connectivity issues

Q: Hey Ellie, why do you hate Facebook so much?

A: Well, here's one of about a billion reason! On Thursday night, I went dancing with some friends at a club in Hollywood. A photographer there got some fun shots of us dancing that he showed me. He gave me his card, saying to find him on Facebook and he'd send them to me.

So I begrudgingly log onto Facebook (which I don't do unless I have to do something with Spotify), find the guy's page, and click the send message box. And this is what I see:



So let me get this straight. To just send a message to someone on Facebook now, with the same priority level as everyone else, costs money? Say it ain't so, Facebook mission statement!

Because nothing says social connectivity like putting a paywall between people. 

Never change, Facebook. LOLs for days.

project glass

The friends with whom I'm going to Burning Man have an email thread, for coordinating logistics. Last month, someone sent through a link to Google's Project Glass, saying "Someone please apply for this. Imagine having it at Burning Man!"

Immediately, a couple people piped up that documentation of any kind runs completely contrary to the spirit of the festival. Heated words were exchanged.

Meanwhile, I checked out the site, watched the video, saw that the application only needed to be a 50 word or less tweet, and figured I'd give it a shot. So I did. And on Thursday, this happened:


I got the reply tweet while I was at the UofA game, and I was beside myself excited, because I didn't realize that so many people received invitations, or that I'd still have to pay $1500 if I want to buy Glass. There's also the fact that my pitch - using it at Burning Man - isn't even feasible anyway, since there's no cellular coverage or wifi on the playa.

Plus, my friends are right about documentation, and I don't know that I'd want to even mess with something like Glass when I'm there; I plan on being pretty busy with other things (not to mention, it would get absolutely trashed in the desert).

Still - how cool! And my friend whose idea it was might want to buy it with me, anyway; he's pretty techy, and we were brainstorming ideas about other things we could do with it. So for now I'm sitting tight and waiting to see what the details are. It might pan out or it might not, but either way, it was a pretty exciting thing that happened. :)

boys club

Mason and Spyro are coming into town today, with another friend of theirs, to go to the U of A game. Apparently, we're all going out before and after the game, and hijinks have been promised/threatened. More on that momentarily. 

I'm really excited to see them, particularly because this is the first time in over a decade that I'll get to see them together. I've seen them individually since, and we talk and text all the time, but as far as being all together? Not since we all lived in Tucson. 

I have an oft-ridiculous but wholly awesome relationship with these guys, both of whom I've known since I was 21. They're like brothers to me, and they've been great, supportive friends through some of the roughest times of my life. They've also ushered me into a sort of boys club amongst some of their other friends, who've now become my friends, and who I spend time with independent of them. I'm treated as an honorary member of this otherwise men's only group - friends whose collective narrative spans some fifteen years. 

Naturally, it's a lot of fun - and a source of endless entertainment - to be considered one of the guys. The competition and one upmanship that goes on between them is hysterical to witness, and I get behind-the-scenes privileges that I don't take lightly. But it means I'm subjected to the same teasing, ball-busting, and brutal honesty to which they treat one another. Usually, I can take it. Sometimes, though, I cry uncle. But no matter how pissed off at or annoyed by one another we get, we remain friends who can call one another up in the dead of night to bemoan love lost or just shoot the shit. They're both huge supporters of my writing, and I know I could tell them anything. 

When I go to Burning Man this summer, it will be in the company of these guys. And even though I'm planning on splitting off and doing my own thing for much of it, I cannot wait to spend some time with them there. 

And today, I get to see them. Both! And I will try not to Instagram the day into oblivion, though they know the score, and are endlessly patient with my impulse to document. Spyro, today: 

- Be prepared for day drinking.

- I'll get my sippy cup ready.

- I want a fresh roll of memory cards for all those unforgettable Instagrammablicious moments that only we can capture together.

- I think if we do it right, we should NOT want evidence / documentation, no?

- Don't taunt me. I've got pharma companies from remote labs in Iowa backwoods supporting me on this trip. 

---

p.s. I've been lax about maintaining aliases for my friends on my blog, but the recent increased exposure Elliequent has gotten is a kick in my pants to change that. So sometime soon, I'm going to go through and change all real names, in all posts. Kind of an epic and tedious undertaking, but it needs to be done. BTW: everyone who features regularly on my blog knows that they are, and gets to choose their own nom du blogue; that's where the names will come from. :)

the strength of my stomach

A few days ago, I completed a task that had been assigned to me a good two months prior: some paperwork related to my inheritance that my attorney needs in order to finish the estate administration. I stalled and stalled and procrastinated with the passion of an undergraduate English major who's read the book, loved it in fact, but who despises/fears research and is therefore hamstrung by the "outside sources" requirement, and who would rather blow the paper off until she's on her second extension, which she obtained from her all-too-compassionate professor by utilizing a cunning mixture of half-truths and appeals to pathos.

A vaguely familiar feeling, in other words.

My resistance to this assignment was all twisted up in emotions that made it easy for me to minimize the shame I felt in failing to just fucking do it. Like, I really resent that my brother has done precisely fuck-all to help with any of this, and here I am about to write him a six figure check. Anger, in other words, with a deep and storied genesis. Also: finishing this final chapter of things related to my father's death makes it bracingly clear that he is, in fact, quite dead and gone. Grief, in other words, that creeps through the crack of a door I keep thinking is good and shut.

Plus I just plain dreaded it, because it promised to be colossally boring and tedious - and I wasn't even sure how to go about it.

Anyway, carrying around the pressure of needing to do this paperwork has been, for the past couple of months, like toting around my own personal storm cloud. No matter how bright the skies around me, every time I looked up with a smile to take in the sunshine, bam! A bolt of lightning would crack above my head, and the downpour would start. Oh, you think you deserve to feel good and happy, do you Ellie? THINK AGAIN, you lazy, incompetent girl. 

A normal person would just do what needed to be done. A normal person would draw the logical conclusion that Hey, this feeling sucks. I can make this feeling go away by just doing it. But when it comes to things that I'm anxious or fearful about, normalcy isn't even a card in my deck. (Queen of Neurosis, yes. That one is always somewhere near the top...)

Well, something shifted inside of me the other night, and I think I just got tired of how exhausting it was to feel that anxiety. So I pulled out all the documents I needed, jacked myself up on caffeine, and invited my friends Ferris, Cameron, and Sloane over to keep me company while I worked. And then I sat down and faced my fears.

What I thought would take me days to finish took about two and a half hours, max. Fucking ridiculous. And the worst part? All the relief and release of pressure that I thought finishing it would afford me were nowhere to be seen. I just felt stupider, in fact, than I had before. Like, Uh, well, good job Ellie. You made a mountain out of a mole hill, completely unnecessarily. Maybe now that you've tasted adulthood, we can move on to embracing other responsibilities, too. 

Though for added lolz, I apparently didn't do it right, anyway. My lawyer told me this morning that it needs to be x, not y, so at least I get to sulk over the semi-failure a little bit while I fix it.

In the past year, I feel like I've made some breakthroughs, emotionally. I have true self love for the first time in a long time, and I've gotten much better at self-soothing, and looking for comfort within. Time was, when a depressive spell - or just plain grief - would knock me down, I'd clutch at anyone around me, nearly drowning them in my pain. Now I'm able to just sit there at the bottom of the rabbit hole, concentrate on breathing, and know that it'll pass. That it may be a bad day or bad night, but it's not a bad life. And self love has a big stake in this, because it's what allows me to say, Hey, it's ok to be you Ellie, with the extra serving of saddies you've been built with. It's just who you are, and part of your experience of this world. It sucks sometimes, but that sensitivity to life has a lovely silver lining that, at other times, buoys you up to unbelievable heights. So just breathe. You're ok. 

(Though if you think I wouldn't like to be laying with my head in my mother's lap and hearing those words from her, ha!)

That self love and self acceptance have been tools to help me puzzle through other challenges in my life, too. Like determining my boundaries with other people - being able to say, No, I can't do that, or No, I won't accept that behavior, because it compromises my emotional well being and damn it, I deserve to be well. It's also what allows me to forgive myself bad decisions of the past, and stop beating myself up over what's in the rear view mirror.

So I'm trying to channel that newfound strength into areas I still struggle with - such as estate paperwork that I dread, and other things that sit on my plate, staring up at me balefully like overcooked brussel sprouts that I would much rather feed to the dog than choke down with my now-warm milk. Because there's nobody else to make sure I eat those brussel sprouts which, I have to admit, are chock full of nutrition. There's no one left at the table but me. Just me, staring those motherfuckers down. They're smirking at me, doubting the strength of my stomach. Hell, I'm doubting the strength of my stomach.

But somewhere deeper than that, there's something inside that's rooting for me, saying No, they don't taste good. Yeah, they're mushy and bland. But they're good for you, and they'll make you healthy, and healthy isn't necessarily a quick-fix sort of happy like you're addicted to, but it's a very, very important kind of happy nonetheless. And you deserve to be happy, because you're awesome.

Jesus. This post may constitute a new record for most tortured metaphor, sorry. But come on - they're brussel sprouts. They were totally asking for it.

day 1

I don't talk much about food and nutrition on my blog, mostly because I don't think I have anything unique or helpful to add to the conversation. Like everyone else, I just do the best I can to take care of myself. Some days I'm good at it, and some days I'm not. I'm healthier than some, not as healthy as others. The end.

But last night I made a major resolution regarding my health, and I'm posting about it in an effort towards accountability and goal-keeping. I decided to quit coffee, cold turkey. And I'm nervous about it, but also very excited, because I think this decision has the potential to seriously improve my life.

I drink way, way too much coffee. Several cups a day. Hot and iced. Morning, afternoon, and night. Home brewed and at cafes. And always loaded with cream and sugar. Like, a lot of sugar. An embarrassing amount, in fact. Like, please-don't-watch-me-doctor-up-this-cup-of-coffee-because-you'd-be-horrified-to-see-what-I'm-going-to-do-to-it amounts of sugar.

