Showing posts with label boyfriend. Show all posts
Showing posts with label boyfriend. Show all posts

pivot

Our first Saturday together in seven months, the rain gets the better of us.

We drive to the forest, listening to music that satisfies both our tastes. Paul Kalkbrenner, CRO, Ben Howard. We joke nervously about all the defeated looking, soaked-to-the-bone hikers we see on the way up the mountain. Buy a day pass for the park. Layer on hoodies and jackets, gamely set out on the trail. But it's too wet and too cold, and the loop we have in mind is three hours long. We'd be asking for colds. We'd be stupid. So we pivot. Decide to hit one of the beach cities neither of us have ever really explored.

We stop back at my place first, to change into dry clothes. In a stroke of good luck, we snag a parking spot in front of my building. I slip my debit card into the meter, which automatically cues up two hours' worth of time. Timo punches the timer down to 45 minutes, then 30, and I laugh. "How quick are you going to be?" I tease. It's been a few days. Changing into dry clothes is only the cover story.

His dimple comes out at this--the one that deepens when he's trying to suppress a smile. The one that owns me, completely. "That's up to you," he shoots back, looking me square in the eye. He dials the meter back up to an hour, puts his hand on the back of my neck, and walks me this way inside to my apartment.

---

On the way to the coast, he calls home. An official, meet-the-parents Skype had been tentatively planned anyway, and doing it now there's less pressure. Two birds, or something. I listen to the conversation through the car's speakers, deducing enough from the occasional bit of English what they're talking about. There's a lot of laughter. Timo and his mother both laugh easily, and often. I can hear them in one another, even when I don't understand a word. She is energetic, full of plans and ideas and questions. His dad is quieter, chiming in when he wants something clarified. Something tells me he's the one I'll seek out someday, during some future visit, when the foreign, mirthful house full of siblings and cousins and babies overwhelms me.

Timo stops to explain or translate now and again, so I don't feel totally excluded. I catch some German words related to work that are identical to their English counterparts, and when I look at him pointedly he says, "Yeah that's right, I'm talking about you."

His mother asks whether we'll be coming to Germany soon, to celebrate some of the good news Timo has just shared, and I jump in. "We talked about maybe coming later this summer...?" I direct my words to them, but I'm looking at their son. He says in German then translates, smiling at me: "It's in the plan but not on the calendar."

And then we're in Long Beach.

Neither of us is crazy about the admission prices of the aquarium (which I've been to before) or the Queen Mary (which we've both been to), so we opt for aimless wandering. It's cool and windy, and downtown is more or less deserted. The streets are wide and empty, the fresh air and ample space invigorating. We walk and talk and look, admiring some of the older architecture and flat out hating on some of the new.

Massive cranes towering up from the loading docks remind Timo of the Port of Hamburg, and the nostalgia in his voice makes me jealous. Little gets closer to someone's heart than the landmarks of childhood. When we stroll past the hands-on tide pool outside the aquarium, I'm tempted to spring for the $30 ticket; I've always loved these sorts of mini aquatic petting zoos. Plunging my arms into the icy water. Carefully prying starfish from rocks. Pressing my flattened palms against the needle tips of sea urchins. 

The grassy area surrounding the lighthouse is closed off for a wedding; bridesmaids in navy blue chiffon form ranks around a bride in white satin. A photographer stations the party in front of gently bobbing boats, and it's picturesque enough, but in that casual, sunny way of California harbors. East coast harbors just feel more authentically naval to me. Saltier. Tougher.

I'm thinking about my dad today, finding excuses to bring him up. He was a sailor, having joined the Navy at sixteen. Somewhere I've got a handful of black and white snapshots of him in his crisp whites, some local doll on his arm. Cocky and grinning despite his age. April 30th marked five years ago that he died. I celebrated, in a gesture that only those who really know me would understand, by going to a Deadmau5 show. Getting high while listening to live music, and the feelings of love and gratitude that doing so always leads me to.

We sit and gaze across the water at the Queen Mary: massive, immobile, timeless. Timo reads aloud from the ship's Wikipedia page - our own DIY historical tour. We take a pic that I'll later delete, because it is awful. I do this guiltily, because more frequent documentation of our time together is a mission we have vowed to undertake. It's something I have to admit I miss about my last relationship, as annoying as it occasionally was.

Hungry, we Yelp, choosing a seafood restaurant nearby. Picking a new place for date nights, or on day trips, or even while traveling always stresses me out. It feels like such a gamble, and such a shame when it's not good. But the place we find is perfect for our mood and our appetites. On barstools at a table facing the street, we share clam chowder, ceviche, grilled yellowtail. I get buzzed and chatty on pineapple cider, flirting with my boyfriend of ten months.

Serious-faced little dogs trot past the window, leading their humans, and I laugh. "Is there any kind of dog you don't like?" Timo asks, amused, I guess, at the ease by which I am delighted.

"Sure. I can't stand Chow Chows and Shar Peis. And Cocker Spaniels. And Dalmations." This last surprises him.

"They're mean," I explain. "Inbred and blind, mostly, so they're very aggressive." Timo nods, and I go on, watching his face. "And though I really like their faces and coloring and personalities, I don't love how German Shepherds look." Surprise again. "The hunched-over legs," I say. "That skulking way they walk. And did you know that their actual name is 'German Shepherd Dog'? So dumb. Like 'PIN number.'"

"That's because in German, their name means 'the shepherd's dog'". My jaw drops, genuinely gobsmacked. I'd never realized. I make a gesture that mimes my head exploding.

Tipsy, I announce that were I to live in another century, I'd be a shepherdess. "What a gig. Just take the sheep out, chill all day reading under a tree, take them back home." Knowing pointless thought exercises like this aren't his thing, I ask anyway: "What would you want to be, if you were born in another century?"

"A rockstar in the sixties." I object, having of course meant pre-1900, but he just laughs. "That was another century."

I'm curious though. It's about the last answer I'd expect of him, and I ask: "Would you really want to be a rockstar?" I've dated a few wanna-be rockstars in my day. Timo is nothing like a wanna-be rockstar.

"No. Not really at all, actually." And I believe him.

"I read a quote from Alain de Botton the other day. 'Proof of good parenting is that your child doesn't want to be famous.'"

"What, because they'll have gotten enough attention growing up?"

"Exactly." Without saying it explicitly, I know we both agree with the theory, and that feels important for some reason.

The whole evening still open to us, we decide to catch a movie. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (we both loved the first). On the walk over to the theatre, on the pedestrian overpass bridging an outdoor mall, Timo playfully races a toddler pushing his little sister's stroller. When the boy suddenly leaves off and stumbles in another direction, Timo sets off immediately after him, until the kid's dad calls him back. It takes me a second to understand: the little boy was headed towards some stairs. I stare hard at my boyfriend's profile as we continue on, but he just keeps his eyes straight ahead, refusing to take in my wordless praise.

On the front steps of the Performing Arts Center, we come across a man walking his Golden Retriever puppy. I gasp; the dog is utterly gorgeous. The man sees my face and before I can even get out the words May I pet your... he's whirled himself and the pup around so I can kneel down and say hello. The puppy gives me a quick kiss on the face, then seats himself calmly without even having to be asked. I stroke his neck and back, stunned nearly speechless by his sweet brown eyes.

"How old?" My heart is pounding.

"Ten months." I nod, then shake my head. "He's amazing." It's all I can say. Even Timo is impressed, chiming in, "Beautiful."

Then they're gone. Ten seconds' worth of interaction at most, but I'm destroyed. Timo sees me turn away, tears forming, and pulls me into a hug. "That was stupid," I say to his chest. "I don't know why I do that to myself."

"Why wouldn't you?" he says sharply. "The dog was beautiful." I know the impatience in his voice, and what it means. It means, No, Ellie, you're not giving up on anything you love in this world, just because it sometimes hurts. It's a sentiment I've needed to hear before. It's one he's willing to offer up again and again, until I get it.

Before the movie we get ice cream. Cold Stone Creamery. He's never been. I excitedly point out the frozen slab of marble, explain the process. "You can get as many different things as you want. They'll smash it all up and mix it in." Our eyes are already bigger than our stomachs, but the portions are enormous regardless. We sit and scoop our indulgence on a bench outside the creamery, the setting sun streaking the plaza in ribbons of cold white light.

"This is obscene," he criticizes happily. "In Germany this would be a third as big."

"That's so there's room to put the sauerkraut on top." I am leveled by my own joke, and howl with laughter.

"Think you're clever much, do you?" The dimple reappears.

---

On the way home, I lean across the console, turning my face into his arm. He's wearing one of my favorite sweaters. Lightweight, loose knit, wheat-colored. I breathe in the smell of him and sigh. When I pull away so he can more easily change lanes, he objects. "No no, come back." Lays his arm over my shoulders. Strokes my elbow softly. It's gotten late and we're both tired, but the drive home goes quickly.

