Thursday, June 30, 2005

You Won't Get It If You Never Ask

When Nancy told me she was going to ask for designer sunglasses for her birthday, I thought she was crazy.

"Yeah, something designer - Like Gucci, or Fendi, Prada, or Chanel...Something like that," she said, wiping the sweat from her martini glass.

My eyes widened as I looked at her boyfriend, Alex, sympathetically. "Really?" I raised my eyebrows and shrugged my shoulders, as if to say Good luck. "Real ones? Why not just go to Canal Street in the City and get knockoffs?"

"Nah. I want the real ones." This from a woman who won't buy anything unless it's on sale.

Alex put his hands up and his mouth curled into a helpless grin. "She's the Countess." We all chuckled and sipped our cocktails.

When I went to their house yesterday, gift in hand, to wish Nancy a Happy Birthday, she greeted me in a new outfit.

"Happy birthday," I squealed, extending the card and cellophane-encased liquor I brought her.

"Thank you," her smile was audible as she returned my hug and accepted my gift.

"Nice pants," I said, nodding at her black capris.

"Thanks! Alex bought them for me." She took a step back from me, and looked down at her own pants, still smiling. "He totally spoiled me," she grinned. "Guess what else he got me!" With no intention of letting me offer guesses, she continued, "Fendi glasses!" Her eyes were wide, her whole body excited as she lifted the white-framed sunglasses from the case with FENDI emblazoned across the top. "It's just too much!" Her smile consumed her whole face, her pleasure genuine, her excitement pure.

I was shocked. I never expected him to shell out the crazy cash for plastic glasses. But that's because no one ever gave me designer glasses. But, then again, regardless of how badly I may have wanted a pair, I never asked for them.

She lifted the glasses and placed them gingerly on her face, her smile only growing bigger. She looked at Alex, seeking his approval, hoping the frames fit her face.

"They look great," he said. "I told you that already." He laughed and put his arms around her.

"I just can't believe it," she said again, carefully removing the glasses and putting them back in their case.

And I saw the difference between Nancy and me: She asked for what she wanted. I don't.

She's unashamed, not worried about being disappointed. Me, I drool over the ads in magazines for Chanel shades, imply that I want them, hoping the hints I've dropped are retrieved and held onto. Tightly.

In general, I don't ask for what I want. I expect the man in my life to just know. I don't want to ask for something, I want him to listen to context clues and figure it out. Part of it is that I know that if I don't get it, I can't be disappointed if I didn't ask for it. And if I do get it, I'll be surprised, and happy my man was paying attention.

Nancy, Alex and I left their house to celebrate her birthday. It was already 8:30 at night, but Nancy still tucked the Fendi case into her tiny purse. "I have to show them off," she said when she caught me watching her. I smiled in response.

I thought back to when she'd told me what she was asking for. I was so surprised that she was actually asking for something that expensive. In my last relationship, I was conditioned to not ask for too much. Asking for more than what he had decided he was willing to give equaled me being ungrateful for what he'd given me in the past.

And I don't mean designer sunglasses. I mean everything. I wanted him to love me more. I wanted him to marry me. I wanted to not feel like another stop on his daily errand run. I wanted to feel like I wasn't an obligation to him. I'd ask for it, and he'd leave me feeling like I'd just told him that nothing he did was good enough. So I stopped asking, and tried to lead by example. That didn't work, because he wasn't good at recognizing hints. And I didn't want to appear to be ungrateful, so I kept my mouth shut and hoped he'd figure it out sooner or later. He didn't.

I thought requesting love would be cheaper, more reasonable to give than a pair of $400.00 shades. I was wrong. He would've rather given me the sunglasses.


Even though I know he's no good for me, and even though I know I could never date him, I found myself attracted to him tonight.

He sat at the end of the bar with my friends and me, full of witty remarks and quick comebacks. His long and lanky frame occupied a space that was always just out of my reach. And I liked it; That he was there, and that I couldn't reach him.

I laughed at his jokes, and he laughed at mine. We caught each other's eyes throughout the evening, something unspoken passing between us. He said he had to leave by 10:30, but he stayed around until midnight. I like to think it was because of me.

I know he's not interested in love and marriage, I know he's been around. And, knowing what I know about him, up until now anytime anyone mentioned him to me, I shooed away the notion of him. "He's a slut," I always say. "I would never date him. I know where he's been." Sure he's attractive. But he's also a player...And that's not my type.

But tonight, it was different. We played the same game, and we were well-matched competitors. We took jabs at one another, our wordplay exciting and intoxicating. He gave me just enough to get me interested, but not enough to let me know he'd come after me. And I wanted him to come after me.

For all my big talk of days gone by, I found myself just as giddy as the girls before me, falling prey to his big smile and his avant-garde sense of style. I wanted him to want me. And his subtle acknowledgement of me was just enough to make me crave him.

What I don't understand is this: I spend countless hours pouring my weeping heart into this blog, whining about how much I want a man who will treat me right. Who will send me flowers at work, who will make me feel like the only woman on earth who matters, who is a gentleman, who will give me the world if I only ask for it. Yet time and time again, I find myself drawn to the men who are the antithesis of what I "want." I'm sucked in by the bravado, the cockiness, the take-me-or-leave-me attitude. I want the man who doesn't want me.

And what it really is, I think, is my innate desire to tame the wild horse. To be able to say "He was a rowdy one...Until he met me." And I know how catastrophic this can be; I've attempted it already, and failed. But still, I feel myself wanting to try again.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

In the Bag

On Friday, February 16, 2001, I was twenty years old and working as a teller at a Milford bank. I had been working there for almost two years, I knew all of my customers and I knew my job inside and out. But that day is one I'll never forget. That day, I was robbed.

A hulk of a man wearing dirty overalls and a flannel shirt came into the full lobby that morning and asked my coworker for a job application. When she handed over the crisp white paper, the man mumbled thank you and sat in the lobby to fill it out. He stayed for about fifteen minutes, then left the bank after promising to return with the application. We chuckled as soon as he left the branch, wondering why anyone in their right minds would pick up an application looking so dirty.

As promised, he returned later that morning. He came to my window and told me he'd messed up the first application and needed another one. We joked back and forth as I searched for and located a new application. I handed it over to him, and again, he promised to return with the completed application. I told him that, in that case, I'd see him later. He shuffled out of the lobby, the application clutched in his fat fist.

When he returned a third time, I was alone in the lobby. The boss of my short-staffed branch was fixing the fax machine in another room, one teller was out to lunch and the other was letting a woman into her safe deposit box. The man came back and walked directly to my station, job application in hand.

"Did you mess it up again?" I said, already reaching for another replacement.

"No...Uh...I have this..." he replied, unsure. He passed the application to me.

"Oh. Well..." I turned over the paper, and there, scribbled on the back of the blank application was his nervous handwriting: Put you cash in the bag.

Time stopped for a second. My first instinct was that it wasn't really happening. This is a trick, I thought. We had just gone through a robbery training the night before. They're testing me to see if I do the right thing. I looked up at the man, his eyes shifting nervously from one lobby door to another. His huge frame curved over my station, imposing.

This isn't a trick.

I read the note again, my hands shaking. But I didn't think Reach in the drawer, Laurie. I thought My God. I can't believe he wrote "you" instead of "your." I wanted to pass it back to him and say "When you can figure out the error in this note, I'll give you the money."

Of course, the fear caught in my throat would allow me to say no such thing.

"I'm just reaching for my keys, okay? My drawer is locked. I have to unlock it, okay?" I spoke slowly and softly, barely moving until I had his approval.

"Yeah. Whatever. Just don't try any funny shit." He pulled a Grand Union bag from the pocket of his dust-covered overalls and slapped it on the counter. His actions implied threat, but his voice fell short.

My hands shook as I reached for the keys I kept in my pocket. I steered clear of the alarm button under the counter. Don't be a hero, the trainer's voice from the night before reminded me. Don't hit the alarm if you think it's risky. Worry about that later. I unlocked the drawer, and pulled it open, the screech of metal-on-metal as it opened startled us both. His eyes met mine for a second, deep brown irises surrounded by yellowy whites.

"Hurry the fuck up," he said, pushing the bag at me again.

I opened my drawer halfway, as he leaned over the counter to see. I could smell him, unwashed and sour. He invaded my space, craning his neck to see what I had in my drawer. I reached for the large stack of ones, hoping to get away with giving him as little as possible.