Why am I doing this, other than the obvious health-related reasons? Specifically, because I am so, so sick of having issues with sleep. And I am so, so sick of having issues with anxiety. And coffee might not be the only culprit behind those problems, but it's definitely not helping. Particularly when I have no self-discipline, and reach for my French press at absolutely any hour of the day. I've always been very sensitive to stimulants, and I know that if I can manage to make this change, I'll really notice a difference in my mood (which right now cycles with alarming dependence on my caffeine intake) and energy level.

I know attempting to quit cold turkey is drastic, and my chances might not be great. But I'm afraid that if I try to cut back slowly, I'll just end up fixating on the next allotted cup. Plus, I'm really, really motived to do this. Anxiety sucks. As does having a completely jacked up sleep schedule that compounds my struggle with depression, when it does hit. I'm already thinking ahead to how good it will feel to have an increased sense of control over my emotions and physical well-being. I want that feeling and that power, bad.

I also have an eye on the more superficial benefits: better hair and skin and nails. I'm almost always in a mild to moderate state of dehydration, and I can see and feel the effects of that. And I hate it. To wax momentarily cheesy, I want my body to reflect the beautiful things I feel on the inside. Vanity may not be the noblest of motivators, but if it's what helps me to be healthier, then whatever, I'm vain. I already knew that, anyway.

So that's it. No more coffee for Ellie. I tossed what was left in my cabinet. All gone.

Day 1. Here goes nothing. 

blur, blur, blur

When the alarm goes off at 7:15, I've been asleep for about four hours. Snippets from the previous evening float back to me as I try, with futility, to suppress thoughts of the soju still in my system. An unreasonable amount of heavily seasoned, oil-soaked meat at Korean BBQ. The somewhat wild drive from K-town to Little Tokyo, looping unnecessarily through Skid Row, while listening, weirdly, to classical music. A private karaoke room, stuffy and dark, filled with loud and intimidatingly beautiful girls I don't know. Later: cramming into a photobooth in an Arts District bar, with the three people I do.

I consider canceling my 8:00 hair appointment, but I know I can't. My color has reached the crisis point; I can see it in pictures. Plus, I want bangs.

My stylist is a friend; she and her husband own the salon a block from my apartment. When I was married, the four of us were close, and hung out several times a month. Extravagant dinners at Mastros, drinks at Nic's in Beverly Hills; impromptu, slightly drunken trips to Malibu, where I once skinny dipped in the pitch black surf. They often cooked us meals at their home, and we'd stay late afterward, sitting around the fire pit on the rooftop, talking and drinking wine long into the night.

Chaucer dawdles on his morning walk, and 8:10 sees me running down the sidewalk, sloppy in Saturday sweats. But my rush is for nothing; she and her husband haven't even arrived yet, and as I take a seat to wait, my phone rings. Husband has been made to call by wife; it's his fault they're running late, and they're still another ten minutes out. I tell him not to be silly, and to just drive safe: I'm relaxing on the salon sofa and catching up on Instagram.

As usual, I entrust as all decisions re: my hair to Y., who has never once made me regret it. What color, how much, the cut, the length of my bangs, etc. As usual, she deeply discounts my color, and doesn't charge me for the cut. As usual, I make up some of the difference in my tip.

Back at home, Chaucer has energy to burn, having not gotten a good long walk the day before. So I grab a hoodie and we go up the street to the John Ferraro Building, where after a long session of fetch, I spend several minutes brushing him. The area we play in is still flooded in the building's cool morning shade, and when he accidentally kicks his ball in the fountain, my ankles and feet go numb from wading into the icy water to retrieve it.

Wally and I pick up our text conversation from the night before. He's at All Worlds Resort in Palm Springs, and has invited me out to join him. I decline, citing the estate paperwork that sits unfinished on my desk, and a lack of preplanning for boarding Chaucer. Plus, I'll get to see him when he's in town next weekend. Our three-day conversation covers such topics as porn, sex toys, and video games.

- I've been informed that the TV in our room gets a myriad of porn channels.

- Speaking of porn, I have a theory that so far has held up, which is that guys who watch it are demonstrably better in bed.

- Interesting. The only potential flaw in the theory might be that guys who say they don't are lying. Unless they're me, of course.

- I've thought of that. Corollary theory: guys who are hung up about porn to the point of lying about it aren't good in bed because they have hang ups.

- The corollary theory seems sound. Good science. (thumbs up emoji) ...I am using the wifi at All Worlds to play Mermaid World. Only 8 days left to get Lum, the Easter mermaid. 

He sends a screenshot from the game: a trio of animated, doe-eyed mermaids with scant clothing but elaborate hair and makeup. Lum is in the middle, between Aries and Aqua. Her eyes are mint green; she wears a white pearl choker and white seashell bra. Her hair is cotton candy pink and woven through with flowers. A badge above her head reads 8 Days Left.

- Lum has awesome hair. I can't stop laughing about the fact that you're playing Mermaid World. It makes me inexplicably happy.

- It might as well be porn, because I probably act as if it were, closing out of it or positioning the screen so it can't be seen if someone walks by.

- So awesome.

- Awesome. Tragic. It's a fine line. 

Spyro texts, too, from San Diego, where he's partying with Mason. They'll be there until tomorrow, he says. This is standard operating procedure that we undergo every few weeks. He invites me to drop everything and jump on a train. I explain patiently that as much as I love spontaneity, I have a pet who requires forethought. The invitations are always last minute, often drunken, and disclose little to no information about the logistics of travel or accommodations.

- Is this the part where you half-assedly invite me with no tangible details or plan? I love this part.

- No it's the part where you get your ass in a rental car. We're seriously with 16 good looking German dudes who all make great money and they're humor. ...They'd love you. You could be here by 4.

- East or West Germany?

- East. It's Mason's last night with us.

- Jew so funny.

- We're getting him a forearm tattoo at dusk.

This goes on for some time. I have absolutely no intention of shoving Chaucer, last minute, into boarding so that I can join them (and he knows it), but we'll banter about it, anyway.

- Please ask the Germans to take ein piktur of you, ja? Both of you at samen timen, ja?

My request goes ignored, but a little while later I'm sent a picture of what appears to be a party bus full of attractive thirty-something men, smiling widely for the camera. Mason sits towards the back, also smiling.

- They heart Mason. Shocker. When do you get here?

- Whoa, fuck. Some of those dudes are right bone-able. 

- 14 inches and then down. If you stack them we can climb out of a building.

- Do you think they'd be down to enact my WWII sex fantasy? I'm a French girl living in the countryside; they're the Nazi troops occupying my dad's farm. We're all bored and there's an abandoned barn in the back...

- Get your ass down here. Mason came last minute. It's so good that he paid to come, when he could have come for free with my buddy pass.

- I can't. I have to shave my mustache, see? I take and send a picture of myself pointing sadly at my upper lip, scrunched tight so that the shadow above it is enhanced. This is a reference to a recent, profanity-laced exchange we had wherein he complimented my use of the "mustache removal" filter on an IG selfie.

When he doesn't reply, I make a visit to my bathroom, where I uncap an eyeliner pencil and carefully run it under my nose: line, swirl, swirl. I text again.

- It's grown, look... I take and send another picture of myself, this time with the thin handlebar mustache I've just drawn, the edges curlicued delicately on either side.

(no reply)

- You don't like it. :( :(

(no reply)

I go the bathroom, wash off the handlebar, and reapply the eyeliner in heavy, up-down strokes, a narrow rectangle that spans only the bow of my lips. I take another picture and send it, captioned GO GERMANY.

Finally, I get a reply.

- You're an idiot.

- The carpet matches the tablecloth, if you know whumsaying.

He ignores this and tells me he's coming to LA next weekend with his daughter, and that I should "be ready". I neglect to ask specifics or even reply at all, because I've learned better than to believe Spyro's plans until I see them enacted with my own eyes.

I decide to take a nap. It's about 2pm.

---

I wake up a little after 4pm, and see missed texts from Wally, Spyro, and Mason, and a voicemail from A., which I listen to. He just wanted to say hi. He wants to see if we can continue our plan to not lose touch. He wants to know if I'd like to grab a coffee today or tomorrow. If so, call him back, or send a carrier pigeon, so he can stop leaving this stupid message, ok, bye.

Still laying in bed, I return the call immediately.

Small talk. What are you doing? - Nothing, just took a nap. You working? - Yeah. - How's it going? - Good. I can't hear you. You're eating the phone. - Sorry, is this better? - Yeah. Are you still in bed? - Me? No. - Oh. 'Coz that's what I sound like when I talk on the phone in bed. I hold it too close to my mouth. - Ok, yeah, I'm still in bed. 

More small talk. Ok, I'll let you go. - What? Why? I don't have to do anything. - Because I'm gonna get sappy. I just wanted to say hi. - Get sappy! What? What's up? - Nothing. ...I kind of want to come cuddle, but you already had a nap. - Come cuddle! I'll cuddle. I'm still sleepy. 

And just like that, that happens. No hesitation on my part whatsoever.

I'm straightening up, hurriedly picking last night's rejected outfits off the floor and wiping down my island countertop, when he texts to say he's downstairs. I retrieve him from the lobby and we hug in the elevator. It isn't until I step back to lean against the railing that I notice he's holding a large piece of poster board. He unrolls it to show me: a pen and ink drawing he did recently, of characters from an animated short we used to still joke about. He's brought it as a gift for me.

From that point, things started to blur, as they are wont to do, when they're things that you want to remember, but that you also maybe try not to, because you know you probably shouldn't, because you know you're walking a fine line between being OK with all of this, and not being OK with it at all.

Blur, blur, blur.

"Make yourself at home."

"I will," he replies, with exaggerated tartness. "I'm going to lay on your bed.He throws himself jauntily onto my just-remade bed. I step into the bathroom to brush my teeth, run a comb through my hair, and swipe a makeup remover-soaked cotton ball under my eyes. I do these things with the door closed. Because he's not my boyfriend. He hasn't been my boyfriend since July, in fact.

