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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

In The Hallway



It was weird to get in the car with him. I hadn't seen him since the football field when I was barely 18-years old. We have photos together from that day. My hair was straight. I had blue eyeliner smudged around the creases of my eyes. My nails were painted red. I wore white. He had a goofy smile and a small gap in his teeth that I always loved. 

When I had opened up the front door he was just walking up the steps. His eyes raised and I saw a flash of the old Smith, the one I used to have a relentless crush on. Apparently, that feeling never went away.

He scooped me up in a hug and he smelled the same. It's something I could never pinpoint I just knew that is was him. The first word he said was, "Gracie," with a closed-mouth chuckle that followed.

But then we were driving around our hometown talking about people. We weren't talking about anyone in particular instead just people in general. We're a weird species. That was our final hypothesis.

The sun was starting to fall though so we parked and watched it go down in the distance. We ended up back near the field where I gave him a hug that lasted for ten years. But we were older now, we were both more experienced and were completely different people. The playful banter between us was still the same.

I can't remember how we even got back to where we started the night. The drive was silent but it was also incredibly loud. Between the music and my thoughts, I wouldn't have been able to hold a conversation with him. We weren't inside the house but for fifteen seconds before I was pinned up against the wall kissing him for the first time. Well, really getting to kiss him for the first time.

He stopped between the kissing though and said, "It can't be another ten years before this happens again."

"Shut up," I giggled pulling him back in for another round.

He began guiding me to the couch but I pulled him towards the bedroom instead. We never made it back. We just stayed in the hallway. It was hard for me not to treat him like a teenager. That's how I knew him. That's how I knew our relationship. But he wasn't a kid anymore. He was a man that had been through big changes and every time his hand went through my hair I got chills.

Although he puts on a tough facade, he's incredibly sweet. That sweetness could always be found in his voice, no matter how "hard" he tried to act. Back when we were around sixteen, I had just broken up with him, and he had called my best friend to ask why I had done it. Secretly, she recorded the conversation for me to listen to. Over and over he asked, "But why'd she do it," with a genuine sadness in his voice.

I still don't remember why I did it. We ended up back together a few times. We each got our turn hurting the other one. But this night, as adults, made up for all of that.

My hands gripped what they could of the carpet as he kissed up and down my neck. I wasn't sure which way to go with him. I liked the feel of his darkened skin against mine but that's all I knew. I let him lead instead.

It was a really great idea to wear a dress. Just one lift over my head and it was off and on the floor. If there was ever a man that I could envision sinking his teeth into my thigh and pulling off my lace panties it was this one. He did it and we giggled in unison. 
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Monday, April 3, 2017

Removing Distractions

I've felt it lately. Well, I've felt a lot of new things lately. I've been lonely and frustrated. I've been inspired and fiercely determined. I've been really angry and resentful at times too. I've been exhausted. I haven't been my normal, "happy" self but that's okay, I'm happier in the fall anyway.

What I've felt most lately though is God's presence. And I don't think I've ever been more conscious of it until this season of my life. There's a higher power that's been ruffling feathers amidst my days and although He has quite the cheeky sense of humor, I appreciate it. God has been removing all of the distractions in my life. Of course, that's been a list of men that kept deterring my focus.

They've been crossed off for a multitude of reasons. I lost interest suddenly or they turned into a raging, rude egomaniac and made it easy for me to not give them a second thought. I woke up a few days ago with a simple yet rather large revelation for myself. I've given so much attention and focus to the fun I was having with these ... dudes ... that I never truly realized that I had only developed true, real feelings for one of them. That made it even easier to delete a few more numbers I had collected.

I'm more spiritual than I am religious. I'm private about my prayers. But I do like knowing that my faith is in something bigger and that something has a great sense of humor.

I gave myself a deadline. This time it was one to take seriously. I was tired of putting off writing about hard things because I knew it would take me to a dark place. But I did it. March was hell because I was quite literally drowning in my past. No one could understand my terrible mood. And these men that were popping in to chat, they couldn't handle my lows. Instead they wanted to be combative or rude when I just needed to be given some slack and left alone.

And so I was. That's when I finished it. I finished the books throughout the weeks that I silenced my phone and forgot about all of the players on the chessboard. It was a good lesson.

Then I met a man named Austin. Although he looked like a beefier, tattooed Bradley Cooper, his sweet talking wasn't bringing me to my knees. But I felt like he deserved a chance. He opened up about a lot of personal details, ones that I respected and sympathized with. I gave him a hell of a hard time though. I batted away his compliments and talks of the future. I was extremely skeptical. I told him that the same lines he used on previous women weren't ever going to work with me. I'd rather have something full of substance. He liked the small challenge. I didn't open my laptop the entire time though. Days went by and I was so distracted by this man who was bothering me more than impressing me that I didn't work once toward my end goal.

Sometimes I would sit silent during our phone calls not knowing how to respond to him. While he gushed, "I feel like we have a really deep connection. Our conversation is really great."

I replied, "Well, the conversation could be better," not realizing what a bitch I actually sounded like until the words ran out of my mouth like fiery diarrhea.

He laughed at me though and liked my angst. I liked that he kept trying.

But then he vanished. The last thing he texted me was, "When can I talkkkkk to youuuu?" or something of the sort.

He completely dropped off. I didn't text him throughout the next few days of silence. Honestly, I thought the only way he would have missed a phone call or a good morning text would be for some extreme reason like, I don't know, incarceration.

Until he resurfaced with a batch of messages that made no sense and had me barely replying. I had a feeling he had another woman up his sleeve the entire time. Low and behold, the day after he came up for air I find Mr. Austin tagged in a life event on my Facebook newsfeed. He's now in a relationship. And I just started laughing.

"Smooth move God. You're watching out for me," I thought.

