Friday, March 31, 2006

Frontal Lobe

When we first started dating, I noticed cryptic little messages on Billy's right hand. Tiny letters spelled out reminders in a code only he could understand.

"What's that?" I asked, pointing to the small "L3" written black ink on the back of his hand.

"Call Laurie, three o'clock," he said, staring at his own writing. "I put little reminders for myself there, you know Check on so-and-so, see if this item came in. Stuff like that."

In our first few weeks, there was always an L on his hand, and I took it to mean me. I thought it was sweet, that if calling me should slip his mind in the midst of a hectic workday, he had a back up plan.

Weeks later, I noticed that my name (or, more appropriately, my letter) no longer adorned his smooth hand. "Where's the reminder to call me?" I jabbed one night, holding his hand to inspect it for remnants of a notation regarding me. But there was none, and yet his call still came.

He tapped his forehead. "Frontal lobe, baby."

I laughed and tossed his hand back into his lap. "What does that mean?"

"It means you've moved into the frontal lobe. I don't need a reminder to call you anymore. That's big." He nodded, perhaps to punctuate the idea that he thought of me regularly, with or without the writing on his hand.

Almost eight months later, and he still writes notes on his hand, but none of them involve me. Somehow, despite his already cluttered memory, he remembers to call me or bring home things he promised he would.

Sunday night, we were crawling into bed after a lazy afternoon to settle in for sleep. I set the alarms, then turned to him. "Oh," I said, "please remind me to put my birth control pills in my purse tomorrow morning."

"Why do you put them in your purse."

"Well, that way, if I forget to take them here, I can take them at work. And then I don't get off schedule."

"Why don't you just remember to take them here?"

"You think I haven't thought of that?" As though this was my first experience with my pills, never mind the six years I've been taking them so far. "It's just a back up plan."

"Well," he said, thinking, "why don't you take them every morning when you bring the coffee up?"

"Because I'm always rushing around to leave on time, so I forget most days."

"I'll remind you," he said matter-of-factly, like it was the most obvious solution.

"Babe, you'd forget your own name most days. And you expect to remember to remind me to take my pill?"

He bowed his head and pinched his forehead. "Birth control, birth control, birth control," he whispered over and over. After a minute or so of my giggling, he stopped, lifted his head and looked at me. "Got it." He tapped his forehead. "Frontal lobe."

"Whatever," I laughed, curling into him. "We'll see."

Monday morning, he reminded me as soon as I entered the room with our coffee. Surprised that he actually remembered, I thanked him and swallowed the little blue pill. Tuesday and Wednesday, same thing. Thursday morning, we rushed around getting ready, and just before I left, I noticed my pills on the dresser. I took one quickly, wondering if he'd shout out a reminder from behind the bathroom door as I scurried past on my way to the car. He didn't.

When I got in to work, I sent him a text message: "Guess who forgot to remind me to take my birth control pill, EVEN THOUGH HE TOLD ME HE WOULDN'T FORGET BECAUSE IT WAS IN HIS FRONTAL LOBE?!?!"

His argument in our playful conversation this morning was that he thought he was only supposed to remind me on Monday, and that it was my job to remember from there. My counter-point was that he'd remembered for three days, then dropped the ball. He came back with "Well, it's not my fault you forgot." I told him I'd been remembering for six years using my method, and that he suggested I change that method and subsequently volunteered to remind me every morning. "Besides," I said, "I like that you remind me, because then we're sharing the duties of birth control, rather than it being the sole responsibility of me."

He said something crass about already doing his part in terms of birth control (which does not bear repeating here, but made me laugh out loud the entire time it took me to get dressed), and then begrudgingly reminded me to take it today.

"Too late," I said, pulling my shoes on. "I already took it today. No thanks to you." I tapped my forehead, "Frontal lobe, babe," I mimicked. He threw my discarded towel at me. "Maybe you should start writing on your hand again."

He turned to face me, jaw agape, corners of his mouth fighting back a smile. He pushed me back onto the bed. After exploding in laughter, I got up and walked past him. "Have a good day, asshole," I huffed, heading toward the door to leave.

"Get back here," he said, in his best bossy voice. He grabbed my free hand, pulled me into him and kissed me square on the mouth.

We laughed, traded "I love you"s, and went off to face our workdays.

And, for whatever sick reason, our little mock fight has put me in the best mood today. Is that wrong?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Yet Another Excuse for Tardiness

"What time do you have to get up tomorrow morning?" I asked Billy last night, turning over to turn on our alarm.

He thought for a minute, doing the complex math in his head that required figuring out what time he'd have to be in, subtracting an hour for the drive, and subtracting another half hour for shower and getting ready, then factoring in the variable of the 17 minutes ahead we've slyly set the clock. "Uuuuh. I think...I have to get up...with you."

"Well, are you going to shower with me, or am I going to shower and then wake you up?" Because, obviously, this drastically impacts the time I have to get up. I waited for his answer.

Again, he pondered. "How about..." he rolled over and wrapped his arms around me, "we wake up and have our coffee, chill out and chit chat for about five minutes and then get in the shower? You know, just wake up to coffee before we have to get started."

I grinned. "You mean, how about I wake up, go downstairs, get your coffee, then bring it to you, and you wake up to coffee?"

"Yeah, pretty much."

Every morning, I bring Billy his coffee. And, because most days he doesn't even have to get in the shower until it's almost time for me to leave, he sits up in bed and sips his hot coffee while I apply my makeup and we talk about the day ahead, the night behind us, or plans for the weekend. I sit up straight, "Indian style," as my gym teachers in elementary school called it, and curl my eyelashes while he's sort of half-laying down, his body curled around my bent legs with only his head propped up on a pillow. And in his still-half-asleep state, he kisses my bare arms, or watches me coat my lashes with mascara. It's the best part of my day. And until I spent a night in my own house, getting ready on my own, I hadn't even noticed what a wonderful way it is to start my day. It puts me in such a great mood, just having his company before we're off to face our respective days.

So, this morning, we did what he suggested. Before we got up and started the process of getting ready, we had a few minutes to just sit and engage in idle chatter. We turned on the news. We exchanged a few early morning, closed-mouth kisses. We talked about what we'd need to get done during the day. And then, as soon as the clock struck seven, we were off and running to get ready.

Of course, I was late. My morning routine is just that: Routine. Planned down to the second. Get up, go shower, go downstairs, make the coffee, bring the coffee upstairs, wake up Billy, apply my makeup, get dressed, go outside and start my car, come back in, do my hair, grab my phone and a pack of cigarettes, throw them in my purse and leave. The five minute delay in this morning's routine threw me off. Luckily, it's actually getting warm right now, so I was able to skip the starting of the car, but I was late nonetheless.

But if I'm going to be late because I spent an extra five minutes with my fantastic boyfriend, I don't mind so much.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Behavior Modification

Monday night, I got home late to an empty house. So I made a bee-line for the bathroom, where I quickly washed my face and brushed my teeth to rid myself of the way-too-many cigarettes IÂ’d smoked over a dinner/catch up session with my friend. I headed back downstairs and made myself a drink. Then I went upstairs and settled in for bed, burrowing beneath the blankets and settling in with my fresh drink and a half-empty pack of cigarettes. I reached for the remote and thanked God for On Demand Cable.

Billy and I have an agreement. I won't subject him to Sex and the City if he doesn't subject me to shows about cars. Fair enough. For the first time ever, I praised his hectic work schedule for giving me this hour alone, and I went to HBO On Demand, chose "Series," and there they were: Six episodes of Sex and the City. I chose the first one and prepared myself to gorge.

And wouldn't you know it, the first episode had Carrie moving in with Aidan, and detailed her adjustment to the new living arrangements. "SSB," she said, was what she'd have to give up in moving in with her man. Secret Single Behavior. Oh, I have those.

Carrie detailed her devotion to standing in the kitchen, eating saltines smeared with grape jelly while reading fashion magazines. Charlotte examined her pores for an hour. Miranda smothered her hands in Vaseline, wore gloves and watched infomercials.

But I was right in the middle of my single behavior. Settling in with something good on TV with the lights out, not talking to anyone. Just losing myself in a show. But I get plenty of that: Billy's rarely home before me, so most times, I can still indulge in my love of Chick Programming.

What I cannot do anymore is turn up the volume on my stereo, blast Mariah Carey and sing along like I'm performing a concert. I can't come home and not talk. And that's it. Otherwise, I still have the freedom to do pretty much everything I used to do. And the only reason I can't blast the stereo is that we don't have a stereo in our room. And I love talking to Billy when he gets home. Besides, if you want to get technical, I don't even really live there, so I could just go to my house and be as "single" as I want. But I don't want to.

A few nights ago, Billy admitted "I've never done this before." He meant this whole living-together thing. And neither have I. I dated a guy for years and never even kept clothes at his house. Maybe I'd spend one night a week with him. If that. So this, this whole wake-up-and-come-home-to-each-other thing is new to both of us. And I never thought I'd be comfortable with it. I thought for sure I'd feel suffocated, desperate to get some of my own space. But we have such a great balance. I still have my own space if I need it, if for no other reason than he doesn't get home before 10:00 most days. And we're not attached at the hip when we're home. I've hibernated in the bedroom while he tinkered with the computer downstairs. I've occupied myself away from him, even under the same roof.

I used to worry that we moved too fast. We might have. We hopped right from Dating into Domesticity. We'd been dating for only a few months when I started to do his laundry, marrying our loads in his washing machine. I was making his morning coffee and loading the dishwasher before we'd even specified our status and boyfriend and girlfriend. But I didn't do it to cement my place in his life, orbecausee I thought it was what I should do. I did itbecausee it felt good. It felt good to make him happy, to do things for him just because. And I don't know that there's a time line a couple has to follow. It feels right, why not?

