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?”

Really?

Aaaand we’re officially pissed at Rick.

So, we haven’t seen each other in two weeks, save the 30 minutes or so we had in his office after my second interview on Tuesday, one floor up. Texting has gotten rather stale. He calls to update me on job possibility stuff or legislature stuff, but that’s it. The other night we were going to get together after I was done with work, but he cancelled at 9:45 because he was too tired. I found out he’s got his whole birthday weekend planned, and I’m not included. Two weekends ago, he volunteered to babysit his nephew, which nixed our chances of getting together. Last weekend he wasn’t feeling well. I’m really good about not initiating and not pushing, but I think this is too long without making plans. This takes things out of slow gear and into stall.

This weekend I’m going to New Jersey to meet my Shiny New Niece who just got borned on Wednesday. Last night he started our nightly text conversation with “Have fun this weekend with your niece! :-)”

(Um…. )

Me: Thanks! You know it’s only Thursday, right?

Him: Yup. Just being premature.

(Something’s fishy. But the conversation continues for a while on good rapport. And then…)

Me: So when’s our next date?

Him: Great question! Hopefully before the next Star Wars movie comes out!

Me: Well, that’s in 2015, so yeah.

(It takes him several minutes to reply. He must be composing a long text of ideas and suggestions. And then…)

Him: Haha!!

(And then I throw the phone down because hello?!)

(A few minutes and deep breaths later, remembering that I don’t drop hints and I don’t do passive-aggression with men I’m dating…and I’ve told him that, for some stupid, stupid reason…)

Me: Sunday night?

Him: Possibly.

(Phone gets thrown down again. I do not appreciate evasiveness.)

(Minutes. Deep breaths. I should probably let it go here, but I try one more round of lighthearted suggestion.)

Me: I think we could use a night out!

Him: True. I have another busy week ahead beginning Monday morning. This month I’ll be at the statehouse every day.

(Yeah, okay, fuck you too.)

(Minutes. Debate. Inner conflict. Hypothetical mental text message composition, revision, further revision. I decide.)

Me: Okay, well whenever you can make some time!

(Phone takes a header. Also? Note the lack of smileyface emoticon. Take that.)

Alright, so maybe that last thing was slightly passive-aggressive. But also totally deniable. I changed the punctuation from a . to a ! so I could pass it off as cheerful at a later time if necessary. Because yes, Rick, I do understand the steaming pile of crap on your plate right now. And yes, I am understanding and flexible about when we can see each other. But don’t take advantage of that. It’s not okay to go a month without seeing the person you’re dating. You are not, in fact, dating if that’s the case. Don’t go from calling me your girlfriend to wanting to go slow to not seeing me for two weeks to not even making an effort… and expect me to be “understanding.”

Why do I even like you people? I mean, at all? Ever? You think we’re weak? You think we’re unstable?

Now, I realize something else might be working on him. He’s been working a lot in the state capital, which happens to be where he lived with The Ex. He mentioned the other day that being there means being reminded of a lot of things. She works for the state legislature, too.

So maybe he’s freaked about the possibility of working with me. Not with me, really, because if I get the job, we’d be in totally different departments on different floors doing different work and probably not even sitting in the same meetings. But maybe there’s that mental attachment thing, that connection between location and relationship, that’s freaking him out because of The Ex.

Totally possible. Despite all his excitement and effort to help me get the job. But that’s going to happen with any relationship. Like that song, “Always Something There To Remind Me,” that scares the crap out of me because it was on the radio the day I got tubes in my ears and they had drained all the fluid from behind my eardrums and I could finally hear and it seemed so loud, with its creepy bells and whatnot. So there are reminders. What are you going to do, move out of town every time you break up with someone?

And as previously mentioned in this here blog, I decided a few years ago that I was done guessing what a guy was thinking. Either he tells me or I don’t know. That’s all there is to it. I’m not putting myself through those mental Cirque du Soleil exercises anymore. Because you know what happens? You glom on to an explanation – oh, that must be it! – and then you’re wrong, but before you realize you’re wrong you’ve constructed an entire system of emotional and relational operation around your wrongness.

Screw that noise.

