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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

At a One-Time Membership Fee of Half Your Sanity and Dignity and All Your Common Sense (11/30/08 Sunday)

This anger at seeming to have to play by rules I can't abide is a refusal to compromise, because what I am ultimately compromising is my freedom, of doing, getting, and having things my way. Justified? Probably not--nothing more than pride. And that's significant--though no more so than the last time I revealed that startling epiphany. See how much I've grown?

Still, I've somehow jaded myself. I can't believe my own words, even when they make sense. Hope is cruel, ideals a joke. I was all set to rhapsodize about the marvelous way Julie started my work morning yesterday, the way first-sight of her made me gasp in stark wonder at her beauty. But my heart is tired of this hope and the head's cries of "Wolf!" over every seemingly positive detail. In fact, it was a very good day in terms of contact with Julie, but it's best I not get excited. It will mean something when it means something. I can't help it along. Right now, I'm just looking for normalcy.

Judy asked me yesterday if I would take the desk at ten. I said yes, and she said, "Something told me you wouldn't mind," and I'd swear there was almost a wink. We both knew Julie would be out there then. What else did Judy know? Of course, I wanted Julie's attention, but besides asking about her Thanksgiving I didn't try very hard. I gave a couple of female patrons more attention, flirting a little bit with them. (One was receptive, the other not.) A patron flirted with Julie, but she didn't appear to notice. It wasn't his first attempt. He usually chats her up about books, but yesterday it was about her Thanksgiving. She didn't give him too much eye as she answered, concentrating on the DVD she was cleaning, and didn't ask about his holiday. That was all he had. I gave him a knowing look as he passed on. He returned disappointment with a tight-lipped frown. Join the club, I thought, though I was careful not to convey it.

Judy asked Julie and me if we were going to the holiday gathering. Julie said yes, I said no. It was only barely tempting to change my mind. Julie never comes to these things, so I was a little surprised, but Julie at work or Julie at Bottom's Up is still Julie in a crowd of coworkers. I'd have a rotten time hoping she'd notice me and a worse time trying to talk to her. I don't need any more of that.

My birthday card is going around the office for signatures these days, I'm sure. I'd as soon Julie didn't sign it as leave some vapid insincerity. She knows what I wrote on her card. (The week after she got it she had a sample of my handwriting on a piece of scrap paper, asked if it was mine, and when I replied affirmatively, she looked at it again and went, "Huh!") I would love for her to return the creative effort. Hope.

Suddenly, I remember a time, when I was still driving, sitting at a red light when a minivan stopped abruptly beside me in the next lane. White knuckles clutched the steering wheel at the end of locked-straight arms. Bands of muscle stood out from the woman's neck. Eyes clenched against an impossible strain, her mouth gave way and her chest convulsed in sobs. Such a life. Such a world.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Hole of Love, Backhoe of Bitterness (11/28/08 Friday)

The anger won't ebb. I'm sick of trying to talk it away. As much as I know what I should do, I just can't do it. I can't run away, I can't avoid; I can't fill the emotional void with books and tv and alcohol. The dirt dug from the earth is the only proper thing to refill the hole made with the shovel. Love is the only thing to fill my hole. It's why so much means so little to me anymore: I know what I need and I know where I won't find it. The books, the music, the writing, the talking--throw them all in--the hole is a black one for them. I just want love. Julie can't give me that, but I can't stop hoping, anyway. I've called hope a prod, but it's more of an acid, disintegrating reason and knowledge almost instantly. It's hard to believe, but I do want to give Julie up. Hope won't let me. I want to run away from Julie, to avoid her without shame, to go back to my books and the pretense of a fulfilling life. I want Julie to hurry up and go away. These are the only solutions I see anymore, and my heart has no eyes. I want to say that I hope Julie isn't uncomfortable with me now. I want to say that I don't want anything I've said or done to have affected the way she sees or treats me. I want to, but I can't. I want just the opposite. I want her in turmoil. I want to blow all her emotional compartments to bits and let escape everything she pretends not to feel.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'll Just Get Thicker Tires (11/27/08 Thanksday)

This confusion, it's simply my inability to play by Julie's rules. No force of will can counter my natural inclinations, no brilliant rationale can make sense enough of how I feel and am in order to force acquiescence to anything. Am I lacking compassion? Do I not care enough for Julie's sensibilities to leave her alone about all this? Of course I care, or I would not be trying so hard to leave her be. But how delicate do I think she is? She knows how I feel. How hard would it be on her to be told how hard it continues to be to work with her? That's what I want to do, bare my heart, but why? The letter already warned her of the difficulty, and there's really nothing I can expect of her. The smart thing is to let it lie, but is it a sleeping dog or a wounded bird? The wintering larva of a malicious bug lying in wait for a warmth, as of a passion, to awaken it to commence it's thoughtless path of destruction?

Round and round I go with this, spiralling deeper and deeper into the cataract. Is it bottomless? because between the neurosis and the arrested emotional development, I can make this last forever. It's all a joke, I know. I've known it for ever. If someone just said, "Dion, you're making a fool of yourself. There's nothing there. Julie's never going to want you," I might just give it up, though I think the person to tell me that would have to be Julie to convince me to move on. If I were to speculate, I'd say she was afraid to tell me herself--another little something she'd "hate to have to say". But I couldn't take hearing it from her. I prefer the truth, but I don't really want to hear that one--at least not from her. Sure, I want a sign--a clear sign--but not that one.

