One Year Later…Last Kiss, Part Two

“First kiss ever I took

Like a page from a romance book

The sky opened and the earth shook

Down on Copperline”  — James Taylor


“Why are you so angry?”  He asks after he stands me up for perhaps the twentieth consecutive time.  On the days when he doesn’t absent himself, it is merely due to the convenience of my appearance, not because he has affirmatively decided I am valuable enough to desire my presence.

After my first first kiss, I have forgotten most other first kisses. I don’t know why. Something about the anticipation of a first kiss always seems so much more memorable that the actual kiss; the urgency of someone else’s need surfacing and stretching itself toward me, literally facing me head-on.  I forget the act that is so intimate, disconnect from this thing that should mean something.  The start of something that might have meaning, maybe.  It’s overwhelming to remember beginnings. And like most things that are uncomfortable, I choose to forget that which I see no use in remembering.

So, first kisses, I can’t know about why they are so special – I can’t remember any of them. But, I’ve always had this eerie ability to feel endings; I know last kisses, feel Last Kisses. Last Kisses aren’t always final kisses, but they happen when I know something has ended, or is about to change form forever. I remember that kiss, the Last Kiss, even when other kisses follow it. I know how to taste change.

Yet, my sensors failed here, with him. So confident was I that my warning signals had never been wrong, I leapt heartily and whole-heartedly into a fiasco with a person who had so little regard for my person, I still think my irrelevance still echoes hollowly in places so dark, I assumed there had to be love there.  His complete disinterest in feelings in general and in my feelings in particular led me to an erroneous conclusion I believed to be inevitable: I loved him, so he must love me.  I believed in the trick that he made me believe – that I was being impatient, rushing instead of letting it unfold.  Except, moment by moment, month by month, the gap between his intentions (disingenuous at best; evil at worst) and my feelings (uncontrollable at best; naive at worst) grew and eroded, a giant chasm of space that could not be reconciled or excused.  I wish I could say a fundamental miscommunication had arisen, but that would be a lie.  He quite honestly stated more than once that he never had any feelings whatsoever, couldn’t feel deeply, and would manipulate me back to a comfortable gray area where he was not required to commit to any feeling at all.

“You were just one of those girls I knew I didn’t have to do anything,” he said once, to hurt me.  I wanted to be shocked and offended, but in the end, the facts were true.  I didn’t make him do anything.  “You just needed a little attention and that was enough for you.”  It wasn’t enough, but I had already decided to love him.  I loved him, so that he could use me. The irony, of course, is that I had been a non-committal serial monogamist for a decade.  I had never been one of “those girls.”  Even if I had been, I had never authorized this transaction that violated my emotional sanctuary – my feelings about love had never before been wrong. Had never. I could not assert proudly again that everyone I had loved had loved me back.

I understood, suddenly, why everyone else was so skeptical of love, why they chose a plan instead of a man, why they used logic instead of feelings. I was old to learn this lesson, and I was bitter that I had to learn it at all.  He did not love me, and no matter how much I loved him, or tried to show him love, he would not love me.  He did not love me. Lesson learned: Not everyone we love, loves us.  How could I not have known this? How could I fooled myself into believing it would never happen to me?

I wish I could say I gradually saw it, but I did not. It was sudden, here one second, gone the next.

Only my love lingered, unwelcome and hot.

I was angry, and I stayed angered.  It was a protection of sorts; it kept me distant. I wanted to leave, but there was no where to go. I couldn’t escape confusion in my own head and disloyalty in my own heart – I loved him, still, despite my desperation for indifference.

I felt the last kiss coming, but I thought maybe it would be significant, a climax or an apotheosis. Instead, he bummed a cigarette in a parking lot and I watched him inhale and exhale as he reverted to his own self-centered version of mindless conversation.  All topics could fall under the heading: “Important Things I Need You to Do to Help Me.”  He never did any of the things he talked about, but I think he had learned how much I liked to feel useful and it was a neat trick to keep me engaged.  I was tired this time.  I didn’t want to be useful anymore. I wanted to be absent.  I sighed and said goodbye.

