Sunday, October 30, 2005


The restaurant was so loud, I could hardly focus on what I was reading. I thought it unusual for there to be so much activity at such a strange hour: It was 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon, not quite lunch and not quite dinner.

I had chosen to skip the long line of people waiting for tables and just eat at the bar. Sitting alone at a table for two or more when there's only one of you tends to elicit stares of contempt from families and couples waiting to dine. So I slid up to the long bar, choosing a spot at the end of the U shape to eat my late lunch and read one of the new books I'd just purchased on my solo shopping excursion.

I denied the bartender's suggestion that I start my afternoon with a glass of their recommended wine and opted instead for a diet coke.

"OK, then," she said, noting my order on her pad. "Would you like to order?" She looked up at me, pen poised just above her black folder, waiting for my instruction.

"I'll just have the soup and salad," I replied, offering her a smile that I hoped demonstrated that I would be far from demanding. "No hurry."

She returned my smile, scribbled down my order and said it'd be out in a minute. I reached over to the vacant spot next to me and slid the ashtray into what I now claimed as my area. I fished the book from my purse and opened it to the first page.

But sitting in a packed restaurant, unexpected sunshine beaming in through the wall of windows around the bar, and countless conversations filling up the air around me, I couldn't concentrate. I kept glancing up at the other patrons around the bar, the ones seated at tables, the ones waiting to eat. I read the same sentence over and over.

Two older ladies chose to sit one barstool away from me, laughing and talking as they shed their coats and tucked their purses at the foot of the bar.

"Oh!" The lady closest to me announced, looking at me and then back to her friend. "We can smoke in here!" The cheer in her voice was evident.

"Oh, yeah. We're in Jersey. Thank God."

"Mind if I share your ashtray while we wait for one of our own?" Her speaking to me gave me permission to look at her. She was in her sixties at least, her eyes and mouth lined with years of laughter. Her haircut, close-cropped on the back of her head with a pile of tight white curls on top, reminded me of my grandmother's.

"Not at all," I said, giving the glass ashtray a nudge in her direction.

"We're from New York. You can't smoke anywhere in New York, you know. So it's such a treat when you walk into a restaurant and see an ashtray."

I giggled. "I know. I try to avoid eating in New York if I can."

We were bonding over our addiction to nicotine.

My bartender showed up to take their order. They were all smiles and laughter, announcing that, yes, they'd be drinking and, yes, they'd be eating and, no, they didn't need a menu. They'd each have chicken parm with extra sauce. They both opted for salad and bread. When their wine was placed before them, they said "Cheers" and clinked their glasses while I read the first line of the first chapter for what must've been the tenth time.

I gave up trying to read my book, abandoning the crutch I carry when dining alone. Although I love to eat alone, I find it a little awkward just staring to space when I eat, or trying to act terribly interested in my cuisine. But, today, I chose instead to look around, to collect an impression of the people in my proximity. Sometimes, when looking around, I'd catch couples looking at me. I wondered if they wondered why I was eating alone.

A man walked up to the section of the bar just across from me. He was large and burly, a plaid button-down shirt clinging to his barrel chest. He was speaking to his friend, his head turned so that I could see his profile. The hair on his head and face was blue-black, so dark I could see the outline of his facial hair, even though he was most likely freshly-shaved. He was sporting a goatee, with a thin line of hair tracing the edge of his jaw from his chin to his hair line. The beard paralleled a bright red scar not two inches above it. When he laughed at something his friend had said, both lines bowed with his cheeks. I couldn't stop looking at it, wondering if he'd fashioned the beard to mimic the scar on purpose. He looked at me, caught me staring. I looked down at my book.

When my food arrived, I unfurled my napkin, releasing the knife and forks tucked within it. I dug the peppers and olives out of my salad, laying them on the plate beneath my bowl of soup. I ate slowly, pausing between bites to look around, surveying the line of waiting people. Each time the glass doors opened, cold air would rush inside with the handful of people coming in or going out. Kids whined that they were hungry. A teenaged couple sat in the corner, choosing to occupy only one seat instead of two, kissing and kissing while the restaurant around them filled with people. The hostess called what was obviously his name, and their kissing ended abruptly. They both wiped their mouths and sheepishly tucked their chins into their chests as they rose to be seated. Their apparent embarrassment made me smile into my soup, made me glad I hadn't been reading my book.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Fifth Wheel

We gathered at Ed & Scott’s house for a long overdue dinner. Nancy and Alex and I showed up within minutes of each other, taking seats at the bar Ed and Scott had lined with chips and dip and Cosmopolitans.

One would think that the fact that we all either live or work within one mile of each other, there would be no catching up to be done. But your days tend to get away from you when you’re wrapped up in work, your love life, family. So the time that had elapsed since the five of us shared the same space was months, at least.

So we recounted our recent days, and gossiped about mutual acquaintances while we crunched chips we’d smothered in black bean dip. We toasted one another. We laughed, loud and long.

I caught them up on my life of late. Tom’s decision to show up at work, my trip to Florida with Billy, how great Billy is, how happy I am, how well things seem to be going for me right now.

“Where is Billy tonight?” Scott asked, looking at me over the thin black frame of his glasses.

“Working,” I replied, reaching for another chip.

“It must be nice to say that and have it actually be the truth,” Alex interjected. We all giggled.

The four of them had been around through most of my relationship with Tom. And more than once, when I showed up alone for yet another social event, they asked why he always refused to come with me. He has to work, he’s tired, or he doesn’t want to leave Puck alone or something along that vein was always my reply; even though he was his own boss and could choose to work and sleep whenever he wanted. Eventually, they started answering their own questions for me. “Lemme guess: Puck didn’t want him to go out?” “Oh, right, he had to go dig up the driveway,” or “Let’s see…The cat and dog were fighting at home and Tom didn’t want to leave them alone?” It was all in jest, but it still smarted. I didn’t like making excuses for the fact that my boyfriend didn’t want to be with me. It felt like shit.

