Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Virgin Mary's Birth Plan

The Virgin Mary's Birth Plan:

-If a birthing ball is not available, I would like to labor while riding a donkey.

-If the baby and I are healthy, I would like to have a manger birth.

-I would like to have an unmedicated birth. (Unless the child's father, God, decides to intervene and take the pain away. Which would be nice. Since I'm doing Him a big solid here, what with the whole pregnancy-without-sex thing, which really gets people talking, by the way. I'm just saying...a little Divine Intervention would be nice.)

-I would like music during my labor and delivery. If angels do not appear to provide musical accompaniment, I will bring my favorite Enya cd.

-The following people are allowed in the manger during labor and delivery: Joseph (life partner), Wise Men (no more than 3), shepherds (no more than 3), and various barnyard animals.

-The following people are not allowed in the manger during labor and delivery: Innkeeper

-I will be exclusively breastfeeding. Please do not give my baby any bottles or pacifiers so as to avoid nipple confusion.

-Please do not allow barnyard animals to eat my baby.







Friday, December 6, 2013

A Letter To Santa Claus, From The Committee For Elf Welfare (Internal Affairs Division) Re: Immediate Suspension of The Elf On A Shelf Program

Dear Mr. Santa Claus,

We are writing today to express our concerns regarding your Elf On A Shelf program.

As you know, the Elf On A Shelf initiative was a fundamental component of the 2009 Creative Recessionary Elf Employment Program (or CREEP), an effort launched by this committee in order to minimize the effects of the Great Recession upon the North Pole's economy. We have always believed that the key to maintaining strong North Pole economic growth lies in ensuring that our elves have ample employment opportunity.

Initial implementation of the program was anticipated to be successful: elves who were ineligible for positions as toy makers, reindeer handlers, Keeblerian cookie bakers, or cobbler assistants, would be assigned to a household with children. The elf would observe the behavior of those children and report back nightly as to whether the child should be placed on The Nice List or The Naughty List. Enthusiasm for this program was high, as it had the potential to not only open up job opportunities for otherwise unemployable elves, but to also ensure workshop operations could be most efficiently utilized, as toy production could be tailored to appropriately reflect a child's most current Naughty/Nice List status.

However, now that the program has been in place for a few years, it has come to our attention that the elves involved are spending less time observing the behavior of children and more time engaging in activity that we find troubling.

The committee recognizes that you, Mr. Claus, are a very busy man. Given your hectic schedule, we understand that perusing social media sites may not generally be a productive use of your time. However, we believe that if you take a few moments to log onto Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, you will find ample evidence of the inappropriate behavior a number of the Elf On A Shelf employees are engaging in.

For instance, we have seen photographic evidence of elves ingesting illicit drugs, consuming alcoholic beverages, destroying personal property, and engaging in inappropriate sexual activity with Barbie dolls. Each of these offenses, as documented, has occurred during work hours and within the home of the elf's assigned family.

This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated. Not only does it inflict serious damage upon the positive image and credibility of North Pole elves, but our legal team  has advised that any litigation resulting from such elf misconduct could take years to resolve and  have far-reaching economic consequences.

Therefore, it is our recommendation that the Elf On A Shelf program be suspended immediately and all guilty elves be placed on the Naughty List indefinitely.

Thank you for your consideration of this matter.

Warmly,

The Committee For Elf Welfare
Internal Affairs Division

Friday, November 22, 2013

Losing Santa

It started with the Tooth Fairy.

"I don't believe in the Tooth Fairy," my oldest said when he was 8. "I think it's just your parents."

He was watching me as he spoke and I could hear the question lurking behind his statement.

I looked everywhere but at him. "Well," I began, unsure exactly what to say next. I was willing to throw the Tooth Fairy under the bus, to strip her of her magical powers and own up, if I knew it would satisfy him. But I feared the avalanche of scrutiny outting her would spark.

Before I could decide how best to respond, he asked me flat out, "Is the Tooth Fairy real?"

Once he asked me directly, I could not lie. I gave up the Tooth Fairy.

And then I hauled ass out of his room before the flames of doubt could spread to Santa.

But just a month before Christmas, he went to his dad and asked the big question. And his dad was honest.

He waited until one night, right before bed, to break the news to me. I was prattling on about Christmas when he finally said, "Mom, I know Santa's not real. Dad told me it's you guys."

My heart broke.

I knew, at some point, this day would come, that eventually my boys would get older and no longer believe. But I wasn't ready for it at 8. I wasn't ready for this shred of innocence to be stripped away. They have the rest of their lives to question, to analyze, to sit with the reality of life.

I want them to be critical thinkers.

But I also want them to be believers, to be able to shake off logic now and then and simply bask in the wonder, beauty, and magic of feeling something.

While they are little boys, that means the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

When they are men, I hope that will mean love, humanity, and life itself.

And even magic.

Because we all need a little magic in our lives.

No matter how old we are. 



Sunday, November 10, 2013

Let Me Down Gently

"Bye, Mom," my son says suddenly, because he is 8 and doesn't yet know that you don't just end a phone call so abruptly. You ease into it. Let me down gently, little boy.

"Wait," I say before he can hang up. "Last night I found one of your hippos in my bed."

"I know," he says matter-of-factly. "I left it there for you."

"For me?" I'm touched.

"Yeah," he says. "I don't need it anymore."

"Oh," I say.

Oh.

*     *     *     *     *

Originally, there was only one hippo. It sat in the corner of his crib, unnoticed, until the middle of one night when I stood outside of his room debating going in and just FINDING THE DAMN PACIFIER FOR HIM so that we could all sleep. But after a few minutes, he grew quiet. The next morning, he was holding the hippo close and chewing on its ear. The pacifier had been replaced by something he could find HIMSELF in the middle of the night.

Score.

However, even as his first birthday came and went, my son had terrible reflux, which meant there was not a single item belonging to either him or me that had not, at one time, been bathed in spit up.

So I ordered a back-up hippo. For when the primary hippo needed to be washed.

The second hippo was stashed in my closet, and the rule was that the primary hippo stayed in the crib (with an exception made for getting shots because everyone knows that rules don't count when you're getting shots).

This worked out well until I took a job working weekends. My very first day of work, I came home to find my son sitting on the living room floor with both hippos next to him.

"Buppos!" he giggled, holding them both out to me as if to say, "Can you even believe how much MORE awesome life is with TWO hippos, Mama?"

My husband shrugged. "He saw the other hippo in the closet."

So I ordered a third hippo.

"Buppos," my son would grin, stuffing the ear of one into his mouth and tucking the other under his arm while I gagged at the thought of chewing on cloth.

"Buppos," he would say quietly, settling onto my lap and into the crook of my arm in his warm, fuzzy footed pajamas as I read him bedtime stories and sang to him.

"Buppos," he would cry, his cheeks flush with fever as I tried to explain that we had only one hippo right now, that the other two were in the wash because he had thrown up all over them.

They were his buppos until, one day, they weren't. He called them hippos.

"Oh," I thought.

Oh.