"Cut that shit out. Don't worry about the ones. Start with the fives." My hand recoiled from the singles and skimmed to the fives, my quivering fingers grabbing the whole bunch and carrying it to the yellow plastic bag resting before me. I watched my hand moved, but it didn't seem like I was attached to it. It seemed to move independently, like I was watching someone else's hand. If at all possible, push the note out of the way so that the robber forgets about it and leaves it as evidence. The training video replayed in my head. When I brought my hand back to collect the tens, I pushed his note onto the floor. My movements were slow, deliberate.

I filled his bag with the tens, and part of my stack of twenties. I hid my left hand so that he wouldn't see my engagement ring and want to steal it, too. I was scared, but I could tell that he was, too.

His threats were small and mumbled, like he didn't want to be delivering them at all. He reeked of desperation, not violence.

Before I could finish giving him all of my money, he grew impatient. "That's enough," he spat. He lifted the bag, bloated with cash, from the counter and stuffed it into the same oversized pocket it came out of, and did a slow jog out of the building.

"Karen," I whispered. She was in the vault to my left, still chatting with the customer at the safe deposit boxes. "Karen," I was shouting and whispering at the same time.

She stopped her conversation and looked at me. "Yeah?" she said, still smiling at something the customer had said.

"I was robbed." My arms were extended, palms up, perhaps to show that the money wasn't in my hands.

"Someone took the money from the counter?" She said, her smile gone.

"Where the hell do you get that from what I just said? NO! I was robbed!"

"Oh. My. God." She ushered the customer out of the vault and went to get the manager, while I stood in the exact same position I'd been in when I told her. Shock had set in.

My boss, Laura, ran out of the back room, her hands covered in fax toner. "What happened? Are you okay?"

"Yeah," my palms were still out. "I was robbed."

The safe deposit box customer left and Laura locked the door behind her. She was in crisis mode. "Call the police," she said to me from across the room. I looked at the phone, but all I saw were a bunch of buttons. I didn't know which ones to press.

My hands fell to my sides as I stared at the keypad, the tears welling up in my eyes. I was frozen. Helpless. I looked at her, my face saying What do I do?

Without me having to say it aloud, she knew. "Pick up the phone, and dial nine, one, one." And so I did.

I told the operator what bank I was calling from that I'd just been robbed. I gave her a brief description of the thief and she promised to send someone right over. Not a minute later a local cop showed up at the glass doors, pale and worried. He knew all of us, and feared that someone was hurt.

My coworker, Caryn, who'd been out to lunch came up from the basement when she heard the sirens. "What's going on?" she asked, her words frantic and scared.

"We were robbed," Karen said, busying herself with her assigned post-robbery tasks. She suggested Caryn do the same.

Because they'd been at the training the night before, my coworkers' minds were fresh with the steps to take in the event of a robbery. They blocked off all the areas where he'd been standing. They left the note alone. They started to fill out the description sheets. We didn't speak; we weren't supposed to, for fear that we would discuss the robbery or the thief himself and not remember things as they actually were. But I sat motionless on my chair, watching everything happen around me, but feeling like I wasn't really there at all.

FBI agents, State Troopers and officers of the Bank flooded the building. They blocked off our entrances and exits, they shooed away the local reporters who came to cover the news. They started reviewing the tapes, separating us and asking questions. Fingerprint dust covered the lobby; from the giant columns in the middle of the large and airy room to the podiums in the center, to the entire length of our counters, the black powder stared at us, reminding us of the whole ordeal.

We were allowed to call our families, to tell them they might hear we'd been robbed. We couldn't give them any details, only that we were all okay. After I called my family, my mom rushed to the bank. The police posted at the door couldn't keep her from coming in and making sure her daughter was alright. She burst through the doors and wrapped me in her arms. "You're okay, right?" she asked, her voice filled with fear, her cheeks covered in tears. Her face was red, her breath short and choppy. She was terrified.

"I'm fine, Mom. I promise." And I was, but it felt good to be in the safety of her arms.

No one but me was really shaken up before she got there, but seeing her all worked up and scared for her child got everyone emotional.

After I was questioned by the state and local police, the FBI agents took me downstairs to get my description of the perpetrator. They asked me to describe what he looked like, how tall he was, his weight. But I didn't know how to say it. I've never been good at describing the whole picture of a person. I don't know what two hundred pounds looks like. I can't distinguish six-foot-three from six-foot-seven. So I focused on his eyes, on his hands, the blister on his thumb. His ears. His mustache. His kinky hair. His smell. His clothes. And while it could've made for an interesting description in a novel, it wasn't what they needed.

"Do you think you'd be able to recognize him in a lineup?" The bearded agent asked me.

"Absolutely," I responded. And then the fear set in. "Will I have to, you know, identify him?"

"Yes. And you may have to testify." He said it so matter-of-factly, his eyes on the paper he was filling out in front of him.

Testify? I began to panic. And worry.

I shouldn't have told anyone I'd been robbed, I thought. What if he comes after me for telling the police? What if he finds me? What if he wants to hurt me? He said "No funny shit," maybe that meant "Don't tell the police."

I was released from questioning, but paranoia had taken hold of me. I thought I saw him out of the bank window. I was allowed to leave, but I was scared of being alone. I thought he might be in my car, or waiting to follow me home. So my boss drove me home, before driving me to our favorite restaurant - the one that didn't care to card me - to allow me to drink away my woes.

I was given the next day off - but I didn't spend it doing anything fun. I spent it, and the rest of the weekend, worrying. Worrying about what he'd do when he found out I'd told on him. Worrying about whether or not he could find me if he wanted to. Worrying that his family would come after me if I testified against him.

I didn't want to go to work on Monday, but I had to. I had to get back in the swing of things, I had to try to associate work with work instead of robbery. But there was no changing me from that point out. My whole attitude changed that day.

That day, every person who came into the bank was a potential thief. I began to make mental notes of what people were wearing, the shape of their faces, how much taller they were than me, the color of their eyes, skin and hair. I made note of everyone walking into and out of the bank, sure that if I was ever again asked what a thief looked like, I'd be able to give a clear answer.

And to this day, I continue to take stock of everyone in the bank. I pay attention to people who come in, look around and leave. I remember their faces, their voices, their accents, their posture. Sometimes, I pay too much attention, and worry that I'm bordering on paranoia.

But, really, the robbery made me aware: It made me aware of my customers, and aware of my surroundings. It made me aware of what good women I worked with then. It made me aware of being a victim of a small crime will do to a mother. It made me keenly aware of everything: I know immediately upon setting foot in my house that someone's been here. If it's a door that's closed that was open before, I'll see it. If it's the morning's paper moved from where I left it, I'll notice. And I like being so acutely observant to my surroundings, even if it did take a robbery to do it.

Past My Bedtime

Please take note of the time on this post. It is now 12:39 am on Tuesday.

Did I, or did I not, say yesterday that I would be doing this - Hopping on the internet with the intent to check my favorite blogs, only to glance at the clock hours later and realize that time has completely escaped me.

At least I know myself well enough to know that I may never catch up on my sleep as long as I have access to the internet.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

I'm It

I was tagged! And, because I am purely reactionary, here go my answers:

10 years ago... I was fourteen years old, living in Las Vegas, and had just completed my sophomore year of high school. I was just entering the rebellious phase of my life, hanging out with an older crowd, and dating a much older man. I swam almost everyday in our pool, escaping the hundred-degree desert heat by slipping into cool water. I was a sprinter on the track team, my best friend was a girl named Jennifer, and I thought I knew everything.

5 years ago... I was still fairly new to the East Coast, and splitting my time between Milford and West Point, New York. I was dating my future fiancée, David, and taking accelerated night classes at The United States Military Academy. Back then, I was employed at a different in Milford and working six days a week as a teller. I still lived at home, but was aware that I was going to be married in just over a year. I spent most of my free time with David, going to his military functions and spending time with his friends. I was purely content at that time in my life.

1 year ago... I was experiencing my second year of living on my own, and still figuring out the nuances of independence. My godson was only four months old, and I was still telling the story, over and over again, about how my best friend had allowed me to witness his birth. At that point, I was trying, for the third time, to make my relationship with Tom work, and it was going steadily downhill. I had been in my current position for three years, and I was miserable there. A new supervisor had been hired and she and I butted heads - When she wasn't purposefully not speaking to me, she was going out of her way to make my life miserable. Although she was not actually my boss (she works on the residential side of the bank, and I work on the commercial side) she exploited the gray area of my position (that requires me to split my time between two departments) and bogged me down with unnecessary tasks. My situation at work had escalated to the point where no one but my boss spoke to me. Aside from work, though, I was generally happy.

