In Which You Maybe Learn Some Stuff About Hearts

On Tuesday, a cardiologist and her happy minion tried to kill me and then assessed how close they came. Fortunately for me, not close enough. *Buzzer sound* Sorry. Try again next year.

The stress test was the least irritating of all the parts of this appointment, but that’s part and parcel with doctors. You wait in the waiting room for 60+ minutes (which is why you’re called a patient) and, when you leave, they’ve said a lot of words but haven’t really actually told you anything.

Travis, the Stress Test Tech Person, was delightful, actually. He called me “baby” a lot, but somehow it wasn’t creepy. Sort of like how diner waitresses call you “hon,” whether you’re three or 103, and whether they’re 55 or…

Wait. They’re actually all 55.

Anyway.

Travis was telling me what he was doing all along. He did an echocardiogram first, propping my back against his in a totally clinical way to position me where he wanted me so he could get the images he needed, and explaining very nonchalantly why I really couldn’t keep craning my neck to see the picture on the screen. (“Look, see what happens? The picture gets fuzzy.”) He also told me that he was super-annoyed that he kept getting 30- and 40-somethings for stress tests that day. “If one more person has to walk for 15 minutes before we get them to their target heart rate, I’m jumping out a window,” he said.

It took me 11 minutes. You’re welcome, Travis. I shaved four minutes off that last guy’s time. What’s that you say? That’s not a good thing?  The last guy is 58 and had a heart attack at 41 and is, from a fitness perspective, the lifespan equivalent of four minutes’ better endurance multiplied by a differential of 21 years and mitigated by one heart attack better off than I am? Well, what of it? You want to get your schedule back on track, right? That’s what I thought.

Travis is a very put-you-at-ease person. My blood pressure was 100/62, and he didn’t like it, because it meant I’d have to walk longer, but it was a testament to his calming presence. (At the beginning of my first appointment, two weeks ago, my BP was 120/80).

Happily, they did not make me run. They just made me walk faster by three-minute increments on a steadily increasing incline to get to the required target heart rate (220 minus age and multiplied by 0.90, or, in my case, 165.).

I basically still have no official comprehensive diagnosis, because doctors are annoying, but here’s what I’ve been able to figure out so far:

I have what’s called a 2nd degree Type 1 Wenckebach block. Wenckebach is pronounced WENK-ee-bock, which sounds really silly and is difficult to take seriously as a heart condition, but I guess that’s okay, because it’s not necessarily a serious heart condition, and Germans have funny names sometimes.

The two days I was beeping from the waist on the Holter monitor, minus the ten total hours required to be off-telemetry so the highly advanced cell-phone-cum-science-gadget could charge, resulted in the revelation that my heart skipped 3,842 beats during the other 38 hours. Which is considered “frequent” in a seemingly half-assed, three-sentence report of said monitoring.  The Wenckebach block is the reason for the dropped beats. It’s an electrical impulse disruption between the atria and the ventricles, in which the length of time in milliseconds between the electrical signal that contracts the atria and the one that contracts the ventricles gets progressively longer until it gets long enough that the whole heart skips a beat. Because it’s Type 1, it’s benign and generally, on its own, does not require treatment. If it were to be Type 2, they’d have to consider some options—pacemaker, etc.

It looks kind of like this on an ECG:

Wenckewonky.

Wenckewonky.

 

You’re looking at a series of waves, cleverly named P, Q, R, S and T. The P wave is the bump just before the spike. The Q wave is the lowest point just preceding the spike. The R wave is the tip of the spike. The S wave is the trailing low point of the spike. And the T wave is the bump right after the spike. A 2nd degree Type 1 Wenckebach block results in that flat line you see between the second T wave in the image and the next P wave. You see it happen again three beats later, on the right side of the image. That longer flat line is where the heart skips a beat entirely because the time between the P wave and the R wave (for some reason, the Q wave doesn’t matter to Wenckebach) got long enough that the heart said, “Eff it. Start over.”

This is where it gets fuzzy: This is not considered an arrhythmia. An arrhythmia happens when there’s a premature beat in either chamber of the heart, independent of the electrical signal conduction we’re talking about here. (It’s fuzzy because it’s still an irregularity and both of them are results of electricity within the heart, but different kinds of electrical conduction. MY thing is not considered “abnormal.” Even though it surely seems abnormal to drop 100 beats per hour on average and not even be a hip-hop star.) I have no actual arrhythmia. Apparently, that’s remarkable. I don’t know why, but the doctor said so. I win.

So, the block shows up on the ECG. Fine. The stress test is to see whether the block is consistent even when exertion makes my heart work faster and harder. Adrenaline naturally forces the heart to function more efficiently, so they were looking for correspondence. Excellent news: my heart does what it’s supposed to when I’m walking a stupidly significant incline at a rather good clip for 11 minutes.

Somewhat less excellent is that, after that, during what a normal person would call either a “cool-down” or a “Jesus, let me sit down for a minute,” and which cardiology types call “recovery,” they pulled me back over by my telemetry straps to the table, flopped me down all sweaty and heavy-breathing on it, and put their hands up my gown. It was the least awesome time that has ever happened.

This is when they do the second echo, to compare heart appearance and function under “stress” to the first, relaxed echo.

The echocardiogram revealed that, structurally, everything appears normal. This means it is not heart failure, cardiomyopathy or disease in the valves or arteries apparent in the ultrasound. Huzzah! Mac and cheese for everyone!

However, while I was lying there all schvitzy, the rhythms went wonky – I could feel and see on the monitor the way my heart tends to trip over itself, even when I’m not doing anything but sitting on my couch watching Orange Is the New Black. This essentially looked like the lines were trying to draw the Rocky Mountains instead of the usual rhythms. I have tried to find an image of this, but it’s tough to do a Google image search for “electrocardiogram that looks like Rocky Mountains.” To the best of my memory, it looked a lot like this highly technical medical thing I drew:

WTF wave

WTF wave

I got no explanation of what this Rocky Mountain Wonkiness was and, as strange as it sounds, couldn’t ask, because in those few moments, I wasn’t allowed to talk, and afterward, the doc who administered the test (different from the one I saw two weeks ago, because he was on hospital rounds) had another patient waiting and had already explained the block and the difference between the dropped beats and the arrhythmia and basically told me she had to go.

I did get to talk to my other doc the next day, and while he hadn’t seen everything at that point, I did manage to get him to look at the report and he said the Rockies were about the “P wave getting buried in the QRS complex.”

I hate it when that happens.

Basically, he’s a little surprised by the frequency of the dropped beats, and he says the fact that I drop them in recovery is “not quite normal.” Clearly, he doesn’t know me well yet, or he would realize that everyone knows I’m not quite normal. The upshot of these two surprises is that he and I will have a standing annual date to make sure things don’t get any more caddywompus. Because that’s possible, and then we’d have to discuss pacemakers or what-have-you.

