Note to world #3320

He had sent those emails, one after the other, building up his anger in each one. I had tried to defuse it by saying we could talk in the morning.

I had trouble sleeping that night.

During the long drive, I tried to keep my heart and mind soft and open. I told myself that there was no point in resisting and if I could just give in, it would be easier for me. If I could separate myself from him and hide inside of myself, it would hurt less.

Except I didn’t want to keep hiding anymore.

When I arrived, he didn’t let me get much more than a sentence out before he launched in. His anger grew quickly, he pounded on the table and jabbed his fingers at me. My own cheeks flushed hot. Instead of being soft and open, I met every one of his jabs with my own stammered resistance, even when what I said made no sense. I just resisted blindly, fiercely, those moments disassociated from my body. He told me to leave and I did. I gathered my things and started to walk out.

I thought maybe I would never come back. I thought maybe where I was going, I wouldn’t even need these things in my hand.

Only then did his temper break.

He called me back. And I came back. We both apologized, me for nothing except for my very existence it seemed. And I felt weak and fatigued by it all. He mistook my tears as those of remorse but I knew inside that I was crying because I came back. I had wanted to keep walking away. I had wanted to leave him and this world and everything it was. Because staying was death.

I was dying and I didn’t have the courage to save myself.

Barry

I visit our offices in another town. I am there to make sure it’s all in top shape for our upcoming meetings. Barry is part of the local team who greets me for the visit.

Barry reminds me of someone I know. Someone friendly and warm. All day, I puzzle over this.

Then I realize that Barry is dressed in the same colors Barney the dinosaur wore–purple and green — and that Barry looks just like that friendly creature. Barry is tall and wide and when I shake his hand, half my arm is swallowed by his enormous mitt-like grip. A warmth and humility radiates from his face, even though he’s wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap, pretty unapologetically, as his indoor office gear. Every challenge I raise makes him smile more.

Near the end of my walk through, I have to ask him whether he owns a suit – because management wants him to wear a suit. Without skipping a beat, he asks me what color suit he should wear for the meetings. I have a funny vision of him in a sky blue tux with a pink-hued ruffle shirt for a minute.

And I also have to ask why he’s wearing sunglasses inside. After-effects of a concussion, he says, and it’s either that or vomit. I pick the sunglasses and I don’t even ask about the hat because I’m not sure I want to know what’s happening under it.

Moments later, he tells me he’s been protecting the countertops with yoga mats to prevent scratching. And that he’s been personally watering the newly installed ‘living wall’ with an elaborate plastic straw installation so no plants die during our meetings.

I have this overwhelming urge to be his friend.

But I remind myself that Barney’s song, “I love you” was played to torment prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Right.

Scratch that. Barry and I cannot be friends.

And the day moves on from there.

Dean

I got the call that Dean had been arrested for assaulting his mother over the spare change in her purse. He had been completely high on meth. Again. For about two years, this pattern repeated itself every few months with minor variations.

* * *

When we were just little kids, I could tell that life wasn’t going to be easy for him. He was just a little too rough. And he liked causing pain with a bit more relish than the rest of his rough and tumble siblings. He also didn’t have any notion of when to stop – anything … all of his emotions spilled out everywhere, bluntly, in his language and his movements. His sense of reality blended heavily with his often violent imagination. And there was no one looking out for him – all of his thoughts went unchecked and his actions were mostly unsupervised.

Dean was already in danger at age 7.

And it was all I could do to save myself.

* * *

We are adults now, and he was still in danger. Lost and probably on his way to an overdose. Sadness gathered thickly in my throat. I hung up the call – I couldn’t offer any more help.

The bow

I have a confession to make: My Christmas spirit has a dark blight spreading over it.

Because I am possibly the person who off-handedly complained about that

{very large} {tremendously glittery}

bow hanging from our internal office door.

The one that dropped gold flecks all over my angry black outfits and bespeckled the sanitorium white walls of our clinically sparse, modern workplace.

And my grinchy-day grievances traversed the open spaces above our cheap desks to the ears of another who whispered into the ears of another who whispered into the ears of another until

a ladder and man arrived to cut down said

{very large} {tremendously glittery}

bow hanging from our internal office door.

I first heard about it on my way in from the office garage, several days later: the recounting of the repugnant “bow incident” – the massacre of holiday cheer by some anonymous scrooge. The office was quite agog about it.

I didn’t quite believe it until I saw for myself … the naked glass door shimmering slightly with the hint of gold glitter bits.

Tina from upstairs said she was planning to hang her own bow – in solidarity, she said. Craig is reported to have offered his condolences for its removal. Everyone said it was shocking.

I spent an entire evening feeling terrible that I might have caused this whole scene. Wondering what could have possessed me to complain and straining to remember exactly what I might have said and why. After all, what kind of mean person detests office holiday decorations ?