It's just Long Beach. Just a walk around the waterfront, some lunch, a movie, and ice cream. But holy fuck is it more than enough for me.

and now a boring one

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago that I pulled a day after I published it. I pulled it because when I re-read it, it struck me as a little smug. I hate when I sound self-satisfied. I am rarely, if ever, satisfied with myself.

I also really dislike writing general update posts. They strike me as terribly uncreative and boring. Then again, it feels elliptic to skate past so much time without a word about how things have been going.

So I'm going to try again. Some of this might be repetitive, and for that I apologize.

In February, I was granted a promotion and a raise, and my hours were extended to full-time. I'm now "floor lead," which just means that I'm the face of management, when management isn't there. Discounts, voids, comps, and any customer service issues are my responsibility. None of that is ever a problem, because I genuinely love dealing with people. The crowd that visits my work is generally awesome and very friendly. Lots of regulars, lots of wide-eyed and enthusiastic tourists.

My hourly wage is low, but after tips I earn more than I actually would at an admin job. That sounds crazy, I know, but it's true. The place where I work offers dine-in and take out options, and the menu is pricy. Factor in the cost of drinks and checks add up fast. We also use iPad registers which prompt guests to tip at the end of transactions. Plus, the small size of the place allows me to work alone for most of my shifts, eliminating the need to share tips. Bottom line: it's a very, very good gig and I feel extremely lucky to have it.

Recently my manager has been giving me even more responsibility. I'm doing some invoicing, some purchase journaling, and when she's on vacation I'll handle a bit of product ordering as well. Whether this will result in another raise I don't know. The additional tasks are brand new, so we'll see. I do know that my GM is swamped with work, and not having an assistant GM makes it nearly impossible for her to get everything done. Which I suppose is why she and the kitchen manager have begun delegating to me some of their office work. It feels awesome to be trusted and relied upon, in this way.

The increase to full-time kicked my ass a little bit, and I spent several weeks adjusting. That's most of the reason I wasn't blogging. I'd come home and just fall on my bed, stare at my phone, and be incapable of much more than feeding myself before dozing off to a podcast. My days off were Tuesday and Wednesday, and on most days I worked, I wouldn't be home until 9, 10, or even 11pm.

Timo was incredibly patient and understanding during this time. Like...unbelievably so.

I started the job last fall, and as the restaurant's busiest days are on the weekend, immediately lost my Saturdays and Sundays to work. So the fact is, I haven't had a Saturday or Sunday off to spend with Timo since October. 

Back then I was working part-time, and we had four other servers on staff - so at any point I could have requested one of those weekend days off. But they were the money shifts. The post-election protest days were huge for us. I'd make over $300 on those days, in just tips. I didn't want to give them up. Just the pure exhilaration of earning my own money again - I couldn't get enough of it. I took as many shifts as I could pick up, covering for coworkers on a moment's notice, taking any overtime I could get. There was a stretch in December that I worked something like nine days in a row, took one off to move, then worked another seven. And I fucking loved it.

Then Timo came back from his holiday travels, we got back together, and started wanting to see one another more often. Only I wasn't exactly available. I still had no weekend time to share with him, and only a few hours late at night, on most weekdays. But rather than settle for next to nothing, he started working even harder to see me. He'd immediately put my work schedule into his calendar the day I got it. He'd take a change of clothes to work with him and then come to my place after he was finished at the office, going straight back to work in the morning. Or he'd stay up late in the middle of the week, waiting for me to get off and take the train to his house. He'd have food ready for me, candles in the shower, candy - whatever he thought would relax me and cheer me up, because most nights I was burned the fuck out. He'd juggle his own schedule and his own needs so we could start having mid-week date nights. He'd occasionally just take a day off in the middle of the week so we could see one another in daylight. In short he was an amazing boyfriend.

When I got the raise and the bump to full-time, I was able to relax a little, financially. Still I kept the same schedule, for next three months. During this time I felt extremely frustrated. Like my life was passing me by. I'd gotten away from everything that was important to me. I barely had any quality time with Timo, I wasn't writing or reading, I was hardly working out -- I really didn't feel connected to myself at all.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I finally spoke to my manager about making a change. She was completely understanding, as were my coworkers (there are only three of us servers, so we really have to cooperate and support one another). My coworkers agreed to small changes in their own schedules so that I could have Saturdays off, along with Thursdays. Plus I'm off early on Fridays and don't go in until the afternoon on Sunday. My "weekend" is split up, which isn't ideal in terms of recovery/relaxation...but it's a compromise I'm willing to make. My hours and days are more or less consistent, and I'm very happy with the shifts I have.

Today is my first Thursday off, on the new schedule. Saturday will be my first Saturday off in seven months. Timo and I are over the moon. We have a Google doc filled with things we want to do, places we want to go. Restaurants and events and overnights and day trips. I feel optimistic about my ability to start building back into my life the things that have gone missing from it.

Like this.

Soooo...hello again.

in

I can't sleep, so I guess I'll plow ahead and I'll bring you up to present day, starting with what happened with Timo.

I walked away from him that day last month, didn't look back, and got on the bus home. (For locals: we'd met at The Grove. I made him meet me at the fucking Grove.) My heart was just a lump of icy lead. I didn't tell anyone, didn't even text my best friends, because doing so would have made it real. I just went home and faced it down alone.

I worked nonstop. I worked eight days in a row, took one day off to move, and then worked another six in a row. Work saved me. It kept me busy and distracted, and I was grateful for it. Every morning on my way to the train, I listened to songs that, for whatever reason, empowered me. I latched on to them, knowing that forever after they'd be ruined, but needing something to channel my feelings through.

At some point, and already the timeline of this is hazy, he messaged me. Said he wanted to see me before he left to go home for a month. I told him that if he was just looking for closure for himself, that I wasn't interested. That if he just wanted to say he was sad for how things turned out or whatever, that I didn't want to have that conversation. I explained it would just hurt me more to say goodbye to him yet again. He said he wasn't sure what he wanted to say, but that he really needed to see me, so I said ok, and asked when. He said he'd think about when he could make time, and that he'd get back to me the next day.

But then he didn't get back to me the next day, and that was almost worse than The Grove. I felt jerked around and so, so hurt. Then the next day he finally messaged and said he didn't know if he'd be able to squeeze in seeing me before he left after all - and that's when I wiped my proverbial hands. Because what the fuck.

In his defense, he had a lot going on. A huge project at work, getting ready to go to Europe for a month, and a stopover in Pennsylvania for work on the way. Also in his defense, he knew he wanted to see me, he knew he wasn't ready to let go - but he didn't know what he would say to me, anyway. And Timo doesn't do or say things he doesn't mean, or isn't ready to. Ever. It's one of his best qualities.

But from my perspective? I was donezo. I put my head down, threw myself into work, focused on settling into my new place, and tried to think about him less and less every hour.

This plan didn't last long. He texted me and said he'd sent me something on the messaging app we'd used before, the one I had dumped the day of The Grove. (He didn't know I had dumped it, I guess.) I said ok, I'll check it out, and I reinstalled the app. It was a voice message. He was about to get on a plane to Amsterdam (I could hear the call for boarding in the background), and he wanted to tell me that he'd been thinking about me every day. That he hoped I'd see him when he got back. Said he loved me, in English and German. Used his pet name for me.

I didn't know what to make of it. I felt like someone had yanked my head off my shoulders, played a round of tennis with it, then reattached it. I texted a friend for support, and that friend said, "Uh yeah, I meant to tell you. Timo messaged me asking about you. If you're doing okay. If I'd spoken to you. Also, he wanted to know if I have your new address, so he can send you something."

On the one hand I felt enormous satisfaction to know he was thinking about me, needing to talk to me. On the other I felt mistrustful. Suspicious. Not that he had impure motives, more that he was just missing me on a superficial level, and that if I wasn't careful, I'd get sucked into some kind of prolonged, protracted breakup again upon his return.

Like I say, the timeline of everything is hazy, but we messaged a few times. The gist of his communication was to say, "I want to talk when I get back. I need more time to think, but I know I want to see you. Give me a chance." The gist of mine was, "I'm here and listening. I've made my feelings clear. Figure out your own." He confessed to being scared I'd meet someone else. I told him, perhaps a bit brutally, that I meet people all the time. But that I wasn't interested in anyone else.

A few more days went by. And then it was Christmas Eve, and I was walking home from work when he texted. "Merry Christmas, Ellie," he said. I think it was raining. I'm pretty sure, in fact. Anyway, along with the text was a video.

This video was the boombox outside my window.