Remember how half the reason I called the cardiologist with my hair on fire a month ago tomorrow was that I was swelling inexplicably? Yeah, we still don’t know what that’s about. But since my Lyme titer definitely, definitely says I may or may not have had Lyme Disease one time in the last 37 years, I might be able to pursue the 341 other possibilities for swelling with my general physician when I see her tomorrow to find out how many tests and dollars it will take to rule out the Lyme Disease thing.

So. Current diagnosis: Heart-wonk. Treatment: Eh. We’ll see. Recommendation: annual check-up. Follow up with general physician to find 27 other things that might or might not be a problem.

Ah, medical practice. Twenty-four hundred years after its beginnings, it still hasn’t made perfect.

 

Lub-a-Dub-Dub, Three Cords and a Flub

I am currently hooked up to three electrodes that aren’t transmitting anything.

Just for fun.

Not really. I have a wonky heartbeat, and I have for years —too many for me to care to admit, but almost half my life. Recently, a couple of other things happened that I thought were unrelated, and then all of a sudden it occurred to me that slightly swollen ankles and feet and calves and a few extra pounds and a seemingly undeservedly fluffier midsection might all be related to my wonky heart.

And I freaked. The fuck. Out.

I called a cardiologist and scheduled an appointment, for which I had to wait two weeks, which commenced two weeks of freakout. I stopped all alcohol intake and started paying very close attention to sodium. In 24 hours, I dropped four pounds. In ten days, I lost eight. Some of that might have been because I was never home to eat; for two straight weeks of nightly rehearsals and concerts, I sat on stage, squirming on backless wooden benches for hours at a time, singing Mendelssohn and Adams and Beethoven, and monitored my heart, my ankles, my breath control. Was that racing/thumping/tightness because of adrenaline or anxiety or impending death? Did I need to get a spot on the end of the row in case I felt suddenly morbidly unwell? What if the heat of the lights and the crowded space and the all-black concert dress got to me?

I was convinced it was heart failure or cardiomyopathy.

I’m still somewhat convinced.

The swelling has largely abated, and when I finally did see a cardiologist, he seemed to think it might have been a coincidental result of sodium overload paired with cyclical fluid retention. I’m not sold on that theory, but as long as the swelling stays at bay and the weight stays off, I might be willing to believe it. Though I will be super-annoyed at the new tendency to retain water.

I was so scared that when my friend Eliza joined me at the cardio appointment in case he said something devastating and asked how I was doing, I burst into tears.

I was so scared that I was actually thinking about how I would tell my family, what might happen to my house, how long I might still be able to climb the stairs, how long I might be able to work, and exactly how far shy of, say, 50, I might be gone. I was thinking that maybe this is why I don’t have a husband. I was thinking about how I’ve thought for a while now that I will probably die young.

No kidding, guys. That’s what I was thinking.

I even thought about whether, or when, I would blog about it. I thought about my old blog acquaintance, marjulo, who seems to have lost her brief battle with inoperable pancreatic cancer, whose final post was about her diagnosis and whose site no longer exists. I thought a lot about my friend Amanda, just starting her impossible-to-win battle with stage IV metastatic breast cancer, finally finding her fight even though the tumor in her femur still has her in pain and the thought of fighting for the sake of a bunch of months of weekly chemo and then maybe a little time in remission only to be followed by more chemo and less remission is a lot to take.

“Well, of course you think something terrible is wrong with you,” Eliza said in the hospital lobby after the cardio appointment. “Terrible things are happening to everyone around you.”

There was probably something to that.

I had to have a couple of blood tests, and I’m set for a stress echo, at which time they will first try to kill me on a treadmill and then do the echocardiogram I thought was rightfully mine at the first appointment, to find out whether I have heart failure or cardiomyopathy or some other dysfunction greater than the AV1 block and the suspected pulmonary stenosis the cardiologist mentioned at the first appointment. (An AV1 block is a first degree block of the electrical signal between the atrium and ventricle, which, doc says, means it “takes a little longer to get from the lub to the dub,” but isn’t treated; pulmonary stenosis is when the valve between the heart and the pulmonary artery doesn’t open all the way and builds up pressure in the heart chamber as it tries to force blood out to be oxygenated.) My thyroid checked out fine, but my Lyme titer was “indeterminate,” which is the medical equivalent of “Meh… maybe you had Lyme Disease… maybe you didn’t.” Which is basically irrelevant to the situation at hand, but has forced me to schedule another appointment to find out whether I did, in fact, have Lyme Disease once. All evidence to the contrary.

And now I’m hooked up to all these electrodes that are plugged into a gizmo that sends signals to a former cell phone that is now a PDA, and it is all pissing me off.

The first time I felt my heart go weird, I was 20. I was stressing out in a serious way about a married man who had professed his love for me and with whom I did not want to be involved except that I was already kind of involved, not adulterously, but in that way that you get involved with men you work with who say they are willing to put everything on the line for you because their love is just that strong, and you happen to be a total shipwreck in the self-esteem department at the time. I was lying on the couch in my college apartment, which I shared with three of my friends, and Jerry Springer was on, and it was something ridiculous and gross, and I suddenly realized that my life, at that moment, mirrored the show.

Since then, my heart has been skipping beats not with thrills or joys but with impunity. In recent years, it has seemed to frequently trip over itself in an effort to catch up after a dropped lub or dub: lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub…lub-lublublub-dub-dub-lub, lub-dub, lub-dub…

I had an echocardiogram something like 11 years ago. I don’t even remember the name of the cardiologist. In fact, I remember nothing about that appointment except for the echo, and the declaration that nothing appeared out of order. And I haven’t had it checked on since. I’m not the annual physical type, so apart from the gynecologist, there isn’t a doctor I see regularly. I’m off the grid.

For the last 36 hours, however, two small devices have been tracking my heart and sending its patterns to a place that then sends it to the cardiologist. I think. Except for the five hours last night during which I got so monumentally irritated by the incessant beeping indicating low battery or poor connection that I ripped the electrodes off my chest, yanked the battery out of the monitor and turned the PDA off entirely so it could charge and I could sleep.

The PDA, which in a previous life was a Samsung Omnia II cell phone, cannot hold a charge. It prioritizes sending data over charging, which means that even if it stays plugged in all the live-long day, it uses up all its energy and dies, which seems counterproductive to a 48-hour heart monitoring system. When it blinks out, such horrendous beeping ensues that I feel like C3PO in mixed-up pieces on Chewbacca’s back. “OMG! DID YOU DIE?! I THINK YOU DIED!!! OH WAIT, THAT”S ME,” it says.

