Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Love never dies a natural death.

I always thought a lot about what it meant to be alive.  I thought about the degrees of it, the variations, the conditions. There was nothing that interested or troubled me more than the fact of being alive.  To me, being alive meant something different than living.  When I was thirteen it was opening my bedroom window in a rainstorm, crawling to the ledge of it, and letting my legs dangle out in the rain.  Later, being alive meant writing and creating for the aesthetic of it.  I thought there was a greater morality in aesthetics than in other pursuits. Being alive also meant traveling for the experience of it.  Learning, for the knowledge of it.  It meant loving as much and as often as possible because love is life and being in it means being alive.  Love is art.  Love is something that we create and something that remakes us. Love is an adventure.  Love is stepping out into the rainstorm.  

*Title from a quote by Anais Nin

Sunday, December 29, 2013


“This isn’t our song,” he told me upon hearing the song I had chosen to start our road trip.  “I don’t want you thinking we have a song.”
“I know,” I replied.  And he turned up the volume on the song that wasn’t ours.  And we drove over the Triborough Bridge and I sipped from his coffee cup.
That day was the first in over a year that I had felt entirely, completely, unyieldingly happy.  The day was like him, comforting and exciting and – I was convinced – something I had needed for a long time. 
I liked the way he sang hallelujah high notes when we were stuck in traffic on the highway.  I hadn’t enjoyed anything so much since I my younger brother and I drove from Wisconsin to Chicago, singing our own highway hallelujahs while sipping Mexican cokes.  I liked the way he shouted at me to take the wheel while he lit a cigarette.  I liked eating McDonald’s in the car as we drove on and he asked to know me better and I told him the worst.  And I was overwhelmed by the way he told me I could be so much better.  And I loved the way the green grass countryside seemed limitless on either side of us as we left the highway and made our way down winding country roads.  I loved being boundless for the first time since moving to New York.
And when we arrived at our destination, at a small motel surrounded by fields of knee-high green grasses, I left him by the car while I went running through the fields, free and happy and home in a place I had never been before.  
The place wasn’t mine.  He wasn’t mine.  And the song wasn’t ours.  But together they were everything to me.
That night, in our motel room, I had asked him to let me sleep in his bed with him.  I said I couldn’t sleep alone with the lights off; I’m still afraid of the dark.  But he flipped the light switch and got into his bed, separated from mine by a nightstand upon which sat the standard hotel room Bible, his lighter and my notebook.  And eventually I fell asleep to the sound of his breathing.  In the dark, the sound felt warm.
I woke early the next morning to watch the sunrise.  I pulled my jean jacket over my pajamas that he had made fun of for being too frilly and I slipped out of the room, quietly -- but not too quietly.  A part of me wanted him to wake up and join me in watching the sun burn red and then flicker pink above hills and the highway and the grass that was still wet with dew beneath my toes, but I also liked the feeling of being alone in that almost foreign land of 5a.m. in the countryside.  He didn’t wake and as the sun crept up past six and seven and eight o’clock, I returned to my bed and watched him sleep in his.
Months later, I found a bottle tab from one of the bottles of agave margaritas that he and I had bought at the liquor store down the road from our motel that night.  We had drank the bottled margaritas on the cement porch outside our motel room, while he smoked a joint – and then another – and I wrote in my notebook.
On our drive back to New York, he bought us a basket of strawberries from a roadside stand.  We ate the berries in the car, they tasted sweet but also like the dirt that they had come from.  And we listened again to the song that wasn’t ours.

What will you write?

I will write this until I have turned the story into something outside of us, something bigger than us, something that lives and breathes and talks all on its own.  I will write this until it can tell me for itself what happened. I will write this because nothing will ever be the same.  Because someday you will fall for a woman who knows how to make small talk with people she doesn’t like, who doesn’t lie beside you in bed at night talking about how it was David Foster Wallace’s wife who found him after he hung himself.  I will write this because life is long until the day it will never be long enough, but time is irrelevant to love.  We didn’t lose anything, but this is what I found.  I will write this because maybe I will find other men --men who like to wake up in the morning and make their own cup of coffee and read the paper and who I admire in a distant way for their lovely simplicity, men who drink too much and fuck too hard and who I take pleasure in not hating.  I will write this because I heard someone say once that every story worth writing will come to the writer before she’s twenty five.  I will write this because other girls want diamonds and dream houses.  I want the story.  I will write this because I’ve decided it would be good for me to commit to something and telling the story is the only commitment I’m sure I know how to make.  Because life is a love story.   Anyone who says otherwise just doesn’t understand love.  We’re all in love with something.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

I keep thinking about the time we ate strawberries.

He was the most alive person I had ever met, yet he acted like he was dying all the time.  And maybe he was.  To him, life was a litany of lost love, addictions, therapies, chord progressions and failed ambitions.  Everything was extreme.  What would have been a decent life for anyone else, was failure to him.  What would have been misery to anyone else, seemed to intrigue him.  I figured that’s why he enjoyed my company.  He was as bad as I had ever dreamed of being.  And he was better for me than anyone I’d ever known.  I had never had more fun or more insight into myself.  Nor had I ever met anyone who was so troubled or thoughtful, so quick to anger or so quick to laugh. Being with him, every moment felt like I was entirely in it.  It felt the way that I had always imagined being alive would feel.  It was all-consuming but it nothing had ever been easier.  And in that, there was a kind of peace. 

These things matter.