July.

I come out, we take each other in with smiles. I feel well rested, in a great mood. He's not well rested, but is in a good mood anyway. I throw myself on top of him and he hugs me tight, growling and burying his face in my hair, my neck. I pull back to look at him for a moment, then jump back up to blow my nose in the bathroom. Spring allergies.

When I come out, I lay with my chest between his legs, which are bare except for long khaki shorts - an extremely rare wardrobe choice for him. I run my hands up his thighs, raising my eyebrows playfully at him.

"Stoooooppp."  He's grinning though.

"What?" I say with faux innocence. "I just want to see if there's any cargo in these cargo shorts." The grin widens. "Well, is there?"

He doesn't move an inch. "Get outta here."

"You're going to have to clear it with customs if there is. And I've heard the customs officer is a real c**t." I emphasize the last word. We're smiling like idiots.

What else is new.

He reaches down towards me, the grin growing more coy by the second. "I've heard she can be a real whore..."

---

Afterward, my head on his chest, he asks if he can buy me dinner. I scoff. "Oh my god. You don't have to buy me dinner. This isn't a commerce-based transaction."

He pulls away to look at me, his voice rising in genuine indignation. "Fuck you! I know this isn't commerce. I'd just like to get dinner with you."

We stop at his place so he can change first, and on the way over, he takes my hand. When we cross a busy intersection, he moves to position himself between me and the rush-hour traffic, which inches impatiently into the crosswalk. In his apartment, I wait while he puts on a clean shirt and jeans. I wander around his living room and kitchen, feeling like a stranger among familiar things - clothes I've helped fold, a guitar I've watched him play, a pocket knife I've fiddled with a dozen times before. "Be careful with that," he says, when he sees me fiddling anew. He shows me his rooftop, which I'd yet to see. When we step out onto the terrace, the cold hits us hard, and without a word he takes off his heavy leather coat and drapes it over my shoulders.

On the way out of the building we run into an acquaintance of his. Pause for a conversation, introductions. Afterward: Ugh, I don't like that guy. We had it out pretty badly recently. Tells me the story. You should be nice to him, I advise. Clean slate. He clearly idolizes you. I could see it in his face, in his body language. - Yeah, well, he thinks I'm a reputable artist. That's his problem. I shoot him a look. You are a reputable artist. 

Back down on the street, the city has grown hectic around us. Sushi? - Perfect. - Little Tokyo? - Yes. Let's drive though. Indecision as to where. Yelp something good. - I can't. I'll throw up. - Yelp makes me nauseous, too. I hate that site - Shush. I can't look at my phone when I'm in a car, I'll get carsick. - What about the place we went to that one time, in the Arts District? - The one when we went running? - No, the other one. Where the chef gave us free samples. - No, let's go someplace else. - What about the ramen place, where we sat at the counter? - Is that what you want? - I don't know. - How about the place on First, with the good tempura, and that mango soda I like? - We could do that. 

Running through our options feels like leafing through a tour book of our relationship. Yep, ate there. Remember it because it was the night we talked about possibly living together one day. Yep, remember that place, too. You humored me by joining me on the longest, coldest run ever that night, even though you hadn't run in ages.

All of this is in my head, of course.

Dinner. Dumplings, shrimp tempura, miso soup, noodles, sashimi, rice, mango soda. While we wait for our food, sitting at the sushi counter, he shows me the misunderstood spider meme on his phone. When I laugh loudly, he sighs, looking momentarily sad. "What?" I ask.

"Nothing. It's just good to hang out with you, that's all."

A pair of middle-aged blond women relocate from their table to sit adjacent to us. They speak excitedly in German, studying the menu and looking over at our plates. I catch the expression on A.'s face.

"You'd so talk to those women if you were alone." He doesn't answer, but laughs guiltily. "You totally would. You love talking to people. You'd totally be all friendly and charming to them, wouldn't you? Because you'd know they're tourists, and you'd want to be nice to them."

"Yeah, or to fuck with them."

Blur, blur, blur.

We rehash and revisit the relationship, as we compulsively, inevitably do. When he feeds me bites of food with his chopsticks, I shake my head. "Remember how mad I used to get? When you'd try to get me to eat things I didn't want?" He nods. "Why did I do that? So dumb. You were only being sweet. I should be so lucky, that someone wants to show that kind of care to me."

He shakes his head. "Yeah, but come on. That was annoying. I got really pushy about it." But I won't accede.

"No," I say. "It was ridiculous of me."

And so it goes. We rehash and revisit. We apologize, we take accountability for this, we refuse to let the other person take responsibility for that. I'm told I was the best relationship he's had. I'm told I was his favorite girlfriend. I'm told I'm awesome and amazing and so smart and so talented and so pretty. Prettiest pumpkin in the patch. I smile. - I love when you say that. - I've said that before?? - Shut up, you know you have. 

Somehow, the subject of my father comes up. Somehow, I start to tell the story of the recent dentist's letter. I get as far as "...because apparently, he had an appointment scheduled for October..." before hot tears surprise me, choking me mid-sentence. The German women glance over.

A., who is straddling the chair he's turned to face me directly, squeezes my arm briefly before wordlessly lifting my purse from the back of my chair. "Let's go," he says softly, and puts his hand lightly on my elbow to help me up. As I move past him, wiping my eyes quickly in the busy restaurant, he wraps his arms around me. He holds me like this for a moment before letting me walk outside, where he again hugs me.

I tell him about having written to a reader of my blog a few days ago, a young women who recently lost her own dad. "You know," I say, as we walk slowly down the sidewalk, "I put a lot of effort into my blog. I really do. I try to make it somewhat interesting, even helpful, on occasion. I try to write things that will make people laugh or smile or maybe even think. But nothing I've ever written felt as good as the letter I wrote this girl. She's so young, A." I look at him. "She's so young. And I felt like I knew what to say to her, you know? I knew what would feel good to hear." He nods. He listens. He tells me for the hundredth time how resilient I am. How much I've bounced back - in his eyes, anyway.

And then he takes me for frozen yogurt.

Which we gorge on while walking back to his car. Where he takes my hand briefly, to kiss the back of it, before returning it to my lap. Where he plays Bon Iver and Angus Stone while we drive to my street. Where he drops me at my door, but not before inviting me to the art show he's on his way to. Where he texts me from a little bit later, with a picture of one of the sculpture's descriptions. Which I read carefully and reply back about, before picking up the conversation with Spyro again, telling him where I've been for the past few hours.

- Never take relationship advice from me again. I'm the world's biggest hypocrite.

- You suck almost as bad as I do. 

- I feel like I want to vomit my heart up. 

- You could have come down here and laughed your ass off. You should be here. 

- Sorry, too busy putting my heart through a meat grinder.

- Stop. You're better than this.

We text for a little bit, but I can barely keep my eyes open, I'm so exhausted. Spyro's a good friend. He says all the right things to prop me back up after this unexpected little storm dustup of emotion, and to help me get my head back on straight. And that's what I start to do, as I drift off, vacillating between the need to write it all out, the fear of misrepresenting what went down, and the uncertainty as to precisely what that was, anyway.

The facts are these: it's very easy for me to get swept up in the good feelings of being around A.: the affection and the playfulness and the care he shows me. And the intimacy. Because intimacy is nice. But nothing has changed. We are still who we are, with all the same things to offer one another which are good, but all the same things to thwart a healthy relationship, which are bad.

So it was just ... what it was. And today we return to status quo. And I'm mostly ok with it, even though I have a few creeping regrets that are less easy to kill than spiders with books, because I have this neat little trick my brain does, which is to go blur, blur, blur...

soon

She never went to the parties, even before the baby came. Her husband occasionally did, but he was detached and aloof, floating the perimeter and socializing only with a few familiars. He was a massive man, with a florid face, pale eyes, and a carefully guarded smile. The way he held himself, the terse replies with which he responded to queries about his wife's whereabouts, gave one the impression his size was a deliberate, even aggressive proxy for the woman who stayed behind, waiting for him to finish his single whiskey and return with fresh gossip to unpack. I'm here for both of us, his huge body seemed to say. He was less a shield than a ballast for her to cling to, in the bewildering parade of beauty, frivolity, and ostentation that she'd deemed Los Angeles to be.

As to the woman herself, she moved through life as if hiding from it. Head down, avoiding the eye of even her next door neighbors: her comportment was a curious mixture of awkwardness and efficiency. Her torso was still thickened by pregnancy, but her arms and legs remained gangly, appearing always to be tangled up in the dog leash, or the baby's carrier. She looked painfully uncomfortable in her own skin.

Still, she carried herself with surprising speed down the city sidewalks, maintaining an expression of urgency that allowed her to recuse herself from conversations she didn't want to have, with people she didn't want to know. Thoughts of a quiet house in the suburbs consumed her, and she pressed her husband nightly with questions about when, where, and how soon. In the meantime, she busied herself with her child, an enormous infant with dark hair and suspicious eyes. She channeled her anxieties into him, only feeling their release when his laughter bubbled up, temporarily breaking the spell of loneliness in the otherwise unremitting quiet of their loft.

Soon, she cooed to herself, and to him. Soon.

ex-as-friend

This is sort of unusual for me, but a few comments from friends on IG have made me realize it's probably just easier to respond here than in a massive reply on Instagram. The comment that was made and echoed by a couple others is essentially, Ellie, you say you and A. are wrong for one another, but your writing says differently. The way you write about him is lovely.

Ok so first, that's really nice to hear. :) Thank you. Second: you have to take into account that the other day, we took a drug. Called ecstasy. LOL. I don't know which, if any, of the readers of this blog have taken ecstasy or its purer, mellower sister MDMA (ok well I know a few, haha), but if you haven't, the thing to remember is that it's (obviously) perception altering. Joy enhancing. Like wearing the most magical, rose-colored glasses you can imagine. All that is ugly and dull and bad in life drops away. Actually, that's not true (for me, anyway). All that is ugly and dull and bad in life is still there, but you're able to view it with a positive, bigger-picture perspective than you're able to, otherwise. You really do realize: it's all ok.