Yesterday... I woke up early and went to the gym for the sixth time this week. I went to lunch with my best friend, then shopping with my mother. Around 10, I went out to celebrate the fifth wedding anniversary with Pollo & Chuck. We had drinks at a local bar then hopped on the interstate and went to the city of Newburgh. We paid an outrageous cover charge to enter a bar/restaurant/club hoping to dance, only to discover that the establishment, while beautiful, was more of a place to see and be seen than a place to dance. We stayed for a few hours, but drove home, disappointed and insanely sober, around two this morning. Not ready to go to sleep, I attempted to watch "Closer" on my laptop, but had trouble with it freezing up on me. I went to sleep around four this morning.

Today... I woke up late (almost one in the afternoon!), ate breakfast, then got myself gussied up to shop. I looked for a new pair of shoes, then - on a whim - decided to grocery shop instead. It was a bad decision. Not because I wasn't in the mood to grocery shop (I love to go grocery shopping...) but because my wardrobe was inappropriate: I wore a tube top, and every time I bent over or reached up to grab something, I was in danger of flashing all of Shop Right my bosom. But I kept shopping, while constantly adjusting my top, and came home ($75.00 later...) and unloaded my groceries. I watched a little bit of bad television, and now I'm writing this. Later tonight, I will fulfill my weekly obligation to my second job by transcribing the minutes of our last meeting.

Tomorrow... If I can muster the ambition, I will wake up early, go to the gym, then head to work. I'll have a loan closing early in the day, and that will make my Monday fly by - Hopefully. If, however, I was unable to drag myself from my comfortable bed in the morning, I will go to the gym after work. Then I will come home, do my laundry and cook myself some dinner, crawl into bed and go about my daily blog-reading. I will probably do that until I realize that it's after midnight, at which point I will curse myself for not paying attention to the time, turn off my computer, and go to sleep knowing that I have to be up by 6:30 am to get to my class at the gym on time.

5 snacks I enjoy... Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey, crunchy vegetables & dip, Wheat Thins, Pringles, and Mounds.

5 songs I know all the words to... I'm not kidding when I say this: I know the words to almost every song on the radio (not limited to a certain station; It could be an '80s station, a classic rock station, a pop station, an easy listening station, a hip-hop/rap/R&B station, an oldies station...) and every word to every song on every CD I own. So to limit it to five is pretty difficult. But here goes: Third Eye Blind, "Semi-Charmed Life," Barenaked Ladies "One Week," Otis Redding, "Try a Little Tenderness," Ray Charles, "Makin' Whoopee," Rage Against the Machine, "People of the Sun."

5 reality television shows I watch... Kept, Stripsearch, American Idol, The Real World (and all spinoffs), Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (does that qualify as a reality show?).

5 television shows I watch daily... I don't watch any TV show daily, but there are a few I watch Weekly: Reno 911, Desperate Housewives (it's on hiatus now...), Sex in the City reruns on TBS, Chappelle's Show, Best Week Ever.

5 things I would do with $100,000,000... I would payoff my family's houses and cars, I would buy a new car for my little brother, I would buy the house I'm living in now, I would donate some to help out the troops and their families, and I would free myself of debt.

5 locations I would love to run away to... Las Vegas, The Former Yugoslavia, Paris, England, or a tropical island (doesn't really matter which one).

5 things I like doing... I love to read. I love to write. I love to listen to music. I love to dance. I love to spend time with my friends...There's not enough space on this list for the things I love to do!

5 things I would never wear... Legwarmers. Plaid pants. A kangol hat (that was for you, Alex!). Flat shoes (I suppose it's a stretch to say "never," because one cannot work out in high heels, but I will say that any time I am not working out, I am wearing high heels, and I see no end in sight to my long-standing love affair with stilettos). A sweater/sweatshirt with a puffy-painted/embroidered holiday scene or animal on the front.

5 recently seen movies I like... Like Kate, all of these became new to me recently: The Notebook. Finding Neverland. The Butterfly Effect. Napoleon Dynamite. And I think that's it. But I have a feeling that I'll like "Closer," too, just as soon as I can watch it all the way through.

5 famous people I'd like to meet... Dane Cook (because I think he's dreamy), Jonny Lang (because his music moves me), Tori Amos (because she's a goddess), Wally Lamb (because he's my favorite fiction writer), David Sedaris (because he's my favorite humorist).

5 biggest joys of the moment... I have to copy Kate for my first one: My newest pair of jeans. My new striped strapless dress. My Sirius Satellite Radio. The song "Touch," by Amerie. My Palm Pilot.

5 people to tag... Hmmmm....Pollo, Tumbleweed, The Zombieslayer, Jason, and Shawn.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

It's Saturday Night...

And I plan to have a great time...And laugh as much as possible... Posted by Hello

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, June 23, 2005


"You have three saved messages," the mechanical woman on my cell phone tells me. "To hear your messages, press one."

Very rarely do I ever actually press one, but doing so would take me to three messages that I've been accumulating for almost a year:

One from an almost-boyfriend.
One from my best friend.
One from a then-new friend.

The Almost-Boyfriend message was left mere days after we met in a bar. A string of late night conversations had proved promising pre-relationship flirtation, and he called my phone while he was on the road. His voice, through Verizon's crackly reception, told me that he couldn't stop thinking about me and how happy he was to have met me. He told me he was thinking of when he would get to see me next, of trips we could take together in the future. We went on one wonderful date, but ultimately it didn't work; Long distance relationships rarely do. And I'm not quite sure why I'm saving the message...But listening to it again reminds me that it is possible to be excited about a date. That I'm an impressive lady, regardless of how discouraged I can get.

The Best Friend message was left when I went to Dominique's wedding by myself. Pollo told my voicemail that she hoped I "eat a lot, drink a lot and dance a lot." She wished that I have a great time and that I call her the following morning to tell her all about it. The message was sweet by itself because she was thinking of me...But my reason for saving it was the way she closed the message. "Okay, friend. I love you. Bye." When I heard the click of her phone, I immediately replayed the message, unsure if I'd really heard what I thought I did. But sure enough, there it was: I love you. It's something that Pollo doesn't say often or take lightly. I know that she doesn't say those words because it's a sweet way to sign off. She only says them if she feels them. Listening to that message in a hotel room by myself in Long Island, I got teary eyed. And I saved it, to listen to whenever I feel like being reminded that someone loves me.

The message from a Then-New Friend is like a mix between the two prior messages. I met this man on a Friday night in Milford, and the second we exchanged names we formed a bond. He started telling people we were Eharmony matches. That we're "BFFs!" That if he were interested in women, he'd be totally interested in me. "Since I can't get married to the man of my dreams - well, you know, except for in Vermont - I was so happy to meet the female equivalent of him" he says in the message. "So my days of thinking I'd never have a beautiful bride - or become one myself - are now over. And, I know it's kind of tacky to do this in a voicemail message...but...would you marry me? Of course, we both get boyfriends on the side." The message makes me laugh like crazy, but it also whispers See that, Laurie? He only just met you, and he thinks you're amazing.

I know it's silly to keep them. And I only listen to them when they're "marked for deletion," after thirty days. I guess I like knowing they're there, those three little mementos. And when I need to hear a friendly voice, I know I can just hit the number one.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


We sat in lawn chairs in their sprawling backyard, the summer night illuminated by tall lamps reaching above our heads and into the clear sky. We shooed away the bothersome insects that the thick air welcomed and sipped our cocktails from sweaty glasses.

"That was some party," Bill said, arching and stretching his back. "But I'm really sorry about Rob."

I nodded my head, the corners of my mouth upturned: The precursor to a laugh. "Really, Bill. It's okay. It's not your fault. You didn't know he was going to be such a skeez."

"You know what it is about you?" He turned his attention from his personal basketball court to me. "You have the appearance of a 24 year old, but mentally, you're in your thirties. So there's a real challenge to find someone right for you."

I shot him a quizzical look. "What are you trying to say, Bill?" I asked playfully.

"I don't mean anything bad by it," his eyes were wide, telling me not to misconstrue his statement. "What I mean is that you need a special man. One who is young enough to keep you young and happy and full of life, but one who is mature enough to be your equal. That's a mix you don't come by everyday."

I tossed his idea around in my mind, played with it a little. I do have a tall order to fill when it comes to my ideal man. And every so often, I wonder if maybe settling wouldn't be so bad. So I sacrifice maturity for fun, or fun for maturity - so what? So maybe I'll be a little bored, or start to feel older than I feel already. At least then I won't wonder why I can't find anyone. Of course, the thought lasted no longer than a second; I don't have to sacrifice either one. And anyway, I'd rather be alone than with someone I'd chosen just because I was sick of being lonely.

