[about the author]
i actually like speaking in front of large crowds. freakish,
i work crossword puzzles in ink.
i am the american nigella lawson. or maybe the american eddie
izzard. can't decide, really.
i would be a really good mom, but i'm cool with being a really
i am sometimes more perceptive than i would like to be.
i am fiercely loyal. sometimes, stupidly so.
i never play dumb. never.
i am way too hard on myself.
i am a change agent.
i sometimes cross that fine line between assertive and aggressive.
i am not afraid to tell people that i love them.
i am militantly pro-choice.
i am pro-adoption.
i know a little bit about alot of things.
i typically enjoy the company of men more than women.
i am capable of being really mean and nasty, but i fight it.
i am a lifelong cubs fan. do not laugh.
i have been known to hold a grudge.
i have hips.
i am not my sister.
i am lousy at forgiving myself.
i am an indoor kind of gal.
i am a bargain shopper. to the point of obsession.
i am 32 flavors. and then some.
she was exhausted.
just a quick stop to pick up some apple juice for her niece. in and out.
as she turned off the car, she thought about how little her hometown had changed. she didn’t know what she expected. a starbucks, maybe. or even a building that was more than four stories high. but, it never changed.
apple juice. check.
she decided to pick up just a few more things. she was already here, after all.
staring at chicken. legs. breasts. boneless. skinless. can’t focus. can’t decide. don’t care.
she turned around. it took a minute.
his hair was shorter now. his glasses hipper. but his smile was all she needed to see. his smile was exactly the same.
it was her first love.
“oh my god. how are you?”
whenever you run into someone from the past, there’s an initial moment of surprise. then, usually, a moment of happiness and pleasantries are exchanged. but then...well, in her mind at least, the tape starts to run. as you’re asking “what have you been up to for the past fifteen years?” you’re reviewing that tape in your mind. the tape of your history. recalling the first time he sent you flowers. that time you threw a drink in his face. the night you got caught making out behind the presbyterian church.
the first time you caught him cheating on you.
and how he looked you right in the eye and lied to you about it.
and how you believed it. but not really.
and how you caught him again.
and how you were sure you actually felt your heart break.
and how a strong, smart girl like you gave away your dignity along with your heart and kept forgiving him. even going so far as to believe it was your fault.
until, finally, you were all gone. didn’t recognize yourself anymore. didn’t even like yourself anymore. and how you tried to rescue yourself by eventually ending it. but not before the pattern was established.
in the back of her mind, as he’s telling her about his successful law practice, she’s wondering if he has any idea. if he knows how that first taste of love and heartbreak and deceit stayed with her for years. imprinted her psyche. made it easier to believe she deserved nothing more. that she wasn’t worthy of more. not pretty enough, maybe. not good enough, obviously.
as he talks about the friends he stills sees from their high school years, she wonders if he knows how much she cried.
how long it took her to work up the courage to try again.
they’re standing together at the self-checkout now (aha! small change has indeed come to her hometown.).
“so, are you married?” he asks.
“oh, i tried that once. a long time ago. it didn’t go so well. how about you?”
“got divorced about two years ago. didn’t go so well for me, either.”
“think you’ll try again?” he asks her as he scans his healthy choice pizza breads.
“thought i might. thought i was going to, actually. but...i was wrong. couldn’t have been more wrong. got it all wrong.”
he stopped and stared at her.
“sorry, it’s still a bit fresh, that one.”
“sorry i asked.”
they stood beside her sister’s car in the parking lot. it was getting colder, and the first few drops of rain had begun to fall.
“you know, this will sound strange, but i remember the first time i ever saw you. i guess i was about nine. i thought you were the most beautiful girl i’d ever seen. i told my best friend, ‘that girl is my true love.’ what the hell does a nine year-old know about true love, right?”
“sometimes i wonder what a 33 year-old knows about true love.”
“i guess i just wanted to say...i mean...i’ve had a long time to think about things. my ex-wife...she cheated on me. and i thought i would die. i didn’t think i would survive. loving someone that way, trusting them that way, and then to have them betray you. to show you so clearly that they don’t care about you. i know it sounds crazy, but all i could think about was you. and the way i treated you. and the way it must have made you feel.”
she was staring at the kroger bag in her hand. counting the raindrops as they hit the pavement. one. two.
“i guess what i want to say is that i’m sorry, jules. i’m so so sorry.”
they had been kids then. but it had been true love. she had put it all behind her, moved on. loved and lost again. had her heart broken again. even given herself away again to yet another boy who told her lies. she had grieved it all so long ago.
but now, to hear him say it, it all came back.
her eyes stung, and her throat tightened.
