Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I Could Have Died

If this is how it ends, I thought to myself as my heart thumped harder and faster inside my chest.
If this is where it ends, then let's go. I'm ready.

We drove to Connecticut on Saturday morning.  Made our usual stop at Dunkin' Donuts - a box of Munchkins for the ride, an egg wrap for each of us, and an iced coffee for me.

By the time we got to Mom's, my knees ached. It happens. I'm out of shape. When my legs ache, my body weakens. I get tired. Sometimes I nap. But I wanted to visit with the family. I didn't want to nap. 

Mom always keeps a few Rockstars in the fridge. Not my favorite energy drink but they'll do. I cracked one open. We talked. I told Mom my knees hurt. She gave me a pill. I took it.

My knees stopped aching.

My sister heard of an Autumn festival she thought we'd enjoy called "Pumpkins on the Pier." We followed her there. It was extremely crowded. There was nowhere to park. 

We went to another place. A small farm I've passed a thousand times. We picked pumpkins.

I started to feel dizzy. Is it the sun? Have I eaten enough?

When we got back home I told my family I felt dizzy. By then my heart was beating, hard and fast. Like the first time I drank an energy drink - before my 'must-pass' Algebra final.

D surmised it was the Rockstar - or the painkiller my mom gave me. Or both. She remembered I had an iced coffee (Mom didn't know that) and then a Rockstar. And then a pain pill - which turned out to be Tramadol

Mom felt terrible - she had given my nephews the same pills when they had body aches, but not with that much caffeine. The more they talked about it, the more my heart raced. 

I went upstairs to lie down. It's okay, I thought. I'll sleep it off.

I woke up an hour or two later. Felt fine for a moment.. then my heartbeat quickened again. 

Something's wrong. It's not going away. 

I skipped dinner. Had to go to bed again. Had to sleep this off. 

D looked up the side effects on her phone. I began to wonder - could I die from this?

As I tried to calm myself for my second nap I realized that I was in my childhood home, in my first bedroom, surrounded by the only people who love me. 

I thought of how insignificant and frustrating my life has been. I'm closing in on 40 years old, still working part-time with no benefits. Still unable to find a job that sufficiently supports my family. Still unable to convince them to clean up their mess downstairs.

I thought of the mass shooting epidemic, the severity of natural disasters, the lack of empathy humans (especially Americans) have for each other, and the fact that our leaders are unable or unwilling to change any of this. 

I thought of all that I have to look forward to - my mother's death, my aunt's death, my personal information being stolen by some hacker, my mother-in-law's death, diabetes, dental surgery, prostate exams, someone I know being killed in a terrorist attack and/or mass shooting, my daughters being bullied either on social media or in real life (probably both), my sister's death, my wife's death, and so on.

I thought of the things I was unable to do last weekend alone - couldn't go see Taryn Southern or John Green, or go on a lighthouse tour for Mom's birthday. Couldn't even go to a stinkin' sports card store. What good is living if you can't do things that bring you joy? 

I thought of all of that... and then as my heart thumped harder and faster inside my chest, I thought If this is how it ends, If this is where it ends, then let's go. I'm ready. 


I fell asleep.

I woke up.

One more thing I couldn't do.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Taryn is here!

Well, not here obviously. No one comes to New Jersey. But according to the description info on her latest YouTube video...

..she will be in Staten Island, NY tomorrow
Upcoming Panels/Performances:
Future of Storytelling - 10/7 - Staten Island, NY
Ethereal Summit - 10/27 - San Francisco, CA
Web Submit - 11/8 - Lisbon, Portugal

Staten Island is about 20 minutes from me. My college crush dated a guy from Staten Island; that's how close it is. I could absolutely get there to see Taryn talk.

Except...she's not listed as a speaker

Also, it might have already happened:

If only there was some way to find out about such things. I just flipped through her Twitter feed, her Instagram, and her Facebook page. Didn't see any indication she'd be in NYC until she was there.

This Wednesday was 10/4, not 10/7...WTF, TS? 

I shouldn't complain. It's not like I could have actually convinced wifey to let me attend a Taryn talk. 

I'd be all like:

And D would be like:

I'd have better luck trying to see Fall Out Boy or John (and Hank) Green. But I wouldn't fit in with those crowds. And all the Vlogbrothers shows are sold out anyway.