Back in the beginning of February, I had this really weird dream. I was in the ER for some reason – pain of some kind. Really severe pain. I was by myself, and they put me alone in a room and gave me, of all things, a breast pump. That was my treatment. And somehow, it worked. I managed to, in spite of never having birthed a child, express milk. And it relieved this pain I was in. Which was not, I should point out, any kind of boob pain. And so I felt better, and I was all, “How am I even doing this?” and then I looked down and saw that the plastic bag collecting the milk was now collecting blood.

I looked this up because naturally you want to know what it means when you dream you’re hemmorhaging from your nipples, and the breast pump signifies my ability to nurture and give love. Seems obvious. And then I realized maybe the dream means that I tend to give more than I should because it kills a different kind of pain for me.

Well, I’d like to stop doing that.

So now the ball is in his proverbial court entirely. It’s not even on a line or a net or anything like that. Your serve, sir. As I was publishing this post initially, I hadn’t heard from him today and didn’t expect to. And then, as soon as I hit PUBLISH, the phone dinged.

Him: Talk about a looong day! So much happened (work-related) it’s too much for a text message. Have a great weekend with your family.

It’s a good thing this phone has a protective cover.

 

Say, What’s That Shovel Doing There?

Okay, I’m telling you this story. I’m telling you this story because how many real life people can I tell this story to? Not that many, because they’ll all freak out. And you guys will too, kind of, but still, I’m telling you this story.

So I come home from work last night, it’s a touch after 11pm, I drive down the alley and I pull into my parking pad. As I get ready to get out of the car, I notice something leaning against the wall of my parking pad that I’ve never seen before. I’m kind of looking at it puzzledly (is that a word? I’m making it a word) for a minute, and then my next-door neighbor, Tyreese, opens his back door and holds up a hand and tells me to wait a minute. He’s making wide eyes at me. “Just wait. Just wait.”

Clearly something’s up. So I wait.

A minute later he comes back out and tells me that there were two guys behind my house just a few minutes before this. His girlfriend saw them, yelled at him, he jumped off the couch, put some clothes on, grabbed his gun and looked out the door. When he looked, they ran. He says they looked like teenagers. As he told me this I realized that the thing I saw propped against the wall of the parking pad is a shovel – one of those heavy iron ones – and there are footprints all over my metal cellar door. I had left the damned kitchen window blinds open by accident. That window is right above the cellar doors. The damned punks were going to break into, or at the very least were casing, my house. Tyreese had told me to wait when I first pulled up so he could look around a little, make sure no one was watching from anywhere. He was worried someone had been watching me come and go, waiting for me.

How awesome is Tyreese, by the way?

I knew when I bought this house that I was taking a chance. I mean, it’s the city, I’m a woman, I live alone, yadda yadda yadda. Frankly, living alone in a house as a woman is always a risk, no matter where you live, but you can’t be afraid your whole life. Still, though… two and a half months and some punks are breaking into my house? Come on. It’s not a bad neighborhood. Plus I’m so freaking careful it’s ridiculous. I bought my TV and had it shipped to the UPS facility so I could go pick it up instead of having it delivered here. I never put the box for it outside. I kept it in the basement. My dad took it to Pennsylvania to throw it out. Swear to God. That’s how careful I am.

So, I call the cops. The officer gets here pretty quick and I tell him the deal, and he says all the exact things one should not say to me at this stage in my life, post-predator/prey episode involving the court system and at least three detention facilities. Things such as: Yeah, they probably know your schedule, they know you’re coming and going, they target women who live alone.

Hey. Buddy. Can we not? With the stalker talk?

That’s not what he meant, of course; he meant that they do that so they know who the easy targets are for robberies. And I get that. Again, this was a risk I knew I was taking. But now I feel like some weak and defenseless damsel in distress all over again, and dammit, this was not supposed to happen. I have faith in this city and I have faith in this street where there has not been a crime report in months. Also, in that typically liberal, feminist, made-for-TV-movie way, I refuse to be a “victim in quotation marks.” But I noticed about 30 minutes after the cop left that the screen to my window was gone. I called him and he changed the report to an attempted breaking & entering. Definitely tried to break in. Tyreese probably stopped them just in time.

Tyreese and his girlfriend are getting some home-cookin’ for this, at the very least.

