Kill Me with Your Sexy

Diary Entry 

I know I should be mad at you, but I can’t prove it, so here we are again. Love. I hate you. That fucking face.

He is always in the back of my mind. Or on the forefront, depending on where I put him for the day. I am sure this is weird, an atypical experience, but this is my life, almost two years in the making. I have tried dumping him, I have tried. Whenever I’m done, a little voice in my head: why do you want to destroy a good thing?

Good point, voice in my head. Good point. I don’t, actually. Shall we keep going?

I am stuck with him. It occupies my thoughts from sun up to sun down without boredom in between. Obsessive, maybe. Has anyone else been here before? I don’t know. I have never in my life. Most bizarre phenomenon of my entire life. 

I do the nastiest things in my head with him. I’ll be reading and “doze off.” Then, for some godless reason, I’m interrupted, and I am just like Excuse me, I was about to finish.

I remember the first time I saw him. Cute and kind. That was the word. Of all things. Kind. Him. Biggest asshole I know. Kindest man on Earth. He is the one who says “ass” rhymes with “glass,” no matter what, and did you know? “Fart” rhymes with heart,” every time. Most useless writing advice ever. I want to throw him away sometimes. Worst editor in my life. Doesn’t have the guts to be mean. We are completely different, like night and day, which prevents us from massacring each other. 

Could I write this without him? No. 

It took me like three weeks to decide if he was even cute. I had a debate in my head. What if he’s shorter than me? No. What if he’s taller? That’s okay. Is he cute? I don’t know yet, let me analyze this. Cute at first. It graduated. It went in gradations. The first time I saw him write a non-essential clause, it went to whoa, you’re fucking hot. 

One day he went on and on about the origin and “correct” meaning of some Latin phrase from the Dead Poet’s Society. Etymologize on my face. Kill me with your sexy. 

Am I wearing a bra? Also, no. 

Psychological Chamber of Torture

Weird shit happens to me all the time. Trouble doesn’t just find me, it seeks me out. Murphy’s law governs my life. But if anything goes wrong, it all goes wrong when I’m in front of my computer or phone.

I have a longstanding vendetta with technology. It started approximately two years ago. I’m not one of those people standing on a soapbox preaching we need to unplug and return to nature. I’m no saint. In fact, I’m rather jealous of the general population who seems to be able to browse and social media without an agonizing amount of anxiety approaching them every time. I’m on the verge of buying a VHS player, it’s gotten that bad. For all intents and purposes, I avoid having to do anything online, including brief and informal research. It always comes at a great personal cost, and today I paid.

Yesterday I was in such a dream state while writing that it piqued my curiosity later. I wondered if there was a connection between the state of mind I was in and self-hypnosis. Knowing the history I have with technology, I told myself to not look anything up until it was daylight out, otherwise I’d get scared. I still had a little trepidation about looking up “self-hypnosis” that I did the search while I was on hold on the phone. It was a big mistake. I started crying immediately. Turns out, I don’t think I was on hold at all, and the poor man probably heard the whole thing and assumed I was crying because I couldn’t get a refund back.

Here’s what happened. Here is what always happens to me, and the timing is crucial. Yesterday I wrote the line, not a very rare one, “If seeing is believing, then…” I would venture to say that that line is universally recognized. So I look up “self-hypnosis” and go straight to Wikipedia like any normal 21st century researcher, and right there in front of my face, a quote by some James Braid: “If seeing is believing, then feeling is the very truth.” That’s when I started crying. Synchronous coincidences. 

It happens all the time! It’s a psychological chamber of torture for me without any way to escape the questions without answers.

When I was done getting angry about the conspiracy being plotted against me, I decided to do some research on this James Braid guy, who has been dead since 1865. Of course, since everything is online, I couldn’t find anything. I checked the library catalog, and nothing. It’s remarkable how often the library never has what I’m looking for. I thought about going up to the college campus to be thorough, but I thought I better not push my luck today, what with the internet being broken and whatever.

Wikipedia, the source of information these days, says he’s a surgeon. I thought what in the world is a surgeon doing with hypnosis and trances? There’s a perfectly logical and adequate explanation, turns out. I figured he’d be more into bones and anatomy or something. I went to the library anyways to find an old fashioned encyclopedia to look this guy up. He’s also described as a “gentleman scientist.” First of all, I don’t even know what that means.

I went to my new library. I got kicked out of the Metropolitan Library System because my license changed to a Chicago zipcode. It’s not very big. I found a huge sign with REFERENCE BOOKS above a few shelves that were all empty (totally a conspiracy at this point). I walk along the wall past a dictionary opened to “Mine” and found all the encyclopedias. By “all,” I mean there were a few about Catholicism, the Great American Expansion, and Illinois. Who reads this crap? Anyways, there was nothing to help me. 

