Pop – A Love Story

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Photo by Laith Abdulkareem on Unsplash

“One Arrow” simply scrawled in pencil on the back of an old faded business card with a familiar address. She grinned. This one was easy. Excitement spread through her body as she made her way through the city, not to the address on the card but to the one the “one arrow” had directed her to. He’ll be waiting there with that smile, with that touch her soul craved.

She had found the card wedged in the driver’s side window of her VW when she left work. It wasn’t the first one she’d found. She’d been seeing Jay for months and every time he was able to get away from his work, she’d find a business card on her windshield, a short cryptic message about where she could find him. She’d smile when she saw the card, pluck it from its spot and sit inside the car to muse over it and figure out where to meet him that afternoon. As soon as she had it, she’d turn the key in the ignition, fire the old bug into action, and make a beeline for the spot.

Sometimes it was a secluded part of the wilderness park, an empty lot, or some other remote outdoor location. Other times it was an abandoned house on the edge of town or a friend’s apartment that he’d secured for the meeting. Once it was a swanky hotel room in the city with a giant bathtub, eight flights up, and set in a giant window overlooking the streets below. She just never knew where he’d lead her next and that was the fun of it.

When she arrived at the “one arrow,” the big wilderness park at the edge of the city, she knew something was different the moment she saw him. She pulled her car into a parking spot and switched the ignition off as he moved toward the car door to let her out. Taking her hand and pulling her from the car, she moved easily into his arms and held him close.

Walking to their usual spot near the pond, she sensed his nervous energy. She felt as if he might take wing at any moment. Car horns, birds, a barking dog, all made him jump out of his skin. When she asked him if anything was wrong, he said he was worried that someone was following him.

“Why would someone be following you?” she asked.

“You know I’m not supposed to be here.”

“I know but…” her answer trailed off as she thought about why. He had never really told her why and for some strange reason she accepted it and didn’t press for answers. She wasn’t typically the gullible sort, but his mystery intrigued her and she couldn’t quite put her finger on why. She didn’t want to.

He wasn’t all that handsome, not much taller than her and thickset. He had dark, close-cut hair and deep-set eyes that glimmered when he looked at her in the strangest way as if they had no real color. His eyes were almost silvery, reflecting the colors he was wearing or looking at. He wasn’t skinny or fat, but he looked big, well-fed and strong. It was his hands that attracted her, his strength when he pulled her close and kissed her. She felt overpowered and weak, a feeling she had never enjoyed in the past. With him, she felt safe, at home, and all the mystery only made the affair more alluring to her.

“There are things I need to tell you. Things I didn’t think I’d have to tell you, but…”

“You can trust me, you know.” She murmured, looking down at her feet dangling over the edge of the block wall they were sitting on. “I’m not going anywhere.” The park was empty this time of day. Large trees looming over them, as they sat together on the retaining wall along the edge of the park. The sun was starting to set and the shadows were deepening.

“It’s getting late and I don’t want us to get caught in the dark. Not now.” They hopped off the wall and started to make their way back to the cars. She could feel his tension get stronger. Something was really bothering him. Walking up between their two cars, he took her hands in his and kissed her. She melted. All was right. She was starting to think maybe he enjoyed creating the mystery as much as she enjoyed being in it.

“Come back here tomorrow. Ok?”

“Again? So soon? It won’t be suspicious of you leaving two days in a row?”

“Maybe, but it’s important. I’ll think of some excuse. I need to talk to you, but it doesn’t feel safe right now. Tomorrow?”

“Sure. Same time?”

“Yes.”

He pulled her close, one hand behind her head, wrapped up in her hair and kissed her deeply.

“I love you.” She whispered as he walked away.

She was only a few miles from home, but the ‘wilderness’ park was in the edge of the city and driving home just after sunset, rush hour, took her more time than usual. She pulled into the parking garage under her apartment building well after dark. Even in the familiar garage, she was never comfortable coming home alone at night.

Her reserved spot was tight for most cars, but her 69 VW bug fit with ease. Shutting off the engine, it sputtered once and died. She grabbed her bag from the vinyl seat next to her, got out and fumbled with the key to lock the door behind her. That’s when she heard the noise.

Coming home in the dark always set her on edge and even though the parking garage was brightly lit, there were deep shadows in the corners and plenty of places to hide behind cars of all shapes and sizes. She ignored the quiet shuffle and pop sound she believed came from the stairwell beside the elevator entry and walked on.

As she approached the elevator doors, she breathed a sigh of relief when she pushed the call button and the door immediately slid open. Stepping inside, turning to push the button for her floor, the doors started to close, stopped, opened, and then closed again as if someone had put their hand in the way to hold them open.

The doors closed completely and the quiet hum of the elevator machinery filled her mind as the car carried her slowly to the third floor where she lived.

That soft pop sound again. Her heart raced when she heard it, especially so close and in such a confined space. But she could see there was no one there, nothing to bother with, probably just the elevator noise she reasoned.

The elevator stopped at her floor and in a moment the doors slid open to let her out. Walking down the hall toward her apartment, she heard the doors stop closing, open, and then close again behind her. She walked a bit faster, with her keys clutched in her fist just in case, unreasonably frightened. Why was she being so skittish? Maybe his strange fear and cryptic tone had creeped her out more than she thought. But he was just being mysterious to make it more fun. It’s just a game.

Instinctively she pulled the door key out as she approached, slid it in the deadbolt lock, swung open the door, stepped inside and quickly shut it behind her, sliding the bolt back at the same time. A big sigh came from her. That felt good. She was home. Safe.

Turning into her apartment, she dropped her bag on the floor and screamed. He was there, just sitting down on the couch. What the hell? How could he be here? She had never told him where she lived.

Jumping up from the couch, he rushed to her side, “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean…sorry…let me get that.” The words tumbled out of his mouth as they both reached for her bag and keys.

“How in the world…?” She couldn’t even form whole sentences. Even now, standing up straight, knowing it was him not a murderous intruder, her heart was racing in her chest from fear.

