Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I forgot my cell phone today. I noticed that it was missing from my over-packed purse and my messy car about a minute into my drive into work this morning. I was still close enough to turn around and pick it up, but I figured I'd be late if I did that, so I pressed on. An ominous feeling crept over me - what if I need it? What if something happens? - but I turned up the radio and did my best to ignore it. Because, I mean, we used to function fine as a people before cell phones. We weren't reachable twenty-four hours a day until recently, and we survived; hell, I didn't even have a cell phone until a few years ago. And I don't get much of a signal on the road to work anyway, so it's no big deal, really. Right?

About halfway to work, climbing a steep Pennsylvania combination hill/curve, I noticed a whine coming from under my hood. I turned down Otis Redding and listened to it. It was sharper, more noticeable when I accelerated. I pressed on the gas a few time to confirm that I wasn't just hearing things, started to freak out a little bit, but quickly told myself that Gwen the 4Runner has probably made that noise for a long, long time and I just hadn't, up until now, noticed it. It doesn't sound too bad, I told myself. Plus, it's rainy. It's possible that it's not the car at all; it could just be the rain underneath the mammoth tread of my new tires. It sounded like an alright argument to me. I accepted it, turned Otis back up and sang my way into work.

In truth, my car's been sounding a little funny for a while. I notice a little whine, a high-pitched hum when I drive on the interstate, or generally whenever my Sirius radio or my CD is between songs. But I just got new tires, so I blamed the noise on them. And I just had Gwen inspected for the year 2006, so, surely, if anything were seriously wrong, the mechanic would've discovered it, and charged me way too much to fix it. After all, they're looking for stuff to fix, right?

Around noon, I hopped in my car to make the drive from work to the bank, and then to pick up lunch for the three of us in the office. When I turned the key in the ignition, the Gwen didn't softly whirr to life like she normally does; She rattled to life. I stepped on the clutch and put her in reverse. A gruff moan came from her body. "I hope that's not my fucking muffler," I said to my speedometer. "It better not be my fucking muffler," I threatened out loud, to no one in particular. As I drove, I calculated how long it had been since I had my whole exhaust system replaced. About a year, I figured. There's no need for it to be in need of repair so soon. But then again, I thought, there has been a lot of sand and salt and muck on the roads. It could be possible. Beneath me, Gwen sounded like she was clearing her throat.

About a mile or so down the wooded road I took away from work, and just before I reached civilization again, it happened: The Check Engine light came on.

"Oh, please no," I plead with the light, hoping that maybe Gwen would reconsider her need for a checkup. But the light, orange and foreboding, persisted, stubbornly glowing there on my dashboard. I kept looking away and looking back, hoping that it would blink off just as suddenly as it blinked on. But no luck. It stayed on, and somehow, it sounded like Gwen was getting sicker and sicker with each turn of her tires.

And then, I panicked. I don't have my phone, I realized. What if I break down? I'm going to have to walk down this empty road in my stilettos and in my red coat with my big purse, looking all vulnerable and scared. What if no one stops to help? What if someone does, but they're scary? What do I do? So I did the only thing that made sense to me right then: I turned around.

"Fuck this," I announced as I turned on my blinker, visions of a seizing engine and smoke pouring from beneath my hood dancing in my head.. I made a U-Turn and headed back to work. I cursed myself for not turning around this morning for my cell phone. I mimicked myself, nose scrunched up and voice mocking: We used to function fine as a people before cell phones. Stupid.

Gwen gurgled her way back into her parking spot and I shut off the obviously ailing engine. I stormed my way back into work, my hands shaking from the fear of even the thought of breaking down somewhere, dread taking over my face. Suddenly, I was aware that this could be a costly rehabilitation for Gwen. I started adding up the money I had at my disposal. Sure, I thought, just as I was getting ready to cash in those stocks to pay off that car, she decides to get the flu. I was beginning to work myself up into a bundle of nerves. I began to fret over driving home later, after dark, on a long deserted road with no phone and no guarantee that Gwen would make it all the way to the house. And how would I get to work tomorrow?

"I told you," my boss said with a smirk on his face, "that once a car gets that old, it just becomes a money pit."

I wasn't in the mood for his See How Right I Was? speech, so I argued that I don't care how old she is, I love that car. "She's a Toyota," I said. "They last forever. And, besides, she's only 12." I realized how old, in fact, that is as I dialed Billy's number.

It is at times like these that it truly pays to have a calm other half. Because while you're positively freaking out, totaling up imaginary mechanics bills and picturing yourself stranded on some dark and desolate road, he will tell you it's no big deal, rather than adding fuel to your already raging fire. "It's probably just a spark plug or a belt or something. Don't worry. We'll get it taken care of."

In my still-panicked voice, I told him someone from work would be driving me home, and that I may require Billy to get up early on his day off and drive me to work. I apologized in advance for being an inconvenience.

"Well, why don't we go up to your work tonight after I get home, drive the car to the shop and leave it there tonight? You can take my car tomorrow." Thank God I have a rational boyfriend.

I made an appointment for her. I'll leave her at the shop tonight, and I'll spend tomorrow with my fingers crossed that this is not an indication of a major Automobile Disease, just a minor hiccup in her normally flawless performance.

I'll be crossing my fingers, too, that I'll be able to get her out of the shop by spending less than a hundred dollars. Otherwise, Gwen won't be the only one feeling sick.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mission Accomplished!

So, after finding the perfect ring, finding it was too big, returning it, searching for weeks, and one near hit that became a miss, we found a ring for Billy.

You may notice that it is not the same ring that we picked out initially. So you'll also notice that this one could not be mistaken for a piece of hardware found at the local Home Depot (Mom...). But it's still Armani, and Billy loves it.

I got home Wednesday, after my search and subsequent disappointment with regard to the "Nut Ring," as it was titled by the seller, to find Billy in front of the computer, the bright primary colors of eBay glowing on the screen before him. "I found a bunch of rings," he announced as I dropped my purse and coat on the couch behind him. "Come look at them and pick one out." He was telling the truth: On his "Watched Items" list was no less than ten rings, all in his size and all to his liking. He had narrowed the search for me, and left it my hands to pick out the final ring for him.

But the way he made me click on this particular ring first, and how he reminded me (over and over again) that it was his size, told me that he took a particular shine to this one. He liked the weathered silver, the leather in the middle of the band, and probably liked the fact that the "Emporio Armani" logo wasn't splashed across the outside of the ring, but sat like a secret on the inside of the band.

So I clicked "Buy It Now."

And PayPal wouldn't work.

We contacted the seller and advised him (or her?) that we bought it, and would pay for it just as soon as PayPal decided to cooperate. For three days PayPal told us to try again later. It gave us so much grief that I finally contacted the seller again and told him/her that I'd have to send a check.

Then, late on Saturday night, we tried PayPal one last time.

And it worked!

So, in a few days, we'll get a package in the mail containing Billy's long-overdue birthday gift. He'll be a marked man, wearing the ring that I gave him. Finally.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Listen to Your Mother

I remember sitting in a bar in Milford once, years ago, part of a not-so-happy couple, and thinking "God, how I'd hate to be single in this town." I think I actually turned to another of my paired-off friends and said it out loud, pointing to the less-than-spectacular buffet of men before us for emphasis. "Look what we'd have to choose from." And, during fights with my then-boyfriend, I'd tell my mom through my tears how unhappy I was. And she'd listen softly, offering her support in the form of her ears, and when I was finally done with the details, she'd tell me to leave him. I'd admit that I was scared. And she assured me that someone, someday, would love me just as much as she did. I didn't believe her.

Fast forward to, oh, about a year later, sitting in that same bar, with the same coupled-friend, only this time, I was single in Milford. And now, the not-entirely-appetizing buffet of men there were there for me to feast on; Not for some hypothetical poor single girl who couldn't find and subsequently pin down some guy. For me. I was the girl I pitied only months before. I felt embarrassed for my words of yesteryear. I called my mom after every bombed blind date, after every social event that still left me empty handed. I'd lament that no one person held all the qualities I wanted, that I supposed I'd just have to give up some good traits in exchange for others. And she'd remind me to be patient, that I'd find someone eventually. That, regardless of when it happened, I'd find everything I was looking for in one person.

And, now, fast forward to now, when I'm part of a happy couple. I look back on the two Lauries from before, and I don't know which one I feel sorrier for: The single one with slim pickins, the victim of a handful of bad blind dates...Or the one breathing a sigh of relief because, even though she was dramatically unfulfilled in her relationship, at least she had someone to refer to as her boyfriend.

