Personal

“You can think that you’re in love…” (Part 2 of 3)

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Sometimes we create fantasies because the reality isn’t worth facing. We create happy marriages when all we think about is running out the door. We glue something broken beyond repair in hopes that things will get better. We do this because the alternative is scarier than what we have.

After we split, I spent hours every day day dreaming that she’d come back. There were mornings I’d hear her trying to sneak into my room like she had in our college days. I’d feel her warm body curled beside only to find her side empty when I opened my eyes.

And I spent hours contemplating the outcome of “the talk” I had with V. How, in every scenario that played in my head, things turned out better than they did. Because I had this one right. I read all the signs correctly. In the end, I projected my feelings onto her and just read what I wanted to.

Maybe it’s time I stopped clinging to this maladaptive daydreaming and accept reality for what it is. Take charge of the things I can control. Focus on my return to writing, book/movie/television reviewing. So I dropped $60+ on a new theme. It was time to start fresh, you know?

Also see:

Doldrums

“You don’t have to feel this emptiness”

How does one get back into writing? I’ve taken such a long break from the task that anything longer than a blog post is just too much. And even these posts are sometimes muddied with the lack of…words that I can’t think of at this moment.

Like most of you, I’m in a state of self-isolation. While social distancing was considered my trade, much like writing, I’m not very good at it these days.

Last weekend was the start of social distancing. It was also my birthday weekend. What a way to ring in my 37th year on this planet. Global pandemic. Mid-age crisis has nothing on this.

I normally don’t celebrate my birthday, and it’s been some time since the old friends and I have celebrated birthday weekend (as three of our birthdays happen, usually, during the same week). But I do spend the weekends with Virginia watching movies or TV shows. However, her parents were down for her birthday (the day after mine) so those plans were already canceled.

When COVID-19 cases started popping up a long the area, we knew it was only a matter of time before things changed. During birthday week, restaurants were making changes to their dine in areas before closing completely. The library where Virginia and I both work announced it would be closed to the public.

The plan was to continue working until it closed completely. That all changed with the anxieties of others feeding mine. I requested a week off. And here’s the start of it.

It’s just me and my laptop and my writing skills. Which have remain dormant for some time, because I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything outside of PR and these blog posts.

How do I get back into the habit? There’s a lot of voices in my head craving for my attention, but I can’t get them onto the page. Is this all that I have to offer them? This morsel of attention by recognizing they’re there but not doing anything with them?

There’s so much going on. Not just outside, but in my head. All these thoughts just run chaotically. Because there’s something in the way she reacted that keeps playing in my head. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that chapter of my life isn’t over just yet.

Or maybe I’m just a fool and need to learn to let things go.

Doldrums

Social Distancing is My Trade

There’s a lot on my mind these days; I don’t need the Covid-19 to muddy the waters. Yet here we are. It’s my birthday and instead of spending it the way I had planned to, I’m here at home typing out this post.

There’s panic in the street. People are overbuying, while others are suffering. We can’t all afford to stock up toilet paper and bottle waters. And even if I could, I wouldn’t want to be part of the problem. Much like the Texas gas crisis, this is a self-fulling prophecy. The shortage of goods didn’t exist until people started to hoard. And this shitty thing is, they’re still still stocking up.

Despite our chest-beating, my place of employment has taken the higher road and shut our doors at 5 p.m. We won’t be open to the public, but we will trying to work on virtual programming. Several authors and publishers are working with public school teachers and librarians and allowed us to host online story times for the public. Others are reading their own stories for public consumption.

While the library isn’t open to the public, there is still some worry that lingers around our staff. Namely our part-time staff as they are without all the benefits of full-time. There is talk about plans to ensure everyone continues getting paid if we fully shut down. Be it being transferred to call center if that becomes operational. In the meanwhile, we’re working on fixing spine labels, cleaning, answering patrons questions over the phone and online.

Then there’s the social distancing. Something that I figured would be easy for me. I enjoy the company of myself. I like the quiet, empty moments of being home. Except, I’m a different animal than I was a decade or two ago. Now I’ve come to realize that I actually care about people. And not the obvious people like my son, his mom, my mom, etc. But I genuinely care about others.

Even before the whole social distancing and self quarantining, Virginia’s parents were coming down for her birthday (tomorrow). That meant that we wouldn’t be hanging out and that bugged me. Our weekends had become commonplace, ritual.

Even when I’m upset, being in someone else’s company is preferred over my own. A lot has left me in the throes of depression. So much that I’m not willing to put out just now. Having a coworker meekly ask to join me for lunch one day, even though I had planned on stewing in my depression, helped. By the time we walked back to work, I’d forgotten what was bothering me in the first place.

And this is the part that gets me. Social distancing is important. If you can avoid going out, just stay home. We live in a wonderful world of technology where everyone is at the tips of our fingers. I understand that not everyone has access to this technology, but even picking up a phone and talking to someone – not texting, talking – can do wonders.

When I’m not at work, I’ll be home. Probably going stir crazy, but it’s something we all have to do in order to keep this thing from spreading further.

I’ll try to post more now that my schedule has changed for the next two weeks. Hopefully, the posts will be filled with funny anecdotes.