(I hate to glorify drug use any more than I know I already do, but the truth is, my experiences with ecstasy, MDMA, and particularly mushrooms have really changed my life. I've found a way to bring that amazing, wider perspective back from those highs, so I can call on it again, albeit in a limited way, when I'm sober. It takes a conscious effort to do it. You have to really stop and imprint on yourself what it is you're thinking and feeling in that moment. It's like putting a stamp on your emotional passport, so that even though you have to leave that beautiful, exotic country, back at home you're able to flip through it again, and remember those sensations and thoughts. It's takes practice, but it's possible. The first person to ever give me ecstasy taught me how.)

So, knowing that we were extremely high when we spent the day together might help explain my romanticized view of it. Also, there's a sort of day-after "glow" to MDMA, under which I wrote the post. But I know that I've written other posts about him that give the same positive impression. So what's up with that? It's hard to explain, but I'll try.

A. and I tap into something special for one another. He's so silly and playful and creative and affectionate. I mean, you guys remember those posts from last year, when we were getting to know one another? All the horsing around on the streets, the public affection, all the things he made for me, all the clever texts and romantic whatnots? That shit is amazing. I love that shit. Who wouldn't, right? But I mean, I really, really love it. It brought me immediately back to another relationship I had, the one that spanned into my late twenties, where I was involved with someone very similar. Someone very youthful and full of life, who would leave love notes in my pockets for me, or show up in a costume at our door (we lived together), just for the fun of it. He made me feel incredibly special. And A. did the same thing. I mean, he really would do anything for me, and still tells me so all the time. And as someone who didn't feel particularly treasured as a child or teenager, finding someone who flipped that paradigm and made me feel lovable in a way I never had - it was, and is, amazing.

And I do something similar for A. I fill a certain need for him. I don't really like to speak for him, but I'm fairly sure he'd agree with me on how that breaks down, because this is stuff we've talked about a lot. For one thing, he has a hard time connecting with his emotions sometimes, and he feels that's something I'm good at (connecting with my own emotions, that is). So, I don't know. I think maybe I help him with that? He is also incredibly, heartbreakingly hard on himself. He starts to think nothing he does is good enough, that he's not good enough, in spite of how smart (I mean, I never even went into his mechanical and technical acumens, which are mind blowing - the guy can build anything, and there's nothing computer related he can't master) and talented he is. And I was always very good about validating him in that way, and making him feel his worth. He also has a hard time just letting go and enjoying the fun side of life sometimes, of relaxing and being in the moment. And he always said that he feels like I'm the opposite - that I'm very vibrant and fun-loving and able to soak up the happy, present moments. So it was refreshing and uplifting for him to be around that energy, maybe?

Also, and this is a big one: he feels happiest when he has someone to love and to care for. And, holy shit, think about how much love and care I needed coming off of the death of my father. He's built to be a boyfriend, he really is, and he's extremely good at it.

But.

But as much as we hit those very nice buttons for one another, they're actually very superficial, circumstantially-based things. And there's a lot more to relationships. Relationships have to have a solid foundation of shared values, which A. and I don't have. Or if values isn't the right word, maybe perspective is what I mean. It's really, really difficult to explain what I mean by this without sounding critical of him, and that's the last thing I want to do. A. is an incredible person, but he's built a different way than me. His background and experiences have led him to be one kind of person, and mine have led me to be another. Not better or worse - just different. When he and I move through life, we often experience things very differently. We relate to the world, and to people, in different ways. Someone could say the exact same thing, under the exact same circumstances, to both us, and we'd interpret, process, and respond to it very differently. It might make me upset, and it would be something he'd laugh off. Or it might draw me in and make me like that person, whereas it would alienate or anger him. And that's just an example of someone saying something. Extrapolate that out to events, and to behaviors, and you can imagine the sort of disagreements that would ensue.

I know that's very vague and esoteric, but it's the model of our relationship that we saw played out, again and again and again, in our time together. And it led to a lot of arguing and hurt feelings and miscommunication and alienation. (And as I was still in a world of pain over the loss of my dad, all of that was amplified in the most awful way.)

And I mean, there were also some of your garden-variety, more mundane relationship issues, too. I could list them, but whatever, we all know where the standard faultlines are. And some couples have what it takes to hold tight through those quakes and tremors, because they have that solid foundation. We didn't. We don't.

It took me an age and a half to get over him, partly because it was so easy to get deceived by the many lovely-but-somewhat-superficial connections we have, and partly because I was so sensitive to more loss in my life. But we really are just friends now. We don't actually talk very often, we don't follow one another on IG or text, or anything like that. We give one another plenty of space, because we both do want to meet and date other people. But he lives a few blocks away, and we do run into one another every so often. We also just reach out here and there for support or a hello, or a quick coffee when we need it. And if I'm ever out and stranded/effed up (which happened more recently than this 37-year old would like to admit), or need a ride someplace, he's there in a heartbeat. I can't quite return the favor for him in that way, not having a car, but I do what I can to be there for him in other ways. I try to be especially supportive where his painting is concerned, and lately I've been very excited to how much he's been experimenting with new ideas, new mediums, etc. The guy is ridiculously motivated, and just got back from a whirlwind trip to NY, Miami, and Chicago to promote and sell his stuff, and to get representation. I have enormous respect for him as a person, and I'm lucky as fuck to count him an ex-as-friend, because in my opinion, that's a really unique and special bond worth keeping (when it's good for both parties).

tl;dr: we have tremendous affection for and appreciation of one another, but we're just not compatible as partners.

Hope that clears things up a bit, and thanks for being interested enough to comment about it.  :)

it's all ok

I wake to music. Bass guitar and muffled lyrics: sound checks on the street below. The nostalgia wastes no time settling on me as I lay in bed, a fine dust I know will be difficult to shake off. Last year's St. Patrick's Day was one of the best days in I've had in LA. I spent the day with the two people I felt closest to, men who I knew understood and loved me, in spite of everything awful about me. We stood together, alone amongst thousands of other people, threw our arms around one another, and belted out the words to songs that dialed me back years, to other joyful times in my life. Music and love, romantic and Platonic, memories created and called upon, just steps from my front door. I was enraptured by life that day.

Drugs will do that to you.

And it's drugs that are on my mind when I wake up, because I'm scared. I'm scared that this nostalgia will choke me if I don't find something sweet to wash it down with. So much has changed in the past year. I've grown enormously, yes. I've tried to roll with the knocks, both brutal and easy, and I think I've landed in a pretty good place. But a part of me can't help but long for the life I had 365 days ago. A few weeks after St. Patrick's Day, 2012, I was on a plane to Florida to help my father die. A few months after that, the relationship that I'd clung to like a life raft, terrified of even more loss, ended, sending me into a spiral of desperation and suicidal ideation. And a few months after that, Wally moved away, taking with him something I hadn't even known existed until I met him.

Constants downgraded to variables. Touchstones crumbled to ashes. Remember, Ellie, this is why you don't hang your happiness on things that can change. 

Yeah, well.


But though my mind occasionally flashes to the contents of the tiny plastic bag inside the vase that's pushed far to the back of my highest kitchen cabinet shelf, I'm determined to give it a go without. I can do this. I'll just get hammered and have a great time with my friends. I won't look back. 

I take Chaucer for a long, brisk walk, and he even gets some rare, off-leash play with another dog. This feels like a good sign, and as we round the corner of my block, the barricades and trucks, the tents and lights and balloons, the early revelers that are already trickling into the street festival, charge me up with positive vibes. It's going to be a good day.

I don't even have a plan, really. I've invited K. and R. to join me, but it's iffy that they're going to come. Some acquaintances from the neighborhood, and another one from my building, have said they'll be there, but we haven't set a time or a meetup point, and it will be hard to find them in the crowd. I consider texting some other downtown friends, but decide against it. If I'm going to spend time with anyone today, it needs to be with people I love. The only people I feel close to that are actually nearby, and that can come, are K. and R., but as they're not fans of crowds, there's a very good chance that I'll be going alone.

And I'm mostly ok with that, since a) not going is not an option, because the sound of the massive party pouring in my windows would just be too depressing to hide from, b) I know after a few drinks I'll be happy to mingle with strangers, anyway, and c) A. is going, and I know if I run into him, we'll probably stick together for the day.

I feed Chaucer, slam water to rehydrate from a party the night before, and get dressed while listening to Flogging Molly, loud. It's the one day a year I can blast music with impunity, since my neighbors can't hear it above what is already rocking our building from the street below. I put on a button down, a kelly green sweater, a plaid miniskirt, over-the-knee socks, a skinny scarf, and a pair of combat boots. An outfit that's ridiculous and way too young, but which I can get away with on a day like today, when silliness, spirit, and inappropriate wardrobe choices abound.

I put in a final request urging K. and R. to come over, and head downstairs. Residents of my building have been given free VIP access to the festival, so I get to bypass the block-long line and walk in with almost no wait. I'm trying to psych myself up for the day, but I'm not feeling it. And as I drift into the crowd, populated by clusters of laughing friends, I lose emotional steam. I don't want to be alone here. But the U2 cover band that I loved so much last year and the year before is playing, so I put on my game face and push up towards the stage. The sun is beating down on me, and I realize that a cashmere sweater, wool thigh highs, and no sunglasses was a bad call.

I'm debating whether to get a drink, run back home to change, or leave downtown for the day altogether when I realize someone is talking to me. A guy decked out in festive accessories is asking me something. Who are you looking for? Are you alone? 

No, I'm not alone, I reply. Are you alone? It's only sort of a lie. K. and R. may come, and if not, I know I'll run into people I know soon enough. The guy says he's looking for a girl, a friend he's lost in the crowd. He tells me I look like I just walked out of Hogwarts. I laugh, but have no witty comeback. I can't wrap my head around this conversation, I say honestly. I'm way too sober. Sensing I'm not in party mode yet, the guy wishes me a happy holiday and disappears back into the throng.