And I was about to spill my guts last Tuesday except right then someone’s uncle died – and I decided to just keep my bah-humbugging to myself.

So, yeah. I guess I’m just not really in the mood this year for Merry Christmas and other stuff.

Inside

It was almost too sad, the whole thing.

She walked around the house, opening all the doors and cabinets and drawers. She studied the bedside photos of the man with this woman. The woman could have been her – maybe. But it was not.

She inspected the artwork, the decor and anything else she could see without touching. Anything that did not make sense to her – she knew these pieces belonged to the woman she was not and not to the man she knew. She made mental notes of what she saw.

She paused to wonder if he could see her. Something she knew was not possible but a thought that came into her head all the same.

She shifted her mind away from the idea and felt some small pleasure in the joy she gleaned from his belongings, his frozen smile in the pictures, his grasp on this other woman. Who he was – finally revealed in everything around her.

And this is what she focused on, and not the strange old sadness that filled some part of her.

the couch

It was a deep navy. velvet. and so deep you could get lost in its crevices.

it had once been the couch in the waiting room of the most powerful man in the company. a man who purposely kept the anteroom to his office extra warm so you would sweat just sitting there.

the man fell, eventually, from his position – and because the new power structure had other methods for tormenting people, the couch was moved into a makeshift storage room in the attic of the ancient building.

she found it when she was asked to take a different office too – a tiny dark room that looked out onto the back alley of finance – and the facilities guys, feeling a bit sorry for her, had let her wander around to gather odds and ends for the dank space.

she remembered the couch from her own time on it – the unnatural warmth and embrace of the sofa had never bothered her because she was always too chilly and always too small for the adult office environment – facts that had been to her advantage during many tense meetings with her hot and uncomfortably agitated male counterparts.

and now the disgraced couch sat in her small dim office where she continued to toil under new management. she would tell the story of the couch to anyone who stopped long enough to sit on it.

and there was something that seemed right about her rescue of this small part of the company’s history – as if though she was salvaging her own role in it as well.

Andrea

It was one of those sticky hot Missouri nights, when even the wail of the cicadas seemed to swim through the wet heat. We were waiting on the curb in a dark spot under Old Man Woodbury’s oak tree, squatting silently. We took up the spot directly across from Andrea’s house because it gave us a good view of what was happening inside. We could see right into the house through the big window in the front room. Not that we needed to see anything – we could hear everything we needed in order to understand what was going on inside the house.

And we were not strangers to Andrea and her “family meetings”. Andrea always had a family meeting on Saturdays. Randy, her stepdad, said it was good to account for their many sins before the Sabbath and so they all gathered in the living room late Saturday afternoons to let Randy lash out at them: Andrea, her mom and her little brother. So, yeah, it wasn’t much of a meeting – and there was nothing family-like about it.

We felt somehow protected by the big oak while we stared into the darkness and listened to the pained cries of Andrea and her family and the husky screams of Randy belittling them for their various imperfections. We were all misfits ourselves, some of us with our own Randys and all of us on the outside edges of life.

When the yelling and crying subsided, we would pick up our bottles of alcohol – whatever we had been able to scrounge during the week – and head inside Andrea’s house to drink and play cards together, a rowdy bunch finding courage in fifths of Jack Daniels.

Randy let us drink and pretend, and so we overlooked the violence he inflicted on our friend. And we all knew that as long as Andrea was the target of his sexual molestation later, when we were all drunk, we would say nothing. Randy was the man in charge of the family anyway and it wasn’t our business.

But hell, the whole neighborhood knew. It was on display every week in the picture window of the front room.

None of us ever did anything to help Andrea. Not that night or any other one.  And that was just the way it was.

the long climb

I am climbing so slowly

I am barely moving

He waits quietly for me to catch up

We rest for a moment

We sip water together 

Then we continue in silence

He, pacing himself to stay next to me

We climb toward the mountain top

Where I know he will leave me and

I will stay to love what is left behind

Modern mothering

He says, “She knows she hates you – but she understands she needs you.”

He pauses to rethink this declaration. “Well, maybe ‘hate’ is not the right word. Maybe what I mean is that she’s just really angry with you. ” 

I interrupt, “It’s okay, Jonathan. I believe it’s the right word. Please continue.” 

And I close my eyes to hear this therapist I’ve never met tell me through the phone all about the incomprehensibly tangled story of a broken bond between a mother and a child.  

“I see glimmers of progress,” he offers in conclusion. 

But I know he doesn’t mean for me.  

So I go back to my work, and I work extra late that night to make up for the sadness that gnaws away my productivity.  

Breakfast

Mother’s Day Menu 2017 

Fresh berries (only the blue ones because the red ones looked ‘funny’)

Blueberry pancakes (lovingly half-cooked and half-scorched)

Salad dressing (because it also could be syrup when you’re young and sleepy)

Coffee 

And a nap…..(the chef went back to bed immediately after)