Monday, February 28, 2005

Postcards from Florida

Nancy: "We're going to the Ft. Lauderdale ocean today."
Me: "Is that a new ocean?"
Austin, smirking: "Yeah, I think they just put it in."


Alex, in the Hustler store, handing Austin a pin: "I think you should buy this one."
Austin, reading the pin aloud: "'Does this dick in my mouth make me look gay?'"
Laughter all around.


Me, addressing an elderly woman who cut us off in traffic: "Look at that old whore..."
Austin: "Old whore?!?!" Laughter.

From that point forward:

Austin, referring to Nancy's dog, Chelsea: "Come on, you old whore."
Me, referring to Austin: "Hey, old whore, where do you keep your paper towels?"
Austin, referring to me: "Would you hurry up, you old whore?"
Me, referring to a man crossing the street near our outdoor table at a restaurant: "Look at that old whore over there."
Austin, introducing me to his friend: "And this is my friend Laurie. She's an old whore."
Me, referring to Austin's sarcastic comments: "You keep that up, you're going to be a lonely old whore."


Me: Letting out a loud, obnoxious Homer Simpson style burp.
Austin: "No wonder you don't have a boyfriend."

Twenty minutes later

Austin: Letting out a loud, obnoxious Homer Simpson style burp.
Me: "No wonder you don't have a boyfriend."


Austin, addressing me but pointing to an old woman driving 50 MPH in the fast lane on a 70 MPH highway: "That's going to be you in fifty years. Hair all done up....Long red nails...Make up, piled on thick to fill in the wrinkles....High heeled shoes....Cigarette hanging from your mouth...Hunched over the steering wheel of a Chevy Malibu...[in the raspy, manly voice of a long-time smoker, with, for some reason, a Brooklyn accent] 'Where's the party? I know I'm 74, but where's the fucking party?'"
Me: "Don't forget the push up bra."


Austin, to me as we walked along the beach: "You know, I love walking on the beach. I just always thought I'd be doing it with my husband. But look at me [he looks at me in mock disgust], walking with you instead."
Me: "Yeah, same here."


Austin: "I have this friend down the street, and I want to bring him over to meet everyone, I'm just not sure he could handle all four of us at once. He's a rabbi..."
Me: "Is he gay?"
Austin: "Yeah, he's gay. He's cute. He's about my age...He's Jewish..."
Me: "Oh really? When you said 'Rabbi' I wasn't sure..."
Austin: "Bitch."


Austin: "Look at that waiter over there..."
Me: "Oh my God...Look at his ass..."
Austin: "He's straight, you know."
Me: "Are you sure? He's working in a gay bar."
Austin: "Oh, I'm sure. Trust me."
Me, eyeballing the waiter: "Hmmm...."
Austin: "You bring him home, you can live with me rent free for a year."


Nancy, to a bartender in the Laundry Bar in Miami: "Can we see that bottle over there?"
Bartender, holding up the X-Rated Vodka bottle: "This one?"
Nancy: "Yeah...What's it like?"
Bartender, bringing the bottle and a small glass over to us: "It's great. It's passion fruit and blood orange vodka. You've never had it?"
Nancy, sadly: "No. We're not from around here."


Nancy, in the midst of a story: " he ate her out..."
Me: "Could you not say that? 'Eat out?' That's so disgusting."
Nancy: "Oh, well, what do you want me to say?"
Me: "How about...dining elsewhere?"


Me, addressing Austin but pointing to a pigeon walking around on the outdoor dining area of Hamburger Mary's: "Look at that pigeon! He has a mushroom on his back!"
Austin: "Maybe he's saving it for later."
Me: "You know he's going to be embarrassed when he realizes later that it's been on his back all day."
Our friend, Greg: "He probably asked his friend if he had anything on him, and his friend didn't know how to tell him nicely, so he was like 'Oh...Uh....No. You're fine. You're cool.'"
Me: "Later, when he sees it, he'll be like 'Dude! You told me I didn't have anything in my feathers!'"
Austin, imitating the pigeon: "'How's my bill? Do I have anything in my bill?'"


Waiter at the steakhouse, addressing our table of 6: "Are you guys ready to order? Ladies first."
Scott: "Well then, I'll have the..."


Alex, to Nancy: "You're a horrible driver. You were turning into the wrong lanes, you ran over a medium..."
Me: "A medium? There was a psychic in the road?"
Alex: "Yes. With a creskin hat and everything."


Ahhh. Vacation.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Things That Are Annoying Me Right This Very Second

1. I have a mosquito bite on my ass.
2. I am picturing myself three hours from now, sitting in a gay bar, trying to look beautiful and classy, but scrunching up my face and scratching my behind instead.
3. I have mosquito bites on my feet.
4. Because I have mosquito bites on my feet, my little footsies are swollen, and are therefore hard to cram into the strappy and sexy shoes I brought for the trip. Not to mention that the aforementioned swollen feet look anything but sexy in strappy shoes.
5. I have a sun rash on my arms.
6. I have a sun rash on my forehead.
7. I am waaaaay to sensitive to the sun.
8. It's my own stupid fault that I have a sun rash at all...I didn't buy sunblock until I was A) here for two days and B) already burnt to an unappetizing crisp.
9. The sun rash blossoming on my limbs and face looks like acne.
10. When I got here, my skin was flawless.
11. Because it looks like I have horrid acne on my arms, I will not wear shirts without sleeves.
12. This makes it very difficult to stay cool when it's eighty degrees and humid outside.
13. I feel like a pre-pubescent teenager with a pimply forehead. If only my voice would crack like a 12 year old boy's, my regression to adolescence would be complete.
14. Nancy broke a glass in the kitchen two days ago, and today I got a shard stuck in my itchy, bitten foot. Lovely.
15. In the few minutes it has taken me to type 1 through 14, I got two new mosquito bites, and I can't find the fucking bug that's biting me.
16. I went to a very uppity mall with Austin today to look for shoes for myself, and when we left, HE was the one who ended up purchasing shoes. I told him as we left that it pisses me off that HE was the one who ended up with shoes. He told me he didn't even need the shoes he bought. And I said "But I really wanted to buy a pair of shoes." He went on to say "Well, you know, you should've just bought my shoes for me. That way, I wouldn't have spent any money, and you would've bought a pair of shoes. Everybody would be happy." We laughed, but I was still bitter that I didn't walk away with a new pair of stilettos.
17. My nailpolish reacts to both sunscreen and cigarette smoke, and so my nails were yellow. Gross. So I bought some nail polish remover and some polish to redo my manicure...And it took me almost an hour to get the old gross polish off.
18. I have a blister on my toe.
19. I am tired, but find it impossible to sleep during the day. So Austin's taking a nap right now, and he'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our outing tonight, but I'll be dragging my feet and ready to fall asleep by 12. I know it.
20. My feet really fucking itch.
21. I try not to talk on my phone because I'm roaming here in Florida, and I'm sure that means I'll pay $20.00 a minute if I call to talk to anyone.
22. I have been eating like a damn pig here. I will go home with a pot belly as my souvenir.
23. My forehead really fucking itches.
24. Really, my whole body itches.
25. I feel sticky. I'm not used to humidity.
26. I'm having a great time, enjoying the company of one of the coolest, most awesome, lovely men in the world (Austin!), and I can still find 25 things to bitch about.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Sunday morning welcomed me with a hangover. My head throbbed and my body felt slow, syrupy. I didn't want to move or talk or eat, or especially drink. I sat outside with my friends, letting their conversation drift past me. Ten vodka-cranberries swirled in my stomach, a good six hours after I'd swallowed them. My legs ached from dancing the night before. Boom, the club was called, and Austin and I christened the dance floor with our movements, him being one of many men in the club, me being one of about three girls. He introduced me to his friends, who smiled freely and called me "fabulous." They wrapped me in their well-tended arms, smelling like soap and cologne despite the smoke and grit in the bar. They said "I love her!" to my friend, who seemed to be proud to have me around. We worked our way around the club, saying hello to the couples of men Austin knew, who held hands and spoke standing closely together. They smiled and stirred their drinks with tiny straws, screaming their conversations over Gwen Stefani's blaring voice. I felt wonderful, honored that Austin brought me to his domain, a strip mall especially for gay men, opening a portion of his life to me. "Will they let me in here?" I asked him, aware that some gay clubs frowned upon straight women passing through their doors. "You? Please. You're coming with me whether you like it or not," he told me while putting the top up on his beautiful black Nissan 350Z. But he knew I'd like it. I always had. He was the first man to ever bring me to a gay club.

