“You will always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” I love this quote. It transcends sports and applies to all walks of life. Life is a numbers game and the more attempts you make the better your odds of success. As it applies to my dating life, I am batting 0.0%. Admittedly, I haven’t taken many shots or swings but I have whiffed like Charlie Freakin’ Brown so far. 2 crazy chicks and one quiet one with a boyfriend. I give up. Single is fine. Single is good. Single is easy. It’s the lifestyle that best suits me. Funny, now matter how many ways I say it, it’s a lie. I hate being single.
I thought about renewing my Match profile but that was a miserable experience the first time around and I was glad to cancel it when it expired. If I liked them they didn’t like me and vice versa. The few that did like me…well I hate to be superficial but the pictures really didn’t do it for me. I’ll leave it at that. The rest, the ones that swiped and kept going, I know why they did that. The words “financially secure” were missing.
I get it, money is important. Being “secure” is important. Having your own place is a must and living with your mother is a serious turn off. Even if I got past that, my brutally honest Match profile doesn’t include the terms “dialysis patient”, which I’m sure would be a real “deal-sealer” over a first date cocktail. “Why be so honest?” one friend asked me. It’s easier. I like to get it out of the way.
Goddamn, Bella. Why did you have to fuck me up so? You made me feel things that I had forgotten how to feel. Yearning, heartache, desire, intimacy, a fire in my loins and a fire in my belly. All of those things that my loveless marriage stomped out like the remnants of a campfire. I had done so well without feeling those things for so long, I had convinced myself that I didn’t need them. Only to be awakened and painfully unrequited. As Meatloaf once lamented, I was all revved up and no place to go. Now I want those things again. Alas, I fear it is not to be.
I need to focus on my health. I need to just get a hobby. I need to spend my money on my motorcycle. I need to spend time with friends. They’re safe, I don’t feel the pain of rejection when a friend doesn’t call me for a few days, weeks or months. I need to get the idea of a relationship out of my head, it’s just not going to happen. If I keep telling myself this, eventually I’ll believe it.
Now, Universe are you listening? I am putting it out there that I don’t need or want a woman in my life. Now would you please see to it that I find it in the last place that I look at a moment when I least expect it? I think it’s called Serendipity. Yeah, I need that.
That, I think, is the only way it’s going to happen.
The text came through last night. “We REALLY have to talk.” My first reaction was a silly one. I thought to myself noone really NEEDS to talk. My second reaction was to marvel at how silly and funny I am. But my third reaction was a little more profound. I realized that I was faced with what will certainly be another in a long string of rejections as I walk the path towards finding a soulmate and, amazingly, I don’t care. I’m getting better at this.
It’s been a long time coming. Everyone knew she wasn’t going to come around. Especially her. To her credit, she wasn’t the aggressor. I was. I thought that I could make her feel things she said she wasn’t ready for. I couldn’t. And by the contents of her cryptic text she is probably going to tell me tonight. I’m ready. So ready she doesn’t even need to say it. But she will. “Let’s be friends.” I almost want to text her not to bother. There is very little chance that I am wrong about the impending conversation and that she is going to profess her undying love for me. Not the way things have been lately. I know the signs. But I suppose I should let her get it out. It may make her feel better to tell me everything that I did wrong over the last few months. Why deny her the process? Let her dump me. I’m getting really good at being on the other end of that conversation. In fact, I’m a fucking PRO.
I think it’s time to rip the old heart out of my chest and hang it on a hook. Save the next one the trouble. That may be the only way to keep it from further damage. I’ll hang my dick next to it, after all I’m not using that either. I think I’m done. If I never hear the words “let’s be friends” again it will be too soon. I have enough fucking friends.
What do I need a woman for anyway? I have internet porn to poorly stand in for actual intimacy. I have television to remind me what a relationship looks like. I have friends to be jealous of for their health, wealth and success. I have my motorcycle to take to bars to eat and drink alone, comfortable that I will not be approached by strange women. I now have no reason to shave my beard or dress up. I can refine my greatest skill…being alone.
