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, January 30, 2009

"Polish Me" (1/30/09 Friday)

Here's the weekend, and I'm already seeing Monday. Once the kids show up Saturday, it's a routine slide into work, Julie and dread. My first thought of Julie this morning was of how beautiful she is, and it seemed a strange thought, detached from my feelings for her. She'd become an object. But hadn't she always been that? Hadn't she always been a representation of something other than herself, of something I wanted? Now she seemed even less, just something to enjoy looking at. Is that what I want? Though that detachment has lingered through the morning, its dominance has faded as the dread reminds me of my embarrassment over her power over me and the pride it has cost me.

Julie had never been a sexual being to me. Not only did it seem cart-before-horse, but it would have pulled her down from the pedestal. The plaque on the pedestal: What did it read? Is she still on it? I still do not think of her sexually, but I think less of her in other ways--ways for which I can't fault her but which I can finally move to the category of Irreconcilable Differences--essentially, in the departments of sophistication and depth of intellect. From the foot of the pedestal I would gaze upward past these "faults." Now they are flashing neon that makes her character look garish. Yet still so beautiful.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Square Zero (1/29/09 Thursday)

Came a time when, bitter and frustrated, I wondered if I'd ever actually been fascinated with Julie, and I'd all but convinced myself I had not but had, instead, fabricated the infatuation from the whole cloth of hope. I am less convinced now--that is, I believe that much of the fascination was wishful thinking, but that it eventually took on a life of its own. If I was not initially fascinated, I was nonetheless curious. My curiosity asked questions, paid attention. Answers begged more questions. Now, I likely know Julie better than anyone else at the library save Stacey, a yet she's still an utter mystery. Many people there I don't know at all and am indifferent to knowing; others make sure you know more about them than you'd ever care to. But I can't know Julie enough, even now, when there is absolutely no hope of being anything more to her than a co-worker; when I can't stand to hear her voice; when her presence in the same room forces me to peel off a layer or roll up my sleeves to counter the super-heating manic blood flow. I still want to know--about the brother who died, the boyfriend who influenced her to take up horticulture at Tech, the "mess" that she ran from, how she got into music and why she left. And then there's me: Why did she agree (and so readily) to meet me at Stir Crazy and yet was shocked to hear I had feelings for her? What made her afraid of me after that? Why did she not come to me about the picture and the blog? What does she think now that I've told her how I felt about having to continue to work with her, was still writing the blog, and had been offended by her pre-rejection flattery? If I had these answers would I feel any better? She'd still not be attracted to me or care for my attention. Should I have let this go long ago? I don't let things go; that's ignore-ance. I want things resolved. Thank god I don't have an addiction, huh? I don't know how to stop hurting over Chris' betrayal and Julie's reaction. And it's over for them; they can let go. Well, I'm in between those ends they were holding up, and the load isn't any lighter sitting on my back. Ah, but there I go, bearing the cross, playing at martyrdom. Chin up, stiff upper lip, what what! Doesn't work, any more than does time away from Julie. Or ignoring her. Or thinking about her. Or writing about her. I hate being back at this square, still wondering, wishing, hoping, seething.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ask King Status the First on His Crowded Throne (1/28/09 Wednesday)

My boredom is only a lack of challenge. The challenge of reading is more than finishing the book, but the challenge it presents to my mind is not often the challenge I seek. If I could define what I seek I could refine my choices to match it. The challenges I can't define are the ones I don't make for myself. They present themselves, unbidden, and I accept them or don't. In setting no schedule, talking to no one, doing no chores, I am not challenging myself, and into the breach steps boredom, a new challenge. Boredom challenges me to fail at putting emotional distance between myself and Julie, which, with mention of her name I have just done. I'm kidding no one--myself, that is. If I took a year off and came back to work and saw Julie, all would be lost. I did not succeed in ignoring her for very long, and now I feel she's won. Won what? I have no regrets anymore over the email I sent her; it said things that had to be said and gotten off my chest. And though I knew damned well she would not respond in any concrete way, I, of course, still hoped. There was no communication at all about it, except for the first few days afterward, when her behavior toward me mirrored mine toward her, tacitly acknowledging my email. Those were my last satisfying days at work, bitterly ironic as that satisfaction was: Her acknowledgment of my deliberate cruelty (though it could only be cruel if she cared) was the rise I used to want to see as a blush. Then Saturday we exchanged smiles and shared a spontaneous laugh, and, suddenly, the status quo was back in power.

Is this a challenge I just can't give up? Am I destined for another humiliation? What's to gain in continuing? What's to lose in giving it up?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Character (1/27/09 Tuesday)

Awoke to the sound of tapping, as of fingernails, on my window. Frozen rain. Then the ironic haunt of Sparks' "Equator" began. I was snug and reluctant to leave bed. I'd placed the alarm clock out of reach, but I could still hear the rhythmic clunk of the clumsy wall clock. I'd gotten to bed before ten the night before, so I knew I'd gotten plenty of sleep. My stomach had been upset then, too, from an overingulgence of coffee, probably, augmented by the rising gorge induced by Rob Catto of Bunker Man, the basest, most reprehensible protagonist I've ever come across. It was much better in the morning (my stomach, not the book), and I've been reading Ring of Bright Water, a swift and certain palliative. I'd finish it off if I didn't expect to need it after I finish Bunker Man, though how Rob Catto can posibly be redeemed as a human being (and that's all there is to read for now, redemption) is beyond my ken. Blackden did not in the least prepare me for Bunker Man.

I took a walk last night, for a little exercise, fresh air and verticality. Today I'll have to take one up to the store for milk and a couple other things for the girl's dinner. The rain, still falling, won't bother me--I'll be well protected--in fact, it will further insulate me from contact. But my dream of forty-eight hours without speaking to someone other than myself will fall a few hours short.

I have not heard from Jan since I last wrote her. I'm not concerned. We don't know each other to take offence. She said she'd contact me when she next came into town, a trip contingent upon a job interview here. Apparently, she hasn't gotten it. Another possibility, which amuses me in the only way it could--ironically--is that she googled me and found my blog and was scared off. The blog, then, will have assumed the role of albatross to prospective relationships, though I would rather consider it a litmus test. The blog and all I've expressed in it are a permanent part of me that must be accepted as such. When I told Stacey of this speculation, she said, "So, are you going to take down the blog?" "No," I said firmly, almost shrilly. "I have nothing to apologize for." Anyone who judges me by the blog as unfit for their company is right, though the reflection is on them.