I thought about our night sitting beneath his large deck umbrella the next morning. "Laurie had gay men hanging all over her last night," he told Alex and Nancy, my driving mates for the trip. They laughed, and said something about me giving up the dream to convert one. I laughed too, but silently hoped to just be done with my hangover. I thought the sun would cook it right out of me, but it didn't help at all.

"You better get out of this shit mood you're in," Austin teased through a smile, holding his cigarette level with his lips. I promised that showering and putting my face on would be the cure, but I was wrong. It was getting into his hot car and sitting in the passenger seat while he drove way too fast down 95 to Miami with the top down that cured me. I wrapped my head in my pink scarf, Grace Kelly style, as we zipped through traffic. We listened to loud music and weaved in and out of lanes on the interstate, wind-whipped and warm from the noon sun. Nancy and Alex followed behind us, so that we formed a small caravan to South Beach, four pretty people, eager to see beautiful people and sand.

We crossed a bridge that leads into Miami, offering a view of the coast. Blue water surrounding crisp white buildings and pure wealth. Palm trees and creamy houses lined the streets as we made our way to the parking garage. I felt so free, my hair now out of my scarf and flying around my head, getting stuck in my sunglasses and in my lipstick. We parked Valet, Austin handing his keys to the gentleman in the forest green shirt, who sat in the saddle seats and whirred away.

We went to Mango's, where women dress in skimpy animal prints and dance on the bar to Spanish music. I drank a frozen banana concoction, despite saying I wouldn't drink at all that day, and ate chips and salsa and checked out passers-by with my friends. Nancy and Alex checked out women, but Austin and I checked out the men. And we tried to be very clear that he and I were NOT together, just in case a boy we were oogling took a shine to either one of us. We walked around Miami all day, looking at men, stopping in bars for a drink here, a drink there, chatting it up with the bartenders and the local patrons. I bought a shirt advertising "I [heart] Nerds," and Austin bought rolling papers. We looked in shops and laughed at each other. Austin and I walked faster than Nancy and Alex. Even in my pink stilettos, my gait was long and purposeful. Nancy and Alex trailed behind, meandering toward our cars, Nancy's tired toes hanging over the edge of her sandals. Her walk said "I'm so tired. I just want to sit down."

It was dusk by the time we crawled into the cars. I sat shotgun with Austin, excited to sit in his shiny black convertible, to cruise along Ocean Drive with the top down and my hair blowing in the cool evening's ocean air. Night time felt seductive, decadent. Thick air dancing with headlights and taillights, Mercedes and Bentley; Jaguar and Rolls Royce. We flew back 95 North, slowing only when we came to our exit. My hair was tangled and dirty, full of heat and exhaust and the remains of the day. It was luscious.

Monday found the four of us at the Ft. Lauderdale beach. We ate too much in Hooters on the water, drank beer until we felt giddy and bloated. We crossed A1A and walked in the sand, the soles of our feet burning. We walked in the water, the surf hitting us in the ankles, splashing salt water up our legs. I carried my shoes in my hand, Austin and I once again blazing a path ahead of our friends. We didn't know where we were going, we just wanted to keep walking. Nancy and Alex held hands behind us, and strolled through the water, leaving vanishing footprints behind them.

We found a spot to sit, a short white wall separating the sand from the sidewalk, and settled in for some people watching. We didn't talk much, just sat in the warmth, the breeze licking the edge off of the heat. My skirt stubbornly fluttered in the wind, revealing the bikini I wore in case we decided to swim. My feet were sand-encrusted. My body felt light. Free from responsibility.

We bar-hopped our way down the sand, deciding to play the game where the next person who walked by our table "is yours." Nancy got an over-weight, hairy-backed, sun-baked raisin of a man. Austin got the quintessential tourist, complete with fanny pack and straw hat boasting "Ft. Lauderdale!" perched atop his old head. Alex got an attractive woman in her forties, big fake boobs pushing at her two-sizes-too-small shirt; She wore Chanel sunglasses and big high heels, and everyone at my table turned to me and said that would be me in twenty years. We laughed, agreeing at the truth of the statement. Except for the fake boob part. I'm afraid of surgery. I, on the other hand, wound up with the same thing I would find in Milford: A pasty straight guy, beer belly leading the way, goofy smile on his face, with complete disregard for fashion and taste. He drank beer out a bottle shaped like a football, foam resting at the top, sucking it through a straw. "Thanks guys," I laughed. "I didn't have to drive twenty hours to find that!" We set to the task of finding me a man I wouldn't find in Milford. Tanned skin, V-shaped upper body. Huge biceps curled around tiny waists. Smooth pecs, chiseled abs. Angular faces, fresh from the water, glistening with sweat. We laughed at each one, all of them swaggering, puffed-up and on display.

We drank our way through the rest of the beach, my pale skin burning despite the gobs of sunblock I'd been slathering on all day, and finally headed home. We made bleu cheese burgers and potato salad for dinner, thinking we'd all go out later that night. Around nine o'clock after drinks and sunshine and beachy winds, we all decided going out just wasn't going to happen...So we settled for sitting on the porch, wrapped in blankets, drinks in hand, talking about whatever came to mind.

Today, I am alone. Nancy and Alex have gone off to visit his brother in Ft. Myers, Austin has gone to work, and I am sitting in my pajamas, sun rash sprouting on my arms, grateful for the succulent silence here today. Austin put on his Soul Station before he left, leaving Al Green and the Temptations and Marvin Gaye to serenade me all day. I sat by the pool and read for a while. I ate a salami and Swiss sandwich. I drank coke. I talked on the phone. And now, I'm sitting here, sleeves rolled up, the soft wind coming through the open window brushing my bare shoulders.

I feel awake and relaxed, eager to stay here all day. I don't want to sight-see, or live by a schedule. I'm happy right here, knowing that there's nothing that has to be done. I feel recharged; No one tugging at my thoughts or dragging my attention from the bliss of right now. I smell of sunblock and saltwater, a hint of the beach in the air around me. I feel at ease and free, purely content.

The First Morning

The air is crisp, promising the warmth that I've been craving for months. The sky matches the color of the pool exactly, clouds strolling across my field of vision, blocking the sun only to reveal it again. A choir of birds sing the praises of the day from all around me, perched in tall trees and hidden by greenery. Dried leaves litter the peach deck of my friend Austin's house. "Autumn," he said last night, picking up a brown leaf that had made its way into his empty glass. He held it up like evidence. But it feels like summer to me.

In the pool, the vacuum spins in lazy circles, preparing the white bottom for swimming later. My skin is so white, I'm afraid I'll burn and shrivel if left unprotected, but it feels too good sitting out here; I'm too lazy to go inside and cover myself in Coppertone. I breathe in the damp air, letting the light humidity fill my lungs. The air isn't sticky yet, it's too early for that. It's dewy, beads of warmth dancing in the air. It feels creamy. Soft.

I'm surrounded by rich greens and vivid pinks. Flowers call to me from all sides of the yard, beckoning me with their cool blues and soft purples. Palm trees sway in the wind. "Welcome to Florida," they wave, as if coaxing me to stay forever. Trees at home are naked, their skeletons exposed to the harsh cold, frigid gusts of wind. But here, trees are wearing their summer clothes; Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts made of thick waxy leaves and velveteen blossoms. It's a back yard, but it looks tropical and inviting, so far from where I was two days ago.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Where Everything is Perfect

South Carolina. He talked about it as though it were dipped in gold. Every good thing that had ever happened in his life happened to him there. He spoke of it with such fondness that, at the mere mention of the the state, I'd interrupt him. "Where everything is perfect," I'd tease in my most nasally voice, my nose wrinkled and the corners of my mouth turned down. I was jealous. Of a state.

When he spoke of South Carolina, or Hilton Head, he'd get a far away look in his eyes. His full lips would stretch into a smile as he told me story after story, laughing to himself before he even got to the punchline. It felt perverse, like verbal masturbation to a city, a state that he adored. The stories he told weren't really for me; They were for him. The served to help him recall the exact color of the ocean, the feel of the sand between his toes. The freedom in being accountable for a job and little else. He was reliving a fantasy in front of me, and my only role was the voyeur. I could see in his blue eyes how much he missed it, how desperately he wanted to go back, to feel the sticky heat on his skin, to look at the ocean every day. It was, perhaps, the only place he might consider "home."

What he never noticed was that I wanted to be what he considered home. He spoke of South Carolina with a longing I'd never heard him use in relation to me. He told me about his friends, their drunken escapades, and I listened, aware that he was always hoping to go back; Aware that he would leave me behind to go.

I was competing with a state, battling it out with her over who could make him happier. But I always knew, in the back of my mind, that he would never introduce us to one another and that she would ultimately win. The Tom he was in South Carolina didn't have me, clawing at his heels, begging to be noticed, appreciated, adored. South Carolina was far less demanding of him.