I remember the way you first kissed me.  I remember the way we kissed like high school kids, on the couch, for hours, with a book in my lap.  I remember you kept your eyes open, as if you couldn’t believe it was really happening.  Of course, I know your eyes were open because mine were open too.  And I only believe it now because I’ve looked at the memory so many times.  I remember you were awkward and polite.  You didn’t know where to put your hands – or else you knew, but you refrained.  You were the only man who was ever polite to me.  You were content with just the skin of my shoulders that my strapless dress left bare.  And so when it got late and you invited me to sleep beside you and gave me clothes to sleep in, I left you alone on your bed and I went to the bathroom to change.  And when I returned, I had changed my mind.  I undressed for you in the moonlight that poured through your bedroom window.  And then I undressed you.  And we went to sleep.

I am not afraid of being alone.  I am afraid of men who aren’t polite.  I am so afraid.  I cry because I am afraid that someone will take away all the beauty and kindness that I felt when I saw you looking back at me.  And I am sorry that someone already did.  In the hospital, you looked at me the same way you did in the beginning, like I was magic and sunshine and stars.  And I saw what I should have seen in the beginning.  And then you saw the bruises on my skin and I saw your face. You were the only man who had ever been polite to me.  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Season's Greetings

Dear Readers,
Last week someone told me that my problem is that I am always looking for something that feels like a family.  In that moment, I felt too embarrassed to argue.  I was helping my ex-boyfriend shop for Christmas presents for his family.  I was recommending books for his parents by authors that I had heard read at the National Book Awards and trying on gloves for his sister.  And the facts were that I had gotten him a gift but he had not gotten me one; he had somewhere to go for Christmas but I was staying in New York alone, while last year we had spent the holiday together because I had nowhere else to spend it. 
But I should not have felt embarrassed.  And, really, I am not.  And what I felt at the time was a deep vulnerability that someone was seeing and taking aim at, and though I was not embarrassed, I did wish they couldn’t see my heart.
I am used to my circumstances and I am proud of being able to manage them.  However, I am also used to sensing how my circumstances make some people uncomfortable.  It is as if it is almost un-American to not go home for the holidays – moreover, to not have the kind of family that you can run to with everything problem life throws at you.  I certainly could not do that, as most of my problems started with the idea I had that my family was something to run from – not to.   And, I think it is because they are uncomfortable, that many people have felt as if they are somehow allowed to pronounce their verdict on what exactly my problems are.  
But I think the real problem is this: in my day to day life I am surrounded by mid-twenty-something year olds who’s parents come pick them up from their apartment and take them home – to their childhood home – when they’re feeling sick, who come help them move, who call them everyday (sometimes just to say goodnight), who are just there for anything and everything.  And sometimes I am jealous.  It would be nice to feel like I had something – someone – to catch me if I fell, or if I failed.  But for the most part, it just makes me feel strong and distinctly independent.  And then it also makes me feel alone.
And that’s something else that someone told me recently: I am afraid of being alone.  I am not afraid of being alone.  However, people have told me that I am.  I hate when people tell me that because instantly I dislike them, no matter how much I liked them even just a moment before.  I think it takes a very sheltered, immature perception of the world for one person to look at another and tell them that they are afraid of being alone, that their problem is that they are always looking for something that feels like a family.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with not wanting to be alone.  I think life is about forming strong and meaningful bonds with other people.  And what I am most proud of in my life is the amount of truly wonderful people I have met and loved and who have loved me back.  To me, those people – those friends, sometimes boyfriends – are my family because they have been the people who have been there for me, who have sat with me while I cried, sent me cards, held my hand, gone with me to the hospital, and shared their thoughts and their time with me. 
And so, I suppose, that person was right when they said that I am always looking for something that feels like a family.  But they were wrong when they said it was a problem.  I think the most important thing to look for once you’ve found yourself is people to share yourself with -- and I think that is what a family is. 
Nevertheless, I am not afraid of being alone.  I like being alone.  I like taking walks alone.  I like watching TV alone.  I like eating dinner in my bed while watching TV alone.  I like traveling alone, going to the spa alone, shopping alone, going to bars alone, reading alone…  For that matter, sometimes sex is better alone.  And this year I am spending Christmas alone.  And that fact makes me feel a lot of things, but afraid is not one of them.
Being as alone as I have been does two things.  One, it makes me unconditionally love anyone that has come into my life in a positive way.  And, two – and this is the most important – it makes it difficult to not be alone.  And that is what I am afraid of.  I am afraid of not being able to be with anyone.  I find that the more years pass -- the more I am alone--, the harder it is for me when I am not technically alone.  Being able to take care of myself makes me wary of other people who cannot take care of themselves, as well as of people who come into my life and say that they’d like to take care of me.  It also makes me feel like I am alone even when I’m not.  Often, I find myself surrounded by people but I still feel profoundly alone inside myself – it is as if the fact of being alone is like a cancer that can go into remission but still lurks within, waiting to resurface.  And being alone makes me love either too much or not enough – and often both at the same time with the same person.  I can be quick to love because I see the value in having people in my life, but I can be equally quick to write off a person’s value in my life because I know I don’t need them since I am used to being alone.
And now let me say this:  If you think I am afraid of being alone ,you should look at yourself.  Or, maybe look at your Facebook newsfeed.  Look at how many people are tagging each other somewhere doing something with someone, how many people are posting pictures of their dinner.  And look at the little green dots that signal that someone else is online, that while a Facebook user may be alone in their room, they are not alone on the internet.  And then look at how that makes you feel.  And then look at how you go home for Christmas, share a meal with your family, and unwrap presents around the Christmas tree just as you did when you were a child.  Look at everyone you have in your life and imagine not having it.  Tell me, are you afraid of being alone? 
Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Write For Me

“Telling the story all the way through is an act of love.”  ~ Dorothy Allison
I am tired of writing these stories about people I’ve loved. I am tired of letting love creep into my skin, down through my veins, and out through my fingertips into words that pretend to be black and white.  I am tired of writing about what happened and what it means.
I want to be someone’s story. 
I want to be the urge that brings pen to paper, that brings words to lips, that brings love to the beloved’s doorstep with a story about what I mean.