It was him sitting at his desk, talking into the camera, addressing me. "The other day Spotify showed me that you were listening to this song," he said. And he named the song. And it wasn't even a favorite song or anything, it was just a random track from a group I like. But apparently the name of the song jumped out at him as some kind of clue to my feelings, so he looked up the lyrics. And one of the lyrics was something like, "You say you love me, but what does that mean?"

Do you remember a few months ago, when I was talking about the things that worked so well between us, and I mentioned the whole "love languages" thing? How we speak the same ones, in the same order, and in the same intensity? Well, the premise and structure of this Christmas Eve video was Timo telling me exactly what it means when he says he loves me...as divided into the five love language categories.

"So this is what it means, when I say I love you," he started. I couldn't even watch it at first. Or even the second time. I could only listen. It was too much.

It was a series of statements all starting with "It means."

It means that you enrich my life, by challenging my way of thinking. It means thinking of you makes me think profound things. It means that the tears are worth it. It means I want to dance with you in front of a stage. It means I want you to wear my t-shirts. It means it pains me when I cannot find the right words to talk to you. It means I want to make sure you have the right pillow. It means I want to take a photo every single time we're together. It means I want to share the road with you, in seeing the world, and discovering new things. 

And on like that, for nearly five minutes.

Obviously, it opened things back up between us in a big way. We talked on the phone. We agreed that we needed to talk in person, not via satellite over the Atlantic. But we didn't really hold back. We copped to missing one another terribly. We expressed love. Timo told me that he made the video because he couldn't wait, that he didn't want any more time going by without letting me know how he felt. That so much could happen in five weeks, and he didn't want to risk losing me.

He didn't stop with the video, either. He made a playlist for me, of dozens of his favorite German songs. Pages of notes accompanied the list, a primer on the feelings associated with those songs, why he was sharing them, excerpts of lyrics translated for me. A few days later he made a sort of playful PDF report on my Lobby Ellie pictures, winnowing down his favorites by category. He sent me homemade cookies, along with a picture of us he'd printed up. He recorded a twenty minute audio message for me.

He went, in short, all the fuck out.

Then he came home, loaded with presents and things to say. The first night I saw him, we tumbled into bed and didn't really talk seriously. The second night he sat with me on his couch and I listened while he told me what he was feeling, and how his perspective on some things had changed.

And here is where I need to stop and clarify for you, the same way that he was intent on clarifying for me: this wasn't - isn't - a situation where his feelings changed. His feelings, he has emphasized repeatedly, never changed, because he did and does love me. But spending time away from me, over some of the most emotional days of the year, back in the country where he has always planned to return to - if I understand him correctly (and I am still coming to understand it all), made him realize a few things. That it feels good and right to be with me, here and now. That he isn't necessarily in as big a rush to leave. That even at the most meaningful moments with his family and friends, he felt something missing, and it was me. That every time he saw something beautiful or surprising in his travels, that it was me he wanted by his side to share in the experience. That he doesn't have all the answers about his future or my future, but that maybe we can meet in the middle and figure it out together?

Of course I am paraphrasing all of this, and probably exaggerating some of the more romantic notions he expressed. But not hugely. Not hugely, I don't think.

So. That was the second night.

The third night was last night, and we tumbled back into bed, this time with all the barriers removed and all of the emotion having landed where it is going to land, for now. And god. Just... And when I fell asleep next to him, I felt as relaxed and happy as I've felt in I don't know how long.

And this morning he woke up for work, at my place, in my new space that I love, tiny as it is. And he tickled me and made silly sounds and kissed my stomach to try and get me out of bed even though I didn't have work, so that I would have a full, productive day and feel good about myself. Because he knows I am fighting to get back to the things that are important to me, and he has enlisted himself in that battle. Because he's in.

And I'm in.

And that is where I am, with that part of my life.

the one you'll not want to skip

Hello again.

It has been incredibly difficult for me to get back here; the only obstacle being, as ever, myself. Whenever I am stuck in blogging, when I push it to the corner or hide from it, it is due to fear of some kind. Or overwhelm. Or both. In this case, I have wanted to write a massive end-of-year tell-all, about everything that went down in 2016, so that I can start 2017 with a clean slate - creatively and emotionally.

But there have been things holding me back from telling all and getting to that clean slate. Namely, shame.

There is no point in hanging on to shame, though. It's doing nothing for me. I don't have a time machine, and I can't go back and undo any of my bad decisions. I'm where I am now for better or for worse. So let's do this. Let's just unload all of this crap and move forward.

2016 was by far, without competition, the worst year of my life.

I spent the first six months still living with Terence, even after we'd broken up. And it was so, so bad. A nightmarishly toxic situation that made monsters of us both. I was unrecognizable to myself. He was unrecognizable, from the man I'd met two years prior. We brought out the absolute worst in one another. Ugly, raging, middle of the night screaming matches. I broke my own heart with how awful I was. I hated myself. But we were stuck.

So there was that.

In March I started working for a man as his personal assistant. I wrote some about this. This was what gave birth to the Riley series. I alluded in general terms to his difficult personality, to how demanding and angry he was. What I didn't get into was how quickly I fell into a weird, semi-codependent relationship with him. I was his employee, and he was my boss. But he didn't need another employee. The "work" I did for him was nothing he couldn't do for himself. What he needed was a friend. And that was my real job. Being the confidant, the emotional validator - the crutch, really - of an exceptionally unhappy person. And I got paid for it. So I stayed. Because I needed a job.

Because I had run out of money.

That's right. That's the big secret I have been mincing around for the better part of a year now, the one that has made blogging with honesty and openness all but impossible. Because if I am dishonest about the basic circumstances of my life, there is no room for authenticity or real feeling. It's just me trying to represent some version of myself, as I want to be seen.

So here it is, here is the terrible thing that I have spent the past six months coming to terms with, in a sort of slow-dawning shock: I blew through not one, but two inheritances. My mother's (small) and my father's (not small).

There was no reason for it to happen this way. None at all. No excuse in a hundred thousand years that can justify it, though my therapist disagrees (yes I am in therapy now and I'll get back to that shortly). But there you have it. Gone. Where did it go? Well, it went to four years of rent. Mine, and for half of the time we lived together, Terence's (he paid a third of what I did). It went to food. It went to entertainment. Festivals and concerts. It went to clothing, and caring for Chaucer.

It disappeared, because for four years, I didn't work. I didn't save. I just spent. So if you want to know how to blow through six figures in less than half a decade, that is how you do it. You just freeze up. You just become paralyzed about how to move forward with your life. You refuse to face reality and start at the bottom of a career path. You lie to yourself that tomorrow you'll start fresh. Make a plan. Figure it out. You tell yourself that lie day after day after day, for a thousand days.

And then all of a sudden, your self-sabotage will coalesce into exactly, precisely the disastrous ending you think you deserve: you'll have nothing. You'll be jobless, facing a dwindling checking account. Panicked but in denial. Sleepless with anxiety but totally clueless what to do.

Imagine that going on, while at the same time living with an ex-boyfriend whom you despise. That's where I was when I was introduced to an eccentric millionaire inventor who needed a roll dog and a whipping boy.

But here's a fun detail you don't know about that: the person that introduced us? Well, that was my girlfriend/neighbor, who also worked for him. And oh boy. Oh boy oh boy is this the point where shit gets interesting. Because I had spent the better part of a year, as her friend, listening to her complain about him. About how much he screamed at her, about how abusive a boss he was, about how she was just going to take advantage of him as much as possible and then get out with a cool million. About competing products she had in mind, to threaten him with. Per her words on a weekly basis, he was the absolute last person on the planet anyone should work for. Her job was miserable, because of him. And it wouldn't be until months later that I saw just how much he had informed her attitude about life, with his negativity. She truly is the most unhappy person I have ever met, and I suspect it's because of his daily (hourly, really) influence.

Anyway, the drama with her started immediately. She was, I guess, threatened by my sudden stature as preferred employee (a honeymoon phase that didn't last). She began to act coldly to me. Passive aggressive in the extreme. I confronted her, tried to have an honest and open dialogue about what was happening, but she dug her heels in. She blamed me for making her life more difficult, her job more challenging. The fact is that working for this man requires a delicate dance of diplomacy and tact. He doesn't always make decisions that are in his or his business's best interest - and sometimes he ends up pitting employees against one another. Vague I know, but the bottom line is this: I was nearly broke. In extremely dire financial straits. So I had zero choice but to do the work as it was prescribed to me. Follow his instructions. He was my goddamn boss, after all. She, however, wanted me to be more subversive. Risk my job (and his wrath) to make hers easier. A job that was providing her with an extremely comfortable and secure lifestyle, with plenty of money in the bank. She wasn't in danger of any kind. I was. She didn't care.