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Personal

“it won’t make sense right now but you’re still her friend”

Is it natural? With every heartbreak, there’s a need to reflect? Maybe it’s just me.

A few years ago, I met this woman on an dating app.* We hit it off well. Our first conversation involved a case of mistaken identity. The perfect meetcute for the modern age. Of course, there was a problem. I wasn’t looking for anything serious. I wasn’t even looking for anything casual.

I exhausted myself by then. Even I had grown tired of my complaints about Jenny. I wanted to get into a new headspace. I need to talk to someone who I hadn’t tired out.

At that point, I had never considered using a dating app of any sort. But I was tired of the anonymous conversations Whisper provided. A longing for something of substance had taken over. Sure, Whisper provided some companionship. It had also provided problematic people. The girls who needed to fill the void. The bad marriages. The eventual divorces. The girl who perfected the vanishing act.

No, I wanted a face to the stranger on the screen. I downloaded the app and filled out the requirements. I didn’t want to mislead anyone, so I explicitly stated that nothing romantic would come from this encounter. I wasn’t looking for casual sex, but I wasn’t looking for a relationship, either.

The second or third swipe, I matched with her. Her profile held a humor that matched my own. And we got to talking. Later, we exchanged numbers. Of course, stupidly, I switched two digits in mine and her text went to the wrong person. Some poor schmuck got a text reading, “Hey, it’s Joanne** from Tinder.”

“To be the fly on that wall,” I joked. “Poor bastard.”

Our friendship lasted less than two months and ended in ultimatum. Because as much as I liked Joanne, the scar was still fresh. I asked her not to go down this road as it wouldn’t end well for either of us. Of course, when an unstoppable force and unmovable object meet, there’s only one ending.

“I like being your friend. And unfortunately that’s all I have to offer.”

“It’s your ex, isn’t it? You’re still in love with her. Why else are you still friends with her?”

I haven’t heard from her since.

We get careless, I suppose. It’s easy to mistaken platonic companionship for something more. Easy to fall into unrequited love. Especially when you connect so well with someone. When you mistake those stolen glances as something more.

I aimed to not fall for anyone. In the process, I plummeted. We’re great friends. Unfortunately, that’s all she can offer me.

I nodded. “It’s ok. I just needed to know.”

* Tinder. It was Tinder, ok? Tinder.
** Not really her name.
Doldrums · Personal

So this is how the story ends

I started this post last night. Then I backspaced it to oblivion, only to start again. Rinse and repeat until I closed the tab and shut off my computer. Writing hasn’t been coming easy for me, and that famous Bukowski quote echoes through my head: “Don’t try.”

While Bukowski speaks to a younger version me, lost to the times, that quote still holds heavy in my heart. Much like the one I scrawled in Sharpie on my teenage bedroom: “You have to be WILLING to write badly.” I’m unsure of the origin of that quote. Not sure if teenage me plucked it from the pages of Writer’s Digest, or read it in a writer’s manual. But it made sense to me.

You have to try to fail, and failures aren’t always a bad thing. Sometimes failure leads to something better. (Cue The Rolling Stones.)

As overly simplistic this is, failure led to Shaun. And I never once thought of it in that way. When I started in 1997, I was bold. And I don’t mean that I took great leaps and chances to stand out – though, I vaguely remember wearing this string in my hair for reasons that still baffle me. What I mean is, my freshman of high school I had this thought that if I took French, I’d get the girl. What girl? Who the fuck knows. Any girl. I can think of a number of crushes I had in the eighth and ninth grade and to 14-year-old me, either one would have sufficed. I wanted a girlfriend and French is the language or romance, no?

So I took French and, ultimately, I flunked French. Who would have fucking guessed that? So my “sophomore” year (better known as my second freshmen year), I took Spanish. Advance Spanish. Now I speak better Spanish these days than I did back then. And that’s very telling of the skill 15-year-old me had. Which is, if you haven’t guessed, none at all. Yet somehow I passed. So that in my junior year, I took Spanish II.

Spanish has never been a second language to me. It should be considering my upbringing and where I live. I’m good when it comes to ordering food and, most times, assisting patrons at work. But conversationally, I’m as gringo as they get. (In fact, I know a white girl who speaks better Spanish than me.) So in Spanish II, I managed to pass the first semester. I don’t know what happened that second semester, but I failed, causing to repeat it in my senior. Bear with me, I’m getting to my point.

In my second semester, I walked into my second attempt at Spanish II. I chose my seat carefully, sitting aside a pretty, green-eyed freshman girl with a unique spelling of her name. This girl, of course, was Jeanna. Now I didn’t fall in love with Jeanna off the bat. I was in a committed long distance relationship with a redhead in San Antonio, whom met through her friends here.

But that’s beside the point, because eventually, I did fall in love with Jeanna. I spent most of my post-adolescent and adult life in love with her. And we had our ups and downs. Our fights. Break-ups and make-ups. And we had Shaun, the best creation I ever had a hand in. More beautiful than any poem I’ve written or ever will write.

