The Space Between

Moving forward has never been easy for me. It isn’t that I have an aversion to change–at least not admittedly–it is my obsession with the WHY that traps me. All available questions can be answered with truth, but if the WHY doesn’t fit, I am stuck. I’ve always believed that life is lived forwards and understood backwards. It is how far back I must travel to understand that sickens me. If the answer to the WHY exists 2 months ago, a year, 5 years ago–than what is to be said for the moments in between? What is suspended there? Each look, each touch–what thoughts accompanied them?

Most of us do not act on impulse. Actions are a million tiny thoughts created in ourselves over and over and over. At what point those thoughts become actions is painfully difficult to determine. To answer that question we must dig deep. An impossible journey, the answer may be so imbedded in who we are, the lies we tell, that we may never know. Later those actions are repeated over and over until a habit forms. Those habits become the foundation our character lies upon. But it is this process by which we become who we are that entraps me.

When was the first time he thought of her? What was the trigger? An old song, the smell of summer lingering in the air, too many beers? Was it wonderment or perhaps longing? Was it a desire or a need? Perhaps both entangled together? Where was I–seated next to him, telling him about my day–or sharing a comfortable silence with him, while he shared the moment with her? I imagine him physically shaking his head trying to remover her from the life he was supposed to love. From the life that was supposed to be enough. Maybe a few days went by before her shadow crossed his memory again. Maybe a noisy house, childish laughter, and sex with The Wife, locked her out for awhile. But memory is a powerful thing. It is audacious and cares little about right and wrong.

Vows mean nothing when your mind just can’t erase a memory.

So his life goes on, fights happen, silence follows–and in his quiet she emerges again–without notice or invitation.

Eventually her shadows grow darker, more apparent until he imagines he can reach out, he can touch her–feel her again. She can answer all of his questions that swim in regret and fear. So he grows closer…he can smell her now–hear her voice…he remembers what it was like. It was easy, laughable, fun even. He forgets what made him leave. She smells good to him, he longs to taste what tempts his nose.

So he calls and willingly changes his entire life. He doesn’t use his head, he asks no questions of himself. “I don’t know” satisfies him because the truth is incomprehensible. Who would throw his entire life away for one taste? That answer is easy.

He would.

But WHY?

I need details. They may lead to a certain insanity but insanity is better than stupidity. So I ask over and over and over. A thirst I desperately need quenched. What do those moments hanging in the balance say about me? Can it be…it isn’t about me? That the love he carries for me is separate, exists in a different realm than she presides in? If it is true…should this make me feel better?

I think not.

To grasp the truth is a delicate, awkward gesture. It is not tangible, but a moveable–perhaps permeable entity. We each spend countless moments creating our own truth. We build it strongly upon the relationships and people close enough to destroy us. Imagine spending a lifetime resting upon a security that suddenly is destroyed. It must change who you are–alter your truth, change it slightly. So the work begins again. Now we must practice the words of comfort we will tell ourselves over and over again–until we believe them, and that foundation becomes our truth. So what if he lies to himself? Practices the lies instead of the truth over and over until he is convinced, utterly, that it is here where he wants to be. Which truth do I grasp? What he says repeatedly–or what he said that night as his fingers dialed her number while his brain denied the world he had built–the world he thought would be his foundation. And what of his heart? Which truth did his heart long to touch that night? I imagine it slowly starting to race, beating more and more rapidly as the clocked ticked and the phone rang…once…twice…closer still to hearing her voice. I wonder…when was the need quenched? When did his heart start to slow, the beating calmed? Instantly? After hearing her voice? After she said little? After she said too much? When was a sense of normalcy reached? And what happened the moment after? So much truth resides in these moments–the ones we push away, the ones we ignore. We measure who we are by the large ones, a babies first cry, the moment we first said “I love you.” But the damage, the destruction resides in the places we squeeze out of consciousness. The moments we cannot bare–the moments we cannot NOT know.

