Bigger is Better

When I moved to Long Island in 2009, I left my (now) former bed behind upstate. For a few years, I lived in furnished apartments. Then for a few years, I lived with a girlfriend who had a bed. One day, nearly two years ago, my mother upstate called asking about some of my old things she wanted to get rid of to clear up room in her basement. She asked if I still needed my bed. My girlfriend and I agreed I should let my mom toss it, since we were cool sharing her bed. So I told my mother to go on and throw it out. A week later, my girlfriend broke up with me. I was a man without a woman. Even worse, I was a man without a bed.

zzzz

 

Over the next 600+ nights, I’ve lived in five places. The only two nights since I slept in a bed was one night in a hotel because my dick landlord hired dick workers who left ceiling dust and plaster all over my apartment and didn’t feel like cleaning it, and the January day I had to cut my upstate-to-downstate trip short and stay at a hotel because of a snowstorm. But I come not to bury all the non-beds I slept in, but to praise them. In those 600+ nights, I slept Continue reading

Moments That Stop You During The Day: People Who Look Like Ex’s

I was trying to figure out what figure out speech “about” is when I stumbled across this video. There’s no profundity to this blog post. This girl just looks a LOT like a college ex I remember fondly. She even speaks in similar rhythms. And I’m a sucker for hoop earrings, and my ex had never worn them but did to drive me wild, and then this video came on and it’s like…it reminds me so ineffably yet tangibly of my undergrad years. What a time of life.

I wonder if we conflate our memories with sensory details. For instance, my college ex was a super cool person. She had dimples and, at the time, her hair was cut short. Whenever I see dimples and short hair, I’m inclined to like that person, by association.
By contrast, another girl I dated who let’s say I would describe as something less than super cool had a snatch that sometimes smelled like bleach. Things did not end well with this loony bin. To this day, I really kinda don’t like the smell of bleach. But is that because of the smell? Or the memory associated with it?

Also, if Elizabeth O’Brien is single…that’d be cool.

Do you ever see people who look like your former lovers? Are there traits you’ve liked or resented for life because of some initial, romantically-entangled experience? What’s your stance on the smell of bleach?

Unflushable

ex

I had a meeting today at work with a new boss. I’m teaching a course in a new department and she wanted to go over some details with me. When I arrived at her office, she asked me to sit, then asked me to wait a second while she fetched “the other professor.” Apparently someone else had been a new addition to this department. Then this someone else walked in the room.

I may have mentioned before that the universe, given her exquisite sense of humor, saw fit to have my ex and I both hired at the same college right after our breakup. In the same department. Our whole first year there, we shared the same desk for office hours (not at the same time…mostly. When we were there at the same time, it was usually polite. Sometimes very polite. But the one time it wasn’t polite…oh, man).

I don’t hate my ex and I don’t think she hates me. But you can’t spend 2 years together, living together the whole time, raising a child together the whole time, then do the predictable hook-up-for-a-few-months-after-breaking-up thing, then have that unilaterally broken off, too, and have everything be hunky-dory. The shift from being the everyday center of each other’s lives to no longer mattering at all’s a bumpy one.

At this point it makes me laugh. It’s too funny. It doesn’t hurt anymore. Doesn’t sting. She doesn’t look the same to me. I’m grateful for that. The first few times I saw her after our breakup, she still looked beautiful to me. Now she looks older. Smaller, somehow. I’ve become grateful for the forced proximity. I think it’s the universe unfolding in a way that guards against scapegoating her or creating a too-cynical memory of what happened. I loved my ex. For a year and a half, it was an awesome relationship. I probably had as much fun with her as anyone I’ve known. When it went south, it was because of both of us. There’s shit I’ll always hold against her. Que sera, sera.

When she walked in to the office as “the other professor,” I hope she saw me and laughed inside, too. As she sat next me, the two of us cramped so close in the tiny room we were almost touching, our new boss asked if we knew each other.

“Yes,” we said, in atonal unison.

Later in the meeting, our boss decided we should meet every Friday during the semester, the three of us, to talk about how things are going. Friday was my only day off this semester. Now…not so much.

At this point, it makes me laugh. It’s just too funny.

 

Have you ever had an awkward post-breakup experience with an ex? Ever shared a workplace with someone after dipping your pen in the company ink? How does the universe use you as a punchline in its jokes?

 

 

THE MONTH I SPENT A YEAR IN WILMINGTON, NORTH CAROLINA

In March I visited my grandparents and uncle for a week. While there, I interviewed my grandparents about growing up in Puerto Rico in the 30’s and 40’s, about the move to the United States, about family and friends they knew, about stories and histories and details of their lives. It really was a mind-expanding experience. I asked questions I wanted their answers to that I could share with others once my grandparents are gone. I recorded hours and hours of material. And then, a couple of hours ago, my digital recorder erased it. All of it. Every last second.

I don’t have the heart to write about how that’s making feel. So instead, I’m going to write about my brief and disastrous fling with North Carolina.

salt

In 2004 I flew from Buffalo to Wilmington, NC. This was my first plane flight in 10 years and also the last time I’ve been on a plane. There are a few things in life I dislike with abnormal intensity. Nickels. Raw tomatoes. The metal lids on containers of salt (special shout out to gymnast/novelist/biped extraordinaire Diana Gallagher for helping me with that terminology—one of the secret shames of the life of a writer is when you realize you don’t know what to call an everyday object you realize 99 people out of 100 can, while my ass is stumbling around wondering if “salt cylinder” cuts the mustard. Oh yeah. I also don’t like mustard. Devil seed.).

After 35 years on this spinning globe there are 2 people I’ve ever hated. I think that’s a pretty good ratio. There is one thing I’ve always hated, though, to the point that it dominated my nightmares for years. That thing is flying. Continue reading

Triptych a.k.a. this one’s not about sports, Chela

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“In ancient Phrygia, in a temple in Telmissus, there was a great wonder: the reins of a cart, twisted by the dead king Gordius, into a knot that nobody could untie. The reins were made of Cornel bark, which had shrunk and compacted over the years. And they were tied in what’s called a Turkish knot, with no visible ends. Hundreds of men had tried and failed to loosen it.”    

                                                                                                                          Mike Carey

I’ve been working on a new short story. A guy gets a friend request from his ex and has to decide whether to accept it or reject it. The story alternates between flashbacks to different eras in their relationship—the halcyon early months, the helpless hurt of the last weeks, the vertiginous in-between—and the present-day moment of decision. Beneath a starry night sky, the protagonist balances what once seemed to matter against what’s left of what was, and tries to understand: if matter is neither created nor destroyed, then what is left after love and hate run their course? In their most basic state, stripped of all our ornamentation, what survives?  Continue reading