I realize I'm sweating in my layers, and that if I don't go home and change, my low mood has a zero percent chance of improving. As I head out the exit, I see that at this point, even the VIP line has gotten ridiculous, and I'll be in for a wait when I come back. But my apartment is just around the corner, so I decide it's still worth being more comfortable.

At home, I tear off my sweater and shirt, my skirt and my socks. Chaucer dances around me excitedly, nervous at all the energy and sound filling our tiny space. I change into a tank top layered under a green and black striped crop top, jeans, and Converse. I drink another glass of water, and lean against the counter, trying to relax. I want to have a good day. I need to have a good day. I can't have last year back, but I can have something equally good, if I choose it. I have to choose it.

But the day has taken on a life and a meaning of its own, and I feel helpless to stop it. It suddenly feels like a litmus test of my happiness. I'm petrified of the comparison between this St. Patrick's Day and the last one, and what it will do to me if today is a bummer. And that's when I decide to write myself a money-back guarantee.

I have to stand on the tips of my toes to reach the vase. I pull it down carefully, and take a small, compressed tablet out of the bag inside. It's purplish-white, with the shape of a cat stamped on one side and M80 on the other. Other than the thickness and the stamps, it looks exactly like my synthroid pills. I force down two more full glasses of water before I swallow the tab, and promise myself I'll get more water at the bar downstairs, first thing.

Back at the festival, I have a twenty minute wait just to get in again. I try not to feel frustrated as I hear the band play songs I love, reminding myself that it'll be at least forty minutes before I start to roll, anyway. K. and R. text to say they're on their way; that they're just drinking some whiskey first. A knot in my shoulders loosens. Yes. I won't be alone today. In just a little while I'll be laughing and singing and cavorting with friends, just like everyone else. Gratitude washes over me, and logistics settled, I focus on guiding the warmth and light that's slowly building in my bloodstream, on channeling it up through my neural pathways, out my fingertips, and into the world around me. I imagine myself a conduit and a receptacle. I can take energy and I can give it. Today will be what I make of it. This high will run the course that I take it on. Make the conscious decision, Ellie. Choose light and love and laughter, and those are the things you will get.

Serotonin is a biological miracle in and of itself, and I'm awed by the fact that humans have figured out a way to hijack and amplify it, purely for recreational purposes. This is one of the last sober thoughts I remember having, before the light and love and laughter float me up to another plane, where I spend the next several hours.

---

To write the rest of yesterday in chronological, sensical, and dryly factual prose would feel like a lie, because my thoughts, feelings, and experiences were deeply colored by the drug I took. I just don't know that I'd be able to accurately recreate what actually happened. What was said, and thought, and felt. Or if not a lie, maybe something even worse - some kind of gross imprisonment of things pure and organic and defying of classification. Things that shouldn't be bottled up or tied down, because they aren't mine alone for the tying down.

If you haven't been there, I know that doesn't make any sense. But if you have, you understand what I'm trying to say, even if my words are overly florid and melodramatic. There's nothing you can say to make someone who's never taken MDMA understand what it's like, because the experience is so individual for everyone. Every time I try to explain it, or write about it, I come up against a wall that divides the words I know from the feelings I want to describe. Everything I'd want to make understood is on the far side of that wall, beyond the reach of description. The closest I could come would be to just write the word euphoria, over and over and over a hundred times.

But since that would be boring, I'll put some more words down, anyway.

---

Back at the stage. Sunlight feels good now. Yes. Really good. The crowd thickens around me. Not pushy, not drunken. Just happy. Or maybe it's me. Maybe that's it.

Tap on my shoulder. Tall young man, bowler hat. Grass green vest, green plaid tie. Green eyes, devastating eyelashes, straight black hair past his shoulders. His exaggerated bow. M'lady. My delighted laughter. A hug. An acquaintance who works in the neighborhood. From New Zealand. His accent and dialect are charming. Much younger. Works at my favorite casual lunch spot. I sit at the counter, we chat while he cooks.

Do you want a drink?

Not drinking today. My meaningful look. But I will need water soon.

He understands. Stay put, be right back. Couldn't move if I wanted to.

A few minutes later, a cold bottle is pressed into my hands. Lots of birds here.

Birds? 

Birds. Women.

Yes. Birds. I love it. The music and sunshine, the connectivity. Strangers smiling. Singing to themselves, one another. Sunday Bloody Sunday. A massive Irish flag, waved across a stage. I can feel it now. It's definitely here. It's good. It's going to be really good. The chatty phase.

I sent the lead singer some photos I got of him a couple years ago, and he loved them.

Yeah? Did he ever try to holler at you?

Holler?

Holler at. You know, like, ask you out.

I love this, too. Oh no, nothing like that. I never met him or anything. 

Well, he would if he met you. You know that right?

Turning to face him. What...?

You have no idea. You're the most radiant woman. When you walk down the street... He trails off.

I smile. Looking straight at him. Leaning close to his ear. That is such an amazing thing to say to a girl. Really. That's the most beautiful compliment, and I'm so flattered. But we're friends, right? And we're going to stay friends? You know how old I am, right?

Oh, I know. I know. I wasn't... His face is sincere. He's just being sweet. And drunk. Confessing a crush. No hurt feelings. It's good. Everything is good. He drifts away soon, though. Later, I'll bump into him. Bombshell redhead, green halter dress. Seems genuinely happy to be talking to him. Yes. Good for him. An introduction. I tell her with honesty how stunning she is, how much she stands out in the crowd. His smile is even bigger than hers. No trace of resentment or weirdness. Everything is ok. I've lost nothing. Maybe even gained something.

I float a little bit higher, and memories form with a bit more disjointedness.

---

K. and R. arrive. K's tipsy, but rattled by a dog attack they witnessed on the way over. Me joking and laughing. Cajoling her out of a bad mood. She's ok. She's happy. A friend of hers is here. We meet up. VIP section. Our group grows: friends of friends, coworkers, partners. Laughter, random connection, coincidence in a not-small town. Wait, you know Stacy too?

Wally texts me. He's not having a fabulous day. I tell him how much he's missed. Do you remember a year ago right now?

I do. That was quite a day. How are you doing? Celebratory? Wistful?

High. Little bit wistful too, yeah. ...Ok, a lot. :(

Sorry doll. Maybe it's just down payment on future joy. Plus wistful at least means you had good stuff. Nobody's wistful for crap times.

It's cold. I'm cold now. I run home again for a coat. This time I'm not made to wait, and I rejoin my friends quickly. The wind. We huddle together. Drinks, more drinks. Water, more water. I'm in conversation. I'm miles away. I'm face to face. I'm above myself, looking down. This is my life. These are my friends. I live here. I've made this my home. I have work to do, to improve myself, to be a better person, but I've achieved this at least. These good people care about me. There's nothing more beautiful than that. My mind is quick. I'm wittier. I'm making strangers and new friends laugh. The hum and buzz of energy builds around our small cluster in the chilly afternoon. We are happy people, in this moment, on this day. 

My heart full. I did it. I made today ok. I feel fantastic. The smiles on the faces of my friends mean everything to me. It's enough. I need nothing more. I deserve nothing more. But I'll get more anyway.

---

We leave the festival, but the group falls apart. Confusion, disagreement; scattered, drunken minds. Some tension. Too much to drink. They want to eat, to slow down and stop soon. I don't. None of that. No way. Not yet. I'm still high, not ready for the weight of reality, of arguments and frustration.

I text A. again. We've been texting all day, on and off. He's high too. He was at the festival, felt like painting, went home to do work. At a bar now. Come join me, he says. I look at my friends.

Guys, I'm leaving. You're arguing, and I love you, but I'm really high, and I need to keep moving. Ok?

K. is hurt, angry. What? No! We'll come with you.

No. I need a K. and R. break, ok? I love you guys to death, but I'm gonna go.

Anger. You're full of shit. You're going to meet someone. 

Yes, I am. I'm going to meet A. He's high too. And I want to see him. Please don't be mad. Are you mad?


Are you leaving because we're fighting or because you want to see A.?

Both. I want to see him, so it's convenient that you're arguing. 

Honesty: a side effect of the drug. Her face softens.

Ok, go. 

Are you mad?

No, get out of here.

---

A bar a few blocks away. Crowded, dark. He's not alone. I don't want to be here. I want to be back at the music, under the lights and in the crowd. He agrees. Let's go. Should we take more? Do you have more? I do. Let's split one. I reach deep into my pocket for another tablet, which he carefully bites in half, grimacing at the bitter taste. I drop the other half in my water bottle, shaking it vigorously before taking a sip. His friend leaves.

Just us. Again. Walking down the street. Laughing, talking, reminiscing. Harmless. Happy. High. It starts slow. Can I hug you? I just want to hug you.

Yes. You can. That would be ok. That would be fantastic.

His arms wrap around me from behind. Strong and tight and warm. Back at the festival. Music. Cold. We dance, we play. We hug and hold. I slip my arms into his sweatshirt. What happened? How did this...? Time machine. It's the exact same fucking moment. Almost, anyway. And better, in some ways. No hurt on the horizon. We know the score. This is a safe place we visit. A well we drink from when we're dying of thirst. He gazes down at me. I gaze back up. The grinning. Our grins, always. We must look ridiculous.

Stop.

You stop.

No, you. 

The words start.

There's no one like you.

There's no one like you, either.

And so it goes. We walk hand in hand to the bookshelf, and we take it down together. Be careful, it's heavy. We flip through the pages. I point to a picture. He tells the story. Remember? Remember? Sighs that are more happy than sad. That song. Remember? That day. Remember? Bonnaroo. Remember?

We cling to one another, sway to the music. I rest my head against his chest, low because of my flat shoes. His eyes are bright. He is so happy. So, so happy.

