i am haunted.
i am haunted by someone.
i am haunted by decisions i have made, and more often, decisions i have decided not to make.
today, in an effort to milk the melancholy, i picked up my old yearbooks.
and it was innocent enough. i wanted to show kit who i was in high school..
this coming after a tour of the house, finished off with a tour of the photos that line the hall. fighting emotion of staring down my brother who was taken at one and a half from my family by a swimming pool in march.
she knew it would be hard. and asked me if i was sure i was okay to do it in my fragile state more than once.
i was emotional, but not crying. she knew the history. now she had pictures to illustrate it.
mom stood by and listened to what i explained, correcting me when i identified the wrong infant.
and interrupting to point out that the picture at the center of my own personal year by year photo frame was covering up my wedding photo.
the picture is one nina took of aubree and i standing in front of a sign stating that the bar we stood in front of was a good place to make bad decisions. it's a phrase my mom overuses. make good decisions. we took it specifically to show mom.
and if you were able to blow up this particular picture, you'd probably see coffee walking toward us. it was taken all of ten seconds before he asked me to that fateful december drink. it is my mom's favorite picture of the two of us. my sister's also, because she loves the way she looks in it.
the irony is still sinking in. i can't quite come to terms with it, actually.
but the yearbook. to show kit who was my senior year, because that was the one i had a huge role in creating. and creative control over what was inside. the year i got to call the shots of the yearbook that would encapsulate who we were. the class of 1996.
and pictures of my ghost tucked inside, that i stole, because i had access. before he died.
and, just like the box of journals that stares me down every single fall, i opened to the back of the book. the blank pages where everyone said we'd be best friends forever and that they loved me and were happy to know me. drawings and inside jokes that felt like they'd never die at the time.
this one was different, because no one really said 'see you next year'.
and i knew that my ghost had written a note in it. not simply his signature with the apple drawn around it. but that he'd really taken some time penning. and when i read what he wrote after the class when he wrote it, i was made most happy by his note to me.
i knew that, in my current fragile state, i could not possibly deal with reading it. i did not.
i caught a glimpse and skipped over it. i was looking more to see pictures and show her the people she'll meet tomorrow. and to see who had written in my yearbooks at all. and then there was the insert, our senior wills.
and because he always was one of the first named, he was on the front page. and seeing 'senior wills' near his name made me look away before i could read what he'd written as some kind of a joke. not knowing that he'd be needing a will a short time later.
i knew that i couldn't handle it right then.
we went to dinner as a family. i cried just before we left, in aubree's bedroom with kit. but i don't remember why now. it was definitely coffee-related. but i don't remember specifically. she hugged me while i sobbed and told me it's ok.
we stepped out for a smoke so i could pull myself together. i was mad at my brother, because we were having a nice family dinner out at the cheesecake factory, and he decided he wasn't joining us. we never get together as a family. maybe once a year? and he didn't want to go. aubree couldn't convince him. i couldn't. his fiancee couldn't. i wanted to punch him in the face.
so it was a messy mix of exhausted raw emotion, and the feeling that something much bigger was lying just under the surface. and being picked at. like an angry sore.
and don't you know that the restaurant was a place i'd driven past last night. lost and lost. it's funny how my ghosts never set me free. and they are probably my biggest reason for not wanting to come home. i ran away from problems here, and can normally avoid them when i visit by dodging entire sections of this city.
but this trip of closure is forcing itself on me, in addition to the ones i'm seeking out. and we took the same roads i wandered last night, lost.
past the sun's neighborhood. past my college years independent record store. past the college with the radio station that cracked my head wide open with this thing called indie music eleven years ago, twenty one and returning from my tahoe adventures.
the ride in the car was made perfect by my request for fleetwood mac, which was already in the cd player. dad switched from the radio to the cd to see if we were so lucky.
we were. and we all tend to sing the harmonies. it's a family thing. i hope kit liked it. i know that it made all those ghosts seem a little less haunting. fleetwood mac will always be home to me. and the timeless words were also fitting.
so we came home, dad went to work.
