for no other reason

Literally the sole purpose of this post is to show that I looked cute the other night, when I went to a fancy dinner.



That's it. That's the post. 

Forgive me. 

on anxious attachment

I have been working on getting better acquainted with my madness--with the things that make me difficult to love. I've always imagined myself to be the kind of person in touch with her own psychological knots, but some of the tanglier ones have been getting the better of me over the past few months that I've been seeing Kenny. (And yes, there you go. For strangers that didn't have a name, there's the name. For familiars who've been wondering if it really is him--it really is him.)


In a nutshell: if you've heard of attachment theory (or even if you haven't, because the phrase is self-explanatory), my attachment style is "anxious". I am perpetually anxious about my relationship, except for the time when I am in my boyfriend's company. Perpetually wanting more. It's exhausting. I exhaust myself. Kenny claims not be exhausted; he is unfailingly good natured and patient when my insecurities rumble up. (I once told him I'm a black hole of need and he said, "Babe. I will throw anything you need into that black hole. Just tell me what you need.) But of course he'd prefer I feel safe and secure in his love even when he's not right next to me to express it.


The other day I told him: Dating you is like going through all four seasons in a week.

Explain, he said. But I didn't need to.


Lately we only see one another on the weekends, because neither of us really has the time or capacity for anything more. And the time we do spend together is just fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, that I crave more, immediately, the minute we say goodbye. But we're both busy during the week, long hours, early mornings, late nights, friends, our own hobbies and projects, etc etc, and often our communication gets a little sparse. A few calls, text check-ins. maybe a photo or two. The summery sense of being with him, sunlight on my soul, quickly cools. Then it gets downright cold. In those very wintery moments it's hard to remember that everything is perfectly fine, that the distance between us is temporary and, honestly, probably healthy. Fires need oxygen to burn.


When we are together, he absolutely showers me with physical affection and expressions of care. Anyone watching from the outside would call me a lunatic to feel insecure. The love he shows is so pure and true and fearless it's nothing short of wondrous in the cynical, self-interested world of dating. It just pours out of him with electric light and energy. He never lets me get more than a few feet away without pulling me back, touching me again, calling me to him where he lays. Twelve or more hours of this I get. But then a few days go by and I start to question if he still feels the same. My brain splits in two, one half reminding me that I go through this cycle with him again and again, the other whispering, maliciously, but what if this time it's different?

So here's an example of my anxious attachment manifesting.

Yesterday when I got to his place, he was waiting for me on the corner as usual. I climbed out of the Uber and he pulled me into his arms, and his grin and the way he held me was the summer I'd been waiting for. My fears melted away instantly. Just like that. He walked me inside, his arm tight around my shoulder, to where he had a surprise waiting. A kids' board game he had swiped, unused and never opened, from a friend's house (who doesn't have a kid, and didn't know where the game had come from). "I dusted it off like Jumanji," he said excitedly. "I thought it would be fun."


We dumped a box full of colorful plastic pieces onto the floor and set about constructing the game: a tree with a magnetized top on which players hang little monkeys one by one until the magnet gives and everything falls to the crocodile pit below. Ridiculous. So silly. Designed for toddlers. And in the hands of my adult boyfriend wishing to make me laugh, utterly delightful.


When we discovered that the tree canopy attaches by way of magnets, Kenny absolutely lost it. Magnets are in-joke with us; we're both mildly obsessed with them. I use them as much as possible at home and in my office at work; he uses them in creative projects. Also, when we realized how perfectly sized our bodies are to one another, we decided that coming together feels like the click of magnets. Magnets are our thing. "Wait...it's magnetized??" He broke into a huge smile, shaking his head at me in amazement, kissing me meaningfully. It was a gorgeous moment of acknowledging something special between us.


All this to say, he was in high spirits. But for me, something was off. I hadn't seen him since Sunday morning and we'd barely talked all week. I'd had another hugely stressful work week; I knew he had, too. He'd gotten some new recording equipment a few days ago, and I hadn't heard much about what he'd done with it. On Friday I'm leaving for Washington, for Group Therapy Weekender; we hadn't really talked about my trip. I just felt like we had all this stuff to catch up on and reconnect over, but here we were playing a board game instead of talking and holding one another.


I know. I told you. Black hole of need.


So I lost it a little bit. Got quiet and sulky and unsure how to express my needs, but immediately Kenny picked up on my mood and asked what was wrong. We moved to the bed and I leaned close against him to confess the tangle of my thoughts. I hadn't seen him all week, I complained. I wanted to talk. I wanted to talk more, period, whenever we're together. I wanted to turn the TV off. I wanted to hear him, not a movie running in the background. I wanted to sit across from him and get to know him more. I want, I want, I want.


"I just think it would be nice to just lay together and catch up a little bit before jumping into an activity," I said.


My sweet, loving boyfriend did not really know what to make of me in that moment. Here he was trying to do something fun and thoughtful and there I was characterizing it is "an activity" he had thrust upon me. A discussion ensued (I won't call it an argument) in which I yet again laid out my insecurities like the world's shittiest hand of Tarot cards that he picked up, to calmly address and dispense with one by one.


At some point he said, "I'm not going to argue with you about how I feel." I didn't know what that meant, so he tried to explain. "What I mean is that I love and care for you so much--"


"I'm not arguing with you about that," I protested.


"You are subconsciously," he said. And that shut me up. Because he's right. That's exactly what I'm doing.


The talk went on, as lovers' talks to, until my fears were soothed and his frustrations validated. There was no yelling. We never stopped touching one another. He looked right at me when he said the things I needed to hear. And then we went on to have incredible sex, incredible Thai food, and sleep incredibly peacefully all night.


And now I have five days with which to prepare to do it all over again.

confectionary

Remember me as the one who loved you in language. The one who pulled pieces of you like taffy, wound them round and round into words that sent your ego on a soaring sugar rush. You can come back to them, but you can't come back to me. I've found sweeter truths for my tongue to taste, and my mouth is so much fuller than you could ever make it.

minor miracle

And then one day, you'll come home to a short, scribbled note. Just six words, plus your name, plus his. And this note will be confirmation that everything you felt all weekend, during the marathon three nights you spent with him, wasn't just in your head. And it'll stop you dead where you stand, next to the lamp where you read it with a smile. Because you know all too well that time has a way of taking things eventually, every last thing you love, because that's just how it seems to go.

But in this moment, time can't do anything. Time can't reach you at all. In this moment, all that exists is the undeniable reality that someone is in love with you. And that's a choice he's making, despite all the reasons he could choose not to. There are a hundred things about you that make you - that make any of us - an imperfect choice. But he doesn't care about those things. Instead he's focused why he should, why he can, and why he wants to. That's a minor miracle. It's a triumph. It's the "I told you so" of all your friends who reminded you that awesome, amazing things you cannot predict are always just around the corner. It's beauty itself.

Which is why you don't move from where you stand frozen next to the lamp. You just let time stop all around you and meditate on the fact that in this instant, on this day, in this year of your one precious life, you are fucking loved.


why I write

I write to be okay with myself, and to find a kind of self-love.

I write to get a handle on my emotions, which are all too often extreme, exhausting, and which frequently run roughshod over me.

I write to work through conflicts in my life. My allegorical posts, which are my favorite and most cathartic to write, are always representations of something I'm struggling with in real life. I simplify the setting and strip down the details to the most basic, recognizable images and symbols -- boy, girl, forest, water, flower, stone -- because those are much easier to get a handle on than the complexities of the real world situation. And the amazing thing is that in reaching some resolve for these characters (or even just a pithy final line of dialogue), I feel as though I've puzzled through the actual problem. Like I've cracked it.

I write because I love the idea of others finding something to relate to in my words. The thought that someone could read this, for instance, and apply an interpretation of it to their own life in some illuminating or comforting way -- is an incredible thing. I love the idea of a simple, hundred-word story meaning a dozen different things to a dozen different people, because the concepts in it are both so familiar and so broad.

I write because I am insecure, and I find a kind of confidence in vulnerability. That probably sounds counterintuitive, but I have come to believe that being utterly truthful about my fears and weaknesses isn't something to be ashamed of, but to be proud of. I believe this because I greatly admire when others are vulnerable with me. I find it the most beautiful of human traits, in fact.

I write to express things to the people in my life that I can't say directly. Sometimes these are positive things; sometimes not. Every single significant person in my life and everyone I've ever been close to knows about my blog, and knows that it's the best way to find out what's really going on with me, should they wish to find out.

I write to celebrate the people I love. I don't often announce to friends or boyfriends that I've written about them; I prefer to let my blog just quietly exist and let others seek it out when they want to. But sometimes I share those posts with people when I want them to know how much they mean to me. When I want them to feel how much they are seen. This feels like a precious gift that only I can give them, and that no matter what ever happens between us, they'll always have. They'll always know that for a moment in time, these unique, beautiful things about them were deeply loved.

