made them do it. I looked at my daughter and said that curiosity was how I became a father. She glared at me and asked her companions why they put up with me. She had to because of genetics, but they had a choice.
Before anyone could answer I went into a five minute lecture/rant about minding your own business. They were silent. And just when I thought that I had convinced them they let me know that they had already done their own checking up.
She was free. She was single and so was I.
That took the wind right out of my sails. I was mildly surprised by the impact. She was single. I stuttered something in response and muttered something about having been kicked in the mouth one time too many.
And then I was silent.
For a moment I was lost in thought. I remembered the fire and the passion. I remembered how she made me feel like there was no one more important or more special. And then I remembered the pain of losing her.
It was like having an arm or a leg cut off. It took a while for those scars to heal, longer than I wanted to admit. And the truth was that I wasn’t even certain if they ever had. I did my best to hide the shock and thanked them all for their concern.
A short time later we got up and left. Out in the parking lot we hugged and kissed each other goodbye and I drove home lost in thought.
Later that night the telephone rang and again I didn’t bother checking the Caller ID. It had to be my daughter and again I was proven wrong. For the next five minutes I listened to her tell me why I should think really hard about things.
“She loved you as much as you loved her,” she said. I told her that I wasn’t so sure and that it had seemed far too easy for her to walk away. She snorted into the phone and assured me that I wasn’t the only one with a broken heart. She was just more practical about things than you were or so she claimed.
I thanked her again for her concern and told her that I would think about. A short time later I lay in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering what would happen if I tried to contact her. Would she take the call or respond to the email. I was afraid that she would and afraid that she wouldn’t.
Just before I drifted off to sleep I remembered what it felt like to kiss her and how I couldn’t figure out where I ended and she began. And that was when I realized that I hadn’t ever stopped loving her. It was a bittersweet revelation.
Not the sort of epiphany that I had gone searching for, but that is the joy of life. You never know what is going to happen. So now there are butterflies in my stomach and my heart is pounding. I haven’t made the decision yet what to do, but I am going to have to do it soon.
I suppose the question is will a 21st century break up lead to a 21st century romance. I don’t know the answer but I rather expect that I will soon.
In the interim I think that I am going to unplug my phone and turn off my cellphone. I have had about as much excitement as I can handle for now.
“I Don’t Want To Kiss My Husband Ever Again”
I have a graphic memory. I dream and think in technicolor or maybe I should say high definition. My dreams are full featured spectacles. It is great when I dream about happy things, but not so good if they are sad or disturbing.
As a young boy I used to wonder if there was a way to control my dreams. I figured that it was nothing more than concentrating hard enough. So I spent more than a few nights lying in bed focused upon whatever it was that I was chasing. Some nights it was images of me chasing down fly balls in Dodger Stadium and or hitting the game winning home run. Other times it was me as a different sort of hero.
I suppose that it is fair to say that in many ways not much has changed. The boy grew into a man who still dreams of playing pro ball or of being a hero. All he needs is a chance. Although to be fair the man recognizes that some dreams will have to remain locked inside the vault.
It was the morning after and I was still in bed. It had taken hours to fall asleep. The news that she was single had a bigger impact upon me than I would have guessed it would. I didn’t want to think about it. Didn’t want to play memory lane. I didn’t want to have one of those dreams and wake up to discover that reality was different than I might want it to be.
The meal with my daughter and the girls was grueling. They didn’t understand that some scars don’t heal. They didn’t understand that I much preferred the safety of my own life. Being single wasn’t so bad. I didn’t worry about forgetting special dates. Never had to try and decipher whether a look or a comment meant that I was in trouble again for some other transgression.
In concept it made a lot of sense to me to say goodbye to women. I knew what I needed to know. I had served a life sentence known as marriage. I helped propagate the species. When I was instructed to go forth and multiply I did it.I listened to them.
That is big stuff, my listening. Ask those who know me and you’ll be told that I have an amazing ability to suddenly go deaf. More than one person called it irritating, but me, I called it survival.
All would be perfect, or close to it, were it not for my daughter and the girls. Did I mention that they don’t like it when I call them girls. Sometimes I like to aggravate them by talking about how you can’t trust a broad, not a single one of them.
The thing is, they know me too well. They refused to let me bait them into a different topic. They have an agenda and I am at the top of the list. And people wonder why I say I feel like I have a target on my back.
Midway through our meal Sheri asked me if I remembered what her marriage was like. I smiled and told her that she should have married me. That earned me another one of those withering looks and a sharp rebuke from my daughter.
Great, and to think that I thought that I owned the look and the lecture she gave me. But because I am rarely at a loss for words I told her that I have been inoculated against that sort of thing. She of course didn’t care. Damn, if she isn’t like me. Moments like this make me wonder if I should be proud or frightened of her.
But I digress.
Sheri jumped back into her story and asked me if I knew how she realized that her marriage was over. I was tempted to provide another smart ass remark, but something told me that it was smarter to stay quiet.
“When I realized that I never wanted to kiss my husband again, I knew that it was over.”
“Well, we share that in common. I never want to kiss your husband again either. For that matter I don’t want to sleep with him, he snores far too loudly,” I said.
I know, the smart ass remark didn’t help, but how could I let that one go. Again she ignored me and continued on.”
“When you find the kind of love and relationship that you had you don’t let go.”
That wiped the smile off of my face. I looked at her and thanked her for her opinion. Before anyone could go on I explained that it had been made very clear to me that she was done. It didn’t matter what I wanted, or what I thought. She was done.
My daughter came around the table and hugged me. She told me that she had no idea that my feelings for her were so deep and that I owed it to myself to not just ignore the opportunity.
I was surprised by my anger. I did my best not to bark at her, but I am not sure that I was successful. “This is not reality. This is not some stupid movie where I get to ride up to her ranch, grab her and ride off into the sunset”
“She gave up on us and she gave up on me.”
For a moment there was silence. It took me a moment to realize that both my jaws and fists were clenched. I took a deep breath and thanked them for their thinking about me.
Sheri smiled and told me that she was sorry. In a soft voice she said that I needed to remember that some loves never really die and that we had been victims of bad timing. “Call her. There is a reason why you are being given a second chance.”
I smiled back at her. “I’ll think about it.” And then I said a silent prayer of thanks that none of them knew how hard my heart was pounding.
Once Upon A Time
One of the best parts of my job is that I can do it from almost anywhere. All I need is my cellphone, a laptop and an internet connection and I am good to go. It is one of the perks that come with the position, not to mention the joy of dealing with the most cantankerous editor ever.
He and I have a real love hate relationship going on, and that is putting it mildly. It wouldn’t be fair to say that we love to hate each other. But it would be fair to say that I love to aggravate him. I probably shouldn’t. It is a bit unfair to always press his buttons, but I have issues with authority. So does he.
For some reason he finds it necessary to try and tell me what to do and how to do it. This usually inspires me to do the opposite. Somewhere out there my mother is shaking her head about this. She told me many times that it is better to get along with people, that I don’t always have to be such a pain-in-the-ass. I love you mom, but you know that it is not going to happen, so why keep trying.
“Big Ed”, the editor, that is what I call him, likes to have regular meetings with me. He says that they are not serious, just an easy way to communicate. The thing is that I prefer to communicate by email or telephone and he likes face to face.
“Big Ed” doesn’t like being called “Big Ed.” His real name is Harold but if you call him Harry he gets upset. It probably has something to do with having virtually none on his head. You also can’t refer to him as “Harold, the Hairy, the Regent of Rogaine” because he doesn’t like that either.
Truth is that I can’t say that I really like it. It is not particularly funny, but it gets a reaction from him and that I do like. Did I mention that he is very particular about where things go on his desk. I like to move his stapler around. Again, it is not funny and it is quite juvenile. But it tends to help him come to the proper conclusion that Jack and office visits are not a good mix.
With that sort of introduction you might wonder why the “balding behemoth” doesn’t release me from his tender mercies. The answer is that I am that good and so is he. Together we have found a recipe that works and both of us have been around long enough to recognize that you don’t mess with something like this.
It also doesn’t hurt that Harold went through his own divorce and was sensitive to my situation. He made a point of approaching me more than once to offer a friendly ear. I was grateful and appreciative of it. I made a point to thank him and then told him that if brought up a “friendly ear” to me again I would sue for sexual harrassment.
He quickly apologized and changed the subject at which time I threatened to sue him for not making a pass at me. You should have seen how red his face got with that remark. Poor Harold didn’t know what to do. I almost felt bad for him because I knew the feeling.
Getting divorced was sad and exciting. Even though I knew that it was the right thing to do it was hard to accept that something that had seemed so right was over. I need to qualify that. I think that at one time it felt that way. I mean, I wouldn’t have gotten married if it didn’t seem right.
That was something that I just wasn’t sure of. I couldn’t decide if I really had felt that way or if I had convinced myself that at one time I had. None of it really mattered. I had checked out of the marriage long before the divorce, I just hadn’t realized it.
For a long time I had thought that the problems were all related to external influences. When the kids are young they suck the life out of you. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them or have a single regret because they are amazing. They make you better people.
But they also make you crazy people. They take and take and take. And then they takes some more. During the week there is the daily grind of getting them to school, helping them with their homework and all of the extracurricular activities.
Weekends weren’t any less busy. There are birthday parties, soccer games, ballet and when they get older reports for school.
And did I mention the challenges posed by preteen and teenage romance. I almost killed half the boys in my daughter’s middle school. As far as I know she didn’t date any of them, but she and her friends swooned and cried about them more times than I can count.
In fact I intend to kick the crap out of some kid named Jason for the simple reason of just because. Just because translates into you dated my daughter for two years in high school. Two years of pretending to be Eddie Haskell. Two years of trying to bullshit me into believing that you weren’t trying to get into her pants every day.
Stupid prick forgets that I used to be him. I know every line and trick for making a girl think that you think she is special. You are not unique. And yes I know that other boys did it too. And yes I know about karma and all that kind of crap. But you just rubbed me the wrong way and now I want you to give me an excuse.
The thing is that even though they have long since broken up if anything happened I would still be the bad guy. She doesn’t love him anymore, or so she says, but I know my girl. Actually maybe it is because I know my girl that I don’t need to do anything to him.
Scratch that, my fragile male ego can’t accept it. I am ordering one ass kicking off of the menu of life. One righteous ass kicking so that I can wipe that stupid smirk off of his lips. One day….
I had planned on working at the beach today, right next to lifeguard station number six. The car was loaded with my gear and I was just about to leave when Harold called to ask what time I was going to come in. I tried to pretend that the connection was bad but he was ready and asked me if I had checked my email.
He had forwarded an email that I had sent him two weeks prior. In the email I had told him that I would be delighted to meet with him to discuss my latest assignment. I hate when I screw up like that. I silently cursed my own stupidity and made a note to remind myself never to commit to anything in writing.
I told him that I would see him soon and hung up the phone. I made a quick trip out to the car to grab my gear and switch it with the business stuff. One of these days I have to win the lottery or invent something because this working stuff is getting old.
A short time later I was in the car and headed towards the office. Talk radio and the sounds of traffic filled the silence and I found myself lost in thought.
Hanging Out With Hairy
Inside the car I remembered that I hate commuting. The fact that it would have taken me just as long to get to the beach as it did to travel to the office was immaterial. Normally I would have spent the ride plotting ways to prick “Big Ed.” The precious minutes of beach time that I was wasting would have been devoted to thinking about how many different ways I could call Harold, “Hairy.”
Did I mention that at times I can be juvenile, selfish and spiteful. Not my finer traits, but hey, at least I am aware of them.
This time was different. Instead of plotting my silly revenge, enjoying music or listening to the ridiculous rantings of the anonymous talk show callers I was lost in a place that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to revisit. I was back in the past. It was a bit like walking into my garage. There were all sorts of treasures inside and a bunch of junk that I probably should get rid of, but never had.
I have always liked thinking of my memory as being a big garage or warehouse full of stuff. It works for me. There is something appealing about it. Whenever I need to remember something I simply walk into the garage and find the box it is located in. The problem is that like my real garage those boxes are not only dusty but they sometimes include items that I didn’t expect to find.
Back when I was married the garage was my refuge. It was my cave, my domain and all who entered it understood that it was dangerous to screw with things without my approval. Not surprisingly the ex thought that different rules applied to her. Although to be fair I learned long ago that once a woman starts sleeping with you she assumes certain liberties, like trying to convince you that Laura Ashley sheets are cool for the master bedroom.
My internal monologue was disrupted by the squealing by a loud thump, thump, thump coming from the car next to me. If you want to piss me off it is always wise to play your stereo at levels loud enough to make the windows shake. I have said more than once that if I am ever involved in a road rage incident it is going to be because of that.
The noise got my attention and I made a point of looking around to see where it was coming from. There was a large SUV in front of me that seemed to be the culprit. Sometimes it is hard to tell. The noise is so loud that it could just as easily be coming from the side or behind.
The license plate frame on the SUV said something about being a proud student of Grapevine Community College. The G.C.C. administration should be proud of this sort of representation. It really says something. Then again, I am a part time writing instructor there so maybe I should be more charitable with how I think of the students.
The writing gig isn’t bad. For the past ten years or so I teach one or two creative writing courses each semester. In the beginning I wasn’t so sure about it. They didn’t have an existing curriculum so I had to develop one on my own. That was supposedly going to lead to my earning more but I am not really sure that ever happened.
