Sticks and Bones

The first part of a chronicle of a crush-turned-obsession. I'm sorry, Julie.

To experience this in natural reading order go to A Bright, Ironic Hell: The Straight Read .

Also, try Satellite Dance and Crystal Delusions--Parts 2 and 3, respectively--complete.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Epiblogue (Part 236 of 236)

How does one begin an ending? It helps to know that it is an ending, but it doesn't help not to have come to it naturally, or at least not by the envisioned design. But as there was no such (realistic) design, this must be, by default, the ending the blog must have. All this is to say that I'm not prepared, in attitude and intellect, to address all that needs addressing. But that won't stop me from trying.

The journal was born of the crush's inspiration, the blog of the journal's frustrations. The journal got a two-month headstart in May 2008, and it wasn't until late August that year that the transcription caught up to the writing. Before the journal became a blog I decided that it would remain a journal in all respects but in its medium of delivery, that even mention of the blog would be as of a separate entity. The intent was two-fold and apparently contradictory: to pretend that I both did and didn't have an audience. I needed to believe someone was listening, but I didn't want to know. Once the former pretense was abrogated by reality, the latter became even more of a pretense--and an absolute necessity. This was to be an exercise in candor, a "private" exhibitionism, a naked parade in front of my windows at which I allowed anyone to look and dared anyone to take offense and call the cops. Until Sergeant Chris told Captain Julie, I'd had little evidence that I had been writing in anything but a vacuum. Finding out otherwise, and that coworkers constituted the majority of my audience, mortified me. Some had been reading practically from the beginning, and if I'd known then they'd been reading over my shoulder, I could not have, at that toddling stage, continued with any confidence in the conceit or intent of my writing. But I had more than hit my stride by then, not just confident but certain that I had set out on the right path from the start. This certainty fueled my indignation when Chris broke the blog, and I briefly abandoned the literary conceit to dress down my readers as voyeurs. Yet that was precisely the audience I had set out to attract. Secretly, I was flattered, but, more that, I was embarrassed to realize that I was putting on a show for my coworkers. How many of them, knowing the day, place and time of my intent to ask Julie out, were waiting on tenterhooks for me to come to the back afterwards and give James the fist-pump of success? How many people now knew more about me than did the one person with whom I wanted to share myself? My first lesson on the power of a blog was hard-learned: Someone is reading it. Just as indignation forced me from the conceit, it forced me out of the public eye when I protected it with a password, but through my anger I could still see my hypocrisy (if at the time I considered it a righteous refusal to be cowed by a mob), and removed the protection.

If you've read from that far back, you know the outer details and how I felt at the time. I don't wish to rehash, but much of this is a dialogue with myself, if not strictly temporization while I search for myriad things I can't yet recognize. I didn't open a can of worms but Pandora's box, and I want to understand what I released, its overall effect and how it brought me to this point.

This thing I grudgingly call a blog could not have been anything else. Expression abhors a vacuum. I've kept journals, off and on, for most of my life, and the one thing they never had was a reader. I chopped down a forest of trees and never heard one of them fall. What expression is expressed without acknowledgment? The blog is a curious creature, a kind of written performance art, a volatile, malleable personal forum that can't escape the influence of its audience. Of course, mine was no exception, though only indetectably so, until Julie commented. After all, I was soliciting advice, if still pretending there was no one to give it. But Julie's comment was, if not the only one that mattered, the one that mattered most. The last irony of this bright, ironic hell was that it was the words of the one person I wanted to talk to me that shut me up. Was it what I'd wanted? I'd wanted Julie's affections, but, denied that, I wanted, at least, her attention; and, that denied, I simply needed to hear her say, "Leave me alone." Julie was right when she said she never led me on. I always knew that. I did not need to be led on. What else she did not do was stop me. I am stubborn, tenacious, probably importunate and definitely willfully ignorant of hints. Julie was right, too, in saying she tried to be sensitive to my feelings, but to which feelings was she sensitive? I am not the average male; there is no such thing. I have feelings, but they are to be shared, not spared. Beat around the bush, but I don't see the bush or the stick you're abusing it with. I'm staring at you waiting for the truth. I was staring at Julie, waiting, until she wrote on my blog.

There are many ways I could justify continuing A Bright, Ironic Hell, starting with a logical shredding of Julie's comment: No privacy but my own did I ever invade, and no word did I write that I did not feel. My feelings were real and valid, but not the truth. I could even logically refute the claim that I was insensitive. But I won't. What can the rational say to the emotional? Not a trillion of my words can invalidate Julie's hurt and feeling of invasion. I built up a rapport with my own emotions, but I never got to know Julie's. I was not so much insensitive to her feelings as ignorant of them. Or is that the same thing? Was that the hurt I caused? Upon understanding my own feelings, did I consider them unique? All my talk of shunning martyrdom while believing I was the only person who could be hurt by any of this! I understood why I deserved compassion, but was sitll arrogant enough to believe no one else was as deserving of it. From my awareness of Julie's lack of feelings for me I inferred that my feelings, whatever they were, were altogether irrelevant to her. I was not prepared to believe that she could be hurt by my ignoring her. When she said she was upset that I didn't want to talk to her, the blog whistled over my ducking head.

I daresay it was the blog itself that hurt her. My attention to her and interaction with her in the workplace was minimal, but of course my pen was not quiet. I had assumed that she had, as she'd told me at our second confrontation, that she had just read "enough," but when I suddenly discovered otherwise, many, if not all of my paranoias became solid realities and moments at work that had seemed at the time eerily coincidental to my immediately previous writing proved, under retrospection, to be reactions to the writing. (No one at work, for example, ever saw the reinstated picture, only the backside with its inscription.) Julie may actually been bending over backwards, in her fashion, to try to please, or at least appease me based on what she read in the blog. But she was, indeed, damned if she did and damned if she didn't, because what I really wanted from her was something I couldn't ask from her even obliquely, much less expect from her: Love. I knew at Stir Crazy (and probably long before) that love from Julie was out of the question, so I tried to scale back to friendship, but know already that that wouldn't happen, either, I hoped for at least conversation. What Julie gave me was not enough for which I was able to show gratitude. If Julie had not been reading the blog she could not have known simply by my actions at work what I was going through or trying to do. She could have left me to my own pathetic devices.

As she in her way tried to help matters, I suspect, too, that she acted in the same way on her frustrations with me. A non-assertive person is a passively aggressive person, after all. I'm certain that it is no mere self-flattery with which I translate some of her actions as goadery. And how could I blame her, as much of it as I did myself?

This was our conversation. I spoke to her with the blog, and she manifestly responded with her actions. The problem was, we were never speaking directly to one another. We weren't building a single bridge in cooperation, but two bridges in entirely different locations based on assumed specifications and smeared blueprints. Such has been, virtually, our entire relationship and how we have come to know each other.

Julie is (again) right to say I don't know her. Regardless of how closely my speculations on her character might have struck to the truth, I can never know how closely. What I know about her that she has not let others know is knowledge not freely given by her but taken from her, forced from her by anger and frustration. Yet I would not give it back even if I could. It's the knowledge that she is like all of us, a frail child who wants to be liked, and in order to be liked must hide what it's not proud of or what it fears makes it too different to be liked. It was, finally, my belated perceptioon of this frailty that turned her from the one-dimensional, perfect object of my desire into the moist-eyed, weary human being I had been haunting.

I have reached a point in this post where I must assess what I've done, what I've accomplished, what I've failed at, and what I've become. When I said at the beginning that I was not prepared, this was the task to which I was specifically referring, though I didn't know it then. Who was I kidding, thinking I could tame and categorize the ephemeral beasts shooting from that box of oppressed feelings after I'd smashed it to splinters? or that I'd even want to? And, right now, I don't want to. I can't. I've been trying for weeks, and I can barely form a thought around them. My intellect is no match for time. Closure may be years away. I have gained the confidence to heed my wisdom; now I must be patient while time ages and mellows the beast and sends them home to me, prodigal emotions returning as new wisdom.

I'm tired. I want to let this all go. What am I left with? I learned to express my emotions, but not to apply them to others. How much, then, can I say I've grown? Almost enough to have made it worth the trouble. But I did nothing I could have done any other way. I had to make the mistakes I made. I came out of myself, and if I accomplished nothing else, I wouldn't say it was all worth that result, but I'd say it was a good start. I've committed myself to be who I am. I can't regret the time it's taken me to make that commitment. It's finally time to go forward. Pride is not a friend, but, knowing that, I am more wary of its advice. I told Julie when we last spoke, "As far as I know, the feelings I had for you are no longer there. It's just bitterness, pride--or shame--that keeps me going." Since then, things between us have not improved, and I take the full blame without deference. There is no going back, no "normal." We exchange few words beyond greetings, no visual contact beyond recognition. Julie has tried a little bit, I have not tried at all. For me, it's back to the old attitude of "What's in it for me?" and still I see nothing. There's a lesson I haven't learned, or that pride is still able to occlude: Though Julie hasn't feelings for me, she still cares what I think of her, and to say this has nothing to do with her and everything to do with my pride, is irrelevant. But how much do I need to care about that? There really is no Julie anymore. (That was surprisingly painful to say, its spontaneity notwithstanding. I had to stop for several moments after, clench my teeth against the tears.) She is another coworker with whom I (might as well) have nothing in common, someone else to whom I have nothing to say, with whom I can't have a meaningful conversation. Mike told me he got over a girlfriend by hating the things she like. I can't do that, but I can open my blind eye. Julie is little more than beautiful now, and beauty has never been enough for me. I can't say it's no longer difficult working with her--her presence still kicks my pride--but maybe one day I can give her a smile that means no more than a smile I'd give Jennifer or Becky. What other goal could I have? To have no hopes that Julie will someday feel for me the way I once felt for her? Which goal will be realized first?