I risked going back to my old library, the one that discarded me and my library card on the curb, and checked out their reference section. Even sadder. A book on prescription and nonprescription drugs, one of the new DSM manuals, and a book of Bartlett’s Quotations. I realized that, due to the internet, nobody is probably really printing encyclopedias anymore. I just needed one printed after 1850, and I’d be golden. No such luck.

I ran a few more searches. The Chicago library had nothing on self-hypnosis. The second library did. I found the self-hypnosis books between Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams and Why You’re Not Married Yet. I pulled out the Idiot’s Guide first. Lo and behold! There is a section in the back telling you to check out all the pioneers in the field of hypnosis, and James Braid is one of the first. In fact, he coined the term. I was so relieved this guy was real for one thing. I summoned all my courage and went into the next book. Nothing. A self-help self-hypnosis book with a section for notes and accompanied by a CD with symbiotic messages included.

I opened up a third book, checked the bibliography. Not very impressive. No James Braid. For someone who coined the term, you’d think he’d be included. On the bright side, they were print sources, always a plus because when I opened the last book, the source she gave for James Braid was the very Wikipedia entry I had already read. However, she gave a pretty decent history, even though the Wikipedia entry is completely different (thanks, editors!). The very logical reason James Braid was into hypnosis was that he used it as an anesthetic for his patients. Calling James Braid a “surgeon” sort of reminded me of Stu from The Hangover when he tells everyone he’s a doctor, but he’s really just a dentist. That’s what Braid did. Extractions and root canals. Another source said differently. Who is this guy?

Without going back online, I cannot find anything else out about this guy, unless I do a WorldCat search, and the vendetta I have with technology extends very far back. I have a dicey browsing history, at best. I still can’t explain why these things happen to me. I found nothing that is actually helpful. Not even the books with “self-help” on the spine. I did find out that Freud cried at his first hypnosis presentation because he was convinced this was a breakthrough and major turning point in science. Then again, Freud thought a lot of things we know now that are just wrong. Plain and simple.

At the very least, James Braid is real and today, we communed. I communed with a dead guy. 

Worst Roommate Ever

There is no boyfriend application. There is no way to screen the men we let into our lives without breaking a few laws. Dating will always be a “you live and you learn” experience. In retrospect, it looks like living with a complete stranger who may or may not murder me at any moment would have been the safer alternative than moving in with a boyfriend without a contractual agreement. Tenancy laws don’t apply to relationships. The only upside to a landlord-tenant relationship is that there is a due legal process. No such recourse exists for two people living with each other, out of economic necessity or love, whichever applies.

I did the smart thing by waiting to get to know the person I was dating before we decided to move in together. He paid his half of the bills, I did all the cooking and cleaning. I paid my half of the bills, and he worked. It was a team effort. I will never forget the butterflies he gave me when he told me he liked the way I folded his shirts, that he could never do work as good as me. I had a gift. Surprisingly, it was not money that ended our non-nuptial bliss. He paid me back every cent I let him borrow. He kept leaving town without telling me. Forget an invitation, I didn’t even know he was gone. Of course, we were not married, so I had no right to know his whereabouts. His half of the bills, afterall, were paid.

Worst roommate ever.

Seeing as the waiting period with the first one didn’t work out, I thought I’d try something a little different with the next applicant and skip the screening period altogether. It just so happened that his lease was expiring and I just so happened to already have my own place I could barely afford to keep paying. It didn’t make any sense fiscally to both pay for rent neither of us could realistically afford on our own. Of course, back then I was only paying half of what I pay now. You never know how good you got it. It also just so happened that my lease expired in six months, and I thought this would be a great trial period.

It worked like a dream. It didn’t make sense to go through the trouble of putting his name on anything if things went south. I divided everything up, and he handed me the money at the end of every month. This changed. I made the mistake of putting his name on the lease with mine, and what I didn’t have to allow before, I now had to learn how to live with. Somewhere in between and much too soon, he proposed, we had a baby, and five years after sharing our first apartment, we moved into the house on Kenton. The place still haunts me.

Here is where I make the biggest mistake of my life. I don’t sign. For anything. We’re about to get married. I’ll gain my rights that way. No big deal. I hand him trust. I am about to give him my name, so I just pass all the finances over to him in the same breath because why not? He has no record to speak of. He had no bank account when I met him, no credit report, no car, and he was living in someone’s basement,  but somehow in my twisted little mind, I thought that this is how things were supposed to go. What I did was hand him the keys to my kingdom, and he usurped me. 

To this day I still don’t know how this conniving bastard managed to play me for the long con (mind you, he cooked for me), but what I do know is that he was by far, by a mile, the worst roommate I’ve ever had in my entire life. I shall tell you why.