By the late afternoon yesterday I found myself a bit bored, but not so much that I was willing to dissipate the time in watching tv or noodling on the computer. I hope never to get that bored, though I might end up at the mall to do some clothes shopping. Besides finishing a few books, I don't have any goals for the week, but when I'm not reading I'd like to be applying myself creatively. I have some serious grunt work to do on the manuscript: Every paragraph break was removed in copying it to Word, so I have to find them, put them back, and print out a fresh copy to supplant the one that cost me nearly nine dollars to print. Not exactly a creative endeavor, but closely linked to one. Distillation of necessity has seen to my having very few distractions left to play with. The computer may be the only one left. Free cell is one of my few remaining vices besides procrastination, but I won't turn the computer on for anything less than email.

Hunker Man (1/26/09 Monday)

It's begun snowing, or maybe it has been and I've just noticed it since putting on my glasses. I'm not a particular fan of snow, but as long as I'm off work I wouldn't mind a good dump of it to make things cosier here, with my books, tea, and coffee. If I don't find I need something from the store, I can get away with not speaking to anyone till the girls come over tomorrow evening. By then it will have been forty-eight hours since I said goodbye to Matt after scootering . But the sky's too bright, and already it's harder to see the snowflakes. Still, I don't have to go anywhere. I'm plowing into a stack of books, semi-systemically alternating betyween them, the Richmond library books getting priority because they're due Friday. I could renew them, but I've set myself a challenge to finish at least those three books before getting back to work. So I'm halfway through Ring of Bright Water, Bunker Man, and These Demented Lands. Bunker Man takes up the venerable Scottish literary tradition of the doppelganger where Jekyll and Hyde left off. These Demented Lands is fascinating as long as I can just go with it--that is, not try to pick up the pieces before they're handed to me; and as long as I can suspend my disbelief that Morvern Callar actually has the inteligence to tell a story with a vocabulary that can fluctuate from four-year-old to poet within a sentence. Thankfully, she's not the only narrator, but her voice is never entirly out of the narrative. No complaints at all about Ring of Bright Water. It serves its place will after those other two: It pulls me from the darkness, if only into the cloudy daylight: Out of the mind of the individual and into the soul of man's place in nature. It has stopped snowing entirely. It left not even a wet dot on the sidewalk.

I like the idea of it being February when I get back to the library. Winter will be nearly half over, and I will have skipped the commute through it for five days. I won't miss the load of books coming back, a load that seems never to lighten since too many people shirk shelving. Of course, it will be the worse this week without me, and when I think of those shirkers I am maliciously glad to have thrown my load off on them, though, of course, it will be the real workers that will pick it up, and for them I feel the real compunction. Nobody minds the shirkers being off "sick" or whatever. But none of this was on my mind when I asked off. We all know who was and why, so the less said there the better, it's the only way to make distance.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Irony with a Capital G-O-D (1/23/09 Friday)

It was good to sleep a little longer, without anticipation of the alarm. Surprising, too, given my elevated stress level this week. Twice yesterday I looked directly into Julie's face, and it was the second one that made me feel ridiculous over what I've been doing. There was nothing in the look or the return, no reading of expression that flashed an epiphany. A switch simply flicked, and I wanted to laugh. At myself. I say "ridiculous," but my vocabulary is short of the word that truly describes my attitude toward Julie lately. I was still laughing this morning as I walked up to Starbucks for breakfast. A month into winter, and the variety and volume of birdsong was more that of early spring. The robins have been out of the woods for two weeks, right on schedule. Today will reach nearly sixty. Highs were below freezing most of last week. But my laughter fades almost to derision when I consider how to pull myself out of this morass. "Derision" is perhaps too strong a word. The smirk is well-cemented, so the glee, if ironic, is undeniable. There seems a masochism in this glee, but it's really an acknowledgement, a nod to those implacable forces of irony that seem to rule my life. What do I do? Have I already done the first thing in facing Julie? Let's say so--now what? Will it even do me any good to plan? Has it ever? Yeah, somewhere, at some time, I'm sure, but that's not really the point of planning, is it? The point of planning is to give irony something on which to act--a host.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Who Are Always Right (1/22/09 Thursday)

Thank god I get tomorrow off. I'm glad to be working Saturday, instead, if only for the free day in between. I haven't even been to work yet today, and I'm having to takedeep breaths as if in preparation for some extreme dread, as indeed this long day with Julie is. I'd rather be home here, on the sofa or in bed, surrounded by the six books I'm reading and pen and paper, wrapped in a throw, sipping tea. But that will be next week, which I've taken off, merely to get away from work. Oh, to get away from that forever, to run from my embarrassment and immaturity! One of the books I'm reading is Something to Blog About. It fell into my hands as a hold. The moment I saw it I knew it was my story, and a glance inside the jacket confirmed it--only, in this book, I am a teenage girl. I opened it up, about three-quarters of the way in, where I thought I might find the exposure of the blog, and read one line of dialogue that convinced me to place my own hold on a copy: "But you put it on the internet!"

So what has changed since high school? Has anyone grown up? The same emotions filtered through greater experience yields...nothing--no wisdom, no maturity. It's still gossip and backstabbing, but with slightly less overt intent. Cunning--that's what you have where wisdom should be--ever subtler ways of doing the same childish things in response to the same emotions. It's fair enough that the emotions would not have changed; their creation was wholly outside of our conscious power, given to us carelessly and accepted mindlessly by us impressionable vessels. But some always believe what they felt then and filter subsequent experience through these unquestioned emotions, instead of examining the emotions in the light of experience. They remain children because they never question their parents.

