XXVII. Regrets. I've Had A Few.

What I remember of last August are scattered images of stolen moments and shyly given kisses. The first time “Love u” lit up the screen on my phone; weeks later sitting in my car on the side of the interstate sobbing as I read his first declaration of real affection. I don’t remember seeing him more than a couple times, and only for a few moments at that, but I remember the dizzying effect of his words and the slightest brush of his fingers along the side of my hand. I spoke to him a few days ago and I don’t think he remembers any of that, I think he only remembers the tragic end. The part I wish to forget; the part I wish, more than anything, that I could take back.

Our home was still fraught with tension and stony silences back then. My Brother had visited briefly from Texas and I recall him telling my Husband to lay off me, something decidedly out of character. My brother had lamentably inherited the Italian view of marriage and thought that the man ruled the roost. For him to admonish my husband for the way he treated me was tantamount to treason. My Brother knew I was working hard, long hours and was being greeted by complaints and accusations when I arrived home each night. I think he saw that I had reached my limit. My Husband did not see.

In no way am I excusing my own behavior; I am not blaming my Husband for the way I acted. I fully understand that I had no business falling in love, that that part of my life should have stayed buried deep within me, where I might occasionally hear the rumblings from a distance but they would never be loud enough to turn my head. But when the man that is supposed to love and cherish you does not do so, those rumblings rival Niagara Falls in sheer volume and force. It’s impossible to keep your head straight.

It was nearly impossible for me not to draw comparisons between the Husband who had clearly grown weary of his wife and the Boy who needed me. Looking back, I cannot decide if it was God or Satan illuminating those stark differences. If Satan is indeed the great deceiver, how did I, with my broken cage, stand a chance of knowing the difference? I remember the Boy calling me from the store one day. We chatted while he walked around the music department until he excused himself to ask the clerk a question. I listened as he inquired as to where he might find an Andrea Bocelli CD. With a sharp intake of my breath a single pained syllable escaped my lips:”Si.” I loved Bocelli. My Husband thought it was stupid to listen to a CD in another language. I’m sure it seems stupid that something as seemingly insignificant as that could mean so much to me but I assure you, it brought me to tears. A marriage of opposites is a painful thing. Each time the light shone on another common point of interest between the Boy and me, I felt healed. I felt my heart coming back to me.

It wasn’t until late August that my Husband finally found a job and went back to work. The breath we’d been holding for six long months whooshed out in one giant sigh of relief. Financially, we were in bad shape by then. It had become such a sore topic of discussion between us that I refused to even participate in the conversation. He was bound and determined to keep a house that was rapidly deteriorating in value; a house that we had no equity left in; a house that was strangling us. I let the conversations go and celebrated him finding a job.

While he was acclimating to a new company and I was fantasizing about a life with another man, She was plotting to move out. I was so overwhelmed by the maelstrom of emotions around me that I didn’t pay attention to what She was planning. I know, secretly, in my heart, that I wanted Her to move out for one reason only: If I ever found the courage to leave my husband I wanted Her to be safely settled somewhere else beforehand. I did not want Her to be caught in what I assumed would be a vicious parting. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine what would really happen months down the road. Never once did I imagine being pinned in a chair while the man I married screamed violently just inches from my face. Never once did I imagine the cold steel of the shotgun barrel clenched in my fists. Never once did I imagine losing the Boy who started it all.

I understood Her reasons for moving downtown and for wanting to be on Her own. I, myself, had grown weary of suburbia and longed for the chicness of the city. How I would adore Friday nights on the terrace of our local corner restaurant, sharing a fish fry and a cold beer with our neighbors and walking home slightly tipsy on a warm summer night. I might have even reached the point where I wanted to enjoy the labors of others by walking the magnificent gardens of the city parks rather than toiling in the soil of my own backyard. Aside from wanting to escape the tension that was our home, I think She sought to explore Her lifestyle out from under the watchful stare of her parents. I understand that now. Back then, She could have never brought a girl home to my Husband’s house. He would not approve. I don’t know what I would have thought back then but I do know the rose colored glasses of love and the Boy’s soft words would have taken the edge off anything for me.

By September, She was moved out and our house became even quieter. I worked long days, often coming home at nine o’clock at night. My Husband worked second shift and left the house shortly after ten o’clock. Each night my cell phone would vibrate silently, tucked away in my bra, with the same question: “is he gone yet?” As soon as my answer was yes, the phone would ring. We would talk for a few stolen moments as I curled up in bed, cradling the phone as if it were him and tucking it under my pillow after we said goodnight, where I could easily feel the vibration of his “love u” delivered late, late in the night.

