There was this one time

There’s this guy I know. I’m not going to give you too many details. Suffice it to say, you probably don’t know him.

There’s this guy I know, but I don’t know him that well. I’ve known him awhile now, but he’s always been at the fringes. He’s a guy, which is problematic for me. He’s a guy, so I don’t know him that well. This is not a statement about him, only about me and how I’ve always relegated guys to the fringes.

There’s this guy I know. He’s always interested me. Because he’s a guy, I’ve never given him much mental space. Since he’s a guy, I’ve mostly ignored him.

I’ve mostly ignored him for several reasons: One, guys scare me. That’s a long-established fact. Two, I’m married. My definition of marriage has long excluded giving mental space to men other than my husband. I’ve never bothered making friends with guys. Three, he’s married too, off-limits in my world. So I’ve mostly ignored him.

There’s this guy I know. I’ve observed from afar that he is good looking, hot even. I’ve observed that he is funny and friendly. Very friendly. I’ve observed that he is a great husband, a great dad. I’ve observed all this without comment, without action. I’ve just noticed it.

Years ago, there was an incident. This was a long time ago, before this guy became a dad, long before I became a mom, before I was even married, even before I began to actively relegate interesting people to the fringes. I’m not going to give you too many details.

There was a large celebration. Something horrible happened to me and I was crying, in public. This was a celebration, so all of my friends were there. My real friends, the ones I don’t ignore, don’t relegate. All my friends saw what happened, they saw me crying. They stood there, shocked, unmoving. All of them just stared at me, except for this guy I know. This guy I know, he didn’t say anything, but he did hug me.

There was this one time that this guy I know hugged me. I didn’t know him that well; I still don’t.

Sometimes a lot of knowing happens in one hug.

There’s this guy I know.

Consciously uncoupling

I could be divorced right now. Well, separated, at least. Before you freak out, let me tell you the truth: I’m still married. I suspect I’ll always be married until, as they say, death do us part.

I love Geoff in some kind of irrational, passionate way that I know without a doubt that I’ll never find with anyone else. I guess you could say I’m crazy about him. The thought of life without him doesn’t add up. It’s annihilating.

That doesn’t mean anything about our relationship. We’ve struggled for a while now, and at times things have felt impossible. I’m sure that Geoff would agree. Have you ever been in an impossible situation? It feels dehumanizing. It feels like I imagine it would be like to be in solitary confinement. I hate it.

The funny thing about impossible situations is how much they make you change. Just when you think you’re stuck, a tiny secret passage opens up somewhere and the impossible becomes possible. For Geoff and me, this struggle has made us more aware, more deliberate. It’s made us question everything we ever thought we knew about each other, and it’s been good for us.

I like the term conscious uncoupling. It’s easy to interpret it in a literal way, two things coming apart, separating. I prefer a more metaphorical sense. I’m consciously uncoupling from Geoff. I’m thinking about what I want to experience, and I’ll admit it, I’m giving myself space to be selfish about it. I’m questioning things, seeking, and finding answers that are not his. I’m consciously uncoupling from other things too. I’m uncoupling from my old ideas about myself. I’m uncoupling from the status quo. I’m uncoupling from boringness.

It’s not all in my head, either. I’m trying new things, in reality. I’m putting myself in situations that used to be off-limits, and sometimes I drag Geoff along.

Geoff is doing it too. We’re doing it side by side, together. It’s messy and difficult, and pretty awesome. We’re finding hidden passages all over the place.

Consciously uncoupling. You ought to try it.

Day trip

The sun cast long shadows on the lush hillsides when they stopped for a cathedral lunch and watched the pretty girl with light green eyes worm a proposal out of her silver-haired date.


I totally swiped the cathedral lunch idea for this week’s Trifecta Challenge, including the third definition of worm. Please don’t tell!

Getting lost


Nothing prepared us for this small Caribbean island, not our maps, not our omnipresent iPhones, not our best intentions. From the moment we arrived, everything assaulted us. The colors, vibrant; the people, guarded; the sun, brutal. We wanted an escape. Liberation from reality. A break from our cold, gray, gritty winter. The chance to turn bitter truths into lies.

We drove the twisted island roads, where we had to navigate by feel rather than sight. Carefully planned trips to dinner quickly dissolved into goose chases as restaurants eluded us. Nothing lasts on an island. By the end of our trip we’d sampled a wide variety of island cuisines, from simple pinchos by the road the first night to tacos on a bluff overlooking the rainforest to empanadas and croquettas in a café on a busy square. The unpredictability riled us.