We purchased our little fiefdom a few months before the Great Pandemic of 2020 for practical reasons: easy commute, good school districts, resaleability. Alas! We were not nestled into a corner of the kingdom with snug banners encouraging us to stay home and be safe, an irony to be sure. No, we and all the people on the south side of Chicago were in full lockdown mode, not a rare occurrence for us, what with Cook County penitentiary and escaping inmates nearby. (More benign reasons include a simple shortage in staff.) The pandemic contributed to extending this saga long past its expiration date. We were, in every sense of the word, locked down together, almost never to part. Everything happened very slowly, gradually, like cooking a frog that doesn’t yet know it’s being boiled.

For reasons I shall not explain, the wedding was called off. We found ourselves in limbo, but the pandemic proved to be a worthy enough distraction, and it all started off very smoothly. Up until that point, the castle had been mine, and only mine, during daylight hours. He crept up on me. I had spent most of the spring cleaning, as people are wont to do, and throwing away shit he still doesn’t realize is missing. He did his thing and I was doing mine, his figuring out how to work from home and me trying to figure out how to be unemployed for the first time in my life. By summer, I had won the bedroom, he took my office, where I wrote and used to do teacherish things, and we slept peacefully apart for several months. He slept on the couch. It was working out just fine. We probably could have gone on like that forever. We didn’t though.

One night we had an epic battle. By “epic,” I mean he broke my nail. He didn’t chip my nail. He didn’t break off the acrylic. He broke the whole damn thing. He pushed me, I pushed him back, and we tussled. He took my phone and my keys, so I broke down his door. Plus, he got blood, my blood, on the wall I had just finished doing touch-ups to. It took me months to pick out the precise shade of gray I wanted. I had even done the painting myself, and I thought this is no way to treat a lady. Our feelings out of the way, we were now having it out over some territory. For months, he refused to let me paint the wall in what was now my bedroom. I had to be proactive. I bought some crayons that wrote like lipstick and I scribbled all over the walls. Finally, he gave in and let me paint the wall so as to cover the mess I had made. Talk about the writing on the wall. But I was fooled. It wasn’t to be my bedroom for much longer. I had left for a short time, and when I came back, he had painted over my entire wall with a new color as if I had never even been there. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him so motivated to finish a project.

Meanwhile, we went on, avoiding fights by avoiding each other. It was working out well, here and there. If we so much as looked at each other, all hell would break loose. He’d say something like “What the hell are you looking at?” and I’d say something like “Why don’t you want to marry me,” and he’d counter with “There you go bringing up the past again.” We were merciless. He managed to avoid me most of the time by simply locking me out of the house. Whenever I wasn’t around, he’d grab my keys off the wall, take off the house key, send me on my way, and I’d come home to yet another door locked in my face. I’m not sure you’re technically allowed to kick a tenant out. At this point, I wasn’t even sure that I was a tenant. We never had a talk about what we were after the wedding was called off. I figured it was probably none of my business. He yelled at me a good while for not paying him rent. I only found out later he wasn’t paying the mortgage, and where some of my money went, I could never tell you. What is no longer a mystery is how he managed to open up two more credit cards during a pandemic. I now see clearly where funds must have been transferred.

This wasn’t nearly as grand as the furniture war. He had an obsession with moving things after I had deliberately moved them somewhere. If I had the table centered under the light, he’d push it up against the wall. If I had made a play area behind the couch for our kid, he moved it against the wall. If I put the bed somewhere we could all get some feng shui, he pushed it up against the wall. One time he even pushed me up against the wall. By that point, I already knew better than to call the useless city cops. Believe me, I tried. He was aggressive over the barest matters, too. I bought a bag of potato chips and we had yet another epic battle about what food could and could not be brought into his house.

To be fair, it was his house, as the police so kindly reminded me each time they, like him, threw me out of there. Even though that’s where I lived. He was also smarter than he looked. I woke up one night to him standing over me. I had slept in his bed while he was out partying for the night and locked the door behind me, not that this did any good. I couldn’t even tell you what the fight was about. I wake up, and he’s standing over me with a Mike’s Black Cherry in his hand (it was not even 9am yet). What is he doing in the room when I’m not even dressed? He did this to me all the time. He would just walk in while I was taking a shower or doing my make-up. This roommate had no sense of personal boundaries. He was always in my face, locking me out, or on this occasion, he very literally threw me outside at 9am.

I don’t wear pajamas to sleep.