That first year I taught by Braille. It was a lot of touch, feel and react. I wouldn’t advise doing it that way. The department chair made a point of instructing me not to do it that way. He gave me a lot of good advice that I ignored. Sometimes my issue with authority causes trouble for me.
But we got through it. Over time I developed a teaching style and I found that I was pretty good at it. Most of my students were truly interested in learning so it made it easier to engage them. And of course it didn’t hurt that quite a few were relatively attractive women.
On a side note let me mention that you don’t want to tell woman that she is relatively good looking. It is the kind of remark that creates a minefield that no man wants to walk through. It is not that different from being asked if a particular item of clothing makes her look fat.
Say that she is relatively good looking and she will set you up for a verbal beating. You can almost guarantee that it will be an interrogation of what and who she is relatively good looking compared to. If you suffer from the same fits of stupidity that afflict me it will lead you to saying that she is far more attractive than a hippo or warthog.
You’ll say it with a big smile that you think she’ll find endearing and then after she has eviscerated you’ll wonder why you didn’t just save time by hitting yourself in the head with a hammer.
In case you are wondering I sometimes use that as part of my lecture. The students enjoy laughing at my expense. It is not unusual for the women to laugh the hardest or tell me that I should know better. I smile and shrug my shoulders. The guys usually like this too. After class a few of them will come and share their own war stories with me.
I like to try and use these kinds of stories because they work well as ice breakers. Get the class to laugh. Get them interested and engaged and it becomes far more interesting to everyone.
Not everyone appreciates these tales. Every class is filled with at least one person who doesn’t appreciate a self deprecating sense of humor. Did I mention that they are usually female. Is this coincidence? I think not. That leads to another useful safety tip for the men. Don’t try to use that last line or any derivation of it in class. You’ll do great with the women who likes to hang out with the boys.
But invariably you’ll upset one or more who will decide that you are sexist and in need of being reported to whatever authority they think will screw you the hardest.
Ok, I admit it, I am a bit bitter and irked with the fairer sex. But I have a good reason, really, I do. I can tell you her name, her sizes. Yes, I said sizes, shoe, pants, panties, bra, blouse, whatever. I don’t give a damn whether you think that is cool, weird or what.
I can tell you how tall she is, her weight, what color her eyes are and a million other details. It has been years and I haven’t forgotten what she smells like or how it feels to kiss her. Years later and sometimes when I close my eyes I still see her looking back at me.
Years later and I can’t forget. The last time I saw her we kissed each other goodbye and headed off to our cars.
But I am not going to go there. It took a long time to put it aside. It took a long time to accept that the life I thought we were going to share wasn’t going to happen. Took a long time to convince myself that I couldn’t just wait around, that maybe love wasn’t enough.
And until the girls decided to have lunch with me that was ok. I was ok. Until that little bit about her being single I was ok.
I’ll say one thing for being distracted, it made the time in the car go by like it was nothing. Of course the downside to that was that I hadn’t spent any time thinking about an idea for my next assignment. And now I had all of five minutes to try to come up with one.
I Will Never Fall In Love Again
I pulled into a parking space, turned off the motor and cursed out loud. The weather outside the car was perfect. Blue skies and just enough heat to make you feel warm were all the reason I needed not to be here. It is a good thing that my skull isn’t transparent because if it was my dear friend Harold would be able to see storm clouds heading his way. With any luck he’d be struck by lightning.
Ok, that is probably unfair. I was semi responsible for this meeting. The company had a funny policy about paying people only for the work they did and not for work that they might do. I had a long conversation with one of the bookkeepers about that one. We got stuck riding an elevator together and since I haven’t a clue what pasty faced number boys are interested I talked about paychecks.
We both learned something that day. He found out that a two minute ride on an elevator can feel like a week in cleveland and I found out that I can babble at length about anything. I know, you already knew that.
By the time I had walked into the office I had figured out that the topic of my next submission was going to be why marriage was the devil’s greatest invention. In my experience it was the closest thing to hell that one could find. Before you go off half cocked you need to understand that the classic definition of hell is wrong. It is not a place of fire and brimstone.
The Definition of Hell
Hell is seeing the love of your life unhappily living with someone else, but pretending to be happy. Hell is being granted a taste of the most incredible relationship and experience of your life and then having it taken away.
It is like being seated at a table with the greatest feast you have ever seen. The food looks and smells incredible. You look around the table and see that the other guests are having a culinary experience that borders n the orgasmic. Just as you are about to join the festivities you realize that your arms are tied behind you and your jaw is wired shut.
Hell is the real world and that is much worse than anything Dante can come up with.
Well, if there was ever any question about my being a bit bitter there isn’t now. Life is sometimes funny in a way that makes you laugh and sometimes in a way that makes you want to cry.
The first time I had my heart broken was hard. The second time was rough and the third time was ridiculously painful. It was bad enough that I swore that I wouldn’t fall in love again. And for a long time that is how it went. Various women came into my life. Some of them tried to break through the walls that I had erected but none really succeeded.
And then one day she did. One day the wall was up and the next day it was a pile of rubble. It scared me. I was frightened and excited by it all. But she took me by the hand and promised to just love me. I think that was part of what caught me, the “I just love you” bit. It was so simple and yet so powerful.
She did and so did I. We just loved each other. It is a cliche, but it felt like a dream. Somewhere along the way we got lost. If I didn’t have my meeting with Harold I might even take the time to tell you how and why. At least I think that I would. Can’t say for certain because I don’t know if I understand it.
So in the time we have before I go off to the meeting let me fill in some details. We fell apart, sort of. Not sure that we ever stopped loving each other, just found ourselves in unfamiliar territory and went separate directions.
She got married and I got married.
I thought that I was in love. I really did. It seemed like it. I guess that it must have felt like it or I wouldn’t have done that whole ring thing.
But here I am today, ringless, wifeless and until the other day very happy. Things were great until they told me about her. I was perfectly fine and now I am not.
Now I find myself on fire for a woman I haven’t seen or spoken to for what seems like forever. Now I find my heart pounding for a woman who probably thinks of me as just another ex. I am sure that she thinks of me fondly, but what are the chances that she feels like I do.
And this sort of talk is part of why I am pissed off with my daughter and the friends. I didn’t want to look at this corner of my closet. I didn’t want to explore the lost ruins to see if any treasure remains.There is a reason why you let sleeping dogs lie.
Sigh. Well, I’ll put this frustration to good use and go needle the hell out of Harold. If he doesn’t go off on one of this interminably long speeches I still might get to the beach.
Silence Is Golden
I walked into the office, looked at Harold and told him to shut up and listen. Dumber men than I are well aware that it is risky to tell your boss to shut up and listen. But having developed an exceptional urge to swallow my size 12 boot ignored common sense and followed up my opening words with, “I said shut up!”
This went over slightly better than the time I asked him in a restaurant whether it was possible to get his name removed from the National Sex Offenders Registry. That stunt led to my paychecks getting lost and my not receiving assignments for an extended period of time.
It probably could have been much uglier had they had a better staff of writers, but they don’t. While I am not dumb enough to believe I am irreplaceable I do know that none of the others are in my league. Don’t mean to be obnoxious about that, but it is true. My content is cleaner and written faster than theirs and that provides me with a substantial advantage over them.
But it didn’t prevent me from being forced to listen to his lecture about respect, his advice on what divorced men should do and something else that I can’t remember. Truth is that I can’t remember most of what he said. Damn girls and their news managed to rattle my cage in a way that just doesn’t happen.
“I remember holdin’ on to you
All them long and lonely nights I put you through
Somewhere in there I’m sure I made you cry
But I can’t remember if we said goodbye”
Goodbye- Emmylou Harris
The girls mean well. They think that they know me better than I know myself and that pushing me here is something that will me to be the happy guy they know I can be. I appreciate that. I really do but I also appreciate not being visited by the ghost of lost love and specter of She Might Still Love You Why Don’t You Call.
Isn’t there some sort of law or rule somewhere that dictates that men my age go sow their oats. Or maybe it is a study. Yeah, I think that I read that it is really important for us to get reacquainted with women by not dating. I think that I read that scientists advise getting involved in strictly physical relationships for an extended period of time.
In between the angst and excitement it occurred to me that this thing that was messing with my head could be the subject of my next column. Lost love rekindled is a story that never grows old. I mapped out a basic outline on a piece of paper and chuckled to myself.
Not only was it great fodder for a story, it would make one hell of a reality television show. That could be a great legacy for the kids. “Children, I want you to know that I paid for your education by creating a reality television show that makes the viewers dumberer.” Wouldn’t that be something to be proud of.
Yep, that reality television gig could be all sorts of fun now couldn’t it. It wouldn’t take much effort to come up with an idea for a script. All you need to do is think back upon college and pull something out of the memory banks but it wouldn’t be as much fun or as interesting as trying to come up with something that your friends and family would be proud to point at.
Did we ever mention that sometimes old Jack is a big old snob. Not that it matters, but he is and maybe that is why he sometimes talks about himself in the third person. It also happens to be something that drives Harold crazy and anything that drives Harold crazy is something that I have to do with reckless abandon.
Jack the big old snob likes to believe that he lives life with reckless abandon. He likes to think that he is a low maintenance fellow who doesn’t require much to be happy but I suspect that some people might disagree. Of course Jack the big old snob doesn’t spend much time worrying about whether people agree or disagree with him. Maybe he should. The world might appreciate a kinder, gentler and more sensitive Jack. But then again he would miss telling people to go fuck themselves.
And this my friends leads me to a different issue entirely that I like to call the problem with women. They pay way too much attention to me.
Slow down now Tex and take a deep breath. That is not my ego talking. I am not trying to say that women want to tear my clothes off and enjoy a thousands nights of unbridled passion. No, what I am referring to is their predilection for picking up on little details and pieces of personality. I might have told the girls that I have no interest in her but the more I think about it the more I realize that they didn’t buy it.
The thing is that it doesn’t really matter whether they bought it or not because I know those three. They are convinced that there might be some sort of hope for her and I and they aren’t going to stop pushing until I make contact. But they are fooling themselves if they think that I am going to listen to Ma Bell and reach out and touch someone. If they ask why I can give them a list of a dozen reasons why it doesn’t make any sense.
We can start with this one. Why should I be the one to call her? I don’t get it. The three of them would be the first to tell you that a woman can do anything a man can do yet somehow I am the one whose stuck sticking my neck out here. What is that about? It reminds me of a discussion I had with that crazy woman a thousand years ago where she told me that should would never be the first to say “I love you.”
I remember scrunching up my face and rolling my eyes at that. Why do men have to take all the risk. Want to make a bet that those three will tell me that I am being ridiculous about this. Just wait until the shoe is on the other foot… Call me juvenile, but the next guy my daughter introduces me to just might get a verbal ass kicking because of this. No doubt that daughter will give me hell about that and blame it upon this very thing.
Damn if that doesn’t make me incredibly proud and frustrated. She is almost too smart for her own good. That girl has had too many years to observe me as well as the benefit of being a direct recipient of my DNA. The end result is someone who has more insight into my thought process and feelings than I sometimes like.
Talking In Circles
Whenever someone tells me that I am talking in circles I know that it is time for me to hunker down in my cave and think. This sort of thing only happens when I am confused about something or unwilling to share my real thoughts with someone.
It occurred to me that the sort of confusion I was feeling was tied into feelings that I thought I had left behind in junior high or high school. Or at least I thought that I had done so but the pacing around the room and struggle to focus made it clear that I hadn’t.
Someone needs to remind me to thank the girls for helping me take this trip down memory lane. Maybe next time they can help me find my high school metabolism and energy.
What I really should do is go for a run or head off to the gym. I am restless and it would do me good to use this energy for something other than mental masturbation- but that is not going to happen now.
No, now I am going to dig through old letters I and stories that I wrote about us. Now I am going to open some doors that have been closed and find out whether the ghosts of the pasts still rattle their chains or if they have found a way to rest.
And Then The World Shifted
I could never have imagined that one day I would wake up and not have you by my side. It still seems improbable, inconceivable and simply unbelievable. This can’t be real because the Greek tragedies aren’t true stories. They are myths and tales that are man made- not reality.
Yet, here we are living life alone and apart. Separate homes and separate lives. You were the guardian of all my secrets and the woman that I allowed to walk unfettered and unencumbered through my heart. I had every opportunity to treat you like a piece of meat but I didn’t.
It wasn’t because you prevented me from doing so. You gave yourself so willingly to me that I knew I could ask you to do anything and you would. It was part of the magic of our bond. Sometimes I think that you were offended that I didn’t take advantage of the situation. Sometimes I think that you were offended that I didn’t take every moment to ravish your body.
That didn’t happen because I have never seen a woman who is more beautiful than you are. I have never been closer or more intimate with anyone than I was with you. You know this because I told you so but I would like to tell you again. Not by phone, text, email or IM but in person.
The things we did and the experiences we had were real. They were magical and mysterious. They had a depth and purpose that cannot be properly expressed through words alone.
You are the song of my heart. Even now so long after we parted I still hear your melody being played in places too deep to ignore. I can still feel your touch and taste your lips. Your scent is not forgotten nor have I forgotten the grace with which you move.
Remember how I used to stare at you and how I enjoyed just listening to you breathe. Sometimes you would shy away from my look and tell me that I was too intense but you always said it with a smile.