This was not at all what I'd pictured when I imagined living with someone. I pictured arequestt to reside with someone, followed by a ceremonial moving in. Split bills and split chores. But that's not the way this is happening. My clothes accumulated and, before I knew it, I wasn't staying at my house anymore. I don't know how it'll go down if we actually decide to make it "official" and have me really, truly move in. But I imagine it'll feel no different than it does now. Other than the fact that I'll no longer be writing out a rent check for a house I don't sleep in.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Where's My Passport?

"Are you ready?" came Billy's text message just as I got home from work yesterday.


"Our flights are booked!!!"

Oh. My. God. You guys. I'm going to be in fucking Belize in one month. We leave the end of April.

Holy shit.

I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

I have to go buy warm weather stuff. Sunblock. Flip flops....

Also, I have to starve myself and get a pre-tan. Because after what feels like ten months of winter, I have no business being in a bathing suit. I may blind people on the beach with the glare from my pale skin.

But who cares, right?

I'm going to Belize!!!!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Dressers: Not Just for Holding Clothes

We excused ourselves from the conversation and headed outside. From behind us, I heard her talking about her three week trip through Europe. She rattled off the countries she visited while I shimmied into my coat. I was jealous.

We pushed open the heavy door and stood out on the wrap around deck, a handful of other smokers peppered around the yard. He lit cigarettes for the both of us, passed me one. I took it and inhaled. I could hear the party inside.

“I want to go to Europe,” I said, mid-exhale.

“Huh?” Billy squinted against the afternoon sunshine and looked at me.

“I’d really like to go to Europe.”

“Oh,” he said with wide eyes. “Belize just isn’t good enough for you, is it?” His mock anger made me giggle.

“No, it’s not that,” I slapped him playfully on his arm. “I can’t wait to go to Belize.”

“But you want to go to Europe.” He was still playing up indignation, his sarcasm making me into the ungrateful girlfriend.

I knew what I wanted to say. Dare I? Dare I make reference to something more than a few months away…? “Maybe next year.” I said it quickly and matter-of-factly, and then I looked off into the distance, hoping to avoid eye contact for at least a few minutes.

“Oooh,” his smile broke through his feigned anger of seconds before, and he looked at me through slit eyes. “Next year, huh?” He took a long, contemplative drag of his Marlboro Medium.

What he said at this point is disputable.

I say he said something like “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” and he says it was…I don’t know, something else. Either way, whatever he said was something like that and followed with laughter. But he didn’t say “Haha! Just kidding!” He left it alone.

We went back into the party, ate and drank our way through three baby shower games and two hours, then got in the car and headed home. Hours after settling in to watch some On Demand Weeds, I brought it up again.

From my side of the bed, while staring at the credits rolling over the screen, I said “I can’t believe you said ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself.’” From the corner of my eye, I saw him roll his head toward me.


“Earlier. When I said ‘Next year,” and you said ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself.’”

“I don’t think I said that.”

“Well, you said something like that.”

“Baby,” he turned so that his whole body faced me, “are you still thinking about that? Has that been weighing on your mind?”

“Yeah,” I sheepishly admitted. “It has.”


“Because it’s the first time I’ve ever referenced something that far away. And I don’t know if, maybe, it freaks you out.”

“Why would that freak me out?” His confusion was evident.

“Because we never talk about…the…future.”

“I don’t even talk about my future.”

It’s true. It’s not like he talks about what he’s going to do a year from now while leaving me out of it. He doesn’t bring it up, period. So I just sort of thought that talking about anything more than a few months away was, well, off limits.

“I know…”

“And, anyway, I was being sarcastic. We joke with each other all the time…”

“I know. But I’ve never brought it up before. So it was, like, uncharted territory. And I kind of went out on a limb by referencing our future. And I was kind of met with a ‘no.’ In my mind, anyway. I didn’t know how to take your response because we’ve never talked about that before.”

He chuckled at me. “I don’t know how you women survive if your brains really work like that.” He shook his head, and I gave him a shove. “Baby, of course it doesn’t freak me out. Why would it?”

“I don’t know.”

But the truth was, I thought it would. Because, despite the fact that my presence is assumed at all of his family functions and that he spends every second of his free time with me, I worry that one day he’ll just wake up bored with me.

Because even though we always have a great time together, even though we laugh constantly and I still have an enormous crush on him, my mind is programmed to believe that he’s liable to leave at any second. It’s nothing that he does or doesn’t do that makes me think that way. It’s just me.

He pulled me to him and wrapped his arms around me. “What did I tell you? Whenever you start feeling this way, whenever you doubt or worry, what are you supposed to do?”

I sighed, fighting at the smile threatening to break out. I was in pouting mode. I couldn’t afford a giggle right now. I mumbled the answer into his arm.

“No,” he protested firmly. “Say it so I can hear it.” My laughter was full-throttle now.

“Think about the Dresser of Strength,” I whined, under duress.

“Yes. Behold the Dresser of Strength,” and he pointed to the referenced dresser.

It sits in the corner of the room, where the TV stands right next to a jungle of my earrings and rings, perfumes and other little personal grooming odds and ends. Inside of it reside all of my foldable clothes – sweaters, underwear, jeans, t-shirts, gym clothes. He brought it home one day for no reason, other than to say “You have a place to keep all your clothes here now.” And, after getting my own dresser, I was given half of the closet.

And with that, I stopped keeping my clothes in an overnight bag. In fact, I all but retired that overnight bag and started keeping a decent amount of clothes there. Because he wanted me to. And now he uses it to remind me that he did, does, want me there. Because he got the dresser especially for me, especially for my clothes. And, one day, when I was questioning whether or not he really wanted me there all the time (God, I feel sorry for him. I do question a lot.), he pointed to the dresser and asked “If that doesn’t say I want you here, what does?” Touché. Point conceded. “In fact,” he continued, “from this point on, that shall be referred to as The Dresser of Strength. And when you’re feeling a little weak, you can just look at it and be reminded.” He was being silly, but it stuck.

“Do you not understand the significance of the purchase of the Dresser of Strength?” he said last night, after making me say it out loud.

“No,” I grinned. “Explain it to me.”

“Well, what’s the point of having a Dresser of Strength if I have to explain it?” he said, mock frustration in voice.

“Indulge me.”

“It’s here because I want you here. And we can talk about the future; it doesn't freak me out, and it doesn't bother me. I wouldn’t have bought that thing if I didn’t want you here.” He kissed me on the forehead and got up to leave the room. “Freak,” he added for good measure. He shut the door on our laughter.

I love that man.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Here We Go Again

I stopped by their spots at the bar to say goodbye. I hugged and kissed all three of them, my coat already on, my purse dangling from my forearm. My keys in hand, I bid them all a good night, and got ready to leave.

Vicki put her arm around me and pulled me back. "I just have a question," she said, reigning me in. "Tell me about this log."


"Whatever." She laughed. "I don't know what it's called." She took a sip of her martini.

"Well, it's just, sort of, an on-line journal."

"Why do you write about Billy?"

Not again, I thought. Please, God, not another person who thinks this is stupid. "Why not?" I responded, sensing the defense in my voice.

"Well, Tom can see it, you know. And I just don't understand why you'd write personal stuff about your relationship with Billy where Tom could see it." Vicki was Tom's realtor before he left this area for greener and more humid pastures. They spoke often.

"He reads it?" My surprise was genuine. He told me a long time ago, in my pre-Billy days, that he didn't read it because he couldn't stomach all that I'd said about him.

She opened her mouth to say something, but nothing came out. Instead she nodded her head vigorously. "Yeah," she finally managed, "and his whole family, too."

This, I'd assumed. Because when Tom got mad at me for Baggage Claim, he'd told me that his family had alerted him to the daggers flying in his direction via the internet. I didn't really have anything to say.

"So why," she continued, "would you write things about your relationship now, if they can read them?"

I didn't quite understand where she was coming from. It's not like I write little stories about how happy I am with Billy and personally mail them directly to members of Tom's family, just so they know how great things are. I write it here, and them reading it is the risk I run. But, still, hearing that they may still check in from time to time made me happy. Because I miss them. I actually miss his brother, his aunt, his uncle. I loved them so much.

"Well, it's not a diary," I said, grasping at how best to illustrate my point. "It's creative. There's truth in there, of course. But it's played around with and manipulated to make stories. My feelings are true, but details can vary. And, besides, it's the only chance I really get to write, and I write about what's on my mind. Billy's on my mind. And anyone can read it, not just Tom's family."

"But I don't understand." She seemed truly confused. "I just don't get why you'd write things about you and Billy that Tom could read."

What is so mind-boggling about this? Why am I apparently the only person in my immediate vicinity who sees no problem with writing here? I don't mean to get stuck on one subject...But really. What's so awful? Why the big questions, the misunderstanding?

I love to write. I've been doing it since I could hold a pen and make clear thoughts emerge on paper. I wrote poetry as a kid, stories. I was in advanced English classes my whole life, I took creative writing, speech writing and journalism for electives. I wrote in my free time. I've kept a journal since I was ten. I had poetry published. I aced every essay test I ever took, I was asked to read my pieces aloud in creative writing. I spent the majority of my college credits on English and Psychology. I read voraciously, getting ideas, toying with new writing styles. I write for myself all the time. But when Tumbleweed suggested I blog, and put it out there for anyone to see, it sounded amazing. At the time, I was working in a bank, taking no college courses and was completely devoid of any creative outlet besides email. So I started a blog. And a few weeks later, I got my first comment. And the feeling that came from knowing some stranger had read what I wrote and thought enough of it to comment on it was indescribable. Then I found myself linked on other pages. It felt good to be appreciated for something so personal and important to me. I lack the ideas and gumption at this point in my life to pursue a real career in writing, so this was the next best thing. And once I started, I felt so unburdened. I started it in the midst of a breakup (as so many women do) and found that I was able to work my way through it here. I got out everything that needed to be expelled from my mind. If no one had ever read it, I'd still be doing it. Because it gives me a release. Don't get me wrong, I've been slaughtered for things that I've said here. I've been criticized, picked apart, called names. But I've kept on. I'm low on confidence in many aspects of my life, but this is not one of them. I love it. Love it. So why all of the confusion?