"But don't worry, Laurie," Bill continued; And the tone of his voice told me exactly where he was headed. I tensed up and braced myself for the impact of what I knew he was about to say. "You'll find someone. The right guy is out there for you. You just haven't found the right one yet. Hang in there."

"Yeah, I know," I mumbled, offering him a forced smile while I waited through his condolences.

"I'm serious. He's out there. One of these days, you'll meet him. It's just a matter of time and patience."

As sweet and well-intentioned as this type of conversation is, it is the type I dread most. I truly appreciate that I'm cared for, but when someone says to me "Don't worry, he's out there," or "hang in there," or "don't give up" - as they often do - I'm left to nod my head and examine my cuticles and wait for it to pass. Because really, what do you say when someone offers you their pity? They know how badly you want to find someone - they want you to find someone, too, - and they don't know what else to say. And so, rather than saying nothing, they present you with a bouquet of clichés and worn out well-wishes. They stop just short of giving you advice, because they know you don't want to hear it, but the need to say something is just too overwhelming.

"I know Bill. Thanks."

But the general misconception is this: That I want to find the man I'm going to marry within the next week. Sure it'd be nice to find my soul mate, but that's not really what I want right now. I'm kind of getting used to being single; I'm beginning to like the way I feel in these shoes. What I really want is just someone to be excited about.

I don't want to fall in love tomorrow. I just want to meet a man, give him my phone number, and actually hope that he calls. I want to stare at my phone and will it to ring with the desperation of a schoolgirl. I want to revert back to high school when, if I thought my crush was calling, I'd pick up the phone and check for a dial tone, just to see if everything was working alright. I want to race home to check my email to see if he's written. I want to tickle the refresh button with my cursor, hoping that if I hit it, I'll see his name in my inbox. I want to be excited for a first date. I want that giddy intoxication that comes after a date that went well. I want the buzz that lasts for days after a first kiss. I want to have a crush on someone. I want to come home and call my friends and say "Oh my God, he was so wonderful!" and giggle like I'm twelve years old again. I'm sick of relating my bad date stories. Just once, I would like to be able to grin from ear to ear and, in a dreamy voice, say "Oh, the date? It was phenomenal."

Today on the phone, I filled my mom's ears with those same desires.

"I don't think I'm asking a whole lot. I just want to meet a good guy that I'm into, you know?"

Instead of giving a response, my mom chuckled.

"What's so funny?" I asked, confused as to why she'd laugh at my plea for one good date.

"Laurie, did I ever send you that joke? The one about the guy talking to God?"

"Uh, I don't know. There are a few jokes out there like that..."

"Well, every day, this guy prays to God 'Please, God, just let me win the lottery.' Every day, it's the same prayer, 'Please, God, just let me win the lottery.' For years, he asks God to let him win the lottery, until, finally, God speaks to him. God says, 'I really want to help you, my son. But you have to buy a freakin' ticket."

Good point, Mom. Good point.

Although I've been wanting to buy my ticket, Milford's all sold out, and I've been waiting for the ticket to come to me. It's time I start checking out other vendors.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Octopus Arms

"Laurie, this is my friend Rob," Deb said, pushing her pal in my direction. "Rob this is Laurie, the one I told you about."

She'd told me about Rob, too. The party she was throwing turned into a convenient vehicle to play matchmaker. She told me Rob was good looking, sweet, thirty-six, and interested in settling down. "If it works, it works. If it doesn't, it doesn't. But I want you guys to meet, because the both of you are such great people. It could be something special." Ah, but in my experience, the hookup rarely turns into anything special.

"Hi, Rob," I said, extending my hand for him to shake. "Nice to meet you."

"Now mingle," Deb said to Rob with a playful pat on his back. "I'll see you around," she smiled, then turned to walk away.

Rob was left with Nancy, Alex, and myself, the four of us standing in an awkward circle. Conversation turned quickly to weather and the deer that always find their way into the roads and how nicely the party had turned out. A chilly breeze swept through the tent under which we stood, and I suggested to the group that we go inside and get some drinks.

Wanting to give this guy a chance, I bellied up to the bar with him, waiting for the bartender to take our orders.

"So, how long have you known Bill and Deb," he said, referring to the throwers of the party and the masterminds behind our hookup.

"Only a few months, I know them through Nancy and Alex, who you met outside."

"They're great, aren't they?"

"They are."

"I can't believe they have grown children. They have three who are all grown up, and I don't have any." A strange moment of silence passed between us. "What about you, do you want kids?"

I was caught off guard. Weren't women supposed to ask these kinds of questions? And even if they do, don't they save it for the third date?

"Uuuuhhh, yeah. Eventually."

"How many?"

"I don't know. I'll figure that out later."

"I want three."

I fully expected him to tell me their names, but the bartender caught him before he could go any further into his desire for children.

He ordered for the two of us and was grabbed by Bill to meet some friends. He assured me he'd meet back with me later, and I made my way over to my friends.

Pollo and Nancy and I danced for what felt like hours before Rob reemerged, grabbing me by the hand and pulling me, mid-dance move, from the floor and outside to the patio.

"You look so hot," he said, edging me away from the building into the darkness of the vacant backyard.

"I know, I've been dancing," I said, tousling my sweaty hair and fanning myself with my hands.

"That's not what I meant." He gave me a look that seemed to imply I want to eat you up, and pulled me close to him.

I backed away, stepped closer to the building where we could be seen under the floodlights. "Well, thanks." He pulled me close again, his hands pawing at my waist, my shoulders.

Once more, I backed away, putting my arms out straight so that he could not come closer. "You know, I think I'm going to head back inside."

"Wait just a second," he said, grabbing my arm and pulling me again into him. He brought his face to mine, in a sloppy attempt at a kiss.

"I don't think so, Rob." I pushed his face away and turned to walk inside.

"Am I being inappropriate?" He asked.

"Yes," I said over my shoulder as I walked through the sliding glass door and back into the party.

Two drinks and twenty songs later, the packed dance floor parted, giving way to three strippers. They had been hired by the owner's son to "get the party started," or so he said. But since the party was already in full swing, they headed straight for the two stand-alone poles in the rear corners of the room, immediately stripping down to bikini tops and G-strings. The crowd that had, not five minutes ago, been dancing themselves into a frenzy, turned to gawk at the strippers. I grabbed a dollar bill and headed for the stripper nearest to me, dancing with her for a moment before shoving the bill in the skinny strap of her panties.

The strippers danced for roughly half an hour before they were tired and required a break. They all stepped out back, their bare asses perched on lawn furniture, smoking cigarettes they carried in their teeny-tiny purses. From my vantage point inside, I could see all three strippers. And Rob. Whose lap was functioning as a chair for one of the gals.

"Gross," I said to Nancy, who was standing next to me. There's nothing wrong with strippers. But he had already skeeved me out with the premature attempt at a kiss earlier, and now he had pounded the second nail into his coffin with this shenanigan.

When breaktime was over, two of the strippers filed back into the party. Rob and Stripper #3 were nowhere to be found. Rumor begins to circulate that they were off somewhere together. Which was fine, and somewhat of a relief to me. He wasn't required to like me, and I took his romp with a dancer to mean that he didn't.

A half hour later, I stood at the edge of the dance floor, watching all of the bodies on it move to the music, and I felt a hand on my back. It belonged to Rob.

"Now, where did we leave off," he said, tugging me toward the door.

"Oh, I don't need to go outside," my voice was firm as I freed my arm from his hand.

"But I can't talk to you in here," he leaned in close, I could feel his breath on my face.

"What do you need to talk to me about?" I asked turning my face away.

"I want to get to know you. Bill said you're a really great girl, and I think we should get to know each other." His hands found their way around my waist, his fingers clutched my sides. His unwanted and overzealous advances made my skin crawl, turned me off of him even further.

"I'm fine right here," I said, taking his hands in my own and removing them from my body.

"You're not interested in me are you?" He asked, his words sloppy and wet.


His face morphed into what I can only assume was his best puppy-dog face. "But why not? I think we could really get along."

"So," I said, taking a step back from in order to reclaim some of my personal space, "where did you go with the stripper for all that time?"

"Nothing happened!" he said, jumping straight to the defense. He pointed over his shoulder to the stripper, now writhing on the pole. "You can ask her."

"I don't want to ask her. I don't care what happened. You can do whatever you want with her. I just don't want you to think I'm still interested."