kit sat down at the piano to play. i am sorry for the awful tuning. but happy that i forgot about the piano, because she's been jonesing to play for the last few months, and it's come up quite often. and i didn't think of it as being in existence. and she was very very happily surprised.
i wanted to show her my high school boyfriend, the one who shares a name with her recent ex. it was a strange thing to date two very different boys with nearly the exact same name.
so i grabbed the yearbook from my junior year in an effort to finish what i'd started earlier. only i had forgotten that the boyfriend had already moved by then, and realized i'd grabbed the wrong one.
while she played sad and beautiful music in the 'bible room', i leafed through the end pages.
i didn't remember the ghost writing in this one. i was expecting the apple drawing.
imagine my surprise when there was an even longer note.
i read it.
and about halfway through, sitting in mom's bible room, i felt like i was being stabbed in the heart. i was crying over kit playing the piano, i was crying so hard i was sobbing. enough to get her attention through the playing to stop and turn and see what had happened.
all i could say to my mom who was sitting next to me was, 'it's so unfair. it's so unfair.'
this is what he had written:
wuz up freak! you're one of the most down to earth real people i know and since we are only in latin together and i'm not taking it next year (not that you are) i'm going to miss you. and don't think this is just one of those "you're so sweet and nice have a great summer" kind of things, because i'm being sincere.
i'm writing kind of fast. stream of consciousness or something. anyways, if i don't see you again, i wish you the best of luck in everything you do and want to stress that you never change. your temporary friend, (ghost)'
a death and a rebirth. all in one.
he did take latin the next year. and i claimed my seat next to him as i'd gotten pretty good at it, despite being at the opposite end of the alphabet. luckily nan let us choose seats. and i had my eye on the prize.
now as i type this, i can deal with the next year's note. it's funny to realize that his choice of words is awkward. this is the one i remember reading repeatedly for months after he was gone.
it's not as meaningful to me as the one i forgot, but it's equally bittersweet:
i can remember back to a project or something we got paired together on in the ninth grade. what i remember is how you and your family behaved when we went to the library. they were real! (which is very rare in my eyes) it was one of the few times i felt that i was around people who weren't trying to live up to an image. ever since then, as wierd as it may seem to be, i've had much respect and admiration for you. you're you! and you're a wonderful person. never live it down, be true. your fellow cell mate, (ghost)'
five days after he wrote that, he was dead. gone forever.
i don't know what this is.
i think that i'm keeping myself from thinking about dudermints. and the only thing sadder than that is a dead friend. who loves to come to dreams and who i know will until the day that i die. it's been fourteen years since he died. and i still feel the ache. like it was yesterday. or last week.
it was the shock at not remembering that the first note existed.
and my eyes were swimming when i read 'if i never see you again'.
it was really just too much. it was an accident to stumble upon it. i was caught off guard. a theme...
i've been crying off and on throughout the day. weepy from lack of sleep. i only got three or four hours last night, due to the aftermath and writing thereof.
i woke up crying, definitely remnants of last night, when i couldn't cry despite wanting it and needing it. mom heard aubree and i talking and giggling and came in, asking about the night. and i cried for a bit, got up and explained it away as being too tired to function without tears.
then i got excited for kit's arrival. nina had read the post and texted me that she was weepy and sad and worried for me.
i called her and she called me back while we were driving to the airport, all of two minutes before getting kit. i was excited, happy, bubbly and it made her feel better about the events of yesternight.
i was laughing about it again at that point. trying to pick the things i didn't tell her yet, in 120 seconds.
it was perfect timing back again. kit's arrival was the best thing for me. we ran around and found a bathing suit for her, and rushed home to the pool, where we swam with aubree and talked and laughed and goofed off all day, and all afternoon.
it was ideal. i was great. i called nina back and talked for a few minutes. trying to explain my confusion with the clusterfuck of coffee.
it's starting to sink in now. this i know.
and let me say right now, that if i don't get my five minutes alone with him to talk before i go back, i am swearing on my life right now... i will call him and settle it while i am on florida soil.
i have to.