I write to remind myself that despite a sort of incessant loneliness that I struggle with, I do in fact have many wonderful friends, with whom I have so many great times.

I write because I know it's my greatest talent, and it feels good to use it.

I write because in times of loneliness, my own voice feels like a friend keeping me company. Finding the right words and putting them in the right order calms me, and is like a balm for my anxieties.

I write because so many of you have, over the years, sent me encouragement and kind compliments that make me feel like what I have to say matters.

I write because I know no better way to let go of pain and fear and anger.

I write because language is a lullaby I can sing to myself, when there is no around to soothe me.

I write because it feels like what I'm meant to do.

any given square

I don't have as much energy and enthusiasm for Instagram as I used to; most of the time it just feels like an arms race. Like if I don't periodically supply proof that I am alive, that I'm still moderately attractive, that I have friends and a boyfriend and do fun things, I will be dismissed as irrelevant and uncool. That I will be pitied for my lonely, workaday life.

This is hugely ironic, since the years of my IG heyday (~2013-2016 I guess?) were actually some of my unhappiest. These years were broken up with the occasional incredible experience, sure, but the truth was that not having a (real) job was a soul-crushing existence that made me feel ashamed and alienated every single day. But wow were my dog and my boyfriend photogenic, and wow was it easy to look at pictures of us and convince myself that I was complete and life was okay.

I have a couple of wildly successful friends, one of whom leads the kind of life most people would kill to spray all over Instagram. International travel, a gorgeous girlfriend, endless good times with long-standing, very close friends. He doesn't post one fucking bit of it on social media. Occasionally he'll send me some jaw-dropping photo from, say, the south of France or Aspen, when I ask where in the world he is. But that's where his need to prove anything to anyone ends.

On the other hand, I have acquaintances whose quest for validation on IG makes me genuinely uncomfortable. These are the same people who will tell you, unasked, how blissfully happy they are, how devoted and adoring their partners are. Okay. Sure. But just as the truly rich never talk about how much money they have, the truly happy don't need to constantly assure everyone how perfect everything is.

That's part of why I don't like Instagram as much anymore. It can all seem a little sad and desperate, and any given image is now suspect. Instagram couples in particular get serious side eye from me - because I've been in one. All that energy invested into building a narrative feels tryhard.

Then there is the fact of my own questionable motives. It's definitely nice to see, at a glance, all of the people that I'm currently close to, and all the recent great times I've had with them. But I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some part of me needing to regularly post a Happy Square to remind those who've hurt me (read: left my life for one reason or another) that I'm doing great, thanks for checking in. Oh did you think I'd have trouble getting over you? Peep how ridiculously hot my new boyfriend is. While you're at it, kindly be reminded how attractive I am. Or: Remember when you decided I wasn't good enough for your friendship anymore? No worries, look how much fun my new friends are. 

Anyway, here are some blurry and imperfect shots from moments that will stay in my memory as anything but:











banner

I held a staff meeting at 7am this morning, my first ever. Literally everyone showed. For the industry I work in, and considering how early and how far these people had to trek just for 45 minutes of listening - this is remarkable. The meeting went well and I didn't even speed talk, which is what I usually do when forced to speak in front of a group. It was just easy and comfortable.

Afterward I shot my boss a quick note just to share this win with him. I only see my boss about once a month; he bounces between SoCal, NorCal and NY, and our store happily needs very little onsite attention. He always emails back quickly, though. Today he answered: Ellie, the atmosphere and culture that you bring to your team is like no other. I truly appreciate it, and keep up the great work. He cc'd his boss on this reply.

I immediately screenshot this and sent it to all of my close friends. I do this, of course, because it's the one area of my life that I'm still insecure about - the one where I most feel I've something to prove. My friends (who know this about me) indulge me with various versions of Fuck yeah or Wow or in one case, some well deserved piss-taking: Manage that workflow. Create synergies.

Not ten minutes after this, one of my employees comes back to tell me that my boss's boss's boss - the company founder/CEO - is here. This is a totally unannounced surprise visit, which, okay, fine - but it was a whole thing. A whole media project thing, with a camera person and producer. Bit nerve wracking. In addition, she also included me in her Instagram story, introducing me as "Ellie, our GM, who is killing it." I laughed and demurred and said something about how I just show up, everyone else does the hard work - but I later saw that she captioned over me while I was talking: "She's being modest."

So all of that was great. And on top if it I got to talk to, see, or text about seven of my friends, old and new. And if you don't already know this about me, that is my metric for, well, pretty much every shade of happiness: how much connection I feel to the people in my life. How many conversations, how many laughs, how many witty text conversations. I live for their love. It's truly pathetic.

Anyway: I don't often have days where the awesomeness stacks up like this. But today it was stacked, and I wanted to remember it.

buyer's market

I've built a summer home for us, with walls made of expectation.


Sometimes winter won't let go, gets jealous of spring, and there's nothing anyone can do about it until the sun turns and says Enough. I have been waiting and waiting for that moment, and I can feel it coming. And when it does I want your skin against mine, as the heat sinks back into my bones.


I've stocked this summer home with all the things we'll need. Beach towels, my terrible navigation, and a full tank of gas. Watermelon cubes, sunsets to squint at, and cool sheets for sunburned shoulders.


I'm packed and ready to go. I don't think I'm going to bring my phone, or my laptop, or very many of my insecurities. I want to leave space for the things we didn't know we'd find there.


There's room for two in the summer home I've built -- but just barely. Let me know if you want to come along; otherwise I'll bring more of me.

either way

Sometimes loving you is like wrapping a blanket around a small, fragile creature. Soft fur, steady heartbeat. Calm and grateful for the shelter I have to give.

And sometimes loving you is like gathering broken glass with my bare hands. Fractured pieces reflecting light in every direction that I'm ineptly, hopelessly trying to capture. Splinters and blood and the suspicion that I'm only making a bigger mess.

Don't be scared of me; I'm not scared of scars.

early summer sunset

"Give me something of you that no one else has gotten," he said. "Show me something no one else has seen."


She smiled. In the request she heard his need to feel a singular, private connection between them. A desire, however impossible, to banish the specter of Lovers Past. This moved her deeply, because she could relate. Jealousy was a pin prick she felt keenly and all too often. The glimpses of it she saw in him only made her love him more.


So she held her breath and plunged into waters that were increasingly unpredictable. Warm one day; icy another. She swam deep and her muscles limbered with the movement. She felt vulnerable and beautiful, and when she rose to the surface, the breath she took to fill her burning lungs was triumphant.


But he was gone. She was alone in her victory, which suddenly felt small, stupid, and superficial.


She tread water quietly, scanning the shore, expecting him to reappear at any moment. But he didn't, and after a while she let the tide pull her in to a beach quickly cooling in the early summer sunset.

birthday update

Hi. How goes it? I hope it goes well. I'm stopping by today to give a sort of state of the union, since Thursday was my birthday and it's been ages since I've just given a straight update on my life.

Work.

Work is great. It's been six months now since they foolishly put me at the helm - but I haven't crashed the ship yet. In fact, hilariously, I have actually turned out to be rather good at it. Of seven stores, mine is by some measures the most profitable, and has in fact only been profitable since I took over. I am constantly insisting to my bosses (who I love) that this has nothing to do with me, that I'm just showing up every day and making common sense decisions and trying to keep people (employees and customers) happy -- and they are constantly insisting that I'm killing it. (Their actual words.) It has been a huge and unexpected boost to my self-esteem, and despite the work being unglamorous in the extreme, I absolutely love my job. I work with a crew of funny, caring, and awesome people who've become great friends and I count each of them a blessing every day.

Social life.

I spend a lot of time with coworkers and ex-coworkers who've remained friends. They're awesome and supportive and we're close knit to a point where it actually feels like family. And if you've been following me for some time, you know how much that sense of belonging is like heroin to me. It's all I want. And I have it again, after not having it for some time. And it's so, so great. I see the my LA friends (the few who didn't move away) every so often, and Cameron (still living in Texas) and I talk every single day. I couldn't imagine life without him in my corner.

Love life.

The thing that I've been writing about since March is still going. He lives in North Hollywood, which is a right bitch to get to from where I'm at, so we're only able to see one another once or maybe twice a week. But we recently had a talk about this and I agreed to tweak my schedule a bit so we can change that.

Most nights that we get together we immediately fall on the bed and just lay wrapped up in one another's arms, talking and laughing and listening to music and only leaving when we're too hungry to sleep. Sometimes we go on day trip adventures. Sometimes we cook. The other night at midnight he wanted "to bake" so we went to the store and got stuff to make cake and manicotti. Sometimes we go to shows. These are my favorite times with him. On these nights he doesn't let go of my hand, and he pulls me through crowds, spinning me to the music, blatantly showing off to strangers how happy we are, smiling at me for hours and hours in a way that makes my heart feel brand new.