Sensing that nothing else would quell her curiosity, I just said, "I love it" and shrugged my shoulders. "I don't care who reads it. It could be one person or one million. I just love that it's out there. And occasionally, I get a compliment that makes my day. And that compliment makes it worth all of the doubt and worry and concern. And if Tom or his family reads it, that's great, too. Because they know me, and it means they either just like the writing or they just plain care about me if they're still reading. And either way, that feels good."

Fuck all of my second-guessing. I'm not quitting. This is me.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Body of Work

He doesn't read this anymore. He hasn't read it since we fought over a post that I thought was a joke, and he thought was worthy of a fight. Among other reasons. So he just doesn't read it anymore. I noticed it immediately, because I obsessively check my sitemeter. And I had his visits narrowed down to Google search keywords and the location. When I noticed that I wasn't being discovered using his words from the town he's working in, I thought maybe he was just busy at work and didn't have time to read. But even when he admitted work was slow, I noticed that he still wasn't checking. But I didn't bring it up. Whether or not he checks in is his business.

Then, over dinner last week, I mentioned the problems I'd been having publishing the blog. I went on and on, talking about how frustrating it was that some posts would show up twice, while some wouldn't show at all...And then I said "I just don't know, anyway. I might not even keep it up."

With no particular amount of surprise or concern, he asked me why.

"So many people I know read it. I'm afraid to write anymore. I'm worried I'm going to offend someone, or that someone's going to take something wrong - again - or that I'm going to get slammed by some anonymous commenter for being honest. It's just exhausting. And it's not liberating anymore. If anything, I feel like I'm being suffocated." He didn't offer anything. So I continued. "I have, like, fifty drafts saved that I'd never post. Because after I wrote them, I'd reread them and try to think 'How would I take this if I weren't the one writing it?' And, invariably, I'd opt to leave it as a draft and write something not even half as good just so that something was posted. And that's not why I started it."

He arranged the silverware on the table, and casually said "Yeah, I don't read it anymore."

Quietly, I admitted I'd noticed. "But why?"

"Well, it was a problem. And I don't know if reading it is such a good idea, so I'm just not going to be part of it anymore."

And it burned me, from the inside out.

He wasn't mean about it, or even coldly matter-of-fact. It was just a casual statement. But I couldn't help but feel like I'd just been kicked in the stomach. He watched the tears man their stations in my eyes, and his face softened. "Does that upset you?"

Does it upset me? I couldn't even answer him for fear that the tears would fall over my meal. I just shook my head and lied. "No."

But it does. Beyond what I can even express. Because it felt like he was saying it's no good. Because it felt like I was being punished. Because...

Because it's the one thing I do completely for myself. It's the one thing I have that I'm proud of. It's the one thing that I feel good at. It's an indulgence. And I like to share it. But him telling me that he didn't "want to be part of it" made me feel like a failure. Like it wasn't worth reading to begin with. Like this is some toxin that he doesn't want to go near for fear of ingestion.

I understood when he didn't want to read the posts about my exes, the same way I don't want to stare at the painting he's done of his ex, the one I happen to know. But I don't shut out his entire body of work for one painting that stings a little. I still stare at the naked woman in the kitchen, picking out new colors, new themes, new details that I've never seen before, every time I look at it. So it hurt me that he no longer has interest in something I love.

Of course, he'd never let me get away with my obviously false answer of no. So he pressed. Why does it upset me? When I still refused to answer, citing the tears in my eyes and asking to change the subject, he said "Why do you write it so that so many people can read it? Why not just write in a journal? What's the difference?"

This, coming from a man with paintings hanging in a restaurant in New York, with a website devoted to them. My mind churned, but my voice wouldn't budge. Why don't you paint for yourself? Why do you have the hefty prices under each painting on your website? What's the difference between hanging them in some popular restaurant and keeping them in a sketchbook under some old clothes in your extra bedroom/art studio? Huh? Where's the difference there? But I couldn't say any of it. Because I didn't want to fight, and I didn't want to cry.

But no one makes painters apologize for their craft. The interpretation aspect of art is understood. One person sees sadness in a painting, one person sees the raw beauty, one person sees affection. Sex, love, madness, fear. All in the same painting. It's up to the viewer. Artists get critiqued, sure. But it's more of a person's preference for style. But, generally, no one says they're offended by what a paintbrush did to a canvas. And if they don't like it, they move on. But with writing, you don't get that same liberty. Is it more personal? Is it because talent is more easily defined in art, where you either can or cannot make out what's on the canvas? Where in writing, it's murky and personal. I love Vincent van Gogh. I could stare at his paintings for hours. I have no use for Picasso, but he doesn't offend me. And I wouldn't refuse to view his work if given the opportunity.

And I love Billy's art. I'm in awe of his talent. And, most of all, I give him credit for having the balls and confidence to put it out there, inviting failure and rejection. I admire that. And, because of that, I thought he'd understand where I'm coming from. I mean, I may not be as accomplished, or - shit - even as talented as he is, but I thought he'd at least give me credit for doing something. For attempting to hone a craft I happen to enjoy. For having a passion.

Instead, what I told him is that I like the feedback, that it doesn't feel as cathartic if I write and tuck it away under my pillow. I may not be the greatest writer, but at least I feel that, once I hit "publish," it's out there and I'm not just squandering whatever talent I may posses on my eyes alone.

But it just hurt me. It hurt through dinner and right on through until today. And even now, writing this, I'm worried. Is this enough to get me in trouble? Would he take offense?

"What if I do a new one? Anonymously?" I said, sort of half-joking.

He shook his head gravely. "No. Someone would still find it."

As though that would be a bad thing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


As I do every day, I checked Tequila Red's blog yesterday. And she introduced me to a new addiction.


As she said, it's Post Secret, but without the attempt at art.

I may sit and read it all day long.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Artistic License

"Is that one of you?" She asked sweetly, pointing to the large painting I was holding. She was a waitress in a restaurant in New York City, the restaurant that's been hanging Billy's paintings for over a year. Last night, after work, we climbed into his car and drove in to pick them up.

I stood in the back room of the tiny restaurant, a large portrait of a sad brunette balancing against my legs, while Billy removed more of the paintings from the walls.

"No," I said with a giggle. "It's not."

Clearly, this made her uncomfortable. The smile she'd been wearing flickered off and then back on again, only this time, it was forced. Her grin was hard, and she struggled with what to say. Finally, she settled on "Oh. Uh...Okay then." She nodded, turned on her heel and headed back to the bar.

"Sore subject," Billy joked while he hefted a larger painting up and away from the brick wall. I laughed with him. "You know, you could've just said it was. She wouldn't know."

"But it's not." I shifted my weight and rested the art against my knee.

"Can I trust you with that one?" he said, coming toward me with a mass of canvas in his hands. "You're not going to drop it on purpose or throw it into traffic, are you?"

"Well," I replied, contemplative, "I hadn't considered that. But now that you mention it..." He laughed and tilted his huge painting on its side, freeing the inches of dust that had accumulated on the frame. It slid off and made clouds around us. We coughed and waved our hands around to help it dissipate.

The painting I held was of a woman. But not just any woman. The one woman that I know from his past. My relationship with her is casual at best, and my feelings for her are mostly neutral, but tend to lean toward the opinion that she's a little crazy. But my discomfort with the painting has nothing to do with how I feel about her as a person. It has everything to do with the fact that he painted her. And I know her.

Many of the paintings that hang throughout Billy's house are of women. Mostly, they're nude, with pert breasts and closed eyes. There's one over the bed we share. There's one in the kitchen. And I love them. But those women are strangers to me. I know nothing of their history with my boyfriend, and I don't care to know. I don't know their names, the spot they held on the timeline of his life, where they met, how long they knew each other: Nothing. And while I don't want to know the graphic details surrounding the inspiration, pure curiosity makes me want to know what made him choose them, what about these women inspired him to pick up a brush and alter a blank canvas to forever reflect their images. But I have never even considered asking. Because asking one question leads to another, and the last thing I want is to open up that can of worms. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.

I look at the paintings of the strangers, the women whose names I do not know, and briefly consider the story behind them, but quickly move on to simply appreciating them for the phenomenal pieces of art that they are. But the painting of a face I know belongs to his ex is painfully magnetic - Even though I don't want to, I stare at the painting and wonder: Did you pose her, or did you find her like that and commit that moment to memory? Did you tell her you were going to paint her? Did you show it to her? And where I can admire the anonymous women as an objective observer, it's the painting of someone I know - who she is, her history with the artist - that, for some reason, kills me.

I've always had a hard time looking at pictures of my boyfriend with past girlfriends. I guess I want to pretend that I always was his one and only, that he was locked into some sort of suspended animation, lulled into romantic inertia by this innate desire to find me. But that's silly. Of course he has a past. And I have boxes and photo albums of my own, full of snapshots of me with my past. But still, it sucks. Even though the past is the past for a reason, I just don't like to stare it in the face. It gives me something to compare myself to in my weaker moments: I try to recall the stories he's told of what she did that he hated, I imagine things she did that he must've loved...Even though what she did, who she was, has nothing to do with me.

But seeing paintings he's done of women he's been with is a different beast entirely. It's not just the split-second slam of a shutter capturing happiness, satisfaction or defeat. It's a process. It takes months. It's the sketching and color selection and altering and changing and working until he was satisfied with the final product. It's him making the conscious decision "I want to paint you," either out loud or simply to himself. And I suppose that a selfish part of me wants to inspire him just like that; I'd love for him to paint me, to recreate the arch of my cheek, the curve of my hip - To see myself the way that he sees me. He hasn't picked up a brush in well over a year, and when he says that he's dying to paint, he just needs the inspiration, something to paint, I shit. What about me? Don't I inspire you?

To be fair, he never actually told me it was of her. But it was easy to recognize her face in the portrait, where her head is tilted slightly forward and a lock of hair has broken free from her mane of black tresses.