“yeah...i just..you know, i just have a lot going on right now. my dad. and i’m basically going to be homeless in about three weeks, and i just lost my best friend and i really needed him more than ever, and he just dumped me, and i asked him not to, but he did, and it’s all just...you know, i just needed to get some apple juice.”
“i’m sorry, maybe it was the wrong thing to say. or the wrong time. it’s just that i’ve wanted to tell you for so long.”
“no, it’s good. i appreciate it. i mean, i thought it was all just water under the bridge, but, i guess i just didn’t know how much i needed to hear you say it until you said it. and...um...i don’t know. just...thanks.”
the next night, he walked into her father’s hospital room.
“no way,” her sister said.
“i hope i’m not intruding, i just wanted to drop off a few things.”
she went out into the hallway with him.
“when my mom heard about your dad, she wanted me to bring some flowers up, and i also brought some stuff to eat. hospital cafeteria food is even worse than hospital food. i hope you don’t mind.”
“no, it’s really thoughtful. i think it just caught my sister off guard. you know, we just, um, haven’t seen you for a long time.”
“i’m not going to stay.”
“i’ll walk you out.”
they walked quietly out the front doors.
“i wanted to give you my card. if you need anything. i don’t know what, but just anything. i was thinking, i mean, i know you’re busy, but maybe we could get some dinner this week. i’d very much like to take you to dinner.”
he put the card in her hand.
“don’t say no right now. just take the card and think about it. i’m just wondering if maybe there isn’t a reason that we ran into each other. i hope you’ll call.”
as she watched him walk out, she sat down on a bench and pulled out her cell phone. she called her girlfriend and told her what had happened.
“it’s like that sandra bullock movie. you know, the one with harry connick, jr. looking all hot in that cowboy hat.”
“yeah, that one. maybe he really is your true love.”
she ran her fingers over the engraved letters on his card.
“how did it end in the movie? i don't remember.”
“it’s a movie. of course it had a happy ending.”
“yeah, of course. i’ll talk to you later, okay?”
“day or night, whatever you need. so...think you’ll call him? think he’s changed?”
“think i have?”
she sat outside for a few minutes longer, tracing the letters on the card. she thought about forgiveness. she thought about second chances. she thought about true love.
she thought about how easily he had hurt her and how easy it had been for her to let him. how willing she had been to give herself away.
she thought about how she had spent the last six years with the same boy...only he had a different name.
she dropped the card into the trash can on her way back inside.
“nothing changes,” she said.
in her heart, she was scared she was wrong. but even more scared that she wasn’t.
note: my father is having surgery to clear his carotid arteries over the next two days. the surgery is necessary to restore normal blood flow to his brain, which is currently receiving only 15% of what it should be. the 48 hours following the surgery are a high-risk time for him to suffer another stroke, but we are optimistic that all will go well. again, many thanks to all of you who have read, commented and emailed. you've been a great comfort. writing today's post was very helpful, too, and i hope to get back into the swing of regular posting within a couple of days.
i had a few inquiries as to whether or not my post about norman was fiction. this isn't the first time i've had inquiries about whether a story i've posted on this site is true. and, although the stories here are all true, or at least solidly rooted in truth, i don't mind when folks think it's fiction. recently, this page received a mention in the arts & entertainment column of the philadelphia weekly, referring to the stories here as "literary nonfiction." i like that, and i like to think it's pretty accurate. i don't always get the dialog verbatim, and some events might be blended together, but they're all based on my very real, very wacky, very difficult-at-times life. maybe my writing is just my life with the rough edges smoothed a bit. of course, the columnist also went on to say that "you're never really sure if the stories are true or not." so, there you go.
at any rate, i feel compelled to clarify that norman, and our afternoon together, were very real. perhaps my story about norman seemed a bit "too good to be true," as some speculated, because that particular post got a little more editing and a little more polishing than most of my posts do. i don't think i've ever explained that what i post here is pretty much all first draft stuff. no real editing. no substantive rewriting. [ed. note: although i've rewritten the hell out of this damn note] i just tell stories. and i wanted to share norman's story with you. but, i wanted to be sure that i did right by him in telling it. so, i tried to take my time and write that one instead of just telling it, if that makes any sense to you. normally, i just let folks wonder about whether or not these little stories are true. but, i felt like it would be disrespectful to norman to let this one go unclarified. so, for the record: it was true.
thanks for reading....
| [tell me about it] | [link to this entry]