Timing 3 [notes]

exposed rafters. string lights. smell of fried food and whiskey. chatter. dim lighting. warm-up band? or music blasting.
Girls’ Night. It was always on a Thursday, and almost always at the local comedy club. A couple of relative unknowns on the comedy circuit took the stage to entertain a medium-sized crowd of mostly middle-aged men and women who looked down at their steak fries and appletinis more than they looked at the stage. Every now and then a headliner would come through town, someone who had guest starred on a big production back in the 90s and had a semi-familiar face and jokes that didn’t sound like they came from scribbles on the bathroom stall.
Some women might not have fun in this environment, but Angie didn’t mind it – in fact she normally had a pretty good time. Pushing the big 4-0, she saw the value in being able to laugh, even if it was at a mediocre joke about pig sex told by an unknown sweaty guy holding a microphone. It was good for her heart, she thought, to engage in what she called “safe fun” while still getting a reminder what freedom and individuality felt like. Motherhood tends to suck the individuality right out of a woman, whose given name becomes “Mom” and whose uniform becomes grungy sweatpants and unwashed ponytail. Girls Night gave her a reason to dress up, to do her makeup, and to her great delight, spend time with people who did not need her assistance to use the toilet (although they did sometimes ask her to accompany them.)
As she looked down the bar at the women who had met her to see the show tonight, she felt grateful to have girl friends at all. Time was, she thought all women were catty and miserable and jealous of her, and thus could not be trusted. She had been one of those young women who said obnoxious things like, “Oh I can’t be friends with girls. Girls are bitches.”
Her train of thought was abruptly interrupted by what she thought was someone saying her name.
“Angie?”
It had been her name all her life. Why now, sitting at this bar she was so familiar with, on a comfortable night out with her friends, had the sound of it paralyzed her?
It wasn’t her name that had her frozen in place. It was that voice.
“Is that you, Kiddo?”
The thick, sweet country baritone dripped out like molasses. Angie unknowingly gripped the edge of the bar with her hands, holding on tightly to avoid falling or fainting. She was staring straight forward now, her eyes examining the dirty mirror behind all the colorful bottles of whisky, rum, and vodka. Trembling, she squinted her eyes and tried to focus on the reflection behind hers. Only one man in the world ever called her Kiddo, and she hadn’t seen him in 20 years. She’d sooner believe the Easter Bunny was standing behind her, yet she had heard that distinctive voice that could only belong to one man.
Taking deep breaths and still leaning on the bar to steady herself, Angie began to pivot her body on the bar stool in order to turn around and face him. She was sweaty now, and the cheap upholstery covering the stool stuck like hot bubble gum to the back of her legs. She kept her right hand on the bar as she spun counter-clockwise, working to command her facial muscles to form a smile on her face.
Now her back was to the bar and Angie found herself face-to-chest with a tall, broad, distinguished looking man. The sight of him transported her back to the year she was 19 years old and hopelessly in love with the singer of a rock band. A better lyricist than Dylan, with more charisma than Springsteen, Clint was destined for greatness. Angie knew it, and she knew everyone around her knew it as well. She was no match for the gorgeous groupies, but she still wished he would notice her.
Angie stood under the stage lights, staring up at him. He didn’t know she existed, sure, but she was starstruck by him.
All these years later, through relationships, breakups, marriage and children, she still thought about him frequently. His influence seeped into her creative projects – she often wrote poems that (she realized only after they were written) were about him – he showed up in her dreams sometimes, too, always as handsome and charming as when they first met.

……and all the hairs on her arms and neck stood at attention. His face beamed, his wide smile revealing his white, toothy grin.
“Jerkface?”
Angie’s mouth was dry and she struggled to choke out the nickname she hadn’t spoken in what felt like centuries.
The man standing in front of her leaned back and let out a roaring laugh, genuine and loud. A few of the patrons turned and stared at Angie and her mysterious visitor, but she didn’t notice. She was eyeing his face, the features she had memorized as a young girl, now aged but still so handsome. She took a deep breath and put a hand on her lower belly in a futile attempt to steady herself before stepping off the sticky bar stool.
“I mean… Clint? Is it really you?”
Even as she stood before him in four-inch platform shoes, the big handsome man still towered over her. His emerald green eyes stared down at her now, the broad smile lingering on his face.
“It’s been a long time since anyone’s called me that,” he said.
“It’s been a long time since anyone’s called me Kiddo,” she said in reply.
Angie waited for him to hug her, but he didn’t. Instead he reached out his hand and grasped hers, turned, and led her through the bar, down the cement steps in the back and out the employee entrance to the courtyard below.
“Where are we going?” she asked him.
“Everywhere,” he said.

