The Way You Love Me

The way you love me is understated. It’s silent, rarely spoken, never hidden but likewise never flaunted. It’s buying sriracha and not gagging when I liberally douse everything I eat with it, and only laughing a little when I eat too much and my stomach hurts. It’s playfully teasing me about my veganism but sending back my veggie burger with cheese when I’m too shy to bug the waiter.

The way you love me is under the blankets, my cold feet pressed up against whatever warm body part I can find. You’ve never complained about it – not once, not even when I wore ridiculously cute shoes that were incredibly inappropriate for the weather and lamented my frozen toes for hours afterward. It’s pushing me to the far side of the bed even though we both know we’ll wake up pressed together with limbs entangled.

The way you love me is a quick fix of my skirt’s hem when I didn’t even notice it was tucked. It’s your eyes scanning me over, drinking me in, and the appreciative “you look great” that I would doubt coming from anyone other than you. It’s taking so damn long in the shower that I eventually give up and just hop in with you. Once I do, it’s in your expression watching me scrub myself – such a mundane action, but your shy half-smile makes me feel like I am the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen.

The way you love me is a lazy Saturday with no kids and no pants and a marathon of classic movies we’ve never seen. Steve Martin is running around as The Jerk and your head is on my chest and everything in the world seems to stand still. The movie ends and I notice how regular and even your breathing is, and I feel so blessed to have this moment – this little flash of perfection.

The way you love me isn’t loud. It isn’t flashy and those who don’t know you would completely miss its existence. But to me, the shine in your eyes is as unmistakable as the sun; it’s always there, even when I’m not looking for it.

Untitled – January 5th, 2014

Your hand reached into my chest long before I noticed your grip on my heart. I’ve been hurt so many times before; I never wanted to trust you. Yet, somehow, that beautiful smile and those honest eyes made me believe. When I told you my darkest secrets, you held me close and whispered in my ear that the worst was over and that I would be okay. And I believed you. When I finally gathered my courage and told you that I love you, you said it back, then kissed me and told me you’d been waiting for me to say it. You never gave me any reason to doubt you, yet the back of my mind always prickled with a sense of caution in regards to her. One cold January day, my intuition lead me to a place I didn’t want to go. It was then that I noticed how your fingers had encased my heart, how the very essence of you was coursing through my veins. I cannot unsee what I have seen. I do not know if you will pull when called out; if you will rip my heart out like so many have before. Scar tissue does feel pain, you know. But unlike the others, you have become a part of me. Though you may move on, I will never truly be able to be rid of you. Every time I feel throbbing in the empty hole where my heart once was, I will think of you. Every time you cross my mind, I will weep as only one who has lost a love like ours can. One day, the pain will become nothing but a dull roar, a manageable yet chronic ache that I will be able to cope with. But you will never be gone. Your soul is forged with mine, and I will never be free of that chain.

Time Stood Still

TRIGGER WARNING: DOMESTIC & SEXUAL VIOLENCE, RAPE

 

May 13, 2005
On a dingy bathroom floor in a house full of addicts, she waited. The test sat on the counter, scarce inches away, yet she couldn’t look. One… two… three minutes passed. It was now or never. Her hands shaking, she picked up her future, wrapped in a disguise of plastic and paper and urine. Positive. She closed her eyes, unsure if she was relieved or disappointed. Time stood still.

January 27, 2006
The hospital was crowded, as if everyone in a fifty mile radius had decided to give birth right then and there. A blur of lights and sleep and strange beeps and frantic calls and pain, oh the pain! She couldn’t quite remember how or why she had ended up in the operating room or why they wouldn’t let her hold her daughter right away or anything beyond the overwhelming agony that every second away from the child caused. A bundle was placed in her arms – The bluest eyes she’d ever seen, the blackest hair, the most perfect little mouth. The world melted away and she finally knew the meaning of her life.

July 15, 2006
She could smell the whiskey on his breath before he entered the room. Her heart beat faster as she clutched her baby closer. One foot out the window, easy does it, twist and turn and grab the ledge … – his hand wrapped around hers and in a single breath she was on the bedroom floor again. The baby bawled in his arms as he hurled accusation after accusation, stepping more firmly on her throat with every uttered syllable. Her life flashed before her eyes and in the moment before the stars became darkness, time stood still.

June 1, 2007
He stumbled in at 9am, drunk, though god knows he’d gone to work last night. She lay awake – eyes closed, breathing regular – hoping he’d think she was still asleep. Their daughter stirred; a heavenly coo from the cradle next to their bed. She jumped up to attend before his clumsy hands could reach the tiny being, but not before a slurred “Stunned cunt, let me sleep” escaped his lips as he collapsed into the pillows. When the darkness overcame him, she methodically packed her belongings and drove to the new apartment across town. Furniture would have to wait, but in that moment, her life started over.

