Monday, February 5, 2018

The "D" Word

If we’re being frank here, getting broken up with sucks. It sucks even more so when you’re married and the “d” word is mentioned. It sucks even more so if you have to actually get a “d.” It sucks even more when you have a child. It sucks at an obscene level when you have no idea why it’s happening. It sucks when you have to file for divorce and have to give the attorney a reason. It sucks that you have to settle on irreconcilable differences because “no fucking clue,” is not a viable option.
On February 5th, 2016, my husband walked out the front door with only a sigh of relief and one plastic, Walmart bag filled with clothes. But on February 5th, 2017 I was in Sydney, Australia, giving that day new meaning. Some may start reading what I have written and question it. Why is she sharing so many details about her marriage? Why would she want people to know any of this? The answers are simple.
          What happened to my family is relevant. It’s relevant because I’m just like everyone else in the world. One day my husband decided to walk out on me and our daughter. That very well could happen to you. It could happen to your best friend. It may have happened to your mother. It may be happening to your neighbor right now. My days are filled with dirty diapers and toddler tantrums. And I bet a lot of people know how it feels to have to yell at your son or daughter for sticking their hands in the toilet or licking the dog. The difference now is that I’m doing it on my own.
This book is an unfiltered look at my memories over the course of a decade. Not every great love story ends with a “happily ever after,” in fact, some of the best ones end in the worst ways. And that’s exactly what happened to mine.
At 17 I just wanted a boyfriend. At 23 I really wanted to marry that boyfriend. At 27 I just wanted him to be present in our daughter’s life. “He was a con artist and I was his muse,” is a great way to sum up my relationship with my ex-husband. And when I became single for the first time in my adult life, I had not a damn clue what to do.
February 5th is a catalogue of my memories; a decade’s worth of memories brought me to the breaking point and a year’s worth of experiences got me through it. But what’s special about this story is that it could be anyone’s story. I may not be a high-profile celebrity, but that’s the beauty of these memories. I’m the woman you see down the street carrying her groceries in one hand and her toddler in the other, while simultaneously trying to unlock the door without her cantaloupe rolling down the front steps.
There’s heartbreak, there’s humor, and there’s secrets that I didn’t realize were a secret until they spilled out over the keyboard. I tried to find the funny in the worst moments and I tried to erase the sting of those moments with brand new experiences. Whether it was booking a flight overseas to relive the day he walked out or having a 6’3, 21-year-old army soldier in my bed – the same bed I had once shared with my husband - the night before Christmas Eve, the pain subsided a bit while I fell in love with myself. I didn’t wallow in the hurt, I built a new life for me and my daughter. And I tried really hard to navigate what the term “single mom” was going to mean for me.


Saturday, December 2, 2017

How It Started

June 22, 2017

He tells the story as though he had written it himself. I caught his attention thirteen years ago, before I had ever heard a mere whisper that he had been looking in my direction. 

I've never been too good for my hometown. Although there are a trove of now-strangers who want to act as though they're playing on a higher-tier than the rest of us, I've never been too good to believe that my someone could have been right under my nose the entire time. But when the one whom I thought was my someone strayed, I didn't think there were any decent ones left roaming around these Tennessee roads.

But then I was in Williamsburg, Virginia sipping on margaritas while subsequently diving into a plate of chicken enchiladas, replaying all of the hilarity that my short ten months of single-mom status had offered up, when something else happened. I said goodbye to one more waste of time and watched as another new man, unprompted, came waltzing in at sunrise the next day.

I sat in my best friends' living room laughing. But I was also hurt.

"Why," I thought out loud, "what was the point of that?"

Thomas had just finished reading the now-infamous letter. 

"I'm scratching my head over this one too," he said with a grin and furrowed brow. 

And that's what I told the man with a thick beard who had written me a very flattering and specific e-mail sent over on Easter Sunday. He deserved for me to meet up with him, at the very least, for coffee, I remember thinking. He took so much time and paid attention to so much detail. He wanted to make me feel special and he did. Particularly with this line:

"So, that's why I wrote you; to tell you that you are admired for far more than just one reason."

When I met this man we sat at my Starbucks and talked up until closing time (and I say "my" Starbucks because I allowed him into my private, special place at my private, special table for that evening - where I did every stitch of writing for my first book). The next morning he described a dream that he had about the two of us that night. He was still very much involved but not smothering, that was an attractive quality.

A few days later though, he became as flaky as a Pillsbury biscuit. I was out before I had even thought about taking a step in. I wanted him to admit it though. I wanted him to grow a pair of balls and say ... anything. I texted him while sitting at the Mexican restaurant in Williamsburg reaching for an explanation. And I got one. I promptly texted back that evening telling him that all of the time and effort he put into that beautiful letter was negated the moment he decided to juggle more than one interest. 

Later that night, as we sat mapping out our weekend plans, I told my friends that I was done. I was praying for one thing and that was for my career. It wasn't for a man. In fact, most of my prayers came out as, "I'd rather check this goal off my list for me and for Claire than for another man to come in. I'd rather do without if it means reaching it."