At the moment, it is turned off and plugged in to charge so that my cardiologist can get some idea of what my heart does while I’m sleeping tonight. Since the jumping my heart experienced last night was due to the damned infernal beeping waking me up juuust as I would doze off, rather than its own screwy, jazz-infused rhythm.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, day one of my 48-hour monitoring just had to coincide with Field Day at work. The PDA and the monitor have to be no more than ten feet away from each other at all times, which meant I had to carry the monitor around in the wristlet I use as a keychain/ID/credit/debit card holder the whole time I was swinging from ropes and walking high-wires and hiking around campus, sweating my boobs off, building team spirit with my coworkers. And since I didn’t really want the coworkers to know I was on a Holter monitor, I had to try to be surreptitious about it.

My wristlet is red, b-t-dubbs.

The monitor was clipped to the waistband of my pants, so the work polo I was wearing had to stay untucked. I was relieved to see most others had left theirs untucked, as well, so at least that didn’t seem weird. And happily, the shirt was long enough to cover it even when I had to reach up to swing from ropes like a goddamned Amazon woman.

I managed to keep my monitoring hidden from the coworkers all day. I did not, however, manage to keep the heavy wristlet from smacking me in the face while I clung to ropelines.

You know what blew me in?

The World Cup.

I went home, started writing an essay for my summer class, and had the USA vs. Ghana game on TV. I don’t know much about soccer, so basically I’m all, “Goal is good,” and that’s it. At halftime, The Colombian texted me to tell me to come over. He had one of other other neighbors there, and said neighbor is a bit profanely vocal and demonstrative during sporting events. Javier didn’t think he could handle it alone.

Since I am still very wary of Javier (his relationship with Lydia, however infirm, endures), I let him sweat it out a little while before I went over, armed with my former Samsung Omnia II and its charger, because it was already showing a yellow battery life level.

After our other friend left, and somewhere between the coach’s interview and Dempsey’s interview, I started beeping.

Not the phone, which lay on the windowsill, plugged into an outlet below. The monitor that was attached to me.

Javi did a pretty good job of pretending not to notice that I was emitting electronic sounds from the area of my panties. At least, he did the first four times it went off. And he pretended not to notice when I got up, heaved a sigh, and went into the powder room to check on the monitor.

But finally, after another loooong beep, he said, “Why are you beeping? Whass going on? Why are you stress?”

I’m a terrible liar, so I had to tell him. I thought for sure that this whole I’m-attached-to-a-bunch-of-wires-that-have-been-largely- unsuccessfully-adhered-to-my-midsection-with-steri-strips-all-day-so-that-a-cardiologist-can-keep-an-eye-on-my-heartbeat thing would be a pretty substantial turn-off.

Evidently, I was wrong. Evidently, it translated to a kind of “The Fault In Our Stars With Hearts Instead of Cancer.” Javi told me he had recently spent 12 hours overnight, alone, in the local emergency room for chest pains, and when we hugged goodbye, he tenderly and briefly kissed my neck.

Hope the monitor didn’t notice.

It was so brief that I didn’t even have time to say, “Stop kissing my neck, you South American seducer!” Which is not to say that it’s not still happening in my head, 24 hours later.

Dammit.

Why am I attracted to emotionally unavailable men? It’s a question for the ages. I have been, by all accounts (mostly his and mine, and also Angie’s because she’s heard about them) very clear with him about why his attempts to kiss me (four of them in the last nine months) are absolutely not going to be met with reciprocity because he is still with Lydia. And also, what I haven’t said is that he is to Lydia what Jack was to me, and I don’t need another Jack. He doesn’t know anything about Jack, but I know enough to know I don’t need Javier to be another Jack. On this I am absolutely resolute.

But those shoulders, and the back of his neck, and the way he has to peer over his glasses to see his phone, and the way he looks in a shirt and tie…

Settle down, heart. You’re being watched.

 

 

 

Local Support

There are moments in life—oh, life, you are so hilarious—when everything turns on its head. And then there are moments, say, five years later, when everything turns again. And yet nothing is the same as it was the before it changed the first time, and you wind up cross-eyed and kinda nauseous.

One of my dear friends, Amanda, has just been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. It’s bad, and it sucks, and there are basically no other words. I mean there are—some of them are Latiny medical words and some of them are very bad words and almost all of them are adjectives, but none of them mean anything except cancer. Cancer that has made itself quite at home in Amanda’s body, in a bunch of places, without so much as telling her it was squatting until she bought a house, moved in, thought she’d tweaked her knee, and the MRI showed a tumor. It wasn’t until two weeks and five appointments later that the focus shifted from suspected lymphoma to, “Wait, no… not lymphoma. Breast.”

Everything changed when that word entered the conversation. Suddenly the PET scan that looked “unsurprising” when they thought it was lymphoma was a whole different ball game, and the bases were loaded.

It’s funny, in that not-at-all-humorous way… every time I would hear about someone diagnosed with stage IV cancer, I would think, “How did they not feel something was different?” Now I know the answer. Amanda was diligent about her health; her father died at age 34 from cancer, and she is obsessive about annual physicals, blood work, colonoscopies, and, yes, a mammogram every year since she turned 40. She had one less than a year ago. Clear. But mammograms in women under 50 are much less effective because the tissues are still dense, and Amanda is 43. And though she did notice a change that may indicate inflammatory breast cancer about a year ago, and did go to two or three doctors to check it out, all the tests came back clean. Amanda is also cursed with a useless metabolism, and her weight hid the “very enlarged” lymph nodes under her arm that only showed up in scans. There was just no way to know.

She is feeling every emotion you can imagine. She’s cried so much that she doesn’t think she can cry anymore, and then she does.

Her family is very small and not local, so there are five of us who live within an hour who will be her “on the ground” care team. I asked her, sitting in the car after the watershed appointment where the breast surgeon told her what we were dealing with, who she felt comfortable with knowing all her intimate details and being there even on her worst days. She gave me the names. We’ve already launched a small operation to keep things organized and keep each other informed as we take turns accompanying Amanda to appointments and, going forward, treatments and post-treatment days. We are functioning exactly as we did in our jobs when we worked together: project managing and troubleshooting, thinking of everything we can in the early going so that things might be a tiny bit easier later. There’s a Google Drive and a calendar and a binder and a lot of coordinating amongst ourselves so that everything goes seamlessly to anyone who might observe from outside.

Now there’s a new name on the list, one Amanda didn’t mention at first, but said she was okay with when Liz asked, and while she’s not a full-on member of Local Support (bra logo pending), she’s already the exposed underwire that’s going to poke the shit out of me.

She’s my old boss.

Terri has Hodgkins Disease, and she’s currently in relapse number four. She also has a manipulative personality and a tendency to want to be in charge of, and wield power over, everyone. She’s not Amanda’s friend, but when Amanda thought she had lymphoma, she reached out to Terri for guidance. It made total sense, and Terri still has valuable insight that will help Amanda, and that is all that matters.