Dec. 4th, 2013

YOU are the curve of me, the void in me, the Y in every question I pose.  We share O’s between us, our lips forming circles after the WHY and before the moment YOU leave again.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wishing Well

These days I sit with memories I can barely remember.  I lay awake at night, trying to examine the blurred snapshots for more than has yet to meet my mind’s eye.  And sometimes I hear a song that recalls a feeling that only the butterflies that sleep in my stomach remember.  And I swear they awoke and fluttered for you when we danced – when you took my hand (or did I take yours?).   And I think you made me happy.  And I wonder about our first kiss that I don’t remember.  Was it hard-pressed and desperate? Was it sad but almost maybe lovely? Was it was wet and pretty with hope?  The kiss we shared in the story my mind has written between the remembered pages of that quick, short past was like stealing someone else’s penny from a wishing well.  We had both been someone’s wish once. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I'm Trying

I have a picture on my wall of myself and a friend jumping into the sea, wearing only our underwear – which we would later remove so that we could swim naked in the French Riviera, in view of a castle and snow capped mountains.  I used to think of that moment as the epitome of catharsis.  I thought swimming naked on a sunny afternoon, while tourists lay on a nearby beach, was deep and profound and meaningful and freeing.  I thought it was the point of being alive.  And maybe at the time it was, but it was also very easy. 
Two years later, I think I am just beginning to gain an idea of what real catharsis might feel like, of how it happens…  And it is not easy.  Real catharsis is not as simple as stripping off my clothes and jumping into a paradise scene of youthful fun.  Real catharsis feels like putting my own mouth against the skin of my leg, using my teeth and tongue to suck out a snake’s poison while mascara colored tears run down my face, drying and crusting around my nose and chin.  And this self-inflicted pain and healing, so that I might be better for myself and for the people I love, I think, might be part of what it means to be alive.   
Scraping the bottom of my own emotional barrel for the squelching mud and decay that clings there, taking it in my hands and owning up to it before throwing it away might be the hardest, best thing I’ve tried to do in my life thus far.
Mostly, I'm afraid of being wrong.
And then I'm afraid of being bored.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I learned about relationships at a German Christmas sing-along

Maybe it could have been Central Park or in Whole Foods or on a Sunday morning at Sarabeth's, but for me it happened at a German beer hall.  It was a Sunday night in December and I was with my friend and her male friend that might have been trying to be more than her friend.  We had come to the German beer hall to take part in the night's Christmas sing-along.  And so, it seemed, had at least half of  the East Village. The place, which seemed like it would have felt cramped even on its slowest night, was packed with Christmas crazed revelers.  People at tables stood atop their chairs or on the tables themselves, and everyone else was pressed together, with waiters in Lederhosen squeezed, with trays filled with liters of Hofbrau beer raised over their heads.  In spite of the lack of space and the ever looming possibility of beer sloshing down onto one's head, everyone seemed happy.  Everyone was energetically singing along to every Christmas classic song the small, wrinkled man with the microphone and his younger, taller, accordion playing partner chose.  And when the man with the microphone insisted that the bar's entire kitchen staff to join in the singing "Feliz Navidad," everyone gladly made room for the shy, smiling men who were at first barely audible in their mumbling of the song, but by the end were singing perfectly clearly and on beat with every "prospero ano y felizidad."  Even the type of lone, hovering man that would be creepy in most bars, was just a jolly fellow who enjoyed singing "Deck the hall with bows of holly" and drinking mulled wine.
I felt like I had stepped into the drunk adult version of what would have been my child self's perfect Christmas.  Few things have ever been able to make me as happy as Christmas songs do, and a room full of people who feel the same was as much as I would have ever asked for.  
While we sang, my eyes took in the scene.  The people standing atop the tables were the loudest, the drunkest, and the most fun.  I wished I was one of them.  When one of them fell down, hitting the bar floor with a loud thud, the man with the microphone shouted "another beer!" and everyone cheered.  Some of the people atop the tables were groups of middle aged and just plain aged friends, some looked like they were my age.  One group was a large family with two preteen girls.  
There were also several couples of various ages.  One couple descended from their stance atop the table near the bar where I sat and asked my friend to take a picture of them.  I watched their smiling faces on their i-phone screen as my friend snapped a picture that cut off the tops of their heads but still captured the feeling.  And I watched them kiss after they looked over the picture approvingly.  But mostly, I watched a couple that stood with their friends atop a table across the room from where I sat.  The couple wore matching blue and white reindeer picture wool sweaters.  They both kept their liters of beer constantly raised in good cheer.  Together they were the loudest, most exuberant of all the singers.  They made their reindeer sweaters look cool.  When it came time for everyone to sing "The Twelve Days of Christmas," their shouts of  "two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree" rang out over the crowd.  
Watching them, I realized what I want -- though, really, I had known it all along.  I want what it looked like they had.  I want a love that is also my best friend.  
Of course, maybe they don't have what I have.  Maybe they don't have overwhelmingly passionate sexual chemistry.  Maybe to them a taxi is just a means of getting from one place to the next. Maybe they don't have great cuddles or cute very, very, deep inside jokes.  But maybe they do.  
Watching them, I thought of the people I knew who are in serious relationships.  Each of them is best friends with his or her significant other.  I have a feeling that they probably have boring sex because they have relationships founded on friendship instead of passion, but if that's what it takes to be with a man who wants to get up on a table and sing Christmas songs with me, then maybe passion isn't really what I need -- or want.  
Until that moment during the sing-along in the German beer hall, I had thought that enduring passion was a sign of something deeper that's worth fighting for, but maybe it's not.  
So later that night, when the man who had been talking to me over the course of the evening said he felt he had a connection with me, I didn't make fun of him for saying "connection," instead I just laughed and nodded in hopeful agreement.  And when he asked me how I normally pick up men, I changed the subject.  For the first time in years, I didn't quote Woody Allen paraphrasing Groucho Marx saying, "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member."  I'm ready to belong to club that would have someone like me for a member.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


