Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Dating Game

Seventeen minutes have passed since Sender’s last message was received.  That’s probably sufficient. 

“Can we make it 7:30 instead?” 

Twelve minutes click by. 

“Sure.  You driving?” 

Of course I’m driving.  He knows me well enough by now to be quite aware that, given the choice, I will always drive.  He can choose the restaurant.  I’ll certainly defer to him in selecting the wine.  But I am definitely driving. 

“Yes.  I’ll pick you up at 7:30.” 

I don’t really have a good reason for delaying dinner by half an hour.  I’m actually not quite sure how I’m going to stave off my hunger until 7:30.  I’m sitting in the backyard, and have just finished shoveling dog poop and refilling the water tub that Gideon and Noelle emptied probably very early in the day while I was at work.  Gideon is eyeing me skeptically, clearly noting that I haven’t put his brush away yet and preparing to run as soon as I stand, so I do, and I chase him, but I can’t catch him, and this used to be so much easier with two people. 

It doesn’t take long to get showered and lotioned and dressed for a date with Sender.  He likes short skirts and strappy heels so I wear them, not for him, but because I enjoy the way he dotes on me and takes pride in showing me off when I do.  He’ll probably pay for dinner, and I’ll probably eat a lot, so the shoes are a small price to pay in exchange. 

Everyone does it.  Everyone plays the game.  You have to play, at least a little, to survive.  For me, my strategies involve seeking a balance between my aggressive tendencies and my sheer inability to find that balance and resort instead to being a doormat.  I also have to make a conscious effort to tuck away my insecurities and fears without replacing them with the extreme, a false bravado. 

Sender and I have a good time, but it’s an early night.  We’ve plateaued from a couple of people who look right together and make sense together, to a couple who couldn’t quite make it over the next hurdle.  Ours has evolved into a relationship of convenience.  He knows I’ve got my feelers out and that when other opportunities come along, I’ll take them – I’ve always been frank with him about that.  I do wonder what his response will be when that actually happens.  I hope he’ll keep his word and let Gideon swim in his pool for physical therapy this summer. 

A new attorney appeared at my deposition yesterday.  He is a catch, for all intents and purposes:  Good-looking, albeit a little short; fluent in Spanish; and engaged in the risky but rewarding endeavor of private practice.

“You should date him,” said my colleague, who has also recently been hazed into the post-divorce dating world.  As if it’s just so very easy.  As if I can just decide who I should be dating, and then go ahead and do it.  Certainly, this has been my attitude in the past, but it’s been met with a less-than-cooperative response.  But why not try again? 

“I hope it’s not inappropriate to ask,” I type in an e-mail following up on the deposition, “but would you like to go to lunch the next time you’re in town.”  It’s just lunch.  It’s not a date.  It’s not a big deal.  I’m just entertaining possibilities.  It's.  Just. Lunch.

My computer was quick to ‘ping’ with a response. 

“Lunch?  Absolutely J  I’m in Bakersfield frequently, I’ll let you know next time I’m in town. Signed, Jon.”

A couple of hours before he was Jonathan, and then suddenly he was Jon, and I felt funny about that. 

My subsconsious niggled at me.  I know what I want.  I’ve known what I want.  I have been diligent in seeking what I want and have tried all kinds of tactics but have settled on raw, blazing honesty to engage him in the game and go head-to-head with him.  Still, what I want, who I want, evades me.  I should change what I want. 

I should just go to lunch with Jon-who-used-to-be-Jonathan.  So I crafted my response.

“Sounds great!” 

I scratched the exclamation point.

“Sounds great.”

I hit send.  I made a note of what I was wearing so as not to repeat the outfit for lunch. 

“I’m having lunch with that applicant attorney,” I told my colleague and maintained a tight-lipped smile as she delighted. 

“I knew it!  His eyes were sparkling when he talked to you.”  I controlled my inclination to roll my eyes.  People ‘see’ and ‘sense’ these things all the time, but it doesn’t really matter what everyone else sees and feels, it matters what’s actually happening between two people. 

I thought of Kelli’s recent observation of my interactions with my most coveted opponent. “You two obviously have chemistry.  What’s the problem?”  The problem is, I guess, that the chemistry isn’t as obvious as it seems.  Or it’s missing an element, the one that will make it explode. But, when you’re playing the game with fire, sometimes it just burns. 

Monday, May 20, 2013


I am a McSteamy kind of girl.