Pollo, sensing my need to be rescued, grabbed me by the hand and pulled me onto the dance floor. I danced until I was covered in sweat again, then went outside with a friend to get some air.

In the middle of our conversation, I happened to glance in the direction of the sixty or so cars parked along the hedges of the yard. And, there, walking through the grass, was Rob and the stripper. I saw him open his car door, help the young stripper in, then follow. My friend and I laughed. "At least someone's gonna get action tonight," he said.

Much later, back inside the party, Rob found his way to me again, his breath on my neck, his body in my space, his hands all over me. "Would you like to dance?" He slurred into my hair.

"No, I'm fine right here, thank you."

"I blew it, didn't I?"

"Blew what?"

"My chance with you?"

"Were you trying for a chance with me?"

"Of course."

"Well, yes. You did blow it."

"You hate me."

"I don't hate you. I don't even know you. But I'm not interested in you."

"Don't hate me. I'm a great guy. I promise."

"I'm sure you are. I'm sure the stripper thinks so, too."

"Nothing happened! I swear!"

"Are you talking about the first time you disappeared with her, or the second time when you disappeared with her into your car?"

"Bill made me go with her! I didn't want to, but he told me to."

I shuddered, appalled at his choice of an excuse. She needed mouth to mouth. She asked me to help her mend her G-String. She had to make a call and I offered her the use of my car phone. Any of these, although absurd, would've been preferable to hearing over the lame line that someone else forced his hand.

"I'm sorry," I said, not even able to look him in the face, "but are you or are you not a big boy? I think you're capable of making your own decisions. You're a little too old to blame your stupid move on someone else. And you don't give me nearly enough credit if you think I'm going to fall for it."

"You're right," he said leaning into me, wrapping his whole arm around me. "Bill's right, you probably are too smart for me." He was trying to be playful, flirty. Cute.

"Yeah, probably," was my response. Not flirty at all. Once again, I twisted myself out of his grasp, only to be corralled again. His hands were everywhere, impossible to move.

My friend, Sam, chose this moment to walk by and give Rob the international sign for "Loser." He held his thumb and forefinger up to his forehead and said "Rob, get off her. She can tell you're a loser."

Rob obliged, but put his face next to mine to whisper in my ear, "Sam hates me."

"Sam hates everybody," I said, moving my face as far from his as possible.

"Oh good," he sighed, relieved and resting his head on my shoulder.

"Well, sometimes, it's warranted." I moved my whole body away from him and concentrated on not being near him for the rest of the night.

"I'm sorry Rob's such a dick," Deb whispered in my ear later that night. "I saw him go out to his car with one of the strippers, and I was like 'No way!' I'm just so sorry. I was really hoping there'd be a match there."

"It's fine, Deb, really. How would you know if you'd never tried? It could've been a match...It just didn't work out that way."

She laughed and put her hand on my shoulder. "I guess I know now why he's still single, though, huh?"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


This was originally posted on March 8, 2006. I wanted this buried. And this was an appropriate place, I thought.

RIP, old relationship


I guess, now, I don't have to look out for you when I stop at the Turkey Hill. I don't have to worry about running into you when I visit one of the three restaurants in this town. I don't have to check the faces in passing cars to be sure that none of them belong to you. I don't have to wonder if your house has sold, if you're still in town, if you're just around any given corner.

You're gone.

That chapter of my life is now effectively closed.

It's sort of strange because, now, I know that I will never see you again. Never. They say, never say never, but I'm saying it now. I don't fancy myself running into you in Texas or Florida or any of the Southern states that you love so much, and you've no reason to come back here. And now that I can't run into you during an innocent purchase of gas or cigarettes, I think it's safe to say never.

Your presence here was like a little time bomb that I wasn't sure was wired for explosion. Running into you could be casual or devastating. It could be cold and strained, like the one time I saw you, in line with a gallon of milk in your shaky hand, where we talked for a few moments like acquaintances, not lovers of four years. We discussed Christmas and the sale of your house and I seized the first opportunity to put our conversation out of its misery. You were stuck in line; You couldn't leave. The ending was up to me. And that may have been my last conversation with you. Ever.

But I was never quite sure of what would happen if, for some reason, we found ourselves in the same bar, both of out socially, but separately. Would we talk? Would we catch up? Or would we ignore one another, trading dirty looks across a littered bar? Would we tiptoe on the friendship we used to have, or would we smash it all to shreds? I never knew. So I avoided it. I imagine you'd have a few choice words for me, though I was always told that you never spoke badly of me.

When my friends said last night "Guess who we saw Friday night?" I knew to whom they were referring before they even said your name. And when they said "He left town today," I couldn't describe how I felt. It was the end. A long road I'd been crawling down for years just ended. And I was surprised, despite the signs I'd been passing. "Dead End Ahead." It still shocked me. This is it? No more?

You told my friends "I wanted to be friends with her..." or you "tried," or you "hoped." I don't know the exact words. Maybe you had wanted to remain friendly. I don't know. I remember you saying to me once, "I'll never not know you. You'll be in my life forever," after we'd broken up, but before I'd accept it. And I used that as comfort, that you'd never be gone completely. But things changed: I met the most amazing man, and you disappeared from even my peripheral vision. And not only are you out of my life, but I have no idea who you are now. I suppose it's better this way. A definite break, a clean one, nothing to fiddle with and have to keep resetting. Over. Gone. Done.

The strange thing for me is how happy I am now, and yet it still throws me off balance to find that you're gone. I feel like I did a few years ago when I went and saw my best friend from high school, how things hand changed so much. I realized that we weren't the same people we were in our teens. And that our friendship was finished. It had lived out its life, and no matter how hard I tried to breathe air into it, with phone calls, emails, and letter, it was dead. It hurt, but only because its ending was ambiguous and undefined, and, because of that, I have a problem letting it go. No matter how much has changed, I want to keep things tidy and similar. Whatever I end in my life should be packed neatly, taped closed and tied with a tight bow. For easy storage, for easy disposal. And there's nothing tidy or similar about you and me. Everything about the sudden silence between us was murky. So, somehow, I suppose, I liked the idea of running into you again, of our last conversation - ever, in our lives - to be about more than "So, have you finished shopping for Christmas yet?"

I guess it would've been nice to have a chance to say goodbye.


In My Place

The last time I heard the song was on a CD he made for me two years ago. After a dramatic breakup, we were wading through a slow reconciliation, full of discussions about our past, talk of our future, and promises of "We will make it work this time." It was a period of soul-searching, figuring out our mistakes, and the first and only time I had seen tears fall from his eyes over me.

The process of our reunion is documented on six CDs I have in my room: Three that I created, three created by him. The songs spoke for each one of us, illustrating our past issues, announcing the feelings we were too afraid to tell each other outright. Each time I was presented with a new musical account of what he'd been feeling, I listened to it with tears rolling down my face, taking to heart each word sung by the various artists chosen. I wept through verses and choruses, accepting each syllable of each lyric as proof that he loved me, and that we really could make it work.

After giving me the first disc, Tom took me to my friend Austin's house. Austin was selling the home, and I knew Tom was interested in buying it. Austin told me as much at a bar earlier in the week.

"You know Tom's interested in my house," he said, his body leaning over his vodka gimlet.

"I know," I replied, staring into my own vodka concoction.

"But there's just one thing standing in his way of buying it," he said, forcing me to look him in the face. "You."


"He'll only buy it if he knows he's going to have you back. He really loves you, Laurie. You should give it a chance."

"I just don't know, Austin," my voice came out helpless and pleading. I was hoping he'd give me some irrefutable answer. Something that guaranteed me a lifetime with Tom.

"He wants to settle down. He does. He loves you. He misses you. He'll do anything you want. He is miserable without you. He wants you in his life."

And so, when Tom took me to Austin's house, I knew he was hoping to purchase it. He led me through the front door, revealing the high ceilings, the wood floors, the solid staircase. He showed me each nook and cranny of the home, while I tried my best to portray indifference.

As I took in the glorious home, he led me to the final spot: The master bedroom. He showed me closets, "perfect for shoes," he noted. He showed me the adjoining bathroom. And then he took me through the sliding glass doors that led out onto a porch overlooking an autumn-hued backyard.

"So. What do you think?" He asked, taking my hands in his, his voice full of hope.

"I think it's great. It's really great, Tom."

"It's mine."

My jaw dropped.

"Yeah, we're closing on Friday," he continued. "I bought it. For us."

For us. I dropped his hands, pushed the door open and sat on the bed in the Master Bedroom. Our master bedroom, according to him.