“I know. I’m sorry. It’s just…let’s sit down a minute. Let me get you a drink of water or something.” He ushered her to the couch and sat her down, moving through her apartment as if he had lived there for months. She set her purse down on the couch beside her and stared wordlessly as he moved toward the kitchen and reached for the cabinet to get a glass. He crossed over and grabbed her favorite whiskey, the one she hid behind the breadbox, not the cheaper mixed drink stuff she had in the pantry for parties.

He walked back in, short glass, two ice cubes, two fingers of whiskey, just how she liked it. How? They’d never drank together. He’d never been here. She just sat and stared, trying to slow her heart rate and catch her breath as he sat beside her and handed her the glass.

“Are you ok?” he asked. She hadn’t yet said a word. She just stared and took a sip, watching him warily.

“I guess, but…”

“How did I get in?”

“How did you even know where I lived and why are you here? You said meet again tomorrow.”

“I have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do’ right Lucy?”

She just sat dumbfounded. Jokes. Right now? Maybe she should call 911. He might be crazy. She didn’t really know him that well, really. What if he turns violent? Why in the world is he here?

“Don’t be afraid of me. I’m not.”

And now confusion filled her. She started to set her glass down but picked it up again. She might be able to use it as a weapon.

He smiled sweetly. “I’ve scared you and I’m so sorry I had to do that. There was no other way.”

“No other way to do what?”

“Get away from them. I couldn’t say it out loud or even really think of it too much. I just had to follow my instincts. You’re easy to follow in that red bug, so I just followed you here tonight.”

“But how…you were here before me.”

“Just seconds.”

“How? If you followed me, how could you be on my couch when I walked in?”

“That’s going to take a bit more explaining. Finish your drink while I make us a snack. I know you’re hungry at this hour.”

Just as casually as he uttered those words, he rose from the couch and went to the kitchen. The open layout between the livingroom and the kitchen of her small apartment allowed her to watch him as he moved around the kitchen with ease, throwing together a plate of salami, cheese and some grapes he found in the fridge. When he returned, he set the plate between them on the couch and encouraged her to relax and take a few bites while he told his story.

The gist of it?

Several years ago, he came here and was soon followed by three “things” that didn’t want him to be here. They made it abundantly clear he was not welcome on this planet.

“Wait, ‘on this planet’?”

“Yes. I guess I kind of jumped into that. Maybe I should back up.”

“I’d say.” He had to be crazy. She sat munching quietly listening to his story, all the while trying to figure out how to get away from him. Could she make a run for the door? Her building was notorious for ignoring the drama that went on in the halls on a daily basis. Would her neighbors just assume there was some domestic dispute going on and ignore her cries for help? Maybe she could fain fidgeting with her phone but really be dialing 911 while he spoke. They’d send someone to investigate if someone called 911 but just left the line open, right?

“I’m not going to hurt you, you know. I’m the same person I was an hour ago. The same person you’ve been meeting and loving for the past six months.”

“Yes. But…now you’re mysteriously in my apartment and telling me how you came to be on earth. I have some reason to a little wary, don’t you think?” She was feeling bolder. Oddly enough, even now, she really didn’t feel threatened by him. Just like at their meetings, she felt strangely pulled toward him. He’d always given her a safe, at-home feeling. It was why she had started to fall in love with him. What was he doing to her?

He began his story again but from farther back. He was an alien, not a non-citizen from another country, a real alien from another planet. “Right out of the movies,” she thought. It figures. The man she finally feels something for ends up not even human.

He said he couldn’t get into the physics of it, how he got there, etc. Not that she wasn’t smart enough to understand, but the less she knew, the safer she was. That old line. Really, he just didn’t think he had time to explain at the moment. The important things needed to be said first, before they found him and did what they wanted to do.

He came here to get away and figured he would just blend right in with us. It was working for a while, until he met her. At first, he was only a little interested in her. She was attractive and intelligent, fun to talk to over a couple beers and a cheeseburger. He had been on this planet for what seemed like a few years to humans, but millennium to him. He was beginning to be lonely and then there she was, someone to talk to. Why was she different? He didn’t know. He only knew that he felt safe with her, at home for the first time in eons.

The relationship progressed with ease, from dinner and drinks to long days at the beach, and then one day she kissed him and it was over. He felt that kiss all the way to his toes. He was alien, he kept telling himself. This can’t happen. But it did.

There they were, checking into a hotel, and the rest was history. It had been the best months of his long, lonely life. She touched his soul and he couldn’t let go.

“I felt that, you know?” She stopped his story.

“Felt what?”

“That instant connection.” She instinctively moved closer to him, putting her hand on his knee.

“I’ve never felt that with anyone before. I was planning on telling you tonight but you were so anxious and then we parted so quickly. I didn’t have the chance to bring it up.”

“I’m sorry about that. There’s something going on. They’ve caught on to where I am and it could be any moment that they take me back.”

“Who? What? You need to explain more. Maybe I can help?” She was starting to get caught up in this crazy story.

He sat bolt upright at a sound she didn’t hear. “What?” she asked, “What’s happening?”

He looked into her eyes, took her hand, and suddenly a feeling of complete peace. She saw nothing, felt no physical sensation whatsoever. There was only thought, presence.

“I knew it!” She felt him think. She felt it. She couldn’t hear it or see it. The thought was just there.

“You’re one of us!” His elated astonishment washed over her like a wave of warm liquid.

“One of what? What’s happening?” She wanted to panic, knew she should be panicked by this sudden lack of physical being, but she couldn’t. Just like the first time she saw him and that first kiss, she felt at home here, as if she had always been this way.

Just as suddenly it was gone. Pop, they were standing in the park hand in hand. She collapsed to the ground under the sudden return of weight on her consciousness. For a split second it was devastating. She gasped for breath, feeling her lungs fill with the heavy physical air. He knelt beside her, reassuring her that he was still with her.

