Jack’s Story Jan. 27 1st Update

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.”

Atlantic City- Bruce Springsteen

Went to lunch with the Sheri, Pam 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. I couldn’t help but smile. Years ago she and her brother liked to try to arm wrestle. It had turned into a goofy game where we would make a muscle and pose like a body builder. It was sheer silliness and almost always disarming.

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.

Goodbye

“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.

Writing

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.

I think that what I am trying to figure out is whether I am chasing after memories of what was or running towards what could be. If it was me giving the advice I would recommend moving forward because Doc Brown and his Flex Capacitor equipped DeLorean aren’t going to show up and take us back in time. The focus has to be back to the future and the present because that is when life happens.

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.

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.

  1. I have female friends that I have no sexual interest in. Never have and never will. It is just not there.
  2. 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. The days before marriage had been very different than what came after. It was hard not to wonder if time had colored my memories of what life had been like then.

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.

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.

Divorce

I never thought that I would be the guy to say this, but the failure of my marriage made me feel like a failure. That doesn’t mean that I wanted to stay married or that I didn’t want to get divorced because that is simply not true. We went as far as we could go and had we tried to make it last any longer it is probable that we would have had hit that ugly place that so many other couples hit.

That was simply unacceptable to me. My children didn’t need to have parents who hated each other and ending it when we did made it easier to ensure that they didn’t witness some very unpleasant and ugly exchanges. I don’t talk to them at the specifics and particulars of why we decided to end it. That hasn’t prevented them from asking for more information than I am comfortable discussing with them but I simply refuse to answer.

I told them that it is private because it is.

It is not a situation where we can point fingers and say that one of us is/was so horrible it became impossible to live with them. No one was abusive or being abused but neither were we loving or in love.

Look, I understand that relationships are filled with ups and downs. The “experts” and assorted friends have told me that you don’t stay “in love” with your partner throughout the entire relationship. They tell me that during the ebb and flow there are moments where you love them but that is it.

That is something that just never made a lot of sense to me. I don’t know what to make out of the ‘I love you, but am not in love with you” line that so many people have shared. What I know is that I reached a place where I didn’t have anything to say to her anymore. If it didn’t involve the children or some sort of household matter I didn’t speak to her.

It wasn’t because I was trying to be mean either. I truly had nothing to say. I don’t really know why that is. I have tried to figure it out but haven’t come up with anything that makes sense to me. Maybe I need more time to pass so that I can gain more perspective. Maybe I should give it a few years and I’ll be able to gain more clarity and provide a more substantive answer or maybe not.

The thing is that I just don’t care. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t feel a need to understand it well enough to express it.

But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t upset or that I didn’t feel sad about it. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t mourn the end of the relationship. It feels a bit goofy to say that but it is true.

I didn’t wait to start dating until the divorce was finalized but I didn’t go racing off to find a new partner either. It surprised me a little bit.  Back in the good old days when I was a happily married man I used to kid around that if I was ever single I would be like a kid in a candy shop. I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it but it seemed natural to say.

As a man with a very healthy libido and a strong appreciation for women it seemed quite likely that I would go off and sow my oats for a while but then it happened and I didn’t. In part it was because I didn’t feel like I had the energy to go and learn about someone else. There wasn’t any motivation on my part to listen to someone tell me their life story and to share mine.

It probably would have stayed that way for a while except I started feeling a bit squirrely. You know, that whole “be fruitful and multiply” thing is going on and I suddenly gained enough patience to listen to a few stories.

I made a point not to say anything to any of my thoughts. I love my friends but I wasn’t in the mood to hear the boys tell me about dating. No cracks about what it is like to get back in the saddle or smart remarks about the need to bring along a little blue pill. I don’t need the damn pill and I don’t need to to get to revisit our high school locker room days.

That might be a little unfair to some of the guys but I am ok with that. I did all this because it was time and because I am taking care of myself. And along those lines I definitely didn’t say anything to the girls because I didn’t want them to start the “can I set you up” game. Correction, that started almost immediately what I didn’t want to do was give them any more ammunition or reason to talk about it.

And I especially didn’t want to hear Sheri lecture me about how I should dress, what I should say or how I must find a woman who is at least 35. Good old Sher says that she doesn’t want me wasting time sleeping with some twenty something year old girl. Why does she say this?

Well my dear friend says that she is looking out for the girl’s best interest. She fears that I will find some young, nubile thing and have outrageous amounts of meaningless sex that will lead the girl to become very attached to me and that she’ll end up getting hurt when I dump her. I told Sheri that she was very far too presumptuous and that she was hurting my non existent sex life with the hot twenty something year-old babe who can’t stop drooling when she sees me.

“Jack, it is a complete waste of time. You will have nothing to talk about and the sex will get old.”

“That is ok. I don’t want to talk to her. I am interested in lots of meaningless sex with a girl who won’t require three ibuprofen after a night of being bent every which way.”

I probably shouldn’t tell you how hard Sheri laughed and how she said that I would be the one who would require the medical assistance afterwards. ”I don’t think that you appreciate the position I am in here. Why not just support me.”

“That is not really a question. Besides I can assure you that a woman in her forties is more than capable of blowing your mind sexually. Chances are that she will be better than that girl you want to waste your time with. That whole talk about women becoming more comfortable with our bodies isn’t a myth.”

I thanked her for advice and reminded her that we weren’t on Oprah or Dr. Phil. There wasn’t going to be any cheering from the studio audience.  She stuck out her tongue at me and I told her that unless she put her tongue to better use it was time for her to go.

“It is not surprising that your divorced. Your mouth always gets you in trouble.”

“I only wish that I was as skilled at using my tongue as you are so that I could get out of it”

She turned to face me and said that she hoped that one day I would let myself be open to the possibility of falling in love again.

“Where the hell did that come from?”

“Jack, you like to pretend that you are a much bigger jerk than you are. You deserve some real happiness and you do a half ass job of taking care of yourself.”  I nodded and watched as she walked out the door and down the hall.

I don’t know if hindsight really is 20-20 but looking back on that conversation now I realize that she had already made up her mind about trying to get me to call the ex-girlfriend. If I were a bitter and angry man I would say that this was a prime example of the conniving woman who tries to manipulate the man. Thing is, I could say it just like that and she would nod her head and laugh.

Well, she really does care for me and is the kind of friend who you can call at any time so I suppose that I’ll let it go. Not like I had a choice, apparently she is two steps ahead of me.

She also gets partial credit for helping me to come up with new material for an upcoming book. Don’t ask me to tell you what book the section below will be used in because I haven’t the foggiest idea. Sometimes I get an idea and I just run with it and see where it goes. That is part of the joy of being a writer. You create worlds and you never know what they are going to look like.

You may have a rough idea about them but you never really know what they will look like or what the characters will be like until that final draft is done.

Not Quite Sleepless in Seattle

Harold keeps hounding me about my next column. He says that he is concerned about me and wonders if maybe I should take some time off. I told him that he has no sense of anything and his poor perspective is the reason that the barber shaved his head.  Unfortunately he has either gone stone deaf or has learned how to ignore my insults. Fortunately I like a challenge and am ready to develop a new set of sayings that will scorch his soul and scour his…soul.

Damn, I am losing my touch and going soft. That last line was beyond pathetic. I don’t know what comes after pathetic but that last line was clearly hanging out in that territory. I feel like the superstar athlete who had a lost step and is relying upon his reputation and a toolkit of wily veteran moves to get him over the hump.

So let’s cut to the chase. The girls upset my apple cart. They turned my world inside out and I am going a little bit crazy trying to figure out what to do. They keep pushing me to call her. They keep telling me that I have nothing to lose and that I should take a chance. Take a chance and see what happens.

I keep telling them that this is real life. It is not quite Sleepless in Seattle. I am not going to meet this very cool and mysterious woman at the top of the Empire State Building. I am not going to take her by the hand and ride off into the sunset completely fulfilled and madly happy. But the girls don’t play fair. They know me too well and they work on manipulating me.

Daughter sits next to me, holds my hand and tells me that she can see that I am nervous. She says that it is cute and tells me that she thinks I am very handsome. I smile and tell her that she is biased. I remind her that when she was four she told everyone that she was going to marry me. She looks me in the eye and tells me that she wants to know why I didn’t marry her.

I smile and tell her that it is a long story. She doesn’t care. She looks up at me with those dark brown eyes and I am lost. I love this little girl of mine, even if she isn’t so little anymore. I am supposed to be the one protecting her. I am supposed to be the one giving her advice.

I look down and stare at her hand and tell her that I remember the day she was born. She wrapped all of her fingers around my index finger that day. I told her that I was her daddy and that I would love her forever. Daughter has heard this story so many times she can tell it herself. I take her hand and pull it to my face. “Does my chin still feel rough.”

She giggles and tells me that it does but that I am not allowed to rub my face on hers. Too late, I wrap her up in a bear hug and rub cheek against hers. She squeals with laughter and for a moment I see the girl she used to be, but only for a moment. That passes and I see the woman she is becoming staring at me. The smile on her face has been replaced with a very serious look that I know far too well.

“Dad, you can talk to me. I am a girl. Maybe I can help you figure out what to say to her.”

I am not ready to tell her much more than she already knows. I know she is frustrated with me but she is going to have to guess what happened because I am not not going to let those ghosts out of their cage. Not today and maybe not ever. So I smile and tell her that I love her more than she can possibly imagine.

“I am not ready to talk about this. I am processing.”

I don’t know if that is entirely true or not because I really am not sure.

Five Years Ago

My father used to tell me that it was important to plan for the future but to remember that it was really hard to predict where you would be and what you would be doing in chunks of more than a few years. I don’t remember what prompted that conversation but I remember that it happened on the telephone and that it was in the old house. I told him that I thought that he was right but that I thought that I might be able to predict things in five year intervals.

Don’t remember what he said or if the conversation ended but I do know that I came to believe that I was wrong. Five years was too long an interval and too many things could happen within that to make the sort of prediction I wanted.

Five years ago I was still married and living in my old house. Notice that I didn’t say happily married because I wasn’t. I don’t know if  I was miserable but I wasn’t happy. I felt trapped, unfulfilled and bored and I suspect so did my ex. We didn’t do very much as a family and even less as a couple. In many ways our marriage more closely resembled two friends living together.

Except we had rings on our fingers and offspring.

I sometimes wonder when our marriage died and whether I was conscious of its death. Back when I was married one of my friends got divorced and told me that you never know when you are going to have sex with your wife for the final time.

I asked them if that bothered him and he said no. The passion had long since left them and she only took care of him because of marital obligations. For a long time I didn’t understand that but than I did. It would have been better had I not recognized it for what it was but I did.

Ladies, you may think that we don’t notice when you are in it but you might be surprised at how many times we do. We all go through moments when one partner isn’t into it but takes care of the other because they love them and want them to be happy. It is not the norm but every once in a while such a thing might happen.

Well, when you are two steps away from splitting up it is very clear to us that you have a timer in your head and you are hoping to use a couple of tricks to make us finish sooner than later.

Sheri tells me that at the end sex with her husband felt like she was being violated.

Well, I may understand that differently than Sheri, but I still understand it. When there is nothing left but memories and ghosts the sex doesn’t do much for us either.

A Whirling Dervish

One of my former students once described me as being a cross between a whirling dervish and the Tasmanian Devil.  Since it was part of a student evaluation of my skills as a teacher I wasn’t privy to all of the details but I got the sense that it wasn’t supposed to be a compliment. The department chair said that I should be aware that my proclivity formovement could be distracting to some people.

I asked if he was trying to say that I was hyperactive and he laughed. “Jack, it is clear to me that you can quite capable of focusing your attention but sometimes energy radiates from you.

That made me laugh but I had to nod my head because it is a fair assessment. There are moments when I feel like little bolts of lightning are shooting from my fingertips. They are usually the same moments when I feel like I have ten thousand ideas that I want to express, each one of them fighting to get out at the same time.

I mention this only because the lovely Ann Stacey once remarked upon it. She watched me pace around a room and wondered aloud if there was anything that could make me stand still. I am not the type to kiss and tell but she did find a way make it happen and to this day I am not sure if she made her comment because she was flirting with me or what.

Or what.