And I was comfortable in that thought. I had pocketed some uplifting news concerning my book. I had received a kick-in-the-ass that I desperately needed to get me through the rest of the summer; I was content.

After we had gone through every silly scenario and figured out where our first stop in the morning would be, Aromas downtown, I went into my room, more specifically Jeffrey's room, Thomas and Maddison's son. I grabbed clothes to change into and set my alarm. I vowed before closing my eyes that night that I was really, really done. I hadn't gone after any one of these dickheads that had kept popping up in my life and I wasn't planning on starting anytime soon. But the dickheads seemed to like to go after me, at least for a minute.

June 23, 2017

I woke up to a message from him on Instagram. Before I even opened up the message I thought, "Um why?"

It read:

"You popped up on Bumble."

I laughed. I laughed too hard and for far too long. Then I showed Maddison, and she laughed too. Partly because of the vow I had just made around twelve hours before this DM rolled in. And also because I wasn't even in the vicinity of my hometown, where he was. The app had been deleted off of my phone since March. I smelled bullshit and that's exactly what I wrote back.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Breaking My Glass

Some people build a wall. They find red bricks and stack them high. No one can get in. No one can get around. They can't even see through it. They can't jump over it. Those people build those walls, though, for a reason. Letting someone through is scary. These strangers come in and walk around the soft spots leaving a mark on everything important. And when they go, because they always go, those soft spots become bruised.

I didn't want any more bruises. But instead of building a brick wall, I built a glass house. The four walls were big and covered both myself and Claire. Everyone can see us. Everyone knows what we're doing. They can make out what we say and clearly figure out how we feel. But they can't get in without an invitation.

Unfortunately though, glass is breakable. Or should I say fortunately? I haven't decided yet. Something cracked with a word from a stranger. Actually, it was from a stranger who never really was a stranger at all. The shards are slowly covering my floor. I just haven't stepped on them yet. That someone keeps sweeping them up, making sure no one gets cut. And I am not used to that. I clean up. I take care of everything. It's easier that way. I was taught that it was better that way.

I wanted to protect us but I never wanted to hide. Maybe that's why I chose glass instead of brick. The right person would be able to start a steady crack and watch the walls slowly shatter in due time. And that's what I wanted deep down. I wanted someone to be patient. I didn't crave a single, solid blow to a brick wall and someone to come barreling through the front door. I didn't want easy. I wanted to watch someone fight for it. Actually, I wanted to feel someone do all of those things. I wanted someone that didn't have a time limit on how long it would take to see the bits and pieces fall to the wayside.

I'm still fighting the urge to run. But, this stranger, who was never really a stranger, is quite a bit faster. Every time I take a step away, there's a tug at my collar reminding me that there's someone right on my heels steadying me.

This could all implode though. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. And although that may seem easier for my head and my heart, I'd rather it not.

Monday, June 12, 2017

A Knock At The Door

"Let me see your tattoos."

I started to lift my hair up but he grabbed my hand to stop me.

"No, the new ones," he demanded.

He was sitting on my bed staring at me. There wasn't a lightness about him. He had left his sense of humor at the door. He was being serious again, and I could feel my nerves begin to take over.

I tugged on the top of my shirt a bit to reveal the one near my chest. And before I could say anything he was right in front of me touching it with his fingertips.

"It's not completely healed yet. It's still raised," he observed.

He grabbed the back of my neck and brought me closer. I felt like he was teasing me now. He was dusting off a boundary that I had placed between us years ago. He bent his head down near my ear and whispered, "Next."

I tried to roll up my sleeve but the fabric was too tight on my arms.

"Just take it off," he said.

I looked at him confused. He knew I was questioning what he wanted me to do. He grabbed the end of my sleeve and gave it a light pull.

"It's okay," he reassured.

I kept asking myself what was happening. I kept trying to suppress the urge to ask him out loud and ruin whatever he was trying to begin. But how I ended up on the floor of my bedroom in just a bra and boy shorts, in front of him, was completely unsettling. I wasn't fighting it though.

He wasn't saying much either. It's like he was trying to relay messages to me between his words. I didn't want to make assumptions. So I sat there with my arm out showing off my latest tattoo while he studied it.

My hair fell around my shoulders and I had taken off all of my makeup just moments before. I was self-conscious but curious. I wanted him back near my neck. It's all I kept thinking as he traced the lines of the arrow on my forearm. But I'd never admit that to him. The closer he would get to me the more my breath would catch and my stomach would take a tumble. Although, I wasn't running away from whatever this was without him being the one to leave this time. I'd stay and see it through.

He interrupted my thoughts and asked, "Is the tower Claire?"

I just nodded back too anxious to actually say anything out loud. His hand then traveled up and over to the straps resting on my shoulder. He pulled up on it as if he was telling me to stand up. I obeyed. He was sitting on the edge of the bed and guided me over by the waist placing me between his legs. I felt too tall and too big and a small part of me wanted to pick up my clothes and run away but I stayed. Because there was an even bigger part of me that wanted to know what would happen.