I feel a bit sorry for the woman who seems completely smitten with a man whom days earlier sounded giddy talking about our deep connection. Actually, it completely sucks for her. I hope he doesn't screw her over. And I hope she likes extremely metrosexual men.
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Monday, March 13, 2017

Found In The History Books

His long hair fell around his face as he leaned over to hear me better. I was curled up in the corner of the love seat and I could tell he was waiting for me to offer up the space beside me. I could feel his breath hitting my bare shoulder, I didn't want that to end yet. He was ready to listen to my story. He wanted to know all the ins and outs of it and how I came to be like ... this.

He was creative himself. He was following his dreams and scattering kindness everywhere he went. He was on a plane every other day with his camera in tow. I envied that. I was so jealous that he had the freedom to go whenever he pleased. But what was truly attractive about him was his passion. It was tangible, like mine. And I felt drawn to him because of that similarity. Maybe, one day, he could help me show my story just as much as I've loved to tell it.

He stood tall. He had unique features too, ones that weren't found on the boy down the street but instead ones found in the history books. His ancestors go back to our roots here. Dark, almond eyes will always weaken me.

Eventually he did tire though. I patted the seat next to me signaling for him to come take it. And he did. It wasn't his cologne that was intoxicating though, it was just him. My entire body was being pulled towards his and I had to be firm in my movements. I couldn't allow the involuntary feelings to take over.

My laptop was open  and he was reading a chapter that I had unofficially titled "Everything but Sex." That was nerve-racking in and of itself. I heard light chuckles but I didn't get to see any of his expression. His face was too close to mine and if I turned just the slightest I knew that I wouldn't be able to resist him.

"Grace," his voice startled me.

And then I had no choice. I had to turn my head and face him. In cliché form, I could feel my heart beating a bit faster.

I squeaked out, "Yes?"

"There's a few things I would change or move around but it's solid. It's funny too, which I didn't anticipate," he explained.

He wouldn't break eye contact with me though which is why I couldn't breathe. I couldn't even think straight enough to conjure up a coherent sentence.

I sighed, "Yeah, I mean, I know it's not great."

He touched my hand then. And his hands were big. They weren't rough like I had expected them to be either.

"Is this weird," he asked.

I just shook my head no because I was trying not to pounce on him or simultaneously pass out. Then he leaned his head in a little and raised his eyebrows like he was asking me if it was okay. But instead of meeting him halfway I turned my head back around and scrolled through the manuscript.

"What did you think about this line," I asked.

Meanwhile, in my head, I was cursing myself and my nerves for ruining it all.

***

Weeks later after numerous phone calls and texts, I got to see him again. I had to go to an opening downtown for an event the old PR firm I had interned for invited me to. I was in talks for representation there so I figured it'd be best if I showed my face around. I had no idea he'd be there though. After I made my rounds, I found a quiet room to take a breath in.

I had been sitting there for several minutes when he walked in. His hair was parted in the middle but pulled back into a low ponytail. Dark jeans, boots and a charcoal, long-sleeve tee, he wasn't even close to the metrosexual zone I was so acquainted with but he was still sharp enough to hold his own in this type of setting.

He locked the door behind him and said, "I heard you were here."

I got up and walked over to be near him. I gave him a hug and then quickly backed off.

"Yeah, just winding down now. I was thinking about heading out," I answered.

He added another log to the fireplace and sat down near it. And I was just standing by the door still, like an anxious idiot.

He started humming a song. I wondered if he chose it on purpose or if it was just happenstance.

"Don't," I said.

He looked at me questioning, "What did I do?"

"I don't want to hear that song," I explained.

"Come sit down," he asked.

I walked over and sat across from him on one of the floor pillows. I took my shoes off and stretched out my legs a bit. And just as I did that he grabbed my ankle and dragged me over to him. It was a pretty slick move, I admit. The pillow slid right across the hardwood with ease.

Then we were face-to-face and that same feeling was coming over me. It was kind of similar to "fight or flight" but more like "pounce or pass out" again. 

"So," he started, breaking the silence, "can you not take hints or are you just not interested in me?"

I sat there a bit stunned. I honestly had no clue what to say. I'm the girl that talks too much and he was making me feel like I had completely lost my ability to speak the English language.

Finally I asked, "Is that a real question?"

But instead of answering me he kissed me. He didn't wait for me to meet him halfway or ask permission with his expression, he just did it. I didn't hold back either. Everything about him was warm. His kiss, his touch, it's like he just radiated more heat than the average, healthy human did.

He was safe. We didn't have to fight with our rhythm or who was where at what time. Instead, I allowed him to have full control and enjoyed myself. My jeans were unbuttoned. My jacket was back in the corner that I was sitting in before he came inside. I tugged on his shirt and he took it off in one swift motion. He was exactly how I had pictured him for so many months.

He kept tracing my collarbone and kissing my neck. I whispered for him to not be so careful. He didn't need much time to think about it. We were both fully undressed and ready within seconds. But before anything happened, he gazed for a bit. His hand was traveling from my chest down to my stomach. I needed that. I needed to feel like I could be admired.

His hands were alive. It wasn't that he was running them all over but instead he was fine tuning his movements. Eventually he laid down and flipped me over. My back was at his chest and I could feel him pressed up against me. He kept pulling me closer until he couldn't handle it anymore. I was about to add an entirely new experience to my resume.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Microscope


We all pick ourselves apart. Whether out loud with friends or at home, alone, staring at ourselves in front of the mirror, it's a terrible habit that most of us can't quit. I certainly have a problem doing it. Granted, ever since having Claire, I'm much more conscious of what I say aloud. I'm doing it in my head all of the time though.

I'm extremely confident in most areas of my life. In my work. In my writing. In my friendships and relationships with my family. In little things too like being able to put together the perfect outfit for any occasion or holding my own in conversation. I'm really good at making most people giggle. But when it comes to love, my self-esteem is at an all time low. I've obviously pinpointed the culprit. I know where this comes from. You know where this comes from. In fact, there are some details that are still coming out as to why I feel certain ways when it comes to intimacy or just my physical appearance. I feel like I shouldn't be blamed for it though. I was in a decade-long relationship with someone that knew everything about me and decided I wasn't worth very much. And I know there are so many women and men that can relate to that feeling. It trickles down to every part of ourselves. And frankly, it fucking sucks. Even when a thought pops up that I know is completely irrational or nonsensical, it doesn't stop it from being very, very real for me.

