Thursday, April 28, 2005

Counting Crows

I knew the song by the first beat. Utterly familiar, the cymbals marked the beginning of the song. He looked at me, put down his beer and asked for this dance.

"Did you pick this song?" I said, setting down my wine and looking over at the jukebox.

"No. I didn't. I swear." But he smiled and took my hand.

We danced in slow circles, Anna Begins bouncing off of the wooden booths around the bar.

Maybe he didn't notice how appropriate the song was. Or maybe he knew exactly how well it fit us, and that's why he asked me to dance.

My friend assures me "it's all or nothing"
I am not worried, I am not overly concerned
My friend implores me: "For one time only make an exception"
I am not worried
Wrap her up in a package of lies send her off to a coconut island
I am not worried, I am not overly concerned
With the status of my emotions "Oh", She says, "You're changing."
But we're always changing

Tom and I had just broken up, and David suggested I drive up for a visit. I spent five hours in my car, driving to the man whose last name I almost claimed.

It does not bother me to say this isn't love
Because if you don't want to talk about it then it isn't love
And I guess I'm going to have to live with that
But, I'm sure there's something in a shade of gray or something in
And I can always change my name if that's what you mean

Dancing in the bar in Watertown, NY felt strange, like stepping into a snapshot of the life you were supposed to have. David's arms around me felt both familiar and foreign. I fell into him, let him lead around the makeshift dance floor to one of my favorite songs.

My friend assures me "It's all or nothing"
But I am not really worried, I am not overly concerned
You try to tell yourself the things you tell yourself to make yourself
I am not worried
"If it's love", she said, "then were gonna have to think about the
She can't stop shaking and I can't stop touching her and.....

We were still friends, even though we were almost married but decided against it. Four years had passed since I slipped the ring he gave me off of my left hand, and there I was, dancing with him in the very town we were supposed to have lived in. I walked through the apartment we may have rented, had we married. I met all of his friends, the wives of whom I may have been friends with, too.

"Oh," his friends would say. "You're Laurie. I've heard so much about you."

"All good, I hope," I'd joke, returning their firm handshakes.

"Nothing but good."

This time when kindness falls like rain
It washes her away and Anna begins to change her mind
"These seconds when I'm shaking leave me shuddering for days" she says
And I'm not ready for this sort of thing

Dancing with him now, I couldn't remember what went wrong; Why we didn't walk down the aisle. I could see the life we would've had so clearly it hurt: His uniforms, the Officer sticker on the car, our apartment, the arguments, the laughter. Why did I give it up, only to wind up there anyway?

But I'm not gonna break and I'm not going to worry about it anymore
I'm not gonna bend and I'm not gonna break
I'm not gonna worry about it anymore
It seems like I should say "as long as this is love..."
But it's not all that easy so maybe I should just:
Snap her up in a butterfly net and just pin her down on a photograph
I am not worried, I've done this sort of thing before
But then I start to think about the consequences
Because I don't get no sleep in a quiet room and...

There is not one ounce of me, one atom in me, that doesn't feel completely loved around David. I leaned my head against his shoulder, my eyes moist with memories. I knew that we broke up because my feelings for him had changed and I saw him as more of a friend than a husband. But having spent three years of my life grasping for the commitment and adoration I so craved, I started to see the value of having someone love you wholly and without question.

David pushed me out and spun me back at the crescendo of the song, both of us laughing like kids. I felt him watching me as I turned.

"You look so beautiful," he said as he pulled me in close.

I always loved me most through his eyes.

This time when kindness falls like rain
It washes me away and Anna begins to change my mind
And every time she sneezes I believe it's love and
Oh lord.... I'm not ready for this sort of thing

I caught myself thinking, as my feet mirrored the movement of his, I could do this. I felt myself giving in to the comfort of knowing he will always love me unconditionally; To the certainty of his affection for me; To the idea of being taken care of by someone who wants to do just that.

But as quickly as I felt that, I forced the notion away. I don't want to take advantage of a good man's heart. I don't want to give him an iota less than he deserves; and I know he deserves to be loved as much as he loves me. And I know I can't give him that.

But I do love him. I always will. And right in the middle of all of my turmoil - a broken me, suddenly insecure in my solitude - I felt the soft hush of security envelop me: I will always love him, and he will always love me.

She's talking in her sleep
It's keeping me awake and Anna begins to toss and turn
And every word is nonsense but I understand and
Oh lord... I'm not ready for this sort of thing
Her kindness bangs a gong
It's moving me along and Anna begins to fade away
It's chasing me away

The song ends and David dips me, a dramatic move that he knows I love. We laugh as he pulls me back upright.

"Do you need another drink?" He asks, checking my nearly empty wine glass.

"No, I don't think so." I could feel the wine in my limbs, in my head. I sat on the hard bench closest to me.

"I'm glad you came here," he said, taking the seat across from me.

"Me too, David."

She disappears and
Oh lord, I'm not ready for this sort of thing

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Ladder of Success

Once every two months, my bank tells me it is necessary for me to travel the one hour from Milford to Honesdale to sit in a room and listen to new and "exciting" information about customer accounts, computer glitches and documentation issues. Really, this translates into "Sit in a room for an hour and a half and listen to somebody read to you from a piece of paper that you could very easily read from the comfort of your desk." But I enjoy going because I get to leave my office at three and drive for two hours round trip and listen to my satellite radio.

What I do NOT enjoy, however, is listening to people who make oodles more money than I do speak with little or no regard to basic English.

"Certain banks aren't going to participate in the STAR system no more."

"Some documents isn't going to be found on the directory."

These are people who have graduated from good colleges, with titles like Vice President and Compliance Officer trailing behind their names. And yet, somehow, they failed to learn the subtle art of subject-verb agreement and double negatives.