I wish this were all a product of my imagination--Julie, the crush, all the people mentioned and involved. At least then I could conconct a satisfactory ending, not necessarily the happy ending I'd like it to have in reality, but the right ending. What would that be? Hinckley, regarding the situation, has often started, "Now if this were a Hollywood movie," but has never unironically completed the statement. I can't imagine an ending because I can't get inside Julie's head or heart--rather, I can't get into my own heart for long enough to understand what it takes to understand someone else. Compassion is an understanding of one's heart for another's. If I could get past what I wanted and hoped for, I could possibly understand what Julie really wants. Or, maybe it's not-knowing what I really want and hope for that prevents me from understanding. I'm not sure I can get very far down Logic Road with that statement before I hit a truth that bounces me into the ditch. And if I swerve from that one, another one will bite my tire. Denial is an artful dodger, but the stress of the artifice eventually leaves it vulnerable to sharp truth.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Don't Press Which Red Button? (11/26/08 Wednesday)

But it's likely only me that's fallen back to square one. What happened to following Julie's lead? What happened to not imbuing and inferring? What happened to accepting Julie's complexity as immune to my speculation? Impatience happened to all of it. As always, I want to see some signs of progress (another term I thought I'd renounced). Yet I'm the one that needs to progress. How far have I come? Maybe a long way intelligently, but seemingly nowhere emotionally. My thinking becomes clearer and deeper, the answers sprout like weeds, but I haven't grown an inch. In the light of that, I've become tired of bothering with answers. To say that I should stop bothering seeking answers altogether is itself an answer--a bright ironic answer--that I know to be both right and impossible. Right and impossible.


At work today I started to fall back into avoidance mode, not greeting Julie when I first saw her, passing my desk with a cart. I was counting on eye contact (forgetting last Wednesday's effort in proactivity, apparently), but she didn't look my way. I didn't miss my second chance, thought, when I made her look up from a cart after I said, "Hi, Julie!" She smiled and said, "Hi, Dion. How are you?" and turned away after my answer. I relieved her at the window an hour later, asked her how it had gone there, simply to talk to her. I'm trying to file yesterday's non-reaction under "Julie's Rules" and let it go. I would be helpful, too, if I could follow some of my own rules. If I just summarily refused to speculate, imbue, infer and analyze I know I'd have an easier time writing, but what would it to to my thinking and my attitude? (I can speculate on that, right? Let's remove that action from the blacklist.) How about I don't speculate on that and just give it a try and see what happens?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Game, Set.... (11/25/08 Tuesday)

A weekend of talk is no match for a Monday of reality. I see Julie, and all that zennish crap is a trampled sand garden. I hope, therefore I am. I think I can manage to not analyze and second-guess too much, but I can't stop hoping. What else do I have?

I pedalled in today--I do that on Tuesday and Wednesdays now--and instead of parking at the rack out front, I left the bike at the back door where we all come in. I don't care who sees Julie's picture on the fender, including Julie. I bought a tin of Newman's Own ginger altoids and put them on her desk this morning. I have to do these things. I want everyone to know and Julie not to forget. I'll never say anything to her about how I feel. That ball's in her court to volley back.

(She's just left the breakroom. She's just gotten here, has passed my bike and been to her desk. Not a word. I can make myself believe it's because I'm writing that she didn't "disturb" me, but it's an uneasy rationalization. Here come the doubts.)

I guess giving those little gifts was okay when she didn't know how I felt about her. What do they mean now? (Something else to add to the category of Don't Think About.)


The altoids remained where I'd left them on her desk, and Julie never said anything about them, even during the hour on the desk together. I think I screwed up. Now a Christmas token seems out of the question. Oh, well, now I feel I'm back to square one, only with Julie knowing how I feel. This is much worse. Now everything I do or say around or to her is overfraught with ulterior menaning. I'm beginning to feel sick. What have I done? I'm watching Friday swirl down the drain. Oh, Dion, did nothing get through to you? How can I recover?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Having Thoughts and Not Thinking.... (11/23/08 Sunday)

Hope. How has that become a frightening word? Just leave it to me. Oh, what I can do with the happiest of words! Give me hope, but don't give me expectations. Don't give me an object of hope, just a feeling of it. Hope for what? I don't want to know. Hope is dangerous. I have to be careful what I hope. I have to hope small, local, and general. I can hope to stay in the moment, be myself. ("Didn't I say I don't want this?" suddenly rings as loudly in my head as if I'd just spoken it aloud. Its unbidden presence and ambiguous relevance is discomfitting.) I can't hope for Julie to initiate a conversation, or for anything else I can't control. I can't afford to infer or imbue. I can't think that I have an advantage or have made progress. Hope is on its own.

The more I write the more I want to explain and illustrate with specifics--events and scenarios real, imagined and hope-for--but I can't allow it. My mind wants to deconstruct and analyze, and I strain against the inclination. Writing is a dangerous compromise to that urge but an important challenge: I have to write--though in trying to justify that claim I can't untangle the rationalization--plainly and simply, I have to write. If I should ever question that need again, shoot me. The writing is not the challenge. The writing is about the challenge. No more about writing; the challenge is personal, not artistic.

What is the challenge, then? Having hope and not hoping.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Zeneurotica (11/21/08 Friday)

I'm sitting here grinning. I didn't even taste the canary on the way down. Julie made no idle jest. First thing this morning she began soliciting other noon-lunchers for a switch. Maddox obliged her--and me.

(Now I'm staring. My hand cups a snifter of Ardbeg, which I bought before I got home. I couldn't order my thoughts if they were my own children. I haven't a clue what I'm feeling about today.)

I couldn't tell you about the next three hours, or much about the one after that. I had an hour on the desk with Hinckley just before lunch. He may have may have been as elated as I was, but cautioned both of us against reading too much into the development. At noon I felt like a balloon untethered and floated to the back door. I could hear the rythmic susurrus of Julie's jeans cuffs close behind. Angie was waiting, but Julie forgot her bag and had to return to her desk for it. Angie went out to start the car; I waited for Julie. "You can have shotgun, I told her as we approached the car. "Why, thank you, "she said, and I added, to temper my gallantry (to my regret then but no longer), "It's safer in the back." She laughed and countered, "But I have the airbag." On the way there, being in the back, I felt cut off from the conversation, but when we got there we were three abreast walking in, Julie in the middle. I had planned to say something like, "This is my first time here. I may need someone to hold my hand," but balled up the script and back-kicked it into the trash. Julie all but took me in hand, anyway, as Angie beelined for the seafood buffet. "Let's go this way," Julie said to me, "unless you want seafood." "I don't," I said, meaning, "not if it means losing you." She pointed down each aisle we passed and with a word or two described their contents. My eyes were huge, overwhelmed like a hick staring up at skyscrapers. I looked at Julie when we reached our destination, the main lunch area, and she was smiling in amusement. I felt as open as a child; I let her introduce me to the buffet stations. I panicked slightly each time I lost sight of her; I was still a bit intimidated by the place and didn't want to be left too much to my own devices, lest I should violate some unwritten point of Whole Foods etiquette and make a naive fool of myself. After eating we left as we came and drove back to work as we'd driven there, and with four minutes to spare.