You held my hand in the emergency room and the nurse asked you how we met.  You told her that we met outside a bar called Turtle Bay, that you had just bought another girl a drink, but you took me back to your apartment.  That's not how I tell the story.  I say we met on the street.   To me there is nowhere else, and nothing else that is important until the story starts with you on a Tuesday night on Second Avenue.  
Maybe that's the trouble with you and I.  You think about me in juxtaposition to other possibilities.  I'm just glad you were possible.
In the emergency room I thought about the circumstances of things -- how they matter and how they don't.  And there were moments when I forgot where we were and the circumstances that had brought us there.  I was just looking at you and you were just looking back at me.  And the only thing that mattered to me was that we had met.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Sin against me.  Pressing hard.  Hard pressed for absolution.  You're in me -- in this -- the most tolerant of places of worship.  Scream God like you have one, like you have me.  Hold me like a Bible to burn.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

 My hope is that the things we do for each other will always outweigh the things we do to each other.

Things I will keep:

Movie ticket stubs
Old photographs
Your t-shirt
Making mistakes
Loving you

Friday, December 6, 2013

I pack pens like heat.  Nothing is fair in love or writing.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

February 15, 2013

I toss and turn in the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.  I shiver beneath the large, loose t-shirt I’m wearing, that I have taken from a drawer of someone else’s clothes.  Arms reach for me and wrap around my waist, pulling me against skin that is much warmer than my own.  And in the morning I awake, as I have awakened for so many for so many months, in a bed that is not mine.  In a love that I call mine.
I tiptoe, barefoot, on cold tile floor, wearing but nothing a man’s t-shirt that just reaches down to the middle of my bare thighs. I pull off the t-shirt and step into a shower that is not mine. I cry tears that are all mine.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Make Me Opalescent

I want to whisper to you through red wine teeth, write fairytales with my tongue, make a fort together out of blankets and pillows and ever-afters.  I want to spell happily with you and I.  I want you to want me, to come for the sound of me -- the way the M mounts your lips. 

For you, I turn phrases like tricks.  
You love me like a trick of the light: iridescently. 


I’m dizzy again.  It happens sometimes.  I think maybe I forget to breathe and then suddenly all the air that I didn’t take into me feels like it is circling me while I float in the twirl of it.  I am lost and unfortunately found in the banal breathlessness of daily life. 
I think of the time I fainted on the subway in Chicago, of the stranger who caught me before my head could hit the ground, of how he laid my body on the floor of the train and how the deep, steady groves of the floor beneath my fingers were the first sensation that pulled me out back to consciousness.  I think of all the little things I get caught up in and where I might fall next.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