Those two words summed a lot of things up for me. I used to think that I knew a lot about her. I used to think that I could come up with a reasonable prediction of what she would do in a given situation and or how she would respond. I think that she really appreciated that. Television and film like to portray women as being these lovely and inscrutable creatures that men can’t possibly understand but I haven’t ever believed that to be true.

Well, maybe just a little.

But I think that when it came to us my understanding of her is part of what made her fall for me. There were things that I just knew about her. I can’t tell you exactly how or why I knew these things but it was enough to catch her eye. I used to like to tease her about a million different things.

I remember her telling me that in every relationship one person tended to take control but that didn’t necessarily mean that things weren’t equal. So I told her that with me she wouldn’t have to worry about pretending to let me think that I was in control when she really was. She giggled a bit and I told her that I had busted her on that point.

Don’t remember if she actually acknowledged it out loud but we both understood and I think that we loved that understanding. It was stronger and deeper than anything we had ever experienced and now I was beginning to wonder if the raw power of that connection was something that withstood time. Were the promises we made years before things said in the throes of passion or were they more than that.

As a journalist we are trained to ask lots of questions and to dig for answers and information that lies beneath the surface. Even though this is a personal matter I couldn’t help but start thinking about this from a professional perspective.  What is love? What is the difference between being in love and loving something or someone? Does love die?

I know that I have seen a million different stories that suggest that the Internet has helped to break up and or cause major divisions in relationships but it doesn’t talk about the flip side. What has the Internet done to help reunite and or restore lost loves. Surely there are examples of this. There have to be stories about the lost loves who found each other. But what happened when they did.

I wonder.

Whose Reality Is It Anyway

I hate my cellphone. I love my cellphone. I hate how it provides unlimited access to me. I love how it provides virtually unlimited freedom.  That is my unspoken mantra. It is what I recite while I sit on the beach and watch the waves come rolling in.

If I wasn’t on deadline I wouldn’t have turned it on but I am on deadline and I have already ignored two telephone calls, a text message and three emails from Harold.  The last voicemail was particularly touching. “Jack, it is 3 PM and you haven’t returned any of my calls or replied to my emails. This is unacceptable. If I don’t hear from you in the next hour I am going to kill your column. Put some goddamn sunscreen on so you don’t get cancer and call me back immediately.”

Telephone in hand I started to dial and then I got distracted by a woman. No, it wasn’t a woman on the beach although there were plenty worth looking at. This time it was Sheri calling to check in on me.

“Have you called her yet?”

“No, I haven’t called her and I don’t think I will. She probably won’t take the call.”

“You are an idiot and she will take the call. Trust me, she will speak with you.”

“What makes you think that I even want to talk to her. Life is good now. What do I need her for?”

“Jack, you know that I love you, but you are an idiot. What do you have to lose?

“You called me an idiot twice. I heard you the first time. Why should I call her? Why doesn’t she call me?”

“Jack, you know that she is not going to call you. It doesn’t work that way. She is not going to risk it.”

“So, I should take the risk? What the fuck is that about? Why does she get to protect herself?”

“I thought that you didn’t feel anything for her.”

I could almost feel the smirk and the “I told you so” smile coming from her. “I can’t talk any longer, I am on deadline. I’ll call you later.”

I made a point to hang up before she could respond and gathered my things.  Between Harold and Sheri the beach just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. It was time to go home and start working.

Fifteen or so minutes later I dusted the sand off of my feet, grabbed a beer from the fridge and began typing on my computer:

“Technically I am not supposed to start a column by reminiscing about what it felt to have a pair of long legs wrapped around me. The public doesn’t want to hear or read my recollection of sexual conquests, not even if they were of the loving kind.

I am not supposed to tell you that I have been thinking about long dark hair that falls just past her shoulder or sensual dark eyes that you could get lost in. Nor am I supposed to tell you about the full lips and the perfect hips that came along with the legs, hair and eyes.

But you see I have been lost in the land of make believe and wishes so I am allowed to go there. Allowed to tell you that there once was a woman who I loved more deeply than all others and whose presence in my life has been marked for years by her absence.

The question that I find myself asking is whose reality is it anyway and why do I have to pay attention to rules that hurt my heart. Why can’t I indulge this fantasy and try to determine if I am chasing after fools gold or trying to catch a shooting star. I am inclined to say that I don’t have to worry about what society thinks because society is fickle. Society doesn’t give a damn what happens as long as it doesn’t happen to them.

But you see that when you live in the public eye you sometimes have to be more aware of what you do and who you do it with. I told you all before that I am not really comfortable being seen as a public figure. I didn’t get into this business for fame or fortune. I did it because I love to write. I did it because I can make words sing and that song is always on my mind.”

I wouldn’t define it as my best work but it wasn’t bad either. Most importantly I had enough of  a framework in hand to send over to Harold.  He might be a pain in my ass but he has a good nose for this business and I was confident that whatever advice he would offer there would be useful and practical.

Later that night I planned on calling Sheri back to ask for advice. I wanted a female perspective about an idea. I wanted to know what she thought of my using my column as a way to reach out to Ann Stacey.

Who She Was

Who she was is the title of a book that I never published. It is a series of essays, poems and thoughts about love, relationships and life. It is a collection of hope, happiness and despair.

I am not the first person to have his heart broken and I won’t be the last.  Fact is that she wasn’t the first woman to break my heart. That honor belongs to another but she does hold the title for doing the best job of it. She probably wouldn’t want to hear that I thought of her as the best and the worst thing to happen to me. Or maybe she would like hearing it, it is hard to say.

Hard to say because the woman who once was my girl hasn’t been mine for eternity. There was a time when we were best friends. There was a moment where we didn’t know where our individual hearts ended or began. That was when we said that we shared a heart and felt our souls succor each other It was back in the days when we would read about our astrological signs and marvel over how cool they were together.

Both earth signs share the ability to communicate and understand one another intuitively. Their conversations get better over time and so does the relationship. They will understand each others goals and hopes for the future. There is an unspoken bond here that once established, hardly ever gets broken. They will provide each other with what the other person instinctively needs and desires sexually. You can’t go wrong with this astrological combination, period. A strong attraction and loyalty will keep these two together. Relatives can sometimes be a problem for these two.  Virgos understand that listening to their Taurus can provide them the sort of answers that they cannot figure out on their own. The smart Virgo recognizes that Taurus mate knows how to reach them in ways that no other can. Focus on healing yourselves and each other and you will have a mate for life.

I am clearly biased but I think that excerpt is simply amazing. I suppose in large part it is because I knew these things about her and I long before I read this. But that was then and this is now. Back then I knew exactly who she was.

She had one of the biggest hearts and sweetest personalities of anyone I had ever met. Sweet, caring, nurturing and giving. But she was also tough. That woman knew her mind, knew what she wanted and would go after it.

One of the things that I remember is how we used to fight. We didn’t fight very often but we went at it hard. I never fought with anyone else like that because if I had we would have ended things. It was different with us because the level of trust made it different. That mutual understanding provided a depth and a strength unlike anything I had ever experienced.

Back then she told me that no one could ever take better care of me. I told her that she was right but I am not sure that she believed me. I told her that she was the most beautiful woman I knew but I don’t think that she let herself believe that either.

Sheri thinks that all of my praise might have made her uncomfortable and that she might have felt like she couldn’t live up to the picture I painted. I don’t know. Suppose it could be true.

The damn woman used to tell me that she was logical, rational and organized. I told her that one out of three wasn’t bad and that she had plenty of time to work on the other two.

Even though it has been years I am willing to bet that she is one of the mothers that makes other women jealous. She had the sort of build that would allow her to quickly drop the baby weight and an enormous amount of energy.

*****

It is funny to me to think about how our perspective changes as we age.  I can’t think of a time where we didn’t have exceptional chemistry. We never ran out of things to talk about and the physical side wasn’t any different. Except back in the day when I wasn’t ready to become a father I used to get a little crazy trying to balance the need to be with her against not bringing a third party into the equation.

And now, well now I am disappointed that we don’t have that third party. Now I wonder what our children would look like. It feels a bit ridiculous to admit that but it is true.

I suppose that it is even stranger to say it about someone who hasn’t been a part of my life in forever. We all change. I certainly am not who I was but am I really that different? Have I changed so dramatically that people from my past wouldn’t recognize me?

Or in this case I suppose it is better ask if the feelings I am rediscovering are for who she was and not for who she is.

Preserve your memories

The year was 1980 something and the lovely Anne Stacey had chosen to grace me with her presence. I had spent countless hours unsuccessfully wooing the womanCards, chocolate, flowers, and a barbershop quartet had all failed to do the trick but I couldn’t tell you why. All I knew was that the girl who had gone to prom with me had chosen to withdraw her favors and spend time with a man I dubbed the scoundrel. I once tried to tell her this and she suggested that my ill feelings towards him had to do with jealously. Now I won’t say that this is true but I admit to suggesting that if she hoped for more than simple companionship she might consider spending time at the produce market.

Apparently this is not advisable nor is suggesting that he would probably die in robbing a drug store for used condoms. Don’t ask me to explain why I said these things or what they mean because I won’t answer nor will I admit to wanting to defenestrate him. Women make men crazy and love just exacerbates the craziness we feel.

Weeks of rejection turned into months but I refused to give up. I can’t explain why other than to say that every time I saw her I heard music and it made me believe that one day she would dance with me again.

One day I sent her a card with some of the lyrics to Get Down Tonight by K.C. & The Sunshine Band.

“Baby, babe, let’s get together.
Honey, hon, me and you.
And do the things, ah, do the things
That we like to do.

Do a little dance, make a little love,
Get down tonight.
Do a little dance,
make a little love,
Get down tonight.”

P.S. Come over and find out if I really am a better cook than you are. I’ll make it worth your while.

I had been rejected so many times that I was beginning to wonder if maybe I was swimming down the river of denial but was pleasantly surprised to receive a telephone call from her asking why she should come. Needless to say I was nervous because I knew that the wrong words would result in another no. Yet something told me that it was time to be bold so I told her that I was going to pick her up at 10 am so that we could go to the farm to pick fresh fruits and vegetables for dinner. Two days later she walked out of her apartment and into my car.

For a few moments we drove in silence and listened to a mix tape that I had made for the occasion. Good old cassette tape technology, a soft hissing noise in the background accompanied us on our ride. The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker and Springsteen serenaded us.

A short time later we arrived at the farm and began picking out the items we wanted for our meal. She made a crack about me making her work for her food and I said that remained to be seen. Every time she bent over to pick something up my eyes were drawn to her. I was completely entranced by her- not just because I thought that she was beautiful but because she was so very smart. I attribute my love for carrots to that day. Somewhere I have a picture of her holding one close to her mouth, pretending to be Bugs Bunny.

And had anyone heard the music that played inside my head at the moment they would have heard Bookends.

“Time it was, and what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence, a time of confidences
Long ago, it must be, I have a photograph
Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you”

I can’t tell you when I fell for her or when she fell for me. Don’t know what did it, how, when or why and I am not sure that it matters. Scratch that, it will matter to her. Call me a full blown chauvinist but she is female and she’ll care about that for the same reason that women care about how big a baby was. It is one of those mysteries of the sexes. Men want to know if the baby was healthy and what their name is but that is not enough for women.

Oh no, they want to know all sorts of other details and if you don’t provide them you might get a look or hear an exasperated “men” slip from between their lips. I suppose that if I had actually given birth I might have some more interest in the extraneous details but since that is not going to happen we won’t know. But for the sake of argument you can be assured that if men were capable of giving birth we’d get through it with half the screaming and far less mess.

Hee hee. That is the sort of throwaway line that we troublemakers like to let slip. I have yet to find a mother who let’s that go without a retort. Suggest that labor is easy or overblow and you can rest assured that a nice kerfuffle will develop. Push hard enough and some woman will tell you that your words are the reason that you aren’t getting laid.

As a PSA to men I usually suggest that you always smile and laugh at that remark. Do this two or three times and then when she is really steamed tell her that your wife/girlfriend/paramour/escort refuses to spit because they consider your boys to be a rare delicacy. Incidentally I bear no responsibility for the consequences of speaking those words out loud.

And now back to our trip back to the time when I had a full head of hair and a body that was tan, hard and cut.

“Jack, you are a much better cook than I expected.”

“That’s good because you are a much better eater than I expected.”