There are so many stories that I could tell and so many memories that I could share with you. I still can’t believe that I have started listening to some of those Barry Manilow songs you used to talk about. Remember how I teased you about his elevator music and said that thirty somethings weren’t old enough to listen to him. You rolled your eyes at me and accused me of having no taste.
Now I find myself quoting his songs and wondering if maybe they foretell a future that is yet unwritten. When he sings about finding the right love at the wrong time I nod my head in frustration and ask why us. When he talks about walks down long rocky beaches and starting a story whose end will have to wait I smile.
Yes, I admit it. I smile because it gives me hope that maybe we’ll find our way back to each other. But sometimes I don’t let that hope inside my head or my heart. Sometimes I stuff it back down into the cage it came from and think of reasons to be angry with you. That anger helps to hide the sadness and makes me forget how much I miss you.
I am just a boy asking a girl for the chance to hold her hand again because I can’t imagine not having you in my life. I’m just a man who remembers a time when he kissed a woman and then the whole world shifted.
These words are bittersweet. I remember writing them- both those above and those below. I see a guy who was walking a tightrope and trying not to fall. Sometimes he was tough and sometimes he was weak.
Sometimes Things Happen
Sometimes things happen that make you shake your head in wonder and disbelief. There is nothing especially profound or insightful about that. Fact is that most people would look at such a sentence and move on to the next thing without a second thought. Why? Because it sounds obvious and seems to be the kind of throwaway line that people use to fill empty space in a Bluebook.
I am not one of those people. No, not me. I am a muckraker, shit stirrer and gadfly who knows that the significance lies in what feelings you had when you shook your head. It could be disgust. You might roll your eyes at something, crinkle your nose and wonder how someone so stupid hadn’t mentioned to kill themselves. But then again you might shake your head in disbelief and wonder because you are in shock over what you just saw or experienced.
And that my friends makes all the difference. That sense of wonder and amazement is part of the intangible that makes a relationship move from just friends to in love. It is the secret sauce that powers the motor and if you could bottle and sell it you would be quite wealthy.
I suppose that wealth fits into this sort of different way of looking at things too. Wealth doesn’t have to be about finances and real estate. It could just as easily be about your personal feelings regarding what you have. There have been times in my life where I had ample funds to cover whatever I wanted but I never needed material things to make myself feel good. Peace of mind didn’t come from a place called Bloomingdales, Macys or 14 Carat.
There have been moments in time where I barely had enough to make ends meet and moments where I had more than I could spend. All part of life’s roller coaster and I am good with that.
Ok, that is not entirely true I get tired of life’s roller coaster and ask for the mundane and routine to become a regular and consistent place but that doesn’t happen. Or if it does it doesn’t happen to me and that is why I am ok with it.
Peace of mind comes from learning how to play the hand we are dealt and from acceptance that there are some things that can’t be changed.
Of course that has never been easy for me. I don’t look at my situation as being static…ever. I figure that if life is going to be fluid than I might as well use it to my advantage. The thing is that I look at that fluidity and try to apply it everywhere.
I am the guy that looks at the hurricane and figures hell, I can waltz right through this sucker- all I need to do is find the eye of the storm and all will be well.
Suppose that explains a lot now doesn’t it. Some would say that is the definition of a schmuck and others call it part of being a hero. Beats the hell out of me what it is. All I know is that I hate labels.
But history is a different thing altogether. History is something that I love and appreciate. History is something that I enjoy studying. I like looking at my past. I like trying to learn from it.
Maybe that is the reason why I find myself digging through these old tomes. Maybe I am in search of answers but I am not really sure if I will find them there.
Alone In The Stacks
It was 1980 something or maybe it was the early 90s- I can’t really remember and I don’t care. What I do remember is walking through the library…with Ann Stacey. We were in the Stacks looking for some tome that we needed for a group project we were walking on together. The space between the shelves was quite narrow preventing two people to walk side by side. In an effort to be a gentleman I let go first and I followed right behind her.
She was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and had long black hair that was caught up in one of those scrunchy things the girls wore back then. I’ll readily admit that I chose to walk behind her so that I could stare at her without fear of being caught. But it was also done for self preservation, she made my heart pound and I was afraid that I might trip over my big feet and knock myself unconscious.
While I was confident in my abilities to woo a woman I couldn’t think of a clever way to knock myself out and get the girl. It seemed like a great move for some John Hughes movie, except in that one I would be some nerd who would end up with the girl I thought was just a friend. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but this was real life and I was enamored with her that the thought of ending up with someone else just seemed wrong.
The woman walked with purpose and moved quickly down the rows of books and magazines. Periodically she would speak and I would wonder if she had a part time job as a an auctioneer- she spoke so very quickly. Who knew that she would also stop moving as quickly as she started. I suppose that if I hadn’t been enjoying the sweet scent of her perfume or admiring the swish of her hips I might have been aware that I was about to crash into her.
If nothing else I wouldn’t have smashed her face first into some dusty book causing some other books to fall off of the top shelf and plummet towards earth. Ok, they would have hit earth but instead they smacked her on the top of her head. Looking back on it I realize that this had turned into a John Hughes movie, except instead of me being the one who hit the dirt it was her.
For a moment we stood in silence and disbelief. I didn’t know what to say or what to do. Her face was inscrutable and I suddenly found myself fighting back gales of laughter. I really liked her and I didn’t want to wreck a future by laughing at the wrong time. The worst part of it was the feeling that I shouldn’t laugh. The idea that I shouldn’t made the urge so much stronger. So very strong that I was certain that if I didn’t do something I would laugh so hard I would fall down.
So in an effort not to laugh I just reacted. I tucked an arm around her waist and pulled her towards me. When she was close enough I wiped some dust off of her forehead and kissed her on the mouth. She didn’t kiss me back nor did she push me away. For just a moment we stood there with my lips pressed against hers. When I didn’t feel her return the kiss I began to panic and I got really nervous and began to mutter some kind of apology.
I remember thinking that this kind of crap never happens to Humphrey Bogart. Don’t bother me with silly details about him being dead or that all I saw him in were movies. I know that they were following a script- I already told you to stop bothering my with technicalities and details.
In retrospect I bet that less than a minute had passed but to me it felt like it had been hours. I took my mouth off of hers and looked at her face. She looked back into my eyes and asked me why I had stopped. Fortunately she wasn’t scared off by the Cheshire Cat grin that graced my lips or worried that kissing me would lead to being brained by a 50 year old dictionary.
Alone in the stacks we gained a different sort of education than the one that he had set out to find, and far more enjoyable.
And then I stumbled onto one of the letters that my daughter had discovered. She came to me with tears in her eyes and told me about it. At first I thought that she was upset because it wasn’t about her mother and then I learned otherwise.
I had a dream. I dreamt of a place that I had never been to but always wanted to live in. You were there and your arms welcomed me to a place that until then had always lived inside me. You unlocked the passion and the fire that burns inside me.
You helped me to remember that love is meant to sting, that to be apart is to feel an ache that no drug can touch and to be together is to know the meaning of union.
You are my drug of choice, an addiction that I cannot give up. My air and my blood, the wind that fills my sails and were I to lose you I would be forced to revisit that dark place that I used to live in. I would be hollow inside, an empty shell and who knows what might choose to occupy that place.
I knew the day that we kissed that life was going to be different. Few people understand because so few have had the experience and even then few walk that path. When you walk through fire you risk being burned but you also open yourself up to untold rewards.
When just holding hands brings incredible pleasure, when whispers and caresses offer the height of joy and passion there is something special.
When I kissed you I felt your legs go weak and I held you tightly but I was not concerned because my arms were made for holding you tight and feeling your heart beat against mine gives me all the strength that I require.
I had a dream that became reality.
She cried because she thought that it was romantic and because she wanted someone to write her a letter like that. I tried to brush it off as being some cheesy note that I had once written but she didn’t let it go.
“Dad, you would never say something like that to just anyone. Who was she? What was her name? What happened to you guys and have you tried to find her?”
I told her to take a breath and she laughed. Told me that she couldn’t help it, had a million questions about who could make me feel that way. Naturally I faked having to use the bathroom and ran for cover.
Twenty minutes later I emerged to an empty room and found a note saying that she and a friend were having dinner. Had I spent any time thinking about it I would have realized that her disappearance didn’t mean that she had forgotten about this. Fact is that I would bet dollars to donuts that she had called Sheri that night and asked her to fill in the blanks.
I don’t know what Sheri told her but she probably left out the part where I was heartbroken or how a few of the women that came later wondered if I did anything besides have sex.
On second thought I couldn’t say that Sheri had edited the details of that time as closely as I would have liked. Women have funny boundaries and something told me that those two probably shared more than I thought.
A million questions were racing through my own mind but I didn’t have time to deal with those. I was on deadline and had to focus. The problem was that I had opened Pandora’s Box and a million different memories were fighting for my attention.
I took a deep breath and decided that I would read the next two entries and then resume working.
She is out there, my other half. Can’t say what she is doing or who she is doing it with but I know that she is out there.
Her physical absence is palpable and impossible not to notice. Sometimes I turn and expect to see her standing there with that look I know so well. Sometimes I turn and wonder why those dark eyes aren’t looking back at me.
I pick up the telephone and expect it to ring like it always did before. I dial the numbers and laugh because I know that she is going to say that she was about to call me. I hear the smile in her voice, except I don’t do it. I don’t dial.
Instead I hold the phone and close my eyes. I hold the phone, close my eyes and feel the hole and the emptiness. I hold the phone, close my eyes and wonder if that chasm is one sided and then I feel this twinge.I feel this twinge and a silent bell rings inside my head and I know that she is thinking about me and us. I hear the bell and I know that somewhere she feels what I feel and that this is how and what it is for now.
Necessary. Lonely. Hard. Long. Rough. Required.
I close my eyes and try to center myself. I close my eyes and try to turn off the noise and focus on what is. And then just when I feel like I am truly alone I feel something touching me in a place that fingers can’t reach and arms can’t hold.
I close my eyes and I try to run from it. It is more intimate this touch and the feeling scares me a little. It is the place that only one has been and then I realize that the visitor is the same one who was there before.
Slowly I relax and realize that two souls have shed their bonds and found each other again. They always find each other. And for a brief moment I am completely relaxed and lost in a place that I cannot describe. Reality will intrude and I’ll convince myself that I have seen/felt what I wanted to.
But later in the silence of the night I’ll accept that two souls have done what the bodies and minds can’t. And for a moment I’ll let myself wonder if can’t refers to now or forever.
She is out there and so am I.
It wasn’t easy reading those words. It brought it all back to me and I remembered what it was like to feel like I had found and then lost my other half. What it told me was that I needed to set aside time to think about it all. Maybe I was just lonely. I hadn’t been single all that long but at the same time it had been long enough that the friends with benefits weren’t as exciting as they used to be.
On the other hand there was something to be said for sex with no strings attached. Had it been this easy to get laid in high school and college I might not have ever gotten married. Well, that was something to think about. In the interim I intended to follow through on my promise. I had one more letter to read and then it was time to focus on work.
Dreams I Have Never Had
Sometimes I dream about things that never were and places that I have never been. These dreams I have are bold and bright filled with beauty, mystery and sometimes fear. Sometimes I see the echoes of a future I hope to have and fragments of a past that was. There are dreams that I can’t quite describe but I can’t tell you why that is.
Maybe it is because trying to remember a dream is bit like trying to hold water in the palm of your hand. If you squeeze too hard it quickly pours out all the nooks and crannies and all you are left holding are a few lonely drops. But even if you hold absolutely still you still find that in a short time most of it will still have found a way to escape. Drips and drabs slide down the sides and between your fingers.
Dreams are like that water. Concentrate too hard and the memories simply evaporate. Sometimes I think that I can fool my dreams. If I pretend not to look at them they won’t run away and so I use my peripheral vision to try and take it in. Out of the corner of my mind’s eye I take note of what I see and try to make sense of it.
But it never quite works out the way that I want it to. Just as I feel like I almost have it within my grasp the memories fade and or become blurred with fragments of awareness of what is really going on around me. Dreams of holding hands and walking through our secret garden are vivid to me. So much so that sometimes I wake up and wonder how it is that I can still smell you and feel your hand in mine.
Sometimes I find myself lying in bed awake and aware that it was a dream but for a moment I refuse to open my eyes. In that refusal to acknowledge awareness of what was and what is I find a way to hold on to the dream for a moment more.
Blame it on a selfish attempt to continue to walk with you through our secret world and the belief that maybe the answers we search for lie in the subconscious. That feeling of the answers lying just beneath the surface is there frequently and I find myself giving in more frequently to the urge to explore it.
For a while I refused to do so and wrote it all off as being something that wasn’t based upon logic or reason. It didn’t seem like the smart thing to do so I refused it, but as time passed doing the smart thing grew more complicated. And so I think that I have reached a place where I understand that one piece of the puzzle is finding the way to answer the call of my heart.
Only time will tell whether the call of my heart is in synch with the truth of the dreams I have never had.
Readers. Readers are the best and worst part of being published. Most of the columnists at the paper look at our readers with a certain amount of disdain. I suspect that it is because we usually only hear from the people who are retired, unhinged or retired and unhinged.
Some of you might think that I shouldn’t say that because it is like biting the hand that feeds me, but you don’t get the letters. You don’t get 16 typed pages, single spaced of course about why the CIA had to kill Elvis. I’ll spare you the pain of having to read the entire thing and tell you that it is because his music made girls crazy and Kennedy couldn’t take it.
