perception

“It’s all a matter of perception.” Boy, you said it.

I’ll get right to it. I’m struggling a bit with the whole perception thing. But that’s not new, to a degree I have my entire adult life. Here’s the rub, I thought that I had finally come to grips with it and I get a shot across the bow. Not life threatening, not necessarily a game changer, not even a “hurt feelings” moment. I’d like to consider it a chance for growth.
Because that’s what adults do.

Like most great stories, it begins with a girl.

I met this girl. A friend of a dear friend. To be exact, my buddies new wife’s best friend. I had met her at a gathering they were having. She was with a guy then but in what I thought was a fortuitous moment they broke up that night. A couple of weeks after that we became friends of FB and then began chatting and before I knew it we were chatting by text during the day and talking at night until we both turned in. Every night.
I asked her out.
She was hesitant.
But she wanted to get to know me, and I her.
She said yes.
We went out and had a great time. Being out of the game for as long as I have (I hadn’t been on a first date since 1990) I thought I did ok. I think she did also. It was after that was the problem. I pushed and I scared her off a bit. The second date was not in the cards. To be worse, she told me over the phone, that I had officially entered the dreaded, cursed, never to be climbed out of “Friend zone”.
Face palm.
In the course of the conversation she decided to give me some constructive criticism to help me with my “next one”, despite my still wanting her. Not the next one. But I listened . Among the many criticisms, the one that stuck, and stung, was when she said that I was “full of myself.”
Really? WOW. That was the moment that either denial or growth would need to occur. I think I chose the right one, I went for growth. With that came the inevitable question…am I?

I have struggled with my identity for as long as I can remember. It was as if the key to who I am was a carrot on a string and I kept chasing it but it was always just out of reach. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I realized that the fucked-up, neurotic, good at a lot but not great at anything, heart on the sleeve wearing guy that hated his own reflection was as good as it was going to get. So I embraced it.
Later in life, as I took hit after hit, some my fault and some not, I finally grew up a bit. While I was still the same fucked-up, etc., (see above) guy, I embraced it and changed what I could. I really worked on myself. I looked for the lessons in every setback, I tried to find positivity in negative situations, I tried to put others before myself whenever I could. As the lessons of Freemasonry taught me, I just tried to be a better man than I was the day before. I embraced spiritualism, my compromise to rejecting atheism years before, and tried to embrace my smallness in the universe. When I got sick I adopted a persona, that of a fighter and an optimist. In the words of some, not my own, I was inspirational. All while my ultimate goal was just to be a good guy.
A guy that means well, charitable, fairly interesting and occasionally funny with something to offer the right person.
With her, I don’t think I came off that way.
It’s bittersweet actually, it wasn’t a total loss. She also told me that she thought I was incredible (not sure what she meant but I like it). We still talk every night. I’m not entirely sure where I stand with her but I still enjoy it. And I can’t ask for a second date even if I wanted to because the world is on hold. When and if I ask her out again I suppose I’ll know what zone I’m in.
Either way, I’ll be ok. I just have the one lingering problem. It really bothers me when anyone gets me wrong.

You can’t undo it. There are no redo’s in life. As my late Grandfather always said’ “You can’t put the shit back in the horse.”

It’s all a matter of perception.


misunderstandings

I’m tired
Really fucking tired
of being misunderstood
how do people not see
what I see
when I look in the mirror?
when for the first time
finally
I can look without shame

I don’t love what I see
But I can live with it
and that’s something
I’ve kicked crawled and scratched
just to be
acceptable
presentable
memorable

and of course…
respectable

and to be alive
after being so close to death
in both body and spirit
sick and weary
from trying to be strong
as it collapsed around me
bitter and angry
at the mess my life
my loveless
and unremarkable life
had become

I said to the world
here I am again
do your worst
I know who I am now!
now I’m not so sure

Is it possible that I am not
the man I think I am?