I think I'm sorriest for the girl in the relationship.

Because, out of the two, she was the one ruled by fear. Fear that she'd never get any better than what she had, fear that she didn't deserve any better. She was happy to take what she was given, because it wasn't horrible and it could easily pass for enough. But it wasn't enough. And even though she knew that, she stuck it out and tried to make it work because, well, it was better than nothing.

I had no idea I could be this happy. I was unaware that I could be part of something that kept me smiling instead of wondering and worrying and crying. I can't believe that I'm satisfied, that I've nothing to ask for or demand or request. I have the compliments, the attention, the love I always wanted. And I had no idea that I'd want to give so much in return. I was always accused of doing, of giving, nothing, which was probably true at the time. But now I want to keep giving, just to show my appreciation for being so fulfilled.

I want to go and shake the Laurie in the bar, the one with the boyfriend and the fear, and tell her that she doesn't have to sacrifice anything to be happy. She doesn't have to be ashamed of who she is or what she thinks or what she needs or what she does, because there's a guy out there who's going to love her because of all of those things, not in spite of them.

Just like mom said.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Feelin' Good

Billy and I made a new Waking Up CD last night. Our alarm clock, in addition to having dual alarm settings (which is lovely, since I now don't have to remember to re-set the thing for him when I leave), also allows us to chose the music we'd like to wake up to. Up until this morning, we'd been rising to Perry Como, who sang of loving that girl like she's never been loved before. This morning, we woke up to Billy's new favorite song: The Fray, Out of My Head.

We took the CD into the shower with us, to listen to the rest of our selections as we prepared ourselves for the day. The CD doesn't have a theme, the music chosen for it has no common thread, other than we love all the songs. They're just good mood songs, songs that make you sing along, that make you dance just a little bit in the shower, or just make you smile in general.

The second song on the CD was my choice. It was imperative, I said, to have this particular song on the compilation: Stevie Wonder, As. It makes me dance, it makes me sing, it makes me smile, it puts me in a good mood. It met all of the Waking Up criteria, so onto the CD it went.

When I left this morning, Billy suggested I take the CD with me. It sounded like a fabulous idea, so I opened the lid of the CD player and strode out to my car wearing the disc like a ring on my finger.

I got into my car and backed down the driveway to The Fray. I listened to that song not once, but twice, in an effort to learn the words. I turned onto the long backroad I take into work and As came on. I danced in my seat and sang along with Stevie as I sped down the snow-dusted road. I'm not exactly sure of all the words yet, though, so singing along mostly entails me just singing backup to the lines and verses I already know.

So, because I'm in the learning stages of the song, I'm required to pay a great deal of attention to all the words in the song, to commit them to memory. The notes, the emphasis, the way Stevie sings, I concentrate on every line.

I don't know if it's because I have my period, or because Billy and I had such a good night last night - the kind that makes you laugh until tears stream from your eyes, the kind that knocks you back in disbelief; you never thought you could be this happy - but one line in the song made my eyes well up. Over the chorus (...That I'll be loving you Always/Until the day is night and night becomes the day/Always/Until the trees and sea just up and fly away/Always/Until the day that 8x8x8 is 4/Always/Until the day that is the day that are no more), Stevie sang "Did you know you're loved by somebody?"

It made me smile, my watery eyes hidden behind my big dark glasses. I couldn't believe that I was blindsided by something so obvious, but I was. I always get lost in how I feel about Billy, how sometimes I can't believe that I found him, and I'm sure that my feelings for him are far more all-consuming than his could ever be for me. I think maybe love to him, and love to me are two different things. But, with my hands on the steering wheel, I realized that they're not. And I am loved by somebody. By him.

And it's a such a bold statement: Somebody loves you. You mean the world to someone. Someone loves you just as much as you love them, even though you don't think it's possible for them to even understand the depth of your feelings for them. They do. They love you right back.

The sentence just makes me feel so good. "Did you know you're loved by somebody?" And not just by a significant other, but by family. By friends. By all these people who surround you in your daily life. You speak on the phone, or you kiss each other goodnight, or you meet for dinner once a week; you drink with them, you talk with them. They all love you. Whether or not you remember to call them when you said you would, whether your mood is good or bad, they love you. No matter what. All this love, free of charge and obligation, for you. Just because you are exactly who you are.

It put in me in such a good mood - Sappy, cheesy, and mushy, yes. But a good mood nonetheless.

Did you know you're loved by somebody?

Doesn't that feel good?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Your Friendly Banker

Friday night, I went to the liquor store to buy some adult beverages for Billy, myself and Billy's cousin. When the total was announced, and I counted the limp bills in my wallet, I deduced that I'd have to use my debit card to pay for the transaction.

Let me add the disclaimer that I am very organized when it comes to my money. Very organized. I keep a running, to-the-penny balance in my checkbook, I get receipts for everything, I have all my cards in their appropriate slots. Imagine my surprise, then, when I noticed my debit card missing from its comfy little spot in my pink wallet. A brief look of shock overtook my face, which was then replaced by intense concentration.

"What's wrong?" the liquor store clerk asked. She knows me. Sadly, it is possible she may know me a little too well.

"I can't seem to find my debit card," I said, as I dug through my less-organized purse.

"When was the last time you used it?" She offered, trying to help.

"Um, maybe when I got gas?" I re-enacted the last time I put gas in my car, sliding my hand - which held an imaginary debit card - into my pocket. "I always put my card in my coat pocket. Maybe it's in my other coat." I paused, mid-re-enactment, imaginary debit card not yet all the way into my coat pocket. "But no, because I put gas in my car, like, three days ago." I went through all of my motions since I paid the $800 it took to fill up my tank. "Oh!" I cried, joyous. "I know where it is!" I handed over my credit card to use instead. "It's at the bank! Across the street! I went to the ATM last night, and I was in such a hurry, I don't think I got it out of the machine. I'll just go over there and pick it up."

It should be noted here that the "bank across the street" is the bank at which I was employed up until about two months ago. So I hopped in my car and drove across the street (Milford is very busy on Friday nights. You needn't chance the certain death that is crossing Harford Street on foot after dark. Plus, I'm lazy.) to go to the drive thru window of my old stompin' grounds. I pulled up to the window, prepared to take shit for becoming one of the airheaded customers we used to secretly bash who leave their cards in the machine.

"Well, well, well," my old coworkers voice crackled through the speaker. "Look what we have here." The look on her face said Go to Hell, and her voice implied that she would rather have been yanking out her own toenails with pliers than working the window at five o'clock on a Friday. I wondered if her verbal indifference to her job was how she handled me because she knew me, or if that's how she handled all of the customers. And then I wondered, if she handles everyone that way, how do they have any customers left at all? "Did you leave something here?" She said. Condescending doesn't quite capture her tone.

"Yes, it appears that I did," I said, trying to be as kind as possible. "Looks like I left my card in the machine last night."

"You did," she confirmed. "But I don't know where it is." She made no move to help, no offer to check. Nothing, just stood there and stared at me and waited for me to drive away.

We stared at each other for a minute, impatience causing my eyes to grow just a little bit wider with each passing second.

I finally broke the combination silence/staring contest. "Well, could you check?"

She let out a gruff sigh. "Hold on," and she hefted her body from its resting position on the counter before her. She disappeared from my view, and sent someone else to take her place.

The branch manager, the trollesque woman who tortured me for two and a half of my four years of employment there, bent the microphone down to reach her squat little body. "We don't know where it is," she informed me. Oh, okay. Great then. Thanks for all your help. Of course, this is the same woman who, when I told her I'd be leaving, responded not with "Good luck" or "We'll be sorry to lose you," or "Thanks for your dedication," or even "it's about fucking time you got out of my life," but with "Whose name did you draw for Secret Santa? Because I don't want anyone to go without a gift." Clearly, she's thoughtful.

"Well..." I said, slowly, so she was sure to understand. "Fiiinnndd iiitttt."

She cackled. She thought I was being "funny." "Myrna put it somewhere," she announced helplessly. "Maybe she locked it up. We don't know. Call in the morning. She'll be here."

"Awesome," I said, sarcasm dripping from my vocal chords. "Thanks for all your help."

"Have a good night," she said. Insincerely, I might add.