Nor do you get the letters where Mrs. Maxipad explains that she thinks you hate women and that you use your column to pretend to be nice. That always makes me want to devote a column to her and her cat entitled “The Only Pussy That is Getting Fucked in This House Has a Tail.”
For some reason that powers that be simply won’t let me do that. Big Ed tells me that given some time my misogynistic tendencies will wear off. I told him that given a lot of meaningless sex would make it happen faster and he just stared at me.
I don’t get it. It wasn’t like I was talking about his sister. Oh wait, I did say something about his sister. She is hot. I mean she is really hot. In fact she is so attractive I suggested that they might not be related by blood.
My guess is that he didn’t mean to call me a misogynist but couldn’t come up with anything else. Did I mention that he sort of stammers and stutters when he is angry. As PSA let me suggest that you not say something like “C’mon spit it out” to him during one of those moments as he just doesn’t deal very well with it.
Novels are a different animal altogether. I want to say that I am different than most columnists and that my books are fiction except I don’t know if that is true. However since I like to live in my own world I might declare it to be true and let the chips fall where they may.
Speaking of which I never did understand that expression. Maybe I take it too literally, but every time I hear it I picture potato chips covered in sour cream falling upon the floor. It is pretty messy and I am happy that I don’t have to clean it up.
Did I mention that the people who read my novels write me letters too? Well, they do and they like to ask questions. Some of them want to know if I can help them become published authors like myself. In the old days I used to try to answer every one of those letters. It seemed like the proper thing to do but that is not how it works any more.
Part of the reason I stopped was because the tail end of my marriage and the entire divorce took a lot out of me. I only have so much bandwidth and I just didn’t have enough to explain to Madam Spanner that I didn’t have time to read her manuscript “Felix.”
But the good news for Spanner and company is that thanks to the wonders of modern technology I have a blog that they can visit. It is filled with little anecdotes about this and that, fragments of fiction that I might one day include in my stories and assorted knick-knacks of information.
Most of the content there was written by me but there are a few sections that my agent/publicist and attorney had me include. Don’t read that stuff, it is really boring.
If you really want something interesting do yourself a favor and read some of the random entries in there. I don’t make any promises that anything you see will be included in future work but you never know. Besides, the blog is open for comments and in theory I might see them.
I never see what you write in my book and truth be told I am happier that way. My books are a bit like my babies and I am rather protective of them. Writing in my book is like giving my baby a tattoo and that makes me mad. Don’t make me mad, you wouldn’t like it when I get angry.
I Hear Music
“Some need gold and some need diamond rings
Or a drug to take away the pain that living brings
A promise of a better world to come
When whatever here is done
I don’t need that sky of blue
All I know’s since I found you, I’m happy when I’m in your arms
Happy, darling, come the dark
Happy when I taste your kiss
I’m happy in a love like this”
Happy- Bruce Springsteen
My seventies girl is tall. She has long graceful legs, jet black hair and delightfully dark eyes. Sometimes when she smiles I think that I hear bells ringing. We are lying in bed listening to music. Her head is on my chest and her hair is splayed across my face. I keep moving it because it makes my nose itch. Every time I do she moves with me so that it tickles my nose again. I don’t have to see her face to feel her smile. She likes to tease me. As I start to relax and my breathing becomes more rhythmic she takes a finger and traces it along my body.
It is a special kind of tickle that makes me jump. I roar with feigned exasperation and quickly roll on top of her. I pin her arms above her head and start tickling her. Two can play this game.
She squeals with laughter and squirms beneath me. “Ok, ok, ok. You win,’ she cries. We return to our prior position of me on my back and her head on my chest and talk about the future.
“There’s a house upon a distant hill
Where you can hear the laughter of children ring
Guardian angels, they watch from above
Watching over the love that they bring
But at night I feel the darkness near, I awake and I find you near
I’m happy with you in my arms
I’m happy with you in my heart
Happy when I taste your kiss
I’m happy in love like this”
I stare at the ceiling and listen as she describes the house she wants to live in. She loves flowers and tells me that she has Laura Ashley sheets that would be perfect for our bedroom. There will be two stories and multiple bedrooms. The master will be upstairs and while the kids are young so will they. I close my eyes and listen as she talks about how many kids she wants and some of her favorite names. Suddenly there is a pause in the conversation and I know that she expects me to respond to her thoughts.
For a moment I am lost. I have paid a lot of attention to what she is saying but the truth is that while her hand has been rubbing my stomach and chest I have gotten other ideas. The scent of her perfume is strong but not in a bad way and biology is having an impact upon me. Now I am more than lost in her scent. I am trying to remember what she was saying but all I can think of is pheromones. She asks me what I think but at the moment I can’t tell her what my name is. She turns her head to face me and we kiss.
“Honey, you like that,” she asks. I tell her that I love when she kisses me. She makes a face and asks me a question again. I roll onto my side and kiss her. She looks at me, eyelids slightly narrowing. Somewhere in the back of my head I hear a bell clanging and a soft voice whispering “answer.”
I want to answer, I really do but something is messing with my head. I feel fuzzy headed and I try to buy time by saying “I love you.” She knows me well enough to know that it is not a line and she says “I love you too.” There is music. I hear music. I tell her that every time we kiss I hear music. She rolls her eyes at me and says that lines aren’t necessary any more. I say, ‘no, I really hear music.” She doesn’t realize how sexy she is or that I find her intoxicating. I tell her that I can’t believe we found each other. Unsought and unexpected but ever so grateful. We grew up in different worlds and different places but somehow here we are.
It is dark now. All we can see are outlines of our bodies and images of the world that we want to create. We’re uncertain and unsure about many things. Life has a way of getting in the way.
“In a world of doubt and fear
I wake at night and reach to find you near
Lost in a dream, you caught me as I fell
I want more than just a dream to tell”
She is not sure that we can overcome the challenges and I am not sure that we can truly live apart. Words are exchanged, some soft and some harsh. Fear, doubt and insecurity intermix with hope.
“We’re born in this world, darling, with few days and trouble never far behind
Man and woman circle each other in a cage
A cage that’s been handed down the line
Lost and running ’neath a million dead stars
Tonight let’s shed our skins and slip these bars
Happy in each other’s arms
Happy baby, come the dark
Happy in each other’s kiss
I’m happy in a love like this”
Later on I’ll be alone and think about this time, this moment and how these moments are woven together to create a patchwork quilt called life.
Johnny looked out the window and watched nothing in particular. In the background he could hear the flight crew run through their safety checklist. He looked away from the window and towards the front of the plane and made a point to identify where the emergency exits were. It wasn’t like he expected there to be a reason for him to exit in anything but the normal way, but you never know what can happen.
The captain instructed the crew to prepare for takeoff and he resumed his watch out the window. The past few days were a blur and he was trying to take it all in. A few days before he had been sitting in his office marveling over an empty travel schedule. The early part of the year had consisted of airports, hotels and meetings and he was ready to spend some real time at home.
It was going to be nice to become reacquainted with his bed and his stuff. For a short time the business world would survive without him, besides if they needed him they had his cell phone and email address. And there wasn’t any doubt that they would use all of them to contact him.
When he was on the road he was responsible for entertaining clients. A healthy expense account helped to make that happen. Out on the road he ate at the finest restaurants and lived a lifestyle that he couldn’t afford on his own. It was nice, but it grew old quickly. One hotel looked pretty much like another. It didn’t matter how they decorated the room, there was a sterile uniformity to it.
Needless to say Johnny wasn’t thrilled when the call to head out again came in. He had barely unpacked from the last trip, but this time was different. As it happened June was going to be there at the same time. It was a happy coincidence, what is that word they use, serendipitous.
So he booked a flight and threw his gear into a bag and headed off to the airport. Upon landing he turned on his BlackBerry and listened to the angry buzzing noise it made. The way it kept beeping you would have thought that it had been turned off for a week and not five hours.
One hour later he had picked up his rental car and checked into his hotel room. He had thirty minutes to shower, change and head out to his meeting. In the midst of it all he realized that he had forgotten his razor. With a silent curse he called downstairs and asked them to send a blade and some shaving cream up.
While he waited the phone began buzzing again. June was checking in with him. She was a planner and wanted to figure out when they’d have time to see each other. Johnny could hear the smile in her voice and it made him smile back. He told her that he had an afternoon flight but that he was sure that they could find some time to catch up.
And here he was a relatively short time later, waiting for the tower to greenlight the captain. Soon enough the hum of the engines turned to a roar and the plane went flying down the runway. The blur outside the window was fitting because that is how the last 18 hours felt to him.
As the plane climbed into the sky he closed his eyes and thought about it all. There had been a last kiss goodbye and a lingering hug. Saying goodbye to June had been far more difficult than she had realized. There was a silence that begged to be filled, but he had been unwilling to fill it.
It wasn’t for a lack of desire or an inability to do so. He knew what he wanted to say, but sometimes these things come with a price and Johnny was afraid of what that might be. It wasn’t a fear of what would happen to him but of what it would do to June.
She was smart. She was tough and she was brave. She was a million things that he couldn’t describe but treasured nonetheless. He feared the price because he wasn’t sure what it would do to June and the thought of her hurting made him ache.
So he rolled the dice and hoped that they would find a way to get back to that place. He was a gambler and a dreamer. He would fight for her. He would endure the pain and hope that his decision hadn’t been a mistake.
Alone on the plane he smelled his hand and smiled. He could still smell her. His June, his girl, her scent, his hand. It made sense. Anytime they had been through a rough spot he had told her to take his hand and they had promised to work through it all together.
In spite of the hum of the engines he could feel that quiet place they shared and he took refuge in it. The decision had been made. Now he had to live with it. The hardest part was knowing that he had virtually no control over what would happen next.
The next part was up to June. She needed time to work on some things. Time to take care of some stuff and get centered again. For now that was just how it had to be. June would do her thing and Johnny would do his.
At least that was what he had said to himself and he had tried. Made more than a few promises to himself to walk that tightrope but he had fallen more than once.
Hawkeye: No, you submit, do you hear? You be strong, you survive… You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you.
Last Of The Mohicans
If you had seen his face you wouldn’t have known that the ghosts of his past had woken from their slumber and begun to rattle their chains.
They were supposed to be nothing more than words on a page, just a simple movie quote that Johnny had once shared with her many years before. They weren’t supposed to tear the scab off of a wound that had never healed. They weren’t supposed to stop him in his tracks and make him remember things best let forgotten, but they did.
They did because they were more than just words. It was a promise to someone who had long since left his life and a symbol of what he was willing to do for her. It shouldn’t have hurt to read them, but it did. It did for a thousand different reasons not the least of which was the memory of how something beautiful had been broken. It did because he had meant it.
These were not words that he took lightly. He remembered the day that he had written the letter that contained those words and the thousand that came after them. She had read it twice and called him in tears demanding to know what it meant. He remembered it all and how she begged him not to give up because they still loved each other and he hadn’t.
That letter wasn’t supposed to be taken that way. He wasn’t trying to push her away. All he had wanted to do was be her hero but circumstances had come between them and he felt like she needed to take care of the things that only she could. It broke his heart to write it but it was also supposed to be comforting to her. It was supposed to be reassuring- something that she could hold onto when things got tough.
Neither one of them could have predicted just how tough it would become. They never believed that they could be ripped apart and forced to live separate lives. Yet that was what had happened and the world had not come to a screeching halt. The sun hadn’t exploded nor had the earth begun to spin backwards.
Sometimes he wondered if the universe really did send messages and or signs to people. He had been searching his files for business purposes and it had just popped up as part of the search results. Since so much time had passed he hadn’t thought twice about opening it. It was supposed to be fun. His intention was to glance at it and resume working but good intentions often go astray.
So he found himself remembering what was and wondering about what could have been. In the silent of the night he had sent her his blessing and asked the heavens to carry her in the arms of the angel. It wasn’t easy to walk away but he had cloaked himself in hope and faith that the future would be better.
And now years later he discovered to his chagrin that some flames are never completely extinguished. The real question was whether to try and quench the flames or follow the path that his heart was constructing for him.
Gladwell writes in one of his books that expertise comes after 10,000 hours of practice. I want to prove him wrong and demonstrate that I became an expert after only 6,000 hours. I am sometimes adversarial like that.
You know how your parents give you that speech about how famous people are no different than we are. It is the one where they say that everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time. Well, I don’t do it one leg at a time. I do two legs at a time. Sorry, I am funny that way.
No really, more than a few people have told me that I am funny and none of them respond to mom. That is not to say that they aren’t mothers because they most definitely are but none of them are people that have the pleasure of having birthed this one time bouncing baby boy of almost ten pounds.
Did I mention that many of mom’s friends told me that because of me they almost didn’t have children. If you believe the stories old Jack was busier than a barrel full of monkeys and capable of destroying a home in less than five minutes. That is probably why my father laughs so hard when he hears stories about how his grandchildren make me lose my hair- payback or some such thing.
Blog Entry #234 Material for next Book- Better Known As Marketing Material for The Readers
Johnny snorted out loud and rolled his eyes. It was the middle of the day and he was ensconced in the back of his favorite dive bar. Just himself, a booth and a beer to keep him company. Across the room the object of his derision desperately tried to convince the waitress to pass along her telephone number.
Dressed in painter’s clothing in dire need of a shave and a haircut the guy continued to plead his case. A short time earlier he had followed Johnny into the men’s room and babbled something about being the ultimate ladies man.