In retrospect, I wish I had stopped Her moving out. I wish I had asked more questions. I wish I had cared about anything other than that Boy, but I didn’t. It’s no excuse, but what I felt for him was so strong, so consuming, there just wasn’t anything else left.

XXVI. The Good Things Never Last

The expedition North had indeed cleared my head. Being in Buffalo had provided me with the motivation to move on and move out but, unfortunately, it hadn't provided the funds to do so. I knew from the Cincinnati debacle that I couldn't afford to live on my own, but I couldn't bear to live in that house much longer. Any semblance of a home life there was rapidly deteriorating. I knew about the Birthday kiss and I knew things were changing.

Back when we moved into the new house, it had been a breath of fresh air. Our pale yellow Colonial was nestled in the center of a cul-de-sac with a heavily wooded back yard and manmade pond for a view. My parents had spent the spring assembling a brick wall like the one my Grandma had in Rhode Island. It ran the front of the house and bordered a bed overflowing with PiƱata Roses, black eyed susan's, pansies, and daisies. The daisies She planted for me, right at the corner of the bed, closest to where I parked my car, so I would see them every day when I came and went. The wall led you around to a set of brick steps and black front door.

Moving meant I was further from my friends, but I didn’t mind so much because this house gave me a bit more privacy. My bedroom faced east and was the largest of three bedrooms on the top floor. With my parents’ room being downtown stairs, it was easy for me to sleep in; I no longer heard the dishwasher clinking and swishing at 8am. It was peaceful.

The yard we sought out when building the house, we rarely used. The dogs were excited at first, exploring all the new scents, digging up chipmunks and scaring squirrels, but that soon lost its appeal. They preferred taking long naps on the couch versus chasing an old tennis ball around in the heat.

She had envisioned this house to be her last, the one She grew gray in with The Husband, and the one where her grandchildren would come visit her. She imagined summer dinner parties in which we'd open the French doors and people would meander through the house and flow out into the porch, drinks and food in hand, conversing until late hours, soft music drifting through the trees and twinkle lights looking like fairies in the night. But this never happened. In fact, any time the doors were open it caused Her Husband to bark that he wasn't paying to air condition the outside. To everyone on the outside, I’m sure it appeared to be a happy home. But it was far from it. Sometimes I think Her dreams started dying that first year in the house.

I wasn’t getting along with Her Husband. He didn't understand me or any of my interests and spent more time criticizing my actions and my likes than anything else. Even though She made this family for me because She thought I needed it, the truth was that all I needed was Her. It seemed like he just tried to come between us. When he tried to discipline me, I rebelled. In my eyes, it wasn't his place to do that. Needless to say, we fought over everything.

Since I’d returned from Ohio it was even worse. He resented me being there. Losing his job made it worse. He had to take out his anger on someone and it was me. I was trying to repair my head, heart, and my finances and getting in fights over the vacuum or how I did my laundry wasn't helping. Any shot at privacy I'd once had ceased to exist. My friends were no longer welcome to visit. Moving out was becoming essential to preserving my sanity.

I began by searching in the Fan, an area of downtown Richmond sought after by trendy 30 something's, college students, and indie hipsters. With it being late August, and the university back in session, housing was sparse and roommates sparser still. That was a sign that I should have noticed but ignored instead. Being idle wasn't an option anymore, I had to change, I had to be free, and if I made a mistake or it wasn’t the ideal situation, I would at least learn from it.

Out of desperation I posted my need for a roommate on Facebook. I had one reply: an acquaintance I hadn't seen since college. We had a few conversations on the phone about living together and met up to discuss it further. I knew he wasn't a fantastic choice but I convinced myself that it was only for a year and I could deal with that. I sensed he had a rocky past like me but he portrayed himself to be on a new path with a new frame of mind. I was ready for positive changes and a plan for self improvement and he echoed this.

Once again I packed up my Gnomes and left home.


XXV. Baby, You're Not Lost

Yesterday was the first time I blow dried my hair in two months. With record breaking heat and oppressive humidity nearly every day, it seemed like an exercise in futility to try to straighten out the waves and curls I was born with. My hair is much longer this summer; the financial devastation of the previous months has whittled away the luxuries I once enjoyed. Salon days for a cut and color with a spa pedicure and French manicure are far and few between. He would have liked my hair like this but he’s been gone for many months and never saw the many ways he’d changed me.

