Friday, July 25, 2008

Ready, Set, Heal

He was never my boyfriend. On a conscious level, I knew this.

But a little deeper beneath the surface, where hope lies untainted by the sharp hands of reality, I pretended he was mine.

I suppose we’re all guilty of this from time to time. What woman hasn’t, at some point in her starry-eyed past, drifted home on the tail feathers of a word or a smile? And who among us hasn’t seen our future in a pair of blue eyes, or felt our fate in the warm tentacles of an embrace?

Up until I met the Mad Scientist, I hadn’t been so lucky.

But once the moment hit, my chemistry was forever altered.

It’s been two years and there doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by when I don’t remember his goofy laugh or how he brushed back the hair from my eyes before he kissed me. I remember the taste of the lemoncello he brought back from Italy, so sweet and tart that it made my mouth turn cartwheels. I guess my heart was doing the same.

I’m in his city. Just miles from everything about him, and I am horribly wistful and deeply mournful at the same time. I don’t want to be this way. I really don’t. It aches in the pit of my stomach. It wrestles with my subconscious and tickles the lobes in my brain responsible for memory. I want a love lobotomy. I want to heal.

So how to do this?

I have, miraculously, gotten over Mr. Beer Man and Mr. Corkscrew. One down, two to go. The Mad Scientist is undoubtedly the most powerful force in my life, which explains why it’s nearly impossible to exorcise him. But I know it can be done.

It’s sort of like a marathon, I suppose. You know you’ve got a hell of a long haul ahead of you, so you attempt to pace yourself rather than try to leap toward the finish line. Slowly, you get used to the cadence and don't get so frustrated every time you see a hill. You prepare yourself for dips along the way. You know your heart’s going to race, parts of you will ache and your limbs will feel like they don’t belong to your body anymore. You will feel as though you will never make it, but you know you will. You know there’s an end.

I just want to feel like I’m getting closer to that end. It’s not that simple, but if I reward myself for the miles I’ve already run, perhaps I'll be able to see just how much stronger I've become along the way. With each step forward, I’m moving in the right direction. And though I often need A LOT of water along the way, I'm hoping to win this race. Please, God, let me win this race. Ready, set, heal!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Where's My Happy Accident?

My life is one giant coincidence. Or is it?

The Celestine Prophecy would have you believe there is no such thing. That every single thing that happens to us is 100 percent on purpose. It is simply our choice in how we perceive it. We can go on about our day, ignoring the little old lady who dropped her purse in front of us at the grocery store, or we can stop to help her pick it up. What would stopping do? Could she impart some wisdom to us that profoundly changes our lives or, in the 45 seconds it takes to help her, were we saved from walking out of the store and getting hit by a car?

I tend to believe everyone we meet is there to teach us something. So far, all the men in my life have done just that. This doesn’t mean I have always liked the lesson, but I certainly learned something. Sometimes I learn more about men, sometimes I learn more about myself. Sometimes I learn about peanut butter.

What happens when you come across something that seems too strange to be ignored? Like when you run into the same man twice in the impossibly crowded environs of London? Once, on the tube, where you both shared a seductive and lingering gaze and another, at the bustling Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. What happens when you’re walking with your friend and you hear two men in front of you speaking German? So you look up. And there he is. The man who flirted with you on the tube two months ago. I remember feeling like Jell-O when I left the train and I remember, even more, his eyes following me as I walked away.

And now, here he was, not only in front of me, but German! I mustered up the courage to ask him, in German, if I might tell him something funny. And when I told him about our tube story, he could only smile.

That’s what I was doing when I met the Mad Scientist at the Chicago Art Institute, in the German oil painting section. When he walked away, staring at me as he did, I was sure I’d never see him. But then, 30 minutes later, when I had gone in the complete opposite direction, finding myself in a room covered in Seurat, there he was. It was August and the museum was impossibly crowded. You can barely see your feet, let alone a familiar face. Yet, you do – see a familiar face. One who ends up being the shortest, most wonderful relationship of your life.

Last night, at the Ravinia in suburban Chicago, when I walked into one of their restaurants, I saw The Beatle, a man I had met on a plane from Chicago to St. Louis about four months ago. He and I had the loveliest conversation and then we parted. I sent him one email and he sent me one. Then I saw him in this packed outdoor concert venue. Walked right into him.

Is it just me? I need to know. I feel like I must have so many lessons to learn. Why else would all these people be put before me in so many different situations?

What I’ve learned so far is this: Germans can be unbelievably sexy, whether on a train or on a crowded London street. Scientists can break your heart, and Paul McCartney doesn’t look a day over 26.

And I’m still alone. It’s okay on most days, but next time, I wouldn’t mind a lesson in how it only takes one person who you meet by accident to make you change your mind about accidents. Happy accidents.


Chicago is a vortex. A wet, sticky trap.

It’s the Bermuda Triangle of my relationships.

Even though I’m 30 miles outside the city, staying with a friend, memories of the Mad Scientist haunt my waking thoughts. Today was the first time I think I ever cried for him and it’s been two years since we first met and I discovered what it feels like to be happy. I mean, happy underneath your toenails happy. Happy in your earlobes and on every one of your nose hairs happy. Happy in your head. Happy in your heart.