Anyone who watches Grey's Anatomy knows what kind of guy Dr. McSteamy is, so they can also presume what kind of girl I am, what I look for in a man.  The thing is, I never really know I'm looking for it, or at it.  Not until I'm in too deep, anyway.  I like 'em troubled.  I like 'em self-destructive, with addictive personalities, daddy issues, sometimes even suicidal.  I guess there's something exciting about that.  What's exciting, I guess, is when I find my way inside of them, when they let me see that they're not damaged, that they're actually very vulnerable.  It makes me feel special, I guess, to be the person that "cracks" them, that person that they allow to get close.  The things is, I'm really not special.  I'm just the one willing to put up with it.

Then, when they hurt me - and they inevitably will, part of the thrill is knowing that's coming, I think - I can say that it's okay, that they're kinda screwed up, that I did the best I could.  I suppose there's some comfort in knowing he's more screwed up than me.  I can just tell myself that he just didn't know how to be loved.

I recently made the mistake of falling for a McDreamy.  A McDreamy has minimal damage.  He's stable.  He's safe.  He's got baggage but he carries it well.  And he's too smart for a girl like me.  

Grey's Anatomy has done women like me a disservice by misleading us into believing that McDreamy-type guys will patiently wait for you to figure your shit out and that they'll even love you not just in spite of it, but because of it.  For a McDreamy, a girl like me is exciting and a little intriguing and there's a thrill in not knowing what part of my personality they're going to get to see.  But it's just a matter of time before a McDreamy will realize that I'm just too much to take on.  I don't carry my baggage so very well, after all.

I want to be safe.  I want to be stable.

I want someone safe.  I want someone stable.

I just don't know how to let myself be, or let myself have, those things. I don't know how to let myself believe - really believe - that I deserve those things or that I deserve the love and affection of someone who is those things.  I want the things that I've been McDreaming of, but I don't know how to just have the simple faith that they can be mine.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Full Exposure

Stuffed full of sushi, and having sufficiently picked apart the poor service at Enso, we pondered what we should do next.

“Tomorrow’s my Saturday.  Woot!”  Amy celebrated while she clutched a bottle of Kirin with both hands.  Our waitress never bothered to offer us glasses for the over-sized bottles of Japanese beer. 

Actually, it was Tuesday night, and though I knew I had to work the next day, Tuesday is my favorite day of the week, and I wasn’t ready to close it out.  We wandered for a block until we found ourselves in The Mint.  Shane ordered one round and distributed the drinks, but it didn’t take long for us to recognize that The Mint wasn’t where things were happening that particular evening. 

I can’t remember who made the suggestion.

“Let’s go to the strip club.”  I rolled my eyes from over the top of the foam in my plastic beer cup. 

“You’re our driver.  You have to take us wherever we want,” Shane asserted, and I rolled my eyes again at his logic.  Actually, everyone knows that the driver calls the shots – because the driver doesn’t get to take shots.  Still, just a few minutes later I found myself in the notoriously low-class strip joint located under the Golden State overpass. 

“Open your purse” Blake commanded me and I looked at him, confused.  “Just open your purse.”  I opened my black bag, cluttered with things unknown that I’m sure I might need someday, and Blake dropped three pint-size bottles of Jack Daniels into the pouch.  It’s going to be that kind of night, I supposed.  I glanced around with concern, but realized that on a slow Tuesday night when the audience is populated by a handful of lonely men, the goings-on in my purse were of little interest to anyone else.  Amy selected seats at the edge of the stage and we parked ourselves next to each other with the guys on either side of us, and began to chat while Shane and Blake passed my purse back and forth, adding the whiskey to our $2 cups of Coke. 

Amy and I chatted about work, and plans, and how in our minds we look like the girls on stage but that we’ve both actually got a number of years and a number of pounds on most of them.  I took note of the faintly visible stretch marks on the stomach of one of the dancers and a Facebook meme came to mind:  An image of a post-partum belly with the same marks and a caption reading “These aren’t stretch marks; I’m a tiger whose earned her stripes.”  I thought of the absence of stretch marks on my own tummy, perhaps God’s way of giving me a little something since He took my son from me.  I’ve earned my stripes too.  They’re just invisible. 

“If you ever see me in a split, call an ambulance,” Amy joked as some nameless dancer dropped from the pole and slammed onto the stage in a split. 