I've spent the past two months falling for him, and here's why:

We have the same sense of humor. Absurdities in the world and in other people strike us the same way. He tells great stories about ridiculous things that happen during his day, because he has a knack for finding the humor in adversity. He has this one laugh that he only does when he's laughing really hard, and it's about the best thing ever. I'm in love with that laugh. He's the biggest cuddle bug I've ever known and can fall dead asleep no matter what crazy position he's twisted himself up against me in. He brings out a nurturing side of me that I didn't know I had. With him I'm a more patient, accepting, and grateful person. In return he guards my heart and my body in the most beautiful ways. When we walk down the street he always, always, always maneuvers himself to be closer to traffic, to be between me and some shady person. He comes out to the street to wait for my Uber and when he puts me back in another one at the end of the night, he tells the driver to please drive safe. "Precious cargo." (It is of course to be silly, but it's adorable all the same.) And he monitors my mood and happiness like -- well, like Chaucer did. Very closely. He knows when even the slightest tiniest thing has bothered me and will not let up until I admit it. He makes sure I am good -- and that we are good. It's important to him.

He's a songwriter (by hobby not profession) so he feels and thinks in lyrics and music. He's made me half a dozen playlists. I've made him two. When we miss one another, we turn to these. That's a really big thing for me that I've missed. I shared my blog with him. I showed him what I'd written about him. I didn't know how he'd take it. The first thing he said after reading was "No words." Then he described my writing as "next level" and said some other really sweet things. His creative life is very, very important to him, and he protects his creative time carefully. I love and respect and find inspiration in that.

And more superficially, of course, he is absolutely, positively perfect for me physically.

Health.

I'm running fairly often and still doing my dumb little faux-ga / faux-lates moves that I do at home. I'm pretty happy with my body. I wish I had more self-discipline when it comes to sugar and eating too much too late at night. But generally I'm feeling fit and healthy.

Writing.

As is obvious, working full time still takes a pretty big toll on my creative life. But lately I'm coming to think there's another reason I don't blog as much. Same reason I stay away from Instagram. I'm just losing my taste for self-reflection. For talking about myself at all. For selfies. I have a theory as to why this is, and it's pretty simple: the happier I am - and I'm talking true contentedness with who I am and where I'm at in my life - the less I need to shout about it.

But I still love to write.

So to that end, I've been toying for some time with the idea of taking a fiction class. Because I just have no clue how to approach fiction. Last year I met a published writer who's been through Iowa Writer's Workshop and was just listed as one of the best 15 fiction teachers in Los Angeles, and I'm on his mailing list.

I'm thinking about it, but it's pricey -- and my little free time is very precious -- so I dunno.

----

And that's all the news fit to print. Birthday girl, over and out.

catalogue

I've been learning your facial expressions, and how they make me feel.


There's the face you make when you're listening to me, when we're catching up after a few days apart. You're on your back, I'm on your front. Your eyes are wide and bright and you can barely keep still or quiet. You interrupt my stories, excited and eager to reconnect, then apologize and urge me on. My hair falls forward and we thread our fingers together. I push your arms above your head until you pull me down, and we roll into a tangle of limbs, laughing.


Then you close your eyes and sigh, and I see the face you wear when you need to tell me how good you feel about what's happening. "I just want this all the tiiiime," you say in the sweetest whine I've ever heard, putting your forehead against mine. The more serious the thing you want to say, the softer your voice gets. "Do you know how much I care about you?" This just a whisper. Your eyes stay shut in these moments, probably because you know mine don't. There's only so much we can take.


This weekend I was treated to one of my favorites: the face you make when I get to you, in the best way. And I was merciless this weekend. So high and so fearless, wanting to give more than I usually dare. I sat on your lap, teasing you with some delicious promise or thought, talking low and close to your ear so you could hear me clearly over the music. Then I'd watch the smile come on your face, the one where you have no choice, as your head tips back helplessly. You won't look at me in these moments, keeping your gaze straight ahead as your breath comes harder--but you'll grip me tighter to let me know how you feel. It's intoxicating and unforgettable, this face and this feeling. Probably my favorite.


Or maybe my favorite is the one you make late at night, or early in the morning. There's very little light in these moments, but I've memorized your features so I don't need much anyway. It's a grin bordering on a smirk, and it is just amazing. It's like nothing I've ever seen. Playfulness and power in equal measure. You, in complete and perfect control. Us, in complete and perfect sync.


There are others, too, with more delicate edges. There's the face you make when I've pushed some teasing joke too far. Your lips twist slightly and your head drops a bit, a silent complaint that I'm being unfair. That I don't know. (And I know I don't, always. I know that.) Your sensitivity in these moments is the most breathtaking beautiful thing I can imagine.


Or there's the face you make when you're calling me out. You flash your eyes at me meaningfully and the way you tilt your head says everything. But you only hold this expression for a second because at the end of the day, it is a tiny criticism. And you never want me to feel bad. In fact your desire to make me happy is written all over your face, your words, and your choices, every single day.


And I feel it. And it's working.

knit to someone

Here is the first thing that she did not expect: for him to step into the space between them, in the assured way that he did. She was older. She felt, in some ways, more powerful. It had always been her money, her yes or no, her accepting or ignoring his occasional, hesitant flirtation. She expected that when it came down to it, that power would hold, and he would be shy. That he would follow her lead. 

But when they came to the place where these things unfold, he stepped into that space so confidently, so expertly, and with so much self-knowledge that she never stood a chance. Key, meet lock. Click. Then it was just a matter of delirious discovery after delirious discovery.  

What, his hands asked, if I were to do this? 

How did you know? her body answered. 

Things he said became tattoos she'd retrace the shape of again and again over the coming weeks weeks. Breathless chemistry: that was the first thing. 

The second thing was a wavelength thing. They found one another one it, on that infinitely nuanced spectrum where humor and intelligence hum, waiting to be sparked by the other. Jokes that hit their mark in the sweetest spot. Playful teasing that pulled all the right strings. Cultural references (fucking god how much she'd missed sharing cultural references) that landed. 

And the third thing? Was how quickly, and with what beautiful abandon, he let himself feel what was happening. How honestly he let himself express it, directly, in plain language.

You are fucking amazing. 

I've been thinking about you all day. 

You have no idea the things I've said to my friends.

These moments she gathered up, inhaling them deeply like clipped flowers that might not last the week. 

These were the big surprises. The smaller ones all centered around how much they had in common, in interests, tastes, styles, personality quirks. She had forgotten how good it felt to knit to someone with the same basic values and lifestyle. Work, friends, self care, creativity, play. Rinse and repeat.

She started to lose track of things, like how many times she'd seen him, how many things they were planning to do together, and the reasons why any of it would be a bad idea.

the same gold: part four

The Powerhouse looks, smells, and sounds as exactly as she expected. She's reminded of the once great, now shuttered Bar 107. Unpretentious crowd, bartenders who are surly with newcomers but chummy with regulars, and 90s-era bangers on the stereo. It'll do just fine.


She slides into the booth first; he closes in tight. And they're off. The lightning round comes first on this game show, and they skate from topic to topic back to topic, ticking boxes and laughing much more than anticipated. Five minutes into the conversation she realizes she has brutally underestimated his intelligence. He's making jokes that she barely catches. He's clever as fuck. Ten minutes into the conversation, she senses him realizing that's he's underestimated her, too. It's in his face and reactions when she references (the right) bands or songs or genres of music. When she asks probing questions about his work and his passions. When she gets it.


They don't drink. They just talk.


She loves the way he looks when he's listening to her. There's really no space between them already, and she has to twist sharply to face him directly--but his body language is serious all the same. Head slightly tipped down, eyes focused on the table, looking up at her quickly when some point trips his interest. If he interrupts her he immediately urges her back to her train of thought. He wants to understand. For her part, she feels one hundred percent relaxed and herself. There is nothing on the line her but a good time. This could never be a thing, right? There is no need to be nervous. This is not the usual two person audition. This is just some friends getting to know one another better. And it doesn't even matter that he has just casually pulled her legs across his lap. She's acutely aware of it but it's so natural and right that they don't miss a beat to acknowledge the step.


It happens fast. They're laughing too much, with too much chemistry to stop it. He calls it out, inhibitions peeled away by the chemicals flushing from his brain.


"Why am I so comfortable with you? Why is this so easy?"


She smiles. God that feels good. "Because. We've known each other for a long time, remember?" She shrugs, still smiling, and meets his eye. He wraps a hand gently around the back of her neck, kisses her, and then presses his forehead softly against hers.


This--all of this--is the exact opposite of what she was expecting. He is an entirely new and different person, a hundred times more faceted and complicated than the profile she had constructed of him.


He's sensitive: when she teases him about an old unsettled debt between them, his face darkens in shame. "Ohhh," she touches his chin. "You know I'm teasing." He won't look at her. "I'm sorry," she says, placing her palm against his chest. "That was a weird time in your life, wasn't it?" He nods. "It was a very weird time in my life."