And then there’s Mr. Beer Man. He makes me the opposite of happy, but I did spend my unhappiest times with him in Chicago, so it will forever be connected to his slimy self.

Mr. Saffron, who you haven’t met yet, is a heady, luxurious whiff of sexy. He is subtly sarcastic, intelligent, cultured and fabulously easy on the eyes. When I had the super-sized falling out with Beer Man a few months ago, Saffron swooped in and trotted me off to a lovely French bistro and then Navy Pier, where we watched a plume of fireworks erupting over the lake. Inside, my heart was exploding in several different colors as well, but I had to play it cool. This wasn’t a date, per se, but instead, a chance to right the wrongs from the past. After all, he was the guy who, six years ago, expected sex on the first date and showed up drunk and two hours late on the second. That was all I had to go on, so I wanted a do-over. I wanted to see if he was still “that” guy. He wasn’t. Instead, he was older, wiser and apologetic. And he was genuine.

He hugged me tightly as my bus pulled up to the curb. He waited with me until he knew I was safe and even offered to send me off in a cab with a paid fare. And on this date, he didn’t expect anything and was fully sober. Being with him definitely made up for arriving back at the beer cave, where Mr. hops head let out a potent belch when I walked in his apartment.

And now, Mr. Beatle ends up standing in front of the restaurant I went to with friends at Ravinia, a ginormous outdoor concert venue in the burbs. What are the odds that I run into a guy I met on a plane four months ago in suburban Chicago on a Wednesday night? Crazy.

So yeah, Chicago just won’t set me free. Or is it the other way around?

I can only hope I get the job I applied for in Seattle. Seems I need a change of scenery. And I definitely need a change in men!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Wet Love Story

That's all most stories are anyway, aren't they? Soggy. Never quite as crisp and as you want. Besides it's only one story, somewhere out there in the swirling abyss of fate, that we're waiting for anyway. The one where we know the ending because we get to be in it. The one that doesn't leave us hanging on the edge of an emotional cliff. Though I'm not pining for Mr. Beer Man, I decided to make up a story that explains why he treated me so poorly. That way, it's clear that he knows it's his loss for not being able to open himself up to love. Of course, I don't love him. Never did. But I like to believe that somewhere, in the dark corner of his tiny apartment, he's still feeling the chill of my absence.

She took off her shoes to run in the rain.

Hair soaked, dress clinging to her curvaceous frame, she was laughing, even as torrents of water pummeled her face.

“Can we stay out here all day?” she asked, twirling around on her tiptoes, sticking out her tongue for a taste.

I was angry. Now I would have to find another pair of shorts, and all my clean shirts are dirty. This was supposed to be a relaxing day.

“Look at this!” she screamed. “A ladybug swimming on a leaf.”

She got excited about the smallest things. I wanted to crush the ladybug beneath my fingers.

I let her stay and play while I went upstairs and sulked. I just didn’t understand that girl. Why was she always so happy? How could she find joy in a rainstorm?

My telephone rang. It was Charlie. He wanted me to meet him later for beer and the World Cup on television.

Alexa would be gone, so I wouldn’t have to babysit her anymore. Sure, I’d go, I told him.

My door opened, and in she ran, giggling like a child, still barefoot. She was standing before me now, her dress like a piece of her own skin, her tiny breasts peeking out of her halter top.

I pretended to watch TV, but wanted so badly to pick her up and hold her in my arms. I wanted her to giggle when I kissed her, taste the rain and salt on her tongue. I wanted to tell her things I never told anyone before, because I was afraid and insecure. I wanted to look at her, really look at her, and melt from those dark eyes of hers, the ones that could pierce you like a dagger in your heart with one glance.

I wanted to tell her I loved her.

But instead, I told her she’d better start packing or she’d miss her train.

I still remember the way her smile faded. She looked so helpless. She’d wanted me for so long, wanted me to dance with her, hold her hand in the street, feed her my noodles at dinner. She wanted things I could never give her. Things I promised myself long ago I’d never give anyone.

At dinner the night before, I taught her how to crack open a crab leg and she kept cutting her fingers on the shell. She was laughing as she flipped a piece of crab across the table.

“I just ended a relationship with the wrong man,” she told me. “It was too bad because I know he loved me.”

I knew why. I told her she was easy to love, but she didn’t believe me because I’d just told her not to fall in love with me. I said I’d never be able to give her what she needed.

We didn’t make love that night. I felt cold and alone. I wanted her to touch me. I could hear the wind tapping on the window and her silent whimpers, which she tried to stifle beneath her pillow.

I didn’t help her with her bags when I walked her to a cab. She didn’t even look at me.

She smiled to the cab driver, because she smiles at everyone.

“See ya,” she said, as she ducked inside the car. We both knew it would be the last time we’d see each other.

I watched until the car looked like a speck of the sun in the distance. She was gone. Suddenly, I wished it would rain.