When I got a chance, I tried to explain to Hinckley about the trip, but I couldn't find meaning enough in the details to warrant telling. All I had was feelings. "I am so in!" was about all I could say, wich only puzzled him. My attempt on the way home was no better. Then, I was trying to analyse Julie's motives in switching her lunch hour, but even now I can't untangle it and line it up in words. (And I get the suspicion all of a sudden that I should leave the tangle--call it a weave and wear it as a sweater.) Eventually, all I could say was, "She's more fascinating than ever. Just when I thought I'd made it up out of whole cloth, this happens."

What happened I'm not sure, and only the compulsion to break it down into logical pieces keeps me from simply accepting the excitement I feel over this challenge. Hinckley thinks Julie is testing me, and though I sense it, believing it builds an artifice of logic that I just don't want any part of. All I want to believe or know is that Julie is a complex creature. I don't want to know if she's playing a game; I just want to follow her lead.

This is such an ironic complication, though. How can I not get my hopes up now? By accepting what I'm given and taking no more. (Didn't I claim in the letter to do just that?) Be happy with it. I know, also, that I must avoid picking apart an event to find faults and regrets. I was not a sparkling wit at lunch. I did not make good eye contact. But I was accepted. As yet, that's good enough. My goals are small and simple now, easy to focus on. I don't need analysis (perhaps I should phrase that differently)--analyses. I don't even need to make sense of things. I only need to be aware. Just aware--not of anything--just aware.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When Has That Ever Stopped Me? (11/20/08 Thursday)

I engaged Julie in short conversation a couple times yesterday, about Robert Carlyle being on 24; and if she had A Fine Romance and, if so, could I borrow it (yes and yes). Though these topics were designed as a chance to talk to her, they were not implemented as a hopeful lover to a hoped-for one, but as a coworker engaging another in subjects of mutual interest. Sounds clinical, I know, but once I remove the emotional component, the pretense of hope for romance, I can talk to her as she would prefer to be spoken to at work. Yes, if this were a game--and I won't admit that--then I'm playing by Julie's rules. A compromise--usually a dirty word in my vocabulary, but a component of compassion. Do I want to know Julie? Do I want to understand her "theory"? Then I have to try it on for size, walk the proverbial mile in the proverbial shoes. I get an hour on the desk with Julie tonight, and I'm already lining up topics of conversation. But I'm not worrying (too much) about what she might think I'm trying to accomplish with them. I want to do only two things besides keep her talking to me: look at her when speaking to her, and use her statements to fuel the conversation. Both of these tasks I consider difficult and crucial; if my voice is not directed at her, she may not be willing to follow; and I musn't be so intent on my own shopping list of questions to probe her responses and take them to the next depth--she will be willing to talk if I am able to listen. Am I ready?


Tomorrow, Angie and I are going to Whole Foods for lunch. I invited myself, on the pretense of riding in her car, a Bimmer. Ulteriorly, I wanted to talk about Julie. A risky move, as I'm not of sure of her trustworthiness as a secret-keeper. But I know I have her sympathy, and--better yet--she often lunches with Julie, so I may shamelessly pump her for information. Or not. Julie wants to come along, according to Angie, and will try to have her lunch hour moved to noon to accommodate it. Julie, who always goes to lunch at one on day shifts in order to shorten her day, wants to give that up for a ride to Whole Foods, which, of course, she can do on her own at one. She didn't do that last week. Am I the draw? I don't don't don't want to flatter myself with that, but I had to ask Angie, "Does Julie know I'm coming?" "Oh, yeah,", she said. It's irony time once again, folks: Here I am, getting a handle, finally, on scaling back my hopes, and here Julie goes winding me up again--sorry, catalysing my self-windup. I can't let it happen. (The windup, that is; you think I don't want her to come with us?)


The hour was not what I'd hoped. I engaged Julie as often as patrons allowed, but that wasn't for any good block of time, and I probably came close to barking at a few of them. I was entirely unsuccessful at making eye contact as I spoke, but she listened and responded. I also missed a opportunities to probe for elaboration on some things she said. I'm glad to be aware enough to critique my performance without self-flagellation. I may have made little progress, but having made even the little I did is cause for encouragement, not scolding.

Hinckley believes Julie has thawed considerably this week around me. I believe so, too. Maybe it's because I have, as well--at least it's a likely contributing factor. I feel I have to keep at her to keep her open to my presence, yet, of course, I don't want to push her. But I have to keep any strategy simple and general: talk to her without expectation, and with no more pretense than getting to know her, which is hardly a pretense of conversation with someone that interests one. Getting to know her is what I want to do.

I don't think Julie will be coming to Whole Foods with Angie and me. I think Julie made an idle jest about changing her lunch hour tomorrow, because a peek at the schedule showed no change. Well, I guess I"ll tell Angie about Julie, after all. I hope I know what I'm doing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Get a Guy's What Up? (11/19/08 Wednesday)