What happened when he came up for air? The moment AFTER. Like a dirty fantasy fulfilled, did he disgust himself? The moments tick by…I can handle this. Did he ask himself WHY? Did he care? He must have started to practice–saying over and over the feelings he was supposed to feel until he could wear them…until he was feeling them.

But the truth has a presence about it–it wills to be known. And when confronted–he makes another choice–LIES

And the truth sinks deeper.

–ALC 2005

Cup of Jo

This morning I started out the day emotionally slow. My brain was stuck on things out of my control at this point and rooted in the future. I watch how my husband reacts to my every move and every time he actually makes eye contact with me, and says something to me, my stomach relaxes for the duration of his sentence, then tenses again as he walks away. This morning it was all i could do not to start crying as i washed the dishes or changed a diaper–depressing activities i know…but geez. My husband made coffee and i took it personally that he didn’t fill a cup for me–but i take personally everything he does these days, so no worries.

I decided to get my own cup and reached to the top shelf of my cupboard with a shaky hand. It seems my nervous stomach is sending impulses down my limbs–scary considering the butterflies in my stomach are hidden, but my limbs are for everyone to see.

Now, i have this thing with which coffee cup i use. I find coffee cups to be very cheesy, “I’m with Ugly…Happy secretary’s day…my husband even has one with a German Shepard on it (i think that is his favorite)” Anyway, when i picked out my plateware for my upcoming marriage 3 years ago, i deliberated on the coffee cups more than anything else. They had to fit perfectly in my hand, be slightly unusual, and make me feel complete. I wanted to start my day with a sense of class and style…i wanted to feel grown up and secure for the first time. I guess i thought a cup of coffee would deliver that. On top of that, what perfection to have 12 cups that actually matched, i didn’t have one cup to fill me up, I had a whole army to offer up security in a very large dose. My final pick was perfect. They were an off-white color with bright sage green and soft yellows and blues. The ideal match for my warm kitchen out in the country. They were over-sized and round, instead of the normal cylinder shape less creative types than me choose. Still, i eventually realized that they were more safe and comforting than classy and stylish. But they would be the perfect match. I had to admit to myself that my taste will probably never be classy and stylish…but my coffee cups would make me feel warm nonetheless.

Now my husband apparently doesn’t agree, because when his steady hand selects a cup, it usually falls on whichever one is closest…or it falls on the German Shepard. For some reason this annoys me…maybe i secretly wish we could find the same comfort in the same cup of coffee…as tho agreeing on our cups somehow mean we see the world in the same complicated way. Even worse, he uses sugar…he needs his coffee, his mornings, and his world with a little sugar on top…something to take the edge off, something to make his life easier to swallow. Here I become obsessive–i am the opposite, i want the reality at its bitter truth. I call people on there every move, this annoys him and i get why. But I don’t like it when people butter themselves up. I want truth, i want reality. I want my friends to admit when they are not at their best, and laugh about it.

I never sugar coat myself…maybe i should. When i sit across from someone at a casual dinner and they make a flippant comment about some political point, I know that half the people there have a comment…I am the one that SAYS the comment. I realize I must be hard to swallow–better tasting with a little sugar. But does it somehow take the edge off that i don’t need the sugar to swallow you?
Anyway back to the cups…this morning, for some reason my perfectly selected coffee cup didn’t offer up the usual comfort. There was no sense of security as i grabbed the round ceramic cup. So my hand went searching…it swiped back and forth, still nervously, but very deliberately and it found something quite different in back. It was my old FAVORITE coffee cup. Immediately, i picked it up–filled it, and began to think of who i was then and why today–it was this cup, similar yes in color–but a plain ole cylinder–that somehow allowed a breath to clear away some butterflies in my stomach.

i remember well–

My best friend and i had just moved to downtown Chicago and i must tell you, it felt good. When i said goodbye to my old couches and my old boyfriend, i also said goodbye to the old me. I like to call it the damaged me…the me that had been cheated on, left, lied to, manipulated…the old me that took all those things, that perhaps enjoyed being damaged–it gave me material to write and to feel more connected to the crying part of the world. But I was ready for something more, i was ready for a break, for relief.