If only there was some way to find out about such things.

But it's not like I could have gone to that, either. New York City, on a Tuesday night? I've got work in the morning. My kids have school.

Hold the phone... this Monday is a holiday! I can totally go to that! Hey D, can we go to that?

I shouldn't blame her, though. It's my own fault for not knowing these things ahead of time. And also for planning to visit my mother this weekend because I didn't get to see her for her birthday last weekend. Why didn't I get to see her last weekend?

Ah, life is wonderful. 


Wednesday, October 4, 2017


Lately I've become entangled in my own thought patterns.

I constantly feel lonely, like I wish I had more friends or a more loving and supportive partner. But what do I do to deserve such things? I avoid social situations, I criticize most of my family, and I often complain that I don't have enough time to myself. I'm more comfortable when I'm left alone, but when I'm left alone I often feel guilty.

I alternate between envying people who are fit and healthy, convincing myself I'll never have the time or money or freedom to address my health issues, blowing my meager budget on unhealthy food and drinks, convincing myself it's the only enjoyment I'll ever have in life (and why would I want to live longer anyway?), and losing sleep over the whole damn cycle.

The state of the world sickens me, yet I watch more news than sports because it's somehow more frustrating for me to watch the Yankees win a playoff game than it is to watch Donald Trump do Donald Trump things.

Jeez, Donald. Have you ever been right about anything?

I complain that my daughter watches too many YouTube videos, yet I spend at least an hour each day watching my favorite left-leaning comedians, satirists, and news anchors. I'm well aware of how divided we are as a nation, how we stubbornly stay on our side with our own people, like 5th graders at a school dance. We don't dare meet in the middle.

I noticed a YouTube recommended video from Fox News of a focus group's reaction to Michelle Obama's reaction to.. something. The "liberal media" hadn't mentioned anything about Michelle - they're too busy reporting on Las Vegas and Puerto Rico. So, in the interest of fairness, I thought I'd cross over and see if their outrage was legit. 

I still don't know what the participants thought of Mrs. Obama's actual words because the comments on the video were so disgusting that I closed out of it. I was expecting some politically-charged critique of the Obama presidency, or some remarks about how liberals are such snowflakes and/or hypocrites - and I would have preferred that to the shit I saw. 

The only rebuttal they offered was that Michelle Obama is ugly. I disagree. But if someone had said "Michelle Obama is ugly" I would have dismissed it, perhaps even laughed them off. But the way in which they expressed this sentiment was by calling her "Moo-chelle" or "Michael" ..because I guess she looks manly to them? Then they implied that Barack is gay because he's attracted to "manly" Michelle. One (or more) viewers compared her to a gorilla.

And I know it's the internet, and far worse has been said about the Obamas.. but one of them actually thought that Melania was a much better first lady than Michelle. Based on what?

Oh right, because physical appearance is the only measure of a woman's worth. What is wrong with you people?

You people. I hate that phrase, about as much as "This is what they do." It implies that we all have to be perfect, because if one of us says or does something stupid then that one person represents all of us. (This must be what it's like to be a minority.)

I should know. I've done and said some stupid things. Hell, I've made similar comments back when I was less enlightened. One night we were playing Trivial Pursuit with my bf and his gf. One of the questions was something like "Which American woman won the US Open tennis tournament in 2003?"

I assumed it was Venus Williams. I could have said "Venus Williams." But instead I said "Penis Williams." Bran's girlfriend was rolling on the floor laughing. I was proud of myself for being so clever. Ha ha ha funny joke. I'm not racist. The Williams sisters are racist. I never heard Earl Woods tell Tiger to "beat all the white guys." 

But my dislike of the Williams sisters was based on two things - their inability to be humble in defeat, and my fandom for their rival Maria Sharapova. And honestly I only liked her because she's tall and blonde. She isn't exactly a sweetheart, either.

Since then Serena Williams married a white man (so how can she be racist?) had a funny cameo in the movie Pixels, and broke the most important record in women's tennis. Meanwhile Maria got busted for using Meldonium - a performance-enhancing drug that clearly didn't enhance her performance 'cause she still can't beat Serena. Now I'm indifferent to all of them.