Coming to grips is letting go of denial. My anger comes from reminders of thing I've been pretending aren't there. When I dress I still consider what Julie will see. When I look in the mirror, I'm Julie looking at me. If I'm to accept my vanity, I want it to have an audience. I want Julie to see me, and I want to feel attractive when she does. Monday, when she was on the desk and I was at lunch, I sat at a computer in Planet Teen that put me in her view. I opened up the journal and began transcribing onto the blog. Why she came to the DVD shelf nearest me, I don't know--returning a disc she'd just cleaned, maybe--but my fingers began flying across the keyboard to the tune of "Ever Fallen In Love" bouncing in my head. I've taped a label with the blog title onto the spine of the journal, and at work I leave my bag open near my locker, exposing the spine-up book conspicuously. I would normally think this pathetic, but I chose now to accept it for what it is--whatever it is--just as I grin at the picture taped to my fender. No, I'm not over her, but I don't need to pine for her or expend tense energy hoping for some acknowledgement from her. It's no way to live, because it's not my life to live. Hope's importance must be minimized; the moreso, the better I can appreciate the moment, the less I need look for results. Yesterday, my lunch coincided with a shelving hour for Julie. She'd taken the DVD cart. After I ate I took my journal to Planet Teen. I'd barely written, but I'd write some more and then post it. Of course, what was important was the proximity to Julie. As she had gotten to work at twelve-thirty, while I was on the desk, we had not crossed paths, though I'd seen her drag the cart out. I returned to the workroom from lunch a few minutes before Julie with the cart. I was standing at my desk when she entered. I watched her approach. She stalled beside my desk, a clot of people barring her way. Perhaps it was my stare that pulled her eyes to mine. I smiled widely, naturally, and said, "Hi!" as brightly as I've ever said anything. Her smile answered mine, and she said, "Hello, there!" in a voice I'd never heard and suddenly knew I'd always wanted to hear: demure, but open and coy. (I'd add "sexy" if I didn't think it was pure inference.) Honest. Her smile lingered as she passed. Enough to get a guy's hopes up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On a Scale of One-to-Ten? or Can I Just Shove a Finger Down My Throat? (11/18/08 Tuesday)

About Julie not asking me questions: neither do I ask after someone who doesn't interest me. I've known this all along, but denied the obvious parallel. If I'm finally dropping the scales from my eyes, it's because it's the only way to make sense of myself and this whole affair. How could logic have helped when I was denying entry to the true components of the equation? (But do I have to answer that question of yesterday?) Now I really do want answers to the questions in the letter. If she wasn't interested in me, why meet me at the coffee shop?--But I'm going to a bad place, aren't I? She's shy, too; can I not believe that? Can I not see that in myself? That seems to be something else about myself I'm holding against her. How could I not empathize with that? Do I really dislike myself that much?

Monday, November 17, 2008

And If the Answer Is "Yes"? (11/17/08 Monday)

If I'm to get a grip on my bitterness, I have to address my "accusations." Accusations and fault-finding are often projections. Julie is no different than myself in seeking extroverts to talk with. Who do I seek out? Stacey, Hinckley, Tammy--extroverts. I've known all along that I had to understand Julie compassionately, but that was a projection, as well: I'm looking for the compassion for myself. If I can't hate someone else, how can I hate myself? I'm judging people by standards by which I judge myself. How can I know those standards apply to anyone else? What makes me think my standards are universal? or even valid? What do I know of myself that I haven't judged to be stupid, worthless, or invalid, already? And how valid could the judgements possibly have been? But I don't know where this is leading--not that that in itself is reason for doubt; I just haven't been down this road and don't want to double back from a dead end. This has always been about me. Julie has just been the catalyst. It's certainly not easy to admit, if it's true. What would that mean? What other horrible and necessary revelations await me? I'm not ready to admit that, if only because I can't yet reason it to be true. But, so what? What validation am I obligated to give to an utterance such as that? It came from a place of natural knowledge, a chance but inevitable and eventual bonding of formerly disparate and contextless ideas. Isn't it time I let that happen all the time? Have I just defined "revelation"? Have I just put a lie to what I thought were my feelings for Julie?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Throw In One of Those Sturdy Hemp Neckties, and You Got Yourself a Deal (11/16/08)

Kevyn called last night. She'd been worried about me because I'd been so far away when we'd all met at Colin's a few weeks ago. (She thought I'd "just been depressed.") So I finally told family about the crush. I'm glad it was Kevyn, only a year older and also single. She's recently been on the Julie-side of my problem, though to a more extreme extent, when a first date brought long-stemmed red roses with him. I told her what I'd said to Julie right away at the coffee shop. She applauded my boldness. I asked her what she thought would be the intentions of someone who told her she was fascinating, and she said that word was a dead-cinch indication of romantic intent. Well, at least Julie was not naive there. I had no delusion that it was an innocuous word--of course, I knew it would have an impact--but I didn't have a clue that it was so specifically fraught. She also felt that I was far from the ordinary guy in wanting the truth behind a rejection.

Kevyn asked me, "What's so attractive about her?" I assumed she meant besides her obvious external beauty. I said, after a long, blank pause, "No one's ever asked me that." I didn't know. A flickering light briefly illuminated an ugly thought: that despite my protestation, this may really have been an "attraction of convenience," that only Julie's proximity and availability were attractive to me. This afternoon, as I stared uncaringly at a football game, I felt so far from any new thought on this problem that I, not very flippantly, decided I'd have to leave the resolution up to a breakthrough on the scale of epiphany. Is that what happens when we finally give up on ourselves: we start grasping at Fate's lapels and plead to be bailed out of the nightmare? That would be my plan if I could give up the reins. For me, it equates to giving myself over to religion--not while I still have a thought--however idiotic and unhelpful--in my head. Though an awful feeling tells me I must succumb sometime. It's just like sleep, right? I don't stand a chance. Sleep is certainly an attractive offer. Along with a lobotomy.

I was nodding on the sofa, thinking how nice an early night's bed would be after today's early arisal, when I thought about how I'd awaken. Could I possibly feel any better, face Julie any more naturally, be any less envious of the people she chose to talk to? One long stupid question. My neck, which had just gotten stiffer with the growing (now waning) day somehow found a new standard of ossification. Maybe writing would help, though. What?! Can it possibly be measured how stupid I am? How impenetrable my brain is to its own thoughts? Words are all I have, and yet they're all I have. No meaning. No context to my heart whatsoever.

The Same Empty (11/16/08 Sunday)

A little after four a.m. Woke about an hour ago. The tension in my neck is working down my spine. Who the hell am I kidding? Closure? When we walked into work, Hinckley said he thought it should be interesting to see how Julie behaves, assuming she'd read the letter. I told him, "I don't expect a thing." I have no satisfaction in being right. No more satisfaction than I got in declaring my feelings to her. No more satisfaction than any of this writing has given me. Of course, there was no overt indication that she'd read the letter. But she has. I could tell. She was very stiff around me, even seemed to avoid me--the same way I was around her. She finally said, "Hello, Dion," around the third or fourth time she'd passed me. Of course, I hadn't talked to her, either, till then. I got no desk time with her, and though there were a couple hours in the workroom with her, she had headphones on the entire time. What had I to say, anyway?