"Can I ask you something?" I asked one night a long time ago.


Without pointing it out or referencing the art, I asked him if "that painting" was of her. He knew which one I was talking about.

He hesitated. "Yes. Why?"

"No reason. I thought it was, but I wanted to...I don't know...confirm, I guess."

"I hate that it's her," he said. "I love that painting, I just hate that it's her." He calls their short-lived relationship his one regret in life.

I let the conversation end there, not willing to toss in my own thought: As disgusted as I am to admit it, I hate that it's her, too.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


I just sneezed. Twice. While Blogger was taking its time loading my Create Post page, I let out two loud and obnoxious sneezes, replete with unnecessary "Aaaaaaa-Chooooo!" noise and everything.

Billy was sick. My coworker is sick. Some of my friends have reported that they, too, are feeling a bit under the weather. Thanks to a steady supply of Vitamin C tablets, a daily dose of Centrum, and Fuze Green Tea loaded with all sorts of "complexes" and "supplements" (according to the bottle anyway...And for almost $2.00 a bottle, it better be fucking full of it.) I've so far remained just under the cold/bug/bird flu radar. But I've been sniffling this morning. And sneezing, obviously.

And this upsets me greatly. I'm all about the idea that being sick is just as much mental as it is physical (Hey, Dale...Spare me the sick-in-the-head jokes, will ya? I know that already.). So I'm going to go about my day as though nothing were wrong. I won't focus on the slight achiness creeping up through my back. And the fact that my face feels like it's full of mucus. Instead, I'll insist on saying "I feel great" to myself no less than a thousand times today. And maybe I'll go to the gym again. I mean, I went yesterday, but maybe I'll go again to sweat out whatever ailment is threatening me. And, of course, I'll be taking my vitamins. And my tea.

But if I am sick, God help Billy. He's going to be so sorry if he passed his flu to me. Because he has no idea what a freakin' baby I am when I'm really sick. I think we're at the point in our relationship now where I can be my actual, pitiful, whiny sick self. Hey, he told me he loves me. The sick me is included in the package.

Of course, after two days of hearing me complain and cry and bitch and whine, he may just take that whole "love" thing back.

But I'm not sick. I'm not sick. I'm not sick. I'm not sick...

Monday, March 20, 2006

That Old Feeling

Driving home from his uncle's house on Saturday night, Billy turned his attention from Interstate 84 to me. "I've never taken a girlfriend with me on vacation, you know."

I didn't know. I'd assumed, but I had no concrete evidence that I was to be his first expedition into coupled traveling. I knew he'd taken his cousin and his brother at separate times. And I knew he'd gone with friends, both male and female, but he never said anything about a girlfriend going with him, and I'd never asked. Sometimes, it's just better not to know. That way, I can delude myself into thinking that I am the exception to the rule.

His out of the blue admission was a shock to me. And it made me feel good. We don't talk much about the future, and him telling me that our impending trip would be a first for him made my night. He may as well have said "This is serious, you know. I'm serious about you." Which is something that I know already, but is always nice to hear.

I carried the giddiness from hearing that with me through Sunday, when we left the house at four in the afternoon for an early dinner and a movie. As he ordered our sushi for us, he asked why I'd decided to forego the wine list. "I really haven't had anything to eat today," I said, sipping from the Coke I'd ordered earlier. "If I order wine, I'll be all loopy."

He smiled. "I know. You should." We giggled as I grabbed our waitress's attention and asked for a glass of Pinot Grigio to accompany my spicy tuna rolls.

I looked around Hana, at the red walls and the rich tiles. We'd been there on our first date, and sitting there again made me nostalgic. We traded stories about what we thought of one another the first time we sat there, seven months ago. I sipped my wine and smiled, thrilled to be there with him again.

By the end of our meal, I was just as loopy as I'd predicted. What started out as an introspective buzz became a giggly drunk as we pushed open the heavy doors of Hana and stepped out into the remaining daylight. We headed to a movie.

Failure to Launch made us laugh, and it got me all mushy. "Let's go to a bar," I said as we left the theater, shoving my arm through his. "I just want to sit with you. Around people." I leaned my head on his shoulder. He smiled and agreed.

Minutes later, we sat at Cosimo's, him with a Coke and me with my second glass of Pinot for the night. We saw a trivia machine to our left and moved down, vowing to battle it out over drinks and calamari.

Three glasses of wine and a plate of calamari later, we were $15 poorer from all the two-player Trivia Whiz battles we'd played. And I was so happy.

Sometimes, I just have days where I am so completely in love with my boyfriend that I can't contain myself. I feel like my heart will explode, it's so full of affection for him. Sitting next to him in that bar, like we were the only two people there, was exactly what I needed. I needed the light and giggly competition, the stolen kisses, the time with only him. I needed the laughing and the hand holding and the fun. Days like that make me so grateful that I have him.

I doubt him too much, I think. Or maybe I'm doubting myself. But sometimes I just don't believe he's going to stay around. That one day he'll just leave. And then we have a day like that, and I wonder what all of my wasted over-analysis was for. I'm just so happy.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Accent of Generosity

My phone blared through the bedroom. The chimes I'd picked as my ringer filled my ears, and I scurried from my place on the bed to pick it up. The pink display on the front cover announced "Kentucky" next to a number I didn't quite recognize. I picked up the phone a second too late. "Missed Call," the Sanyo scolded. And I gave it a minute to go into voicemail.

"First message," my automated secretary began. She went ahead and detailed the time, the date, the number. And then the message came.

In her heavily-accented speech, my grandmother asked me to call her back. I smiled as she spoke; I love the way she said "Laurie. Dis is Zana..." as though I knew anyone else with a voice like hers.

Growing up, Chase and I always called our mom's mother Zana, her name, instead of one of the many names kids use for their grandparents. "Vot? You vant to call me Maw Maw?" she asked once, referencing the name we used for my dad's very southern mother. She shooed the notion away with her slender fingers. "No. I don't tink so. You call me Zana." She didn't like the idea of being old enough to be a grandmother. She didn't want it rubbed in her face every time her grandkids needed her. So Zana it was. Pronounced with a plush z, a sort of "shhh" sound. Not the hard "zzz" you'd expect. Followed by a soft a. Ahhh instead of aaaaa. In writing her name by hand, a character that looks like a little "v" floats above the first letter of her name. I never knew what it meant (I found out later it distinguished a soft z from a hard one) but I always enjoyed writing it.

Zana was always glamorous. With her big house in Louisville that she shared with her German husband, she always dressed well, wore jewelry and always wore heels - even while vacuuming and grocery shopping. Her basement was dedicated to photography, a real studio with a lab for developing and everything. The walls in the lab were covered in black and white photos - her specialty. Pieces of old photos tacked up to a corkboard, a giant mosaic of old photographs that clients didn't want. Sepia colored negatives sat on the desk, next to the special pens she used to mark the good proofs. Books and books of ideas, technique, and examples lined the shelves in the corner. Under the red light of developing, the darkroom smelled like vinegar and progress.

She dressed me up and made me her model often. I was constantly in front of her camera, taking the gentle direction she offered with English words, spiked with Serbian sharpness. We went to costume shops and outfitted me for a special calendar to give to my mom: A gown for New Years, a Kentucky Derby jockey outfit for May...An outfit for every month. Visiting her home - as we often did when my dad was away with the Army - I dressed up in her heels and her silk morning coat. She told me to always, always, wash my face before bed. To stand up straight. To eat right.

She's been everywhere. She's done so much. She moved to the states with her husband, Hanjo, a German physicist, when my mom was five. She was a ballerina before she came to the states, and as long as I can remember - and to this day - her legs have shown it. She isn't tall, but her stems are lean, muscular. There's a picture of her that I remember, in black and white, with a shock of black hair atop her much younger head. She's sitting on a boat, resting her tilted head on her hand and posing with her legs stretched out. I could see the curve of her calf muscle, her youthful body in her bathing suit. She smirks at the camera. I love that picture.

She still works out three times a week. Aerobics. Cardio. Strength. I could be wrong, but I think she wears the same size now as she did when I was growing up. She always wears her makeup. She loves wine. She loves to dance, and she loves to go to the theatre. She loves to be out. Recently, she said, the doctor told her she'd have to give up wearing heels - years of ballet in hard wooden toe-shoes and many years of heels have taken their toll on her feet. "And I said to him," she told me, smiling, "put me in a veelchair, den. Because I vill not give up my heels." My whole family laughed, and looked at me. "Now we know where you got it, Laurie," my mom said. They're right. I'm her.

Although Zana has 5 grandkids, I am the only granddaughter. She did my makeup. She took me for a ride on The Belle of Louisville, an old "paddlewheel steamboat" that cruises the Ohio river. She danced with a preadolescent me on the makeshift dancefloor in the center of the boat. We worked up a sweat together dancing to a small band. She took me shopping and helped me cultivate my love for shoes and purses.

Zana, my mother and I have the exact same nose. We all have the same skin type. Line us up and you can tell exactly what my face will look like. The only glaring difference between us three (barring hair color. Because both my mother and grandmother used to be brunettes, too.) is the eye color. My mother's eyes and my own are light blue. Zana's are brown; A brown so deep and thick that they're almost black.

I was curious, to say the least, as to why she had called. She never calls me. So I called her back immediately. When she answered, she seemed surprised to hear my voice.

She told me she'd been reading my blog, that she saw that I'd been trying to decide whether or not I wanted to go away with Billy. "Laurie," she said softly, "you have to go. You have to. You're so young. You should go now. Don't vait until you're my age..." She curled her Rs around every word, her consonants were sharp. I smiled.

"I know, Zana. I think I'm going to."