We talked about it all the time, how I was always flying solo. I was sitting with Alex and Nancy on their porch one night, drinks in hand and looking over the Delaware, when Nancy spoke up.

“Where is he right now, Laurie?” She flung her arms out wide to demonstrate his absence.

I started to answer her, to offer yet another story about his fatigue or his work schedule, but she interrupted me.

“No. Seriously. Where. The. Fuck. Is. He? Because if you were my girlfriend, I’d be with you all the time. I wouldn’t let you go out all alone all the time. I would want to be with you.”

And I thought of that moment just a few days ago, when I asked Billy if he’d like to join me Thursday night for dinner at Ed and Scott’s. He wasn’t sure if he’d have to work, but if he didn’t, he said, he wasn’t exactly sure he’d want to go.

All I could picture was me, again, making excuses. Apologizing for my boyfriend’s absence had been my specialty for a long, long time, and I was altogether uninterested in resurrecting that expertise. And even though the logical side of me knew it was silly to even connect one episode to the other, I couldn’t help it; I was disappointed. But Billy’s work schedule is crazy, and sometimes – like this week – he works for a week straight, no days off, no holidays, no weekends. Thursday may have been his first day off in nine days. If he happened to get it off, he reiterated, he’d kind of prefer to stay at home and do nothing. And deep down, I understood. I can’t imagine working straight through a whole week like that. And I knew it wasn’t about not spending time with me, because with the exception of the time it takes him to drive to and from work, every second he’s not working, he’s with me. But I couldn’t help it; my autonomous reaction was discontent, picturing myself making another round of excuses, continuing to function as a single woman, even though I was part of a couple. But I told him it was okay and focused on my fingernails.

I could feel his eyes on me. “But let me say something before we drop it,” he told me. “I’m not that guy…”

“Are you going to say that every time I’m disappointed or upset? Because, you know, not everything relates to my ex…”

He looked at me in a way that told me he saw right through me. “Laurie, I know for a fact that he never went out with you, that he always made you go out alone.” As he spoke, I tried to remember when I’d told him that. I don’t recall ever lamenting to him about always being alone… “But I also know that he didn’t spend a whole lot of time with you, and you can’t say that about me. My not wanting to go – if I happen to get time off of work – has nothing to do with not wanting to spend time with you, or your friends. And it doesn’t have anything to do with not wanting to be a part of your life outside of my house - Because you know I always want to be with you. It’s just that if I have time off, I really want to just relax. Lounge. And I prefer that you be there with me. But if you have plans, I don’t want you to not keep them. I want you to go. But I just want you to understand that I’ll be at home, in bed watching a movie, probably with a drink, waiting for you when you’re ready to come home.”

As it turned out, he did have to work. All of the discussion was for naught. And I’ll admit it felt much more comfortable saying that he had to work, and knowing it was actually a valid reason to not be with me. But even if he didn’t, I don’t think I would’ve felt lonely.

Because sitting there, once again the quintessential fifth wheel, I felt fine. I knew, even if my boyfriend wasn’t with me, that he wanted to be with me. And I knew that even if I didn’t have a boyfriend, I have four wonderful friends who always make me feel loved.

And, finally, that’s enough.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

And, Yes, I've Even Given It a Name

I have an enormous pimple on my chin. My skin is otherwise clear, making the gigantic, protruding mass beneath my mouth that much more obvious.

It is the first thing – and, sometimes, the only thing – I see when I look in the mirror.

I am an expert with makeup. Origins Spot Remover (to reduce redness, dry it out, and ultimately, hopefully, kill it) is followed by Chanel Hydromax moisturizer (so it doesn’t get too dry and therefore flaky and peeling), which is covered with Estee Lauder Equalizer in Ivory (to even my pale complexion), which will be topped with Revlon loose powder in soft beige (to eliminate the shine that tends to draw the eye to the pimple). On an ordinary pimple, this combination gives the illusion that my skin is flawless from hairline to jawbone. But this pimple? It is a monster. Expensive cosmetics and the artistic application thereof are no match for it. There is nothing I can apply to hide the fact that it is sticking out of my face.

As horrifying as it is to me when it is covered in products, it is even more hideous when my face is clean. It is red, a bold shade of crimson, right there on my face, regardless of the fact that I have been very good and have refrained from picking. And, it is shiny – luminescent, almost – because the skin in that area has been stretched taut over the blemish. And it is right there, on a spot on my face that cannot be concealed by clever angling of my head.

But, oh, how I try. I spent my work day tilting my head a little bit down, a little to the right. But it’s there, no doubt about it. And I fear that the tilting may only put it at a better-highlighted angle.

But I can deal with customers chuckling at my unfortunate imperfection. Who cares what they think? But my boyfriend: That’s another story.

First of all, I’m still at a stage where I want to impress him constantly. I want him to think of me as desirable, terribly attractive and sexxxy. I do not want him to think of my pimple. Secondly, his skin is so beautiful, so clear, we can’t commiserate. Worse, I can't even say, “yeah, this pimple’s bad, but I remember the one he had last month! Whoa!” to make myself feel better. And it’s just embarrassing. Plain and simple. I’m supposed to be his hot new girlfriend, not the victim of unfortunate adult acne. It makes me self-conscious.

So the time I spent with him last night was an exercise in camouflage; the blemish was appropriately covered, but I still tried to spend the majority of time with him arranged so that his eyes could not fall on the garish flaw on my chin. I spent a lot of time with my head on his chest, my face well below his eye level, ensuring that he was unable to look at it. But when a wraslin’ match/tickle fight began, resistance was futile. The tossing and maneuvering had rubbed off all of the meticulously applied makeup, and soon I was pinned so that I was forced to face him. I didn’t know what was worse, the fact that I had been pinned and was therefore losing, or the fact that I could do nothing to hide my face.

