Sunday, March 27, 2016

The One Who Got Away

Ella thought of her friend the other day--the one she had promised to marry when they both turned 30 if they hadn't found the love of their lives yet. They had never dated, only thought of each other fondly and had known each other since middle school. Ella can remember jogging by his house in high school and playing basketball in his driveway. She remembers performing in plays and laughing and being young.

She remembers going to to same University. She remembers trading dating stories year after year. She remembers the flirtatious flicker of AOL instant messages across campus dorms.

Ella remembers the one night he kissed her. And she'd stayed at his dorm overnight in the most innocent of fashions. They'd slept in an embrace and he'd wondered aloud why they'd never done this before.

And Ella remembers her confusion and telling her dear childhood friend that they couldn't date. She saw the quick change in his eyes, the disappointment, but he said they'd always be friends in some capacity. And they were.

They'd get coffee after college ended--the year she moved home after traveling abroad. Their college kiss was long in the past, their friendship renewed. It was a strong bond that always felt like family, like a close friend who was your blanket, a friend who could always keep you warm and cozy and safe. They both moved to Chicago around the same time and would catch up once in awhile. He even drove a few of Ella's boxes still in her Michigan home up to her apartment when he did a road trip back to the suburb where they'd grown up within walking distance of each other. They'd met up a few times in Chicago, and then he moved to DC. Suddenly. For work. And just like that, he was gone.

Fast forward to 30 and 31 and 32, and neither one has married. They remind each other jokingly of the pact they made. At one point, Ella and her dear friend are both randomly back in Michigan at the same time over the holidays. He picks her up and they go to a Chinese restaurant where the owner knows him and his Mother well. He is greeted warmly as though he is family. Ella recognizes how lovely it feels to see him again after all this time. He is dear as always. He is dashing as always. He is her friend as always. But there's something different there this time and when they hug goodbye in her driveway in his car, there is a lingering moment where she thinks it would feel so natural to kiss him again, much like the kiss they both remember from a decade ago. She knows he can feel it too.

But Ella was someone else's girl. So they hugged and parted. And he drove away.

She didn't think too much about her friend in the months immediately following, as drama with her boyfriend was heating up, drama with her own health was imminent, drama with her father's health was horrid at best, and her life all around had turned upside down. That spring, over Mother's Day weekend, Ella visited her brother who lived in DC with her whole family. And Ella and her old friend made plans to get coffee on Mother's Day morning right before she went off to brunch with her family.

It was wonderful, as always, to see him. "You look beautiful," he'd told her, even though she knew she looked weary and creased from stress and worry and a broken heart. Ella and her boyfriend had ended things two months earlier, a break up that had shattered her heart and soul. Her father was ailing. And she, herself, was not doing much better. But Ella's friend defended his statement after she'd told him she looked horrible. "Maybe a little tired, a little sad, but still beautiful." Ella smiled. She always did love the way he could compliment her and make her feel like the most important and beautiful person in the room. Even though in high school he had teased her and she very vividly remembered him saying, "A moment on the lips, forever on the hips," when she had told him about eating Thai food and pizza two nights in a row. She had stabbed him with a blunt pencil in the auditorium. But teasing aside, he still got her. He understood her in a way no one else could. He found her fascinating in a way that no one else did. And he loved her. They loved each other.

And then he told Ella about his new love.

It took her aback. She had half expected him to flirt with her--try once more, jokingly, to get her to date him--but instead, he told Ella about the exotic South African woman he had met unexpectedly. Their relationship was going strong, and... he looked happy. Happier than she'd ever remembered. And though she was thrown off, she was happy for him. He deserved happiness and love. This man, whom everyone loved, strangely, was very much a loner. For having been everyone's friend, he himself had very few "friends." He was loved by all but spent much of his time alone.

Ella's heart jumped for a moment at the news. But she was happy to see him happy.

Even though it stung a bit.

They talked until she had to head over to meet her family and he drove her over to The Mayflower Hotel where she was getting Mother's Day brunch. They hugged goodbye in his car. It was the last time she would see him.

She remembers texting him a year or so later, maybe a year and a half, wondering if he and the girl were still together.

They were engaged.

And Ella cried.

Ella cried on her bathroom floor. Partially because her dear friend with whom she had made this pact so long ago no longer needed their pact; and partially because she realized her dear friend was no longer within her grasp even though she had never truly reached for him. And though this fact burned at her skin, she realized she was mostly crying because it represented her static nature. The world around her had kept moving and her exes were all married or getting married and people kept growing and loving and her friends were all finding their way and their partners... and Ella remained alone. Even though she was dating someone at the time, casually, she still cried. Because her friend was not hers anymore.

He belonged to someone else.

She told him that she was happy for him but she didn't realize she'd be so upset. And like the star he was, he'd flowered her with compliments and love and all of the beautiful things that make a person feel like they are captivating and talented and amazing. He wasn't hers at all, and yet, he still made it his mission to cheer her up and make her feel exceptional.