"For us?" I could feel the anger in my throat, the tears in my eyes. "For us? This house was on the market a year ago, and you said no. You said you didn't want to buy a house here. You said you wanted to move. You said you couldn't live here."

"But I want it now. I want this. Us."

"You choose to do this now? You put me through all that..." I couldn't stop the tears now. They rolled down my flushed cheeks as I spoke. "You could've done this a year ago, and spared me so much. But I break up with you and you miss me, and now you want an 'us?'"

"I know. I was stupid," he cradled my face in his hands. "But I see now how much I want it. You. Everything we talked about. You want to get married? Let's go. Right now. We can get on a plane, go to Vegas and be married in eight hours."

I shook my head. "Oh, I don't think so," I said, already suspicious of the validity of his statement. "Let's just take this one step at a time."

He nodded, his features soft and understanding. "Okay. I understand. But I want you to know how serious I am about this. I love you."

On the way home, I listened to the CD he'd made for me, ingesting each word, savoring it like a delicious meal after starving for months. I cried.

And I gave in.

On that drive home, I knew that Tom and I would wind up back together. I knew I wanted to try, that I didn't want to lose him, even if I knew I was setting myself up for potential heartbreak.

The song that hit me hardest, Coldplay's In My Place, came on today at the bank. And I was tossed back into that moment. Driving down Route 209, avoiding potholes, staring at the road through wet eyes, and deciding, right there, that he really did love me. That this could work out after all. He let the song speak for him:

In my place,
in my place
Were lines that I couldn't change
I was lost, oh yeah
I was lost, I was lost
Crossed lines I shouldn't have crossed
I was lost, oh yeah

And Yeah
How long must you wait for it?
How long must you pay for it?
How long must you wait for it?
For it

I was scared, I was scared
Tired and underprepared
But I wait for it
And if you go, if you go
And leave me down here on my own
Then I'll wait for you

And Yeah
How long must you wait for it?
How long must you pay for it?
How long must you wait for it?

Singing please, please, please
Come back and sing to me
To me, me
Come on and sing it out, now, now
Come on and sing it out, to me, me
Come back and sing

In my place, in my place
Were lines that I couldn't change
And I was lost, oh yeah,
oh yeah

And I believed it. Every goddamn word.

He wanted to change, he told me when we were getting back together. Not for me, but for him. He wanted to be a better man. And he wanted to be a better boyfriend. And although he was never a bad man, he would never be able to fill the role he was trying on. He's a gypsy, a wanderer. And I knew that all along. But I let him try, devoured his attempts to be the boyfriend I wanted. But a bachelor is a bachelor, and there's no changing that. Whether he wants to or not.

He changed, followed through on the promises he made. The first few months of our "new" relationship were filled with happiness and beauty. We talked about where we'd get married, how long before we'd be engaged. He asked for my help on the house. "Do you like this picture? Do you like these glasses? Do you want these sheets?"

I started to plan on moving in with him; timed the drive from his house to my work to figure out my daily commute. I thought of the home as my own, and he encouraged it.

But little by little, I saw the gradual shift back to normal. He tried so hard, he wanted so badly to be what I wanted. But he couldn't. It just wasn't him. He's not cut out for marriage, for a shared life. Not with me, anyway. And, slowly, I was left out of decisions about the house. He no longer asked me what I thought of the art on the walls, the rugs on the floor, the color of the couch. He filled all the closets, even the one he had referred to as mine, with his clothes. They were packed so tightly, he had to fight to get clothes out of them. And I saw it: There's still no room in his closets for me. He was starting to squeeze me out of his life.

Driving home from Atlantic City one day with his Aunt and Uncle, he said it; the sentence I'd been dreading since the moment he purchased the house:

"Yeah, I think I'm gonna put my house up on the market." It was so casual, it burned.

In the darkness of the backseat next to him, my face fell. I knew right then that it was over. That we were right back where he started from.

It wasn't until months later that he finally told me he just didn't want to get married. Ever. Period. End of story. And up until the moment that those words fell from his lips, I believed that somewhere deep inside of him, he wanted me just like I wanted him.

I was wrong.

Listening to that song today, I remembered how much hope I had. How much hope we both had. We tried so hard to do it right, to be what the other wanted. But it never works out if you're trying that hard. It's just too much. It's impossible to force yourself into someone else's mold.

It made me sad to hear Chris Martin belt out the words "How long must you wait for it." I wanted to cry at my desk. I waited for four years. And I would've never given up if he had never told me unequivocally that he didn't want it, too.

So much for not looking back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Washoe County Sheriff's Department Strikes Again

Yes, I know it's two TV posts in a row, but I can't help myself.

"Cops who won't hesitate to beat you with your own shoe." Posted by Hello

Tonight brings the first episode of the newest season of the most wonderful show ever created. Lieutenant Dangle and his crew are up to their crazy shenanigans again, and I couldn't be more excited.

So please excuse me while I indulge in the madness of Deputies C. Johnson, James Garcia, Trudy Weigel, S. Jones, Travis Junior, and Raineesha Williams.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Laughter is the Best Medicine

"I don't wanna fight, I just wanna dance!" This proclamation was made by man on VH1's new reality show "Stripsearch," in which fifteen men compete to be one of seven chosen to dance in a Vegas male revue.

I am addicted to this show.

It all began when I was stuck in bed for two days. Not unlike American Idol, VH1 allowed me, the viewer, to accompany Rachel and Billy, the hosts, across the country to seek out the fifteen hottest men in the USA. I was privy to the good and the bad auditions, the hunks shaking their well kept bodies, and the not-so-hunky men shaking their paler, flabbier ones. And I watched all of them. After the auditions came the first day in the house, the fabulous abode the fifteen of them would live in until their numbers are whittled to only seven. The house has a full gym and a dance room. As is standard practice on reality shows, the men lumbered through their new short-term residence, and told the camera how "awesome" it is, and how they've "always wanted to live like this." But not even two days in the house, and the drama has begun.

I don't know why I'm so enthralled in it. Maybe it's because I think men dancing in a male revue are comical, not sexy. Maybe it's because the previews showed on of the Vegas-bound hopefuls crying. Maybe it's because I just can't take it seriously. But whatever the reason, I can't stop watching.

And when one of the contestants shook an enraged fist as his competitor, demanding that the fighting stop and the dancing begin, the laughter spilled out of me. And even though I was stuck in bed, miserable with a summer cold, I felt exponentially better.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Sidecar, Sugar on the Rim

"This song was inspired by a cocktail," the singer purred over the microphone in the cramped club. "I was out at a bar, and my date ordered a sidecar with sugar on the rim. And I thought 'That's a new one. And kinda sexy.' And I do love a double entendre."

I had arrived alone and chosen a seat at the end of the bar, tucked into a corner of the lounge where my momentary solitude might go unnoticed. The seat turned out the prime real estate, offering me a view - via the mirrored wall behind the crooning blues band - of all the currently seated patrons, as well as those entering and exiting the room.

"Thirsty?" The bartender asked over the slow drum of the song.

"Of course I am," I replied. Without having to ask, he fixed me my standard Vodka and cranberry, handing me the glass with a wink.

I played with the straw, turning lazy circles through the ice in my drink, watching the people watching the band. The place was packed, the crowd uncommon for the small lounge nestled in The Poconos. The mob had followed the instruction of the Milford Music Festival flyers, which directed them to this club for the evening. All around me, unfamiliar faces stared at the band, or into their own drinks. The voices of strangers shouted conversation at one another over the music, talking about their weekends, their families, their lovelives. People perched awkwardly on the arms of couches eyed the bar, waiting for someone to get up and give up their seats. People at the bar watched the bartender, waiting for him to glide their way so that they could ask for another Rum and Coke, a Jack and Ginger. I guessed that most of these customers chose this venue out of the three offered for the evening because the performance was indoors. Saturday's still air was thick and heavy, dripping with heat and the threat of rain. Walking, or even merely sitting, outside guaranteed perspiration and discomfort in the syrupy warmth. Air conditioning felt like heaven.

But each time the door opened, sticky air seeped in, betraying the cool promises of an air-conditioned evening. I wiped the condensation from my cocktail, thankful to be seated next to a small fan.

"Is anybody sitting here?" A tall man pointed to the vacant chair next to me, his eyes hopeful. His date stood close behind him, obviously hoping to have a seat.

"No. No one's there," I said sweetly, giving the chair a nudge in his direction. "It's all yours."

The man pulled the chair closer to him, gestured for his date to take it. "Thank God," the woman sighed, settling herself on the cushioned barstool. "That heat out there makes you tired even when you're standing still."