I put myself under a microscope a lot. I find myself almost warning people who show interest in me of my flaws. It's like a subconscious form of self-sabotage that I've constructed. I don't do this to all of them though. It's only the ones that could be real. It's not the fun ones or the ones playing games. I spoon feed myself to those, knowing what the end result will be and allowing myself to get hurt by it. That's so dumb and, this too, is a habit so many of us have. We are too smart for that behavior.

I'm very in tune with my flaws. I can list them out for you quite quickly but that doesn't make me any less great. That doesn't mean someone who wants to take me out will be disappointed. I have to rewire myself. I don't want to find that confidence and base it on someone else's validation though. It's nice to have but I've got to hold strong to how I feel when I look at myself in the mirror. And, most days, I'm pretty amazed at myself too. Why do I constantly make men, men who want to date me in particular, question that? I don't know but I know that I have to be more aware of it. Having a sense of humor and making self-deprecating remarks within my writing that people can relate to is one thing, but assuming that a first date will end badly because of me is a terrible feeling. I know I'm not the only one either.

I like looking inward at myself though and putting down on paper what I see. Sometimes I learn more about myself. Sometimes I walk away liking myself a bit more. So I did it again. I put myself under a microscope but this time it wasn't with an attitude of disdain or hatred. Instead, it was just the facts.

I started with the easier of the two: the physical.

I stood in front of my mirror earlier in black panties and a black bralette. The back band cuts a bit into my sides but it keeps the girls high and it's far more comfortable than an actual bra to which I have a severe dislike for. I've been curvy since puberty hit. And by curvy I mean curvy with actual curves. I've been chubby and thin and all in between too but I've had curves through it all. Even more so now that I've birthed a child and am nearing 30. I started my period one morning when I was 12-years-old. I was in London, because why wouldn't Grace "becoming a woman" happen in a less dramatic way, with my family on our big, two-week European adventure when I woke up and screamed. I knew what it was, obviously. But I was also really pissed. I had to sit on a double-decker tour bus in the heat with a pad that was more like an actual, size 4 diaper than a "woman's napkin." It sucked. But I digress, since then my hips have been rather ... hippy. I like my hips though, no matter if I'm twenty pounds more or less they're rounded and look rather sexy in long, tight dresses which I frequent. I've got to remember that when I'm complaining about my legs.

I don't have the best legs. I never have. Even when they were cellulite-free, I always made the joke that when I stood up my knees would disappear. So, I don't wear shorts. Instead, I wear a lot of tight pants so the eyes can be on my hips and my not knee-less gams. My feet are thin. They can fit into any shoe and most of the time they don't even look like they belong to my body. I like them though, ya know, because I really love having the option to wear any shoe I want. The same goes with my hands. Long, thin fingers gave me the ability to throw an extra screwy screwball, so I like them too. And when I get around to painting my nails and wearing a few rings, they're not bad to look at either.

My hair is golden. Now I mean that in both a literal and metaphorical way. It's a strange, blonde shade that I've never dyed before because it's ever-changing all on its own. It's big and bouncy and if there's one thing about myself I can always count on it's that my hair will always do its job. When I smile there are small divots near my jawline that I've never loved. Although, I love them more now because my dad has them too.

I'm always really tense. So even the softest parts of my body always feel a bit hard. My shoulders are broad but they give me a bigger presence. I like that. Although, I do wish I could relax them more. I think I may get a tattoo back there one day. But so far I've marked myself in three places: my neck, my chest and my forearm. I love all three of those spots. Next up, I'll be tattooing my stomach, on the left, quite high up.

Inheriting wrinkles is funny. It's like a curse and a kiss from your family all at once. I don't have many wrinkles but the few I do have sit all in the same spot; above my nose, in between my eyes. I'm starting to get the same two that my mom has developed over the years, which come from her father. Did you know my grandfather looks like George Clooney? Yes, he sure does. And then the one directly above my nose that is subtly getting more and more apparent, that's from my dad. I've got to stop squinting.

I'm such a walking conundrum though. As I sit here writing all of this out, I'm completely confident in myself. I rarely get embarrassed. I'm goofy and a bit offbeat and rather awkward in tons of scenarios. But I'm also composed when I need to be. I'm confident enough to let anyone willing to look, read all of my most intimate thoughts, moments and memories. But when it comes to dating, I question myself. I question the men who are interested in me. Are you sure? Are you sure you want to take me out? That's such a dumb question though, because I'm great. Even the squishiest parts are great.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

On the Highlight Reel

If someone was to ask you what's on your highlight reel, what would it include? 

That first home run that flew over right field would be on mine. My first kiss with someone that I'd kiss again today even though the first time was a bit rough. Reading the personalized letter from Dr. Sachsman and the chills his words gave me after receiving a 100% on my senior thesis final. The moment I found out I was having a little girl. The heartbreak I experienced in 2016. Sprinting through the Chicago airport missing my flight home by three minutes. The highs and lows and a few in betweens would all be sprinkled throughout. 

What feels so good about my highlight reel is that it just got so much more colorful.

I've been needing to finish up this project of mine for a while. But it never felt finished. It didn't have an outline that I was completely confident in yet. Now it does. It loops around from February 5th to February 5th and in a perfect, Grace-filled dream world it stays that way all the way through my hypothetical publication. You'll read about the day. You'll read about the 9 years before but you'll finish with that run to gate F9 when I realized that the puzzle pieces to my life were meant to be put inside a book. These things are just too coincidental. I flew across the globe and met people who connected with my story. I sat next to a woman on an airplane from a completely different country and within the first hour of chatting realized that she is in the same position I was a year ago. That couldn't be just mere irony. That's fate. That's a kick in the ass to get this book done and take the leap.

Here's a few snippets inside the trip that ended it all.