“The first time is a shock. I’m so sorry you have to feel it. It gets easier.” He whispered to her as she took another breath and attempted to slow her heart rate.

“What the hell?” Losing her physical body for a moment was exhilarating, coming back to it was terrifying. How did it happen? And how could anyone get used to it? She felt crushed and smothered by the weight of the universe. That’s when she threw up.

“I’m sorry. Oh, sweetheart, I’m so sorry you had to go through it like this.” His cooing over her was becoming annoying now.

Getting herself under control, another deep breath, she stood and straightened her shirt, shivering in the cold. Too bad they couldn’t have manifested some jackets when they popped out of and back into existence!

“We need to move.” That was the soundest thing he’d said so far. Walking would keep them warm and distract her from the thoughts racing through her head. “We may have escaped the moment, but they won’t be distracted for long. I’m afraid I’ve dragged you into this now.”

“Dragged me into what? What just happened, Jay? What are you?”

“Alien to this world, but it looks like you are too. Did you not know?”

“I’m not alien! I was born right here in this city. I know my parents. We have never moved to another neighborhood, let alone another planet. You have the wrong girl.” This was insane. Clearly he had drugged her or done some hypnosis trick on her to get her to think this was all real. It all seemed like a pretty elaborate hoax to get her to run away with him. And completely unnecessary. She’d already started to fall for him. Why must she always fall for the crazies?

They walked quickly toward a thicker stand of trees and away from the entrance of the park.

“Where are we going? I’m freezing and I’d really like to go home now.”

“There’s a cave further into the park. It’ll be safe there for a while and we’ll be warmer.”

They walked in shivering silence for several minutes. There was nothing she could do. She couldn’t run from him here. It was dark and cold and no one was around. The park had been closed for hours, no rangers or park attendants to help. She was stuck. She thought maybe she could humor him for a while until she found a way to escape, all the while not really wanting to. It was that safe feeling again like she was where she was supposed to be. So strange.

“Here it is.” And he pushed aside some branches to reveal a small hidden cave dug out of the sandstone. It was just surreal like she’d stepped into an old movie. There were a few blankets and bottles of water stored away in the back of it. He rummaged around, picked up a flashlight, turned it on and set it up on its end to shine on the ceiling of the cave, casting a warm glow around them.

“There. That’s better.”

“Is this your house? Do you live out here?” She looked around her, the flashlight lantern dispelling the darkness to the far reaches of the cave and revealing a small homey interior.

“Well, not really. Not all the time. It’s just one place I like to come to when I need to be alone. For some reason, they can’t find me here but I can’t stay in it forever.”

He bustled about making tea on a small camp stove, like an old frontier woman. Shaking out a sleeping bag and draping it over a rock, he motioned to her. “Here. You can sit here and keep warm in this for now.” She reluctantly sat as he draped the sleeping bag over her shoulders.

“How long do we have to stay here? Who can’t find you here? And what in the hell just happened?” Her questions came pouring out of her as she became more and more aggravated by his empathy for her.

“I know. You have lots of questions. So do I! I had no idea that would happen. I’m as shocked as you are really. I know we had a connection, but I had no idea it went that far. I had no idea anyone else could do it. I thought I was the only one!”

While she was shocked, scared, and a little hostile, his line of questioning was excited and curious. The more he rambled on about transbody experiences and “they” and how can this happen, the more irrationally irritated she became.

“Stop, Jay. Just stop. You need to slow down and tell me what’s happening as best you can. I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

“Oh yes! I’m sorry. I’ve just been alone for so long. You have no idea how lonely it is. I mean, I’m here walking among you but connecting with no one. Surrounded by people but completely separated. The very idea that one other like me could exist never occurred to me.”

“One other like what? What are you?”

“Well, that’s a good question. Since I always believed I was the only one, there is no definition, no simple title. You could be called a woman, a human, an American, but me? I’m nothing. I belong to no group that helps others define me. I’m…a…me.”

She just sat staring at him for several minutes while he sat across from her smiling like the Cheshire Cat. He was shivering and instinctively she pulled him close and shared the sleeping bag with him. There was that feeling again, that home feeling. She turned her head to look at him and he was still grinning.

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“You did it. I can’t believe it. I took your hand and you just gave it up, your whole existence in a flash. It was unbelievable.”

“I didn’t do anything. You did it to me. You took my hand and pulled me somewhere.”

“No,” he said shaking his head, “that’s not possible. I’ve done this a hundred times over the years I’ve been here and no one has ever come with me. I was only feeling bad that I was about to pop out of your life to get away from them. You just came with me. You trusted me. You instinctively let your physical self go and POP we were gone. You’re different.”

There was silence between them for quite some time. They huddled close together in the warmth of the sleeping bag, both considering what had just occurred. He was right. She had gone with him, voluntarily. The moment he took her hand and looked at her…

Never before had she felt so complete. All her life she’d struggled to fit in with the people around her. Her parents were good people with honest intentions. They loved her. She knew it, she felt it every day. But something was missing. The people she had met at school, at work, online in chatrooms and social media groups, filled her life with obligations and responsibilities. But every day, she came home to her apartment alone. She had never felt connected to them, never felt a kinship. It was like there was an invisible bubble around her that kept her from actually reaching out. She had begun to believe something was wrong with her. Had she created that bubble? What kind of person can’t love?

And then she met him and it all changed. It didn’t creep up on her. It didn’t slowly seep into her consciousness. It hit her. The bubble burst. No, he walked right into her bubble and they were in it together. The rest of the world didn’t exist to them.

He didn’t need to explain the details of his existence. He didn’t need to comfort her or take care of her. They were home when they were together and nothing else mattered.

He sat upright again listening. “What do you hear?” she asked him, knowing already what it was. Footsteps nearby, several heavy people shuffling through leaves and murmuring in hushed tones. The sound of quiet searching.

“They can’t see us here. They’ll walk right by. They know we’re close but for some reason this place shields us.”

“But we can’t stay here forever.”

“No, we can’t.”