Sharapova isn't the only female athlete I've liked who has done something stupid. (Get your shit together, Alex.) I've claimed to support women in sports but I don't actually follow women's sports. I watched the entire 10-episode run of Pitch but I've never watched more than a minute of Alex Morgan on the pitch. So... does that mean I only like watching fictional female athletes?

I'm not sure where I'm going with all of this. It's all mind clutter that came to me this morning, when I was trying to escape from the depressing images I've seen on TV and the vitriolic comments I've seen online. 

When I need a break from all the depressing news and the equally depressing way in which we react to the news, I retreat to my "safe space". I check in with the Vlogbrothers or I see what Taryn Southern is up to. But even though I claim to be a Taryn fan I'm actually shying away from her social media posts at the moment. Although her last video was quite identifiable for me...

..her daily life is definitely not. And I don't want to see something that might alter my perception of her until Corky completes his project (that sentence will make sense in a week or two.)

And so I decided to go somewhere I hadn't been in a very long time, and check in with someone who has always brought me Joy. She used to be very active on social media but over the past year or so she's pretty much narrowed that down to Instagram posts and an occasional YouTube vid. Her last one was posted about 4 months ago and didn't get a lot of views or likes, and it would not surprise me at all if she didn't do another one.

But I already saw that video. I noticed one from January that I had missed somehow and watched that one. It had fewer views than her latest and it looked dreary. She was in her car on what appeared to be a rainy morning, and she spoke of how she gets depressed for no apparent reason.

And she looked pale. Maybe a little on the sickly side. But I wasn't alarmed; I've seen her without makeup and I know of her health issues. She has her good days and her bad days. This was one of her bad days. And some asshole let her know it.

This girl looks fucking horrendous. She looks like absolute shit.

Why thank you, I feel that way too. Glad my insides properly show off on my outside

why? why would you ever need to say that? First off, I think she looks really great. Truly, right before I read your comment I was thinking how beautiful she is and how her spirit gives off such gentleness and kindness. Clearly your comment is full of untruth, but even if it was true - what does stating that stuff do? I'm so frustrated and annoyed that people like you go around and poison people with your words. ugh, words carry so much power.

Don't I know it. I once used my words to hurt this girl. And I hate that I did it. I hate that I couldn't build some kind of online friendship with her, because I obviously care about her.

And yet... how did I "meet" this girl in the first place? If this video had been the first thing I had seen of hers, would I have watched it? Would I have cared? Probably not. I definitely would not have commented on how "horrendous" she looked. But I doubt I would have pressed 'play' if this had been my introduction to Joy. 

The truth is, the first video I saw of her was from one of her good days. When she was at peak fitness and peak cuteness. When YouTube recommend saw what else I had been watching and said "If you like those hot girls, you'll love this hot girl." And I did. Even when she wasn't "hot." Does that somehow justify my interest in her? The fact that I'm still checking in with her four years later - does that make me less of a jerk, or more of a jerk?

How do I reconcile all of these paradoxical sides of myself? I want to be above certain behaviors and habits, but I'm not. I want to be active and social and worthwhile, but I'm not. I want to avoid judging people and labeling people and criticizing people, but I can't. 

I know my neuroses are going to infiltrate my children. And I don't know how to stop that.


Monday, September 11, 2017

I Survived a Wedding (barely)

If you read the short story in my previous post, I truly appreciate it and I hope you enjoyed it. If not, you can read it here. :-)

To tell you the truth, I never planned on releasing that story. But with D's friend's wedding fast approaching I needed to give myself a pleasant distraction - and the tale of two girls, a guy, and a dream home seemed to work well. I felt great Friday, when I completed and published it. And Saturday, the day of the wedding, I was still in my story world. 

That morning I started getting nervous about going to L's wedding. The weather was perfect, and so I planned to take a walk down the street, buy a 20 oz bottle of Mountain Dew, and take my story (and my soda) to the park for a bit. But when I reached the intersection, I called an audible. Burger King.

I'd seen the commercial for the Rodeo King burger and I knew I wanted one. I also knew that D would not take us to BK, because I had mentioned our coupons four times and couldn't convince her. "I have more coupons." she said. I even used my daughter's sudden interest in BK to guilt my wife into taking us. "Pop used to take them every week, and I think she misses it." D understood... but still didn't budge. 