I nodded in agreement, sipped my drink.

The man gazed at his date. "Better?" He stood over her, smiling down in her direction.

"Perfect," she replied. "I don't want to be anywhere but right here." She wrapped her arms around his waist, gave his torso a quick hug.

While I sat alone, waiting for my friends to arrive, the thought occurred to me: Maybe I have been doing too much looking back, and probably too much looking far ahead; But not nearly enough looking left and right. My thoughts revolve around my past relationships and the one I'm going to have next. I think of what went wrong before, then where I'll meet my next date. I wonder why I didn't get married four years ago, and when my wedding bells will ring. I worry about my decision years ago to forego college, what occupation I'll claim in ten years. I'm too concerned with past and future, forgetting completely about the present. I take for granted my surroundings, choosing instead to focus on the past I already had and the future I think I want. I never thought to actually enjoy what's around me.

Pollo and Chuck sauntered in, rounding the bar and waving to me. I set my drink on the ledge of the bar and rushed to greet them. The music picked up as a few more friends arrived. The drums pounded in my ears, in my chest, as hugs were given, received. And for once, I wasn't concerned with my next date or with choices already made. I smiled and enjoyed the moment, not wanting to be anywhere but right there.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

I Hate Having A Cold Because...

1) One can only watch so much VH1 before the programming begins to repeat itself.

2) One moment, I have a complete aversion to food. The next, that aversion is replaced with a voracious appetite for anything with zero nutritional value.

3) Going into work after a two and a half day absence, I was lucky enough to hear "God, you really do look horrible" more than ten times.

4) My tastebuds are useless.

5) Even while eating, I have to breathe through my mouth, which offers an unseemly view of the food I'm chewing, as well as lovely sound effects.

6) Unless properly tended to, the constant blowing/wiping of my nose will give my nostrils the red and cracked appearance of a seasoned cocaine user.

7) Every fit of joyous laughter is immediately followed by a fit of horrific coughing.

8) I am terrified to go to the gym...Seeing as breathing isn't one of my stronger suits these days.

9) This cold, and the exhaustion accompanying it, has to be gone by tomorrow night. This weekend is packed with activity, and I will have to be in full social butterfly mode.

10) It's been well over 80 degrees since Monday - the first real taste of summer - and I have been unable to enjoy it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Phantom Pains

When we broke up, I compared it to the amputation of a gangrenous leg. "You don't want to do it," I explained to my friend. "You hope there's a chance you can save it, or at least salvage the good parts. But you know it has to go. You realize it's not what it used to be: it's an infection now, eager to spread and take you over, so you give up. You know you'll be better, safer from harm, free of danger once it's gone. You know you'll miss it, but it's for the best."

Oh, how right I was.

I fought hard to save it, to avoid surgically removing him from my life. I sought ulterior paths, schemed, connived and plotted to prevent our separation. I insisted, to myself and to my friends and family, that maybe we didn't need to break up. That we could work it out. That things would change. That I wasn't hurting nearly as much as I seemed to be. That I loved him and wanted to be with him. But they knew better. And they gently advised me to cut him off. What had once been love had turned into infectious misery, and it had already begun to take me over. "Really, Laurie," my mom said. "It's been over for a while, hasn't it?" And it had. I was just still clutching the decent remains, hoping to bring it back to life.

Until finally, it was over.

They say that amputees experience Phantom Pains, an ache in a missing arm, a muscle spasm in a missing leg, pains felt distinctly in a limb that isn't there. They say that, in new amputees, the sensations are frequent and intense, gradually fading into intermittent aches the longer the limb is gone.

I know what they mean. I have phantom pains of my own.

I can still feel love for someone who is no longer a part of my life. I can still feel disappointed by a boyfriend I don't have. I can pinpoint the longing for my missing other half. I can still feel neglected by a partner who isn't there. I can still taste the sweetness of kisses no longer available to me. I can still feel taken for granted by a man who isn't mine.

The medical journals were right: At first, it was constant. A persistent nagging that reminded me I was without him. Eventually, though, it calmed, flaring up only when triggered.

Like when he knows I'm sick and doesn't call to check on me.
Or when he promises to call and forgets.
These are things that he no longer has to do, things he no longer owes me; But I still hold him responsible, want him to be there.

And I wish I could stop it, keep the phantom pains from crippling me. But how do you get rid of something that's already gone?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sniffle, Sniffle

It's just after 2:00 in the afternoon on a Tuesday, and I am still in my pyjamas. I've been in my bed since early last night, coughing and whining and trying to will away this cold that's creeped up on me. So far, none of my wishes for instant recovery have come true. I'm still sitting in bed, watching TLC's string of daytime reality shows, surrounded by kleenex and the various cold accoutrements: Motrin, orange juice, bottles water, viatamin C tablets, remote controls.

Calling in sick this morning, there was no question that I was telling the truth. My voice was deep and raspy, far from both sexy and healthy. "You sound horrible," my coworker said. Thanks so much.

"Well, I feel horrible," I said, just as I succumbed to a coughing fit.

"I take it you're not coming in today," she said. Good guess.

I placed calls to my mother, to my best friend, to let them know I wouldn't be at work in case they called looking for me.

"Do jou need anyting, Chimi?" Pollo asked.

"No thanks," I said, surveying my night table for my decongestant.

"Well, have jou eaten anyting?" she asked, knowing that I hadn't.

"I'm about to go downstairs and get something so that I can take my antibiotics."

"Chimi, dat's no good. It's late already. Jou need to eat. What do you have to eat there?"

"I can make a sandwich or something...I'm just not hungry."

"Well, jou have to eat," she said, scolding me. "And I know jou don't have anyting to eat dere."

"I'll be fine. I'll eat. I promise."

"Well, I'm going to bring jou chicken soup when I get out of work today," she said, matter-of-factly.

"Pollo, you don't have to."

"Well, I know I don't have to. But you're there in that house all alone. Who's going to take care of you?"

I suppose a little part of me felt like I'd been slapped. Every so often, you get a reminder that you're all alone. That you're by yourself, with no one to help you out. And while sometimes it's nice, sometimes it just feels horrible. When you're sick and immoblie in a house with no food, you realize that if you need soup or tylenol, you have to get it yourself.

But most of me just felt lucky. Because a few hours later, Pollo showed up at my door with chicken-noodle soup and a liter of Sprite. And even though I may live alone, with no boyfriend to bring me ice cream and advil, I have a friend good enough to want to take care of me.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Notes To Self This Weekend

Remembering to call your Ex-Fiancée to wish him a Happy UnAnniversary, but forgetting to call your friend to wish her a happy birthday makes you a nice exgirlfriend, but not the greatest friend.

Wearing your "I [Heart] Nerds" shirt out to a bar is guaranteed to keep boys from to talking to you. Because, really, doesn't that make the guy talking you're talking to a potential "Nerd?" And what guy wants to carry that stigma around?

Telling yourself "I am going to have so much fun tonight even though my friends and I are going to a dive bar full of unsavory people singing karaoke. It's going to be an unexpectedly awesome evening," and thinking it'll be manifest destiny doesn't work.

But know that you always have a good time with Nancy and Alex, so no matter how shoddy the clientele, how laughable the karaoke, you will, ultimately, enjoy yourself.

When the scary, and possibly crazy, old man with no teeth and jaundiced eyes at the end of the bar starts dancing and surveys the room for someone to dance with to "Get Low," look at your feet. Continue looking at your feet until you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that his desire to bust a move has passed or he has found another partner.

When a white guy who has been in prison twice and is currently on probation for assult tells you he's been rapping and making his own albums for 12 years, then proceeds to tell you that he's an "excellent" rapper, don't believe him.

But when that same man, who has been in prison twice and is currently on probation for assult, gets up to the karaoke mic and offers a very poor and unrhythmic version of Eminem's "Without Me" and "Superman," clap loudly and tell him that you loved it, because you DO NOT want him thinking you hated it.

Just because you're in a somewhat seedy joint, don't expect the drinks to be cheap. Accordingly, do not appear surprised/shocked/appalled when the bar tab for three people (2 drinks and one shot each) exceeds $60.00.

Don't forget to go to the ATM before you go out. Otherwise, you are the loser saying, "Oh shit, I forgot to get cash. Can I pay you tomorrow?" when the bill arrives, leaving your friend to foot the whole bill for your party of three.

There was a woman in the barstool next to you who has four kids and an abusive husband who slept with her sister. She was at a bar smiling, dancing, laughing and having a great time. So lighten up: your life is not nearly as dramatic as you tell yourself it is.