Sucfailcessure Guaranteed (1/21/09 Wednesday)

Of course, there is an irony to be found in my avoid-dance: I have to be aware of where Julie is in order to not encounter her. That is how I have set myself up to fail: Since I refuse to monitor her whereabouts--not looking for her name on the schedule or her writing beside her name on the whiteboard--so as to ward off obsessive behavior while aiding the pretense of her non-existence, I hinder my ability to carry out the endeavor. And that's as it should be. I can't do this forever; I have to let reality prevail, eventually, if only surreptitiously. By not aiding the immature behavior to creep in over it. In theory. I have not, in a long while, mentioned any action of Julie's not relative to me. I've refrained, even, from mentioning the few interactions between us. They don't matter anymore, do they? Certainly not in the way I'd always tried to make them matter before. Realistically, I am over Julie: emotionally, I am not. I'm trying to make emotional distance with physical distance, but I fear I'll make much more distance than I want. To state to Julie what I'm doing is to force her involvement, to bring her down to my level. And she's already reached it. One of my old habits broke through for a moment just before she left. We crossed paths, I looked at her, she didn't look at me. I'm fairly certain this is not what I wanted. What did I want? How could such behavior have any noble intent? Closure is what I want, but I don't know how to get it or even what I want closure to. Am I still trying to force Julie to talk to me? That's just not going to happen--yet another of those things I know but can't seem to get. What stops me from getting it? What is this force, this barrier that prevents assimilation of this knowledge? It's like half an epoxy or a vitamin that needs another vitamin to work. What is missing?

Parture (1/20/09 Tuesday)

I already regret sending the email. I failed to keep out the bitterness, self-pity and martyr attitude. That was difficult, and though for the most part I was successful, the parts at which I failed may have the strength to overpower the entire message. A lot is up to Julie's receptivity, which, because I can't realistically place much stock in it, is unlikely to be favorable; so the negative aspects could receive the greater nurture in her mind. I can't help that. It's lunch time now. I hurried my food down and split the breakroom for the upstairs. I'm hoping that either she or I will be on the desk at the top of the hour, so that I can have at least another hour out of her presence. I'm not entirely regretful for sending the email. At least now I've somewhat explained my behavior, all but justifying its continuance and tempering my feelings of guilt.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sent (1/19/09 Monday)

"I've been ignoring you. It's immature, I am not proud of it, and I get no joy or satisfaction from it. The requested 'trade' to Tuckahoe fell through, so I'm stuck here. Whatever embarrassment I felt about the blog has long since faded and not stopped me from writing it, but the disappointment has not abated. I am disappointed in myself for trying to take from you more than you could give me; in Chris, for betraying my trust (I told him about the blog four months ago) and not coming to me with his concerns; in you, for going to management instead of coming to me; and in the high-school level of maturity shown by many of our co-workers last month. I am disappointed in both you and Chris for reading only 'enough' of my blog to slap a derogatory label on me or to think that I could be harmful to you. The biggest of those disappointments is in myself for ignoring the advice of my intuition. Neither did I miss any of the hints hurled at me during that torture session at Stir Crazy; I just chose not to catch them. (For the record, the pre-rejection flattery--'nice guy,' 'great guy,' whatever--is something maybe most guys will let themselves believe for the sake of their pride, but to me it is simply a condescension, an assumption of inability to handle the truth.)

"As usual, I write all this with no expectations whatsoever. It is the forum I would never otherwise get; no one here exactly specializes in assertive communication. Besides, whatever issues are left are mine, not on anyone else's agenda now that the fun's over for everyone else. There's no recompense for which to ask, nothing that can be fixed, no principal characters willing to talk about it. To think that all I ever wanted was for you to talk to me is to induce in me a grin and a slow shake of the head over what came of my stubbornness to admit failure. So I ignore you now as my childish way of finally acquiescing to the unreality of that hope and learning to live with it. Things would be nice the way they were, when you at least trusted me with your silliness, but as I betrayed that trust with hopes of more, I'll understand not being so trusted again. These days, you are happier than I've ever seen you, practically outside yourself. I will content myself empathetically with that."

The Last Denial (1/19/09 Monday)

More reading than writing this long weekend, and more thinking than reading. The thinking and the writing have been about how I treated Julie Thursday. I wrote a letter--an email, to be more accurate. I haven't sent it yet. I'm afraid to. It isn't harsh, but does state my disappointment in both her and Chris not coming to me before seeking a more public audience. I don't let myself off the hook, either, citing my own actions Thursday as childish and immature. But I don't play the victim, and I ask for nothing. I wrote it simply to say my piece. I hope I did that much. I will send it. I have to. It's probably my pride that needs this more than anything. This isn't an apology to Julie, just an explanation--I hesitate to say defense, because I'm always loathe to defend myself. But this missive feels like just that, so that's likely the origin of my reluctance to send it.

I'll likely give Julie the same treatment tomorrow as Thursday. I'll send the email; that and the short concurrent day will temper my behavior somewhat. When or how that will change I can't predict.

It's nearly ten p.m., and I haven't spoken a word since four-thirty yesterday. It's not something I mind in the least. I went back to bed after breakfast, possibly an unprecendented act for me, and slept a few more hours. I'll be late getting to bed, but at least I won't have to talk to anyone while I'm up.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The First Betrayal (1/16/09 Friday)

With a full day yesterday in which to ignore Julie, I succeeded beyond my worst nightmares. By the end of the evening she was turning her back on me. I looked past her and through her several times--times where I would normally have given her at least a weak grin. But I can't force that grin anymore, and to look her in the eye without it would frighten her with its candor. I'm not pleased with what I'm doing. I don't feel any kind of power or glee, even of the malicious kind. I've killed something.

I have memories, once fond but now painful to recall, of a time before I'd put a name to my feelings by writing them, when Julie did engage me, if only in tiny, playful, friendly ways. Trusting ways. I betrayed a trust by wanting these things to be more meaningful. It's her trust I killed. She gave what she wanted to give, and it wasn't enough for me. There's no getting back that trust. I feel sick at what I've done. I now know why I was never comfortable with my hope.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Whatever Happened To? (1/15/09 Thursday)

There will be no farewells. There were no takers at Tuckahoe. I have to figure out how to adjust. My first thought was to seek work elsewhere, but that's not realistic in this economic climate. My second thought was to win the lottery, a slightly less likely opportunity. After those, what is there?

