The Remedy to “It’s Not You” Syndrome

I don’t tend to suffer peeps who dish up apathy as if it’s homemade mac and cheese. Because life is unforgiving enough, and I happen to think that if you’ve arrived at an age where you can legally rent a car, you’re doing better than you probably imagined you might. So yanno, quit blaming everything and everyone else.

So it was that I was asked for my opinion on someone else’s particulars recently, and the preamble had me wishing I’d called in sick. She’s a pleasant enough young lady, pushing thirty with a vengeance. By this I mean, she’s angry at the fates for not having prescribed her domestic patent replete with matrimony and motherhood. An annual trip to the Caribbean would be peach, but she’d settle for a showplace to staycation in because she ain’t greedy.

I learned all of this over the course of a ten minute conversation, and while it’s ten minutes I ain’t ever getting back, at least I collected a post out of the deal. So there’s that.

When she arrived at the gritty of the nitty, his name was Pete. And he was many things, none of them rhyming with Prince Charming. I wasn’t able to get a word in edgewise as she recited the numerous offenses perpetrated by a guy whose crimes didn’t seem to warrant a trip to Nuremberg.

“So it was all him?”

“Huh?”

“This guy. The reason you guys didn’t work out was entirely his fault?”

“Well . . I mean . . I’m not saying I’m perfect . . ”

“Of course not, but that’s not what I’m asking. What I want to know is, did you take an inventory of your shit and his shit?”

“No,”

I proceeded to explain that it’s usually shared shit that sinks the ship. Unless he was beating on her (he wasn’t), in which case she would have had every right to take his ass out. And I’d have brought the shovels, lime and a bottle for the adjudication of the sonofabitch.

Short of that, I told her that the bogeyman application doesn’t work. Subconsciously, you’re burning your own bridge by manifesting this skewed portrait of a person who is no longer in your life. You’re actually questioning your own judgement without even knowing it, thereby stunting your emotional growth. And that kind of cycle only gets more vicious as time goes on.

“Own your shit. Be thankful for the experience and move on . . .”

It was all I could think to say, because it was evident she was going to choose option whatever else. Which is why I never understood why people ask for advice when what they’re really asking for is consensus.

I applied this same line of questioning to my friend Barry. His love thing is flickering into obsolescence on mortal coils whose romance done left the building long ago. And he suffers from the same affliction as most peeps who find themselves in the relationship checkout line. Shocked by the purchase of forever as if the individual they’re gonna Paul Simon out of their life came with a money back guarantee.

“You chose the drama you speak of, knowing full well that it wasn’t going to be nearly as adorable once you had to share basically every fucking thing,” I said.

“Yeah but I thought things would change,” Was his response.

That’s the Vegas lock response, every time.

“Did you ever think that maybe it’s your fault as much as hers?”

“Yeah . . .” He chuckled, with not even a hint of believability to it.

“Hey man, if you’re getting off the pot . . just do it. There’s nothing sadder than a grown ass man crying about how unhappy he is. Move to the Poconos and become an outdoors man and start a YouTube channel and stop whining about how some woman did something to you that you really did to yourself,”

I would’ve gone on, but I was out of liquor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy Little Thing

“You have to be comfortable in your own skin,”

I offered this thought to my pal Jen a while back after she got done throwing the hammer down on love and its many splintered qualities. Jen ain’t a whiner, so her vendetta had guile and tact and verity to it. It wasn’t a rant nor an idle threat, to which the woman is averse. The diatribe was her “going to the mattresses” moment after having been done wrong. 

The emotional bloodletting was obscenely endearing in its brutal honesty. She doesn’t live her life as if she scored the script from a movie or TV show, which means to say that her what’s what is totally unfiltered, always. Because she happens to believe that parables are for dreamers but truth is for keeps. 

We went for Thai last night and ended up in the tall grasses as we sipped on our mighty fines and shared our respective anecdotes. She told me her ex had finally stopped reaching out to her with apologetic ransoms via online florists and Etsy.