December 17, 2011
The night was young, the music loud, the tequila flowing freely. Across the table, he winked and smiled and she had never felt so sexy. The bar closed, the after party started, and before she knew it, 3am had arrived and it was only the two of them awake. He kissed her, she kissed back, he reached up her skirt. She said no. He stopped. He tried again. The no became more urgent. He conceded and allowed her to drift into unconsciousness. She awoke long enough to kick him and roll over as he peeled her panties off, then returned to the nothingness she had been roused from. Seconds… minutes… ages later, her mind snapped out of the fog, feeling him inside her, momentum building, grunts of pleasure escaping his lips. Her body froze. Words caught in her throat. As he emptied himself into her, time stood still.

July 19, 2013
Eight hours of magic was coming to a close. She thought it was going well, but one could never quite tell with a first date. They placed a bet on the last bowling match – if he won, she had to say yes to a second date. She lost, albeit unintentionally, though she was far from disappointed at the prospect of more time in his company. He walked her to her car; she thanked him for a wonderful day. The sun was setting just behind him, a brilliant cascade of light gleaming over his left shoulder. He hugged her and she could feel the restless energy stirring within him. In a moment of impulsive desire, she pressed her lips to his and held on tightly as the rest of the world became irrelevant.

November 8, 2013
They lay in bed, her head on his chest, his arms protectively cocooning her. He kissed her goodnight, and just as he was dozing off, a timid whisper asked if he was still awake. Now alert, he asked her why. Seconds passed as she took a calming breath and responded with some off-pitch statement about needing to tell him something. With a hint of suspicion, he probed her intentions. Her heart beat faster as she attempted to gather her courage. “I love you,” she breathed, barely audible, as she buried her face in his neck. He gently lifted her chin, gazing into her eyes through the dark. “I love you,” he responded, kissing her tenderly as time stood still.

Missed Opportunities

The first time I thought I might love you, it was August. We’d driven two hours to the racetrack, only to see a “Closed due to rain” sign on the gate. I laughed when you replaced it with a sign blaming the closure on the drivers’ diarrhea. On the way home, you held my hand and sang “I’m On Fire” along with Springsteen. You dozed off, but you wouldn’t let go of my hand. Every time I looked over at you, I couldn’t help thinking that you were absolutely, breathtakingly perfect. But it was too soon, so I swallowed my words and kept my eyes on the road.

A few days later, whilst laying on my bed, you told me about growing up without a mom, how your step-mom was never very nice to you, how your relationship with your dad is good, “good but complicated.” You seemed almost ashamed of your vulnerability. Instead of meeting my eyes, you buried your face in the curve of my neck. I could feel the pain in your words, and all I wanted was to hold you, to make it okay, to take your heart in my hands and fill it up with so much love that you wouldn’t even notice its scars. I listened and stroked your hair; I told you I was sorry and that I would always be there to listen. You were so vulnerable that the words caught in my throat, so I kissed you and tried not to cry.

Weeks passed. One night, cuddled up in bed, I asked if you were sleepy. You told me you were, but asked what was on my mind. With a single deep breath for courage, I poured out all the hurt and pain and trauma from years past. I saw the sadness in your eyes – not because you didn’t want to know, but because it hurt you to know what I had been through. I buried my face in your chest and sobbed, and you didn’t flinch; You hugged me closer and told me you were proud of me for speaking up. I felt the words bubbling up, but it was late and I was scared, so I thanked you and went to sleep.

The moments started coming quicker: The night you told me that I am the only girl you have trusted not to cheat. The day at the park when you referred to us as a family. Thanksgiving Day, when my mother picked a fight and you snuck into the bathroom to tell me it would be okay. The day you found your ex’s belongings in a long-forgotten storage closet and happily threw every last one of them in the trash. The first time you scored a goal and flashed a brilliant smile up at me in the stands. The reasons started to become smaller: Your smile. The way your eyes light up at any mention of Star Wars. How you grill every waiter at every restaurant about what your vegan girlfriend can eat. The gigantic piles of kindling you cut me with no complaint. The way you – a man who doesn’t do PDA – always seem to end up with your arm around me as we walk. How you turn up the heat for me, even though you’re always too warm. The little texts you send to say you miss me when you’re gaming with the boys. Just every little thing you do and say and are. But the moment was never right, so I kept my mouth shut.