As the words spilled out of my mouth I suddenly realized that they might be open to misinterpretation and my brain kicked into overdrive. Looking back now it is easy for me to see that I was already crazy about her. I don’t say that because of what I said but because of the moment of fear I had when I realized that she might not take it well.

“Ya know, calling a woman fat isn’t the best way to get what you want.”

She was smiling when she said it but for a moment I wondered if there was something else behind it. Smarter men than I would have played it safe but I gambled.

“Stand up and let me get another look at you and I’ll you know.” She laughed, “you are pretty confident, aren’t you.”

“Come over here and I’ll show you how confident I am.”

She stood up and walked over and suddenly my heart started beating harder than it had been. I pulled her into my arms and kissed her. Technically it wasn’t our first kiss, that had come in the stacks but that had been quite some time before.  That moment in the stacks had been good. Hell it had been better than good but it didn’t go very far. Time and circumstances had seen to that.

Several people showed up midway through our moment and any hope I had of taking things farther there was spoiled by their intrusion. The chemistry between us was electric and I know that she felt it too because she made a point to remind to me to call her. I can still picture the way she held onto my arm and told me that she would be disappointed if I disappeared like most guys did.

I told her that I had no intention and she smiled. “There is a lot that I want to show you.” I asked her what that meant and then she laughed and told me she was late for class. This time I didn’t hide the fact that I was staring at her but it didn’t matter because those long legs carried her out of there in seconds.

And I did call her- several times. She took all of my calls and we talked…a lot. But the timing was bad. I had to go to my cousin’s wedding. Had it not been family and already paid for I might have skipped it. Instead I spent two weeks on a family vacation and she didn’t wait for me. I can’t blame her or say that she was wrong.

We weren’t anything close to being boyfriend/girlfriend but I think that I knew then that I had found someone special.

The problem was that while I was gone she found someone too…but he wasn’t me.

Not Me

Not me is a good description for most if not all of the men she dated and to the best of my knowledge…married. They weren’t anything like me. They didn’t look like me at all. If I told you they were mostly tall Aryan nation wannabes I’d be called bitter and jealous or at least that is what she said.  She told me that it wasn’t very becoming to describe them as stupid rednecks or junkies who were one fix short of getting toe tagged.

I told her that it was the ‘coming’ that bothered me most and that I would have been happier had that not been involved at all.  Blame that on the joys of being a writer.

One of the reasons that I am good at this is because I have an imagination that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If Stephen Spielberg could make the movies I see in my mind he would sweep the Oscars and his movies would make millions. Ok, let’s adjust that and say that they would be impossible to forget and make billions.

Hell, the problem is that when you tell me something I see it in my head. And even if you don’t tell me I still see things in my head, sometimes even when I don’t want to. So if I know that Joe Blow used to date you I can’t help but picture Joe getting his blow and….well I don’t really need to go further. But since I never leave well enough alone let me go the rest of the way.

If I know that you were sleeping with some guy it is hard for me not to picture it so sometimes I compensate by making fun of him. I said sometimes, not all the time. If I really care about you there is a good chance that I might say that he is a buffoon in need of a more complete circumcision.

I never pretended to be a saint nor did I ever claim to always take the high ground. I am trying though.

The Pammer

Her full name was Pamela Susan Scott but to me she is The Pammer. Once upon a time she was Wham Bam, Thank you Pam but when we broke up I lost the right to say that. Ok, I never did have the right to say it but when we were dating she was barely tolerant of it.  The Pammer isn’t especially fond of my nickname for her but she doesn’t like it when I call her Pamela Sue either so she got stuck  with The Pammer.

I adore her the way a brother loves a sister.

We met not long after things fell apart between Anne Stacey and I. It was 19 ninety-something and I was out with the boys. Tommy said that a friend of his was having a party and we all agreed to make an appearance. It was better than staying home alone and cheaper than hitting the bars on the strip. Not that it mattered, by the time we hit the car I had already finished a six pack of beer and was working on a flask of something that tasted cheap and nasty.

Can’t tell you if it took an hour or five minutes to get to the party. For all I know I magically levitated myself from the curb all the way to the third floor apartment where the party was. The good news was that I was a very happy drunk. The bad news was that it wasn’t going to last. It wouldn’t take very long for me to find a quiet corner where I could sit and drink.

That was where The Pammer found me, drunk and grumpy.

“This is a party. You are not supposed to be the drunk guy in the corner.”
“I am not the drunk guy in the corner. I am the drunk, angry guy who hates women that just happens to be sitting in the corner.”

Apparently this was quite funny as she started laughing at me.

“I am not kidding. I hate women. Women suck and life would be a lot better if they all disappeared.”
“Who would iron your shirts and cook your food, oh mighty man.”

If you ask Pam how we met she’ll tell you that right after she said that my jaw fell open and I spent the next few minutes shocked and dumbfounded. I don’t know if I was shocked or dumbfounded but speechless is accurate. I didn’t know how to respond. She didn’t say it with a smile or a hint of sarcasm. There wasn’t any anger or bitterness on her part and that totally disarmed me.

We spent most of the rest of the party just talking about life. Pam would periodically disappear and I’d sit there in the corner watching people laugh, wondering why it was so easy for them to smile. I didn’t find out until almost 3 AM was that it was Pam’s apartment and her party that we were at.

“Here is a blanket. That couch turns into a bed. I can help you open it if you would like.”
“No, that is ok. Tommy will take me home. I just have to find him.”

“No he won’t. Tommy left a long time ago.”

This is where I always tell Pam that she has no judgment and only an idiot would let a strange drunk man sleep in her apartment.  That is when she laughs and tells me that the strange drunk man spent two hours passed out and snoring in the corner.

‘Tommy and I grew up together. If he said that you were ok  than I knew that I was fine. Besides I had a lock on my door.”

The combination of drunk and stupid did me the kindness of not showing up at that moment. Instead I collapsed on the couch and quietly went to sleep. That is my story and I am sticking to it. Pam disputes that. She claims that I passed out and started snoring so loudly she considered smothering me with one of the cushions.

I woke up the next morning with the kind of hangover that made me sorry that she hadn’t used the pillow on me. I remember wondering if it would hurt less if I used an icepick to stab my left eyeball.

“I have an icepack, water and Tylenol for you.” I couldn’t tell you when Pam arrived at the foot of the couch but I can assure you that when I proclaimed my undying love for her I meant it will all my heart. If a Jewish kid could bestow sainthood upon someone it would have been done that day. Not only did she let me spend the night she let me lie on that couch until almost 5 PM the following day.

“You owe me dinner and are going to be my rent-a-boyfriend for this.” I asked her what a “rent-a-boyfriend” was and learned that she was moving to a new place. It was a different apartment about two miles East of the current one. That party had been the last shindig at the old place. As the “rent-a-boyfriend” I was responsible for grabbing another friend so that we could move all the heavy stuff.

Two weeks after the move I called her on a Thursday and asked if she wanted to rent a movie. She said sure and that lead to another night on her couch, except the morning after was far more pleasant. We really didn’t date for very long. I can’t tell you how long it was for, but Pam can. Part of the reason she broke up with me was because she said that I was never really that into it.

She was right, I wasn’t. It wasn’t anything more than a rebound for me and not much of one at that. I don’t think that I would have predicted that we would become friends afterwards but you can’t get everything right.

Anyway, The Pammer and Sheri are both good friends of mine and most of the time I am grateful to have them in my life. They often disagree about things but I tend to think that they balance each other out.

What Pam Said

Pam didn’t say much at lunch. She told me later that she went because Sheri had pushed her to come along but that she wasn’t sure that telling me about Ann was the right thing to do. I asked her why and she said it we because she believed that I had never stopped loving her.  She said that she thought that my heart was still broken and that I had been in denial about it all for years.

I told her that I was confused about what she was saying. If she thought that I was still in love with Ann then why shouldn’t I try to contact her. She told me that she wanted to be certain that I wasn’t chasing ghosts. “You need to be moving forwards, not back.”

“You live much of your life in public. Do you really think that she hasn’t ever read your column or one of your books. I am telling you that she knows far more about you than you do about her. You have to assume that she reads your work on a regular basis.”

“Ok, so you are saying that because she reads my column she is not interested in me? Why is that a problem and what are you suggesting I do?”

“Jack, as a woman I am telling you that she has probably already decided if she is interested in sleeping with you again. Women think things out. We plan. We take time to think about what we are going to do. I don’t know how long she has been single but you need to assume that she is going to want to have time to go have fun.”

“Does that mean that you think that she has decided that she is not going to sleep with me and that I am no fun.  Or am I fun but not enough to sleep with. What hell are you saying? I am confused.”

“You two have a long history and sometimes that complicates things. I don’t know her, I just know about her, and you. I am saying that she may not see you as someone she can just date. She can go out with other men and not care what happens, she can’t do that with you.”

There was a long pause in the conversation and then I sighed.

“Jack, that sigh says so much more than you realize. You were a mess when we met. Maybe you don’t remember or maybe you weren’t aware of it, but you were a mess. I didn’t date you. I dated you and the memories of her that you carried around with you.”

“I remember asking Tommy about Ann. He told me about how hard you tried to get her back and about how she pushed you away. She wasn’t a bitch to you because she is a bitch but because her heart was broken too.”

I sighed again and said, “I know.”

“I still don’t know what you are telling me to do.”

“Jack, it doesn’t really matter what  I say you are going to do what you want because that is who you are. But what I am saying is that you need to open your eyes and be careful here.”

“Ok, I’ll be careful.”

“And if you still have feelings for her then I am saying that maybe you should consider doing something about it. We only have so many chances. If she really believed that you were the love of her life, well maybe she still does.”

“Pam, should I thank you now or late for contradicting yourself.”

“What can I say, I am a girl and we love romance.”

******

There were/are many things that I am not certain of but I never doubted that Ann was hurt or that it wasn’t hard for her too. The woman thought of herself as being logical and quite rational in her decisions. If you told me that she had made a list of pros and cons about our relationship I would nod my head and smile. I don’t know that she did, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Pam’s words echoed in my head. Did Ann really believe that I was the love of her life and if so, did it mean anything to her now. The more I thought about it the more that I decided that I was truly interested in doing something. I did have feelings for Ann but I couldn’t say exactly what they were. Maybe it was because I felt like we never really got the opportunity we wanted and as a result had unfinished business.

I wondered what she was like as a mother and what her children were like. I remembered talking with her about what we would name our children. There had been a time when we had talked about having six kids. It was right after we thought she was pregnant.

One broken condom had led to hours of conversation about children and an unspoken decision that we would have the baby. I remember feeling surprised by how relaxed I was at the thought of becoming a father.  I had gone through one other pregnancy scare with a different woman and my feelings had been very different then. It wasn’t just because I was young but it was also because I couldn’t see myself with that woman.

I never had a problem visualizing a future with Ann. It was something that we came to expect. She told me once until we met she hadn’t believed in soul mates, but now she did.

I touched it upon it in one of my books, wrote about what it was like for two people who shared something like that to be separated from each other.

Two Souls

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.

Today

I am not the first person to have his heart broken and I won’t be the last. Fact is that she wasn’t the first woman to break my heart. That honor belongs to another but she does hold the title for doing the best job of it. She probably wouldn’t want to hear that I thought of her as the best and the worst thing to happen to me. Or maybe she would like hearing it, it is hard to say.

Hard to say because the woman who once was my girl hasn’t been mine for eternity. There was a time when we were best friends. There was a moment where we didn’t know where our individual hearts ended or began. That was when we said that we shared a heart and felt our souls succor each other It was back in the days when we would read about our astrological signs and marvel over how cool they were together.

Both earth signs share the ability to communicate and understand one another intuitively. Their conversations get better over time and so does the relationship. They will understand each others goals and hopes for the future. There is an unspoken bond here that once established, hardly ever gets broken. They will provide each other with what the other person instinctively needs and desires sexually. You can’t go wrong with this astrological combination, period. A strong attraction and loyalty will keep these two together. Relatives can sometimes be a problem for these two. Virgos understand that listening to their Taurus can provide them the sort of answers that they cannot figure out on their own. The smart Virgo recognizes that Taurus mate knows how to reach them in ways that no other can. Focus on healing yourselves and each other and you will have a mate for life.

