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.


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.

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…


On the day of my father’s death four years ago, I wrote this about a man I loved, only a handful of hours before I received news that my father had died.  I loved this man, but, simultaneously, I found I hated the relationship I was in.  Today, I still love this man… and somehow, somewhere, forgot that the relationship is volatile at best, and vicious at worst…  He still loves me, which is not consolation, it IS a prize.  I could leave, but would be empty.  I must stay, obliged to stay, though he feels no obligation to me.

Non-attachment… it is a constant theme in Buddhism, and though I am not Buddhist, it is a concept I try to incorporate everyday.  Obligation is smothering. Love… is love.

I re-post these old words to remind myself, that on that day, when I was told my father died, what pounded through my chest about this man was not all of the ways he failed me, not all of the disappointments, and waiting, and wondering, and insecurity, but love.  My knowledge that my loving him gave me more joy than sorrow, and that despite his lack of worldliness, and unfortunate immaturity about many things, he is an incredible old soul and his love of me is simple and sincere.

I chose the elevator ride with him, chose the ups and downs.  Some days, the ride is without interruption. Some days, other people get on, and distract us from each other. Some days, the elevator breaks completely, and one or both of us leave the confines of the tiny space to find another way to get to where we need to be at that exact moment. And yet, despite this, or maybe because of this, we find ourselves back to where we must be, together. I am still consumed by love, I let it devour me and nurture me.

I choose.  I can push the buttons, I can take the stairs.

I choose him.


Some days, I get on an elevator, and I forget to press the button.  The doors close, but I stand there, inert, waiting. I wait, and nothing happens.  Sometimes, a person from the outside will press a different button, and the tiny box-carriage will rise or fall and I don’t realize where I’m going until I arrive at someone else’s destination.

I fell in love with a man I met outside an elevator. For the entire ride, I felt this sense of strange anticipation, as if something powerful was about to envelop me, conquer me, maybe consume me alive.

He did.

In the world of odd couples, there is not a worse possible match.  There is no man, that on paper, could be any more wrong. But I fell in love slowly, cautiously, stupidly. I protected myself for as long as possible, steeled against love at first sight, tried with mighty force to throw myself in the path of other, more appropriately designed men.  But the force of love, of passion, of need for this particular man was more than I could stand.  Eventually, it was as all love is for me… entrancing and devouring.

I don’t believe we choose love; love chooses us.  This love chose me because I was weak and unable to be immune to the power of someone so raw and ill-designed, I was raptured by something outside my control.

But rapture ends when reality creeps in.  I can no longer ignore the actions of someone who forgets me too often, who can promise me he will regrow my heart only to eat it whole…

Someone else pressed the button on the elevator. It’s time for me to get off.

The Straw

“How long have you been awake?” He looked at the ceiling as he asked.

“Five minutes, maybe?” I lied. I hadn’t slept well. Twenty-four hours of fighting and making up and talks that circled back to the past and into the future was exhausting. Being trapped on vacation also meant there was no escape, even if we both sought reprieve.  He reached over and touched the side of my face.  I looked at him and smiled, just a little.

“I’m going downstairs to make a phone call and get something to eat.  Do you want anything?”

“Coffee.” I said with an emphatic period.

“Okay, baby,” he said as he tied his shoelaces and refused to make eye contact.

We used to lay together entwined, his long arm used to scoop me into him, against him, flush. It wasn’t even spooning, so much as one fluid unit.  My breathing slowed to match his. He would inhale my hair and never complain. I would smell him on my skin for days, whether real or imagined I never really knew.

A year of absence changed things, altered us. Maybe it wasn’t the absence, but the break that changed things.  Though we tried to make everything the same, we weren’t the same, it wasn’t the us we had remembered and craved and resurrected.  I think we had changed, independent of one another, and these two new people didn’t know how to fit or if they would fit. Neither of us wanted to talk about what was different or if it was different in the right ways.  We’d both already committed… to something.

Maybe we were no longer one thing, but we were something else. He didn’t envelop me the way he had in the past, the way that I dreamt of and cried about.  But, he was still him, this incredible thing that was inescapable and consuming.  Last night, when the seven inches between us felt like an ocean and I couldn’t sleep, wouldn’t sleep, I scooted away, slowly, tiny bit at a time. I laid there, over-thinking, replaying every piece of the argument we’d stretched over 16 hours.

“You can’t always tell me how I’m supposed to feel about things.  You make these assumptions when you don’t fucking know.  Can’t you just let me feel how I’m gonna feel?” He’d yelled, with a lot of hand gestures.

“How would I know what you feel?  Mostly you just disappear and make me guess.” I dug in my heels to the place we had been so many months ago, when I left, and he did not look for me.

“Just because I don’t have to say every single feeling I ever feel doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings. Everyone doesn’t over-talk it like you.”  He was right.  I was too verbal, loquacious. I talked to fill silence so I could not think. “Give yourself and other people time to think,” he said, as he read my mind. That was always the same, he knew my thoughts before they were even formed.

He didn’t know it, but he was an avid sleep-mumbler-doer.  He didn’t sleep talk, didn’t have conversations, but murmured in his deeply intoned voice, and automatically defaulted to common actions. In his sleep, he mimed washing dishes, sometimes, but most often, steering the wheel of a car.  His legs would move as if walking, he held an imaginary phone to his ear, texted frequently, as his lips moved silently and his eyelids fluttered.  I kept moving toward the edge of the bed, wondering if I would wake up early enough to come back to the bed before his eyes opened. I contemplated the bathtub, I thought about how he would leave me and how we would never be as whole as we once were.  I rolled over to watch his face as he slept, soft lips and gentle brow. I rolled to my back, my favorite position to over-think in. I closed my eyes, and as I did so, he left hand intertwined into the fingers of my right.  I opened my eyes, expecting him to be awake, but he was asleep.  He didn’t release my hand, even as he started the rotation of his legs to take an in-bed sleep stroll.  We didn’t cling anymore, we grasped. I didn’t let go.

He was distant in the morning though, and I could tell too much talking had taken its toll.  He was exhausted and ready to leave.  I needed reassurance, a sign from the Universe that I had not joyfully stepped back into a mistake. Tense was an understatement.

He came back into the room silently.  I was folding laundry and packing suitcases and over-thinking and trying to decide how to make him happier.

“Here,” he said and handed me the warm cup. I set the coffee on the tiny glass table as he turned his back to me.  “Oh, here,” he said, and turned back toward me, halfway, in profile as he handed me the item.  I blinked.

“What’s this?”  I asked, surprised.

“Uh, it’s a straw.”  A giant tear rolled down my cheek. I always drank all liquids with a straw, always did, I always had, even hot coffee, always with a straw.

“Are you crying?  Why are we crying?”  His eyes narrowed and he was exasperated. I choked on my tear. I shook my head.

“How did you know about the straw?”

“What?  You always drink coffee with a straw.  Why are we crying about this?  Did you need a specific kind of fucking straw?”

“Baby,” I said and his face softened at my voice. “How did you know that? You know, most people wouldn’t have noticed that… or remembered…”  He came back and put his hand in my hair. He kissed my forehead.

“Why not? It’s so easy, you like coffee with a straw. It wasn’t hard to pick up on that shit.”  He shook his head, almost annoyed at invisible others.

“That’s what makes you who you are.  This is why… I love you.”  He looked at me sharply and I realized I hadn’t said it to him yet during the weekend.  We had spent twenty-four hours arguing about love and had failed incredibly at just saying it. “Baby, I do.  I love you.  We’re going to work.”

He kissed me on the mouth and said:

“I’ll always remember the straw, baby.”