The moment I knew unequivocally that I love you was almost laughably mundane. It was a Saturday afternoon, and you were napping . I lay next to you, lost in a book, when I briefly glanced over. I can’t even explain why, but you took my breath away so completely. It was like I was seeing you for the first time, whilst feeling like I’d known you all my life. I wanted to wake you with a kiss, snuggle into the little cocoon your arms always seem to make, and whisper in your ear that I love you beyond measure. But I’m still afraid that you don’t love me back, so I turned the page and decided I’ll wait.

Lessons From Lovers Past

The One Whose Heart I Broke

I learned to skateboard with your hand in mine. You taught me how to bare my soul without saying a word and how to get lost in the milky chocolate of your eyes. I learned to roll a joint and drive a stick shift with your watchful eye on my every move. You taught me how much words can mean, and how much more meaninful silence can be, punctuated only by the sound of your heart beating. I learned to not expect a phone call when you were gaming with your buddies. You taught me that breakups are never straight forward, and that “I’m no good for you” sometimes means “my friends don’t like you.” I learned that moving on after being dumped ruins second chances. You taught me to say “I love you” when I feel it, not when it’s “acceptable” to. I learned that sex with your ex is always a bad idea and leads to sticky situations forever afterward. You taught me how much it hurts to break someone’s heart.

The One Who Got Away

 You taught me how to play poker, how to change my car’s oil, and how to do a wicked smoke show in the school parking lot. I learned how to play Halo and how to make friends with almost anyone. You taught me how to whole-heartedly pursue the things that make me happy and to leave behind those that don’t. I learned the “rules” of Catholicism, of UFC, of that ridiculous drinking game we made up and couldn’t remember the next morning. You taught me how to truly miss someone – someone who wasn’t physically far away, but was emotionally distant. I learned that no matter how often you let me go, I’d always come running back when you beckoned. You taught me how many people can get hurt in an off and on “relationship,” and how much it hurts that you would never refer to us as in one. I learned that once I stopped going back to you, once I pretended that I didn’t love you – we actually made great friends. You taught me how much it hurts to see someone you still love, years later, dating one of your closest friends. I learned that, 10 years after we last spoke, Kokanee beer, black mustangs, and “Speedfreak” by Motorhead will always take me back to the front seat of your car on the night you told me it was over for good. You taught me that sometimes, what we can never hold on to is what we want the most. I learned that there are people you will never quite let go of.

The One Who Fathered My Child 

Because of you, I learned to stand on my own two feet. You taught me how to drink and smoke more pot than I ever thought possible. I learned that in moments of intoxication, the most mundane experience can be otherworldly. You helped teach me that a mother’s love compares to nothing else on Earth. I learned that no good deed goes unpunished. You taught me that it’s okay to walk away when you realize you’re on a crash course to disaster. I learned to hide my bruises and to make up convincing stories for those that were impossible to cover. You taught me how to duck and cover, when to stop talking, how to plead for my life. I learned to take a hit and go right back to washing the dishes without waking the baby. You taught me that your cocaine use was “no big deal” and something you “had under control.” I learned how to recognize your actions when you were using – the way your eyes would take on that funny glint, how you’d clench your jaw, the unexplainable rages. You taught me that I was worth more than your abuse and that loving someone can mean leaving them.

The One I Thought I’d Marry 

You taught me how to swap out the rear differential in a Toyota Supra. I learned how to start a fire, how to open up and let someone in, how to speak of the unspeakable moments in my past. You taught me to let loose once in awhile, to have fun, to not give a single fuck about tomorrow because the night was young and worries were for the old. I learned how beautiful the stars are on the top of a mountain with only a blanket and your arms to keep me warm. You taught me to hold my feelings in, to never voice them for the fear of being called “crazy,” no matter how valid they may have been. I learned to fear a breakup with every fight because your solution was always to walk away for good. You taught me that my best was never good enough, that no matter how hard I tried to be who you wanted me to be, I would never stack up to the standard set by The Love Of Your Life who broke your heart three years before we met. I learned that being  friends with your ex sometimes means you’re still sleeping with them.

The One I Never Meant To Love

I learned the rules to football – CFL and NFL – and how to be an awesome chaperone for 13 year old boys at midnight releases. You taught me how to ride a dirtbike – first with your arms around my waist as you tried not to cover your eyes, and then on my own. I learned to ask for what I wanted from you, even if you never seemed to deliver. You taught me the beauty in a good morning text and a goodnight text and a million little “I miss you”s in between. I learned that you never really stopped with those texts, you just started sending them to the girl you were cheating on me with. You taught me to never let a man borrow my Darth Vader mug, because I still haven’t got it back. I learned that your family didn’t know we were dating – that they disapproved of me even as just a friend. You taught me to be ashamed of us, to stay hidden so that you wouldn’t have to tell your friends your girlfriend was a feminist. I learned that no matter how much you love someone, they can be done with you in a split-second. You taught me that sometimes relationships end months before we say goodbye.