When the fight was finally over (no winners – Just a truce, followed by an amazed Billy declaring, “Damn, girl, you are strong!”) I retreated to the restroom to wash my face. Trying to cover up the pimple had long since fallen by the wayside and with my face clean, I returned, defeated, to the bedroom.

“This zit is killing me,” I said as I entered the room. “And, for the record,” I noted, unzipping my makeup bag (for the aforementioned Spot Remover) with one hand and pointing to the pimple with the other, “this is your fault. This is what I get when you get the bright idea to grow a goatee.”

“Oh, so now you want to blame your skin problems on me?” He gave me a sarcastic grin.

“If I can, yes.” I crawled over him to my side of the bed.

“Babe, it’s just a pimple.” He leaned over and kissed me. I instantly felt better.

But I was still glad when he turned off the light.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Red, Red, Red

There's a threat of snow tonight. It seems fitting; I spent today wrapped in my new coat and big sweater. Fall is here in full force, fading into winter more quickly than I expected.

Tonight, after a meeting, I stopped at the liquor store. I bought a bottle of Shiraz-Cabernet and headed home with Tori Amos on full blast. Weather like this calls for soft piano and warm wine.

I'm sitting at Billy's computer, waiting for him to get home. I'm still in my beige wool turtleneck sweater, not because it's cold in here, but because wearing it reminds me that outside of this burnt orange room, it's autumn. My half-empty glass of red is sitting beside me, next to a burning cigarette, waiting to be consumed and inhaled. Tori is crooning "Baker, Baker," the volume so loud that her smooth voice fills the room, leaving space for little else.

Soon, this house will be filled with sounds of life, but for now it's just me and Tori, nurturing the calm feeling that days like this brings. It's uncharacteristic for me, but I'm enjoying the cold, the need to button my tweed coat against the wind. I've been looking forward to this all day: The half hour or so of time where it's just me and the music. Soon, this house will be filled with sounds of life - The television, the voices of Billy and his cousin and his girlfriend. I'll be forced to turn down Tori, to make conversation, to be personable. But I've spent the last three days talking and listening and being part of one crowd or another. I've been longing for solitude. And Billy. But he belongs to work until well after nine, so I'll wait for him, happy here in the stillness of his absence.

I'm almost looking forward to the snow that we're being warned against. I want a snow day. I want to see town covered in white, desolate except for the brave few who voluntarily venture out of their houses. I want to walk down Harford Street, the snow freezing my feet through my inappropriate stilettos. I want to feel the pang of cold on my face. I want my hat to be caked in snow. I want to hear the hush of tires on an unplowed road, or watch the stoplight in town change silently from green to yellow to red for no one. I want to see the impossibly clear sky that only winter can offer. I want the quiet that only comes with an untimely blizzard - The way town all but shuts down, doors and coats closed to keep the cold out.

But it's quite likely that the snow is a farce, and that only rain will fall from the heavens. Tomorrow morning, I'll be glad it's not snowing, but I'll still curse the weatherman. I'll run to my car, dodging precipitation, the chill traveling through my clothes, into my bones and staying with me all day.

As for now, the CD has moved on to "Precious Things," the piano sharp and sweet. The red wine has taken a hold of my senses, making me feel slow and murky. I don't know how I'll feel tomorrow, but right now, I feel perfect.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Moving Up

My ex showed up again yesterday. It was the second time in a week that he came through the bank doors to tell me that we need to talk. What he wanted to talk about, he said, was Baggage Claim.

He began our fifteen minute conversation about The Couple Formerly Known As Us by saying, “I’m glad to see you’re looking better. When I saw you Monday, you looked horrible. Absolutely horrible.” Gee. Thanks so much. Not willing to leave well enough alone, he continued, “No, really. I mean it. You looked really bad.” He sure knows how to go for the jugular. And it only got better from there.

I related that little ray of sunshine, as well as some other tidbits of the exchange, to my boyfriend when I got home that night. “I’m not telling you this,” I mentioned, “just to be all Hey, look at me! My ex boyfriend came in to see me! I’m desirable! I’m only telling you this so you know where I came from, you know?”

“I know,” he said, pulling me to him. “I’m sorry you had to go through that today.” He kissed the top of my head. “And, baby, you could never look horrible.”

I smiled as we sipped our drinks, saying nothing for a few minutes.

“How long did you say you were with this guy?”

“Almost four years,” I said, staring into my glass.

“You need to start picking your boyfriends better.”

I just did.”

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

He Is

He is my last thought every night before I go to sleep. There’s nothing peculiar about that – except that he’s already sleeping next to me. I used to savor the very last moments of my day, because it was the only time I allowed myself to indulge in fantasies of the mystery man who would make me happy. But now that man has a face and name, and I need only to stretch my arms out to touch him.

I get up before I actually need to so that I can make him coffee. I know it makes his day when he doesn’t have to fill the water and measure the grounds, so I throw on one of his dress shirts and run downstairs to brew the coffee, while he turns on the shower for us. It’s something I’ve never done before, but it makes me happy to know he’s satisfied.

I put my makeup on while he dresses for work, and we talk about the rest of our day. He kisses my half painted mouth and tells me to have a good day at work before he leaves. More often than not, he’s forgotten something in the bedroom – his cell phone, business cards – and has to run in to retrieve it. He seizes this opportunity to steal another kiss. It’s only been a moment since our lips last touched, but already I am hungry for it.

Some days, I resent the fact that work keeps me away from him. My thoughts are cloudy with him from nine to five. I think about him in between phone calls and loan closings, and sometimes right in the middle of a conversation. I relive our morning moments, the small fraction of time between the first sound of the alarm and when we actually get up. I want to write about him, but I can’t. So I talk about him instead. The stories of my life that I tell my co-workers and customers feature him as a main character now.