But, there I am, the lowly Administrative Assistant/Customer Service Representative with only some night courses under my belt, making a pittance for my forty hour workweek, cringing every time a grammar faux pas is made.

And they are the ones who are supposed to be training me.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Check Out

Saturday morning, I woke early. It was 8:00 when my eyes popped open, and it was nearly impossible for me to force them closed. Knowing that 8:00AM is far too early to move about on a day in which I do not have to work, I fumbled for my remote and turned on the TV. DirecTV's guide informed me that VH1's Top Twenty countdown was on, and so I made my way there.

I sort of hoped to just spend the morning doing what I haven't done in months: Lie in bed, watch VH1, drink coffee and zone out. But by number 17 of the countdown, my laundry pile got the best of me. The over-flowing hamper stared at me from the corner of of the room, calling out "if you don't do this now, you won't have any clothes to wear on Monday." It was true. For two weekends in a row, I have packed my time solid, scheduling even drive time and meals. Between friends and appointments and social obligations, I had allowed my clothes to remain unwashed and my room uncleaned. So I pried myself from the warm sheets, threw on my robe, and started washing clothes.

But I couldn't just wash clothes and not clean the room itself, so I began the horrifying task of straightening my room. It's only horrifying because I am horrible at throwing things away when I am finished with them (I save all of my receipts, even after I have checked them off of my credit card statement or entered them into my check register...Just in case. Just in case of what, I do not know.) and terrible at putting things back where I found them. Coats were tossed onto a chair, instead of hung up in the downstairs coat closet where they belong. CDs that have been moved from my car into the house rest atop the stereo, the cases and discs themselves utterly and hopelessly mismatched. Notes to myself reminding me to add dinner on Tuesday to my calendar and to call Austin sit piled on one of two bedside tables. Black stilettos litter the room: Knee-High boots, ankle high boots, work pumps, going out pumps. Because my closet is in another room entirely, things have a way of staying on my floor when I come home from a late night. Taking it in all at once is too much. So I started at the bed and worked my way out as laundry tumbled in the dryer in the next room.

When my room was sufficiently tidy, I went downstairs and re-cleaned the already clean kitchen while my coffee dripped into the pot. I perused the Shop Rite flyer to figure out what I'd like to buy at the grocery store. Pasta? Of course. (4 for $2?!? You almost have to buy some at that price!) Sauce? Why not. Minute Rice? Yup. Instant oatmeal? Naturally. Coffee? A must. Digorno Microwave Pizza? I'll give it a whirl; I'm feeling wild.

After two cups of coffee, four loads of laundry, a long shower and the getting-ready-routine, I headed out the door to Montague, NJ for some food shopping. My grocery-purchasing jaunts always find me in the same mood: Calm, in no hurry and with low frustration levels. This attitude is necessary since it seems like everyone in the tri-state area visits the same Shop Rite. It's important to me to have a quiet lunch alone before I brave Shop Rite and, luckily for me, my favorite pizza place is located right next to the grocery store. So I brought one of my favorite books (David Sedaris, Me Talk Pretty One Day) to read during lunch.

After two delicious slices and a side of sauce, I made my way into Shop Rite. Traffic jams of carts and families clogged the aisles. It was while I was by the meat that I noticed three young boys, fourteen or fifteen years old, looking at me in that oversexed-prepubescent sort of way. They wore T-shirts at least three sizes too big, half-tucked into pants that barely covered their boxer-clad asses, and bright white sneakers. Generic hats sat on their heads, the brim offering shade to only one eye instead of both. They were constantly fiddling with the hat's position. Do I like it better covering my left eye, or my right? And as they moved the hat from side to side, I caught them stealing glances at me. They trailed behind their mother, but kept turning around, watching me examine the ground beef and the chicken thighs. Pretty soon, I noticed that they were coincidentally in every aisle I was in: Baking goods, cereal, breads, snacks, even the "feminine needs." They found a reason to be in each section, sans mother, and always found their way to be within five feet of me. I watched them come down the toilet paper aisle, all non-chalant like they were looking for something, then settle right next to me. They made jokes to each other about buying toilet paper - that they should get as many packs as they could carry and walk around the store with them, how funny that would be - while I tried to do math in my head (let's see...$4.92 for 8 rolls is how much per roll...$0.61...). I couldn't help but smile, thinking of how flattered I was that the three boys had actually thought to follow me around the store...

Until I realized that maybe they were just waiting for a moment in which I left my purse unguarded.

I checked that my wallet was still nestled inside my black bag, then scurried out of the toilet paper aisle and into the more heavily populated frozen foods section. But, once again, there they were, playing with bags of frozen peas and laughing loudly enough to draw my attention. With my eyes on my purse, I made my final selections and headed toward the checkout.

I was, however, forced to walk past the boys in order to pay for my groceries and leave the store. I straightened my back and strode past them, eager to look unaffected.

I heard a whistle.

Then, "You are so hot."

I smiled in spite myself. And here I thought they were just after my purse.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Good Thoughts for the Weekend

It's Friday night, and I was in the shower getting ready to go out when I had a flashback:

It was 1999 and I was new to Milford, freshly out of both high school and Las Vegas. With relatively no friends to call my own, I fermented in solitude, driving around and listening to every kind of music I could get my hands on. Because I am not made of money and therefore could not afford to buy a new CD everytime one became played out, I was forced to listen to a local radio station. It was summer time, and I drove my silver Mazda Navajo around Milford and Milddletown, down country roads and main thuroughfares with the windows down, my music blaring, my long hair floating in the wind that surrounded me. I knew the words to every song on the radio, and I was relishing all of the time I was able to spend alone, acquainting myself with Milford.

Much has changed since then. I was engaged, we broke up. I dated Tom. We broke up. I sold the Mazda Navajo and bought my Toyota 4Runner. I chopped off a foot of my hair. I'm a different person entirely.