I drove away pissed, but taking heart in the fact that the woman to whom she referred, Myrna, liked me very much when I worked there. She probably locked it in her drawer for safe-keeping. I figured I'd pick it up in the morning.

When, as instructed, I called on Saturday, I got the same hobbit who'd first greeted me at the window.

"Oh hi," she said after I introduced myself, her voice suddenly free of the artificial cheer she'd used during her Thanks-for-calling-our-bank-and-how-can-I-help-you salutation. Without my asking, she offered the little knowledge she had of my situation: "Myrna sent the card to the main branch."

"She what?" I interrupted, incredulous.

"She sent. it. to. the. main. branch," she stated, slowly, to be sure I understood.

"Yeah, I got that part. Why would she do that?"

"Well, you didn't call..." her voice trailed off. I got the sense that she was delighted with the aggravation she was causing me.

"It was there for less than a day," I argued. "Well...Do I need to order a new one?"

"I don't know. I think they mail it back to you. I'm not sure." I could see her shrugging her hunched shoulders. She offered no more.

"Well, wow. Gee. Again, you've been more than helpful," I said. "Thanks." And I hung up.

I sat there in bed, seething that I would be sans debit card for a week, maybe more. Oh, if, of course, they send it back to me, which the branch employees didn't know. Which they should know because I know that they only destroy the card if the branch employees instruct them to do so.

I sat back and thought of all of the times I'd been instructed to call some stranger or another to inform them that their ATM card had been captured, and since it was our bank's card, we'd be happy to hold it for them if they'd like to come pick it up. I thought of all of the orphaned ATM cards that sat around in that branch for months, waiting for their rightful owners to come and claim them. And did my phone ring? No. Did anyone call offering to hold it for me? No. Even though they know I live in Milford and drive by that bank at least once a day? No. Did they think that maybe it'd be a tad inconvenient for me to have to go a week without my card? No. Sure, I made the stupid mistake of leaving it there, but thinking about all the times they saved someone else's card made me want to puke.

So now, I have a deposit to make, and rather than taking it into the branch, I'm toying with the idea of putting the deposit into their convenient "Night drop" (where you "drop" your deposit into a box over "night" and the tellers enter the deposit first thing in the morning, then send you your receipt, in case you're unfamiliar with this very technical banking jargon), just so that I can inscribe the envelope with a snarky comment that says something like: I'm guessing I don't have to ask you to MAIL me the receipt.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

eBay Virgin No More

I bought Billy an Emporio Armani ring for his Birthday. He loved it, as you may - or may not - recall. What he did not love, however, was the fact that it was at least one whole size too big. So instead of fitting nicely and looking lovely on his artist's fingers, it merely rested on his hand, oversized and awkward, threatening to fall off at any moment. So, of course, he never wore it out of the house, and we were forced to head back to the fancy-pants mall where I bought it to get a smaller one (In case you're wondering, the solid-silver, 10mm width of the ring prevented us from taking a simple trip to the jewelry store for sizing). So, we went to the mall, we walked into Armani (Where, much to my surprise, we witnessed a man carrying a teeny tiny dog in a purse. Not a "man-bag," mind you: A purse. I was riveted.) and over to the jewelry section. You can imagine the sickly feeling that came over me when I saw that the ring was no longer displayed there.

Even though we knew what the answer was, we still asked a lithe saleswoman if they had any more. She, obviously irritated that we had interrupted her just-stand-around-and-look-thin task for the day, mumbled "Let me get someone else to help you," and slithered away to find an older, plumper woman who was apparently paid to do more than just stand there and look hungry. She took the heavy ring in her hands and informed us that they only had one left, but that she was unsure of the size. So she excused herself and disappeared into the back to find the one remaining ring. She was gone for, oh, about twenty minutes while we surveyed the eight ties and three pairs of shoes displayed in the sparsely-stocked store. She came back with a ring roughly double the size of the one we brought in, and my face fell. Billy urged me to not worry, that we'd find a ring that fit, and if we couldn't find the same one, we'd get a better one.

But a full day of searching proved that once you find something you love, it is damn near impossible to replace it, much less trump it. We left, two malls later, with only tested patience and crippling frustration to show for our efforts.

As we climbed, empty handed, into his car, he told me not to get upset that we hadn't found anything; he'd rather, he said, I find the ring myself, anyway. He said it was because he wants it to come from me, but I know that he really meant he just doesn't want to spend one more of his days off in a freakin' mall.

So I've continued to look, since his New Year's Day birthday, for another ring, but found nothing. Today, succumbing to peer pressure and pure desperation, I decided to check out eBay. Purchasing anything on eBay is something I've resisted since its inception; It has to do with the fraudulent merchandise potential, the possibility that I won't just get something fake in exchange for my money, but that I won't get anything at all. I'm not a fan of buying things online, and I'm not a fan of buying anything that I haven't touched first, but I couldn't find any rings anywhere that lived up to the standard set by the first one. And so I caved in and logged on.

And, lo and behold, I found it.

There's just one problem: The size is listed as a "Q." Wha-? Size Q? I don't get it. I looked up a ring size conversion chart on the internet that states that a UK size "Q" translates into a US size 8.25. Billy's somewhere between an 8.25 and an 8.5. (The man wears the same size ring as I do. Does that mean that I have man-hands?) Does anyone out there know if the size conversion chart I looked up is accurate? Does a Size Q equal a size 8.25? Because if I buy that shit, I can't return it.

But I do save $40.00 from the original price.

Anyway, I have a question into the seller and one day left to make my decision. By this time tomorrow, I may have popped my online-purchases cherry.

Monday, January 23, 2006


Friday, while I was left alone at work for well over four hours with absolutely nothing to do, I became very well-acquainted with the computer screen here. And after blog-reading, and game-playing and music-searching and general pointless-internet-surfing became tiresome and coma-inducing, I took to reading my own blog. Yes, I was that desperate for something to do. (Don't let me fool you. I read my own shit all the time. It's just that it sounds almost understandable to spend an entire afternoon reading the entire contents of a blog about yourself when you have the excuse of "I'm new here and they haven't taught me anything beyond bill paying and there's no money in the account and no bills to pay right now, so I had no other option than to read about myself" to fall back on. If can't use that excuse, you seem hopelessly narcissistic and self-involved. Which, obviously, I am because, for fuck's sake, I have a blog about myself. But I digress....) So, anyway, I was reading all of my older, angst-ridden entries, ones about heartbreak and loneliness and self esteem (or lack thereof) and worry and doubt and exes and friends...And I realized: I was a much better writer when I was miserable. So if you're just joining me on this blog, please feel free to peruse the older entries, where I was sadder and grumpier...And, apparently, better. And if you're a long-time reader who's been disappointed lately with the quality of my writing, blame Billy. That man makes me so fucking happy that I just don't have it in me anymore to be even somewhat melancholy.

That being said, I think it's sad that the only entries Billy ever reads are the latest ones. Because I felt like I was really good at the art of writing before he came along, and I was hoping that he'd be a mite impressed with my talent when he read what I've published here. But, for reasons that I totally understand, he doesn't much care for reading the entries in which I whine about my ex, nor does he wish to read about my dating life that preceded him. So he generally sticks to the posts in which I sing his praises, which is nice for his ego, but does little to inflate his opinion of me as a writer. Which sucks for me because I think he is such a phenomenal artist (Yes, my amazing boyfriend is the artist behind the painting on the left there), and I'd like to show him that I'm at least a little creative, too.

On an only marginally related note (related only because I made this discovery on Friday's self-indulgent reading of my own blog), can we pretend that today is January 11, 2006? Because if we do, we can allow me to wish Divinities a happy first birthday. Otherwise, I'm just a horrible blogger, forgetting the anniversary of my own pride and joy.

So happy (belated) birthday, Divinities!

Friday, January 20, 2006


I have almost twenty saved messages on my phone. I don't know why, but I do. So today, since I am alone in the office with, quite literally, absolutely nothing to do, I figured I'd go through them and clean up my mailbox a bit.

I spent the last twenty or so minutes with the speakerphone on, listening to all of the messages I chose to save for one reason or another. I smiled the whole time.

A while back, I wrote about saving messages from friends and near-boyfriends that remind me that there are people out there who think I'm fabulous, even when I'm feeling not-so-fabulous about myself. I never really listened to them, but I knew they were there...Just in case.