As I inched away, he grabbed me with two arms, and without any thought or planning, he wrapped himself around me.  He reached up and held the back of my head, never loosening the embrace, and for five full seconds, kissed me firmly on the mouth. I kissed him back, and in that moment, I saw that it wasn’t passionate, but perfunctory.  I thought back to every kiss, and realized he had never kissed me passionately, probably because he felt no heat for me, had no need of my heart.  But in that moment, he hissed into my ear: “I missed you.”  Maybe he knew I was trying to forget him.  Maybe he could see that I couldn’t continue with only my good intentions alone.  Maybe he could see I was becoming bored and uncomfortable and I wanted to forget him and remember instead how to be lost.  No one knows what happens inside the head of a selfish man.

What I know is: that was our Last Kiss, the moment when I wanted to change and knew that I would.

“Why are you so angry?  What did I do?”  He asked, amused, feigning like he cared if I left, pretending it mattered at all. Actually, he would ask often in the months that stretched ahead, why I was angry, when I was too weak and too lonely to resist his need for attention without any affection. When I would beg him, but he would deny me. When he would find love everywhere else but with me.

So now, here, a year later, with the same, exact story with the same, exact man.  I tell him: I am angry because you will not love me and you will not release me.  I tell him: I am angry because of your constant disrespect, because you are no friend, but foe.  I tell him…but I do not.  I am angry because I do not tell him.

I know now:  I must run.


Light Pollution

“What is that pink light?” He asked, as I leaned back into his chest and took a drag of a cigarette. We were looking at the sky, waiting for shooting stars.  He put one hand around my waist and rested his large palm on my hipbone, while his other hand nuzzled the nape of my neck.  He did so absent-mindedly, an errant caress of his thumb flicked at the skin above my waistband. I rested my head under his chin and thought there was no reason to move, ever again.

I wanted him to be happy.  For years, I had thought about nothing more than ways I could possibly make him happier, strategies to reconfigure my life so that we could be more fluid and entwined. Two months prior, he had told me no amount of finagling could cure the fundamental differences between our two worlds, even if we longed to be enmeshed.  It has been impossible for me to accept that a hundred tiny and large nuances and separations in belief and lifestyle mean that there is a fundamental chasm that may be insurmountable.  It has taken even more time to understand that he is not willing or able to make the leap.

I looked to the sky, hoping for shooting stars upon which to wish for a way to extend a weekend into a lifetime.  But the annual Perseid meteor shower was blocked from view by thunderclouds and the intense brightness of a just past full moon.  The city was humid from the threat of monsoon rain and the heat of a desert summer was stuck in my throat along with every feeling I had ever felt about a man, so imperfectly perfect, I could do nothing but love him more.

Years ago, around this same time, we had taken a weekend trip, similar to this one, where in the middle of a dirt road, we had watched the harvest moon rise at dusk.  We had stopped fully on the side of a road to marvel at the brightness and wholeness of a moon so large, we were struck silent.  “We will always remember this moment,” I had said at that time.  I had kissed him then, so hard and so long I had thought that a kiss could extend for infinity.  On that day, I knew I loved him, but could not even begin to conceptualize how deeply.

“It’s not that I don’t want you, I do,” he had said with sincerity earlier in the day. “I want you, but I also know myself. I can’t give you what you deserve, the relationship you deserve. I can love you, but it wouldn’t be what you could have.  I can’t change and I can’t ask you just to take what I could give you when I know, you should have more.” He said it matter-of-factly, because it was a fact, not an opinion.  “You shouldn’t accept a lifestyle that isn’t comfortable for you because it’s comfortable for me.  I know what you’re worth and I know what you deserve.  I just can’t give it to you.”  He said it, and most parts of me longed for the days when he opted to give me false hope and faith.

“But I love you,”  I had said.

“I know,” he had replied.

Now, he removed the hand from my hair.  “Over there,” he pointed with long fingers.  “The sky there, why is it pink?”

“I think, ” I said with a small sigh. “I think it’s light pollution.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s when the light from the city reflects on the clouds and obscures the darkness of the sky.  It’s false light, in a way.”