As my present to myself after college–i would become complete and happy. I just had no idea how to get there. My best friend and I moved in with my best guy friend as well. It offered the perfect resting place for me to begin my project. What better place to be, to secure that I would feel whole again, i would feel worthy again–smart enough, independent enough, and yes…unfortunately…pretty enough.
Slowly, we turned our upscale classy apartment we were shocked we could afford into a home. the rug actually matched my new furniture, and the second living room provided a place for me to keep my books and set up my computer. I remember when i would walk into the apartment from work, it made me feel proud and as tho i had taken a step up in the world. i remember the way the hardwood would feel under my heels as i walked to find my roommates and tell them about my day. Powerful footsteps…heels drumming loudly through the living room…proving that not only did my apartment look classy…but heels meant i had a JOB.
anyway…i digress…

On one of our first grocery trips, my friend and i filled our carts with veggies and other foods that would ensure we could get hit on when we went out that night. As we passed rapidly down the homewares isle, my eyes darted across and the coffee cups..than immediately fell quiet on the most beautiful cup i had ever seen. It had my favorite colors and used thick stripes, dots, and flowers to adorn it with beauty. It looked like a water-color on cylinder ceramic. i grabbed it and excitedly proclaimed, “this is how we should decorate our kitchen. don’t you love it.” My more stylish, cutting edge roommate didn’t necessarily agree–but she saw my excitement and allowed ME to decorated the kitchen. Now i can’t hold a candle to her in decorating, she knows that, but she stepped back and rode the coattails of my vision–all rooted in a coffee cup from a grocery store. She has no problem spewing out a little sugar…i could learn from that…

Before we knew it, i bought place mats and candles, picture frames and a flower vase all matching my lovely coffee cup. I set it all up but was confused about the role my beloved cup should play. Was it a decoration–the only thing i bought that has all the colors i have chosen in it. Or, should my cup reside in the cupboard–taking its place as Queen of the cups–my favorite–the most beautiful. This was a hard decision. I opted to display it–yes, one random coffee cup–sitting out on a window sill. Strange, but its beauty could speak for itself. But perhaps more, it was the beauty it created inside of me that lifted me.

For one year i drank from that cup. It served me lesson after lesson. In fact, everything about that one year of my life was served from that cup. It was Sunday morning hangovers and trips to BR. It was Fleetwood Mac and trips to the Sox game on the L. It was paying 5 dollar covers and then drinking for free every night. it was late night conversations recorded on my video camera, and early morning question-answer periods in my bed. It was “thanks for making me dinner,” and then being pissed they didn’t clean it up, it was holding on desperately to these people I loved while I said goodbye and fell in love with another.

It was the first moment in my life that i knew i loved these people and they loved me the same way–without the sugar on top–just me, my goods and bads…my uglies.

I guess that is why i couldn’t muster up the strength to drink from my new cups. I needed a little bit of the old, a little more understanding this morning, a little more forgiveness. I needed that cup and those friends– no sugar, no lies.

i drink the last drop from this cup and know that the memories will last me all day–and tomorrow, well…we’ll have to wait and see.

ALC 2005

Just the Words

I heard the words ripple around me, slowly at first, settling only when the placidity of the moment deadened the place I visit when I close my eyes tightly. The place of comfort, usually warm, but uncomfortable when it gets too hot. Actions are supposed to speak louder than these words, except that words seldom exist alone.

There are some moments, some words that I cannot erase from my recollection. They visit me in the strangest moments as if they must remind me of a part of myself that still exists despite my conviction to forget. They work together with my conscious and at times are so vivid that not only do I remember them, but I hear them. I hear the tones, the pitch, the slightest breath that was taken three moments before the words changed my life forever. I wonder what my father was thinking during the three moments that he visited his conscious. Was he wondering if he really wanted to say it? Or perhaps that he so badly wanted to. So badly wanted to see the look of sheer terror drive across my mother’s face. I wonder most if he would have said it had he known I was listening.