Those messages are still there (except for the one from the near-boyfriend. That one got erased just before my first date with Billy), but there are a bunch of new selections for me to choose from. Most - actually, honestly, almost all - of them are from Billy. He calls me sexy, he tells me to hurry home, he jokingly asks why I haven't answered his phone call and wonders into my voicemail if perhaps I've slipped and fallen in the shower and proceeds to instruct me to take my cell phone with me into the shower if I can't be trusted to keep my balance. He tells me he's thinking about me, that he hopes my day is going well. It's like saving Hallmark greeting cards, but better.

In one series of messages, left in October, Billy called three times to remind me that he still likes me. He laughed as he concluded, "Just so that there's no misinterpretation, I like you. Not, I only like you, or I just like you, but that I liiiike you, like you. Okay?" With that, he paused and then continued in a business-man tone: "I hope that clears up any confusion there may be about the issue, and have a lovely evening."

Listening to that message today, I laughed out loud. And I remembered a conversation we had about a month ago, about saying the L-Word.

"I knew you'd never say it first," he told me, stretched out under the covers.

"What? Meeee? Why?" I shrieked in mock horror at the notion that I wouldn't say it first. He and I both knew that was the truth. I never have said it first...Too scary.

"Oh please," he rolled his eyes. "There was no way you'd say it first. With as worried as you were about me breaking your heart? C'mon."

"So what made you decide to say it?" I goaded. I curled up close to him, in an effort to make him get sentimental with me.

Again, his eyes rolled. "I don't know," he said. He hates discussing things like this, and I knew it. But The Girl in me couldn't resist asking.

"Oh, come on."

"I don't know," he repeated. "I just wanted to. I wasn't sure when I would, though."


"You know, 'is it too early?' Things like that. I talked to my cousin about it."

"You did?" I was positively bursting with joy over his discussing loving me with a family member. "What did you say?"

"I just asked him, 'whaddya think? Should I tell her?'"

"And what did he say?"

"He said 'How long have you been together?' and I said 'Three months.' And he said 'No, don't say it yet.'"

"What?" The shriek was not in mock horror this time.

Billy laughed at my reaction. "But I think I came home that night and told you. I had to. I'd been thinking it for a while. I fought off saying it as long as I could."

Thinking about that conversation today, and listening to that message, it occurred to me that, perhaps, he already loved me when he reminded me that he liked me. And perhaps I already knew it, too.

The final message in my long list of saved messages was from him, too. It was left on August 5, 2005 at 2:30 in the afternoon. He was calling to confirm our first date, the time, our rendez-vous point. His voice sounded deep and sexy and new, even listening to it today. I remembered how giddy it made me feel, how excited I was to see him. I remembered imagining holding his hand, kissing him goodnight. I saved it then, for some reason. Perhaps I knew, before we even began, that something there was worth saving.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Speak Up

I love that he orders my dinner for me. It's an antiquated and long-abandoned act of chivalry that never fails to make me smile. I gave him the reigns on our first date, scanning the Japanese menu and admitting that I knew nothing about it. "Order for me," I requested, closing the menu and placing it gingerly on the well-laid table before me. I was pleased when he took the challenge. He asked if I had any aversion to anything in particular, then proceeded to tell the waiter what I'd have.

I told him once, many dinners ago, how much I love that he orders for me. He'd been ordering for me for a while at that point, and since I had never objected, he must've assumed I was comfortable with it. But there was a small amount of surprise on his face.

"You do?" he'd asked. "It doesn't make you feel weird at all?"

"No," I replied, setting my drink back on the table. "It makes me feel like a lady."

I know women who are offended if a man orders for her. Those same women are put off by opened doors and pulled-out chairs. I've never understood it. It makes me feel so cared for, so dainty. I like that I needn't speak up, that I don't have to pull my gloved hand from my coat pocket to open my own door, that my chair waits for me, its back cupped in a man's palm. It doesn't shout oppression to me. It murmurs respect and adoration. It tells me he values me, that he wants to treat me like a lady. And so few men do it any more. Either because the attempts they've made in the past have been denied, or because they were never instructed to so by their mothers and fathers, it's a charming move that has nearly died. I love that Billy keeps it alive.

At dinner on Sunday, before I headed to my house alone, we went to dinner. We looked over the menu and each announced what we'd be having for the night. When the waitress appeared, notepad in hand, Billy told the waitress that I'd have "the filet, medium rare," and I felt like we were on our first date. I smiled at my closed menu in front of me as he spoke, speaking up only when she asked me what I'd have to drink. Had I told him what I'd decided on prior to her asking, he would've spoken for me then, too. And I love it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Sunday night, I left him. I climbed into my running car and drove the mildly icy roads between his house and mine. I got home, alone, to my quiet townhouse and my roommate's dog. I had almost forgotten the days when that dog was the only thing I had to go home to. I found his leash and let him out into the four degree air, while I stood inside the sun porch and listened to the quiet.

I made my way upstairs to my empty bedroom, my lonely bed. I turned on the TV, washed my face, finished a glass of water and settled in for sleep. But it was all foreign: my sheets and my comforter. Stranger still was the emptiness next to me; the spot that for the last five months has held Billy, sat vacant and cold. I fell asleep with MTV on for the noise, the house otherwise silent.

I woke up a few times during the night, glancing to my left to find the clock. When my eyes found only a bare white wall, no clock, no windows, I had to remind myself that I was in my house. I had to look to the right to see the time. It was the same thing every time my eyes popped open during the night. The search for the clock, for Billy's embrace, then reminding myself that I was in my home, alone.

It was strange to go through my Monday morning routine that didn't involve bringing him coffee or kissing him goodbye. I poured my own coffee into a travel mug I'd taken from his house and made my way out to my cold car.

All day, my mood was bad. I flirted with anger, with frustration, with tears. I grew annoyed with my coworkers, with myself. I couldn't wait for the end of the day.

And when the end finally came, I went to the gym, which I haven't done in a long while. I stepped and lifted and sweated until my head pounded. I was hot, I was thirsty, I was tired.

I left the gym, well over an hour after getting there, and headed back to my house. I let out the dog, I fed him, I made myself something to eat. I went upstairs in my gym clothes and repacked the bag I'd carried in with me the night before.

And I went back to Billy's, glad to be done with my one-night obligation to stay at my house.

You don't realize how much of your life is wrapped up in someone until you're forced to spend even a dollop of time away from them, knowing that you could be with them, if only you hadn't committed yourself to doing something else. I couldn't believe how bad my mood was, how alien I felt in my own house. I couldn't believe that I had a hard time sleeping without him.

Billy told me that, once, on a business trip, he woke up and reached for me...Then panicked when I wasn't there. He wondered, briefly, where I had gone and why I left, then reminded himself that he wasn't home. I laughed, expecting that he was exaggerating. But now I've felt it for myself.

I always say that seeing him, kissing him, before I leave for work in the morning makes my day, but I'd never really qualified that claim until now. I had just associated my good mood with him, not bothering to test the theory. But Monday morning tested, and proved, it.

I couldn't wait to see him last night. I sat at his computer, killing the time until he called to tell me he was on his way home. He called at eight. "Are you home?" he asked. I knew he meant his house. "I am," I replied. He told me he'd be home in an hour. I had a drink and a mouthful of kisses ready for him when he got home. I missed him so much. And it was one silly night apart.

We fell asleep tangled together. I didn't wake up once during the night as though, even in slumber, I knew he was there. And this morning, just seeing his sleeping face there next to me made me smile.

Never before have I spent so much time with a boyfriend. Never before have I wanted to. I like my me-time, my space, my independence. But I need him. He's an intrinsic part of my life...And I didn't even realize it until now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Can You Hear Me Now?

The mailman dropped my Verizon bill in my parents' mailbox on Saturday. My dad, fresh from the hospital, called me yesterday to tell me it was waiting for me. He reminds me, quite often, of the mammoth pile of mail that constantly waits for me at their house. Junk, credit card applications and insurance information will pile up around the one magazine and two bills I get in the mail each month, waiting to be gone through and disposed of. And every time I visit my parents, I dig through the pile for my credit card statement and my cell phone bill, leaving the rest of the junk in the pile, claiming that I'll get it all "next time."

Last night, while Billy and I were visiting my parents, my dad used the "I just got out of the hospital" card and convinced me to go through all of the mail they'd deposited in the overflowing basket used just for my mail. I separated my bills from the wasted paper known as credit card applications, and set to shredding the items I knew I didn't need.