*     *     *     *     *
 
A few days after leaving his hippo for me, he pulls me upstairs and climbs onto my bed, this big boy who is 8 and now has opinions about his hair and his clothes, who plays sports and asks me if it's true that grown ups use their tongues when they kiss. It's a beautiful thing, watching him get big, watching him become himself.

But it's a painful thing, too. I'm rarely Mama anymore. One day, when I wasn't even paying attention, I morphed into Mom.

How long before he stops wanting to sleep in my bed when he's scared? 
How long before he stops letting me pull him onto my lap? 
How long before he stops kissing me goodnight?

He has scooted over to the far side of the bed, the side I don't sleep on. He looks up at me.

"Mom," he says. "Can you get my hippos?"

I get him the hippos and climb onto the bed. He snuggles in, quiet for a bit, and I lie there smelling his sweet head.

Finally, he says, "I missed you in the summer. And I was sad because I didn't have my hippos that first night."

What this means, what he doesn't know how to say because he is only 8, but what I hear because I am 38 and because I know him like no one else on this earth does, is:

One day you were supposed to pick me up from school and you didn't. And then you were gone and nothing's been the same since. Tell me you'll be here when I come home from school. Tell me you won't go again. 

I pull him close. I tell him that I was sad when I couldn't come home the night I found out about the brain tumor. I tell him that I talked to his dad first thing the next morning and we made our plan to get him the hippos. I tell him that I missed him every day, but that I knew things would be normal again eventually. Or, almost normal.

The grown ups are in charge. And I was never really gone because nothing could keep me away.   

"Okay," he says, and he hops off the bed and goes back downstairs to play with his brother.

He takes the hippos with him.

Because he is 8 and doesn't yet know that you don't just get big so abruptly.

You ease into it.


Let me down gently, little boy.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Breathe In, Breathe Out

They can't decide what to do with me and the PA says as much. She's standing at the end of my bed with her perky ponytail and her white coat and I've already decided that I do not like her, not because of the perkiness of her pony, but rather because of the air of condescension floating off her like so many dandelion seeds carried on the wind. This is the first conversation I've had with her, but she is quick to point out that she saw me earlier in the day.

"I saw you by the elevators," she says.

I saw her too, holding her folders close to her chest as she looked over at me. I had been walking but needed to stop, choosing the most unfortunate spot I could find, a padded bench by the busy elevators. I sat, clinging to my IV pole and willing the floor to stop rising and falling.

Call, don't fall.

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.

I was feeling better as my eyes met hers. It didn't bother me that she was looking, everyone who passed stopped to look. With one eye patched, a turban of gauze that I did not know was blood soaked in the back, and my wrists and arms already turning a vibrant purple from an endless number of needle sticks, I wanted to grin at all of them and boast, "LOOK! Look at what I did!" But from her I could sense disdain, a silent "tsk, tsk, surgical patients should be up and walking, not lazily people-watching from the bench."

"So..." she trails off, flipping through papers from the foot of my bed. "We're trying to decide whether or not you should go home today. I'm...I'm trying to reconcile what the doctor wants for you and what I think YOU want." She looks up at me.

I hate her.

"What I want," I begin, "is to go home, so long as you can tell me it's medically safe for me to do so. But when you come in here telling me that you can't decide, I'm not convinced."

She frowns.

"You have family set up to stay with you?"

"Yes," I answer. Despite having committed the most egregious sin of getting sick without a husband, without a 'in sickness and in health' clause to enact, a barrage of family and friends have come forward, volunteering to take care of me for the next three weeks. They will wake me in the night to taper me off my steroids. They will be there to watch for seizures and confusion. They will dole out medications from the giant grid that houses pills of yellow, pink, white, and brown. They will help me up the stairs. They will make me smoothies and scrambled eggs.

They will wash blood out of my hair, an act so tender and sorrowful that even now, four months later, I cannot speak of it without crying. I cannot yet write about it.

They will rest a warm, steady hand on my back when I cry.

"You had a rough day yesterday," she says, her voice rising at the end so that I can't tell if she's making an observation or asking me a question.

I lean my head back against the pillow.

Yes. Yesterday was a rough day.

It was the day after brain surgery. I was in pain. A sweet girl in scrubs fed me a few spoonfuls of soup until I could drink a strawberry milkshake on my own. I was groggy, in and out of consciousness throughout the day.

A priest came into my room, making his introduction from the side of the bed.

I said hello. I fell asleep.

I opened my eyes to find my brother reading by my bedside.

I said hello. I fell asleep.

A woman who smelled like peppermint came in to take my vitals.

I said hello. I fell asleep.

"Jennifer," the nurse was calling to me in the afternoon as I tried to wake up. "Honey, we have to get you out of bed and walking. They REALLY want you walking."

I nodded. The neurosurgeons had told me this before the surgery. "You'll be up and walking the next day. We'll be sure of it." They had laughed and I had laughed, so eager to prove what a cooperative patient I could be. Oh yes, oh yes, you take out the tumor and I'll take over from there, I'll walk as much as you want me to walk, just get this thing out of my head without killing me and I'll do anything you want.

"Why don't we move you to the chair to start with," the nurse suggested.

 She removed the compression cuffs from my legs and helped me swing them to the side of the bed. I was surprised to see how weak they looked, so pale and thin. They were foreign, these soft, unsteady, timid legs.

I sat for a moment, then nodded to her that I was ready. The floor was shockingly cold beneath my feet as she took my arm and lifted me up. I stood for a moment, suddenly aware of pain in my lower back from the lumbar drain, took three small steps to the chair, and collapsed into it.

"Good!" she cheered.

"I'm going to throw up," I sputtered before leaning forward and beginning to retch. She moved quickly, shoving a blue basin under my chin just in time.

"Sit back," she was saying urgently, but my body was automatically doubling itself over as my stomach emptied. A brilliant white pain burst before my eyes and I cried out, "My head!" but could not stop vomiting long enough to realize that this was why she wanted me to sit back.

"-too much pressure on your head-" she was saying, and I suddenly shoved the basin at my mother and managed to squeak, "I'm going to pass out" before a sparkling warm blackness flooded over me. I felt the nurse's hand push me back against the chair. I could no longer see her. She was calling my name.

"Stay with me, Jennifer. JENNIFER, STAY WITH ME."

I tried to grab on to her voice, tried to take a deep breath, tried to tell her I was trying, trying to stay with her.

-just get this thing out of my head without killing me and I'll do anything you want-

But I couldn't speak again until minutes later, when I was back in the bed breathing in oxygen from a mask and nodding at another doctor, the nurse taking my hand and telling me, "You scared me."

Yeah. Me too.

"Yes," I confirm for the PA. "Yesterday was a rough day. But if I can, I want to go home."

She nods. "Alright," she says finally. "We'll get your discharge papers ready."

Surgery was on Wednesday. Today is Friday. I'm going home.

I'm relieved.



I'm terrified.




 



Saturday, October 12, 2013

In the Still of the Night (Part 2)

Need a recap? Part 1

     He looked back down at the phone, at this former lover of hers and his engagement announcement. There was a pounding in his head, as if he could hear the beating of his own heart from within, that was growing as he clicked through to Jenna Burke’s Facebook page. 
     