"Now," she continued, "I know you're vorried about not getting to vear make up. And heels. I know. But you're so beautiful, such a beautiful girl inside and out. You don't need makeup." Coming from Zana, the woman who was instrumental in my first foray into foundation and lip liner and blush, this was a huge compliment. "And I know about ze heels. You know, when I was traveling vit your grandfather, ve vent hiking in Germany vit dis couple - both vere doctors - and dere I was, climbing a tree in heels!" She chuckled at the memory. "And, anyway," she lowered her voice so that she was just above a whisper, "Billy doesn't have to know if you sneak some makeup into your bag." I laughed with her. "And I don't vant you to have an excuse to not go. So I am going to send you some money..."

When she told me how much, my eyes widened and I interrupted her. "Zana, you don't have to do that."

"No, no, no," she argued. "I'm going to. Because you have to go. And den you can have a little money." She paused, considered her suggestion. "But you can't spend it on makeup. You have to spend it on your trip. I just can't tell you how wonderful it's going to be." I covered my heart with my hand as my eyes welled up with tears. I was so touched. So infinitely moved that she would be so kind, so generous just so that I could experience travel out of the country. "And Billy seems like such a wonderful guy. You two vill have so much fun."

"I'm sure we will," I said, trying to keep my voice from announcing my emotion.

"Oh, Laurie. I hope you go. Have you decided yet?"

"Yeah, I think I'm going to go."

"Good den. I'll send de money tomorrow."

I thanked her as much as I could. But I didn't know how to express how moved I was by her offer. We said we loved each other and hung up.

Yesterday, in the mail, there was a card with her distinct writing on it. And inside was a card with three African women on the cover. All in high heels. On the inside, she said she hopes I have a good time, but asks me to please not swim or dive with sharks.

I giggled. Touched, still, by the gesture.

So I'm left with the quandary: How do I sufficiently say thank you to a woman who introduced me to my love for high heels, makeup and looking good, but who has now facilitated my first experience abroad? Because although her gift clearly has a monetary value, written out in the "Amount" section of her check to me, it means so much more than that.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

No, Really. Pick Any Lane You Want. I Insist.

Yesterday, I decided to take a different route home. Because Wednesdays are my Kickboxing days, I find that it's quicker, and more difficult to talk myself out of going to the gym, if I take Interstate 84 directly into Milford, instead of the long, boring, winding back road that takes me directly to the house I stay in with Billy. And this is especially important on Wednesdays, as that is Billy's one day off during the week, so normally I have to fight the urge to abandon the gym altogether in exchange for just going home and being a bum with my boyfriend.

So anyway, Interstate 84. It was very windy yesterday. So windy, in fact, that the doors to my office blew open three times, causing various papers and objects on my desk to blow around while I tried pathetically to pin them down, while simultaneously calling for someone else at work to go close the door. (As an aside, they didn't. I don't think they heard me over the giant funnel cloud twisting its way through the office.) When I got in my SUV at the end of the day, I didn't even consider the wind situation until I was already on 84, with no exits for another ten miles.

The "wind situation" is this: When the wind whips around on the interstate, my car just throws up her 4Runner hands and gives in to the gusts. If the wind decides it wants to push me, say, onto the shoulder or into the woods, Gwen the 4Runner just says "Sure, why not?" and happily goes along. I'd like to say that it has to do with her high center of gravity and larger-than-necessary tires, but I really thinks she's just a pussy. At any rate, it makes me nervous. When it's windy, I refuse to use cruise control and generally drive with my hands glued into the 10-and-2 position, trying to anticipate the wind and steer Gwen back on course should she give in too easily.

I was doing alright, keeping her in only one lane, for the most part, when it came time for me to pass an elderly couple doing roughly 20 miles under the speed limit (which, if I'm not mistaken, is just about as dangerous as driving 20 miles over it. But I digress...). I approached their Mercury Sable and got nervous. What if the wind suddenly picks up and shoves me right into their driver's side door? What if I can't steer her back in time? What do I do? I just had this bad feeling. So I calculated my passing very carefully, sure to stay as close to the shoulder as possible to allow for maximum margin for error. And just as the nose of Gwen aligned with the trunk of their car, I noticed something. Their tires were creeping closer and closer to the dashes between our two lanes.

I continued to pass them cautiously, keeping an eye on their tires, trying to decide if the wind was to blame for their drifting. But I wasn't feeling any particularly strong gusts in my car, and their car kept coming over toward me. When you've driven for a substantial amount of time, you know that there will be times that cars are going to drift. You're playing with the radio, getting a drink, applying your makeup, whatever, and you start to head over into the next lane. We all do it. But then you catch yourself just as your tires start to flirt with the oncoming or neighboring lane, and you whip yourself back into your lane, maybe gasp a little bit, then say "Whew, that was a close one," and keep on driving.

But that is not what these geriatrics did. They just kept coming over. I was trying to hug the shoulder, but I was focused on their tires, which were now completely over in my lane. And there was the white-haired geezer, eyes clearly on the road ahead, with no sense of urgency whatsoever to move himself back to where he came from. I could be more understanding if he were preoccupied taking his Centrum Silver or drinking his daily can of Ensure, but he wasn't doing any of that. He was just driving, with his eyes on the road.

And I hate to use my horn. I hate it. HATE IT. I think it's obnoxious and it makes me feel silly. I never know if it's appropriate or just rude, so I generally lay off. But before I knew it, I had my palm slammed against the center of my steering wheel, Gwen screaming at the old folks to get out of my fucking lane. A look of shock mixed with horror, disgust and indignation was frozen onto my face, my eyes wide in preparation for their startled glances at me. I intended to give them a look that said "What the fuck are you doing?!" when they looked over. Maybe they'd give me a look back saying "Oops! Sorry!" and give me a little wave, and I'd roll my eyes and then the whole thing would be over.

BUT HE DIDN'T EVEN LOOK AT ME! When I honked, he just slowly meandered back into his own lane. He didn't even glance over. He didn't even look panicked. And half of his car was in my lane. His wife (I'm guessing) in the passenger seat didn't look over either. They just kept their gazes fixed on the road ahead...Which, I would think, would've tipped them off that they were all over the fucking road.

Naturally, my pulse was racing and my ears felt like they were going to explode from the inside out. I hate that feeling: The one you get where you were almost in an accident, but you weren't, but it still freaks you the fuck out and your hands shake and it takes you, like, a good five, ten minutes to recover. Yeah. That feeling. It followed me the rest of the way down the interstate.

Which only made me hate our driving policies in this country. I don't think it's right that you can just go get your license renewed until you die. I think you should have to take the test over again at a certain point. Because although there are some drivers over the age of 80 who are perfectly capable of keeping up with traffic and staying in one lane, I think it's safe to say that there are many drivers, young and old alike, who have no business being on the road at all.

I'm looking at you, Mr. Mercury Sable.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It's Like You're a Drug...

Hello. My name is Laurie. And I am an addict.

My drug of choice (Besides cigarettes and vodka)? No, it's not heroin, or crack. Or even Xanax. My addiction, ladies and gentlemen, is far more shameful - and far more powerful - than those indulgences.

My addiction is to...American Idol.

And I can't help it. I can't. It's like a power over me, undeniable and irrefutable. Come 8:00 on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I'm drawn to the television, unable to flip through the other billion channels on DirecTV, for fear that I may miss even a second of my show. And if, for some reason beyond my control, I miss the show, I'll stay up and watch the West Coast broadcast at 11. Even if I'm tired. Even if I have to go to sleep. I have to watch.

Last night was no different. Billy and I, along with the three other people in the house last night, gathered in front of the new, large television to drown in American Idol. The surround sound was on. The volume was loud. It was like we were actually there. And, friends: It. Was. Fabulous.

But indulging in my favorite guilty pleasure of American Idol necessitates that I listen to music on my drive into work, singing at the top of my cigarette-smoke-filled lungs, pretending that I, too, am an American Idol. With my window cracked and my cigarette tucked firmly between my pointer and middle fingers, I belt out the lyrics to my favorite show-stoppers: Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera, Susan Tadeschi, Counting Crows, Otis Redding, Wynonna Judd, Celine Dion, Anthony David. (A good Idol knows she must be diverse.) I try to stay true to the original tune, but add a bit of individuality. (A good Idol knows she must own the song.) I smile. (A good Idol knows she must be a performer.)

And by the time I've made it from the house to work, I'm hoarse and my vocal chords ache. My throat hurts. As does my forehead, where I've pinched my eyebrows together in agony during the sad ballads and lifted my eyebrows in glee during the pop tunes. And I just know that if it weren't for that damn American Idol, I'd be just fine. I would've listened to Howard Stern, I probably would've chuckled. And my throat would be fine and my face wouldn't feel like I've been mashing it up against a window for thirty minutes.

Damn you, American Idol. Damn you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Allow Me

I am, to quote Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding, at the end of my rapidly fraying rope. And all it took to push me that close to the edge was one innocent trip to the bathroom. I went to wash my hands, and there it was: A bare paper towel roll; a skeleton of a roll with old tracks where the glue used to hold the paper to the cardboard. I shook my hands violently to free them of the water I’d just drowned them in, and threw open the door. “I swear to God,” I said, loudly enough to be heard throughout the office. “If you use the last of it, replace it.” I continued to huff and silently complain as I went into the cabinet containing all of the other perfectly good – and new – rolls of paper towels in the office.

This comes on the heels of replacing the toilet paper roll at home last night, where one lone paper clung for dear life to the roll, his other Cottonelle friends having long since abandoned him at the hands of my lovely boyfriend and me. But I know I didn’t leave that one stupid sheet there. But Billy’s sick, so, mentally citing his fever, body aches, chills and near overdose on Tylenol for the oversight, I lovingly replaced it. Then went downstairs to get him ginger ale and the AlkaSeltzer Flu I bought him.

I woke up (late) this morning and flew through my getting-ready routine. When I'm late, I always wear my hair up. Always. And the updo is always aided by many a bobby pin and a generous helping of hairspray. I pin the hair on top of my head back, then twist the rest of it up into a classy-yet-messy, uh, twist. As I was fighting with a bobby pin, jamming it into a mass of my brunette hair at the base of my skull, Billy, who was just getting out of the shower, smiles and says "Hey, Elvis." He was making fun of the poof of hair on top of my head. Then he picked up my cheap, $0.98 Suave Maximum Hold Aerosol hairspray (just cheap and strong enough for late days like today) and said, "God. This stuff stinks, huh?" Why yes, it does. Thank you for noticing. His bitchiness, I decided, could be blamed the flu. And, so, my day began.