But Terri treated me horribly pretty much every day for four and a half years, threatened on paper and in person to fire me, humiliated me, ignored me, called me names, and made me miserable, and I’ve only been away from her for 13 gloriously liberating, rebuilding months. And now she’s part of this.

The whole care team used to work for Terri; Liz still does. She doesn’t have a problem with Terri, but knows my history and was sensitive enough to ask me if it was okay to give her my email address and if it was okay to invite her to a team meeting we’re having Tuesday night at Liz and her wife Molly’s house. I told her Amanda needs Terri’s insight, and that’s all that matters.

And then the chest pains started and I realized I’m going to need to get a new anti-anxiety med prescription, because apparently I can handle my sweet friend having stage IV breast cancer, but I can’t handle having to deal with Terri again. Terri, who emailed me seconds after I gave Liz permission to share my email address, seemingly to say not much of anything, and then, after a few really courteous exchanges, said, “I know it’s a shitty way to reconnect, but I’m glad we are. Still miss you here…”

And then I yelled at the screen and threw up.

(I only actually did one of those things.)

I met Amanda, as well as Alicia and Miriam and Liz, when I started my old job, not quite six years ago. The four of us were like an internal support group in a rough industry, constantly keeping each other laughing, helping each other with the work, or listening to each other’s gripes. I met Molly when Liz, during a snowstorm, offered to have me stay at their place, two miles from work instead of my 50,  because we had to work the next day. Together, we have all been through a raft of ridiculousness.  Of all of us, Amanda left first. I left a few months later; Alicia and Miriam left on the same day, seven months after that.

Miriam (who also hates Terri) reminded me that sometimes the Devil has an answer, so you talk to the Devil about that one thing and you ignore the rest. I’m going to try to keep that in mind. It occurred to me that this is what some families must endure… that sense of being thrown into something awful with someone who has caused a great deal of pain, because someone else needs them both at the same time.

I just got home from spending much of the day at Amanda’s house with her, her friend Noel from college, and another of our former coworkers. There’s a weird sense of conflict within me about giving non-team members any information on Amanda’s illness. I’m fiercely protective and I don’t want others to know more than she’s comfortable with sharing, but when they ask you point-blank and Amanda’s not yet home from Target, it’s an awkward situation.

I’ve known about Amanda’s cancer, in whatever form it was going to take, for two weeks, and I’ve already learned so much. Some of it is about myself. And it may be uglier and more insidious than triple-negative stage IV possibly inflammatory breast cancer. Tomorrow morning, Alicia takes Amanda to her first radiation appointment to try to get a handle on her somewhat debilitating pain, and in the afternoon, I take her to her first meeting with her medical oncologist, who will determine and order all her chemo treatments and coordinate with the breast surgeon and the radiation oncologist about others. And Tuesday, Terri and I sit down with the rest of Local Support, bra logo pending, and figure out how to hold Amanda up without fraying at the edges.

 

 

 

Heaven-Sent, Direct To My Mailbox

Those of you who are lapsed or non-Catholics might not know that this is the time in the liturgical year when the readings at church focus on the Second Coming. I figure that’s what’s prompted the mail I’ve just received from my Crazy Aunt.

Actual mail. She’s that nuts.

For five and a half handwritten, photocopied pages addressed to me by name in fresh ink at the top, she detailed what we should do now that we’re in the End Times. Apparently we should stock up on non-perishables because when Satan comes to try to reclaim the souls of the recently converted, all literal hell will in actual fact break loose. Also we need to find some blessed salt so we can spread it across the thresholds of our doors (don’t open them during the unrest, though) to keep Satan at bay.

If I had known that all it took was some blessed salt, I wouldn’t need to go to confession right now as she urges.

Does it have to be kosher salt?

My aunt, you may recall, sent out checks for a thousand dollars to each of her nieces and nephews last Christmas because it was the money my grandfather had left her and she thought he would have wanted her to do it. I think my mother did get her to understand that, if he had wanted that, he would have left it to his grandchildren instead of her.  Her response was that she was just trying to do the right thing.

Which is true, really. My aunt is an untreated mentally ill person who my social worker sister says would probably be classified as a paranoid schizophrenic with religious preoccupation if she would ever be willing to be diagnosed as anything. But she has a heart full of goodness and love and she just wants everyone to be saved. I don’t begrudge her that. I don’t begrudge anyone that, when it comes from a place of love. And she’s not dangerous; most mentally ill people aren’t. It’s far more likely that she’ll be the person who gets hurt – though she’s pretty paranoid and afraid of a lot of things, so she might never be in a dangerous situation.

One of the things she’s afraid of, apparently, is the Affordable Care Act. more colloquially known as Obamacare.

After the five and a half pages of her letter, she tossed off another paragraph on different paper (no lines) about how the law is against Christianity because it “pushes abortion funding and the implantation of the chip under the skin, which is forbidden in the Bible.”

Where to begin, eh?

Aside from the fact that a lot of things are forbidden in the Bible, like footballs and cheeseburgers, the ACA does not push funding for abortion. It provides members of Congress and their staffers the option, if they choose to be part of the health care exchange rather than private insurance, to pay a premium for insurance in case of abortion. They don’t have to pay into the exchange at all if they don’t buy that particular feature of protection. It’s like a la carte.

It also says nothing about chips.

What we have here, I think, is a bit of confusion on my aunt’s part, because the only CHIP to which the ACA refers is the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And it is not implanted, it is implemented.

Oh.

See, now I definitely don’t believe the thing about the salt on the threshold.

There is one thing, though, that I find to favor my aunt’s way of looking at the world: the 4×6 envelope in which the letter arrived bore no sign of the postal service. The stamps were not cancelled and no meter mark was affixed. There’s no date of mailing. It appears never to have been touched. I’m sure this is a miracle of postal delivery. Deliverance. One of those.

Heaven-sent?

 

 

Ay yi yi

Alright. Alright, fine.

Javier could be a Thing.

Wednesday night, there was a fundraiser happy hour at a neighborhoodish bar. I couldn’t go at the prescribed fundraising time because of my previously prescribed class, but Javi had asked me if I was going to be there. As promised, I arrived 30 minutes after the end of my class, which was an hour and a half after Javi had sent me a picture of his glass of wine and urged me to ditch school early. The handful of folks still mingling was all dressed pretty officiously, having come straight from our grown-up jobs (or gone straight to class from the job). I was even wearing heels. Usually when I’m in my officle or walking across campus, I’m in flats, for the sake of my back, but I’d had a couple of major meetings that day.

Alright, fine. I swapped shoes in the car so I’d be wearing the heels for the neighborhood thing.