And even though I knew that it would never happen, I desperately wanted him to talk about me the way he talked about her. I wanted to be the place where everything was perfect. I wanted him to talk about the home that he promised would be "ours" someday the way he spoke of his former home state. I wanted him to think of the wooden staircase, the hardwood floors, the stone driveway with love, with reverence. I wanted that to be perfect. Not South Carolina.

On my drive to Florida, on my first vacation without him, I saw the Cafe Risque sign he'd told me about: The 24 hour diner boasting topless waitresses ("We bare! We bare!" the sign yells in big bold letters.) and sex toys. He'd told me about it a million times, how he knew he was getting closer to South Carolina when he saw that sign. And I saw the huge sombrero long before I saw the South of the Border building he'd told me about. "It's all kitsch," he'd told me. "But you almost have to stop. Just because that means you're there."

I wanted to take a long look at the state, to see what she could offer that I couldn't. I sat up in my seat, glued my eyes to the landscape, to see why he would miss her more than he would ever miss me. But my eyes felt heavy with memories, and closed despite my best efforts to keep them open. I slept through the whole state, missing its perfection entirely.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ft. La-dee-da

In forty minutes, I will leave my desk here at the bank and climb into the back of a far-too-small Mitsubishi Eclipse with two of my friends and tear up the highway between Milford and Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

I'll be surrounded by friends on this excursion. I'll be accompanied by two straight friends and a handful of gay men for ten days in the south. We'll drink and dance and talk and laugh. I will not wear coats. I will wear tank tops and short sleeves and open toe shoes. I'll lounge around in the sunshine. I'll bask in the beauty of not being behind a desk. I will apply sunblock. I will swim. I will dance until my feet hurt. I may not post anything here for a few days, but I will write in my journal until my hands cramp. I will smile. Often.

This will be my first vacation ever as a single gal. Although I wasn't brave enough to take a vacation completely on my own, like my friend Tumbleweed, it will mark the first time I have ever dared to travel without the comfort of a boyfriend. And I couldn't be more excited.

I feel like I'm announcing my singlehood, my independence. I feel like a big girl. I feel like I'm about to step into an entirely new atmosphere. I feel good.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


He asked me if I was single, and I think he would have been disappointed if I would've said no. He likes me, I know it. I can tell by the way he's been hanging around me all night. The way he complimented my high-heeled boots. The way he came to me when I called him. The way he sat next to me in a room full of his friends.

I'm dizzy from the flirtation. I'm conscious of everything I'm doing - Am I standing up straight? Is my tummy sucked in? How's my hair? Do I have anything in my teeth? - and hoping he's watching. When I can feel his eyes on me, I'm coquettish. I say all the right things, make my own jokes and laugh at his. In my head, I know I've got him. I know he feels like the lucky one, talking to me. I'm confident. I'm desirable. He wants me.

He leans into me when he talks. Our knees kiss under the table, and neither of us pulls away. We sit, leg to leg, and continue talking to other people in the room. I can feel the heat of his thigh through my jeans, delicious in its secrecy.

We're shameless in finding ways to touch. Two twenty-somethings engaging in childish games of keep-away, he steals my cigarettes to force me to put my arms around him to get them back. I press in closely, hoping to offer him a whiff of the Chanel Allure I spritzed on my clavicle. It's exhilarating.

He mentions that he really should stop into my bank to see me. My pulse quickens.

"I'd like that," I say though a sultry smile. I tilt my forehead toward him, looking up at him and hoping he'll notice my blue eyes.

"Me too." He moves his arm and it touches mine. I feel heady. I'm giddy from anticipation.

I love this. I haven't been single in so long, I've forgotten how delirious this can make you. Meeting someone, flirting, touching. I look at his veined forearms over the back of a chair, pleased with myself for choosing to come out tonight.

When it's time for me to leave, he offers to walk me out to my car. He leaves his friends inside to help me navigate around puddles and over snow to my waiting vehicle.

"So I'll see you this week?" he says, brushing the light snow off of my window with his hand.

"I hope so."

We're awkward and unsure, like teenagers. It feels luscious.

He gives me a hug and a small peck of a kiss, and I climb into my car.

That's it. Right there. That's the exact moment that I turn into a mutant.

When I pressed in my clutch and turned my key, I became one of them. A chick-mutant. I joined the ranks of Storm and Wolverine, but my special power has nothing to do with controlling the weather or retractable steel claws. My special powers are Insecurity, Second-Guessing and Obsession.

I don't know what happens to me when I like a boy. After the initial flirtation, when the promise of a second encounter has been mentioned, I morph from the confident, sexy, funny girl he met into some sick version of a high-school freshman with a face full of pimples and an extra hundred pounds. I start wondering...Does he like me? Maybe I had bad breath. Shouldn't he have called by now? Maybe I should drive by his office. Did I look desperate? I hope he still likes me. Has he thought about me since we met? He must've liked me, it was unmistakable. I'll replay the evening's events over and over in my head, searching for the sign that it was just me, not him, interested in being seen again. I'll think about him when I wake up, I'll hope to run into him in town, and I'll probably even think about him before I tumble into sleep. I'll ponder what I'll do when I see him. Will I mention that he didn't come in as soon as I hoped he would? Will I bring up the fact that he said he'd visit me at all? But I won't drive by his office, I won't call him first and when he does see me, I'll be the same girl he met. I'll be funny and charming and cute, and he'll be oblivious to the fact that I've been thinking about him for a week.

I don't even like the girl I become when I'm infatuated. I don't recognize myself. I become unsure of my appeal, worried that I won't be liked, afraid that I'll get my hopes up and be disappointed. But I believe that my mutation is a result of desperately wanting to be swept off of my feet. I meet a guy in a bar, tell him where I work, and hope that he'll send me flowers the next day. When a guy says "I'll go to the bank and visit you next week," I hope he'll surprise me by coming in this week. I expect every man I meet to go above and beyond the call of duty, to worship and romance me from the moment we meet. And, more often than not, I am disappointed.

It's a possibility that one day I'll meet someone who will sweep me off my feet, who will find me irresistible enough to do all the little things I want without me having to drop any hints. But until that day comes, I'll be hanging out with Professor X and Jean Grey, hoping to be accepted by society, even though I'm a mutant.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Friends Like These

"Deeener is ready!" She called from the kitchen. I was in the living room, in front of her TV with her husband and playing with her baby.

Her husband said something to her in Spanish as he hoisted the baby from the floor and made his way into the kitchen. I followed the two of them out of the room, toward the smell of cooking food and lit candles.

"Here jou go, Chimi," my friend said to me as she gestured toward a seat at her table. Her big brown eyes wrinkled in a smile. "Dis is my romantic Balentine's Day deener for jou." Their ordinary dinner table was adorned with flowers and three red candles, surrounded by dried rose petals. She set my glass of white wine next to me.

"Thanks, Pollo," I smiled. I held the cold glass in my hand, the smooth curves of it fitting perfectly in my palm. "It smells so good in here."

"Well, I wanted to make a speeecial deener for us. Jou know: For jou and me and Chuck and Adrian, too. For Balentine's Day. I'm just glad jou could be here wid us."

Chuck excused himself from the room to put the baby down for bed. He shuffled out of the room, the baby cradled in his arms. "Say goodnight to Aunt Chimi," he said as he turned the corner. Adrian's little hand gave a tired wave over his father's shoulder as his eyes began to close. I looked at that little boy, my Godson, and couldn't believe that it will be year since I watched him enter this world.

Although we worked together for over a year, my good friend and I rarely spoke until she was pregnant with her son. Her impending motherhood softened one or the both of us, allowing us to set aside the notion that two pretty girls can't be friends. We began talking all the time, sending little instant messages over our work computers, joking with each other through the lobby of the bank. We took our lunches together and made plans to spend time on the weekends.

"What chould I name my baby?" She asked me over lunch one day.

"Well...It has to be something Spanish..." I told her, pondering all of the possibilities. "How about Enchilada? Or Nacho? Taco? How about Chimichanga?"

"Cheeemeeeechanga?" She squealed, her thick Ecuadorian accent stretching the word beyond its already interminable length. "Cheeemechanga? Oh, dat's too funny!" She let out a peal of laughter. "I like dat. Maybe dat's what I call you. From now on, jou're Cheeemee."

And so my nickname was born. Chimichanga, or Chimi for short.

I refused to be the only one in our friendship with a silly nickname, so I deemed her El Pollo Loco, after a restaurant I frequented in Las Vegas. Pollo for short.