There is so much more to say that I'm sure I could go on writing for quite some time, but I have to put an end to it--the post and the blog--knowing I've said what needed saying and not regretting later what might have been said. The blog has the answers, and I trust they will be revealed to me, in time. Where I go from here, I don't know, but I know I can't stop writing. I will write another blog, but blogging has changed for me. I can no longer pretend no one is reading but it would be irresponsible and egotistical to think that I can command an audience simply by putting pen to paper. A Bright, Ironic Hell was inspired by and focused upon a pursuit. Where is my inspiration? and what is my pursuit? I have dreams, of course, some of them specific and maybe even attainable, but who will follow me, my guitar and voice to a corner in Carytown? That is not the essential pursuit. What is? I would love to be in love, but I can do little more about that than lay the groundwork, and what is that? I am rudderless, but I still, have a sail. I just don't know which way the wind is blowing. I trust it's not an ill wind, that I will hurt no one this time. I see nothing on the horizon. I can't tell if I'm even moving. Whatever I do next in the way of writing must be a continued exploration of this emotional landscape of which I know I've only taken snapshots. There is a place, I'm sure, where intellect and emotion are not separate, where emotion does not need to be picked apart and analyzed, where it is not a slider puzzle or a Rubik's cube, where it is not a curiosity. Somewhere, emotion and intellect exist as one thing. That's where I want to go. I'd like to take you there with me, because I know now that you are necessary. I don't know the way and don't know if we'll even ever get there, but is there anywhere else to go? I'll miss this place, believe it or not, though I doubt it will ever be far away. For me, it's been everything its title implied--a torture full of hope. It could have been nothing else. Whatever's left to learn from this will catch up, pass and lead us. So...let's go.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Prologue to an Epilogue (Part 1 of 2)

When I opened my Hotmail Thursday and saw that "t.c. sinatras" had commented on my blog, my heart stopped for a moment before beginning to beat harder than ever. I could only stare. I actually thought that if I didn't open it it would go away and that if I did it would explode. It didn't go away. I opened it, and it exploded. First, the comment that prompted it:
Anna said...
What would happen if you couldn't keep [the pretense] up? Would she completely obliterate you? Not sure I like Julie anymore... ..not that I'm sure I was ever a big fan...
I was on the desk with Sofiya.
t.c.sinatras said...
Hmmm, not sure if you like Julie.....that would imply that you know me and you don't. Neither does Dion. You only know what you read about me in this blog and that's one person's perspective. Remember, there are two sides to every story. I have made it clear to Dion what my feelings were. Never have I tried to mislead him or play games. I have tried to respect his feelings but when everything you say and do, or not say and do for that matter, is publicly displayed, criticized, analyzed and second-guessed, it's hard to maintain that respect as I feel my feelings and privacy have not been respected. The result is that I no longer wish to speak to Dion at all. It seems to be a case of damned if I do or damned if I don't. How would you feel Anna, if you were in my position? Perhaps, before you judge me or anyone else, you should consider their position.

My heart pounded in my ears. I wanted to talk to James. Lunch was my next hour. I couldn't encounter Julie. I could go upstairs and write James before coming down to eat. Julie would have left the breakroom by then. I was otherwise a wide-eyed, trembling blank till the top of the hour. I wasn't picky about the computer. I immediately forwarded James Julie's comment with a brief note then read Unrequited Love Blog's "Forced Finality" because of the apparent parallel. (I could already hear the bell tolling for A Bright, Ironic Hell.) I invited the author to read the catalytic post. I didn't finish the comment.

Julie pulled out the chair beside me, spun it to face me, and sat. "I put a comment on your blog," she said. She looked smug and defiant. Her lipstick was deep pink, a tiny crescent of bare lip exposed on the upper border.

"I saw it," I said.

The mask crumbled.

"I've been angry--I'm very angry...that you don't want to talk to me anymore."

I stared into her moist eyes. My mind made no effort to formulate words in response. I was not going to interrupt her.

She stood suddenly, pushed the chair to the desk, and said, "I'm just tired of all this, Dion."

"I am, too," I said quietly.

She turned and left.

I logged off the computer, message unsent, and strode slowly to the back window behind non-fiction. My mind was anything but a blank but anything but coherent. I wandered to the stairwell and plopped down on the heating unit on the top landing. I knew Maddox would be up soon. When I first confided in him about this mess, he did the same in me about a similar situation he'd been in. I knew he understood. He came up, and I told him what had happened, what I had to do, and how he might help.

I was on holds the next hour, Julie was backup. When she went to the back to pack branch mail, I took several deep breaths and followed. She was kneeling on the floor in front of the Tuckahoe bin.

"Julie, can we talk after work tonight?"

"Um, let me think." The only sound for a moment was the thudding of my heart. "Yes," she said. "Sure."

"Okay." I turned and left. I told Stacey, my ride in, that I would be travelling with Maddox. I told her why. She said she would have waited for Julie and me to finish our talk to take me home. I told her I thought she'd had enough of this particular drama and that I'd rather not involve anyone the least bit close to Julie. I then told Maddox we were on but that I'd have to give him the details after work, when I would straighten them out with Julie on the way to her car.

"So," I said then when I reached her side, "where should we do this?"

"What? Oh, I don't know," she said, deflating. "I didn't really think about it."

I wasn't much help, and I flashed back to when I forced Julie to set the time for our "date" at Stir Crazy. I didn't want to suggest Starbuck's but couldn't think of anywhere else. A light rain fell. Her hair twinkled with tiny beads of moisture under the parking lot lights.

"Starbuck's?" she said, her tone matching my silent hesitation. "I could use a tea anyway."

James dropped me off, said he'd be in the grocery store parking lot, a discreet distance away.

Starbuck's was closed. We sat at a table outside. It had already stopped raining.

Ij won't try to transcribe our conversation. I am no reporter and can have little objectivity. I was a participant, not an observer. I can't even promise that responses will match there triggers. Time has left in my memory barely more than an aura of the conversation. There was little light and no indulgence for even my smallest attempts at humor, no smiles for either of us. Stripped of pretense or hope, what was left was the disproportion of both to the importance of what I'd been doing, a sharp outline of my prideful foolishness, and, across the table from me, the weary face of the damage I'd wrought.

"Look," I started. "I'm sorry I upset you. You have to know this is the opposite of what I want. It's not that I don't want to talk to you. I just don't know how."

"I'm just tired of it, Dion. I have enough to deal with with my mother and everything. I don't need the notes, the comments, the picture on your bike. I swore I would never comment on your blog, but when I read what that girl said, I blew up. It was the just last straw. I was furious. I was furious all day long."

I told Julie I would end the blog, but that I would liker her to have the last word, that she could write whatever she wanted and I wouldn't change a word.

"No, I won't do that, because I really don't want to, because that's been the problem all along, that it's so public. I'm not asking you to stop writing the blog. Write about something else. Just don't make me the object of it anymore."

"Well, that's why it has to end. You were the whole point of it. Your comment was the nail in the coffin."

"I'll write you something if it will help."

"It might, but. ..."

The silences filled the gaps like smoke under a door. I was the only one threatened by them, knowing that within every one was Julie's opportunity to end the conversation.

"I know my assurances aren't worth much at this point."

"What's done is done."

"Yeah, but what's done was done badly. So much for getting back to normal."

"I can't say it will ever get back to that. It's damaged."

"I thought that with all we had in common we might have had a conversation, but we never did."

The slight curl of one side of her mouth was all she bothered to muster. I had to let her go, let her go home.

I said, "Is there anything else you need to say?"

She met my eyes for a long moment before saying, "No. I don't think so."

"Okay." I let the silence offer her the opportunity to excuse herself. She said she was expecting a phone call from a friend and must get home to meet it. On our separate ways, as I passed behind her, a sympathetic reflex nearly raised my hand to pat her shoulder, but I knew it would not be understood.

"Goodnight," I said to her back, but she didn't seem to have heard me. Halfway to her car, without turning, she said, "See you tomorrow."

On the way home Maddox talked about anything but what was most on my mind. It was his way of being discreet. He wouldn't be reluctant to hear me out, but I would have to introduce the subject. I didn't.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tearing Down Bridges to Build Walls (7/29/09 Wednesday)

The battle is pride versus conscience. It's obvious which the victor should be, but justice is not always served, and as the armaments are shared, it's not likely either side will grab the flag without disproportionate losses. What's the prize, anyway? The princess doesn't care which knight wins the joust or which suitor wins the duel--the winner lives and the loser dies. Whoopee. This has always been the battle, but before Julie knew how I felt about her, the battlefield was on my own land.

I can stop the metaphors, but I can't stop the battle. Though my pride has no rights to anything my conscience can't break from its grip. Being nice to Julie is not an option. Neither is being mean, but the absence of courtesy can convey vindictiveness, and my conscience is sensitive to those occurrences. Yesterday, she obviously needed some help with a heavily laden Easy cart. I was there and could have pulled her clear, but I ignored her and continued past. She had asked Mike a couple hours earlier for similar help and that had stung me. Now I stung myself. I felt I couldn't step in without giving in to Julie in some way, though, of course, it would have been only pride to which I'd have been acceding. If I could have done it stone-faced and silent I might have retained my attitude. Having said that, it's suddenly apparent that I have more intent to save my pride than to appease my conscience, for I make no such strategic speculation toward the retention of goodwill. So be it, I suppose, though such glibness speaks more to my immediate impatience with trying to codify my logic than to how I really feel--and probably speaks volumes of the inanity of this strategy.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Steps Forward:Steps Back (7/26/09 Sunday)

I've no doubt that the trees in the Irony Forest have continued to fall noisily while I was out of auditory range. I wandered close to its edge yesterday and heard this one: Of all my talk of integrity and candor and honest, organic, no-tricks resolution, I am faking it till I make it. I'm not, of course, pretending to be a nice guy off whose back adversity rolls. I'm pretending I don't give a damn. The objective--normalcy-is the same. This way takes less effort and is closer from the start to the objective. I hate it when I care what Julie is up to or what she's saying to whom. I need her to be a non-entity, and that can't happen if I pay her any attention outside the professionally necessary. If Julie plays by my rules I'll forget her and what I thought she meant to me. I need her to not talk to me, to avoid me as obviously as I avoid her. I only care a little bit how I come off to her, but it's caring too much. She' already helping one way, though: A quality for which I'd always respected her has fallen by the wayside: Previously above this kind of thing, Julie has taken on adversarial attitude toward some of our less-than-favorite patrons, joining the large, all-female club on the circulation staff. The retailer in her skin has finally stepped out of it, and it's not pretty. Even if I were still blinded by my inane hopes, I wouldn't have let that slide. This puts her that much closer to simply "coworker"--that is, where I need her to be. Monday, I will try to reclaim my stake in No-Man's Land. It was surprisingly easy land to grab last week, but also too easily lost. The knot in my neck had gone away by the time I no longer needed to convince myself to not look at her. It's a longer week this coming week than the last, though. I'll have four full days with her in which to test this flimsy pretense. I can almost hear the trees falling to clear a path for me. If only I knew where it leads--but would that stop me from following it?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Can't Stop, On Fire (7/24/09 Friday)