I lower the bucket, bring it back up for him to drink from. You know you're the reason I started writing again, right? I mean, serious writing? You unlocked it. You were the muse. You probably saved my life.

His turn. Lower the bucket. Bring it up. I'm thirsty, too. I've never felt better than when I was with you. You made me feel like I'm ok. Like it's ok to be who I really am. 

This is what we do. This is the gift we give one another. We've done it over and over, in the months since we ended. And we'll probably do it again.

You have no idea. You're such a happy person. I wish I could be that way.

Do I really seem happy?

El, I've seen you at your absolute worst. The lowest you could possibly be. And it was bad, right? It was really bad. But I see you, and I know who you are, and you are truly so happy. You make yourself happy. You're amazing. 

I swallow this, bury it deep down in the safest part of me, and then I give it right back. I praise his talent, his ambition and drive, which are unlike any I've ever seen in a self-employed creative. I don't know how you do it. Every day, you work so hard, and you make it happen. Other things he deserves to know, too. You were the best boyfriend I ever had. You showed so much care and consideration for my well being and my happiness. ...You are the most authentic person I've ever known. Even at your worst, you are always just...you. No artifice. No hiding who you are.

---

It's inevitable, and it starts with the kiss. Minutes long, lingering, in plain sight of everyone milling around us. Drawing the attention - and occasionally the comments - of strangers walking by. Unlike any kiss given back on earth. We're not on earth. We're way, way above it. The things in the kiss are timeless and beautiful: friendship and understanding and compassion and comfort. We are on the exact same plane, physically and emotionally. It's ok. It's so, so ok.

---

Soft blankets. Candlelight. Silly Chauc, go lie down. Laughter. This is so great. How do you feel?

Amazing.

Me too. 

He asks whether I've been writing. He doesn't read my blog - only the occasional post that I want to share with him, and that I send to him. Not much, I say. The GOMI thing really fucked me up. I don't want to be judged. Sometimes I wonder why I do it. What am I putting myself out there for? To what end? Even Instagram. It gets exhausting. I think I need a break. 

He tells me a story about an artist, some woman who wrote on her website about the lowest, ugliest moments of her heroine addiction and depression. And how it was so relieving to her, to have it all out there. Like, go ahead, judge me if you want, it's just who I am.

Yes, I say excitedly. That's exactly it. It's like a confessional where I can just lay myself out, and people can either accept who I am or not. 

Music. Explosions in the Sky, is that ok?  

That's perfect.

Postcard From 1952. A more perfect song has never been written. It rips through my heart and my soul, leveling me where I lay, pressed against him. Sheets, smooth and soft. It's cold, though. Put the heat on. Yes. Come back. Come close. You are so beautiful. Your body. Oh El, your body.

Your shoulders. They've been molded. I trace their lines with my fingertips. They're like those things football players wear, what are they called? 

Shoulder pads? He laughs. Be quiet. 

We talk and talk and kiss and talk and kiss. We talk about our romantic lives, about the people we've met, dated, and connected with - or failed to. We talk about my father, about how experiencing his death together was one of the most powerful and bonding experiences of not just our relationship, but of our lives. I struggle to find the words to tell him how amazing he was for me at that time. Husband-like. That's all I can say. You were just...husband-like. You took charge and did what I couldn't, and you got me through it. Emotionally, logistically, everything. 

I'm still so high. I close my eyes and describe the visions in my mind. The faces and shapes and colors and movement. I change the music. Of Monsters and Men. I sing softly in his ear.

A wave of clarity washes over me, and I realize what it is I love most about this man, what is so unique about him to me. He's the only man I've ever known who has willingly, openly, and happily laid his whole heart on the table for me. He's the only one who's been truly emotionally available and vulnerable, ready to take on the happy and the hurt, come what may. His attention and love were undivided, and mine for the taking. I try to explain this to him, but fail. Dating in LA is hard, he says. Everyone is looking for something better. But you'll be ok. I want so much for you to be happy, El.

Another music change. Youth Lagoon. I'm sleepy. I'm drifting. He tries to pull me back in. I know what he wants. My mind wants it, too, but my body is maxed out. I can't, I say. I'm sorry. I'm so tired. Holding me close. But the music expands, reaches out to me. The songs I love most pull me back to the moment: Posters, Daydream. I shift positions, I feel his need.

I whisper in the flickering light. What do you need?

No, it's ok. We shouldn't...

What do you need...? I reach out, touch him, answer my own question. His sighs. I've always loved his sighs. Rewards for piecing the puzzle together correctly. This. You need this. And this...

---

Something to hold. Something to know. Something to believe. Something that is sure and true and won't change. You are a beautiful person who changed my life forever, and for the better. We aren't right for one another, and we know it, but you are an oasis in the desert that is sometimes my life, and I'm one in yours.

No one was hurt. No betrayals, no infidelities, no lies. I have no one special in my life, and neither does he.

Friends. Bodies. Comfort. Love, of a kind. Serotonin. St. Patrick's Day, 2013.

It's all ok.

broken appointment

To Whom It May Concern,

Recently, I received a billing statement from the office of James M. Radeski, DDS, regarding an outstanding balance on the account of my father, Norman Baker.

(Precisely how recently I received this bill I'm afraid I cannot say, as sometime toward the end of last year, I established the temporarily anxiety-reducing if ultimately stress-compounding habit of depositing stacks of Norman's unopened mail in the rosewood sewing box on my sideboard. One can only field so many fundraising solicitations from the Tea Party Patriots and membership renewal reminders from the John Birch Society before one needs a respite from the tidings of the United States Postal Service.)

The sole item on this statement is noted as code D095: Broken Appointment.

It appears that my father missed his semi-annual teeth cleaning appointment, scheduled for October 4th, 2012.

May I just take a moment to say that my father had excellent teeth? He really did. They were lovely and straight, and very white, and he was rather vain about them. He brushed them fastidiously, often while roaming about the house in a state of semi-undress, Sonicare buzzing in his cheek, conducting half-garbled and largely incoherent conversations with myself and/or the cat.

I guess what I'm saying is, Dr. Radeski did fine work, where my father's dental health was concerned. Please convey my compliments.

But to return to the matter of the balance, I'm afraid that as my father passed away some five months prior to his October appointment, it would indeed have proven quite challenging for him to attend it.

I'm sorry, but if I could just interrupt this letter once more, I'd like to also say that my father was an extremely responsible and considerate man. He wasn't the type to miss engagements, ever, and was always respectful of other peoples' time.

I, on the other hand, am the type of person who stuffs unopened bills into sewing boxes, where they remain out of sight and out of mind for months on end. Consequently, I do hope that you'll consider this oversight my own, and not my father's. He'd really be pissed at me if you didn't, and while not a superstitious person, I've no wish to invite his posthumous temper anymore than I enjoyed the occasional glimpse of his living one.

As regards the $30 balance, I trust that the above revelation will be sufficient cause to clear the charge on my father's account. If you require a death certificate as proof of his demise, I can provide one, though I won't lie: I'd be grateful if you'd just take my word for it. Digging through my files to find the requisite document, carrying it by hand across the street to Kinko's, and staring dolefully at its contents while waiting for the fax machine to blast them into the digital ether - a routine I have already undertaken a couple dozen times in the past year - well, it kind of totally sucks.

Thank you for your time and understanding, and for your part in giving my father one of the most beautiful smiles I've ever known.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Baker

Iguazu Falls, Argentina - 2010

lolsob

love and play

I tried to teach Chaucer about sin today. An opportunity presented itself, and I decided it was time. I don't think the lesson quite stuck, though. Here's what happened.

We were at the dog park, and a Boxer there was playing with a tennis ball. I hadn't brought any toys for Chauc, and I could see him glancing over at the Boxer enviously. "Now Chaucer," I said. "Stop coveting that ball. Covetousness is a sin."

Chaucer looked at up me, a curious expression on his face. "What's 'sin', Mom?"

I kneeled down in front of my dog and looked in his massive, dark eyes. "Sin is a very bad thing," I explained. "A very, very, very bad thing." Chaucer flinched when he heard me say bad, in the way that he does when I scold him for naughty behavior.

"You mean like when I get on the bed without being invited?" he asked, tilting his big head thoughtfully.

"Yes," I said, and gave his chest a rub. "Exactly like that. But there are other kinds of sin, too, And they're all equally bad."

Chaucer looked at me, his eyes wide. "Like what?" he asked.

"Well," I started slowly, thinking of how to explain what I had in mind. "You know how sometimes you like to mount other dogs?" Chaucer nodded. "It's ok to do that to girl dogs. But when you do it to other boy dogs, it's a sin. And remember, sin is bad. Bad, bad, bad." With each "bad," his sweet doggy face drooped a little bit lower.

Chaucer peered up at me uncomprehendingly. I knew that all this talk of sin was confusing to him, and that the words I was using were ones that made him feel sad and ashamed and scared. I knew that pleasing me was all that mattered to him, and he was starting to think maybe he'd done something wrong - something to disappoint me. And he hadn't, really.

He hadn't done a single thing other than to be a dog, wishing for a toy.

But it was important, so I soldiered on. "Sweetie, it's ok. You're not the only sinner. We're all sinners. Mommy's a sinner and all these other dogs at the park are sinners, and remember that Dalmation who stole your frisbee last year? She's a sinner, too."

"I don't understand, Mom," Chaucer said sadly. "Should...should I go home and go to my bed? Are you mad at me? I'm really sorry, Mom. I won't look at anyone else's ball again, ever. I promise. I won't sin. Please don't make me go home. I'm having so much fun."

I looked at my boy, dreading what I still had yet to say. I reached out and gently pulled his velvety ears through my fingertips. His eyes closed halfway in bliss. "No, you don't have go home," I said soothingly. "But you need to repent your sins, because if you don't, you're going to go to The Kennel when you die."

I could feel Chaucer tremble under my touch when I said it. His sixth sense had kicked in, and he knew I was talking about something very serious, and very scary. "'The Kennel'?" he repeated, his eyes wide and shining.

