Friday, June 8, 2018

You're A Problem For Me

Currently Listening to: "You Deserve Better" by James Arthur

"Just because I'm single, doesn't mean that I'm looking for a relationship. I just got out of one. I want to be healed and healthy before someone else steps in and ruins my life," I said.

He rolled his eyes, "Grace, stop being so damn sarcastic." 

"But I'm fluent in it," I rebutted.

He paused at the clasp behind my back and I felt his hand come away.

"What's wrong," I asked.

I stroked the side of his face where his beard had been clipped. 

"If he walked in the front door right now, would you take him back," he asked.

I laughed and felt nauseated. I had thought about it but, honestly, there was nothing I could rummage up inside of me that wants that.

"I'm hurt but I was never stupid. He now means as little to me as I do to him. I never had to prove myself. Throughout all the months together, he was fighting and climbing the ladder that I left out. He squirmed and cried over me. He was embarrassed after my questions. I fought for us until we uncovered the truth. He was never man enough to come clean with his transgressions. He was never man enough to just say, "I fucked up and I don't know how to fix it." Instead, he escaped. He hid. He lied to his family. He lied to his friends. So, no, I would never take him back. His friends were more my friends during the loss of my father than he was. He gets what he deserves now. Mediocrity is not in my vocabulary and he knows that a life with me was more than he could keep up with. He was 100% correct when he said he was undeserving of me and he can continue to feel that way for the rest of his life," I explained. 

I walked away from him. I was happy he had asked that question when he did because any further and we would have been in over our heads. Goodness, his face was perfect. Those blue eyes reminded me of someone else. And his rough hands make me nervous. His broad chest felt safe. But I was really just a fan of how aggressive he would be when I'd see him. He'd always scoop me up into a hug and we'd start kissing in one solid motion. 

I never made it to the sofa though. He came up from behind me and I felt his arms around my waist.  He was breathing into the side of my neck and I was overcome with how tall he was again. 

"It's weird isn't it," he asked.

Confused I mumbled, "What?"

"Me and you. Would you have ever thought we'd be doing this," he continued.

"If you only knew the things I've thought about this situation. It's wrong, but it's not at all. I don't want anyone to know about it. But, then again, I want everyone to," I would have continued but he put his hand over my mouth.

"Your explanations are too long. I'll just take that as a no and we can move on now," he laughed.

He turned around and flipped off the lights. The only spark lighting the room was coming from outside the front door. I could still make out the lines of his body and I felt him push me towards the chair. He opened up the back door and turned on the light there too. We were glowing from both ends of the house now. 

He sat in that chair and patted his lap signaling for me to come to sit. I wasn't in the mood to argue so I did just that. I nestled on top of him with my knees at his side. I leaned in and rested my forehead on his. 

"This is nice," he said.

I smiled and responded with a quick, "Mmhmm." 

He came in for a kiss and before I knew it, he had my shirt over my head and let my hair loose from its braid. He bit my lip and released his grip on me.

"There, that's better," he said.

With more light, I would have felt extremely self-conscious. I could tell he was leaning back, taking in as much as he could while I sat with my arms crossed. But he grabbed my hands and pulled me closer. For as rough as he came off, he knew when and how to be soft with me. 

We were kissing again. His hands were in my hair when I felt the pulling at my waistband. 

"Just take them off," he growled in between breaths. 

I stopped and pushed back from his chest, "Um, you're still fully clothed." 

He popped up from the seat which made me pop up as well. He pulled off his shirt and nixed his shorts before he sat back down.

"Better," he smirked. 

I found my spot again but he went back to tugging on my waistband. He slowly guided me to the floor with far too much friction than I had originally anticipated for the night to have. Eventually, I let him take the pants off without a thought as to where things would lead. 

I felt him. This was the first time that I completely felt him, but as soon I did I snapped myself back into reality.

"You know we can't do this right," I asked.