You are not 45. Stop acting like it.

Buying workout pants that make you feel sexy also make you feel like you want to go to the gym.

Going to the gym, in the sexy pants you bought, first thing on Saturday morning will make you feel incredible. You should do it more often.

Sitting on your screened-in porch eating breakfast, writing and listening to the birds is not wasted time. It is glorious.

When you are invited to a barbeque held by Pollo's parents-in-law, bring an empty stomach. There will be enough food there to feed a small country. And it will all be delicious and impossible to turn down. And you will need to eat, because you will be mixing homemade sangria, Corona, Smirnoff Ice and some Ecuadorian liquor and you will want to have a full belly.

Your friends think you can really hold your liquor. Let's keep it that way, shall we?

Also go with your dancing shoes on. You will be, at some point, pulled to a makeshift dance floor to shake your derrière to some Spanish music. You will love it, and you are good at it, and you will not want to sit down to take a break.

You need to take Spanish lessons. Otherwise every time you go to the home of your best friend's in-laws, you will be left to guess what everyone's laughing about, hoping that they're not saying "Look at Chimi over there, she has no idea what we're talking about! Mwah-hah-hah-hah." Because, even though you know they're not saying that sort of thing, you will catch yourself thinking that no less than ten times during the evening.

At some point during the evening, sit back and look at the people around you: Chuck, Pollo and Chuck's parents. Bask in the beauty of knowing that these people really love you, and have invited you to make their home yours. Take a minute to saturate in how wonderful that feels. Then think of how much you absolutely adore them in return.

No matter how much you think you've matured, you're still doing the same shit you did in high school. And you can't blame your poor choices on being drunk.

A perfect day is waking up without an alarm clock, drinking coffee on the porch, and spending the afternoon doing whatever you want in the house: Watching TV, cleaning, reading, writing. Sometimes, you just need to be alone. You need to make more time for that.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Testing, Testing

"I guess I could've ordered something a little more dainty, huh?" I said, placing my heaping cheeseburger back on its plate, my fingers dripping with its juices. I grabbed the cloth napkin I had placed on my lap to protect my jeans from any potential dinner splatter and wiped my hands clean, dabbed at my face. "Not exactly ladylike," I laughed.

"No," he said, "I think it's great. You get big points for ordering a cheeseburger - a messy one at that."

"Good to know," I said, suppressing a smile. I was happy upon walking in the restaurant to find my blind date was quite pleasing to the eye, and happier still when we immediately hit it off. So it was an added bonus that my food choice for the evening was helping me rack up the points.

But then a thought occurred to me: This was the second time a first date had applauded me for choosing something messy from the menu.

Big points? I thought. And here I thought I was the only one keeping score.

Because I do. I keep score. I watch everything he does.

Did he stand up when I entered the room?
Did he order my dinner for me?
Did he check out other women in the restaurant while I was talking?
Was he checking me out in a good way? In a bad way?
Did he say anything completely inappropriate?
Did he get the bill paid without it even getting to the table, or did he allow me to reach for, and actually pick up, the bill?
Did he make me feel sexy? Beautiful? Smart? Funny?
Did he walk me to my car?

And I guess I always knew I was being watched, too. That my actions were up for judgment just as much as his were. But, in my head, girls are the overly-analytical, hyper-judgmental ones; not the boys. But there they were, the admissions of two grown men that what I ordered said something good about me.

So what I would like to know is this: What are some of your dating tests?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Friday would have been my four year wedding anniversary.

For one thousand four hundred and sixty days, I would have been a Missus. Had David and I married four years ago, I would have had in-laws; I would say things like "I'll ask my husband;" I would probably know how to cook and iron; I might have been pregnant by now, I may even have already become a mom.

Instead, what I have is a four-year-old wedding dress that was made to fit my twenty-year-old body hung carefully in the back of my parents' closet. The veil and shoes that I would have worn on June 3rd, 2001 are stashed away in my old bedroom, little time bombs tucked into the innards of my closet, just waiting to go off when I stumble across them. I have old contracts from caterers, DJs and dining halls that were never fulfilled, a surplus of invitations, the wedding gift David gave me all too early: The carnage of the wedding that never was.

I know that I should go through what has become a scattered mess and weed out the things that are no longer even keepsakes - The notebook I kept of which photographer I liked best, the clippings I saved from Martha Stewart Weddings that gave me ideas, the long preliminary guest list - and toss them. I should carry that dress from its home in my mother's closet, dust off its protective cover, and give it away or sell it. I should wrap David's wedding gift back up in its butcher paper, so that it doesn't assault me every time I walk into the room surrounding it. I should wear the shoes, discard the veil. I should. But I can't.

Every year, around this time, I think back on the woman I was becoming when I was preparing to wed. I recall the image of myself, hunched over my family's dining room table, carefully spelling out two hundred names on thick envelopes, twenty years old and acting like I was thirty. The dress fittings, spinning around on a pedestal in front of three mirrors before my mom and grandmother, seeing the tears in their eyes, and saying to myself this is the dress I will be married in.

I think of all of the pressure, how David and I were planning this magnificent wedding not only because we wanted to, but because we had to: When he graduated from West Point, it would be off to Ft. Benning, Georgia and if I wanted to go with him, I had to be his wife. I remember the doubts nibbling at my thoughts long before he proposed and amplifying as the wedding date drew nearer, but staying with him because I felt like I had to: My family loved him, his family loved me; Our friends thought we were the perfect couple; he was romantic; he fit the mold of the man I wanted to marry; we had already made the plans, booked the chapel and chosen invitations. And even though David loved me like no one in the world ever has, I remember saying to my mom "I think I'm settling," well before the wedding came to a screeching halt.

I remember sitting with David on a park bench, less than two months before we were to stand before our families, our friends, and God to exchange vows to love, honor and cherish, and spewing the words "I just don't know if I can do this, David. I know I love you, but - and I hate to say this, but it's the only thing that fits - I wonder sometimes if I'm in love with you anymore." I hadn't wanted to say it, but it just came out. I remember the look on his face, the strange mix of a shattered man and a little relief. "It's okay," he said, his hands wiping away my tears. "I know. We'll figure it out."

I can still smell the fresh spring air that brushed my arms as we sat in Lafayette Village and discussed what we would do. "Our wedding is only just over a month away," he said, looking past me instead of at me, "we have to decide now whether we're going to do this or not." I suggested a break. Five weeks before our wedding.

If I think about it enough, I can still feel the knot in my stomach that came with my mother's frantic phone call. "David just told me you're taking a break. A break? Laurie, you two have to decide what you're doing here. Either you get married or you don't. You two have to talk. David's on his way to meet you."

And so we did as instructed: We talked. He told me he wasn't sure he was ready either, suggested that we postpone the wedding and move to Ft. Benning together as boyfriend and girlfriend or fiancées, and take it from there. But it was too late. I'd tasted my freedom, seen my chance to get out of a marriage that I wasn't sure of. And if I wasn't sure I wanted it, I probably didn't. "No," I told him. "Either we get married or we break up." I said it knowing which option he'd choose. "We'll still be friends," he said as I passed him my ring. "And we'll see where it takes us." I don't remember ever crying so much.

I remember walking back into my house, alone, after we broke up. My parents' faces turned to me expectantly as soon as I walked through the door. "So?" they asked, eager to know. "It's over," I said quietly. "We're not getting married." They were crushed. They had loved him like a son. "I'm so sorry," I cried. I remember feeling that they were disappointed in me, that David and I should've made this choice months ago, before thousands of dollars in non-refundable deposits were made. "It's okay," my dad said. His eyes were so soft, so honest. "We just want you to be happy. We don't care what it costs."

I can taste the tears I cried for days thereafter, agonizing over whether or not I'd made the right decision. I can feel that same desperation, the ache to know if I'd made a horrible mistake. "What do I do now, Mom?" I pleaded, standing in her bedroom, tears soaking my skin. "What do I do now?"

I'd spent so much time planning to be a wife, I didn't know who I was. I didn't know what I wanted. I only knew that I wasn't sure, for whatever reason, about David, and that seemed reason enough to not become his wife.

So I keep the shards of our relationship that are strewn about the house because I'm not ready to let them go. Even now, four years and one failed relationship later, it's good to know they're there. The white dress, the shoes, the veil: They remind me that, even though being married was what I wanted more than anything, I was still strong enough to not do it. I knew what I felt, and I made my decision. It wasn't easy, it may have been the hardest decision I've ever had to make, but I made it.