She took his hands this time, looking into his eyes. And POP. They were gone forever.

Held Captive by the Writing on the Wall

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Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

“D.D.S.R.”

The letters stood out black and heavy on the clean white wall of her cell. She sat there before them, cross-legged, and puzzled.

How long had she been here, she couldn’t say, but she did remember when they arrived to take her. She could still hear the doorbell ring. She flew, freshly showered and barefoot, to the door only to find three men in black suits instead of the friend she expected.

These are no salesmen, she thought, immediately trying to close the door and blot out the vision before her. Before she could get the door closed and latched, a heavy arm clothed in black polyester reached though and stopped it. She could still see his hand on the door, his fat fingers curling around the edge, and the door suddenly pushing open into her face, the blinding pain as the door hit her nose and knocked her backward.

As the doorknob pulled from her hands, she reflexively reached to her face and stumbled backward into the foyer. The first man at the door entered quickly, the other on his heels, the last turned to shut the door behind him.

He strode quickly toward her and grabbed her upper arms to stop her from falling completely to the floor. The man behind, taller and thinner than the fat-fingered man that had hit her with the door, moved lithely to her left side and behind her, holding her shoulders so tightly she knew there would be no struggling against them. They had her pinned. She was upright but not standing on her own two feet.

The third man, the one that turned to shut the door as the first two entered, stood quietly by the door. So surprised by the sudden attack, she wanted to scream out but could not find the breath. She was held between the two men in shocked silence.

The door shutter, also clothed in a fine black suit, clean-shaven and serious, like the characters in Men in Black, looked from his steel-blue eyes and blankly stated, “You know why we’re here.”

She stared. “I do?” she stammered out.

“Don’t play stupid, Carrie. We know who you are. You can’t talk or buy your way out of it this time.”

With a flick of his wrist, he signaled to her captors to bring her toward him. Turning to the door, he opened it, took one quick look down the street, saw no one, and motioned them to follow. They lifted her like she were a floor lamp, clamping a smelly cloth over her mouth as they approached the door.

That was all she remembered. When she woke, she was unmolested. Nothing hurt but her nose from when the door hit it. She was dressed the same as when she had so eagerly answered the door. But now she found herself in this empty, windowless room, with these letters hastily painted on the wall before her.

Where was she? Why did they call her Carrie? And what did these letters mean?

Morning Train of Thought

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Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

Crap. That’s exactly what I have. It’s the fifth day in a row that I’m coming up empty.

Every morning, I get my coffee, grab my laptop and plop myself down on the couch before the sun comes up. I take moment: coffee to my left, laptop closed in my lap (of course), cat walking up to curl into a ball on my right. It’s dark and quiet. I take a sip of coffee, crap, it’s already cold. Husband started the coffee maker when he got up for work  an hour and a half before me. The carafe isn’t doing a very good job of keeping it hot these days. Gently, I scootch the cat over (he complains) and get up to warm up my cup, add a sprinkle of cinnamon to hide the “warmed up coffee” taste, and start a new pot.

Shuffling in my slippers and flannel pants back to the couch, I find the dog has taken my spot.

“Really?”

She looks up at me with those puppy dog eyes. Ha! Puppy dog eyes! Of course!

“Move dog.”

She jumps down and goes to her regular spot by the window, ready to stand guard against any intruders, coyotes and ravens mostly. She’s more of a warning dog than a guard dog. She’ll bark up a storm but never go out to chase anything, not even a rabbit.

I sit down with my coffee. The leather couch was kept warm by her furry butt. I take a sip of cinnamon coffee, breathe in the smell (the best part), and reach for my laptop. Work will get done today! The words will come!

…buzz..buzz…

Damn it. I forgot to turn off my phone when I got up. A text from a friend comes through.

“Up yet?”

Of course I am. He knows that. And I keep reminding people that I’m trying to start a morning routine of staying focused on reading and writing, no outside intrusions. It’s not his fault. I should just ignore it until I’m done, but…

“Good morning! Yes, but trying to work today. Ttyl?”

“Sure gorgeous. Have fun!”

And now I’m thinking about that. What else do I have to do today? Water the yard (I forgot yesterday). Clean up the kitchen. Dust and vacuum the living room. Pay those bills. I should write this stuff down so I don’t have to hold in my head, so I get up to get my notebook. I’ll just make a quick list and set it aside for later.

The sky in the east is starting to lighten. There are clouds being highlighted by the first edge of the sun. Wow. Pretty. I  better take a picture of that. And…post it on Instagram. No sense in just me seeing it. Oh look at that! She’s up too and posting pictures of her own sunrise! Hello friend!

Twenty minutes later…

Crap. Where did my early start go? The sun is shining strongly across the desert now, throwing the most special sidelight onto the joshua trees and cholla. I should probably go water the plants before they all die. I can feel them judging me for my lack of attention to their needs. It’ll only take a couple minutes and then I can get back to work without that hanging over my head.

Ok, that’s better! I’ll need a fresh cup of coffee, of course. As I’m pouring it into my favorite cup, in walks my younger son with his girlfriend in tow. “Are you making breakfast?! Awesome!”

Crap.

Love Story

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“I love you and I don’t want to.” She whispered as she lay there beside him. Her back against him in the dark, she could feel him breathe beside her, quiet, rhythmic breaths that indicated deep sleep. He couldn’t hear her. If he could she wouldn’t have allowed the words to slip out.

A deep sigh escaped her lips as a tear fell from her eye and hit the pillow, audible in the quiet darkness of the night. She started to spill the rest of her feelings, quietly beside his silent form.

“I wanted a night or two, maybe an ongoing thing to return to when I felt the need to let loose. I wanted a place to go when I wanted to pretend I was young and free from all the responsibilities I’ve built up over the years. And now here I am, falling in love, feeling that pull to care for you, to need you. The feeling scares me. It gives me more to worry about instead of less. I’ve added more responsibilities to my life, not escaped the ones I had. I don’t want this.”