I nearly talked myself into not writing again, so I have to. It's one those evenings when nothing I can think to do seems worth doing. Expressing that is the last thing I want to do, but essential, as if doing so is admitting something I have to deal with. Every day it seems easier to not write, given the cumulative unfruitfulness of this almost obsessive output, and I know when I start writing about it that I'm nearing that bottomless precipice into which I would throw my book and pen. Writing is the last thing I ever want to write about, and doing so seems to tell me that it is, indeed, the last thing to write about. It isn't, but it might be the last thing I can make an effort to write about. It's painful to continue talking about Julie. There have been many details of our interactions over the past several weeks that I just haven't wanted to write. I don't want to look in the microscope anymore. I took our relationship from innocuous to impossible in barely a year. I spoke three words to her this week, because I had to. Today she spoke to me--because she had to--and I just stared at her a moment and turned away. She didn't require an answer, so I didn't giver her one. Until today it had seemed we'd sunk into agreement--no contact if could be avoided--but when she emerged from the bathroom after changing from her bike clothes this morning, and there I was, bag in hand, needing to do the same thing, she said, "Your turn," and the deal was off, the day lost, and the week ruined. My pride balloons up, and the bitterness floods in, and I hurt all over again from the humiliation of what I put myself through and--worse--that I'm still putting myself through it. I haven't seen James in months, and as much as I miss him, I'm ashamed to tell him where Julie and I stand.

So this is all I have, these words. It's hardly enough, and I haven't convinced myself to continue, but I think of Richard Pryor running down the street in flames: "If I stop I'll die!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pride vs. Pride (7/22/09 Wednesday)

One word from a romantic naif several weeks ago suddenly rings in my ears a sonorous toll of wisdom. As I sat trapping holds at Angie's desk, Julie behind me at hers cleaning DVD's, I heard an echo of Bethany's "Still?" and as I could not answer it, each faint repetition of the word seemed to damn me further. Indeed, why have I perpetuated this quest? Ask my pride, and I'll feel even more the fool. That's nothing revelatory, of course. Nothing is at this point--or, rather, it's nothing I haven't realized already. I seem to be weaving my way back through everything I've said already over the past year, adding a contextual texture ("contexture"?) to what seems now to have been merely logic, now applying experience to theory. For want of stroking, my pride has turned on a blameless person, who has returned completely to the cold-shoulder attitude. I've lost contact entirely with the one person with whom I most wanted it, and my pride won't yield to make amends, because it is not all up to me, and I would receive no help. Julie's cold shoulder does not hurt as it did before, I don't need to beg for a truce. I will not confront her, leave no notes. It's not that important to my ego to have her attention, though, as it would be a condescending attention at best, it is a step backwards in my emotional growth. For now, I'll let that awareness suffice for progress. But "Still?" Julie knows why I do what I do to her. What it does to her I don't know. I can't say I don't care, but I can't believe that I have offended her, seeing as I've made it clear that it simply stems from my feelings for her, which are anything but malicious. But that argument is probably much the same as the one she used in her disbelief fo my feeling for her: "I thought I made it clear." And, perhaps, it has the same answer and the same resolution: "It was clear to my head but not to my heart. It will go away when it goes away." Maybe it's not up to either one of us.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One, Last Easy Lesson (7/20/09 Monday)

Julie could have said goodnight to me as she left. I was standing outside, at the lip of the rain, waiting for Stacey, when Julie passed close by me. I caught her profile. Isn't it amazing how you can tell when someone is trying not to look at you? I was hoping she'd say goodnight. I could have said it, but by the time I'd stopped waiting for her to say it to me, saying it would have been an indication of my wounded pride and a challenge to her to return the greeting. So I watched her. Her stride and posture made no concession to the rain. I wondered what she thought, what it took for her to ignore me like that. I know, given the decorum she protects, that she wasn't proud of herself. I was a little hurt, but mostly I felt sorry for her. At least I've learned to open myself to my emotions, but Julie is master to hers. They don't stand a chance of exposure. That's why I had to take joy, however seemingly perverse, in her embarrassment, even in her outrage. But if that's all I'll ever get from her--and it is--then I'll have to move on. This is the last thing I tell myself that will seep into my soul like so much else recently. I have moved on in many ways, but am I still in love with her? I want to be, but I don't think I am. I don't know what I'm leaving behind by moving on, but I miss it already. Julie is not what I need. How long will it take me to accept that in my heart? When will she be no more to me than anyone else there? and less than most? How can I ever look at her without hope? Tonight I watched a little, old lady walking through the rain to her car, her heels pullling water from the puddles in tiny rooster tales. Her white cardigan stretched across her broad, stooped shoulders as she clutched closed a permanent shopping bag. That couldn't be the woman I love, could it?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

For What She's Worth (7/16/09 Thursday)

Something is happening with me, and though I am reluctant to analyze it, my curiosity keeps me plucking at it as at a fat scab with smooth, new, pink skin beneath it.

I could have greeted Julie as she passed my desk, but as per usual lately, I avoided doing so. But when I relieved Angie at the window and Julie was at the printer across the counter from me retrieving the pick list, I looked at her and waited for her head to turn my way, as I knew--or willed--it would. It did, and I said, crisply, "Hi, Julie," not smiling, not not-smiling. While I was saying it, and for a slow moment afterward, I felt nothing, or the absence of feeling. There was no hope, or defiance or dread. There may have been meaning, but I was not privvy to it. She responded politely. I went back to ignoring her.

And I've done a pretty fair job of it. It's become easier, not, I think, because I want to or feel I have to, but because it makes more sense than trying to connect with her. I still care, still wish she cared, but hasn't that always been futile? I've said it all before, and as much as I was sure of its truth, I could never believe. Faith is not something I could come to rationally, right as it might be--and I have been right all along. The things I talked and talked about are more real and true now than ever, so it seems ironic to spend more words on them. But that's what I do.

I may ignore Julie for the most part, but I no longer hide from her voice behind blaring headphones. Her voice still tweaks my blood pressure, but I'm teaching myself detachment--or, rather, finally learning. It's still at the conscious stage, where it takes a reminder that she's not looking to keep me from doing things simply for her notice, but these anti-self-selfconscious acts are no longer born of an ironic defiance to be noticed. I'm finally believing she doesn't care, and my pride might finally be saying, "Oh, well," and moving on. My pride is not dead, though, and if I could flatter myself to give Julie any credit for noticing the change in me, I would wonder how she'd feel about the apparent loss of affection for her. Would it be relief or remorse? I'd like to imagine remorse, though it hurts me, too, to be believe that. To believe it is relief would hurt more. Either way, I suppose it's only my pride that's pained.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Who's Pen Now? (7/15/09 Wednesday)

Monday, I sat on the sofa, this book in hand, unopened, pen beside me, sheathed. All remained that way as the cicadas sounded off. The traffic, so close to my door that it usually drowns every other sound, and flowing heavily still in the early evening, was only background to the buzzing waves. I had nothing to say, or nothing more important than the stasis that left me virtually unaware of any sensation but the strident call of those most hideous bugs. No sense reminded me of this book in my hand. I seemed to be barely breathing. The cicadas faded with the light, and I stirred to a car horn, resigned, not reluctantly, to not writing that night. I had nothing to say, or nothing ordered. It seems I've said enough--or, having said all of it wrong, would perfer to remain silent until I figure out how to say it right. I thought I had something to write when, once again, Julie flattened herself against the hall wall as we passed, but what more can I say about that from my perspective? What did she see? My own eyes aren't enough, and I haven't any others. I don't have hers, or a third person's. If someone else could write this for me, maybe I'd have a chance of understanding. I'd rather be reading it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Shame of Triumph, the Victory of Defeat (7/10/09 Friday)

A triumphant day sets on a shameful evening. A day of liberating candor dons a dark cloak of confusing reflection. I've been telling people how I feel about things, and I have been stepping on toes and hurting feelings. I have not been mean, only blunt. I feel I have done my character a service if I've been dealing my reputation a blow. But, to be fair to my reputation, it's punch-drunk anaethetized. I made no friends of co-workers today, but I enjoyed a rapport with patrons. With both I was open and decidedly not taciturn (with one obvious exception). It was not something my co-workers were use to, which, perhaps, accounts for both their offense and the patrons acceptance: Those who thought they knew me were confused, and those who didn't talked to me freely. I chided Mike for taping a torn page, and he said, "Oh, I'm sorry. I just thought I'd save you some trouble. I won't do it again," he added, shrinking a bit. Brian, who is our newest member and part-time, and, therefore, the least familiar with me, got a chiding, too, for misreading the schedule and beginning to collect books from the drop while I was still at the backup station. My reflex was to be miffed, but to prick my annoyance I joked, "You trying to tell me something?" As he takes most things, Brian took this without offense but not without understanding my my meaning. "Watch out," I told him. "I'm a sensitive guy." Julie was present. I could have taken the joke a little deeper at her expense, but in the absence of a knowing audience, its full effect--the embarrassment of Julie and the discomfiture of the audience--could not have been attained. I don't do jokes twice, so I don't waste them on the unappreciative.

With Joe, I wasn't joking when I spoke my mind to him. Our new day porter is much more industrious than Jeff ever was, but sometimes seemingly for the sake of busyness. He was the first person I saw Wednesday afternoon, and he said to me, "I'm going out and have lunch at the picnic table, now that I've cleaned it up out there." I looked over his shoulder out the breakroom window. "Oh, no," I couldn't help saying over the sight of a small massacre of wildflowers, shrubs, and saplings around the picnic table--maples, pines, sassafras, blueberrries, and myriad flowers and groundcovers, gone. This was way, way beyond his purview. What did he even do it with? We don't have any yard tools here. I said, "I liked it better the way it was." "Oh," he said. I said, "That area behind the mulch"--an amorphous ring inside of which was an island of protected wild growth--"is supposed to be left alone." "Really?" "Yes." My reaction was probably so much the opposite of the gratitude he expected that he must have been as crestfallen as he'd planned to be elevated in pride. He walked away silently.