At the Karaoke Bar: Songs I Know By Heart

 I used to be convinced there was something fabulous and memorable and life changing happening in bars all over New York City -- if only I could manage to be at the right one at the right time.  This perception of potential ruined my ability to see where I was or what I really had.  Now I think the same thing is happening everywhere from the Top of the Standard to the dingiest karaoke bar on the Upper East Side: people are trying to drink their dreams to life or they're drinking because they stopped trying; people are looking for love or they don't believe in finding it anymore.  
On this particular night I was with my friend at a dingy karaoke bar on the Upper East Side.  I stood leaning against a table near the stage with a bottle of Corona in my hand.  Corona is the only drink I can stomach these days.  Every other drink tastes like memories that make me sick.  Coronas tastes comforting to me.
So I sipped my comfort drink and watched a couple slow dancing in front of the stage.  The man's hands cupped the woman's very pronounced butt cheeks and they were making out quite intensely.  I liked them a lot.  I always like couples who aren't ashamed to get drunk and publicly display their affection.
Near the couple, a very drunk and very pudgy man was dancing by himself.  He was blonde and I could tell that he was blacked out.  I knew this man. Well, more precisely, I knew his type.  I had woken up to the sounds of this man falling into the bedroom, too drunk to walk or to undress himself.  I had sat up for hours with him late into the night, while he puked and punched things.  I also knew this man is always the most fun because he always feels like he has the most to compensate for. 
As I watched the drunk man, someone bumped against me.  I turned and my heart and I both jumped.  I recognized him.  I recognized his four-day unshaven shadowed cheeks and his carelessly wrinkled button down shirt.  He looked just like the man I had once considered my Rick Springfield back when I had been Jessie's Girl.  In the flash of this man's shoulder against mine, I felt my Rick's lips on my cheek.
I turned away from him.  The outrageously drunk man had climbed to the stage and was shouting, slurring, mumbling, and moaning into the microphone and the whole bar was singing with him -- or for him.  The song was Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."  I joined the rest of the bar in singing and dancing.  And there was Rick Springfield again, dancing in front of me, smiling at me, trying to get me to dance with him but not trying all that hard because he didn't care all that much and neither did I.  Yet I liked him for his easy-almost-carelessness.  And I had always liked men in button down shirts and four-day unshaven shadow cheeks.  Like my Rick, this one was a bad dancer but because he didn't care it made him look good.  I turned away from him, but I liked the feeling of familiarity. 
I also liked the communal feeling in the bar that was created by the fact that is was Thanksgiving weekend, which meant it was officially the Christmas season in New York.  As depressing as the pervasive feeling of desperation that hovers in karaoke bars can be, the song and the season and the way they were making everyone smile made me happy.  I liked thinking that, at heart, all anyone wants for Christmas is someone to call their "You."  Someone to call their "I love You."
After the drunk guy plodded off the stage, a big hipped girl in a mini skirt and knee high black boots took his place.  Her song was Cher's "Believe."  I could tell from the fierce look in her dark eyes and the clarity of her voice when she sang "Do you believe in life after love?" and the way her friends kept cheering her on and the way she shouted "Fuck you!" to the ceiling at the end of the song that every verse was personal to her.  She sang, "I've had time to think it through and maybe I'm too good for you," and I raised my Corona to her.  I knew her too.  I had been her.  More than once.  The first time I needed to believe in life after love, I was at a drag bar in Chicago, spontaneously standing up and singing with a queen dressed as Cher.  The most recent time I sang that song was at a karaoke bar in Astoria in October.  I think it's the song that women sing to prove they're okay after a break-up, but - let me tell you - you're not okay until you stop singing Cher songs to prove you are.  And if you start singing "If I Could Turn Back Time," then you're in real trouble.  
The next person on the stage was a twenty-something man with shoulder length dark curly hair  He sang an obscure rock song and he sang it well.  I recognized him too.  He looked just like someone I had slept with in Chicago. And I felt like I knew how many months he had been clean, how he rolled a joint and how very well indeed he kissed.  And now I knew better, but I almost wished I didn't.  I kept my eyes on his while he sang and after his song he approached me but I pretended not to notice him until he walked away.  And then I pretended not to care.
The night played on with the usual mix.  There was a group celebrating a birthday and a group of drunk girls who were over dressed and over eager.  There was a creepy old guy in a leather jacket and a midlife crisis.  Men came up to me, introduced themselves and then went on their way when I wouldn't give them more than a single smile.
And then came Mike and his wingman.  I had been watching Mike hover awkwardly around the bar.  He was decent looking, preppy in the way I liked.  Now that he was standing before me, I realized that I knew him too.  Mike was a younger version of the professor I had briefly dated years ago in Chicago.  As it happened, Mike was a fifth grade economics teacher.  He had a kind smile and -- as far as I was concerned -- nothing interesting to say.  His wingman spoke for him, bought a round of shots for the group for him, and signed him up for karaoke.  The two of them sang Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" and they were very good.  I felt like I should like them.  They seemed nice and fun but I didn't care to know them, so though I let Mike put his number in my phone, I was relived when they left and I knew I'd never contact him.
Eventually, it was time for my friend and I to take the stage.  I had chosen for us a song of friendship and girl power: The Spice Girls, "Wannabe."  In my experience, no women hoping to meet men will ever sing this song in public.  I had considered this before I picked it and I felt I was making the right choice.
It wasn't that I didn't see any worthwhile men at the bar.  It's that I don't see any worth in meeting new people -- men -- anymore.  I feel like I already know them all and I certainly know what I went through with each one.  
I remember once being terrified of commitment because I felt like picking one person out of all the possibilities meant giving up seemingly infinite potential.  I remember thinking there is no such thing as the right person, merely the right time.  Now I think there if definitely a right person, as well as a right time.  It's a matter of having that person in your life when you've figured out that all those tantalizing possibilities you once perceived are really just more of the same old things.  The right person is worth the monotony of commitment because really everything and anything becomes routine, familiar, boring.  That's not a fact of relationships, it's a fact of life.  
Next time I do karaoke I'm singing, "If I Could Turn Back Time."
As I stood thinking about this, the outrageously drunk man returned to the stage.  This time he was singing Third Eye Blind's "Semi-Charmed Life."  While I danced to the song, I remembered the man I had danced to this song with in Chicago, in a sweltering apartment.  I remembered the way his shirt was soaked with sweat and the way he drunkenly careened into me as we danced.  I remembered the way he kissed me and the way I kissed his friend.  And I remembered being happy because it was all new and exciting.  Now, though, I don't want anything new.  I want one particular same old thing.
The song continued and I noticed the creepy old guy dancing with a heavyset girl from the birthday party.  He was enthusiastically twirling her like she was the prettiest girl at the bar and her smile was bigger than anyone's.
After "Semi-Charmed Life," the over dressed drunk girls took the stage.  Like the outrageously drunk man had done earlier, they were singing Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."  Once again everyone in the bar was dancing and singing along.  And so was I.  And I was smiling because I really do believe that everyone wants someone.  One.  Not ones.  Everybody wants somebody to love.  And if it's really going to be love, then not just anyone will do.  There is only one YOU.