I missed the actions that preceded these words. I missed the subtle looks, the harsh annoyances; I missed the whole event. But these words, I could not miss them. It is almost humorous to me how much I missed in this world. I hear now, I see now, I feel now. Mostly, I wonder when that happened. I wonder when I began to see the looks of pain that were so almost hidden. I wonder when I figured out the places on the body that can’t hide the pain, that can’t cover up the wounds of so many years of isolation. It is not in the eyes. Those can grow dead. It is not in the lips, they are the most deceiving of all. The pain lies in the hands and how people use them, and also in the forehead– the places most of us miss. I find it now, as I watch a hand nervously trying to cover the lips–a fools errand–hesitation slipping on truth. A forehead contemplating too much–a canvas for pain to write its story. Oh, these places I can’t stop staring at when I speak to a person.

I can’t stop myself from trying to figure them out, from trying to know them through their hands and their foreheads. I want to hear their story and then I want to tell them mine. It is not because I want them to understand. In fact, I really don’t care because it is always about me. It is about me getting rid of these words, me not wanting to hear them anymore. The more I tell the story the more it changes. I add a different word more harsh than the truth, more shocking. It is easier to believe lies than the truth. Every time the story changes it becomes less real, more far away from me. Then, the person I am speaking with must hear my words over and over in their head. When I am lucky, after I tell my story, I forget the details, usually a little more each time I say them again. Each time I speak it, it becomes someone else’s story. I become the girl they new once who…

I like being that girl.

I heard once that life is lived forwards and understood backwards. I often wonder how far back I must go to understand. I used to want to understand how he could leave all of us, but now, I just want to understand how he could have said what he said. Why did he pick those words, why did he way them with such certainty and conviction. Was he so sure of his words at that moment? Had he rehearsed them, had he chosen the perfect fit to get the perfect reaction? I will never know that part of him; I want to forget that part of me.

Everything is perfect now. Two loving parents who sleep in the same bed. The fact that he left should still irritate me, it should make me scared of what my own marriage someday will bring. But none of that matter to me, not at all. Yet the words, the phrase, the feeling, the conviction, those I still hear. I am oddly connected to these words as though it is a love affair. I often think about who I would be had I never heard them spoken. How can one sentence, one thought, build such a unique and frightening relationship? Who would I be?

I think I would be different. I wouldn’t have found out until six months later that my dad was going to leave. I would have eaten at the kitchen table and honestly believed that the random stories of installing an air conditioner for a friend meant something. Words are powerful weapons that evoke powerful emotions. But not all words. Some are futile objects selectively spoken to fill the spaces in silence that are uncomfortable. I hear so many useless words, so many useless stories. In fact, I speak even more vacant words than most. How can I tell the difference anymore? The difference between the words I cannot forget and those I so easily speak. Where does the difference lie? Is it in the message, or in the emotion of the person selecting the words? Or could it be in the intent?

Perhaps the difference lies in the face of my father when he spoke them. Or his hands, or his forehead. But I did not see his face. I only heard the words. I don’t need you and I don’t need these goddamn kids anymore. Oh how they rolled off his tongue. It was as though they knew their destination.

The oddest thing is that I have no idea what my mother said back to him. Did she have words prepared for that moment? Was she ready with a retort so perfectly refined that she knew exactly how his face would react after she said it? Was she looking at his face? At his hands, his forehead. Perhaps she had no words at all. Perhaps all I heard from her was the slightest gasp, so controlled. Yet, so scared. Or perhaps my father’s words overpowered hers. Maybe his words engulfed hers to the point where her words were no longer audible to my ears. I wonder if they were still audible to her own?

I wonder even more if these words have left her head. I wonder if they visit her in the middle of the night as they do me. I wonder if she has spoken them as many times as I have. I wonder if she has ever spoken them at all. I know she has forgiven his actions and I know she has forgiven the day he left. But I do not know if she has forgiven his words. They were just words and they were softly spoken. It was supposed to be his actions that hurt…But it was the words.

Just the words

ALC 2000