"Yes," I said gravely. "The Kennel. The Kennel is where you'll go if you're an unrepentant sinner. And do you know what it's like there, Chaucer?" He shook his head slowly, his jowls rubbing softly against my wrist. "The Kennel," I continued, "is a place where dogs are crowded together, one on top of another, millions upon millions of them, and tortured forever and ever. There's no one to feed you or pet you or play with you in The Kennel, Chaucer. It's filled with mean, cruel people who will kick you and beat you and punish you, over and over, because you sinned."

Chaucer didn't speak for a moment. I could see he was thinking. "You mean, if I were to go over there and mount Sydney right now, I'd...I'd be sent to The Kennel? Just for playing with him? Because he's a boy?" I nodded.

"But," he said quietly, his furry brow deeply lined, "how do you know about all of this, Mom? How do you know about these sins, and about The Kennel?"

I composed my face sternly. "Because, Chaucer. It was written in a book, a long long time ago, at a time when very few people could read or write, and when very little was known about the world, and about how it works. It was written by people who didn't have the understanding that we do today, of astronomy and geology, of medicine and mathematics, of biology and sociology. And those people repeated what was written in the book to other people. And those people repeated it to other people. And along the way, other, nicer stories were added to the scary bits, to make them seem less scary. And people started repeating those nicer stories because it made them feel good, and happy, and gave them a reason to live, and a reason not to be scared of dying."

Then Chaucer looked at me with an expression wiser than that I'd seen on most humans. "Mom," he said, "I felt good and happy and had a reason to live before you told me any of these things. My reason to live is because I have you to take care of, and my friends to play with. And because the grass feels so good under my paws when I run. I'm happy because the world is beautiful, filled with kind strangers who pet me on the street."

"Oh, Chauc," I said, and sighed. "If only it were that simple. But it's not. There are rules, lots of rules. And consequences. But there are rewards, too. If you're a good boy and do all the many things you're told, and none of the many things you're told not to do, you'll get to live forever and ever, and have as many frisbees and balls and treats as you'd like. You'll get to see all your friends again, and me, and this life you have now will be but the blink of an eye in the scheme of eternity. It'll be almost as if it never happened."

He wrinkled his muzzle. "I don't think I want to live forever, Mom. I get pretty tuckered out after we just play fetch for a while." Chaucer paused and took a step toward me, nuzzling my neck with his cold, wet nose.

"I'll be good, Mom, and not because I'm scared of The Kennel, or because I need a reward. I'll be good because it feels good to make you happy, and to not hurt my friends. And if I only get this lifetime of being with you and them, that's ok by me. Because that seems like an awfully long time to squeeze in a lot of love and play already."

And after giving me a quick kiss on my cheek, my dog turned and started off in the direction of home.

I had no choice but to follow his lead.

fire

Once there was a girl who liked to go camping in the woods. She spent her days exploring, collecting wildflowers and kindling, and listening to the noises of the forest. Sometimes she brought things she found back to her camp: feathers, smooth river rocks, a pretty piece of broken eggshell. Sometimes she brought back nothing at all.

One evening as she was drifting off to sleep, she heard the sound of twigs snapping just beyond the clearing. "Who's there?" she cried out, surprised but not frightened. At first, there was no answer. The girl kept still and listened, her senses keen from the many nights she'd spent alone in the wilderness.

A moment later, a voice called out from the darkness: "Put out your fire!"

The girl sat up where she lay, clutching her blanket tightly around her.  She cocked her head in the direction of the voice. "Where are you?" she called back, shivering slightly. "I can't see you!"

"Put out your fire!" the voice repeated roughly. The girl stood, letting the blanket drop, and walked toward where she thought she'd heard the voice. She squinted into the black, but she could see nothing. Yet the hairs prickling on the back of her neck told her that someone was close.

"I can't put it out," she answered, peering about for the visitor. "It keeps me warm at night, and safe." The girl took a cautious step forward. "Would you...would you like to join me?"

"No," the voice responded flatly. "I don't like the smoke. Put it out!"

The girl frowned, and glanced back at the small fire she'd made. The night was clear and calm; no wind disturbed the smoke, which disappeared into the sky in a straight, silky column. "But," said the girl, "that's not possible. And anyway, if it does bother you, why don't you move further away? The mountain is wide; surely there's enough room for us to get clear of one another." As she spoke, the girl stepped softly forward, straining to see whom she spoke to in the frigid night air.

"It's too bright," answered the voice, ignoring her response. "I can see the light from miles away. Put it out!"

With her arms held out in front of her, the girl walked forward in the dark again. She wasn't afraid, but she wished for daylight so that she could see her mysterious guest. "Well that's just silly," she replied, more to herself than anything, for she was tiring of this game of cloak and dagger. "If the light bothers you, you can just look away, or close your eyes."

The voice was silent.

It was then that the girl noticed how far she'd wandered from her camp. She realized she was cold, and she suddenly longed to be back near the flames she'd carefully nursed from sparks, nestled cozily beneath the stars.

The girl turned and walked away from the voice in the wood. "I'm going back to my fire now," she called over her shoulder. "You can join me if you'd like, or go build your own, or leave the forest altogether. It's up to you."

A few paces later, and she felt warmth on her skin again. She sat on the ground, cross-legged, and inched up closer to the fire. She held her palms out flat, luxuriating in the waves of radiating heat. She poked a small branch into the flames, stirring them back to life. She watched the embers split and glow, orange and black, beautiful and dangerous. The girl stared into the fire for a long time, thinking about the strange conversation she'd just had.

When a noise in the woods broke her daze a little while later, she decided to stay put, to stay silent, and to tend to the thing that was keeping her alive in the icy winter night. There was plenty of warmth for anyone who wanted to join her, but she was done chasing voices in the dark.

there's a hole in the puppet on your foot

He gives himself away each time. He can't help it. He might know better, but he's unable to stop himself. He pushes too hard. He's impatient. He tries to weave a web of subtlety and suggestion, but his threads are ropes, and they won't hold. They fall heavily, empty. Nothing caught in the trap. He'll have to gather them up, again, and try a different tack. Though what avenues are possibly left? What hasn't been exhausted?

And it's insulting. 

Because it's so obvious. I mean, for the love of Christ, who says that? No one. No one says that.

And her senses only become sharper each time. She can catch him out quicker - it's he who's given her the practice. And her disgust grows, branching out from the place it was seeded, what? Six. Six years ago, planted by the first liar. The original liar. 

Predator. Deceit. Preying, lying. 

---

Watch me turn away without so much as a second thought, and never look back. You have no idea how easy it is for me. You'd be terrified if you did. You'd think I wasn't even human, how quickly and completely I will sever without hesitation, and be the better stronger for it. 

I fucking hate predatory men for whom nothing and no one is ever enough. More, more, more they need. More, more, more. Collecting women like toys in a box, like insatiable, spoiled brats. 

Tend to your own home before you go crashing into someone else's. Finish what you started before you start something new.

There is nothing. I hate. More. Than a man who lies to me.

And yet, every one of them is doing the next man I love an enormous favor. If they only knew what he's going to get, in reverse displacement of my disgust, which will become gratitude for honesty and vulnerability and loyalty, which will become passion and joy poured all over him the likes of which these liars will never, ever be the benefactor of.

how to be an ex

Let's make a deal. Let's figure it out together. Let's agree that it can and should take time. That there will necessarily be icebergs ahead. We'll probably hit some. We might even sink. But I won't burn your lifesaver if you won't burn mine.

You came into my life for one set of reasons. You stayed there for another. There's a reason that losing you felt like tearing my soul down the middle. That was my heart and mind and every nerve of my viscera saying, This. This was special.

And I know it's the same for you.

So let's make a deal, to navigate the icy water blindly, clumsily, for as long as it takes until we come clear into smoother sailing, and I can look at you, and you can look at me, and we can laugh knowing there's no more risk of crashing in the dark. Because you've raised your own flag again, and I've raised mine. And we can share the same ocean peacefully.

And when you're foundering, you can flash me a signal, and when I capsize, I can send one to you, and we'll take turns Saving Our Souls. I won't use your secrets against you if you won't use mine, and we'll find a wavelength to meet on that's uniquely ours, and that won't disturb those above and those below.

I see your worth even when you can't. I'll list everything lovable and valuable in you, for you, time and again, because the love and value you injected into my life is priceless and will stay with me forever. And you? You already know what to do. You already know how quickly and easily you can bump me back up. Meet me for coffee and play with Chaucer. Listen to the latest installments of my various dramas, real and virtual. Ask me to ride on your motorcycle when I'm having a low day. Pretend it's for your sake, not mine. A ride to the framer? That's all I ask. For you to be my first guest on the bike. When I'm late meeting you downstairs, text again. I am ready for my first passenger.

Smile big when you see me. Give me a quick hug, and then put a mockingly serious face on. Ok, now there's only one rule. You don't have to lean with me, but don't lean against me. Then pull your massive helmet over my head and buckle the strap under my chin. Grin at how ridiculous I look. Insist I wear your heavy, padded jacket, even though you'll freeze without it. Break the wind and cold for me.

You've always been good at that.

Zip me up yourself, stuffing my scarf and hair out of the way with suppressed laughter, while the guys unloading their car nearby glance over at the scene we make. Go fast, to make me laugh in spite of myself. You know I hate the bike. You know I worry about you on it. On the ride back home, turn your head casually and ask me what's up. So? What's going on? Why are you low? When I say I don't want to talk about it, nod. Because you know if I did, I would.

Thank me for being there for you, just a few days ago. Tell me you feel back on track because of our talk. I won't tell you for the hundredth time that you put yourself back on track. I won't tell you for the hundredth time that you're doing great, and that you don't need me or anyone else to love you, in order to be lovable, period, though I wish you knew that.

I know how to be your friend, even though it hasn't always been easy.

I know how to be your ex, and you know how to be mine.

hinges, bridges, and baskets

I feel so ridiculous right now. I'm self-conscious and gun shy and all tied up in my head. I'm scared to blog. And I know the only way to break through it is to just write something, anything. But I hate filler and I hate just typing for the sake of hitting the keys.