Johnny appreciated bravado but had heard far too many stories from men about their exploits and experiences with women. It wasn’t particularly interesting to him. Nor was he interested in hearing suggestions about the best place to get a lap dance either. Johnny didn’t like strip clubs.
It wasn’t because he didn’t like women or had some moral objection to it. The way he saw it as long as the women who worked there were doing so because they had a choice there was no problem with it. His real issue was that he didn’t see a need to pay to be teased by a woman who didn’t care about him. What was the point.
So he couldn’t help but laugh a bit watching the little dutch boy flail around wildly trying to get her attention. If nothing else it helped distract him from his own problems with women.
It had been months since he and June had a real conversation about anything of substance and longer since he had seen her. Some of that was by choice and some by circumstance.
At first it had been exceptionally difficult to stay away. Each day had been long, but he forced himself to keep walking. Every step away from her was one step closer to not missing her or so he told himself. For a while it worked and he wondered what that meant, if anything.
How could two people who had been so close and so very in love just fade away. It made him question it all and he began to wonder if maybe he had fooled himself. Maybe it hadn’t been what he had thought it was.
But life has a way of keeping people off balance and forcing them to reevaluate things. One morning he woke up and read a story about a terror attack that had been thwarted. The target was walking distance from June’s home.
It stopped him in his tracks. Walking distance from June. Had it been successful she might have been a victim. It was chilling. For a moment he stared in the wall and thought about it. It was one thing not to be with June, but another not to because she was gone.
And that was when Johnny realized that the feelings had never really disappeared. He had just buried them because it was easier that way. The flames hadn’t been quenched, they were just turned down.
The news and realization made him angry, frustrated and scared. Scared because he realized that he couldn’t imagine life without June. He didn’t really know what that meant, but it was enough to fuel the anger and frustration that followed.
Anger with the man who had tried to do this. Johnny remembered telling June that he would always be her hero. Whenever she needed him he would be there, her knight, her champion. He remembered blushing deeply as he said it. It has sounded so silly and so melodramatic. She smiled at him and kissed him.
That was part of what made him fall so deeply in love with her, she accepted him for who he was.
Back in the present Johnny realized that his jaw and fists ached from being clenched. He hadn’t had any contact with June in quite some time, but he knew that he had to reach out to her now. It didn’t matter whether she wanted the contact or not, call him selfish, he knew that he couldn’t rest until he did.
So he sent her a short note and she sent him one in kind. They went back and forth making a bit of small talk until he couldn’t restrain himself any longer and told her how relieved he was. He wanted to remind her of that day when he had promised to be her hero. He wanted to say it so that she would feel safe and remember that what was could be again and that was it.
But he couldn’t quite bring himself to that place. He wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable with her again. And besides his gut told him that she knew. And really knowing that she knew was enough. For now he had plenty of other responsibilities and things to take care of. For now he’d keep doing what it was that he had to do.
Still, there was more than one night where he stood under a moonlit sky and whispered into the wind the things that he wished for. Sometimes while he stood there staring upwards at the sky he thought that he could hear her whisper back.
It might not have been anything more than his imagination, but it made him smile. Maybe those nights long ago where they talked about how one kiss could change everything were out there waiting. He didn’t know for certain. He just knew that sometimes heroes fail and sometimes they succeed, only time would tell.
I really shouldn’t do anything to antagonize the readers. It is bad form and it fits into the category of biting the hand that feeds you but sometimes I can’t help myself. They love feeling like they have been given insight into a world that others don’t have access to. That is why I pepper the blog with posts like that one and the one just below this.
She put him out like the burnin’ end of a midnight cigarette
She broke his heart he spent his whole life tryin’ to forget
We watched him drink his pain away a little at a time
But he never could get drunk enough to get her off his mind”
Whiskey Lullaby– Braid Paisley and Alison Krauss
The police tell you that the best thing to do is give a mugger your wallet. Don’t argue and don’t fight. Money and valuables can be replaced, but your life can’t. Unfortunately I have never been real good about listening to advice…from anyone.
We were older when we met but by no means were we old. Rather we were both old enough to have drunk deeply from life’s wine bottle and had more than enough life experience to feel like we knew something about ourselves and what we wanted. Neither one of us expected to fall in love and certainly not with the kind of passion that we felt. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it felt as if we had rediscovered that feeling you got with your first love.
The days were filled with magic and mystery. Sometimes I would stop what I was doing and just stare at her. The intensity of my gaze often made her look away. So I would walk over to her and gently lift her chin and tell her to look in my eyes. “Find your reflection in my eyes and you will see why I get lost.” She’d blush and tell me to shut up. And then I’d laugh and tell her that she just needed to accept that she was beautiful.
Sometimes she’d get teary eyed and kiss me.
But the thing is that when you have the kind of passion and intensity that we have it can come out in other ways…and it did.
Sometimes you go looking for trouble and sometimes it comes looking for you. I can’t say whether I was or wasn’t looking for it because I don’t remember. When I left the house I was so very angry. Twenty some years ago I probably would have gotten in the car and gone flying down the road at high speed towards the closest refuge from whatever it was that I was getting away from. But not this time.
That’s not to say that I wasn’t spitting blood but rather maturity had taught me to go walk and clear my head. The park seemed like a smart place to go. It wasn’t quite 10 o’clock and the place had lights. I had been there a million times and never had a problem.
There were two of them standing on the grass. Just two skinny guys in t-shirts and jeans. One of them called out to me but I shook my head and kept walking- at least I have planned to.
Instead I found myself lying on the ground trying to figure out who hit me and how I fell. I felt a hand reach into my pocket and I grabbed it. Something hard and heavy hit me in the back but I didn’t let go…I twisted and pulled it underneath me…felt a body come down on top of me.
The strange thing was that the whole time I could hear her screaming at me and it just made me angrier.
We are wrestling this unknown assailant and I. It is not a holy experience like Jacob and the Angel. It is just Jack, the guy who had his heartbroken and some poor schmuck who is going to be savaged by me. He doesn’t know that the combination of fear, anger and adrenalin have made me numb. He doesn’t know that the shock of her leaving me has made me feel like I have nothing to lose.
But he is lucky because there were more than just two of them. The others pulled me off but I can’t tell you much about afterwards other than the cop that came to see me wanted to know where I learned to fight.
My Best Interests
She told me that her decision was in my best interests and than she wished me good luck. Her name was Katherine Rosebottom and she is the only teacher who told me that I shouldn’t become a writer. Good old Rosebottom, who used to eat raw sticks of butter refused to recommend me for a spot in the Advanced Placement English class because she felt it wasn’t in my best interests to be there.
I probably should have extended the same courtesy to her and yanked her fat fist out of her mouth so that she wouldn’t die of a massive heart attack at 50. That would have been the proper and gentlemanly thing to do but she didn’t like me and I didn’t like her either. I can’t tell you what she had against me but I can give you a long list of reasons why I don’t like her.
Did I ever mention that sometimes I hold a grudge. It is not one of my finer traits but I would be lying if I said that it didn’t exist. Besides it is as good an explanation for why I still don’t like a woman who died years ago. In fairness some of that stems from her being unfair and unreasonable. The teacher-student relationship isn’t a level playing field and she worked hard to make sure that I understood that.
If you don’t believe me give Sheri a call and she’ll tell you that I am not making any of this up. She’ll also tell you that the reason Rosebottom was so hard on me was because I never let her have the last word. Did I mention that Sheri loves to say “I told you so.” Maybe that is the reason she is divorced. Do me a favor and don’t mention that I said that to her because I’ll never hear the end of it.
She’d probably say the same thing about me but what does she know. We have been friends for almost thirty years now which means that I remember when she didn’t need to wear a girdle and dye her hair. Actually she doesn’t have to wear a girdle. Good old Sheri scored big in genetics. You can’t tell that she gave birth three times. She sometimes bitches to me about her hips being wider but I can’t tell if they are or not.
And as she’ll tell you, I would know. We spent countless hours together growing up and yes, I did try to convince her to sleep with me. I blame it on When Harry Met Sally. You know, that whole and women can’t be friends because the men always want to sleep with the women thing. Allow me to clarify a few things for you.
- I have female friends that I have no sexual interest in. Never have and never will. It is just not there.
- I spent several years lusting after Sheri. She had this amazing body, a great personality and we hung out constantly
Did I mention that we there was a jacuzzi at her parent’s house. We used it all the time. Do you have any idea what it was like as a teenage boy to go through that. For reasons that were far too obvious getting out of that pool was no easy task and don’t think that she didn’t know why, but I digress.
Anyway, there was a point at time when I decided to confess my undying love for Sheri and suggested that maybe we should try slipping off the bonds of friendship. She told me that she was flattered and said that it wasn’t a good idea.
As you have probably ascertained I told her that I respected her wishes and made preparations to join a monastery. That thought lasted for about five minutes after which I told her she was being stupid and went home.
That led to a fight that almost didn’t get resolved. We never stopped speaking but for several months there was a lot of tension between us. Tension that I interpreted as being sexual in nature and like a good man I did my best to ignore it.
You see I thought that by ignoring it I would turn the tables on Sheri and that one day she would beg me to take her and end her misery. Years later I can see that I was an idiot but back then I didn’t have a clue.
Eventually I couldn’t contain myself and I said something and she exploded. She screamed at me and told me how I was an insensitive asshole and then said something that blew my mind.
“Fine. Do it.”
I suspect that had my response been videotaped I might have made Porky Pig look like the world’s finest orator.After I finished stammering I asked her if she was serious and she nodded her head.
For a moment I stood there in stunned silence and then listened to her lay out the ground rules.
“You can have me. You can have me for two minutes, five minutes or five days. You can enjoy yourself for however long you can last and then you can go fuck yourself. Never call me again. I don’t want to hear your voice, see your face or know a thing about you.”
I don’t remember exactly what happened next. I know that she walked up to me and said that I had thirty seconds to make up my mind or get out. I remember feeling like my feet were stuck in cement and slowly walking out the door.
We didn’t talk for a while after that but I can’t tell you how long it was. What I do know is that during the time that we didn’t speak she met the guy who later became her husband.
About a month after I told her that I was getting divorced she told me that I probably should have slept with her that day. I asked her if that meant she and I would have gotten married and she rolled her eyes at me.
I still don’t know what that means or if it was supposed to mean anything at all. Women are odd creatures, too bad I am not gay. I understand men.
I’m Not Gay
Some years back I told Sheri that life would be much easier if I really were gay. She laughed and told me that I was as about as far away from being gay as a man could be. “Should I thank you for saying that I am homophobic?”
She laughed again and told me to stop being so damn sensitive. “Jack, it is not an insult. You love women far too much to ever be gay.” I shook my head and told her that I still didn’t understand and she just rolled her eyes at me. “Is it the damn estrogen that makes you guys act like idiots or just plain stupidity.”
In a different setting that comment probably would have gotten me blasted but I was too busy recovering from the beating my heart took over a different woman. I really haven’t had my heart broken too many times but when it has happened Sheri has always been there for me and for that I am eternally grateful.
That conversation sticks out in my memory more for other things than for the tangent we took regarding which team I preferred to bat for. More specifically that was the night that I discovered that writing was cathartic for me. It is another thing that Sheri deserves partial credit for. She was the one who recommended that instead of getting drunk I try writing in a journal.
Initially it wasn’t something that I had any interest in doing. At that time I was focused on trying to become a sports writer and like many other men I considered the idea of keeping a journal of my feelings to be anathema.
“Have you ever considered writing about your feelings?”
“I was going to do it in between the drum circle and singing Kumbaya with the other losers.”
She ignored the heavy sarcasm and continued, “It is a really good way to understand how you are feeling and why.” “You really should take it more seriously.”
In response I flung a bottle across the room and told her if she really wanted to help she could ask one of her friends to sleep with me. As an alternative I suggested she call Bob and get his blessing to provide me with desperately needed medical care. I suppose that this is another example of how good a friend Sheri has been to me. She ignored the bottle and the thinly veiled request for servicing and pushed me again to write.
“Jack, you are a really good writer and there is no reason why you shouldn’t benefit personally from it. Promise me that you will try writing a few paragraphs about your thoughts.”
I nodded my head and fell on the couch. I remember her covering me with a blanket, kissing my forehead and leaving. Had I been sober I might have actually tried writing that night. Instead I made my first few entries the next day. I’ll let you decide whether the raging hangover made them more bitter than they would have been had I been sober.
Sometimes I Hate Editors
Most of my former students will tell you that a central theme of my course is that a good writer understands that writing is rewriting. And if I were a smarter man I would listen to Professor Jack and spend more time editing and reworking my columns than I do now. Professor Jack would tell you that Writer Jack rarely allocates more than three minutes per column to editing and that if he took things more seriously he could make a significant improvement upon the quality of his work.
The thing is that Writer Jack has a problem with authority and given a chance would kick Professor Jack’s ass. I imagine that it would be the kind of fight that some would call a battle for the ages. The fine folks who handle the pay-per-view boxing matches would be well served to get in on that. Just imagine how much money a fight like that would gross. It would be epic.
This raises two important points. The first is that epic is overused and consequently the word has lost all impact. Everything is described as being epic and if everything is epic than nothing is important, significant or meaningful. That makes the use of that word an “epic fail.” Secondly, since Writer Jack and Professor Jack are the same person the only way that fight can take place is in imagination or some sort of science fiction novel.