god, kit's post on her blog tonight nearly brought me to tears. such an honest expression of the feelings that watching me go through my life and its motions and emotions is having on her.
how, as fate would have it, she sat across from the boy who professed his love to her while i sat across from coffee, trying to say the words to him. though i would never tell him that i'm in love with him and always have been and fear i always will be, the heart is in the same precise place. i didn't know it until i read it.
oh, how i was robbed.
i don't usually play the victim role. i can't stand people who do. take control of your life and what you can control. and learn to roll with the punches when you don't have any control. like, for example, when an unannounced girlfriend descends upon your table at the exact moment in time where you have taken a deep breath and told yourself that if you don't put it on the line, you'll never experience the payoff.
she wrote about it as a gamble. and how she thought it would pan out for me.
no one saw this coming.
especially not me. sideswiped. ever would laugh his ass off at my expense. if only he knew what i was up to.
my backup plan has failed. miserably. i didn't get that kiss. it's still five months since my last sex.
and what gets me now, is that everyone is angry at him for doing that to me. and mom called it accurately i think, when she said that he probably knew i'd leave or never come at all if he'd been forthright. or if he'd warned me that she was showing up.
i'd have said my piece, paid my tab, and left at approximately 927 pm, eastern standard time.
she friended me today. and i'm nearly certain it's to keep tabs on me. and for me to see things like 'best ever <3' that she wrote on his wall today.
and that's fine and good.
we collectively (mom, kit, aubree, and i) stalked her photos, trying to pinpoint the time when she came into his life.
as i see it, he came onto the horizon on april 5th.
i couldn't bear to look at the album of their trip to disney. i just couldn't deal with it.
i'm glad i know my limits. that i don't torture myself any more than i know i can handle at each moment in time.
like, how i could come back to the yearbooks a few hours later and handle it without crying at all.
i remember that day that the ghost was referring to. i was in the astrovan with mom. aubree and my brother were all together. it was embarrassing at the time. fourteen and in the ninth grade, which is plenty awkward as is.
i remember when i got paired with him, how excited i was. and going to his mother's door to pick him up. the moms waving to each other. the way he slid the van door shut behind him.
and i remember being at the library, putting together the report, though i have no idea which teacher had decided my fate. and feeling very, very lucky to see him outside of school walls.
to think of the chance of it now, it was a quick decision made by some poor teacher who was underpaid and underappreciated. and now, eighteen years after, i am grateful for that split second decision. because it was on his mind four years later, enough for him to mention it. and for me to accidentally stumble upon it all these years later and have a good cry.
and tonight, it gives me a lot of comfort.
because he knew i'd change, and hoped i'd return to myself.
and here i sit, doing just that.
i miss that boy. he was robbed, too. he made one single bad decision. for the first time. and it stole his beauty and his youth and his fucking LIFE. from him, but also from me. and i was just a blip on his radar. and i will never be the same. you don't come back from these things, wholly.
but back to coffee. it will be two more posts before i get to the end of the story of last night, and i'm okay with that.
i'm going back and forth between this window and last night's so i can interject what i left out.
and to say that i feel i looked the best i have ever looked, presenting myself to him is a big deal. i lack self confidence. and last night, i didn't. thing is, if i can't steal his heart looking like that, i don't stand a snowball's chance in hell. i don't stand a ladybug's chance in a one bedroom apartment. or on her key ring or my key ring. representing the opposite things.
he was being polite to everyone but me. and maybe it was an effort to derail me. because i wasn't hiding heat and desire in my eyes. in fact, i said heavy things and looked him dead in the eye. sparks and twinkles and all.
i understand the dynamic of his relationship with gf to be as such: she wears the pants, like i do in my relationships. she tells him what he should do. and i don't know why, but he does it.
she made sure to point out that she picked the color of his new car.
and maybe if i really loved him and wanted him to be happy in this life he's choosing for himself and letting her choose for him, i should have said two things to him. 1. make room for her in your place. 2. she'll get sick ofmowing the yard in about two months when the august heat sets in.