“I got a shit ton of Christmas re-gifting done thanks to him,” She toasted.

And then I told her about my Halloween costume party last week in which I parceled hours of awkward domestic intrigue into a pretty fun evening. I did so with tight circled chats, drink nursing and my roundabout take on Korean BBQ that worked to sate the uncomfortable silences. The intrigue was all about young lovers figuring things out, hopefully.

“I’m erring on the side of relationship on this one . .” I said, raising my drink into a clink as Jen gawked her response in mock exasperation as if to say “You?”.

“Because they’re a unit right now, and in spite of all the vicious rumors . . I respect the sanctity of that . . defend it even . .”

“Even if you choose not to abide to such constraints . . ” She smiled.

“In lieu of is the best I can do,”

And then Jen hit me with the accident report on her most recent love thing, which she had to pull the plug on when he started wanting more. She was more than willing to take on his handsome and his dashing and even most of the debonair, but the wife? That was a sticking point to which she couldn’t travail.

“I found the perfect marriage . . his.” She bemoaned.

And then he went and changed the rules on a gal too smart for her own heels. We relate to those extramarital involvements where the fine print works in sync with discretion and language matters, soundly. We could teach a class on how it’s not what a person says, but it is what they do on Instagram.

“I’ve never met a good cheater, but I’ve met plenty of damn fine liars,” I countered.

This segue led me to a recent piece of advice I gave to my pal Barry. He’s a retired cop who is clueless on matters of consequence, namely coupling. Evidenced by his two ex wives and current flame whose DNA fits their specs to a high tea. Because nothing says insanity like diving back in to the shallow part of the matrimonial pool for a third time.

“They had enough in common to try things on for size. But the things they don’t have in common are great big meatballs. So I told him that being single ain’t a crime,”

“Tell that to my parents,” Jen laughed.

“Long story short, he told her she could leave anytime she felt like leaving. And now he’s looking at real estate up in Jim Thorpe,”

“You homewrecker,”

“Not the first time . . ” I said.

We toasted to the incomprehensible fates, whose scatter is a wickedly fine arrangement of daggers and wings that make us grateful for the tender mercies . . .  Like peace of mind, and comfortable shoes.

Especially those.

Matters Of Little Consequence

December 31, 2009: 

“So you’re really doing this . .” Jen said, shaking her head.

“Jen, what exactly do I have to lose in this transaction? She’s obviously in a professional relationship with her husband that has provided her with much swag but precious little sway. I’m a temporary excursion, her much deserved reward for sticking to the matrimonial script,”

“And when it doesn’t last?”

“What lasts, Jen? When we stop blinding ourselves to the realities, what lasts? Marriage behaves like a cranky Supreme Court verdict on love and romance, with plenty of loopholes in the decision . . ”

“Such as?”

“Such as ’till death do us part'”.

“How is that a loophole?”

“Because we predictably assume it to mean mortal death, without considering death on a more philosophical level. There’s the death of romance, of hope, of trust . . .”

“I never realized how intelligent your penis was!” Jen laughed as she sipped at her martini.

“Laugh all you want, but I cracked the code and I’m not looking back,”I said as we toasted to the differences of opinion that provided the solvency to our friendship.

“You go Indiana Jones,” She winked as Red approached.

“What are you two conspiring on?” Red asked as she gestured for me to hand over my martini glass for a sip.

“You are creepy, reading minds like that . .”I said as I watched her lips settle into negotiations with my adult swim.

“Excuse me while I double down,” Jen said, removing herself from the confab.

“I’m a witch. Didn’t you know?” Red winked as she handed me back my martini.

“That explains the artwork,” I laughed.

“Come here, I wanna show you something,”

She led me to a hallway replete with photographs and artwork and pointed to a signed copy of David Bowie’s Young Americans album and then proceeded to tell me how it was gifted to her by a biker she dated when she was going to school in Philadelphia. I was so transfixed by her story that I forgot why I’d come to the party in the first place, and then she reminded me by leaning in for a kiss.

“Ah . . holy shit?” I said when we came up for air.