     Her profile picture was of her and a friend, each with her blonde hair braided and wearing a straw cowboy hat, red plastic cups in the hands they had slung over each other’s shoulders to pose for the camera.  She was conventionally attractive; nice hair, nice tan, nice teeth, but generic, unlike Kyla who stood out in a crowd with her long legs and wildly curly auburn hair.  He had dated plenty just like this Jenna Burke, although none seriously, as he found that once he had fucked a girl like that, he grew tired of her quickly.
     
     He was scrolling down to find her status just as Kyla returned to the table, placing his shot before him and then sitting down.  She picked up her own glass, raised it in his direction, and tossed it back. 
     
     He looked down and read the post.
     
     “Baby Greene will be arriving in November!!!!” it said.    
     
     “Bottoms up, my friend,” she said, nodding at his drink.
     
     The pounding in his head continued as he looked across the table at her.  He had once asked her if she wanted children someday, but she had waved her hand at the question as if brushing away a small, annoying bug.
   
     “No kids for me,” she had said, leaning forward with a smirk, a glass of red wine dangling precariously by its stem between her fingers.
   
     “I’m not exactly the maternal type.”
     
     He did not take his eyes off of her face as he tipped his head back and let the warm liquid slide down his throat. He was feeling dizzy as the alcohol hit him. Nothing about this night was going the way he wanted it to. Nothing about this night was making any fucking sense.  Adam Greene and his pregnant fiancĂ© and Kyla - his Kyla, HIS FUCKING KYLA - trying to drink them off her mind. He took a deep breath, held the side of the table to steady himself, and tried to tell himself that she was still the same, still the same Kyla she had been when she walked into the bar that night. She was not slipping through his fingers.
     
     No, she was sitting there, across from him, her same hair that he had run his fingers through, the same mouth that had met his, the same long fingers that had scratched down his own back. No. Everything was alright. They would leave soon and go back to his place and he would hold her close to him and she wouldn't be thinking of Adam Greene or his wedding or his baby. She would wrap her legs around HIM and be his and everything would be the way it was. 
     
     “You drunk yet?” she asked.  He nodded.
     
     “Great. Then we should probably go before I buy us another round and wind up throwing up all over the bartender.”
      
     He wasn't sure exactly where the feeling was coming from, but he suddenly felt bold. Rather than let her decide whether or not the evening was over, he stood and said, “Let’s go back to my place.”
     
     “Perfect,” she replied and in a moment he was steering her through the crowd and out into the night air.  He wanted to hurry. The sooner he had her in his apartment, the lights low, her naked body beneath his, the sooner everything would feel right again.
     
     They walked silently for a few minutes, until she slowed a bit. 
     
     “I’m drunk,” she said quietly.
     
     He was happy for this. Maybe she would pass out in his bed and stay the night. That would certainly go a long way to fix things.   
     
     “Wow,” she said with a small, forced laugh. “Wow. I am…I am REALLY drunk.”
     
     “Come on,” he said, taking her arm and walking quickly but she pulled away.
     
     “No, I…I need air, I need…” she trailed off. Her eyes were shiny but remained sharp as she suddenly looked at him.
     
     “Got a cigarette?”
     
     “At my apartment,” he said.
     
     “Bullshit,” she said, laughing and grabbing playfully at his waist where she knew he always had a pack.
     
     He was growing impatient, even as he stopped to pull a cigarette out for her. He couldn't be sure she wouldn't still turn toward the street, hail a cab, and slip away, leaving him alone with no relief for this feeling of urgency.  But as he leaned in to light the cigarette for her, she looked up at him with wide eyes and he felt, for a moment, better.  They were only a few blocks away from his apartment now. She was almost his again.
     
     She dragged on the cigarette as they walked, their pace slower than he would have liked. She hadn't exaggerated her drunken state; she stumbled for a moment, reaching out for him as she steadied herself.
   
     “Fuck,” she said, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. Her breast brushed against his arm as she did. His heart raced. Three more blocks.
   
     “FUCK,” she yelled, turning her face up towards the sky and laughing. She let go of his arm and sped up her pace.
   
     “I mean,” she laughed bitterly, “I mean do you believe this shit?” She was in front of him now, turning back to face him, her hair bouncing as she did. He wanted her to stop. He wanted her to stop moving, stop thinking and, for fuck’s sake, to stop talking.
     
     As if he had made it happen himself, she stopped.
   
     “You know,” she began, and he wondered if, since he had made her stop moving, he could make her stop talking before the next words slipped out of her perfect, delicious mouth.
    
     “I was pregnant once.”
   
     He had failed.
    

     

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waking Up

PAIN.

It's all there is, all that I'm aware of.

The insides of my eyes are a wall of red and I feel like I'm spinning. There is no sense of head or back or arms or legs. There is everything and everything is raging, throbbing, searing.

PAIN. PAIN. PAIN.

Slowly, I break back through the surface of consciousness and my mouth begins to work.

"I'm in so much pain," I groan with a stinging, swollen throat.

"My name is Pam," a voice answers. "I'm your nurse."

My eyes fly open. She keeps talking, she's saying more words at me but I can't hear them. They don't register because in that moment the pain has been chased away by the relief of awareness that I have communicated with someone.

I spoke to her and she understood me. She spoke to me and I understood her.

My brain is working. I can think.

I am me.

*    *    *    *    *

I have a degree in psychology. Once upon a time, back in college, I knew the central nervous system inside and out. I could have drawn you a picture of the human brain, labeled each section, and explained the function of each part.

Here's your frontal lobe.

You, in the sense of your personality, with all of the incredible and maddening things that make you YOU, are born from your frontal lobe. It's the room where your memories live, your compassion swells, your despair bleeds. This part of your brain is your heart and soul.

Over here in the brain stem is the medulla oblongata.

The medulla oblongata controls your basic functions, things like your breathing and heart rate, things that your body just does because it's a body.

See how they are not the same? See how they are two different places?

But that's my college self, with her textbook and her studying and her grades. My 38 year old self tells her, You don't know this yet, but there's a tumor growing in your brain stem. Eventually, it will grow large enough to push on your 6th cranial nerve and cause you to see double. Three neurosurgeons will work to get it out. 

You're going to be afraid of waking up as someone you do not recognize, someone who is flat and emotionless. 

You're going to be afraid that YOU will be lost. 

My college self shakes her head. You're not looking at the science. The tumor isn't near the frontal lobe. Your surgeons won't be poking around there. Your personality, your memories, YOU will be safe. 

All the science says so.

*    *    *    *    *

My friends are here.

Pam The Nurse has blonde hair. Sascha has blonde hair. Dana has brown hair.

This is Dana standing on my right, rubbing my leg. The right side of the room is almost nonexistent because I can't hear out of my right ear and my right eye is covered so that I don't see double. But I feel the warmth and pressure and love from her hand, through the blankets, as she rubs my leg for me.

CONNECTION: I know you. I love you. Look at me, Dana, I didn't die today. Thank you for being here, thank you for rubbing my leg. 