And here's another dumb detail of this sad story: she was furious about Riley. She told me that our boss was "her" story, and that I had no right to write about him. Mind you, in the six years she had been working for him, she had never once written a word. Not one word. But for some reason, all of a sudden my fictionalizing my experiences with him (for creative release and therapy, really), triggered her.

Anyway, March flew by, then April and May, and things escalated. Our friendship dissolved completely. My work life consisted of running around on a moment's notice, performing inane tasks and busywork, driving an inebriated boss home to his Bel Air mansion after tagging along on his dates with socialite models, and occasionally going to some "glamorous" event either with him or in his stead. Things I could never blog about, but holy shit. It culminated, the day before everything turned, in my attending a charity event at the mansion of a very well-known reality TV star. I sat at a table with soap stars I'd grown up watching.

Then, the very next day I believe it was, my boss snapped. We'd been arguing about a raise he'd previously agreed to, and he just lost it. He swung his very heavy bag at my head, and the metal clasp cut my skull open. Actually, that's not the whole story. What happened was this: we had been arguing at a cafe near the office, and he lost his temper and fired me. So I said, great, okay, I'll just gather my things and you can pay me, and I'll be out of your life forever. And he said, no, fuck you bitch, I'm not paying you. At this point I was scared. I'd seen him throw things before (he once threw a phone at me), and I could see him tossing my laptop out the window. So I rushed back to the office to get it before he could. Only he followed me, right on my heels, calling me a bitch the whole time.

And when we got to the stairs of the office, I was steps ahead of him. Maybe fifteen seconds. And on the steps I ran into a man whose office is right across from my boss's. It just so happens that this man is an award-winning film producer, who had become my friend in the previous months (another thing I could never blog about). And I said to this producer-friend, please don't leave, please wait and make sure I get my things safely, my boss has just fired me and is threatening not to pay me.

And my boss arrived at this scene, heard what I was saying, and just exploded. He swung his bag at me full force. It's actually amazing it didn't send me spiraling down the stairs. But no. It just knocked into me, stunned me, and cut my head open.

I could write volumes about what happened in this moment. And I'm not even talking about the logistics and the legal fallout, which I'll get to here in a second. I'm talking about what it did to me, emotionally. In short - and this is how fucked up my state of mind was last year - I felt I'd deserved it. I was so disgusted with myself, with the thousands of terrible, irresponsible choices that had led me to be working for a violent abuser, that I thought, more or less, "Yep. This is about right."

But of course, it wasn't right. It was the wrongest of wrongs. And after a surreal five minutes where he desperately tried to act like he hadn't just committed a violent crime, I scrambled my things together and left his office. And I called one of my best friends.

And so here is where the story takes another sad turn, because this call was the beginning of a whole other sub-chapter of drama. Here is the broad strokes of what happened: my AZ (college) friends rallied around me when my boss attacked me. Big time. They made calls, they researched my rights, they told me that they had my back financially until whatever would happen was settled. They gave me money. A lot of money. Which - can you guess? Can you guess what I did with it? I blew through it. Again, 100% because of not working. In my defense I was trying. I was interviewing, I was applying. But I didn't know what I wanted to do, only that I wasn't cut out to be a fucking administrative or executive assistant. And the time I spent figuring this out was on their dime. So they were pissed. They are still pissed. I don't blame them.

Christ, this story. Have you ever read anything so loaded with sad, tangential drama? Ugh.

Anyway, an Instagram friend (who happens to be a very talented and well-connected attorney) put me in touch with, no joke, probably the most feared trial attorney in the fucking city. I can't tell you the huge, high profile cases this guy has handled, but holy hell. Holy hell. And this attorney met with me and agreed, because of my connection to his friend, to handle my case pro bono. So yeah. That was pretty unreal.

A settlement was obtained. And I didn't have to give a dime of it up for legal fees. But can you guess what I did with the money?

That's right kids. I spent it, because I was still. not. working. Had I had a fucking job by this point, I could have used it to pay my friends back. But nope. This was August/September, and I had lost my job in June, and I still wasn't working. One of my friends cut me off completely, he was so disgusted. I have been trying to fix things with him, but it is the source of enormous, gut-wrenching heartache to accept the fact that nope, he's pretty much over me and my friendship.

And I don't blame him.

So let's see. Where are we? The settlement. Oh! I forgot to tell you some more of the gross details, namely that this former girlfriend of mine, the coworker, did everything in her power to try and prevent me from getting a settlement. And this - this is the thing that almost above all was just...just mind blowing. She called up the police detective who was handling my case and told her about my Riley posts. Why you ask? I have no idea. I mean, I do. I know she did it to curry favor with our boss and ingratiate herself...but good grief. All I could do at that point was laugh. So, so, so unnecessary. I cannot for the life of me understand why this person was continuing to meddle into my life and my business, and why she wouldn't just leave me the hell alone, but there it was. She just couldn't live and let live. I don't know if she knows how to do that at all.

After the settlement, my boss reached out to me and apologized. He said he didn't blame me, that he would have sued, too. He offered me my job back. And I took it back, for another month, until I found the job I have now.

I know.

But here's the thing. This man? He is not evil. He is just damaged. He has been through some really, really bad shit in his life. And at times he can be so generous, and try so hard to be a better person.

I still speak to him. He knows everything, of course, including about my blog. He doesn't care, and he doesn't read it. In fact I occasionally do small writing projects for him. Letters or press releases or whatever. It isn't a big deal. I do them remotely. He pays me well. We know we don't work well together. But he has helped me, too. Written checks way beyond what I was owed, to help me as I got back on my feet.

So that brings us to now. And me being on my feet. But because this post is already way, way too long I will end it on four things that I'll expand upon, completely, next time:

1) I have a job that I am good at and that I enjoy very much.
2) Timo and I are back together.
3) I have a new place that I am wildly in love with.
4) I started therapy.

I am, by all measures, finally back on my feet. Happy new year to you, and to me.

Mendocino

(last installment of Thanksgiving '16)

Saturday's rain maroons us perpendicular on the sectional, him with a book and me with my laptop. Every so often we glance out the window to see if the weather has cleared. It hasn't. We head outdoors anyway, Timo laughing when I push my furry hood back and let the rain pummel my face and hair. I know I look like a drowned rat, but the fresh air feels too good.

We hike up into the acreage behind the house, mindful of property lines. The people living around here value privacy and are armed, I suspect, to prove it. A tree trunk bridging a roily creek is an invitation I can't resist, even though my heart pounds faster as I inch across it than I'd like to admit. From the safety of other side I watch Timo take equally careful steps. We plunge further into the wilderness, crashing through puddles in waterproof footwear.

It's too wet out, though, and too cold. Defeated, we retreat back to the dry, warm living room. The furnace snaps and pops and, armed with snacks, we watch a movie. Timo tries graham crackers for the first time.

Sunday's promise of a clearer day holds, and we take the forty-five minute drive to the coast slowly. Branscombe Road lets us out at the spectacular cliffs just north of Westport, and we stop time and again for photos of the picturesque sea stacks being washed over by waves.

Following the Shoreline Highway leads us through a series of blink-and-you'll-miss-them towns, until we hit Fort Bragg for lunch. At a friendly dockside shanty of a restaurant, we wave seagulls away from our fish and chips and talk about the weekend. I get buzzed on a pomegranate cider, which warms my body but not my icicle-cold hands. Those, Timo invites me to warm on his neck.

With not too much daylight left, we're back on the road to Mendocino. Past the Jug Handle Reserve and Caspar, a sign for the Point Cabrillo Light Station beckons. Timo's game, having never been, and we walk the half mile to the water's edge with linked arms. I'm still merry from the cider; he's delighted with how much I'm loving the landscape he hoped I would.

All the outbuildings in the lighthouse complex are painted in coordinating colors of cherry and seafoam, with brown trim. They are beautifully maintained, cheerfully bright structures that stand in defiance of the drab, grey ocean behind them. We take our time ambling along the headland's curve, and I relax into taking as many photos as I please.

We reach Mendocino just as it's getting dark, making a quick round of the streets along the coast and the main drag. It's a place I could amble through, gallery by gallery and shop by shop.

Maybe another year.

Either way, Thanksgiving '16 gave me quite a lot of awesome to file away in the memory banks. Hope yours did, too.

























north towards Eureka

(continued from here)

On the day after Thanksgiving, we find perfect. Rather, we make it. We carve it out, hour by hour, along the two-lane highway heading north toward Eureka. Avenue of the Giants Scenic Byway. I am selfishly thrilled to have him all to myself for the day. One hand stroking the back of his neck while he drives, the other on the playlist running through my phone.