In our wanderings, we found fences. Fences edged even the most run down homes, staking off territory, setting boundaries as if the island itself weren’t solitary enough, as if this spot of land could ever be owned. Barbed wire fences lined the glimmering beaches, grates locked up the defunct restaurants, blocking access. We respected our limits. We did small things – hiked to a stone tower, stumbled our way into a cave, ferried to a tiny island with a strip of brown sugar sand. We found an old church, its joyful music pouring through its wrought-iron grates. In the old city we found a few more places where life escaped the fences – rounding a street corner we came to a window without a pane, a woman just inside sitting at her kitchen table. We said hello.

Who could we be here? Certainly not who we thought we were. The island had its own ideas, its inhabitants, others. The island tried to darken our skin and lighten our hair; it tried to change us. Its inhabitants spoke to us only in English, refusing to teach us. The island initiated us, its inhabitants imitated us.

Our old ways failed us. You, driving, always chose the wrong fork, and I, frantic, would cry out, “Stop!” and then, “Turn left. Here.” And despite your irritation, we found that this new way, this irrational and immediate method of judgment-making, worked. We went in-between. We were forced to stumble, jerk, grope, seep, abandon our desires in favor of finding the surprises. So maybe this will be our new thing.

Is love adorable?

What did you think of my story?

You haven’t answered me. Did you read the comments? Were they right, is love cute? Is the photograph of us on the hill as kids truly adorable? I don’t think so.

Maybe you disagree. Maybe you treasure those old memories the same way that you might enjoy taking the kids to the top floor of a tall building and showing them how to crush people on the street below with your thumb and forefinger.

You can’t really do any damage, you know.

The photograph on the hill captured the start of our love. Imagine it as a delicate wrought iron cage, its door left open to let the birthday guests run back inside for cake. Nothing is really locked up yet, just held loosely.

Years pass with the cage door still open. You even escape for a while, leaving me light and wondering. Can you believe that I desperately asked myself, at twelve, if anyone would ever really love me? The answer was always there, a little clue tucked inside my photo album.

At nineteen, when you brought me flowers on my birthday, you were not shy. You snuck up on me quietly in the rain and stashed those flowers inside the cage. I didn’t even notice you slip the door closed.

At twenty-one, you brought me a puppy wrapped up in your shirt and while I was playing with him, you used the new leash to tie up the cage door. You were not shy.

At our private, sunset engagement party, you were bold. You asked the question as if you already knew its answer. You dead bolted the cage with my diamond ring, and I was thrilled to be inside with you.

Now that we are older, the cage is getting full. It’s cluttered with tombstones and birth announcements. Adventures are falling out, littering the floor underneath. The mess has made us both shy, wary. Inside the cage, we stoop down and flip through the pages of our photo albums, searching for that one reminder of what we both really are.

Only the photograph on the hill doesn’t really exist. I made it up.

Is love adorable? I don’t think so.

Remember that picture?

Ooh, I got Editor’s Pick this week over at Yeah Write. I think that means that I’m doing this right. Thanks so much, guys!

I think the photograph is from my sixth birthday, when I wore my tuxedo swimsuit and sat on my new Strawberry Shortcake bicycle ready to learn to ride. My kindergarten friends are in it, the ones who I carpooled with and played with at recess. My neighborhood friends are there too, lined up on the same hill that we would sled down in winter. You’re there too.

When I think back to when I first started to love you, I think it began that day, in the moment the picture was taken. It’s just a coincidence that the photograph exists, like the photo that your grandma caught of your first steps. The photograph is beside the point. If it did not exist, I would still remember the moment, just as your grandma would clearly remember your first steps. Even without the photo, I would still love you.

My mom wanted to take a group shot of all the kids at the party. The good little Catholic school kids ran to the hill first and sat in a line, me in the middle. The neighborhood kids followed, not to be outdone. But you, you didn’t listen. Looking back on it, knowing how six-year-olds can be, you most likely felt shy. But my mom insisted that you get in the picture. All the other kids were already lined up, so you ran behind the line, right behind me, and you stood there covering your face. My mom snapped the photograph and I started to love you.

It was just a moment, and I don’t remember exactly what happened before or afterwards. I’m sure there was cake and presents, but it hardly matters. The best thing about my sixth birthday party was you. It never crossed my mind at the time that you hid your face because you were shy. No, you covered your face because you were cool. You surprised me and you showed me how to be different.