I am me.

This is Sascha, standing on my left, holding my hand. I'm babbling, telling her I'm proud of myself and proud of her as the nurse laughs and says that this is common in surgical patients, it's known as post-surgery euphoria.

CONNECTION: I know you. I love you. Look at me, Sascha, I didn't die today. Thank you for being here, thank you for holding my hand.

I am me.

Soon I'm telling Pam again about the pain. They cut a muscle from in front of my ear and used it as a patch in my skull. From my jaw down through my neck, and spreading out into my shoulder, my muscles are screaming.

Pain. Pain. Pain.

Gratitude. Relief. Joy.

I can think. I can feel. I can speak.

I am me.








Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Scary Part

It's been a long day. It's Monday and I've been at the hospital for blood work, an EKG, and my preoperative physical. It's rainy, I'm tired, and I need this to be over. Surgery is on Wednesday.

I'm trying not cry. I've been positive and focused on all the love and support surrounding me since Diagnosis Day. But now it's time to say goodbye to my sons. I won't see them again until after the surgery.

I hug them. I kiss them. I tell them I'll call them tomorrow.

I tell them I love them.

And then I wonder if I will see them again.

*     *     *     *

People don't like to talk about death or dying or the fact that you might be afraid. Mostly what they want you to do is to Stay Positive! Because Everything Is Going To Be Okay! They will remind you that You Can't Think That Way! Everything's Going To Be Just Fine!

(Spoiler Alert: this is bullshit and I thank God that I've surrounded myself with people who believe in letting you cry your ugly cry and say whatever the hell you need to say, people who will stand there and hug you while you have a cry, even if you're in the middle of a very large seating area in a very large hospital where a number of doctors are sitting checking their phones but neither of you cares about them because you are a real, live woman and anyone who is uncomfortable with crying or feelings can just go fuck themselves anyway because who gives a shit what anyone else even thinks when there's a tumor in your head and it's kissing the part of your brain that controls your breathing?)

Doctors are different. Doctors lay it all out there for you, they make sure they are clear and that you understand the risks involved. You will sign paper after paper saying that you understand and agree to and accept the risks involved.

Death. Stroke. Right side facial paralysis.

Do you understand? Do you?

Stay Positive! 

Sign here.
 
*     *     *     *

His name is Dr. Matt. He has a last name and it begins with a V, but I can't remember what it is. I remember only that he introduced himself in the ER the first night as Dr. Matt.

"What day is it?"

I know the answer this time. It's Wednesday, June 12th, 2013. It's 9:30 in the morning and my two friends have just been ushered out of the pre-op area because it's time. They'll start IVs, they'll put me to sleep, they'll put in the breathing tube, they'll put the lumbar drain into my lower back to drain cerebrospinal fluid off my brain, they'll pad my body, they'll secure my head, they'll shave my hair, they'll cut through my skin and muscle and skull and remove part of the bone and then lift my brain and try to get to the tumor.

We're done with the baseline neurological exam. This is it. This is happening.

It's go time.

My hands are trembling, but I'm not crying. Dr. Matt puts a hand on mine and says this is a big surgery. He tells me that it's normal to be nervous.

But to prove it, to prove he's right, to prove that it really is okay to be nervous, I feel the need to run down the risks again. I start with the general: death, stroke, right side facial paralysis. Then, I piece together tidbits from various conversations with various doctors over the last week:

-it's in a difficult spot to get to
-it's wrapped around the part of your brain that controls breathing
-we might not be able to get it all
-there's a major artery right here

Does this warrant being afraid? Does this finally warrant it being okay to say, "Not to be overly dramatic here, but this is serious shit and it has shaken me to my core, and while I no longer doubt my own personal strength, I am afraid of having my head cut open and I am afraid that I just hugged my best friend goodbye, and I am afraid I won't see my boys again, and I am afraid that I am going to die today and I am afraid that this is it, that all of these 38 years have led me here and I am afraid that this is how my story ends. I thought I had more time. I thought I'd be a wife again. I thought I'd write a book someday. I thought I'd be a grandmother..."


The anesthesiologist is pretty. She tells me she's a mother, too. She tells me to lie back and relax. I focus on my hand as she puts something into my IV.

Dear Dad, please be with me.

Dear God, thank you for every person I have ever loved, for every thing I have ever felt, for every thing I have ever done. Thank you for such beautiful sons. 

Thank you for this life.


 And then, I am out. 






Thursday, August 1, 2013

Five Free Freebies From the Not Free Hospital

While being diagnosed with a brain tumor is no one's idea of a good time, it helps if you can keep your eyes open to the perks of spending time at the hospital. Here are 5 freebies I walked away with:

1) SNACKS! I sat in the ER of my local hospital for a few hours before getting the news that there was something in my head that shouldn't be there. It was around 4 in the afternoon and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. As soon as they told me the results of the CT scan, suddenly I had all the crackers and juice I could want. This experience taught me a valuable lesson: in a hospital setting, you don't know when you'll encounter food again, so horde the snacks you can. Just shove them all into your purse. Who cares? You have a brain tumor.




2) JEWELRY! Not only does the hospital give you free bracelets, they even personalize them with your name, birth date, and patient ID number! Where else can you get free engraving like that?


3) CLOTHES! Even though I brought my own socks, the hospital gifted me these. While they are a bit limiting in that they only come in blue, they are warm and comfy. The downside is that they have white traction stuff on the bottom to keep you from falling down, so if the ability to moon-walk across the kitchen floor or do that Tom-Cruise-Risky-Business-sliding-in-your-underwear thing is important to you, you might inquire about exchanging these for the mesh underwear that the maternity unit gives away.


4) A NOTE THAT GETS YOU LITTLE BROWN BOTTLES WITH WHITE CAPS!  These speak for themselves. Initially, they are filled with fun and/or awful medication (many of the ones shown here will keep you from throwing up...this qualifies as 'fun' at this point). Once they're empty, you have lots of little brown bottles for holding stuff! And little white caps! For capping stuff!


5) THIS THING THAT LOOKS LIKE GIANT BIRTH CONTROL! While this appears to be a giant condom, the hospital does not actually endorse this as a reliable method of birth control. Rather, this is for throwing up into should the stuff in the brown bottles and white caps not do their job. I keep this in my purse. It's a great conversation starter.



Complain about rising health care costs all you want, if it's paying for freebies like these, I'm on board.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Next Part

"You have to let yourself feel everything," a friend reminds me. "You can't keep it all in."

"Oh, don't worry," I say.

I'm not.

*     *     *     *     *

It's Diagnosis Day. I'm in the ambulance going from my local hospital into Boston. It's 5:30 in the afternoon and there's a Bruins game; traffic is awful. I've had this news that I have a brain tumor for about an hour and a half now and this ride is giving me too much time to think. I tell myself the same thing I told myself in the E.R. when the doctor said the words that changed everything: find out what it is, and then make a plan to deal with it.

I look at my watch.

I should be home right now. I should be making dinner for the boys right now.