Not long after that conversation, her husband called me from the delivery room to let me know it was time. She grabbed the phone from him.

"Cheemee. Jou have to come heeere." I could hear the pain and fear in her voice.

I promised her I would be right there.

"Tank jou, Cheeme."

I dropped the phone and fled from my house. I drove as fast as I could to the hospital, out of breath even though I wasn't running. I was excited and nervous and thrilled and terrified. I was in a hurry.

When I was denied admission into the hospital because visiting hours were "over," I said the magic words "Maternity Ward" to the nurse and was buzzed through. I ran through the hospital, my gym shoes squeaking on the cleaned floors of the empty hallways. I pressed the elevator call button and willed it to come faster. I wanted to get to Pollo as quickly as possible.

As it turned out, I needn't have rushed. She resisted pushing, she was panicked by the threat of pain. After three hours, it was finally time. The doctor instructed her to push, and after she complied ("Just geet it out of meeee!" she had cried.), he informed her that he could see the head. I was by her head, supporting it and pressing a damp cloth against the sweat on her forehead. "What are jou waiting for, Cheeemee. Go check!" She ordered. And so I did. Her husband and I switched places, and I watched as her son was pushed into the world.

Even then, I was amazed at the gift she had given me. I held Adrian when he was less than ten minutes old. I have a picture of myself, blown up and proudly displayed, in my gym clothes, with no makeup on my tear stained face, holding her minutes-old son.

Her life and mine are completely different: She has a husband and an almost-year-old son. I have me. She has a mortgage. I pay rent. She cooks dinner and cleans the house. I go out to avoid both. But we're tied together for life. She, her baby, her husband and me.

And last night, as she sat me down at her "romantic" Valentine's Day dinner, she told me to "wait right dere." She and her husband disappeared from the room only to return a moment later. They carried with them three long-stemmed white roses and two cards.

"There's one flower from each of us," her husband said, passing me the wrapped blooms as though I'd just been crowned Miss America. I smiled, fighting the same tears of sheer delight as Miss America would.

"And dis card's from me," Pollo said, handing me a card with the words "Friend Forever" scrawled in her large and loopy handwriting.

Inside, she thanked me for being her best friend and for sharing this day with her and her family. She told me she was happy I let her into my life.

Her husband passed me his card. "This one's from Adrian and me." Inside he had written "From the only two men you need in your life. We love you," and signed his son's name and his own.

The two of them make fun of me for crying, so I did my best to fight the tears that were intent to fall. I gave them each a long, hard hug. In part to give myself a second to weep over their shoulders, and in part to thank them. They knew I'd be alone on Valentine's Day. And they wanted me to be their Valentine.

"I love you, friend," Pollo whispered in my ear during our hug. My lip quivered as I told her I loved her, too, and thought of how lucky I am to have friends like these.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre

It was three years ago today, our first Valentine's Day together, and to say I was excited would have been putting it mildly. Because I am a girl, I put great importance upon holidays of the romantic persuasion; Namely Valentine's Day and any anniversaries that arise. So I woke up on Valentine's Day, prepared to be wooed.

All day long I waited for the flowers he was sure to send to my work. Three of my coworkers were recipients of roses and/or balloons. And every time the man from Myer the Florist came through our doors, I was sure it was my turn. But I was wrong. Three times he came in, and three times he went to somebody other than me. Toward the end of my day, when I had all but given up hope, Tom sauntered in, roses in hand. Ahhh, I thought. I was right. He didn't disappoint me. He sat down at my desk, setting the flowers next to my computer. "Happy Valentine's Day," he said. We shared a small kiss over my files and paperwork, and set to the task of planning our evening.

"Well," he began, "I have this thing I have to do..."

I knew I was in trouble. Tom was always squeezing his work into our dates. Whenever he delicately informed me that he had something to do, I knew a car was involved.

"See, there's this Jeep in Monticello..."

He trailed off, I presume so that I could fill in the blank for him, by saying something along the lines of "sure honey, why don't we go test drive it?" But what I said was:


"So, it's a really great price, and I need to test drive it tonight because I think I might want to buy it. I don't want someone else to get there first." His voice was pleading with me Please don't make a huge deal out of this: I just want to test drive a car. Can't you do that for me?

I just kept looking at him, waiting for the finish....

"And, so, I thought we could go through Monticello, test drive the car, then head over to Middletown for dinner."

I didn't want to make any waves, thereby ruining a perfectly fine Valentine's Day, so I agreed, unaware of what awaited me that evening.

He picked me up late, as usual, and we headed to Monticello. Certainly no metropolis, Monticello is quiet to say the least. Businesses are separated by seemingly endless stretches of vacant land; Houses are even farther apart, each with its own just-about-a-mile-long driveway, adding even more privacy to an otherwise already secluded residence. We pulled up to the home advertising Jeep For Sale in their front yard, and Tom hopped out of the car for a test drive. And he left me in the car. I don't mean to say that I would've liked to drive the jeep with him. But I do mean to say that I hated being in that car alone. Not only because one of my fears is being in the woods alone. Especially at night. It's creepy. You hear strange sounds, you can't see anything, you never know where you are. I hate it. It doesn't matter if my feet are actually standing on pine-needles in the forest, or if I'm in a house in the woods, or in a car in the woods, it terrifies me. But because it was Valentine's Day, and there I was, smoking Marlboro Light after Marlboro Light, listening to sappy love songs the DJ was playing, and praying he would hurry back. I sat there while he test drove the car, while he looked over the body, and then while he talked to the owner about God knows what. I was fuming. I just wanted to get on with my date. With my Valentine's Day date. So when he finally returned to the car, I did my best to hide the fact that it felt like molten lava had replaced the blood in my veins.

Shania Twain had just started to sing about love from this moment on when he hopped in the car, put it in drive and informed me that he didn't like the car: The color was weird. But he test drove it anyway because "well, you never know."

"Oh," was all I could manage as we drove on towards dinner.

"So, where do you want to go?" We were a few minutes from Middletown, and, I thought, dinner, when he posed this all important question.

"Well, I don't know," I responded. "Didn't you make reservation someplace?"

"No. I figured we'd wing it." Tom was a big fan of "winging it."

"Tom, it's Valentine's Day. Everybody and their mother is eating dinner out tonight. We'll never get a table."

"Oh, we'll be fine," he assured me as he pulled into Outback Steakhouse.

The romance was astounding. Fake Australian accents and Foster's Beer labels greeted me as we walked in. So did about thirty other couples, combination beeper/light machine/vibrators in their hands to notify them their tables were ready. We put our name on the list, and took our seat among the rest of the ill-prepared.

"This place has good food," he said as we sat down, as though Outback Steakhouse is some exotic well-kept secret. We plopped down on a hard wooden bench beneath an "authentic" canoe. "Nicole and I came here a few times."

Nicole. Nicole was Tom's ex-girlfriend. She was German. She spoke two languages. She had an accent. I knew this because she had called his house while I was there, naked and wrapped in his comforter, and left a message on the machine. "Tom. Zis is Nicole. I vas vondering how yew vere doink, so I zought I'd call. Vell, call me back. You know ze number. Bye." I always wanted an accent. She intimidated the hell out of me, and I'd never so much as seen her picture. But I also knew that he had failed to tell her that he was dating me ("I can't tell her, Laurie. She's in love with me."), and I never quite understood why.

I saw his mention of Nicole as proof that the night was officially o-v-e-r. Any and all romance had slipped from my clutches, and I was now filled with anger. There was no saving my mood. So I suggested we go to the bar.

We took our seats at the bar, ordered our drinks, and I attempted to salvage the night. I began to recall our first days together, our sweet, quiet and tender moments. I wanted to share them with him again, mostly to remind myself that I liked him. But he was enthralled with the hockey game on the big screen TV just over my shoulder.

Two beers later, we were informed that the bar area was smoking, and therefore first come-first serve seating for dinner. We began to watch couples who looked like they were finishing their meals. We waited. We stalked. We willed them to leave. And finally, all of our scheming paid off. We beat another couple to a recently vacated booth, so newly empty that the vinyl seats were still warm from the previous occupants' derrières.

Our server, a cute young woman in the required safari gear uniform, greeted us almost immediately. "Hi guys! Welcome to Outback! Can I start you out with some drinks?!" She was looking at Tom, not at me. At all.

I ordered a Dr. Pepper.

She didn't look up from her pad, just muttered "Mmm-hmm."

"And what I can I get for you?" she purred at Tom. Making full-on eye contact with him, she listened to his order for iced tea with completely uncalled-for intensity. "Iced Tea. Sure. No problem. I'll be right back." She smiled at him as she left, forgetting once again to acknowledge me.