“Huh,” he said into my hair. “I never knew that.”  I felt him smile.  “Why do you always know something I don’t know?”

I knew he belonged with me, in my soul, in my heart and head. I knew.  But it would never be right, unless he wanted it more than I did.  So many years of struggling to make him happy, and I couldn’t seem to digest the one true fact that would change our lives: I didn’t actually make him happy. Maybe my love had created its own light, maybe my heart had brightened a path that was only imaginary, a reflection of my own desire, a light from within that shone back to me from his chest. I breathed deeper and he tightened his hold against my chest.

As a girl, I’d watch the Perseid meteor shower every year from the darkness of small town with a city ordinance against street lights.  I took for granted the bleak darkness, the brightness of the stars, the common availability of meteor sightings.  I believed in the vastness of the Universe, I believed that every shooting star would grant me a wish.

Thunder struck, and the hot, deep flashes of lightning illuminated the horizon. It outlined every cloud in the sky.   I turned to face him, and he brushed tendrils of hair from my face as I looked at the man I would always love, in some way.

“Too many clouds, baby,” he said.  “I don’t think there will be any stars tonight.”  I stared with desperation at the sky, hoping against hope that one small space would clear to reveal flecks of glitter in the night.  He was right, though, there would be no magical meteor for me to wish upon.

In the morning, I would sob into his lap as he rubbed my back and stroked my hair.

“We’ll keep communication,” he promised. “I know it won’t be a relationship, but,” he said while looking at the ceiling. “But, it will be something.”  He knew it wasn’t enough. I sobbed more, in the uncontrollable way two-year olds have tantrums over brushing their teeth.  There was nothing left to say, there were no words to give me comfort, no reasoning that would be good enough to alleviate the heaviness of my heart. There was no back, and there would be no forward.

He held me, because there that was all there was to do.  He kissed the top of my head and wiped the tears that flowed in an endless fountain of could’ve beens and a future that was not mine anymore. I could not stop the love from exploding from my eyes.

And then, he was gone.


Things My Mother Told Me…

“I don’t think you are that lovable.  When I think about it, no one will ever love you the way your father loved me. You’re already too old for someone to love you that long during your life.”  When she said this to me, my father had died less than a year ago.  Clearly, he was the only parent who had loved me.  If, that is, I am indeed lovable at all.

There is a long list of things I wish my mother had never told me, all of which have been divulged in the time since my father died.  No, I’m wrong already, she has been giving me these small jewels of information for years, I’ve just been sheltered in how I have translated the information.

Like so many children, I had an idealized perception of my parents’ unending love for me. I faithfully believed that my parents would always support me, that there was always a safety net called “home” to cradle me in times of dire need or desperation. That belief began to puncture around the same time my mother’s cardiologist recommended she drink one glass of red wine a day. I’m not sure it still qualifies as one glass when the goblet holds the contents of two-thirds of a bottle of Merlot.

“It’s not my job to take care of you, or any of my kids. You are all adults and I’m not responsible anymore for caring about you. Everyone tells me so.” She slurs through her proclamation in the weeks following my father’s heart attack. While I’m sure the statements from her friends and family involve some comment about how we are adults and my mother should practice self-care, what she has heard is that she is alleviated fully of any responsibility to monitor our emotional welfare following my father’s sudden demise. She locks herself in her bedroom and wails, glugging down additional glasses of boxed wine, which she stores under her bathroom sink along with a half-empty handle of Smirnoff.

I’m not sure when her glass of wine a day became a problem, but my sister, a decade my junior, relays that this is the only mother she has ever known. We’re lost now, or lost again.  Adopted children, maybe, always remain orphans a tiny bit. We will always be orphans now.

“Your dad, he wasn’t perfect. He did a lot of things wrong. He didn’t even try to be intimate with me for five years. But he loved me. He did.”  Yes, counseling my mother through her own issues with feeling loved and wanting me to love her, despite her assertions that I, myself, cannot be loved, is perhaps the most trying element of those drunken conversations.  She wants reassurance, she wants validation, that even without true intimacy, my father loved her. I tell her that he did, even though she wouldn’t remember that I said it later. Even one minute later, as we repeated the conversation verbatim.  Yes, my father loved you.