I'm sick. I'm sick of myself. I wish I were as mentally retarded as I am emotionally. I just can't cope. I can write, I can talk to people about it, but it's not what I want. I want Julie to talk to me. We've been over this, and I know it: Julie owes me nothing. I know the problem is mine to work out. I know a lot of goddamned things, but where has it gotten me? I'm not just boring my friends, I'm boring myself. The maze I'm in is just a circle--no entrance, no exit. Do I have any right to talk to Julie her about it? Nonononono! How many times do I have to say it? I can't move on. What is to move on to? The same empty....

Friday, November 14, 2008

No Admittance (11/14/08 Friday)

Julie has the books. I told her at the desk I had brought them back. "Oh," she said. She seemed surprised. "Did you finish them?" "Oh, no. Only five," I said, looking her in the eye. "I thought I'd had them long enough. I don't really like keeping other peoples' stuff too long." "Well, you"--and here a patron interposed. When it was quiet again I hoped that she would finish her thought, but I didn't ask her to , and she didn't offer. At the end of the night I handed her her books, still in the "pretty gift bag", which was now looking worn at the edges. She said, "Thank you," and I said, "Sure." By the time I'd gotten home I'd wished I'd told her the letter was there. Not that there was any danger of her not finding it, but because I felt I'd lied about why I was returning the books. I try to tell myself that I covered that in the letter, but I don't feel much better about it. Today being a day off, I wonder if she's taken the books in. It wasn't raining last night at closing, and today's rain has been weak and scattered. I've just created something else to torture myself over.

But perhaps there are distractions. I finished the book this morning. I can only hope an inter-library loan came in for me today, though, if not, I might be just lame enough to pick up that Reginald Hill book. (I said this letting-go wouldn't be easy. You don't think I've peeled her picture from my fender, do you?) But I have a little something going on on eharmony, too--a "guided conversation" with the only match that has, so far, interested me. We're just at the first stage, answering five multipl-choice questions chosen from twenty or so. I started by sending her mine Monday; she responded today and asked hers. We'll see. Her profile made her seem genuine and open and capable of original expression. For me, that's a good start. Now, if she were only named Julie and were three inches shorter.... I know--pathetic.

Yet there is a small sense of closure. It is not well-defined--I can't even pin a feeling on it. I still feel an attachment, but it is maybe more to my feelings than to Julie--as it probably ever was. I feel foolish, and admitting that I put way too many eggs in such a frail emotional basket will help me come to terms with the shame I feel of myself. I can't deny I expected more than I had any right to or that for all the "signs" I might accuse Julie of missing I saw just as many that didn't exist. I suppose getting over this, like many another thing, is a matter of making peace with one's pride. Not easy, with a pride like this one's. What else keeps me clinging is the uncertainty of the road ahead. I have to admit my desperation, but maybe that begs another admittance: that I'm just not emotionally ready for a relationship. But, if that's so, I'll never be ready. How much closer to letting go of Julie will I be once I've embraced that admittance? Looks to me as if that admittance lets go of hope altogether, for anything. If only I could just not care, I could cope.

Hey, Brother, Can You Spare a Clue? (11/13/08 Thursday)

I read and read--The History of Aythan Waring--but as the story compels me to continue, I see the end of the book looming but not the next book beyond. Another ending to dread. As I force myself to stop reading, I force myself to write. Will this simply be a compulsion from now on, or a balance of compulsions, a bouncing from one to another to stave off the ultimate realization of their separate and collective meaninglessness?

The bag of books sits in front of the front door so I can't forget it. My mind, as usual, races with scenarios, but I pay them little heed. It's not important how this happens, just that it does. I did slip one notecard--"How does the sun reach your garden behind those walls?"--into the last Brother Cadfael.

If I can hope, I can continue this. But what Hell that would be. If I never saw Julie again, I could dream and play "What If?" endlessly. After I return her books I can speculate as fancifully as I like that I've influenced her to a positive turn, that there may be an answer slipped into my locker, written without her usual care in the heat of a fevered revelation. For how long will I hope that? For how long will I live in this denial, torturing myself? For as long as I must see her at work, probably.


(I've brought both the book and the journal to work, but I don't feel like reading and am not sure I have anything to write. I'm not all that intent on eating, either. I'm at lunch, and the only other occupant of the breakroom is Julie. I've brought her books, but as it was pouring rain when I go here I left them in Stacey's car. I'll give them to her at her car at closing. We share a desk hour later; I'll tell Julie then about the books--to what end, I'm not sure, except to relieve some of my stress. Another five days off would be nice about now--right now.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Along with World Peace, Financial Independence, and Some of My Hair Back (11/12/08 Wednesday)

A couple hours of black anger followed the failure of the cursive draft. I feel aimless, cut adrift. I've begun to reclaim some of my former life, but it rings hollow, as hollow as, I guess, it really was before I thought I'd found something more meaningful. Now I go back to the reading; it's no longer fulfilling. So little seems necessary that boredom is preferable to most anything else I can think of. I seem to have missed all the seasons of the past half-year, and I'm rueing fall as it slides naked into winter, a match to my mood and outlook. I took a walk. I thought it made me feel better, then I step back inside, and the wet blanket smothers me.

I considered doing the online dating thing again. I wish I'd considered for longer before plunking down 120 bucks for eharmony. I was too flattered with the abundance of so-called matches and burdened with the desperation to find a woman who will talk to me and might actually show some interest in me to not make the three-month commitment. But there was only one match I felt at all interested in after all, so now not only do I feel poor, but stupid to boot. I thought about going back to Plenty of Fish, but I took a look at a page of matches there and saw too many of the same faces that were there when I quit from there. I thought, Well, at least the profile's something to write, but the motivation isn't there. I want Julie.

Letter Go (11/12/08 Wednesday)

The letter (yes, "letter," with salutation, closing, even postscript) is written, in the envelope, in the bag. I'm not pleased with the handwriting, a print constrained and stiff and, ultimately, sloppy, inconsistent in size and alignment--human, in other words. I even had to caret in a word, but by then--the last paragraph--I prefferred the conservation of an expensive sheet of paper to the stress of perfection. I know that I will be judged by my handwriting as well as by my words--Julie's handwriting is almost mechanically calligraphic, even at its most casual--but I'm pretending not to care. Yet part of me wants to rewrite it in my natural script. It may yet happen, expensive paper or no.