There are a lot of shoes in my car. The passenger side floor of my Honda is not unlike a second closet.

After an hour or so, everyone had left, but I was eating, so  Javi and I were finally able to catch up on our own. Totally innocently, but with a little more depth than is usually possible with nosy neighbors lingering nearby. At the perfectly reasonable hour of 10:30, we decided to head to another place to rejoin some neighbors. On our way out, we ran into Gaybor Steve downstairs and invited him and his date to come along.

Alright, fine. Javi kept putting his hand on the small of my back as we walked. And I kind of love that.

Now: back in May, Javi had finished up grad school at the institution where I work, but hadn’t really celebrated. A few weeks ago, he’d told me how much he loved the mug he got when he finished his B.S., with the school’s logo and his name on it. So I thought it might be nice to grab a few things from the merchandise we marketing types have heaped in closets, and fill a gift bag for him. Among the merch was a stainless steel mug with the school’s logo on it, which I’d had engraved with his name, degree and post-grad year.

Alright, fine. I went to the bookstore and paid for the travel mug. And for a couple of other things. Because I think his parents deserve to have keychains that say “This School Mom” and “This School Dad” on them. I don’t know if they have anything from the institution where their oldest and most adventurous son got his degrees.

“I have good news and bad news,” I told him as I popped the trunk of my car open with my key fob. “The bad news is: we don’t make the mug you got in 2002 anymore. But the good news is…” I reached for the bag.

“Oh my God, are you seeriahs?” Javi exclaimed, grinning and throwing his head back. “Oh my God!”

“…Congratulations on getting your master’s degree four months ago!” I finished, holding the bag up.

He riffled through it for a minute, pulling out this and that. He gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Dis is so great!” he exclaimed genuinely. “I’m so essited about dis!”

Awww. Now that’s just sweet.

By the time we each found parking spots and walked the block or two in opposing directions to meet at the second bar, the joint had shut down and all that were left were the bar-back and two neighbors, arguing with polite heat about the virtues of capitalism vs. socialism. (Yeah… these are my friends and neighbors.) They decided against the third venue Javi suggested, so he and I walked there alone.

Closed.

“Tavern?” he asked, referring to the neighborhood version of Cheers we all tend to frequent. The Tavern is a short walk from our respective houses, so we decided to each put our cars to bed first. He walked me back to my car and then got in the passenger side.

“Oh,” I laughed. “Am I giving you a ride to your car?”

Javi had to kick aside about four and a half pairs of shoes at his feet. “What is ahp with all dese shoooz?” he wanted to know.

Parked at our houses, he watched from the end of my alley as I walked from my parking spot toward him. Then we walked the three blocks to Tavern.

Closed.

Oh come ON, neighborhood business owners! I know it’s Wednesday, but it’s not even 11:30! Can we be adults?

“Okay, fine,” Javi said. “We are going to your house.”

…Oh. Well, I do always have wine…

We walked to my house.

Still in the damned heels, by the way.

“What would you like to drink?” I asked him from the kitchen, where I had headed directly after kicking off my shoes at the front door. “I have wine and vodka.”

“Well… what are you having?” Javi wanted to know while eyeing an unmatched Franco Sarto plaid heel that was lying, inexplicably, on my loveseat.

“Probably wine.”

“Okay, then I’ll have wine.”

“It’s red…” I warned. Javi tends to prefer white.

“Das fine,” he said measuredly. “I just ushally like it when iss cold.”

“Do you want an ice cube in it?” I teased him. I have to tease him, even though I know he’s referring to outdoor temperature. He has been known to violate my principles of wine drinking with an ice cube before.

“No,” he laughed. “I mean when de weather iss cold!”

With our goblets of medoc, we settled on my couch and started talking about our friends, the neighborhood zeitgeist and local politics—our usual fallbacks that are guaranteed to create conversation. But then things started skewing to topics like our families, how we grew up, what we believe in (Javi is atheist but was raised Catholic; he told me about when he told his mother he doesn’t believe in God).

It was somewhere in the middle of a sentence about God that Javier suddenly leaned forward and tried to kiss me.

I think I uttered something eloquent like, “Oh! Um…” as I held a hand up to his chest and turned my head. I half-wish there had been a camera on this. I’m a little concerned that my evasion looked like I was trying to dodge an insect. His kiss landed firmly in the center of my right cheek.

It all gets blurry here, but I know that after a few seconds of somewhat awkward smiles and sounds that didn’t really qualify as words, I gently explained that I can’t let anything happen as long as he has a girlfriend. And he leaned back to his original position with a sheepish smile and downcast eyes, and said they broke up a month ago, but have been talking recently, so he guesses he still technically does have a girlfriend.

“But…” he said quietly, “…I like you.”

Deep breath. “Well, I like you too,” I admitted, concentrating on the end of a nail where the polish had chipped. “And I’ve wondered if there was something here more than the friendly-neighbor thing. But I’ve been trying to be really careful—”

“I know you have,” he laughed, and I smiled, glancing at him. He doesn’t know all the reasons I’ve been careful. This was a test for me. Could I stick to my guns, to the lessons I’ve learned lately?

“I just…” I looked for the right way to do this. “As long as you’re seeing someone, it won’t work for me. And it’s not fair to her.”

“I know,” he said openly. “You’re right.”

He rubbed his face with his hands, eyelids drooping at the hour. “I know you don’t need to hear more than this,” he said without defensiveness, holding his open hand out to ask me to just hear this one thing. “But… something has been missing from that relationship for a long time. And I have been struggling with that for a long time.”

Hmm. They broke up for a reason, and the reason wasn’t lily pad hopping.

I don’t remember whether there were words that ended the conversation. But it wasn’t uncomfortable, really. Just… here is the situation. No now what? or demand for an action plan. Just… here it is. And I was okay with leaving it there.

He apologized for being so sleepy. We hugged goodnight and he left, pointing to the shoe on the loveseat.

“I dink I kicked de other wan in your car,” he smiled.

A short time later my phone dinged with a text message.  “I wish it was Friday or Saturday.”

Alright, fine. I’ve spent days trying not to reply.

Why Did I Do That? No, Really – Why?

The internet is an asshole and my fingers are ungrateful little twerps.

And because of their cruel, cruel partnership, I now know what time Jack and Gwyneth will stand before God and some other beings to swear their lives to each other tomorrow.

Also I know what day he gave her her ring and how.

Stupid internet and its finding of things.

By the way, I just now realized how bad it was to pair up my fingers and the asshole reference in the first sentence. I trust you know that’s not what I meant. But now you’re thinking about it.

For the last few days I’ve been strangely calm about the impending occasion. It’s other-worldly – something I know exists but doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’ve been all, “Jack gets married in three days. Huh.”

“Jack gets married in two days. Huh.”