I am clearly biased but I think that excerpt is simply amazing. I suppose in large part it is because I knew these things about her and I long before I read this. But that was then and this is now. Back then I knew exactly who she was.

She had one of the biggest hearts and sweetest personalities of anyone I had ever met. Sweet, caring, nurturing and giving. But she was also tough. That woman knew her mind, knew what she wanted and would go after it.

One of the things that I remember is how we used to fight. We didn’t fight very often but we went at it hard. I never fought with anyone else like that because if I had we would have ended things. It was different with us because the level of trust made it different. That mutual understanding provided a depth and a strength unlike anything I had ever experienced.

Back then she told me that no one could ever take better care of me. I told her that she was right but I am not sure that she believed me. I told her that she was the most beautiful woman I knew but I don’t think that she let herself believe that either.

Sheri thinks that all of my praise might have made her uncomfortable and that she might have felt like she couldn’t live up to the picture I painted. I don’t know. Suppose it could be true.

The damn woman used to tell me that she was logical, rational and organized. I told her that one out of three wasn’t bad and that she had plenty of time to work on the other two.

Even though it has been years I am willing to bet that she is one of the mothers that makes other women jealous. She had the sort of build that would allow her to quickly drop the baby weight and an enormous amount of energy.

A Writer Writes

A writer writes because we can’t contain the words and thoughts inside our heads and hearts.  A writer writes to share the stories that they see and feel. A writer writes because when they are happy, hurt confused or somewhere in between they look for the words to sing their song and soothe their souls.

Hurt, happy and confused is as good a description as any for the feelings that are flowing through me now. You don’t forget what we had. You can’t ignore or deny the truth of it and the way that it can transform your heart. That is not an exaggeration or melodrama it is an incomplete description of a story that isn’t told with words or with images. There is much more depth than that.

But since I can’t figure out what I am trying to do or say I have to do what writers do and that is write.

I don’t know what it is about you that closes and opens, only something in me understands the voice in your eyes is deeper than all roses- E.E. Cummings.

“For I dipped into the future, far as human eye could see, Saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be” Alfred Tennyson

“There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect.” ~ G.K. Chesterton

Some nights I find myself wandering beneath a moonlit sky watching and waiting for a sign that I don’t really expect to come but wish for with the greatest of desires. I often stop and stare into the night sky and remember what it was like to stare into your eyes.

I didn’t tell you what I saw in them, about how they twinkled and glowed. I didn’t say the things that I thought because I could see you already knew them. You, the song of my heart already knew these things because you were my air as I was yours.

It seemed gratuitous to try and put into words the secret language our hearts spoke. Better to sit in silence holding your hand and sharing a moment. I treasured those moments of silence in which we would listen to each other breathe and bask in our presence together.

A story of two souls who laid themselves bare for each other. Two who became as one and in the darkness created light. I sit here writing this with the knowledge that some will call it hyperbole and romantic drivel. They have never experienced the sort of intimacy and oneness that we have and consequently haven’t the faculty to follow. It is beyond their ken.

This is ok. I don’t write for them and care not one whit whether they follow. I write for you and for I. You are my lost soul mate and your absence is always evident. Sometimes when I think of you I think of Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca and wonder if one day you’ll reappear as she did.
But if you did reappear I can’t say that I’d send you off like Rick did. I don’t really know what I’d do.  I have often wondered if Rick really meant those things he said. You know what I am talking about,

Ilsa: But what about us?
Rick: We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t have, we, we lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.
Ilsa: When I said I would never leave you.
Rick: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.

It is a movie, not reality so it is hard to say. Still, I wonder. Did he really mean all those things. I sometimes think that he was just protecting a heart that was still broken. You don’t say something like this and just forget about it. Or maybe he found that special something that allowed him to move on. That is part of the beauty of a movie, it is open to interpretation.

As for me, well I am in a different sort of place. Not really sure how to describe other than to say that all my options are open. I feel as if I have taken the first step on a journey to somewhere else. Can’t say for certain if these are the first steps to the time and place in which the reunion of lost soul mates will take place or if it is something else.

What I do know is that part of the joy of life is the journey and the mysteries that lie therein. So perhaps one day we will find ourselves staring into those eyes again. And if we do I am sure that it will be familiar and mysterious. There will always be that electricity when we brush up against each other here or elsewhere.

I’ll leave it at that knowing that you’re smiling as am I. The future beckons and I must answer.

I stared at the words, unsure and uncertain about how I felt and decided that it was time to ignore the self editor that lives inside and continue to write so I put pen to paper and wrote more words.

Blame it on too much television or a love that is overpowering, but I always wanted to be your hero. And for a while, I was certainly him. I was your knight protector, the man who wore the white hat. Always willing and able to protect your honor and to fight on your behalf. It was a role that I took on unexpectedly but with no hesitation.

No hesitation because I loved it, or maybe because I loved you. It was natural and effortless. I remember walking with you. I lumber and you float but we did so together. Our strides and pace perfectly matched. It opened our eyes to new possibilities and we saw what had once been old as new. Long conversations about life, love and dreams turned into passion foretold by poets.

“Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!”
Wild Nights-Emily Dickinson

There are tales that could be told and songs that should be written. It matters not that there are but two people who would understand or appreciate them. Such is the way of love and lovers. We walk upon clouds that sometimes evaporate beneath our feet. Sometimes fortune smiles upon us and our falls are broken by wings that sprout from nothing.

And sometimes fickle fortune fails to answer the calls that we send forth and we find ourselves plummeting back towards earth at a frightful rate. Perhaps it was that fall that caused us to forget who we were and to ignore who we are. I did my best to catch you so that I could break your fall. I tried to ensure that I hit the ground first so that I might try to save you.

But sometimes the hero fails. Sometimes the capes we wear bestow no power other than to serve as a silly looking fashion accessory.

“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- Brad Paisley with Allison Krauss

So I stood there and surveyed the wall that had suddenly been erected between us. I took its measure and considered going over, under, through or around. For some time it felt like the hero was bound to fail again.Super strength wasn’t enough to remove the obstacle nor was super speed. It was a conundrum of the first order and something that accentuated the ache and the hole in his heart.

And then one day the hero remembered that sometimes the best way to tear down the wall is not through demolition but conversion. Build a door or build a window and what was once a wall evolves into an entryway that can be used as a path into a future of bright and sunny opportunities.

New Year’s Eve

It is funny how little moments in time stick with us. Don’t know if it was five, six, seven or nine years ago when I realized that my marriage had an expiration sticker on it but I do know that it was New Year’s Eve.

I am not a big holiday guy but New Year’s Eve holds a big more significance for me than some of the other days of the year.

Kind of funny to look around my apartment and think about how different life is now from what I once thought it would be. There were other apartments in those days that didn’t have pictures of my kids floating around because there weren’t any…kids then.

The beauty of hindsight is that you can use it to look back at those little moments in time and mark them with a mental note that says “I was an idiot.” That is the sort of thing I always advise my children not to do, but I sometimes do anyway.

File it under “Do as I say, not as I do” or however that stupid saying goes.

Both Pam and Sheri called this week to extend invitations to the parties that they are going to but I declined. Not really interested in being social this year. The kids are out doing their thing and I’d much prefer to be home alone where it is quiet.

Of course right after I thanked Pam for the invitation I stumbled across a box of old letters and notepads and found the first draft of a letter I wrote Ann. It was sort of a bittersweet find. To tell you the truth, if I were more superstitious I might think that the universe was trying to send me a message.

Coincidence is really what I chalk it up to. Ever since that lunch with the girls I have stumbled across things that make me think of her or remind me of things that we used to do. Since she has been on my mind it makes sense that this has happened, right.

I have to admit that I wonder about what Pam said. Has she been reading my column? Has she read my books? Does she see herself in any of the characters or recognize any of the references?

Twice. I have read the draft below twice now. I wonder if she still remembers that night and all that came afterwards.

Dear Ann,

It is almost New Year’s Eve and I can’t wait to see you in that long black dress you showed me last week. Every time I think about you in it I feel like my heart is going to burst. I know that sounds like some kind of stupid line but it is true.

I think that you are simply stunning so you will have to forgive me when I pull you into the bathroom at the party because I can’t possibly wait until we get home. Every time I look at you I wonder how I got so lucky. You are the sexiest woman I know and so very smart. Hmm…maybe I should reverse that and call you smart and sexy. Wouldn’t want you to think that the only reason I say these things is to get inside your pants.

Because that is not true. There is so much more to you and I than that. I am not real good at sharing my feelings. I mask them with stupid jokes and comments. You are wrong, I am not afraid of commitment and especially not with you. But sometimes I am slow to move because I am cautious.

Remember how you told me that you would never be the first person to say I love you? Well, this has sort of been similar for me. I do want to marry you. I do want to share a life with you because I can’t imagine life without you in it. It is not because I can’t live a life without you because I can, just as you can without me.

But why would we do that. Why would two people who have what we have ever walk away from it. When I told you to take my hand and said that together we could do whatever we wanted I meant it. We can.

Remember how scared we were that you were pregnant and how we weren’t ready to be parents. We were both so relieved when we found out that you weren’t but I was also a little bit sad. At the same time I sort of shrugged my shoulders because we are young and I figured that there would be other chances.  It is easy for me to picture us when we are old people in our forties or fifties with a houseful of children.

And no, this isn’t a proposal. I am not asking for your hand in marriage. If I did do that I would do it in person. More importantly I don’t want you to know when it is coming. You are a planner and I am not. It is part of how we balance each other. I don’t want you to know because I want you to really be surprised.

I am sorry about what happened. I am sorry about our fight. I wasn’t kidding. I am the guy who will kiss the tears away. I am the guy who can be your best friend and your lover. Together we are more than we are when we are apart. If something ever happened to us I would never forget and I don’t believe that you would either. Decades could pass and I would still love you.

One day I want to make the grandchildren groan because grandpa chases grandma around the house. But first I want to kiss my girl at midnight. First I want to hold my girl and dance with her because she is the song of my heart and always will be.

Will you give me another chance?

Love,

Jack

Timing is Everything

It is fair to say that I am the fellow that prefers to learn by doing than by being told. I understand that the stove is hot and that the pot can burn me but sometimes I can’t help myself and I need to touch the pot.  A smarter man wouldn’t have gone digging around in that box to read more notes and letters.

That draft should have been enough for me. I should have read it and remembered that we didn’t break up. Should have read it and remembered that my girl cried when she read my note and told me that we are inextricably linked forever. I don’t doubt that she meant it but there was that other moment and well…

Stumbled across another letter I wrote after we split. I started out sort of writing to her but it ended up being more of a letter to me.

“Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my engines
Together we could break this trap
Well run till we drop, baby well never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire
`cause baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta find out how it feels
I want to know if love is wild, girl I want to know if love is real”
Born To Run- Bruce Springsteen

“Show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream” she said
“The one that makes me laugh” she said
And threw her arms around my neck
“Show me how you do it
And I promise you I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you”
Just Like Heaven- The Cure

If you close your eyes and listen carefully you can hear the soft clink-clank of metal against metal. You’re so focused upon your task it is hard to say how long the rhythmic banging has been going on. You’re name is Johnny and you’re lifting weights in your garage. It is well after midnight and you can’t sleep.

You don’t feel much like talking to anyone and even if you did you’re friends are all asleep. It is a work night so you don’t really want to have a drink.Or maybe that is because you suspect that it won’t just be one drink and you’d rather not finish that six pack. Besides you don’t really want to drink alone.

So you decide that you are going to take your nervous energy and make use of it. You strap on your iPod and head outside to exercise because you know that you always feel better afterwards. And besides it will help clear your head.

Alone in the garage you start your workout and try not to focus on June. Been forever since she was a part of your life. But some days you can’t help but wonder what could have been. Sometimes timing is a bitch and that has you shaking your head. It seems more than a little unfair that circumstances could be the reason that a relationship doesn’t work.

As you focus on your form you can’t help but smile wistfully as you think about how unexpected it was to find June. Neither one of you could have ever predicted it. You grew up in different places and in different worlds. She used to tell you that she would never forgive you for not finding her earlier. You’d laugh and tell her that you could say the same thing.