Fuck it, I thought as I stood at the intersection. I'm doing something for myself. And apparently Pop approved of my decision, because on my way to BK I found a golf ball with SpongeBob on it. Two things he loved. 

I got my burger, but I had ordered the full meal - including fries and a drink. I was neither charged for nor given these, and so I went to the store and the park, as planned. I re-read my story, sipped my soda, and enjoyed the beautiful weather.. for about five minutes. 

The wedding was nigh.

Generic product pic because I don't have a smart phone (source)

We were supposed to drive to a hotel (where some of the wedding guests were staying) to pick up a shuttle to the wedding, which was at someone's house. Apparently L was not too clear on what the shuttle would be, or where it would wait for us. As we pulled in, there was a limousine circling the back of the hotel - and leaving. That was for the wedding guests. We didn't know that, and we missed it by about 30 seconds anyway. So we waited in the car. 

I had been listening to Fall Out Boy for the whole ride, so I was surprisingly calm. Watching the limo drive away and hearing D's uncertainty was actually a relief; it bought me time. Maybe we wont be able to get to the wedding. Maybe we'll have to turn back and go home. Wishful thinking, of course.

There was a group of about 8-10 people standing outside the hotel, and two more inside the lobby. Rather than assuming they were part of the wedding party and immediately joining them, we waited for about 15 minutes before getting out of the car. D didn't recognize any of these people; most of them were with the groom. In fact, she didn't know that many people at the wedding - other than her own sister, the bride, and the bride's twin sister (who looks 10 years younger than all of them). There were maybe three or four others she hadn't seen in decades, and in a whirlwind I was introduced to all of them. No time to settle in or survey the landscape. No time to think. 

This is what it's like to have social anxiety - finding comfort in having D's sister Jen (who I don't really like) and her husband Ant around because they're the only people I know besides the bride. Meeting the bride's twin sister and shaking her hand before she decided to pull me in for an awkward one-armed hug. Being spotted by the bride, standing idly by as the besties embrace, then having to quick-decide if I should kiss L on the cheek or just give her a hug (I chose hug only.) Then, congratulating L before quickly realizing she's not married yet, you dumbass. It got slightly better, when I met their chatty college friend Hillary, who lives in California. For a second I had something to say because two of my best friends have moved to California and left me here to die

I still don't know whose house we were at, but their backyard was incredible. (The inside of their house was kinda meh.) There was a large underground pool - which someone was bound to fall into, because the bar was set up nearby. There was a fire pit, and a pond with a circular brick ledge that would be my best friend for most of the night. 

It didn't quite look like this, but close enough (source)

The "dance floor" was a small brick patio area in front of the food tent, and inside the tent hour's devouers  h'our deserves  appetizers were stationed at the front, and buffet lines were set up at the back, with all of the tables in between. Hillary followed us from the pool area to the appetizer bar, where I loaded up on teriyaki meatballs. "I have a feeling I'm going to be doing a lot of eating today." She said to us. I agreed. You're planning to constantly shovel food in your mouth to avoid talking to people you've never met, too? Hooray for anxiety eating!

D and I stood by the pond with Jen and Ant. I began frequently checking my watch, when I realized that a) there's five incredibly long hours to go, and b) I've got teriyaki sauce on my shirt sleeve. That didn't take long. Jen and Ant were holding blue drinks, and Ant wanted another one. He offered to get D one, and before I knew what was happening I had somehow been convinced to tag along.

I do not drink. I do not order drinks. I don't even know if it's an open bar. But there I was, standing in line with Ant, talking about football, without any clue why I was there.

He orders two drinks. The bartender serves 'em up. He takes them both. I offer to take one off his hands. "No dude, I think you gotta get one for your wife."

Um...no, dude. You were getting one for my wife, remember?

Apparently I had not heard Jen ask for another drink. No one told me I had to order a damn thing. And it didn't help that Ant mentioned slipping the bartender a $20. Do I have to pay for this, or not? I don't have any money.

I looked so lost that the bartender (a female, thankfully) said to me. "You don't have to apologize for drinking." I mumbled something about not being prepared, sheepishly took my wife's drink, and snuck the fuck out of there. When I got back to my family I was even more enraged -- D already had a drink in her hand. What the fuck did I just do that for?