After that was done, I opened my Verizon bill, sure that it would be somewhere around the $50.00 I spend every month on my cell phone. I'm not a big talker when it comes to the telephone. Although it is my only phone (There is no land line in Billy's house OR my own), I use it mostly to coordinate plans with friends and to call work. Or so I thought.


WHAT? My eyes scanned the twelve pages of detailed billing information, searching for a clue as to what happened. Surely, my phone number had been pilfered, and someone was using my Verizon account and/or phone number to call sex lines or Madagascar or something.

But no. There, in very fine black and white print, was an itemized list of all the calls. And, though few phone calls on the bill topped four minutes, there were a ton of calls made, and they were all made by yours truly. Billy, my mom, my house, my friends Pollo and Nancy & Alex and Melanie and Kelly. Both jobs. A few restaurants, when I called ahead for takeout. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

I have three hundred free daytime minutes. I have never, ever gone over that allotment.

This month? 742 minutes used! That's 442 over my free minutes! I can't believe I yapped that much on my silly little phone in one month. I was disgusted with myself. But I figured there must be some mistake.

So I called Verizon this morning, hoping that the answer would be a simple "Whoops! We messed up and charged you for calls that were supposed to be covered under your plan," or, "Whoops! Our computers malfunctioned and added incorrectly. You only owe us $42.91."

I imagine that it comes as no surprise that Candice, the friendly Verizon rep I got on the phone, said neither of those things.

"Just looks like you went over your minutes, hon."

Yeah. I see that. She suggested I sign up for another year of Verizon service, then they could adjust my bill down to just over $100.00. Thanks, Candice. But I'll pass.

I hung up and I wanted to cry. I couldn't believe I'd gone that far over my minutes, racked up a cell phone bill that high.

So what did I do?

I went outside with a cigarette, and, in a ten minute conversation, told my mom how pissed at myself I am for going over my minutes. And what did I use to make that call?

Why, I used my cell phone, of course.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Let It Out

My father is in the hospital. For two days now, he's been sitting in an uncomfortable bed, waiting to take the tests the doctor on call has prescribed. He thinks it's silly, his being there. And every night, as my mother, brother and I convene around his bed, we all commiserate. It is ridiculous, his sitting in that bed, in the ill-fitting pajamas, the wires strapped to his chest. He had a dizzy spell, passed out for a second. And, yes, we were all concerned, and pressured the strong-willed man I call Daddy to go to the doctor - even though he insisted he was fine. This is the man who, during his twenty years in the Army, only called in sick twice. And both of those times, his absence from work was against his will and at my mom's insistence. And so, on Thursday, he begrudgingly went to the hospital as instructed. He spent all day in the emergency room, even though, according to him he "felt fine." And they admitted him for tests. They found nothing, but still suggested more tests. Heart, lung, artery and neurological tests. Electrodes and sonograms, MRI, CT Scans. All clear. But, I guess, at his age, you can't be too careful.

I don't feel, in my heart or in my gut, that anything is really wrong with him. I think I would feel it in my bones if something were dreadfully awry. But, still, it weighs on me; On my whole family. My brother and I are short-tempered, frustrated with knowing nothing about why they're keeping him - for two nights now - and angry that he has to be there at all. My mom teeters on breaking down. She knows nothing is wrong with the man she's been married to for 34 years, but she doesn't like going home at night and sleeping in their bed without him. And Daddy's frustrated, too. He hates being there, jokes that the hospital is only keeping him because they're in a budget crisis and they need a body to do tests on so that they can get paid.

The four of us huddled in his half of a hospital room last night, joking and laughing while we waited for Daddy to be taken for a test the doctor promised. I sat in the chair next to his bed in my work clothes. I had taken Interstate 84 directly from work to the hospital. We talked about my job, his job, my mom's job, Chase's winter vacation while we waited. We were told the test would take place at 3:45, and it was eight o'clock before he was carted away to be prodded. Then, we waited for him to get back. And when he did, we four resumed our laughter, stretching it out until visitor's hours ended. I lifted myself from the hard plastic seat and made my way out to the car. I stopped at Wendy's for my nine o'clock dinner. I struggled to keep my eyes open all the way home. I wanted to cry, to let out all of the confusion and frustration that's been building up in me. But, instead, I turned on Sirius's comedy station and focused on getting home.

But my frustration isn't only with my dad's current placement in Bon Secours Medical Center. It's with the people around me. It's with the way his condition is dismissed when I admit that I don't believe anything is seriously wrong with him. Like I have no reason to be upset that he's there because, obviously, he's fine. I hate that someone asked me about my dad, and when I started to tell the story, she said "Oh, when you get done I have to tell you about the day I had." In all fairness, I have to admit that I like to make it seem like it's no big deal to me. But I hate that the people around me accept that from me, that they wouldn't think to delve a little deeper, offer a little support or compassion. I mean, sure, he may be fine, but it's startling to see your father in an adjustable bed, with wires attached to his chest, the insides of his elbows covered with the red freckle-like dots that remind you his blood is being taken on a regular basis. This is my hero, my giant of a father, the guy who fixes everything, who can take care of all of us. And he's in the hospital. And it's tough to see, to process. Even if there is nothing wrong, confronting the idea that your parents are actually mortal is taxing. And I don't appreciate how people hear me say, "I think he's okay, though" and think that's their cue to move on to whatever's been bothering them.

Last night, Billy got home moments after I did. His mood was somber, the result of another bad day at work. We retired to bed only moments after he walked through the door. He asked me about my day, about my dad. He assured me that everything would be fine. Getting frustrated with his optimism, I rolled my eyes. "I know that. I do." And then he asked me: "How are you doing?" He was the first person to ask me that. "Fine, I guess," I began, careful to keep the quivering out of my voice. "I just hate seeing him in there...It's just scary is all." And, there, in the dark and wrapped in his arms, I finally shed the tears that had been waiting behind my eyes. He just let me talk while tears slid out of my eyes and down my cheeks. Held me a little tighter when he thought I needed it, kissed me when I could use the softness of his lips. He let me let it out.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Who's Got the Button

“You know,” he said, pointing to the TV, “I wouldn’t be able to do it; hit that stupid button all the time.” He was referring to Lost, the television show we watch together every Wednesday night. The twisting plot, for now, revolves around a bunker that the survivors of a plane crash found on the island they’ve been stranded on for months. In the bunker, there’s a clock that counts down and a computer, and a code must be entered into the computer when the clock nears zero. They only know they have to enter the code because of instructions left by the people who inhabited the space before them. “I just couldn’t keep putting that code in day after day, not knowing what would happen if I didn’t.”

“Really?” I thought about what I would do in the situation.

He lit a cigarette while I rearranged myself in the crook of his arm. “Really. I mean, I might die if I don’t hit it, but at least then I’d know, you know? I just couldn’t handle not knowing. I would definitely not enter it, just to see.”

“I think I’d probably push the button. I think I’d be scared of what would happen if I didn’t enter the code and whatnot.”

“Hmmm,” he said, surveying me from the corner of his eye. “You wouldn’t be curious to know what would happen if you didn’t hit it?”

“Well, of course I’d be curious. But…I don’t know…I think I’d enter it.”

“Because some weird guy on an old instructional movie told you to? It could be great if you didn’t hit it. Maybe you’d be rescued if you didn’t enter the code…”

“Or,” I interrupted, “I could die, or be beaten. Or, I don't know....It could be really horrible.”

“Well, I’d take that chance.”

I laughed at how obvious the parallel was between the silly button scenario and our lives.

Billy’s lived his whole life not pushing the button. Not doing what he was told, jumping without fear of what’s below him, going out on a limb or out of the country because it could be great. And if it wasn’t great, then at least he knew.

I, on the other hand, have lived my life sitting in front of the figurative computer, waiting for the clock to get close to zero so that I could dutifully enter the code. I don’t want to rock the boat, I don’t want to chance the possibly horrible consequences that come with not pushing the button. I’m scared of what will happen if I don’t do it.

The difference is, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything by continuing to push the button. He does.

“What if you were really happy?” I said, after a few moments’ silence.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, what if you were stuck on this island, but you were really happy? Would you still be so curious about what would happen if you didn’t hit the button? Or would you be okay with continuing to enter the code because your life was good – great, even – as long as you were doing it? And not entering it could be catastrophic. Would you still want to not enter it?”