I called the cops that time. They asked me what he was wearing. I told them what he was wearing. When he walked outside, he was wearing something different. He is no stranger to the police. Of course, I’m the hysterical one; I wasn’t wearing anything. The police kindly offered to call me an ambulance, not because I was bleeding. They told me I had to leave. To pack up my shit and leave. I did this under the eye of a sleazy ass officer. I had no idea there is no due legal process where I live. After all of this goes down, I do what any sane person does. I call the one person you can always count on to be there for you when you need him.

I called my dad. Mistake number three coming up. After the wedding is called off, after we have been in physical fights, after he lights my credit report on fire, after I step down from teaching to stay at home with our daughter, after locking me out, throwing me out, after moving all my furniture, after every microagression he throws at me, my dad says:

“I think you need to work on your relationship.”

Personally speaking, I don’t feel like I should be forced to date a roommate, but here I was, considering that I was perhaps in the wrong after all. If you wouldn’t break down a door to get back your phone and your keys, then you wouldn’t understand.

I will never have another roommate again.

Happy Anniversary, Darlings

I don’t eat shrimp. I don’t eat shrimp, and therefore I do not know how to cook shrimp. Why one day I found myself overcome by the urge to learn how to cook shrimp is a mystery I’ll never unravel. It’s remarkable how much you learn about love by first learning what it is not. I had hatched a plan to keep my boyfriend occupied at work longer than he had to be. We worked at a bar together. The whole plan backfired.

I am cooking shrimp at home into a nice sautee while he is, presumably, occupied at work. It was a special occasion. It was our anniversary. Not only was I cooking shrimp, I was grilling some filets. I had a table set. The whole cheesy nine yards, with a tablecloth I didn’t own and had to go out to buy, and some candles. I saw this on some film or another. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Shrimp is disgusting. It feels funny and it smells terrible. Finally I let my person on the inside know to send him home.

“He’s finishing a drink,” they let me know. Okay. So I waited. I waited until the food got cold. And then I waited some more. I waited until he came home too obliterated to even notice there had been a table set in the first place. This was July 17th some time in my very early days of youth.

I’ll admit, men are notorious for forgetting important dates. This has clearly been my experience. So when some other real charmer tells me he asked me out on June 1st so as not to forget the date ever, I took this as a surely good sign. I can’t say I’ve forgotten that day once in my life. His manners now stand in contrast to some more unsavory characters I’ve had the displeasure to encounter. For the first time in my life, I’ve witnessed someone with the audacity to slide into my DM (which is a direct message, if you don’t know), at 4am and ask me if I’m still awake. At four. In the morning. When clearly, this is when people sleep. He had asked to follow me, I said fine. Did he ask for my phone number?

No, no he did not. He may as well have just walked into my back door. If you don’t have my number, what makes you think I am talking to you? It blew my mind. It’s bad enough nobody leaves a calling card with your valet anymore, or writes a freaking letter. This is a whole new level of discourteousness if I’ve ever seen an instance before. No manners whatsoever. Did he stop when I asked him to? Of course not. That’s why they invented a “block” button, and the pleasure to push it was all mine.

Women are notorious for making allowances for men all the time. Which I do. All the time. Like the guy who took me out on something like a first date to pet puppies. Yes, to pet puppies which is, in theory, a great idea. If you like petting puppies. Or if you like animals at all. I’m not saying lock your dog in the car on a hot day. I’m just saying keep that barking contraption away from me. Dogs make me nervous. Yes, even the small ones. That wasn’t even the first date. It might have been. That’s not when he, I mean we, decided to start counting. The whole relationship lasted approximately two months, the time it took me to figure out how to now back out of this relationship that started in yet another situation where I hadn’t yet learned how to say no. 

It was St. Patrick’s Day. Responsible kids that we were, we decided to book a hotel room with a bar downstairs in the lobby. While everyone else was busy jumping into the pool with clothes on, him and I were somewhere upstairs, not jumping into a pool (bummer), and I guess he probably expected something else, but it didn’t happen. Here’s what happened. He asks me out. In a hotel room. Maybe a few beers deep. I don’t drink. I am sober and wishing I was getting kicked out by security downstairs. After he asks, I say yes, obviously because I have to or else leave the party, which wasn’t the plan, he says:

“Do you mind if we tell everyone it’s tomorrow, so they don’t know I asked you out on St. Patrick’s Day?” Truly, I was flattered. Blew me away, this charming rake. Hence why I spent the next two months hatching an escape plan. Red flags and all, you know. To be fair, when I did finally break it off, he showed up at my house, unannounced and uninvited, with some flowers and some candy in a tin lunch box with a picture of Spongebob on the front. I threw away the flowers and took the candy. Saying no is one thing. Getting the point across is a cutthroat endeavor.