In his sleep, he turns to her and pulls her close to him. His hand runs over her hair and he sighs, resting his hand on her hip. Her tears flow as she realizes how special this moment is, how much she doesn’t want to lose this man that has worked his way so deftly into her heart. But how?

Can there be other ways to love a person? Do all romantic relationships have to follow the same course? If I love you both, do I have to have two husbands to care for in the same way?

Hours later, she’s restless and rises to shower and dress. As she’s gathering her purse and keys, he raises a hand and beckons her to him. She sits at the edge of the bed beside him and leans in to kiss his face. “See you in a few weeks?” He quietly asks in that sleepy satisfied voice she loves so much.

“Sure baby.”

“I love this.”

“Do you?”

“Just like this. As long as you want me.”

She smiles and runs her fingers through his hair, kissing him before she leaves. It feels so good. Maybe it can go on. Maybe she can love him just like this.

My New Little Friend

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Photo by Joyce Romero on Unsplash

“No meat? No meat at all?!” I heard my Grandmother exclaim when I told her I was bringing my new girlfriend to Sunday dinner. Cary told me not to bother explaining to my Grandma, that she’d just take what she could.

“Don’t tell her, she’ll only make herself crazy trying to make something I can eat. And then what if I don’t like it? Then I’ll feel terrible that she went to all the trouble for me. She’ll hate me.”

I pulled her into my arms and kissed her cheek, “No one could possibly hate you. You’re too sweet.” I kissed her neck and nibbled her ear. “Mmm…definitely sweet.”

“Stop. I’ve got work to do. Call her and tell her we’re both coming on Sunday, but don’t tell her I’m vegetarian. I’ll just make do around the meat.”

But I had to tell her. My Grandma does not take “no thank you” for an answer. She’d be offended if someone at her table didn’t eat something and then if we explain during dinner why Cary is saying no, she’ll be angry that we didn’t tell her earlier so she could make something special for my “new little friend.”

Man I hate it when she says that. I’m 27 years old. Cary isn’t my new little friend, she’s a woman, with a career and her own apartment. We’ve grown really close over the past few months since we met, maybe a little too close. I’m actually thinking about proposing for crying out loud. She’s my girlfriend!

“Grandma, it’s really no big deal. She isn’t a picky eater, but she doesn’t eat meat, any meat. She’s vegetarian. She said she’s happy to eat any beans, bread, or vegetables you make. Don’t go crazy trying to make something special. Please. I just wanted you to know before we got there.”

“Of course, honey. You worry too much. Hmm…maybe I can make a vegetarian lasagna. Carol brought a vegetarian lasagna to the potluck last week and it was wonderful, but your Grandpa hated it. He told her too, right to her face. He said it wasn’t lasagna at all, just vegetables with sauce. He’s always been such a crab to her. It’s like he just loves to upset her.”

“Grandma.”

“Or maybe I could make a tofu turkey! I saw that on a tv show. It was so funny! It didn’t look anything like a turkey and no one would eat it.”

“Grandma.”

“What about pizza? Does she like pizza? We could make a bunch of pizzas and everyone could put what they want on them. I love making pizza. It reminds me of my Grandma. She always let us have a ball of dough of our own and my brother would eat it raw.”

“Grandma!”

“What honey?”

“You’re going to make a big deal out of this aren’t you?”

“How could I not? Especially when you’re bringing your new little friend to meet us for the first time. It must be serious!”

“I love you. Do you know that?”

“Yes, I do. I love you too. My very favorite grandchild.”

“Grandma, I’m your only grandchild.”

“Still counts! I’m going to make those little won-tons you like so much for an appetizer. Be here by one or your uncle will eat them all himself.”


Thanks for the October writing prompts, Writers Write!

What Could Have Happened

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Photo by jurien huggins on Unsplash

“Let’s not stand on ceremony.” she said “Just say what you want to say and get it over with.”

He stood there looking down at his boots, not daring to lift his eyes to hers. He knew he wouldn’t be able to go through with it if he did. He wouldn’t be able to say the words he needed to say to set him free if he had to see the disappointment and pain in her eyes. He promised to love her forever and now, well, he just didn’t and he couldn’t go on hiding it another day.

She suspected there was something going on for months, maybe even years. When they were first married, they slept warm and naked, side by side, every night. The comfort of his body near her somehow made her feel safe and secure. At any time she could reach out and touch him, and most times when she did he responded to her touch immediately, pulling her close and pressing against her, kissing her neck. Sometimes the snuggles progressed to sex, sometimes they just lay together secure in each others arms and fell back asleep.

After a few years, the closeness started to fade. She reached out for him less and less in the night, and when she did, he didn’t always notice and respond. For her, she felt rejected each time she put out a hand to him and he only responded by sighing in his sleep or rolling away instead of toward her. She knew, logically, that it wasn’t fair to blame him for something he did in his sleep, but what had changed? Would the warmth return? Feeling rejected, she started to reach out less and less until finally it would be a month before he’d reach for her and she’d grudgingly give him what he wanted. Sex had begun to feel like an obligation to fulfill, not the sharing of intimacy it once was.

Life started to change rapidly after the birth of their second child. She worked so hard with the kids all day long and she always did such a great job taking care of the house and feeding them all. Work was getting harder and harder for him. This new job was mentally exhausting, doing things he never thought he would be. Sure, all he was doing was sitting in an office, but dealing with people daily, talking with the customers, hearing their complaints and problems was more demanding than any physical work he used to do. At the end of the day, it was all he could do to come home, play with the kids a bit, eat dinner, and then fall into bed. He tried to stay awake while she finished putting the kids down, but by the time she crawled into bed next to him, he was always fast asleep. He’d wake to find her there, gently snoring beside him. Knowing how exhausted she was, he didn’t have the heart to wake her, even if it was for something sweet and pleasurable for both of them. She didn’t seem to reach for him in the night like she used to. He had begun to think maybe she didn’t love him like she used to. Maybe something was wrong. Or maybe this was just how marriage was after kids. He wasn’t happy, but he didn’t know how to communicate the feelings he was starting to have, so he left it alone.