“Don’t you dare tell me you’re surprised,” She said.

“No, I just thought I’d ask you out for that drink . . after which we’d get to this,”

She leaned in for another kiss before taking another sip of my martini and then returning to the party.

“Call me,”

That call turned into drinks and those drinks turned into a five year affair that navigated some stormy times in the early going. But we figured out the math and became the kind of bad romance that didn’t ask questions. And it worked until it didn’t, and that became that.

For years, I tried pushing the Dame out of my thoughts for fear I might come to the conclusion that we had vandalized some kind of epic forever after love story. But there really was no alternate ending to our story. We were trespassers, true believers of a mighty thing whose promises were cosmically challenged from our first hello; like a tarnished pair of tapers whose wick spoke wonderfully foreign languages to our tortured souls inside the all too brief embrace of forever.

The combustible effort to the final chapter of a love story we penned in short used to defeat me. It used to make me think I was an utter failure at unlocking the secrets to the heart. But time shows you differently when your shoes are earnest and your steps abide, and so I look back from here and consider myself the better for the women I’ve loved. Well, excepting for a short lived re-union with Maria and a bizarre tryst with a girl named Rachel that led to a Cuban Missile Crisis standoff where she actually held my Drinks Well With Others blog hostage for a short time.

The truth of the matter is that the women of my life have always been the greatest part of me. They were always the better half of a clueless romeo who never had a rap, and whose only real plan of action when it came to curls and curves was to provoke a laughter that might settle my wayward soul for a spell.

Those days of satire and gin martinis with the Dame feel as if they happened inside another lifetime, as if it was all a fever dream.

In the dream we’re having dinner in the Italian restaurant we found very much by accident. It’s where we had our very best date ever, which ended with the owner of the place gifting us a wine jug the Dame had been fawning over. And it’s also where we had our very worst date ever; the one that let me know it was all coming to an end.

This is our tie breaking feast and we’re having a time of it, with big fat glasses of red wine and Sinatra tap dancing along the walls and a summer breeze that is tickling our deepest wishes into a sublime flavor. And the dying sun is clashing with an opinionated moon and they’re birthing the most wonderfully handsome children. The dusk feels as if is breathing eyelashes onto a cantilever and the words we share feel as if they’ve never been uttered by another living soul. There is no beginning and there is no end to this magical place, but only the here and now. 

“I love you,” She says sweetly between sips of her wine.  

And then she lifts herself up from the table and retrieves a snub nosed Ruger from her purse and gives me the Solozzo special with two shots to the head before collecting her glass of wine and lighting up a smoke on her way out the door.

All things considered, the dream could’ve been worse.

 

Matters of Little Consequence

With the Gorilla dead and buried, I continued keeping her blog warm seeing as how her posts had become sporadic in nature. In the early going of this particular arrangement, I felt really good about it. But as time passed and her posts became less frequent, I felt like I was just getting in the way, so I ceased and desisted. From there, things settled into a predictability that was likely driving us mad. We were passionate people playing out the string, and so it only made sense that the end was a matter of when.

By the time 2009 rolled around, I’d started a new blog and then trashed it in short order. And then I tried another one, figuring out something that looked and felt light years different from before. Rooting for Laundry was the predecessor to Drinks Well With Others. My writing had become crisper, more poigant and poetically honest to my writing bones. The Dame was such a magnificent Goddamn writer, it was a slam dunk proposition that she would push me into these Everest-like discoveries. Her influence provided me with with the muster to quit holding back. She taught me that good writing will comfort your soul but great writing will unleash it.

On a personal level, she resented the fact that I never brought up marriage in our second go round. The truth was, our first breakup had provided me the cautionary tale to which I was in no hurry to return. It may not have been fair to her, but there was the matter of self preservation to think about as far as I was concerned. And with that fresh perspective, it occurred to me on more than one occasion that I was plenty fine being single for the rest of my life if push came to shove off. Being a man of a certain age does indeed have its privileges.