They texted here and there over the next year, and once, he even told her that "she was the one who got away." That his fiance would just have to understand if he came to Ella because it had been a fantasy of his since high school. Ella made a light-hearted joke back, not knowing if he was being playful or truthful. She let the comment go. In her younger years she might have considered the type of alluring response which other women hold in contempt, but she no longer had the room in her soul or desire to revisit that younger version of herself. She was no longer a woman who would humor any type of indiscretion, for Ella was sure she had paid Karma's toll with enduring other's indiscretions toward her. She would never again tread lightly on such sacred ground. Especially since everyone was now older and more broken, and hearts had been through so much already.

A year or so went by since Ella learned of his engagement. He was no longer on social media, no longer trackable, no longer visible. So she texted him out of the blue one day, quite randomly, asking if he was married yet.

There was no response for a very long time.

So she Googled him.

And there was his internet wedding profile on theknot.com.

And Ella's dear friend was, indeed, still getting married.

The next day.

At the Mayflower Hotel.

She was in shock. At her desk at work, her heart stopped and her head spun. Despite the fact that she currently had a boyfriend she'd been dating for quite some time and had very deep feelings for, she still had a non-sensical "My Best Friend's Wedding" moment and envisioned stopping him a la' Julia-Roberts-style-backstabbing-Cameron-Diaz, telling him that she'd realized too late what his presence in his life had meant to her. Ella's heart crackled. And for all the feelings that were present in that moment, she simultaneously felt numb. Her heart was numb and frozen by this news. It was as if a clock had been ticking and all of a sudden came to a complete stop, only to start ticking again 60 seconds later, minutes lost off its heartbeat.

His pictures looked beautiful. He looked in love. His fiance looked in love. And she wanted that for him--had always wanted his happiness. Despite Ella's initial sadness, she was truly happy for him. They were a gorgeous couple. And Ella knew that his soon-to-be-wife, his wife in a little more than 24 hours, would always be treated like a princess. His princess.

She sat quietly as decades of memories washed over her.

And then she sent him a text wishing him and his fiance all the happiness in the world and that she hoped they would have a beautiful day. That she missed him and was proud of him.

And her dear friend responded and said her words meant the world to him.

She read this response and her heart laid down to breathe.

What else was she supposed to do? She would never play with heartstrings the night before someone's wedding. And she would never want someone to do that to her. And they weren't her heartstrings to strum anyway. They belonged to someone else who deserved them. His wife's hands would lovingly play the music on his heart in a way that Ella never knew how, in a way that she never knew she wanted to learn until it was too late.

But perhaps that is life.

People live and keep living and take moments for granted and sometimes realize things too late. And who is to say that Ella's blistered heart is anything more than 'wanting what you can't have,' or that Ella's mind simply feels wistful for a rendering of a relationship that never was, an imagining of a love that never will be.

All Ella knows is that this life chapter has finally been written. It is a sweeping saga that has come to an end...and much like the words in a never-ending novel that have always been there her, she is both grateful and saddened now the last page has been turned.

...They are married now.

And Ella hopes more than anything that her friend is full of joy and love and light. She hopes the day was beautiful. She hopes he will always be happy. She hopes her dear friend will have the life that he deserves.

And Ella's sweet childhood schoolmate, her neighbor, the one she always knew she loved but never knew she wanted, will always be the one who got away.

xx

Monday, February 9, 2015

Advice to My Younger Self

I think I’d tell myself to stop worrying so much. To trust myself more. To keep my heart open but to keep my individuality at all costs. I’d tell myself that in ten years I would still have questions. I’d remind myself to truly live life while living it. Do not waste time being angry. Hold fewer grudges. Forgive more often. Keep moving. Drink more water. Take more chances because you will always fail at whatever you don’t try. I’d tell myself to have more dance parties and to give more hugs. I’d tell myself to ask for what I want. I’d tell myself that I deserve more than I think I do. I’d tell myself I was prettier than I thought I was. I’d tell myself that low-fat was just a craze. I’d tell myself that auto-pay would keep my debt on track.  I'd tell myself to pay more attention to coincidences, because nothing is a coincidence. I’d tell myself to stay strong. I'd tell myself to meditate and do yoga and believe in messages and that I can have everything.

On Being Invincible.

On Being Invincible.

It is not overnight that one becomes invincible.

It is after the war.

It is after you have been terrorized by your own dreams and made a prisoner by your own devices.
It is after surfacing the river from which you've been submerged.

Submerged by your own hands.
By others' hands. By the land.
By the night.
By your own bones.

Sometimes we betray ourselves.
Sometimes we save ourselves.

And it is only after we have fought ourselves and won that we are invincible.

When you've died and come back to life several times, when each blow ravages you more than you know...you come to learn that with every return....you are invincible.

And the strangers will shake you and your loved ones may rake you and your own heart forsakes you.