Mary Lou, however, received the biggest slice of what I was dishing out. After she left for lunch I noticed on her desk a pair of bulky holds--multi-media learning packets that I had twice put out on the holds shelf for pickup, because it's where they belonged. The moment she got back I confronted her. "Did you take these off the holds shelf again?" "Yes. They were annoying me." "Annoying you? You had no right to do that." I snatched the holds from her desk. I had nearly a complete audience and I could feel the fear like a deafening fog stop everything. "It doesn't matter what any of us here like! This belongs out there!" and I took them out and shelved them for a third time.

I'm at an intersection of many roads, and I've somehow taken steps down each one of them--and they each feel right. I'm growing out of myself and into myself. It's painful and exciting. The pain is the old me with its claws in the new me--the dreadful familiar trying to pull me from the tingly new. The shame I felt at the end of the day is a humble reminder of the society I live in, its expectations of acquiescence to a safe conformity. But I have never been a conformer, and the pretense behind which I pretended to be a conformer has been hanging between me and my own mirror. I have pushed it aside this week. Shame is simply what low self-esteem sees--a feeble leap at unreachable and arbritary standards: It's seeing what it thinks I should be and knowing I'll never be it. Well, it's right, because it's not me. The leap is feeble because I don['t really want it. I want what I am, and that's no leap at all. I won't cry over the shame, but I won't crow over the triumph, either, because I don't know what I've won. Whatever roads I'm taking will meet up again, I'm confident, in a better place.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

She Just Points at It and Laughs (7/08/09 Wednesday)

Julie is trying again, but I've given up. What she's trying is just to be civil, and I can barely muster that. Do I feel anything at all for her? or just for my pride? She won't allow me to connect the way I want to. I'm not worth it to her, but it's only my pride that cares about that. She's not the only person who feels that way about me, but I feel the same about them. Julie told me how she felt about me when she said, "It's all up to you," and I still seethe when I think of that line and how I so readily and humbly accepted it instead of turning it on her with its translation. I was still deluded that there was a chance for me. It is not up to me, because its referent is no longer valid: I don't want things the way they were (that was never enough) and neither does Julie. She doesn't care if I talk to her and would rather I didn't. Who's feelings are hurt by that? It astonishes me still that she could have no interest--of any sort--given all the common interests. She won't talk to me about bikes, Scotland, music, movies--anything--even when I bring them up. I don't so much hate the imbalance of interest as her knowledge of it. It's a power I've given her to wield against me. I'd say, "That's where candor gets me," but it's the naivete of the belief that candor would be returned that got me: I showed her mine, but she didn't show me hers.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Mirror/Mirror (7/02/09 Thursday)

Bethany also asked after me last Friday. I told her what the problem was. "Still?" she said. She hasn't spoken to me this week. My anti-claque grows. Julie's willful disdain for me grows daily more obvious, but I won't say painfully so; in fact, to this old master of that affectation it is virtually heartening. Suffering is required to maintain such an attitude. Her misery is a comfort to me, as long as it's related to me; and as long as I'm not actively contributing to it I can suffer no remorse over it. And I'm not contributing to it. I have spoken to her more than once since Monday and have each time been met with--eventually--a grunted, barely audible monosyllable of indeterminate verbiage. This has served to lower my blood pressure somewhat (but not enough). I can't know that I am a cause of her behavior (I would not be as "happy" if I weren't), and I'm working hard to not believe it, because it's not a healthy stroke to my ego, attention though it might (or might not) be; but I will never know, because Julie would never tell me; behavior of this sort communicates its own inability to communicate all to clearly. If only she knew how well I knew her....

Unfortunately, her behavior towards me has fueled fantasies of her kindling interest in me. Don't let's start in on that again. My best attitude right now is disinterest, though at this point it must be feigned. Perhaps disinterest isn't quite the right word without "emotional" before it. I am not disinterested, feigned or otherwise, but to become emotionally involved is to hope that Julie actually cares about me. When I was acting towards her the way she is now acting towards me it was for attention. I don't know if she recognized it as such, but I think it best that, thouugh I recognize it, I don't acknowledge it. In the meantime I won't stop trying to talk to her. It's the best way to deny that acknowledgment.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

No, Not Okay (6/29/09 Monday)

This is one of those times when I just stare at the paper for twenty minutes or so, slack-jawed and barely breathing, before starting to write; when the entire first paragraph is temporization, a running start. I'm still running--where's the starting line? It's not a dearth but a surplus of thought that paralyzes the pen.

"I'm not going to try talking to you, anymore" was an interpretation of my note that came to me last night, and I decided I had to debunk that, first chance. Ten o'clock, Julie took over for me at the window, announcing so while turning her back on me to get something from the cabinet above her desk. I said, pointing to the cart of books, "These are check-condition." "Okay." "And there's probably quite a bit more in the bins." "Okay." "How was your ride back Friday?" i asked her back. "Okay." (What does that mean?) "Okay?" She finally turned but didn't look at me but with a brush of her eyes and a glancing, forced, tight-lipped smile. "Uhm-hm." Every aspect of her told me not only that she had no intention of telling me more but also, "Go away."
I did. What more could I say? What could I ever say to someone who didn't want to talk to me? The same hour Julie picked up a call. It was for Greta, who was not in the room. Julie left the window to find her. She did not ask me--the only other person in the workroom--to watch the window for her--a breach that she would not have dared to make in normal circumstances.

Again, I am on the edge of distress, yet no course of action presents itself to me. What happened? I can't be convinced that the note in itself had a strong bearing on her attitude. Distasteful as speculation is to me, it is all I have by way of an answer, gossamer as that might be. Her bike had been parked inside, where everyone gathers at the end of the workday to leave together. She may not have been the first to see that slip of paper taped around ther hand-grip, and was very likely not to have been at least annoyed, and given the pretense of work-place propriety she tries to maintain, that was probably a floor I laid bare as she stood upon it.

Is there really anything I can or should do? Is this sudden feeling of defiance I have justified? Is it defiance at all? Did I do something wrong? I mean, besides fall in love with someone who'd as soon have nothing to do with me. What have I done wrong in this whole year-long quagmire of misplaced feelings? But I repeat myself.

As I thrash in my cage, my blood pressure setting records for anything on the outside of a vacuum, I think of my only escape as writing. I think that I could be writing my nights away, putting my energy toward getting out of the library by means of my only obvious talent. Then I wonder what the hell I'm going to write, and I let go of the bars, lean my cheeks against them and stare, unseeing, at freedom. This--whatever this is--is all I seem to know. What is it worth?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taciturn for the Worse (6/28/09 Sunday)

"Ugh! I can't talk to you!"

Julie rode her bike to work Friday, and I desperately wanted to talk to her about it. I couldn't muster a word till four o'clock, then Judy interrupted us. I left the note around the hand-grip of her bike.

All day--all week--my blood pressure was so high as to prompt people to ask after me, my face being deeply flushed. It's probably like that now as I only fitfully write. Maddox--the nicest guy in the world--showed concern Thursday, and I told him what had been bothering me, but without mentioning Julie by name. I said, "I'm having difficulty--" and choked up. I didn't let the tears come, but at lunch Friday I sought a place to cry, but--practical me--I didn't want to come back with red eyes, however better it might make me feel. Instead, I plotted on either begging off the rest of the day or taking off Monday. I didn't leave early, and I will be in Monday. At the edge of distress, knowing how desperately sad and regretful and self-hateful I would feel over the weekend if I didn't claw my way out of this lead shell of taciturnity, I asked Julie how her commute had been. Then Judy interrupted to ask Julie to go to the desk to cover a hole in the schedule. That had been my last chance. That's when I wrote the note.

I realize it could be interpreted variously, and I considered other words, but I stuck with how I felt. Julie will say nothing, I will say nothing. I'm not trying to start something. I'm not going to provoke her into giving me attention. This may be an intolerable situation for me, but it's not her problem at all--at least I don't want it to be.

[What I didn't post Thursday (written after I got home that night):
It's official: I am now the last person at work with whom Julie will have a conversation. She was talking with Scotia today. Don't I feel special now?]

Thursday, June 25, 2009

No Line, No Bait, No Catch (6/25/09 Thursday)

It's not yet ten-thirty in the morning, and I'm drinking whisky--not out of distress or despondence but just because I want to. I've had breakfast and coffee. I've showered (but not shaved) and tended vigorously to my increasingly complex hair regimen. Now it's time--a couple hours before work--for whisky. I've nearly finished my fourth bottle this year, three more than usual. My inclination to drink it has become almost an imperative in facing down That Which Need Not Be Named. As imperatives go, it is a savory pill to swallow. (I believe I'll swallow some more.)

I wonder if Mr. Gold--Mr. Gold of the mutual amorous hopes--would join me. It seems now I see him every day in the library, and every day I want to introduce myself as a member of a society of common interest. I would like to sit down with him, if not over whisky, at least coffee, and discuss the focal point of our hopes. I know he's been rebuffed, but how? How much has he spoken with Julie? and her with him? The looks he and I exchange I have yet to fully decipher. I know how I look at him--with knowing and curiosity--but does his look self-consciously reflect that? or does he see something of the same in me? What's to gain? Who cares? Mike says he's a retired journalist. Surely as such he would be interested in reading my riveting reportage on our favorite subject. Or perhaps I don't give Mr. Gold enough credit in being able to do what I have not; that is, give up the idea of Julie as a paramour. To give him that credit would discredit his commitment. Oh, no, Mr. Gold, you aren't going to marginalize Julie's worth and denigrate my commitment by just shrugging off her rejection! I won't let you. Aren't you hurt? Have you no pride? Do you really believe there are other fish in the sea? Sure there are--fine catchable fish--but don't you want the white whale? Come on, Ahab! you know Moby Dick's the only fish for you! Wouldn't you as soon die as give up? Hey! come back here! I've got a boat!

Perhaps I should stop drinking now, an hour later and closer to work. Perhaps I should take the bottle with me, in case Mr. Gold comes in.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Sympathy Waltz (6/23/09 Tuesday)

I keep talking because hope doesn't die. Hope, the biggest, most ignorant fool of all. Hope doesn't make me any smarter, but it does make me happier. Reason may be the reason hope goes away. I can't stop reasoning, but maybe I can pause it when hope rings me.