***

Finally my bag came around the carousel. I grabbed it, unhooked the handle and quickly realized that one of the wheels had broken. I wasn't surprised. In fact I would have been more surprised if everything had gone smoothly from start to finish. 

I swung my camera bag back over my shoulder and then awkwardly tried to pull all the pieces of my hair out from under my strap. I lost a few as Christine, my middle seat buddy for the 14-hour flight, giggled at me and said goodbye. Once situated, I waddled over to customs, turned in my paper and went through the exit gate.

It was louder in there and if I didn't watch the floor too carefully I would tumble down the incline. But I was scanning the crowd trying to find her. Thankfully, she's tall. It wasn't her height that I noticed first though. It was that big, goofy grin. Then I noticed the sign, "Fleming. AKA Carrie Bradshaw. Welcome to Australia," she had scribbled inside a notebook last minute.

This was the same mysterious girl that commented on my crimped hair in middle school. We had never eaten lunch together. We had never had a class together. It wasn't until high school did we even become friends. It wasn't until I was 23 that we became best friends. But this woman, she grew up in the same small town with me, around the same people and the same ideas and the same societal norms pounded into our heads for as long as we could remember. And now we were together, living seventeen hours in the future from our families and over nine thousand miles away from our homes. It was a bizarre reflection. It was exciting.

She was bouncing up and down a bit but she couldn't go over the barrier. I hustled over to her. Once I passed the red line, we hugged and my emotions and sleepy eyes collapsed. She grabbed my bag and scooted me over to the coffee bar nearby. The sandwiches and pastries looked delicious. French breads stuffed with savory meat and cheeses. Cheesecake bites with all of the trimmings, everything looked artistic and yummy. But my stomach was still reeling from the salt-infused breakfast potatoes and odd omelet they had just served me on the plane. I skipped the treats and went with a bottle of water. She snagged me a butter croissant though, eventually I'd down that on the train ride home.

***

Our first mistake was eating a full breakfast before arriving at tea time. I had never had eggs benedict before so I decided to try it, making sure they made the bacon extra crispy. We both cleaned our plates and sipped on coffee and jungle juice - freshly pressed watermelon, date, pear and berry fruits. We didn't expect to be served three-tiers of desserts and lunch options directly after though. We were in it for the sparkling Australian wine and peach tea. But when in Rome ... or, Australia.

We were causing a scene. Everyone was poised and talking calmly in the corners of The Palace Tea Room. But the hostess decided to stick the two Americans in the center of it all with our cackling laughs and cheesy smiles. We tried nearly thirty times and with two different waiters to get good photos of us cheering to a clean slate and a new year. The angles were bad, the dresses were insulting our decent (yet distended from all of the food) figures and we were starting to sweat from all of the stares.


***

By the end of the afternoon I had shed a few tears over our wine and pastries. We had both gotten to hear out thoughts and worries the other one didn't necessarily want to have said out loud. But that conversation was something we needed. It also solidified our friendship even more, if me flying across the entire planet to see her didn't prove that then this moment definitely did. We can talk about the tough stuff. We can be honest with each other and know the other one isn't going to leave. There's security in our relationship and we walked to the movie theatre with a bubbling stomachache and an even stronger bond.

While I was living my worst nightmare in the very public, unisex bathroom at Events Cinema, she was in line grabbing us popcorn. Because continuously eating for six hours straight was on both of our bucket lists.

***

I stepped on something sharp. But all I could imagine was Claire yelling, "Mommy," from afar and just how quickly I wanted to have those little arms of hers wrap around my neck. I was going to make it. I didn't want to be stranded here smelling like an airplane toilet with a hole in my underwear for 180 more minutes. I was creeping up to 30 hours of travel at this point and I'd had enough. And now my throat was hurting because I couldn't run and breathe at the same time. Instead I was gasping for air at every turn yelling, "Excuse me," to all of nthe couples holding hands in front of me and blocking my way.  

I eventually found F9 only to be greeted with a Detroit departure. The gate they told me was wrong. But the plane pulling out of the F11 terminal was leaving. And Nashville was flashing on the gate's screen. I grabbed a man that looked like he may be working. He seemed professional enough. There was a logo or something on his black jacket.

"How do I get on that plane," I asked completely winded.

"You can't. It's as good as gone miss," he replied and promptly walked away.

I poured myself into a seat by a very large man that smelled like pipe tobacco and sobbed. I was overly emotional because I was overly tired. I allowed myself five minutes of tears before I marched to the restroom to brush my hair, brush my teeth and slap on some lipstick. I'd walk past the security guards defeated, even after their cheers, but at least looking a bit more put together. The blonde one was rather handsome.
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Monday, February 13, 2017

The 4th One

I rounded the corner and ran right into him. My head was down so I didn't see him coming. I hadn't seen him in around seven years. His hair was blacker than I remembered. And his eyes had a few more wrinkles around them when he smiled. He was brighter than before. He was warmer. And he was just as surprised to see me. Being confronted with those royal blues all over again made me a bit nervous. Everything makes me nervous.

We immediately hugged. It was an involuntary reaction that we both had. He smelled the same. He was probably still wearing the Armani cologne that I had suggested to him back in college. After he splurged on a bottle, I realized that he always carried a hint of spice on his sweaters. It was quite sexy actually.

"You're still wearing that cologne," I blurted. 

"Well damn Gracie," he responded a bit impressed.

Then he went in for another hug. This time it was a little tighter. I had nothing witty to say back. His embrace was bringing on emotion that I had been suppressing for a while. My nerves were revving up again, because I could feel it. He knew. 

He sighed, "So, how are things?" 

His hands held the sides of my arms and he stood back to take a good look at me. I titled my head up to meet his gaze although I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. I wanted to hide it. I wanted to hide that look I give off when I'm uneasy or unsure. I didn't want to talk about this with him. It's embarrassing. 

"I'm good," I replied with confidence. 

Squinting he said, "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I promise."

***

After our quick catch-up we swapped numbers and went our separate ways. He must have went right to checkout though because I received a text just ten minutes after we parted.

I think of you whenever I buy a new bottle.