I listen to Jason Mraz in the car not only because I love the CD, but because it reminds me of him. He’s in every note of the music: I can hear him singing along - Damn, I should be so lucky/ Even only twenty-four hours under your touch you know I need you so much/ Oh, I cannot wait to call you/ To tell you that I’ve landed somewhere. And I listen to his favorite song - Why don't you tell me about the sunsets in Sweden and the laws of Eden and how you were the rock of Gibraltar and how they called you foxy – and feel closer to him somehow.

I’m eager to see him at the end of my day. He calls me when he knows what time his work day will end and says “I’ll see you at home.” Almost every night, my car is in his driveway before his gets there, and I’m there to greet him when he walks through the door.

Sometimes, I wonder if I think about him too much. Because it is possible, I suppose, that I do. And I wonder if I’m in deeper than he is. Until he looks at me with big pupils and soft irises, his smooth hands on my cheeks. Until he smiles at me. He assures me in ways he doesn’t even realize: A trip to Florida to meet aunts and uncles he rarely sees. The mention that, if he hits the $340,000,000.00 Powerball lottery tonight, I may not be able to go back to work because we’ll be on a plane as soon as we see that the last number matches; The fact that his fantasies of great unearned wealth include me. The coupling of my toiletries with his on his bathroom counter. The photo of my eyes set as the background on his new phone. And the way he lets me feel no less than beautiful in his presence.

He is everything I want.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Invasion of the Exes

My ex showed up at work yesterday to "talk;" It just so happened to be three days after a friend of mine told me she'd listed his house to sell. She also informed me that she told him I am doing really well, with a great boyfriend who's crazy about me.

Last night at dinner, just as I finished telling Billy about my Ex Encounter, his phone rang. He let it go to voicemail, then checked the messages later on speakerphone. It was his ex. We had seen her the night before while we were renting a movie.

Fate would be just sick enough to put me in head-on collisions with both of our pasts in one day.

Driving home from dinner, we laughed about it. He asked me if I was mad.

"I'm not mad. I can't control that your ex called you -"

"Just like I can't control that your ex came in to see you," he interrupted.

"Right. Just like that."

"So, you're sure you're not mad?"

"Billy, I'm sure. I have no reason to be mad."

He took my hand. "Really? Are you mad because you want to be mad, but you don't have a reason to be mad, and that makes you mad?" His grin was illuminated in the headlights of a passing car.

I tilted my head back and laughed. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's not the case." Then I turned to face him, shaking my finger at him in a mock-warning. "But you better not tell her you're single if, or when, you talk to her."

"Are you ever going to trust me?" He asked in earnest.

"I do trust you. I don't think you're doing anything sneaky behind my back."

He rolled his eyes. "How about you know I'm not doing anything behind your back?"

"Okay," I let out an exaggerated sigh, "I know you're not doing anything sneaky. That's just semantics, anyway. The point is the same. I don't think you're trying to line up other options."

"How about this," he turned to face me. "I don't want anyone but you."

My only reply was a genuine smile.

We held hands and drove in silence for a few miles, letting the fall foliage pass us in a darkened blur. I looked over at him and smiled, marveling in the fact that I really wasn't mad. For once, I wasn't just saying that to not seem like the jealous, insecure girlfriend. I really didn't feel strange about his ex calling him. I mean, sure, I could feel strange about it if I let myself, but my first reaction was tame. A year ago, a boyfriend accidentally letting me know that his ex had called would've sent me into a week-long battle with worry. An inquisition would've followed. I would've agonized over his feelings for her; every time we were apart I would fear that he was meeting her, talking to her.

But sitting there next to him, I just knew that there was no one else he wanted. I felt secure.

Later, at home, he busied himself trying on his newly-tailored suits while I loaded the dishwasher and did some laundry. When we finally settled into bed, he held my face in his hands, looked me in the eyes and smiled. No words passed between us, but I smiled back and felt completely cared for.

I was amazed that, for the first time in my life, the sudden presence of exes would reassure me of not only how I felt about him, but how he feels about me.


Holy shit.

Ten Thousand Visitors Since May 7, 2005.

I can't believe it.

It may not be a big deal to anyone but me, but I'm flabbergasted.

Thank you to everyone who has ever stopped by, thank you for those who read my words, and thank you to those of you who leave words for me.

I started this in January, and I never expected it to be read by anyone but Tumbleweed. And the fact that I've been viewed 10,000 times just makes me smile.

Thank you.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Rain, Rain, Rain

All week, and while I was in Florida, it has been cold and rainy here in Milford. Whatever evidence of fall I was hoping to see has been washed away by over 11 inches of rain. The golden leaves I’d so hoped to see on the millions of trees surrounding my town have dismounted and are, instead, littering roads, parking lots and cars. The only time I’ve spent outside in the past week has been under an umbrella. Fall happens to be my favorite season, and I’m a little peeved that the best part of fall – the beginning – is being drenched, and therefore rendered unenjoyable.

Weather this crappy tends to make me lethargic. I can’t even inspire myself to go to the gym. When I was in Florida, I decided that, upon my return home, I would get back into my workout regimen: At least an hour a day, five days a week. But, so far, I have been able to excuse my way out of that by citing my persistent cough and still-runny nose. I reason that I would A) get everyone else at the gym sick and B) collapse in a heap, blue in the face, because I cannot breathe. But, really, it’s just that waking up when it’s still dark outside, working through an entire day when the sun refuses to shine, then witnessing nightfall by seven o’clock makes me lazy. It calls for little activity beyond lying in a comfortable bed, wrapped up in my blankets and my boyfriend, and watching movies. If a vodka-cranberry and a pack of Marlboros are nearby, that’s always a bonus.