But tonight, in the shower, some of the words of one song in particular rushed back at me as I rinsed my hair, and I felt like I was right back in the summer of '99. Because it was more spoken-word and less singing, I would like to share it with you now.

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen), by Baz Luhrmann

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of 99, If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded.

But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You’re not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other peoples hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind – the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life – the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

What ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can – don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance - even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography in lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen

Thursday, April 21, 2005


It's raining out, and I've just returned from an evening out with friends. Two friends, to be exact. Two friends who happen to be in a relationship. I sat all night watching them kiss and canoodle, glorious in their slightly askew relationship. And as much as I hate to be that pathetic single girl sitting among the coupled, I couldn't help it: Feeling like the odd man out, feeling the distinct sense of miss. Like thirst, but insatiable; There isn't enough water in the world to quench my longing for another half. And I know it may sound a bit desperate, perhaps a bit sad, when I say I want someone with whom to share my time...And if I hadn't had a few glasses of wine, I would probably care. But I have had a few glasses of wine, and I don't care how terribly crestfallen it sounds when I say it made me sullen when the two of them retreated to their shared home and I retreated to my empty Queen-sized bed. As much as I wish I didn't, I really want someone to call my own. I'm in a hurry to find him; Groping for him much like a drowning person would gasp for breath.

They say patience is a virtue, but it is a virtue I do not possess.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Judgment Day

"So I was fighting with my roommate this weekend."

"Why's that?" I asked as I flipped through the channels on TV.

"Well," his voice said through the earpiece of my cell phone, "I got my checks in the mail today, and my roommate gave them to me. But they were just in a box, so he said 'Why doesn't your bank FedEx your checks to you?' So I told him that they'd always sent them this way-"

"Me, too," I interrupted as I paused on the Real World/Road Rules Challenge on MTV.

"Yeah, so I told him I always got them that way, and he said 'The bank should FedEx them to you, because anybody could steal a box like that.' And I said 'Well, that's just the way my bank sends them to me.' Then he says 'Well, maybe your bank just doesn't want to spend the money to FedEx them to you because you're Hispanic.'"

"He said that?"I couldn't believe someone would say that to their roommate.

He laughed. "Yes."

"Out loud? To your face?"

"Yes, he did." He chuckled. "I know he didn't mean for it to come out like it did. He wasn't being mean, that's just the way he is."

"Wow. If I were you, I would've said something to him."

"Yeah, well, as the day went on, I got madder and madder, and the more I thought of it, the angrier I got. And when he left for Washington, DC, I was just thrilled to see him go."

"I still think you should've said something," I said.

"Wait. Listen. So he goes to DC, and my friend comes over with his girlfriend. And they want to stay the night. So I say 'you can take the couch, or you can take my roommate's bed.' Hoping, of course, that they'd take his bed because I know what they're gonna do. And, they took his bed. And I was pretty sure something went on. Then my friend calls me an hour after they leave and says 'You might want to wash your roommate's sheets. Because I cornholed Stephanie on his bed; She wanted some rough anal sex.'" He stopped to laugh out loud.

I, on the other end of line, was disgusted. "Why would you tell me this?" I said, the repulsion evident in my voice.

His laughter simmered. "Uh," he said, unsure, "because that's what happened. That's what he said."

"Yeah, but it's none of my business. And it's disgusting."

"Well, I thought it was funny."

"Yeah," I replied, "well, that makes one of us."

"Anyway," he continued, ignoring my nausea, "it was perfect. Because when I get mad at him, I like it to be so that he doesn't know I'm getting even with him."

I gave him only silence and let him continue.

"So, like, tomorrow, when he gets back and goes to bed in those sheets, I'm gonna know that my friend had sex in them and they weren't washed."

He laughed again, perhaps marveling at his own genius revenge. But I was too busy to laugh. I was busy judging him.

In the time it took him to tell me that story, the time it took him to explain his revenge techniques, I had decided he didn't play fair. I took that stupid story and made it into a tell-tale sign that he was nothing if not passive-aggressive, and that if he should ever get angry with me, he won't come to me and say it. He'll seek vindictive retaliation. And immediately, he was disqualified as a potential boyfriend.

Although I'm not proud of it, I do this all the time: I judge the type of flower a man brings to me. The width and length of his fingers. His height. How often he does or does not call.

Much like the age-old question of "Which came first, the chicken or the egg," I find myself wondering if I'm judging these men because I already don't like them and am looking for proof to validate my feelings, or if it's the judging that makes me not like them.

It is in this respect that I fear I will forever remain a single woman. I know that my ex was full of flaws, not the least of which being that he didn't want to get married, but I loved him nonetheless, so I'm sure that when the right guy comes along these things will be idiosyncrasies, not flaws. But will I judge a good guy to death before he gets the chance to even be the right guy?

Sunday, April 17, 2005


I was looking across the Hudson River at West Point, the United States Military Academy, as I waited for the train. The chain-link fence beneath the platform reverberated and sizzled as the train drew near, finally sliding in and greeting me with a gentle huuuuussssshhhhh. I took one last look at the tower of the chapel I planned to be married in reaching above the gray buildings of the Academy, turned around and boarded the train destined for Grand Central Station.

The train was filled with people, the soft sounds of music breaking through the headphones of Ipods and Walkmans floated through the air as I searched for a vacant seat. I lugged my overnight bag and my purse through the aisle, settling next to a young redheaded woman absorbed in a Cosmopolitan magazine listening to Z100 radio station on her headphones. I plopped down next to her, knowing there would be no awkward conversation to follow, no "Where are you headed?" or "Where are you from?" questions to be asked or answered on the hour-long trip to follow.

