Delete her number from your phone, hide/unsubscribe/unfriend her social media feeds, lick your wounds, grieve for what might have been, and throw yourself wholeheartedly into other connections and interests. Read books by women. Let time do its healing work (It will, I promise). Be a person who takes “no” for an answer.
I finally understood that his no meant no. Really, truly no. It took me nearly six months. I’m not the quickest learner, but I found my way there.
I didn’t like it one little bit. Couldn’t there be a different answer? A way to keep the door open? We’d been standing there at the threshold for so long — open, shut, open, shut. . . Open? Shut? — that I couldn’t quite believe he’d lodged the bolt for good.
What would change his mind? What might convince him to try again?
My disregard for his choice is glaring. I only see it now. My longing for him drowned out every other consideration. It didn’t help that memory laced geography. Every block, a block we walked. The path through the woods behind the library. The restaurant, the park, the gym. Memory turned to curiosity; curiosity to yearning. I was lugging around a Sears catalogue of questions never asked, not in the entirety of our four years. The questions dazzled. The desire to know him again, or perhaps know him anew, consumed me.
I wanted him.
I’d turned into every lovelorn sucker in every country song.
Petals from nameless tress, blossoms pink as sisters
edge sidewalk, gutters, stairs
drawing a perfect pillowed frame around everything that separates us.
With a form to cement the end
of a project that’s kept her here eight years,
she stands at the threshold
of my office. Her offering of gratitude
a satchel of lotions and oils, heavy with the perfume of peach flowers.
The girl in me feels the kiss of a sundress on her calves. Remember
grass? Body paint, sun-streaked boys,
pennants stained with soot and crushed blackberries,
gymnastic arcing bonfires,
bare arms in pas de deux with dusk. Continue reading “Office Hours”→
Rib under its sheath of skin holds the level
crossing up for working liver, bustling
spleen to scrub and build and pack
cargo for the journey. Beneath, a churning. Steady.
Blocks of iron and tiny tanks rolling
through tunnels, down and up, traveling
along the central line
past the switchman
into fingertip and sweat, all of this
I hold. We speak in whispers
using inadequate words. You try to say gorgeous and alive
I try to say strong and vibrant. Squat
and awkward sounds. Silly. whole syllables
missing. Whole valleys. Villages
we mold into geometric shapes, press
creek and home and promise
into tiny boxcars chug chugging
along the flat track of the conversation
maybe on their way to page
but they don’t arrive
at the destination, they don’t even
follow the proper itinerary. We linger
on another shore gazing at the marvel
of distant steam rising
above the canopy. A drift is all that remains
of a route we used to know
and used to be
all we knew,
between there and here.
The industrious little I think I can
delivers its dolls and letters,
its ironed sentiment in rectangular packages
the wrong shape entirely
to addressees unknown.
We find it hard to turn away, glued
to this tongue, common
to country and congenital ear. It cannot name
or even hear:
here, into the pocket
of my cheek, slide down my throat. Land
is plentiful here. My lung is a fecund place
where voice is the offspring of air, blood,
losing your language. We’ll prune and graft
a hybrid vernacular
and weave on its stem a chrysalis
song. All along the tissued surface
and in deeper loam, I wait.
(words mangle the shape of how I)
just by skimming the surface. Stay.
the splitting, the roil and spill
I cannot contain. You,
the broken open cells
of my desire and the first divisions
of the chimera I become
as you dig your furrow and plant
The seller accepts my offer over all the others. Even cash from investors, higher bids from FHA borrowers, and promises of covering closing costs do not beat me out. It is a strong offer with 20% down, but the letter my realtor writes is the golden ticket. She paints a picture of Bug and me, growing up together there in that exact corner of the planet.
The record kicks up to 78 rpm. The lyrics are a high frequency tumult. The homeowner, gun shy because her last two buyers had their financing fall through at the 11th hour, is in a kerfuffle. She has something else waiting, it seems. This has taken her months longer than the overheated market promised. She wants the sale to be settled by the first week of December and to be moved out by the holidays.
Push, push, push. I take a breath and tell my realtor I’m sorry, but everyone will have to wait. I need to sit with this possibility for a day or two and let it work its way through my bloodstream. I also have to finish up my week at the office, pick up my son from school, and get some sleep. The homeowner needs an answer yesterday. I understand she is frantic, but she will have to wait a few more tomorrows. If she wants fast, an investor will fork over $200 grand in cash and then lease the place out to the next sucker who will pay twice the mortgage in rent. I don’t say this, of course. I just remind myself to be kind yet firm.
I am in a kerfuffle my own self. Buy now and take on the cost of the commute? Hold out for that phantom place closer to Tee and my work with half the square footage for a mere $40,000 more, all while risking losing out on these bargain-basement interest rates?
Between idealism and practicality, how does a person hit the sweet spot?
This place is cozy and light. It has big bedrooms, a fireplace, a yard with promise. It is on a bus line with transportation to my metro stop. It is near the Korean Spa that I love. It is walking distance to a supermarket, a library, and a park.
The living room is so narrow, I whine to myself. I want a place closer to the metro. Something with woods nearby. A basement. A guest room.
I slow down and consider what this new life is teaching me. Hell, my six-year-old has this stuff figured out already. Have I not learned anything in the past two years?
Wants: Acres of open land. A toolshed and workshop. A ten-minute walk to the office. A basement dance studio. Needs: A safe neighborhood. A quiet bedroom. A reliable way to get to work. A place for my son to learn, play, and grow.
Back and forth in myself, the longing for what is not (yet) within reach swings and clangs. The wanting makes me curl my lip at this beautiful opportunity to fulfill my family’s needs.
Between spoiled and growing up, how does a person hit the sweet spot?
We have the inspection scheduled for Thursday. She was pushing for Tuesday, but both the inspector and I carved out a few more days. Once we are finished digging around under the carpets and behind the hot water heater, I will have three days to make a decision. Barring any issues in financing, I could be on my way to home ownership by Thanksgiving.
Seven months ago, I was still sure that I was trapped in dire financial straits with no ladder in sight. The era of staying at home with Bug, following Tee’s vague career trajectory from one time zone to the next, and eventually divorcing had reduced my financial and professional foundation to rubble. I clung to an image of myself hefting one broken stone at a time back onto something resembling a wall with no blueprint in hand and all the pieces on the brink of toppling again.
That was not what was happening, of course. Six months ago, I began to realize that the story I was telling myself was doing a better job holding me back than my circumstances were:
If my paycheck is sufficient to support Bug and me in our own place, I might actually have to get off my frightened ass and make the leap. I claim I ache for a home. A Place of Our Own is my official Red Ryder carbon action 200 shot range model air rifle. But maybe I don’t entirely trust myself to manage alone. If I wake up to find that possibility under the tree, will I shoot my eye out? Having enough would, after all, mean the end of this recuperative chapter in the suffocating security of my parents’ nest. Might it be that the truth of my terror is not in being stuck but in becoming unstuck?
And so. The bank agrees to loan me many thousands of dollars, my department pushes through a small raise, the realtor helps me squeeze into the two-day window when my crush of a house is back on the market, and BOOM!
At the end of preschool’s garden themed week, a picture of flowers with hand-print petals came home along with a plastic bottle terrarium containing threads of newborn sunflowers and beets sprouting from damp soil. This was also stuffed in the bottom of Bug’s backpack. An afterthought? Maybe an infant thought. Maybe a thin strand of desire nosing through the surface of things just long enough to catch the light.