Friday, November 29, 2013


I think the love one person gives another is no better or worse than the person giving the love.  We love as we live, as we are.  Selfishly.  Hopefully.  Lazily.  Stubbornly.  Beautifully.  Irrationally.  Romantically.  Fearfully.  Clumsily.  Zealously.  And, if we're lucky, completely.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

From September 2011:

I bought a postcard to send to you, just like I promised.  I just never sent it.  Perhaps that's because I didn't know what to write; or else because I knew a million things but nothing seemed quite right.  We had said that if one of us sent the other a postcard, the sender would write “I like you.”  But you already knew that.
So I kept the postcard I bought for you.  For a year it stayed tucked inside the back of my notebook – my travel notebook with the world inked on its cover and my world inked within.  That's where I kept your postcard, in the back of my world.  It came with me to England and to Scotland and to Turkey; and to the Czech Republic, Austria, and France. 
Finally, from Chicago I wrote to you about the postcard, about a place I'm not not from, even if I say otherwise.  The postcard was a picture of the letter “M” that had been shaped out of white rocks with lay upon a hillside with a small red barn nestled in the sprawling green-brown fields below.  When I was very little I little I believed the “M” to be for Molly.  When I got a little older, I learned the town was not for me. 
I bought the post card in a grocery store called Piggly Wiggly that used to be called Dicks.  I wrote that I bought it a year ago; the last time I was in my hometown.  I didn't write home, though.  That's wouldn't be quite right. 
I wrote that I have two younger brothers, one of whom writes songs the way I used to write songs.  When my mother was gone and I was young and my brother was younger, he and I would sing and dance for hours, day after day after day.  I'm not sure he even remembers that. 
It's funny the things a person can forget: the date, an appointment, why they're angry, the way, a word...
Then there things that stay with a person far longer than a paper postcard.  The things I can not forget are postcards made of Technicolor-terror-dreams, stamped into my mind's eye.

I didn't write to you that when I was young I thought the right person would know how to save me – that maybe that's what love would be: salvation.  (Maybe the next time I send you a post card I will write about how I saved myself.)

A Brief History of Love

There it was: my brief history of love.  There between us and my sheets on that mattress on the floor in the bedroom I still hadn’t furnished.  Every story I had ever told or heard or tried to write, every person I had ever cared for, my family, my friends, and a couple Facebook pictures.  All wrapped up in me telling you that for most of my life I had been too selfish to ever love anyone, that I had said the words but I hadn’t even known what they should mean, I had just known that I loved the way the other person I was saying those words to loved me.  And maybe it had been that way with you in the beginning, but at some point it changed and for the first time I loved someone.  I loved you, regardless of how you loved me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hold What You Have

These days, almost everything feels like tears.  I can feel tears in my throat.  Hot and tight.  I can feel them warm and wet in my eyes.  I can feel tears in the way I bite my lower lip to draw my mind’s attention to an easier pain.  I can feel them in my stomach after I swallow them down.  I can feel tears in the precise way my fingers move over the keyboard.  Movement as a kind of self-medication.  I can feel tears in their absence from my pillow when I wake at night and curl into the alone-ness that I tell myself is comfortable just because I like the way my blankets feel on my skin.  These days, almost everything feels like tears because I’m almost always holding some back and because some things aren’t as easy to hold onto as tears.

Rewriting: (Don't) Walk Away

In love and in New York, I began to learn what I want and what I have. I want people I love, people I share a happy history and inside jokes with. I want a favorite brunch place and a place to spend the holidays. And I learned the meaning of one of my favorite Joan Didion lines: You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.  [And I learned that you can’t always pick the people who walk away from you, no matter how much you want to.]

In love and in New York, I began to learn what I want and what I have. I want people I love, people I share a happy history and inside jokes with. I want a favorite brunch place and a place to spend the holidays. And I learned the meaning of one of my favorite Joan Didion lines: You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.  And you have to pick the people you let walk away from you.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I always left before I could get left.  I never wanted to stay in the same place long enough to discover how easy it was for someone else to leave me.


I cried in my sleep last night.  My dream fingers carefully wiped dream mascara streaks from around my dream eyes.  I cry in my sleep almost every night lately.  I cry big dream sobs.  My dream body shakes violent dream shakes.  And there’s so many warm wet dream tears.  Maybe something is really wrong.
I can cry when I’m awake, but not like that.  Not unabashed.  Not uncontrolled.  Not without telling myself to get over it and go to work or to the party or to class or to just to turn on the TV. 
I used to dream conversations, ask questions and finally get the answers I needed.  I used to dream kisses with men that I used to really know.  And when I felt like something –someone was lost— I found what I needed in my dreams and woke up feeling better.
Now, when I’m awake, I have real conversations with real people.  I wonder if I really know them.  I ask real questions but the answers fade faster than dreams.  And I share real kisses with a real man but it’s not real. And it’s not a dream come true. 
Something is lost and I can’t find what I need.
And someone once called me his dream girl.  We were both awake but dreaming.  But it wasn’t a dream come true.  Though, who would want that when it’s just as possible to cry in dreams?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dark Blue

I like it when you look at me with hard, hopeful, hungry blue eyes.  I like it when you’re mean and beautiful and good.  I’d like to think I’m like that too.  And I like the way you kiss me when you mean it. You kiss me like the sky is falling.  And I think that if the sky fell and you were looking at me and I was looking at you, everything would be hopeful and mean and beautiful and blue.