I walk tall so you won’t attack me
I talk clear so that you will hear me
I think of others to forget about me
I thank the universe for saving me
It’s not an act but it is

is it too much to ask
for a little fucking slack
and a chance for a redo
if I don’t show you
the first time
what I’m really made of

I try to be who you want me to be
while I figure out who I am



Too close to home

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

“You can’t smoke in here, Mike”, Jimmy said. He watched as his partner of 5 years ignored him. Mike was staring ahead, studying the smoke of his cigarette wafting listlessly into the air. A woman nursing a coffee alternately stared at her cup and glared at Mike. Mike casually opened his jacket enough to reveal his badge. The woman returned her gaze to her coffee. “Bully”.
“Fucking Smoke Nazi.” Mike offered.
“Yea, those studies on the harms of second hand smoke, the no smoking signs on the walls, common courtesy. Goebbels is behind all of it.” Jimmy smirked. He knew that egging Mike on right now may go either way but he was just trying to get Mike to talk. He wanted to hear what was going on behind that furrowed brow. And he hated uncomfortable silences.
Mike dropped his cigarette into his coffee and lit another. He could feel the heat of the glare of the woman next to him as she grabbed her pocketbook and stormed angrily out of the cafeteria.
“You know, I don’t think she is the one who drugged your girl. Why are you fucking with strangers?”
“I’m not fucking with strangers, I can fuck with you if you want?”
“Just talk to me, Mike.”
Mike continued to stare straight ahead. Jimmy knew not to push anymore. The girl reminded Mike of Sarah. Mike suddenly spoke.
“If she was raped…so help me God.”
Yup, Jimmy thought. That’s it.

Not in my town

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

August 29, 2005 2:00 AM

Officer McInerney impatiently directed traffic as he watched the Accident Reconstruction team doing their meticulous work. They will take a week or more to release their findings but Jimmy could save them a lot of time if he just told them the truth. His truth. I fucked up and let a drunk go and now he’s killed people. How do I reconcile this? His next move was unclear. His options were pretty simple, confess to his supervisors or keep it to himself and hope that he can push it way down and never think of it again. He immediately scratched the second one, there was no way that he could do that. He hurriedly waved a Semi Tractor Trailer around the scene. I’ve got to get out of here. I feel like I’m going to lose my shit.

Present Day

“Heroin mostly. A pretty good dose”, said Dr. Resnick. He, Sergeant Valentine and Officer McInerney were standing in the hallway outside Ruthann Reed’s room. Hospital staff scurried around them like water around a rock in the stream.
Mike Valentine scratched his chin. “Seem like a regular user?”
“The marks on her arm seem fresh. No scarring typically found on a regular.”
Mike’s fists clenched momentarily. Jimmy was studying him. Despite Mike’s notorious penchant for angry, spontaneous outbursts he was capable of staying on point when necessary. This was one of those times. Jimmy wasn’t about to mess it up by speaking right now. “What else?”, Mike asked.
“Ketamine”, the Doctor replied.
“The date rape drug?”
“That’s the one.” The doctor raised his clipboard and took a pen out of his breast pocket. “Can you tell me anything more about her behavior before she passed out?”
“Not really”, Mike said. When we found her she was sitting on the ground. Out of it.”
“The bartender and bouncers all say that she just came in, alone and starting dancing. Said she was falling down and hanging on guys,” Jimmy interjected. “They treated her as a drunk.”
The doctor scribbled on his chart. “That makes sense, given the combination.” He scribbled again on his clipboard.
“Rape kit?”, Mike asked.
“She’s just now lucid enough to do it without causing further distress. Why don’t you get a coffee and give us a little time. When she’s settled you can ask her some questions.”
“Thanks, Doc”, Mike said. He and Jimmy turned and headed for the elevator. As they walked Jimmy studied Mike’s face.
“One to ten. How pissed off are you right now?”
With a straight face and teeth clenched Mike slowly replied, “Modern technology can’t measure.”

Second chance

“You’re full of yourself”.
That one hit hard.
She didn’t mean it in a hurtful way.
She was trying to help
with my next girl.
The next girl…
who will that be
when I still want that one?
I made some mistakes.
I pushed.
I was excited.
I felt emotions long lost.
Ones that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
That I never thought I’d feel again.
affection…
intimacy…
connection

long lost and thought dead
bubbling to the surface

I didn’t know at the time
it was the wine

how did I not see it?
She told me at the beginning
Not ready
Not looking
I need time

But through
and over the walls…
we connected
I saw the real you
and I liked it

but I didn’t show you the real me

I’m not insecure
I lack experience
I don’t have it all together
still picking up the pieces
I’m not full of myself
It’s a shield
a costume
flowing cape optional
my message to the world
that I’m still standing
shoulders back
chest out
not out of pride
or hubris
or arrogance

but to anticipate the next blow

how do I show you the real me?
get a second chance
at a first impression?