I didn’t want us to go away, mind you. I simply didn’t feel an urgency to plant our feet in concrete boots, what with all the many variables we were both toting around. Not the least of which were our respective battles with depression. She wasn’t a crazy bitch who wanted to murder me in my sleep, even if there were times when I swore it was true. She was just a small town rich girl who’d lost her north star existence to death, domestic abuse and a shattered family tree.

It wasn’t her fault that she couldn’t make me happy. In the end, I left her scavenging for tiny little pieces of me, as if scavenging for clearance bargains. What it comes down to is, when you’re never happy, then you have to find a person who at the very least gives you peace of mind.

She wasn’t that.

We drifted in and out of delirious moments interspersed with insanely provocative scenarios and corruptible silences that only served to push us further apart. We believed in something, but we stopped being so certain as to what that something truly was. We were weighted by the debt of our mistakes, we were constrained by the indifference we wore in order to protect ourselves. As a result, our rhythm listed and our swim became fractured under the strain of it all.

Our love story became a double edged sword in which every precious yin begot a forgettable yang.

For every exhilarating tennis match where she kicked my ass, there was a stone cold shoulder moment that pushed us further into the deep. For every hot date night where we got busy lighting the match fantastic, there were nights when we didn’t talk at all. And for every romantic Italian dinner at a joint we found by accident, there was the return visit where she stormed out before the entrees arrived.

If you were to ask me for a microcosm of our time together, I would tell you it came some time after midnight on Easter morning of our final spring. We’d gone Machiavelli on the friendly drinks and with her kids away till morning, we decided to cook up our feast. We started things late night and finished them sometime after who knows what in the very early morning. Drinking and smoking and dancing to Elvis Costello and Wilco, Neil Diamond and Al Green and Aretha Franklin. Bickering and laughing and kissing in between the smoke and fire and ramble of clinks. And when it was done we had roasted lamb, a museum grooved ham, green beans with pancetta, cornbread stuffing, honeyed carrots, garlic mashed and a divine asparagus/tomato/mozzarella salad. We made ourselves mussels with blue cheese and some crumbled bacon for the trouble and we dug in, toasting our dirty, rolled up sleeves whilst clinking Sams. And then we fucked like mad and fell asleep.

We did Miami in June and as great a time as the Clevelander was, that Easter Sunday was really our last great night together. Because the zip code doesn’t make up the rules on a good time, yanno?

And before we both knew it, it was late August and our forever after was being called on account of rain, again, this time for keeps. I would spend Saturday on the couch, watching Ted Kennedy’s funeral whilst keeping company with one part coffee to whatever the fuck parts vodka and a couple packs of smokes.

You have to be a writer to understand that shit.

Next Week: The Epilogue

 

 

 

 

Matters Of Little Consequence

December 31, 2008: 

Before she became Red to me, she was Geena. We’d gotten to know each other well enough that she invited me to a New Years shindig she was throwing at her condo. I brought my son and my friend Karen, because my son loved parties where he could hone his extensive vocabulary whilst flirting with the ladies. I brought Karen because she called me out of the blue to vent about having taken a break from her Romeo.

We’d dabbled in perpendicular associations after our respective divorces, but our friendship had become a hands free dynamic long before the Dame came along. Besides, the Dame and me had forged a compact inside our long distance relationship in which we socialized with friends of the opposite sex- including former flames. It was a matter of trust, and a dearth of friends.

My son talked politics with Geena’s daughter while Karen found some shot partners. I hung with a lesbian couple, and we kvetched on celebrity crushes. When the clock struck nine o’clockish, I collected my son and searched for Karen, who was having a blast and asking if we could stay till midnight.

I figured the night was still young and I’d be able to partake on the other side. So I drove my son home and headed back to the party, after which I called the Dame. Her plans had fallen through and she was short with me, so I decided against telling her I’d gone back to the party. But then she asked me and then I told her and then I promised to call her later, and then she told me she was going to sleep. If not for my schedule, I would’ve been there. And so I let it go and I hoped she would let it go, and I went back upstairs. I was intent on digging into a friendly beverage when I was swiped up by my new pals.