I sprinted out of the house with my travel mug full of coffee, which I successfully emptied in the twenty minutes it takes to get from my house to the office. And I needed more. So, when I got in, I went to the coffee pot. Now, this is no ordinary coffee pot. It’s a special Keurig coffee maker, which makes coffee on a per-cup basis, with handy little “K-Cups” of coffee grounds. You put the K-Cup in its spot, press a button, and the pre-heated water flows through the punctured cup and into your mug, all fresh and just-for-me. But it can only do that if there’s water in the maker. Which, naturally, there wasn’t. The little red light that says the maker is unwilling to work for you laughed at me, and pointed to the two people in the office (one employee, one guest) who just made their coffee. “Sucka!” it said, and threw its little coffee ground stained head back with laughter. So I filled the damn thing until it beeped at me to say “Whoa! Whoa! I’m full already! God. Slow down.” And then I waited the five minutes it takes to heat it all up. Then I put my special Caramel Vanilla Cream K-Cup in the coffee maker and hit the Make My Effing Coffee Now button and went back to my desk until I heard the whirring stop. Ahhh, my coffee was ready. I pulled the full cup from the tray, delighting in the carmelly goodness wafting from my fresh cup and into my nose. I opened the refrigerator for the Half & Half. Which was, of course, gone. I pulled open the trash can. Ah, yes. Naturally. There it is; It’s empty and has been thrown away. Which, incidentally, was exactly what happened to my cup of coffee. With no powdered creamer available, and me being absolutely, positively, 100% unable to drink coffee without some sort of cream, I had no choice but to let the steaming hot and completely fresh coffee go streaming down the drain.

The trash can which had been emptied of its garbage and bag, but was left without liner, presumably for me to replace, was just another thorn in my side. And that barren paper towel roll delivered the final, fatal blow.

Couple that with the fact that the warm and sunny weather from this morning has deteriorated into cold, windy and overcast and I’m shot. The clock says it’s 1:00, but I’m pretty sure it’s really somewhere closer to 4:30, and Dell is just fucking with me.

I’m ready to go home, curl up with my sick boyfriend and sleep. At least then, I won’t have to replace anything.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Another List! Because I'm Lazy!

1. I noticed something this weekend: Whenever I go to a fast food joint, I feel lucky as I'm pulling up to the restaurant because I see that no one is in the drive-thru line. Then, invariably, by the time I make it through the parking lot, some station wagon with Missouri plates, packed to the brim with traveling accoutrements and at least one whole family smushed inside gets there before me. And they always have, like, fourteen orders for their one car; and every order is customized. But before they place those orders, they take a good ten minutes to peruse the "menu," leaving me frustrated and angry behind them. I just want to order my $0.99 Jr. Cheeseburger!

2. Even when we're fighting, my boyfriend is lovely enough to still call me, as he does every night, to tell me he's on his way home.

3. When two people just don't have the energy to argue, tiffs get solved with lightning speed. Friday night, Billy says to me: "Are we done fighting?" And I say "Are we?" And he says "I hope so," and I say "Me, too." Then he says "Do you love me?" his voice exhausted and weary, and I say "Of course I do. Do you love me?" And he says "Yes, I love you." And then we nod like we're satisfied with that and the fight is over. That is so nice.

4. We are not fighting anymore. Thank God.

5. The first half hour or so of Full Metal Jacket really upsets me. I hate that they pick on Private Pile like they do. I just feel so sad for him the entire time. He's so big and awkward...And they're just so mean. I always spend the first half of that movie wearing a grimace, so heartbroken for poor Pile. And, as soon as he goes nuts and "avenges" his treatment, I always fall asleep. Friday night was no different. I was sad for Pile, I watched him go crazy and I zonked out. I've seen that movie probably ten times, and I have never made it past that part.

6. The only time you can actually get into cleaning a living room is when a nice new TV is being delivered in less than an hour.

7. It will also inspire your boyfriend to hook up the surround sound speakers that you've been using as a makeshift table for the past seven months.

8. Billy is really sick. He's home right now on his first sick day in five years. And after work today, it will be my girlfriendly duty (which I'm happy to perform) to take care of him. Which means only one thing: I, too, will be sick shortly.

9. Everyone at the office is upset today. Not with one another, but with one problem customer. Everyone is frustrated and angry and irritated...And this is the one day I was here early. Couldn't I have come into this fiasco later?

Happy Monday!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

"Do You Have Prince Albert in a Can?" and Other Classics

I think it's so cute that my thirty-seven year old ex-boyfriend got one of his friends in South Carolina (where he probably is right now) to prank call me at 3:00 this morning. Twice.

Yes. That's right. Prank called me. Twice.

Ha! Hahahaahhahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahaha!

Yeah, I didn't realize that we were still in fifth grade.

To be fair, I can't be certain that it was him. But let's see...

He left town earlier this week
+ He used to live in South Carolina
+ He always wanted to go back
+ The grapevine told me he'd be stopping there on his way down south
+ The caller ID told me the number was from South Carolina
+ The female voice said "You made a mistake breaking up with Thomas" in the first message and "Hung like a bear!" in the second message
+ He always told me he gets drunk and does stupid shit when he's there

= Yeah, I'm pretty sure it was him.

What with the misused simile (Isn't it supposed to be Hung like a horse?) and all, it has late night, alcohol induced antics written all over it.

And it makes me think, Gee, if he missed me that much, he could've just called; No need to send in the pranksters. I can just picture them all (I'm picturing about five people in someone's living room), bottles of liquor in hand, and then one of them saying "You know what would be funny? Prank calling your ex-girlfriend!" Because, obviously, that's what you do when you're in your mid-thirties and you're sitting around talking about the Good Ol' Days when you were 20. So then Tom gets all excited and gives my number to the girl, and they giggle over what to say, and she dials the number, and Tom scoots real close to her...And she holds the phone to her ear, but tilts it out so that Tom can hear, too. And they were probably a little disappointed when I didn't answer all groggy and confused, so they settled for a message. And she left the first one, and hung up real quick in a fit of laughter, but then realized she forgot to reference his package. So she dialed again and shushed everybody and whispered a slurred "be quiet everybody, I'm calling again," and I didn't pick up again, so she settled for leaving another message, but forgot what she was supposed to say, so she just used the first large animal that came to mind. "Hung like a bear!" Hang up. Laughter all around. Then they probably took bets on whether or not I'd call back, then laughed some more. Then Tom probably said I'd write about it on my blog today. Then they laughed some more. Then they passed out.

Or he was gettin' it on with someone, and she was so overwhelmed with his sexual prowess that she stopped right there and asked for my number. "I have to call her right now," she might've said, while dismounting and searching for her phone. While she flips open her cell phone, she looks at him, her eyes wide in disbelief. "I just can't believe she gave this up." She runs her hand over him. "What's her number?" she asks, her finger poised above a glowing keypad. Then, almost as an afterthought, she looks at him again. "Has anyone ever told you you're hung like a bear?"

But I really think it's option A.

And, besides the fact that I accidentally knocked over a half-full glass of red wine while replaying the messages, that shit was funny. Because who doesn't like to feel like they're 12 again? I know I do.

Oh, those crazy kids. They got me with their telephone antics! Hung like a bear...Oooh, Snap!

Maybe, tonight, they'll call me and ask if my refrigerator's running!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Today Sucks - A List For Your Friday Perusal

1. I have a pimple that is bubbling just below the surface on my chin. I know it's there, even though you can't see it yet. And because I know it is there, and can vaguely feel it, I cannot stop touching it.

2. This is sure to aggravate the pimple and make it angry, and red and huge, by the time it decides to spring to life on the lower half of my face.

3. I think this pimple is growing because I'm 99.9% sure I'm fighting with my boyfriend.

4. The reason we're fighting has mutated, and now I'm not quite sure what started it to begin with. But I know it has to do with him thinking he's cute by giving me the assignment of a "writing exercise" of an instruction manual about Moi, then mispronouncing my name (which, FYI, he has never pronounced right in our whole relationship, and for some reason I chose last night to jump on my soap box about it) (see the pronunciation jab in the beginning of this post), then me getting mad at how stubborn he is, then me thinking I'm cute by writing a Governmental-like instruction manual with subparagraphs and asterisks and ancillaries that was supposed to sound unintelligible and confusing, but he took it seriously. He swore he wasn't mad, but our last conversation suggested otherwise.

5. I'm pretty sure we're fighting because, in the midst of a heated discussion (which was awkward, since I was at work and my two coworkers were right there, and I was trying not to allude to the four page behemoth post I'd created earlier in the day at work) - where he was telling me he was confused and I was trying to explain the truth - out of nowhere he told me, in a hushed and hurried voice, that he had to go and he'd call me back (he's at work too. But he was outside. I could hear the wind. Either that or he was breathing really hard.). He hasn't called back, which is normal, because he can get tied up for literally hours on end at his job. BUT, my sitemeter tells me that he had time to diddle around on Divinities for nine minutes and twenty-two seconds. Right after we got off the phone. Which begs the question, did he really have to go because someone came in/something came up, or did he just want to re-read it to stock his Argument Arsenal? Or was he just sick of talking to me? Or - oh, God - did he want to show it to someone else for backup?!

6. See why I have a pimple now?

7. This stupid blog is going to be the death of me. More trouble than its worth sometimes. I feel like I'm always re-explaining what I've already written here because it can be easily misconstrued. If I had a fucking dollar for every time I got some asshole anonymous commenter who needed a reminder that my whole life is not on this blog, and some parts are creative and there's more to me than you read here...Duh. But that's extended to my boyfriend. I can't believe that I had to explain to him that I was being funny.