"Well she's nice," Tom said, his eyes scanning the menu for his dinner selection.

"Yeah. To you."

"You're just too sensitive."

Tom was always accusing me of being too sensitive. But I saw it. I saw the way she looked at him, and the way he didn't shoot her down. I noticed that my hand wasn't being held, that the only conversation we were having was about their food selection. I felt the absence of heat between us, and I was "too sensitive."

"You guys ready to order?" our waitress asked Tom.

"I think so," he replied, offering her his beautiful smile.

Once our order was placed, we chose to look around the restaurant rather than talk. We were surrounded by couples, and even though we were in Outback Steakhouse, I could see romance at almost all of the tables. All but my own.

"So," I started, eager to do anything but look at happy couples, "our year anniversary is coming up in May..."


"Are you surprised we've made it this long?"


I was. I had broken up with my fiancée to pursue the way I felt about Tom. Even though my fiancée was a wonderful man, willing to give me the world if I'd only ask for it. Even though Tom was 12 years older than me. Even though he told me on our first date "I don't think I'll ever get married: It's like waking up every day and eating cornflakes for breakfast." Even though we had completely different goals in life. Even though I felt like I was always chasing him. Even though all of my friends said it would never work out. I was shocked, and thrilled, we'd made it to the nine-month mark.

He reached across the table and held my hand. "I'm happy," he told me.

"But I want more," I countered.

He let go of my hand. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, this is fine for now, the whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing, but I'm going to want more. I just want to make sure you know that. I'm going to want to be married."

He looked at me, appalled. "Well, this is a great time to have this conversation."

"It's just that...Well, you never talk about our future or wanting to get married..."

"We've been dating for nine months."

"I know. But you say you love me, right? You tell me you never want to be without me...And that's all wonderful, but I just need to know that, you know, we want the same thing."

"I don't know, Laurie. I don't think we should talk about this now."

"But why not? It's as good a time as any."

"Because...Because I don't think marriage makes any sense. I don't think I want to get married."

We were interrupted by our waitress. "Here you go," she cooed to my boyfriend, setting his plate in front of him. The smile all but fell from her face. "And yours," she said to me.

I pushed around the pasta on my plate, no longer hungry, feeling like I was to blame for the sour turn the evening had taken. The logical side of my brain argued with the romantic side: You deserve to know if you want the same things! But you don't have to ask him RIGHT NOW! But I can't take it! I feel like I'll explode if I don't know! But you WON'T explode. Just wait! But why should I waste my time? It's still so early! Don't push him! I want it now! But he doesn't! Just give him time! I can't.

"This food is terrible," was what came out of my mouth the next time I spoke. I lifted a forkful of soggy pasta and watery alfredo sauce and let it plop back into the mush that was supposed to be my dinner.

"Mine, too." He wrinkled his nose as he attempted to cut through an overcooked and tough chicken breast. "It really is awful." He flagged down our waitress.

"Is there something you needed, hon?"

"Yeah," he began, lubing her with his most apologetic grin. "You see - God, I never do this - well, our food is really terrible." Another smile. "And, I know it's not your fault...But it really is inedible..." If he were a woman, he'd be batting his eyelashes. "And, I hate to do this, but is it possible to get something else? I'm so sorry."

"Of course it's possible! What would you like?"

He picked something else from the menu. I opted for a cup of coffee instead of dinner. I was mentally kicking myself for bringing up marriage on Valentine's Day. God, I thought, you are ridiculous. Why are you pushing him? He's never going to want you if you keep pressuring him. He'll want to marry you. Just give it time. But in the meantime, you've ruined Valentine's Day.

We spent the entire time it took for his new dinner to come out drowning in silence. And the less we spoke, the angrier I got. Wait a second. I have every right to know where this is going. I didn't ruin today...HE did. He brought me flowers from the grocery store. He test drove a fucking car. He didn't make any plans. We're at Outback-fucking-Steakhouse, where he's allowing the waitress to flirt with him. Now he's telling me he's not sure he wants to get married. Today's problems are not my fault.

"So, Tom, explain to me the reasoning behind your distaste for marriage."

"It's just a piece of paper, Lar. That's all it is. And I don't need it. I don't want it."

"Why not?"

"Because it's ridiculous. A piece of paper, Laurie. A piece of paper that binds us together. Why do we need that?"

"Why don't you want to be bound together? What's so wrong with it?"

"I just don't like the idea of some certificate telling me what I can and can't do."

"What? Marriage makes it harder to leave?"

"Well, kind of."

"So you're already thinking of the easiest way to get out? You're already concerned with whether or not we'd have to divide property? You don't want to share anything with me, do you? You don't want to share your last name, you don't want to share you life...." Shit. There wasn't even any room in his closet for me. I shouldn't have been surprised that there wasn't any room in his life for me, either.

"That's not it. I do love you. We can live together."

"Let's just make sure we're clear on this, Tom: I will not be your lifelong girlfriend or your common law wife."

"Can I get you guys anything else?" She stuck her face right in the middle of our heated conversation.

"No. I don't think so." I said, looking at Tom instead of her.

"Okay. Well, I'll leave your check right here."

His voice was cold when he addressed me. "Well. I don't know what to tell you, Laurie. I just don't think I want it." He was furious with me, I could tell. It was the way he looked at me, like he didn't care what I thought. It was the way he was doing his best to not spare my feelings. And I felt like I'd been punched in the chest.

"Then why do you tell me you love me, if you don't want to spend your life with me?" I couldn't understand why one man, less than a year ago, wanted nothing more in this whole world than to put a wedding band on my finger, give me his last name, and keep me forever...And this man, right in front of me, was telling me he wasn't sure it would last forever, so he didn't want to commit to forever. I wanted him to love me. To tell me that he'd do anything to have me forever. To tell me that he wanted me to carry little babies with my eyes and his nose. All he could tell me was:

"I do love you. I'm not saying I don't. I'm just saying I don't want to get married."

There it was. I should've taken it. I should've seen it for what it was instead of thinking well, he just doesn't know yet. He'll want to marry me. I just have to be patient.

The bill was $4.00. We were charged only for my coffee and a soda.

"Hey, Lar. I'm sorry tonight turned out like it did."

"I'm sorry it turned out like this too."

"But, hey...I only have a credit card. I don't want to put a $4.00 bill on my credit card. Do you have a twenty?"

Not only did love make me blind enough to give him the twenty, but I stayed with him for two and half more years.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Try a Little Tenderness

In my car this morning, Otis Redding's rich voice poured through my speakers.
He was singing my song...

Ooh she may be weary
And them young girls they do get weary
Wearing that same old shaggy dress
But when they get weary
try a little tenderness

You know she's waiting
Just anticipating
The thing that she'll never, never, possess, no, no
But while she's without it
Go to her and try just a little bit of tenderness

Oh, but it's one thing
It might be a bit sentimental yeah, yeah
She has - her greives and care
But the soft words are spoken so gentle
But, oh, that makes it, makes it easier to bear, yeah

You wont regret it
No no,
Them young girls they dont forget it
Love is their whole, whole happiness Yes, yes, yeah

And its all so easy
Come on and try
Try a little Tenderness
Yeah Try
Just keep on trying

You've got to love her
Squeeze her
Don't tease her

Make love
Hold her tight
Just, just try a little tenderness
Thats all you gotta do
You've gotta hold her tight

One more time
You've got to love her
Hold her
Don't tease her
Never leave her
Make love to her
Hold her, man

Try a little tenderness
God have mercy now

All you've gotta do
Love her
You've gotta hold her
Don't squeeze her
Never leave her

You gotta now, now, now

Watch it, tell everybody
Try a little tenderness

You gotta make love
Don't tease her
Never leave her
Rub her down
Smooth her, soothe her
Move her
Love her
Rub her
Gotta gotta, sock it to her
Try some tenderness

Oh yeah
Little tendernes
Gotta, lord you gotta hold her
Squeeze her

Never leave her

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Cookies Anyone?

"What's this?"


He pointed to a sign taped to my desk. "This."

"Oh, it's Customer Appreciation Day tomorrow."

"What does that mean?"

"It means tomorrow we'll have little goodies here for the customers..."

"Omelets? Will you have omelets?"

"Uh...No," I said, slowly and confused. "We. . .won't. . .have. . .any. . omelets." Why would someone ask for such a thing in a bank?

"Well then, what will you have?"

"We'll have cookies and - "

"Cookies? We're not kids! Customers aren't kids!" He was getting angry over cookies?


"So, what's the benefit of coming?"


"For cookies? I'm supposed to come in tomorrow for cookies?"

"No. You don't have to come in tomorrow at all. Everybody here is bringing in a little something for the customers. That's all."