Also? The cop asked if I was okay, and I totally started crying. Never ask me if I’m okay. The longer he stood there staring at me and not believing I was okay because for some reason a woman ugly-crying in front of him indicates some level of not-okayness, the harder I cried. Poor guy felt bad.

Needless to say, the alarm company is coming tomorrow morning, bright and early, to install sensors on all three doors and all the ground floor windows, plus a motion detector inside and a remote access thingy so I can– well, frankly, so I can probably set off the alarm myself a gazillion times by accident. But mostly so I can get in and out the back door without setting the alarm off, since the keypad will be in the front.

Oh, and I was mid-text conversation with Rick when all this went down, so he got roped into the we’ve-had-exactly-three-dates-what-is-the-protocol-for-this situation. I was trying to keep him from feeling obligated and wound up feeling like an asshole drama queen for even telling him about it. The guy must think I’m a total spazz. First the stalker, which is the oh-so-romantic reason we met, and now this. But he informed me that he has dealt with drama queens before and I am so not that.

Phew.

I suppose I shouldn’t tell him about the creepy state trooper just yet, though.

Keep Your Arms and Legs Inside the Car At All Times

Well, right on cue, I’m getting neurotic.

I always wonder: am I the only one who gets like this? Or who gets like this beyond the age of 22? It makes me feel immature and destined to fail, like my nerves become a self-fulfilling prophesy as all the doubts flood my head and tell me, one way or another, “He’s going to ditch you. In a month, or two, at most, he’ll be gone.”

What evidence do I have for this? I hadn’t heard from Rick Tuesday, except for one response to a message I sent. That’s all. And I know. I know that’s stupid. I know it’s needy  of me. I knew he was at work, and very possibly in meetings all day long. The last three days he was off and had all the freedom in the world to talk with me, and he did. We’ve seen each other twice, there has been an official First Kiss, and he has said he can’t wait to see me again (when we can hopefully try the Next Kiss in an environment warmer than a parking lot at 2am in January). We’ve exchanged grin-inducing messages that made my face hurt for an hour.

He has told me I’m very pretty, and that I shouldn’t thank him for saying it because it’s just a fact.

Ohhhh, but I could fall hard for this one.

Enter the voices. He just got out of a relationship. Do you really want to be the rebound? 

(To which, quite honestly, the answer is, “Um, have you seen him? Yes. Yes, in fact, I do.”)

He’s still paying the rent on their place. Why is he paying it? Will he get his own place? Are they going to get back together? Why did they break up? Did he cheat? Will he wind up keeping me a secret for months because he thinks it looks bad that we went out so soon after his breakup? Or for some other reason? Does he even want a relationship right now or am I just salve for his pain? He worked for a politician and ran for office, himself… is he just a smooth operator? Is this chivalry of opened doors and pulled-out chairs just an act? Can I even believe him when he says such nice things to me? Will he just disappear, stop calling?

I have been kept a secret. I have been smooth-talked. I have been cheated on. I have been lied to. I have been disappeared on. These things don’t make me exceptional; most of them happen to everyone. I’m 35, so it’s happened to me much more than perhaps those who were married ten years younger and stayed that way. It’s a numbers game; the odds are stacked against me. And almost all relationships end. You really only hope for one Forever, and if you’re wise, you know that one won’t be perfect.

The problem is that when it ends those ways that many times, you start to think it’s because of you. And then every time it happens after that, your fears are only confirmed. And pretty soon you’re pretty sure it will happen again this time, no matter what, or who, this time is.

Today is Jack’s birthday. He was in a dream I had two nights ago, taking me to the doctor because I was badly ill. And that has happened in real life. But Rick was in a dream I had the night before that. Nothing too substantial, but he was there. Like real life. Jack will, I’m sure, be hovering on the edge of my consciousness today. This will be the first January 23rd in 10 years that I will not call and sing “Happy Birthday” to him, that I will not celebrate his existence. He doesn’t like fuss on this day, but I wonder if he will miss it.  And I’m sure that, in some way, Jack’s birthday is part of why I got neurotic about Rick.

Who, by the way, did end up in meetings all day, and we chatted through the night after he left work via those wondrous things with which I have a love-hate relationship: text messages.

Of course, once I heard from him, the neurosis cleared up. And we made a date for Friday.

It’s exhausting, being in my head. And my heart.

Guess I’d better buckle up.