Townships tick by. Mostly quiet, we absorb the majesty of our surroundings. Towering redwoods, rivulets that fill out to creeks that suddenly become the latte-colored Eel River. Criss-crossing it through Phillipsville, Miranda, Myers Flat. Every roadside tourist trap inducing us with the promise of cornball laughs. Chainsaw Carvings. Drive-through Tree, Five Dollars. We buy buffalo jerky from a manic-seeming local whose warp speed spiel (Alrightyfolksletmejusttellyoualittlebitaboutourjerkiesgoaheadandusethetoothpicktospearyourselfapiecenowgoaheadandturnthattoothpickaroundthatsitjustlikethat) lends itself to a Kate McKinnon character. I consult a map.

"Would you rather see the Immortal Tree or the Eternal Tree?"

"Immortal, probably."

"Would you rather be immortal or eternal?"

"Eternal, definitely."

The rain flushes most of the traffic from the road. When other cars do stack up behind us, Timo pulls over to let them pass. We just want to cruise, just want to take our time.

We wonder aloud about the sorts of people that live out here, and how many inhabitants it takes to make a town, anyway. We joke about murder-y looking motels, which triggers Timo to tell stories about backpacking through Australia and New Zealand. I press my face against the window, watching the tops of trees whiz by.

In a turnoff somewhere along the state reserve route, we grab hats from the backseat and climb out into a strikingly silent grove. My rain boots sink into a forest floor of soaking pine needles, and Timo withdraws hands from warm pockets to pull me up beside him. On the ageless carcass of a fallen sequoia we survey the grove. The afternoon has brought just the right amount of rain, which we're mostly protected from anyway, under the canopy. There's something sacred about the space, the isolation and quiet. We take advantage of it, feeling brazen in the lush, wet wilderness, despite being so close to the road.

Later, stopping for snacks at a grocery store in a Stepford-esque sawmill town, I get the creeps. Something about the hollow way the music drifts down the aisles. The tinny, sad echo of it, getting lost among banks of fluorescent lights lining a disproportionately high ceiling. Everything and everyone seems cold and stale.

"Let's go," I say edgily, garnering a curious look from Timo. After we pay the dead-eyed teenage cashier for a bag of potato chips, I try to explain my unease. "It just feels like a place time has forgotten. But for circumstance, I could be here, living here, shopping here."

"Don't move here, and you won't live here," he replies in his problem-solved tone.

We play questions on the way home - his lighthearted and forgettable, mine studied and serious. I practice the art of not reading too much into his answers.

Back at the house, he fixes us plates of leftovers, cubing the roast pork and frying the mashed potatoes in little pancakes. He joins the others in front of the TV, and I drift away to the bedroom to blog. A huge, unbroken chunk of time for me just to write, and for him just to read, watch movies, and hang out.

We agree it's a pretty perfect ending to a pretty perfect day.










everything coming up

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and the metaphors are everywhere. I don't even have to look for them anymore. The universe just hands them to me on a silver platter, monogrammed with my initials. It allows that this is my talent, for better or for worse: finding meaning in the vagaries of an indifferent world. And it provides me with plenty of material. Here, Ellie. Be of use. Amuse someone, even if it's just yourself. 

We're driving up the PCH, having cut over to the coast just north of San Francisco. Just for an hour or two. Just so long as we have daylight to take in the views. Then we'll snake back inland, pick up the 101, finish the haul up to Mendocino County where our host for the weekend lives. A second family of his, of sorts. They'll greet us, along with two bounding, barking dogs, in the frosty driveway. Usher us with hugs and handshakes into the home where Timo spent a year of high school.

But right now we're on the road. Six days off from work. We sandwiched the holiday with vacation time. My first official RTO at the new job. It's a big deal to me, to be here with him, to enjoy this trip guilt-free, because I have work to return to afterward. It's a big deal for other reasons, too.

Muir Beach. Stinson Beach. The marshy wetlands of Bolinas Lagoon. At some point we stop saying "Oh wow", stop craning our necks out the window, and actually pull over at the vistas. The windswept cliffs of Point Reyes. The clay blue cottages of Nick's Cove. I say something banal, about that blue. How you couldn't buy it, you couldn't ever find that perfectly faded shade even if you thumbed through a hundred paint chips at the hardware store. Wabi sabi. I have to believe in wabi sabi.

"Yell if you want to stop," he says, and sometimes I do. Then I spring from the rental car, retracing the twenty or thirty yards needed to get whatever shot it was I saw. It feels weird. I'm out of practice. I miss Instagram, on days like this.

When he comments on the barges dotting the horizon I have an excuse to use one of my favorite phrases. "In the offing," I say, smiling at him. He loves learning new English words. "That's what they call it, where it drops off from view. Literally it refers to the farthest you can see out into the ocean but it's a great metaphor for something in the future you can just barely make the shape of." The words hardly get out of my mouth before I realize their import. To me, anyway. Skirting the conversation I've boxed him into half a dozen times already. The one about where his future diverges from mine, or doesn't. The one about work visas and homesicknesses and job placements that weren't supposed to last as long as they have.

I'd bite my tongue but I know I'm safe. He hasn't heard the subtext of my words. He's not afflicted with the same "talent" I am. He's just happy to be here. It's one of the things I love about him. He rarely overthinks.

We stop for bottled water, and to stretch our legs. An outdoor coffee stand attached to the general store catches our eye. It's a long drive still. Caffeine might be a good idea. The wiry barista who makes Timo's latte speaks with a vague accent; we'll agree afterward that he's French, that an interesting story must have landed him in this tiny seaside town. When I throw down four bucks for a three dollar drink the Frenchman rings a little bell. "We do that for good tips," he winks at me, though I don't see anyone else around to constitute a "we." Handing over the cup he nods his traveler's benediction. "Enjoy everything coming up."

I write this down, word for word, in the notepad on my phone. Enjoy everything coming up. 

A few minutes later and my recent sleeplessness hits like a wave. I cannot stay awake and keep Timo company for the remaining drive, even though I know I should. Even though I know he would. I am positively wiped, physically and emotionally. In the past two months I have started two restaurant jobs and quit one. I have taken on three freelance writing gigs, started and then stopped an assistant position in Beverly Hills, broken the lease on my apartment and signed the lease on a new one. I am finally settling into something resembling routine and stability--or at least I will once I've moved. This is the first I've felt I can really relax in a long, long time.

The best I can do is change the music I've been playing through my phone to a podcast for him. Snippets of it invade my dreams. TED Radio Hour. Something about love, about the kinds of partners various personality types seek. I'll bring it up later, because of course I will. This time Timo will know exactly what I'm talking about. He'll have honed in on the same part, maybe thinking the same thing I am: We sought and found our opposites. Isn't it lovely? But not exact opposites, you know. In some ways we are so similar. And that's lovely, too.

(I'll say all of this in a state of exhaustion, curled up next to him in our bed for the next five nights. Even in the dark I know his expression. The half-smile that means he's listening, accepting, but not necessarily agreeing or endorsing. It's okay. The listening and accepting are enough.)

Two cattle grids in quick succession jar me awake. "We're here," he says, carefully navigating a starlit, gravelly country road. I feel groggy, puffy and gritty from travel. I blink, getting my bearings. An expansive yard, raking sharply down to where we drive. Trees bedecked with string lights. Wire form animals, also strung with bulbs. Colored icicle lights crowning a house the details of which I can't make out yet, in the dark and in my punch-drowsy state. A pair of German Shepherds herd us up the driveway, barking in welcome or warning or both. They know Timo. They don't know me, the holiday interloper.

The cold when we emerge from the car is biting but not bitter. I hang back, pulling on my coat while Timo greets his host mom and the man whose exact title in this domestic arrangement is unclear. Roommate? Caretaker? Companion? Even Timo doesn't know how to explain their relationship, which while long-running has never been romantic. Friends. Co-inhabitants. Whatever. It's working for them. This is a happy home, that much is obvious immediately. I am not spared any of the effusiveness Timo's return has generated. Hugs for me, too. We go inside. The dogs stay outside.

An hour of catching up, reconnecting. Polite inquiries about the generalities of my life. I am bleary, but trying to be bright. It's unnecessary, though. These are easygoing people. Relaxed, ready to like anyone those they love present to them. And they love Timo. His host mom is lit with excitement at his arrival. She peppers him with questions about his work, his family, his life in LA. I sit beside him on the sectional, chiming in when I can, smiling quietly when I can't. Heat from the furnace is pushing me back towards sleep. Tomorrow will be tough, I know. I'll miss my family and my friends. Voices in my head will attack me, tell me I deserve the loneliness I'll feel despite sitting at a cheerful, packed table. I'll wonder whether I shouldn't have stayed home, rather than foist myself on yet another unsuspecting family.