Without that intimate connection at night, they started to drift apart emotionally. Both desperately wanted to love the other but neither knew how to start the conversation. They avoided it and eventually they both found someone else. She put all her focus and energy into the kids and he found someone that would reach out to him.

“You know you don’t love me anymore. I’m leaving.”

There it was. The big statement. And here they were, another failed marriage, another broken family, just like everyone else. She felt numb hearing those words. She knew he would say them. She knew they were coming for a long time.

“Ok.” Was the only way she could respond without falling apart, and her pride would not allow her to fall apart in front of him.

He walked away without another word. Both were broken. Both cried alone. Both felt they had failed. And both wanted the other to beg them to stay.


Thank you to Writers Write for the October prompts!

Day Ten

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

A big round number, the first of the double digits, brings me to this point. I’ve watched her for ten cycles. Ten times the clock has come round to 8AM. I can’t really call them days, since “days” brings me back to Earth. I no longer orbit that fiery ball of gas but how else do I measure the time? And should I bother at all?

Here I float in the darkness, stranded, not knowing how much longer I have in this existence, but here I sit, watching her. Shouldn’t I be spending my time more wisely, living in the moment, seizing the day? That is what I intended to do once I realized there was no going back and no going forward either. Sure. I’m alone. Stranded in a strange place with nothing beyond the scant supplies I have on hand and the tin can they called a transport. Why should I not enjoy the last few days I probably have?

Thirty days is a long time to spend in solitude, but the lure of a new world, the prospect of a whole new life was worth the seclusion, worth the risk of travel in this god forsaken can. What would I find there? Who would greet me? I’d heard wonderful things, fantastical things. Would the reality be anything compared to my imaginings? Probably not. But anything had to be better than the hell I was leaving, so I went.

Then that noise came, that quiet thump, a small tick I believed was only my imagination for days, until it became louder. And then suddenly, nothing. No sound at all. The physical sensation of movement ceased completely. It took me a few days to realize my situation. Something had gone seriously wrong and I was stuck with no way to communicate with the world outside my craft. And I was alone.

Until I saw her. And now I lay watching. Day ten. She climbed to the top of my bunk and spun her futile web. There are no flies to catch, my dear. It is only you and I…for eternity. She doesn’t seem to mind. She can’t conceive of the future. She only spins and crawls. My only friend. I wish I were you.

Thank you, WritersWrite, for the inspiring prompt!

Thirteen Books!

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For a while now, I’ve been attempting to post about every book I read but I think I’m changing my plan. I have a backlog and it’s disrupting my peace. The picture you see above is my current pile of already read books waiting to be summed up. When anything starts to pile up, my anxiety starts to build and that’s when I shut down and discontinue my practice. Homework, email, laundry, diet plans: that overwhelm feeling grates on my nerves and colors everything else I attempt to do. I’ve found that it’s much better for me to pick and choose my battles. I can’t just throw out the clothes or the dishes instead of washing them when they pile up, but I can delete all the emails, drop the class, or walk away from the diet, so I do.

So here we are with a pile of books on the corner of my desk, waiting to be reviewed and blogged about. Every day I see them and walk by. Every day I pick up the top one, thumb through it, look at the rest of the pile, and walk away. I can’t even sit at my computer and write about something else, because those books are looking at me in the accusatory way that makes me start to sweat every time I see them.

This morning, I walked by and thought, “My that pile looks so pretty like that. I should take a picture.” As I did, I had an epiphany. Why not post about that pile? Maybe pull one thing from each book to write about, give them closure so to speak, and then file them away on my bookshelf? And that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

This may be a bit long and boring but it has to be done. My reader heart needs closure on these. Feel free to scroll through and find a title that catches your eye! I will allow it…this time!

“Following Muhammad – Rethinking Islam in the Contemporary World” by Carl W. Ernst

This book was suggested reading from another book I read about religious literacy and it was an excellent read. I highly recommend it for everyone. It really helped me understand Islam, its history, its diversity, and cleared up a lot of misunderstandings for me. It’s also not a long, boring, overly detailed read. It’s just an overview, something to get you started on the path to understanding and tolerance. Go get this book right now.

“The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California” by Curt Gentry

A friend sent me this book, with a few others, after our last big earthquake. He thought I’d like it and he was so right! It’s historical fiction, written as if the “Big One” hit and all of California was dumped into the sea, disappearing forever. It’s so easy to read and a great story. Most of the book highlights California history in the first half of the 20th century. What would the rest of the country miss if California disappeared? I couldn’t put it down and ended up adding a few other California History books to my reading list.

“Writing as a Path to Awakening” by Albert Flynn DeSilver

This one was a little too “woke” for me, but not a waste of time. I found some inspiration. Little things like “we are meaning-making machines” made me smile. I wrote that one down and posted in on my “writing altar” along with “Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes process, and with consistent attention, proficiency, and eventually, with further devotion, mastery.”

“The Best American Essays – 2018” edited by Hilton Als

I love a good essay! These would have been better if fewer of them were about how much Trump has ruined their lives. There were some great ones though. I love hearing people’s perspectives and experiences.

“Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and For Those Who Want to Write Them” by Francine Prose

“Hey! That’s me!” That’s what I thought when I saw the title on Amazon and clicked BUY. It was a bad idea though because…well…it added a couple dozen books to my reading list! Ha! It is full of great examples of narration, character, and dialogue, among other things. Reading it is like talking to a fellow book lover!

“The Man Who Quit Money” by Mark Sundeen

I read this under duress. It was assigned to my son by a college English Composition teacher last year and there has been much debate about its content, premise, and subject, but…no one had actually read it all. I decided I would. “In 2000, Daniel Suelo gave away his life savings. And began to live.” It was hard to read. I kept thinking, he’s not living with less or living without or “off the land,” he’s only living off others. He stays with friends, dumpster dives, and uses the internet at the library. I honestly don’t think he was any happier living that way than if he had just focused on being more conservative in how he lives, using less, etc. The only reason he could live the way he did was because most people don’t. Most people have more than they need, throw away excess, underuse what they have, so he has those resources. There was a lot to think about though and I appreciated his journey.