Soda Pop

When we were very young, my brother and I used to ride our bikes along the sidewalk, over patches of weeds that grew between the cracks in the pavement.  We would press our bare feet hard into the peddles as we raised our bodies off the bike seats as we rode faster, laughing because it was summer and there wasn’t much else to do.  We would ride to the liquor store around the corner from our house; outside there was a vending machine where we could buy cans of pop for thirty five cents each.  We called it pop then.  I call it soda now.  And now, in that little town, there are still vending machines selling pop for fifty cents.  Such things don’t exist anywhere people call pop “soda.”
Back then, when soda sounded pretentious or old fashioned, my brother and I would count our nickels and dimes and slide them into the coin slot, awaiting the sound of the cans of Cherry Coke falling free from the machine, eager for the sweet cold taste of that very first sip. They were our little luxury. 
In the evenings we could go to the city park and buy bags of popcorn for seventy five cents.  The popcorn came in the same ACE Hardware bags as the nails and screws that I’d seen my mother purchase.  Ours was that kind of world.  Cheap and hard.  Where enough was the goal and in the meantime there had better be loose change and something to laugh about.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rewriting: It

He looked into me and said, “When you look at me like that, you really are the most beautiful woman in the world.”
I thought, later, that is why I could never date a writer – or even most men.  As a writer, I find I’m rarely sure if I actually mean what I say, or if I just like the way the words go together.  I think most men say things to a woman because they hope to fit their body – if only for a moment – with hers.  It’s all syntax. 
I smiled and almost told him he didn’t need to flatter me.  It was enough to be beautiful to him.  But he continued, “I mean, you always are, but I forget to notice sometimes and then you look at me like that and it’s all I can see.” 

I question my own aesthetic appeal almost everyday – my weight, my thighs, my skin, my teeth…  But I didn’t question whether or not he meant what he said in that moment because when I looked at him like that and when he looked back at me, there was no one else in the world.  [That’s what I meant when I told him he was it.]

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Be Wrong for Me

My mother used to say, "I love your father.  I'll probably always love your father, but we're just not right for each other."
I used to keep their wedding photo album in my doll house when I was very young.  I haven't seen that album in years but I know the pictures by heart.  My mother in a knee length white dress and a wide brimmed white hat, standing with my father in their backyard, right where the grassy hill fell into the creek, beyond which woods stretched to the highway.  My father's mustache back when it was still thick and brown, not the gray stubble it is now.  Even though it was the late nineteen eighties, he looked like he was cut right out of an early seventies photograph --maybe a photograph from his first wedding.  My sister, from his first marriage, with tan lines showing above her strapless, pale pink dress.  My aunt, looking barely older than my sister, standing beside her in a matching dress.
These days I find myself thinking of the story my mother told me of taking off her shoes and walking home alone from their wedding reception.  She was wearing white silk stockings purchased at Bloomingdale's and by the time she got back to the house, they were ripped and gray.
It would be easy to say that the right man would not have let her walk home alone from her own wedding reception.  I think that's what my mother was saying when she told me the story.  I would say that people can't be right for each other until they're willing to admit all the ways they're wrong themselves.  Maybe you can't be good with anyone until you're good yourself.  And maybe you can't be better until you admit that you need to be.
My parents just couldn't figure out how to grow up.  I think that's how someone people get it right, after all.  They grow up.  My parents were like adult children.  They threw tantrums and objects and blame when they didn't get their way.  They said hurtful things just because they could. 
I think the couples that get it right are just made up of two people who are each grown up enough to know when they're wrong.  I think if you can say you'll always love someone, but they're just not right for you, then they might be right for you, but you just aren't grown up enough to be okay being the one who's wrong.
And maybe I'm wrong, but I'd be okay with that.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

I want leaving me to be the hardest thing you ever do.  Anything less is nothing at all.

Not About Loneliness

I'm not afraid of being alone.  I appreciate the small freedom of sleeping by myself, being able to toss and turn and get up and write and watch TV and have a snack and then go back to sleep.  I like shopping alone, taking walks alone, drinking coffee and reading alone.   I like traveling alone, losing myself in a new place and the same old thoughts.  I even enjoy going to bars alone, savoring the perfect cocktail and taking in the sound of other people's social lives.  And when I want to write, I need the resounding quiet of being entirely alone.
I am afraid of feeling alone but not being alone.   I am afraid of those moments when I am with someone --a boyfriend, friends-- and yet I feel like I am floating inside myself, a heart hovering inside a head, a mere idea of a person.
I am afraid of being alone but not feeling alone.  I dread those days when I walk by myself through parks and down city streets and find my head is filled with memories of the people I used to know, conversations we used to have.  I am afraid of feeling more present in the past than in the moment.  
I find it is the things I've let go that I come to know by heart.
And I am afraid of time, how it moves, how even loves that seemed right take turns for the worse or for something --someone-- else with the ever changing course of hearts and calendar pages.   I am afraid of the places I used to be, the people I used to be with, and the ideas I used to have of the person I would be.  Those are the very things I know by heart.  And yet somehow they all proved me wrong. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I've Got Them, Babe

Lately, when I'm drunk I want to hold hands.  I hold hands with my friends, with men I'm not romantically interested in, with other people's boyfriends that I don't even wish were mine, never with the man I'm interested in.  I think I even remember drunkenly holding hands with my co-workers.  
I like the contact of someone's palm against mine.  I think I need it as tangible proof that I'm not alone.  And I like the way someone else's fingers wrap around mine.  I like feeling like for a moment I don't have to be ok; someone else has got me.  
And I love these people I hold hands with on drunken nights.  I love them when I'm sober.  They're my family.  I've got them.  

You are not [here].

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


He looked into me and said, “When you look at me like that, you really are the most beautiful woman in the world.”
I thought, later, that is why I could never date a writer – or even most men.  As a writer, I find I’m rarely sure if I actually mean what I say, or if I just like the way the words go together.  And I think most men say things to a woman because they hope to fit their body – if only for a moment – with hers.  It’s all syntax. 
I smiled and almost told him he didn’t need to flatter me.  It was enough to be beautiful to him.  But he continued, “I mean, you always are, but I forget to notice sometimes and then you look at me like that and it’s all I can see.” 
I question my own aesthetic appeal almost everyday – my weight, my thighs, my skin, my teeth…  But I didn’t question whether or not he meant what he said in that moment because when I looked at him like that and when he looked back at me, there was no one else in the world.
This is not black and white.