“We’re going dancing!” Tara said, as the party began heading out. A block and a half later, I was failing miserably on the dance floor, so I grabbed a beer and moved to where Karen and her new friends were sitting. By this point, Karen was several sheets into a stiff tequila wind and nursing a beer much too cozily with Paul, who oh by the way was Geena’s husband. So I tabled it with my sisters in rhyme, after which I danced up the floor to more proper conclusions thanks to an old school DJ who went heavy on disco.

When Geena wrangled up our motley crew, I couldn’t hit the door fast enough. I was feeling melancholic about Chi-town and dreading having to work the next day and bummed as all get out that I wasn’t feeling nearly as jovial as everybody else.

“Hey mister . . .”

It was Geena, sidling up next to me as if she could read my mind. Inside my depressed state, she was coming up aces. She asked about the Dame as we chatted our way back upstairs, where I constructed a martini for myself while Geena, Lori and Tara involved themselves in Gatsby sized vino glasses. I was feeling shin bone deep in a mellowed out feeling when Karen came in and handed me my coat. “You left it at the club, so we bummed a few cigs . . ,” She smiled.

We toasted the dwindling minutes as they teetered into dust and the hands of the clock reached for an indelicate breach. My brain began deconstructing a year whose wings had perched themselves into the vespers of a raging fire. I’d won and I’d lost and I’d given up trying to figure out the reasons why.

As midnight exploded, the martini swam upstream and the beer chaser dovetailed the setting magnificently as I let tomorrow work on its snooze. Me and Geena debated the best Bowie song while the girls took me to task for converting to deep dish over New York style. And just when the night had settled into a peaceful logic, one of Karen’s shot shuckers ran into the condo in a panic, “Your friend is bleeding in the hallway,”

Sure enough, Karen was sitting on the ground and bleeding from the forehead after hitting the astragal between a set of double doors which led to the elevators. “I’m fine!” she said drunkenly as Paul came out with a hand towel. I went back to grab my jacket and when I returned, she was gone. Geena wished me a vaya con dios and I went searching for a tall redhead doing a civil war drummer boy impersonation as I headed towards the parking garage.

There were plenty of times in my life where my past has spoken to me in bold cursive, but none quite so bizarrely. So I wasn’t shocked to find the parking garage booth had closed up shop, leaving me stuck between a gate and a single lane spiral I was never going to be able to navigate in reverse. I had two choices: crash through the fucking thing or try and lift it. I chose the latter and then cursed my way out of the garage, shortly thereafter finding Karen strolling down the street.

“Get in,” I said icily.

“Hey fuck you for laughing at me!” Karen slurred.

I pulled over and she got in, after which I told her where to go and how to get there. “I wasn’t laughing at you, so ease the fuck up,”

“I’m sure your girlfriend loves the fact that you were having such a great time with a married woman . .”

“What in the fuck does that even mean?”

“It was awkward!”

“No, awkward was whatever you and Paul were doing. We were dancing . . . and I’m pretty sure it was the only thing keeping Geena from scratching your eyes out,”

“Your girlfriend might not think this is so funny,”

I thought this black comedy of an evening had run out of surprises, as if there was a chance in hell the universe was done with me. 

As if.

Hello I Must Be Going

Everybody wants a superpower, but nobody wants to pay those dry-cleaning bills.

Personally, I think most of them are overrated. Can you imagine the shit you’re going to be subjected to if your co-workers found out you have the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound and you didn’t pick them up on the way to work?

So forget time traveling or possessing superhuman speed. Don’t give me telepathy, flight, shape shifting or even having Catwoman’s number on speed dial. Because while those superpowers are nice, they ain’t got a thing on mine.

I rarely run into an ex.

That’s it. That’s my superpower. And while it ain’t ever gonna put Iron Man out of business, it works for yours truly. And it’s my great good fortune to have it, seeing as how I’ve got plenty of Rico but precious little Suave for these situations.