Speaking of bad timing, no day is better to propose to someone than a mere nine months after you’ve been dating, at the beginning of a career, on your birthday. No, not my birthday. It was his birthday. I didn’t even see it coming. I had planned a birthday party. I already had a guest list. That he added to. Behind my back. Which, not surprisingly, became a theme planning the wedding. How do you say no in front of 50 people you don’t know? We had just barely moved into our own place. We did not have a conversation about this. There was a cake and everything. Saying no meant dissolving the relationship, and I wasn’t ready to do that just yet, but here was down on one knee. One of the most embarrassing videos on the internet is the whole fiasco. Me in party gear. Him ready to propose. It was nothing like I dreamed or anything I could have imagined.

That’s how I get stuck with this guy. Do I advocate living with your boyfriend before the wedding night? Absolutely not. I get stuck with this thing, with this ring on my finger. That I picked out. That I thought, cutely, he might be saving for to surprise me with one day. “One day” came a lot sooner than I expected, let me tell you. He’s done all kinds of things to the word “forever.” For example, I had been engaged forever. Like all brides, I’m thinking we’ll be married before the year is out. This is exciting. I decide we shall run away, it shall be a beach, nobody will be there (PTSD), and it would be perfect.

No. He had an ever-growing guest list our wallets couldn’t accommodate. The whole thing was a mess, not to mention I had just started a career. I didn’t have time to plan anything, to be honest, and if I’m fair, he met me on the back end of all this other shit, so he already had a train wreck to deal with in the first place. I’m not sure I remembered any of our anniversaries. Most of my thoughts were preoccupied about setting a date, one he had imposed on me, without talking to me first, and this didn’t blow over so well for him.

Here’s how “forever” works. I was with him forever, I was engaged forever, and then, I’m an almost-bride. Forever. We have all these years of history. Seven, to be exact. He verified this for me. And now we are stuck together because in one planned, and yet passionate night, we bore a love child. Since the wedding was stalled, you see. I am now stuck with this amnesiac man forever. Because he doesn’t remember anything past the last week. All of our history, erased. Non-existent. Me? I remember every last detail.

Happy Anniversary, darlings. 

Damsel Undistressed

I’ve been saving myself my whole life. I’ve been a dragon guarding all the treasure I’ve stored up (my work, my books, my writing), incinerating anyone who got too close. When everything went up in smoke, burned to the ground, and turned to ashes between my hands, there was nothing left to protect. There was nothing left for me to do.

I had lost more than a voice. I had lost all sense of purpose. I had left the dragon’s keep and landed in a dungeon. In the dungeon, I had lost all sense of time, all sense of autonomy, all sense of self-dependency. There was no saving myself without outside help. I wasn’t a princess, I was a prisoner locked in a position too tight to get myself out. Up until that point, I had orchestrated every single one of my own rescues, fought every single one of my own battles, pulled myself out from the bottom of a well on my own. I was an island, unconquerable and solitary. Nobody was ever around when I did these things. It made me proud, too proud for my own good.

Too proud to happily accept help ever after.

I don’t feel like the hero in my own story. I don’t feel like the princess in my own fairy tale. I feel like the sole survivor at the end of a horror film, and the experience has been terrifying, has left me haunted, scarred, and tortured. The saddest part is that my story isn’t anywhere near the grim tale other lives have endured. I didn’t audition to be a damsel-in-distress. I was conditioned to be otherwise.

And it exhausted me. I burned out. I fell down without a reason to get back up again. I had no desire, no strength, no will left of my own. Whatever sense of power saving myself had bestowed upon me could no longer sustain me. I had built up a tolerance to the level of adversity and resilience I reached, and I didn’t have the capacity for more.

Enough, I said. I can’t do this anymore.

All those years of playing my own hero and sidekick to someone else depleted me. It was futile and worthless. It inflated my ego, driving more people away than it convinced to stay.

Let them go, I said. I don’t need them. I’m an island. I’m a queen. I’m a warrior. I’m the storm. I’m exhausted. 

I don’t recall ever asking him for help. I think it was all the crying I was doing. He couldn’t concentrate. One day, when he had had enough, he sprung me from my cell, and I didn’t see him for a long time after that. He seemed annoyed by the entire event. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about owing somebody something for the first time in my life. He didn’t need any favors returned. He didn’t need anything or ask for anything in return. The crying must have really bothered him. Silence was repayment enough, if I had stayed silent.

I didn’t know how to say thank you for something I didn’t ask for without sounding ungrateful. He had freed me from a dungeon, but escape hadn’t given me back my voice. Without a purpose or anything to do, I had all the time in the world to practice using all kinds of voices on him.

He never said a word.

There were no boundaries. There were no subjects off limits. There were no expectations. There were no clearly defined parameters after springing me from the cell. We were one big, giant blob of nothing, a vacuum inevitably destined to be filled. For as much as I told him (which is to say, everything), there was one thing I always left out.