“Bright Lights, Big City” by Jay McInerney

So, what do I think when I read that title? “James and the Giant Peach” of course! I hear the centipede singing it every time I read those words. I hear there was a movie of this very book. I know…I’m so lost. Anyway, book was…interesting. Pretty darn sad. And deep at the end. Wow.

Two things I took away from it that were awesome. First of all, he works in a magazine’s “Department of Factual Verification.” I can’t imagine doing this job before the internet! Every article they buy from a writer must be “fact checked” by a third party before printing. They have to call places and look things up in the encyclopedia, libraries, and other publications. It’s a huge amount of work. The magazine has a reputation to protect. They can’t just pull an article off the internet if it turns out to be false like they do now. Once it’s in print, it’s there forever! Wow.

The other thing was this quote, “…what you are left with is a premonition of the way your life will fade behind you, like a book you have read too quickly, leaving a dwindling trail of images and emotions, until all you can remember is a name.” Ouch.

“Carrie” by Stephen King

This book has a back story too. It’s one of the scariest movies I ever saw, mostly because I saw it when I was around six years old! Before you go calling my mom a monster, little kids are supposed fall asleep late at night and my brother and I were safely tucked away and sound asleep in the back seat of our car in our feet pajamas when the movie started. You just gotta love drive-ins! My parents were watching the movie in the front seat and at the end of the movie, there I was with my head poked between the seats, eyes wide. I had nightmares for years! We were all traumatized!

Something I noticed when I finished the book…Carrie is just Frozen with a much more horrifying ending. Small girl with latent powers the adults can’t deal with so they lock her away until she becomes an adolescent, at which point her powers are too much for anyone to deal with including the girl.

“How to do Nothing – Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell

Another great book with some amazing insight into stepping out of the world for a bit and changing your focus. I just wish it could have been done in a more positive way, without adding “the world is ending because Trump is president” bologna. The world is just as messed up as it always was. The internet isn’t destroying us. Facebook is not the great Satan. Please. Just stop. I also wish it had more examples and ideas of “how” instead of so much “why.”

“Wise Blood” by Flannery O’Connor

Ok. This…was strange. I never got the point of the story. Didn’t really care about the characters. The whole book was odd. Maybe I missed the point? While I did finish the book, desperately hoping for meaning, it did start a series of DNF’s (did not finish) in August.

“Beyond Good and Evil” by Friedrich Nietzsche

DNF. That’s what they write by your name if you start a race but don’t finish. Maybe your bike broke down or (Lord forbid) you crashed and didn’t get back on the bike, but you never crossed the finish line.

This book I did not finish. I just couldn’t read it. Several pages in and I had no idea what he was trying to say and no patience to have every page explained. I’m not sure if it’s the translation or what. I enjoy Nietzsche’s philosophy, so I was disappointed that I couldn’t read it for myself. Maybe I’ll find about book that explains it better? Or…maybe…take a class?

“Revolution at Berkeley” by Miller and Gilmore

Another DNF. A collection of articles about the protest at Berkeley in the 60’s. Fascinating read, mostly because the articles are from that time, not ours, but I gave up reading about a third of the way through. I had enough information and just wasn’t interested the subject anymore.

“Night Shift” by Stephen King

On a bit of a Stephen King jag lately. I have two more on my “to read” shelf! This guy really knows how to entertain through horror. My husband walked into the room while I was reading this and I about jumped out of my skin!

So, there you have it! Thirteen books! Phew…I’m exhausted!

Nearly 24 Glorious Hours!

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Yes! I keep track! 771 pages and nearly 24 hours!

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt was a book I picked up on a book buying binge at Barnes & Noble a few months ago. It’s my favorite way to buy fiction, in person at bookstore! No reviews, no suggestions, just pure infatuation with a good cover. I go in to intentionally succumb to mass marketing. It’s an indulgence.

Why did I choose this book? One reason…well…maybe two. The cover, the ripped away piece revealing the bird, pulled my eye. And then Stephen King called it “A triumph.” How can I resist?

In my book notes, at the end of all those 771 words, all I wrote was, “Deep. Wow” The ending must have been impressive, although I can’t remember a lick of it without thumbing through it a bit and getting some reminders. And when I do thumb through and look at my notes…there it is… Some people may be appalled, but I’m glad I write in my books!

I both loved and hated this book at the same time. Typical, right? At first I was drawn into the story, mostly because of its intensity. She has a serious way with words. You can feel every scene. It’s very emotional. But then, I started to wonder where in the world the story was going. Would it ever end? What was the point of all these details? There better be some huge surprise at the end that wraps up all these little pieces and makes me want to read it all over again to catch them in action! I was not disappointed.

Some things I truly hated. There was a negative description of homeschoolers that triggered me to anger. I almost put the book down right there. How can I trust someone with my heart that so easily stereotyped my own education choice? That’s what we do when we read fiction, trust a stranger with our heart. It’s a relationship like any other, one we do not fool ourselves about. We know it’s a tryst, a few hours of adventure and it will be over, to be remembered forever and maybe returned to from time to time, if it proves itself to be exciting or fulfilling enough. I decided to love her anyway. I know my heart is pretty resilient. It will heal if broken and we’ll have our memories to look back on. I had to know how it all ends!

Hobie was one of my favorite characters. He repairs antique furniture and at first I thought that was completely irrelevant. Sweet and pretty, yes, but probably irrelevant. You’d think I’d have learned by now that nothing in fiction is irrelevant! She goes into so many details about how he repairs things and why, what pieces are worth saving and for what reasons, how they became damaged in the first place and how it could have been avoided. Different pieces, different eras, different kinds of wood, all take a different touch. Humans are very similar. Each of us has a reason for being here. We’re all damaged in different ways, by different usage. And we’re all savable for one purpose or another. Just beautiful.