"Well, yeah."

"Oh. Good. I'll see you tomorrow."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A Drop of Water

We were sitting across from eachother at the Dimmick Inn & Steakhouse, picking at nachos on my lunch hour. I had just finished telling her that I knew that Tom and I weren't going anywhere - That I wasn't sure he'd ever want to marry me, that he didn't make me feel good anymore, he made me feel weak and like I was always vying for his attention. "I don't know why you're still with him. Someone should be grateful to have you, not stringing you along. I just want you to be loved like I love you. I know I'm your mother, but God, Laurie, you are so special. You are so wonderful. You are like a drop of water in the desert. "

We were in my bathroom at well past midnight on a Thursday. She was patting my tear-stained face with a cool towel, telling me everything would be okay. "But, Mom, I just don't understand," I cried. My words came out wet and slurred, a product of about ten-too-many tequila shots that night. Earlier that day, my mom and I had attended the funeral of our good friend, Roland. My boyfriend had refused to accompany me to the service, advising me that he was "too busy to just drop everything" when I needed him. Roland's death was unexpected and far from timely. For two weeks, we drove back and forth between the our houses and the VA hospitals to which my mom's best friend had been admitted. We watched him progress from good to bad to worse to awful, and there was nothing we could do. Less than a month from the time he went to the doctor for tests, he had passed away. I cried during the service, marveling at the enormity of the man I knew being in a small box at the altar. I cried at his grave, saying my last goodbye and wactching other people whose significant others thought enough of them to come. I didn't want to be alone that night, so I headed to a local bar with friends in an effort to just forget about it. But my desire for amnesia lead to too many glasses of wine and too many shots on an empty stomach. I found the numbness I'd sought, but it terrified me. I called my mom from the floor of my bathroom. "I'm so drunk," I whispered. "I need help." I was terrified. Just as she had promised me through the reciever, she was right there. Sadness and confusion spilled out of me. I was sad about Roland's death. I was angry that Tom deserted me when I needed him. My heart was broken, and I felt utterly lonely. But my mom was there, soaking up my tears and wrapping me in her arms...Even though her despair was much deeper than mine, I'm sure. "It's okay, sweetie. I understand."

I was at my friend's house after her son's baptism. My eyes were puffy and red from crying. I could hardly sees the keys as I dialed my mom's number. "Well," I told her, "that's it. It's over. He broke up with me."


"About three hours ago."


"Yeah, he came with me to Adrian's baptism but got upset because he couldn't sit with us - I mean, we were the parents and godparents, so we had to sit up at the front. He couldn't sit with us. But he got upset. And he left. He left me there, Mom. But he came back just as the baptism was over. He slithered into the back and waited for me. When I asked him if he was coming to the reception, he just said 'I'm going home. I have better things to do with my time. I already wasted a half of a fucking afternoon here.' So I said 'Well, just come to the reception and then we'll go home.' He told me that he wasn't going. He said he was 'sick of her shit,' whatever that's supposed to mean. And then I started to cry. I couldn't help it. And he said, 'Oh, great. Just cry. That's perfect.' Mom, he was so mean. So I told him to at least sit with me for a minute so we could talk about it. And he reluctantly agreed. By the time we got into my car, he told me that this was my thing, not his. I said, 'no, it's their thing...I'm here becuase I'm the godmother. Not because I wanted him to be baptized...' I didn't understand where he was going. He made a sweeping motion with his hand that encompassed the church and the families spilling out of it, the strollers, the wedding bands, the white baptismal clothes. 'No, this is your thing - The family, the kids, the baptism, the marriage. That's your thing. It's not mine. I can't do it, Laurie. It hit me while I was in there. I don't want to get married and I don't want kids." That was it. It was over. I had a boyfriend in the church, and I was single when I walked out of it. I had to go to the reception alone, and everyone said 'Where's Tom? Where's Tom?' What was I supposed to tell them, that he just broke up with me? That he dumped me right in front of St. Vincents? That, after three and half years he finally grew the balls to tell me he'd been lying to me every time he said he'd want to get married?"

"Honey, I am so sorry. You shouldn't have to hurt like this. You deserve so much more. You deserve someone who is going to treat you right. Tom's a great guy, but you deserve better. You're amazing. You're smart and beautiful, you have a wonderful heart. You deserve the best. He was lucky to have you as long as he did. I know you're heartbroken. I know you're hurt. But this really is for the best. Now somebody who deserves you can find you."

She's always been strong for me; When I'm on the verge of broken, she holds my peices together and reminds me there's always something better. She reminds me of my worth, that I deserve the best, that I shouldn't settle. Her love is awe-inspiring. She's helped heal my biggest heartbreaks. She's been the salve to almost every wound I've endured. I'm grateful for her love, for her selflessness, for her amazing heart. I don't know what I would do, what kind of person I'd be now, without her; She's like a drop of water in the desert.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Tonight, I will go to my friend's house with a large bottle of wine. She will ask me how I am, and I will say "fine," and suggest that she open the bottle of Yellow Tail Shiraz I'm carrying. She'll tell her boyfriend to come and join us at the table. The three of us will sit and snack on the appetizers she has prepared. I'll sip from the glass she has given me, the buttery red wine slipping past my lips, warming me from the inside, and pretend that I'm not thinking of you.

When they ask me what I've been up to, I'll tell them "Nothing. Same ol', same ol'. Moving in. Working. You know." And they'll smile and nod, as though I've just told them something of any value. They'll ask me if I have any good gossip, and I'll say "No," thinking of what you told me last night; Surely that would qualify as gossip. But I'll keep my mouth shut, wanting to keep our exchange between just the two of us. I don't want to explain you to them. I know they wouldn't understand. They'll tell me that I'm crazy. That I should keep my distance. That I shouldn't even be talking to you. But they don't know that we can't help it. They wouldn't understand that we're bonded in a way that's beautiful, unexplainable and horrific.

We'll talk about Desperate Housewives and the Super Bowl and what they did with their Saturday night. I'll get tipsy from fermented Australian grapes, thinking of what's going to happen when you move to Milford. How will I act? What if I see you? What will I do?

We'll eat our dinner, prepared with love from scratch by my friend. We'll plan our impending trip to Florida. And I'll think of how I don't know what to do with you. I'll think of how much I wish that I could think of you as a friend and nothing more.

While my friend cleans up the table, I'll check my face in the mirror, my stained lips a scarlet reminder that I've been imbibing all night. I'll tell myself that if you write me tomorrow, I just won't respond. But, even inebriated, I'll know that it would be impossible for me not write you back. I'll fall victim to the way I feel when I see your name, the school-girl giddiness I feel when you write something remotely complimentary, the way you make me weak with French phrases I don't even understand. So I'll write you back, of course, and get myself deeper and deeper into trouble.

The evening will move onto dessert and after-dinner drinks, but I'll opt to stick with thick red wine, preferring the way it makes me feel slow and luxurious as opposed to the buzzing feeling I get with Vodka. I'll laugh at jokes my friends make, even when they're not funny, because I'll be thinking of how you surprised me last night. I'll be thinking of how happy it made me to talk to you and laugh...I'll be thinking of your laugh finding its way through my phone and landing in my ear, honest and hearty. It felt delicious.

My friends will turn on the TV, flipping through channels while I allow my car to get warm. They'll tell me about their plans for the weekend, but my mind will be elsewhere. My thoughts will be syrupy, slow and viscous, but they will all be about you. I will be thinking that I know how you feel about me, even if you don't say it. I'll know that it's more than physical, even if physical is all we can have.

Before I know it, it will be time to go home. I'll shuffle through the cold and out to my car, wishing I still lived just next door. I'll drive home, twenty-five miles per hour, thinking all the while of how unfair it is that our time was never right.

After my short drive, I'll get home, shed my clothes and crawl into my lonely bed, thinking of what will, or won't, become of us.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Today, I woke up early. The sun flooded my newly-cleaned room, and for once, I didn't pound the snooze button over and over again; I didn't lie in bed, computing the amount of time I could spend wrapped in my comforter without being late to work. I didn't have to hurry through my morning routine in order to get out the door on time. Because I was early, I was able to leisurely stroll downstairs, let the dog out and make my coffee. I didn't hurry through my shower. I was able to take my time when putting on my makeup. Normally, I change clothes two or three times each morning. Today, I liked the very first outfit I put on. I had time to make my lunch and empty the dishwasher. The DJ on the radio promised a high of 50 today, and I knew I wouldn't need my down-filled, fur-lined coat - A simple black jacket would be enough to keep me warm. I put on my big black sunglasses and smiled, thrilled to be given a day where they were necessary. I didn't have to speed to work. In my car, I listened to Al Green sing about love and happiness, and I thought "This will be a good day."