I don't want to cry in front of the EMT who is sitting next to me, monitoring my vitals. I don't want to cry, but I can't help it, a few tears spill over and splash on my red shirt, part of an outfit I will throw away two days later because I never want to see it again.

I'd give anything to be standing in my kitchen right now. I just want to be with my boys, in my kitchen, like a normal Wednesday night.

We're almost at the hospital. I think of my father and my grandmother and am surprised that I can feel them, one on each side of me. I've never felt anything like this before, but the sense that they are each resting a hand on my shoulder is very strong. I'm afraid; I don't know why they are here. I don't know if they're here for reassurance or if they are here because I'm about to be told that there is nothing that can be done.

We're at the hospital now.

And I'm bracing for the next part.

*     *     *     *     *

"Where are we?" the doctor asks.

This is part of a neurological exam. I'll do this again and again and again over the course of the next month. In fact, I'll do it with this same doctor immediately before my surgery.

"Brigham & Women's Hospital," I say.

"And where is that?" he asks.

"Boston," I say. Gold star for me.

"What year is it?"

"It's..."

My mind is saying '19'.

I know that's not right, but I can't quite find the right answer. 

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck.

I look at him. He's waiting, but this is too long, everyone can see it's too long. My mind finally lands on '2000' but I know there's more after that.

I just can't remember what.

Suddenly, I can see it, written out, 2013. But I can't say it. It takes that long to find the information, and then I can't make my mouth say it.

I start to cry.

"It's okay," he says warmly, but it isn't. It really isn't okay, and he knows it and I know it and my two friends who come closer to the bed as I let the whole thing wash over me know it too.

"2013," I finally say through the tears. 

But it's still not okay.

I need to get to the next part. 

*     *     *     *     *

It's a week after surgery and I'm back in the E.R.

I went to bed with building pressure and pain in my head. The neurosurgeon on call told my brother, who is in from Seattle and is staying with me, to bring me in if I have nausea, vomiting, or changes in vision (which, given that I have double vision on a GOOD day, never fails to amuse me).

I woke up at 4 a.m. and started throwing up.

They've given me morphine for the pain and all I want to do is sleep. We're waiting for the CT scan to be read in order to rule out bleeding in my brain.

I have to go the bathroom, but between the dizziness and nausea, I know I can't walk. I don't know if the young woman who brings me a wheelchair is a nurse or not, but she helps me into the chair, hands me something to get sick in should I need it, and pushes me into the bathroom.

"I'm going to be right outside the door if you need me," she says. "Or I can stay in here with you."

 I hate this. I HATE it. I am 38 years old.

"I think I need you to stay," I tell her.

I KNOW I need her to stay. I know that I'm too unsteady to take a chance of moving from the chair to the toilet and risk falling. This is humiliating.

She helps me to sit and I start to cry.

"I'm sorry," I say. "I can do the rest, I just...I hate that I need someone to help me with any of this. I'm a grown woman."

"This is what I'm here for. And besides, this is the easiest thing I've done all day," she says, smiling.

Once I'm done, she helps me back into the chair and wheels me to the sink so I can wash my hands. I look at my face in the mirror, my right eye covered so I won't see double, and my head wrapped with a thick turban of gauze. I wipe my tears away as she asks me if I'm ready.

"Yes," I tell her, hoping we'll have the results from the CT scan by the time we get back. The scan will come back clear, but I don't know that yet.

Yes.

I'm ready for the next part.

  

Friday, June 7, 2013

Unfortunately, Instead

There's a small yellow bowl sitting on the table, a handful of cereal still in the bottom. My son left it there on Wednesday morning. My stomach drops when I see it.

Brush your teeth, I said.
Where are your shoes? I asked.
Don't forget your belt, I said.

It would be our last normal morning for a while, but I didn't know that then. 

8 hours later, I was sitting alone on a bed in the emergency room, knees tucked up under my johnny as a handsome doctor stood before me.

"Unfortunately-"

I watched his mouth, shutting one eye so that I would not see two of him. It was the sudden onset of double vision the day before that had brought me to my doctor, who in turn had sent me to the ER. That morning I had tried to put toothpaste on my toothbrush, bringing it close to my face so I could see. When I brought the toothbrush to my mouth, I realized I had missed, spotting a thick glob in the sink, inches back from where I thought it had been.

Something wasn't right.

"Unfortunately-"

I watched this man's mouth and the words that followed seem to stretch out slowly as my hands began to shake and my heart began to pound.

"-the CT scan showed a tumor on your brain. We're concerned-"

There was more after that, and I continued watching his mouth move as I listened to the words, part of me present and understanding, and part of me focused on the heat spreading in my chest as a shock of adrenaline flowed through my system.

"Do you understand?" he asked.

"Yes," I answered. I understood perfectly.

"Do I have time to go home first?" I asked.

He shot a quick look to the other doctor in the room and then turned back to me. 

"You're not a prisoner, I can't stop you from leaving if you want to. But...no.  I think you should go now."

I nodded. They left to make the arrangements for an ambulance to bring me into Boston. I sat for a moment, unsure of what to do with myself. I was alone with this big news.

tumor on your brain

I pulled at the velcro of the blood pressure cuff on my arm. I pulled off the pulse oximeter from my fingertip. Fuck this, I thought. I got dressed, brushed my hair, and fumbled through my purse for my lipstick.

I started making phone calls.

My first call was to my ex-husband. "I need you to take the kids, and I don't know how long for."

And that was when I cried, because I knew my sweet babies were already wondering why mom didn't pick them up from school. Now they would be wondering why they were going to their dad's on a Wednesday night.

"Just tell them..." I trailed. "Tell them I'm still at the doctor's and will be until after dinner."

As I write this, it is 12:40 on a Friday. I should be at work, getting ready to wrap up my day with my class. I should be buttoning coats and helping with backpacks.

But instead I am at home, waiting for surgery to remove a golf-ball sized tumor from my head. Instead, I am feeling myself become more symptomatic as my right side grows weaker. Instead, I am at home looking at a yellow bowl with a handful of cereal at the bottom, missing my sons.

Fuck this, I think.

Instead, I am at home getting ready to do this because I am SO. FUCKING. READY. 

Instead, I am at home learning that strangers will pray for you, they will open their hearts for someone they don't know, have never met, someone who is nothing more than a name or a picture and they will send you love.

Instead, I am at home bearing witness to the enormity of my friends' and family's hearts, the generosity of their time, the beauty that they wear not only on their faces but in their actions.


I feel grateful.
I feel blessed.

I feel lucky.




Saturday, May 25, 2013

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Tonight I learned an important lesson.

It is called: When Your Son Refers To His Testicles As His Bladder, Just Let That Shit Go.

Otherwise, you will stumble into the sex talk, like THE. SEX. TALK. because, in the middle of pointing out that his bladder is actually INSIDE his body, he will say this:

"Ian said that you make a baby when a boy puts his privates into the girl's privates."

Really, would it have fucking killed you to just have been like, "Yup, that's your bladder alright, now get your jammies on"?