Night ruined. And it's only 5:30!

When I discussed this with D she tried to calm me down. "It's no big deal, don't worry." I tried to let it go, for her. I didn't want to ruin her night. 

The ceremony started soon after. There were white chairs lined up on one side of the pool, and the wedding party took the place on the opposite side. D wanted me to save two seats for Jen and Ant, but we couldn't grab their attention in time. I put my drink on one, but Hillary claimed the other. Didn't bother me one bit. To hell with Jen and Ant.

Both the vows and the toast/speeches later in the evening were lovely and emotional. It was pretty obvious that the groom is a great guy - generous, adventurous, and beloved by those who know him well. I had met him twice before, years ago, and he seemed shy. In fact, I had forgotten what he looked like and probably would not have recognized him if he wasn't, you know, the groom.

When I wasn't eating or checking my watch or obsessing over awkward social situations, I was observing. As with any wedding, the bride was far too busy for chit-chat, and I didn't feel comfortable talking to anyone else. Not even my in-laws. 

Here's another reason why I dread attending such social events - the odds are far too great that there will be attractive women in attendance. Early on I had noticed a short, dark-haired woman who was very tan and fit (I would have assumed she was the one from California) I nicknamed her 'Designer Shades' because she wore these dark sunglasses and looked all fashionable. But she wasn't my type. Too over the top. I need at least a whiff of approachability.

There was an abundance of tall blondes there; it seemed like everyone was at least 5' 8", heels or not (which made Designer Shades appear even shorter) but out of the dozen or so decent looking women, one stood out: Red Pony Tail. I have no idea who she was, or who she was there for... but she was the sort of woman that appears more attractive every time you see her. I'm a sucker for redheads, especially slender redheads with long, toned legs.

An hour later I was intentionally avoiding her, for two reasons. The simplest to explain is that she was there with her husband, who was not particularly attractive or built (though I'm not exactly the best judge of dudes) but he was tall. Like 6' 4" at least. And he was all over her because duh. The second reason is because I've become so used to wallowing in my own self-pity that seeing someone (or something) that is so obviously out of my reach reminds me that I failed at life and compounds my depression (I call this The Taryn Principle.)

This led me to sulk even more than I already was. I wanted to do nothing but sit on the ledge of that pond and stare at the ground, looking around only to track where Red Pony Tail was so that I knew where not to look. Unfortunately she seemed to be right behind my wife for most of the night. Get your pretty face and perfect body away from me. I'm trying not to hate myself over here.
It was unseasonably cool all day, but it got even colder at night - and D was not at all prepared. She wore a sleeveless dress and no jacket. I decided against wearing a jacket, but I had a long sleeved dress shirt and didn't mind being cold. Of course, Ant came prepared. He wore a jacket and offered it to Jen, but she wasn't cold. And so he offered it to D.

Meanwhile, Red Pony Tail and Tall Guy were cuddling by the fire pit. He had his arms all the way around her waist and she leaned back into him like I see in my dreams.

#relationshipgoals (source)

I stared into the crackling embers as the intro of that Fall Out Boy song echoed in my head:

Until your breathing stops, stops, stops... until your breathing stops, stops, stops... forever.

Whatever husband points I had earned by actually attending this affair had been obliterated. You are not a man. You're a lemon. A clunker. You're an old, beat up POS that barely runs and is way more trouble than it's worth. You belong in a scrap yard. You're nothing. You're garbage. Seagulls wouldn't even bother to shit on you.

This is not the first time I've seen an attractive woman and realized I could never be her man, but damn. My wife was wearing another man's jacket. I was already having panic attacks about coming to the wedding, and then when the DJ announced that he wanted all the happily married couples out on the dance floor I had another panic attack. What is happening? Am I going to have to dance? Oh shit, I can't dance. I can't even order a drink!

I tried to read D's mind, while catching a glimpse of Tall Guy dutifully leading Red Pony Tail out onto the dance floor (because duh.) Are we doing this? Do you want to? Do I have to? We did not move or speak - until the bride made a beeline for D and said "Come on, happily married couples. Let's go!" Um..you said 'happily'? Can we be dismissed on a technicality? "Not until I hear the song first." D replied. Yes! That's why I married you.

