January 28, 2008

yes, i’ve been domestically abused by a man (boy?) who watches jamie oliver cooking shows.  wonderful?  Not really.  i slept on the uncomfortable couch and he slept in our bed after he tried to break my arm.



all through the night

January 17, 2008

I think about my grandparents’ death every night when I’m trying to fall asleep. It hasn’t happened yet. I run through the different scenarios: On hospital beds, frail, wasted from chemotherapy; quick, unexpected, heart attacks that rip through their bodies; a car accident, utterly unremarkable. I wish they had died when I was a toddler, when I wouldn’t be able to remember my grandma’s impeccably drawn-on eyebrows and my grandpa’s stories about playing trumpet in the Marines. I would grow up and have kids, and my kids would ask, “Did you have a grandma and a grandpa?” and I would answer, “Yes, but I never knew them.” That would hurt so much less than this, laying for hours in the dark every night, stuck.

I see my grandparents on every holiday and when they leave, I cry, imagining that the last time I will ever see them alive has passed. I have a reputation of being very emotional, but really the only emotion I feel is fear.

It’s heresy to love your grandparents more than your mom and dad, in a way, if your mom and dad put in all the work and your grandparents were the ones giving you treats and letting you stay up later than your bedtime allowed. I understand this. But still, there is something soft, genteel about them, that pair that grew up before Woodstock and were raised on farms in Nebraska. They’re savvy, but not in that modern day sense where it means you think you understand things beyond your years. It’s obvious that they have exactly 76 years’ worth of knowledge each. They don’t pretend to know more.

Incapacitated for months, fired from my job. Tension builds with my husband. I become reticent, withdrawn, prone to eating pints of ice cream in one sitting. These are the things that will happen when my grandma dies. And grandpa. And this chain of events will occur twice in my lifetime. Then my nighttime visions will take a different form. There will be restlessness and uncertainty and a question will come up that will keep me wondering for the rest of my life: Will I ever see them again?

“You’re the one I want to cheat with,” I said. The kitchen in my apartment, with the five o’clock not-quite-light barely peeking through the blinds, was the perfect setting for this pronouncement.

“Okay,” Mike said. “But let’s do it later. I’m asleep.”

“How long do you plan on being asleep? This is kind of a big deal,” I said.

“I know.” Mike was quiet and I thought if he had fallen asleep, I would take it back. He doesn’t deserve to be my kept man if he had fallen asleep. “Just a few more hours.”

“You don’t sound very excited by this,” I said, leaning against the counter sprinkled with powdered sugar from one of my boyfriend’s late-night donut binges. Some sugar was on the arm of my sweatshirt, but I didn’t wipe it off.

“I’m very excited.”

The idea of cheating was something I thought about for weeks and weeks. My boyfriend, the donut-binger, was great. He surprised me with flowers or tickets to plays. He pretended to like the horrible reality TV shows I’m fascinated by. When my car sputtered on the way home, he automatically popped the hood as soon as I parked to figure out the problem. “We don’t want you blowing up any time soon, do we?” he said.

But we were different. Not exactly opposites, just different. He didn’t take me or the things I wanted to do with my life seriously. When I told him I wanted a family someday, he said, “My aunt wanted kids too, but she found out she was infertile.” After that, he patted my leg and went to the kitchen to make himself a vodka tonic.

And the sex is strange. When we have sex, he likes to say things like, “You’re my little whore, aren’t you?” and “Fuck me, you slut,” but he gets upset if I try to return the dirty talk. He wants it the way he wants it, and that’s the name of that tune. I’m pretty sure he’s thinking of someone else the whole time anyway.

So I thought about cheating, for once doing something the way I wanted to. I thought and thought, and ultimately I decided — no, I knew — that I wouldn’t feel bad about doing it with Mike. He had been my friend since college. We each always had significant others, but there was an unspoken understanding that if the planets aligned correctly and a solar eclipse occurred, we would be together in a second.

Mike was single after a two-year relationship. He ended it, not the ex, so I knew he was ready to get on with his life. I had told him that I was thinking of cheating, possibly with him, and he had said, “Do you really have to think?”