My Husband was the first one to see the connection between me and the Boy, to see something that I thought was just a small spark hidden deep inside of me, awareness on my part but nothing more; to see the palpable energy between us, the emotional magnet drawing us together. He saw something as the Boy and I had a casual conversation of no consequence. He saw what my steel cage would never let me see, never let me hope for. He saw something in the Boy. With his primal instincts aroused, he called me out and accused me of having an affair. He put it in such vulgar terms even I was affronted. How could he possibly think this younger man I had just met had any interest in me? But he clearly thought his territory had been encroached upon and he was on high alert.

For my part, I felt something at the first handshake but I would have gone to my grave with that feeling safely locked away. I might have taken it out a time or two and wondered about it, but I wouldn’t have acted on it and I certainly would never have expected it to be reciprocated. To me, my Husband’s jealousy was a ridiculous reaction to a non-existent event. It was an overreaction to nothing. Or so I thought then.

I couldn’t say when the exchange of phone numbers happened, but it was innocent, probably an emergency contact number. I can say that I have that first text message memorized. We talked and we texted, that was all, but it was enough. Little by little information volleyed back and forth and I came to know him as the other half of myself. Habits and hobbies, likes and dislikes, needs and wants matching up in a way previously unknown to me. The casual conversation of two people getting to know each other acted as the perfect foil for my marriage. He and I were synonyms; my Husband and I were antonyms. I was aware of this, even though at the time my precognitive sense was screaming danger to me, I couldn’t stop myself.

I wish I could say that he was perfectly handsome, a flawless Adonis, that tempted me into a licentious affair that petered out when we were sated and became a secret between us that never saw the light of day. I wish I could say that, but I can’t. What I can say is, he wasn’t particularly handsome. He wasn’t a man of great position or wealth or status. He wasn’t a scholar or a poet or a great thinker. He was just a regular guy that, for some reason, became the air that I breathed.

The word love never entered a conversation in reality or in my head back then. I was fascinated by this man that had broken through the last of my defenses. Why him? Why now? After eighteen years of guarding my heart and blinding myself to the attractions of all men, why did this one break through? There was something connecting him to me that I could not define, months later the best I could do to explain it to him was to say it was like a nylon thread between us; transparent but nearly unbreakable. I could awaken in the middle of the night, pick up my cell phone and within moments a text would come through from him. I could sense his moods from miles away and accurately tell you what kind of boxers he was wearing though I hadn’t seen him or didn’t even know for sure if he wore boxers. He was a very secretive person but to me he was no great mystery. In the following months I would sense those secrets, some lies, some betrayals but I let him keep them. I never thought they were mine to explore.

Oddly enough, I never guessed for a moment that he could have real feelings for me. He had clearly made remarks that let me know he was interested, remarks that always seemed to cut directly to the questions and excuses rattling around in my mind, as if I had directly asked him if he liked older women or plus size women, which of course, I never would have asked.

We were in a crowded room, surrounded by friends and strangers alike, when he stood too close to me and I let my guard down for just a moment and said, “Please take your pheromones over there, I can’t stand this close to you.” I was horrified that I had betrayed myself so, but the look in his eyes as he turned his face toward me was all I ever needed to see. The tenor of our relationship changed critically in that moment, the connection was undeniable. I didn’t know the depth of what he felt for me, but I was surely in love with him.

As the days and weeks turned into months, the physical attraction and the emotional and mental attachment became central in my life. The trip to New York that She told you about would be the first time we were apart, even though, as I told you, we were not having an affair in the strict sense of things. I was only going to be gone for thirty six hours so we said our goodbyes on the phone the Friday night before my early morning flight. He said he would talk to me when I got home Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t say for certain but I think I looked at a picture of him every few minutes, while my romance novel sat unread in my lap. He didn’t even make it twenty four hours. I had just checked into the hotel room when the first text came through, “How is NY?” Across the room, She rolled her eyes as I flopped on the bed with my phone in one hand and his picture in the other, smiling ear to ear.

Yesterday was my fiftieth Birthday and I was surrounded by well wishes from so many lovely people in my life. My thoughts idly strayed to last year’s Birthday and the very first touch of his hand on the side of my face, his fingers in my hair; the small sound of resignation under his breath as he turned his head and lowered his lips to mine. I cannot tell you that any touch ever meant more to me.