Tuesday morning through lunch--Julie- and stress-free. After that it seemed impossible to avoid her, but I survived it much better than most days with My Mid-Life Crisis. At one o'clock we were at opposite ends of the workroom, she at the window, I at backup. But as we both had bookdrops to empty, we both had books to sort onto the carts on the battlefield between us. I took an assorted armful into no-man's land, scanning for the enemy, spotting her with juvenile fiction. I opted to unload my CD books onto the nearer cart, nearer aisle. I bent to put a Grisham on the bottom shelf. I rose as Julie rose from the other side. It was Groucho and Chico facing off in the mirror scene in Duck Soup. All that was missing was matching nightshirts and caps. We stared at each other a moment (how can eyes be navy blue?) before she said sharply, "Hello." I was the deer to her headlights. "Hello," I finally replied, surely without expression. We immediately turned from one another and headed back to our posts. There were no casualties, no victory claimed by either side.

The courier mail came, and Julie returned the favor of two weeks ago and helped me unpack it. It was a strange dance of reconnoitering side-long glances and intricate patterns of avoidance. Though I was becoming as hot as before, I also became increasingly amused at the care she was taking to avoid my personal space. We truly were dancing, with me leading. When the window called her away I missed her and wished her back. She didn't return, but at the end of the hour I was to replace her at the window. I marched up sheepishly and diffidently--from the same rostrum from which I declared to her "This cold-shoulder stuff has to stop," all I could do was stand there like a little boy with a message for his teacher. "Are you my replacement?" she said. I barely said, "Mm-hm," then, "Thank you for helping." "Sure." I don't know if she looked at me because I didn't at her.

I was caught away from the window once that hour when a car pulled up, and Julie answered the call. I let her finish it, and when she did she looked at me. I tried to thank her, but when she smiled my lips moved but no sound issued. Oh, hope! Hope saw that smile, such a one as I'm sure it would swear it had never seen. Pride saw it, too, but what it saw was sympathy. Sympathy was the music to our dance among the mail bins. Julie isn't indulging me. She cares. What it is she's caring about I don't know, and I'm not sure I want to know. She's thrown off the cold shoulder. Neither am I sure I want to know what hope I'm hoping. Hope certainly doesn't want to know.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Hope Is Rope (6/22/09 Monday)

Julie has reverted to the cold shoulder. She can have it, because I've had it. It's not up to me anymore. I don't want things the way they were; I want them the way they can never be. How can I keep wanting that? The words are slow in coming because I don't want to repeat myself, and I don't think there's anything otherwise to say. The best I can do is pretend to care as little as she does. It is not all up to me, not if she cares. And if she doesn't, why should I try at all? That's where it stands as I prepare to shut up about all this. There will be no intervention or confrontation with her about this or anything else. I don't need to talk to someone who would rather not listen. But I've said nothing new, and if I'm giving up, why keep talking?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Not Even to Tell My Grandchildren (6/20/09 Saturday)

The absence of and physical distance from Julie has engendered a certain nostalgia this weekend. Every moment together is impossible, replete to bursting with the unsaid and unsayable--the very things I dwell on once given the breathing room. Again this week, we didn't speak (I think my last crack was fatal), and were only once forced into prolonged contact--ten minutes of packing mail that produce from each of us an utterance that was only half meant for ourselves. Inches away, she bent to pack a box. Her hair parted from her neck. I wanted to plant the lightest kiss on the exposed nape. But's that only how I think of that now. Then, that neck was a taunt, and those unsaid words roiled through my veins. But I don't know what those words were, so I can't regret not saying them. Somehow, the scene is touchingly humorous as I write. If only that attitude could fortify me against the dread that will begin tomorrow night; but it's the only such recent memory of Julie that doesn't browbeat me. I've been thinking of our last meeting, and the more I do the more I feel I had only been indulged. I was confessional and over-disclosive, and she was the mom trying to say the right thing to the sensitive kid. Nothing nostalgic there. I'm not sure I can get far enough away from that memory to find amusement in its recollection.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Can You Imagine All the Questions I'll Have at My End-Life Crisis? (6/17/09 Wednesday)

If there weren't Julie, would I be having a mid-life crisis? Was it just waiting for a Julie to project itself upon? Was it inevitable? Would it have taken another form? or latched itself upon some other object? I think it would have tried to attach itself to a great many objects, but only briefly to any one of them, the objects quickly proving to be without sufficient depth. I strongly considered a tattoo for my fiftieth, and I would love to shave my head and start what's left of my hair all over, but am averse to doing anything that says "Look at me!" (Though I suppose that eschewing haircuts altogether since the Train Wreck rather smacks of that, anyway.)

No, if there had to be an object for my mid-life crisis, it had to be Julie, who alone has been capable or sustaining my fascination. I've wondered many (usually bitter) times if she were worthy of my fascination, but did I pick her for the role? I've steadfastly maintained that it was not merely the convenience of her proximity and availability, but I have to admit that I've never convinced myself of that. How could I but to note that there have been and are eligible female co-workers who have held no sway over me whatsoever? Poor Julie--in the wrong place at the right time. She continues to fascinate me, to my own chagrin and frustration, and every day finds yet something else in common to add to a list grown impossibly long for a pair of "incompatible" people.

How long does a mid-life crisis last? How does it end? What makes it stop? If I stopped being in love with Julie, would that be the end of the "crisis"? or would I need a new fascination? When will I ever get the chance to answer those questions?

Monday, June 15, 2009

How Much Lower Does the Pendulum Swing to Reach the Pit of Despair? (6/15/09 Monday)

Who was that guy who had it so naturally under control yesterday, who had it all figured out? He left town under cover of darkness after selling me that bill-of-philosophical-goods. How many times have I had it all figured out? How many times have I convinced myself of the course I should take? or of the attitude I must have? How many courses led to walls? How many attitudes have stuck? I'm sick of hearing myself talk. The words are getting cheaper and cheaper. From one day to the next I swing from hope to despair, hope to despair--but the hope isn't nearly as high as the despair is deep. I suppose I'd be bipolar if I wasn't mired so deeply in one that I couldn't climb the heights of the other. I'm even tired of saying stuff like that. I do have all the answeres, but I've forgotten the questions they belong to. (I've probably said that before, too.)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Prison or Fortress? (6/14/09 Sunday)

What changes may have been wrought by Julie's Facebook page Friday were too subtly manifested for me to detect Saturday. At least, they defy my description. I felt no different--the same dread/hope of seeing her, the same avoidance, the same awkwardness with necessary interaction, the same furtive glances and heavy sighs. I can allow that there has been a change, but I'd rather not look for it or embrace it but let it do as it will, as it must. I noticed only that my pride was much subdued, though even that is so vaguely defined as to be ineffable.

Julie And I spent a silent lunch together in the breakroom. I didn't finish my food but stared out the window for long stretches between reluctant bites. I left halfway through the hour.

Megan and Sofiya were on the desk when I came out as relief. Sofiya motioned me to take over for Megan. I was disappointed to be left with Sofiya; we'd have nothing to say to one another. I adjusted the station's ergonomic train wreck--shoving the monitor back, pulling the receipt printer and mouse closer--when the door opened, which didn't register in my aural brain before "Sorry, Sofiya" and the creak-clunk of the chair on the other side of the register signalling Sofiya's departure and Julie's arrival. My first instinct was to say, "Tammy's made a big mistake" (in reference to the scheduling), but my little voice said, "Too soon." Instead, I sat, glancing, sighing, staring through Children's and out their window into the wall of trees at the street entrance...until Julie said, "It's slow for a Saturday." I looked over--she was leaving her seat--and I said, "Aw, don't say that"--she was rounding the far counter--"not without knocking on wood or something." She reached under the marble countertop and rapped on the panelling. "I think it's too late," I said. Julie inspected the flyers, salvaged precious rubber bands from the wastebasket beside the self-check and returned. Patrons kept us busy after that.

Of course, it's tempting to elevate that hour to Event, crown it with significance, but like everything else yesterworkday, I'll choose (as I chose then) to let it ride. Believe it or not, I'm not fond of analyzation, but sometimes the questions are too loud, the confusion too demanding of resolution to leave unattended. Attention to them is often stressful and not often productive. Raretimes, though, I don't induldge their urgency. Yesterday in living and today in writing, I chose to ignore the noisy pair. For someone who has always believed in the ability of the unconscious to glean the essence of experience for its unique needs, I have spent a lot of time since this started not trusting that belief. By no means is that trust entirely restored, but maybe by adding a brick now and then I can make it too strong to knock down with the huff and puff of neurosis.

Maybe another brick. ...

Suddenly faced with one of Julie's steel-rod stares, my eyes goggles and my cheeks puffed and blew out an exaggerated sigh. It was a coincidence, my action unrelated to her stare, yet it was, nonetheless, the right response. I saved the laugh for myself a few minutes later.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Fatebook? (6/12/09 Friday)

We haven't spoken since I said goodnight Tuesday. She won't even look at me. She won't make eye contact.

