Upset

Yesterday was my third anniversary.

I adore the fact that it’s one day before Valentine’s Day so the pressure is off — we go out to eat a day early, someplace nice. My husband wears his wedding suit, showers, shaves, removes any stray back-of-the-neck messiness, and let me say — he cleans up good.

I put on a dress, which is a rarity — full makeup, beautiful heels. I even curled my hair once, back when I had more of it, though trying to curl what I’ve got going on now would certainly be a fun experiment (any advice?).

This all went according to plan. I looked beautiful, my husband looked handsome, and we hustled our way through the cold and the block and a half to Our Place.

Tapas 177, bar upstairs, restaurant downstairs, dance floor adjacent to the dining room. We considered having our wedding there before we pulled the killswitch and opted for Vegas. Everything is lit up in red, a romantic version of ladies in Amsterdam windows. Usually we sit upstairs, chat with the bartenders and the waitresses while they’re waiting for their trays to fill. They let me smoke my e-cig up there, they’ll let Nate smoke after hours up there. We scoot our barstools together so we can lean on each other, and some of the drinks come for free and we hassle the owner for one of the black and white employee shirts. It’s the first place we ever went on a date — the owner, Demetrio, remembers. We’ve been up on the roof past 2AM, seen the light on, and walked straight in to free drinks and sincere hellos.

It’s Our Place.

I didn’t want to go.

I was exhausted from work and the week, and I felt anxious, edgy. I just wanted to exchange cards, little gifts, and be together — but we went, and we sat downstairs. It felt proper that way.

But we were all the way in the back, next to the wine cellar door, and near enough to the kitchen to hear every shout of “coming in!” and next to a trio of remarkably underdressed Asian kids who kept pulling out their iPhone 6+s to watch YouTube videos and take selfies. We might have been right under a speaker.

I started with a Midnight Manhattan — bourbon, lavender tea syrup, and orange zest — because it felt comforting, classy, a piece of a larger event, and we toasted to three years together, four months married. But as the courses arrived, and we began to talk about our weeks, our stories, the ambient noise became a cacophony and the talk became ridicule, and I couldn’t stand to be wearing a dress, or being tipsy, or wearing make-up and I had to get out of there.

I hated pleading with my husband through the beginnings of a panic attack. Please, I need to leave — he tried to calm me, to focus on my breathing, to meditate, but it was too much, and too loud, and I was about to fly out of my skin, so I left.

I went home and scrubbed off the make-up, but not the shame or the anger and I laid in bed, waiting for him (unaware that the waitress had been watching and offered him a shot for having to deal with that crazy girl — I could kill her), trying to breathe deeply instead of wading through the shallows that never give you enough oxygen, trying to quiet myself, and find solace in Spring Fashion magazines.

It wasn’t ten minutes before he was home, sitting beside my curled body on our bed, and I was so afraid he was angry with me. But, with my head in his lap, he told me he was only upset that I was going through this, and he held me until I could fall asleep on my own.

We didn’t exchange presents, or laugh as much as I would have liked, or even have the dessert-coffee-scotch combination I love so terribly. But we were close, and understanding, and so completely in love that, to me at least, it didn’t matter.

And that, to me, is a happy anniversary.

Galentines

My first kiss was at 15. He was my first boyfriend, but the relationship lasted a month. He “couldn’t do it anymore,” for reasons that are still unclear.

The first time I made out was at 17. I met him at a Zox concert and we kissed in the rain. I saw him once more before that relationship ended — I skipped work, my mother found out, and I was grounded “forever.” In reality, forever lasted a few weeks, but I broke it off anyway; he didn’t have a car, his boarding school was an hour away, and my pragmatic side didn’t see a happy future.

The first real relationship I had came after high school graduation, after we had both chosen where to go to college. We fell in love quickly, but he moved 300 miles away, and we saw each other roughly every three weeks for two and a half years. We were finally in the same city, but he took that for granted, and I broke both our hearts by leaving him.

The first boyfriend I saw regularly came into my life at 20, and we became official shortly after I turned 21. He was emotionally abusive, and I clung to him long after we were officially broken up, letting him use me for sex at his convenience, carrying on a secret half relationship for six months after I finally decided to leave.

Then I let my husband, and all of that came to an end.

—-

Today is “Galentine’s Day,” an unofficial yet-to-be-Hallmarked holiday meant to be spent with the women you love most in life. It also marks the third anniversary of beginning my relationship with my husband, so I won’t be drinking wine tonight with my friends at Solera, or pouring myself a glass at home and Skyping the “friend fam” from my breakfast bar. And, in a way, that’s sad.

I’ve spent most of my life either single or close enough to it, and the people who loved me, each and every day, were a ragtag crew of women, some now married, some dating, some engaged, and some single.

And I wish, especially for the single ones, that I could spend tomorrow with them.

—-

I was never good at being alone. I hated being around couples, save one. They never made me feel like a third wheel to their bicycle; instead, we all rode our own side by side.

Apart from them, though, relationships made me miserable. I so wanted to be loved by a guy that seeing it in front of me was deeply sad. But I always had My Girls.

The girls whose houses I would sleep over so often that their mothers would start to parent me as much as their own child. The girl who would hug me when I cried over these mini-relationship breakups, convinced I would never love again. The girls who would take my drunken phone calls and laugh at my slurring “I love you”s. The girls who would listen to me rattle off my host of bad decisions, and tell me that I was going to be fine. The girls who would split packs of cigarettes with me in high school because we were ‘so badass.’ The girls who planned out my weekends freshman year of college, because I was friendless, and miserable, and didn’t know what to do with my free time. The girls who would call me during American Idol to critique the performances. The girls who always encouraged me to keep writing, who always told me how talented I was, and to never give up. The girls who would pick me up when I fell — sometimes literally — and bring me down when I was off my rocker.