An alarm buzzed to mark the closing of the doors, and the train bucked and lurched to a start as I unzipped my bag to search for my book. I'd read it before, but I needed something to occupy my eyes and thoughts as I rode along MTA's tracks toward New York City. I didn't want to think of West Point, my years spent there as a young engaged woman, the trip I was taking alone, the fact that "alone" has become an all-too-regular word in my vocabulary, or even the fact that I was visiting my friend whose wedding would take place in three weeks. I wanted to lose myself in two hundred pages of short stories, filled with characters with their own dramas, their own worries, instead of my own.

Because it had been so long since I'd opened this book, I hoped to read it with fresh eyes; I'd hoped I'd forgotten the conflicts and climaxes within its pages so that I could fully appreciate the stories. But within the first few sentences of each story, familiarity crept over me, and I knew that I would never be lost in these tales; I'd found my way through and out of them already. So, instead, I watched the Garrison train station's surroundings disappear and took in the newer sights that were revealing themselves: The trees lining the banks of the Hudson, small boats gliding through choppy waters, people fishing off of docks, cars abandoned near the tracks, graffiti along tunnel walls. I wanted to write in the journal I'd brought, but the girl next to me was too close, too liable to read my personal musings. So I stared out of the window, my sunglasses resting atop my head, and tried to focus on what Dominique and I would do later that night.

But a group of girls in the back of the train car shrieked with laughter, and the man across from me turned around to glare at them. Clearly, they were disturbing his reading. He had claimed a set of two seats for himself, spreading out his briefcase, newspaper and a package on the vacant seat next to him to deter anyone from occupying it. He was engrossed in a novel, stopping only to occasionally shoot hateful glares at the pre-teens behind us. They just cackled at him whenever he did this, strong in their group of ten. Surely, were any of them riding this train alone, they would never be so bold. From time to time, they would get up and walk through the car toward the restroom. They were covered in makeup and trendy clothing, trying to act so old and independent. But I didn't see one of them walk the length of the car alone; Always in packs of two or more, right on each other's heels, eager to stay close together.

I inhaled the musty air of the train and rested my head against the back of my seat, remembering when I was one of those girls. Only, for me, it wasn't on a train to New York City, it was in the hotels along the Strip in Las Vegas. My friends and I would dress up in what we thought looked like adult-clothing. We'd pile on eyeliner and lipstick, sure that it made us look mature and college-like. We'd prance along the carpet between banks of slot machines, trying our hardest to give the impression we could gamble, we just didn't want to. We flirted with men on vacation from places like Omaha and Des Moines, telling them with straight faces that we were eighteen or twenty. That we lived alone, worked in the MGM Grand as cocktail waitresses and attended UNLV. It meant nothing to them, but we had our pretend lives down to apartment addresses and class schedules. We'd leave the hotels in just enough time to get home to our mothers by curfew, laughing as we sped down Tropicana and onto Pecos about how utterly convincing we had been tonight. As we pulled up in our driveways, we'd throw sweaters over the revealing tops we'd worn out, and get our stories straight. "So we'll just say we went to Tyler's house and watched a movie, right?" Which movie we'd watched and who was there was discussed, then we'd scamper through the dry Vegas nights across our lawns, unlock our front doors and enter our real lives, the ones we were so desperate to escape.

Like the girls scampering through the corridor of the 6:02PM train, I was in a hurry to grow up. I ran in ahead of my mother in the grocery store, I lied about my age, I wore a fake wedding band at seventeen to give the impression I was a young married woman, not a senior in high school. I cooed at children, and planned what I would name my own someday. At nineteen, before my boyfriend even proposed, I was engrossed in being his pretend-wife. I made sure he studied for exams, had his uniform pressed, called his parents. While other girls my age were counting down the days until they turned twenty-one, I was reading The Officer's Wife Handbook to learn the finer points of hosting a military dinner party.

I live my life constantly feeling like I'm too something: Too dressed up, to underdressed. Too smart, too airheaded. Too tall, too short. Too focused, too unmotivated. Too scared, too trusting. Too young, too old.

Because now here I am, twenty-four years old, with the house and the job and the independence I so craved at seventeen, feeling less like a twenty-something and more like I'm nestled into midlife. The thought of walking into a bar filled with young hipsters trying desperately to get laid, fills me with dread. I feel like I belong home with a husband, not in a club talking to a guy trying to impress me enough to get me to remove my pants. I feel too old to frequent clubs, but I'm told I'm too young to be married. Surrounded by people who share my age bracket, I feel out of place. I don't feel young, I feel like I'm late for the life I'm supposed to be living.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


He told me it was for the best. That the dull ache I was beginning to feel was evidence of success. That the hurt was good. And I listened to him; I continued to do as he said, letting his voice guide me through various positions, some slightly more painful than others, some more enjoyable.

"I can't," I said, my breath heavy, my face red.

"Trust me," he countered.

And so I did.

"Just a little bit more," he assured me, looking down at me. I could see approval in his eyes.

But I needed more than his approval. I needed something to keep me going.

"Tell me something, anything, to keep me from stopping," I said through my exhale.

"Sundresses." He said. "Sleeveless shirts. Tank tops. Bikinis. Spaghetti straps. Camisoles."

I finished the last of my three sets of tricep-dips and collapsed on the gym floor.

"I'm going to hate you so much tomorrow," I told him as I reached for my nearly empty water bottle.

"Yeah, but you'll love me when it's time to wear sexy little outfits this summer." He grinned as he took a seat on the bench to do his own third set.

He took to his workout and I stretched my burning arms.

And now, as I type, my whole upper body aches. My back, chest and arm muscles feel as though they've been wound too tightly. He's right, though. I'll love him for this later.

But until then, every time I reach for something or lift my arm, I will curse the day he was born.

Midnight After the Garden of Eden

It's midnight, and I only recently returned from an evening out at my favorite local bar, The Garden of Eden, for my friend's birthday party.