You know it’s been awhile when other bloggers reach out to you in the comments section to see if you’re ok. It’s quite the testament to the blogosphere when that happens. It occurred to me that, given my readers’ familiarity with my health issues, people assumed the worst. So I am here to tell you that I am doing physically well and still the best specimen in the clinic, although that isn’t saying a hell of a lot. Emotionally…not so much.
Like most great stories, this one starts with “About a girl…”
I met her through a friend. The bestie of my buddies new wife. When I met her she had a boyfriend. With this news I kept a careful, yet smitten eye on her. As luck, fate or divine providence would have it, she broke up with her guy the night that I met her. I was cautiously excited. A few days later the friend request came in. Soon, we were talking on the phone every night. She wanted us to get to know each other. So we did.
In what I now think of as a dumb move, I asked her to have dinner. That’s where it went south. Why?, you may ask. The answer is simple, I thought it was a date and she didn’t.
We had a great time. We had a wonderful conversation over dinner. She told me a lot about herself. In particular she spoke of how she wasn’t ready for a relationship. She said it so many times that I should have listened. I didn’t. I must have thought that I could “turn” her with my unrelenting charm. As the evening went on, I thought I had changed her mind. What had really happened is that she drank enough wine to temporarily knock down her walls. Experiencing emotions I hadn’t experienced in years, I failed to recognize that it was the booze talking.
The next day was awkward. The one after that even more so. I quickly learned that there were two of her. The drunk one had a far more favorable opinion of me. Sober girl was pushing back. Hard.
She wasn’t ready. That’s the takeaway. We’ve seen each other several times. In this Virus crazy world, going out is difficult. I mostly went to her house and stayed in the guest room. Mostly, we texted and talked on the phone. I have to say, I lit up whenever I saw a text from her. I was smitten. Until I noticed that I was always the one initiating conversation.
I began to scrutinize her responses and her language. I noticed that any attempts at intimacy, ranging from “I miss you”, and “you’re special to me” were met with a generic “thank you”. I asked her about it finally. She wasn’t able to address such comments because she’s not ready. She knew that I was in a different place than her and asked me if we could just “hang out” and let her figure out if she wants a relationship. It wasn’t ideal but I wanted to spend time with her. So I agreed.
We hung out a bit in recent weeks. Occasionally I slipped up and treated her like a girlfriend. The pushback was incredible. And frustrating. I was firmly stuck in the “friend zone” and that’s where I think I’m going to stay.
The girl she is when she drinks loves me. She’s affectionate and lovable. Sober girl apparently feels different.
Thursday night I told her it wasn’t working for me. I don’t know where we are headed now. We haven’t talked since. I really don’t know how I feel about it. But the confusion and mixed messages have consumed my life for months.
I should have listened.
I’m crazy about her but I have to prepare for life without her.
This is part of a small series but it can also stand on its own. If you would like to catch up it would honor me, the first post is called Inconspicuous absence and the second the 4th of July.
Once it was determined that my drunk Uncle was not to be calmed down by anyone, I was grabbed by the arm and we quickly left. I had absolutely no idea what had happened but what I did know was that it wasn’t good.I certainly didn’t know that it would be the most formative moment of my childhood.
Now that you’re caught up, here we go.
The Sewing machine
Have you ever seen a TV show in which the scene is a car pulling away and all you see is a child in the rear view looking out the rear window in disbelief, exaggerated by hands in the window? Well, that was me. I had just been ripped out of one of my favorite places after watching my father get into a shouting match and endure an expletive-laden verbal onslaught over something that he was as confused about as I. Of course, he at least knew what the accusation was. I myself did not. Until mom sat me down.
My drunk uncle had accused my father of stealing a rare gold coin.
The whole thing was incomprehensible to me. There were two glaring improbabilities of this situation. First of all, my father was not a thief. Nobody would ever believe that. Additionally, I don’t believe that he ever had it. If he did, he would of drank or gambled it away. Yet, he pursued his campaign against my family with fury, vitriol and astounding longevity. It would be years of threats against us and his family should they betray him and have contact with us.