But regardless of the weather, Milford will be bustling this weekend. The Black Bear Film Festival will descend upon our town, packing our restaurants with tourists and using our one small, decrepit and ancient movie theatre to show independent films. The Shawnee resort will be hosting a balloon festival, which, according to my boss, “attracts thousands of people, nationwide.” Clearly, for my small town, this is huge.

My plans, however, do not involve either festival. In fact, my big excitement for the weekend is a dinner date this evening with my boyfriend. One of the two restaurants we like and frequent in town closed a few weeks ago because it was sold. The new owner, a former bartender I’ve known since long before I was legally allowed to drink, redecorated the interior and tweaked the menu and reopened this week. I’ve been dying to go. In the shower this morning, I asked Billy what he thought of dining there tonight.

“Sounds good to me,” he said, rinsing his hair. “Why don’t you make reservations?”

As luck would have it, the owner came into the bank today for change.

“Hey, Kenny, what number do I have to call to make reservations for your place?”

“You don’t have to make reservations, Laurie. But I’ll put you down. How many?”

“Two. Why don’t I have to make reservations? I thought you’d be packed – You know, with Black Bear and everything.”

“I am. Our books are pretty full, actually. But you always have a seat at my restaurant.”

I smiled. Apparently, not only does it pay to be nice to bartenders because they can give you good strong drinks and "forget" to charge you, but they may also own a restaurant one day and deem you worthy enough to always have a seat.

So, despite the rain, I’m going to dress up and enjoy a night out with my man. I’m certain our friends will show up there, too, and that the evening will be lovely. The rest of the rainy weekend, I will spend inside shopping malls and my boyfriend’s house. That's it.

And I intend to continue doing very little until Mother Nature decides to let up and give me some damn sunshine.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


*Originally posted 10/13/06*

"A toast," Tom's uncle said from behind me. I swiveled in my airline seat to see him and his wife holding up their half-glasses of rum and coke. Tom and I held up our screwdrivers in return. "A toast to our cruise!"

"Cheers," we four bellowed.

It was one of those moments that the planets aligned and the winds stopped and all of nature conspired to ruin everything. At the exact moment I lifted my aisle-facing arm to toast the rest of the group, the beverage cart passed and the plane hit a little turbulence, which knocked the male flight attendant off of his balance just enough for his slender bottom to smack my arm, which sent Grey Goose and orange juice hurtling through our cramped quarters and directly onto Tom's open laptop.

"SHIT!" Tom cried, backing away as much as he could from the spill. "Shit, shit, shit." The pulpy juice slid over the computer, creating little tributaries of orange juice between the keys. "Fuck," he said, his voice panicked and angry. "Give me your napkin," he demanded. He had already placed his little square of tissue on top of his keys, and it was already soaked through with the remnants of my drink.

I leaned over with my napkin, dabbing at the damage. And the screen, just moments ago playing a DVD, went black.

"Great," he said sharply.

"I'm so sorry," I muttered, collecting as much of the liquid as I could. I turned around and collected the outstretched napkins his aunt and uncle were offering.

"I can't believe you," he spat, searching the center aisle for the flight attendant. "I cannot believe you just fucking spilled your drink all over my laptop."

"I'm sorry, Tom. It was an accident." For some reason I was pleading with him, desperate to make him just a little less angry. Just then, the flight attendant arrived.

"Did you guys need something?" He asked.

Tom's tone switched from furious to cordial. "Yeah, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, we need some napkins. Looks like we've had an accident here." He pointed to his soggy laptop.

The flight attendant sucked air in through clenched teeth. "Wow. That sucks," he said, smiling. "I'll be right back."

Tom didn't look at me, just kept turning the laptop over to release the sticky beverage from between the keys. "Tom," I begged, leaning in so that he had to see me. "It was an accident. I didn't mean to. I'm sorry." I just wanted him to say it was okay, that he knew I didn't mean to do it. But he was already punishing me, and I knew there would be more to come. I was in trouble.

"Sorry? I can't believe you did this." His words, though few, burned me. His face was harsh, unrelenting in his anger.

"I didn't mean to," I reminded him. "It was an accident."

He snapped his head toward me, his eyes full of disgust, contempt. "You need to be more careful."

"But, Tom, I-"

"Don't. Just don't. I just want to get this cleaned up." He played with the power button. Nothing happened. "Great. You see this? It's broken. It won't even turn on now." He tapped some keys, their tackiness audible. "And they keys won't even work. This is just great."

I started to argue, to explain the sequence of events, to prove that it wasn't my fault, but he wouldn't hear it. He shut me out, intent on his laptop and nothing else.

"I'm sorry," I said again, turning to face forward rather than facing him. "I'm sorry," I said to the seat in front of me. If only I'd toasted with my other hand, I thought, then none of this would've happened. God. How stupid.

The flight attendant returned with a pile of napkins and some water. "Here you go," he said, extending the supplies.

Tom took the napkins, but left the water in the flight attendant's hand. The steward nudged the water toward him. "Oh, no thanks," Tom said with a smile. "I think the last thing we need here is more liquid."

Oh, that hurt. Tears sprang to my eyes. "That wasn't necessary."

"Well? What do you expect: Hey, thanks for ruining my laptop, Lar?"

He'd said it loud enough so that other people could hear. I glanced around, self-conscious. "I told you I was sorry," I whispered, hunched down in my seat. Ashamed. "What else do you want me to do?"

"How about being careful? Huh? How about not spilling orange juice all over the place, huh?"

He was scolding me, like a child. And I reacted in kind. I cried. Like a child. And that only served to make him angrier. "Oh, that's better," he hissed, throwing his damp hands up in frustration. "Cry. That's great."

I turned my back to him, conscious of his aunt and uncle right behind us, witnessing our squabble. I tried to hide my tears, but I couldn't. Hot and fast they ran down my face, dimpling my shirt with wetness. My mouth, though I tried to keep it straight and firm, twitched and turned into a frown. I was mortified. Quickly, I unbuckled my seatbelt and walked, head down, to the lavatory.