His hands were resting on my hips when he said, "These got bigger."

"Well, I had a baby, asshole."

"Not complaining. Just observing," he defended.

I felt more at ease now. With just that tiny bit of banter I felt more like I was supposed to with him. The silence was starting to eat me up.

I continued it and mocked him a bit, "That's not the only thing that got bigger."

He let out a laugh, "I noticed that too."

His eyes took a turn upwards. I was blushing and he knew it. Although he wasn't so tough anymore that I couldn't make his cheeks turn pink. Which they were so I brought my hands up to his face.

"I still really like this face."

His eyebrows furrowed a bit, "I thought you loved this face?"

"I do," I agreed.

He pulled me closer then and turned me onto the bed. His body hung over me and I held my breath. My face grew hot as he stared down with intensity I hadn't seen on his face in all the years I had known him. Then he lowered his chest to mine and kissed me quickly.

"God damn," he shouted and turned his head to the side.

I noticed his eyes were shut and I asked, "What's wrong?"

His hands were holding himself off of me and I had a great view of his entirety. I was enjoying taking him all in. There was such a difference in the way I felt when he touched me. There was such a different energy that filled the space than from what I was used to. I liked it. I drank it up and waited for an answer.

"That should have happened already."

"Is that why you seem so frustrated," I questioned him some more.

He never answered me. Instead, he started kissing me again but with a ferocity that I had only dreamt of him having. His beard hadn't grown back yet but there was still some stubble on his face. I loved that he would growl or moan when I'd touch him. There was reassurance that he wasn't regretting what was happening.

We fought under the sheets. I'd be on top of him one minute making him sit up so I could wrap my legs around his waist. But then he would tire of me taking the reigns and he'd lay me down allowing me to feel everything he had to offer. I didn't know exactly what he wanted though and I was scared to cross a line. I had an internal struggle every time I would pull on his shorts or slip my hand inside. Before I knew it the rest of my clothes were on the floor.

He whispered, "Now I know what's underneath."

"Lucky you," I giggled back.

Then he was back to teasing me. His hands kept drifting down between my thighs. He'd separate my knees and brush his fingertips all the way down to where my panty line should have been.

I wasn't used to feeling wanted. I was used to just going through the motions. I was used to feeling insecure. But even when he couldn't say exactly what he wanted, the way he touched me or the way his eyes would move across my body had me wanting more. Was I finally getting my wish?

But then there was a knock at the door.


Loosen The Knots

I write the best, or at least the clearest, when my emotions are at their peak and I'm sitting here with my face soaked. 

I feel like I keep learning the same sick lessons.

Don't trust people too much, Grace.

The benefit of the doubt isn't always a good thing to give people, Grace.

Not everyone is a good friend, Grace.

Oh, and Grace, your feelings don't matter to people so you should probably just keep them to yourself.

The betrayal, the hurt, never comes from your enemies, Grace.

It comes from the ones you love most and that's why it hurts so deeply.

It's why my entire family woke up to my crying tonight. It's why my daughter asked, "Mommy, why are you sad?" And now I feel horrible for that. I feel horrible for waking them up. And bothering them. And I feel horrible for having my daughter see me upset.

It's why I sit here trying to piece together all of the things I may have done wrong in the last decade of my life. Maybe if I figure out what I did wrong, I could fix it all. Maybe I can learn and figure out why I deserve that scar on my back. It's bleeding now, cut open by a different person.

I feel disposal. Replaceable. I feel like trash. Without value.

I feel used.

I feel this way because I find history repeating itself.

I know I'm far from perfect in all aspects. But I also say sorry too many times. I apologize for things that I shouldn't have to or need to apologize for. I shouldn't have to apologize for my feelings or for sharing them with someone. And if you make me feel uncomfortable and don't care, then I get hurt. And when I explain to you why, it's not going to feel good for you. But that's not me being hurtful, that's me explaining why I feel the way I do.

I'm learning though, that I may just be the one alone in the corner for the rest of my life.

I'm sure there are a lot of people that can sit around and talk about me. They can make a list of things I've done wrong. They can make a list of things I've said wrong. They can make fun or disagree with my writing or my feelings. They can make fun of how I look. I already do all of that though.

My first reaction to when I feel wronged is to blame myself. My first reaction to when someone knowingly hurts me is to try to figure out why I deserved it.

As I said, I'm far from perfect.

No one deserves the scars on their back. Mine wasn't even completely healed yet before someone else I love took the same knife and cut that soft, delicate skin wide open again.

Sometimes you just have to untie the string and let people go. You have to unfriend and close out the tab. You have to stop scrolling. You have to learn how to quit allowing others to hurt you. But even more importantly, you have to learn how to stop hurting yourself. Loosen the knots and let the rope drag away.
© Grace Lynne Fleming. All rights reserved.
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