“Jack gets married tomorrow. Huh.”

Admittedly, the last two days, these thoughts were accompanied by the fleeting idea that maybe she’d said potato and he’d said potahto and they’d called the whole thing off. But really, how would that help? Other than making me feel better at the reassurance that he still doesn’t think he can hack a substantive long-term relationship, and the sick and completely misplaced schadenfreude of him jilting her (I should want her to jilt him), what difference would it have made? Wouldn’t it have just prolonged some strange sort of agony?  Yes, right? I can’t help but think that my odd disconnection to the reality of impending vows is related in some way to the sense that 

Shit. I completely forgot what that thought was going to be.

But I do kind of feel like it’s a point of no return. Like once tomorrow draws to a close, he will be married, and that will somehow delete from my being all care or concern I might have about him. Like somehow after all the anguish of the last year and particularly the last few months, and somehow after all the feelings of the decade before that, it will all cease to matter in any relevant way and will float away from my smushed soul as though it never actually weighed anything at all.

Which won’t happen. Would be nice, though.

I tried not to go looking for trouble. I haven’t trolled for information since a few days after I found out about their engagement. As soon as i knew the date of the wedding, I got busy figuring out how to stay busy that day. I’ve generally stayed busy all year because of him, since long before they got engaged. (It started with putting an offer in on my house.) I debated going away for this weekend, but wasn’t confident. I wound up inviting a dozen people to my house for dinner tomorrow instead, which means I will be busy all day cleaning and cooking. But I’d been doing relatively well and avoiding all temptation to seek out anything more than I knew. Tonight, though, it was nagging at me. Tonight I messaged Angie on Facebook:

Stop me from doing something psychologically destructive. The internet is on. Jack gets married tomorrow. I have homework. Which requires the internet. Also Jandsome Javi exists. I HAVE SERIOUS PROBLEMS AND I NEED SERIOUS PEOPLE TO SOLVE THEM.

Unless, of course, your children and/or husband require your attention. Or you’re not interested in my first world dramas of pain and the world-wide web.

That lasted 90 seconds. No, wait – 30. Then Google happened – one single search of just his name – and now I know, after the briefest, fleetingest of looks, where they’re getting married and what time. And I glimpsed really quickly the reception venue which, in the 0.5 second vision I had of it, appeared to be the most tackily opulant place I could imagine and so. not. his. thing. In much the same way that marriage is not his thing.

I think he’s been anally probed by aliens and had his entire inner self replaced. It’s kind of fascinating.

And then I had to say this to Angie:

Too slow. Now I know more stuff. And have chest pains. Oh, why, internet, why? Why, fingers of betrayal?

And now I’m fantasizing about showing up and kind of ruining it silently, but only to him – somehow standing in a doorway at the reception and catching his eye, freaking him out a little bit, raising one eyebrow, shaking my head, turning around and leaving. And making him think about it for the rest of his life.

I would never even drive by the place, actually. But if I could just strike in his heart some dissonant chord that mixed fear with something that felt like missing me…

Oh hey, I just figured out how psychosis starts!

It has also just occurred to me that I need to find something to keep me busy Sunday, because the hangover from wedding day distraction could really be a bitch. Oh, I’ve failed to adequately gird my soul-loins! I’ve been so good and so careful and now this!

Not at all coincidentally, I’m sure, I’ve seen Javier twice in the last week. Not dates, you understand; I have this interesting way of mentioning his girlfriend exactly once each time I see him. Casual-like. But we were at the neighborhood gathering place for drinks last Friday night, and then he was here last night to watch football for a little while. Not just the two of us – my neighbor had knocked on my door an hour before kickoff and invited herself over to watch the game. He invited me out for a drink after she did that, so I told him I had the neighbor here but he could join if he wanted.

Still, we’re getting to know each other more. It’s a problem. He’s smart. And humble. And considerate. That accent… and then once in a great while he gets really impassioned about something and ay yi yi. And then after we do a chaste friend-hug goodbye, he texts me to thank me for my company and sometimes gets a little nervous if I don’t answer right away. I tell myself it’s not cute or charming, that he has a girlfriend and shouldn’t do this. He doesn’t deny her when I mention her. But he never talks about her, either.

And he’s coming to dinner tomorrow. I made a point of telling him his girlfriend is welcome, too. He’s not sure whether she’s coming. I’m not sure he invited her.

I’d like to think that this is a temporary salve, that I’ve let myself slip just a liiiittle bit to help me get through the specific and anticipated hard days, and then I can pull back when I don’t have that anticipation and struggle. But in the back or sometimes middle of my mind is the accusatory question: Why do you find unmarried but unavailable men interesting?

Maybe what I think is the pain is actually the salve, and I haven’t identified the pain yet.

Gah, that is going to suck.

 

 

 

 

My Mental Exercises Should Be Sponsored By Mountain Dew

I’m evidently in a fasten-your-seatbelts-and-keep-your-arms-and-legs-inside-the-mindfuck-at-all-times kind of phase.

Most of you are familiar with the sagas of my mental musings… the stalker and the parents and the Jack and the Rick. It would not seem that they should all blend together and then get lumped in with my job, but somehow the elements of my life keep doing tricks worthy of X-Games entry and I’m all, “Oh! Well isn’t this an interesting development! Where’s the vodka?”

We had a staff meeting at work the other day to talk about some divisional goals. One of my boss’s suggestions was to increase awareness of our department and what we do by posting photos of ourselves, along with our names, professional contact information and a summary of our jobs, on one of the university’s websites.

Perfectly reasonable, really. As is legend for academic types, one must knock on their door, hand them a cup of coffee and personally tell them about everything, or they’ll never know, because apparently doing field-specific research renders them otherwise incapable of reading emails, looking at the front page of a university website or getting a text message to inform them of things like, “Yes, it snowed a little, but you have to work today.” So if you want to tell them what you do for them, you have to shove it under their noses and point their heads down.

I personally think it’s just smart not to circulate one’s name, workplace and photo around on the internet in general, if one is merely an ordinary citizen. But I blog anonymously, so of course I feel that way. My natural inclination these days is to tense up at the suggestion of my photo, name and location of employment being so easily available in a handy package, but I know there’s a degree to my sensitivity that’s largely unique because I’m the only real-life person I know who has had a stalker who went to prison for his actions and is now out. I don’t wish to inflict my sensitivities on others to a degree that might seem too far, in their minds. It’s actually a detriment, in business, to refuse this kind of PR. Still, when my boss, who knew nothing about my experience, made the suggestion, he happened to glance at me. He saw my reaction and I saw it register on his face.

So then I had to go into his office after the meeting and explain: he didn’t see me disagreeing with the idea or being critical of him. He saw my visceral reaction because I had a stalker.