Now, slightly inebriated, I'm typing on my laptop, wondering why it seems that married men can't get enough of me, yet single men won't come near me. Every time I visit a bar, a different married man finds his way toward me, his breath smelling of gin and tonic, lit cigarette between his fingertips, telling me how wonderful I am and how stupid my ex was to let me go. I laugh at their comments and turn my attention toward my friends, eager to deflect their advances.

I won't lie, part of me feels almost flattered that they're coming onto me. I may not take them seriously, or have any intention of giving into their advances, but I still take their compliments and store them away for an insecure day. But more often than not, I wonder why I'm a fantastic candidate for The Other Woman, but can't find one person for whom I'd like to be The Only Woman.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Someone for Everyone

“Are you a freak?” His voice over the receiver asked me. He was my friend’s husband Donny’s coworker, and he was brand-new to the area. Because we were around the same age, I agreed to let my friend give him my number.

“A freak? Like how? Like do I have lots of piercings and tattoos? Am I into Wicca? What do you mean?”

“Are you….Let me see….Are you…Kinky like a pubic hair?”

If only I had a camera on me to capture my reaction to his query. I was shocked, dumbfounded, flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe that this boy, this twenty-eight-year-old trying to get a date out of me, would ask a question so utterly inappropriate.

“I can’t believe you’d ask me that,” I responded incredulously. “You’ve known me for – what? – an hour? Kinky or no, it’s none of your business.”

The conversation should’ve ended at that. But for whatever reason, I stayed on the phone, valuable airtime minutes ticking away, while he told me about his days in Allentown, PA, and how he had cheated on his girlfriend of six years, which was why he was dating again. Perhaps it was morbid curiosity that inspired me to not only stay on the phone, but to also keep the date we’d set before he’d thought it prudent to ask me if I was akin to a pubic hair.

We met for breakfast at a local restaurant on a Saturday morning. A combination of having been out late the night before, not wanting at all to meet the guy, and his reluctance to commit to a definite meeting time (“How ‘bout nine, nine-thirty,” was his idea of a schedule.) caused me to show up at 9:40. He was already seated inside, drinking a cup of coffee. It was the first time I’d laid eyes on him, and I was not impressed. He was stocky; Clearly muscular, he was packed like a sausage, too much muscle crammed into too little skin. His neck was massive and encased in a most unflattering turtleneck. His military haircut, which I normally find attractive, served only to highlight the fact that there was no distinction between his neck and his head. His arms didn’t lie flat against his sides, they curved like parenthesis around his physique, too big to hold straight. And when he stood to greet me, our doomed fate was sealed: He was shorter than me.

I am five feet and nine inches tall, without heels. And I always wear heels. Because I am tall, and quite proud of my height, it is important to me to be with a man who is taller. Regardless of the fact that I am in shape and wear a size six, one does not use adjectives like “dainty” or “petite” when describing me; I am neither of those things. And being with someone shorter than I am makes me feel like the Jolly Green Giant: cumbersome and colossal. In the company of those taller than me, I begin to taste what it’s like to be dainty and petite. Being shorter than a man makes me feel like the woman.

When he stood to greet me, his eyes were level with my chin. I couldn’t help but laugh. He looked at my shoes. “No fair,” he said. “You’re in heels.”

I tried to decide if would be rude of me to say “No fair. You’re a shrimp.”

He came at me in an awkward attempt at a hug. His bulky arms tried to find their way around me, but were refused with a simple shrug. I escaped his embrace and took my seat.

Clearly miffed that I’d denied his affection, he took his seat across from me.

“So…” He said, leaning over his cup of coffee. “Nice to meet you.” He offered me a smile.

“You too.” I looked for the waitress for my cup of coffee.

“So…” he said again. I waited for him to finish. When nothing came, I began to peruse the menu.

As I read through the restaurants suggestions for Buiscuts and Gravy, Pancakes and Sausage, I felt his eyes on me.

“You don’t want to talk?” He asked.

“Well, sure I do. I just want to figure out what I’m eating first.”

“You don’t feel like talking?”

I’m reading a menu.”

“Whatever,” he said then went about reading his menu.

What followed was one of my most horrific hours ever.

When I described my parents in their thirty-three year marriage as “content,” he argued with me. “No,” he contested. “I don’t think you mean content. I think you mean that they’re happy where they are.”

“That’s what content means.” I sighed. Idiot, I thought.

When I told him that I like to spend money on shoes and music, he cut me off. “No,” he said. “What you should do is put some money away. You need a nest egg. You shouldn’t spend your money on shoes, you should save it instead.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome, Sweetie. But I’m serious. What you really should do is put $20.00 every week into a savings account…”

“Maybe you missed it,” I explained, “when I said that I work in a bank. So finances are my life. That, and I have a house, a car, and a phone; I buy my clothes and my groceries…So I think I have it under control.”

He told me he was still trying to figure out if I was interested in him. I pretended to be interested in the remains of my French Toast. “Because you’re not making eye contact with me.”

I told him, honestly, that eye contact is difficult for me to make with strangers. I find eye contact to be intimate and generally won’t stare into someone’s eyes unless I know them. He was unsatisfied with my explanation, reminding me that some would take it as a sign of deceit that I wouldn’t look him in the eye.

What I didn’t tell him that eye contact is hard for me when I don’t know someone. When I don’t like someone, eye contact is impossible. In fact, I can’t even look at the face of someone I don’t like. And this was how I’d spent my date with him: Looking at the wallpaper, looking out of the window next to which we were seated, looking at my food, looking at the other diners. But each time my eyes begrudgingly found their way back to him, they would find his eyes perched upon my 36Cs.

“Well, look on the bright side,” I said to him, after the tenth time I came to find his eyeballs pointed at my chest. “Since I’m not making eye contact, you have more time to check out my tits.”

“I’m not looking at your chest,” he corrected me. “I’m looking at your earrings and your necklace.”