But I was invited.

I retire before Timo, who stays up to talk, laugh, reminisce. He snuggles up to me a little while later, giggly and high and sleepy. "I'm so happy you're here with me," he whispers. "I'm so happy to share this place with you. I can't wait for you to see how beautiful it is."

As always, as has not yet ceased to amaze me, the sleep I share with him is the most restful I've had with any man, ever. No tossing or turning. No feeling crowded, even when when our limbs tangle. He is the only one I can say this about.

I count it as a something to be very thankful for.








in which the "boyfriend" category torch is officially passed

Note: I started this post Sunday night, hence the debate reference. 

---

This might be a terrible idea, but a) I'm super stoned, and b) I think I'm ready to tell you about my boyfriend. Like, right now, stoned and everything. Terrible idea, maybe? Probably! But let's go with it.

For context, I am stoned because I just left a debate viewing party, hosted and attended by some new friends. They are pretty awesome. We're maybe going to KBBQ next weekend, hopefully, the four of us. Tonight I brought them donuts, from the famous 24-hour donut place in my neighborhood. So we ate donuts, drank wine, smoked pot, and laughed at The Donald.

Also for context, I am posting about him (the boyfriend, not The Donald) because right now, at this very moment, he's being super adorable and texting about the lingerie he's just ordered me and recording audio clips, in German. Because he is German. And I am telling him how stoned I am, which makes him laugh, because I typically don't ever smoke pot, like ever.

But here I am.

I tell him how stoned I am in warning, essentially, because he is saying something semi-serious about my blog, and I don't know if I can summon the seriousness needed to reply. He is saying that he's just gone back and read my first post, and he hopes I don't feel uncomfortable about him doing that, or about him reading my blog in general and if I do, tell him and he'll stop. And I'm saying, No no, it's okay, read whatever you want. I'm still not sure how to talk about you, though. Or something like that. I'm too high to scroll that far back up.

(The reason he has just gone and read my very first Elliequent post is because I shared two screenshots with him, of two different emails I got, in the past two hours, from two amazing and supportive readers saying "TOTALLY YES, YOU SHOULD WRITE, ABSOLUTELY" or the equivalent, which have me bumping against the ceiling despite the donuts, wine, and weed. And I guess the screenshots have made him curious, because while I know he's dipped into my blog a bit, he also hasn't read a ton and probably is wondering what is so great about it that people are always saying "I've been reading you since Weddingbee." Because I show him all of those emails, too, because they make my fucking day.

I mean, personally, I think nothing is so great about my blog, and these poor long-term readers have been stuck with me since Weddingbee because they've had their library cards revoked for too many late book returns, and don't have that many other options. Sad!)

So where am I supposed to start?

I guess I did start. He's German. And while that might seem like a weird or random place to start, it's not, because that is the reason I started dating him in the first place.

I will explain. Stonedly. It might not be my best writing.

Okay. So. His name is Timo. And I didn't know whether or not to do that whole dumb fake name or clunky first initial thing, but I thought about it and decided there are enough fucking Timos in this world that it'll be okay. Unless he comes to me and says Ummmm, in which case oops! But then we'll just edit that out and collectively wipe our memories. But I think it'll be okay, because I'm not going to follow him on Twitter, even though he really wanted me to be his 1000th follower (I refused to, to mess with him). And I'm not going say his last name, because there is only one of him in the world and poof! his privacy would be gone. And I am not going to follow him on Instagram, because he doesn't have an Instagram account.

He has a regular, full time job. He's not an artist, or an actor, or a musician (though he used to play guitar). He works in an office. A really cool high-tech one, in a high-tech industry. More like a campus. Where he works and what he does is all very young, very hip, and very alien to me, though I did go visit his workplace and get to see it in action. He enjoys what he does, and sometimes even gets super excited about it, especially when he gets the chance to be creative.

He's from Dusseldorf, studied in The Netherlands (and Turkey, unless I'm fucking that up; he's also traveled tons and I forget all the wheres and whens and whats), and has been working in LA, at his current job, for about a couple of years. Longer than he intended. Coming to the US was supposed to be a temporary, short-term thing. He has a work visa with a few years left on it--but he plans to go back, probably next year. No date has been set, but he definitely plans on leaving the States. And yes, that has been a topic of conversation between us. Whole 'nother post, that.

He lives in West Hollywood, in a huge and beautiful house, with three roommates, all of whom are lovely. He has friends and coworkers over often, because he loves to entertain, and particularly to cook. Just last night he hosted a BBQ. A small group of us sat around in the backyard, talking and drinking and playing Cards Against Humanity. I usually get socially awkward and shy around people I don't know. In fact I typically eschew house parties - but his friends are cool and kind, and have been very welcoming of me. After everyone else left he put on music and we danced by ourselves on the patio. At one point he took my face in his hands and said, "You're amazing. I love sharing my life with you."

So yes, I think it's time to tell you about him.

We met at a club. I'd gone alone, having been going stir crazy trapped at home on a Friday night. This was at the very beginning of July. He said something clever to me, there on the dance floor, which made me laugh, and his dimples were definitely intriguing -- but I was deep into the music, doing my own thing, and I didn't really engage. Maybe an hour later we ended up near one another again, and he spoke to me once more. This time I heard his accent, and it brought me up short. "Where are you from?" I asked sharply, and when he said "Germany," it was all over. It was so all over.

Here's a thing you do not know about me, because you'd have no reason to, and I've only ever told Cameron, because unfortunately for him, he is the repository of all my sexual fantasy confessions: I have a huge thing for German guys. Colossal. I always have. Dunno why. But I have always found them unbearably sexy, and the German language just kills me. I know for most people, Italian sounds the sexiest, or Spanish, or even French. But not me. I'll take German, please and thank you.

And yet, I had never had any significant interaction with any German guys. Until Timo.

So there I am, my ridiculous old self alone on the dance floor at 2am, with a really cute guy hitting on me, who has just told me that he's German. And now I'm paying attention. Now I'm sitting up very straight in my seat, so to speak. I pull back to get a better look at him and assess this developing situation.

The first thing I notice are his glasses. Rectangular, black wire frames. They give his face a seriousness which is undermined by dimples. (I now know that he has many different smiles, but the one he's wearing this first night is my favorite. It's the one where he looks like he's suppressing a laugh. I now know that the suppressed-laugh smile brings out his dimples more than any other. Often I am purposefully ridiculous, just so I can see this smile.)

Behind the glasses are eyes that I can see are light, but it won't be until a few days later that I decide they are the color of ice water. In fact, that's the first thing I ever write about him, in a note on my phone. Ice water eyes. Only, that's not right. There's too much variation in them. They're oceanic. Blue, except when they're green, which is only when they're not grey. (He laughed at me when I tried to tell him that they change. He laughed all my compliments away at first, though now he listens quietly, smiling.)

A few days later, on our first date, I'd notice his jaw and his shoulders, and how perfectly my head fits between the two. But that first night, in the chaos of light and sound, it was dimples and glasses and a smile that promised mischief.

---

It's been a little over four months. After Malibu, we also spent a night together in San Bernardino, after a festival. He's invited me to spend Thanksgiving with him, in Northern California, with his high school host mom. I've met most of his LA friends, and he's met two of my best out-of-town friends (they love him). We see one another three or four nights a week, basically as much as we can. Last month he officially asked if he could call me his girlfriend. He brought a bunch of sunflowers that night.

None of this says very much about him, though. So let me start again.

He listens. He never interrupts me when I'm talking, when I'm telling him about my day, or my worries, or the funny thing one of my friends said, or about the beautiful subway busker whose guitar case I left a note in last week. You sing like an angel, I wrote. Never stop. I told him how she'd inspired me, one morning after I'd had a really terrible night. I like to tell him about little moments like this, where life stops me and makes me notice how lovely it can be. When I told him about this one, he kissed me and said "That's what good people do."

One night when we lay in bed together, face to face on our pillows, I told him I'd been thinking about my mom. I'd been on the train, on my way to his house, and the thought of her came to me, because I felt elegant and pretty. Whenever I feel pretty, I think of my mom. I don't know why. She was so beautiful to me, when I was a kid. I feel connected to her sometimes, randomly, when I put on lipstick, or a pencil skirt. 

He listened while I spoke. My eyes were closed as I said all of this, because I still didn't know him all that well, and I was shy. I wasn't sure if my voice would break, talking about my mother to him for the first time. So I kept my eyes shut. And he listened without saying anything, and when I opened my eyes, he was looking at me. He just hugged me then. But a little bit later, when I was standing in the next room, he walked up to me and put his arms around me and whispered, "You should feel beautiful. You are beautiful." He said this close to my ear, in the way that he does. When he wants to tell me something loving, that is how he does it. Close and quiet, so I hear it very clearly, with him right up against me as if to back it up with solid proof.