He's quick-witted: for every wisecrack she gets in, he gets in two that are even better.


And most wonderful of all, he's vulnerable: every few minutes, as they move along this uncharted but strangely clear path, this adventure in shared surprise, he stops to marvel, aloud, at how great it is. "What's happening right now? Why are you so awesome?"


And it is, simply, great. They are having a blast. It is clearly on. God knows for how long, if it's the drugs alone, if it will even last the night--but right now, it is on.


After an hour of mutual delight, of talking and laughing and just enjoying one another's closeness, there's a pause in the action. They both feel it but it falls on him to say it.


"Do you want to go to your place?"


She does. She really does.

the same gold: part three

"Let's get faded and find some music."

That had been the official invitation. And maybe it was something about the word "faded" that edged her into "yes" territory. No one had ever invited her to get faded. Not in so many words (and words were everything). Faded sounded like just rewards for getting successfully past a difficult time. Faded like the pastels of sunset, deliciously cool after a long hot day. Faded like forgetting.

Yes, faded sounded just about perfect - so she said yes. After that, there were only two decisions to make: what pill to take (they'd agreed to party together, but launch solo) and what to wear. Both were easy enough: nothing crazy and nothing fancy.

Jeans. A crewneck top with thumbholes. Chunky white sneakers and a puffer. See how casually I am taking this? she hoped her clothes said. See how hard I am not trying? Dressing up or dressing sexy was absolutely out of the question. She'd feel ridiculous.

She'd suggested The Roosevelt, a renovated depression-era hotel on the far end of the Boulevard. It offered options: sprawling lobby with tufted leather sectionals; poolside lounge with DJ and tropical-themed bar; swanky speakeasy with cushy booths lining a single, perfectly restored bowling lane. Whatever vibe they found themselves falling into, The Roosevelt could accommodate.

Not that it mattered; they would leave after two minutes anyway.

She gets there first. Arranges herself, puffer-less with legs crossed, on one of the oversized lobby sectionals. Breathing deeply as the high kicks in. Breathing quickly when she spots him across the room.

"Hey." Big, boyish smile. Plops down unceremoniously next to her. Gives her a one-armed, sideways hug. It's an awkward angle but his touch feels different than anytime before. They'd shared dozens of quick hugs over the years. The difference is that this one doesn't need a chaperone or a curfew. This hug is an unopened envelope that can contain whatever they want.

He's already high too; already restless. "Let's get out of here," he says, offering his hand. "Let's go make some mayhem." She takes his hand self-consciously before dropping it a minute later. As much as she loves his conspiratorial, mischievous tone, her hands are not her strong suit. She isn't ready to let go of her insecurities quite yet. It won't be long now, and the pill will do away with them altogether - but not yet.

On the street outside they assess their surroundings. The Boulevard this far west isn't particularly crowded. If they head east and dive into the thick of things, they risk the throng of bumbling, gawking tourists harshing their buzz. So they go back into the hotel. Clamber upstairs to the speakeasy, joking unsuccessfully with the stone-faced bouncer, who unamusedly lets them into a bar thumping with shitty (to them) hip hop. They frown at one another dramatically, covering their ears as if in pain.

"Ugh. God. This music."

"Yeah, no. There is not enough liquor in the world to make this tolerable."

Back on the street now, the chilly night air welcome on their hot cheeks. They're going higher now. Soon they'll be absolute chatterboxes. Best to hole up somewhere warm and comfortable.

"I know," he says, taking her hand again. "Powerhouse." She's never heard of it but he nods confidently. "Super old school. Right at Highland. Let's check it out." They walk a couple of short blocks before a traffic light stops them. Standing close together, all the potential of a starry night's worth of adventure laid out before them, he suddenly kisses her forehead. And it's everything, that kiss - everything she needs to know. It lasts exactly the right amount of time. It contains exactly the right amount of pressure. It hits her at exactly the right spot, because she's now realizing he is exactly the right height.

And, most importantly, that is his first kiss. Not some fumbling, grasping, too-early and too-deep attempt at having her. This forehead kiss is barely a suggestion. It is sweetness and warmth and six years of harmless flirtation wrapped in the thinnest, most delicate lace of maybe. It says: I am so glad to be here right now. I appreciate this. I'm not going to rush this. 

It says everything that the next fifteen hours would say, in fact. And then the next two dates after that.

---

Haha, omg, I am doing that thing that I have done before which is take a single night and make eleventy billion posts out of it. I'm sorry, I know that's so extra. It isn't about being dramatic so much as I'm trying to get some writing in before crashing. I'm on a seven day week since the younguns' are traveling right now, so the game for the time being is get in a wee bit of posting when I can. Hope it's not too obnoxious, and I promise there is some wonderful payoff. Having the time of my life and am very, very happy right now.  - e

memento

Friend who's been struggling a bit gets back from out of town and stops by my work to drop something off for me. Walks into the store, back to my office where I'm in a meeting with my boss. Wordlessly sets a small wrapped gift and a card in front of me on my desk, then turns and leaves without interrupting us.

A bit later when I'm alone I open the gift and read the card. I text the friend two emojis - a heart and the bomb - and that's it, until I can say thanks later in person.

Everyone has different metrics for success, whether it's financial gain, creative output, or some physical milestone reached. I have a little bit of each of those, but more than anything, my sense of achievement and meaning comes from feeling like I'm a good friend to the people who've trusted me enough to let me in. It's everything to me. And everything I've learned about how to be a better friend has come from befriending better people than myself.

Chances are I will lose the toy and maybe even the card some day. But I'll never forget how this friend makes me feel.

the same gold: part two

Weekends all to herself - she still wasn't used to them. Entire days with no one to answer to for how she spent her time. Time that, immediately after the breakup felt hollow and anxious, was now starting to feel luxurious, precious, and full of potential.

His Friday afternoon text caught her running errands in WeHo. He opened with the usual subject matter. Had she tried them? No, she had not, but she promised to let him know when she had.

You know I'll text you when I do, all lovey and dumb.

I just wanna Netflix with youuuu.

She looked at her phone. Well, here it was. As good as an invitation, if she wanted to accept it. No reason not to. Nothing serious on the line. Nothing but some fun, probably, which she was certainly entitled to. She was, after all, one hundred percent single. She considered for a second, then messaged him back.

It'll happen. One of these days I'll be in Hollywood and messed up and I'll just text you "Fire up the wall stars I'm coming over."

She watched the "read" notification land. Knew he was looking at his phone, right at that second. Digesting. Picturing it, maybe. She watched him type and erase, then do it again. Then again.

I want to take some together but I feel like I'll fall in love. She smiled. She knew exactly what he meant.

No you're safe I don't have a heart. Deliberately unpunctuated. That's how the kids did it, right?

So let's roll and go out.

And there it was. Right there on the table for the taking, if she wanted it. He knew she could, if she wanted to. She'd told him about the breakup a few days before, when she'd seen him last. Why do you always look so fire, he'd texted immediately afterward.  Hush, she'd said back. Pfffft German guy, he'd replied. Get you an Elon Musk. 

She stood in the California sunshine, one of the first warm days of the year. God it had been such a long, cold winter. But now the heat was coming back. Just a little bit, and slowly. But it was coming. That was undeniable.

With a sigh she decided to shelve this delicious offer. She wasn't ready. But she was definitely curious. With reckless flirtation, she answered. When it warms up. So I can wear less. Feel more sun. Feel more skin.

He tried again. Let's link up now. 

She thought about all she had to catch up on after the long work week. More errands. Housework. Sleep.

I can't todayyyyy. 

What about tonightttt?

When she didn't respond, he continued, playfully trying to box her into a commitment. Just kidding. Tomorrow sounds great. Let me know what time.

Very cute, she thought, but didn't respond. That was enough for today.

But by the time he tried yet again, two hours later, she'd had a full two hours to ruminate on possibility. Two hours to walk the sunny streets of her city, reflecting on how great most aspects of her life really were. Two hours to remember that life was all hers again. Two hours of uninterrupted music in her ears, setting a soundtrack for her imagination--and her dangerously impetuous nature.

Two hours, it turned out, was enough time to change her mind from Soon to a Sure, fuck it, tonight, why not.

Because sure, fuck it, why not? Tonight.

the same gold: part one

She'd known him for six years, the night she got to know him better.

Six years of chaste, usually comical assignations. Late-night trips to his various apartments (he moved as much as she did). Hollywood, Silverlake, even the valley once. Or he'd come to her place, usually after several days of flaking and last-minute cancellations. Sometimes they'd meet in public: a hasty exchange in the intimates section of a crowded Gap, or the parking lot of a Costco. Exact change always ready for him, bills folded neatly in her palm. The awkward, attention-getting way he'd shove a baggie of pills (or mushrooms or tabs) in her open tote bag. The whole thing so ridiculous, always. Fear and shame attaching themselves to something that should produce neither.