The Tale Of The Space Potatoes

I had a massive craving for instant mashed potatoes today. While making said potatoes,  I had the most random memory pop into my head… to the point where it made me cry because I was laughing so hard. So gather round, children, and let me regale you with…

THE TALE OF THE SPACE POTATOES. 

The year is 2004 and I’m 18. I’m engaged to a 25 year old youth pastor. I’m in the middle of my ~*~ReBeLlIoUs~*~ stage, so I rather enjoy drinking and smoking pot at this point. He does not, and it’s a major, reoccurring fight in our relationship.  It is almost my 19th birthday, when I will (legally) be able to buy alcohol, and we are planning a limo trip into the big city for a night of bar-hopping. We have to drop the deposit off in a town about 45 minutes away. I don’t have a vehicle, and he has no license, so his little sister is driving us. She likes smoking pot. Her and I smoke 2 or 3 joints on the way there. He starts asking me what I want for dinner when we get home.

Now, this is where I interject with the seemingly random, but important, detail that my mother calls instant mashed potatoes “space potatoes.”

Back to the story. So, at this moment, in my incredibly high state, all I can think of is motherfucking instant mashed potatoes. So he asks again, “Do you wanna grab pizza or something for dinner?” I’m disgusted by this thought, not because I dislike pizza, but because everything about him seems so abhorrent that I’m automatically turned off every suggestion he makes. (I never said it was a healthy relationship, okay?) So I was like, “NO. FUCK YOUR PIZZA.”  He asks again. “Sweetie, we need to eat when we get home. If you don’t want pizza, what do you want?” I look at him with insatiable cannabis-fueled hunger in my eyes, “I want space potatoes.”

This is the moment I realised that we would never work out.

“Space potatoes? What the hell are space potatoes?” he responded, looking utterly lost (which, frankly, was not difficult for a person who at one point proudly posted his IQ of 87 on Facebook…) “You know, space potatoes. They come in a package. You add water. They’re heaven in a pouch.” He kept staring at me with that same stupid expression. “Honey, you’re really stoned. Let’s just go home and order a pizza. My treat.” This was enough to make me snap. “NO FUCKING PIZZA!!! I WANT SPACE POTATOES!!!” I bellowed with a demonic savagery only heard in the blackest of metal songs. Suddenly, the sweetly stupid look was gone from his face. “Fine. Have your fucking potatoes, if they even exist. I’ll order my own damn pizza.”

So he called and ordered a pizza, then made his sister drive us to pick it up. When we got home, I made the best goddamn instant mashed potatoes of my life and watched Spongebob Squarepants while he sadly ate his cheese pizza and prayed for my eternal soul.

Falling

Falling in love is late nights and early morning. It’s long drives and sleepy eyes and going to work after three hours of sleep and hoping the boss doesn’t figure out you’re napping on company time. It’s that same experience, week after week, because you just can’t get enough time with him. Falling in love is a surge of joy when you realize that it’s his turn to make the ridiculous commute, followed by a twinge of guilt for reveling in that extra hour of sleep while he’s fighting traffic at 4am.

Falling in love is introducing him to your favourite TV show. It’s watching his reaction and hoping he finds it just as hilarious as you do, because being with someone who doesn’t find Chris O’Dowd endearing just isn’t an option. It’s listening to his favourite songs and trying to get a glimpse of what they say about him, even though, most of the time, they just sound good. It’s looking for pieces of who he is in everything he adores. Falling in love is realizing that a person’s preferences don’t usually tell you much about them at all.

Falling in love is creeping his ex on Facebook with your best friends and making them tell you how much prettier and smarter and less crazy you are. It’s pretending you don’t have any idea when he references the shitty things she did, even though you both know that social media has given you more detail than you could ever want. It’s secretly being thrilled when his friends “like” his newly announced relationship with you and hoping that his ex girlfriend sees it, even though she kind of terrifies you. Falling in love is being terrified to meet his daughter, his dad, and his friends but doing it anyway because you know it makes him happy.

Falling in love is getting lost in the moment and just looking at one another. It’s discovering the nuances and quirks of his soul while simultaneously memorizing every last freckle on his back. It’s cuddling close to him and falling asleep to the sound of his heartbeat. It’s softly kissing his cheek when he drifts off before you do and thanking the Universe for leading you to someone who makes your soul sing the way only he can.

Falling in love is waking up in the middle of the night and feeling his breath on the back of your neck and realizing that there is nothing more you want in the world than for this moment to be infinite.  It’s realizing that no matter how much you try to fight it, you’ve already fallen.