I grinned.  "Don’t bother calling one for me.  If I ever find myself in a split, I’ll probably be stuck like that for life.”  Amy tucked a dollar bill into her cleavage and the dancer withdrew it with her teeth, then glanced over at me and Blake.  I offered her the couple of singles in my hand and shrugged at her.  “I’d do that too, but I’ve got nothing to hold them up and they would just fall to the floor.”  She seemed amused, but then, I suppose her job is to seem amused. 

At the end of each performance, the girls would wrap themselves tightly in short silky robes, and crawl along the edge of the stage collecting their earnings.  “Thank you,” some of them would mumble quietly, clutching their robes, and I was surprised by their ironic displays of modesty. 

“I hate it when they say ‘Thank you,’” said Amy, and I agreed.  “Would you show off your goodies for a dollar?” 

“I pop open a beer, and someone leaves me a dollar.  No.  I wouldn’t do that.”  I stare into the dull, vapid eyes of the girl on the stage and I wonder who forgot to tell her that she is loved.  Who didn’t make her feel valued?  Who never told her, “You are special.  You have worth.”?  All of those girls, after all, are someone’s daughter.  I made yet another promise to myself that when I have a daughter of my own I will instill her with love and respect for herself, so that she might never find herself so very exposed and vulnerable.

Immediately I was struck by my own hypocrisy as my cell phone rattled to alert me to an incoming message.  “If the Yankees weren’t so banged up, yes.”  And suddenly I was exposed and vulnerable and stripped down again, reminded of the way I had recently bared my heart in a show of unrequited feeling.  Clothed and bathed in the neon lights of a bar with my heart naked on display, I was just another girl.  Just another bartender.  I typed a swift response and replaced my phone in my purse, between two near-empty bottles of Jack. 

Blake appeared beside me; I hadn’t noticed that he’d walked away.  He and Shane had been draining the limited supply of alcohol, and he was smiling.  “You’re gonna get a lap dance from Nikki,” and he clapped his hands and rubbed them together.  “And I get to watch.  I already set it up.” 

“Who’s Nikki?” 

“That one.”  And he pointed to the girl taking the stage.  Right away it was evident that Nikki had been instructed to make me as uncomfortable as possible.  Her eyes were alive with the promise of Blake’s $20 as she danced, her attention focused in our direction.  She slinked her way to our corner of the stage and summoned me with her fingers.  I stood obediently and she instructed me to lean towards her.  She tucked my hair between one of my ears and leaned in close to me and I turned to face her and whispered, “Did you check his bill?  He likes to pass counterfeits.” 

Nikki’s face flashed with momentary worry.  Ever the professional, though, the sleepy sexy smile spread back across her face as she realized she wasn’t going to get the reaction from me that would make her the most money. Shane called from the seat next to Amy, “You suck at this!” and Nikki slithered away to finish her routine. 

Moments later as Nikki led us to a cushioned red booth and Blake clapped with delighted anticipation, I asked her “It’s not weird that he’s my brother, right?”  She whipped around and her eyes flicked over us in assessment. 

“No you’re not.”

“No.  We’re not.  Don’t tell her that!”  Nikki sat me in the both and instructed Blake to insert his $20 bill in a slot on the wall.  She began to dance and Blake shifted uncomfortably in front of us.  “I’ve gotta go, this is too weird.”  And he walked away.

“Is he gone?”

“Yeah, why?  Do you need him back?  He already paid.” 

“No.  You can stop now.”  I waved a hand at her dismissively.  She leaned against the booth. 

“It’s just a job, you know.”  For a fleeting moment I envied this girl with the torn fishnet tights, whose hard life became evident on her face with our proximity.  Just a job.  I thought of the applicant who stands to have his leg amputated while I, a co-defendant and his attorney perform a litigation dance to determine who’s liable for what extent of his injury.  Somewhere along the way, Nikki had learned to do something I have yet to master.  She had learned to turn off her feelings, or at least compartmentalize them.  She picked at her nails while my brow furrowed reflectively.  Perhaps I give Nikki too much credit.  Still, I bet none of her patrons ever broke her heart.  

A light began to flash.  “What does that mean?”

“Ten minutes are up.”  We walked back to the front where Shane stood with my purse over his shoulder.  He was showing one of the girls his puzzle ring.  In the years I’ve known Shane I’ve never been able to solve the puzzle ring. 

“That’s the third time!”  And she held up the ring triumphantly.  Blake looked annoyed.

“Shane’s like, the Stripper Whisperer.  And that’s not fair.  I paid for your dance and I didn’t even get to enjoy it.” 