One time we were standing on the beach at sunset. It was cold and windy, and the sun was slipping away on a Sunday night, filling me with fear and dread and that unfinished-homework feeling that Sunday nights always give me. He stood behind me at first, holding me, until he laughingly realized I was blocking the wind for him. I barely noticed, because I was locked onto another memory of my mother, namely that when she died I'd asked my husband to bring me to the beach. I sat on the beach that day and just stared at the ocean for an hour. I told Timo this story as he moved to shield me from the whipping wind.

This time my voice did more than break, though, and when the tears hit my gelid cheeks he put his hand under my chin and tipped my head back so my eyes would meet his. I don't know why I told you that, I said apologetically, embarrassed. But he didn't look away, or let me. You can tell me anything, he said. I'm here for you.

When I tell him serious things, he listens very intently. Sometimes that's all he does, like when I talk about a memory from growing up, or about some problem that really can't be solved. He just listens, and he doesn't change the subject to himself, or try to relate to me when he can't. He just listens and pulls me to him, and holds my head and makes me feel less alone. Because of this, I slowly grew to trust him, and let him see the more vulnerable and broken parts of me. Once after we had sex I started crying because it was all so overwhelming and terrifying, the feelings I could feel starting up inside of me, and the gratitude I felt to have something beautiful to turn to during this difficult time.

And when I did he stroked my cheek and said, "I love how true to your emotions you are."

We are big cheek strokers. It is kind of our thing.

Unrelated, but not: that day at the beach, as we were coming down the concrete stairs that bridge the street to the sand, he noticed a woman struggling to carry up a stroller. There were dozens of people rushing by, I didn't even see her, but suddenly I realized Timo was no longer beside me and I looked up to see him carrying a stroller up the stairs. He teased me when he saw my face, jogging back down to catch up with me. "I just do these things to impress you." He said "these things" because he is always noticing what people need and helping them, and I am always pointing out how exceptional this is. He is far and away the most considerate man I have ever known.

---

We've had two mild disagreements, which weren't even really disagreements. Just dumb miscommunications. The first one, which happened within days of us starting to date, was mostly his fault, though, and the second one was mostly mine.

When during the first one, I rather harshly called him out, he didn't get defensive or escalate things in any way. "You're right," he said, and I could hear actual, real contrition in his voice. It was a revelation, in terms of my relationship history, to experience this with a partner. "I'm sorry," he said, simply, and sincerely. And the next morning I woke up to a surprise delivery of treats for me--and for Chaucer.

The second disagreement happened just a few days ago, and after a heated phone call I jumped in an Uber to go straight to his house and apologize in person. I didn't tell him I was coming. I didn't even know if he'd still be home, or if he'd have gone out to blow off steam. But he'd been at home before, eating pizza, so I had the Uber driver stop at a pizza place on Hollywood Boulevard, and I ran in to get a packet of red pepper flakes. Then I texted him from his front door and asked if he had a moment, and if so, could he come outside because I had something for him.

I will never forget the sight of him silhouetted in the light from the living room, as he stood in the doorway and smiled at me. "Hi," I said. "I don't know about you, but I can't eat pizza without red pepper flakes. And I didn't know if you had any, so I brought you some."

He walked out and pulled me into a hug. I said I was sorry, and he said he was sorry, too, and that I'd beaten him by five minutes. "I was about to call and ask if I could come over." I tried to tell him all the reasons I was sorry, all that I'd realized, but he wouldn't let me. He just held me. And we didn't have to talk it to death, even though I did insist on telling him the ways I'd been unfair.

"I'm sorry I hung up on you," he said in return.

"It's okay," I said, excusing him, because while I hated being hung up on, I'd rather he did that than say something regrettable. "It's really just like walking out of the room, if you think about it."

And do you know what he said then? He said, "Well that wouldn't be right, either."

---

I told him about the "love languages" thing, not because I am some devotee, though I do think there's a lot of truth in it. I told him because it is comical how identically we match up in this regard. We are both "acts of service" people (touch and quality time being tied for next). Though the fact is that I can barely keep up with him, and feel that I'm lagging sorely behind. Not that we keep score. But good grief. He hits it out of the park.

A few days ago he was on his way over, and I was rushing around to get ready, to tidy up, and get Chaucer squared away. I was flustered and didn't respond to his texts asking what I wanted to do about dinner. Finally I said I was fine, and that I'd eaten.

But he knows me now, and knows that even if I have eaten, I am always hungry again. So he brought me food anyway.

He knows how inactive Chaucer is makes me nervous, and since Chaucer is madly in love with him and totally bored of me, he is the only one who can convince Chaucer to go for a full walk. So he suggests it, whenever Chaucer seems up for it.

Since I told him that I love sleeping with one of his shirts, he always makes sure I have one. Every time he sleeps over, when I wake up after he's left for work, there's a shirt folded neatly next to my pillow.

Unsolicited massages are a thing. Like, professional grade ones, that last fifteen minutes or more, and are as good as any I've paid for at Burke Williams.

I guess this is getting a little silly. I'm just trying to catch you up, in broad strokes.

But really, even still, none of this is what really matters. Because I haven't even gotten into what's different, how differently I feel in this relationship compared to others before it. How I respond to him. What he brings out in me -- and what he doesn't.

In four months, I have yet to find a single thing annoying about him. Or worrying. I have never once been actually angry at him. Even the two times we had a miscommunication and my emotions were running high, I felt complete optimism about us. I've never felt jealous or insecure about other women with him, which for me is often a thing. But no. In fact I don't know if I'm imagining it or willing it to be for my own needs of self-delusion but it's almost as if other women don't even ping his radar. At least not in front of me. And in LA, that is...no easy feat to pull off.

I feel unbelievably calm around him. He's playful and extremely fun-loving, but not manic or childish or clownish. He's mature. He doesn't need to be the center of attention. And all of his little quirks, all his physical mannerisms and verbal tics just absolutely charm me. I don't know. It's crazy. I can't find things to complain about, even to myself. I just can't. I don't get (as) defensive when he questions me about things I normally get defensive about. I try harder with him, for him and sometimes because of him, at the things that challenge me. He inspires me immensely. He is extremely responsible and pragmatic and direct. He's unfailingly honest, even when he knows he's saying something I don't want to hear. And because of that I trust him completely.

Christ, where am I here? Is this enough? Is this enough of a start? It's two am and I'm rifling through the past third of a year trying to think of more anecdotes that will illustrate who he is. Who we are.

He tells me how thrilled he is by what we have. He said he's happier now than he's been since he came to the U.S. Last night he surprised me with a mock guest blog post. It's addressed to you guys. It's his version of how we met, and why he likes me. I can't publish it of course. It's way too personal and also more than a little graphic. But holy shit. Can you imagine? Can you imagine getting that as a gesture, if you're me? I read it five times today.

We have a motto. It's "Always something new." It originated as a cheeky nod to our bedroom adventures which, fucking GOD, but has since become a comically accurate catch phrase for us in general. New people, new places, new foods, new whatever. We say it, and then we high five, like teammates.

Like two people on the actual same team, with the same goal. Amazing.

Year Two

Acknowledging that this blog occasionally devolves into The Ellie and Terence Show and recognizing how uninteresting the romantic lives of strangers can be, I'm nevertheless gonna hit you with another segment before you get a commercial break.

Terence and I turned two this past weekend. I told him that if we were canine, we'd no longer be a puppy. We'd be a full-fledged adult dog expected to mind our manners and not pee in the house. Neither he nor I had any idea where I was going with that metaphor, but there it is.

We celebrated our anniversary by doing our thing - going to a music festival, of course. In this case, an all-electronic music festival. The longest-running one in the country, in fact, and one also celebrating an anniversary: 20 years. I've wanted to go to Nocturnal Wonderland for a while now, and something about it having a milestone birthday made going at forty a little less intimidating. I figured there'd be a lot of veteran ravers and older peeps there to stoke the EDM fire (particularly since this year the festival was a full three days) - and I was right. And that was cool.

I wore leg wraps and fluffies, furry hoods and fishnets. Terence wore animal ears and tails, glow stuff and goofy glasses. We stashed our maturity in a rented locker and ran around a park in San Bernardino three nights in a row, only stopping for a few hours of sleep in between.

On Saturday night (well, 3am Sunday morning) we showered off the filth of the festival, cuddled up under overly-starched hotel sheets, and munched on single-serving boxes of Apple Jacks from the lobby. And when we were done he showed me a short video he'd made for our anniversary. And it's kinda ridiculous. I watched it four times in a row, crying despite the fact that I was still high as a kite. It's just about the sweetest goddamn thing ever, particularly since the reason he made it, he says, was to make me feel how the video I did last year made him feel.