Apparently, you didn't learn an earlier form of this lesson when, having used the word vagina during both the 'where is your penis' and 'how does the baby get out' talks, your son somehow turned that into the word 'pachini', leading to this conversation one night when he found out you were making fettuccine alfredo for dinner:

"WHAT? WHAT IS PACHINI ALFREDO?"

"Oh my God, FET-A-CHEE-NI! NOT vagina!"

Instead, you're going to wind up feeling the same way you did when you walked into English class not having read the previous night's chapters of Pride and Prejudice and found out that, SURPRISE! ITS POP QUIZ DAY, MOTHERFUCKERS! and you had to hope that your teacher would maybe give you partial credit because, instead of just leaving blank spaces, you at least tried to be creative and make up weird answers involving Elvis impersonators.

Because having the sex talk when you're not ready for the sex talk is exactly like that.

It is exactly like a Pride and Prejudice pop quiz about Elvis impersonators.








Monday, April 15, 2013

Boston, You're My Home

I tend to wake up early; sometimes at 3, sometimes at 4.

Always while it's still dark.

This morning I was sitting at my computer, drinking a cup of coffee.  My computer sits in a small room off of my living room. It has 7 windows, 3 of which face east. I opened the curtains to watch the sun rise.

My 7 year old came downstairs. I pulled him onto my lap.

"Look at the sunrise," I told him. "Isn't it beautiful?"

He sat quietly. He rested his head under my chin. I breathed him in, even as my leg grew tired from his heavy body.

Our day went on.

And then, the world went mad here in Boston.

My hands shook. My voice shook. The tears came. I kept my sons away from the television

As night time crept closer, I began to feel the vulnerability seep in. The house made a weird noise. The light cast a scary shadow. I know I won't sleep tonight.

As I was putting my 9 year old to bed, I looked out his westward facing window.

There was the slightest glow remaining as the sun dipped below the horizon. The sky was a deep, midnight blue, not quite black. The moon stood out, a bright sliver. Venus was out.

There was beauty, even on a day as ugly as this.

The sun rose and then set, bookmarks to the madness.





Love and prayers to the victims, their families, the witnesses, and the first responders.

And to this city that I love.

This city that is home.  


10 Tips For Running The Boston Marathon (by a non-runner)

Tip #1: The marathon route is going to be jam-packed with other runners. Avoid the crowds; bring your GPS and take back roads.

Tip #2: Say "excuse me" when you'd like a runner in front of you to move out of your way so that you may pass him/her. Good manners are important and your mom will be proud.
   
Excuse me, people. You are in my way.


Tip #3: To avoid having to use the bathroom during the race, it's best to avoid all fluid intake before and during the race.

Tip #4: If you absolutely MUST have something to drink, make it whiskey, and a lot of it, as running down the street after peeing yourself is one of its widely-known side effects. Plus, you'll be drunk, so what do you care?

No to water. Yes to whiskey.
 

Tip #5: Run to win. Forget that nonsense about finishing being an accomplishment in itself because, honestly, winning makes for a way better story and is far more likely to get you laid. 

Tip #6:  If you're going to beat those Kenyans, you've got to run really, really fast. Not just regular fast, I mean like 'OMFG, a very hungry lion is chasing me' kind of fast.

"Get in mah belleh!"


Tip #7: Chafing sounds bad. Don't do that. 

Tip #8: It's not every day that you get to wear a tin-foil shawl, so you should consider wearing it through the entire race to maximize your shininess. 

Shine bright like a diamond. A wrinkly, crinkly diamond.


Tip #9:  Tie your shoes. I recommend a double, if not triple or quadruple knot. You don't want to trip.

Tip #10: Don't over-think your form. Aim for this method:



 Good luck, runners!







Sunday, April 7, 2013

On Divorce


This is how you get divorced.

First, you get married.

Then, you grow apart.

One of you starts zigging while the other is busy zagging, each of you drifting off in ways that are so small, so imperceptible that when you look back, stunned and wondering Where The Hell It All Went Wrong, you will barely be able to recognize those first minuscule schisms and cracks.

You get busy with the house and the jobs and the babies and the life.

Then one day, in a matter that is not completely out of the blue, you have a thought. It is the sort of thought that, once conceived, cannot easily be unthought.

You think, "This doesn't feel right."

This thought sits with you for a very long time. You eventually share it with him, you talk about it, you even make plans to split. But then you hurl yourselves back at each other in a relieved moment of, "Thank God we didn't go through with it!" You go back to the way things were because there is comfort and safety there and you're fairly certain it's all going to be okay, that the part of you that sometimes still says, "HEY! This isn't working!" can be made to shut up long enough for you to figure out a way to smother her once and for all.

That works for a few years.

But then, it doesn't.

So you talk. You decide to separate. He finds an apartment. You tell the kids. 

Everyone cries. Everyone survives.

You get used to sleeping alone in the bed, used to a quiet house on the weekend, used to bracing against storms on your own. Everyone survives.

You fight over the house. You have cake together on your sons' birthdays. You fight over money. You sit and have a burger and a beer with him one night in his yard and hope that this is what the future holds, this friendly sort of way to be. You have big conversations that come in fits and starts, where one minute you're talking about a retainer for your nine year old and the next you're saying things like, "I'm sorry" or "We loved each other the very best we could" or "No, you're doing just fine, be good to yourself."

One night you both stand outside, beneath the light that hangs at the door of his place. It's snowing. He says, shakily, "I met someone, and I see now what you meant about this not being right because I found something that does feel right. I know it now." You're relieved over this, yet you both cry, him looking up at the light and you down at your feet.  Shame and guilt run down your cheeks, splashing and mixing with the snowflakes in your hair.  You give him an awkward hug.  This is a little bit of healing.

But it doesn't last. The accumulated hurts rise and fall over the next few weeks as you trudge toward the finish line. You take turns having at each other. Attack. Defend. Counterattack. Apologize. Attack. Repeat.

And then, suddenly, it is the last day of your marriage.

You put on some nice clothes and go to court.

You sit, composed and eager to hurry through the whole thing, even as you lose a motion to keep your house. You have just lost what you've been fighting a year and a half for and you don't even care because you know you are about to lose something so much bigger. You know it was lost a long time ago.  

They call your name. You're already crying as you take your place before the judge. You stand together one last time, your final act as a married couple.

The judge asks if your marriage began on April 21, 2001.

You're wearing a white dress and stiff shoes.  You are standing before the priest, with everyone you love sitting behind you.  He's nervous as he takes a breath to say his vows; you squeeze his hand, trying to say, "Forget all of them; just talk to me. Right now, there is only you and me."  

The judge asks if this marriage did produce two children, born in February of 2004 and September of 2005.

You're running out of the bathroom with a pregnancy test, the sweet June air lilting in through the open bedroom windows. You're jumping onto the bed, bubbling and laughing, "Do you see it?  Do you SEE IT?"  

You're laying in the hospital bed 24 hours after giving birth, hormonal and exhausted. You haven't slept in 48 hours and the baby won't nurse. He climbs into your hospital bed to lie next to you. You finally sleep.