He exasperated her to no end. He was unreliable and uncommunicative, and his products were consistently inconsistent in quality. Sometimes though, they were pure magic. She had no choice but to see the humor in it all and to come to regard him with affection.

Over time, they became friends of a sort. He always followed up to see if she'd enjoyed/survived her purchase. Such customer service, she teased, admittedly moved by his concern. When she took acid for the first time and found herself in a blind spiral of terror, he answered her call and calmly talked her off the ledge. And when that same acid leveled out and she discovered the pure, heart-splitting joy it could offer, she called him back. He answered again, this time laughing to hear her first-timer's evangelism. I know, babe, he said, simply. I know. And when she took it subsequent times, she couldn't wait to talk to him again. There is no connection like that between those who've crossed the same rainbow and found the same gold.

These pre and post-purchase conversations grew in length and scope. She learned about his other interests, professional and creative. She listened to his music. When he quit his bar gig and began working in a lab -- a genuine, salaried job -- she was thrilled for him, and truly impressed with how far he'd come.  She knew all too well how easy it was for bright, good-hearted people to undersell themselves for the sheer ease of it.

He kept selling her drugs even when selling drugs became the side-side hustle. And then suddenly, he wasn't really a dealer; he was more of a friend keeping her in the loop. When something came around that was purported to be good, he offered to be the go-between. Or when she wanted something specific, he made a call or two. Meanwhile, he worked full time and pursued his passions on top of that. Just like a regular civilian. Just like her.

And of course, all this time, there was the fact of their chemistry. That didn't hurt her willingness to accommodate his flakiness. It was the sweet, uncomplicated chemistry of two people who are in no danger whatsoever of getting involved and getting hurt. She had a boyfriend, almost always. He was over ten years younger than her. She was, essentially, his client. No danger.

Still, it was there. Hello and goodbye hugs that lingered, with smiles that said everything. His occasional compliment on her looks, her outfit. Over time he grew bolder. The compliments became more direct. It was flattering and fun to her; he was absolutely adorable. But it wasn't an option. There were an assortment of things in the way. Among them: she was taken.

Until she wasn't.

ok to use

Doing laundry right now, being held hostage on my day off by a duvet that refuses to dry. Sticker on one of the machines catches my eye. because I, too, am feeling good and mostly healed and "OK TO USE."

I grab a Sharpie and my phone to snap a photo before I realize the company initials exactly match the first names of some of the people who have been the most supportive and available and just amazing over the last month. (You know who you are.) The universe is funny, and sometimes ha-ha funny.

Check it:





I might be scarce for the next few weeks, as for April, thanks to all the travelin' younguns I work with, I have given myself exactly one weekend with a full two days off. But that's okay! ...because I am focused and feeling content. Thanks, Spring.

p.s. It does not hurt that a criminally cute guy asked me out yesterday. Something something equinox fox.

invincibility

St. Patrick's Day is a very big deal for me. It's been a big deal for me since 2012, when I went to the downtown block party with Cameron and Greg and had one of the greatest holidays of my life. As long as I live I will never forget the closeness the three of us felt that day. Arms slung around one another's shoulders as we belted out Sunday Bloody Sunday, singing along with the U2 cover band that sounded for all the world like the real thing, feeling invincible in our connection to one another, to our futures, to our beliefs about ourselves. 


It was just a few weeks before my dad got sick, and it remains in my memory a time of suspended innocence, before everything just went...upside down. Before my dad died. Before I inherited all the money that I was completely unprepared to handle. Before I learned how deep and dark my depression can go. Before I wasted nearly four years aimlessly wandering the halls of my own life.

March 17th, therefore, imprinted itself on me. It came to signify joy and friendship - and the friends I choose as family. It became my favorite holiday.  And for the next couple of years, I lucked out and again and again and had absolutely fantastic, laughter and love-filled St. Paddy's Days. Different friends, different boyfriends; same celebration of gratitude.


So gearing up for this year, freshly (read: painfully) single, I really, really wanted to have a special day. I needed it. So I took a shot at organizing a relatively big group of friends/coworkers/ex-coworkers. And though I tried to keep my expectations low, I really did pin a lot of hope on everyone turning out. In the morning I rallied the troops and started a group text to get everyone laughing and hooked on being together. And it worked. And they all came (except one, who couldn't get out of work). And it was just fucking glorious.  



We opted out of the actual block party and took up residence at the corner bar (which was much busier than these photos make it look). And for the first time in, I don't know, maybe ever, I spent the day with people who not only love me and accept me despite my vast catalogue of personal failings - they also respect me as a coworker and, crazily enough, their boss. 


And I felt more whole in myself than I can remember ever feeling. And it was just such a wonderful thing, to talk and laugh and spend time with people I've grown close to over the past two years, to just lean back and watch them be exactly themselves. There was lots of drunken hugging - we are an affectionate and demonstrative bunch. Multiple times I laughed so hard I cried. And then in other moments I just quietly listened and appreciated these incredibly supportive, really good humans I get to have in my life.







We partied from 4pm until midnight, across two bars and then Edmund's house, where we ended with wine and pizza and conversation about Big Things, until we all just couldn't go anymore. Some had peeled off by then, to go dancing at Short Stop. But I was exactly where I was meant to be, with the exact core group I wanted to stay with.



Today I stopped by to say hi to Costa as I was leaving work. We talked for a minute about whatever, and then he said something like "By the way, yesterday? Was the greatest day ever. You made the greatest day ever happen." I shook my head, started to say it was thanks to amazing people just showing up, and that's all that matters.


"Yeah but you made them show up. You set it up, you invited everyone, and it was such a great crew. We all had a blast. Seriously best day ever."


That right there is all I need in this world - and I'm not talking about the compliment of my party planning skills. That right there is a dose of invincibility that will power me for months.


Not that this puts ever more pressure on you, St. Paddy's, 2020. Don't worry about it. I'm sure you'll do just fine.

all these friends

Can I tell you a beautiful, happy thing that happened last night?


Months ago Timo and I got tickets to Luttrell, and the show was last night in Hollywood. We bought our tickets individually, and I knew there was absolutely no way he'd go anyway, but I was feeling a little emotional about going for another reason. July 3rd, 2016 was the last time I went out as a solo and single person - and that was the night I met Timo. So yesterday was the first time in two and a half years I was going out with that particular status again.


I've been going out to clubs and shows by myself for years. That doesn't bother me. It was just, you know - significant.


I texted a bit with Cam before I got ready, which is always so empowering. He said he wished he was here to go out with me. I told him he always is, in spirit. Then I sent Costa a Luttrell track. Costa has absolutely no exposure to EDM, and since I always go to his shows (including a country concert at The Echo), he's promised that one of these days he's going to come to an event of mine. (I've been waiting for the right thing to bring him to. A hot, sweaty club isn't his scene; needs to be something major and open-air.) But in the meantime, I'm introducing him in bits and pieces. "That's so you," he said, in response to the song I shared.


So I get ready, I'm feeling really good, great mood, super confident. I'm even having a good hair night. And I'm walking down the Boulevard, listening to Kolonie, feeling all warm and wrapped up in the love of my friends, and it's just great.


It's just great.


I get into the club and I'm ordering a drink when I get a text from one of my coworkers - a frowning picture with her and Costa. Help :(, it says. I don't know if they've run into one another or are out together but they're two of my absolute favorite people and it's awesome. I have a huge smile. Sorry, I text back. It's fatal. You've got...Costaitis.

Come out! She texts back.

Lol I am high af gurl. I need music.

Omg where are you!! Let's go dance. I'm in weho.


A second later, I get another text from one of Costa's best friends and college buddies. Come ouuuuuuuuttttttt, he says.


I ask: is there anything better than multiple people urging you to come be with them? Is it not just the best feeling in the world? To me it is. To me it is gold. To me it is everything.


By now I'm starting to have trouble reading my phone. Come to MY out, I reply. I guarantee it's better.

Where?

Sound in Hollywood, I tell them both. But now I have to get rid of my phone and get to the dance floor. I have absolutely no expectation anyone is going to come, they're all already out somewhere, so I check my coat and phone and that's the end of it.


And it's so good. The music is perfect. I've seen Luttrell a handful of times, but this is the best set so far. I'm in heaven. I'm too high to dance much, but I find my usual spot near the outskirts and just drift away for 45 glorious minutes. Then at some point something makes me turn around. I don't know if he touched my shoulder or I just subconsciously felt his presence, but I turn around and fucking Costa is standing there, wearing his fucking cowboy hat and just fucking smiling at me.