I pulled into work a full fifteen minutes early, which is a rarity to say the least. I walked through the parking lot without having to dodge snowbanks and ice patches. The gentleman walking ahead of me opened the door and motioned me through. I smiled and strutted into my office. I turned on my computer and delighted in the fact that Outlook greeted me with ten new messages, none of which were junk. Before the clock struck 10:00, I had already finished the projects I didn't complete on Friday. I feel motivated and ambitious. I feel good.

My good feeling, I'm sure, is due in part to my weekend. I was blessed with the presence of two wonderful old friends. One rode the train to visit me from New York City, and one thought to dial my number from her phone. I met both of these extraordinary women when I was in high school, and I've been lucky enough to maintain their friendship ever since. They make me laugh just as much now as they did seven years ago. I'm proud of who they are, and impressed that they have become such fabulous women.

Dominique showed up on Friday night. Three months away from her wedding, she's radiant and successful. Tumbleweed called me Saturday afternoon. Her voice was a surprise, still filled with the intelligence, confidence and fearlessness I remember. Hearing their voices felt smooth, effortless. It felt like finally slipping into neutral and coasting, after miles and miles of congested roads. It felt like a deep breath, an exhale. It felt warm and soft, an all-consuming comfort.

You feel content when talking to people who knew you before: Before you were hard, before you were lonely, before you had a job, before you knew who you were. You don't feel you have anything to hide, or that you're not good enough for their company. These people liked you when you were muddling through all of the people you wanted to be, and before you turned into the person you've become. Just thinking of things that made you laugh years ago still causes you to giggle. It feels like home.

All I can think of today is how lucky I am to still have these two women in my life. Dominique was with me to plan my wedding. Tumbleweed was there when the wedding was called off. They've been there for me through my biggest successes and most terrifying disappointments. I know they're going to be with me forever, and that makes me feel good.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Duty, Honor, Country

There are a myriad of qualities I look for in a guy: Smart, funny, sweet, thoughtful, tall, well dressed, romantic, strong, honest and kind are just a few. But there's one quality that means more than all of those combined. An Army man.

I love Army guys. And I know what you're thinking: It's the uniform, right? Well, I'd be lying if I said no. Of course the uniform is part of it. The BDUs are my favorite - The camouflage pants tucked into jump boots, the blouse with sleeves rolled up to reveal tanned forearms, the olive drab t-shirt peeking out from behind buttons and camo. The rank pinned to broad shoulders, the patch on the arm, the nametag above the breast pocket. The hat: camouflage and resting atop close-cropped hair, the metallic rank symbol smack in the middle. I love it. I love the Class As, light green shirt covered by an olive jacket. Dress Blues, black pants with a yellow stripe down the side, a black jacket adorned with pins delineating accomplishments, a crisp white shirt, a black bow tie. I love them all. But you take the man out of the uniform, and all that's left is a man. You can put pretty much anybody into a set of BDUs and he becomes sexy. It takes a special Army guy to be the complete package.

The complete package is a man in the Army who loves what he does. He signed up for the Army not because he didn't know what to do with himself after high school, or because he felt like he had to. He joined the Army because he wanted to. He wanted to fight for his country, and he wanted to be on the front lines. He weighed the crappy pay against the honor the Army affords and chose to forge ahead. Being in the Army, in infantry especially, is about as manly as it gets. The camouflage, the guns, the helicopters, the patches. You can almost taste the testosterone. Nothing makes me feel safer than a man in the military. I feel like he can protect me no matter what happens. He loves his country enough to fight for it, surely he'll love me enough to fight for me, too.

But there's a reason I'm fascinated with the Army. There's a reason I know all of the acronyms and cite We Were Soldiers and Saving Private Ryan as two of my favorite movies: My dad.

The best memories in my childhood find me in our living room watching cartoons as he folded the sleeves of his uniform before work. The room smelled like soap, Old Spice and boot polish. I remember driving with my mom to Ft. Campbell to have a picnic lunch at the park, my parents sitting on a ratty old blanket sprawled across the patchy grass, talking as I slid and swung in the playground. I remember my dad's 101st Airborne office, with its Bald Eagle in the entrance way, pictures of soldiers from years gone by staring down at me from the walls. The musty smell of the staircase that carried me to his office, and the bookcase behind his desk displaying the sum of his awards. I remember waiting and waiting for him to come home from his trips to the field, eager for a gift upon his return. I was greeted with an MRE and a glow stick. I couldn't have been happier. He wore a blur of patches and pins on his uniform: Ranger, Airborne, Infantry, Jumpmaster...Looking at him through a five year old's eyes, he was a hero.

After twenty years of service, my father retired as a Major. We went to his retirement party as a family, my mother, father, brother and I. We listened to his soldiers speak of him with respect, his Colonel speak of him with pride, his coworkers speak of him with admiration. When it was his turn to speak, my father went to the front of the room in his BDUs, collected his plaque, and took a seat at the podium.

"Well, I imagine that my leaving is pretty much like dipping your finger in a bucket of water. You don't really notice that anything's missing," he began. He went on to talk about his service and thanked some people in the room. His speech was short and sweet. He hated leaving the Army. I was only ten years old, but I couldn't imagine anyone not noticing my father's absence. My father is the greatest man I have ever known, and I was sure that those who cared enough to attend his retirement party must've felt the same.

He's been out of the Army for over ten years now. He no longer jumps out of planes and helicopters, he no longer goes to the field for weeks at a time. His once jet black hair is salt and pepper, but he works hard every day, he still has his southern drawl and he still calls me "Sugar Booger." I absolutely adore him. He no longer wears patches or medals, but through the eyes of a twenty-four year old, he's a hero.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Our Time

I met him my very first day in Milford. Seventeen years old and eager to work, I had taken a seat in a popular local restaurant to simultaneously eat lunch and peruse the jobs section of the paper. He was sitting at the bar, an arm's length away from me, eating his lunch wearing, of all things, biker shorts. I hadn't noticed him until I heard him speaking with my waiter - They were laughing about something that had happened over the weekend in the restaurant, recounting the tirade of a disgruntled diner. His conversation suggested that he, too, was employed there, so I asked him where the little girls' room was. He smiled and directed me around me the corner. I was sure to stand straight and swing my hips as I walked away from him, certain he was watching. He was my type exactly, except for the biker shorts, I could tell immediately. I was smitten, and he had only told me how to get to the bathroom.

Upon my return to my seat, he turned his back on his meal and asked me if I was new to the area.

"Yeah, I could tell you weren't from around here," he said, taking a French fry from his plate.

"Is that good or bad?"

"Oh, it's good. If you were from around here you'd probably be missing a tooth and wearing overalls."

"Or biker shorts."

He smiled. "Touché."

For ten minutes or so, our conversation straddled the distance between my table and the bar. After the third or fourth interruption, we decided he should join me.

When he sat down across from me, the dialogue was effortless. We talked about our families, Milford, Las Vegas, the ability to speak French. He explained to me the concept of email (hey, it was '98. It was new to me.), he told me about his college career, I told him about myself. We laughed like old friends, comfortable and easy. We completely lost track of time. We didn't even notice when lunch menus were replaced with dinner menus, paper napkins replaced with linens. We didn't notice that the neon "Open" sign was illuminated, or that the street lights were bathing Milford in an artificial glow. It was only when my lunch waiter said "You've been here long enough, are you going to sleep here, too?" that we realized how much time we'd spent in those wooden booths, revealing ourselves to one another.

"Well," he said, standing up, "you should give me a call sometime. I'll give you a tour of Milford. It should take about fifteen minutes."

We laughed and he left, but he didn't give me his number.

I grinned all the way home. He was a nerd. He was confident. He was smart. He was so funny. I officially had a crush on him.

I knew the nights he bartended and the days he worked lunch. In a town as small as Milford, it's not that hard to glean all the information you need through the grapevine alone. I showed up from time to time, sure that I looked my best. I flirted with him and he always flirted back. The chemistry between us was palpable.

It took him weeks to finally ask me out. I was all sweaty palms and jitters by the time he picked me up. We went to Wal Mart.

"I hate coming to this place," he sighed as we pulled into a parking spot. He gave a facetious shrug, "But I need clothes."

I laughed till my stomach hurt.

That was almost seven years ago now, and I still smile when I think of that moment.

I built snowmen with him, I trespassed on state land in search of waterfalls with him, I smoked my first cigar with him, I made out with him in my house when it was still just a foundation and some framing. I day dreamed about him, fantasized about him and was crazy about him. But we never had a relationship. We never called one another pet names, I was never able to refer to him as my boyfriend. It was just never our time.