You're driving your youngest to preschool. You see him in the rear view mirror, small in his car seat, and ask him what he wants to be when he grows up. He says, "I think I'll go to work with Daddy. I'll ride the train with him and go to work with him and then we'll ride the train home." You nod and agree that this is a good plan.

You shut your eyes, not caring who sees the hot tears washing over your face. Your entire body is shaking. You sob silently. The bailiff brings you tissues and gives you a compassionate pat on the back.

The judge says, "Is this marriage irretrievably broken?"

"Fuck you," you're screaming at him, crying, his voice yelling back as loud as your own.

You're flying down the stairs in bare feet, grasping for your keys. He's booming at you not to run away.

He's standing on the porch, turning away with contempt and saying he can't even look at you. You cringe as you see yourself through his eyes.

Yes.  It is broken.

The judge says, "Is there any hope for reconcilliation?"

He made you a mother.  You made him a father. 

You were happy together for a long time.

You loved each other the best that you could.



You loved each other the best that you could.



The answer is no.

I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry. 




And then

you are divorced.




Thursday, February 21, 2013

Don't Touch the Hair

This morning, as I was cruising around the internets, I stumbled upon this:

This, for those of you not in the know, is the boy band One Direction, responsible for the earworm known as "What Makes You Beautiful", a song about a boy who finds a girl's shitty self-image to be really hot.

What gets me about this picture is not the fact that they look like a unicultural United Colors of Benetton ad that I would have found in Seventeen magazine as a teenager.

It's the hair.

I just...I can't...I'm not...

WHAT is up with the douchebag hair? 

And I was all ready to make fun of them and their douchebag hair when suddenly...

I remembered the 90's:

 


Hi, I'm Brandon and I'm a know-it-all gambling addict, but chicks dig my hair.



Hi, I'm Dylan and I'm a moody alcoholic/drug addict, but chicks dig my hair.


While Brandon and Dylan certainly owned stock in a far less scandalous mile-high club, they had nothing on these guys:

We are totally hangin' tough. 


Apparently there's something about a young teenage girl that makes her oblivious to just how ridiculous the object of her 14 year old desire actually looks.

Exhibit A (or, "My Favorite New Kid"):

This is Joe.  He's a Capricorn. He regularly pleaded with me, "Please don't go, girl," but he was competing with algebra homework, appointments for spiral perms, and getting my braces tightened. Pretty sure I ruined his whole world.





However, at some point, this guy started to catch my eye (I don't know, it might have had something to do with hormones.  Just a guess.):

This is Jordan.  He promised that he'd be lovin' me forever, and boys don't ever lie about that stuff. Also, he started singing with his shirt unbuttoned while a ginormous fan tried to blow him off stage. It was very hot.  



So I suppose there's not much I can say about One Direction and their birds-could-nest-in-this-shit-and-you'd-never-even-know hair.

Except:

Style it while you've got it, boys. 

'Cause it ain't yours to keep.

 






Thursday, January 17, 2013

In The Still of the Night (Part 1)



   Once upon a time, I wrote fiction.  Exclusively fiction.  Then I started writing this blog and writing satire and I sort of drifted away from the whole thing in the name of broadening writing horizons and all that.  I recently started writing fiction again and figured that, if there's already an audience, I might as well share.

     “Let’s get drunk,” her text said. 
     
     “Let’s.  Where?” had been his reply and that was how he came to be sitting in the corner booth of Foley’s Pub.   She was late, as usual, but he did not bother to wait for her before ordering, as he knew she would neither notice nor care. 
      
     She usually preferred to sit at the bar, and he knew that this was because it was easier for her to avoid looking directly at him.  “You have a way of looking at me sometimes,” she had said in the dark one night when he asked her about it.  “Like you’re looking through me. “  She was still for a moment before shifting her body and moving to lie on top of him.  Her hair spilled forward into his face and he pushed it back gently, out of her eyes, as she looked down at him. 
      
     “It’s very intense,” she said.  He felt as though that had been the moment to say something big, something important, but before he had the chance she had rolled off and was getting out of the bed, searching for her clothes. 
     
      The advantage to arriving at Foley’s first was that he could then sit wherever he chose.  He liked the corner booth, the way it was darker than the rest of the bar, the way it curved from one wall to the next like a bent elbow.   It gave him the feeling of being separate from the rest of the place with the comfort and buzz of conversation still in the background.  She would not be as close to him as she would be if they sat at the bar, but this way, she’d have to look at him. 
      
     He was nearing the end of his Jameson’s, listening to the ice cubes tumble in the bottom of the glass,  when she came in, pausing just inside the door to scan the bar looking for him.  He liked watching her look for him; it was a moment where he could see her but she could not see him.  And he liked knowing it was him she was searching for. 
      
     In a bar as small as Foley’s, it did not take her long to spot him.  There was a brightening of recognition upon her face, but it fell short of being a smile. 
      
     “Hey,” she said, placing her purse upon the table and sliding into the booth, a bundle of energy and  hair and perfume.  If she was bothered by the deviation from their normal placement at the bar, she didn’t say so.  He had considered offering her an explanation but could see now that it wouldn’t be necessary. 
     
     “You need another,” she said, pointing to his glass.
      
     “I do,” he agreed.  “And you need to catch up.”
     
     “Yes,” she said and as quickly as she had sat down, she was back on her feet.
    
     “Jameson?” she asked.  He nodded.  She turned and strode to the bar.
    
     He needed a cigarette and while this was probably the moment when most people would step outside to have one, in these first chaotic, unorganized minutes of ordering drinks and complaining about traffic or weather, he decided to wait until she returned with the drinks.   He watched her leaning slightly over the bar as she yelled her order over the music.  The side of her shirt rode up ever so slightly when she leaned, just enough that the smallest triangle of skin on her hip was exposed.  No sooner had it appeared than she straightened up and it was gone.   His mind, however, lingered at that spot for another moment as he wondered if this would be one of those nights where he would later be kissing that very same patch of pale skin, or if he would end the night watching her get into a cab, waving from the window as he stood on the sidewalk in front of the bar and finished a cigarette.  It was too early in the night to tell.
     
     “Alright,” she said as she came back to the table and put the drinks down.  This was the moment to excuse himself, he realized.  If he waited until she sat down, it would appear calculated.  He wanted her to sit, settle herself in, and then wait, wondering when he would return.  He slid out of the booth.
      
     “Perfect,” he said.  “I’m just going to go have a cigarette.  You want one?”
      
     He always asked, but only twice had she ever accepted.  The first time was the night they met, at Dave and Krissy’s wedding, where she had stood outside in the October night air wearing a sequined black sleeveless dress with heels, shivering as she puckered her mouth around the cigarette.  He wished he had thought to bring out his suit jacket so that he might offer it to her and warm her up, but he had left it draped upon the back of a chair, where most suit jackets find themselves at weddings.  The city street behind them was busy, and when she would move, her dress would suddenly catch the red tail lights of cars passing by or the yellow glow of the street light.  He was intoxicated.
      