I cried there for a minute, then dried my face and returned to my seat, where we didn't speak for the rest of the flight.

The laptop was ruined. It wouldn't turn on, the DVD drive wouldn't open, and Tom was furious. Of course it had to happen on our way TO vacation, not home. Of course. And he was angry with me for the duration of the trip. And I didn't mind that he was upset with me. And I accepted the responsibility for not being careful enough. But I just wanted a softness in his voice, something that didn't make me feel like a toddler who'd just drawn all over the walls. I accept his frustration, but I was longing for just an ounce of kindness.

I continued to apologize, to remind him that it was accidental, that my arm was hit. But nothing was enough. I was met with "Be careful," "Why didn't you hold your drink in you other hand?" and a litany of other refusals to accept my remorse. "Well," he said, "I guess you'll have to start saving up for a new one," he said, halfway through our trip.

I was shocked. "What?"

"Well, you know, if I can't get it fixed, it's going to have to be replaced. And you ruined it."

"It was an acc-i-dent," I cried. "Are you kidding me? You're going to make me buy you a new one?" I barely had enough money to support myself, I had to scrape together the money for the flight to Florida if I wanted to take the cruise he'd given me as a present. I was broke. How could I afford a laptop?

"Of course," he said, intimating that I was crazy for thinking otherwise. "I mean, I'm going to try to get it fixed, but I'm pretty sure Girlfriend Spilling a Screwdriver All Over the Thing isn't covered in my warranty."

Weeks later, after he shipped the sticky laptop back to Toshiba, claiming that it'd been sticky since he bought it, careful to remind them that he'd bought it as an open box, it came back fixed. No problems. No charge.

"You're lucky," he said, removing the new laptop from its box. "If they wouldn't have fixed it, you would've been out three thousand dollars."

I offered a half-hearted chuckle, still irritated that he'd expected me to pay for a new one. Though I wasn't sure of what was fair, exactly, in this situation, I knew that he was making sure to remind me I was being let off easy.

I thought of that this morning, hunched on my bedroom floor cleaning up the water I'd knocked off of my nightstand while reaching for the snooze button. It wouldn't have been such a big deal, except for what happened to be sitting right in front of my nightstand: The water pooled in my makeup bag, all over all of the CDs I'd just brought into my house from my car. It beaded on my camera, and a little droplet glimmered on my iPod's case. But what terrified me was the trickle of water running down the length of my laptop.

I quickly wiped down the laptop, getting rid of any water I could see, terrified that Billy would wake up at any moment and see what I'd done. I didn't care about my makeup brushes or my CDs. I needed to make sure my electronics were okay.

The water had barely touched my laptop, but it was in the crease between the screen and the body, and it scared me. I had to dry it out. So I blew on it, I carefully ran my finger nail, wrapped in a towel, over and over the crevice. I glanced up at the still sleeping Billy periodically, worried he'd wake and be angry at my carelessness.

And, just as I wrapped up my drying process, he stirred. The laptop was open and airing out on the bed next to him. I looked at him like I was a kid who'd just been caught stealing candy.

"Whatcha doing, baby?" He rolled over to face me.

"Oh, I spilled some water," I said, trying to sound nonchalant. "I'm just cleaning it up."

He opened one eye, saw the laptop on the bed. "You get it on the laptop?"

"Just a little bit. But it's okay. I dried it all."

"You should be more careful, baby," he said, and he looked at me and smiled. Not angry with me at all.

And what struck me wasn't his placid reaction, but my fear. I was scared - seriously scared - that I'd be in trouble if he woke up and saw that I'd marred the laptop in any way. I just couldn't believe that, after all this time, at twenty-six years old, I'm still afraid of my ghosts.

Tell Me More

I told him to talk to me before we went to sleep. He asked what I wanted to talk about. Rather than just saying, “Let’s talk about how much you like me,” I decided to beat around the bush and subtly goad him into telling me that he likes me. This approach does not work well with Billy. He sees right through my sneaky little ploys and, I believe, does his best to avoid what it is that I’m looking for so that I’m forced to actually come out with it and admit what I want.

So, after much circling of the subject, I finally told him that I wanted to hear that he likes me.

“What?” I couldn’t see his face from my spot on his chest, but I could just picture the look on his face. “You can’t tell me you don’t know that.”

“I do know it. It’s just nice to hear it.”

“Are you kidding me?” He was laughing at me and busting my balls at the same time. “You mean to tell me that you can’t tell I like you by the fact that we talk all the time? That you’re here all the time, and I want you here all the time? I’m affectionate. I bring you coffee at work…”

I felt sheepish. Of course I could tell that he liked me if I judged his feelings for me by those things alone. But I don’t. I’m a stereotypical girl in the worst way – When I’m next to him, I’m fine. When he’s holding me in his arms, when he kisses the top of my head for no reason, when he says “I’ll see you at home,” when he saunters through the bank doors with coffee in hand, I know, without question, that he likes me. But when I’m alone and left to my own devices, I’m horrible. I start to question everything. “I hope he’s not just bringing me coffee because he feels like he has to. I hope he really wants me to stay over every night…I hope it’s not just that he doesn’t know how to tell me he doesn’t want me there…” So I told him that. I told him I’m not good at context clues. I like it to be spelled out for me. I told him that I want to make sure I’m not the only one “in like.”

“You’re not the only one ‘in like,’” he said, wrapping a long arm around my shoulders.

“It’s just that I’m nuts about you, you know. And I like to know you’re nuts about me, too.”