He kept kissing me. So, I asked again but he continued to ignore my words. Instead, I felt his hand slide down my leg and lift it so my knee was bent. 

I stopped him, "No, we can't."

"You're a problem for me," he said.

"Yeah," I answered, "you're a problem for me too." 


Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Clean Slated Summer

Have you ever seen a beetle on its back? Its legs are moving frantically in all directions trying to get back on the ground to scurry away and survive the moment's trauma. Sometimes you put it out of its misery. Sometimes you'll see someone kneel down and use their index finger to flip it over and let it run free. Other times you see its struggle and keep moving past it.

I felt like one of those glossy insects fighting to stay afloat plenty of times within the last two years. And I had people from all nooks of my life pass me by or use their index finger to turn me over. Others just tried to squash me silent. When you're alone and quiet, you see everyone and everything with so much more clarity than you did when you were living under a shiny mask.

I'm turned over now. And my mask came off over 104+ weeks ago. I've learned a lot of lessons since I was 27. One being, you can't plan life. Everyone will have opinions on how you should be living it. Everyone had opinions on how I should handle the divorce. Everyone has opinions on how I should parent Claire. Everyone has opinions on how I should handle grief, and everyone has opinions on how I should have/had/be handling newer, worse heartbreak.

But I cannot make everyone happy. I can make myself happy though. I can make myself excited for life every day. I can become fulfilled in more than someone else's happiness. And if I'm that kind of woman; a woman who is confident in herself, acts on her sense of adventure and has the courage to use her emotions as strength, that's what Claire will learn. She'll be proud of her mom one day.

I get caught up in sentiment. A calendar date. A name. A note written on a napkin. A song. A symbol. I put meaning to inanimate objects or untouchables. It sticks with me.

November 16. July 17. March 5. December 17. January 19. March 17. February 5. April 12.

These dates give me whiplash.

Obviously, this isn't a trait that only I have, it's all part of being human. A smell, a touch, a photograph ... it can take someone back to the best, the worst and all kinds of memories. But I'd venture to say that I get a bit deeper. I can lock myself inside of it and never budge.

I love James Bay. He used to be on repeat. But now, I can't stomach his voice. It takes me right back. I'm sitting in my Jetta with Chaos and The Calm on repeat, driving to spin class and completely drowned in feelings that I couldn't pinpoint or explain yet. I was still crying in corners and under the covers. I wasn't okay. I was composed and that album was my safety. It helped me sort through the worst, the toughest and the saddest of thoughts and emotions. I prayed to never feel that way again not knowing that it would only get worse. And no matter how much I love James Bay, he's erased now. Because I can't stomach him.

But now, when I hear Garth Brooks, I get weak. I get weak because the last time I saw my brother alive was at his concert. And they played his song at his funeral. And I spent the weeks following his passing listening to his greatest hits CD on replay trying to forgive myself for not doing something else for Nick. 

And that trickles over to a lot of other things as well. I don't want to be stuck on anything or anyone anymore. I'm heading out to Chicago this week to start a summer full of adventure and a clean slate. It includes sentiments that don't matter because they pull me down. It includes bad thoughts about myself. That clean slate includes men too. Relationship jumping isn't healthy. And although the man I thought I loved started anew before I told him to pack his things, at least I know who I am. I know what I want. I know how to get it. And I'm not scared of it.

I love being a sentimental person. It speaks a lot about what's important to me and, even more importantly, who is important to me. But I'm not going to let the bad feelings drown me or have me lying on my back anymore like those beetles that come out in the spring. I don't want anyone looking at me while my arms and legs are trying to hold steady. I welcome them to look at me with a magnifying glass though. I welcome everyone to see the imperfections. I welcome everyone to see the mess ups and the screw-ups and bedroom transgressions. Because all of that is real.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Written in April

Do you want to know what I am most hurt by? I'm not even mad, I'm just irreparably hurt by it.