And you punch the air, grimacing, strangling the strange sensations from which your incarnation tempts fate and celebrates that
you
are
still
here.

Then you will be invincible.






Monday, June 30, 2014

Empire-Waisted and Preggers

Janie feels a tap on her finger.

She is holding onto the pole on the bus, making her way home from work. A kind-looking older black man with crinkles near his eyes looks up at her. "Would you like to sit down? You're pregnant right?" Janie isn't even sure she heard him right, she just shakes her head, "No, thank you, I'm fine."

She is stunned. She wants to scream at him and retort back, "I AM NOT PREGNANT, FUCKER." But she also doesn't want to attract attention to her sodium-enhanced tummy that looks larger than normal because she is wearing an empire-waisted dress that moments before she had thought looked lovely but at present moment she now silently vows to never wear again.

In fact, she will burn this dress. She will throw out every empire-cut piece of apparel she owns.

She was fit, wasn't she? Wasn't she? Janie vows to stop eating all carbohydrates starting today.

She saw Alyssa Milano on TV the other day.

Alyssa Milano looks old.

Much like a Milano cookie, she is still sweet but slowly crumbling as though she has been sitting in a cup of milk for too long. And this makes Janie feel old. Makes her feel like she will soon look old, too.

Like a soggy cookie.

Alyssa Milano was every boy's dream back in the 80s. And now she is in her 40s. Which means Janie will also one day look like that. Sooner than she wants.

Janie looks out the window and contemplates her own appearance. She is wearing a powder foundation that is a shade too dark for her skin but she did not realize until it was already applied and she was under the work lights. Her hair is frizzy and her eyes tired. There is an enormous purple bruise on her left arm the size of an obese hamster she got from making out in the shower and playfully getting pushed against the tiles the day before.

Janie realizes she must look like a battered pregnant woman on the bus.

Janie doesn't know how this happened.

Fuck empire-waisted dresses.

Fuck salt.

An overweight woman in the seat across from her looks Janie in the eyes. Janie can feel her thoughts, "Yeah, girl, sucks to have people think you're pregnant when you're not." The woman's eyes burn through Janie's soul and newfound maternity gear.

The crinkly-eyed older man gets off the bus and Janie sits down, confused and embarrassed.

Well. Pregnant women with bruises and no wedding rings should sit, goddammit, she thinks to herself.

It starts to rain and Janie decides she will eat a large bowl of rice tonight and watch the Bachelorette because she likes torture.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Six Minute Writing Exercise

Write for 6 minutes and don't stop. See what happens. Here's my (edited) 6:

**
Lazily strumming her guitar, Layla sprawled out upon the grass, grinning to herself. She looked up at the sky, noticing a cloud shaped like a giraffe, and she brushed her long jet-black hair out of her eyes. The sun beat down on her back and she ran her fingers through the lush grass, laying her guitar to her side and letting herself sink into the soft ground.

In the distance she heard whistling and she knew it was her sister, Maribelle, playing in the open field, a kite flying high above her head. Maribelle also had dark black hair and looked like a miniature version of her older sister. She tried her hardest to play guitar like Layla, but her 5-year-old fingers would not cooperate.

"Fly with me!" Maribelle cried out.

"Mari, go play for a bit, I'll be right there, sweetie," Layla had told her little sister fifteen minutes earlier.

Layla let her eyes fall shut. 

But when she opened her eyes and called out for Maribelle, she found no one.

Maribelle was not in the field, only her kite was left, the string spilling across the grass as it fell from the sky.

****

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Obituary Searching

Tess searched for the obituary.

She typed in the name, checking on this woman she had never met but felt like she knew.

Incredibly morbid, yes. But a morbid curiosity to know the stranger's fate propelled Tess forward. She had only heard stories about the woman before, but having been effected by her existence, Tess felt that knowing the woman's fate was somehow very important.

You see, she cannot ask if the woman has died.

She can only wonder.

It wasn't hard to find out who she was, Tess had known early on who she was. And she had wanted her to live but sometimes she wished she'd go away and sometimes she wished she could just ask her questions.

But Tess knew the woman had red lips. Like her. And curls. Like her.

And Tess wants to know how the story ends.

She wants to know the rest of the stranger's story. She wants to know if the woman is at peace or if she fought and healed herself and healed her torched relationships and survived against all odds and experienced a miracle.

But she cannot ask. She can only wonder.

There is no obituary.

And though Tess supposes she won't ever meet the woman, nor does she think she'd ever want to, she hopes the woman has kept fighting.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Don't Backstep

Don't think on the past think on the future.

Don't look behind you look in front of you.

Don't worry about what you don't have be grateful for what you do have.

Know that there is a mystery greater than yourself that will unfold in time.

Keep faith that you are on the right path and that all is coming.

Be aware of what you need and don't settle for less.

The Universe is doing its job and you are listening to its messages.