Let me explain the significance of this. Costa is from Nebraska. He grew up on a cattle ranch. Granted, he then went on to study at Yale and work in politics in DC before pivoting to do creative work--but he's a country boy at heart. He also hates crowds. He has told me this. He also has never taken a drug other than weed in his life. Also? He was already out, elsewhere. And to drive across town in LA on a Friday night; to fight the crowd to get your damn ID from the bar where you've opened a tab; to derail the buzz you've got going just to go wait in a different club's line, pay a (not inexpensive) cover, work through another crowd to order a drink, then go fight through 500 people to find your one single, solo friend... I was very high in this moment but ecstasy is a love drug, and all the meaning of what he'd done to come spend time with me just came crushing down on me and my jaw fell open.


It's too loud to talk really so I just shake my head at him. For like twenty seconds. He gets it. Gives me a hug and puts his mouth close to my ear. "Edmund's here. He wants to see you. Franki's here. She wants to see you, too. All these friends are here for you," he says. "But right now..." And then we just dance.


I dance with my friend who, just a few days ago, spent an hour on the phone with me, as he stood under the stars back home in Nebraska at 2am, standing outside in the snow after the birthday party he'd flown back for. An hour telling me all the good things he sees in me. It was a conversation I'll never, ever forget. I had been feeling really, really low, in a place of desperation and fear, and he took those fears and beat them to death with encouragement and support. Said ridiculously kind thing after ridiculously kind thing about my character, my heart, and the friend I've been to him. "If nothing else," he'd said, "I just want you to feel seen."


That is a thing I am currently having in my life - that friendship.


So the slight bummer ending to this story is that I got separated from Costa and Edmund pretty quickly (my fault; I dashed off to dance and I lost them). And I didn't have my phone on me, plus I was extremely out of it (not to mention the show was oversold and jam-packed), so we ended up apart in the end. And infuriatingly, I never even got to see Franki; but she assures me she had a ton of fun anyway (and I believe it - Franki is the sweetest, happiest girl ever). But the best part is that both Costa and Edmund clearly loved the experience, too. I don't think either of them had ever been to something like that. “This is actually pretty great,” Costa said at one point. And that? Introducing someone to my world and having them like it? That too—gold. The vibes were great and the music was incredible, and the lonely night I thought I was in for morphed into just this beautiful affirmation that I'm not alone at all.


So that is my Friday night tale for you. Happy weekend, babies.

fin

Before Timo and I spoke on the phone - one week into the breakup - I sent him an email. It contained things I needed him to, if not acknowledge, at least hear. I put a lot of thought into it. It contained some criticisms, some deserved call-outs--but mostly clarifications about where I'd been at in the relationship. Because I suspected his ending it had a lot to do with his fear that I was in some kind of hurry to get to the next level.


(I was not.)


But when we talked on the phone, I'd asked him if he'd read that email. He had not. "I couldn't," he said.


So I proceeded to say the things I needed to and ask the questions I needed to. He was honest and undefensive, but very emotional in his responses. Some of what I told him he hadn't realized. I thought I heard a shift in his voice. He cried. He refused to point-blank say he wasn't in love with me. Said "You're asking me to jerk you around" instead. There were other little moments during the call, too. Little clues, little softenings of his tone, in which I heard - still - love.


And it completely fucked me up. I hung up victorious and sure he just needed a little time to miss me. He was in Europe for work, but I knew when he came back he'd call. He'd want to see me, right away.


I knew it.


But then of course he didn't. And every minute of that first 24 hours was a breath held until I remembered I had to keep breathing. It was one of the most torturous days of my life. The next morning as I was getting ready for work, I made the decision to message him. I just had to know, either way. Had he been conflicted? Did he maybe just want to take a little time, think about what he wants? Or was he done--truly done.


I sent him a short message saying that apparently I wasn't as strong as I thought I was, and while I thought I'd heard conflict in his voice, I wasn't going to be able to just sit on my hands with the indefinitely open door that I'd offered him. Can you just please say the words, 'I know for certain that I don't want to be with you now or in the future'? so that I can for real this time move on?


I couldn't focus at work, kept checking my phone constantly. No response. Hours go by. No response. I'd DMed him on Twitter, and as best I could tell from the dumb little checkmark/date stamp system, he hadn't even read it. Which makes no sense, because he lives on Twitter. Had be blocked me? Had he actually blocked me?


I barely keep it together long enough to close the store, get on a train home, get out of the subway car, and get on the station escalator before messaging him again, this time SMS. He's got an Android, though, so I've no way of knowing if he's read that, either.


It's the worst feeling. I am instantly twenty-whatever again, just pathetically begging and chasing whichever man it is (oh god there were too many) who just isn't that into me. I hate myself, in this moment. A grown woman knowing better than to do what she's doing, but doing it all the same, because she's a grown woman with anxiety and abandonment issues, and, probably, a dash of love addiction.


I wait and wait but he doesn't respond. I am absolutely beside myself. By this point I know he must be totally done, but I just. need. to hear. it. I need to hear him say it. I need either the ice water-in-the-face of a cold, "I'm sorry, Ellie, I don't want to be with you" or the satisfaction of hearing a tear-filled version of the same.


I call. He doesn't answer. I leave a voicemail. I am now in a dangerous place, spiraling fast.


And this, my dear lovely friends of so many years - this is where everything changes. My own mental illness is what is now about to save me, in a way. Because Timo knows I am not always, shall way say, "totally together"? He knows I am prone to debilitating, dangerous panic attacks. Ideation. Very, very bad stuff.


He knows this about me, and yet he does not respond.


And so here's the thing. Even if I weren't? Even if I was the sanest, healthiest, stablest human being on the planet? We were together for two and one half-years. He broke up with me out of the fucking blue. If I needed one more conversation - ten more minutes after two and a half years - I should have gotten it. Full stop.


But I didn't get it. Timo did not pick up the phone and call me back, broken and hurting fellow human being that I am. He didn't even text back. He fucking DM'ed me on Twitter. And I could tell, both from the dumb little checkmark/date system and from the absolutely banal and nonspecific BS that he sent, that he had not even read my DM.


In other words, he had not read or heard a word of the pain I was in. He saw I was reaching out, needing help, but he just...shoved his fingers in his ears. Hid completely. Would not give me the closure I was begging for. Could not even read my words. And I guarantee he deleted my voicemail unheard.


So this DM comes back, these three little paragraphs of absolute breakup-cliche dreck, and I'm sitting on my bed reading them, and it all comes home for me. How unbelievably not okay it is, for him to do things this way, to someone who he knows suffers in the ways I do. To not have the tiniest bit of compassion or patience. Mind you this had not been me trying to get him back. It had just been me, hurting badly, asking for absolute closure to a very confusing week.


And I realize that this was the best thing ever. Just the best thing ever. Because who wants that? Who wants a person like that in their life, capable of such selfishness, cowardice, and cruelty?


Not I.


---


So here's where I'm at now: on the far side of it. I got launched hard and fast to that far side. And I am really grateful to be there. I'm smiling again, and laughing, and the amount of time I go in between thinking about him gets longer and longer every day. I'm stung by the rejection, of course. Because ego never really dies. And I'm angry that he didn't hear me out (or read me out), even though it would have been painful. He told me during that phone call that he'd decided in January to end it. That's a full month of pretending, and incredible pretending at that. That alone is just... that alone earned me one more conversation.


And I'm sad to lose companionship and affection. That's hard. But now I look back at things differently, through the lens of his final choices. And I still have my list of all the reasons he is wrong for me. Big reasons, small reasons. Petty reasons, important reasons. And I have everything else to keep me busy. Awesome job, world's greatest friends. And some of the loyalest, most supportive people on the fucking internet to cheer me on as I get. back. up.


Again.

clouds and mountains

My eyes played a trick on me today. From the backseat of a car, driving into the city, I saw the San Gabriels far off behind LA's skyline. And for a moment they looked to be covered in snow. It was easy to believe; it's been very cold for what feels like a very long time.

But then I realized - that was just the sky, skirting the peaks in white. I was actually looking at two separate things: the fixed and unmoving forest, and the floating, ephemeral cumulus.


That was some twelve hours ago. By now the mountains can't even see the clouds anymore.


I wonder if it hurt, to say goodbye.


I bet the clouds cried. I bet the mountains won't soon forget.

only better

So now, an epilogue of sorts (in two parts). Full disclaimer: I'm going to get a little granular, so I can get it all out and behind me. And I'm going to get a touch TMI. Sorry.


After Timo broke up with me, I was a mess. I just couldn't make sense of his decision. We'd been happy, I was sure of it. He told me all the time how much he cared about me, how much he appreciated my love and support. He was incredibly expressive and caring. He did nice things for me all the time. We exhausted ourselves to spend as much time as possible together, work be damned. We positively lit up whenever we saw one another. The sex was unreal. Half the reason I didn't blog about us (well, other than work taking up so much of my energy) was that I didn't feel I needed to. I had absolutely nothing to prove about my romantic/personal life. I was just...happy.