“Hey, you there?” Mike said. I started to feel bad for waking him up. Starbucks wasn’t even open yet. Mike, the coffee-lover, would have to choke down a gas station coffee at this hour if I made him get up.

“Yeah, I am. But you can go back to sleep.”

“I’ll call you later.”

“Bye, Mike,” I said. I pressed my finger against the powdered sugar on the counter and licked it off. It was sweet. This was going to be good.

make me proud

January 8, 2008

I live in Seattle, where it rains most days.  I’m a freelance illustrator who works from home and wears earplugs to bed.  I have an electric heating blanket and my fiance is a craigslist pervert.

I wonder every day, usually in the mornings when I’m making him coffee and toast and hear the clicking of the mouse, whether this is really the man whose proposal I accepted over a year ago, and if so, do I really want to spend a lifetime, let alone another minute, with a sex addict?  The answer is an obvious no.

But wait, I then think.  Reason forces me to look at this in a different light.  I’m 25 years old.  I’m not particularly alluring or witty or attractive.  I’m already getting chubby, letting myself go ahead of time.  I’ve anticipated marriage and it’s backfired on my hips and thighs.  And he’s pretty nice.  He makes me laugh sometimes and cooks foreign dinners with names I can’t pronounce.  He’s the type that would stop and help a stranger in a broken down car on the side of the road even if he was running half an hour late to work.  He says he loves me — but only after I say it first.  And he did propose.  Am I really going to find anything better out there?  The last string of dates I went on was four years ago, before we were together, when I was just out of college, back when I could fit into my Levis from high school.  They were all disastrous and I don’t think I would do much better now.

But it is hard to feel happy when he’s putting his lips to my ear, squeezing my breasts and whispering, “Come on, baby.  Let’s have a threesome.  That would be so hot.”  Watching him spend hours scrolling through the online classifieds for casual encounters and dirty no-strings-attached rendezvous isn’t my idea of commitment either.  Why can’t he just be a porn freak like every other guy in the world?  Why does he have to throw that special ingredient, reality, into the pot?  At any moment when I’m away there could be diseased hookers in my bedroom, on my heating blanket, for God’s sake, fucking my fiance.  I don’t think I want to live with that fear, never trusting the pervert I call honey and sweetie and baby.  I don’t want to, but I probably will.

No one wants to be alone.

“I saw your grandma kiss another man once.”  I had been painting my toenails, only half-listening, balancing the phone between my ear and shoulder.  I thought my mom was kidding and said so.   “No,” she said, “I’m not.  But never mind.  I shouldn’t even be telling you about this.”  I was listening now but stayed reticent, the way I usually was when my mom called me.  She called a lot.

“It was when she and Grandpa were having problems,” my mom said, “when I was around 16.”  This was typical.  Mom liked to bring something up, something she wanted to get off her chest, then say she should be talking to a counselor about it, not me.  But she always continued anyway.

“Grandpa was drunk and Grandma wasn’t home from work yet.  I guess back then she used to go out for drinks after work with everyone and stay out pretty late.  Anyway, Grandpa was yelling at me to go find her and bring her home, so I got in the car and drove.  I knew where she would be.”  I was still quiet.  I didn’t ask for this story.  In fact, I was kind of horrified by what might come next.  But I let her go on.

“I pulled up to this bar and there she was, in the parking lot, making out with this guy from her work.”  My mom paused.  “Her boss, actually.  I rolled down the window and said, ‘Mom, get your ass in the car!’  That’s what I said, ‘Get your ass in the car and come home!'”  I held my breath.

“Are you there?”

“Yeah, Mom,” I said.  I was crying.  I cry often.

“We never talked about it.  She never said another word to me about it and I never said another word to her.  In fact, I don’t even know if she remembers it.  She was really drunk.”  So many things I don’t need to know, I thought.

“I’m sorry for telling you this.  I shouldn’t have.  It just helps me to think that if Grandma and Grandpa got through their hard times, maybe I can make it through mine.”

“Yeah,” I said.  “You will.”