The demons chasing me. The stalkers hunting me. The voices assaulting me. I left out the part where I was still, even after being saved from a lifetime imprisonment, a damsel-in-distress. Sometimes he wonders if it wouldn’t have been better to leave me in the cell, crying and all. Noise-canceling headphones would have been a wiser investment.

He eventually found out. He found out through the grapevine. To this day, I’m not sure he knew anything for certain until I told him. He sort of reminds me of how detectives ask questions in a way that makes it seem like they know more than they do, until you finally give something up. He knew I was pulling all-nighters. He knew I would disappear for days at a time. He knew I’d sleep for days at a time. He let me lie to his face over and over again, even though telling the truth wasn’t something I had agreed to do. I had agreed to nothing.

He didn’t save me in any traditional sense of the word. He didn’t say he’d catch me if I fell. He didn’t say he’d always be there. He didn’t say anything. He simply existed. If I fell, he’d just wait for me to get back up. By saying nothing at all, he became the loudest voice I heard.

This is who I am and that is who you are. Misery doesn’t need company.

The realization hit me slowly. Over months. Through near-death experiences. He never wavered. He had become the only constant in my life. The only solid ground through earthquakes. There were no stakes, but he was daylight after a life in the shadows, and I wanted to be near him. He made me uncomfortable.  He made me see myself in a new light, and he didn’t look away, even when I did. He never flinched.

He is the only one who let me know that I was, in fact, a damsel-in-distress, and also that it was okay to be one. He was signing “you need help” to me the same way my family had verbalized it to my face. The only difference is that my family wanted to pass me off to someone else, while he stood his ground. 

I’m giving you help. Take it or leave it.

I had no choice. I was beyond the point of saving myself. Circumstances threw us together, and if anyone else had handed me a rope, I might have used it to hang myself, instead of using it to climb out. If you asked him, he might tell you I saved myself. He’d be lying. If he hadn’t been there, I would have destroyed myself first. There was nothing left to save. He extended grace to an otherwise irredeemable monster.

Changing because of him saved me. By not using his voice, he gave me mine. He will always be the fairy tale in my life because I didn’t turn out to be the queen, or the princess, or the damsel-in-distress.

I get to be the storyteller.

Dating Profile

There are four things people lie about the most in their dating profile: age, height, weight, and marital status.

Age

Let’s start with the basics. I’m 31 years old. Sometimes I still think I’m 29. I know an unfortunate soul who tells stories like she’s still in high school, even though she graduated six years ago. When I worked in a bar, there was a whole group of adults dressed in leather pants and headbands every weekend, forever destined to continue living out the 80s.

Here’s how age works: if you compare the number of years I’ve been on Earth to someone who, say, has been here for 70 years, of course I’ll look like a hatchling next to this dinosaur. If you consider the fact that I moved out at 18, accrued three degrees and 100k in student debt, had a kid, been fake divorced twice, endured a midlife crisis on the verge of 30, walked away from a stable, promising career, and discovered that feminism for me was, in fact, a phase I grew out of, then I’m relatively old, if not experienced.

Also: I only have one payment left before my car is paid off. This makes me an adult.

If you knew I read dystopian young adult fiction until my mid-twenties, I might look younger than I am. Age, truly, is just a number counting the number of years you’ve been alive.

Height

I’m 5′ 9″…on my tip toes…in heels…on stilts. Pretty much I have to climb on the counters to reach anything in the kitchen. I’m about 5′ 7′ in heels, if I wear them, so on a good day, I’m almost always five feet and three inches tall. I’ve never dated anyone shorter than me. This would probably be hard to do. One time I thought I might like this guy still if he was a midget, but no.

Weight

My license at one point said I weighed seven more pounds than I really did at the time. This is something we will probably never talk about. I now weigh fourteen pounds more than my license said, and I am inexplicably three inches wider without looking any thinner. Pictures really are better for this portion of the profile. There is a fat version of me and a skinny version of me. I’m currently in the skinny version, but if I have another life crisis, this could change at any moment.

I’m like a muscular teddy bear. What I mean is what you think are muscles is really extra fluff and stuff. I used to be a gym rat or gym shark, whichever, but not anymore. Muscles freak me out.

Marital Status

Single, never married. This is what I file on my taxes every year. I used to be married to this thing called work, but now I mostly read and write; occasionally, I show up to a night job (I’m a server, not a stripper, don’t worry).

Contrary to what you might think, I want little to nothing to do with anyone who also, likewise, reads, and/or writes. Because that’s what I do. I’m at the point where I need something a little more interesting, maybe an astronaut, zoo keeper, or an archaeologist. Something like that. I wouldn’t necessarily rule out a spiritual mystic or coal miner, though.