I'm casting around for friends at work, but the best I can do is allies. That's not enough. Am I just looking for someone to undburden myself to? Probably. I wouldn't be much of a friend in that case, for how much would I care to hear their problems? If I've become demanding of friends it's because I know how far short I myself fall from my ideals. I am who I am and can be a good friend, but not to everyone. I'm weary of reaching out. Look where it's gotten me: more alone than ever. As with love, friendship has to come unbidden through a wide-open door. Perhaps that's a strange thing for me to say, having as I do such stringent membership requirements, but I'm not prepared right now to think that one out. It's just another irony, and all ironies make sense.

My adjustment will be difficult to achieve without that attitude. Otherwise, I can only stare agog at the utter unreality of the situation, for nothing makes the kind of sense it should. The more sense I try to make of it, the more I wonder how I could be the only one to see it, the more disappointed I become in the vapidity of my coworkers, the more alienated I feel. This mass delusion-- Is this the social contract we must all sign to assure a facade of happiness? Happiness is elusive. Must we settle for the pretense of it? or is it worth the uncertain pursuit? You know my answer.

I ignored Julie entirely yesterday. I brought the music back in and drowned her out with Buzzcocks. Today I work the same shift, and I ride in with Stacey. Julie and Stacey always park near each other. If they arrive at the same time I'll walk ahead, not waiting for Stacey to gather her stuff. I'll warn her before we get there.

We didn't get there--or, at least, Stacey didn't. I walked over to her place a few minutes later than usual, and her car wasn't there. I didn't think even she would forget me. When I got back I checked the answering machine in case she'd called while I was in the shower. Nothing. I changed into the bike clothes, transferred my stuff to the bike, called to announce my lateness and left, fuming. Finally, the physical manifestation of her ethical desertion of me.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

At Least It's Not Old-Growth (1/14/09 Wednesday)

I printed out the blog up through the fourth. My intention is to read it through once without marking it, keeping editorial ideas to myself. There's no way I can read it as a reader, though, and that's what I most need to do if I'm ever to understand what I've been through. If I can make this writer another person, perhaps I can identify with him, empathize with him. Another irony: being someone else in order to find myself. This would also help me become the narrator of the book, a viewpoint that will augment, elaborate and even contradict that of the journal-writer.

But I hesitate to read it. I'm afraid of what I might find, though I know it would be valuable for my growth. I don't want to face the naiveties and immaturities that surely await me. I don't want to find validation for the label "obsessed"--not after I've worked so hard to deny it. There's bound to be a stack of denials to throw one-by-one on the fire, but most will still be green with reluctance and will simply emit an obscuring smoke. I might have to read it many times to dry it into a hardened objectivity.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One Word--"Toaster" (1/13/09 Tuesday)

Do I demand too much of a friend? To work from ideals is to demand a lot, but I don't expect perfection. I do expect an adherence to natural ethics, or at least an earnest effort to do so. Self-interest is a feeble distraction and feebler excuse. How much do my ideals mean to me? Enough to drop a friend? If they don't fit in the shoes I give them, do I send them away barefoot? I have high ideals that I feel are worth upholding and achieving, demanding but realistic. Has any human endeavor been achieved without ideals? I endeavor to make friends-for-life. I have ideals for them to uphold. Simple.

I have not heard from Christine. I hope that means there's actually a prospect; otherwise, it seems, it would be a much simpler process--no takers, no deal, tell Dion, end of story. Or Burnnie hasn't done anything. My jaw is set and my lips are tightly sealed. If I don't have to speak, all the better. I'm annoyed at having to rejoin small talk. I'll have something to say when there's someone to hear it; otherwise, leave me to my job. But my attitude is not the most conducive to getting my job done. I hear a voice saying, "Ah, what does it matter?" I like my job, and I like doing it well, but I find it increasingly difficult to do it here. The job is never foremost in my mind. I'd always rather be writing. It's all I have anymore, and it's small solace.

Don't know and don't care why Julie didn't show till two, but it made it easier to ignore her. I never looked at her, but that last hour, with her and her voice in the same room, nearly boiled my blood. That power I had last week is gone. I'm wallpaper. That's still hard to accept, but I can't go soliciting attention. My attention to her is, after all, unwanted. I resent Chris all the more when I think that I'm not even allowed to give her the simplest attention for fear of her taking it the wrong way--the same thing she said to me at Starbucks. She may trust me when I say I'm "harmless," but how little provocation would it take to spoil that? Who knows? That's why I can do nothing. But get the hell out of there.

I can no longer pretend that Julie has nothing to answer for. After all, she's the one who aired this out to management, which had no business in it. She told Angie she regretted doing it, but she didn't apologize to me; she just expected Angie to pass on the word. Well, that's not good enough. Fuck "playing the victim"--where's my apology? Where's my justice? I'm nearly shaking with rage, blood crackling in my ears. If Chris thought I was dangerous to Julie....

Can't sleep, can't continue writing. What else is there?

Think Up Your Own Clever Fucking Title (1/12/09 Monday)

Woke up to the alarm wondering how I'd approach the day, but once at work I seemed to give myself no choice but to reinstate my previous policy--as little contact of any sort as possible with Julie. It wasn't difficult, of course, being cowardice.

I turn again to friendship and Stacey. I am free to give her "neutrality" any spin I like, but it is unequivocally a lack of support. She'd heard the rumors, knew what Chris did. How could she think what Chris did was right? If she used the same bogus argument--If someone had a blog about you, blah blah blah"--that everyone else uses to lionize Chris, then why didn't she rat me out herself? Is she as "guilty" as I am? How can she even implicitly condone what he did? I am still reeling at the mentality that has put me on the outside of right. God, I don't want to play the victim, but what has been done right by me? WHAT THE FUCK HAS BEEN DONE RIGHT?!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pay It Downward (1/10/09 Saturday)

The game has been joined, if not in the same spirit. Julie hasn't as much as greeted me in two days. I find myself a bit amused, if in a malicious way: Funny how people feel when something they've taken for granted has been removed. How much do the vapid niceties mean to people who share little else? Experimentally (and probably because I'm not taking quite as well as I've been giving), I looked at Julie as we approached one another, and she passed glancing away. My feelings are conflicted, of course. My conscience, my pride and my cowardice don't know which, if any of the others they're fighting.