Here are you books. If you asked why I was returning them, I probably said something like, "I thought I'd had them long enough and thought you might like them back." The rest of the truth is that it allowed me to drop this on your doorstep, ring the bell, and walk away.

Don't be alarmed. This is no proclamation of undying love or anything even foggily resembling that--no greeting card singing "You Are My Sunshine." It's entirely self-serving. You don't even have to read it; I can pretend you did and be happy believing it. No need to respond, though I will ask questions, if a bit less intensely than at the coffee shop. I won't challenge your ideas or try to dissuade you from your feelings. Of course, I accept how you feel about me, but disengaging
myself from my attraction to you will take some doing. This was never an attraction of convenience, so it won't be conveniently put aside. Neither was it a creation of rationale, so it won't be reasoned away. Bottom line: You are as fascinating and as striking as ever.

I would like to apologize for embarrassing you--but I can't. I wanted to strike a spark, and the fire in your cheeks proved me successful. (You can't take that from me!) But nothing I have ever said to you, Julie, was flattery. Every word was how I felt (even about the bin-packing). It's hard to not try, however awkwardly, to express what I feel. I would like to promise that I won't ever again blow on you embers, but what the head decrees is of little import to the heart.

Did my proclamation in the coffee shop really take you by surprise? When you wondered to yourself why I asked you to meet me there, what did you surmise? What were you expectant of that day? Have you since reflected? Have you, in retrospection, seen "signs" of my attraction? Because all this time I thought I'd been Tom Sawyer--walking on my hands and punching the other boys--to your Becky Thatcher.

I concede defeat in the pursuit of your heart, but it is always with the stingiest reluctance that I back down from any challenge, and hope is the sharpest prod (and not a rational one, either). But I accept what I'm given and never take what's not offered. I want to know more about you than I have any right to ask or you any obligation to disclose. So, I'll take what satisfaction I can rationalize from having told you all this and continue from your doorstep, with maybe a glance now and then over my shoulder until you are out of sight.


P.S., You wondered aloud what I could possibly find fascinating about you. Well, I'll tell you.... But I said I'd shut up.

But I said what I wanted to say how I wanted to say it--three weeks and a couple dozen sheets of paper later. Sadly, some things don't even feel true any longer. How much does she really fascinate me now? How much hope do I really harbor? Do I honestly believe that her concealment has depths? That doubt could simply be bitterness, an artificial distancing. I am so tangle in my wants and needs that I don't know which is which anymore. The wants are emotional, the needs practical--or is it that easy? No, I can't find the separation there, either. Is it any wonder I'm confused? I've written a breakup letter to someone I never dated, for god's sake! Could that be a teensy bit more pathetic?


I tried to rewrite the letter in cursive, but I couldn't write the first word without screwing it up--twice. More paper trashed. For what?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm Going to Need a Bigger Seed (11/11/08 Tuesday)

The editing didn't take long--very little revising or excising, even on the new material. But it's been six hours since that was done, and I can't get down to transcribing a clean copy, the last preliminary draft. I'm looking at the end of something I don't want to see the end of; something that never actually started; something that's turrned out to be nothing more than a "project," an experiment, an exercise in futility. Twenty thousand words of neurotic tail-chasing--my own, that is. A failure. And will this even bring closure? Do I want closure? Do I really want the torture to end? This has been about so much more than Julie that the void of its absence could be more vast than it ever was before I laid eyes on her. Letting go of Julie is letting go of more than a hope or a dream. It's letting go of an inspiration, a meaning, a need. Where do I find those again?

But this is not a letting-go, is it? It's pulling-out-by-the-roots: I planted a seed, poked a hole in the soil, now I'm tearing a tree from the ground, leaving a crumbling maw.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fender Off (11/10/08 Monday)

After an eleven-hour sleep and a ninety-minute dawdle, I left the apartment with just enough Cheerios in my system to get me to Stir Crazy. It wasn't until I'd sat down with my coffee and egg-and-cheese bagel that I realized the possible significance of where I'd come to finish the note to Julie. But I didn't consider it long; I had work to do. It took two large coffees (the second because it was free) and about a couple hours, but I finished the job and left for Carytown--Plan 9, more specifically, for Nilsson Schmilsson. (I settled for Son of Schmilsson.) I strolled slowly through Carytown, not eager to get home, enjoying being on the sidewalks and in the shops with other people. But there was no conversation, save with the stationer, from whom I bought some nice paper for the final transcription of the note, about the selling of his store after thirty years. He wants to retire, but the sale of the store must be strictly a "turnkey" transaction. (Thank god for coffee. How else would I ever initiate a conversation?) A few women initiated smiles and greetings. I felt attractive, despite a three-day, salt-and-pepper beard and a helmet-made hairdo. Another reason not to go home, where there was no one to make me feel good about myself.

As I sat in the coffee shop staring out the window a man walking by stopped to look at my bike. He lingered a long while before coming inside. I met his eyes, smiled and nodded. When he left again he took another look, then suddenly moved closer and bent over the front wheel. He straightened and half-turned to the window, a glint in his eye and grin on his face. He'd seen Julie on the front fender. In Carytown I parked in front of the shops, instead of, as usual, around the corner and out of foot traffic. The front wheel tipped away from the street as I locked it to a tree, and I left it like that, the better to display Julie to passing shoppers. Before leaving the bike I thumbed off a speck of dirt from her cheek.

I'll leave the note overnight, let the words settle on the page, then edit in earnest tomorrow. I want it ready to slip in the bag before Thursday morning.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

In Exchange for My Sanity, My Life and Six Months of Restful Sleep (11/08/08 Saturday)

I made no headway yesterday and made no effort to. I didn't want to raise Julie's suspicions. It was difficult, sitting there waiting for what I knew would never come, an initiation of conversation from Julie. That still irks me, I admit, but it doesn't irk me with anyone else. Of course, that's because I care about her and want her to care about me. It's just my ego hurting. Not much room for ego here, though.