8. Which, incidentally, is why I don't do humor. I just don't think it translates when I write it. (See: THIS POST) It sounds funny in my head, because I know how it should be read. But I think sometimes that just doesn't come across. I feel like I need to preface "funny" posts (notice the quotation marks around funny...) with instructions. To be read in a sarcastic/obnoxiously informative, know-it-all/ exasperated tone.

9. I have to work tomorrow.

10. But before I have to do that, I have to go home tonight. And so does Billy. And I know I could do the really dramatic "I'll just be staying at my place tonight," thing, but I wouldn't. Because I'm totally enamored of my boyfriend and I don't want to spend the night away from him if I don't have to. And not only would I be totally bluffing, but he'd totally let me go. And I just wouldn't be able to deal with that too. So tonight, we're going to have to "talk" about "today," and I hate, hate, hate having to have "talks" with him about stupid shit like this when he's worked a 12 hour workday. Especially when it all could've been avoided if I could just do funny well.

11. And I'm so ridiculous that I actually just sat here for a minute and wondered if he'd be breaking up with me tonight.

12. Oh my god. I am crazy.

13. Billy once told me that I'm the only "sane" girl he's ever dated. Ha!

14. The best part of my day? This Blog. Seriously. I've read all the way back to May of 2004. Not today but over the past, oh, two months. It's a little out of order when you do it that way, but it's fun nonetheless. And yesterday, I almost peed in my pants right here at my desk while reading it. So I fired it up again today. Because if there's one thing I need to day it's to be distracted. And if there's another thing I need today, it's to laugh. And she can do funny.

15. I have a half hour of work left. I'm going to spend that time going through the aforementioned blog's archives and trying to pretend I'm coughing when I'm really laughing. Then, later tonight, I will smoke and drink heavily.

16. But I'm looking forward to the making up with my man. If you know what I mean, Billy.
16.a. Why is it that fights (real or imagined) with Billy always ultimately turn me on? That's fucked up.

17. I just realized that I've never actually fought-and-woken-up-with my boyfriend before. Never. Not once. It's a very different feeling. It's both a little scarier and more reassuring than the fighting-then-going-home-and-waiting-to-see-who's-going-to-make-the-first-move-the-next-day that I'm used to.

18. It's time to wrap this shit up and get a move on to get ready to go home.

Dating Laurie: A Guide - The Version My Boyfriend Wants To Read

Chapter One:
"I Can Tell You're Mad Because Your Eyebrows Are Raised All The Way To Your Hairline."

Yes, you're right. She's upset. And she loves advice.

Chapter Two:
What She Really Means When She Says "No, Really. Nothing's Wrong."

Nothing. Really. If something is wrong, she'll tell you.

The End!

So much easier than the first edition, wouldn't you say?

Updated: Dating Laurie: A Guide Chapters 1 & 2

In bed last night, Billy expressed his desire for a manual on dating me. Ask and ye shall recieve, my friend. I'll be posting it throughout the day. Because it could get lengthy.

Congratulations! You’re dating Laurie (Pronounced Law-rie, not Lo-ri)! You must be an intelligent, funny, attractive, sexy, phenomenal guy. Because she is, after all, very picky. But you also must be brave. Because she is, after all, a woman. And it is because she is a woman that we have devised this all-important guide to dating her. Read up, and pay close attention; This information could come in handy next time you ask her what’s wrong and she says “Nothing.”

Chapter One:
"I Can Tell You're Mad Because Your Eyebrows Are Raised All The Way To Your Hairline."

You’re already good at reading her. You can tell, immediately upon seeing her, whether she’s happy or upset. She loves this. She thinks it is so wonderful that you can read in her eyes what she’s feeling. It touches her deeply that you are so in-tune with her features, her emotions, the position of her eyebrows. She loves it.

And, most times, you make it better by just being there. By just asking. By paying attention. You're so good at getting things out of her. Helping her through her drama. She values that more than you'll ever know.

However, that being said, when you know there is something wrong, please, please, please do not antagonize her. You know she is upset already. You know, then, that she is probably on the verge of tears (because that is what she does when she’s upset over anything – be she mad or sad or frustrated or angry or hurt. She cries.). And you do not want to push her over that edge. Because once the first tear falls, threatening to ruin her makeup, it’s all downhill from there. You are, literally, opening up the floodgates. She will now have license to be mad at you, too. Even if she was not angry with you to begin with. But where you were once the supporting boyfriend she ran to for comfort, you, at that point, move into the category of “Another item in a long list of things that are pissing her off/making her sad/making her mad/hurting her feelings right now.” You do not want to be in that column.

So what is considered antagonizing her, you ask?

A) When she expresses frustration with work/ friends/ acquaintances/ family/ the world, do not side with them. Or tell her that there’s nothing she can do. Or offer her solutions. This is not to say that you should side with her. Your job, as her boyfriend, is to listen. Maybe say “I’m sorry, Babe,” or “that sucks.” Not “Well, what you should do is…” or “Why don’t you…” or even “Fuck ‘em.” She knows all of that. She’s aware of possible solutions, she may even know she’s in the wrong, but, still, she wants to talk about it. Maybe even complain. And she just wants someone to listen to her; she wants to feel supported. When you tell her what she should do, it makes her feel like a kid. And she hates to feel like a kid. It makes her feel like you don’t give her any credit for being an intelligent adult. And it makes her feel like you underestimate her. Alternately, she may feel that you’re judging her for how she feels. And that makes her clam up. She just wants to be heard. Because sometimes she feels like she has no one to talk to, and you don’t want to wind up as one of those people.

  1. There will be times, however, that she will ask for your help. When she needs advice, she will specifically say “What should I do,” “What do you think” or the very obvious “Help me.” And, yes, there will be many times that she seeks out your direction: Because she loves you and she knows that you’re there to help, and you’re good at it. She values your opinion and your advice, but there are times that she doesn’t want to hear it and just wants to vent.
  2. You may feel that sometimes she needs to be told what to do, regardless of the fact that she hasn't asked for your help. That’s entirely possible.* As much as she likes to feel that she’s always right, always under control, and always capable of handling any situation, there will be times that she is incapable of doing it on her own or is afraid to ask for your help. When this type of situation arises, it is wise to present your case in the kindest possible light. She is very resistant to advice. Even more so when she feels that everyone is against her and that, now, “everyone” includes you. So pad the advice with a nice soft, supportive voice and plush words: “Maybe you’d like to try this…” or (sweetly) “Did you consider…” Be very delicate with it, though. She is likely to shut down at any point. Remember this. It’s not unlike talking a jumper down from a ledge. She’s very fragile in this state. She needs to feel like you’re on her team, like you’re there for her.

*But these situations are rare. Remember that YOUR way is not always necessarily the RIGHT way. Just because YOU see an issue with something does not mean that your viewpoint, or your solution, will work for her. Sometimes, the two of you are just very different. Don’t try to force your mindset on her.

B) When she is upset, do not pick this time to get in a few, funny jokes at her expense. In a normal mood, she will laugh right along with you, probably even contribute a jab or two of her own. Picking on herself is one of her favorite pastimes. She loves to joke, and she’s willing to take just as much as she dishes out. Not, however, when she is upset. Joking with her - in the form of light-hearted jabs about her- will, eight times out of ten, not get her out of a bad mood. Especially if you make fun of her. This is not the time. Unless you know you will genuinely make her smile, don’t kid around. She takes her emotions very seriously. And she will take everything you say to her very seriously and to heart when she’s upset. Picking on her at this point may be a fatal mistake. Because what was once just frustration with work has now become “Maybe he doesn’t love me anymore.” Oh yes, it’s true. She is that dramatic. It may not make sense, but that’s how it is. Resistance or argument is futile. She’s a woman. Deal with it.

C) Normally, she is talking about how she feels, and when you tell her there's no reason to feel that way, she feels like you just smacked her in the face. She hates when you invalidate how she feels. Feelings are facts. She's entitled to them. Just because they don't make sense to you doesn't mean they don't make sense to her. Well, hell, who are we kidding, sometimes they don't make sense to her either. But they're there. And she's telling you about them because she needs to tell someone, and she's chosen you. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to her. She loves you, she needs you, she wants to go to you. Don't make her feel like she can't talk to you.

She just wants kindness. And support. Sometimes she just wants to vent. So let her. And let her know you’re there for her with kind words. Commiserate. You don’t always have to advise.

And remember, she is not often in a bad mood. And most times, if she is in a bad mood, she’s able to dismantle it before you even get a chance to witness it. She doesn’t enjoy being upset around you. But she needs you, as much as she may not want to admit it.

Remember that she does not have many people in her life to whom she will go for help or solace. You are in the trust tree, in the nest. You are one of the select few. And antagonizing her will make her think that maybe she can’t go to you, for fear of being judged. She just wants love and support.

Coming up: Chapter Two: What She Really Means When She Says "No, Really. Nothing's Wrong."


Chapter Two:
What She Really Means When She Says "No, Really. Nothing's Wrong."

You know that she’s upset. You’re genuinely concerned. So you ask “What’s wrong?” And she says “Nothing.” And you say “Tell me.” And she says “Really, nothing’s wrong.” And you say “Don’t lie to me.” And she says “I’m not.”

Ahhhh, the age-old round-and-round of What’s-Wrong-Nothing. Few things must be as frustrating as this. You can see it in her eyes; The gentle arch of her brow, her moist irises. And you know she’s full of shit when she says nothing. But she won’t give in and tell you. Yeah. She’s stubborn like that.

But there are a number of reasons she says “Nothing.”

It’s all in her tone. If she says it sweetly, her tone borderline sad, her voice tired, it’s because:
  1. She’s not sure. Sometimes she gets sad, irritated, introverted, anti-social for no reason whatsoever. There was no catalyst, there was no reason. She just turned a corner and ran face-first into a bad mood. It could be the wind, the moon, a butterfly flapping its wings in South Africa. Who knows. And getting into it is useless. Because no matter how much she wishes she could give you a concrete reason, she can’t. And all she can do is wait for it to pass.