It ended up being some old 50's dirge which is meant to show how long every couple has been married. Anyone married five years or less gets dismissed first, then ten, then twenty, and so on until the oldest couple is left alone and gets a round of applause. We would have been out there for thirty seconds, tops. Wasn't worth it.

D stood by the fire for at least an hour, while i was going back and forth between the pond ledge and the fire pit. Didn't want to leave my wife, but didn't want to get burned by the hot red things, either. At about 9:30pm coffee and desserts were served (no wedding cake, but there were lots of delicious cupcakes and cookies.)

The shuttle was scheduled to arrive at 10pm, and return at 10:30pm for the last trip out. I knew D wanted to spend a little more time with the bride, so we stayed.They talked and danced for a minute and I gave her another hug (and a cheek kiss this time.) The DJ was packing up his stuff, but once the wedding was over he actually played a good song D and I couldn't figure out if it was Paramore or not because it was a really good rock/pop-punk song, and I stopped listening to them because they stopped sounding like that.

I finally saw the groom, and congratulated him. Even though I'd only met him twice before I gave him a hug because why not, everyone's toasted at this point anyway. He said "we should do game nights" or something and I agreed. Because I wouldn't mind doing that I knew we never would. (D told me later that she knew he was drunk when he said that.) 

At about 10:20pm we said goodbye to the bride and groom. But the awkwardness was not over for me. D wanted to say goodbye to the bride's twin sister, who she hadn't seen in forever (apparently she lives in Kansas). Recalling my awkward encounter, I stood by the pool and did not follow D. Nope, no more. I am done.

And so, finally, we left. But on our way out we noticed a lemonade table. Hadn't seen that on our way in, and I was thirsty. So I took a plastic cup, filled it with some yellow sugar water, and took it with me to the front of the house, where we stood waiting for the shuttle. I finished my cup and put it down on a ledge. Immediately, some guy in front of me said (without turning to face me) "Is there a trash can anywhere?"

At this point I ran out of fucks to give. I replied (while facing my wife) "I wasn't gonna leave it there. I put it down for a second so I could put my hands in my pockets because I'm cold." Half of your crew are drunk off their ass, and you're worried about whether or not I'm going to pick up that cup? 

Ugh. I am so glad that's over. I really don't want to think about any of it ever again. Not even Red Pony Tail.

Okay...maybe Red Pony Tail.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Short Story

In an attempt to live up to this blog's name, I've been tinkering with writing a short story based on a scene I've teased in a previous blog entry. I thought I'd share what I have so far. Comments/critiques are most welcome. Enjoy...

Mom sits across the kitchen counter from me, chewing a bite of the spinach and tomato omelet I made.

I place my palms on the marble granite counter top. "What should I do?"

"Do you love her?"

"Of course I love her."

"Then sell the house." She says, with a mouth full of food.

I glance over Mom's shoulder at the open dining room, where we have game nights and Thanksgiving dinners. I peek out the window, onto the deck that leads to an expansive backyard - and the garden where I grew that tomato.

"This house? My dream home, that I built. Just...sell it?"

"If you're serious about her."

"Why does it have to be me, though?" I sip from my coffee mug. "I asked her to move in with me, and she said 'no'. Then she reflexively asked me to move in with her – on her way out of the country – and I’m the one that’s not serious?”

Mom finishes her omelet. I reach for her plate, but she waves me away and washes it in the sink.

“I don’t know about you, Josh.” Mom says, meticulously scrubbing away all traces of her food. “You keep saying you want to settle down, get married, give me some grandkids—“

“It’s always about you, isn’t it, Ma?” I nudge her.

“No, it’s not about me.” She grabs my plate and washes it. “It’s about your fear of commitment.”

“I don’t fear commitment. I welcome commitment. I’ve wanted to settle down—"

Mom turns to me. "Is that why you broke up with Katie?"

“Katie? What does she have to do with this?”

"You tell me."

I consider that as I finish my coffee. "Katie and I weren't built to last. I could sense it. That didn't make it any easier, but at least I got to write the ending."

"And were you satisfied with that ending?"

"Yes. Definitely. Of course."

"Then why don't you want to sell the house?"

I'm not the kind of person who gives up on dreams. Call me stubborn, but if you tell me I can't do something, or can't have something, it only makes me want it more. I didn't become a best-selling author by giving up. I didn't build my dream home by backing down. And I didn't win the heart of the most beautiful and funny and intelligent girl I could imagine by being a coward.