The day before, during conversation on the desk, Julie lowered her head to let her hair fall before her face, then with both hands swept it back over forehead as she raised her head. Normally, her hair lies flat, but the sweep had folded back, into a wave. If I didn't gasp audibly, it was a miracle; and how I didn't scream, "Stop that!" could only be attributed to some kind cosmic control, because I all but lost my mind and my heart together at that moment of concentrated exudation of everything about her that has captivated me, lo, these agonizing months. Life seemed at its cruelest and most unfair. Instantly, I had stumbled back into that web from which I'd deluded myself I'd been extricated. The sleeping dog was kicked. That's how I'd tried to think of this crush, as a dog I could let lie. When I awoke yesterday morning, after only a few hours asleep, I thought, with a sense of liberation, that the crush was something of which I had to accept the existence--reason didn't create it, so reason wasn't going to make it go away. Obviously, now, I must also accept its unpredictable awakenings.

I may be only a paragraph away from finishing the letter--the note now, as it's so short and will contain no salutation and no sign-off. I have the last line, but I need a wind-down paragraph to bring it all together. But I have time. I've taken Monday and Wednesday off to bookend the Vereran's Day off Tuesday. Thursday, now, is the day I plan to give Julie her books back.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Anything But Blue Serge (11/06/08 Thursday)

A good day. And a good week so far, in an ironically Julie-centric way. The rope of emotional attachment has frayed considerably. The irony is in having accomplished this by striving more ardently to get to know her. I've had to put myself aside somewhat, try to forget how I (once) felt toward her. She still, very much, fascinates me, but now I want to know her, not simply search for validation of a misplaced affection. Yet I find I have not given up hope. There's a kind of reality to this hope, though, not of its fruition, but of its essential truth and necessity. That may be as well as I'll ever be able to explain it, but it's right. Stripped of what I wanted, what's left of this attraction may be what I actually need. I can't say now whether it's been either my heart or my head guiding this endeavor. It's been both, but in an almost evil manner, as if in league against my soul. The dawning reality to this hope is the dominating emergence of a unified control over this poisonous collusion. I'm shocked at the extent of the manipulation of these forces, but nearly elated at the apparent triumph over them. I hedge my glee knowing the war's far from over, but I'm claiming more territory every day. It remains to be seen just what that territory is, but I can't question its value.

I've had significant time with Julie this week in both quantity and quality. I have both bided that time and made the most of it. I've been confident--truly confident, not arrogant. (I can hate myself later, if I still feel like it, for being the selfish ass all these months; I just can't indulge those feelings now.) We were on the desk together again today. Julie spoke first; I was in no hurry. "I suppose I should bring a cart out." I read the reluctance in her voice and laughed, then she laughed. She thought it might be a slow hour. Neither of us made a move to bring out the lease books. Tyger stopped by on his way up to the "village," chatted with us and left. I said to Julie, ignoring misgivings of her wondering what brought this to the front of my mind, "Did I see you in glasses a few weeks ago?" "Who, Tyger? I don't think so." "No. You." "Yeah, I guess you could have." And we talked about that until we were interrupted by work. When the patrons cleared I sat back down and stared ahead, into Children's, seeing nothing. Peripherally, I saw Julie's head turn toward me once or twice, but as I was in the first seat, she would have to look past me to see entering patrons. Maybe bored, she got up to check the event schedule under the register. "Pruning class tonight," I said. "Oh, is that tonight?" "Mm-hm," I replied, and barely hesitated, with the usual qualm but with highly unusual disregard of indiscretion, before saying, "So, why horticulture?" (Her degree, I'd found out at the coffee shop, with no little surprise.) "I don't know," she said, after some hesitation; then, as if she'd willed it, a patron walked up to her counter. Off the hook, I thought, because I considered the answer untrue. When the patron cleared--and it was a few minutes--I waited, determined not to press and confident I wouldn't need to. I was rewarded: "I was living with a boyfriend at the time, and he was into gardening, so I thought I'd try it." "And yet," I remarked, noting her casual tone and recalling the "personal mess" she mentioned in the coffee shop that drove her from Blacksburg and horticulture, "you went all the way with it." "Yeah, well, I still like it, but if I did it over again I'd probably have done something else." "What would you have done?" "Oh, I don't know, probably something in music or the arts." She would have studied voice or illustration, she said, when pressed, though how she would follow the learning professionally she had only a vague notion, a vestige of a dream. Then she muttered something in that way I've seen several times now, turning away and lowering her head, abashed at revealing herself. I didn't catch it, and as much as I wanted to know what she'd said, I, too, looked away and down, chuckling with her, feeling it would be insensitive of me to ask her to repeat the utterance, and tried to satisfy myself with at least understanding her tone and respecting her for the difficulty of the disclosure.

I bided my time, too, for her to ask me something of myself, but when it didn't happen, I didn't waste energy rueing it. I'm expecting it to happen--or maybe my confidence is stepping out of reality. I imagined, as I sat out there in silence, that the more time we have together the more comfortable each of us will be with the other. I can't tell how far Julie has to go in that respect, but I can't even see halfway from here. The next hour off the desk Tammy passed me on the way to posting Friday's schedule. She tapped it with a "V" and whispered, "Two times." Boy, I have to come up with more material.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pretential Logic (11/05/08 Wednesday)

I've begun a new draft; one, I hope, without deference or flattery or pretence of the absence of either--for I realized that I was still, in a way pleading my case and holding out vain hope. This letter is about me, and I won't pretend otherwise. Nor will I pretend that Julie might care what I have to say; it's the only way to be comfortable writing the letter; and if I can't be comfortable I can't write it to my satisfaction, which is all that matters immediately. In all the other drafts, notes, fits and starts, I have addressed all I meant to, but haven't done so in the right way. I don't know for sure that this new way is the right way, but it's righter.

Here are your books. If you asked why I was returning them, I probably said something like, "I thought I'd had them long enough and thought you might like them back." The whole truth is that it allowed me to drop this on your doorstep, ring the bell and walk away.