Then, with a simple, spontaneous, thoughtless act of kindness I bring it crashing round my ears. I'd been managing fine, ignoring Julie, thinking I just might pull off a full day of it, having just avoided eye contact as I dodged that cart of Easies she pushed. That was three o'clock. Then Angie asked who was relieving her at backup, and, checking the schedule, I saw that it was Julie, who must have read it wrong, her shelving not scheduled till four. Judy was present at my discovery and told me to get Julie. I didn't want to, but I did want to--I was already faltering. I found Julie and told her, but she was certain she'd read the schedule correctly and left the cart behind to check. Just as sure of what I'd told her, I brought the cart in. I was already trudging up the hall to the workroom when Julie, having recognized her mistake, started toward the door and her cart. She saw me with it and said, "You didn't have to do that." I said, without a smile, "I was there," and right then something fell away, both a burden and a power. My bad mood was spoiled. Just as I was feeling some power over Julie and some distance from her, I go and do something like that! The moment she thanked me I realized how much I owned that petty strategy and how much it owned me. Now, that bond is broken, and I want it back. I got an energy, a purpose, of sorts, from it, a callous inspiration. Now where am I? Can I possibly go back to ignoring her? Can I possibly be that nice guy but with no designs on her affections? What--who--can I be?

It's not that I"m concerned with a resurgence of the old feelings, but I"m not ready to let go of the ones I've cultivated lately. Why? Is this a maturity being forced upon me? or just a vestige of the old affections forcing their way through the affectation? I still want Julie to talk to me, but I want it on my terms--no more trying to draw her out. That won't happen. My petty little strategy lately has been to spoon out a little of her own medicine--hardly proportional, considering that, on her part, it's just indifference. I'm trying to punish her to compensate for my embarrassment. I don't want to be what she wants me to be, what I've always been to her, an innocuous wallpaper. But that's what I am, and if ignoring her helps me be that while still allowing me some degree of dignity, however artificial, I'll take it--if I can get it back.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Now That the Scales Have Fallen From My Eyes, I Don't Have to Hide Them Behind These Rose-Colored Glasses Anymore (1/09/09 Friday)

Conscience delayed my sleep last night and shortened it this morning. I don't even know what colors Julie wore yesterday, never spoke to her, even when she spoke to me (but I had a spoon in my mouth). Stood within a foot of her facing me to shelve a hold and didn't look at her. She relieved on the desk again and I turned my back to her again. I am already trapped in this inane challenge. Why is my conscience bothering me? How do I get out of this trap? It's like a bad habit easily fallen into, almost an addiction. I can't see a possible gain from getting out of it, but a nagging is pulling me out of its complacence. Where is it pulling me to? Or is it just trying to pull me out? "What is the danger of remaining?" might be a better question than "What do I have to gain?" What am I sinking into? Though I'm not convinced Julie's untouched by my behavior, I'm becoming more aware that I'm doing damage to myself. My attitude and actions are unhealthy and immature. I thought I'd grown over the past year, but it takes less time to cut a tree down than to grow one. Careful consideration is no match for rash thoughtessness. Shouldn't I have learned that lesson from Chris?

Lunch with Chris happened, but not the discussion. I chose Chen's because it was close, so we wouldn't waste much time in transit. The place was empty, it being well past lunch and still a couple hours before dinner. The waiters were asleep, one curled on a booth bench, the other his head lying on his right arm stretched across a table. Great environment for a delicate conversation--until Judy and her husband came in and were seated across the aisle. "I gues we'll have to put off our talk," Chris said. I grinned. "Looks that way," I said, then laughed and added, "It's me, Chris. This is just how things work in my life." We had a good conversation, nonetheless; minus a lot of masking humor, which Chris acknowledged both as a tendency of his and inappropriate to the occasion. When he, unprompted, admitted some jealousy over Stacey's boyfriend Eric, I told him of my theory about his motivation for exposing the blog being rooted in that jealousy. "Have you thought about that?" I asked him. "You know, there's probably something to that. You're a pretty insightful person." The second line smelled like flattery, and the first one didn't answer the question. I didn't press him; he was probably uncomfortable with Judy so near. To his credit, Chris was the first to suggest that things were hardly patched up between us. They might never be, but at least I can like him again.

Sunday night I sent Jan a simple email:


Just checking to make sure you found your way yesterday. Dark fell pretty quickly last night after we parted, but I doubt you had any trouble finding your way back. I enjoyed our chat. I'd like to have that cup of coffee some time.


She replied Monday that she was heading back to Winchester and planned to be back by the end of the week, then wrote again Tuesday, saying she didn't find the apartments Saturday and that she'd be back if she got called for an interview. I had hoped to hear from her today and have coffee with her, but neither happened. I suppose she didn't get the interview.

Stacey wants to make something of my meeting Jan, but I'm staying level about it. I'm making no more of it than a potential friendship. I'm not particularly attracted to Jan, except as a very interesting person. That, of course is how the most lasting relationships, of any kind, last, and that makes our meeting all the more important in potential. We met each other at our most casual, dressed for living, not work or show. Stacey said, "Are you going to get a haircut?" "Hell, no." I'm doing nothing for show. I'm having no pretensions. I want this to go where it will go. You think I'm eager to get my hopes up for romance? Anyway, romance isn't in the equation. What happens happens, and I'm not going to persuade it to happen or hasten its happening. I'm heartened to have met someone more real than Julie ever dared to be around me, but that's not reason upon which to build hopes of romance. I do have hopes of friendship, but they are realistic, given our first-meeting rapport, but if it comes to naught I'll have no difficulty accepting it. After all, what would have been the investment? and, anyway, I'd at least have a good time to remember. There couldn't possibly be any rancor or embarrassment involved in our not becoming friends. It would be just one of those things. I have to admit, though, that I really wanted to get together with Jan today to at least have something to talk about tomorrow when Bethany asks me how I spent my day. I won't lie and say I wouldn't have cared if Julie was around when I said I was with a woman most of the day, though how Julie could possibly care only my pride knows for sure.