Time would pass and you’d confess that you had never been more in love with anyone or more scared. This was the kind of thing that only happened in books and movies and that made you drag your feet. She’d tell you the same thing. And in no time you would forge a bond that was deeper and more powerful than any either one of you had known or experienced.

But life is not a book or a movie and things would happen. The world outside the one you shared would come to exert its influence upon you. The timing was off and no matter what you did you couldn’t fight it. You tried. You did what you could and when it wasn’t good enough you beat yourself up and wondered how it fell apart.

So sometimes late at night you’d wander outside and stare at the moon. Looking up at that giant white orb you’d sometimes smile and wonder if June was doing it too. Other times you’d stare at it and feel like howling in frustration and you’d wonder again if she felt like that too.

There would be good days and bad days. Moments when you were determined to walk away. You’d tell yourself that it didn’t matter why it ended or who was at fault or what. All that mattered was moving on with your life. But in the silent recesses of your heart you’d never completely let go.

The bond that you had forged was too strong and too deep. And once you acknowledged this truth of your heart you began to feel better. Once you accepted that you would always love June you were able to start living again. It wasn’t exactly what you wanted, but it was a start.

Because the truth was that your heart told you that June was still out there and that the end to this story had yet to be written. The promises you made were still valid. The love you shared still lived. And maybe, just maybe there might be chance to pick things up somewhere down the road.

And then you took off your watch and stuffed it in a drawer because the last thing you wanted to be reminded of was timing.

What Came Next

I suppose that it is fair to say that I think she was right about us being inextricably linked. That is not based solely on my own wants or desires but her actions too.  She didn’t end things with me because she didn’t love me or because she didn’t want me. She told me that both of those things were still true but that we couldn’t be together.

When I try to think back on that time I do my best to be as objective as I can be. I try to be critical. I try to look at it and see what happened and understand how it unraveled. It is hard because when you are involved you are never completely objective about it. Ask her and she’ll tell you that people like to rewrite history or so she once told me or maybe accused me. Hard to say which happened other than I would say that we are all subject to doing it.

It reminds me of a class I took in college about communication and how our experiences serve as filters that help us define and interpret things. You and I might watch the same movie or read the same book but have different feelings about how good it was solely because of what happened to us in our past. That might not sound particularly profound but it is real and it does have a profound impact upon our lives.

What I know for certain is that she did all that she could to push me away and I let her. At first I let her because I didn’t believe it would last. We had been the couple that could be stranded on a desert island and never get tired of each other. We were best friends and lovers who in my mind had gotten into a jam primarily because of external influences.

The thing was that I didn’t recognize that she had reached a place where she didn’t think we could work it out together or maybe she didn’t believe that I would or could work out my end. So she left.

I got angry and forced myself to walk the other direction. For a long time I managed to do so without looking back. Each day I would tell myself that all I needed to do was get through the day without contact and that if I did so it would get easier.

And it did get easier…sort of.

I say sort of because in time I forgot about strength of the bond and found ways to convince myself that there were other women out there who could do what she did. Fact was that she and I had talked about it. We had talked about whether we believed in soul mates and whether we were. We agreed that we were soul mates but thought that there had to be more than one per person.

Logic dictated that there had to be. In a world of billions of people there had to be more than one. When things were good between us I figured that there was no need to search for the others. And even when they were bad I didn’t go looking. Actually that is because I stopped believing in them, but that is a different story.

From time to time I thought about her. Even though I made a conscious effort not to think about her it was impossible not to. It was like that song, there was always something to remind me but pride kept me from trying to do something about it.

Eventually that changed but so had other things.

Irony

Irony is what happens when you look in the mirror and realize that your attempt to protect yourself is the primary cause of your greatest fear coming to life.

It is like carrying a gun to protect your family only to have it used to kill them. And the best part of it is that the pain caused by your guilt never does go away.

That is because the worst prison that man has ever devised is the one that we carry inside our heads. Our imaginations can be the greatest tool that we ever have access to and the most painful. Thoughts, feelings and ideas that you would never share with your closest friend have free run of the place.

So you do what you can to get through the day and make excuses for the day dreaming and far off look in your eyes. You can’t quite explain what you are feeling or why.

And the truth is that sometimes it doesn’t matter how or why you feel a certain way because it wouldn’t change a thing. There aren’t any pills that you can take to dull the pain or take the edge off. It is just a long hike that you have to endure because the only way to get beyond it all is to simply get through it.

If you are lucky you know from past experience that the place you are in isn’t going to turn int your permanent residence. It is just a long term rental that you are forced to occupy. So you grit your teeth and go through the motions knowing that each day you get a little bit closer to seeing daylight.

Eventually you learn to laugh and smile again- sunshine on your shoulders makes you happy. There will be a few hard moments where it seems like you have slipped back into the dark places you were once in. But even those moments feel like an eternity retrospect makes it clear that they weren’t.

The final and most important step of it all is to forgive yourself. If you can do that and accept the apology you gave to others as being good enough for you, well than you are home free.

But until you do you have to accept the irony of your situation. You are in hell because sometimes good intentions don’t turn out the way that you wish they would.

Deadlines

Did I mention that I have learned to love the vibrate mode on my phone. It is a lot less intrusive and irritating than the beeps and whistles that many of them have.  I don’t know if Harold knows that I intentionally don’t respond to the first few texts from him or if he is just really aggressive in trying to reach me but I blame him for my distaste for the noise that comes along with his text.

Sometimes I miss the days when I didn’t have an electronic leash called a cellphone. There is a loss of freedom that comes with the ability to take your calls, conversations and email wherever you go. And were I in a different frame of mind I would probably write something about it.  The good news for me is that electronic devices aren’t going away and there will always be an opportunity to write about the gains and or losses that technology brings us.

But now isn’t that time for me. I like write about the things that allow me to pour passion, personality and a point into my words. Friends and long time readers might beg to differ about whether there is a point or not and I might even agree with them but that is just because brevity and I are often at odds.  I am a writer and I love my words, sometimes too much.

That is why editors are necessary and why I love Harold. He does a really nice job of cutting out of the extra and unneeded material in my columns. I appreciate his ability to do it without destroying the piece. He lets the reader hear my voice and that is a skill that not every editor has.

“Jack, I like the idea of doing a series of posts on lost love from the male perspective.”

For a moment I stared at the phone and tried to come up with a sarcastic response but I had nothing so I wrote back, “me too.” A moment later he asked me to send over a draft of the first column.  This is part of why I really like Harold. We have been working together long enough that he knows that my pitches often come after I have already got a draft in hand.

It is a habit that I got into early in my career but only because I was forced to do it. At the time I hated doing it and saw it as a waste. It used to drive me nuts to submit something and then have it taken apart and restructured in a way that didn’t resemble the original. That happened not just because of bad editing but poor communication on my part too.

I would send something over that was very broad with the idea because I thought it would make life easier for me. It didn’t and neither did the editors who chose to tell me what to do because I was a young writer and their idea of teaching was “do this and don’t ask questions.”

Anyway, those days are gone now but I do find some things in common with the way things were. I am back in an apartment and keeping hours that would make a vampire happy.

Here is the draft I am sending over to Harold. I haven’t decided where I think this should fit in the series that we are working on but I think that it allows for positioning in multiple places.

I Once Had A Girl

“I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me.” Norwegian Wood- The Beatles

Though I know better I can no longer remember a time when you weren’t a part of me. Those days are gone forever. Now I know what it is like to have been loved by an angel and to have loved her in return. I know what it means to love someone with a depth and fierceness to it that exceeds description and defies expectations.

You weren’t the first woman that I had loved. There were others. I had drunk from that particular cup and swallowed deeply from the draughts I was given. And I knew what heartbreak was. I knew what it meant to have loved and lost. So I thought that I was protected by life experience. I thought if I ever lost you that my knowledge and experience would be enough to get me through.

And then I learned that I really knew nothing about any of it. I learned that though I had been in love it had never been so pure, so raw and so honest. I learned that nothing I knew mattered because you shattered my expectations on every level. You were like the perfect storm that blew in and surrounded my ship.

For a long while I sailed nestled in your bosom in the eye of the storm, safe from the madness. Though I could sometimes hear the howling of the wind and the roar of the waves I was protected from all of it. I lay there in your embrace and marveled over your imperfect perfection. In my eyes you were simply magnificent.

But in arrogance and stupidity I somehow lost you and was tossed right into the heart of the storm. A storm that I am still sailing through. Every day is a battle to keep the ship from being thrown into the rocks. And there have been more than a few moments in which I wondered why I couldn’t just let go.

It seemed so simple. Let go of the wheel and let the sea take me. Let the elements have me and if that meant being dashed against the rocks, well so be it. But that isn’t who I am. That is not what I am about. I endure and I sustain. And I suspect that you have always known that about me.

Known that you could throw me in the fire and I would dance in the flames. Known that no matter what challenges were presented I would go after them with a passion. Can’t help that. In part it is who I am and in part it is because even now you still inspire me. Even now I want to be your hero. And that drives me to reach down deep and find the places where strength that I didn’t know I had exists.

I do it because of who I am and who I hope we can be. Because yes, I see you standing there in the distance. I hear you say goodbye but you don’t mean it. I read between the lines and see the truth of your heart and I recognize the S.O.S. it sends to mine.

There is no disguising that. No way to ignore or pretend that it doesn’t exist. The connection is too deep and too strong to be broken this way. And really, would you expect me to pretend that it was just a dream. Would you really feel better if I shrugged my shoulders and accepted that all we got was a few minutes in Eden.

This I cannot accept nor can I do. I may be a fool, but whether you know it or not I am your fool. And I will storm the gates time and again. I will fling myself into the breach until I die from exhaustion or am convinced that there truly is no hope.

For I promised you all of this and more. I swore a vow that I cannot ignore and sealed it with a kiss that I cannot forget. So I call on the demons and the devil himself to remove themselves from my path. I give notice to all who would challenge me. At the end of the day I will be the sole being standing on this road.

Call that hyperbole or melodrama if you wish but this is how it shall be. I shall do my penance and serve my time.

There are a number of issues with it such as the fact that it very clearly is my voice speaking about a situation that only a few people know about. That is something that could confuse the reader which typically is not considered to be a smart thing for a writer to do.

Dancing Didn’t Make Him Charming

While I waited for Harold to confirm receipt of my draft I started pulling more things out of the box and came across a column I wrote in college. It is a true story about the night I took two women out dancing.

The dance floor is packed

You won’t ever mistake me for Baryshnikov. Grace and I are distant cousins who get along on a basic level, but can’t seem to get beyond that. I didn’t want to go to the bar because I don’t dance. That is not entirely true- I am comfortable “slow dancing.”

Got enough grace and rhythm not to step on her feet but speed it up and I worry about looking like I am having a seizure. Given the choice I wouldn’t have gone tonight, but the girls have pushed me.

The two of them swear that I won’t be uncomfortable and that I’ll have a good time. When I try to back out they tell me that I have a better chance of meeting someone. They claim that women will be attracted to a man who is with two women.

I tell them that the three of us should stay in and see what happens. Lisa hits me in the head with a pillow and Julie slugs me in the arm. I shrug my shoulders and say that I guess I am going.

They have already picked out my “outfit- a pair of black Justin “cowboy” boots, 501s and a green t-shirt are what I am supposed to wear. I roll my eyes at them and say that this is what I would have chosen anyway.

It is not an exaggeration. I really would have picked those things, but they insist on having final say and I just don’t care so I let them.

Just before we leave they give me specific instructions on what to do when men approach. Lisa tells me that I am not paying attention and I tell her she is right. I don’t need a playbook. I have a million sisters and know exactly what to do.

Apparently that is what makes them nervous. Lisa says that I am not to get too aggressive and Julie nods her head. I tell them that I don’t know what the hell that means and get yelled at. They tell me that the last time we did this I picked a fight with two of the guys buying them drinks. This time I am supposed to look for a sign.

I tell Lisa that if she holds up two fingers I’ll steal home and if Julie holds up one I’ll swing away. Neither of them smiles and I know that I am one ‘cute boy’ away from irritating them. But I have given my word to go so we head out.

Two or three beers after our arrival the girls decide that I cannot people watch any longer. They tell me that I’m required to dance. It is the height of the line dancing craze & I tell them that I am unwilling to do it.

They say no problem and tell me that I am going to learn how to “two-step.” They give me a quick demo and then take positions in front of and behind me. Between shoulder and hand squeezes I figure out what to do and when.