He kept telling me that he regretted not asking my dad for his blessing before he died. But how could that have been true when he had already begun a relationship with his current girlfriend?

I remember taking a phone call from him on March 22. This was the Thursday before his Sunday church date. This was the Thursday before the Monday when he came to my parents' house and chatted with my mom about marrying me for around three hours.

That phone call included him telling me that he thinks about my dad every single day. That the regret was eating at him. That he wanted to marry me and be Claire's father. He was just sad that he wouldn't get a chance to talk to him about it.

But the entire time he was "away," and "fixing" his problem, he was literally just hanging out with his new girlfriend.

Why even use my dad as an excuse? Dad had only been gone for a little over two weeks. It was so fresh. It was all so sudden. Lie. Cheat. Sneak around. But why even say that about Dad? To gain sympathy? It worked. He had Mom and me believing him. He had Mom and me putting our own feelings of grief on hold for his own "issues."

I am stunned by it. And I am irreparably hurt by how confused, and twisted, and panicked he made me feel in the midst of it all.


For the first few months of seeing him,  I kept a detailed timeline of the relationship. I assumed from the very beginning that it wasn't something that would last and that one day I'd be writing about it. And, to be fair, if someone were to scroll through my Instagram account, @gracelfleming, you'll find a photo of him with a captain that reads:

Hey, Mista {insert his name here}, I haven't been a girlfriend since 2012, so I apologize in advance for all of the weird moments and awkward scenarios I will be creating. Even worse than the ones that have already happened; it'll never change. On the other hand, I'm not sorry for the fact that I'll always pick the worst candid photos to share with my entire world, {of you, of course}. 

Also not sorry that you'll end up in a second book on a shelf one day whether this relationship goes up in flames or not.

Everyone was well aware. He and I had talked about every part of my past and my present extensively. His too, although it was all lies flowing from his mouth, now admittedly.

"If I had told you the truth, you would have never given me a chance," he said, not able to withstand eye contact.

I laughed, "You're right. I wouldn't have even looked your way." 

He told Alice, "I would look in the mirror and think to myself, 'what is she doing with me,' she's way out of my league." 

And now I laugh at all of these statements. Because still, it's such an insult to any woman that comes after me. He's not willing to be with a woman with whom he "outkicked his coverage," instead he'd rather settle for someone that puts him in that same comfort zone of mediocrity. Of course, he has every right to do that as do the women that succumb to those low expectations. It's just baffling


I gave him such a hard time for months. Although, I don't really see it as a "hard" time. I really just gave him space. I left room for speculation. I didn't want to pressure him. I just wanted to observe. I wanted to grow with him and feel comfortable. And I thought we did an amazing job at that, honestly. 

He would push me though, as I've explained before. Even when it came to doing things around my house, he would get so mad that I wouldn't ask him for help. Or, if I did ask, there would be a quick, "I'm sorry," attached at the end. 

Further along into the relationship, we had a minor argument about it.

"Grace, just ask me to do it," he demanded.

"Look, it's not your job," I rebutted.

Half-smirking he said, "I've had my penis inside of you. It is okay to ask me to take out the trash."

I laughed. He laughed. And then I watched him grab the bag from my hand and walk out the back door with it. Eventually, he would come home with a brand new trash can as well. In fact, he came home with two; one for the kitchen and one for my office. 


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board

Who played the game at a sleepover when you were younger? You'd freak yourselves out. It would never work. There would be giggles. And nerves. But it's also how I feel on a daily basis. 

Light as a feather, Stiff as a board.

Everyday is a new rollercoaster for me. I'll be driving in the car and feel good. Actually, I'll feel free and relieved of the stress that I was holding in subconsciously. I feel weightless and light. I smile and get excited for the future. But then I remember. And then I snap back. I'm stiff. I can't move. 