I won't bring music to work tomorrow. It's the easiest thing I can do to reconnect with the workplace. I will hope, though, that Julie's not back there when I'm doing holds. It doesn't just bother me to hear her voice; it annoys me. Even her opinions grate. I mean, "I absolutely love
Shrek!" kicks my opinion of her right off the mountain. Honestly, I've ignored a lot of things like that from her over the past year, and the holding cell for my contrary opinions has reached capacity. Perhaps, now that the veil of my delusion has lifted, I'm lashing out at the embarrassment of having pretended not to mind the things about her that would have made me shudder had anyone else voiced them--things that would have made her less interesting, less of what I wanted her to be. I won't castigate myself over that; it's probably a natural reaction and eventually settles down into indifference. That eventuality, I fear, though, is not in the very near future, at least not nearer than a transfer to Tuckahoe.

I Can Clearly See Now and Then (1/08/09 Thursday)

I didn't realize how much I'd missed the sun until I saw it drawing the shade from the building across the way. The week has been wet but not cold. It's been no bother riding in it, just preparing for it. But it hasn't helped my mood, and now the bike squeaks. It's eight now. I've been awake a few hours, mostly writing farewells in my head. How could I ever really speak my mind, though? I don't care about burning bridges; I'd never willingly go back there. But neither will I pick sour grapes. Many people were not involved, and I don't need to leave them scratching their heads. I know all of this is getting ahead of things, that it might all be precluded by a simple lack of accommodation from Tuckahoe, but it feels therapeutic; it helps me sort out my feelings. The sun has faded.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

You Mean Fairly? Or Ironically? (1/07/09 Wednesday)

It was much easier today to avoid Julie, and not at all satisfying. I'm not simply avoiding her. I've made her all but invisible to me. That is certainly beyond the pale of what I intended. It's childish and petty, and I have no idea why I care. I was on the desk at one with Mike, but he brought out the leasebook cart to shelve. I sat staring and sighing and watching the minutes click past on the task bar. Someone passed behind me. Julie said, "Are you alone out here?" Reluctant to speak and resentful that I had to, I responded, "Mm. Mike's over there," and I threw a thumb to the opposite corner. I had only glanced toward her voice, reluctant, too, to look at her. She came back out at the top of the hour, and when she slid into Mike's empty slot I turned away from her and marched to the door. So much for civility.

But why do I care? Is it simply conscience, knowing I'm not being mature? Do I really care about Julie's feelings? Should I assume that this even affects her? Am I just flattering myself to do so? Do I really think this could matter to anyone but me? I care very little about appearing sullen or aloof. Only the introverts have noticed that. They are giving me a wider berth than usual. I am not going to fit in, so I might as well not fit in on my own terms. Is it more mature to live a lie in order to get along than it is to not hide how I feel? How much am I obligated to play the game? What reward is there? Homogeneity? Of course I want to know what's in it for me! I'd be paying a pretty steep price for it, after all. The prize is not desirable. It's the same one I got for trusting Chris.

Christine has already talked to Burnnie at Tuckahoe, who will talk to her staff. I don't know how long it will take to hear anything about that, but I'm pleased that Christine jumped right on it. I'm worrried that Craig might want to come over. He's the only guy there I can talk to, and everyone at Twin Hickory would love him. James was well-loved, too, and he's barely a ghost at Twin Hickory now. Imagine how quickly I'd be forgotten if I were replace with Craig.

I finally nailed Chris to a time to meet. We'll do it at lunch tomorrow. I don't know what my agenda will be. Part of me wants to blow it off, but that's the cowardly part. But the other part is feeling almost vindictive. I'm not ready to forgive Chris, and I don't want to part from him tomorrow with him thinking everything's fine between us. I have to remember the damage he's done and not be magnaminimous about letting bygones be bygones. Is that immature? So what? There is nothing of which I can conceive that he could do to make amends. I'm still looking for what I deserve. What is that?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

On Which Side Is Irony? (1/06/09 Tuesday)

Resolve--how that word has changed attitude! Where once it bolstered courage, it now props up cowardice. Cowardice hardly needs the crutch. It's more sure of itself than courage ever was. It's simply easier being a coward. I hope to avoid Julie all day today. Only four of our hours concur, so it might be doable. (I'm disappointed I even mentioned her name.) Step One is to finish lunch and get out of the breakroom within ten minutes, when the next shift starts streaming in. I won't plan out the avoidance: I won't check the schedule and whiteboard to chart her whereabouts, and I'll face what incidental contact I have to with as much civility as I can muster without copping an attitude.


It almost worked, then it failed miserably. I ignored her, despite some close proximity, for more than three hours. I thought I had it made. At three o'clock she was trapped at the window and I was to shelve. Easy. But first I had to eat something; lunch was long gone. I got a cheese stick from the fridge and stood across from it as I ate. Before my last bite I heard steps and turned and stared down into a pair of dark blue marbles. "Dammit!" was what I was thinking. "Hey," is what I said, and failure slapped me. I threw the last bit of cheese in my mouth. She passed me without response. At the sink she said, "Taking a break, huh?" Duh. I grunted what little acknowledgement I could get away with and lingered uncertainly a moment before heading back up the hall. Julie had won a battle she hadn't even been fighting. Now I was angry and disappointed, both with myself. Childish or not, this is the challenge I've set myself. Like "resolve," "challenge" is now working on the side of cowardice. Tomorrow is the same chance, with the short overlap of hours. I hope to do better.

Emailed Tammy about my request. She had talked to Ahmed, but neither could find the form they thought I'd need to fill to make the request official, so it was suggested to me to make the request of Christine myself via email, which I did late in the day. The next step, Ahmed told me, was for Christine to ask all my counterparts at Tuckahoe if they would consider coming over to Twin Hickory. The Big If. It stops me dead in my tracks to think how easily I could be stuck at Twin Hickory. This avoidance of Julie is only designed to last until my transfer. If the transfer doesn't happen I'm a dead man--just tell me what to do, where to go, don't make me talk.

Two nights ago I had a rare pleasant dream scene, even rarer for featuring Julie with me. I haven't the details, just the mood: Very happy, full of laughter, like a pair of old friends in perfect synch. How I could have dreamt that is unfathomable to me. Where could it have come from?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Convoidance (1/05/09 Monday)

Barely spoke to Stacey on the way in. I didn't care enough to ask about her weekend, absorbed as I was in myself. She didn't bother, either, beyond the usual insert-name-here stuff. She didn't want to know, and I don't blame her. As with everything else in my life, I am distilling friendship down to the essential, applying my usual rigid standards and finding everyone wanting. I lowered my standards of friendship over the summer and got a shiv betwen the shoulder blades.