Without You

I found a picture that ___ took of me on Valentine’s Day, long after dinner and margaritas and a cosmopolitan that I had wanted to drink because it was pink and the champagne truffles that we [I] ate in bed.  In the picture my back is turned and I’m smiling at ___ over my bare shoulder.  The back of my dress hangs slightly open at the top.  It’s my little black dress that I wear for all those big hopeful days.  It wasn’t until I found that picture that I realized that I have a different smile for ___than I do for anyone else.  ___ asked me how I could be so certain that I wanted to be with ___.  I told ___ that I wasn’t always, but one day I noticed the difference between ___ and me and all the other possibilities.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Where I Live

My parents will not come to New York.  They won’t stroll with me through Central Park or join me at my favorite brunch place just a couple blocks from the Met.  They will not see me graduate with my MFA in the spring or see the office where I work on 38th and Madison.  They will have gone six years without ever visiting any of the universities I attended.  They weren’t there when I was in the emergency room in Chicago or after I was raped or when I was sleeping in a bathroom in Paris because I couldn’t afford a room.  And in a way they are right when they say it is my fault.  I was too ambitious to ever truly run away from home so when I went to college, I went to Chicago, and they saw the three hour drive between their life in Wisconsin and me as the equivalent of the Atlantic Ocean that I would eventually intermittently put between us. 
But fault is the wrong word for the responsibility I take for being alone – or at least for being without a family.  Fault is the word I give them.  They gave me reasons.  I don’t think children run away from home because they hate their parents.  I think they run away because they hate what happened to them.  I hate what my parents did to me.  And that’s what I used to think I was running from.  I didn’t realize that time creates its own distance.  Nor did I realize that it is impossible to run from pain itself.  That’s why running became a pattern, a habit, and impulse.  The pain always found me whether I was in Chicago or London or Paris or Istanbul or New York City.  The pain of what had happened was always in me.  I couldn’t truly be anywhere because I didn’t want to be with myself.
In running from pain and from home, I came to feel homeless.  I had given up the only home I had ever had and I seemed incapable of making a new one for myself.  And I was ashamed of this, especially around the holidays, when everyone else around me was making plans to go home and to spend time with their family.  During that time of year, my stomach would be constantly sick with the question of where I would go and with whom and the possibility that I would have nowhere and no one.  I still have this question, this sick feeling in my stomach.  And this year I might have to face being entirely alone during the holidays for the first time.
However, I have realized that I do not need to go home to have one.  Though, I would not call it home.  I would call it the place where I am from.  Sitting at a bar in the East Village one night, I realized that where I am from is always with me.  The hard heat of the cracked, eroding pavement of my small Wisconsin town is in my words and tears alike.  I can experience by memory every season of the Midwest – every smell, every sound, and every quality of light.  And when I’m having trouble with a boyfriend or at work, I don’t walk on eggshells; I walk like a seven year old country girl barefoot on a gravel road: quick but careful, pained but with somewhere to go.  And when life comes at me with its fists raised, I stand and meets its gaze the way I met my mother’s– fire meeting fire – whenever she came at me with her open palm raised and ready to sear my cheek with its force, when her fingers dug into my flesh until I bled and my skin caked like mud beneath her fingernails.  And when I am in love, I put up my love like a good fight because I am from a place where you didn’t have anything unless you fought for it. 
The last place I ran to was New York City.  I had never been to New York, or anywhere else on the East Coast, until I landed at LaGuardia with two suitcases and the address of a graduate student dormitory.  Within days of arriving, I fell in love – though not with New York.  Through this particular turn of events, I found myself ushered into a social world of people who had been given more traditional love, support, and opportunities than I had ever experienced.  These people had families and they came from houses that they called homes and that they returned to for holidays.  And they had each other.  They had friends and inside jokes and shared happy histories – things that I had never stayed anywhere long enough to maintain since extricating myself from the place I was from six years earlier.  Witnessing their lives and feeling the contrast to my own brought all the pain I had been running from to the forefront of my daily life.  I was blindsided and I was blinded by the pain, so much so that there were days when all I could see was how much I hurt.  I couldn’t see that I had a man who loved me, a good education, new friends, and the very real possibility of things finally getting better.  Unfortunately, I had to learn the hard way that not only it is impossible to truly be anywhere until I want to be with myself, but it is also impossible to be with anyone.
However, I did eventually realize that I don’t want to be another example of the Woody Allen, Freudian, Groucho Max joke.  I want to be able to belong to a club that would accept someone like me as a member. 
I have now been in New York for fifteen months, which is the longest I have stayed anywhere in the past six years.  And I intend to remain.  Something began for me in New York.  It has its beginnings in romantic love but it goes beyond that.  In the beginning, I learned the routes of the subway by going to and from dates and I explored the Upper Eastside and the Upper Westside while someone held my hand.  And I can now differentiate the Williamsburg Bridge from the Brooklyn Bridge and the Queens Borough because I remember significant romantic moments that took place in view of each.  And now I have friends that I love and that make me feel like I have a family.  
In love and in New York, I began to learn what I want and what I have.  I want people I love, people I share a happy history and inside jokes with.  I want a favorite brunch place and a place to spend the holidays.  I learned the meaning of one of my favorite Joan Didion lines: You have to pick the places you don’t walk away from.  And I learned that I have come from something and I am as proud of it as I am saddened by it.
And I have some things I did not have six years ago.  I have the ability to love and to choose to stop running away. It took me a while but I have finally gotten to a good place and I’m not going anywhere.  For the first time in my life, I have figured out how to live with myself.