I made a Facebook account to get Faith to talk about her mom, but she seems to be backing off, says her mom is "shy about these things." I won't press it. Julie is on Facebook. I knew that already, from when Chris, her rescuer, prodded her to get on there. I don't know if Facebook tracks profile views, so I also created a dummy account--fake name, school, birthdate, etc., to peek at herpage with relative anonymity--an ethical lapse of judgment, I know, but I paid for it on my first visit. What I found was someone who hardly needed me in her life for all the friends she had already. Of course, "friend" on the web does not imply friendship, but she's not the reclusive little old lady that I more or less took her to be--wanted her to be. I was numbed. All I could feel was sad for myself. By late afternoon, thought of Julie could not raise my temperature or my longing for her. Would I have anything more to write? Was this the end of my feelings for her? It might not be quite a void I'd be stepping into, but at least a change I'm not to ready make, a shift from something that I could always count on--painful as it has been--to a new unknown--a kick out of the nest. I'm not ready, because there has been no "literary" ending--no full-circle, no tied-together ends. It's just a car left in the backyard that will eventually grow a tree through its roof. Not even a twist, like we're brother and sister--which would at least would explain why, despite her "French" heritage, she's so interested in Scotland; and it might also account for my lack of sexual attraction to her--her body was never a factor in my interest in her. Oh, how glib I am now, at he end of a day that alternated blurringly between catatonia and blinding rage. Perhaps there was a catharsis in there somewhere; or I'm just spent. Or maybe there are no other feelings that I haven't exhausted. We'll see what feelings I have tomorrow, at work, with Julie.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mantra, Mantra, Who's Got the Mantra? (6/9/09 Tuesday)

"No regrets." That should be my new mantra, I thought today as I unloaded the mail (alone!). Then I remembered the other ones--"just keep quiet, no room for doubt," when I was steeling myself to ask Julie out; "no scripts, no scenarios," as I prepared for the "date"; et al--and how flimsy they proved to be in the face of a lifetime of self-doubt, and I chuckled softly to myself. At least I able to laugh. I have evoked "no regrets" three times now, and it has each time buoyed my confidence. The second time came today when Mary Lou said, "Dion's got it under control." I said, "I'll have it under control until Julie gets here." The remark was met with a laugh, and by the time Julie got in for the second shift I had realized two things: Regret at not speaking my mind is a catalyst for my anger; and going "public" with my feelings for Julie dissipates my resentment while helping me find the humor in it all. Maybe I can't yet exactly celebrate being in love, but why should I resent it? (I have a feeling I won't be long in trying to answer that.) And as it's no secret, why should I hide it as if I were ashamed of it? If I talk about it openly--especially humorously--it shows a matured and mellowed attitude toward what had been a serious humiliation. Now, I'm not letting Julie in on this just yet; that is, I'm not going to crack wise about it with her around unless I'm speaking to her, and in that case she will be the entire audience. I don't know why I would give her that deference (I'm hearing Eno's "Julie with...."), except that perhaps I want her embarrassment all to myself. I believe that my remarks to her flatter her, if only to a small degree, and that I would cheapen them if I broadened their audience. But that could simply be hope talking, hope of gaining romantic ground. Also, the knowledge of her dislike of this kind of personal stuff in the workplace puts me at a respectful distance from going tabloid with it. I feel I need to regain some trust from her after my remarks of the past two Mondays. Julie and I didn't exchange so much as a glance, much less a word, in our four hours together until I left work: She packed mail as I packed my saddlebag and squeezed into the bike shoes. Already, I was hearing "no regrets," and as I approached the door I said, "Goodnight, Julie." Her back was to me--or, rather, her butt was; it was all I could see of her bent over a bin. She half rose and half turned and looked up at my smileless but open face. "Oh. Goodnight, Dion," she said, smiling, and her gaze fell to my legs and then back around to her work. I'd caught her by surprise--I'm a quiet walker, and I hadn't exactly addressed her face when I spoke--but there seemed, also, a wariness in her eye contact. I'm glad I didn't have a line prepared, because "no regrets" might have set back the cause. That would be the ironic end to that mantra.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pride Comes Before the Summer (6/8/09 Monday)

It seems the best I can do right now is sit crosslegged on the sofa, listen to the dying traffic and watch the light leak away. What I'm trying to do is reflect on the workday, but it's painful. I've had days like this, and one not so long ago, but I don't think the words about it were so hard to come by.

Monday is a full day with Julie, and this one was replete with her, if mostly in my head. When the courier mail came in, I was scheduled for holds and Julie for backup. I waited until Julie wheeled the transit items to the back to pack for the outgoing mail, then started unpacking the incoming in order to extract the holds. she usually takes quite a while and there was a lot to pack so I thought I could knock out the incoming before she got back. But the mail kept coming, and before long I could hear the empty cart rattling closer and closer. I paused with a handful of books to look at her. she looked at me but didn't say anything. I expected at least a "thanks for helping" or something and began right then to panic. I already knew I'd be unable to speak with any sense. When she finally spoke to me after putting the cart away, she said, "Are you sure you want to help?" My reply was just a sort of gurgle that she must have taken for a "huh?" because she repeated herself. "No, I don't really want to be this close to you," is what I needed to say, but what came out was, "Well, I'd like to get my holds." My heart was thudding out of my chest, and my skin was sizzling. I couldn't look at her, I couldn't speak, as we worked within a few feet of each other, sometimes out of the same bin. I was in an agony of desire and self-loathing. I wanted to scream and cry. I wanted to shake her and yell, "How can you be so goddamned casual about this! This is killing me! Stop mocking me! Stop acting like nothing is going on!" But I emptied bins and filled carts, sweating and trembling and feeling more the inept fool than I ever have. The stack of empty bins towered over me on the handtruck as I tipped it back. Would I get a "thank you" then? No. Julie turned her back to empty the bookdrop.

It was lunchtime when I finished sorting the mail bins in the back. Julie was filling the electric teapot when I entered the break room. I put my stuff at my usual seat and passed her at the sink to get a spoon from the drawer. I stared at that spoon as I sat heavily, then I said, "Don't let me do that again." "What?" "Don't let me do that again--help you with the mail. Too close." She chuckled lightly and said, "Well, you volunteered. So, thanks." It didn't sound like gratitude but indulgence. I couldn't eat for half an hour, then slowly choked down each bit of my pbj. My heart still raced, and the hands covering my face still trembled. I was little better the rest of the day--worse, for not having anyone to talk to about it.

Julie might think by now that I have nothing to say to her that doesn't remind her of how I feel about her, and she's just about right. The more she pretends otherwise, the more I have to remind her. She has got to at least laugh with me about this. It is not all up to me--and don't dare ask me why! because I don't know. Halfway is as far as I can go with her, and she's not covering the rest of the way because she doesn't give a damn. Yeah, yeah--she doesn't have to do anything--I'm tired of excusing her, rightly or wrongly. And, yeah, I shouldn't speculate on her feelings either, but I wouldn't bet against my judgment. If I'm being hard on Julie, let her tell me. I'm being hard on myself, and that's all. Its' the kind of talk that the ignorant thought was harmful to Julie six months ago. I told Chris then that I didn't hate him for blowing my cover, but I'm not sure I didn't lie. I at least hate myself for feeling that I might have. I haven't done the magnanimous, noble, christian thing and forgiven him, but the only reason I think I should have is that it is the magnanimous, noble, christian thing to do--turn the other cheek. Pride is destroying me. It sure gives me enough to write about, though, doesn't it?

Monday, June 8, 2009

(Dis) Connecting (6/7/09 Sunday)

I tried this past week to reclaim some music from Julie. XTC was first--Mummer, then Skylarking. It didn't work--"Grass," "Great Fire Burning," "Love on a Farmboy's Wages"--every one of the love songs rang ironical. Julie introduced me to Trashcan Sinatras, so them I'm trying to take from her altogether or, rather, remove her from them. Again, failure. I'm not close to trying Prefab Sprout. Yet the music I play has little interest to me if it doesn't connect me with my situation. I'm doing the opposite of distancing myself from Julie--more unhealthy and pathetic behaviour, more hopeful delusion. Maybe I want the pain.

Faith at Good Foods wants to fix me up with her mother, and I'm open to it. Faith has read the blog, and she had her mom read some it. Her reaction, according to Faith, was along the lines of "interesting." I don't know what that means. Faith lives across the street, a few doors closer to me than Stacey, so all I know is that it would at least be convenient to see her mom. That's hardly a reason for a relationship. I don't know anything about her except that she's shy. That's attractive in itself, but it's not enough, of course. If after reading my blog she's still interested in me, I suppose that's a big plus, too; after all, who wants someone who's in love with someone else? I believe I could get over Julie if I had another woman near my age to talk with--not about Julie, but about just about anything else--hang out with, be with, do things with, do nothing with. I hope she's open to at least a cup of coffee or tea (but not at Stir Crazy!). It would be nice to be with a woman who is being open and not pointing a ten-foot pole at my chest. I certainly don't want this to be about getting Julie's wraith out of my heart. I want this to be about connecting with someone who's worth my time and energy, which I don't think is really a tall order. I can say, "All I want is honesty," but I know that's not easy for most people. I can only be honest myself and hope that it's at least appreciated, if not entirely reciprocated, though how I can recognize the former without the latter, I don't know. What makes me believe the connection won't be difficult to make is knowing that Faith's mom is not Julie; that's halfway there. My basic task, with Faith's mom or any other prospective relationship, is to make no comparisons with Julie--though god forbid they should love Trashcan Sinatras!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

But Feel Free to Email Me with Suggestions (6/6/09 Saturday)

Julie was back yesterday. We still said nothing to each other, and the only eye contact was a confrontation. I stared in her eyes as we were approaching each other in the workroom. She tilted her chin toward the side on which I was about to pass her, and her eyebrows rose just-perceptibly. I felt as if I were being taunted or dared to speak. I didn't. Over the course of the day the knot spread across the back of my neck. It's still there today, another full workday with Julie. Since "thinking about you," not a word has passed between us that didn't pertain directly to work. It's been dark. It's defeatist and pathetic to resign myself to this state, but how do I get out of it? Yesterday, "it's up to you" never entered my mind, but I heard it very early on today. Most days I resent it, and today is one of those days. Each time I tell myself, "she knows," I have to remind myself of what she knows; and now I also have to ask, "How is that important?" It's fading. I'm losing grip of it. Yet as I do I am experiencing vague fantasies of Julie coming around, warming up to me, talking to me, wanting to know me. Those have to go away if I'm to prevent myself from doing something catastrophically stupid to effect their realization. I can't entertain that kind of hope. I have written "My Mid-Life Crisis" on the back of her picture on my fender. I figure that's in the category of She Knows, so seeing that won't elicit any more than a puzzled look from the clueless, a smirk from the clued-in, and a roll of the eyes from Julie. Hell, what more could I do, at this stage of the game, that could produce more than benign effect? It's best I don't try to answer that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Is Santa Listening So Long Before Christmas? (6/4/09 Thursday)

For the first time in the two years we've worked together Julie took a sick day. I'm sure it is not something she would do frivolously or deceitfully, but I had no details and none were offered by Judy or Tammy. I didn't ask. I was disappointed and empty to see the word "sick" by her name on the schedule and a squiggly black line marked through her duties. I know that my vanity is predicated still on her audience, so her absence made me rue bothering to shave, or even coming in. But I thought, Well, at least I can relax. Not true. There was hardly a moment without her presence in my mind and no moreso did I find comfort from that knot in my neck. I'm really not alive without her, am I? I will no longer argue with love--rationality is irrelevant. It just doesn't matter that she feels nothing for me. It doesn't matter that I "understand" that. How could she have believed that telling me that would relieve me of my feelings for her? I am in love with her, and it sickens me to be so. I'm possessive and jealous. I miss her when she's gone, and I can't stand to be around her. There is nothing healthy in this. I want it to stop.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Sleeves Are Too Short If I Can't Step on Them (6/03/09 Wednesday)