He considered what I said. “But you’re stuck at the computer. You can’t spend an afternoon at the beach…”

We got off-track, when we started talking about the beach. I never did get to find out if he’d chance losing happiness if all he had to do to maintain it was hit a button.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Tell Me How Awesome I Am

"See, that's why I love you." The statement was made through a smile, on the tail-end of a laugh. "You're so awesome."

"Why?" My own laughter was beginning to slow, and I wiped away the tears the deep laughter had forced to my eyes.

"Why what?" He asked, pulling me into him and kissing my head. I smiled. I love that. Being silly, laughing until our sides ache, then being told that's why he loves me.

"Why do you think I'm awesome?" I nuzzled my face into the soft space where his shoulder meets his neck. I adjusted my body in bed so that I faced him, and wrapped my legs around him. When he offered laughter in lieu of an answer, I tensed my grip on him, put my mouth over his ear, and made a big show of asking. "Why do you think I'm awesome, baby?"

"You just are."

"That's not good enough," I threatened, my finger poised and ready to tickle.

He laughed without my having to touch him. "You just are. Everything."

"C'mon, baby, tell me." I whined, begged and laughed at the same time.

He feigned no recollection of our conversation. "Tell you what?" He asked, looking confused. The corners of his mouth smiled.

"Tell me how awesome I am!"

He laughed out loud. "That should be a title on your blog."

"Well, maybe it will be."

"Yeah, title one 'Tell Me How Awesome I Am' for me."

"I will."

And here it is. For my Billy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Taking Care

He was sick on Saturday, the day after I fought off a bug of my own. When he got home from work, I sent him to bed and brought him Ginger Ale. I made him dinner when he finally felt like eating. I did our laundry and put the dishes in the washer. I curled my body around his to keep him warm underneath the blankets.

He had a bad day at work yesterday, and came home quiet and frustrated. He wanted nothing more than to sit and home and marinate in his stress and misery, but we had plans to meet with his family. So I told him I'd drive so that he could imbibe. I gave him water when we got home, put Boxing on TV so that he could watch something he loves.

This morning, as my alarm went off for work, he rose from sleep to pull me close to him. "Thanks for taking care of me last night," he said, his voice deep and sleepy. "You're so good to me."

"That's my job," I punctuated my sentence with a kiss on his head.

And it's true. As a girlfriend, it is my job to make sure he's taken care of. But it's a role I never quite took to before. I lived much of my life in the past with the mantra "What has he done for me lately?" running through my head; mostly because I wasn't getting the little things that I felt like I needed. A compliment, a touch for no reason, a look that says - without words - that I'm loved, the feeling that I'm taken care of, too. So, to punish the boyfriend I had at the time, I'd leave the little things undone, too. I wouldn't clean up after myself, let alone touch a mess he'd made. The only laundry I did was my own, and dishes would pile in the sink before I'd even glance their way.

But I know, without having to ask, that Billy would do the same for me. And I'm so fulfilled that I want to give back. I want to show him how much I appreciate his phone calls in the middle of the day, the way he kisses me just before I fall asleep, the offers (that I politely decline) to help me out when my finances get tight. And so I say thank you, over and over, but I feel that the words alone fail to convey how grateful I am. So I bring him ginger ale and fold his undershirts and offer to drive. Because he deserves it.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Fat and Happy

Over the summer, I lost weight. A lot of it. It was a mixture of stress, a little sadness, and the need to control something. I counted the caloric content of everything I ate and drank. I started drinking Diet Coke, for God's sake. I worked out like a maniac, sometimes seven days a week. My muscles were defined, my stomach perfectly flat, my legs toned. I loved it, but I felt like shit. I didn't eat enough, and what I did eat was all low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie. It was always pre-packaged, and always store bought. I ate very few very small home-cooked meals, feeling guilty after finishing each one. But I knew I looked good. And, at that time in my life, that was all I really needed. When people asked what I'd done to lose the weight, I told them I'd stopped my birth control (it was true, I had) and started to work out more. I left out the food obsession.

But each time someone told me how great I looked, it only made me more determined to stay that size, or smaller. I saw my ex, and he told me he'd never seen me look so good. "You look perfect," he said to me. Instead of taking it as a compliment, I took it to mean that I'd been far from perfect for the past four years. "How come you always lose weight when we break up?" He joked. "Why didn't you ever do it when we were together?" I knew it was said in jest, but it made me want to lose even more weight. I felt like maybe I needed to. For the praise.

I met Billy at my lowest weight in probably my whole adult life. I wasn't gaunt or emaciated, I was just thin for my body. But, when we started dating, I couldn't be a priss and order only salads or eat only half of my meals, so my days of dieting came to a screeching halt.

Over the holidays, I took a sabbatical from the gym. It's been hard, with my new job's location, to get to the gym, and harder still to find the time between Christmas parties and Christmas shopping to make the trip from Billy's house to my own to pick up my gym clothes. I haven't seen the inside of the home I pay to live in for weeks.

So now, I'm back to my normal weight. But it makes me happy to see that the jeans I bought at my skinniest still fit fine. I'm not heavy, I'm just not as skinny as I was before. I gave up the calorie counting, I stopped hitting the gym as often. I'm back on birth control. "You look better now," my friends tell me these days. "You lost too much weight this summer. It looked unhealthy on you." I never know how to take a comment like that.

Last night, in bed, I patted my stomach. "I feel like a blob," I said to Billy. Two days of laying in bed to get over a bug will make anyone feel bloated and gross. I may not have looked like it, but I felt it.

He put his hand on the exact spot on my stomach that I'd just touched. "Well, you look perfect."

I was supposed to go to the gym tonight, break my three-week run of absence. But, instead my brother and I went out for pizza. For the first time in my life, I don't feel like my being loved has anything to do with what the scale says about me.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Love Actually

I'm sick. It started yesterday, about halfway through work. I felt nauseas and cold, tired and achy. It was all I could do to get home at the end of the day and crawl into bed. I laid there for four hours, until Billy got home, my fever preventing me from getting warm despite the layers of blankets and cranked heat. Billy brought me crackers and ginger ale, forced me to eat, even though I was whiny and insisting that I wasn't hungry. "You have to eat," he told me, unpeeling a banana beside me in bed, "so that you can take some Motrin and feel better." He ate a sandwich while I forced down the banana and some saltines. He wrapped himself around me to keep me warm, and we fell asleep watching the Sopranos.

His alarm woke us this morning, Perry Como singing us out of sleep. He told me to take my Motrin and went to take his shower. Thirty minutes later, he kissed my face and left for work.

I stayed in bed all morning, reasoning that rest is what I need. But ten o'clock came and found me antsy. So I turned on the TV, picked up my box of Saltines and sought comfort in the movie channels. And there it was: Love Actually. It's one of my favorite movies, and one that never fails to make me cry.

It used to make my cry because I wanted it so badly. I wanted love, and to be loved, like it was in the movie. Honest and heartbreaking while glorious and all-consuming. Wanting what you can't have and having more than you can handle at the same time. I wanted it all: The pain and the pleasure that comes with the four-letter word love.

The past few times I've seen it, though, I've been nestled in Billy's bed. Once or twice he's been there with me, but more often, I watched it alone while he worked. And crying at the ending now seems less of an ache for something as intangible and far-fetched as love, and more of being able to identify with it. Because, sure, love sucks sometimes. It's confusing and frustrating and worrisome. It mutates you, makes you unsure of things you never before doubted. But, God, it does wonderful things to you, too. It makes you feel so safe; it feels like home. The small kiss, the reassuring touch, the soft smile.

I've been horrible to be around for the last week. Now that I'm sick, I can almost blame my week-long bad mood on the fact that my body's been trying to fight off a bug. But that's just an excuse. The fact of the matter is, I was a beast. Nothing could make me happy. I bitched and complained and worried and whined. I was sad. I cried. I made Billy defend himself for ridiculous things, things that weren't even worth defending ("Billy, why haven't you used your ipod that I gave you for Christmas? You know, if you don't like it, you shouldn't have opened it; that way we could've taken it back and got you something you really wanted."). I annoyed even myself, and I was sure that I was pushing my limits with my boyfriend. In the midst of all my silliness, I was sure he was getting fed up with me. What man, after all, wants to come home every night after a thirteen hour workday to a woman full of gripes?

But there he was, last night, box of saltines in hand after yet another intolerably long work day. Last night, he kissed the cold sweat on my forehead instead of my lips. "Are you not kissing me because you don't want to get sick, or because my breath is bad?" I joked, breathing into my hand for emphasis.