Running into Ex

This isn’t to say I haven’t experienced an awkward conversation in line at the grocery store. But more often than not, I’ve been able to avoid the calamitous “Oh heeeeyyyy!” . . which is the single dude preamble to that John Milton novel. Okay, all of ’em.

I found myself behind Red in a Starbucks drive through last week. There she was in her adorable little Fiat, fussing with her fiery red curls as I leaned down to search for something in my glove box in order to escape detection. Red was married, which is why we lasted as long as we did.

Rosemarie was my disco lemonade crush back in the ’80’s, and I really thought I was going to marry her someday, maybe. This was mostly due to the fact a Survivor love ballad always seemed to make the scene when we were skin deep in negotiations. I actually came across her a couple times over the last few years before I was certain it was her, seeing as how she chopped her mane and lost her infectious smile thanks to parenthood. And it’s even money she was thinking the same thing about me.

Ms. Borinquen gifted me an Ireland soccer t-shirt on St Patrick’s Day 2007 after we decided to double down on the merry making at her crib. I spotted her in a downtown cafe a few years back, looking as creamy as ever. After which I switched seats with my coffee pal, just in case the dude she was with happened to be her gun toting baby daddy.

I’m expert at spotting an ex before the ex spots me. As with Mel the poet at Hershey Park . . . Val the therapist at the mall . . . Diana the parole officer in a Jimmy John’s (after which I got Chinese takeout instead) . . . Lisa the perpetual saint of unemployment at a bar . . .

Awkard Ex Conversation

Which brings me to Miss What’s Her Name. She was a teacher who had worked with Red for a while, and we once ran into her at a pub near Red’s condo in town. She was several drinks south of the meridian line by that point in the evening, but she still remembered the chance acquaintance when speaking to Red a few days later. And it was somewhere inside their conversation that Miss What’s Her Name made a rather tawdry suggestion that maybe the three of us could, yanno, have a round table. Sans the table.

Discretion was the better part of Red’s game, so it never happened. And thank God for that, because this woman would end up in a 50 Shades-like scandal a few years later. Seems she had been playing bare naked Hades with several prominent names when a scorned spouse cried foul.

So of fucking course I ran into her. And it was the strangest thing, to run into someone I didn’t sleep with only because the woman I was sleeping with had more sense in her pinkie than I have in . . . umm, mine. Because you know what’s more awkward than running into someone you went Hello Dali with behind closed doors? Running into someone who suggested such an encounter to your married girlfriend.

She asked if I still talk to Red and I told her I didn’t. And then I asked her something to which I have no recollection, because I just wanted to extricate myself from the situation as quickly as possible. And I know she was thinking the same thing, because she was fidgeting like a pitcher with the bases loaded. Thing is, for someone who is locked and loaded when it comes time to find trouble, my arsenal is weaker than the french army when attempting to flee the scene.

Catwoman would have a field day with me.

Matters Of Little Consequence

The 800lb Gorilla met its inglorious end on August 8th, 2008. Dan said goodbye with a video. Of course.

By then I was writing with the Dame, on her blog. I was trying to provide her with the muse and doing a lousy job of it. Her readers weren’t all that receptive to me either, as evidenced by the dearth of comments. I’d get the occasional “Where’s Dame?”, to which I provided a cursory explanation that the Dame was busy gardening or tending to the kiddos or backpacking in Tibet.

The truth of the matter is, I was sans blog for the first time in years and I didn’t know whether it was a blessing or a curse. What I missed more than anything was the ability to slice something up with four lettered particulars, because my jam wasn’t playing in the Dame’s crib. I was like the new age bistro that replaces the landmark steakhouse; peeps wanted the sizzle she provided and were much less interested in my rap, so to speak.

Still, I loved keeping her seat warm because I knew when she got back to it, she was going to wreak havoc on the somethings and lay waste to the everything elses. And without a blog of my own, I felt plenty fine playing the role of David Carradine from Kung Fu . . wandering the literary stars, plucking ransoms out of the minutiae. It’s just what you do when you’re in love with someone’s pen. You wait by the window, shining that light until they make it home.