I didn't respond right away. I couldn't sort my feelings. I was embarrassed still. The last time we spoke we had a huge fight about the relationship I was currently in and where it was going. He was convinced it wouldn't last. He was convinced that I would never be truly fulfilled. But he was wrong, or at least that's what I had argued.

When I did muster up the courage to say something back, I noticed that I had another message from him.

Let's go out.

My stomach sank a bit more. What did he want? I didn't think I could sit and look at his face for longer than a few minutes without the weight of my wrong choice circling around. I didn't want that feeling to be planted firmly on my chest mid-conversation. But then I remembered I was different now. I was braver. I texted back.

When?

***

We were sitting on the floor and the papers I had printed out were all over our legs, covering up the carpet and crunching under our feet when we'd get up to grab our drinks off of the counter. I couldn't believe I was sharing all of this with him. I couldn't believe how comfortable I had become throughout the night. And it wasn't even the wine. I was still nursing the same glass he poured when he first knocked on the door. I could tell he sprayed a bit more of his cologne for the evening too. I didn't mind.

I, on the other hand, had no clue what I was supposed to wear for the occasion. Jeans at home seem too stiff. Sweatpants were too casual, like I didn't care at all. So I just went with my go-to, a tight maxi, an oversized cardigan and my hair running wild.

"This all happened Gracie," he asked.

"Yes, every bit of it."

It's not that he didn't believe my words. I think he was just genuinely surprised. My story was quite the pile of coincidence and irony and made-for-TV moments. He went through every page recounting my emotion and what it was stirring up inside of him. He'd laugh. He'd get angry. He'd question some sentences or make me explain some memories that I hadn't quite finished yet.

Once he was done reading, I started piling up everything I had printed off. It didn't matter whether they were in order or not, I'd eventually shred them and get back on the computer to complete the work. He could tell I was hiding my face and feeling self conscious. He slid his arm under my sweater and pulled me closer.

"Stop," he demanded.

I was silent. I still didn't know how to approach this subject. I could tell he wanted to talk about it but I wasn't comfortable enough or confident enough to take it on just yet.

"You don't smell like cotton candy anymore," he teased.

I giggled, "Yeah, I eventually got over wanting to smell like dessert."

He laughed quietly and started rubbing my back. The room fell silent and I stayed focused on getting my pages stacked.

"You were completely over me right?"

His question startled me. I looked up at him and saw it in his face too. He was uneasy and unsure. He wasn't completely confident in this exchange but he also seemed eager too. Maybe this was the point all along, to finally know.

"What do you mean," I asked.

He sighed," I broke up with her for you, in high school. And then nothing happened."

"This is about high school?"

"No, but that's where it started. Every time I was with someone else that's when you would promise me things. I'd be free and you'd leave," he replied.

"I was with him for years when you came back in the picture though."

I noticed that he was clenching his jaw, "But that's why we fought. I could see it. I didn't think this would be the outcome, I honestly thought you'd end up leaving him."

Laughing I responded, "Yeah, that seems to be the general consensus nowadays."

"You're okay though," he questioned again.

I nodded yes.

That's when he did it. He kissed me. I hadn't kissed him since I was 16-years-old and I immediately started wondering why I did that to myself. Why had I kept him at an arm's length for so long? This was the fourth man I had kissed since I was a wife and this is the one that mattered.
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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Cheers To A Clean Slate


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 passed it.

I felt like one of those glossy insects fighting to stay afloat plenty of times within the last 12 months. 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 nearly 52 weeks ago. I've learned a lot of lessons within the last three years. 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. And now everyone has opinions on how I should parent Claire. But I cannot make everyone happy. I can make myself happy though. I can make myself excited for life everyday. 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. 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 was on repeat all last summer. 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 pray I never feel that way again. And no matter how much I love James Bay, he's erased now. Because I can't stomach him.

And that trickles over to a lot of other things as well. I don't want to be stuck on anything or anyone anymore. 2017 is a clean slate and in a week I'll be singing my cheers with my best friend and a glass of champagne in a new country promising each other to do our best and do things differently. That clean slate includes men. It includes sentiments that don't matter because they pull me down. It includes bad thoughts about ourselves.

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.

Cheers to a clean slate in 2017. I'll be standing up straighter. With less men on a list. With less triggers of a broken heart. And a lot more motivation for cultivating a life that Claire will want to read about and talk about and be living alongside of me.
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Sunday, January 15, 2017

I Wore A Golden Dress


Remember that one time I got married?

I wore a golden dress and never quite felt like myself. The day was perfection though. From the ceremony to the plated meal, everything went off without a hitch. It was grandiose and big and pumped with amazing moments. 

My hair wasn't as messy as I like it. And my gown was gorgeous but didn't hint at my bohemian style. If I get the chance to do it all over again I imagine it being with someone that cares about the details a bit more than I do. Nothing fluffed or filled with tradition. I want bell sleeves and lush flowers. I also want pizza.

Perfection may hide the cracks but you can still feel them.

Combing back through the memories of that day, I see things in an entirely new light. I loved him more than I loved myself. Maybe I wore a pair of blinders or maybe I wiggled into a light state of denial, just strong enough for me to remind myself how much I cared for him and the life he had dreamt up and promised me. And that reminder always grounded me. I was safe with him. He loved me. I wouldn't be able to find better. But when I piece some of those emotions together now, the ones that I suppressed or talked myself out of, it's scary. I missed so much.

***

I woke up that morning in the bed with Sam. Coffee was on its way up and  I heard whispers coming from the other room. My dad had gone for a drive to clear his head. He wanted to make sure his speech would do us justice. His littlest little girl was getting married.

We had mimosas waiting for us. The girls were cheery. The florist walked in and we oohed and ahhed over the blush tulips and bouts of baby's breath. They were crisp. They were just as I imagined they would be.