He had very few clips with which to do this, because I rarely let him record video of me.* And even when he does, I refuse to watch it. (I almost always hate how I look and it freaks me out.) So I was seeing much of this for the first time. Seeing, in a way, how he sees me, for the first time. It's got some in-jokes and relationship memes the logic of which would crumble if I tried to explain them, but I don't think that matters. And with that I will stop contextualizing a two minute video and just let the E and T show play on.



And because you suffered through that, I will shortly reward you with the most mockery-inviting photos of me (leg wraps! fluffies! when will I grow up?!) you have ever seen.

I hope your holiday weekend had some celebrating in it, too, even something as simple as hotdogs and a day off.

---

* The zip line video isn't even his; that's footage from the GoPro of one of the zip tour guides, from my Georgia trip this summer (still haven't blogged about that day yet!).

queen of the buns

SUNDAY

Rounding the corner on our street, shuttling Chaucer between shady spots in the afternoon heat, we were stopped by a woman from our generation but probably not our tax bracket. "Do either of you happen to speak French?" She wore a white lace minidress, heels, and matte red lipstick. One hand rested on her hip; the other held a cell phone angled away from her body as if annoyed with it.

"Yeah, actually," I replied, surprised.

"Like, fluently?" She seemed skeptical.

"Yep." Terence sounded more cautious than enthusiastic, but he took a step forward to offer his help.

The woman was hosting a foreign exchange student due to arrive any minute. She wanted to let the girl know there'd be an Uber waiting for her at the terminal, which would take her to the agreed-upon meeting place, a busy and popular restaurant downtown. She didn't speak any French, though, and needed someone who did to call the student and convey this information.

While Terence left a detailed voicemail, Chaucer sniffed the hem of the woman's dress and I inwardly wondered what kind of host wouldn't greet her internationally traveling guest at the airport herself. "What are the chances?" I mused politely, referring to the good luck of happening upon a Francophone and his Francophony girlfriend.

The woman fidgeted with an ankle strap, preoccupied. "Yeah." She bit off her words, upspeaking slightly. "I really appreciate it."

Terence ended the message wishing the student good luck and handed the woman back her cell phone. I guided Chaucer back around her legs and the four of us parted ways.

MONDAY

Terence and I swung by a party supply store on our way to get groceries. We wanted to grab some glow sticks and cheap bead necklaces for an upcoming festival. Once inside, however, we lost focus. We walked the aisles slowly, goofing around, distracted by all the silly toys and costumes. I bounced a pink rubber ball over to Terence. "Heads up!"

"Ooh. Should we get this for Chauc?"

"Nah, he'll eat it."

A bin filled with party favors marked .35 cents caught my eye. I picked up a tiny silver plastic tiara attached to a hair comb and set it on my head. "What if I wore this during sex?" I moved my hips exaggeratedly.

"Oh my god. Yes. That's amazing." He took the toy from me. "You have to get it."

"So ridiculous," I laughed. But he didn't put it back.

Back in the car we ate foil-wrapped Rolos and cherry Jolly Ranchers from the fifteen-for-a-buck bin. I flipped down the car visor mirror and carefully pushed the comb into my hair. "Ta-da!"

"Yes! I love it so much. You look like a Disney princess, you have no idea."

"Oh god." I cringed, shaking the comb back out.

After grocery shopping we stopped at the PetCo down the street from Whole Foods, to see the bunnies up for adoption. We're not looking to get any; it's just something we do occasionally just for the cute of it.

We knelt by the glass cage at the front of the store and peered in. Two massive adult rabbits - one white, one orange - were inside nibbling greens. There was a placard on the glass describing the bunnies' background and relationship to one another. I started reading the card aloud, enunciating in my best elevated-pitch storytelling voice. The rabbits - named Mary Jane and Leap - were apparently a bonded pair, and had a history of being moved from foster home to foster home - though never separated.

As I was dramatizing their romantic tale of bunny love, a man entered the store, walked directly to the rabbit cage, and crouched down beside us. As he seemed to be another rabbit lover, I kept on reading out loud.

A moment later I noticed Terence had stopped looking at the rabbits and was smiling hard at me. "Baby," he said in a quiet tone. Assuming he was trying to let me know that another customer had joined us, I ignored him. "What?" I said loudly, before continuing. "It's a Tale of Two Bunnies." After I'd finished reading the information I sighed. "They're so gorgeous." Glancing at the other shopper I added pointedly, "They live as long as dogs. Most people don't realize what a commitment they are."

The man nodded seriously, addressing us with his reply. "Really smart, too. Great pets."

Terence and I stood up and started towards the dog toy section. "Baby," he repeated softly, touching my elbow. I turned and saw his face flushed with suppressed laughter. "Your head." I frowned, reaching up to touch my hair, suddenly realizing.

I was wearing the tiara. I'd put it back on in the car after leaving Whole Foods. I'd been wearing it for my entire performance by the rabbit cage. The stranger we'd shared a moment of bunny love with must have thought me crazy. The loopy lady who wears a child's toy crown to go around to pet stores and advocate for the animals like some kind of daft, self-appointed Queen of The Buns.

I somehow managed to lose the crown between PetCo and home, which is a bummer. But the good news is, I know where to find a replacement. And now I know where to wear it, too.

of paparazzi and pool parties






If I were interesting enough to merit a paparazzi following, those bushes behind Terence would be the best ones through which to stick a telephoto lens and take unflattering pictures of me (tossing back frozen peach margaritas, sniping at Terence for hogging the guac, debating the merits of Bernie Sanders with Kerry and Ross...). This is as far as we fearsome foursome tend to go out of downtown. But the company and conversation are top-notch, the enchiladas adequately smothered, and as I don't need much more on the weekend than some laughs and some melted cheese, I don't much care what zip code I get them from.



At a certain point one cares less about one's appearance in photos than the fact that one has good friends to take them with. Note I didn't say "one doesn't care at all". Only that one cares less. Oof.


After dinner last Saturday we checked out Echo Park Rising, which is a free weekend festival comprised of local (rock) bands staggered around Echo Park's bars, parks, and restaurants. The music we heard wasn't really our jam, but Kerry (who has a zero tolerance policy for crowds) was a sport and let us drag her around to no less than four different venues before we left - and I count that a smashing success.




Kind of a magical moment: right about the time when we'd all given up on finding a show we'd be into, Terence grabbed my hand and pulled me hopefully into one last bar. Kerry and Ross at my heels, we ducked through a narrow front room that branched into two smaller rooms at the back. One of these had a dance floor, and suddenly, without stopping, without even conferring about whether we wanted to stay, we all started dancing. Pools of colored light moving across the floor, kitschy swing music, and four totally unselfconscious drunk friends. That's the stuff for me, baby.

The place was The Short Stop. I'd never been, but I quite like the vibe and will definitely be back.


Good god, but those flippers of mine are terrifying. When I die they should use my hands for one of those claw machine arcade games. You can all come play and I'll ghost-cheat and make sure you get a toy every time. And no, I have no idea what's going on with my forehead bleeding over the top of the image borders. But if it means I'm actually dead already then someone call Netflix because Ghost Blogger would be a cool-ass show.



Is that not the prettiest alley you've seen so far today? I like to think some romantically-minded rats put those lights up, and that all the other rats downtown come here for their date nights.


This guy, with the dimple and sleepy face. Took me for breakfast to Egg Slut at Grand Central Market (yep, it's worth the wait). Hoping if I play my cards right he'll take me back for lunch soon, too.


My friends Atouzo and Yvonne had a pool party! Like, with sangria and teriyaki meatballs and cabanas and everything! And after I finished taking a selfie in Terence's face mirrors I even socialized with other guests! I wore a "statement necklace" for the first time, which was a stupid thing to do on a 100+ degree day. But as I am not well-versed in the ways of statement necklaces, I did not anticipate how badly my neck would sweat under the weight of a spiky metal collar. So I guess the statement my necklace made that day was: I am a dumbass. 



The night this was taken:

we took the train to Hollywood
we ate dinner at Katsuya
seated at the table behind us were three thuggish guys and a beautiful blonde woman
something happened between these four people and there was drama
the drama involved the woman TRYING TO PHYSICALLY ESCAPE ONE OF THE MEN
that man grabbed her purse out of her hands, so she couldn't leave
two waitresses and a manager got involved
the party was asked to leave
when no one was looking the blonde DUCKED OUT A SIDE DOOR
she then reappeared a few minutes later seeming calm and chill and cool with the situation
Terence had his back to the table and didn't see anything
(I narrated)
we went to a terribly cheesy but terribly fun bar nearby, with books lining the walls
(so this pic was not taken in a library)