“I am nuts about you,” he said, kissing the top of my head. Though I couldn't hear any in his voice, I could only imagine his frustration with me. I was annoying myself; But I couldn’t keep myself from asking for it. “Well,” he said, considering something, “I guess it makes sense to me that my actions say I like you. But you have nothing to compare it to. You don’t know what I was like before.” I waited. “For example, I never took a girlfriend with me on a vacation to meet my entire family.” I marinated in that for a minute, let it wash over me. It felt so good. His voice switched gears. “Do you really think about this stuff all the time?” I nodded yes. “That must make you mental.”

“It does. Trust me.”

“Can’t you just relax and know that I like you and there’s nothing to be worried about?”

“I’m not worried. I just like reassurance. It’s sick. I know.”

“Well,” he said, giving me another squeeze, “I like you. So there. Now you know.”

The next morning, my cell phone rang in my purse at work. It was my standard ring, not the one Billy and I chose for him. The number wasn’t familiar. So I let it got to voicemail and checked my messages.

“It’s 11:30 on Wednesday morning,” Billy, obviously grinning and calling from work, said, “and I’m just calling to reassure you that I still like you.” I hate to gloat, but I really think I may have the best boyfriend ever.

He called twice more through the day to leave little messages of reassurance. I smiled each time I heard them, grateful for not only for the effort, but also for the fact that he was clearly undaunted by my freakish desire to be told, outright, that he likes me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Home Again

It's Tuesday afternoon, and my stomach muscles hurt. Badly. And I'm not quite sure if it can be traced to this hacking cough that's been stubborn enough to hang around through the entirety of my vacation and into today, or if it's due to the obscene amount of laughter that came out of my mouth since late Thursday night. I'm going to go with the laughter part, because it's much more satisfying to think that my abs have been strained by joy rather than a light tickle in my throat.

Florida was fantastic. Billy and I shared this trip with some of his family and their significant others. In total, there were ten of us sharing a huge rented home just outside of Orlando, where we stayed up late, woke in the afternoon, and drank pretty much constantly from the time we rolled out of bed until the time we collapsed back into it. Rather than lounge on the patio surrounding the pool in our backyard, we took to convening around a massive island in the kitchen, where Rummy tournaments were held, snacks were consumed, and drinks were imbibed. In our two rental cars, the ten of us took poorly led and therefore very indirect routes to visit members of the family who call Florida home. When we would finally stumble upon our intended location, we would file into the lucky homeowner's front door, eat excellently prepared Mexican fare, drink all of the alcohol we carried in, laugh and chat, then finally leave well past midnight, exhausted.

Aside from the pressure of meeting countless members of my new boyfriend's family, the weekend was nothing but relaxing. We did little in the way of sightseeing, preferring instead to keep time that was not already reserved for visiting family limited to drinking within the confines of our house. It was too hot, too unbelievably humid, to spend much time outside, so our outdoor activities were limited to smoking, moving from the house to the car, one ill-fated attempt to spend some time in Universal Studios, and one evening at Pleasure Island.

Although I knew all of my vacation companions before the trip, I feel I know them better, and like them more, now. The laughter was constant and relentless. Everyone's sense of humor blended beautifully with mine, causing me to guffaw on a regular basis...An unfortunate thing only because my laugh, coupled with this cold, sounds like that of an 80-year-old-transvestite-and-lifetime-smoker. And each rumble of laughter is followed by a wet cough. My laugh is always loud, but this weekend I was audible throughout the house, and easily identifiable. "I knew you were laughing downstairs, Laurie, because I heard ha-ha-ha-cough-cough-cough."

Monday was dedicated to traveling. Two one-hour flights, one two-hour layover in Atlanta, and one 20-minute romp with Billy in an airplane lavatory (grossly overrated for two very tall people, mind you) brought us back to Newark, where we begrudgingly headed home and prepared ourselves for the workweek.

As far as my predictions for my trip went, I was pretty much on target. I drank vodka, I spent time with my wonderful boyfriend (who I find, after spending four full days with him, even more amazing than I did before - which I didn't think was possible), and I relaxed. I believe that this past weekend may have been the perfect getaway.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Today is technically Thursday, but it's my Friday. At 2:30 this afternoon, I will pack up my files and pens, highlighters and other secretarial paraphernalia, sprint through the door and head for Billy's house. Once I am there, we will toss our shared suitcase into the car and make our way to Newark, NJ where we will catch a plane destined for Florida. Once we are there, we will alternately drink, take naps, and eat. I think there are plans to leave the room, but I'm not going to assume anything.

Now, I have heard that there is a tropical storm threatening to get in the way of the tan lines Billy so hopes I'll be getting on our four day stay in Orlando, but I'm not letting that put a damper on my mood. This is part long-overdue-relaxing-getaway for him, part extended-birthday-celebration for me, and part plain-ol-good-time for both of us. My sinus infection is making a slow but sure exit, I get to spend four days of uninterrupted time with my amazing boyfriend, and I'll be sleeping in a state that is not Pennsylvania for the first time since February; To say I'm excited would be a drastic understatement.

So I'll be back to work, and back to blogging on Tuesday (cross your fingers that the cable company will finally correctly install our internet at home in my absence), and in the time between then and now, I'll be stretched out in the Florida heat, sipping vodka-based drinks and pretending that I lead a life of leisure.

See you Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

This Is What a 25 Year Old Looks Like

I think I'm finally at an age where my age cannot be safely represented in individual candles on a cake.
Birthday celebration or fire hazard? You decide.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

It's Good To Be the Birthday Girl

He propped himself up to see the clock on the night table on my side of the bed. "Fourteen minutes till your birthday," he announced, his eyelids heavy with fatigue.

I giggled. I loved that he was indulging me like this; I simply adore my birthday. I've been broadcasting for weeks that my Quarter-Century Birthday was coming up, making a point to remind my boss, my co-workers, my family, my customers. Even when I got carded at Turkey Hill the other day for cigarettes and the attendant quizzed me on my age, I said, "Twenty-four. But I'll be twenty-five on Tuesday." Like he cared. I just get so excited. I can't help it.