I’m afraid I’m a little more complex than a few measurements, but I’m definitely husbandless. For good reason, if I’m honest.

As a side note, no consideration will be given for your yearly salary. We all want to file as Head of Household, now don’t we?

Good Luck!

-Jackie

What to Do with Your Heartbreak

What are you supposed to do with a heartbreak? You can remember forever how you’ve been hurt and use that to propel yourself forward, until the pain recedes, taking with it all the good memories caught in the tide. You can choose to replay all the best moments in your mind over again on shuffle or repeat, until the nostalgia crushes you and you’re struggling to remember why you left, why it didn’t work, what broke in the first place.

There must be a reason it’s all over now because there’s a cold burning sensation holding your heart in a vise grip to remind you. Something about hanging onto anger and pain can make a person feel invincible. Nothing in the world will hold them back. They’ve overcome an obstacle and have come out stronger on the other side. This is a story to tell ourselves that reconciles a heartbreak.

The opposite would be admitting we have been temporarily weak by a world-ending, life-shattering event. Whichever way you take through a heartbreak, the outcome is always the same: you get over it. It’s basic psychology. The mind heals, which is really where heartbreak resides. The unbearable pain reverberating through your entire body is a distress call. It makes us run right back into the arms of the person who broke us in the first place, or into the next pair of arms of someone else waiting for us. The body’s instinct is to recoil from pain.

When there’s no one waiting, some of us might turn to drugs, or alcohol, or live with reckless abandonment for as long as it takes for the pressure of pain to be released. Heartbreak hurts because a good thing has been lost, real or imagined, and hope is extinguished. Hope is all we hold onto before a heartbreak. Hope that the good times will keep coming, or hope that the good times will eventually arrive. Heartbreak means disappointment: with yourself, with another person, with the world and the way things turned out.

There’s no easy way to package heartbreak. The ending of one relationship is setting you up for another. You lower your expectations for the next person to avoid being hurt altogether. You raise your expectations so it’s nearly impossible to find anyone else. You convince yourself you’ve found the one and stop looking at all. You throw yourself into relationship after relationship to keep the last one from ever catching up to you.

When we don’t feel powerful from hanging onto the hurt and pain through a heartbreak, we feel worthless, instead. There’s a middle ground somewhere between powerful and worthless. It’s called acceptance. I guess it takes a number of heartbreaks to reach this halfway point. Closure is never a guarantee and heartbreak stays an open wound. Your mind returns to these same places repeatedly, trying to impose order on chaos, and right the uncertainty.

The only way over a heartbreak is through it. After a few times, it’s like riding a bicycle. Once you learn how to do it, you never forget. The hard part is getting back on after you’ve fallen off.

The Park

There’s a park in the middle of some trees, enclosed by a short, black wrought-iron fence. Every day, a man walks through the only gate carrying a book, sits on a bench shaded by a big tree, and reads until the sun sets. Nothing tears the man’s attention away from his book. Not the children playing hide-and-go-seek between the trees. Not the group of yogis practicing their breathing on plastic mats in the grass. Not the landscapers who come once a week to trim bushes and mow the lawn. The man’s eyes stay fastened to his book, until one day, he looks up.

There’s a girl he’s never seen before in the middle of the park. He immediately goes back to his book. When the sun sets, he closes his book and leaves the park, while the girl stays.

The next day, he goes back to the park to read as usual. The girl is already there. Paying no mind, he opens his book to the last page where he left off. He’s more easily distracted today by the buzzing of the bees and the hot sun, yet still determined to keep reading. Every once in a while, he steals a glance over his book at the girl in the middle of the park.

What is she doing?

He buries himself back into the pages of the book on his lap. When the sun sets, he closes his book and leaves the park, while the girl stays.

The next day, he gets to the park earlier than usual, but the girl is already there. She watches him open the black gate, walk towards his bench, and waits until he’s reading before finally pulling her eyes away from him. He can barely concentrate on the pages in front of him. He’s been watching the girl all day, trying to figure out what she’s doing. The girl doesn’t notice him watching her, but when she laughs, she looks directly at him. He doesn’t look up from his book for the rest of the day. When the sun sets, he closes his book and leaves the park, while the girl stays.

The next day, the man wakes up before the sun, grabs a book from his shelf, and hurries out the door, hoping to get to the park before the girl does. Luck is on his side: he’s barely begun to read when he hears the gate opening and sees the girl with dark hair move to her spot in the middle of the park.

Had her hair always been that dark?

He can’t figure out what she’s doing. He doesn’t remember a time before she was here, but he has no recollection of the day she started showing up. He must have been too absorbed in his book to notice. He always reads at this park. He begins to feel faintly territorial. When the sun sets, he closes his book and leaves the park. The girl smiles at him as he’s closing the gate.