I try not to kid myself that I made any romantic inroads with my "thinking about you" crack. I've embarrassed/flattered Julie before, but I finally came to understand that however I made her feel at that moment was not a reflection of how she felt for me but about herself. I feel good for having made her feel that way (if I can even flatter myself that much), but I know that it doesn't necessarily increase her affection toward me. In fact, if we're ever to get to "normal" again, I may have set us back a step. In retrospect, it was a good thing to have furthered the conversation by mentioning the movie, bringing to earth any thought of lofty romantic intention--hope for it on my part and fear of it on hers. Yesterday, though, was definitely not a step forward. We made no contact whatsoever with either eyes or voice. I glanced at her several times, but only once when her back wasn't to me. I sat in front of her, at Angie's desk, doing holds one hour, and finished sweaty and with a knot in myh neck from the effort of trying to work when my mind was behind me. Another day of that is likely ahead of me today.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And for My Next Trick, I Will Convince Myself to Not Read Anything Into It (6/1/09 Monday)

Of course, my approach to the new work week was as predicted. How could it have been otherwise? Naturally, as per Mondays, I rode in with Stacey. When I got out of the car at work without helping put the shades across the windshield she chided me for shirking my duty. I scoped the parking lot entrance for a familiar car. I didn't see it. "Sorry," I said, "I just like to get inside before Julie pulls up." Inside, I went straight to my work, pulling old holds for deletion, hoping to lessen my chances of contact with Julie. By the time I was back in the workroom Julie was at the window, setting up. That meant I could do my job an entire expanse of room away from her, at the discharge counter--until I was done with the express holds and had to collect the old drive-up holds from under her nose. I started on the outside with the shelf unit between us. As I knelt I heard myself mutter, "It's up to you," and was surprised to not find any bitterness in the statement. Still, I was determined to not greet her. Instead, as I moved around to her side I said, "May I squeeze in here?" Slightly startled, having not heard my carpet-muffled approach, she said, "Oh. Sure." As I rifled through the books. I became as determined that she sould ask me about my week of as I was to not initiate conversation wih her. Then Julie said, "Did you have a relaxing time off?" I was so surprised and happy that I could have snatched her up and planted a wet one on her. "Yes, I did," I said, and my head got louder and louder with "Do it! No regrets!" I obeyed and said, "I was just reading and writing...[DO IT!!] and thinking about you." (YES!!) I said, "Sorry," immediately, but I wasn't. It was more like apologizing for a bad pun I couldn't help making. But she giggled! Not a dismissive, barely indulgent "tsh," but a genuine off-guard giggle. Score! I bet she blushed, too, but I couldn't look at her as I dipped to finish my job on the lower shelves; and I could tell, anyway, from her laugh that her back was to me. Not exactly emboldened by my little success but definitely giddy, I said, "I saw a movie you might like." I stood up, and she turned, and I almost forgot how to speak, much less what I intended to say. "The Flying Scotsman, with Johnny Lee Miller." Only through sheer willpower was I able to continue speaking and looking in her face. "It's about, uh, Graeme Obree--" "Who?" "Graeme Obree, champion--world champion cyclist in the nineties." Gah! Finishing that sentence was like finally breaking out of the water and gulping down air. She said, "I'll have to get that, especially if it has Johnny Lee in it." I took the holds back to the discharge station, where I sat heavily and used two shaky hands to lift the mug of chamomile tea to my lips. "She knows," I whispered--"boy, does she know!" The tea was no help at all.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Rust Bucket and the Lyart Are Out of My League--Forget About the New Car and the Young Blonde (5/31/09 Sunday)

Emma brought over the David Archuleta CD last night, and I figured I should hear it before I judged it. The girls told me the first song, "Crush," was a hit. (I hadn't heard it.) I told them "This is what A Bright, Ironic Hell is about." No reaction. Ah, well, I gave it a shot. I won't push it. Let's just call it a bug in the ear. Actually, anymore, it's not so much the girls I'm concerned about reading the blog as about Ann. I would never tell the kids to keep a secret, and I can surmise by what they tell me of their home life that they woulld be equally candid at home about mine. Come to think of it, they might have already told Ann about my blogs. That in itself would be no red flag to her as long as they gassured her they hadn't read it. Not that I'd care for Ann to read either BIH or Book Monkey Says--I'd rather have her judge me as a man than as a father--but the thought makes me all the more hesitant to give the girls the go-ahead to read BIH. (Book Monkey's a bit further down the road.)

Now there's a third blog, and I might never let them know about this one. It's actually my first one. I'd forgotten about it until I stumbled upon it a few days ago when I pulled up a bookmark portal I rarely use. There it was, at the top of the list. It has lain fallow for nearly three years, having last been posted upon in July or 2006, only three months and twenty-two posts into its life. Well, it's going to live again, though I'm a little embarrassed about it. See, it's, uh, not about love. Its' about sex. which makes it a fantasy, but a fantasy still featuring myself. The real people in it have new names, so let's call it fiction. (Me? Sex? What else could it be?) Anyway, I never promoted it, so it may never have been seen except for the click-throughs from the (pseudonymous) profile page, and there have been only twenty hits on that. I have a bit of tweaking to do on it before re-launching it--refresh myself with the pseudonyms and get myself back into character to write fresh material. Someone got the name Julie, more than a year before I'd met my heaven and hell, so that's gotta change; and one of the men is now a woman, but I think I'll stick with the original model. The cast, as well as the library, has grown much larger, but I don't think that will have a meaningful effect. But there are only two main things I need to do: Tweak the posting dates to bring them "current," and write a new post to kick-start the story. I'm looking forward to expressing another aspect of my personality and exercising another muscle of my imagination.

(I might have said the same about Book Monkey. Poor Book Monkey. He became difficult for me to handle with such a restrictive perspective. He may be dead.)

Looking at the cover of the David Archuleta album, I remarked, "I'd like his shirt without the picture on it." Emma said, "Then it's just a shirt." "No," I said, "it would be a ringer tee. Ringer tees are my new favorite thing. They make me feel like a little boy." Emma faked a cough into her fist and barked, "Midlifecrisis!" "Well," I said, "some guys get the red sports car, some guys get the ringer tees." I decided at that moment to refer to Julie as "my mid-life crisis." I wrote it on the back of her picture today.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fourteen's a Good Place to Stop (5/30/09 Saturday)

I've only read fourteen books this year. I'm about two months behind my usual pace. In try to reclaim my life from preoccupation with Julie, I've started back into things I'd all but given up in pursuit of her. I still can't listen to XTC or Trashcan Sinatras again, but as there's no chance I'll go back to Ellis Peters, I can always read without that awful pang of association better not made. That lasted until about twenty pages into Phoebe, Junior, when Clarence becomes "fascinated" with Phoebe, falls "a hopeless victim to her fascinations." Apparently, the charge of that word was strong even in the mid-Victorian era. I hope Clarence never actually speaks the word to Phoebe. I don't suppose pre-rejection flattery back then started, "You're a great guy, but..."--that probably got its start in the 1920's--still long enough ago to have since been embedded in the human female DNA. I tried reading this morning, but the entire brief and futile endeavor was clouded by "fascinated." There are words, too, that I can't hear or read--much less use. "Hope" and any form of "fascinate" top the list. The associations turn me cold and bitter and threaten to ossify my heart. Now I see "love" floating upward from the depth of verbal practicality to the heights of psychological malevolence, where sits the temple of irony. I don't want to go there, I don't want to see it. Have I lost those words there? Better to not use them, if I can help it.

One more day of this freedom, and it's back to work. I feel no more fortified against Julie's proximity than I ever did. Every morning I've awaken thinking of her, even when she hasn't appeared in that night's dreams. I've regressed. Even "she knows" has lost meaning, if only for the lack of context. I badly need that context, and not just to resuscitate a specious mantra. Why otherwise, I'm really not sure, but I suspect it's for the challenge. I think that's why I miss Julie when I'm not around her: I have to prove--to her and myself--that I can--what? that I can what? Be in love with her and still work with her? Get over her? I don't think that what I'm trying to prove is what I really want. I don't want to get over her, and if I don't get over her, I can't work with her. So my challenge, really, is to not go stark, raving bonkers over an untenable situation--i.e., I need to live a pretense to sanity. Fake it till I make it? Can you hear me laughing? Good, because I'm not. I don't want to say that I'll enter work Monday as trepidatious as ever to encounter Julie, because it's easily self-fulfilled. I may believe it, but I won't indulge it. Is that faking it? Absolutely--as much so as trying to read Phoebe, Junior.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Hope (5/28/09 Thursday)

The girls have known about the blog since they googled me. They haven't read it. I haven't told them not to; I think the title frightens them. They don't ask me about it. They'll be thirteen in a month. I would like to talk to them about it. I would like them to know this part of me. I would like them to know what I've been through. I want them to know that a man--and a man my age--can be in love, can want love, deserves love. I at least want them to know the father they see only twice a week. And yet when they finally read this will they wonder why there is scant mention of them while countless words have been devoted to someone who doesn't depend on me for guidance, love and support? who, indeed, depends on me for nothing at all? Could my passion have been better spent?

What will the girls think of me when they read all of this? Caring about that jeopardizes the candor of my writing, but it's a candid concern. Having no older siblings to corrupt them and being nurtured more by responsible grownups than by the media, they will, I hope have thoughts of their own beyond the easily taken for granted lies of tradition, and will not, by the time they read this already believe, say, that a man's emotional strength is his ability to suppress his emotions. Perhaps I can flatter myself to think that their reading this will positively solidify their thoughts on the subject, arming them against popular opinion. I can only hope, and I do. But I hope, first, that they do not judge me. If I have not been a great father it is not because of my preoccupation with Julie but because of my preoccupation with myself. In the process of getting in touch with myself and trying to become whole and learn to love myself without judgement, I have lost touch with the only beings who love me without judgment. (I am aware of the irony, but I don't embrace it.) They likely will be bewildered at first, then frightened, then aghast. After that? What connections will they make between my words and my actions? Consistent and integral ones, I hope; ones that solidify my dimensions, root me deeply and positively into the context of their lives. At the very least, what they read should shed enough light on their perceived shortcomings of me to illuminate a compassionate understanding.