October of 2008 was a revelatory caterwaul whose presence I could have done without. But life never speaks to us with permission. And so it was that in October, the shit collided with the proverbial fan when Dan confessed to having an affair with bat shit crazy poet girl from Seattle. Yeah, the same writer the Dame had accused me of messing around with the year before. And when Dame wouldn’t stop shooting at my kneecaps with a smoking gun that wasn’t mine, I had turned up my snark index to ten plus and let her have it with something like Of course I took a flight from Chicago to Seattle . . because I have all the fucking time in the world to travel all over the fucking map banging bloggers! Admittedly, I might have tried tact on for size, seeing as how we ended up burning our relationship to the ground thanks to exchanges such as this.

Almost a year later, I was vindicated. Again. That lovable ape the poet girl would write sonnets to wasn’t me, it was Dan. And it made sense that the guy who whined about having to live vicariously through my social life now that he was married, was the culprit. It explained the vibe I was getting from him and Chris, and it explained all the mysterious shit he would post on the blog; which I was thankful was six feet under now.

I’m not gonna lie. I expected an apology from the Dame. I mean, it didn’t have to be served on fine china or anything like that. But I’d been unfairly accused of something, and I figured now was the time to close up that forgettable chapter with some mea for my affected culpa.

That wasn’t how the Dame ticked, though. Because what I got instead served to tear those sutures plumb off the scab of the previous November. After she got done scorching the patch of earth Dan stood on, she directed the rest of her bottle of Jesus towards me for having the piss poor judgement to be friends with such a cad. Never mind that I wasn’t pals with the fucker on the level of vault stories. Never mind that I was left to roast on a spit as he fucked the blog into the ground. Never mind that the Dame, oh by the way, had been married to a serial womanizer and I wasn’t holding it against her.

Needless to say, I was feeling the tremors as another November moved into focus. All of a sudden, the ground we walked on felt as sturdy as gossamer. But this time would be different, because I was going to be spending Thanksgiving week in Chicago. Which would guarantee that we would make it out of that scarred month intact as a couple. Probably . . .

And this is where the Dame showed herself to be one of the most beautifully complicated individuals I’ve ever known. Because that visit will live with me from the moment I touched down at O’Hare until I take my final breath. It speaks to who we are, as human beings, that I can think back on that time and be as in love with her from right here as I was right there without wanting any of it back, ever again. If you look up the definition of complicated in the dictionary, that’s what it looks like.

The Dame’s family had forged an empire in a small Illinois town once upon a time, before sickness and death claimed the progenitors. Her father’s passing had taken the biggest toll on her, after which she kept an arm’s length relationship with her siblings, but she had always remained close to her kid brother.

As in many prestigious families, excess and intrigue are sewn into the seal, and hers was no different. Her kid brother had been a hot shit equities trader until the bottom fell out thanks to a heroin crush that wouldn’t quit. And so me and the Dame went over to his apartment on Thanksgiving morning to get him, because she was afraid he was going to run.

We found him walking down the street and I got out of the car and let him take the front seat. Before he moved inside the car, I could tell he was higher than the planes that were circling above us waiting for their turn to land at O’Hare. He tried his best to play it straight on the way back her place, but he was a mess and I watched in awe as she kept it all together.

Back at her place, we played catch with her son while the Dame finished up her Thanksgiving feast. And then she got him to wash up and refresh himself, and by that evening when we were playing cards, he was the hot shit kid who’d been going places again. Only, he was much more than that. His smile was infectious and his laugh was original and he could talk on anything and I loved him. Just like that. And it was her, it was all her; holding together the last remaining pieces of a family that had gone away. And it just so happens to be one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in my entire life.

I can still taste her smile inside the crisp advent of a winter’s breath that promised snow and far worse things. And maybe I knew we were a mistake by then, but it didn’t matter. Because that moment and that smile thrust me into the places of this universe that do not yet have names. And at least once in your life, you need to feel that kind of Longfellow in your bones.

As if the universe calls only you.