selfishly i kept this to myself. in an effort to derail his relationship with her. i had to learn the hard way. and now i know. so he can, too. in an effort to speed up the break up that would make the flossing of my teeth and willingness to not smoke while i was there so kissing me wouldn't be like licking an ashtray would be slightly less embarrassing.
it's just me and stella poolside. i am not going for five am naked swim. i hope to sleep without that tonight.
kit passed out writing, aubree turned in early. the time alone between the hours of one and five am have gained importance since i've been home. and i'm grateful for them now.
i cried so hard today. aside from the ghost cry, while kit hugged me in aubree's room. she's now seen me cry more in half of a day than in the year that i've known her. divorce withstanding.
i bet his stupid gf doesn't even give two fucking shits about the sky. but maybe she does. and maybe that's how it all started.
the first thing gf said when she arrived was, 'where's oscar?'
which made me think he'd said, 'darling, i'm meeting an old friend of mine and oscar's. don't worry, he'll be there.'
and also made me feel like my being there alone with him was very wrong. and how i thought i'd gotten him into a substantial amount of trouble with an entirely clear conscience. because he didn't warn me.
and when telling her what had happened with the texting, it bothered me to see him lie so easily to her. add something that wasn't there, and omit the part about the long hug. the flirty comment, made through a mutual friend's words. and the giggle was painfully absent.
how is it a good idea to live with someone who is already brainwashing you to believe you are an asshole? beats the shit out of me. but i did it, too.
in five years from now, maybe he says it. maybe he says all the things i have written. that he was settling. that the clock was ticking and that this was the closest thing he'd found to mad passionate love. that he'd missed the mark entirely. that he'd made a huge mistake. and that it would take five years to see it. or seven, as my luck may have it.
mowing the lawn thing? sounds stupid right? well, does it sound so stupid that i told ever for YEARS that if we just bought a house, i'd be delighted to clean it? because those words came out of my mouth. and she will start to resent him for it the first time she doesn't feel like doing it alone, and that he chooses not to help her.
points of contention. that lead to resentment. i am a professional.
i can spot it from a mile away.
he'll smarten up. and from the looks of her, and the words she spoke, it shouldn't be long now. it shouldn't be long...
in my stalking online, i realized that she seemed really young.
and in looking at her birthday, in april, that she is seven years younger than me. and that he is older than me. and that a ten year gap will be pretty difficult to overcome.
is he having an almost-mid-life crisis?
will she get sick of being interrupted by annoying customers who want to talk beer? i'm not demanding at all, and it bothered the hell out of me.
the first cigarette break made me incredibly nervous. she'd been very cool toward me up to that point. and just like him, she caught me off guard asking me to join her. like he'd said, 'hey, be nice. she's my friend and she's alone. go make friends. she's nice - you'll like her'.
she talked about being from tennessee. about her shitty job that she hates. about acting. about moving back and forth between two cities for a year at a time.
which reminds me of a random thing he said earlier in the night.
he'd said in december that this is home and that he'll never ever leave. and he repeated it last night, but added that, if someone said 'here's a chunk of money. live here and i'll pay you a ridiculous sum of money', he'd go. he'd do it.
back to her one on ones with me.
she was fine. she was warmer, but still cool. i don't remember talking about much other than music and her life. we went back in to the bar, where he was. and that was when she sat between me and him. when he gave her the keys to his place.
when he lectured her about giving the spare he'd made for her to someone trustworthy. when she said that she'd give it to friend that he knew, to watch the dogs when she went home to meet his parents for the first time this weekend.
when he said that it was a big deal, and that she can't just give it to anyone.
when she had another glass of 'bubbles' (your age is showing, retard) and told the bartended who'd fallen in love with me four times by then to pour one for me.
i declined politely, spilling lies about my sister needing her car and that i should really be going.
i had a large water, she grabbed her champagne, and asked me to join her for another cigarette.
i wonder how nervous it made him to see us walk out together twice, not once, to talk without him. i wonder what he thought i'd say, if anything. what he thought i'd own up to or admit. i wonder if she knows i'm divorcing. if he assumed i mentioned it, and made an offhand remark to him about it when they rode together to their next destination.