     The second was just a few months prior, in March, and was also the only time she spent the full night with him.  Her brother had died two weeks prior and she was locked in that sticky place that is after everyone goes home and life settles back in to the daily routine, but before you’ve actually adjusted.  He remembered the feeling from when his mother died three years ago.  He preferred to smoke outside, even at his own apartment, and so they had sat on the steps under a clear, starry sky, her hair billowed up around her face as she hunched deeper into her winter coat.  She said nothing as she smoked, and he said nothing, as he felt that sometimes what a person needs is silence in the presence of another.  She let him make her eggs the next morning, over-easy.  He made sure to remember so that, if she were to ever agree to stay overnight and let him make her eggs again, he would not have to ask, “How do you like your eggs?”  He could simply say, “Over-easy, right?” and she would think it sweet that he remembered.
      
     “No, I’m good,” she said, sitting down and smiling up at him.   She held up her beer.  “Race you,” she offered.
      
     “Challenge accepted,” he said, turning to walk away.  He hoped she was watching, but knew she was not.
      
     The day had been warm and the night air carried a sweet smell to it that made him momentarily regret that he was about to fill his nose and mouth with the taste of a cigarette.  It was a clear night and he decided that, if she agreed to go home with him, they should walk to his apartment.
      
     He had never been to her place.  He suggested it once, but she simply shook her head, said, “No, your place is better,” and then stared him down, as if challenging him to ask why.  He did not.  She changed the subject and he never brought it up again.
      
     As he finished the cigarette and turned to go inside, he wondered whether to ask if there was a reason she had wanted to meet for drinks or if she had simply been bored.  He knew asking carried a risk, as she was far more likely to shrug and say something like, “Who the hell needs a reason to get drunk?” than she would be to say, “I missed you,” or “I hadn’t seen you in so long,” or even, “I just needed a friend.” 
      
     As he stepped back into the bar, he made the decision to ask her anyway.  Looking over at their table, he noticed she was not there. 
      
     He found her at the bar just as she was putting money down for a tip.  There were two empty shot glasses before her.
      
     “Guess you weren’t kidding about getting drunk,” he said, placing a hand on her back.  She turned, causing his hand to slip to his own side.
      
     “No,” she answered, her eyes bright.  “No fucking around tonight.  Tonight,” she announced, leaning in closer to him, “-tonight, we drink with purpose.”
      
     His stomach flip-flopped for reasons he couldn’t name.  Perhaps it was that, when she leaned in and spoke, he could smell the whiskey on her breath.  Perhaps it was the conspiratory way she used the word ‘we’ rather than ‘I’ to refer to the evening.  Or perhaps it was simply the knowledge that the more she had to drink, the greater the likelihood she would sleep with him later.  It didn’t matter, really.  He was excited now by the notion that, together, they were on a mission.
      
     “Well,” he pointed out, “my drink is waiting over at the table.” 
      
     “Yes, that’s a problem,” she agreed, taking his hand in hers and leading him back to the table.   She sat down before her beer. 
      
     He felt confident as he slid in, nearing the bend of the booth but not quite going deep enough in so as to invade her space.  He knew how this needed to go and it was too early in the night to move too close.  He’d know when the time was right.
      
     “So,” he asked, “for what great purpose are we drinking tonight?” 
      
     “We’re drinking to get good and drunk,” she answered.  This wasn’t an answer and it didn’t surprise him.  He decided to push for one.
      
     “And why are we getting drunk?” 
      
     She sighed.  “We’re getting drunk for all of the reasons people get drunk.  To avoid all of the thinking and the feeling and the thinking some more.  Why else do people get drunk?”  She was annoyed, but he was curious now. 
      
     “And what exactly are we avoiding thinking about and feeling and thinking about some more?”
      
     “Jesus, Ryan,” was all she said before shaking her head and taking a swig from her beer.  “Let it fucking go.”
      
     He shrugged, but his feelings were hurt.  He picked up his glass, gave it a quick swish to hear the ice clink, and then took a sip.  It couldn’t work fast enough.
      
     “Shit,” she mumbled, leaning forward.  “I’m sorry.”
      
     He was torn now, trying to quickly decide which would be the better move, to be a little cold so she would feel bad or shake it off and restore a lighter mood.   She sat back against the booth and pulled out her phone.
      
     “Here,” she said a moment later, handing the phone to him.  “This is why we’re drinking tonight.” 
      
     She had pulled up the Facebook page of someone named Adam Greene, a man with a big smile and a shaved head wearing a shirt and tie and staring back at him from her screen. 
     
     “Scroll down,” she said, the beer bottle poised at her mouth.  She gulped as she drank and slammed it against the table as he scrolled.
      
     He came upon it quickly, as it was posted that day, underneath a string of congratulatory posts.  It stretched the width of the screen and read, “June 12th: Adam Greene is now engaged to Jenna Burke. “
      
     “Who’s Adam Greene,” he asked, suddenly wishing he’d never pressed the issue of why they were there.  His stomach was once again flip-flopping, but it was not in the same excited way it had earlier.  This was a feeling of regret; he was certain he was not going to want to know about Adam Greene.
      
     “My ex,” she said.
      
     “Husband?”
      
     “Fuck no,” she replied with a harsh laugh, “boyfriend.  Jesus, you thought I had an ex HUSBAND?”
      
     “You’re 29 years old, it’s possible,” he pointed out defensively.
      
     She said nothing, only shrugged.  
      
     “So we’re getting drunk because your ex-boyfriend is getting married,” Ryan surmised.
      
     She finished her beer, then looked straight at him.
      
     “No,” she said, standing up.  “Click through to her profile and check out the status she posted today.  THAT is the reason we’re getting drunk.  I want another shot, you in?”
      
     He felt as though the bar was spinning, but knew it was not the alcohol.  He looked up at her, standing there waiting for his response.  He fixated on her upper lip, a spot he liked to either tease with the tip of his tongue or brush a finger over, depending on his mood, but it did nothing to make him feel grounded.  Suddenly, she was a different Kyla.  She was one with a past.  Kyla, with an ex-boyfriend.  Someone who had touched her, someone who had kissed her, someone who had been on the inside of her life.  Had she loved him?  Had she whispered his name?  Had she been small and soft with him? 
      
     She was still, standing there looking at him as the bar spun behind her.  She was waiting for him to speak, he knew, but he could not seem to. 
      
     “You’re doing a shot too,” she decided and turned for the bar.  
      
     He watched her walk away, full of visions he had never had to face before.  He knew that she would have had exes, of course, but now one had a name.  He had a face.  He looked down at Adam Greene’s frozen face smiling up at him and felt a flash of anger.   Suddenly, she was naked in his mind, her back arched from atop Adam Greene, his hands grabbing her ass the way his own had, her head back, eyes closed, calling out his name. 
      
     He hated Adam Greene.   He hated that she had once loved him, that she had once fucked him, that she had once told him things she would not tell him. 
      
     She was leaning over at the bar, trying to get the bartender’s attention as the crowd grew.  He was overcome by a feeling of desire; he HAD to have her that night, he had to be sure she came home with him.  He had to reclaim her, even if only in his mind, from this Adam Greene.