I felt awful for my father and I was angry on behalf of him. He was deeply hurt and it was hard for me to watch as he processed it. I was also sad that I had lost my childhood hangout and most important, I had lost access to my cousin Mike. It felt as if I had lost my best friend. To make it worse, I had no idea at that time how long it would go on or how bad it would get. What I did know was that my Uncle wasn’t letting it go. His anger and resentment would begin with forbidding his wife and kids from speaking to any of us, the punishment was explicitly clear. He would beat them. He threatened to kill my father. Months would turn into years and his anger never subsided. It would result in my father eventually filing a restraining order against my uncle.
A little about Uncle John. I have tried up to this point to write this as if my cousins were reading it. I want above all to be fair. In that vein, perhaps it is a little unfair to call him my “drunk uncle.” It would be more fair and accurate to call him “that drunk, wife-beating, child-abusing rapist piece of shit Uncle.”
A father of six, Johnny (John Jr), Debbie, Cindy, Greg, Laurie, and Mike, he was a controlling “I’m home, my dinner had better be on the table or there will be hell to pay” alpha asshole. The first anecdote to illustrate this that comes to mind is a story my mother once told me.
My mother is a gifted seamstress. Margie, after years of watching my mother make her own clothes finally asked her to teach her how to sew. My mother loaned her one of her many sewing machines to use. One fall afternoon, as they were at the table sewing, my uncle came home from work. After he stopped at the local watering hole first, of course. He had a pretty good glow on. He entered the kitchen, ignored my mother as he always did, and demanded to know where his dinner was. Margie politely and cautiously told him that she lost track of time and that she would get it in a minute. My uncle picked up the sewing machine in front of her and threw it across the room, shattering a curio cabinet and many of the curios within. Margie stood in horrified disbelief, my mother fled the house and quickly drove home. It was no accident that the POS picked the curio cabinet as a target. It was a hand me down to Margie and it was dear to her. They were very poor, there weren’t a lot of nice things in the house. He meant to hurt her. He succeeded.
This pales in comparison to the many beatings he gave her. It was also no surprise to find out later that he sexually abused at least two of his daughters on multiple occasions. I certainly remember the beating he gave Mike when he found out that he and I had secretly gotten together for a game of basketball. Mike shrugged it off. I was horrified.
It was the last time we got together until Middle school. My Uncle couldn’t do anything about that.
A year into middle school my Uncle died. He came home shitfaced one night, began yelling at everyone in sight, when he collapsed on the floor. A massive aneurism had gone to his brain.
I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t elated at the news.
This is part 2 of a series. It can stand on it’s own or you can honor me by checking out yesterday’s post
My home town was incorporated in 1853 but the area was first settled in 1651. The building that is now the Town Hall has an enormous carved granite plaque on its walls dedicated to its founding fathers. My family is represented by 4 brave men, 3 of which died in the Civil War. Equally represented on the wall are the Smith’s (not their real names).
My family was always a presence in town, the Smith’s spread out all over Metropolitan Boston as aggressively as they proliferated in town. It was only inevitable that the two families would one day merge.
In the late 1940’s my Grandparents on my father’s side, along with a few cousins all moved to an uninhabited stretch of land along the abandoned Railroad tracks behind the Fire Station. It was an undesirable lot of land in many ways. On either side of the tracks was wetland that was prone to flooding every Spring. The ground was soft and needed to be fortified to build on. The insects were abominable in the summer. The Fire whistle on the nearby station was devastatingly loud. But the prospect of one family owning a whole street was attractive. Despite the family legacy of my family in town, we weren’t a family of wealth or influence. We were poor. 4 modest dwellings soon went up as 3 cousins I barely knew, and my Grandparents set up residence.
Railroad Avenue was born.
By the time I was born in 1965 my Grandparents had long since moved to the other side of town. Grandpa was forced into early retirement, sick with Emphysema from a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. He wasn’t able to afford the maintenance of a house. Ellie, my father’s youngest sister moved with them and assumed the role of caretaker. Her other sister Margie took over the house with her new husband, my uncle John and would have 6 children. My father had moved out when he joined the Army in 1960.