  2. Sometimes, she’s very private. And she retreats into herself and there is no one she is going to let in. Something may be wrong, but she doesn’t want to talk about it. Period.

  3. She doesn’t want to get into it. It’s something really stupid. It may or may not have anything to do with you, but one this is sure: It will pass. It is a common annoyance – an invasion of her personal space, you laughing at her for something she didn’t find funny, she broke a nail – that will surely be overwith in a matter of moments. And there’s no need to even dignify her mood with a conversation about it. Sometimes she thinks that just ignoring it will make it disappear. Most times, this works.

  4. It is something she doesn’t want to tell you. Something you won’t understand. Conflicts with women. Old emotional issues from the Ghost of Relationship Past. Things that are real issues, but will pass. No need to drag you into it.

  5. She feels stupid. Maybe she’s annoyed that you didn’t tell her you loved her last night before sleep. Maybe she’s feeling insecure and needs to be reminded that you love her. Maybe she feels lonely. Or fat. Whatever. But saying out loud would sure make her feel far more ridiculous than saying “nothing” when you ask what’s wrong.

  6. She knows you’re going to disagree with her. Or go against her. Maybe her aggravation has to do with someone you both know. Or something neither of you can control. She knows that if she comes out with it, you’ll make her feel silly for feeling that way. And that only leads to more frustration. So she deals with it on her own.

  7. She wants you to drag it out of her. She’s not proud of it, but it’s true: Sometimes, she wants to know you really want to know. For two reasons. One: She wants to make sure you really want to open that can of worms before you start prying at the tin. Because it could be boring. Or not at all about you. Or, it could be all about you and messy. And she wants to make sure you’re ready for what she’s about to bring out. Two: Your continuing to ask, in her warped, hormonal and malcontented mind, proves that you care. And sometimes she needs that. Hey, no one said it made sense.

  8. There’s really nothing wrong. She’s just tired. Yes, sometimes it’s true. Really.

HOWEVER, if her tone is cold and she refuses to look at you, it’s because:

She’s pissed. At you. And she would rather bite your face off than look at or talk to you. It is very rare for this to happen, and honestly, it will be warranted. She will only employ this method if she really, truly has a reason to be upset. And be grateful for the few "nothing"s and the silent treatment that you’re getting at that point, for it is the calm before the estrogen-fueled shit storm.

Coming up: Chapter Three: How Can I Tell She Loves Me?

Nah. Nevermind. Too Long. No more chapters.


Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Decisions, Decisions

So, I have a choice to make.

I have three vacation destinations from which to choose. My job for today was to do a little "homework" on each locale, and see which one I'd like to visit. But the internet here at work is being difficult, so I haven't been able to do nearly as much reading as I'd hoped. But I have read a little bit, and seen some amazing pictures. However, the pictures can be deceiving: Remember; I will be backpacking, not staying in the lap of luxury in some beach-front resort. Although it would be a nice surprise to land and have a nice hotel room waiting for me. Wink wink, Billy.

Anyway, this post has a purpose, and it is this: To ask you all if you have any recommendations. So, any advice? Anything I should know about? Any excellent tips you have about any of my choices that I won't find on Google? I don't really want to know the bad stuff, but feel free to give me sugar-coated bad stuff, too. I just need help. Billy's giving me the reigns of choice, but I'm severely under informed.

So, here goes:

South Africa. Maybe Cape Town?

Billy says that going to South Africa for my first trip abroad may be a bit much for me to handle. He thinks maybe we should go somewhere a bit more tame. I tend to agree with him (I'm thinking about bugs and safaris and heat...), but I must admit that the idea of saying "When I was in South Africa..." has its appeal. And then there's the cage diving with sharks. [As a side note, I told Billy last night how I'd written about the cage diving with sharks that he's so intent on. "Did you say Great Whites?" he said, panicked. "No," I told him. "I just said sharks." "But," he countered, "they'd be Great White Sharks!" Okay, okay. Great Whites. I get it. So I guess I'd be saying "When I was cage diving with Great White sharks in South Africa..." Either way, it sounds dangerous and awesome.]


Goddamn. The photos of this place are beautiful. Billy has informed me, however, that going to Belize requires that we SCUBA dive. Which is fine and all, but that means I have to take SCUBA classes. Boo. I don't want to spend a few days of my first vacation out of the U.S. and on some exotic beach in school. But it would be amazing. I'm sure I could stand a few lessons. And I'm sure there are tons of other things to do, too. Oh, and the site says "English speaking." That's a big plus in my book. At least I won't feel like an idiot when I have to talk to people.


Once again, the photos are phenomenal. Breathtaking. Clear water, white sand. Paradise almost. But again, I must remind myself that this would be no All-Inclusive Resort vacation. Billy said that, if we chose the Maldives, we'd just sit around on a beach all week. "Which sounds great," he said, "but I know you, and you're going to want to do something after a day or two of just sitting on the beach." True. But my idea of "doing something" doesn't necessarily involve strapping a tank to my back and floating around in shark-infested waters. I consider drinking "doing something." I'm pretty open.

I have some pictures that I scrounged off of Google Images that I intended to post, but Blogger won't let me post them. So, although I can't supply you with a visual I will say this: they all look amazing. And, still, I have no idea where to go.

So, please, if you've been to any of those places, if you live or have lived in any of those places, PLEASE toss your two cents at me. I'd appreciate it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Stamp Me

There's a passport tucked away in a drawer at my house, probably coated with a thin sheet of dust from having not been moved since I used it the one time, two (three?) years ago. The photo of me on the inside front cover, with long hair and long earrings, is dated already, but it's legal. That passport has been dying for a stamp on one of its blank pages. Or, at the very least, it longs for a change of scenery. It's getting bored just sitting there, surrounded by old sunglasses and matchbooks from various hotels. Its pages need to breathe. But it knows that I have little occasion to travel, that my vacations rarely take me beyond U.S. borders. It knows that, but it's been holding out hope that one day, it would get to rest in my pocket and hop a flight to someplace exotic.

In April, it might.

I have instructions, though. That lonely passport of mine can be accompanied by no more than a backpack worth of items. A few pairs of pants. Shorts. T-shirts. A sweater. Shoes. Light items that won't weigh me down. Bathing suits. No makeup. (Although I cannot guarantee that an item or two from my makeup bag won't make it into that backpack.) The idea of traveling that way is so utterly foreign to me, so completely delicious in its mystery. I favor decent hotels with bars in the lobby, plush mattresses and in-room coffee makers. I prefer to bring too many clothes, too many shoes; Enough luggage to last me at least twice as long as necessary. And, oh, the makeup I bring. So I have to admit, doing something so completely out of character for me - like backpacking - is exciting. But not just exciting in theory, exciting like I can't wait.

And I have options. "Like, South Africa," he said, sitting up in bed, "cage diving with sharks." I curled my eyelashes and considered it. Me - With my Chanel bag full of makeup, with my five pairs of black high-heels lined up like soldiers in the closet. With my hair products and sensitive skin - in a cage? With a diving mask on? And sharks? Just thinking about it gets my adrenaline flowing. I imagine the temperature of travel, the taste of the water, the shock of submerging. I try to fathom what it would be like to see a huge sea creature with row after row of teeth, right there in front of me. Like the Discovery Channel, but right there. Close enough to touch. "Would I have to go alone?" I asked. "I don't know," he said, shrugging his shoulders, his tone non-committal. "Hmm." I brushed mascara onto my curled lashes, thinking that I'd rather he be with me, for moral support. To share the experience. To take the edge off of the fear. "To be honest," I said, getting up to put on my clothes, "the shark isn't the scary part for me. It's the diving mask part that gets me." I put my hand over my mouth and nose to illustrate the mask. "I'm more freaked out about the forced air and controlled breathing than I am about the sharks."

"There's also Belize," he said later, getting up to take his shower. "Or the Maldives. We could lay around on beaches. SCUBA." He thought for a minute, a world's worth of possibilities. "We need a globe," he said, leaving the room. He pulled the door closed behind him, leaving me in the bedroom, alone with the possibilities. And the excitement.

He had given me a verbal list of things that he takes with him when he travels every year. Possible travel destinations, possible excursions. Adventure. I evaluated it all while I pulled on my shoes, my mind spinning with the promise of something completely different.

I had given up the notion of traveling with him, even though he'd asked, because it just hadn't come up since. But here were, at 7:00 in the morning, discussing where we might go. And better, he sounded like he actually wanted me to go with him. It wasn't a matter of asking just for the sake of asking, it felt like a genuine desire to have me go along for the ride.

I've never done something like that: Strapped on a backpack and whatever light items I can fit into it and meandered around a country. I've never even really gone to another country. It's scary, to me. I mean, really, it's another country with a different language and nothing but a bunch of strangers. But I feel so safe with Billy, sure that he'd never lead me into a situation that I couldn't handle, but still willing to challenge me and push me beyond my comfort zone of Wyndam Hotels and Estee Lauder Equalizer foundation. He knows, I'm sure, that traveling outside of America is something I've wanted to do, just didn't have the guts to go after myself. I love that about him. That he challenges me, but gently. He'll push me, but he'll hold my hand at the same time. I love that he wants me to have this experience. I love even more that he wants me to be part of his experience this year.

No longer is my choice to go with him on this trip weighed down with confusion. Does he really want me to go? Should I give him that time alone? Do I want to go, or show him that he can leave and I'll be fine with it? As usual, I've just been reading too far into everything I do, everything he says. He invited me, he wants me to be with him. He'll still have two or three weeks of vacation to be by himself. It's an amazing opportunity to travel and to be with him...And I want to go.

As for right now, I have to write "a short story about a prissy girl who backpacks in some foreign country, who finds herself maybe in Cape Town, South Africa cage diving with sharks, and how she feels about that." It's my writing assignment from my beloved traveling boyfriend. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that the "prissy girl" in the story will feel pretty spectacular, regardless of where she goes or what she does there.