Now that we’ve been married for a while, I know that sometimes you are shy. When you’re in an unfamiliar group, I can feel your urge to press your hands to your face the same way that you did at my sixth birthday party. But I also know that more often you are cool, that you are not afraid to stand up and do something silly just because you want to. More often, you show me your fun, quirky side.

Whenever I see you like that, you, that boy on the hill, I love you a little more. I know that I am cool too. I know that being with you means that I can do anything and be anyone who I want to, no matter what anyone else thinks. Then I’m glad that my mom took that photograph as proof.

Spoilers suck


I watched a movie with my in-laws this weekend. The movie was Elysium, with Matt Damon. Sci-fi with a tense, emotional plot. Good, but a bit predictable. Overall, you’d like it.

Now, watching with my in-laws is a different story. Geoff’s mom gets pretty emotional during movies. Within the first few minutes, she started up a chorus of “Mmm”s and “Oh”s. By the midway point, she was hiding under a blanket because of the violence. Near the end there was a minor twist that seemed obvious to me, but she clearly didn’t see it coming. “Oh my god!” she screamed when one character was stabbed, as if she had been hurt herself.

It was slightly amusing but distracting to watch with her. I kept thinking back to when I was a kid and my mom used to promise me that nothing on TV was real. “It’s all just pretend,” I wanted to tell her, but I didn’t. I actually felt way more sucked into the movie because of her reaction to it.

Then we had Geoff’s dad, the analyst, who about halfway through the movie announced the sequence of events leading up to the end. No, he’d never seen it before. But he totally called it. He was unaffected by the violence, not emotionally engaged with the plot at all. Cool and clear-headed—you should have seen him.

My in-laws have been married for a long time, 37 years this month. They are a great couple. Before this weekend though, I’ve often thought that they couldn’t be more different. They have different interests, different hobbies, different friends. They have completely different attitudes about most things. Watching the movie with them, it all clicked. They balance each other. One is emotional, the other intellectual. One is rational, the other irrational. Together, they complement each other. They fit together like pieces of a puzzle, and they experience life as a team.

Are all marriages like that? Does each person play a role, filling in for the other’s weaknesses, benefitting from their partner’s strengths? Is that how mine works? Maybe, but it’s more subtle than my in-laws’ relationship. I’d like to think that Geoff and I are a team, but we are also pretty good on our own.

I’m going to give this some more thought. And if you ever watch a movie with me, do not tell me how it ends. I hate that.

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Going braless

He liked the girl without the bra. I could sense it, could literally feel his animal attraction to her.  The three of us were standing around after class, waiting for the elevator. They were talking and laughing. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and opted to hike down the stairs.

I met him in grad school. We both studied American lit, neither of us had made the cut for the PhD program. We made due with our master’s studies.

I arrived ten minutes early to my first meeting with my advisor. I found her door closed, blurred voices escaping from inside the office. I sat outside, on the floor, reading a copy of the first book on the syllabus. I waited forty-five minutes before I worked up the nerve to knock.

He showed up thirty minutes in. He was hot. Tall, dark hair, nice smile. I did say hi, so at least there was that. I smiled. But, you know, I was already married. Year one. So I didn’t show interest. But he was perfect. He wore his button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a messenger bag slung across his chest.

Who knows what would have happened if I had not already been taken. But honestly, I had no clue. I was 24, and I was only beginning to invent myself. Going braless was not on my checklist. Marriage was, and so was grad school. I was new, awkward, and in a rush to get things right.

Finally I stuffed my book into my bag, stood up, and said, “I guess I should knock.” I didn’t laugh and I don’t remember properly introducing myself. I knocked on the professor’s door and interrupted her meeting. Afterwards, the tall guy and I glanced at each other as I held her door open for him.

Here’s the thing: Doing things right made me unhappy. I thought that I wanted to quit my job and start grad school. I thought that I wanted to rush home each night after class. I thought that I didn’t need to be all that friendly to my single schoolmates because I had my real married friends. I thought that one misstep would bring my whole life crumbling down. I thought that things that made me uncomfortable were bad.

But you know what? I was wrong. I wanted to flirt. I wanted to forget my bra. Have I ever mentioned how much I bombed at grad school? I did all of the assignments, but I completely missed out on the experience. I still graduated, though.

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