This is for all of those girls, who have been there long before any boy came along, and far before my husband. The ones who I called when I got engaged, who flew to Las Vegas on their last pennies for my wedding, who rapped at my reception (and then collapsed from dehydration — yes, this really happened). The ones who listened to me go through my lowest lows of mental illness, and always promised to be there for me.

And I knew they meant it, because they always have been.

This is for you, My Girls.

The Husband I Never Write About

I have a husband that I never write about.

I write about the ex-would-be-husbands, and the mental illness that I appear to be married to, and about the great love of my short life — writing, but I never write about my husband.

I didn’t write my wedding vows. I had always assumed I would, but instead went with the ages-old words that thousands and millions and perhaps even billions of people have said before me to bind us in matrimony because I don’t write about my husband, or our love, or our life together.

We’re not too precious to discuss in words, too close to my heart to share. Our love story is unique, and impossible, and against all the odds that we placed on ourselves and each other — such is the way when you begin as your husband’s decade-younger intern-turned-mistress. And I have told that story through my eyes, have sold that story for internet eyes. But I don’t write about my husband.

I don’t write about the way he sleeps through the first two hours or more of my days, and when I shuffle into the bedroom in his slippers looking for his oversized-on-me grey sweatshirt because mornings are cold in the apartment, and I need the pockets for my Blistex and e-cig, and he’s laying on his back, sometimes snoring, most times in yesterday’s clothes and his knees drawn up and I smile at him, knowing that flailed somewhere, his left hand has the ring on it that we picked out together, and that, on our wedding day, wouldn’t slide on smoothly; everyone laughed as I shoved it on determinedly, the back-track to part of our wedding video.

And I don’t write about the streaks of grey in his hair that I love, that he loves, that make him sexy and sometimes scare me because one day he’ll still be ten years older, but that will mean so much more — who knows how he’ll deteriorate, my tall, strong man? Who can say if he’ll inherit his mother’s propensity for mini-strokes, or, god forbid, a massive one because I read One Hundred Names For Love and I know how he’d hate to be treated like a child by hospital workers and would become angry about being unable to speak and would probably cry and look at me with eyes that begged me to smother him — he’s told me this before: if it gets that bad, just put a pillow over my face. No! Well, then give me the means to do it myself — and I wouldn’t be able to do it, and not killing my husband would make me hate myself.

I don’t write about what he calls me — my baby — or the cats — BuddyGoodBoy and AwLittleBeebs. I don’t write that he thinks soup isn’t food, or that he designs all of my cards himself, or that he can sing like Tom Waits, fingerpick like Nick Drake, and needs to pick up his guitar again because he keeps his right-hand fingernails long just to play, and he doesn’t do it much, but was made to.

I don’t write about his obsession with what his hair is doing, or his love for well fitted clothing, or how when he smokes a cigarette, it’s the most beautiful thing you could ever see, but I worry about his lungs, especially when mixed with the grey hair.

I don’t write about all the little worries and how they all add up to the most wonderful love anyone could possibly experience, and that counts your love because it couldn’t possibly touch mine — you don’t have him, the husband I never write about.

Love and Longing

I cannot look at the pictures without feeling a tug just below my breastbone, pulling out an ache that blooms like a peony right in my center, red petals stretching out their yearning arms from my skin and the touch is too beautiful to stand.

I cannot look at the pictures, of my smile like a dream of a growing vine against my face, and my eyes are focused on my endless paramour, somewhere outside of frame.

I don’t browse through the past because nostalgia does not melt like sugar on my tongue, but collects in the corners of my eyes, in my restless hands, in the winter crackling of my elbows and forehead.

I long for the green face I came to know, the blue wash of hair, the chirruping talk I learned to understand in the early mornings, when I’d rise thick with sweat from the sheets and look out with drowsy eyes as I smoked my morning cigarette, covered in a lacquer of love, shining dewy and new.

I feel the piece, round and tangled, where completeness once resided; I left it behind as the tide recedes from the sand, retreating into the deep cold and wet.

There were breakfasts with luxurious coffee and raw sugar, gently stirring me awake with a small spoon, placed gently on the edge of a cup plate, leaving the complicated taste of early morning on the china; lunches taken in the heat of the day, slow bites paired with drinks of mint and fruit; dinners of many courses, the last of which is sleep, taken sweetly to a bed of dark blankets.

There was the enviable form, winding, mysterious, and easy to travel for all its length, like fingers moving gently down the body of a cat: first fur-over-skull, the long bumpy road of the spine, and the fingers wrapping around the tail and continuing out to empty air; that was the way of it.

I miss myself then, the burning in each padded fingertip relieved by keyboard presses until I had made beautiful things (look, you — look what you helped me to make), and the cold fire that was succumbing to sloth, laying together in hammocks, seated with bare legs slinking down the length of a bench, walking hand in green-brown-sparkling-clouded hand.

And then it would rain, and it felt like crying, a release of so many ticking seconds not to be retrieved, and that was the time to mourn; it never rained for long.

No, all was sunshine spilling through the canopy onto spotted trails — shade overstriped with beaming streams of light — and I cannot bear to remember it, because to fall in love with a place is the most painful love of all; when you leave, your footprints fade, and you know the land isn’t thinking of you any longer.

But you — you continually, lustily, painfully think of the land.