You see, if I hadn’t taken French my freshmen year, I would have started my Spanish lessons earlier. Thus leading me to have never meant Jeanna. And if I passed French my freshmen year, I would have taken French II my sophomore year. Whether I passed that or not isn’t important; I still wouldn’t have met Jeanna. Had I passed that second semester of Spanish II my junior year, same outcome.

Now I’m not saying things happen for a reason, because that’s balderdash and a strange way to look at the world.

I’m guess what I’m saying is this: Don’t just try to do something, do something. If you fail, that’s part of the process. Some times it might hurt; some times you find yourself in a better situation because of it.

Maybe you’re a writer trying publish for the first time, only get a rejection letter. Maybe you’re a freshmen kid wanting to learn French. Or maybe you’re sitting next to the woman you’ve grown really close, watching YouTube videos, and you get brave enough to ask if she wants more only for her to tell you she’s content on just being friends.

If there’s one message I want to impart here it’s this: It’s o.k. if you’re not o.k. right now. Failure and rejection have a way of making you feel like a lesser person. But I love my failures as much as I praise my successes. Because I wouldn’t trade all the hypothetical girls freshmen-me could’ve had speaking perfect French for what I have now. Even if what I have now is just being a single dad.

Dune author Frank Herbert once said, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” This isn’t an ending. It’s just another beginning. Another chapter to be written.

Stream of Consciousness

“Every single word of the conversation we just had”

The noise is suffocating. And I can see that her ear is bothering her. And knowing the looks and whispers that will come by us getting up together, I ask her if she would like to step out for a moment. Get some fresh air. Our friends share smiles. There is some egging on. Not sure if she sees any of it. And I’m sure there are some jokes passed around as we make our way through the crowd into the great outdoors. Our only company are the banished smokers. And we sit across from each other just talking. Nerd stuff. Our usual conversations. And then…

“Where did you go right now?”

I’m seventeen and it’s summer. The scent of Candies perfume fills the atmosphere of our bodies. She whispers all the dirty things we should be doing. And she looks into my eyes as she asks me her question. And I can see the pain that lingers behind them. And I can hear the words she’ll tell me when I inevitably break her heart in a matter of months. When I meet the sweet cheerleader girl who’d rather play guitar in a band. When I meet said girl’s best friend, the redhead from San Antonio.

“Are you even listening to me?”

We’re fighting again. And I know we’re at the end of our time, but both of us are still trying to wedge the puzzle pieces together. We’re just too afraid of having to start over. She’s made too many plans. She’s got it all figured it out, while I’m still struggling to find out who it is that I want to be. Though, deep down, I know it isn’t the person I’m growing into. And I turn to her, and I see the tears in her eyes, understanding the pain that I’ll introduce in a matter of weeks when I go missing. When I break up with her over a phone call because I’m the coward I deny being.

“Are you ok?”

Her green eyes inspect mine. She who watches me sleep whenever she awakes first. She who I long to hold on to even as she runs away from me. She keeps me centered. I called her my balance to my counselor. There’s so much I want to do for her, but can’t get past my own anxieties. We’re at the stop light and I know the words she’s about to tell me. She’s uncertain, but I know the truth. She’s pregnant. And my life is going to split into two. There were times when I wanted to leave because it seemed easier than remaining a slave to what I felt for her. But at that moment when the words slip from her mouth, I know that I want to stand by her side for as long as she will have me. And while the possibility seems endless, I began to wonder if she can see in my eyes the pain she will cause me. And I wonder if it’s with the same clarity that I have when I see it the pain I’ll cause her.

“I think it’s my mommy’s friend.”

Shaun and I lay in bed watching TikTok videos when the phone call comes in. And I ignore it because it’s late and nothing good can come of this. When I listen to the phone call, it’s from the hospital. The information doesn’t compute correctly. My mind doesn’t process it that I’m hanging on to the fact that they mispronounced Jeanna’s name. When I call back, I learn of her condition. Stable but critical. An oxymoron to put me at ease, I imagine. On the way to the hospital, I’m calling her mom. I’m calling her brother. I’m calling Izzy and Marci. When I get there, the nurse takes me aside and tells me she’s the only survivor. Her mom, Marci, and her nephew gone.

“Can you be strong?”

And I’m sitting next to my father. He has less than a day left when I tell him that there was a time when I watched him from afar. That whenever he visited, I’d hide behind my grandmother’s plants just to catch a glimpse of him. That in the sixth grade, I darted from the backyard to the front when I saw beat up Dodge pickup drive by. And I told him that there had been so much anger that brewed up inside me when he never bothered to look for me. But we are both adults now and we both share the blame for not having a relationship. Neither of us budged. And I tell him that I didn’t hate him. “And if you need to go, it’s ok. You can go. I’ll be ok.”

And I’m here. With her. Watching her hands. Watching her eyes. And I’m searching for myself in them. And I think about what I’ve lost this year. And all that I’ve gained. And I replay all the conversations we’ve ever had. And try to memorize all the words to each of them.

“But are you living in the moment? Or are you living just to remember?”

And every ghost I’ve held on to. Every moment when I looked over my shoulder to what I had and what I lost. The guilt I’ve carried for not being there, and not being enough. And the moments when I could have tried harder. It’s all led me to this. Now.