On the way home I apologized to Stacey for being uncommunicative. "Ever since Chris..." (I wanted to say "stabbed me in the back") "did what he did I've been considering what a friend really is. Frankly, youi let me down. You just weren't really there for me." To be fair, though--and Stacey reminded me of this--she had been out of town when all this went down. When she got back all she was hearing was gossip, she said, so she decided it was best to "remain neutral." Chris tried to plead his case with her, and she told him she was going to stay out of it rather than choose between us. Of course, the main purveyors of the gossip were B and M. Of them, Stacey said, "Once you step into their world, it would be too easy to sink to their level." It was nice to finally know what was going on with Stacey through all this mess, and I am ashamed of thinking much worse of her character, but I would have felt a bit less alone if I'd known then where she'd stood in the midst of it.

Though Julie seemed only slightly less ubiquitous today than Friday, I dealt with her a lot better. We had a desk hour together and didn't speak. She relieved me at backup but I just moved to the terminal next door and continued discharging to help with the heavy courier load--another hour without a a word exchanged. I probably wouldn't have stuck around that second hour if anyone else had relieved me; I was forcing my resolve to ignore her. It's the only way I'll ever get used to working with her. How could she care now if she never cared before? This is the only faking I'm doing on my way to making it: pretending I don't care about her or how much attention she gives me. I'm not faking any nice guy crap. It twists my stomach to even think of the effort of an insincere smile. Tammy's back, but I didn't get a chance to talk to her. It doesn't amtter how well I pretend to adjust--I want out.

It wasn't all that long ago that I would race home to suck down some dinner and caffeine and race to my desk. Sometimes I'd get to bed only a few hours before I had to get up again. I was groggy at work, but it was worth it. Now, all I've got is the groggy at work, and what did I do to deserve that but go to bed at ninie-thirty. I still get little sleep, not for a feverish writing production, not for a feverish writing production, but for a shitty sleep*.

*This is where I fell asleep--around eight-thirty.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sun Enough to Get Home By (1/04/09 Sunday)

Book People only had Songs of Angus for me, so though that edition included More Songs of Angus, that's still precious little more for me to read. I was disappointed Flemington hadn't come in. I tried Chop Suey Books, but nothing there appealed to me. The space left behind the Morvern Callar I'd bought two weeks ago was still there. My legs were hurting. I didn't want to go home, didn't want to walk anymore, either. I wanted to be among people. Plan 9 had restocked the Eno and Nilsson, so I picked up Before and After Science and Nilsson Schmilsson. The Eno I'd intended to get was Taking Tiger Mountain, but Before and After Science had a song called "Julie With..."--stupid reason, but so what. I added Franz Ferdinand, Imagine, and a compilation of vintage ska. There was little sun left even on the sunny side of Cary Street, and my exposed knees were feeling a chill. Though having gotten what I'd come to Carytown for, I thought of the barren stretch home, the thinning density of population and the decreasing likelihood of contact, and I just couldn't get back on the bike. Cold knees, aching hip, I kept walking. The sun still stretched across the Cary Court parking lot. I headed for it. I could think of no other stores along there that held even a browsing interest for me, but I was a bit hungry for some cycling fuel. For the Love of Chocolate would have nothing substantial. I paused in front of Jean-Jacques for a moment then went in. If there was nothing much to eat, at least I'd be warm. The turkey-and-cheese croissant might as well have been just the pastry for all my $2.05 bought me, but I ate it inside at a sunny table. The water was satisfying, anyway, and free. I filled my styrofoam cup one more time from the cooler.

"Is it getting cooler out there?"

I turned. "A little bit," I said. She was all shades of blue and gray--long-sleeved t-shirt, fleece vest, knit slacks with a mild flair--except for the black sweatshirt tied around her waist and the red bandanna fastened round her forehead. "You should be fine," I told her.

"Oh, I'm not worried about getting cold. I just don't want to sweat." I was out of small talk and expected her to be, as well, but her eyes seemed to lock me in, and I stared at her, silent. I didn't find her attractive--or unattractive, for that matter--but her gaze, intense but open yet unexpectant, pulled me closer.

What followed was a conversation between new familiars, Jan and Dion. I've had this kind of conversation only a few times in my life, always with eventual friends, none of them with women: personal, but not deep, an incidental exchange of information: getting to know one another without intent, pretense, subterfuge, hope or expectation. And how refreshing to meet someone unafraid to be flawed! Unafraid of anything, it seemed, walking all over an unfamiliar town, venturing from her son's VCU apartment up to Carytown and intent upon extending her jaunt across 195 to take a look at the Mount Vernon townhouses, then down to Monument and back to base in the Fan. On her fancy touch-screen phone, head nearly touching hers, I showed her the route she should take, even touching the screen myself at her prompting. When she said, "We should meet for coffee somewhere," it was simply a suggestion, not a veiled come-on. She gave me her card, and we parted in separate directions. It was no longer difficult to head home. I'd gotten what I'd come for.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

One In-a-finity (1/03/09 Saturday)

An emotional nightmare of a workday yesterday. There seemed to be no escaping Julie. I couldn't stand to hear her voice or even know she was in the same room. The one time I had to talk to her I froze, staring in her face for a million years before finally geting the words out. But I nearly lost my grip entirely after Billy dropped off the mail. "He is such a nice man," Julie said. "There aren't many of those around." She couldn't have stabbed me any more deeply. I spent the rest of the day burning in a bitter, angry, sensitive stew. I'd brought in Oranges and Lemons to play while I processed holds. I listened to it sneering and laughing cruelly. "One of the Millions" earned special attention. Besides the entire song defining life as I find it, "All my schemes come to a humiliating end" elicited a barking amen of a laugh; and at "Kiss goodbye to my hopes" I kissed my fingertips and swept them through the air. By the end of the day I was morose and listless. There didn't seem to be much point in anything I was doing there. I was missing James acutely.