I remember getting in the shower and staying a bit longer than I normally would. I shaved everything. I think I shaved parts that didn't need to be shaved. That's when I started to really feel the nerves. I got an idea to call one of my best friends. He was probably at the hotel by now and maybe I could see him for just a moment. I could get his opinion on this pit in my stomach. But I didn't. I texted though and when he didn't respond quickly I let it go. I chalked it up to being nervous about all of the attention. I'm not an "all eyes on me" type of girl and I was psyching myself out.

When it was time to get in my dress I needed help. There were two holding the train, there was one strapping me into the corset and one holding my boobs. We have photos to prove the latter.

We had planned to do a "first look" and I knew seeing him would calm my nerves. As long as he was at the end of the aisle I would be fine, it didn't matter who was looking at me. Once time creeped closer to him knocking at the door, everyone left. My ladies were out taking photos, my parents were making their way down to the ceremony site. It was just me and my photographer waiting.

When he came in I held my breath. I was hoping for a reaction, something immediate. Instead he glanced at me with hesitation and then tried to laugh off the awkwardness by screaming, "DAYUUMMMM" for the entire floor to hear. But that was it. He walked over and just stood in front of me. There were no hugs. There were no kisses. Instead I showed him my shoes. And that's what our pictures tell the story of. We were looking down at our shoes. I was disappointed and all of my emotion was caught in my throat.

***

We traveled behind the walls of the hotel to get to the ceremony. I didn't want to run into any guests so we used the hidden hallways to get us to our final destination. Right outside the room though I panicked a bit. I was still blaming it all on the nerves and the fact that 150 people were about to be looking at me. They were going to be looking just at me with their eyes no where to be averted or distracted to. But running back through all of my internal thoughts, I think I was so disappointed by his lack of affection towards me that it topped off my heightened feelings enough to make me start crying. I needed a few moments to regroup.

Then I was there. The room was amber. It glowed. Mom and Dad were beside me. I spotted my childhood friend, Bird, and she already had tears in her eyes. That's when I spotted him. He was bending over a bit so he could see me. He had a goofy grin plastered on his face and he was giving me a thumbs up. I remember thinking, "There he is. He's adorable."

***

Later in the evening, once all off the commotion had died down. And after we had made our way around the room, after three people told me that I looked like a mermaid, after I had grabbed the microphone and thanked everyone for coming, after I could sit down and breathe a little bit with my now husband, I got to taste the creme brûlée. I don't like cake so this was a nod to my weirdo ways. 

After my first bite he leaned over to me and whispered, "I can't wait for the after party," to which he proceeded to wiggle his eyebrows in my direction. In classic "Grace" fashion I responded with, "Please don't creep me out." He giggled back at me but I had lost my appetite. Why didn't I find that endearing?

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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Calm Before The Storm


Put one foot in front of the other Grace. Step. Do it again but with the opposite foot. Step.

My feet are slightly sweaty from the moccasins I slipped into before I flew out the door this afternoon. My dress is too big and every time I reach down to pick something up off the bottom shelf my bralette shows and I feel a little slutty. I should have probably worn a scarf. I still smell my shampoo. My hair is damp and when I turn my head I get a whiff. I just had to get out of the house though. I needed fresh air. It was irresponsible. I have so much work to do this week before I go out of town but I couldn't stay inside any longer.

My phone keeps buzzing. There are about a handful of men that are rotating through conversations with me right now. They have nicknames. "Husband Material," "Frisky" and "Dimples" just to name a few of the less obvious. I don't have an urgency or excitement to talk to them though. I don't have it yet at least.

Do I even want that? Shouldn't I jump at the opportunity to go on a date with the tall, 29-year-old who has a solid career that I dubbed "Husband Material" because that's what he's looking for. He wants serious. And he's sweet and he tries to flirt with me constantly. I shut it down though. Or I don't respond. I don't respond for hours. Why do I do that? Instead, I have an urge to explore the ones that are unreachable. I already know they're not going to end well. Relationship status, maturity level, stability; it's like common sense has decided to up and leave completely.

That could be because I don't actually want anything serious or everlasting right now. I'm more ready to continue to cultivate this beautiful life for me and Claire instead of putting so much energy into someone else's just yet. Or maybe it's because fate hasn't allowed my Mr. Right {Now} to come out from hiding. I don't really care.

I haven't slept well in a while. I've been restless. I haven't felt that since before everything happened. But it's because a change is coming again. I can feel it. It's big. Which is why sometimes, when I'm alone I fall into myself. Like right now, walking around a store a bit aimlessly and voicing this right into my notes app. There are a few people that have passed by that looked at me strangely. A man walked over and told me that I looked like someone. He just couldn't figure out who. I have that kind of face though. I get it a lot. At least weekly I'm told that I look that this one or that one, it's been happening since high school. It all started with Reese Witherspoon.

A text just popped up on my phone:

"Hey pretty lady what are you up to?"

I felt nothing. There was no excitement. I'm bored. But there's always a calm before the storm right? And I feel it brewing. My gut instincts have never been wrong. Sometimes I try to ignore them, which is what gets me into trouble. We all like to see what we want to see and hear what we want to here but our gut, that deep, somewhere-you-can't-exactly-pinpoint-spot far inside your body, that's where the truth is.

That's why I can't sleep. That's why I can't sit still. Because something is about to happen. This time it doesn't feel bad though. It doesn't feel like a hurricane that will knock the breath out of me or make me start from scratch. Instead it just feels like a culmination of a lot of hard work -  my work as a woman, a writer and as a mother which is where most of the sweat and tears went this year.

That's my main thought as I walk through this store. I want to feel rested. Most of the time no one knows that I'm tired. Most of the time no one even knows when I'm upset or overwhelmed or annoyed. I'm the composed one. I'm the one that doesn't say she's hurt until it's time to go to the hospital. I keep everything inside although I also say everything out loud. What a conundrum! Maybe I'm just exhausted with my messy self.

When there's nothing to worry about, I find something to worry about. And when I'm bored, I rummage up some excitement. But right now, everything is calm. I'm a little bored with the players on the chess board. And I'm not sleeping. The calm before the storm is tiresome.
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Thursday, January 5, 2017

It Was All Broken


This is my new, daily affirmation. 