*************************************************

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thank you note

Thank you for being the one,

For illuminating the dark places

Inside me

And for showing me

I deserve more.

Thank you for being the one,

For opening my eyes to truth

About myself

And for pushing me

To grow.

Thank you for being the one

Who shone brighter than the north star

In my nights

And for showing me

What love is.

 

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Protected: apples to oranges

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Abdicated

The queen sat, soot faced, in a heap upon the grass

She wept over all that could have been

She wept over the past

But as the morning sun broke through

And the smoke began to clear

The queen realized the burned down castle

Was the freedom she once feared.

And so the queen set off that day,

A new song in her heart

Excitedly contemplating what was to come

Grateful for this brand new start.

Maybe

Maybe I’m an asshole.

Never thought of myself that way before but right now I sure feel like it. I don’t ever seek to hurt people, I just can’t seem to get the one thing right. And it’s a big thing. The biggest, maybe.

Maybe I’m wrong about all of it. Nothing works out and everyone lies and dreams are just movies your mind makes up when you sleep to tease you about a life you’ll never have.

Maybe I’m not the good guy. Maybe I’ll never find my holy grail. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to explain myself when no one will ever really understand my heart.

Maybe.

My Best Friend Said

We’re walking down a bicycle path in the woods.  She’s come and picked me up because I called her after dinner, choking on my anxiety and potatoes.  I don’t remember the drive here but now we’re walking, and it’s sunny and the birds are singing and everything is ok.

We talk, as girls do, about the hurt, the confusion, the love, the laughter, and she helps me process everything.  I tell her about my messages, my attempts to reach out, to be reassuring, make you laugh, hug you through this stupid phone, to make sure you are alright.  It’s a lot.  Maybe it’s too much.

“Maybe I was too much”, I said, shrugging, a single hot tear falling off my cheek and hitting the pavement by my flip flop in a silent SPLAT.  People walk and ride their bicycles past us.  I look down so maybe they won’t notice me crying.  I feel silly that I’m crying over you, over this.  Other people have real problems. I know.

I feel really big. My feelings, they’re enormous.  I don’t feel anything just a little bit.  That’s part of the too much – my inability to keep my feelings small.

She stops walking.  She turns to me, grabs my arms, and makes me look her in the eyes.  This is serious, I can tell.  She wants to make sure I am listening.

“Listen,” she says.

I am.  I am listening.

“If you’re too much, then HE is NOT ENOUGH.”

And those words, they strike a powerful blow to my chest.  I burst into tears.  We walk a little more.  She tells me kind things I don’t believe about myself.  She tells me it isn’t my fault.

We drive back to my place, mostly silent.  We park, and as I get out she smiles and reminds me that I am strong, and gentle, with a big heart.  I don’t deserve to hurt, to be lied to, and nothing I did or said would justify this.

She’s right.

I’m so grateful for her.

So… that happened. (Journal)

I picked up a book today. I saw the words “Love and Ruin” on the binding and I couldn’t stop myself from shimmying the burgundy paperback out of its row in the Fiction section.

I turned it over to read the back and immediately burst into laughter. It’s a historical fiction about Hemingway and Gellhorn.

Of course it is.

After seeing a movie (all by myself in the theater) about destiny, fate, love, and the universe, I walk to the book store and pick up THIS book? Of all the choices. Neon.

Still smiling, I put the book back on the shelf and whispered “not today”. One day I will read it, and maybe when I do I’ll enjoy it, but not likely any day soon. I’m feeling much too good for all that.

Timing, cont. [draft]

“I want a divorce”, she said.

The words hung in the air like a thick cloud of melancholy smog, emanating the kind of heavy, vague sadness she imagined hung over Los Angeles in the mid-nineties.  Angie paced back and forth by the apartment steps.  She had walked down from their second floor apartment to get some fresh air, to think things through, but the air wasn’t fresh and her thoughts were equally foggy.  Each time she practiced saying them, the words got stuck, hung like a horse pill in her throat.

“You can do this, damnit.”  Angie was pacing faster now, wringing her hands.  She made herself stand still and take a deep breath.  Why was this so difficult?  Crew hadn’t loved her in years, she knew that.  They hadn’t had sex in months and worse, neither of them wanted to.  Conversation between them had dwindled down to a measly “hello” in the morning and “goodnight” before bed, with sometimes a speedy “love you” as a way to get off the phone at the grocery store.   Crew had been sleeping in the kids’ bedroom for three years now.  Divorce made sense for him, for both of them.