I feel a bit like a kid who just learned how to ride a bike and I dance with them and a dozen other women. It is a blast.

Later on I’ll ask them to help me meet someone and find out that sometimes hitting a bar with two women isn’t always a great way to meet other women.

It seems that this “configuration” has given them the impression that I am gay. And here I thought that being able to “two step” made me charming…..

If you could see inside my head you’d be given the gift of watching Ann tease me about this.  White shirt, shorts, and some sort of blue scrunchy thing in her hair. I am taking all sorts of abuse and she can’t stop giggling.

“Men are so stupid sometimes. Please tell me that you didn’t make the mistake of hitting on one of your friends that night too.” There is a long pause because I can’t think of anything to say. If I were smarter I would roll my eyes and ask her what the hell she is thinking. Of course I didn’t hit on them. Instead I grab the remote and turn on the television.

“Jack, you know that I love you, but what were you thinking.” I pull her onto my lap and she says, “Ah, now I know exactly what you were thinking. You have to be smarter than that. We like spending time with our guy friends but that doesn’t mean that we want to sleep with you. I don’t get it.”

“Why are you giving me advice about women. Do you think that I’ll need it?”

“Only if you are an idiot. There isn’t anyone in the world who can take better care of you than I can. Get that through your thick head.”

The telephone rings and Harold starts rattling off a list of things he wants to see and changes he wants made. It takes a moment for me to leave the memories and catch up to the present.

“Jack, I like where you are going but we need a lot more here. I want to know how many people are using technology to locate former boyfriends and girlfriends. Try to find out the marital status of those who are doing it. Are they single, married, divorced or widowed. I want to know if any of these old flames turn back the clock and resume dating. Facebook has been around a good five or six years now, someone must have numbers.”

I am hearing what he says but not paying close attention. My mind is stuck somewhere else. It is somewhere in the past and I have just heard that she is getting married. Anger, jealousy and frustration have come to visit me. I remember telling Sheri that it might be hard to kiss the bride when your lips have been torn off. Sheri tells me that she is sorry that I am upset but that I need to relax.

“I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but she is getting married and you need to let go. Let her go Jack. She moved on and you should too.”

The memory isn’t close to being recent but I remember those feelings with more clarity than I would like. If there was any question of my carrying a torch for her it has just been answered. Even so, I am still wrestling with whether I should reach out to her. Would calling her be moving backwards or would it fall under getting a second chance. I am not sure so I opt to sit down at the keyboard to write.

Might as well take advantage of the aggravation and try to make use of the energy. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and start telling a story about what happens when we meet again. Just before I begin to type I realize that I have already answered my question. I want to see her again.

I Know Things

We’re standing on the balcony staring out at the sunset. You’re barefoot wearing nothing but that sun dress I like. I am in my usual shorts and a t-shirt. Our drinks rest on the table next to us while dolphins play in the sea below us. Great splotches of orange, red, blue and magenta are painted against the sky. Your hand fits perfectly inside of mine and I wonder if I have ever been so content with holding hands. A silent smirk creeps across my face and I catch you staring at me. I know you. I know that look. You want to know what I am thinking but I remain silent.

You look at me again and I raise my eyebrows and smile. In return you give me that look that says that you are somewhere in between content and exasperation. I try not to smirk. I tamed you when no one else could. You know it and I know it. I am trying not to laugh and so are you. Finally you look at me and tell me to “just say it already.” You try to give me a stern look but the light in your eyes and the smile in your voice tell me all that I need to know. I shake my head silently and pull you into my arms. For a moment we stare at each other and then our lips brush against each other.

This….this moment has been a long time coming. This thing that we share has been the most difficult, infuriating and best thing that we have ever known. Against the backdrop of the sinking sun we hold each other in silence and smile. We aren’t teenagers. Those days are long ago and far away. A lifetime has been lived by each of us both together and alone and then together.  I look at you and look back towards the room while you give me a knowing smile. Our fingers still intertwined we walk back inside. You sit on the bed and I turn on a mix I made for you long ago.

Bob Dylan is singing Lay, Lady Lay

“Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Whatever colors you have in your mind
I’ll show them to you and you’ll see them shine”

My voice is a soft rumble, “what should we do for dinner?” You tell me that you have a few ideas and I smile. I have the Peaceful Easy Feeling that The Eagles sing about. I stare at you and smile again.

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Until the break of day, let me see you make him smile
His clothes are dirty but his hands are clean
And you’re the best thing that he’s ever seen

For a moment you look away, the look in my eyes too intense. I walk over to the bed and gently lift your head so that our eyes can connect again. I tell you that I never stopped singing that song. Some people come into your life for but a moment, others for a lifetime and some for longer still. You laugh and tell me that I don’t need to use cheap lines to get you. I shake my head and whisper “no.”

Stay, lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your cake and eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he’s standing in front of you

I tell you that I am sorry. I don’t know how or why some things play out the way that they do. I have enough trouble remembering my own name. But I know things and this much is certain, whatever has happened is done. Now we have the future we once talked about except now it is real. Now we have countless hours to do and to be. It is good that we aren’t teenagers anymore because now we know what is real and what isn’t.

Moonlight fills the room and the lights dance in your eyes. We started a story whose end doesn’t have to wait any longer because our future is now. Take a leap of faith and believe.

Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed
Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead
I long to see you in the morning light
I long to reach for you in the night
Stay, lady, stay, stay while the night is still ahead

Some things can’t be stopped, they can only be delayed.

That last line is sort of the Joker in deck.

Once after we had a silly argument about something she had asked me if I ever worried about something happening to us. I told her no and said that I was confident that we would be alright. I told her that some things can’t be stopped, that they could only be delayed.  I told her that if we held onto each other there was nothing we couldn’t overcome. Take my hand and believe in the future that we will share.

She never smiled more broadly than when we would talk of the future.  Six children and a big house where our extended family would join us for holiday meals, birthday parties and just because.

The man I used to be believed every word in that line. Fact is that he didn’t see it as a line. When he said Some things can’t be stopped, they can only be delayed it was with a full heart. I can’t decide if that man is dead and buried or just lost but I suppose that I have the opportunity to find out. I suppose that if I want to I can learn whether we are a Greek tragedy or a modern day love story.

But you have to understand that I am reticent for a reason. You have to understand that a man who has been down the road I walked wonders if he is chasing ghosts of the past. If I am not who I was then neither is she. Maybe she has changed. Maybe she is nothing like the woman I loved. Or maybe she is everything I used to dream of, just a more mature version.

Or maybe she is something entirely different. Hell, she might look at me and wonder what the hell happened to me. A lot of time has passed and while I am in good shape I don’t look like I used to. What the hell do I know and why am I bothering with all this. It is mental masturbation. I am putting the cart before the horse. Haven’t got her number or even an email address.

All I have is a thumbnail of her Facebook profile photo and a lot of memories. The last time I tried chasing after her didn’t work out so well. I put my pride aside and tried to get her back and all hell broke loose.

What Happens When You Get What You Want (Not Sure If I Will Use This)

Dear Ann,

I asked myself a question today. What happens when you get what you always dreamed of. What do you do when you slay the dragon and rescue the princess. Can you really be happy when that happens or will your need for a challenge push you to find something that doesn’t exist. Will you sabotage it all. Will you throw it all away because you don’t know how to live without the chase or will you be content with what you have.

I don’t know if I have the answers to those question. I am not sure because I don’t think that I have ever had it all. I don’t think that I have been to the mountaintop but I know that I have come close to the summit. I know that in a few years I have tasted perfection. I drank deeply from that cup and did my best to savor it.

But unfortunately I succumbed to the all too human trait of not recognizing what I had until it was too late.

You are the great love of my life.

The problem with that last sentence is that I wrote are but we aren’t together now. I haven’t been gifted with your presence in so very long that it almost feels like a dream I once had. Except now I dream of watching you glide across the room and into my arms. Now I dream of kissing you again and standing with you on our balcony watching the sunset.

Some people say that women don’t want weak men and I think that it is true for you too. But I am not weak in any sense of the word. I am as tough as nails, physically and mentally.  That is not exaggeration. I can prove it. If you truly felt what I think you did than you know that our split was like tearing the world in two. You said that I was your air and I said that you were mine.

When you walked away I learned how to live without breathing and walked alone in a world devoid of sunshine. It became cold, dark and inhospitable. My smile fled and I buried my wounded heart and said “fuck it, I am done.”

Time passed and I reached a point and place where I began to smile again. Laughter flew from my lips and people told me that I was different. Some of them asked how I had become so hard and some asked if I would ever release my pain.

That was when I realized just how much hurt I was carrying inside. That was when I realized that the first thing I needed to do was forgive myself because much of my anger was focused inwardly. Intellectually I knew that it wasn’t solely my fault, but I protected you. I didn’t want you to feel the brunt of my anger and then I remembered that wasn’t who we were or what we had been.

Because when we let our hearts live together we were something more than when we were apart. In those days we didn’t fight often but when we did we let loose. We let loose because we knew that it was safe to do so. We never had a conversation where we didn’t say “I love you.” I don’t just miss that, I want that.

I want another shot. I want another chance. We aren’t who we once were but I am ok with that. It just means that there are a million new things to learn. Remember that line from Thunder Road I used to quote,  “I want to know if love is wild, I want to know if love is real. Oh, can you show me.”  Well, I used to know and now I want to find out if I was right.

I am just a boy asking a girl he has always loved to let him love her in person again. I am just a man telling a woman that he can love her better than the rest and that I still know how to make you scream. I can make your toes curl. I can fill the empty spaces. When you are tired you can lean on me and I will carry us home. Open your heart woman and you’ll see that I never left.

Open your eyes and you’ll see me standing there. My hand is here, please take it.

Music Speaks To Me

Author’s notes- I am not sure about this section but there will be time to include/exclude it later

Sat down at the computer and opened up my email to see what Harold had to say about my draft and turned on iTunes. Clicked on the shuffle and listened to the opening riffs of Sanctuary by the Cult.  Haven’t heard this in years but can’t help being caught up in the lyrics:

“The fire in your eyes
Keeps me alive
And the fire in your eyes
Keeps me alive
I’m sure in her you’ll find
The sanctuary
I’m sure in her you’ll find
The sanctuary”

A wry smile passes across my face because it reminds me yet again of Ann. It wasn’t one of our songs. She doesn’t like most music from the 80s but those lyrics fit us. They remind me of the intensity and the warmth. It reminds me of the days when we would lie in be and listen to each other breathe and feel an indescribable calm. But that was then and this is now so I shrug and go back to my reading.

I am midway down the page when my reading is interrupted again by John Denver singing Perhaps Love.  I can’t say that I was a big fan of his but Ann was and she is the reason this song exists in my library.  The opening catches my attention

“Perhaps love is like a resting place
A shelter from the storm
It exists to give you comfort
It is there to keep you warm
And in those times of trouble
When you are most alone
The memory of love will bring you home”

A superstitious man might wonder if the universe was speaking to him. These words tell a story that is familiar to me in so many ways. I am doing my best not to interpret  it or give any credence to it but I admit that my attention is wandering from the page to the music. I wonder what is coming on next. If I hear All I Ask of You from Phantom of The Opera come on I might jump out of my chair because that was one of those songs that we listened to.

“Then say you’ll share with
me one
love, one lifetime . . .
Iet me lead you
from your solitude . . .

Say you need me
with you
here, beside you . . .
anywhere you go,
let me go too –
Christine,
that’s all I ask
of you . .”

My eyes are closed and I am lost in thought. There is a parade of memories inside my mind and I am doing my best to push them down and stuff them back into their cage. I tell myself that this is nothing more than coincidence and explain it away as coming to light because I have been thinking about it. Really, there is no other logical explanation and that is that.

Seconds later my ears are filled with Mottel the tailor singing Miracle of Miracles and I almost fall out of my chair.

“But of all God’s miracles large and small,
The most miraculous one of all
Is the one I thought could never be:
God has given you to me.”

We sang that song to each other and repeated the words at least twice. It was a joke that wasn’t really a joke because she was my miracle and I was hers.

“Ok universe, if this is how you want to play- I am game. Give me three more songs and let’s see what you have got.”