My parents purchased a home barely 2 miles from Railroad Ave in 1964. Dad was an Oil Burner repair man/Oil delivery driver for a fuel company that coincidentally marked the entrance to Railroad Ave. He would work there until it closed in 1970. Until that point, my earliest memories consisted of my mom and I meeting him after work and walking down Railroad Ave where we would hang out with my cousins. It was a happy time for me, my earliest memories are of playing with my youngest cousin Mike, who was my age. Learning to ride a bike on the puddle-ridden dirt road of Railroad Ave remains one of my happiest moments. The many cheers of the large group of beloved family members still echo in my head. This would be indicative of most warm summer days of my childhood. Until July 4th, 1974 when it all came crashing down.
July 4th was a standing holiday on Railroad Ave. Despite being avid campers in the summer we were always there. Family and friends showed up with coolers of beer, armloads of food and enough fireworks to level the town. For nine-year old me, it was the best day of the year. We ran around like heathens, played wiffleball and watched the legendary horseshoe tournament that almost always came down to my dad and one of my older cousins.
On this particular 4th of July the horseshoe tournament was interrupted by my uncle John, who came tearing out of the house yelling for my father. When he located him, he pushed my dad and began screaming about how my dad “stole it.” When pressed for details and a rational explanation he continued to attempt to fight my father, who fended him off admirably. A shouting match ensued, sides were taken and the day was inexplicably ruined for all. Once it was determined that my drunk Uncle was not to be calmed down by anyone, I was grabbed by the arm and we quickly left. I had absolutely no idea what had happened but what I did know was that it wasn’t good.
I certainly didn’t know that it would be the most formative moment of my childhood.
I sat with head bowed, choking back tears in the front row of the funeral home. My children were to my left, my wife on my right. She clutched my hand. As if the day wasn’t surreal enough, it was the first time she had even touched me in years. We listened intently as the minister patiently read the obituary to my father. I’m not sure why I was so moved by the words as he spoke…I wrote it. To everyone else in the room, including them, the words were fresh. I’d like to think the eulogy was good, the amount of tears falling gave me a good indication. One word I purposely and aggressively peppered into my dedication to my beloved father was honest. It had double significance on that day. It served as a theme and also as a great big message to them. It was my intention while writing it that my overuse of the word “honest” made them squirm in their goddamn seats.
Later, as I stood graveside in the cold rain of the early December day, people approached me one by one and wished me well in their own way. All had an account of Dad and told me brief anecdotes of the times he had made an impression on them. The crowd thinned as everyone went back to their lives, many of the cousins held back. One by one they approached me and said something encouraging about Dad. I barely spoke to them. I stared straight ahead and nodded solemnly.
The only thought echoing through my brain was still waiting for that apology. I was being harsh, I knew it. I didn’t hate them. I didn’t even dislike them. They were family. And it was a long time ago. I was simply feeling the full and mighty wrath of decades of resentment bubbling to the surface over an incredibly formative moment in my childhood.
How do I just let go of something that almost ruined my childhood and scarred my father, the most honest man I ever met, for life?
With eyes closed, slowly swaying with her right hand to the sky, she sings with a passion and conviction that I can only look at with admiration and longing. My eyes close, my skin bristles, a small tear forms in the corner of my eye. The music makes me feel vulnerable, open. She begins to freeform, she breaks into a rambling tearful prayer. I’m mesmerized…
The Holy Spirit is what she’s having. And I think I want it.
Anyone who knows me knows that I have had a complex and difficult relationship with God. Once “Born again”, or so I thought in my teens it wasn’t long before I lapsed into a state of agnosticism which later devolved into what I can only call Atheism. I rejected all of it. I have no problem telling you why; I saw too many people praying for themselves and their own advancement, and I had a very hard time understanding why a kind and benevolent God would give babies cancer. While tolerant of other’s right to worship and willing to engage in a debate with anyone, and I could argue my side as good as anyone, I didn’t budge for years.
Much ado was made about my atheism when I got married. We got married in a hotel. A Justice of the Peace presided. It was a civil ceremony and I told the J.O.P. quite definitively that I wanted no mention of G.O.D. My wife, a non-practicing Jew and me a Atheistic angry ex-Protestant…well we sure pissed off our families. That, the pissed-off thing reached new heights when we failed to introduce our kids to religion. No baptisms, no Bar or Batmitzvah’s. No church or temple. I do regret teaching my children my views, as impressionable children I may have ruined it for them.