if it caused another discussion.
i want to scream, 'i've been where you are', only i don't know for certain, because he didn't talk about their relationship at all.
all this talking is so unneccessary. all of these conversations that can't wait and don't respect your boundaries as a grown man. as an autonomous person out and talking to someone else.
like brownies, eight or nine years ago, watching me be happy with her, and not the same variety of happy when ever decided we needed to have a talk that couldn't wait.
only he didn't cry to me. and i'm not his best friend. nor was i ever.
he finally came outside. she and i were sitting on a big bench seat, cross legged and smoking. he sat across from the two of us on a throne chair. fittingly.
watching two women talk relationships and motherhood and family while he probably didn't pay attention, and hopefully fought an internal draw to stare at my tits.
i liked her more when i left, but still didn't get it. and it made me feel only slightly better that i'd walked in there determined to kiss him even if he didn't kiss back, and left without kissing him. she wasn't exceptionally rude to me. and she'd made an effort to get to know me a little. though it was a bit like 'this is my history'. i'd asked the questions. she asked a couple if any. i don't remember. i could only look at her and think, 'what does he see in you? will he ever see more than that in me?'
and then her phone rang and he and i talked while she had a conversation. i don't know what it was about now, but i think maybe her cell phone etiquette is rubbing off on him?
so she hangs up and says, 'we're going to ibar.'
she tells the story of her gay best friend moving to town and bringing his new boyfriend out to meet everyone. and that she's going.
and he gave her these sad, tired eyes. and said he didn't feel like going, and certainly wouldn't be dancing.
and she said, 'babe, i go out with you all the time when i'm tired and don't feel like it. you're coming. we'e going. we'll take your car home and go.'
and he said he didn't want to. really didn't feel like it.
and i started to pray. i'm a praying atheist, i suppose.
please. just go. without him. let him say he's going home. and stay here with me. so i can finish what i started before you so rudely interrupted. he's too tired to go to the next place with you. i promise i'll take good care of him. i'll go so far as to keep my hands to myself. i just want to talk.
please. please. please.
and i said, 'i can go inside if you guys need to hash this out. really, i'll just...'
and he laughed. and she probably didn't. i only looked at him when i said it.
and instead of having my prayers answered, a fifty-fifty fail (remind me not to play the lottery), he said, 'come out with us.'
and i said, again, i really can't. the car and all. i need to go home. aubree is probably highly pissed i've been gone this long.
and in closing, he proudly displayed the ipad when she commanded, 'baby, show her the dogs.'
i'd never call him baby. i'd love to hear him call me darlin. without the g in a slight southern drawl.
and i faked interest in seeing piles of virtual pictures of dogs, sad for the temporary loss of my own. all the dogs in a sunflower field and in a green and grassy yard. together. like a big happy family. the stepdogs playing together, testing their combined personalities.
i couldn't say that ever got the dog in the divorce. i just said i have one, and named her. and that they were all very cute.
all of this while thao was playing in the backround. she got the bartender to play avett brothers for her. and then i handed him my ipod and said he wouldn't be sorry if he just indulged me by playing thao's new album.
and he was more than willing to oblige. and so thao sang all her songs about bodies in beds and unrequieted crushes and summer flings and sad sex to be had. despite never hearing it before, he was humming chorus in one of the songs, i wish i could remember which. my luck, it was probably 'burn you up'.
we settled and paid when we shut down the bar. it was a weeknight, it was only midnight. and the bartender agreed to meet them out after he closed up shop. we were the last three in the place, and our glasses were drained.
but i did not agree to meet them out.
and i didn't get that awkwardly long hug. i shook her hand and said that it was lovely to meet her. and hugged him after. just a slightly longer one. i didn't want to let him go. and she was standing right there watching. most likely with daggers in her eyes for me.
and he said he'd call me and let me know where they'd be this weekend. he wanted to meet kit and introduce me to some other friends.
and that he'd try to make it to the nina-tea party the night before we leave, especially that we should hold our scrabble party there. that he'd try to show up. but that he would definitely call this weekend.
and that is when i hatched my new plan.
the plan that won't die. the plan that won't send me packing, back to where i live but no longer call home, frustrated and unsatisfied. and with a hundred things settling into my chest.
the new dialogue goes something like this:
'oh, hi, dudermints'.