Don't be alarmed. This is no proclamation of undying love or anything close to that--no greeting card singing "You Are My Sunshine". It's a totally self-serving letter that, as far as I can tell, serves no worthy purpose whatsoever. You don't even have to read it; I can pretend you did. I don't expect a response, though I'll ask a lot of questions. (I'll be nicer than I was at the coffee shop.) I won't challenge you or try to dissuade you from your position. If anything I'm trying to dissuade me from mine. Of course I accept how you feel about me, but disengaging myself from my attraction to you will take some doing. This was never an attraction of convenience, so it won't be conveniently put aside. The bottom line is, you still fascinate me and your beauty is no less striking than ever.

That said, I won't apologize for embarrassing you. I was only trying to strike a spark, and the fire in your cheeks proved me successful. (You can't take that from me!) Nothing I've ever said to you, though, was flattery. Every word was how I felt (even about the bin-packing). I don't mean to make you uncomfortable, but it's hard not to speak what I feel. I'd like to promise that I won't ever again blow on your embers, but what the head decrees the heart can't always abide. I'll have to stare at you now and then, too--that just goes with the territory.

Take a ride with me here in my time machine back to the coffee shop on the day of Hazel's birth. Did my proclamation really take you by surprise? When you wondered to yourself why I asked you to meet me there, what did you surmise? What were your expectations of that day? Have you since reflected? Have you, in retrospection, seen "signs" of my attraction? And all this time I thought I'd been Tom Sawyer--walking on my hands and punching the other boys--to your Becky Thatcher.

Righter? I think so. Maybe a little hopeful, a touch flattering; but I do still harbor hope, in my heart if not in my head--that can't be helped, must be left to run its course. The Wise Man is running the show. The Fool can do as the Fool does and be relegated to the comic relief.

I got a desk hour with Julie yesterday. I asked her about the new Reginald Hill she had plucked the day before. She hadn't started it because of a couple others ahead of it. I asked her about those--Margery Allingham and Jonathan Kellerman--and asked if she'd read Val McDermid. (This whole conversation was going almost exactly as I'd mapped it out in my head at lunch.) She had, and had checked out the first season of Wire in the Blood but hadn't watched it before having to return it. I had just watched it. We talked about Robson Green--we'd both loved Touching Evil. I was careful not to let the conversation wander to Cadfael; I didn't want her wondering when I'd give them back or asking how many I'd actually read (four, but if she asked, five--it sounds better). She never asked anything of me. I wonder to what degree interest in her registers with her and what, if any, meaning it has to her. I talk to her in the interest of getting to know her but, also, consequently, in piquing something likewise. I think that that's a very tall order, though. If I could peel off the veneer of selfish motive, the genuineness of my efforts might be more plain. If only my efforts were genuine.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I'll Have to Take My Socks Off for This One (11/03/08 Monday)

So, here's the deal now: This letter is entirely self-serving, right? I'm writing to someone who doesn't care about stuff she doesn't care about, so who else could this be for but me? Then, how is this even serving me? What purpose does it have? Not to recriminate or whine or defend myself or plead my case or beg her change her mind. What good do I expect it to do me? Am I getting something off my chest? How do I go about that without also doing any of the above? Remember "no pussyfooting"? I have to tell it straight and raw and with plenty of self-deprecation, to show I'm not that hang-dog, pathetic guy who can't let go of a lost cause. In other words, lie, right? Because I'm nowhere near being able to pull that off. But I can't last long in my current state of sleep-deprived tension. Julie has never lost a wink over me; that's an easy bet. So why am I killing myself over someone who feels nothing for me? (And how many times have I asked that?)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Web Design (11/01/08 Sunday)

I started off yesterday morning (an hour-and-a-half after my alarm) with the realization that I was going about this letter backwards: I was too concerned with structure--following one paragraph with the logical next paragraph. I have been passing over ideas because I couldn't foresee their paragraph potential; a sentence is a good start, I'd think, but what's after that? The better idea is to get all the ideas--sentences, scraps, words--onto paper, then cut and paste and embellish. That's a strength I've overlooked, my ability to construct a concrete whole from bits of chipped stone. Forget whatever attitude might imbue the words or what ulterior meaning they may be fraught with. It'll all come clean and nice in the wash. Easily said. Do I scrap what I've written? The title reflects an attitude that the letter doesn't deliver. The letter has said much of what I need to say, but seems to be holding back, a kind of dishonesty by omission. Can I have fun with this and still have my say? I have to have fun, or I'll come off pathetic or righteous.

For fun, I took the picture Gay-Lynn sent me to the drug store and had some quick prints done--two 4 x6, three wallets. One wallet is, well, in my wallet, another hiding behind the picture of Gillian on my over-desk storage cabinet, and the other I plan to tape to the front of my front fender, like a flat, rear-facing maidenhead. Yesterday, when Bethany and I were the only two in the workroom, I bade her take a peek behind Gillian. She did and gasped, "I knew it! I wanted to ask you, but I didn't think you wanted me to." "Are you kidding? I was dying for you to ask me!"

Hinckley saw on the schedule that he and I had been separated from the desk hour we usually get together on the weekend and was unhappy, to say the least. What concerned me was the portent it kicked into my mind: Would I be separated from Julie, as well? My thudding heart was preparing for outrage. My name was on the bottom. I had a desk hour with Sofiya at ten. I took a deep breath and scanned across my line. I stopped at a second "D" at two o'clock and started climbing up the column to find my partner. I breathed again: Julie.

True to my word, I did not badger Julie. I asked her about her web-design class and let her talk about it, trying to follow with cogent questions, not expecting (but still hoping for, though not getting) any questions from her. It was a good hour, if not in the way I'd have preferred--but those hours will never be. I finally see that I am no more than Mike to Julie--someone she has little or nothing to say to. I'm still jealous of the ease at which she'll pick a conversation with Hinckley--or anyone else not an introvert (except Jennifer). Would it help to know why I'm jealous? (I'm not helping my attitude at all. I feel miles away from writing that letter.)

How seriously have I considered that there really isn't more to Julie than she presents? Of course, my feelings for her have both imbued her character with a rich depth and virtually obliterated my objectivity. So the answer is, hardly at all. The way is beginning to look clearer, though. Not seeing these depths is a better reason for not believing in their existence than for making them real and discoverable. But why am I talking reason? Face it, I'm not over her. Is the letter going to help me make that break, or do I have to make the break before I can write the letter? Neither is anywhere near completion.