He moved to France for a year to study abroad, and I got engaged. My fiancee hated him. I moved from my engagement into my recently deceased relationship, bypassing him entirely. My ex hated him, too. Because we always found our way to each other. At least once every six months, one of us will call the other. The chemistry is still palpable. And now he's the one who's engaged.

I heard from him yesterday. We volleyed emails back and forth, and even though I'm single, he's engaged, and we know it's dangerous. We get each other into too much trouble. We flirt, and we laugh, we talk about what might have been had the time ever been right.

He'll be married in May, and that will probably end our interaction. The thought alone makes me sad; So many of my memories are attached to him in one way or the other. Even memories I haven't made: France will always belong to him. As will biker shorts and Wal Mart's fashions.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Talk, Talk

I was at home last night, attempting to unpack the mountain of boxes sitting beside my bed, when it hit me: I'm alone. Sure, physically I was alone. It didn't take an epiphany for me to figure that out. It was the other side of the alone coin that I ran head-first into: Lonely.

There's a huge difference between lonely and alone. Alone is freeing. Alone is unencumbered. Alone is quiet and comfortable and necessary from time to time. You choose to be alone, and you choose when you've had enough of it. Lonely is another beast entirely. There's no choice, no control in lonely. Correct me if I'm wrong, but generally, people don't choose to be lonely, it just happens. I've said before that I prefer to be alone - live alone, dance alone, eat alone - but I despise being lonely.

And being lonely has nothing to do with being single. It has nothing to do with whether or not I have a man I can run to. Because I've had a man and been lonely at the exact same time. This has more to do with not knowing anyone who knows me.

I have a general demeanor of calm, cool and collected around my friends. I don't show up to parties pissed off, I don't cry at bars, and although I'll lament about my man troubles (or lack thereof) I shrug it off, giving the impression that it may have bothered me enough to talk about it, but not enough to cry about it. But it's so not true. I'm a big ol' faker. I look my friends in the eye and tell them that I'm fine, when really all I want to do is go home, listen to some sad music and weep. And they believe me when I say I'm fine, because I would never let on that I feel otherwise.

Because I appear to have no issues of my own, my friends see me as their therapist. It is my job to listen to and subsequently solve their problems. Most times, I'm thrilled with the duty I've been assigned. I love that they trust me and my opinion enough to share with me their deepest, darkest secrets. I'm flattered and honored that they choose me to come to when they need help. But after conversation upon conversation where I find myself only nodding and listening, not offering anything of my own, I just want to scream, Hey, what about me? Don't you want to ask if I'm okay? If I'm doing alright now that I'm single? If I'm happy in my new house? If anything is bothering me? But then I remind myself, that if they asked me any of these questions, I'd lie right through my teeth and say "I'm fine. I'm happy being single. I love my new place. Everything is great."

But everything is not fine. I hate being single. It saddens me that I spent over three years with a guy who ultimately didn't want me. I don't understand how I could be with one man who would give anything to spend his life with me, and then give him up for a man who would give me up to be free. It's true that I love my new house, but I have no one to share it with. And I'd kill for someone to ask me how I am, and really want to hear the answer - Most people I know just ask me out of courtesy. I can see them waiting for me to get through with my shit so we can move onto theirs. So I hurry through tidbits about me, and get to what they want to say. And so I wish I had never given them the impression I was fine, because now I can't take it back. I wish I wasn't so terrified of looking weak. I wish I wasn't so resistant to advice. I feel like I'm bursting with things to talk about, but no one to talk to.

Sunday night I only slept for two hours. After watching both Jerry Maguire and Mermaids, crying into my crisp white pillowcase, and staring my ceiling, I realized that I just needed to talk. My first instinct was to call my ex, but I pushed that thought away, refusing to rely on old crutches to heal new wounds. Then I thought of calling my mom, but I didn't want to wake her, or bother her with my "problems" that, in the grand scheme of things, aren't that big. A weekend without internet access prevented me from writing here, and I guess that's what did it to me. I had nowhere to just talk (or type, as it were) about myself without worrying if I really should be listening to someone else instead.

So to whoever reads this, allowing me to maintain my sanity: Thank you.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Consumer Affairs

I had expected today to be excruciatingly slow, but as it turns out, it has been full of excruciatingly tedious business. Not only did I write commitment letters, send out two wires and open four savings accounts, but I also had to handle some 401K and IRA questions, about which I know nothing. Although my position here at the bank is more commercial loans assistant and less customer service representative, I wind up spending much of my day helping customers balance statements, opening accounts and dealing with complaints and problems. In light of the number of times today I have heard "You people keep charging me," "I can't be overdrawn because I never write checks. I only use my debit card" and "I've had my account here for twenty years," I offer these words of advice to non-bankers everywhere:

Please understand we banks are not enforcing rules just to make your life miserable. Not only are we a business with the ultimate goal of making money, but we have federal standards with which we must comply. And, more to the point, I am not personally responsible for the charging of fees, the requirement to present ID or the speed with which checks clear your account. I only work here. Don't shoot the messenger. Yes, using your debit card with reckless abandon and complete disregard for your account balance will cause you to be overdrawn. And it doesn't matter how long you've had your account in a bank or how many employees you know, you are still subject to the same rules as everybody else. If you see that my desk is covered in papers, that I am feverishly typing on my computer, do not come up to me and say "Are you busy?" Yes. I am. Obviously. If I'm on the phone, please do not hover at my desk or try to interrupt me. That customer on the phone is just as important. I won't ignore you, I promise. Additionally, I am incapable of figuring out the error in your account if you don't maintain a register or ever balance your statements. And if you don't balance your checkbook, please do not yell at me because you assume the bank has made a mistake. How do you know a mistake has been made if you don't know how much is supposed to be in your account? Also, please be patient with us bankers. When you're sitting at our desks and we're furiously typing in all of your personal information, when we're asking you everything about yourself (including mother's maiden name, two forms of ID, occupation, address, Social Security number, and just barely stopping short of asking you when you last had a good piece of ass), when we're printing out a million pieces of paper that you will have to sign, when we hand-write in any information that didn't print on the documents for whatever reason, PLEASE do not roll your eyes, check your watch and make us feel like we're keeping you from saving tsunami victims. I had three men at my desk a few weeks ago, who were all admittedly "doing nothing today because of the snow," all complain that their transactions were taking too long. I understand that you don't want to spend time in a bank. If I didn't work here, I wouldn't want to either. But we're not magicians. We can only go as fast as our programs allow us. We're not purposely going slowly just to screw up your day. Trust me, the faster we get you out of here, the sooner we can hop on the internet. We are trying. I swear.

I've always said that the two worst professions in the world are working with people's money, and working with people's food. Because people are very sensitive when it comes to their checkbooks and their dinner. That's why I try to never walk up to someone's desk when they're obviously working, because I know how much I hate it. I think I can recall one instance where I sent food back at a restaurant, but I made sure I was kind to the waitress because I knew it wasn't her fault. Of course, there are situations when we as consumers just can't bear to be kind any more. I've had waitress roll their eyes when I asked for a side of sauce at a pizza joint. I've had tellers completely ignore me when I'm waiting in line to make a deposit. And I work here! I understand the frustration. And in an instance like that, I say you have all the right to get upset and demand your service. But if someone's being nice to you, really trying to make your time pleasurable, why not drop the asshole act and just be nice back?

But for every enormous jerk, there is some levity each situation offers. I have one customer, a man, who never smiles or looks at my face, but always stares straight at my boobs. Each time he visits my desk, he does his very best to let me know that I am sitting in the presence of greatness - Or at very least, in the presence of wealth. The last time I had the pleasure of his company, he told me no less than ten times that he had a boat. He would interject it into the conversation in the most shameless ways possible. Some examples:

"You were engaged to a cadet at West Point? I have MY BOAT docked up by West Point."
"Have you ever seen the New York City skyline from the water? Sometimes I travel in MY BOAT down the Hudson and just look at the skyline."
"Last summer, I was on MY BOAT, and I thought 'I ought to start investing my money.'"
"You know, MY BOAT is the exact same color as your sweater."
"Do you know of anywhere around here that I could store MY BOAT?"
"All that snow out there sure makes me miss the summer...and MY BOAT."

Gee, I wonder if he has a boat.

He also says things like "I saw you driving to work today," and "I saw you this weekend at the stoplight," and he will always follow it with "Did you see me? I was in the blue convertible BMW." When I respond that I must've missed him, he tells my boobs that he has many cars, so he's not surprised that I don't recognize him.

Ahhh, customer service is riveting.