So why couldn’t she say the words?

They hadn’t been a fit from the start: He liked horror movies, she didn’t.  She disliked tattoos, he was covered in them.  He didn’t read books at all and she dreamed of owning a library so vast it could never be completely filled.  Hell, she was a writer.  Crew had never voluntarily read anything she’d written.  If that wasn’t a sign they shouldn’t be together, she didn’t know what was.  And now, a decade into a mediocre marriage, Angie was steeling herself to cut the cord of complacency from them both.

Now that the day had come, all she could think about were the good times.  The reasons to stay.  The parts of herself she had only shared with him, and the times he had been completely vulnerable with her.  Reliving their wilderness hikes, nights spent watching bad b-movies, and asking each other questions about their deepest, darkest, secrets was part of what kept her hanging on to him, even now.

Crew had been her savior, a mild-mannered man she met after leaving an abusive relationship.  Standing on the beach saying her vows to him, she remembered how sure she felt about him, and she remembered why.  “He’s never raised his voice to me”, she bragged to herself.  He had been a cool balm to her soul after being burned badly.  Crew was not an angry guy, she knew she’d never have to worry about him hurting her on purpose, and for Angie that was the most appealing thing about him.

Leaning on the railing of the apartment steps now, struggling to keep her wild emotions encased in her chest long enough to practice politely shattering both their lives for good, Angie felt both grateful and angry for the last ten years.  She pushed herself up, pacing back and forth on the small patch of grass near the stairs, and tried again.

“I want a divorce,” she said.

***************************************************

She wondered now if any of the big  choices had been his.  Turning the pages in her mind, Angie surveyed the pictures as best she could of their past and all their years together.  It was she who pursued him when they were dating.  He had tried to tell her he wasn’t good for her.  He didn’t want kids or a family, he had told her one steamy Georgia night sitting in the back of his green Jeep Wrangler staring up at the stars.

Looking back on it now, Angie was ashamed of her naive persistence.  “When someone tells you who they are, believe them,” she whispered to herself.  It was something her Grandfather had told her on numerous occasions.  She remembered the words, but seldom did she put them into practice, and now those words echoed in her thoughts like the pulsing that stays with you long after you’ve left a rock concert.

Angie was pushy sometimes.  She wanted what she wanted and she couldn’t see past her own desire and will.  It got her into trouble.  It also made her brave.  Two sides of the same coin.

She got pregnant and he proposed and the rest was, as they say, history.

Crew was a nice guy, but not particularly ambitious.  He was… content.  That’s the word that popped into Angie’s head frequently when she made a mental list of his good qualities.

Crew reminded her of a friend she had, she hadn’t realized it when they met, but she saw it now.   Now that there were vows and babies and a mortgage, cold oatmeal in the sink and old dreams piled up by the curb.

They were happy, she thought.  If anyone had asked Angie a year ago – hell, even a month ago – what her life was like with Crew, she’d have said that word we all use when things are floating around, not good or bad, just … fine.  They were fine, their kids were fine, their jobs were fine, their marriage was fine.

She laughed to herself now in recognition of what that answer really meant.  It was a non-answer, a verbal shoulder-shrug, a personification of the indifference that had seeped into every nook and cranny of the home they had built, pushing out every other thing – every emotion, every motivation, every reason to try – until that indifference was the one thing they still had in common.

What people say and what they do are often times incongruent.  It’s a fact of life. Angie knew that and accepted it, for the most part.  Humans are human.  They are flawed and imperfect and many times, endlessly frustrating.  She could empathize with most people, and she could forgive the inconsistency in strangers and people she wasn’t close to.

When it came to the people who used a certain four-letter-word with her, though, she expected absolute loyalty.  Angie had been hurt as a child by her parents, by friends, by people who said that word.  Love.  Now, that hurt child was a full-grown mostly-healed woman, and she didn’t take that particular word lightly.

 

is it still a limerick if it’s sad?

you promised that you wouldn’t hurt me

you said it and i’m a fool, i believed

i’m sitting here burned down to ashes

reminiscing on life as a tree

 

i already gave you my happy

i don’t want to give you my sad

how can i mourn losing an abstract –

a lover i’ve never actually had?

 

maybe nothing i believed in was real

an illusion, a ghost, a mirage

maybe you’re scared and you’re running

and this cruelty is your camouflage

 

the day will come i’ll be alright again

i’ll remember you fondly and well

and hope that maybe, a decade on

you’ll show up and unring the bell