Hate that guy. Keeps meddling in my affairs. Keeps making me feel like an over-sensitive attention whore who doesn’t want the attention. Very confusing.

So then what did I want to do? Well, I wanted to stop having a minor anxiety attack, for one. My anxiety level always goes up a little when I have to confront the stalker thing in any way, but the problem here wasn’t that; it was having to tell my boss a little bit about it so he would understand my response to his suggestion.

The other problem was this: I also wanted to tell Rick what had just happened. Not helpful. I’ve been telling myself and telling myself that I need to maintain a professional relationship with Rick and that’s all, not talking even a little bit about anything that pertains to personal lives. He asks me about how my weekend was and I’m like, Don’t ask him about his weekend. We don’t care about his weekend. That’s my intellectual awareness. My emotional awareness differs. Because of things like Jack’s engagement and my parents’ ignorance of why maybe my feelings about the stalker situation count more than theirs, I’ve found myself wanting to seek comfort from Rick. After all, this is the man I couldn’t help but like. This is the man who kissed like a dream and spent eight hours on dates. This is the man who sat with me for six hours in an emergency room, starving and covering me with cold compresses when I nearly passed out. This is the man who made my call for help for victims of crime a personal crusade.

Today, though, he made it the butt of a joke.

I had stopped into his office to talk with him about something that had come up in a meeting. He wound up bridging the conversation into whether I’d heard from his former boss, the state senator, to whom I’ve wanted to speak for seven months about further legislative proposals for victims’ rights. The senator, knowing he’d ignored several phone and email messages, had approached me after running into me at an event about helping him out with something in exchange for his willingness to listen to my ideas (though that’s not how he worded it, obviously). I made myself available. He hasn’t followed up. Rick wasn’t surprised and advised me on some other legislators I should approach.

He also, while conveying a story about something the senator had said, referred to his girlfriend.

Ah. Confirmation. He’s back with her.

Well, I had assumed that, hadn’t I? Yes. Yes, since the week before Mother’s Day when he made reference to going to see his mom, I had assumed that the reason he was no longer staying with his parents was because he was back with his girlfriend. This was the first official confirmation that I was right.

Dashed some of my hopes, though. I won’t lie. But it’s alright. I needed to know this for sure, and I needed  not to be the person who brought it up. I needed to be the person who didn’t react at all when he said the word “girlfriend.” With hesitation.

Yep. He hesitated. Don’t think I didn’t notice.

And then, minutes later, on another floor of the building, I nearly literally ran into him, and he said this:

“What are you, stalking me? You know there’s a bill about that in the senate.”

I think the look I gave him could have melted steel. “You should know better than to ever joke with me about that,” I said.

The apology landed in my email inbox two minutes later, sent from his phone before he even got back to his office.

Still, it felt like a betrayal of sorts. I mean, of course it wasn’t, but here I’d felt for two years like this man was my ally who understood. I never thought he’d make a joke about it.

Eh. Men are stupid.

When I replied to his apology, I made a point to say “thanks” instead of “it’s okay.” Because it wasn’t okay. But then I wound up mitigating my stern disapproval by saying that it’s already a touchy subject presently made touchier by recent repercussions.

He replied by urging me not to hesitate to let him know if I needed to vent.

You know what? No. You don’t get to do that. You don’t get to try to be my friend after making an insensitive joke just to try to make yourself feel better. I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want to lean on you if all it does is massage your ego before you go home to your girlfriend. You don’t get to feel reassured that I still like you.

In case you’re wondering, the insurance issues have been worked out and I’m going back to see Ali Velshi tomorrow evening.

Rendezvous, Then I’m Through With You

One of my friends wants to set me up with her friend’s neighbor.

Liz doesn’t know about what’s happened with Jack. In one of those classic crazy life twists, she actually knows Jack from about 15 years ago when they worked together, but she doesn’t know much about him. She knows we were good friends, but that’s all, and she used to tell me all the time that she thought he was a great catch.

Sigh.

Liz had emailed me the other day, telling me that she thought either our friend Alicia or I should go out with this guy, Ben. She particularly thought I might be interested because he’s a classical pianist and violinist, and an economist, to boot. Given my love of classical music as a singer and my pseudo-wonkiness, she figures this is right up my alley. He’s also a runner. Because apparently everybody is a runner these days. The only problem, as she sees it, is that he’s short. She doesn’t know how short, because she doesn’t actually know him.

“I’m told he’s taller than Peter Dinklage, but shorter than me,” she told me.

So that means he’s between 4’6″ and 5’10″. I’m 5’7″ barefoot.

Well, that’s not the only problem. The other problem is that my heart is currently sitting on my counter in a blender.

Also, he lives an hour away from me, and I just can’t stand the thought of going back to driving back and forth after finally ridding myself of my 100-mile-per-day commute. But that’s really neither here nor there. Although it does add to the list of reasons I slump over when I think about this idea.

So why even consider it, right? Well, that’s the thing. It’s not that I have any interest in running the risk of attaching myself once again to someone who, in a month or a year or a decade, will walk away. I know I don’t have the stomach for dating at the moment, starting over with getting to know someone from zero, investing time and energy into something that ends with a whimper or a thud or an explosion, but ends nonetheless.

But I know that I am dangerously close to never trying again.  I feel like there might be a delicate balance, and that if I listen to the voice that tells me not to bother, I’ll shut it all down for good.

I ran into Rick the other day at work and he was telling me something that doesn’t matter because all I could think was that I have to keep it professional or I’ll get stuck again, falling for someone I can’t have. Every time I have to ask him for information on a project we’re both involved in, he responds to my cold email with a phone call. Someone says something nice about me in his presence? He leaves me a handwritten note at my desk. I send out an email to the people involved in the project? He replies just to me. We went on a site visit for the project the other day and while everyone else was talking amongst themselves about planning an event (which we don’t have a role in), we wound up standing off to the side together. I looked up and he was looking at me from behind his RayBans.

It helps that it’s difficult to have a meaningful wordless exchange when you’ve both got sunglasses on, but I suddenly remembered what he once said about me wearing his, and I had to walk away.

I can’t get stuck again.

So, what do you think? Should I tell Liz I’ll go out with the economist musician runner (damned runners)? Swallow the trepidation, dose up on anti-anxiety meds, drink a couple glasses of wine and pretend I have the emotional energy required? Is that fair to him? Or should I spare us all the struggle?

*In case you’re wondering, the title of this post is a reference to the ’90s Eve 6 song, Inside Out. “Wanna put my tender heart in a blender, watch it spin around into a beautiful oblivion/Rendezvous, then I’m through with you.”

Who Wrote Every Radio Song Ever? I’d Like A Word.

I’m at the point now where I think that all music with words in English needs to be banned from my earshot, and I’m talking to rom-coms on television trying to convince the stupid women in them to stop falling in love with the guy who can’t make up his mind.

