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.