I flip tabs and hit the shuffle button again. “Legs” by ZZ Top comes on and I smile. Boy did she ever have great legs, but that is not enough for me. “C’mon universe, that is a gimme. That is far too easy and too general. Give me another.”

I’ll be damned if the next song that comes over the speakers isn’t Bob Marley singing “No woman, no Cry.”

“Ok universe, that is funny and I agree with you, but I need more. Show me something. Give me a sign.”

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is playing and now I am perturbed. It is sort of an odd thing to be perturbed by this song because normally I listen to it because it relaxes me. When I am faced with tough decisions or am feeling stressed I put it on and use it as a way to quiet the noise inside my head.

“Yo, universe what happened to giving me straight answers. I am direct. Can’t you give me a sign that makes sense.”

I click shuffle three more times and hear the theme to “Cheers,” “Cherry, Cherry” by Neil Diamond and “Penny Lane” by The Beatles. My head is swimming and hell if I know whether there are more messages here. I am tempted to Google the lyrics and see what I find but the lack of straight answers makes me cranky.

This is all silly. In Yiddish we would call it Narishkeit, or nonsense and I don’t want nonsense. I have had plenty of complications and I want something simple. So I shrug my shoulders and speak again, “listen universe please give me something that makes more sense. I am going to click shuffle one last time.” One more click and I hear Miguel Bose and Laura Pausini sing Te Amare and smack myself in the head.

We never listened to that together. It is not something that I would have associated with her but those lyrics fit here in so many different ways. They lose something in the translation, but still I find myself repeating two different sections

“In secret and in silence, I will love you
risking the forbidden, I will love you
In falseness and in truthfullness, with an open heart
because you are not perfect, I will love you”

and

“at the fall of each night I shall wait
that you be the full moon and I shall love you
And even though there are few traces left
as a sign of what once was
you shall still be near, and from the depths I shall love you

I shall love you, I shall love you by force of memories
I shall love you, I shall love you until the last moment
Despite everything, forever I shall love you”

“Ok universe, color me thoroughly frustrated and confused. I don’t know what this means or if it means anything. For all I know I am just talking to empty space”

Shrugging my shoulders again I let out a deep sigh. The reality is that I don’t have to make any decisions or take any action right now. I don’t have to do anything but focus on work and the truth is that these questions I am asking right now fit the story. These thoughts and feelings are…

Relationships Are Complicated

I grew up in a family that didn’t do divorce. It is not that it was something that people bad mouthed because it wasn’t. I can’t remember either of my parents saying a bad word about it. Maybe that is because both sets of their parents followed the “until death do us part” model of marriage.

There were friends and family members who split up but it wasn’t something that touched me at all. I didn’t think about it because it just didn’t affect me. When I think about that time of life girls were just people who annoyed me. They were sisters or cousins who would scream at my friends and I because they didn’t understand what we were doing or why.

Kind of funny to think that years later not a whole lot changed. Sure, the girls evolved into people who I was interested in learning more about but that didn’t stop the screaming or looks of exasperation. Just ask any man who has a relationship with a woman and he’ll tell you that he still gets that look that women give us, you know the one that says she can’t figure out what the hell you are doing or why.

In good relationships it is endearing. Sometimes you make each other crazy but most of the time it is a good sort of crazy. Bad relationships are a different matter altogether because that sort of crazy eats away at you. That kind of crazy makes you want to hit yourself in the head with a baseball bat.

One of the things that Harold wants me to do for my series is interview a few experts on relationships. He wants me to ask them to provide the who, what, when and where of why and how relationships work.

The thing is that every time I think about that it makes me want to hit myself in the head with that baseball bat I mentioned. Pam says that it is because I have PTSD. I told her that I think the best way for me to try and find a new woman is to introduce myself like this:

“Hi, I am Jack the single dad with PTSD.”

Pam loved the idea. “Great way to meet a woman. Make her think that you are a vet when you aren’t. We love when men lie to us.”

“It is not as bad as the guy who lies on his online profile. My picture is recent and I put down my real age.”

Remember that look I mentioned earlier, well that last comment earned a double dose of it.

“I thought that women like the bad boy. I am being bad.”

“No, you are being an ass and you don’t want to be with a woman who thinks that your stupid line is cool.”

Something about that conversation reminded me of an old talk radio show host who referred to himself as being a professor of dating. He said that he had been married five or six times and that this had provided him with the experience to become an expert on men and women.

I wasn’t a daily listener but sometimes when I was stuck in traffic I would tune in to hear the show. It was kind of funny at times. Men would call in and talk about how their girlfriend had dumped them and ask for advice. Generally he would tell them that they were pussies and suggest that they man up and find some one else. According to him it was a matter of bringing out your inner asshole. He said that women responded to it.

He told women that if they wanted to keep a man the way to do it was to put out regularly and to make sure that their guy was well fed.

I remember being surprised by how many women called in to say that they agreed with him. I used to sometimes wonder if those calls were staged or real. I won’t lie and say that it didn’t sound reasonable to me.

“Your biggest problem isn’t finding a woman. Your biggest problem isn’t finding the woman. Your biggest problem is opening yourself up to the possibility of getting hurt again. Unless you do that you won’t ever have the relationship that you want.”

“I hear what you are saying.”

“No Jack, you don’t. You are too busy trying to be cute with me. Stop it. It is not necessary and it is offensive. You need to take a risk. Take a leap of faith.”

I don’t know if I ever told Pam that I had taken that leap of faith. That is how I saw my relationship with Ann. It was a giant leap of faith that worked out and then it didn’t.

And then there was the whole marriage thing that had been another giant leap of faith that worked and then it didn’t.

What Are You Willing To Do

Age is relative. When I think now about the 18 year-old version of myself I smile and think about how naive that kid was. If someone had called the 18 year-old version of me a kid he/I would have been offended. It is cliche to say to say this, but I really did know better than most people. Damn, I must have been insufferable, but maybe all 18 year-olds are.

That kid I used to be loved movies and music which just goes to show you that there are some things that don’t change with age. One of my favorite pictures was The Untouchables starring Kevin Costner and Sean Connery. It was a very cool rendition of the US Government’s attempt to arrest and prosecute Al Capone. There are a number of great scenes in it but one of my all time favorites is a bit of dialogue that is exchanged between Costner’s Elliot Ness and Connery’s wily veteran cop, Malone.

Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I’m saying is, what are you prepared to do?
Ness: Anything within the law.
Malone: And *then* what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way. Because they’re not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.
Ness: I want to get Capone! I don’t know how to do it.
Malone: You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s* the *Chicago* way! And that’s how you get Capone. Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that? I’m offering you a deal. Do you want this deal?
Ness: I have sworn to capture this man with all legal powers at my disposal and I will do so.
Malone: Well, the Lord hates a coward.
Malone: Do you know what a blood oath is, Mr. Ness?
Ness: Yes.
Malone: Good, ’cause you just took one.

That exchange is responsible for a piece of my philosophy about life. When people hear me say “what are you willing to do” it all comes back to that movie. After Ann broke up with me it was a big part of the reason that I fought so hard to try and change her mind.

I kept hearing Connery asking me “what are you willing to do” and every time I heard it I decided to make another attempt to convince her not to give up on us.

“Jack, you are my best friend and you will always will be. But we are not working I need a break. Take care of yourself.”

“Ann, if you ask me to wait for you I will. Just tell me you want me to wait and I’ll go find something to do for a while.”

“I can’t do that. I won’t ask you to hold up your life.”

“You can. I give you permission. I am not in some sort of rush. Go find your smile.”

“No, I can’t. Take care of yourself.”

The Kitchen

It was close to 2 AM when he pulled into his driveway. Though the lights were off the interior of the house was illuminated with memories of what once was. Alone in the dark he walked the halls and listened for the voice that he knew wasn’t there any longer.

He walked over to the kitchen and dropped his keys on the island. In the past the counter would have been spotless, wiped down and devoid of dishes, food or bottles, but not now.

This time the sink was filled with empty bottles. A half finished bottle of Scotch lay next to the sink.  The silent sentinel bore witness to the grief of a man who couldn’t figure out how to extract the pieces of shrapnel that had exploded around his heart.

Treading softly around the island and its blue pearl granite counters he took the bottle in one hand and with the other touched the dimmer switch and shed a minimal amount of light upon the room.

Moments later he sat down at an Oak table and stared at the three empty chairs where others had once sat. A bowl full of mail lay in the middle of the table. The pile of bills and junk mail was growing steadily day by day.

He took a long swig of the Scotch and looked down at the handwritten note in front of him.

So I kissed you one last time. One final kiss so that we’d never forget. One kiss so that if we ever lost our way we could use it to find our way back.”

It was painful to read those words and remember what once was.

Echoes of laughter and love wandered through like the ghost of Christmas past. The sounds of children playing with their mother made an appearance. Except in this case he always saw her as the girl she once was and the woman she became. He didn’t have to close his eyes to see the smile that she reserved for him or to remember how many other ways the kitchen could be used.

A soft hum emanated from the stainless steel refrigerator and reminded him to grab the remote for the stereo. Two clicks later music wafted through the night air. Softly he sang along with Johnny:

“I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire

I Went Down, Down, Down

And The Flames Went Higher

And It Burns, Burns, Burns

The Ring Of Fire

The Ring Of Fire”

He closed his eyes again and remembered telling June a story and wondering if she was paying attention to him. So he had walked across the room to the walk-in pantry and discovered her still dressed in work attire but bent over in a way that was anything but business like.

She jumped when he grabbed her hips and in the process sent everything on the third shelf flying. He silently turned on the light, closed the door and began picking things up off of the floor. When he turned around he found her face inches from his accompanied by a look that suggested he was going to enjoy the moment or potentially live to regret it.

Smiling he looked at her and remarked that he couldn’t imagine living with an ordinary kitchen that didn’t come with a walk in pantry and cook. He supposed that her lips upon his was her way of telling him to be quiet.

The problem with the kitchen was that there wasn’t anything about it that didn’t shout her name. Her absence was palpable and the silence deafening.

A giant wave of pain hit him and he closed his eyes again wondering why heartbreak made his legs hurt so badly. He brought the bottle back to his lips and took a big mouthful of Scotch.

To his right there was a built in wine cooler that sat just below a cabinet filled with hard liquor. Just then another wave of pain hit him and he thought that he could hear someone calling his name. It didn’t make sense to him nor did the rumbling noise that was progressively growing louder.

Suddenly a bright light made him squint and a man’s voice told him to relax. The rumbling noise continued and he remembered there had been an earthquake. He wasn’t sure how long he had been trapped in the rubble or why his legs felt like they were on fire.

So he closed his eyes and remembered their kitchen.

Reality

That scene above never happened. It was just something that I wrote afterwards, just something that I used to try to make sense of everything.  Initially I didn’t believe her. I didn’t accept her proclamation that sometimes love wasn’t enough. If we still loved each other it seemed like we could find a way to make it work. We were two of the smartest people I knew and it seemed inconceivable that two people who said that they were best friends and lovers couldn’t figure it out.

I kept hearing What Are You Willing to Do and I kept trying. I wrote her a thousand love letters and proclaimed my love in every way I knew how. I put together a wanted ad and ran it in the newspaper.

Wanted the girl who loved the boy who wrote the words below. Take my hand and remember what was still is and can be again…

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.

Rumor had it that she cried when she read that. Rumor said that I had an opportunity there that I missed out upon. It is possible that all of that is true. It is possible that I had a dozen different chances to reach beyond the wall that she built…but I didn’t.

Not sure that the reasons why matter now or maybe they do…

Still I can’t help but write about the thoughts that swirl inside my head, it is what I have always done. It is how I sort out what I really feel and think. It is why I wrote the piece below. Kind of funny to think that about how even though I wrote it a thousand years ago it is still applicable today.

Eyes close, lips brush…time stops. Eyes open…empty room…Empty heart. Hope that echoes of the past become reality of the future. #loveburns

You are out there in the dark. Somewhere in a different place than I you stand in your kitchen cooking dinner or maybe you are sitting at your desk working. It doesn’t really matter because it is not my dinner that you are cooking and not our home that you are returning to. The life we once planned on sharing together is not the life that we have today.