'hey, we're going to be at this place at this time.'
'oh, fantastic. we'll see you there.'
and then i get there a bit early. and aubree and kit watch from the sidelines while i say the following:
'can i borrow you for five minutes? i just had something to ask you the other night. or something to say, and i didn't get to say it.'
'oh, sure, tea. nothing would make me happier.'
and i walk on eggshells, in another perfect outfit.
'i have something to get off of my chest.'
like pavlov's dogs, i catch him checking out my chest, but only for a second.
'i was telling you that i came home for a lot of condensed closure. and there's something i wanted to ask you but didn't get to.'
before he has a second to back out or run screaming, the tension is thick enough to be cut with a knife and i rush on. verbal vom in three seconds flat.
'you know, i feel like i never got the timing right with you. and then my life became what it was for the last seven years. and a funny thing happens when your marriage dies. you evaluate all past relationships. you wonder why some didn't work out. why you broke up with an ex. why you were broken up with. and why some never happened at all.'
i imagine him nodding as my face goes ghastly white with anxiety.
'i can't figure out why you never kissed me. why didn't you kiss me, dudermints?'
and i don't offer him an out or an excuse. being gay is no longer a possible answer.
and he says what he says. and somehow i don't cry right then and there.
and then i hug him and thank him for letting me bend his ear. and tell him that i hope i didn't make him uncomfortable, or any less of a friend by asking, and then i rejoin kit and aubree as gf walks up.
and then kit and aubree and i walk to the bar, line up shots, and toast to closure.
the fantasies of dark sky park and scrabble night out are a thing of the past before they even went anywhere.
this is my new daydream.
i'm going to practice, starting right now.
stella's got my back.
nina won't bash my head in with a brick. though she did say she was going to punch me in the tit just to prolong the torture of my past twenty four hours.
it made me laugh and cry and laugh again.
kit won't have to hear another word about it, not like it was before, when i was all reserved hope and fate thoughts, masked my a false sense of logic and reason, saying what i didn't really believe or feel in an effort to protect my fragile heart.
i am heartbroken. i can be honest about it.
it feels like a break up.
only he wasn't even mine to lose.
it's the death of a dream. another one to add to the growing pile.
and all i can really figure now, while everyone talks shit about him and how he handled me, not delicately, is that he really just thinks of me as his friend.
really really. just a friend. who would probably be happier living back home. who he could help in so many ways, if she just took a small gamble. low risk.
a friend who he has missed. he told her so.
not yesterday. but six months ago.
and because this is what i do to myself, i sit here tonight, as i have said to mom and aubree and kit earlier.
i sit here and think, i had a chance in december. and i blew it. i kept my mouth shut and i didn't ask this question. i didn't take a married gamble. and i won't forgive myself for it.
and i didn't say it. so he didn't know.
and then i left. and then i went back home to a husband i wanted to leave.
and then, four months later, from what we can tell, he met a girl, and became unsingle. and the rest is current history.
of the things that i remember to document, like i'm building a case against him, calling him out on shenanigans and putting him on trial publicly, albeit anonymously, this is one.
she said 'meet' and corrected herself to say 'see' his parents this weekend.
and later, he clarified that they were going to his home town a few hours south of here. so that she can meet his parents.
she's moving in and they don't even know who she is? really?
and before she got there, in what felt like a heart to heart moment, he said that he was afraid of combining their households. because he has a dog and she has two.
and he said that he's nervous about it.
and that he can't handle a dog fight. and that it's he last thing anyone would want. but that he doesn't know what he would do if their dogs don't live well together.
dear gods i don't believe in... please let there be a dogfight.
please let pilot win.
i'll never ask for anything ever again.
posted at 411.
edited over the swill of a beer sometime after that.