I would take that idea and file it away but it bears a striking resemblance to Fight Club and the first rule of Fight Club is there is no talking about Fight Club.
That is a very different approach to the first rule of writing which is that writing is rewriting. It sounds far too obvious and as sensible as saying that water is wet but it is true. Good old Harold, the bald is beautiful boy wonder of writing, he who hates these inane descriptions of himself would be pleased to see me spend more time editing my copy. We have an ongoing fight in which he tells me that I am not serving my soul by providing these clean but sterile columns.
He knows damn well that my columns are anything but sterile. I don’t do safe, plain or vanilla. I let it all hang out there and that is part of why people love/hate me. It is one of the benefits of being ridiculously intense. Someone once described me as being inconsistent in my inconsistencies and as subtle as a freight train. I don’t know what the hell the first part of that description means but I can confirm the second.
You know when I am happy, sad or angry. The boys think that this is why I don’t play poker with them very often. They tell me that they know all of my “tells” and suggest that if I played they would go home with fatter wallets. I haven’t bothered to point out that the last three times I played with them I was the big winner. Every now and then I think about using the fellas and the poker game in one of my books.
There are a million different angles that I could use with it. It might be kind of fun to write about a bunch of Jewish kids who have limited athletic ability but are freaking geniuses at making money. Come to think about it that is the sort of story that I should use in one of my columns and not a book. Harold and the newspaper are far more worried about liability than my publisher.
You might think that is precisely why I should use it in the book but that is exactly why I won’t. That juvenile part of me can’t pass up an opportunity to tweak Harold. The look on his face would almost be worth the lecture that would come with it.
I Don’t Love My Husband Anymore
The telephone call came from out of the blue. I can’t tell you how long it had been since we had last spoken, could have been months or it might have been years. People get busy and live their lives. It is not personal, it is just life. Hell, most days I have trouble remembering my own name.
Our conversation began in the usual manner with small talk about our jobs and other little things about life. Slowly it progressed into some more serious matters sprinkled in with a couple of jokes here and there and then she hit me with the bombshell.
“I don’t love my husband anymore.”
For a moment I was silent, unsure of how to respond I let the words linger in the air. I said that I was sorry and asked her what she was going to do. She told me that she wasn’t sure. She thought that she’d try to hang on for a few years, until her boys were older.
I said that sounded like a good idea. This time the silence was her doing. I felt an obligation to try to help so I asked her a few questions about how she got to be where she was. She told me that he wasn’t a bad guy, that she had made a mistake in marrying him. I told her that I didn’t want to be rude but I didn’t understand why she had children with him.
So she explained that she thought that they were going through growing pains and that she always figured that they would work through them, but they never did. So here she was ten years later wondering how it was that she had come to be trapped in a life she no longer wanted to live.
When I suggested that she consider getting out sooner than later she grew agitated and told me how it was different for mothers. Mothers have different standards than men. I wasn’t sure if I was being insulted but chose to remain silent.
So I asked her a few more questions and suggested that maybe it wasn’t so bad. He sounded like a decent guy. She snorted and told me that I was being a man. I asked her what that meant.
“You don’t understand what it is like to be intimate with him. I feel like I am being violated. I hate kissing him, it makes my skin crawl.”
I was more than a little surprised by her candor and told her that I didn’t understand how she could equate intimacy and kissing. She snorted again and told me that I was a man and that I probably wouldn’t understand. I agreed with her, I didn’t quite understand how it was easier to have sex than to kiss him.
In an exasperated voice she told me that men could just stick it in anywhere and that most of us saw kissing as a means to an end which was why I didn’t understand.
She probably wouldn’t have liked the way I rolled my eyes, but she couldn’t see that. I told her that they would take my man card away for suggesting that she not be intimate with him and she laughed again. It wasn’t a happy laugh.
He wouldn’t put up with that.He didn’t demand it constantly, but he was a man and if she didn’t work to meet his needs he might try divorcing her. I told her that was the most backwards thing I had heard in a long time and received another long sigh.
“Mothers are held to a different standard than fathers. And I would feel such guilt if my children were hurt by me doing this. They love their father.”
There was more silence and then the conversation resumed, but it was different.The moment of sharing was gone and I knew better than to bring it back up again. We said our goodbyes and hung up the phone. As I sat there cooking my dinner I thought about what she had said, echoes of “I don’t love my husband anymore” playing through my mind.
Can’t tell you what made me think of that particular call but thinking about it made me wonder when my ex-wife began feeling that way. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times she lay there hoping it would end sooner or how many nights she made a point to fall asleep before I climbed into bed. Relationships are such a funny thing.
We weren’t always bad. There was a time when she would have gladly woken up to my advances. Not to mention that I can think of a few times where she woke me up. I know that I am not the only one to have gone through this sort of thing. Friends tell me that all relationships go through ups and downs and with the exception of she who I am trying not to think about that had been the case.
Or maybe it was the case. Maybe I had forgotten what it was really like to be with her. It was a million years since Ann Stacey and I had been something other than a memory.
Ten thousand years a boy asked a girl if she would take his hand and let him love her. Ten thousand years ago he kissed her once and wondered how he had ever said I love you to any one else.
He wondered because he had never felt so much love for anyone else. Not for his first love or any other. This was a feeling like no other he had experienced. That scared the boy more than he could articulate, describe or understand.
The girl in the story had no such troubles. She knew what she felt and knew what she wanted. She didn’t need to process or sort through her feelings. Sometimes it frustrated her to see the boy she said was the love of her life be so close and yet so far away.
But she knew that sometimes boys needed more time than girls and she was willing to wait. It was just a matter of time before he realized that no one else could take care of him the way that she could.
That didn’t mean that he didn’t make her crazy because he did. He was a master at annoying her and he knew it. Normally that would have been the kiss of death for him except she couldn’t stay angry at him. It was uncanny how easily he charmed her.
He knew how to press all of her buttons and he knew how to make her feel simply….wonderful. It was infuriating not to be able to stay angry with him.
But how can you stay angry with someone who knows how to open your heart with a word and whose presence soothes your soul. You cannot and you don’t.
At least that is what you think and what you feel- but sometimes things happen.
Go Your Own Way- Fleetwood Mac
They say that hindsight is twenty-twenty but whether that is true or not remains in the eyes of the beholder. Really it all comes back to perspective and the man who had been the boy readily admitted that he didn’t have as much of that as he wished.
The girl and the boy who had loved each other with passion and promises never to let go had moved on and let go of that which had kept them together. The faith they held in each other had been tested and they had failed the test.
When push came to pull and pull came to shove they had fallen. Fingers that had been intertwined and hands that had been held were no more.
Time passed and the man wondered and wandered where it was he would bereft of the rock that had kept him centered. Slowly he crafted a witches brew of sadness, frustration and anger not recognizing that every drink was a poison that hurt his spirit and harmed his soul.
She was gone and though he had chased after her she had refused to listen. His heart told him that she wasn’t really gone and that her silence was her defense. It argued against letting go and told him to give it time.
But his head called his heart a fool and named him weak and worthless. It deemed him a dupe, a chump and a silly knave who needed to get his priorities straight.
Time passed and the war between heart and head continued. Heart swore that some nights under cover of darkness she would come looking for him. It said that if he closed his eyes and held still he would see her come looking for him.
Head laughed at this but heart cursed and swore again that it was true. “She loves us still. Remember she told us that she would never be the first to say I love you. This is the same. She is waiting for us to contact her.”
Head laughed again and told heart that he was a bigger fool than he thought. Later on in the quiet of the evening as the lights went out and the world went dark heart and head heard soft singing. As they drifted off to sleep head conceded that maybe there was something more to what heart said, but when daylight came head pretended that he had never admitted that perhaps heart was right.
They say that you shouldn’t waste time looking at the past because it prevents you from living in the present. They also say that those whose forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The contradictory nature of these two messages makes me want to find the mysterious “they” and beat them silly. Or at the very least force them to pick a position and stick to it.
Don’t they know that Yoda said, “Do or do not.” That is the kind of advice that I like. It is simple, direct and easily understood. Much as I enjoy reading the profound and mysterious statements of the wise and learned it is always easier to follow what Yoda says. Don’t bother trying to convince me that he is a fictional character because I won’t listen. The little green monster is an 800 year-old Jedi master. More importantly I never scratch my head and try to figure out what the hell he meant.
But because I am sometimes prone to making rash decisions I took Yoda’s advice to “Do or do not” and did. In plain English that means that I pulled out more old letters and journal entries and tried to use them to help me make sense of all this.
I Loved Her Once
I loved her once. She was tall, with dark hair and dark eyes that sparkled. Her smile lit up her face and her laughter was infectious. But I didn’t love her because of physical gifts or actions. She was smart and ever so quick. One of the few who got me, who understood me on a different level and in a different place than the others. But I didn’t love her because of that either.
Nor did I love her because she was the one who I trusted completely and felt safe with. Didn’t love her because of soft kisses and sweet whispers.
I loved her for all of these things and more. It was complete and consuming this love. Didn’t matter that she wasn’t as logical, rational or together as she claimed. Nor did I care that sometimes she would flip out and go off about crazy stuff. Damn woman found her way inside my head and heart so I took the good and the bad. We called it a mature love, deeper and more powerful than any we had ever experienced before.
But the gods laugh at those who aspire to climb the heights that we found ourselves upon. Icarus flew too high and his wings were shorn off causing him to fall into the the abyss. When his wife died Mighty Orpheus marched straight into the underworld and negotiated a deal with Hades to secure her return to life. Just moments away from their goal he failed in his resolve and lost her again to the underworld.
So if you ask me if I refer to us as a Greek tragedy than I say yes, I do. I do because you cannot share the things that we did, say what we said or feel such things and then fail to find a way to be together. I say it is a tragedy because to view it in other terms either diminishes it or calls into question the integrity of another. And so I have found myself alone and apart, dancing in the fire for untold ages.
I loved her once. She, who I speak of was the dearest part of my heart and the essence of my soul. I stare into the blackness in silence and replay that which once was. I think of Elizabeth Browning and Bertrand Russell. I see math, science and poetry. I hear the music and the whispers. There are moments where I feel her still, sense her close by, can smell and taste her.
But she is never there and now in my darkest hours I witness the entrance of anger. I acknowledge doubt and wonder if I am a sucker who misunderstood it all. Wonder if I saw only what I wanted to see. But I take a deep breath and recognize that the anger masks the hurt. The anger is a mask that I wear because it allows me to say that I loved her once when the truth is that I love her still.
And in the silence of the night lost in the shadows are the things that tell me that I wasn’t a sucker or a fool. The evidence isn’t based upon formulas or science. You cannot build your castles upon the foundation that we built, at least not those made of brick and stone. But you can find something more durable and lasting. The love that built what once was is more powerful than one can measure or imagine. And if you open your heart to it you will find that the person you never knew you needed hasn’t disappeared or gone away.
And in the silence of the night you might find your fingers interlocked with theirs and your breathing in rhythm as the heart you share still beats for both of you.
The Past Is The Present
That last entry doesn’t have a date upon it. If you are one of those people who believe that the universe sends us signs you can interpret that to mean that the torch I carried for her never did burn out. Or you can go to the land of TMI and listen to me tell you that she was phenomenal in bed. While you are there do me a favor and find out if TMI has information about whether she felt the same way. That could be important.
If I am to believe Sheri she says that many men are pathetic lovers who haven’t the foggiest idea of their actual skill in the bedroom. I tend to blame women for creating this problem. If you would be honest with us about what you want and whether we are getting it done than you might find more satisfaction there. And on a side note let me tell you that quite a few of you suffer from your own illusions of grandeur.
You may think that touching us down below the equator automatically makes us smile but that isn’t necessarily so. I might have had a few experiences with women who thought that the way to make a man happy was to simulate milking a cow. On behalf of men everywhere let me say this isn’t so. Bessie the heifer requires a different sort of touch and I’ll leave it at that. Some trauma doesn’t need to be revisited.
And that my friends is part of why Facebook sometimes makes me crazy. Some people have a need to try and collect as many friends as they possibly can which is why you sometimes receive friend requests that you can’t help but classify as…odd. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that Shelly Finkelberg wants to be your Facebook friend. Surely you remember Shelly. The two of you had a two hour relationship at summer camp. Never mind that you were 13 and didn’t do more than hold hands- that was enough to make Shelly want to use technology to catch up with you.
Sorry Shelly, that time of my life is over and I don’t feel a need to revisit it which is why I ignored your request. Not to mention that you laughed at me when I said that we ought to sit on second base and try to go to third. I was 13 years-old and didn’t know a damn thing about how to talk to girls. Karma is a bitch and that is probably why you gained 298 pounds. Or maybe that is what happens when you have 1,983 children and sit around the house eating donuts.
Oops, there goes that grudge thing again. I told you that it is not one of my finer traits but I am working on it. It is not like I told Shelly that the years hadn’t been kind to her. Actually that isn’t true. I did say something to that effect. We were in college and I was drunk with a capital ‘D.’ She laughed at it and told me that I was still funny. I don’t remember if I smiled but I do remember trying to tell her that I wasn’t kidding.
Confession time. I keep saying that I am not going to keep reading all of the old love letters we wrote each other. I keep promising myself that I won’t read all of the notes I wrote about us and yet here I am, doing it again. It sort of scares me to see just how much is there. It makes me question a million different things like why the hell did I get married.
