room to write

This is not an exit.

Every exit is an entry somewhere else. Tom Stoppard.

10 years ago.

I could hear the TV on in her apartment.  The door was shut and I had taken the stairs two at a time at a near run.  Her welcome mat was worn, I remember it as graying green in a ragged doorway against scuffed tick tock tiles.  It was an old building on Apple Ave in Cincinnati that shouldered in near Garfield park.  The park itself was home to a pack of homeless men led by a man in a worn bomber jacket and grizzled beard named, appropriately, Dog.  I used to bring him coffee at the end of the day when I worked at the small local place off of 7th.  LA had been a strange place.  I’d flown in on someone else’s dime, hit comic conventions, and slept with a gangly boy who talked of buying a house after he picked me up at the airport.  I felt used and lonely, but I was home now.

I knocked for the third time, pretending that she just hadn’t heard me.  Of course she would open the door.  We’d been friends for nearly four years.  I’d seen her naked.  I’d seen her transform from the mousy girl wearing a black blousey dress with little blue flowers and hair the color of cheddar cheese into this auburn haired geek goddess.  I’d held her while she cried over each boy that didn’t realize the gift she had given them and promised to slash the tires of the worst one’s Kharman Gia.  We’d drunk together, fought together, loved together, and fucked together.  Of course she would open the door.

I knocked again.  Their voices hushed and the TV turned off.  I could hear her come to the door.  It was like those split frames in the movies where I could imagine her forehead touching mine, but the door never opened.  I watched the shadow slip to the right, toward her bedroom and the light over my head flicked off.  She knew I lied about LA.  She knew I had been lying to her for years, but she forgave me.  She always gave me one more chance, but the hallway was dark now.  There was a light on a floor above and four floors down was the street.  It was a long walk and my shoes squeaked awkwardly as I stumbled away.

That was how Jenny made her exit.

She taught me that you can love unconditionally until it becomes something that tears you apart.  She taught me what real friends were and it was my fault I lost it.  I can only hope that one day she’ll understand she is my yardstick of how I now treat those I love.  Her door closed and it took me nearly a decade to figure out it was because mine had never opened.

12 years ago

“I’m going to get a tattoo.  Anyone want to come?” She lounged across the counter and grinned as I took off my coffee stained apron.

“I’m off work and I got some cash.” I shrugged.  She gave me that quirky smile that wrinkled her nose.

“Let’s do this thing.”

The tattoo parlor was white with a small space in the rear with a gallery window.  The inker was pale, tall, scrawny, and had a pointy nose that reminded me of a ferret. He was wearing a white t-shirt and ripped jeans that matched his thin brown ponytail.  I went first and made faces at her while the needle burned into my neck.  We’d sat outside flipping through a book I had in my trunk on 365 Days of Zen to find characters.  She was wearing a pale pink tank top, black bra, and all the insouciant rocker I knew possible.  She had this beaten down old leather hat and a way of humming Stevie Ray Vaughn that I found myself drawn to uncontrollably.  She also had a boyfriend with crooked teeth and the charm of James Dean.  I blew him because I wanted her. I just didn’t know it at the time.

She held my hand while the needle painted “serenity” between her shoulder blades.  She’d gotten sober in Seattle before moving to Toledo.  Two weeks later I was leaving and she was drinking beer with me on the pull out couch in the back of my rental house.  She slugged beer like they did in movies, with a gentle ease and careless sexiness.  We’d go to the swing-set at midnight and laugh in the rain, kicking our toes to the moon and believing that this friendship was forever.

“I’ve never kissed a girl before.” She told the wall by the TV.  I watched her throat move when she swallowed.

“I have, a couple times.”  She looked over at me then, eyes blurred red and hidden in the half light.

“Would you kiss me?”

I went hot.  She had pale skin and chestnut hair.  There were these two freckles on her neck that fascinated me and I stared hard at them, willing her to kiss me first.  Then it wouldn’t be my fault.  She did and she tasted like beer with a fast pink tongue and warm skin just under the hair that fell around her shoulders.  When she was done, I blinked owlishly, confused.  She got up and walked out of the room.  I left the next day.

Carolyn taught me that there is a difference between wanting someone and friendship.  She taught me that just because you kiss someone, doesn’t make it forever. She taught me to revel in the moment and laugh like we’re dying.  I learned I was beautiful if I’d just believe it.  Still working on that.

9 years ago

There was a pile of used stir sticks and wet straw wrappers soaking up cream and coffee on the counter when he walked in. He caffeinated three times a day on his breaks from the local trash paper.  He laughed loudly, hummed alot, and drank his coffee black. I’d never noticed him until he looked down at the mess.

“It’s a haiku splatter.” He remarked.  I fell in love and he left some change in the tip jar.

He liked to share me, but that was cool- I thought I liked to share him too.  After all, we were the most fuckable couple in the Cincinnati music scene. He was tall with a big nose and long fingered hands.  He had blue hair on his best days, and lime green on his worst.  He played piano in jeans and bare feet, sweeping epic notes that filled the room with song.  He fingered his guitar and stroked out melodies that still get stuck in my head. He read the books I told him he’d like- and liked them.  He started quoting Harlan Ellison to me after sex.  He fucked like a porn star and kissed me like he’d never tasted anything as savory.  We had a love that left bruises on my hips that ached when I wore jeans.  We stayed in a loft he’d built in an old ice cream factory and had a lot of sex.  Alot.