Tammy returns Monday. She may have hoped that in her absence my desire to leave would have died an impulse's death, fading with the emotion that bore it. She would be disappointed.

With how much validity has this endeavor been labelled "obsession"? How much different has it been than passion? Of course, I would like to distance myself from the first term, but can I do it honestly? I referred to it enough myself as an obsession, but never with clinical consideration. The negative elements, of frustration among them, connoted "A Bright Ironic Hell" as a negative endeavor. And as passion, to me, has always been a positive thing, this writing could not, therefore, be passion. But what I believe redeems its positive status is awareness. I was not blind to the effects of the crush on me. I was aware of the conflict within myself to reconcile my feelings with reality. As I understand it, obsession does not allow for doubt and conflict, and has precious little room for reflection. I fought obsesion tooth and nail every step of the way. Who do you think The Fool was? It wasn't my heart; it was obsession. What I did for The Fool was obsession. Did I obsess, or did I think out loud? I sought to solve a complex problem, and it required almost constant attention from my rational faculties. The Fool convinced me of many false indications in order to keep me from giving up hope, but The Wise Man never stopped trying to make sense of this undermining, and the battle raged.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Cheap, and Worth Every Penny (1/01/09 Thursday)

After work yesterday, exhausted and famished, I stopped at Good Foods. I didn't need groceries, but I was hoping to find something there to make me feel better. I lingered in the store picking up a few things I didn't need but wanted--a brownie, waffles, and chips. C was there. I like C--easy to talk to, funny, empathetic. (Funny, when I wrote that I thought of my bitterness over the attention Julie gives extroverts, then realized how much I've been quilty of it myself.) I was moping through the store when I heard over the speakers someone yell, "One! Two! Three! Four!" and I knew "Ball of Confusion" was unfurling. My foot started tapping and my head bobbing. C pointed at me and said, "He's back!" If I'd been there for just the music, I'd have left after that song, because that was followed by some late Chicago and worse. I lingered after buying my stuff. The woman after me lingered, too, after her purchase, and the three of us chatted like familiars, if not friends. It was when we dispersed that I knew that it was the company I'd really come for. At work I had thought of going out that night, just to be around people, but I was satisfied after leaving Good Foods: It wasn't people I needed to be amongst; it was people I knew and could care about that I wanted to be with. I stayed in, wrote, watched an episode of The Prisoner ("Checkmate"), had a whisky at midnight, then milk and cookies before bed at one.

Still, I awoke early--five-thirty--having at least slept through the ginn plane. Today is mine--no kids, no responsibilities, nowhere to go, no work, no Julie. Kevyn left a message, checking up on me. I used to be pridefully resentful of such calls from her and Mom, feeling interfered with and not trusted to handle my own affairs; but now I'm grateful to have someone who cares to listen to me. If only I were as good in return. I will return Kevyn's call. It will be, at least, a reason to get outside on this bright, clear day: The cell phone won't pick up a signal in the apartment. I don't know what else I'll do today, but it probably won't be anything I've been putting off, unless I actually want to do it. I'm not sure I'll even play music. Suddenly, I have nothing I want to hear. Saturday I'll have to get to Plan 9.

I've had nothing to read either, and that's probably contributed to my depression. I've read Songs of Angus three times, and have nothing on my shelves that begs me to read it. With schools out, my other interlibrary loan requests for more Violet Jacob are suspended in limbo. I ordered some books from Book People, and they called me Monday that one was in. That pickup will have to wait for Saturday, as well.

This is the time of year we're all supposed to reflect on and assess the previous year. I don't want to, really. Though I might be surprised and pleased with my growth, I would likely be as dismayed at the lack of it. Little is ever good enough for me, especially myself. I'd rather someone else made the assessment; I'm too close and too critical. I know I've grown quite a lot, but I don't want to know exactly how or how much. I don't want to own either the good or the bad; the one is bought with pride, the other with shame.

Writer's Block? Just Click the Julie Icon on the Toolbar (12/31/08 Wednesday)

Avoidance is easier, by far, than engagement. Since it is, essentially, the state of things before I began earnestly seeking Julie's attention, it can't be as much of an artifice as Nicey-Nicey Smiley Face. But only absence will make my heart grow less fond. Avoidance of Julie will spread to include everyone, eventually. I feel alone enough now. I don't want to collapse into myself entirely.

But it's not Julie I'm clinging to so much as what she's meant to this project (endeavor? what? I still don't know what to call this teetering stack of words)--and I've hardly begun to define that. She's more of an icon than human--or, rather, there's Julie the icon of inspiration and there's Julie the person I work with. Or is this a strategem to detach my feelings from her? Which way is the real way and which way is the rationalization?

Not a good day at work. My sleep habits have altered. Since the Christmas week, if not before, I fall asleep as early as before eight-thirty. Rarely have I made it past ten. But no matter how long I've slept up to four a.m., that's when I wake up--on the ginn plane. But I'm not awake; I'm just a little bit closer to awakening than to falling into a true sleep. I think I'm awake until the alarm rings--at six on most weekdays--at which point the line between wakefulness and sleep is revealed as dark and wide. I have my tea in the morning, but lately that's barely propping me up. My caffeine tolerance has risen with a few coffees over the past week, so the tea doesn't preclude the headache. I felt slightly jittery all day today, as if in low-level withdrawal. After lunch Thomas saw me leaving the breakroom. I've been fairly dramatic this month, not hiding my discomfort, playing the martyr, but today I was just, plain dragging. "Man, you haven't been right for a long time," was Thomas' greeting. "What's up?" "I'm trying to get out of here," I said, forgetting that I was in a kind of acoustical sweet spot, at the juncture of perpendicular hallways just outside the breakroom, where was sitting Nikki, Greta and Julie at the nearest table. I hadn't modulated my voice, and Thomas was at least eight feet away, by the back door. Immediately, I hoped that he interpreted it lightly, as a joke that referred to the workday, not the building, workplace and coworkers. But Thomas didn't take it lightly, didn't accommodate me with a joke for cover. He knew I really wanted out, and now three more people knew. I closed ranks with Thomas and explained very generally what I wanted to do, giving as a reason only, "There are just some people here I can't work with any longer." He didn't pry, and I didn't offer.