I found Nikki sitting at a counter.  She was eating a bag of potato chips.  I handed her $20.  “Can you dance for Blake?”  She nodded, and reached for the $20 with one hand while licking the seasoning from her fingers on the other as she started to stand.  “You can finish your chips, it’s no hurry.”  She looked at me as though no one had ever told her she could finish her chips before. 

With hugs and promises that we would never forget each other EVER, Blake, Shane and I left the club.  Amy had departed sometime earlier.  I transported them back to our regular lives where I am the only one of us that works “regular” hours, and they bragged that they didn’t have to answer to an alarm clock at 6 in the morning.  I was careful to remove the empty pint bottles from my purse.  I summoned the dogs from outside, showered and dressed for bed, then wrapped myself securely in my sheets and blanket knowing that no matter how much I am covered, I am someone who’s always fully exposed. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Celebrating 10 Days That Changed the World: The Life of Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude

This post duplicates the note posted on my Facebook profile.  For those readers who I am not connected with on Facebook, I would love to get connected with you, and have you join us in this celebration. The t-shirts mentioned are still available for $15 USD, and are being shipped across the United States and to two different countries already. 

Inspired by my sister-mommy Kelly, mother to Andrew ^01-10-12 to 01-20-12^, I am asking your participation from June 10 to June 20, 2013 in activities to celebrate Gabriel's 2nd birthday.  We hope you'll join us!

Day 1 Monday June 10, 2013: We will be wearing our Gabriel t-shirts, sold as a fundraiser for the Duke University Center for Human Genetics Study of Neural Tube Defects, including anencephaly.  Please post pictures of you in your t-shirt to my Facebook profile, to be compiled in a scrapbook to commemorate Gabriel's 2nd birthday.

Day 2 Tuesday June 11, 2013:  Cupcake Day!  When Gabriel was officially one day old, in defiance of the odds, our family celebrated with cupcakes.  On this day, enjoy a cupcake in honor of Gabriel.  Please post pictures of your cupcakes to my Facebook profile, to be compiled into a scrapbook.

Day 3 Wednesday June 12, 2013:  On this day, share your memories of Gabriel, the way you were impacted by his story, and the chances you've had to share his story and impact other lives.  Please post your stories to my Facebook page to be compiled into a scrapbook.

Day 4 Thursday June 13, 2013:  Join us for a "Danny's Song" sing-along.  Loggins & Messina's "Danny's Song" became a sort of anthem for our little family, and was played at Gabriel's funeral.  On Day 4 I will post the opening line of the song as my Facebook status.  Please "sing along" by commenting with a line to the song.

Day 5 Friday June 14, 2013:  One of my favorite memories of Gabriel was the day I got to introduce him to Gideon.  Gideon was a good, protective big brother to his baby human, and I treasure my memories with the three of them.  Please snap a family photo, including the furry members, in honor of Gabe and Gid, bros 'til the wheels fall off.  Post it to my Facebook page to be compiled into a scrapbook.

Day 6 Saturday June 15, 2013:  I will be hosting a "Blueberry Brunch" at my home at 10:00 AM  The blueberry bush that thrived even after I thought it was gone came to symbolize Gabriel and his strength.  I'm extending an open invitation to a potluck brunch at my home, with an open invitation to anyone who can attend, with lots of breakfast and blueberry-themed dishes.  Please contact me if you wish to attend, and if you wish to bring a dish, and for my address.
For those who cannot attend, please enjoy blueberries in honor of Gabriel on this day.  Please post pictures of your blueberries to my Facebook page to be compiled into a scrapbook.

Day 7 Sunday June 16, 2013:  Remember Gabriel, and all babies gone too soon, and their families in your prayers at Mass and church services.  This will also be Father's Day, so dads - and moms - please hug your children for all of those parents who can't.  Hold them until they won't let you anymore.  Please post pictures of you and your children to my Facebook profile to be compiled into a scrapbook.

Day 8 Monday June 17, 2013:  Angels are all around us.  In honor of Father Ralph (Rafael) Belloumini, Gabriel's fellow archangel namesake, and Gabe, go on an angel scavenger hunt.  Look around for images of angels in your day, and snap a photo.  Please post photos to my Facebook profile.

Day 9 Tuesday June 18, 2013:  On this day two years ago, the now "famous" smiley photo of Gabriel was taken, on an afternoon full of giggles and smiles.  Share your smile with us on this day by posting a photo on my Facebook profile

Day 10 Wednesday June 19, 2013:  Every storm runs out of rain.  The rainbow was God's promise to Noah, and us, that he would never send a such a storm again.  On this day, be on the lookout for rainbows, and post a picture to my Facebook profile.