So those first two weeks were unbearable. I couldn't focus at work, couldn't talk about anything else with my friends. So, so much crying. Crying the likes of which I haven't done since Chaucer died. Meanwhile, I did everything you're supposed to do in a breakup; rather, everything that has previously been really helpful.


I made a list. On this list were things about Timo that I had never allowed to bother me. That I had chosen to overlook. That I had weighed against my gratitude for just simply being loved and treated well - and therefore just didn't amount to enough to matter. On this list were all of his shortcomings. Some were petty; most were valid, and truly objectionable character flaws. I let myself drum up every time he'd been callous or unfair, and I put it on the list. Also on the list were reasons we probably, arguably, weren't great for one another. The ways in which our values clashed. Our preferences, ideals, interests, passions, etc.


I looked at this list hourly. It helped.


I deleted a lot of photos. And as I went through and revisited these memories, I had to admit something to myself: many of these times we spent together? The day trips and the getaways? They were not actually spectacularly great. In fact many of the photos gave me a sort of uneasy feeling, as I remembered a fight we'd had that day - or, to be honest, how dull the day had actually been. So I added these revised memories to the list. That helped a lot, too.


I made a goal grid on the wall in front of my desk. Just eight small squares of paper, stuck up with washi tape. Physical, financial, and intellectual goals. Bite-sized goals. Ones I can achieve easily and quickly enough, to give my self-confidence a boost. As soon as I knock one out, I put another in its place. Putting the focus back on me.


I watched Guy Winch's TED talk on heartbreak. It gave me a lot to think about.


I forced myself to say "Hey, beautiful" every time I looked in the mirror. I didn't believe it, it made me laugh to say it to my puffy, miserable face--but at least it got a laugh out of me.


I made the decision to reclaim some things, lest I fall into the trap of thinking I'd lost them - or that Timo had taken them with him.


For one thing, I ordered myself a small bottle Noir 29, which is a Le Labo scent I'd gotten for him, that had been a very special and meaningful choice, because I adore that scent. Rather than let it be ruined for me, or allow myself to feel triggered every time I smell it on another man - because it is LA, after all; men here wear Le Labo - I decided I would make it my scent, now.


For another, I forced myself past the sexual block that had formed in the breakup. Our connection had been priceless to us both, and a huge source of joy. When it ended I felt doomed. Like no one would ever get me the way he did. And then it dawned on me that 50% of that connection was due to me - my openness, my communication skills, my being comfortable with me. And I'm still here. So after spending several nights feeling sure I'd never want sex again, I forced myself past the wall. I cleared my head, cleared my night, and took myself on a mental and physical date the likes of which I had not done in years - 2.5 years, to be exact. I did things to myself that even Timo had not, even when invited. And holy fuck. Holy fuck. So yeah: I took that back, too.


Another thing I did? Play German language YouTube videos. The most banal or cornball shit I could find. I did this to desensitize myself to something I had fetishized about Timo. I have always loved the way that language sounds, always found it incredibly sexy. I know I always will. But I listened to it with new ears, and in new contexts, until it became flat and a little ridiculous, and I could start to see why so many people find it harsh and discordant.


And finally, I decided that I'm going to Instagram our Tulum trip, which I'd never done. Only he's not going to make much of an appearance in that episode. He chose to take himself out of our story, so it's mine now. Lots of selfies on the way, folks. You've been warned.


---


So that's all the work I was doing, in a desperate attempt to just get on the far side of the pain. And it helped, definitely. But there were all these interstitial moments that were still just breathtakingly hard. And there were nights, alone at home, when I wanted to crawl out of my skin. When even the love and support of my un-fucking-believably amazing friends was not enough.


And it was in one of those moments that I asked him for one more conversation. The six, seven minutes he'd given me in my apartment were not enough. I needed to understand. I could not let go until I understood.


So we talked (this was a week ago today). And while I expected cold stoicism from him—a level-headed coolness that would leave me no room for doubt--what I got was the absolute opposite. He was conflicted. He was in pain. He cried. And most damaging and confusing of all? He would not straight up tell me that he didn't want to be with me. I asked him to say it -- and he wouldn't. "Why won't you say it?" I asked, my heart racing. "Ellie, you're asking me to jerk you around."


And that was it. When I heard that I thought I had him. I thought that meant he just needed time. So I offered it to him. I took control of the conversation and told him I was very much still wanting us, but that he could have some time to figure out his path. The door wouldn't be open forever, I said - but it was still open. I don't remember exactly what our last words were, but when I hung up the phone it was like I'd taken heroin. I felt so high on hope I almost threw up. I walked into work so jacked up on the fantasy that Timo was maybe still mine, it was like I'd shot adrenaline straight into my heart.


Well, that hope turned out to be utterly corrosive. Pure poison. I thought I couldn't concentrate before? Every ding of my phone sent my heart straight to my throat. I was sure he was doing it again - coming back to me again. I'd given him the most amazing deal ever: take your time, do your thing, I need no commitment, see ya when you're ready--and with that, I'd draped my heart out over a metal spike. I lived like that for about a week: consumed. Telling myself I was keeping my expectations low, but not believing the lie one bit. It was fucking hell.


And when the day I knew he was coming home from Europe came and went and he didn't appear on my door, contrite and full of renewed love -- then I knew I couldn't live with wondering. And I very quickly, very completely, lost my mind, and reached out to him again.


And how he responded - and what he responded with - were exactly what I needed. And all in a rush, I fell out of love with him. All in a moment I was launched as if by a ballista to that far side of pain I'd been desperate to get to. He showed me who he was and who he's always been.


I will tell you what happened and finish this sorry saga tomorrow or very soon. But now: bed and sleep for the first time in three weeks when, hitting the pillow, I know for sure what my future holds.


(Me, only better.)

points in between

Point D: Monday, February 19th, 2019 

I'd just finished a 62-hour week. I was exhausted but triumphant. Sixty-two hours of (mostly) successful work, in my new position. Two years ago I didn't know I was capable of the things I apparently am. I can manage people, and their various workplace neuroses and needs. I can manage a store, its product and cash flow. I can manage the dozen little fires that spring up a week, in a restaurant--the dozen little time-sensitive crises of last-minute call-outs, broken grills, misplaced orders. And much more importantly, I can apparently manage my own historically volatile emotions in such situations. I can check and then moderate the anxiety, fear, anger, and frustration that naturally surface when things don't go as they should; when others don't do their part. I can be chill, and just do what needs to be done.

Anyway: exhausted but triumphant.

He asked whether I had plans for the night, immediately adding that he understood if I was too wiped to hang out. Actually, I said, I very much want to do something. I very much want to go out and be alive and social and remember that work is just one part of me. My friend Costa had suggested dinner at the Pacific Dining Car. I told Timo to come join us.

I will, he said. That sounds wonderful. I just have to wait until my groceries get delivered.

I'll never forgot this bit. The stupid groceries. He texted repeatedly over the next hour and a half, with increasing self-annoyance. So mad at myself. I'm sorry, baby. I could already be there with you guys, if I wasn't a lazy ass who has to have groceries delivered. 

As my friend and I feasted on prime rib and Bordeaux, I kept telling Timo not to stress. That we'd be there, drinking still, whenever he made it. He was so wound up about having to wait, about not being with us already. And when he came, he was all smiles. Hugs for both of us, kisses for me. His hand immediately found my leg under the table. Laughing and joking through the cocktails he ordered. Good humor and affection as usual, as always was with him. I was relaxed and content.

Point E: Thursday, February 21st, 2019

I'm on a late morning Amtrak to San Diego, to spend the day with my best friend. The Pacific Surfliner hugs the coast, reminding me of all the pretty beach cities less than an hour and $30 away from my living room. It's not so bad, this life I've knocked together. My sweet little apartment. My job, demanding but rewarding and often, dare I say it, quite fun. My friends, who have rallied around me in this moment, their indignation and shock soothing to my fractured heart.

As we speed southward along the Pacific, I go over conversations I've had in the last three days. The initial one with Timo, all stumbling confusion, suffocating panic, agonizing questions, unclear answers. The subsequent ones with my friends, where, as surprised as me, they hypothesized as best they could.

"It sounds like depression."

"It clearly has nothing to do with you."

"He sounds really lost."

"I don't think he has any idea what he wants."

I turn over these thoughts, one by one, willing myself to accept them.

A tone sounds from the intercom: an address to passengers. "Gooooood morning, folks. This is Amtrack 2023 from Los Angeles to San Diego and points in between. Please have your tickets on hand as we come by."

Points in between. The words stick in my head. That's what I will call it, I think. When I'm ready. When I have time to sit down and attempt to tell this story. Where it started, where it ended, where it's going. Points in between - that's all life is, anyway. Points significant and less so. Points you remember and points you hope to forget.

Points you can look forward to, when the one you're at is just about as unbearable as can be.