I lifted my hand to my neck, and touched the exact spot where a necklace would be. “Uh, if you’ll notice, I’m not wearing a necklace.”

Suddenly, he was the one extremely interested in his breakfast.

He explained to me that when he cheated on his ex-fiancée, it was because he was in love with two people at once. And while he told me that, I wondered how he found ONE person to fall in love with him, much less two.

After our food was consumed, I made my exit.

“Thanks for breakfast,” I said as I rose from my seat. “I hate to cut out so early, but I really have to get to Wal Mart before the afternoon rush.”

The second hug of the day that he tried to deliver fell flat, and he let me leave the restaurant alone. I felt that I had succeeded in making the date miserable enough so that he would never call me again, but for the next week, he continued to call, adding that if I didn’t want to talk to him, I should call him to let him know. Of course, I never returned his calls.

A few weeks after the date, my friend the “matchmaker” said, “Guess who has a girlfriend.”

“Not the shrimp!” I said.

“Yes! And do you know what he said to Donny? He said ‘She’s perfect. She’s a freak like me. She’s so kinky.’”

“Like a pubic hair?” We exploded in laughter.

“I guess there really is someone out there for everyone.”

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Party of One

I licked the seal and pressed it closed before I could change my mind. I had slipped the response card with only my name written on it inside the eggshell envelope seconds earlier, and now the prepaid postage and embossed address prevented me from ripping it open and adding "+ Guest." There was no turning back. When I wet the glue on the ridge of paper, I committed myself to attend a wedding alone.

The invitation to my friend Dominique's wedding sat in my planner for over a month while I weighed my attendance options. I considered inviting a friend, I considered inviting my ex, and I considered inviting a gay man. But none of those options seemed appropriate. It felt unfair to bring someone with me just for the sake of bringing someone. But whenever I thought of going alone, I was filled with panic. I could see myself, dressed in my beautiful black gown, full hair and makeup, sitting all alone at a table for ten while other attendees danced and laughed. I saw myself perched by the hors d'ovres, cramming coconut shrimp into my painted mouth watching the party happen around me. I saw myself, fourteen vodka-cranberries into the evening, completely inebriated and lamenting to a stranger about my failed engagement, my most recently failed relationship, and my failure to meet a great guy now, while they searched for someone to save them. The visions were so pathetic, I shook my head to rid myself of them. So I thought, instead, of the chances of me actually spending the whole evening alone, of finding not even one person to talk to during the night. Fairly slim, I decided. So I made the choice to do it alone: To make the long drive alone, to stay in a hotel alone, to walk into a celebration of love and partnership alone. This, for me, is huge.

At this particular wedding, I will know the bride and no one else. I don't even think I could pick the groom out of a line up; Even though they've been dating for almost five years and I've known her for almost ten, I may have seen him twice. I won't know the wedding party, either of the families, and I'll certainly know none of their friends. And in that situation, I'd prefer to know that there's someone I can talk to in order to avoid that painful predicament of "Well, no one's talking to me, so I'll just sit here and feign utter interest in my glass/cocktail napkin/dinner/shoes." And it just would be gauche for me to whip out a crutch like a book or my cellphone in an effort to seem otherwise occupied.

It's true that I enjoy spending time in public alone: Shopping, lunch and the movies are all perfectly acceptable solitary outings. But a wedding? Where there will be slow dances and toasts and vows and an obvious undertone of love and forever? That's heavy.

I've been a part of a couple for six years straight. Any weddings I've ever attended have caused me no stress in terms of my date. He was always built right in. So this is my first-ever instance of even contemplating writing my name alone on a response card. And it would be very easy to drag a friend along to soften the blow of my first social event sans boyfriend. But I'm challenging myself. This, I feel, is how I will announce my independence. This is how I will assert to myself and everyone around me that, for the first time, I am not afraid of not having a man at my side. That I can sit in the pew and watch my friend commit her life to someone else, and be genuinely happy for her, regardless of the fact that I'm far from married.

So I dropped the calligraphied card into the mailbox in front of the post office.

I called the hotel and booked my room.

I got driving directions from MapQuest.

I am going to do this, if it kills me.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Dane + Laurie

I was sitting in my car today while on my break, soaking in the fresh warmth of the day, smoking a cigarette and listening to Sirius Satellite Radio's Raw Dog comedy station. And there, at 3:30 in the afternoon, I developed the beginnings of a crush.

The screen of my stereo displayed the name Dane Cook as I listened to a bit that made me laugh so hard that passers-by probably thought me crazy. It was a silly little skit about him masturbating in the womb, but for whatever reason, it struck me as hilarious. I liked the sound of his voice, and the fact that he made fun of himself, but still sounded confident. Something about him turned me on. I made a mental note to check him out later.

Tonight, because I am now the proud owner of a laptop with an internet connection, I was able to look him up on the 'net. Sitting in my stifling hot room, in only my unmentionables, I listened to some of his clips and watched not one, but two of the videos on his site. I didn't just giggle, I chortled. He's kinda cute, and he gave me a good belly laugh twice today.

Now my crush is official.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


"Look," he said, pointing over my shoulder at the TV mounted on the wall. "The Pope just died."

I turned to look at the TV to find the news scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

"Would you look at that," I said, turning back to face him. "Now, we're bonded by history; whenever anyone asks you where you were when the Pope died, you'll think of me."

He laughed and looked into the neck of his LaBatt Blue bottle, swirling the remains of his drink in the bottom.

"That's true," he said helplessly. "I'll be able to say 'When the Pope died, I was contemplating breaking off my engagement.'"

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat. His wedding date, now seven weeks away, normally sat parked awkwardly between us - As big and obvious as a Buick, but still a subject best left unaddressed and tiptoed around. Today, it was all we could think of.

"How did you do it," he asked me sincerely. "How did you break up with David?"