The ebb and flow of my emotions can be exhausting. I never truly knew what being "emotionally drained" meant until this year

In fact, I understand my brother more now. He was an alcoholic. He had a terrible disease that ended up taking his life. And I was and have been so, so angry with him. I had been so angry with him for not just throwing away the bottle and never looking back. But this year, just a few weeks ago, I finally understood him. I finally understood what it was like to feel so bad you just have to forget. I finally understood how someone could get to a point of feeling so miserable that they can't handle their emotions anymore. And then I ended up feeling even more guilty about being so mad at him for having the problem he had. For him to even feel an ounce of what I have been feeling, physically pains me. I'm so happy I wrote him a letter apologizing for my anger over the last few months of his life. I have to have faith that wherever he is now, he's relieved of the pain he was facing and he's got that big, goofy grin on his face. 

My dad has become more and more of a tender spot for me to talk about. I'm resilient Grace. I'm strong Grace. I'm Grace, the woman who is always okay. But I haven't been okay with losing my dad. When the feeling washes over me, at moments that catch me completely by surprise, I feel myself pushing it down so I don't lose control. My daddy is gone and I haven't figured out how life is going to be "normal" again without him. 

It's traumatic. Mornings are the worst. I wake up and remember everything that I need to face and deal with for the day. There are layers of grief. There are layers of hurt. And yes, I don't have that relationship anymore either. As good as it feels to say, "Fuck that loser," it still hurts me. He cheated. He lied. He put on a show for me and our friends and our families. That I could get over. I got over something similar before. I'm just not sure I'll ever get over the fact that he left me and Claire - high and dry - during the most painful moment of my life. I'm not sure I'll ever get over the fact that he looked me in the face and said, "I love you," while simultaneously walking out the door to another woman's house knowing good and well that I was grieving my father in the meantime. I am over the fact that he talked to multiple friends about me saying he wasn't good enough because, that's the truth. I'm over the fact that this woman knew about me all along, and didn't give one solid fuck about another human being. And he didn't give one solid fuck that he had just added to that pain. So yeah, "Fuck that loser," but I'm not over the slap in the face he gave me that day or any of the other people in our lives he supposedly cared about. 

But then days like today come around. I find myself not analyzing or stressing. My anxiety lessens and I let fate run its course. I feel good about myself, my conscience is clear, and I can hit the pillow at night without second-guessing my own life's story.

I'm prepping for a travel "project," that will include a lot of "live" writing and overnights to cities I haven't experienced before. I have strong intuition, but that doesn't mean I've ever followed it. I wear purple lipstick. I have a weakness for Simply Orange juice. I have nice hair. I have a terrible sense of good TV. I love green, but I hate grass. I like rocks though. I like to believe that I was a mermaid in another life although the ocean isn't my favorite either. I'd rather be in the mountains, exploring a new, or enjoying my homebody ways. I used to be obsessed with Jolly Rogers. I kind of think I may have been a pirate at some point in time too. I believe Lucille Ball and Kate Winslet are some of the most beautiful women of all time. I correct people and their misuse or mispronunciation of words before realizing that I sound like a snot. I apologize for it though. And someone is going to love all of these things. Someone already has. They just weren't the right men.

Monday, May 21, 2018

He's Back

I surprised him. It was around eight in the morning. He was bright-eyed and I was still a little glossy. He thrives in the morning and I can't coherently do much until around noon. He was running errands and I came up behind him. 

"Haven't seen you in a while," I whispered in his ear. 

I felt the stubble on his face. I was on the very tip of my toes and could barely reach high enough to cover his blue eyes but I felt his cheeks move. He was smiling. And when he finally turned around I realized how genuine that smile was. 

I wanted to grab a drink before we took the drive home. He waited for me outside and I got a lemonade because I knew it was his favorite. He just sat there and stared while I stood in line. 

I had only kissed him once since the new year rolled in. I skipped out the doors and started pulling him by the waist of his pants toward me. I startled him a bit and he laughed. 