I wouldn’t begin to come around, and I only came around a small bit, until I petitioned for membership in Freemasonry. Freemasonry is a organization known for making good men better. I was by all accounts a good, if not flawed man and I was a good candidate by all standards. But I was required to acknowledge a faith in a higher power. No specifics required as to denomination or name, but no atheists. I had to really evaluate my stance because one thing I did not want to do was enter a faith-based organization characterized by worthy men on a lie.
Hard questions followed and if not for a good friend I wouldn’t have started on the path that I am now discussing. “A good friend came out of nowhere and gave you a kidney, saving your life?” “Yes.” “And that was just a accident or a coincidence?” “No.” “You know for certain that there is nothing out there?” “No. Nobody can honestly say that.” “Then if you dismiss nothing, then you logically have to ackknowledge something?” “Yes.” “Isn’t it possible that you don’t need to know why things happen, that it’s beyond you?” “Yes.” That was the conversation that opened the door for me to acknowledge that maybe there’s more to it. My compromise was to call it Spirituality.
Then my father died. My father was a Godly man. He lived by a strong moral code and he loved Jesus. Especially towards the end as Parkinson’s ravaged his once strong body and spirit. When he died I started doing two things I never did before; I talked to a granite gravestone, and I began seeing shadows in my house. The Paranormal is a great indicator of God. The shadows, hopefully my father, seemed benevolent but I had heard enough stories to know that not all are. You can’t believe in evil without acknowledging its polar opposite and that is something holy. Still, that one incident aside, I really didn’t move beyond the label of Spiritual.
But I began to open myself up a bit more. I began to find the chirp of the bird, the deer sightings, sunsets, mighty storms and reflections on the water as particularly beautiful and less of a coincidence of nature. I found God outside the walls of a Church. I adopted the “Kayaking” doctrine.
“Kayaking” worked for me. But the selfish praying for a football victory, a winning lottery ticket and the hateful vitriol or outright fucking hypocrisy that I had witnessed in past “Church” phases was still with me. And I still had a hard time with the whole dead baby thing.
Recently I have been talking a lot with a lovely woman who has shown me what I had been missing. She is kind in her actions and her prayers. She prays for others, not for personal gain. She is humble yet strong, she controls what she can and has faith in that which she cannot. She has shown me what I have been missing and didn’t know I was searching for. Faith. People have a hard time with control and I am no exception, letting go of that white knuckle grip is a daunting task. And I’m not quite ready to fall in lockstep with the old “Everything happens for a reason”, or “It’s all predetermined”. But I am coming around to the possibility that I will learn someday, not today the reason for the triumph, or calamity that has just occurred. It’s called FAITH and I’m starting to come around to it.
The people of faith that I have been watching with a keen eye have a special walk. A special smile. They are not acting better than you and I, they just convey a feeling that something has their back. That everything is going to be ok even if they don’t know how, why or when.
I think I’m on a journey that will take me there. I think that my hardships, lessons, and scars have happened for a reason. I may be a vessel, placed on this earth to help one person or many. I may have to hold on to my questions for a while to see if they ever get answered. In the interim, I want to spend more time around people of faith.
Friends and family. Sometimes, in the bustle of our everyday lives we lose touch with those that sustain us the most. Now, as the world has come to a screeching halt they have become the most important asset. My kids have been amazing. Before the collapse of modern society they, most of them at least, were great at keeping touch. My oldest daughter was always the leader in keeping in touch with me. My oldest boy was good but like his old man, time gets away from him. And that’s ok. He’s an adult and he has his own life. My youngest boy is probably the worst, he has the least ability to keep track of time of all and I had to call him to see how he is. Again, it’s alright. He has a job and a girl and he is living his life. My youngest daughter is just now starting to get busy. But she almost rivaled her sister in checking up on the old man. I was always grateful for the communication.
Now, the kids are all in constant touch. They all have accrued a solid education on what my immunocompromised ass is or isn’t supposed to do during a pandemic and they have been amazingly supportive and critical at the same time. They applaud my attitude but chastise for going anywhere. They want me to stay in and never go out, but I have to. We need things. So they yell at me. Constantly. And I love them for it.