It is not a lie.

“I might have to put the dog to sleep.  Now I know she isn’t really in pain, but she’s just so much work, and she isn’t my dog.  I never wanted her.  Your dad should’ve taken her when he left.”  She says this, as though in the midst of his heart attack, my father motioned to our family pet, who has been with us for over a decade, and asked her if she would like to die too. If the border collie had known that no human in the house would ever stroke her furry mane again until her own death, she may have agreed.

Years ago, I wanted the dog.  I was moving out of state for the first time, and I thought the transition would be easier if I had the dog with me, the dog who adored me and always made me feel less alone. But my mother had refused, claiming I was selfishly stealing my sister’s pet from her. Yet now, it’s a threat. If I don’t take the dog, she will let her die. She didn’t do it right away.  My mother waited a few months before she killed her.  She called me three weeks later and nonchalantly mentioned the dog was dead.  “I told you, didn’t I?  Well, it doesn’t matter, she went in peace. We buried her by the side of a road or something.  I don’t really remember.  I know you said you wanted to cremate her, but that was too expensive, so we just buried her. In peace.”

We.  My mother had been part of a we for so many decades that she had to replace the we.   My dad died, and my mother “had a new love of her life within weeks of his death.  It was obvious that there was no newness to the new relationship, except that it was no longer the “deep, dark secret” that she used to gurgle about when she was inebriated, now it was a public exhibition of her infidelity.  He new love was uncouth, untethered, unconventional – a true opportunist.  With a large house and a business to sell, my mother was an opportunity.  Around this same time, my mother only took our calls by speaker phone and with supervision.  Her new love answered for her, spoke for her, coached her responses. The script was always the same: she was having fun, we were selfish bastard children.  I wanted to feel sorry for her, but it was easier to watch her trickle into yet another relationship where all of her thoughts were created by the other person.

When I was a little girl, my mother and I used to watch made-for-tv movies together, mostly featuring women making bad choices or trapped in bad circumstances. When women abandoned their children for flashy men, or refused to leave abusers and controllers who hurt their kids, my mother would proclaim gravely, “I would never choose a man over my kids; my kids are the most important thing in the world to me.”  I’m not sure when that vow became a lie: the moment it left her lips, or years later, when it was no longer convenient and her new boyfriend told her that selfishness was the true path to happiness.  “I can’t see you if you don’t want to meet with him,” she said though I had not spoken to her for a year.  I extended the olive branch, offering to meet alone, without her lover as a chaperone.  She refused to abandon him and chose not to see me. It was the anniversary of the day I was adopted.

“This isn’t home for anyone,” she said when she unceremoniously sold our family home.  “I hope that you all leave and find your own homes.”  She wanted us all to disperse, to find the wind and blow like leaves. We did.  We weren’t meant to grow roots, only wings. She didn’t seem to notice or care if the wings had developed, if the others had the capacity to fly or not.  She only cared that the nest was to be empty and she would be free to find flight.

Now she is a nomad, too young to retire, living off leftover money and waiting for my father’s social security. “He’d want that for me, to be able to take care of me,” she says, as I write checks for essential things and try to plan safety nets for my siblings.  My mother used to say her greatest fear in life was that she would get old and that none of her children would want to care for her, would not welcome her into our homes, that we would let her die alone.  “Even though,” she would say.  “Even though I took care of you your entire lives.”

Life is a series of ironies, it seems.



Often & Much

I think, sometimes, about the many mistakes I have made in the past. The past, like yesterday (or Sunday, specifically). I think, “how quickly will karma come?” I think about how quickly it has come before, when I’ve done things that were on the thin of falling off the moral compass. Often, I believe it’s why I spend so much time alone, or why I have been alone so much.