I’m smart enough not to attempt the radio or most of my music collection. I usually have Pandora going on my laptop (the internet music service, not the band) while I’m cleaning or cooking, but I didn’t do it yesterday while I was frantically dusting and scrubbing and washing on deadline because having one neighbor over for dinner turned into a party of eight and I hadn’t cleaned in two weeks. But I had to go to the grocery store for tomatoes and mixed greens, and everything that played over the speakers high above my head was about love or breakups, or came from the standard 1990s collection of wedding songs.

So for now, I can’t go to grocery stores. Or watch Sunday afternoon television. Or see a random issue of People Magazine, because Gwyneth Paltrow is on the cover as the most beautiful woman in the world. (Which, let’s be honest, is nauseating even if Jack’s future wife didn’t look like her.) I also have to avoid everything relating to baseball (Jack’s passion), horses (long story, multiple chapters), several streets and restaurants, an entire television station (another long story with multiple chapters) and a lot of non-rom-com movies.

And certain cocktails.

And church.

Ralph Lauren Blue. Listerine Pocket Strips.

And, weirdly, zebras. He’s afraid of zebras. Not that I see zebras a lot, but when I do, I instantly think of Jack.

I’m taking to heart a lot of what friends have said – including blog friends – about Jack’s impending marriage and what it means, or doesn’t, about our relationship and about him. I just got off the phone with Joey, himself heartbroken over the breakup of his first real relationship in years. He somehow was the first one to get through to me that it doesn’t matter what I knew about Jack before, and it doesn’t matter what Jack thought about his capacity for relationships before, and it doesn’t matter what I understood before. Jack has changed. That’s all that matters.

It’s hard, though, to synthesize that with everything I know about him for the last ten years, and what he’s told me about the ten years before that. It’s hard to believe that after ten years of showing him what love is, and nearly 50 years of his own life, it only took eight months for him to completely turn around his whole understanding of himself. The only way his marriage will work is if he really did turn that around within himself.

What still hurts is that, when I asked whether I had any significance in his life, he had no answer, which meant the answer was no. I asked him that more than a year ago, and I’m still not over it. I have realized that there were lies and there was hiding and there was evasiveness and there was a fundamental lack of respect for me after all the years we were so many things for one another – but that doesn’t mean I don’t love him anymore. I don’t wish he were marrying me instead of Gwyneth –  not because I don’t love him or can’t imagine it, but because he’s hurt me too much. But I can’t understand, at bottom, why he didn’t have the respect for me that I had earned.

I’m angry with myself, too. I have been, I guess, for a long time. It’s another thing I made peace with and now it’s come back, in light of the change in conditions that makes me wonder what was true before. I’m angry that I let myself love someone who wouldn’t love me, even though I tried more than once to stop and I couldn’t. I’m angry that it wasn’t the first time. I’m angry that I considered his feelings above mine all the time, that I avoided showing him the fullness of how I felt – good or bad – because I didn’t want to scare him away, and in the end he walked away anyway. Who wouldn’t have seen that coming? I’m mad at myself for hiding the nature of that relationship from even my closest friends other than him, because I knew they wouldn’t approve, that they would warn me it was a bad sign. That’s what I would have done, too, if it were them instead of me. I’m angry that I was happy loving him and only thinking, or guessing, or hoping that he loved me.

I have learned a few things, yes. And I applied some of what I learned with Rick. I’m hoping those are lessons I won’t forget. But I worry about what effect this will have on me in the future, should I meet someone else and have the stomach for anything more than “hello.” I made a conscious decision, at more than one point, to trust Jack. I wonder now if I will be able to do that again, or if I will struggle with it so much that whoever he is will be discouraged.

And the memories that float to the surface unbidden – I’d like for them to stop. Images and impressions and senses and jokes and looks and touches and the indelible mark of his condo and the smell of the air there when I walked through the door… now when it flashes, she’s in the room, too. It knocks the wind out of me every time.

Day six. Breathe in.

Your Life Is Important To Us. Please Continue To Hold.

As Josh Lyman once said in an episode of The West Wing called “The War At Home:” I’m on hold. I’m on hold. I’m in some kind of hellish hold world of holding.

Super episode, by the way.

So. I’m still waiting to hear from the university about the job. I’m not going to hear about it until at least next Monday, when Joanne gets back from vacation. She did email me yesterday, the first day of her vacation, to ask me for three references. I had already provided a list of three, two of whom are either recently retired from her department or currently working one floor below her in the president’s office. So I guess she wanted three more.

I could go for days, boss. Refer away. Or whatever.

But seriously? Make the call. You’ve told me you want to hire me, you’ve told me you don’t know why I didn’t get the last job I interviewed for there, you asked me for free advice, some of which you actually took, you sang my praises to Rick twice the next day… HIRE ME ALREADY. Or I’m totally billing you for that shit.

Meanwhile, I had to schedule the interview I don’t want, for the job I don’t really want. That’s because I had put my old and potentially new again boss on hold, because I was on hold with the university. And then when I learned I wasn’t going to hear from the university until at least the 25th, I couldn’t keep David on hold anymore. So that interview is Friday.

Which is Rick’s birthday. I had foolishly taken it as a vacation day, thinking maybe I’d make him a nice dinner. That was more than a month ago, when we were swimming along nicely. Cut to now, at which point I haven’t seen him in almost a month and didn’t hear from him between Friday afternoon and this morning. And all he can say to me anymore is, “Did you hear anything about the job yet?” Even though I have told him I won’t hear until next week. It’s like that’s the only way he can think of to continue some sort of contact.

I almost gave the vacation day back, but then I realized it would be the best way to go to the interview I don’t want for the job I don’t really want.

Since I turned my blog into an interactive forum on dating, I’ve been doing what it seemed most of you recommended: responding when contacted, but not reaching out. Which is really no different from what I’d been doing all along. So no behavior modification was necessary. Psyche modification – different story.

Therefore, I am grumpy as hell. Which, I’m told, hath no fury like a woman wondering what the eff is the deal with the seemingly endless procession of men in her life who can’t get their shit together with super glue, compounded by the nearly four-year search for a way out of a basement that didn’t include a spoon and a Raquel Welch poster, which is presently taunting her because it’s like she can smell the fresh air but she can’t get to it.

Or something like that.

Even Sam isn’t getting back to me. Days have gone by and nothing. I think he might be dead. I emailed him yesterday to ask. No reply. So it’s possible I’m right.

I’ve heard it said that God has three answers: Yes, No and Wait. I suppose it’s possible that I’m getting a bunch of Waits lately. But still, I would think God would have a better way to communicate. Burn a bush or something.

But tell me what the burning bush means first, so I’m not all, “It’s a sign! Wait… what?”