That is the sort of question that I tend to avoid because you can’t go back in time and look at things as you once did. Life experience provides a sense of clarity that you can’t otherwise experience. That single guy didn’t know a damn thing about life. He thought that he did but what did he know about being a father or husband. He didn’t know about the responsibility and pressure those things brought about. He didn’t know about unconditional love for his children and how you subjugate yourself to help them live the lives they dream of.
Really, it is unfair to ask ourselves what we were thinking but most of do so anyway. So here I am digging through boxes, reading and remembering what once was.
Johnny loved his Junebug. She was his air and his sunshine. He started and ended each day with a silent prayer of thanks to the lord for sending June into his life.
Johnny had been in love before. He had had his heart broken more than once and he had survived. He hadn’t just survived; he had fallen in love again and moved on. That is what Old John did. He survived.
When life knocked him down he dusted himself off and picked himself back up again. He reveled in being a tough guy and enjoyed telling stories that portrayed himself in that fashion. What he didn’t realize was that the tough guy persona was something that he used to protect himself. It was a way of trying to keep people at a distance.
He was good at it. If you didn’t let people in you weren’t ever at risk for getting hurt.
The funny thing was that June just walked right in. He couldn’t tell you how it happened. Couldn’t describe exactly how, why or when she became his best friend. All he could do was acknowledge that it had happened.
So it really isn’t all that surprising to write that one day he woke up and realized that he was madly, passionately in love with June. It wasn’t the plain old garden variety of love either. Johnny was devoted to her.
When they were apart there was a physical ache in his side. He didn’t just miss her, he MISSED her.
Johnny didn’t like feeling so dependent upon anyone. It wasn’t just that it didn’t fit the tough guy image, it scared him. He never would have admitted it, but he was truly afraid of what life without her would be like.
Most of the time he didn’t worry about that. His Junebug did a fine job of expressing herself. He always felt her love and her warmth. It gave him strength. She thrived off taking care of him. She doted upon him. He got that special smile that no one else got. Her best was always reserved for her Johnny.
Not unlike many women, June was always concerned that she look good for Johnny. She loved seeing the desire in his eyes and knowing that he wanted her. If you left it at that you might think that it was shallow, but the truth was that it was more than that.
June loved Johnny because he understood, accepted and appreciated her. She felt comfortable around him in a way that she never did with anyone else. June loved her Johnny for that.
When things were good with the two of them they were really good and when they were bad, well it is not an exaggeration to say that the world felt cold and dark.
The funny thing if you will about Johnny and June was the matter in which they met. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it was uncommon and unsought for. But what surprised them more than that was how fast they fell in love with each other.
If you were to ask them how it happened they’d supply you with standard answers about having discovered someone who completed them, fulfilled them etc. But that really wouldn’t explain the deep connection that they felt. It wouldn’t tell you that their relationship had a depth that exceeded all that they had ever felt before. They shared a level of intimacy that few couples ever get to and most could never understand.
That intimacy made June exceptionally happy and exceedingly confused. She prided herself upon living a life based upon logic and order. Don’t get me wrong, she wasn’t some kind of robot. She loved to smile, loved to laugh and generally loved life. June was a happy girl. Part of that happiness was feeling like she understood the world around her.
Johnny took that organized, picture perfect world and turned it upside down. June struggled to figure out how her Johnny could make her stammer like a school girl. It had been a long time since someone had made her heart pound. It was unsettling to her and she didn’t like being unsettled.
She was always the rock. People relied upon her, depended upon her for being steady. Her Johnny had an uncanny knack for wreaking havoc. He used to kid around about how storms followed where he walked. The first couple of times he said that had made her roll her eyes, but over time she had come to agree with it.
It wasn’t always easy. Sometimes June would pick a fight with Johnny. She didn’t like feeling so unsettled. But the fights never lasted all that long. She couldn’t stay angry with him. That infuriated her even more and at the same time made her even happier. It was a crazy contradiction.
Johnny used to tell her to just relax. She hated that, especially when he’d start laughing. But part of her loved him all the more, just because. It was the “just because” that made it harder. She really, really wanted to understand how he could send her over the edge.
Over time June began to see that she had the same impact upon her Johnny. It helped to soften some of the edges, but it also caused a few to become frayed as well. The passion between them had such intensity that they were amazed that it never seemed to fade.
Intermixed with all of the notes and letters are fragments of fiction I had intended to use for my first book. Some of these aren’t bad and some are simply horrific.
Redemption. That is what I was looking for. It took a while for me realize it. It took time to accept that I was capable of hoping for something more. But the thing that took the longest time was accepting that I deserved better.
The things that we do each day turn into habits. What we eat, how we think, how we dress. They are all habits. We may be human, but we’re not all that different from Pavlov’s dog. Ring the bell and we come running to eat.
I was no different, aside from having convinced myself that I was responsible for all of the bad things that had happened and that I deserved it. Actually that is not all that different from a lot of people. We all feel alienated. From time to time we all feel like losers who don’t fit in.
Don’t I sound like the motivational speaker.
But I am not that guy. I don’t buy into that crap. Maybe it is because of my own provincial mindset, or maybe it is because I see too many of those charlatans robbing people. But then again if you refuse to think for yourself you set yourself up for disaster.
That has never been my problem. I know my what my problems are. I know my weakness. All I can do is try to avoid making the mistakes of the past. Let them stay where they belong. Let them haunt my soul and serve as a warning, whatever. Just let them be far away from my conscious mind.
I can’t tell you when the change took place. I can’t tell you why or how. I just know that when hope returned I lost some of my edge. I no longer constantly felt angry, frustrated and edgy, but not always angry.
Little things that used to throw me into a rage stopped infuriating me. And it was all because of hope.
Once I began to believe in myself I started to dream about getting her back. I allowed myself to remember the joy she used to fill me with and considered the possibility of having it again.
We had promised each other that we would never let go. We said that if we held onto each other we could beat whatever had come between, in front or behind us. Somewhere in time there still lived a boy and girl who believed in that.
The girl I had loved was a hopeless romantic with such sweet lips. Men don’t normally say things like this, but I loved kissing her. I didn’t view it as a necessary step to get into her pants. I really loved it.
Somewhere in time there lived a boy and a girl who would do all in their power to find their way back to each other. I really believed it and I had to believe that she believed it.
The bigger question was not whether she did, but where she was. We had lost touch. It had become far too painful and I had let her slip away. I didn’t know if she was married. Couldn’t tell you if she had kids.
All I could tell you was that I knew she was alive. As stupid as it sounds the heart that had been broken just sensed that she was somewhere.
It was a start, a beginning that I could work with. I didn’t know what would happen or how. I just knew that redemption was possible.
You can’t see me now but if you did you would see a sort of bemused look on my face. I just found a notebook that is overflowing with the rough draft of my first novel. Get a load of this:
I was almost 25 when I left the city of my birth. It was time to go, time to move on and get away. There were new experiences to be had and the pain of what I had once been, what I had once had was too much. Everywhere I looked there were signs of the glory and the fall.
For most of my life I had been a scrapper, never afraid to fight, never willing to give up and not smart enough to get out. It was a self imposed punishment for sins that I had committed but was unwilling to discuss.
It is not much of a description, not very colorful at all. In fact it is rather ordinary, but that is ok, I am ordinary and I prefer it that way. If you stuck me in a crowd full of people you would be hard pressed to pick me out. It was like that in school, never did or said much in class. No need to draw attention to myself I did what I needed to do to get through and nothing more.
And for the longest time that had been enough, an average, nondescript existence. It suited me fine to be a guy who punched a time clock. But sometimes even the average man find himself in a situation that is beyond his control,a time in which he becomes something more than he has been.
But the question is not what he does to elevate himself but how he handles the elevation.
It was Friday night and I had just finished my shift at the plant. There was no rush to get home because there was no one to get home to, no wife, no family, no girlfriend, not even a dog. Just an empty house that was sparsely furnished.
Friday nights were not much different than any other night of the week. I’d go home, pop open a can of beer and stare blankly at the television screen content to let my brain turn to mush.
On this particular night I decided to stop at an ATM. I wanted to order a pizza and I had nothing but the spare change from the last time I had visited the liquor store. It wasn’t enough to buy a pack of gum, so I was forced to go to the bank.
There were two people ahead of me in line, a man and a woman and behind me there were a couple of teenage boys.
I didn’t see him approach. I didn’t notice anything about him including his presence until he was standing in front of us, waving a gun and shouting for our wallets. I have a bad habit of giggling when I am nervous. I don’t like being the center of attention and now was certainly a bad time to laugh, but laugh I did.
5’8 or so and about a buck twenty sopping wet with a bad haircut and a Judas Priest shirt, that is all he was, oh and he had a big gun and an even bigger attitude. He grabbed my collar and asked me what was so funny. Before I could answer he had grabbed the woman in front of me.
She cried as he pulled her in front of him and asked me if I thought that this was funny. I choked back a snigger and told him that it wasn’t. He told me that if I so much as smiled he would kill her. I wiped the smile off of my face.
It was the wrong thing to do, but I didn’t know it. The jackass cuffed me in the side of the head and laughed. It infuriated me, brought back memories of years of being teased and tortured by my someone who had been like an older brother to me. So I just reacted. I kicked him in the balls and smacked him in the head.
In the movies the gun falls and the hero (there has to be a hero) grabs it. Not here, not in my world. In my world when I slap him there is a flash of light and a loud noise. I am splashed with something, but it feels like hours before I realize that he just shot the woman, and that he did it involuntarily. The wetness I feel on my face is her blood.
I stand there in shock, numb and not really aware anymore of what is happening. The guy she had been with is beating the crap out of the jackass, the Judas Priest shirt is stained now, but it is with his blood.
There is a cop speaking to me, but I don’t answer. The real hero is lying, telling the officer that I saved everyone’s life, that if I hadn’t hit him the guy would have killed us all.
I didn’t hit him, I hit Georgie. It was Georgie I saw in front of me. It was Georgie taunting me, I just snapped and reacted. But I guess that somewhere inside I began to hear and to believe that I had been the hero, that when the bell rang I had come out swinging.
And that was really the beginning of the end.
Two Kinds Of Pain
Life offers two types of pain, one physical and one mental. Man still hasn’t found a tougher prison than the one he encages his mind in. There is no greater pain than the mental anguish we inflict on ourselves and there is no tougher warden than the person we see in the mirror. For some there is no midnight reprieve, the governor doesn’t offer clemency. There is only one way out and no two people can share the path.
We all live in our secret worlds, but some of us never have the strength to leave our shelter and walk under sunny skies.
I used to.
I used to live in a place I called paradise. I could look out on the world and from my window and gaze upon waters that called out to me. Deep blue seas that embraced me like a child in the womb. The seas were always calm and at night they would gently rock me to sleep.
But it wasn’t real. I didn’t live on a boat. I didn’t live on the beach or remotely close to the water. It was all an illusion, a mindfuck that I created to make myself happy. The problem was that I hadn’t realized it. I didn’t have a clue as to how precarious my own happiness was and once that was shattered I knew nothing but darkness. I wandered aimlessly in a fog, not knowing where I was going or what I was doing. It didn’t matter, I didn’t care.
I said it before, there are two kinds of pain and mental is far worse than physical. You can always find a way to escape physical pain, but you can’t run from your own mind. Philosophers had long ago figured out that hell existed, that there was a devil, except he wasn’t a guy with horns, a pitchfork and a tail. The church had made that guy up. The devil was someone familiar with you, someone who knew your most intimate secrets and your darkest fears. The devil knew you, knew how to torment your soul.
The devil knew all this because he was, he is…you.
That’s right, the devil is not supernatural. There is no Lucifer, no Satan, and no Beelzebub. It would be better for us all if he did exist. No, the devil is just a man, a person that lives inside us all.
See when they wrote the bible and told the story of getting banished from the Garden of Eden they were not talking about a mythological place, they were referring to the end of innocence. They were talking about that time when life hits you in the mouth, knocks you down and beats you senseless. They were talking about getting hurt in places that bandages don’t stick, cuts that you cannot stitch, they just keep bleeding. And even if you manage to stop the bleeding that stinging sensation never really does go away.
Stumbling Through Life
The truth will always come out, or so they had taught us in school. One way or another it would find it’s way to the surface. The problem is that sometimes the truth had all the beauty of a victim of drowning. The weights that anchor the body slip off and it shoots to the surface where it floats and bobs upon the water.
Face up or face down, it doesn’t make a difference until you get close enough to take a closer look. And the smell, the smell is something that you never get beyond. There is a putrid stench that sticks with you, gets locked in the back of your throat and grabs a hold of you like some alien parasite.
Anyway you look at it, that body is not pretty, not graceful, not anything but ugly. And that is what the truth can be like, ugly. Our teachers would have use believe that there was something noble and majestic about it. Movies portray the hero as someone who never falters, who uses the truth to defeat the bad guys. I was a streetwise guy. I knew that the truth was never black and white, that there were shades of gray, but even a mug like me can get caught up believing his own hype.
I wanted to blame the jackass at the ATM for bringing this shit storm down upon my head. If he hadn’t tried to rob us all, if he would have been honest, if he would have done a million other things the girl he shot would still be alive and I wouldn’t feel so miserable.