Angelversary Thursday June 20, 2013:  To celebrate Gabriel's 2nd Heavenly birthday, we will be doing a balloon release at Mesa Marin.  Following the release, Uncle Tim's softball team will play their weekly game in honor of Gabriel, and some of the team members will be wearing their Gabriel t-shirts.  Join us to cheer the team on to winning the game for Gabe, followed by karaoke at The Wright Place.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


"They've been like this for a while," said Matt, as he dried his hands on a bar towel.  I stood at the end of the bar where Matt and I were about to trade shifts, and seethed.  At the other end of the bar one of the regulars sat locked in a very public display of intimacy with his mistress.  It was, to my recollection, the first time I had ever seen him in the bar without his wife.

They called him Batman, and his mistress was called Cha Cha.  I wish I could say that those are code names, but that's really how they were known.

"What an idiot, huh?" Matt shook his head.  "Bring your girlfriend to the bar where your wife and her family come all the time?"  To my relief, Batman and Cha Cha left not long after I started my shift, leaving me to stew in my anger.  Batman's wife was at once a needy but dominant patron, but she was boisterous and kind and fun.  She was pretty, even if a little heavy set.  She always struck me as smarter than him, certainly as friendlier and more outgoing, and I frequently wondered how they ended up together.  Most of all, she simply didn't deserve what was clearly happening.  No one does.

When Batman and his wife walked in a couple of hours later I could barely contain my disgust with him.  He ordered his usual Bud Light and a rum and coke for her, and the two took their place at one of the two-top tables in the middle of the bar.  I studied them while I pretended to wash dishes and make conversation with the other patrons, until I saw her face crumple.

"Are you serious?  Are you really doing this?  You're really doing this here?" she cried, and I was suddenly embarrassed for her and ashamed to be watching it all unfold before my eyes.  She cried and left the bar and my face burned at the fucking nerve of that guy who didn't find it sufficient to leave his wife for another woman, but dragged her into public humiliation as well.  I watched a marriage end, shatter in front of me, like it was just another Saturday night.

I saw her again many times.  She never shed another tear in front of me.  She never mentioned her marriage or impending divorce, except to say "Oh, well."  The tears I saw were from but a fissure that was quickly sealed and I admired her sense of revenge - To hardly bat an eye in the face of what I was sure was a terrible time in her life.  No one could ever say, "Hey Batman, I saw your ex-wife crying into her beer at the bar last week.  And by the way, how's Cha Cha?"  Instead all they could say is "I saw your ex-wife - I don't think she's noticed that you're gone."

But she has noticed.  I know, because I have frequently used her as my model.  The breaks and cracks that cover my heart bleed relentlessly and I'm not afraid to admit it.  I'm only afraid to show it.

At home there is a distinct sense that something is missing.  For two weeks I had no overhead lighting in my room.  I never had to change the light bulbs in the ceiling fan before, that was my husband's job, and I was slow to replace them this time.  The ceiling fan is located directly above my bed.  To change the bulbs alone I had to climb onto my bed, setting two bulbs at my feet, replacing each one at a time then bending to set down an old one and pick up another new one.   Beneath me my toes wriggled in the purple material of the comforter that I selected when I set out to reclaim my bedroom.

In my shower, among the pastel bottles of soap and shampoo against the backdrop of pink tile, a can of men's shaving gel sits out of place. When I release the gel the masculine scent fills the close quarters of the shower stall and it reminds me why I bother with things like shaving my legs anymore - because the touch of a man's hand feels so much better when my legs are smooth, and though my efforts might go unnoticed and unappreciated now, someday I'll feel it again.  In a similar vein, when the longing for Gabriel gets to be too much, I wash my sheets in baby detergent.  For a couple of days, for a few moments, before getting out of bed or while standing in the shower, I can close my eyes and where the sound and the sight and the touch of another time evade me, I can smell the memories and I can savor the hope.

The smile and the laughter are sometimes a show, but not always.  The sense of freedom that comes with listening to whatever I want on the radio is real and it releases me.  The joy I get from a night out with girlfriends is real and carries me.  The pleasure I get from a pretty pair of panties that no one else will see is real and thrills me.  The power that comes with being able to dedicate time to a budding career is real too, and it drives me.  The breaks and the cracks are real, but so is the strength that comes from keeping it all together.