Point C: Friday, February 15h, 2019

I'm coming off the subway, heading into work early because one of my servers has called out sick last minute. I'm tired. I'm annoyed. I'm rehearsing a discussion in my head, explaining to this employee calmly that in the future, half an hour is not enough notice when he is the only person opening the restaurant. That unless he's on his damn death bed, I need him to drag his ass to work and wait the thirty minutes it'll take me to get ready, get there, and send him home. The store can't not open, just because someone has a cold.

As I step off the escalator onto the upper level of the station, a man lurking in the space between the stairs and a support column says something to me. A Hey baby of sorts. The sort of bullshit I usually ignore. Only today something in me twinges sharply, and I don't ignore it. I glare at him as I pass and say evenly "Stay the fuck away from me." He says something else, something threatening, puffing up in a "What you gonna do" posture.

And rather than walk away, as any sensible person would do, I decide that right here and right now is where I draw the line. I plant my feet and look him dead in the eye. "Stay. The fuck. Away. From me." I make each syllable count, loaded with the assurance that I am unafraid of him.

He takes a step forward, inches from me now, and raises his arms at his side. Calls me a bitch. Asks what my fucking problem is.

And that's it. I've been triggered. He's no longer a stranger. He's now every man who has every physically or emotionally abused me. My brother. My last boss. The psycho I dated in Arizona. All of them, rolled into one repulsive bully.

I spit in his face.

The first hit he lands makes my left ear ring. Later I'll be itching my inner ear and feel the scab; at the time I won't realize he's drawn blood. Another hit, and I find my voice. He's cursing at me, laughing as he pushes me back. I don't remember what I'm yelling back, but I'm pushing too. He's small. I ask him how long he's going to jail for. "You see the cameras? You see all these fucking cameras?" I don't recognize myself: not my voice, not my fury, not the unconscious rage with which I'm fighting back.

It's over pretty quickly. I'm on the ground, pulling out my phone, fumbling for the video function, screaming for help as he strolls off unhurried.

All the usual shit after that. No one stops him. He walks straight past two Metro security guards whom I beseech for help. They offer none. Time slows down. The adrenaline levels out in my bloodstream and I collapse on the ground, sobbing, in shock. A woman approaches, hands me her business card. "I saw it. I can be a witness if you need me." Then she boards her train and goes about her day.

The security guards help me find cops. They take a statement.  I know it's a waste of time. This is now just a thing that happened to me, and it's my choice to either stay angry or let it go.

Point F: Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

"Hey, can you come here for a second?" One of my employees invites me around the corner from the kitchen, into his workspace. I'm anticipating some kind of serious exchange, some problem to be solved, some fresh headache. But he just looks with a funny little smile at a small white gift bag on the wooden block. My heart leaps into my throat. It isn't my birthday. There is no ostensible reason for this.

"We just wanted to get you something to let you know how much we appreciate you," he says.

I try to joke through the moment, lest I cry. "What is this nonsense?" I pick up the bag, smiling, shaking my head. "What did you do?" Some chocolates. A boxed spa gift certificate. And a card that my three closest, most supportive and most reliable employees have signed. I read it on the spot, silently, my heart thumping hard.

Ellie - thank you for being such a dedicated, hardworking, and amazing boss. You are truly extraordinary. Love, F

Ellie, it has been such a pleasure working with you. I hope you feel supported and loved because you truly are an amazing person. Thanks for being such an awesome kick ass boss. Love, K

Ellie - I told Erin that she was the best boss I've ever had. I lied. Hope you know how much all of us adore you and respect you. Enjoy the little pick-me-up and keep being the badass you are. - C 

I can't really talk. I just shake my head more. I find each of them and hug them. All I can muster is a simple, sincere "thank you" lest I completely lose it. And just like that, years of insecurity--walled like cement around the belief of my inadequacy--crumble.

I actually matter to people. I am actually worthy. I am doing something right.

Their words rush in to fill, just a little bit, the ripped-out hole in my heart where another thing was, just a few days before. I am loved, still, by some.

Point A: Saturday, July 21st, 2018 

We had plans. Dinner out. But Timo has asked me to come over to his house instead. Said something about wanting to stay in. No problem. I'm game to watch a movie, order some takeout.

When I arrive, he's sober-faced and quiet. I grow nervous. Ask what's up, whether everything is okay. He asks me to sit on his couch. Starts crying. I assume I'm being broken up with, and feel the blood in my veins turn icy.

But no. This isn't that. This is the polar opposite of that. This is him asking for more. There's a speech about how little time we have together, because of our schedules. And then Timo, overcome with emotion, is asking me to come to Germany and meet his family. "I need them to understand why I'm not coming home." It dawns on me what he's saying. And in fact he then spells it out: he wants to move in with me, but he hasn't yet told his family how serious he is about me, and he knows they're going to take it hard. So he wants them to meet me so they understand why we want to be together.

I'm deeply happy, deeply moved by his invitation. It's what I want, too.

Point H: Thursday, July 25th 2019

I'm on a flight to Seattle, a city I've never been to, in a state I've never been to. I've come for a two-day music festival. Two days not of just some music I like, mixed in with other music I can tolerate. Two days of all music I absolutely love. I've booked myself the most deluxe on-site glamping tent money can buy. For once I am not staying in a hotel, sheltered and socially sequestered. This time I'm leaving my comfort zone. I'm open to anything. I decided to give myself this experience five months ago, on a day in late February, when I realized it would be the perfect celebratory milestone. Five months, I'd thought. That should be enough time. Five months of hard work to cleanse my soul. Five months of rededicating myself to me, and all the things that make me me.

All I know is I'm somewhere totally new but also completely familiar. Tens of thousands of others feeling the same things, moved in the same ways. I've taken myself out for an adventure, and there's no way it won't be amazing.

Point B: Thursday, January 21st

The paper I am signing has my name, my boss's name, the date, and a list of my new responsibilities. I barely glance at it. This has been a long time coming, months in fact, and there isn't any anxiety left. There is excitement, sure. I am getting a significant raise and, with that, the opportunity to start reshaping my life in better ways. But I've long been doing almost everything on this job description. If you'd told me even just a year ago I would have said No way. Not possible. Way too much responsibility and stress for me. Next to no experience with these things. No formal training. And yet, as my boss's boss said to my old boss: "She's the one. It's just a matter of figuring out the right number."

So we figured out the number. And suddenly I am a boss in my own right. Can you believe it? Can you even fucking believe it? A full time (plus) job, for your blogmistress, who, only a few short years ago, spent her days ambling around taking selfies with her dog.

It only took her half her life to grow up. But grow up she has.

Point D: Monday, February 19th, 2019 

We said goodbye to Costa and took an Uber back to my place. I don't remember him being especially cuddly in the car, but I don't remember him being distant, either. I do remember him griping about a scooter someone had lazily shoved off in front of my apartment. But then we walked up the stairs and through the foyer as usual.

I don't remember if he had his hand on the back of my neck, as was our usual thing. All the promise that familiar touch held, as we moved together towards my quiet, private space.

I only remember the look on his face. I only remember how flat and cold it was, when I turned to say something, slipping off my coat. There was clearly something wrong. My heart already pounding, I asked what it was.

"Ellie I'm breaking up with you." The words crushed together so that it actually sounded like one. My first thought, absurdly, was that I had taken LSD and forgotten, and this was simply a very bad trip. But that split second was a luxury compared to the next one, where I felt my heart hit the floor and shatter into a million pieces.

So now to try and explain what I still don't understand. Does it matter? I guess you're owed something, for following along this drawn-out drama so far. In a nutshell: he's unhappy at his job. He's here in the US on a work visa. The clock is ticking. Doesn't feel ready to move in with me (though I told him I'd happily wait until we were both ready for that, because I'm not even ready myself). Also: he misses home, might just go back to Germany. Etc. I asked everything I could. I said everything I could. But he shut down pretty quickly and I realized all that matters is that he was leaving my life.

It was over in five, maybe six minutes. He stood up and asked for his key back. Took his copy of my key off his own keyring and set it down with a little click on my desk.  Let himself out.

And that was it.

We had one subsequent conversation. I left nothing on the table. I told him that he was the love of my life and that somewhere in the future was a line where if he reappeared (again) to (again) ask to be let back in, that I would have to say "No, I can't, I'm sorry, I've moved on." But that as far as I could tell that point was a long way off. I offered him time and space to figure out what he wants. I thought I heard pain and conflict in his voice, but I don't know. All I can do is let him go and focus on my own goals now. Work at being a better, stronger me.

Point G: Now

And that's where I'm at. Spending time with friends. Working, working, working. Learning to focus on long-term happiness. Trying to find the dark humor in yet another loss. They are all almost two exactly years apart. Mom. Dad. Brother. Chaucer. Timo. Trying to remember that others have it worse. Listening to friends who tell me not only can I handle it, but I am handling it, so.

I have more time now. Maybe I'll be here more often. This definitely feels good and right. When in doubt, return to the things you love.