I thought back to the series of conversations that lead to my terminated engagement back in 2001. On April 26th, we decided to call off our June 3rd wedding.

"I didn't do it." I told him. "He got scared. He told me he wasn't sure he was ready to get married, and I agreed." I stirred my alcoholic coffee with the small straw in the mug. "It was a mutual decision, for the most part. But I'll tell you this: If he wouldn't have said anything, I'd be married right now."

He looked around the restaurant. "It's just so hard. How do you know...How do you make that kind of decision?" He wasn't asking me for the answers, he was asking himself out loud.

"I don't know." I said, unable to look at him and unsure of what to say. "You don't, I guess. Sometimes it's just easier to let life carry you than to slam on the brakes and make that choice."

Our eyes met. "Exactly," he mumbled.

"I understand. I really do."

We had chosen a seat right next to the window, overlooking a lake. The same seat, in fact, we had chosen four years ago. And the last time we were there, I was the one with the wedding date looming. I stared out at the half-frozen lake, huge pellets of rain slamming into thin ice, wondering if it would always be like this: Would we always be unavailable to one another?

"So I have to ask you," I said, "why are you here?" I opened my arms to encompass the restaurant, the area chosen in the interest of discretion, me.

"Because I can't say goodbye to you."

There it was. The one thing we were both sure of: The inability to let each other go.

"I keep hoping every time we meet," he continued, "that whatever this is - this connection or whatever you want to call it - between us, will go away. But it never does."

I knew exactly what he meant. I knew, sitting there, that he wouldn't call off his engagement. I had no delusions that he would go home and tell his fiancée that he wasn't ready for his impending matrimony. But I also knew that a gold band on his finger wouldn't keep us from talking; it may not even keep us from meeting. There's just something about him that I can't pull away from. The way I feel utterly confident in his presence, yet still as giddy as a schoolgirl. Around him, I feel smart and beautiful and completely understood. I may never understand why we didn't really date, but I've never questioned his intentions or the way he feels for me.

"Well, the Pope died, and Northeast Pennsylvania my wash away in a flood...God's trying to tell us something," I said.

"Oh sure, on the one day we actually meet up, it looks like the world might be ending, and you think it's a sign we should be together."

"I didn't say what God's trying to tell us, I just said He's trying to tell us something. Besides, the world's not ending, silly. I haven't seen a single locust, much less a plague of them."

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Mrs. Smith

On Friday, I became a Mrs.

At the request of my roommate, I did the research for our internet connection at home. I called up our local cable and telephone companies, getting prices for service, installation and equipment. After I'd compiled a very short list of possible internet service providers, I left him a note at home.

Joe, I called around for internet service, and as it turns out, the only thing other than dial up we can get at the house is cable. It's $52.95 a month. BUT if you call before 9:00 tonight, we'll get it for $9.95 for the first three months. So call them and talk to Jane, and we'll be all set up with internet! - Laurie

I came home later that night to a note from him, in which he advised me that he called and ordered the service, and requested that I set up the installation appointment. Being the wonderful roommate that I am, I called to set it up first thing on Friday morning.

I explained to Jane that Joseph had called last night to order the service, and that I was calling to set up the appointment.

"Oh yes," she said. "There's a note on the computer that his wife would be calling in the morning."

His wife?

"Well, here I am," I announced proudly. I looked around the bank, laughing to myself that, just like that, I became a wife.

We set up an appointment and hammered out the details of the installation and pricing. "And that's it," Jane from Blue Ridge Cable said. "Do you have any other questions, Mrs. Smith?"

I laughed out loud. "No, no I don't have any other questions. Thank you so much for your help."

I giggled to myself as I hung up the phone. Me, married to a gay man. We would be breaking so many laws of nature were the two of us to exchange wedding vows.

A day later, I was sitting in the kitchen of my lovely home, while the cable guy fiddled with our new internet hookup, playing the role of my roommate’s wife.

“Who’s Joseph?” The short and stout cable guy asked me, looking at the contract in his hand.

“My husband,” I said, trying hard not seem at all fazed by the lie.

“Oh, is he here today?”

“No, he’s at work. Why?”

“I need his signature.”

“Oh. Uh, well…” I searched for some sort of solution...I was desperate to get the internet that day.

“Can you sign his name?” He offered.

“Sure I can.” I do all of Joe's banking, so I know what his signature looks like. I was sure I could make it look a least somewhat like his.

“Okay. Well, let me just get this all set up, then you can sign for him.” He turned to plug the cable into the wall, and caught a glimpse of my shoes. "You don't need heels!" He joked. "You're so tall already." He smiled at me. The top of his head was level with my chin.

"Yeah, I know. But I love them," I smiled back and made sure I was standing straight.

"Your husband must be a very tall man."

"Oh yes, he is." I laughed. "That's why I married him."

"Good reason," he joked and moved about his business.

"Once this is hooked up, will it work with my wireless laptop?"

He turned away from the wires and looked at me. "Well, you may have to configure the computers..."

"Oh." I looked at my laptop, sitting on the counter, rendered useless because I don't know anything about configuring or wireless connections.

"Do you want me to do it?" He asked, a bundle of unconnected wires in his small fist.

"No. Uh, I'll have my husband look at it."

"What does he do?"


"Your husband."

"Oh. He's a dentist."

"A dentist?" He said, looking over my shoulder and into the giant living room of our house. "A tall dentist who's good with computers? You're a lucky woman."

"Yes. I am. A lucky woman."

He handed me the contract in his hand. "Just sign his name here, here and here, and you're all set."

I did my best imitation of Joe's signature and handed the contract back to him. He looked around my house one last time, taking in the hardwood floors, the one wall of the dining room painted a deep red, the sprawling kitchen with windows overlooking the covered pool. He chuckled. "A tall dentist. My sister only wishes she were as lucky as you."