A full year later and I am so angry at him for tarnishing those memories and letting me destroy the life I had built, that I still scream and cry in frustration nearly every day. My heart is surely broken. I thought I had read somewhere that a heart once broken is absolved of all that a heart must be. But mine still beats just for him and I cannot tell you that any love ever meant more to me.  ~DazzledGirl

XXIV. I Feel You In My Heart, But I Don't Even Know You

Everyone loves a Quinn; or in my case a Quin, spelled with one ‘n.’ I fell head over heels for one just last year. My Quin is half of the Indie rock/pop sensation Tegan and Sara. The girls, (as I affectionately call them) are nearly identical twin sisters from Canada. I say nearly, because I can always tell them apart, and although they share the same face, they have slight differences. Unlike Her, I seldom remember dates, only events. The first time I heard Tegan and Sara would be an unforgettable event; it was on interstate 64 during a snowstorm, on my way home from a visit to The Artist.

He was my best friend freshman year at college. We practically lived together in the dorms, we were inseparable. He came from a very traditional family in Christiansburg, Virginia where it was customary to don Ralph Lauren cable knit sweaters, oxfords, and loafers. I, on the other hand, sported short spiky jet black hair, facial piercings, and wore pink fishnets with sneakers and skirts whenever possible. We weren’t exactly bookends but we had forged a strong bond. We both loved art but were not art majors. He was an extraordinary painter and our home showcases some of his great pieces. At the end of the year I was devastated when he decided to transfer to a school back home. I was so afraid we’d lose touch and he’d end up being another seasonal friend in my life. But that didn’t happen; instead we both traveled the four hours to see each other and kept our friendship alive.

I actually enjoyed the drive, the solitude. I always began the trip armed with my overflowing CD booklet tossed on the passenger seat, spilling its contents all over the floor. I would abandon it, however, as soon as my radio would pick up the college station around Charlottesville. Back then, I’d only have reception for an hour or two and I’d listen to it even with horrible static. Richmond radio stations just didn’t play music like that. Typically that was the only station that would play anything I’d like or recognize. It was mostly Indie, not quite mainstream, and they showcased artists like The Faint, Rilo Kiley, Iron and WineElliott Smith, and The Decemberists.

During a long weekend in Christiansburg, I awoke to that soft light of morning only a blanket of snow creates and knew I needed to get on the road. Back then I didn’t trust myself driving in snowy conditions, so it was a cautious, if gorgeous, drive home. Although the snow wasn’t sticking to the roads, white flurries danced around the moving cars and the sky was covered in a thick blanket of clouds that promised more to come. Periodically, I’d turn off my CD and check the progress of the Charlottesville radio station, debating if I could stand to listen to it with static just for the chance to hear something good. It finally tuned in clear. And that was the moment I first heard my Quins. Their song was buried in the middle of a five or six song set, but as soon as I heard the first few chords I was hooked. I kept praying I wouldn’t lose reception before the DJ announced the songs in that lineup. Luckily I didn’t and a few minutes later he spat out “That was Tegan and Sara’s Walking with the Ghost” so fast I could barely catch it! I made myself repeat “Tegan and Sara, Tegan and Sara” aloud in the car so I wouldn’t forget the name. It worked and as soon as I got home I downloaded everything I could find by them.

It wasn’t then that I developed my attachment (some might call it an obsession) to the Quin Twins. It was months later in Ohio, ironically enough. The Boyfriend had bought me tickets to see Death Cab for Cutie with Tegan and Sara as the opening act. At that performance, seeing their interaction and playful banter, watching their personalities unfold before my eyes, I began to adore them as individuals, not just their music. A passion ensued.

After I moved back into my parents house, and planted myself on my Her couch, when I didn’t have a Twilight novel in my hands, I had my laptop. On that little screen I watched every YouTube video, both music and interviews, I could find on the twins. I adored watching their live performances just to hear the girls tell amusing and surprisingly intimate antidotes about their personal lives. To me, Tegan stood out as the one to fall in love with. All the while She teased me about the Canadian lesbians and plaid shirts, I was developing a tendre for Tegan that I never shamelessly cast aside, not even when I met the Girl.

My fascination with the Quins was something no one at that time understood. They intrigued me, Tegan captivated me. One day, I stumbled upon a quote by Tegan that sincerely affected me. I don’t remember the source but it’s etched in my mind.

“I think I’m a very emotional and sensitive person. I day dream, cry and imagine the worst a lot. But I’m also a romantic, the kind that would bury a love letter in my back yard.”
Breaking up with the Boyfriend was sad, sad enough for me to need Edward Cullen, but having my heart torn apart by the Girl was something else entirely.  Only the soft harmonies of another girl, another romantic, could ever make right what had been so carelessly destroyed.
  "And that's all I need."