not full of myself
but full of life
hope
yearning
desire
gratitude
faith

and regrets

I failed to show you the real me


Mercy

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

Mercy Hospital was the closest Hospital to the young woman’s house but picking up Jimmy had set him back. He was anxious to get there and see what the Toxicology screen revealed. He knew that he was going to be early and would ultimately end up pacing the hallways or standing there impatiently tapping his foot. Patience was not a virtue often attributed to Sergeant Mike Valentine.
He stared dead ahead as he dodged the occasional traffic on the streets of Garrison, MA. Most cars saw the lights and willingly moved over. Others needed a blast of the siren to move out of the way. Fuckin’ drunks, Mike attributed to the ones that didn’t move right away. It’s their lucky night, I’ve got other shit to attend to. He couldn’t get his mind off the girl. He had a soft spot for all the kids, even when they acted like dumb shits. “Kids will be kids” was a common mantra of his. He knew that the late teens and early twenties were times to make mistakes, lord knows he made a lot of them at that age and he was no hypocrite.
In a predominately college town, he didn’t make Sergeant by not knowing how to deal with kids. He wasn’t as notorious as his partner for leniency but he was known for solid judgment and being fair, even if his leniency was sometimes accompanied by a good lecture. It was the father in him. He knew how to pick his battles and what to make a big deal of and he took that mentality to work. A lot of his calls were college students fighting, drinking, the occasional hazing and pranks. He put on a good show with the lights and siren and cuffed more than a few only to let them go after scaring them a bit but he inevitably let them go. Again, kids will be kids. They’re going to drink and when there’s booze involved idiocy soon follows. But he drew the line at drugs. He hated drugs. He thought of anyone that used as a dumbass, and if he had his way dealers would hang by their balls in public.
He now knew the girl he was going to check up on was on drugs. Watching her being loaded into the ambulance he studied her mannerisms. The faraway, disoriented look on her face wasn’t like any drunk he had ever seen. She wasn’t silly, clumsy or even coherent. She was high. He didn’t know whether to feel bad for this girl or be pissed off at her. The father in him needed to know if she did it, or did someone do it to her.
She reminds me of Sarah for Christs sake.

Not in my town

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

August 29, 2005 2:00 AM

Officer McInerney impatiently directed traffic as he watched the Accident Reconstruction team doing their meticulous work. They will take a week or more to release their findings but Jimmy could save them a lot of time if he just told them the truth. His truth. I fucked up and let a drunk go and now he’s killed people. How do I reconcile this? His next move was unclear. His options were pretty simple, confess to his supervisors or keep it to himself and hope that he can push it way down and never think of it again. He immediately scratched the second one, there was no way that he could do that. He hurriedly waved a Semi Tractor Trailer around the scene. I’ve got to get out of here. I feel like I’m going to lose my shit.

Present Day

“Heroin mostly. A pretty good dose”, said Dr. Resnick. He, Sergeant Valentine and Officer McInerney were standing in the hallway outside Ruthann Reed’s room. Hospital staff scurried around them like water around a rock in the stream.
Mike Valentine scratched his chin. “Seem like a regular user?”
“The marks on her arm seem fresh. No scarring typically found on a regular.”
Mike’s fists clenched momentarily. Jimmy was studying him. Despite Mike’s notorious penchant for angry, spontaneous outbursts he was capable of staying on point when necessary. This was one of those times. Jimmy wasn’t about to mess it up by speaking right now. “What else?”, Mike asked.
“Ketamine”, the Doctor replied.
“The date rape drug?”
“That’s the one.” The doctor raised his clipboard and took a pen out of his breast pocket. “Can you tell me anything more about her behavior before she passed out?”
“Not really”, Mike said. When we found her she was sitting on the ground. Out of it.”
“The bartender and bouncers all say that she just came in, alone and starting dancing. Said she was falling down and hanging on guys,” Jimmy interjected. “They treated her as a drunk.”
The doctor scribbled on his chart. “That makes sense, given the combination.” He scribbled again on his clipboard.
“Rape kit?”, Mike asked.
“She’s just now lucid enough to do it without causing further distress. Why don’t you get a coffee and give us a little time. When she’s settled you can ask her some questions.”
“Thanks, Doc”, Mike said. He and Jimmy turned and headed for the elevator. As they walked Jimmy studied Mike’s face.
“One to ten. How pissed off are you right now?”
With a straight face and teeth clenched Mike slowly replied, “Modern technology can’t measure.”