I gave him a smile and a shrug, marveling at how my life must look to this guy. Here I am, an attractive young woman in a huge house, the apparent stay-at-home wife of a doctor. Little does he know that he’s gay and I’m single, and I’m not even sure how much longer I’ll be living in this house.

I like his view better than mine.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Single and Looking?

I walked into the lounge with my friends, and as soon as I set foot through the door, my relationship status was questioned. Because I was trailing Chuck and Pollo and brought with me no man of my own, it was assumed that I was single and looking. I was cornered by a woman in plaid flannel as I waited by the bar with my friends for our first drink.

“Who are these ladies you’re with, Chuck?” She called over the music.

“This is my wife Patty, and this is our friend Laurie,” he replied, leaning into the woman to make sure she heard.

“Nice to meet you,” she said to Pollo, offering her hand to shake.

Pollo returned the handshake halfheartedly, giving Chuck a look that said How the hell do you know this woman?

The woman turned to me. “I’m Lizette.” She said, extending her hand.

“I’m Laurie,” I said, looking for the bartender and the drink she was supposed to bring me.

“Are you single?” She asked.


“Oooooooooooh.” She said, looking over her shoulder at the table from which she came. She tried to catch one of her friends’ eyes, but was unsuccessful. “How old are you?”

“Twenty four.”

“Perfect. Come with me.”

Before I could object, she pulled me by the hand over to her table, filled with forty-something women and one young guy. She introduced me to the women first, who looked me up and down, eyeballing the cleavage and bared belly my shirt afforded.

“And this….Is Jason.” She said, pulling a guy from the corner into my line of sight. He slouched his way toward me, offering me a shy smile and his hand.

“Hi.” He said.

One of the women at the table shoved her way between us. “You guys should hook up!” She slurred, pointing at us with the mixed drink in her hand.

Unintentionally, I rolled my eyes. He wasn’t even close to my type. His weak jaw and apparent lack of confidence did nothing for me. Not to mention the ancient baseball cap and T-shirt he sported for the outing.

“He’s thinking about moving here,” the drunken woman announced, still sloshing her drink between the two of us. “You should show him around.”

I crossed my arms and shifted my weight awkwardly, unsure of how to tell her that I had no intention of giving this guy a tour of Milford. I looked behind me and saw that the bartender had placed my drink on the ledge of the bar. “Oh, I’m sorry, you’ll have to excuse me, I have to go, uh…you know, over there…Because…My drink’s here.” I said, pointing at the vodka and cranberry sitting all alone on the bar as proof. I backed away from the group, not really sorry at all that I had somewhere else to go. I pushed my way through the crowd, retrieved my drink and stood with Chuck and Pollo.

“Thanks guys,” I said, bringing the red straw to my lips, “for letting me get abducted.”

Chuck and Pollo laughed.

“But he’s so hot,” Pollo said, facetiously. “We tought jou’d like to talk wid him.” She smiled at me and rolled her eyes.

I took a gulp of my drink and looked around the bar and the crowd present. As I surveyed the room, Lizette came up to me again.

“Laurie?” She said, pushing her way between Pollo and me.


“Could you just do me a favor and talk to Jason? I think you guys would be great together…”

I almost spit out my drink. How in the world could she know that we’d be good together? She doesn’t know me at all. And I’d be lying if I said I thought the two of us were in the same league. Besides, I didn’t go there to meet anyone. I went to dance, not to be at the mercy of a drunken cupid.

“Well, I don’t know.” I said, stirring my drink.

“Why not?!”

“Well, maybe, if, you know…I get really bored later.”

Her jaw dropped. She turned on her heel and walked away.

I felt a little bad for being so obnoxiously rude, but I felt cornered. I knew if I didn’t make it clear that I wasn’t interested in talking to this Jason character, they wouldn’t leave me alone for the rest of the night.

But, despite what I thought was an obvious sign to back off, the ladies continued to approach me on behalf of their shy friend.

“I’m sorry for being so pushy earlier,” one woman said to me. “But I still think you should talk to him.”

Whenever I gave some sorry excuse to not converse with the man, I was met with “But you’re single.”

Single. Yes, it’s true. I’m single. I wear no wedding band, I don’t claim a man as my significant other…But just because I’m single does not mean that I’m interested in every other guy who also happens to carry the single tag line.

And it’s not just in loud bars in the Poconos that I’m met with the opportunity to hook up with somebody’s friend, nephew, grandson or brother. Every day, as I sit at my desk at work, blatant attempts at love matches are hurled at me from women who know the “perfect guy” for me. Women who, coincidentally, also have no idea who I really am.

And there’s no nice way to look at the picture of their homely grandson and announce that I’m not at all interested. So I shrug and say “Maybe. Ha ha. You never know,” then say a silent prayer that they forget all about our exchange and never send the man in to meet me.

Because, when it comes down to it, I’d rather meet someone on my own instead of suffering the awkward introduction that a blind date brings. It may be difficult for me to meet a man on my own; It may take months before I can actually say I’ve found somebody worth my time. But I’m certain that if I do take a lead from someone with the perfect guy for me, that person will at least have to know me.

An hour or so later, Chuck yelled at me over the heavy beat of the R&B music pulsating through the bar. “So she says to me, ‘you should hook your friend Laurie up with my friend Jason over there,’ and I thought ‘sure, as soon as she’s into ugly guys I’ll let you know.’”

What he really said was something along the lines of I don't think she's looking for anyone right now. But it still felt good to know that there was at least one person in the room not willing to pimp me out just because I'm single.

Welcome Back

Guess who stepped out of the dark ages!!!!

I now have an internet connection at home. Never have I been so excited about something so mundane. Internet! At home! I can't believe it.

Now I have to get my internet fix before it's time for me to go to work, so I'll post tonight. I can't believe it! I'll be able to post again. What a concept!