"You can go to sleep if you want to," I said through a smile, kissing his forehead.

"No," his voice was tired. "I want to be the first to wish you happy birthday."

So when midnight rolled around, he wrapped me up in his arms and wished me a happy birthday.

"Do you want to open your present?" he nodded at the gift he'd placed next to the television hours earlier to taunt me. I did want to open it, had been wanting to since he'd set it gingerly on the bureau and told me I couldn't open it until the next day after work.

So I peeled back the wrapping paper to reveal a beautiful deep green purse, perfect in all regards. He asked me if I liked it. Repeatedly. I flung it over my shoulder, fingered the soft leather of the exquisite bag and smiled. "It's wonderful. Thank you so much. But you didn't have to get me anything. I thought our trip to Florida was my birthday present."

"I couldn't not give you's your birthday."

I kissed him. "Why are you so good to me?"

We fell asleep, on my birthday, curled together. When I woke up to the screaming alarm, he pulled me to him. "Happy birthday, baby." I smiled all the way from the bed to the shower.

I came into work to yelps of Happy Birthday from my coworkers. I sat at my desk, my mood phenomenal despite my hacking cough and runny nose.

"How are you feeling? How's that cold of yours?" a customer asked upon hearing my cough.

"It's my birthday. A little sinus infection isn't going to get me down today."

And just before 11, Myer the Florist came in with an explosion of lilies for me. From Billy. When I called to thank him, I told his voice mail how beautiful the flowers are that he'd made my day. I told him, too, that he is truly wonderful. And I meant it.

So now, I'm sitting at my desk, thinking of how perfect this day is, and wondering how I got so damn lucky.

Monday, October 03, 2005

An Early Birthday Wish

I have a cold. My face hurts, I'm coughing up a storm. (On the bright side, a customer - a roofer who obviously moonlights as a physician - told me "Iit's probably just allergies. Rather than telling the doctor what you think you have, why not let him tell you what you have? Tell him that you don't feel like it's a cold, and - I'm tellin' you - he'll tell you it's allergies." Gee, thanks, Doc.) This is horrible timing: My birthday is tomorrow, and my boyfriend and I will be leaving for a trip to Florida on Thursday. I could really do without the sniffles and the coughing right about now; the last thing I want is to be under the weather on my birthday.

I'm really quite upset about this whole being-sick-thing. But then I went on one of my daily blog stops and found a birthday tribute to me. I laughed. I cried. I coughed. It was fabulous.

Dale Bentley is the coolest. Seriously.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Caution: Construction Area

It is impossible to stop into Wal Mart "just for a second," yet this is what I said to myself and I climbed out of my car and headed into the mecca of convenience.

Since my move, I now live roughly a minute away from my town's Wal Mart, which some would find appalling, but I find to be just wonderful. It is no longer a - gasp! - fifteen minute drive each way to what I affectionately refer to as Wally World. It is now a matter of a handful of seconds before I am out of my house and stepping through automatic doors and being greeted by a senior citizen.

"Hello, dear. Welcome to Wal Mart," an older lady in Lucille Ball's hairdo (only it was white instead of red) said to me today as I wandered into the store, on a mission for cold medicine and tissues.

"Hello," I replied, pressing forward and eager to get in and out of the store in less than ten minutes, and without spending $100.00, as I've been known to do.

But there was a problem: My Wal Mart is under construction. On its way to becoming a Super Center, my Wal Mart has been dismembered, reassembled, taken apart again, spread out and left a mess. The familiarity with which I navigated the aisles only months ago is gone now, and I am forced to wander aimlessly through rows and rows of cotton balls, makeup, chips, greeting cards, hair gel, shampoo, DVDs and car parts with only the far-fetched hope that I will somehow stumble upon the Equate Ibuprofen Cold & Sinus medication I'm counting on to keep my nose from running.

But finding medicine was easier than I thought it would be: The pharmacy was one of the first sections of our new Super Center to be remodeled. The tissues, however, were another story entirely.

The store has doubled - tripled, maybe - in size. And the floor plan changes almost daily. I know that the makeup is now located to the far left of the store, and I know that the music section is now what seems like a mile away from the front door, all the way in the back. But as far as finding anything else goes, it is only dumb luck that leads you to find it. Working off of the assumption that tissues would be somehow associated with Housewares, I followed the beacon of the large red sign boasting the same in the back of the store. But my path there was less of the straight shot I'd hoped it would be, and was more of a maze. At every turn I was met with another oddly-placed shelf, a rack of bras stuck randomly into the middle of a walkway, an aisle that dead-ended. What should've taken roughly two minutes (even in my big heels), took almost ten.

I found what I was looking for and headed out, my head throbbing and my frustration levels sky rocketing. I was more than ready to check out, to get on my way to pick up the Chinese food I'd ordered before entering the store. And that's when it happened.

I tripped. On my own goddamn shoe.

Thankfully, I didn't fall face first into the display of Larry The Cable Guy boxers I was passing (I believe it may have been the shock that a grown man would actually wear Larry The Cable Guy boxers that caused me to trip in the first place, but I can't be certain), but I did do it right in front of a bunch of teenaged girls.

And even at twenty four, feeling fabulous - even with a cold - in my somewhat transparent white t-shirt over my hot pink bra that matched the hot pink shoes I was wearing below my favorite fits-just-right blue jeans, tripping in front of teenagers - girls, no less - made me feel like a fat eight year old wearing a baggy sweater over leggings and dirty Keds sneakers.

They snickered at me - just as I would have done had someone tripped in front of me. I laughed, too, trying to show that I wasn't really embarrassed. But as I walked toward the cashier, I felt like a complete ass.

I know Wally World's expansion isn't to blame, but I can't wait until this shit is finished.