I tried to keep him happy, pulling tighter when he started pulling away.  I started dressing differently.  I picked up his drink of choice- Jameson neat, water back.  I cried myself to sleep against his turned back.  I felt alone with his arms around me when he looked at other girls. I made myself miserable trying to figure out how to make him stay.  I cried.  I pleaded.  I slept with people with him.

He left me while I bought him dinner before his band practice.  I calmly paid the check, dropped him off, and fled to my apartment to scream myself sick.  I tried for three months to get him back, but finally when I’d moved on he stopped back in for a quickie.  When it was over I just wanted to leave.  The sex magic was gone and he was just weird looking.  It took four years and different states before we could be friends again.

Matt is still the best sex I’ve ever had.  But now I know that you can’t go back, if it was broken the first time- it doesn’t magically get fixed.  I learned that I can’t change myself to suit someone else, but can only make myself happy.  Doesn’t mean I still don’t try every once and awhile, but I was the girl who after burning her hand on mom’s stove would check the neighbor’s stove too.

Each time something has ended in my life, something else has opened up for me.  If Matt hadn’t left me, I wouldn’t have found the internet and therefore would never have met my best friend of the last seven years.  If Jenny had opened the door I would never have found the necessary courage to learn how to be honest.  If Carolyn hadn’t gotten sober once, I would have never thought I could do it too- wouldn’t have known that there were places I could ask for help.  It’s the footnotes that are what makes me who I am, and as rough and crazy as my past is- I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I wouldn’t be me without it.

I’m a pastiche of endings- or maybe just a plethora of beginnings.

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Ode to my kitchen.

My kitchen smells like saffron rice and cooked chicken.  It has mustard yellow walls with metal signs tacked into place.  They proclaim that I serve Meteor Coffee and Rocket Pops, but they lie.  I have a shelf full of sweet tarts my mother sent me for Christmas that tell the world I’m totally Team Jacob. (Werewolves are so much hotter, can we say boys piled like puppies?) I have a bag of baby carrots, summer sausage, and sharp white vermont cheddar in my fridge.  There is also an avacado that thunks miserably about in my veggie drawer that I should probably throw away.  I bought a bottle of pomegranate-lemonade with the intention of giving up soda, but the empty box of Dr Pepper is more the truth.

I love my new kitchen.  It has possibilities.  I’ve never been in an argument while pitching empty pizza boxes.  I’ve never made a meal for someone other than myself.  It’s never been tarnished with anything but good memories.

Kitchens are a strange place.  It is where my parent’s marriage fell apart over broken dishes and screams on Easter.  It’s where I cried miserably over learning the multiplication tables.  It’s where I can take a breath when family moments are so heart stoppingly beautiful I might just shake apart. I learned to cook a turkey in my father’s purple rag painted kitchen that was always littered with wine bottles and step kids.  I cooked out of necessity when my mother went to that dark place after the divorce- filled with migraines and depression.  I have had refrigerators filled with nothing but beer, and others spoke of happy couples learning to make meals together and talk about their day.

My ex was a steak and potatoes guy.  He’d cook the meat while I chopped tomatoes and carrots for a salad.  We’d bustle around each other like some strange dance, rubbing shoulders, bumping hips, and exchanging sauce filled kisses.  He told me he wanted to marry me in that kitchen, the same place he told me it was over.  He’d stack empty soda cans in the sink instead of reaching the foot and a half to the trash can.  The coffee pot was always a mess, drinds flung to the far corners to sneak under the fridge and into the laundry room.  He’d smile that huge crackling smile of his and fling his fingers out while I did the dishes and tell me about how ridiculous the patrons (and staff) at his library were.

There are no traces of him in my new place.  He’s not lingering on the floor with his records or sprawled across the couch waiting for me to join him with popcorn.  There is no table hockey game waiting for us on the kitchen table.  There are no arguments about money and the sweet taste of welcome home kisses. It’s a new tableau. I cook chicken.  I microwave popcorn.  I do my own dishes and there are never soda’s in the sink.

It feels empty.  No, it feels pregnant with that sort of soap bubble fragility of loneliness.  It’s like if I turn around too fast I’ll realize I’m on my own.  If I cook steak he’ll just wander in wearing his boxers and a grin.  I don’t want him back.  It’s just the habit; the routine of our relationship that sneaks back in when I’m not looking.

I don’t want a man in my life right now.  I want to learn to be happy just being me.  I want to wake up and stretch like a kitty and smile just because I’m awake.  I want to finish school and get a job.  I need to be independent.  I need friends. (Wow, I’m kind of needy right now.)

I want a stranger to be able to come into my house and explore my kitchen and learn little things about me.  I want them to grin at the doodle board I have on my fridge that says “You shine” and understand that people love me.  To understand that I haven’t erased that message and put up a to do list because I need the reminder that sometimes, in the right light, I’m glorious.