---

I need to make major changes in my media consumption. I feel like I've been drinking from some poisonous wells over the past several months - maybe longer. A few sips, and I undo all the hard work of trying to be positive and find inspiration in the daily. All of a sudden I'm frustrated and angry and annoyed, with no place to direct those negative feelings. Mental energy just burned up with nothing to show for it, and a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the day. I'm disappointed in myself for not being more disciplined.

---

I think I've gotten better at not letting my happiness hinge on things that can change. There's been a brutally steep learning curve for me on this - one that's spanned most of my adulthood, in fact. For most of that time, I clung to the people in my life, terrified of losing them. I suppose that's typical for a child of divorce?

Loss and change are an inevitable part of life. But instead of coming to understand and accept this over time in a healthy, measured way, I think I denied and denied it until all of a sudden, everyone who was supposed to be a constant in my life was gone, over a bewilderingly short period of time. It felt like my skin was ripped clean off my body, and I was alone, exposed to the elements, helpless. Of course, I wasn't ever helpless. I just hadn't accepted the fact that it's no one's responsibility but my own to look after myself. I had me to take care of me, and that's enough most of the time. And that won't change. If I can make me happy, that's a happiness I don't risk losing, whereas depending on another to fulfill me emotionally, or to take care of me - that's betting the farm and not having any idea what weather's coming down the line.

People will come and go from my life. Money will come and go - so will the things it buys. I'll have to move and give up homes I love; leave cities I've grown attached to. All the things that it's so easy to lean on as touchstones in my life can change with deceptive ease and speed. So I work really hard at placing these things in my heart in such a way that when they inevitably go away, they don't rip my heart out with them.

And in the meantime, I cultivate happiness in things that can't be taken away from me, so that when the bigger losses do hit, I've got things to turn to, to ease the pain. Music. Writing. Running. And I'm trying very hard to kick my reading life back into gear.

This isn't to say I don't treasure the people in my life, even though I know they'll someday be gone. I absolutely do, no question. I just try to think of my relationships with them like a bridge between us. They're the destination on the far side - a city that is exciting and fun to visit, and rewarding to experience. But you rarely walk across a bridge without stopping to take in the view. The work of building and maintaining relationships is like enjoying that walk back and forth, between the other and the self. When you learn to enjoy that process - that journey - it's a joy that can be renewed again and again, with each new relationship. It doesn't go away when that person does; when you can no longer visit that city.

---

Some friends are throwing a Pastel Party for Easter. My awesome friend who designed the invitation sent me a version without names/addresses to post, because he is (as I may have mentioned) awesome:



And speaking of Easter, I made Chaucer a basket, the toys for which he could smell in the shopping bag before I even took them out. I have video that I'll post later, of him being utterly ridiculous and hilarious and whining about it, but for now, this pic alone shows how bad he was pouting, because I wouldn't give him anything from it:
















GOOBER.

encore

I'm surprised when he texts on Monday. I haven't been expecting to hear from him again. But text he does, to see whether I am free any night that week. I tell him I am, as it so happens, and that any day after Wednesday will work. With a bare bones exchange in which he repeatedly fails to punctuate his questions with question marks, we agree to Friday. We don't talk again until Thursday night, when we confirm plans in another minimalist conversation, also short on question marks.

Then on Friday afternoon, as I'm walking Chaucer, this: Should I bring a turtle. 

I laugh out loud, and stop on the sidewalk to reply. If you wouldn't mind. ...By the way, if you need some question marks, I've got extra. Here: ???????????

Will it get along w ur dog. ....I don't use punctuation.

Maverick, I say, and then: Chaucer vouchsafes the safety of all visiting amphibians.

Even mine??????????

----

He arrives downtown a little after seven, and follows someone into my building. We stay in my apartment only long enough to briefly greet with a quick, one-armed hug, and for me to gather my things. He looks at my Hipstamatic wall while I steal glances at him from behind, noticing how tightly his plaid shirt fits across his back and shoulders, which are broad and well-muscled.

"Racy," he says, nodding toward a black and white semi-nude of my body. It's one of five such shots, in a wall of nearly two hundred.

I join him to see which one he means, then point out another. "How about that one?"

"How do you even do that by yourself? How do you get the right angle?"

I laugh. "Too much practice. Ready?" I grab my keys and bag, and we start to head out. "Actually, let me just get a sweater," I murmur, stepping back towards my closet.

"You don't need it," he says. "It's amazing out."

I pull a dark grey cardigan from my sweater drawer. "Never know. Restaurants get cold."

For dinner, we decide on a newish French place a block away, with an outdoor patio situated on the busy intersection. The night air is warmer and more lush on my bare arms than any in recent memory. When the hostess seats us, Aaron asks whether we can move to another table, closer to the street.

"Of course," she says, smiling brightly and picking the menus back up. "Anywhere you'd like."

We order cocktails and chat. I watch him spread butter thickly over a slice of sourdough. "You go, Crossfit," I tease. He smiles, but doesn't respond. He leans back in his chair and looks at me across the table. "So, did I make the blog?" he asks.

I sip my water and nod. "Oh yes."

"Do I get to read it?" I glance at him quickly, trying to determine how serious he is. He wears the same intent expression that made such an impression on me the week before.

I speak slowly, thinking back on what I've written. "Well...yes. Of course. I mean, it would hardly be fair of me to not let you, if you want."

He nods. "Good." I take this in, and start filing away the words that will float up to me over the course of the night, slowly fleshing out the unknown qualities of this still-strange man. Direct. Masculine. Confident. Brusque. 

Cocktails arrive, and we toast, slowly slipping into a comfortable conversational rapport.  We talk and joke, occasionally revealing slightly more personal information as the liquor enters our bloodstreams. We agree some and disagree some. My impression, on balance, holds to what it had been at the end of our first meeting. Conservative. Opinionated. 

When our entrees come, he cuts a small portion of his and places it wordlessly on my plate. I haven't asked, nor had I planned to, but the gesture touches me. Gentlemanly. Considerate. As dinner winds down, he leans back in his chair again. "So, what next?"

I make a few suggestions, all centering around additional drinking. When I float the option of karaoke in Little Tokyo, expecting him to wrinkle his nose and say no, his enthusiastic response takes me by surprise.

"Really?" I frown. "Just the two of us? You want to?" I've never done karaoke with less than four people, to dilute the schadenfreude, and I'm not sure how comfortable I feel at the prospect of making an utter fool out of myself in front of someone I barely know - particularly someone whom I want to remain attracted to me.

"Absolutely," he enthuses, and nods in a way that makes it clear the matter is settled. "Ok, done. Karaoke." The gears in my brain jiggle a little bit, adding, adjusting. Self-assured. Fun loving.

We stop off for another round at one of my favorite bars, a tiny, candlelit speakeasy about the size of my apartment. The tables all full, the doorman seats us in a pair of chairs beside a covered piano, separated by a tiny metal wire table. I drop my purse behind my seat and take my sweater off, slowly pulling my arms from the sleeves, and keeping my eyes on Aaron as I do so. I sit down and angle my chair toward him. When the hem of my dress inches slightly above my knee as I cross my legs, I don't pull it back down.  "It's just like 'Between Two Ferns', with Zach Galifianakis," I say, and he laughs. We have to lean in slightly, to hear one another above the hum of the crowd.

We pass an hour in conversation which, thanks to the bar's notoriously strong cocktails, ranges to topics neither of us, we'll later confess, had planned on broaching anytime soon. But broach we do, and the subsequent exchange makes things lively and interesting, and forces the papers in my mental file to shuffle yet again. Grounded. Disciplined. Serious. At one point, he lets his fingertips graze my knee, and I find myself wondering how long it will be before we're back at my apartment. I finish my drink quickly.

On the walk to Little Tokyo, I press him with questions that are springing up on the tail of his recent revelations. After each, he says, "What else? What else do you want to know?"

I laugh. "You can't say that," I scorn, tipsy. "You can't ask someone what else they want to know about you, it's..." But I don't want to say the word that comes to mind, which doesn't feel quite right or fair, though it's close: arrogant. It's close, but it's not quite right.

The karaoke bar fills up fast, and the night starts to spin faster around us, a blur of music and lights and laughter and drinks. We make friends quickly, and Aaron is fearless with the microphone. Impressed, I kick off my shoes and give myself over to the unexpectedly fun moment. We do solos and duets, we sing with strangers and with one another. We dance and horse around with our karaoke companions, and have an undeniably great time. When I take to the stage alone, he uses my phone to snap a few photos.

A couple of hours later, we begin to lose steam, and sit to catch our breath and watch the others. After a minute, I move from sitting directly in front of him to perching in his lap. He holds my hips lightly, and I notice not for the first time how massive and strong his thighs are.

Fast forward.

Fast forward to being back at my place. I read him the blog post I've written about him, pausing nervously at the parts I fear may offend. But he receives it with enthusiasm, humor, and good grace. He nods and laughs, asking me to repeat the parts he misses, correcting me on small details I've gotten wrong. He agrees that I'm not far off in my assessment of our first meeting. He compliments my writing, and admits to being pleasantly surprised by it. He asks how many readers I have and I smile, suspecting that he's enjoying this tiny taste of notoriety. "Not many," I say honestly. "But the few I do have love to read my dating adventures. They'll be excited to see you make another appearance." He asks whether he can have an alias, but I shake my head at his first suggestion of "Todd."

"You can't be Todd," I say. "I know a Todd. How about Aaron? That's an easy change. Same first letter as your real name." He agrees.

Fast forward.

Fast forward to the last shared moment. He wraps his arm around my waist, moving me with ease to precisely where he wants me. He teases, his voice low in my ear, "Can't wait to read this post." I grin to myself in the dark, thinking of the parts I've already written in my mind, and wondering whether he'll enjoy reading his encore as much as hearing his debut.