The next day, the man takes his time getting to the park, knowing by now that the girl will be there. He hears her laughing and sees her smiling, but not once does she look over at him reading on his bench. He thinks maybe he imagined it. He closes the book and leaves the park before the sun sets. He doesn’t see the girl staring at his retreating back. That night, he can’t sleep. He wonders when the girl leaves the park, if she leaves at all, if he hadn’t imagined her walking through the gate that morning, or if she hadn’t played a trick on him, instead.

When he wakes up the next day, the sun is already high in the sky. He decides to protest the park today. When the sun starts to set, curiosity finally gets the best of him and he makes his way casually down the street to the park. He opens the black gate, walks over to his bench, and sits down before realizing he has forgotten his book this time. He keeps his eyes fixed on the setting sun. From the middle of the park, the girl is doing the same thing.

When the sky turns black and the moon comes out to take the sun’s place, the girl watches that, too, for hours without moving. When the moon can no longer be seen, she finally gets up and leaves the park. The man debates whether or not he should follow her. She’s gone before he decides.

The next day, the man returns to the park with a book the same as always, but he’s more nervous than usual without knowing why. When the girl finally shows up, albeit late, his nervousness goes away. He wonders if it would have been gallant or creepy if he had asked if she wanted him to walk her home. He laughs at the absurdity of the idea, catching the attention of the girl, who has an unreadable expression on her face.

The summer flows from one day into the next, much the same as ever. The leaves on the trees change color. Every night, the sun sinks down earlier than the day before, and the evenings grow colder. The girl brings a sweater to wear while she waits for the moon to disappear.

One night, something changes. After she puts a sweatshirt over her head, she walks over to the bench where the man is no longer reading, and sits down.

‘The grass is wet,” she says.

When the moon is no longer visible, she gets up, leaves the park, and disappears into the dark. A short while later, the man does the same thing.

She’ll be here tomorrow, he thinks, and she is, only she’s not in the middle of the park where he first saw her.

She is sitting on his bench.

The Fate of Time

Once, very long ago, Time fell in love with Death while the world was still dark.

“I’ve been looking for you,” Time said.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” Death replied.

The longer Time spent with Death, the colder the world grew in the darkness surrounding them. Time and Death memories each other through touch alone, creating an invisible map only the two of them could read.

One day, Patience cried to the Moon for help from the place where she had been frozen by Time. Hearing her cries, the Moon turned her face toward the Sun for the first time to ask him for advice on what to do. Ignited by the passionate desperation in her voice, the Sun set himself afire, scattering stars across the sky in an explosion of light. The Sun and Moon formed an alliance, splitting time in half, each one agreeing to take watch over one side.

When Time and Death saw their story written in the constellations at night, they became enraged by the interference. Time swore to never stop for anyone, and Death promised to come for everyone.

The stars, overlooking everything, watched as Time broke herself into pieces, forever exiled to the present, and doomed to always look back at what had been, certain of only one thing: Death alone remained permanently fixed in the future, always just out of reach. Death could no longer stop Time, and Time could only ever wait for Death to return.

Though separated, Time and Death continued to live together for an eternity, destined to always flow parallel to each other, never touching again, except at the point where Time ends and Death begins.

Hug Me Like You Mean It

Hugging is therapeutic physical contact. You can practice mindful hugging with anyone. It’s probably a good idea to hug someone who knows they’re about to be hugged by you. You shouldn’t hug someone who has a restraining order on you, for example. Hugging is a deep practice that brings feelings of joy, understanding, comfort, and peace.

I practice hugging meditation with my daughter. Sometimes I ask for a hug and she gives me one, and I crush her until she says “ow!.” I absorb all the Oxytocin she has to offer. There’s nothing I love more. Then I usually kiss her face off. Sometimes I come up from behind and bear-hug her because she’s only three and there’s little she can do to stop me. She’s caught on to this deep practice we have. After I’ve yelled at her to go to bed a few times, she will eventually yell back: “GIVE ME A HUG!” in her most forceful, demanding tiny voice. I’m scared not to go back and hug her. Then she crushes me, until my glasses fall off.

Hugging meditation is good for the soul. Hugging is a reminder that you’re glad this person is alive. Hugging meditation is about being present in the moment. It’s not like when you’re forced to give out obligatory “hello” or “goodbye” hugs. You’ve really got to hug this person like you mean it. Just throw your arms around their neck and squeeze until they can’t breathe. This is how you come to appreciate how alive they are in your arms.

Try it. Add hug time to your daily routine. Hug someone you love like you mean it. Feel their arms wrap around you. Inhale their scent. Take him (or her) all in. Feel alive together. Hug them until you don’t want to let them go.

Hopefully they showered.