A Guy Can Dream--Whether He Likes It or Not (5/27/09 Wednesday)

Another dream of work, another appearance of Julie, as fleeting as the last. I was inside the library this time. It looked like a bookstore--one vast, bright room. I got only a glimpse of Julie--no eye contact. Her hair seemed darker than natural. I felt disappointed that she would color her hair. I remember little else about the dream, except the feeling of playing out a light comedy.

Shouldn't I be glad to be away from work and Julie? I can't need the tension. I have almost never dreamt of work or Julie. I don't want to be at work, and I can always live outside of Julie's presence. Or can I? Sometimes I think I need Julie just to remember I'm alive. I hate this love. I'd say it was unfair if I thought fairness was even in it. What is it good for? Am I supposed to learn from this? Patience, tolerance--are those my lessons? The patience to let love work for me, the tolerance to harbor unwanted feelings?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Know Way, Knowhere, Know How (5/26/09 Tuesday)

The curls were happening yesterday, but nothing else was, really, at the cookout. I did manage to recapture some of my newfound conversational skills--drawing people out despite my actual relative disinterest in them--but there was no flirting to be done, no women I felt that kind of interest in or attraction to. To be back in Bellevue, though, was to be in an old comfort zone, the proximity to Stir Crazy (two blocks) notwithstanding. A place you lived for ten years, where you lived with a lot of other people your age for that long, is not easily gotten out of your system. I've lived in this apartment in the West End (surburbia) for seven years but I don't know anyone here and certainly haven't grown up with anyone here. Michelle upstairs was here when I moved in. I don't know her last name or what she does. I know that she leaves for work at twenty of eight, that she likes her gospel radio loud and that she's had sex over my head a few times in the past couple months. I lived in the Carytown area for the twelve years between Bellevue and here and made no friends or even connections. Though I'm drawn down there frequently, my nostalgic fondness for the place is drawn solely from familiarity of the streets and alleys I covered on foot and bike every day. There is no one there to recognize me. There was at least that at the cookout.

I have been dreaming about work at night and have been spending the days feeling guilty. The dreams, as nearly all my dreams do, have taken place in a gray half-darkness, but an element of stormy weather has been added. Julie was only in the first dream, in which I roll up through mud on my bike to the back door of work, though its not the library but, seemingly, a fast-food restaurant. I'm fumbling with my keys, trying one after another in the bike lock, when Julie comes out of the door on my left, fights through a throng, and brushes my back with her arm to come to the polite aid of a coworker. Presently, she brushes me again on her way back inside. I consider (in my dream) the contact significant, though not in a positive way, seeing as she didn't acknowledge me in any way. In actuality, we have only made physical contact twice, lightly and accidentally. In another dream, I was attempting, against the advice of other coworkers, to get to work. Though it was not raining, the river to my left was in angry, muddy spate, and though it had washed away much of the bank, the sidewalk was still intact, and I figured it would stay so. But a sudden rush of water, as if from a broken dike, poured across the path from my right and behind me. I looked ahead and upon seeing the way similarly blocked, attempted to return, but the rushing water swept my feet from the sidewalk, at which I clawed for new purchase. I did not panic but gave in to my certain death without fear or regret, and was swept into another dream.

I don't know where the guilt comes from or is about, and I'm not even convinced it's guilt. It feels like something I've always called "guilt," but what I think it is is a feeling that I'm not doing enough for myself to get where I think I belong. What am I doing toward getting that book written? What am I doing, even, toward getting this apartment clean? I walked out of work Thursday night intent only on getting down to Carytown and finishing Miss Marjoribanks during the next ten days. Why do I feel I should have set loftier goals? The word "occupation" as it applies to a job has taken on a new depth of meaning: It occupies my time, keeping me from loose ends. Ironic, that these "better things" I have to do besides work aren't enough to occupy me as well as the work does. There are plenty better things to do, but work is easier. I get paid for it, for a start. Is there no other motivation that is good enough to do the better things? What does it take to move from "easy" to "rewarding"? When I'm not working, easy is reading, doing some sudoku and writing some, maybe watching a DVD. Is this my life? Is this the road, with barbed-wire-topped walls, to the end of my days? What breaks the wall, severs the wire? Not guilt, but more than desire. Desire I have. What don't I have, what am I not using, that gets me to rewarding? More than curls and dreams.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I'd Have Said Narcissus, But That Would Have Been a Bit On-the-Nose (5/24/09 Sunday)

Spoke three words today--"Hi" and "Thank you." As I have before, I felt a perverse sense of accomplishment, but this time it is tinged with shame. I failed to make contact, and I've fogotten how I'd been doing it at work recently. I've been feeling the skill fading all week; now a day alone has drained the last of it. I said "Hi" to a woman sitting on her stoop as I walked past, and I said "Thank you" to the cleerk at Fresh Market when he handed me my change and receipt. (His "Your welcome" seemed startled out of him.) I missed opportunities to connect because I didn't recognize them as such until they had passed. I've said nothing since then and will not again till morning. I'm in for the night. I'll call Matt in the morning to scooter.

Matt has invited me to a cookout he and Mary are invited to. My crashing won't be minded, but it won't hurt to bring an offering of beer. I don't know who else will be there, but I hope it's not too small a gathering--the more people to try to interact with the better. I have to make an effort, even if I don't remember how. Forget "people," really--I just want to talk to women. I'm feeling exceptionally attractive lately, and I'd like to parley that into some self-confidence. It's inexplicable to me: All the time I'd been trying to attract Julie's attention it never crossed my mind that her inattention had anything to do with my physical attractiveness. I mean, what is a guy with all but no self-esteem doing believing he's good-looking? I still believe it--but when did this happen? Long after I'd picked out the beer, I lingered in Fresh Market as a walking display of vanity, inviting the once-over and double-take. Several women (and a couple men) partook. Imagine--me, an exhibitionist! I've gotten a lot more attention since I swore off haircuts as a declaration of independence from trying to look as I perceived others wanted me to look--and since I discovered I have curls, I have been as vain as Samson. If I have one pipeline curl falling to my brow I'm having a good hair day. At Ukrop's I entered an aisle and steered around a tall woman with her back to me. Halfway down I picked up a couple things and continued. Before I reached the end of the aisle that same woman entered it behind a shopping cart. She looked neither to the left or right but me up and down before smiling, saying "Hi," and continuing past me. I returned the greeting then turned to watch her after she passed. She looked straight ahead, did not pause to consider an item on the shelf, and exited the other end. Though I could tell from the personal perusal that she had marked me off as a prospect, I nonetheless chose to be flattered. Flattery is about all I have left in the way of esteem. I'll take it, if it even artificially bolsters my confidence. I don't intend to be the exhibitionist at the cookout, but a dangling curl would start me off on the plus side of confidence.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

What Passes (5/22/09 Friday)

My week off began last night at closing. I still awoke at six this morning. I'm already struggling against feeling cut off, alienated. It's something of a new feeling--the opposite of escape? Exile? Are all feelings painful? Maybe just the new ones. I just reread the last paragraph of yesterday's entry and smiled through tears. What am I? What have I become? What am I becoming? I have to clench my jaw to keep from sobbing--I'm in public. I'm not feeling sad. I don't know what I'm feeling, but I can't help feeling it. I have felt nothing; now, am I feeling too much? I want to be surrounded, smothered, hugged by a crowd. I want everyone talking to me at once. I want to talk myself hoarse.


And yet I've been all but silent. Even in Carytown a weekday afternoon is not thronged. I asked a lost-looking couple if I could help them find a particular place, but they said they were looking for their car. I've spent a hundred dollars on three Ugly Dolls, two CD's and a DVD. I sort of promised the girls big Ugly Dolls this year for their birthday, and when Claire's face lit up and her jaw dropped, the deal was signed. I bought myself Enter the Vaselines and the new one by The Audition. I bought The Flying Scotsman because it's a Scottish movie about a Scotsman.

So, I'm in Jean-Jacques in a crowd that's talking to itself, finished with the chocolate muffin and the first cup of coffee, and in no way ready to go home, but reluctant to spend any more money, wishfully expecting Jan to walk in. I finally called her several weeks ago, at Mike's urging, but got her voice mail. She eventually called me back (got my machine), apologizing and asking if she could be put up the following Tuesday night in order to get to court in the morning. Called her on my lunch break last Friday, left another message. No reply--I thought. I called Mom on Mother's Day, using the cell because I'd already bought the minutes, and saw I had two messages. They were both from Jan, but only one was meant for me. The first was a drunk-dial for "Joe": She was just leaving the second dull party she'd crashed and would let him know if she found a good one. The second told me she was in town getting some dental work done, and loosely suggested we get together, then asked if my kids would like to have her son's gerbil. "I have to get rid of it." The call had been made the Friday I'd called her, but apparently after I'd gotten home and hung up my jacket, phone and all, in the closet. I wonder if she's called since. I rarely turn on my cell.


Jan won't find me here, at Byrd Park. No one will find me here, behind Maymont, at the edge of a pond, between two oak trees, my back against one, bike and feet against the other. As I cruised through the park, hands off the bars, a cyclist dolled up in skin-tight billbillboard togs passed me slowly. I said, "Hey." He didn't even look at me.

I probably haven't been any place so tranquil since I was last in Scotland by myself, nearly thirty years ago, and it almost seems disrespectful to write when I could as easily sink into quiessence. I can hear the train down at the canal, its rumbling smoothed to an ambient roar by the quarter-mile between it and my ears. The rustling leaves cover what little of the sporadic traffic passes on the road out of sight of me. When the wind is still I can make out conversation across the pond a couple hundred feet away. An insect settled on the opposite page five minutes ago, and has not been disturbed by my scribbling or the wind bristling its antennae. A turtle's head parts the water on its way to one of the platforms made for it and anchored in the water. That cyclist is passing for the fourth time. If I had a blanket and a lot more food than a banana and a nutrition bar, I'd be here all night, or until a cop rousted me. I have nowhere to be for anyone else, and won't until Tuesday when I see the kids again, The holiday weekend took them to Lake Gaston, as usual, so I don't even need to make my usual grocery trip for their meals. I might come close to starvation this week, lazy as I am about fixing meals, especially when I don't have to. I have a six of Yuengling Black & Tans. That's food isn't it?