He was trying to grow out a beard and he was a little sloppy. Nevertheless, I was still incredibly attracted to him. And he was still hiding his sweetness. He was years younger than I but he tried desperately to act older, wiser, and more nonchalant than his maturity level spoke for him. But I didn't care. He was fun. And I respected the fact that I scared him. What I respected more was the fact that he didn't run from the fear. 

We were walking when a man across the street yelled in my direction. 

"Hey! Hey, sweetie," he continued. 

I didn't necessarily know that he was yelling at me but his voice made me uncomfortable so I didn't turn my head. 

"Hey! Meghan Trainor," he yelled again. 

That's when I knew it was for me. And that's when he grabbed my hand and tugged on me to go faster. 

I started laughing, "What's wrong?" 

"I don't like it," he replied. 

"Like what," I asked, "that wasn't a big deal. People say I look like her all of the time." 

He looked down at me and said, "You didn't see the way he was looking at you. I didn't like it." 

"Well, you don't really have any say in the matter. Whether you're still holding my hand or not, I'm not yours," I explained and pulled away from him. 

"You like reminding people of that," he scoffed and turned to walk away. 

 I could feel my cheeks redden, "No, I don't," I said while I scurried to catch up.

I loved the way his hand felt on my lower back. He'd guide me up the front porch steps or out the door with its steadiness. But sometimes it felt wrong because I knew we could never be anything more than these short moments. I was living for them though.

My head found its way onto his chest everytime the lights went out. The texts he would send me asking me to not ever fly alone again. But once he was indulged, just a bit, he'd turn it off. He'd go back to the games and not caring. I knew better though. I knew better from day one with him. It was all fun and games but there was some emotions sliding in from left field that I was uncovering at the same time that I was throwing dirt on the pile to cover it up. 

I couldn't have feelings for him. No matter how black his hair was or how blue his eyes were. No matter how tall he was or how peeking at that one tattoo of his brought me back to that first night together. No matter how much we liked to talk about our dreams and decipher their meanings. There was nothing about us that would ever fit. And I was completely okay with that. I accepted that when we first met. I just hadn't accepted the fact that I would eventually develop some sort of actual care for him.


I climbed into his lap and faced him. My legs wrapped around his back and my head rested on his shoulder. 

"Look at me you idiot," he said.

I popped my head up quickly, "Excuse me?"

My attitude spiked and I unlocked my legs to try and get up.

"Don't move," he demanded.

"Well, what's your problem," I asked.

He rolled his eyes, "Nothing Grace. Sometimes you just need to be called an idiot to keep yourself in check. You just aren't as observant with yourself as you are with other people."

I looked back at him confused all the while I felt his rough hands find their way up the back of my sweatshirt.

"No matter who I end up with, she will never have those eyes or that crease in her bottom lip and I will always want her to," he said.

My stomach dropped. There were so many ways I could deconstruct that sentence. There were so many different ways I could process it. Instead, I responded in the worst of ways.

"Yeah, they all say that about my eyes," I said as I took a turn rolling my own.

He was silent. I could tell he was mad.

"Grace," he began, "you ruin all moments. It's not even that you can ruin just one moment, you literally ruin every moment." 

I replied quickly, "I know." 

I felt the tears coming. And I was nauseated. And I really wanted to jump up from his lap and run into the bathroom and turn the lights off and hide in the tub. 

"I'm going to try this again," he continued, "No matter who I end up with. I'm going to end up with someone else because by the time I am able to settle down you will have found someone worthy of you and your daughter. I'm hoping you have another child by then. But no matter who it is, she won't ever have those eyes that every man that's kissed you loves so much. She won't have that sexy crease in her lower lip. I will want her to. I will think about you from time to time and I will wish she had those two things."

I sighed.

"Don't ruin it," he said.

So I just started at him instead. I didn't know what to say because every thought that came to mind was incredibly inappropriate. 
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