Other times, I think it’s my fierce affection for others who have enraptured me.  It is not just love affairs that have blinded me. Other people mistake my strength as a challenge to see my weakness and exploit it. Or as an opportunity to take advantage – maybe it’s all exploitation and manipulation.  I know it all feels yucky and confusing and empty.  Sometimes, I try to assign meaning or rationalize or correlate these disgusting mean meanies to bad things I have done, but the truth is: mean people are mean. They like being mean. They need no reason.

This city has been a vicious cycle of false friends and opportunists or judgmental folks who can’t understand that not all free-spirits have wind in their hair and bare feet.  I’m opinionated, not rigid. I’m professional, not conservative. I’m vocal, not judgmental.  Except with judgmental people, I tend to want to give them a taste of their own behavior – an incredibly pointless exercise which I somehow cannot stop.  I am strong because I was built that way, but my strength is independence, scurrying down tiny trails because a feeling led me there, not because the path was well-worn. I still follow a heart-string to the edge of the Universe, which is why I don’t think of myself as a natural leader; not everyone is meant to live on the edge of the Universe…don’t follow me unless you’re sure. Very few people have been sure, which circles back to why I am mostly alone.

So, I did a bad thing, and then immediately, something bad happened to me. Now I’m empty again, not just alone, but actually empty. It’s that rumble in the belly when you’re so hungry, it is no longer a pain, but a hollow… the faintest echo hollering back.  For now, I think what is needed is for me to feel the emptiness instead of fill it (see “vicious cycle of false friends”).

Maybe the echo has something to say.

Breathe, Goodbye, Exhale, Tomorrow

Song of the Moment: Rascal Flatts “Bless the Broken Road”

Somehow, no matter what the end looks like with us, it seems to be another beginning…

I keep up this picture of us, at this completely transitional time, when we learned about the other person, the truth of the other person, when we haphazardly fell in love. Maybe I always knew it would be fleeting. Maybe your intense need to believe that we would figure it out held us to each other.  Maybe passion disguised the mistakes, the flaws, the inherent thing about it that was always going to be a little bit uncomfortable and wrong.

I look at this photo, and I focus on your smile.  I see only my love.  We were broken before we were whole, fell into each other because of love, not despite all of the other bullshit. I leaned over, in that photograph choreographed by some event photographer, and it captured this moment when we became an “us.”  It didn’t last long, but I keep the photo, display it proudly, because the moment is so pure. Love was so very present, even if fleeting. Even if but for a tiny moment in the infinity of time.

I keep the photo, because I know I did the right thing when I loved you. I don’t keep thinking about all of the ways you failed me.  I don’t focus on the ending filled with harsh disappointments and betrayals and sadness, even though every person I know imagined the outcome would be exactly as it happened. A small failure, one after another. You always loved freedom more than you loved me.  I always loved you more than I could understand. I still don’t think you will comprehend how pure the love I have is, so entrenched in desire and comfort and affection that it can be nothing but true. I tried to leave, and my heart stayed in one place: it stayed in you.

This photograph is a reminder, that when one girl (me) follows her heart, her heart is not wrong, even if everything else falls down. I love you, I loved you, I will love you, even if that love means I must give you the freedom you crave and deserve. I am reminded, by that smile on your face, and the incredible memories of a decade, that you were meant for me and I was yours…just not forever.

From here forward, I will take comfort in knowing, we were right about us when everyone else believed we were wrong, when I thought I was mistaken, when you had faith that a hope and prayer could recover a fallen love. Maybe if we had both done it ever so slightly differently…

I am grateful, broken, blessed, loved, loving, wanton, cherishing, lost.  And yet, I am not angry, not wounded. There is no fault, my love, in goodbye this time. There is only tomorrow, and some future day, in the infinity of time, when we will both know… we were right about us. Even if only for a breath.

I will keep that photo, stare at your face, inhale that smile, not to be trapped in that one moment, but to take power in it. It was right, and I was right to come to you, to have you, and to love you, my one true love. The ending… will never matter as much as what I know to be true. A picture and a thousand words. A thousand times… I love you.

Godric Elevens

11 Things About Godric the Kitten

1. Godric loves his tummy rubbed first thing in the morning. He will stretch his legs and purr and purr.

2. Godric hates all talking first thing in the morning. First thing in the morning is for tummy rubs. Only for tummy rubs. Do not talk. Do not answer the phone. Do not make coffee. Do not use the bathroom. Tummy rubs.