And then again she might still be alive if I hadn’t reacted like the frightened little boy I had been and maybe still was. If Georgie hadn’t spent years tormenting me, picking, poking and prodding me, she might still be walking. A father wouldn’t miss his daughter and a mother wouldn’t cry herself to sleep.
Maybe if I would have learned how to deal with the bullying I could have stopped myself from just reacting. Goddamn Georgie, he was dead too. Gone for years and still I could hear him mocking me, feel his presence. They say sometimes the absence of someone is palpable. The only thing palpable about Georgie’s presence was that even in death he still walked alongside me.
If I believed in G-d I would have prayed for something, forgiveness, death, anything, something to give me peace of mind. I hadn’t had it since I had left home, if not longer. The very thought of prayer was laughable. Any faith that I had possessed had been beaten out of me.
She was dead because Georgie had proven to me that I was weak and that I was lacking in value and worth. Really it was my fault. Georgie was right, kick a dog enough times and he’ll evolve. He’ll pass through stages of confusion, denial, anger and then he;ll reach a point where he just doesn’t care what happens, he’d just as soon bite you as crap on your porch.
Georgie had made sure that I experienced all of it. He said that he was helping me and I wanted to believe him. He said that he was making me into a man, making me tough enough to deal with a world that bent you over a hot stove and laughed at you.
The first time Georgie beat me I was scared. I didn’t defend myself. I didn’t try to, I just let him kick and punch me. And when he stopped I looked at him through teary eyes, not sure what to expect. He gave me a handkerchief and stuck out a hand to help me up.
I was wiping the blood off of my face when he hit me again. I didn’t see it coming and when I came to I was lying in the dirt and he was gone, as were three of my teeth. Georgie didn’t believe in giving or accepting help, to him it was sign of weakness and he couldn’t have that.
A Burning Anger
Georgie taught me about burning anger. It was he who trained me, rather molded me into someone who was angry all of the time. Prior to his entrance into my life I was just another Joe, nothing particularly noteworthy about me, but Georgie placed me on his forge and made me into something different. Not someone, something, his words, not mine.
Georgie’s influence was profound in the worst way. He claims that he saw potential and did nothing more than tap into it. And in my darker moments I tend to believe him, but most of the time I think of it differently. Georgie made me mean the way you prepare a pit-bull to be a fighter. Stick glass in his food, kick him, beat him and do what you can to make him feel battered and bruised. Place the animal in a position that makes it feel like it is never safe and never secure.
But humans are not animals, maybe at our most basic level, but even so there is still something more there, a sentient being who can go one of many directions. Georgie once told me that the fact that I wasn’t catatonic said a lot about me. He said it with the sick smile he used to wear when he thought that he knew a secret that no one else knew.
If it had been about something else, someone else, I would have felt differently, but this was about me and that made it worse. No one wants to think badly of themselves, even Charles Manson wants to believe that he is just a misunderstood soul. It was just another one of the wounds Georgie inflicted on me. It would have been better if he had hit me, I had grown accustomed to that, was familiar with the pain, but the mental torment never left me. I could drink or smoke the other pain away, but I couldn’t find a bottle big enough to take the edge off that cut, it was too deep.
The Wizard Is Just A Man
I don’t remember who said that the wizard is just a man but I am pretty sure we wouldn’t hear it today. I grew up in a time when it was a big deal to see a major movie like the Wizard of Oz on television. Mom would make popcorn and we’d all gather round the television and watch Dorothy try and find her way home. And every year we’d be disappointed to see that the wizard was just a man.
He didn’t have real power. As children we weren’t interested in any of the grown up messages in the movie. Didn’t care that the Lion always had courage or that the Scarecrow always had brains. I won’t mention that there was a time when I thought that I had turned into the Tin man and had lost my heart. That is a story for a different day.
Instead I’ll share other thoughts and talk about how my readers love seeing my stories evolve. It is similar to all of those cooking shows you see on television. People like to see what happens behind the scenes. They like to learn about how the magic happens so that they can try to recreate it themselves. That is an important point to bear in mind.
The modern writer is not just a writer but a marketer too. The men and women who came before me didn’t have to fight as hard to catch the eye of a reader nor was it as tough to keep their attention. They didn’t have to battle a million different distractions which is why smarter writers learn how to engage and interact with their readers.
That is one of the lessons that I try to impart upon my students. I let my readers see that the wizard is just a man and in doing so I build a bond and create a connection between us. When I show them my mistakes and talk about how hard it was to get to this place I let them feel like I am one of them. It is not entirely true but it is not entirely false either.
I am a published author who has a daily column in a newspaper and has been offered a talk show. When you hit this level you don’t have to work as hard as you did. Opportunities are presented to you…daily. The problem is that it becomes far too easy to become complacent and your work suffers. That is not earth shattering news or remotely insightful.
Nor is it something that only writers have to worry about. Professional athletes fight this battle all the time. Don’t get me started about this or you will hear me rant for hours about how poorly some of them play after they receive the big contract.
Lost In The Parking Lot
She told me that Jesus loves me and offered me a smile that would make the Cheshire Cat look like he was frowning. I smiled back at her, said that I play for other team but didn’t walk away.
“No, you don’t. We all play for the same manager. You just haven’t realized it yet.”
I laughed. “I don’t think so. My manager hates me.”
Her smile evaporated and a look of genuine concern appeared, “are you ok?
“No, not really. Been a long time since I was ok.” My friends will tell you that I don’t hide my feelings but I am not usually so forthcoming.
“I am sorry about that. I really should get going.”
She put a hand on my forearm and said that it was ok. “God never gives you more than you can handle.”
“No but he doesn’t give me what I ask for either.”
She smiled softly and said that sometimes we thank god for unanswered prayers.
I nodded my head and said that I didn’t think that was true but appreciated her time. She didn’t argue, just flashed that beauty queen smile again and told me to watch out for traffic.
What she should have said was watch out for the shopping cart because that was what I almost tripped over. It was the very same shopping cart that a few moments earlier I had been walking towards.
Had she not called out to me I would have grabbed it and already been inside picking up some groceries.
Instead I was outside in the parking lot rubbing the side that had clipped the cart and wondering where she had come from. I made a mental note not to tell my daughter about it or she would have a field day making me eat my words.
I can’t count the number of times I have told her that she must always be aware of her surroundings.
“Drivers aren’t paying attention. It doesn’t matter if the pedestrian has the right of way because the pedestrian always loses that fight.”
I am guessing that if you asked her to share my favorite lines she would give you that one and the one about girls having to pay extra attention to their surroundings, especially at night.
That second admonition really sets her off. I can’t tell you how many times she has told me that it isn’t fair and that her brothers have more freedom than she does.
The only thing that makes her angrier is what she calls my ridiculous behavior around boys.
I told her that one day when she becomes a mother she’ll understand and then I said that I am far too young to become a grandpa but I am not worried because she is not allowed to date until she is 87.
When she was really little she would scrunch up her face and tell me that 87 is too old. “Daddy, what about 36. Can I date at 36 or 41?
I would smile and say yes and then she would throw out a couple more ages. Sometimes they would be higher and sometimes they would be lower. When you are 8 years-old there is not much difference between 17 and 27. They are both far older than you.
Needless to say as she got older and gained a better grasp of age I began to hear a range that went from 14-16. You can probably guess how those discussions went.
Daughters can be challenging. The first inkling I got of this was from Tom, a fraternity brother of mine. When we were twenty he knocked up his girlfriend and by the time we were twenty-one he was changing diapers on a baby girl they named Rachel.
We weren’t real tight so I would only see him at the yearly reunions. But I won’t ever forget what happened at one when we were around 35 or so.
It is a blustery afternoon at the park and the place is packed with current members and alumni. We are all there for the Thanksgiving day football game we call Turkeybowl.
Tom and I are part of a group of four or five people. We are making the usual small talk about life and what ours is like when Tom barks, “Rachel!”
We all turn to see who he is talking to and spot a very attractive girl talking to a couple of the actives.
‘Is that Rachel?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Dude, she is hot,” says Mark.
It was the wrong thing to say. I am pretty sure that Mark didn’t mean to be offensive. He was just busting Tom’s chops but it didn’t go over well.
Tom glared at Mark, muttered something and pushed by him. When Rachel saw her father walking towards her she gave him a look that could have melted steel, flipped her hair and turned back.
It didn’t take a genius to know that the look the boy was getting was far different from the one her father received.
I don’t know if Tom and that particular active knew each other or what they said to each other. What I can tell you is that Tom provided that 19 year old boy with the kind of education his parents hadn’t paid for.
Fifteen minutes later Tom and Rachel were standing off to the side screaming at each other while the rest of us tried to figure out what had just happened.
I found out later on that earlier that week Tom had walked in on Rachel and some boy in bed. That is the sort of thing that no parent wants to discover, especially a father.
I took my bruised hip and started pushing the shopping cart towards the store. It goes without saying that I found the one with the busted wheel.
Inside the store I wandered up and down the aisles and tried to figure out why I had responded the way I had to the woman in the parking lot.
The words had just spilled out of me and I realized that it wouldn’t have taken much more prompting for me to have said a lot more. That moment marked when I realized just how miserable I was and how desperately I needed to make a change.
It probably also is when I decided that it was time to start thinking about that dread ‘D’ word we call divorce. Up until that point it had been something that other people did, but not anymore.
The Red Dress
“I thought about you for a long time
Can’t seem to get you off my mind
I can’t understand why we’re living life this way
I found your picture today
I swear I’ll change my ways
I just called to say I want you to come back home
I found your picture today
I swear I’ll change my ways
I just called to say I want you to come back home
I just called to say, I love you come back home”
Picture- Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow
Sometimes the only explanation for the unexplainable is that there is no explanation. This is never more true than in what some people call affairs of the heart. When you are dealing with the heart there is nothing more frustrating than trying to apply the rules of logic and reason for no reason other than The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants.
It is exactly that simple. The heart wants what the heart wants and rational thought be damned. You can only fight it for so long before you realize that you can’t apply mathematical formulas to your relationships. No matter how hard you try you won’t find a scientific explanation that ties it all up in a neat little bow. But if your name is Johnny you have a thick head and a stubborn streak that won’t allow you to accept this.
So you’ll fight your heart and do your best to convince yourself that your head is capable of making good decisions, sound decisions that are based upon that logic and reason you so wish applied here. For a while force of will combined with a dash of anger/frustration will prove to be a recipe for some muted success.
During that time you will have managed to quash most thoughts of June or stuff them down so far that you don’t feel the hole that her absence has created. Time passes and it becomes a little bit easier to convince yourself that you are doing the right thing. Each day without contact serves its purpose in providing you with a check mark on the mental calendar that you keep to prove that you can live without her.
But that only works for so long. It is effectiveness is challenged by odd coincidences that remind you of her. You know, things happen that make you wonder if signs are real and you ask the universe to stop sending this crap your way because you don’t want to be made into a fool. And though you pride yourself on your strength to weather any storm you find that these signs are too odd to ignore.
They are combinations of names, people and places that you cannot associate with anyone else but her. You fight a bit longer to stay silent and to not scream at the world in anger. Anger because you can’t explain the unexplainable and frustration because that which you want is unavailable. Anger because just when you think you are fine you find out that you are not.
This Time you can explain/blame some of it on a red dress. A simple red dress that just happens to be worn by the very same woman you are pretending not to love anymore. A simple red dress that she wears with elegance and grace. A simple red dress that looks so good on her you know that she can’t walk through a room without other women silently cursing her.
It is not easy for you to see her from a distance. It is not easy because you feel a connection to her that never disappears. No matter how angry you might have been or how angry you may become with her that connection pulls you back in.
For a long time you sat in silence because you thought that was appropriate and because she gave you no reason to do other than that. You have told her more than once that you would be her hero and that you would storm any castle to rescue her. There are no dragons that you wouldn’t fight nor challenges that you wouldn’t take on for her.
But you cannot do it alone and you know this. You cannot give her the moon unless she is ready and willing to take it. Force of will isn’t enough to make her do what she will not do of her own accord. Though it pains you terribly to accept this you do because it is the only thing that you can do.
For the time being you must continue to play the role of the hero who cannot rescue the damsel in distress. For the time being you must walk a separate path that you hope will one day intersect with hers. For the time being you must continue to dance in the fire because that’s what is required.
But you can take solace and comfort that time is proving that you were right about many things. Right to let her go try to find her smile and to give her space to come back to you. And now if your gut instinct is to be trusted she is slowly taking steps in your direction. So while your instinct is to run towards her you stay planted where you are.
Planted in a place where she can find you and with open arms that will welcome her back to them. And in between it all you can’t help but smile at the mental image you have of that beautiful woman in the red dress. So you close your eyes to block out the outside noise and picture her walking towards you. Long legs, dark eyes and a huge heart stare back at you and you smile broadly.
For the moment that is all that you have, this memory and this picture. It makes you snort and smile, this thought of how very strange life can be. Who knew that a picture of your girl in the red dress could make your heart pound like this.
Was it just a dream
That I dreamed the other night?
I saw you there
Standing right beside me
And we finally had it right
Oh Mary Oh Mary Oh
Mary Oh Mary Oh Mary Oh
Talkin’ out love
Mary Oh Mary Oh
No, I don’t want nothing in between
Mary Oh Mary
Don’t tie me to words that you don’t mean
Mary Oh Mary Oh
I’m looking for something I never knew
Mary Oh Mary Oh
Oh Mary you know I’m looking for you”
Oh Mary- Neil Diamond