I know how that sounds and I know how much you hate to hear it. We are so very similar and so very different in how we handle and and respond to some things. When the heat comes down you do all that you can to stay busy. It is easier to keep running than to focus on things that you feel like you cannot fix. But that is not me, that is not who I am.

Blame it on being male or being a dreamer. Blame it upon a desire to be your hero because you know that is part of what I have always wanted to be for you. Best friend, partner, lover and hero.Those are things to be especially proud of and I would wear that badge without regret for eternity.

We complement each other in so many ways and always have. There is a balance that is established between us, an equilibrium that works to our advantage. It is part of what makes us so formidable and not just a tragic love story that never was and never could be. I know what The Circumstances of Astrology are and I know why you said what you said.

There has never been a time or moment that you weren’t there. Only moments of ignorance and lack of awareness. You weren’t on my radar or a gleam in my eyes. Perhaps you were a dream that I never wanted to believe in. A dream because I didn’t believe that someone like you was out there.

It is funny in an odd sort of way. I can hear you telling me that you’ll never forgive me for not finding you sooner. I can hear you calling my name, asking why I am silent. I tell you that I don’t share my thoughts easily. I live in a world of silence because I choose to be silent. I tell you that I am shy and you laugh.

You don’t believe me. You don’t understand how very different you are. You don’t know how many complained about my unwillingness to share. You don’t know how very silent I can be. You don’t know because I gave you that key. You don’t know because you have always seen what others couldn’t. You don’t know because I celebrated being able to be so free and so open with someone.

But it is a two way street. When my door opened wide so did yours. I don’t share your grace. I don’t walk, I lumber. And so I lumbered on in and made myself at home. Home, that is what we were for each other. A refuge and a sanctuary that provided incredible amounts of strength. An indefatigable team who was naturally able to heal each other and who could do it still…

“So I would choose to be with you
That’s if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break”
And So it Goes- Billy Joel

Say What You Mean

“Jack, do you remember that dream you had?”

“Yes Sheri, I do. You were amazing, but I am not supposed to tell you that anymore now am I.

“You are an idiot and I don’t mean that in a pleasant or endearing way. I am referring to the one you had about Ann. You know the one that happened when you were still married.”

Of course I remembered the dream, but that was because it wasn’t really a dream. It had happened. I had called out Ann’s name. I suspect that most women would be less than pleased to be called by the wrong name. It would be bad if it happened during daylight hours but I wasn’t that lucky.

Nope, not me. I have to pick the moment when my ex had my full attention. If a man was going to call out a woman’s name like I did he should use the name of the woman he is with. I paid dearly for that mistake. The ex knew who Ann was and while she didn’t know all of the details of our relationship it didn’t matter. Even though we were both adults she wasn’t interested in being reminded that I had been intimate with others.

“What about it?”

“I was thinking about things. I don’t think you ever got over Ann. I think that was a sign.”

“Sheri, it wasn’t a sign. It was a moment where I am glad that we weren’t in the kitchen. God only knows what she would have done with a knife.”

“What do you mean you are happy you weren’t in the kitchen? Did this really happen?”

“Yes Sheri, it really happened.”

“What the hell is wrong with you. Don’t you understand that what you did is one of the worst things a man can do to a woman. You might as well have pushed her head away and said you were bored!”

“Ok, I am confused about why you are upset. The only reason I told you back then was because I needed to try and fix things. I wanted a woman’s perspective on how to do it and was too embarrassed to tell you what had really happened.”

This is a perfect example of why women sometimes infuriate me. I am divorced and getting bitched at by a woman about something that happened between me and another woman many years before.

“Was this the only time it happened or did you call out her name during other lovemaking sessions?

“Should I slow down so you can take notes? I’d hate for you to miss out on anything important. Would you like to know what position we were in? Would it make you feel better to know that I was on the couch and she was on her knees or is that too graphic for you Ms. Busybody.”

“You can be a real asshole sometimes. It is no wonder you are divorced.”

“Thank you Sheri, I’ll take that as a compliment. Can we get back to whatever point you were trying to make.”

Color me irritated and confused. She flips out about something ridiculous and immaterial and I am the bad guy.

“Jack, the point here is that you got married to the wrong woman. You were never over Ann and I think it is important that you understand that. Unless you are completely honest with yourself You can’t start another relationship with her.

“Now, I am irritated, angry and confused. Unless you are clairvoyant or have some sort of other way of telling the future you don’t know what is going to happen. Hell, I haven’t even tried to contact her and if I did we don’t know how she would respond.”

Sheri looked away from me and then back, her eyes watering.

“Jack, she called me. I spoke to Ann.”

“I think that my heart just stopped. When did you talk to her and what did she say? I want to know now and I want to know everything!”

Sheri took a deep breath and launched into a long story. She told me that she hadn’t spoken to Ann recently but told me that they had spoken a number of times. The first time had been many years earlier. It happened a few months after we had broken up. Sheri had run into Ann at a party that was hosted by a mutual friend of theirs named Kathy.

When Ann asked about me Sheri told her that I had a new girlfriend and that I was really happy. It wasn’t true, but Ann didn’t know that.

“I was trying to protect you. You were so upset and I didn’t want her to hurt you. I was afraid that she would yank your chain. So I told her that you had a new girlfriend and she walked away. But she didn’t walk away fast enough for me not to notice the tears. She was crying…”

“Ok, she was crying. That might have been good to know 20 years ago. Didn’t stop her from getting married.”

“Jack, I still talk to Kathy and so does Ann.”

“Ann told Kathy that she reads your column and that she has read all of your books. As a woman I am telling you that she isn’t reading you solely because you are good writer. She wants to feel connected to you. Your column has helped her maintain that connection. If she was truly over you she wouldn’t read it.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to any of that. It was both plausible and ridiculous. I was the kind of thing that I could see getting me into all sorts of trouble. It didn’t make me real happy to realize that this “lost love” series I am working on will probably be read by her. It shouldn’t matter. I should just write it. It is not Sher’s news changed much, for all I knew Ann could have been reading my stuff anyway.

Yet, it was different for me. I felt different. I felt naked and exposed.

“Jack, are you ok?

“Sure, I am great. Now I can write the sort of column that will be immortalized forever. Dear readers, I just found out that the love of my life has been reading this column for years. Now you can watch as I use this column try and woo her.”

“I am not sure that you want to do that. That would put a lot of pressure on her.”

“Oh, hell I wouldn’t put any pressure on her. I’d simply ask her in front of millions of readers to sleep with me again.”

“You are still an idiot which is why I am going to tell you not to do that. Don’t try to be cute or clever. If you are really interested in having a second chance you need to talk to her. You need to connect. Trust me, if she is interested in anything more she will make it clear. She isn’t some silly teenager. Treat her nicely and don’t pretend that you know everything about her.”

“I know.”

“Don’t say that unless you mean it. This could be really good for you. The two of you have a million new things to talk about and a lot to catch up on. Make her feel special. Let her see that you see her as a woman and not as a mother.”

I nodded my head and smiled. Sheri had given me a lot to think about and I was beginning to think of a plan.

A Plan

A plan. Just saying those two words out loud made me laugh and smile. Back in the days of yore when Ann was mine she had told me that she wanted to know what my plan was.

“Are you asking about my intentions? Well, first I am going to pin you against the wall and tickle you until you can’t take it. Then I am going to do things that shouldn’t be mentioned. In fact they are so dirty I suspect that your mother is blushing now.”

“Eww! Don’t talk about those things and mention my mother. That is gross.”

“Ok, how about I say that you are smart, beautiful and sexy.”

“That is a good start.”

“I might like you better if we slept together.”

She giggled and well, a gentlemen doesn’t need to say what came next or who fell asleep first. But what I can say is that I woke up later and found her staring at me. I smiled, rolled over on top of her and was asked to hold on for a moment.”

“Can’t we talk later?”

“No, you’ll just go to sleep and come up with an excuse not to talk about this again.”

“Honey, I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I can’t imagine anyone who fulfills me more than you do and if you ever left I’d be consigned to living through hell on earth.”

“Jack, you are among the sweetest talkers I have ever met and if I didn’t believe you meant that I would kick you in the balls and leave.”

“You don’t want to do that, you would only be punishing yourself.”

“It wouldn’t hurt to be more humble.”

“No, but kicking me in the balls would and then you would feel guilty forever.”

“Sweetheart, I am serious. I want to make a plan. I need to know how things are going to work and what we are going to do. This is important to me because it is about us and that is too important to mess around with.”

Privacy

Sheri’s little bombshell about Ann reading my columns threw me for a loop. It might sound silly, but it sort of felt like an invasion of my privacy. I felt naked and exposed in a way that I hadn’t felt in a long time. It is sort of odd and funny to think of things that way. She and I had been more intimate in more ways than anyone else in my entire life. I suppose that means that calling her reading my words an invasion of privacy is an oxymoron.

After all my column is published and promoted for consumption by millions of readers. Really, it is kind of silly for me to feel anything resembling exposed but I do. It is not really a bad feeling. It is more like butterflies in my stomach. Way back when I always wrote with her in mind. They were my words but there was always a message inserted in them. It was my secret note to her.

I used to take great joy in trying to find a clever way to say I love you or that you mean something to me in those columns. I think she liked it too. She told me that she didn’t want to miss anything so she would read everything twice.

Sometimes she would reciprocate by sending me notes. I remember once we had a conversation about our favorite songs from Fiddler on The Roof. I told her that I was really fond of Sabbath Prayer. Later that night I found a card from her with a small quote on it:

But of all God’s miracles large and small,
The most miraculous one of all
Is the one I thought could never be:
God has given you to me.

Wonder of Wonders- Fiddler on The Roof

She never did refer to me as Mottel the Tailor and I never called her Tzeitel, but I once thought about writing her a private letter that illustrated the similarities between their relationship and ours. They chose a different path. They forsake the matchmaker. Our path was different too.

An Uncertain Certainty

You were there. You stood next to me, our fingers intertwined staring at the masses. It was Friday night and the plaza was packed. My eyes were closed and I was slowly rocking back and forth, unconsciously giving thanks for having been given the song of my heart.

We were 15, we were twenty, we were 50 and then we were 80. I saw it all. I saw us alone.I saw us together. I saw our children and I saw our grandchildren. We stood together and shared those moments in time. Single, married, children, Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, grandchildren and then we were gone.

It was just myself and the wall. Just myself at the Kotel, head resting against the stone, alone in the night and lost in the thoughts that we think.

****

I have been dreaming of the children of Jerusalem and broken promises.  I have been lost in moments that once were or could have been, wondering what it means, if it means anything at all.

Because you were there. You, the song of heart who no longer sings her song to me were there. You who once promised to walk with me wherever it was we chose to walk are there no longer.

You have gone away and left me alone…and apart.

You who helped me to remember that love burns and that two are more than one….is gone.

*****

But though you have left me you are not really gone. You have never quite left. I still see you. I still feel you….and I know.

I know that the ache is not mine alone. I know that the absence of your presence is a pain that we share for you know the loss of mine as well. Your stubborn nature won’t permit you to admit it or to ask for shelter in my arms. You won’t let yourself admit that you feel what you feel.

But I know things. I know things about you. I know things about me. I know things about us.

*****

It is an uncertain certainty…this feeling of mine. I don’t have to see you, the song of my heart, to hear you singing our song again. I don’t know if you are conscious of it or aware that it is happening…but it is.

I know these things because I feel them in the places that have been both full and empty. I know these things because I feel my heart harmonizing with yours and I tremble. Fear and anger rise up more frequently than faith.

It is a battle between heart and head. This uncertain certainty that you wish to renew and rebuild.

So now I wait and wonder if this feeling is fake and if my heart has been found false. It is uncomfortable, awkward and uncertain. A contradiction it is, this uncertain certainty.

*****

We were 15, we were twenty, we were 50 and then we were 80. I saw it all. I saw us alone. I saw us together.

The Children Of Divorce

The children of divorce don’t always understand why mom or dad would write something like this about someone who isn’t their parent:

And if you would let yourself be freed from the shackles that you have affixed around your head and heart you would open your eyes and see mine staring back at yours. If you would take my hand and trust your heart we would do what we have always known we could.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Jack’s Story Jan. 27 1st Update

  1. Pingback: Time to move on Brian Meeks* « billdorman

  2. Pingback: Yes, you Brian Meeks, time to give it up | billdorman

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