My friends have been amazing also. I always knew I had an great circle but I never knew how much so. Friends that I spoke to frequently now call or text me constantly. Friends that I have maintained contact with sporadically are reaching out. They all know my situation and they are all concerned. It has really touched my heart and to their credit, I have made sure that they are all safe and healthy. Physically and mentally. Despite this unprecedented event, they all seem to be handling it.
Then there’s my special lady friend. She isn’t doing so well.
In the short time I’ve known her I have recognized and reveled in her free spirit. Before the pandemic she went into the city for work. She occasionally worked from home but not more than two days a week. Going into the city was her break, her routine. It made her appreciate home. Now, she appreciates getting out of the home more than ever. Some birds are not meant to be caged. I’m worried about her. What she is experiencing is beyond stir crazy. She’s depressed and on top of it all, she feels like the walls are actually closing in.
The confinement. This is where the pandemic really hits home. Well, you know, besides dying that is. I’m a fixer. I want to help. I want to jump in my car and visit her. I want to hug her and tell her it’s going to be ok. I want to take her for a ride. I just want to keep her company.
A vision of loveliness in a t-shirt and panties, in her bare feet she dances across the kitchen to a song only she can hear. At the sink, she fixes her coffee as she stares out the window, her morning ritual, marveling at the birds as they frantically dart in and around the feeder. The dog brushes up against her and she stoops down to pat him, her affection emanates from her as she talks to him. She knows he doesn’t understand but he hangs on the nuance of her every kind word. She sees him come in, and as she stands she tosses her hair back from her face, smiles at him and returns her gaze to the window. He approaches her and wraps his arms around her waist. She leans back, trusting that he won’t let her fall. He buries his face in her neck, savoring the smell of her hair. “You’re beautiful”, he whispers. “Stop it, I’m a mess”, she whispers. “You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” She closes her eyes and savors the moment.
He fixes a coffee and settles in. The newspaper on the table before him fails to catch his interest. His gaze remains on her as she putters about her morning routine. After all the years he is fascinated by her. She walks weightlessly. Her smile illuminates the room. She lights up at the smallest of things. How does her heart even fit in that tiny body? “You’re staring at me. Stop it.” “You’re not even looking, how do you know that?” “I can feel it, silly.” He returned his attention to his paper. He pretended to read it but his mind was elsewhere. He knew his face was betraying him. How do I tell her? As if reading his mind, she leans in and kisses him on the head. “What are you thinking about?” she asked him in the sweetest of tones. “Oh, nothing.” Now is not the time, he told himself. She sat down at the table across from him and sipped her coffee. She looked up and caught his gaze. “You’re staring again.” “Sorry.” She got up and left the room. He returned his focus to the newspaper. Moments later he looked up and saw her in the doorway, a single tear slowly made its way down her face. He realized that she had gone into the den. And that he had failed to close the browser. “When were you going to tell me that it’s back?” His stomach sank. When I can wrap my head around another man loving you, he thought. He doubted he could ever do that, certainly not in the six weeks that he had left. He motioned for her to come to him. Instead, she cupped her face in her hands, turned and left the room.
I heard a radio host yesterday asking people to call in and define 2019 in one word. “Tumultous”and”chaotic” were used frequently. Myself, I choose “disappointing”. I am disappointed in our lack of respect for human life as first responders are targeted for death, people are beaten and killed over the color of their skin and innocents are being slaughtered over failed political and religious ideology. I am disappointed in the pursuit of money, power and belongings at the sake of character, integrity and morality. I am disappointed in our fascination with celebrity without merit, gossip without respect for boundaries and the idea that bad behavior is acceptable if it accomplishes your selfish agenda. On a personal note, I am disappointed in myself for losing the optimism I once had so much of, that I let life get to me this year instead of customarily plowing through the pile of horseshit looking for that pony that must be in there somewhere. I hope that next year is better, if nothing else that people stop being ugly to each other and we start treating each other as brothers and friends we have yet to make. And I hope that I get back my power to create my situation instead of being defined by it. And I hope that anyone who suffered through this post has a great 2020.