"I didn't build this house to sell it. I built it to live in it."

"—with Katie."

"Yeah, well... now I want to live in it with Erin."

I enter the living room, where we have Super Bowl parties and Netflix nights. Mom is seated on the sofa, across from the leather recliner she bought me as a housewarming gift.

"Do you think Jason or Jared would want to live here?"

Mom laughs. "They can't afford this place. Jason just got laid off, and Jared's still in college."

"I could rent it to them. Cheap. I don't care about the money, I just don't want to lose my house to some stranger."

“You can’t always have everything you want, Josh.” Mom says to me. “Sometimes you have to make a choice.”


The wheels of my rolling bag bump-bump against the tile floor of the airport terminal. Bump-bump. Bump-bump.

"I can't." I say into the phone. "I'm going hiking with Josh on Saturday."

I don't hear the bump-bump anymore. All I hear is Carrie's audible gasp. “Are you serious?” She shrieks.

“Re-lax. It’ll be fine.”

“Okay. None of my business, sister. ”

She’s not going to let me off that easily. I can tell. “What?”

“Nothing! I’m not saying another word.”

I don't have time for this. I'm already running late. “Just say it.” I grunt, heaving my bag onto the baggage carousel.

“I thought you were over him.”

“I am.” I say to Carrie. “We’re just friends.”

“You just got through telling me how hard it was to squeeze me, your lifelong bestie, into your ca-ray-zee schedule... and you somehow managed to make time for him?”

Crap. She got me. How do I explain this so that it sounds innocent?

“I…want to see the house one more time.” Oh, that won’t do. She’s gonna need a better explanation. “He might sell it.”

“Yeah, so what---wait. The house he built when you guys were together?”


“Didn’t you move in with him for a while?”

“Uh-huh. Until he dumped me.”

“And you have fond memories of that place?”

Note to self: don’t discuss complicated ex-boyfriend drama while attempting to catch a flight.

“Yes and no.” I approach the security checkpoint. “I gotta put you down." I tell Carrie. “Hold on.”

“Ugh, fine. Wait, why would …”

I drop my phone into the bucket. The TSA agent waves his wand across my body, and then waves me through. I’m reunited with my phone.

“Why would what?”

“Why would he sell his house, if he just built it like two years ago?”

“Erin asked him to move to L.A. with her.”

Boarding for my flight has started, and I’m not even at the gate yet. I unzip my carry-on bag and find my ticket. 

“He’s moving to L.A.?”

“I don’t know! That’s what he wanted to talk to me about.”

Carrie cackles. “So, okay, recap: your ex-boyfriend’s celebrity girlfriend—“

“—sort-of celebrity”

“Sort-of celebrity girlfriend asked him to move in with her, in Los Angeles. And he hasn’t said yes yet?”

Huh. Come to think of it, that does sound peculiar. “I really can’t talk about this right now, Care. I gotta catch my flight.”

“And he called you to talk about it?”

I’m so going to miss my flight.

“Holy cat, he’s still in love with you.”

I wish I had time to tell her just how ridiculous that sounds. “What? No way!”

“Uh, yes way! And I’ll bet your butt that he tells you exactly that, when you see him.”

“He will not.” I scoff as I power-walk to the gate. “Have you seen Erin? She’s frickin’ gorgeous.”

“Oh, and you’re not? Pssh. You’re way prettier than her.”

“Care, I love you for saying that, but you’re wrong. And I gotta go.”

“I’m right, and you know it.”

I approach the gate and present my ticket. “We’ll talk about it when I get there, kay?” I say to Carrie.

I take a deep breath and slowly step onto the plane, relaxing my shoulders.

“What are you going to tell him?”

And just like that, relaxing time is over. “What do you mean?” I lower my voice, as I scan the plane for an available window seat.

“When he tells you that the reason he hasn’t already decided to move to La-La land is because he’s still in love with you and he wants you back.”

I freeze at the thought – and a well-dressed older gentleman with salt-and-pepper hair yields his seat. I crane my neck, balancing the phone so I can jam my carry-on into the overhead compartment. Then I squeeze by the gentleman and take the window seat.