3. Godric loves ice cream from Dairy Queen. Though I thought I was ordering him Kitty Cones, I was recently advised they are indeed Kiddie Cones, for children, not kittens.

4. Mr. Man lost his boar bristle flat brush to Godric. It is now a kitten brush.

5. Godric loves Mr. Man. The feeling is not mutual. Though I explained to Godric that love is fickle and inconsistent, he continues to be a traitor by adoring Mr. Man more.

6. Godric wants to be friends with all the animals in our neighborhood. Two kittens have punched him in the face. He is not an alpha cat.

7. I’m trying to convince Godric I am still his human even though my hair is a different color. He is not convinced. He has tried to scratch the dye off the blond strands that are now brunette.

8. Godric’s twin is half his weight. Godric is a giant kitten that happens to weigh 15 pounds. Maxie weighs 8 pounds and so does Izzy, Godric’s mom.

9. Godric does not like moving. He has been extremely confused and anxious about these boxes. I haven’t told him it’s going to get worse… Soon we will live somewhere else.

10. Godric loves watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I’ve tried to explain about Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood being the original creepy version, but Godric calls me a liar.

11. I have officially become a crazy cat lady. Godric’s IG:

The Apartment

Song of the Day:

I’ve been having this incredibly difficult time looking for a new place to live.  First, I waited a little too long for any comfort in trying to look for a place to live.  I put my notice to terminate my lease in April, but didn’t start looking until… uh, last weekend. Second, in the intervening time between giving my notice and not looking for  a place to live, the neighbors  across the way had a fist-fight, followed by a brick being launched through their dining room window when the non-resident was sent packing.  In response, Godric the Kitten scrambled up the side of my face and I was covered in blood. So, time to move out of here. And I did already given my notice.

I’m working with a realtor to find a little townhouse to RENT, because purchasing a home feels, like, permanent-ish. Anyhow, the realtor has given me tons of options. Plus, I’ve been searching on Zillow AND continue to look at back-up apartments.  I toured three properties this weekend, and they all seem… FINE. Just fine. There’s nothing wrong, but they don’t feel like home.

But, my current apartment doesn’t feel like home anymore. I moved here under pure duress and desperation.  I chose this life, leap of faith.  I became this girl I didn’t recognize, someone who didn’t plan, who wasn’t organized. I came for love, because I loved someone, and thought if I moved to where he was, he’d magically love me too.  And he did. We loved each other, easier, seemingly, when I moved to an apartment without any real furniture and we spent all of our time curled into my queen-sized bed watching my old box TV and planning a future.  Talking about the future seemed easier than changing the present. Thinking about the future was easier than building a future.

I’ve said it before, but it’s this recurring theme/plain reality: The future comes, with or without my consent. And it came, and none of our plans were there to greet us, not one. We were trapped in the magical thinking of being in love and holding so tightly to plans for the future, that the present just elongated for years.  We didn’t do anything to ensure that the future plan became the present reality. Instead, the future came with nothing to reveal, and we both looked at each other with a tiny bit of disappointment that the other person didn’t make the future more real.  I changed into a person burdened by the responsibility of a grown-up, cerebral life… and he stayed the exact same person he was the day we met. I was no longer the girl he fell in love with; he never evolved into the man I thought he’d become. And maybe, we forgot to plan for the most important thing… to love each other, to keep loving each other.  Whatever happened, we didn’t break, we just dissolved.  I understand now why divorce is called a “dissolution.”

So, I think the real reason why I can’t pick a new place to live is that leaving this apartment alone, by myself (sorry, Godric), choosing a new direction, feels like a failure of sorts.  I came here to build a life, to build a love. I leave here, without the most important part of the story.  I really wanted  for him to be the love, the man, the partner, the STORY… and when I leave this apartment, I know that this story must end, once and for all.

And I know there will be other loves, there will be other stories. Sometimes, it just takes me a bit of time to close the cover…