"I don't want to get sick," he said, pushing my hair out of my face. "Because if I get sick, who's going to take care of you?"

That's love.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Running Flat

I don't handle anxiety well. One little thing, like snow or a problem at work, makes me freak out over everything in my life that has gone, or could possibly go, wrong.

Two days ago, a snowstorm whipped through Milford, coating us with rain, and then inch after inch of snow, then rain again. And driving in the snow terrifies me - the lack of control, the uncertainty of how well the roads are being kept, other drivers. But I still have to work. So Tuesday morning, I paced and evaluated and dreaded going into work. The promise of driving on roads that could possibly make my car spin out of control was enough to set me off.

Once it was guaranteed that I'd have to be driving, I started to fret over every aspect of my life. My job, whether or not I'll grow to love it, my responsibilities, the shitty friend, daughter and sister I'm being right now, my boyfriend, my skin, my finances. Everything.

I wrote about how I worry about my relationship, and my spectacular boyfriend did exactly what I needed him to and calmed my irrational fears. But, still, my mood was somber, and I couldn't figure out why. Whatever it was, it followed me around all night, making my smile a little short of genuine, my laugh just shy of honest.

It was there this morning, too, dragging behind me as I plodded to the shower. It trailed me through the house during my morning routine, and jumped in the passenger seat with me when I left for work.

I was pleasantly surprised, however, that my morning commute was free of the ice the weathermen promised, and soon my mood began to lift. I sang along to an old CD and delighted in the sunshine peeking through the gray clouds.

Then, I heard it. The distinct whoooomph-whoooomph-whoooomph that comes with a flat tire. I stopped my car in the middle of the narrow back road I was taking, opened my door and glared at my back tire. Sure enough, the tire was splayed out on the pavement beneath it, deflated. I slammed my door, shouted some obscenities and looked for a place to pull off the road. There wasn't one. So I drove until I came to a major road, which I then crossed, slowly and with my hazard lights blinking. I pulled into a strip mall, the only business for miles, and pulled out my cell phone.

No fucking service.

I took a deep breath, let my head fall back against the headrest, and prepared myself to cry. Just as I went to close my eyes and give into my frustration, I saw a truck making its way through the parking lot. The man behind the wheel stopped his car beside mine. I opened my door, not even wanting to look at my tire, for fear that the tears would come out in earnest.

"Hey," he said, walking toward me.

"Hi," I said, dejected.

"Got a flat?"

"Uh, yeah. How could you tell?" We both chuckled. "Hey, you're Chris, right?" I recognized him as the owner of the building. I thanked God that it wasn't some stranger.

"Yeah, I am."

"I'm Laurie. I know your dad from the bank."

"Oh yeah. I thought you looked familiar. Nice to officially meet you." He held out a gloved hand for me to shake. I took it and smiled. "It just sucks that it's under these circumstances. Do you have a spare?" He said, adjusting his baseball cap.

"Yeah," I sighed, my voice shaky. "But it's a lot smaller than these tires." I walked around to the back of my 4Runner, peered underneath the bumper to make sure it was there.

"That's okay. It'll get you where you need to go. Do you need some help?"

"Yes." I whined. "I can't believe this. You know, my friend at work told me yesterday that the tire was low, but I didn't think it was that low."

He laughed as he crouched down beside the wheel to survey the damage. "Looks like you've been driving on it for a little while too, huh?"

"Yeah. I know I'm not supposed to, but I had no where to pull over and get out of the way of other cars." My voice in my own ears sounded defensive, frustrated. I felt defeated. Helpless.

"It's alright," he looked up at me. "It looks like it's okay. Don't worry. We'll fix it."

"Thank you so much," I said, walking to the front of the car. "I don't know where that, you know, long...metal...thing is that I have to use to get the spare out from under there..." I demonstrated for him what I meant with my hands, then turned to pop my hood, remembering that in my old car that "thing" was secured there.

"So, you've had a flat before?"

"You could say that."

But the rod wasn't under my hood, and I remembered that it was tucked away beneath my backseat. I opened my door, embarrassed at having to move CDs and clothes and gift bags out of the way to check beneath the seat.

"Do you live in this car or something?" He jabbed, shoving his hands in his jean pockets.

"I know, right?" My back was to him as I shoved my belongings to the other side of the back seat. "You'd think so. God, I can't believe I have all this shit in here." My frustration was bubbling over.

"It's okay," he said. "Relax."

I let out a nervous laugh and turned around with the jack and the metal rod we'd need to get my tire changed.

He took them from me, looked them over. "Uh," he said, "I hate to tell you this, but you're missing a part." He pointed to the jack. "There's a little piece that goes in here," he rested his finger on the front of the device, "that makes this," he nodded to the rod, "fit in there."

"You're kidding me."

We looked beneath both back seats. It was nowhere.

"You know," he said, "my garage is right there," he pointed behind us. "I have a lift in there and everything. If it's just a little hole, I can even fix your tire if you want."

"That would be wonderful."

So I followed him, whooomph-whooomph-whoooomph, into his garage, where he lifted Gwen the 4Runner off of the ground and removed the sad tire from the car.

We chatted while he worked. He offered me a seat. "I'm too full of nervous energy to sit," I said, "but thank you. Thank you so much for doing this. I really appreciate it. You just saved me from tears. That was, like, a half hour worth of makeup that would've been ruined if not for you." He laughed with me. "Seriously," I continued, "you have no idea how grateful I am. Thank you so much for helping me."

"It's not a problem at all," he said, as the air compressor kicked on behind us.

"You know," he said, "you're really lucky. Your wheel is fine. And the tire looks okay, too." He hefted the wet tire from the car. "It doesn't look like it popped or anything. It was probably just a slow leak that finally went all the way." He sprayed the tire with soapy water and found the tiny hole. He pulled out the culprit, a nail, and plugged the hole with some sort of rubber cement and a sticky piece of...something. "You'll be out of here in no time."

I thanked him again. "I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't been out this morning. I'd probably just sit there all day and cry."

He laughed, changing the attachments on the air gun he'd used to remove the lugnuts then fill the tire. The gun's whine filled the garage as he secured the now full tire back onto the car. "Well, don't focus on the fact that you got a flat. Focus on the fact that it was an easy fix. You don't have to drive around on a shitty donut or anything. It's just like new." He patted the taut rubber of the tire.

The lift squealed as he set my car back on the ground. "Thank you again, Chris. So much. I don't even know how to thank you. Do I owe you anything?"

"Of course not. I've been helped plenty of times. It's my turn to do some helping."

I shouted "Thank you"s out of my open window as I drove away. He was right. We're always focusing on the flat, instead of the ease with which it can be repaired, instead of the fact that people are kind enough to help you when you're in only a little bit of trouble.

I've been focusing on my flats: My lack of personal space at work, at home. The snow. My frustrations. And, in the midst of focusing on all of that, I forget to remember that there is so much more to focus on: My incredible boyfriend, my amazing family, and the fact that, save for a flat tire and a little bit of snow, things are going really well for me.

My tires, actually, are far from flat.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


I worry sometimes. That I'm too much. That I'm too sane. That I'm too available. That I'm overstaying my welcome. He doesn't do anything to make me feel that way, but I still feel it; The sickly sense that my luck has finally run out. I worry that he'll fall out of love with me, rapidly and without warning. That I'll be back to singing along to songs of heartbreak before I know it. That one day he'll look at me and think "What was it that I liked about her again?" I worry that I've lost him, by getting too comfortable, by settling into a routine. And I clamor to reclaim him, without having lost my grip in the first place. It makes me feel desperate, needy, unstable.

I worry that I've become too attached, too dependent. I search for signs that he's reached saturation point with me, dig through our conversations for hints that he just can't take another minute of listening to me laugh, or complain, or just plain talk. I worry that I'm suffocating him, and I back off, trying to maintain the invisible balance between detached and present. I worry that I love him too much, that I love him more. I worry that I plan too much for the future without having the authority to do so. I worry about pushing him, expecting and assuming too much about where we stand. Even after he insisted I share his dresser drawers, I put off marrying our garments until I was absolutely sure that it wouldn't scare him.