If he says that –and he won’t. But if he does, I’ll tell him that he should just move in with Erin because I am over him. Period. Full stop.”

“That’s my girl!”

“I really gotta go. I’m on the plane, and we’re about to take off. See you in a few hours.”

“Yay! See you soon. Love ya, Kay!”

“Love you, Care. Bye!”

I hate lying to my friends. And the worst part is…I don’t know which one I’m lying to.

The airport escalator stairs carry my aching feet down to the street level, where I'm greeted by a large sign that reads "My muse." I can't help but smile.

"Hey, beautiful." Josh drops the sign as I stagger to him. He wraps his long, lean arms around my waist and kisses me. Then he dutifully takes my suitcase in one hand and slings my messenger bag over his shoulder. "How was your flight?"

"Long." I sigh. "I tried to get some sleep, but the guy sitting next to me was typing incessantly on his laptop for practically the entire flight. It was like he was writing a novel or something." I shoot Josh a look. He's already a step or two ahead, so I pick up the sign - and my pace. 

"Writers." He smirks. "Sorry he kept you awake." 

I pull my unwashed hair into a loose pony tail. "It's fine. I wouldn't have been able to sleep much anyway."

From the moment I woke up this morning, to the moment the plane landed in LAX I've felt anxious. Today's the day. 

Josh tosses my bags in the trunk of his car. I rifle through my purse for a breath mint. This is not how I wanted to present myself. He looks so handsome in his rolled-up dress shirt and chinos, and I'm wearing wrinkled gym clothes, minimal makeup, and flip-flops.

But he still called me beautiful.

"You want to grab a bite?" Josh asks me as we pull out of the parking garage.

"Nah, I'm not hungry." I tell him.

"Did you eat anything today?"


"There's a protein bar in the--"

"I'm not hungry!" I snap at him.

"Okay, fine. I'll just take you home."

Silence fills the car. I consider breaking it with an apology, or turning on the radio. But I can't delay this any longer. I have to know.

"How's Katie?" I ask Josh, as cheerfully as I can manage.

"She's good. We went hiking up Mohawk Hill yesterday."

Yesterday. I was in Amsterdam, fretting over the future of our relationship, and he was hiking with her. Sometimes I wish he would just lie to me.

"She's got a new boyfriend."

Okay, that's weird. I've been on her Instagram a lot more than I care to admit. She hasn't posted any boyfriend pics. 

"Really? Good for her."

I know I shouldn't be jealous. So what if they're still friends? But that girl haunts me. I know how much she meant to him. I've seen the highlights on social media. And yes, he broke up with her. For me. But... he never really let her go. And I wonder if he ever will.

"So... do you want to talk about it now, or when we get home?" That sounds a tad presumptuous. "To my house."

"Let's wait." Josh says. "This isn't the right setting for such a significant conversation."

"Fine." I sigh. I've waited this long, what's another 90 minutes? "Have it your way." He always does.

More awkward silence. He doesn't want to discuss his decision in the car, and I can't think of anything else. And so I just stare out the window at the night sky, thinking. Why must he keep me in suspense?

I could move in with him, in his place. I could have said 'yes' when he asked. But it didn't feel right to me. That house was theirs. They designed and built it together. And when I'm there, I feel it. The ghost of their relationship. I need him to leave that behind. I need to know how much I mean to him.

"Can't you just tell me now? I think I've waited long enough."

He considers this for a moment.  "Okay...but are you sure you want to spoil the surprise?"

"What surprise?"

He doesn't respond.

I can't tell if I'm supposed to be excited or irritated. I go with the latter. "What surprise?"

"I was going to wait until we got to your house, walk you in the door, and ask you where I can put my stuff."

"Really? You're saying yes?"

"Yes, Erin. I'm saying yes."

I'm so excited, and relieved. I want to throw my arms around him and kiss the crap out of him... but he's driving. Damn my impatience.

"What about your house in Anaheim? Are you gonna sell it?"

"No, I'm gonna let my brothers live there. For a fair rent, of course."

Of course. He can't give it up. Not completely. He broke up with Katie, but they stayed friends even after she moved to Denver. He wants to live with me, but he needed two weeks to decide. And he just saw her yesterday.

I'm starting to wonder if she even has a boyfriend.

I'm starting to wonder if I do.