I just have a lot of faith that it'll happen. Because it was all broken. 

And when something is completely broken. When something doesn't work. When there's no way to fix the problem. You start anew. And anew doesn't have anything to do with the old.

To live a different life, I have to live differently. To have something big and new and good happen, I have to do big things and new things and good things. I have to expect yes but work through the no. 

I'm okay with going at this alone. I've made a pact with the big man upstairs that I can handle it. That if this is the only way for the magic to happen and that's for me to bear it on my own, I accept it. I don't need someone reaping the benefits of my life who doesn't really care deeply. 

I just have a lot of faith it'll happen. 
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Sunday, January 1, 2017

This Is My Response

August 2016 - December 2016

The New One and I had been chatting for months. He drove me crazy. I knew I was on some type of list. He said that I had an originality about me that was hard to describe. I knew that he probably used that line on the list of women I had been added to. I was still drawn to something good inside of him though. He liked to hide it and fight it. I learned that he could be conversational. He could be insightful and intellectual. But he could also flip a switch quickly. He'd lost me somewhere along the way and I had marked him as just a bit of fun. Seeing him changed that though. Despite his games, I was still drawn to something good

December 24, 2016, sometime after 11pm

He told me to stop replying. But I don't like being told what to do.

December 23, 2016, 6pm (ish) 


My life is so weird. I’m sitting on my bed half naked. The robe I’m wearing is too small and every inch of me is covered in the greasiest of body oils. It smells great but doesn’t feel especially nice until after it’s dried completely into my translucent skin. But I’ve got three hours to let it dry. Apparently my time just isn’t as valuable as others. I just sit on my ass a lot waiting for people with thick eyebrows and a great voice to knock on my front door. Is it hard to make and keep plans in the 21st century?

Did I miss something at some point in my schooling and upbringing that made it harder than fucking rocket science to agree on a time and a place, confirm and follow through with said plans? What’s even the point of making plans at all if you have absolutely no intention of showing up? Actually, I have no idea what’s going to happen in three hours. He’ll either show up or I’ll be copping an attitude, getting in my Jeep and leaving for my parents’ house knowing that I just gave up a perfectly good Friday night to someone who didn’t deserve it. But right now, I have 180 minutes to myself and I haven’t a clue of what to do with them. Moisturize? Did it. Take a nap? Brooke told me not to. Eat? Did it. Write? Doing it.

My playlist, “All My Shit,” is running on a loop. There’s so much Shawn Mendes on it that it’s slightly embarrassing. Actually, it’s the amount of One Direction that really takes the cake. Maybe I’m having a quarter-life crisis and trying to revert back to what it felt like when I was 16 and life was super easy. All I need are some slider shorts to stuff my thighs into and a wrinkle eraser to make that happen. Erasing about twelve pounds from those thighs would also help with the end goal.

I’m still sitting on my bed half naked but now I’m laughing. Because how did I get into this awkward space? I am a 27-year-old divorced, single mom who last year was probably in the kitchen with her head in the oven while her husband was wrapping gifts in the next room. And then, 365 days later, she’s planning to spend an evening with wine and a boy six years her junior. Life really spun me on my head throughout the seasons of 2016, but I’m starting to really enjoy where I landed.

December 23, 2016,  9:30pm (ish) 

He showed up. And he was exactly what I had imagined he would be. Actually, he was sweeter.

He was late. While I waited for him to show I thought about what I’d say to him when he came to the door. And then I saw car lights in my driveway and my phone was ringing. It was him.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Do you have a Jeep in your driveway,” he asked.

I sighed, “Yes, about time you got here.”

“Oh, here we go,” he laughed.

I peeked out the front door and saw him through the windshield. My stomach was in knots. I was annoyed at myself for not just leaving and forgetting about him. But here he was, so I made the best of it.

He gave me a hug when he walked through the door saying, "Nice to meet you," in my ear.

I asked him if he wanted anything to drink, grabbing a variety of wines from the top of the fridge. He picked the rosé. "My kind of guy," I thought as I went back into the kitchen to fill up some glasses and internally fight with myself for going against my better judgement.

We got comfortable on the couch, throwing all 900 of my throw pillows onto the floor and watched Harry Potter come alive on the screen. That's when the bickering began. That's when the picking began. Until he softened up.

He teased me about my dress. Because instead of starting out telling me that he thought I looked good, he wanted to act like a child. He thinks this "affects" me, when in reality, I'm just bored by the routine. He liked that it was low cut. That much was obvious.

He teased me about my hair. He teased me about my eyes. He teased me about my tattoos. He teased me about my perfume too. All the while, he was inching closer. I thought it was a bit adorable, how he was going about making his move. His gentle way actually eased me.

One of the blankets in the corner caught his eye, reminding him of a dream he had once of his grandmother. He told me about it. His conversation, caught between the banter, eventually let me warm up to him and that's when some of his sweetness came out.

I loved when he brought up Claire and gushed about how much she looked like me. He thinks our eyes are the same - our big, round eyes. He won points on that one. He commented on my house. Maybe he was nervous and looking for things to talk about or maybe he was actually interested in my life, I'd learn later that neither were quite true.

The first time he kissed me I pushed him away. I wanted him to loosen up more. I wanted him to work for my time since I had given him so many breaks up until this point. He didn't like that I did that though. He wanted me to be easy. But he was never easy, and I wasn't going to be either. I eventually learned that he paid more attention than he liked to let on. He brought up my purple lipstick. "Did he read about that," I wondered.

Then we switched movies. My head was on his shoulder and I felt myself getting more and more comfortable with him; enough that my eyes began to get heavy. I told him that I may fall asleep.

"Do you have a DVD player in your bedroom," he asked.

I laughed, "Real smooth."

"If I was going to make a move I would have done it already," he rebutted.

I'll give him credit though. He was smooth enough to get us back in my bed about half an hour later. I didn't mind though. It's a great bed. He fell in love with it too and I was happy to lay there with him.