I worry that I'm too negative sometimes. So I check my comments, hold inside gripes and fears and idiosyncrasies that I fear will make him see me in a less-than-flattering light. I worry that I'm not enough. I worry that I'm a flash in the pan, that my time with him is limited. And I search for hints that I'm a fixture. I worry that I'm dancing on the edge of scaring him. With everything: With my tampons beneath his sink, with my razor in his shower, with my underwear next to his, with my love. It makes me feel clingy, overbearing.

I worry that it's a trick, that him loving me is a farce. That the big punchline will finally be revealed when I've finally given myself over to him completely. I worry that I've already given more than I should have.

I worry that my insecurity is going to get in the way. That worrying and wondering and thinking and seeking are going to, one day, force him away. I worry that my past will never leave me, that I'll forever battle fear of desertion and doubt.

Because no matter how good he is to me; no matter how much he reassures me, how many kisses he plants on my forehead, my cheeks, my mouth; no matter how many times I hear I love you, I still worry.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Circles Again

**Posted originally on August 23, 2006. I just had to move it.**

I can't help that I liked to be kissed
And I wouldn't mind if my name changed to Mrs.
This is one side, my conventional side
An attraction to tradition
My vintage disposition
My sincere architecture
And I want to cook him dinner

But I'm more indecisive than ever
And who believes in forever?

Like any girl, I've fantasized it about it since childhood. The white dress, the cake, the rings, the veil. And not just the wedding, but the wedded part afterward. It's what I've always wanted. My reasons aren't tangible, I don't have boxes of evidence to back up my appreciation for the state of marriage. I just do. Because I've spent years watching my parents in a blessed union. Because nothing says I love you like a lifetime commitment. It's old fashioned, and antiquated, and probably silly, but it's what I want.

I waited a year to bring it up. Not, Hey, let's get married tomorrow, or even Are you going to marry me. Just Do you want to get married, ever? I start talking about marriage, and he starts spouting off divorce rates. I talk about successes, and he starts talking about his divorced and/or miserably married friends. I tell him he can't base his choices on other people's mistakes. He says we're perfect; why change it?

"But I want to get married one day," I say to the ceiling.

"I don't."


Who will be the one to marry me?

"This doesn't change the way I feel about you. It doesn't put an expiration date on us. I do want to be with you forever, I just don't want to get married." He pleads, almost.

"But I do. Do you realize what you're asking me to give up?"

"You can call me your husband."

"It's not the same."

A girl in the world barking up the wrong tree
A creature conditioned to employ matrimony
Crumbling continuity, I pick up the pieces
The ceremony make me zealous
As the past quickly ceases
Fear from being neutered
I'm now prude, now defensive
Quickly I'm altered and tempted by new love only rented

It's always me who finds the guys that have made the choice, somewhere in their shady pasts or murky presents, that they don't want to get married. Ever. Because it's "just a piece of paper."

"I don't need a piece of paper telling me that I'm committed to you. I already am."

"If you already are, then how does a piece of paper hurt?"

Round and round in circles we go. It's not about fidelity or lack thereof. It's just about making a commitment. About sharing a life. About saying in front of God and all of our friends and family that you want to spend the rest of your life with me.

"We do share a life together," he says, sweeping his long arm to include the bedroom we share, the bed we sleep in every night, the closet and dressers that hold all of our clothes together. It's true, we do. And nothing would change if we got married except for our ring fingers and my last name. But he believes it will change everything.

I try to explain to him that, if marriage isn't even an option, I'll change. And then we won't be perfect any longer.

Do you believe you'll marry me?
You might be the one to marry me?

My friends have all met the guys who wanted to get married. They meet awesome men who love them enough to marry them. Even porn stars get married. But not the men I date. No. They cower at the thought of standing in a church and saying I Do.

And, for some reason, it's me who has to give up ever getting married. Not the guy; he doesn't have to give up not getting married for me.

Back, looking back, looking back at me
I'm not how I used to be
Take me back, take me back into history
Diamond ring, tie me down, just like it used to be

I found the guy once, the guy who wanted to get married. And he wanted to marry me. But it wasn't right. And now I've found the right guy - the most perfect, incredible, amazing guy - and he doesn't want to get married. Everything else is there, just not the vows.

Instead of waiting for him to confirm what I'd already known, believed, I should have gone to him. "Look, I want to get married. If you're dating me, know that you'll eventually have to entertain the notion of marriage. Do with that what you will, but that's the way it is." I should've put him in the position of decision maker. Instead, it's me, sitting in my car, trying to cry, listening to songs that tell my story, trying to figure out what to do: give up marriage, or the man that is truly my other half.

I'm not going to gorge on false hopes this time. I've done that before, and it nearly ate me alive. I won't bother telling myself maybe it will be different with me. Maybe he'll change his mind. None of that. Someone told me before that he didn't want to marry ever, and I took it as a challenge. Billy told me the way he feels, what he believes, and I believe him. But why the fuck am I in this position again?

I love him so much. I just don't know what to do.

Who will be the one to marry me?
Who will be the one to marry me?

I'll say this, though: I'm not going anywhere right now. I just wonder if I'll hate myself for it later.

Song: Marry Me, by No Doubt

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year

We stood in a clogged courtyard while we waited for midnight, laughing and drinking, getting shoved around by the throbbing crowd around us. We counted down from ten as New Years crashed down on us. We hugged and kissed and I wished him happy birthday, reaching up to kiss his face on the day that commemorates both a new chapter of my life, and another year of his. I exchanged kisses on the cheek with his family and their wives and girlfriends. And even though the gambling called out to him from all corners of the casino, he paid ten dollars to accompany me into a packed bar so that he could be with me to dance for just a little while before I lost him to cards and chips.

We stayed in the casino until six in the morning. He played poker in a room dedicated to it, while I dropped dirty quarters into a silver slot and bet, plink-plink-plink, on hands of Jacks or Better poker. And for the first time in my life, I didn't mind wandering a casino on my own. I knew right where he was, and occasionally, I shared his seat at the packed poker table and squeezed his hand when I thought he should stay in. But for most of the time, I played the safe hands on a glowing machine by myself, holding the cards that I knew were closer to sure winners. I played like I wanted to, passing the time in the midst of tinny slot machine chimes, disregarding all that I'd been begrudgingly taught long ago about video poker. I didn't hit max bet, I didn't hold out for the big hands. I played just to play. And I played for two hours on one twenty dollar bill, and walked away with ten more dollars than I'd put in. I guess my way wasn't so bad after all.

We landed in our room, tired and still a tad inebriated, at quarter after six on the morning of January first. We huddled together in the too small bed, wishing each other a happy new year in whispers before we plummeted into sleep. We woke up just in time to get ready and check out, climb in the van built for ten and make our way home. He stretched out across the last row seat we had chosen and fell asleep in my lap while I chatted with his cousins. His hand was always on me, touching my stomach or holding my hand in his sleep. I watched his face in the sunlight, jaw slackened and sleepy, eyes lightly closed as he dreamed on about whatever a newly 34 year old man dreams of. And I watched the shadows fall over his face as daytime bled into evening, his curls tickling my chest, his hand cradling mine. And, in the lulls of my conversations with his family about makeup and welfare and theft, I kissed his slumbering face.

We drove home, where his birthday gifts were waiting for him, wrapped and ready, in a corner in his room. He unwrapped the sweater he asked for, the four ties I painstakingly chose and we got to his third and final gift. I told him I was nervous about giving it to him, that I wasn't absolutely, 100% sure about how much he'd like it as he ripped the silver paper from the box. He came to the smaller box within the bigger one, noticing the ribbon around it that read Armani. "You shouldn't have spent this much," he said, before he even saw what was inside. I told him to let me worry about what I spent on his gift as he lifted the black lid and peered inside. He lifted the heavy silver ring from the box and smiled at me. He wrapped me in his arms. "I love it," he told me. "I love that you gave me a ring," he said. He put it on his hand, letting it join the rings he already wears. It was too wide for his lean fingers, but he smiled at me. "I'm glad," I said, "that you love that I gave you a ring." I had been nervous about giving him a ring in the first place, afraid that he'd think I was pushing a little too hard. But the shape of it suited him. He held up his long hand in front of him. "Each one of these rings means something, is a beacon in my life," he said, playing with the one he wears on his pointer finger. "That's why I'm glad you gave me one to wear, too." I had remembered him explaining the significance of each one he already wears when I bought this one. I had hoped something from me would be allowed to take up residence there one day. He hugged and kissed me and thanked me while I wished a happy birthday once again.

We fell asleep tangled together on the first day of the new year.