And then there was this, “Even though a copy Proust was able to re-dream that image, re-shape reality with it, pull something all his own from it into the world. Because – the line of beauty is the line of beauty. It doesn’t matter if it’s been through the Xerox machine a hundred times.”

We are all copies. Not one of us is an original. But each time we go out in the world in our own way, whether just living, creating, or dreaming, we re-create that “line of beauty” for the world. Like an image of an image of an image, we are a link in the chain into the future. Don’t break that chain. Go out into the world, either in person or virtually, and share your joy so that someone else sees it and reflects it further.

“…good doesn’t always follow from good deeds, nor bad deeds result from bad, does it? Even the wise and good cannot see the end of all actions.”

“Because, if bad can sometimes come from good actions – ? Where does it ever say, anywhere, that only bad can come from bad actions – ? Maybe sometimes  – the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?”

“As long as I am acting out of love I feel I am doing best I know how. But you – wrapped up in judgement, always regretting the past, cursing yourself, blaming yourself, asking ‘what if,’ ‘what if.’ ‘Life is cruel.’ ‘I wish I had died instead of.’”

It’s been a long standing idea of mine that all of us are doing the best we can with the information we have at the moment we made the decision. There are no perfect answers. There are no perfect decisions. If we live looking back, we’ll never see what’s right in front of us. Don’t miss your life by looking backwards or by looking too far into the future. You’re life is right now.

And from the very beginning of the book…which seals the deal on reading the whole thing again, and soon, “Whenever you see flies or insects in a still life – a wilted petal, a black spot on the apple – the painter is giving you a secret message. He’s telling you that living things don’t last – it’s all temporary. Death in life. That’s why they are called natures mortes. Maybe you don’t see it at first with all the beauty and bloom, the little speck of rot. But if you look closer – there it is.”

I had underlined it right there on page 24. It gave me chills then, but not for the same reason it did just now, after 747 more pages and a month of reflection. That’s what makes life worth living, the fact that it is only temporary. Live it right now. Don’t wait. And don’t despair, because when one joy ends, another begins. No regrets, just love.

I’ve added her two other novels to my reading list!

“Tell Me Lies” Book Review

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I got this book, not because I heard of it or the author before, but because the cover caught my eye at Barnes & Noble and when I read the back, “The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.” I had to have it. Let’s just say we’ve all been there, right?

Funny side note: The first time I read ALL the words on the cover of this book was just now, as I was adding the picture I took to my post. It caught my breath. Why did I not notice before?

A few weeks later, when I finally got around to reading it (my to-read pile was already pretty deep), I was initially disappointed. Shallow college kids and their party antics? Not really my thing, even when I was a college kid. Even back then I was shaking my head at the kids around me. Is this just something everyone does because they are finally out from under their parents’ thumb? It struck me as ridiculous, even to the 19-year-old me. So, I wasn’t enjoying the story because I couldn’t relate. I couldn’t get into any of their experiences but I kept reading. Then I realized what kind of a person she had fallen in love with; a narcissist with no real regard for other humans, someone who regularly, and in every context, only uses the people around him as a means to an end, like tools you find in the shed.

I’ve recently found myself interacting with a person like this as well and it is excruciatingly painful. You spend so much energy trying to reach them. There has to be a person underneath all that pain that has made them act out like this. You know that everyone has their own agenda, their own needs and goals, maybe you can help them through to the other side, maybe you’re the one that clears the shadows out and makes him a better person. That just isn’t possible and it’s not about what you can do. It’s him. It’s a personal journey that only they can travel.  You’re just a site along the way.

But it’s so hard for an empathic person to give up and let go. You don’t want to be another painful experience in their life. You want to be the healing for them, the medicine. But the more you try, the more he slips away. It sucks.

The book became personal for me once I got about two-thirds through, as you can probably tell. It was also eye-opening to my situation and healing for my heart, even though my situation was really the same as the characters’ in the book. As I put it down, in tears, something dawned on me. We can’t go looking for the things that help us heal, we have to be open to healing. We don’t know where a path will ultimately lead. We can’t just give up at the first sign of trouble or boredom. We have to follow it through and see where it goes, learn from what we find.

That’s what I did with this book and with the relationship. At first, I was frustrated and then angry, then hurt, but now…well…I can see the important lessons that I was able to learn about myself. I learned how to interact with another type of person (book) and how to learn and react faster next time. I won’t close myself off away from any danger, books or people. I guess I can’t learn much from doing things the way everyone else does, the safe way. I learn best from risk, even though I’m a risk-averse type of person. I’ve been starting to wonder if I was born that way or learned to be that way: a reflection for another time for sure.

Favorite quote:

“Sass, you learn almost everything from your relationships,” CJ said. “They’re how you figure out who you are.”

Some people may take offense at that idea but they’re missing the real point. It’s not that relationships define who you are. It’s more like you can’t really see who you are directly. You can see part of you, but not all of you, not without a mirror. The relationships you get into and out of are like that mirror. The more you have, even the unsuccessful ones, the more glimpses you get. I wish I had known that earlier in my life. I spent my teens and twenties getting into and out of relationships, not to learn about myself but to find a partner to take care of me. How could I find someone to take care of me if I wasn’t sure of who I really was? I did the same with co-workers and friends. “What can you do for me?” was typically my thinking.

Lucky for me, the man I chose just happened to be a perfect match, but I didn’t always think so. We’ve been learning who we are together for the last twenty years. But I’m not talking about only a marriage relationship. Friends, lovers, co-workers, etc. all teach us different things about ourselves. We can’t do it alone. We all learn from each other.

I’ve met a lot of very emotionally immature people lately and I’ve learned something different about myself from every one of them. Hopefully they learned something about themselves by dealing with me. I won’t cut myself off from human contact just because some people can be lame. No one will get anywhere that way!