He was still getting onto me about every move I made though, whether it was to grab my drink or my eyeglasses so I could see the television clearly. Eventually he threw my bottle of water onto the floor and refused to get it for me when I wanted to take a drink. He was so stubborn but part of the attraction to him was the challenge. Well, until the challenge just wasn't worth it anymore.

When he started to kiss me in bed, I tried to take it all in. He was slower than who I was with previously. My last make out session was the month prior with a secret somebody who was quick and full-on. This guy though, he made you feel and remember every move. I was thinking about the two and started giggling between breaths. And once I giggled the first time I couldn't stop. That's when he pulled away.

I could tell he was annoyed by it. He thought I was laughing at him. He didn't understand my weirdness yet. He didn't understand that I'm a little awkward at first or that my mind is always racing with random thoughts. Those giggles were coming from a place of nervousness. I was also laughing at the situation. I was laughing at myself for even remotely liking someone that was clearly too young to handle everything that comes along with Grace.

But in the moment I didn't care. He felt really good next to me and I was working my way into relaxing. I liked that his hands were a little rough and that he always looks like he's squinting and trying to focus.

Eventually, he was on top of me with his hands in all the right places. I just couldn't get to that point yet. That point where I was loose and ready to unwind. I couldn't for a variety of reasons, with one of them being that this time of the month said that I needed to wait until next week. I wasn't going to tell him that though, instead, I played it off as, "not tonight."

"Why can't two people just have a good time," he asked.

Other lines that followed:

"It's not like you're a whore."

"We've been talking for a long time though."

I silently rolled my eyes at him. Because, he really had no clue why my first reaction was to deny him access. It's not that I didn't like his hands on my body. I just didn't want to get too carried away and then break the news to him that nothing was happening down there for a cringe-worthy reason. Men don't want to hear the words period or tampon in bed, so I wasn't going to scar him. Also, I assumed I'd be seeing him again. I'd have a little more time to for him to get to know this side of me slowly. It's more fun that way.

Kissing me just wasn't good enough for him though. He wanted everything up front. But I'm not just a notch on a bedpost. Actually, in all honesty, I could have been but he had no patience.

"There's only so much making out you can do. We're not in high school," he would go on to say.

Admittedly I found this amusing. I laughed at it a bit and enjoyed the fact that he said things sometimes that he probably shouldn't. I liked that he laid his head back and tried to act like I couldn't make him smile. My first thought was to just stick my hands down his pants but that's after he was pouty so I stopped myself because he didn't deserve it. He was frustrated with me and that was easily felt with the conversations that followed.

He'd tell me that not everything is a puzzle. Or he'd tell me that I was puzzle. Sometimes he'd mention that I liked to play games. All of that was a puzzle to me, I tried to tell him that there's nothing to read between the lines though. I liked him. I was interested in him. My behavior never wavered from that. His frustration with me bubbled over and he playfully pretended to choke me. I know how that sounds, but it was innocent. Although, it may have lasted a few seconds too long. Was that a red flag?

I honestly didn't want to get out of bed with him. I was exhausted from everything. I knew it was time for him to go though and I thought to myself that he needed to come back over, there was more to talk about, more to do and I'd be ready. I'd invite him over the following week, before he left to go back up north. It was good to finally see him.

I left the night, the clock approaching 1 a.m., feeling as though we were on the same page, finally. We were getting to know each other. Nothing was serious and there were no major, life-altering expectations. What I didn't think would happen was that my feelings would get hurt the night of Christmas Eve. I should have expected it though. He lost his consistency weeks prior. And I was wishful thinking when it came to finding the one I had began talking with months ago. He wasn't real.

December 24, 2016

The next morning as I was making my bed, I realized that it still smelled of him. I didn't hate that fact. I even told him so.

But this young kid that me and my friends refer to fondly as "Douche," well he doesn't want Grace anymore. Because Grace is not "a freak," and that's what he wants.

Christmas Eve flew by and I hadn't even gotten a quick hello from him. Instead, I was greeted with a text more than 24 hours later that read:

"I don't think it'll work."

I toyed with the idea of not responding at all. My very first reaction to this was to laugh. I laughed out loud on my couch. I was sitting there in a dark room. Claire was asleep. I was staring at all the presents under the tree. I was resonating in the singleness of the night. I was trying to figure out how to feel this holiday differently. And he just comes out of the blue with his abrasiveness. So I laughed. Because he's a rollercoaster. I never know what I'm getting with him. And then my thought process was as follows: What's not working out? Does he still think I want him to be my boyfriend or something? Is this the same guy I saw last night? Is he joking right now?

I eventually asked him if I even wanted to know what he was talking about. His reply gets a bit funnier:

"Take it as you please. I like a freak."

So, on top of wasting a lot of my time, including a Friday night where I postponed a real date with a real man, he insulted me. Because not only is my time not valuable to him, but with those few words, I wasn't as a person. Care was completely thrown out the window here. Care for my feelings and care for my body was too. Because, let's be real, if I had just given in, his end game would still be to do this, to say something similar and to be done. And unfortunately, this happens to women all of the time. It's happened - it's happening - to my friends right now.

I let him know that I had learned my lesson. He never really wanted to get to know me. His response was that I was wrong.

"You just like playing games," he said.

I also found this highly entertaining and quite perplexing. I know I can be a tease to some. I had never been with him though. Maybe my words really can be confusing. But then, then he told me to stop replying. And, I'm stubborn. I am far too stubborn. I didn't reply directly. Instead, I've responded in the only way I know how. I've used this all as inspiration. Sadly, he really is a great source of inspiration and I still kind of like the asshole. My rule is that I don't write until it's over. And since it's over, here it is, my insecurities and bad decisions and vulnerability are left blowing in the wind.

Stay away from the tall one. He's got a silly, sexy little smirk on his face and he'll wear you down a bit. He's unfortunately not worth the trouble because his immaturity eventually leaves him hanging out to dry and his true form is revealed. In the words of my bestest of male pals, he's just a kid trying to get his dick wet.
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