Wednesday, November 12, 2014


The human body has a single goal: to stay alive. That is its sole driving force.

Keep the brain working. Keep the heart beating. Keep the oxygen flowing. Stay alive. No matter what.

When the body endures a major injury, its immediate focus is recovery. 

But once the physical systems are stable, the body essentially says, "We didn't like that, don't do it again. In fact, here. Have some intense feelings. This should help you avoid whatever it was you were doing when you nearly killed us."

This is called trauma. 

*     *     *     *     *

I loved my incision, in theory. I viewed it as a badge of honor, a permanent reminder that I was a warrior. 

But I hated looking at it. The swollen skin was unnaturally pink, so puffy and pinched. The black dash-mark stitches cut along its length, with deep, crusty scabs dotting the patches between. It was harsh. 

It was violent. 

I'd face it each morning, examine it closely, trying to familiarize myself with it. I would stare it down.

And then, I would look away.

*     *     *     *     *

"You can wash your hair now," the nurse said the day the stitches were removed.

She kept talking. "You HAVE TO wash your hair. You have to keep the incision clean. Don't be afraid to wash your hair."

My long hair was a braided, matted mess after two weeks of being covered by a turban of gauze and then head scarves. A good deal of it was encrusted with blood. I wanted it clean.

But my head had been screwed into place and cut into, the skin, the muscle, the bone all cut into. They cut my head open. I didn't know how to do this normal thing, I didn't know how to try to wash my hair and be a pretty girl again after my head had been cut open. 

"Don't be afraid to wash your hair," the nurse said. 

*     *     *     *     *

My friend Karen rinses the shampoo from my hair.

I sit in the bathtub. I'm wearing my bathing suit. 

I cry as I watch the rust-colored water flow off my hair, swirl at my feet, and then slip down the drain. 

I cry hard. 

*     *     *     *     *

Incision. June, 2013. Photo by Erin Lockhart

2 weeks post-surgery. June, 2013

Finally with clean hair. July, 2013

1 year + post-surgery. September, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Pink Moon

What would you do if you only had a few months to live?

How would you spend your time?

Who would you surround yourself with?

What words would you be sure you said?

We hear story after story of lives that change in a heartbeat: the 35 year old man who drops dead of a heart attack, the woman suddenly diagnosed with a terminal illness, the family killed in a car accident. These stories shake us. We share them and say things like, "Life is short."

And then we go right back to wasting our time.

We stare at our phones. We date the wrong people. We worry about the extra ten pounds or the thinning hair or the wrinkles.

We don't take time to simply sit outside and breath in the sweet air, to be warmed by the sun. We don't linger in bed smelling our lover's skin as night stretches into morning stretches into afternoon. We don't grab our children's cotton-candy-sticky hands and run with them to the roller coaster. We don't say yes to the things that bring us joy, the things that evoke our passions, the people who truly matter.

How old are you today?

How many years do you have left?

40? 20?

How many days do you have?

100? 30? 10?

You don't know.

What would you do?

And why aren't you doing it?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In the Still of the Night (Part 3)

     “You’re drunk,” he insisted, hoping that saying so would somehow negate the impact of what she had just said. He stepped closer to her, looking hard into her eyes. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

     She took a drag of her cigarette and exhaled away from him.

     “He told me he didn’t ever want kids. And that I…” she paused for a moment and looked away from him. “That I wasn’t the maternal type.”

     He wondered for a moment if she might cry, might step forward and lean her head against him, softening against his chest, allowing him to wrap his arms around her, comfort her, care for her. Instead she dropped what remained of her cigarette to the ground, turned, and began walking briskly away.

     He caught up to her quickly, but she remained quiet as he fell in beside her and rounded the corner onto his street.

     “So what did you do?” he asked.

     “I had an abortion,” she said, her voice steady and firm. “It was what he wanted.”

     She stopped again, looking across the street. He could see his apartment building, could see his living room window on the second floor. He was eager to get her inside, to shut the door behind them and lock out the rest of the world. She was open and exposed out here on the sidewalk, under the expanse of the sky, where anything could swoop in and snatch her away from him. He needed her contained.

     “Hey, isn’t there a park over across the way?” she asked.

     “Yeah, a little playground-“

     “With a slide?” Her eyes were bright and she moved in close, looking up at him with a sly smile. “Let’s fuck on the slide,” she whispered.

      “I don’t think-“

     “Don’t think!” she laughed and in a flash she was running away from him, darting into the quiet street, unsteady with drunkenness as she turned to look over her shoulder at him.

     “Come on!” she called. He was too drunk to run smoothly, so he stuck his hands in his pockets and strode across the street.

     Contained. He needed her contained, but she was so damn fluid, so utterly uncontainable.

     She was walking backwards, looking at him, making sure he was following her. She passed beneath the glow of a street light at the park’s entrance and disappeared into the darkness behind it. It had engulfed her completely; he could no longer see her. His heart was suddenly pounding, his palms sweaty.

     “Where are you?” he called.

     She stepped out, laughing, from behind a small field house to his right.  

     “Kyla, let’s go. My apartment is right there.”

     But she did not respond, instead pulling off her top and tossing it aside. She was walking away from him again, heading past the swings and toward the slide at the back of the fenced in playground. He followed, his pulse quickening as she reached around, unhooked her bra, and let it slide down her arms and to the ground. He had always found her bare back beautiful, long and smooth until it widened out at her hips. God, he wanted her.

     She was already naked when he reached the slide.

     The taste of alcohol was heavy on her tongue as she wrapped an arm around his neck and pulled him in for a kiss. He was overwhelmed by the cocktail of cool night air, whiskey, and her skin, unsure of where to touch her first. He wanted to touch her everywhere at once, wanted his hands in her hair, on her face, on her hips, on her back, on her breasts, sliding between her legs. He was dizzy with wanting her.

     Her hands were at his waist, fumbling with his belt buckle. He looked quickly around the park. The back fence was lined with trees and the streetlight at the entrance was far enough away that they would be protected by the darkness.

     She was breathing rapidly, her chest rising and falling urgently as she pushed his pants down. He normally loved the feel of her hands on him, longed for her to touch him more, but tonight he did not care that she was barely touching him. She had grabbed his wrist and was climbing onto the slide.

     “Hurry,” she said breathlessly as she laid down. Maneuvering on the slide was not easy, but it only took him a moment to get his footing.

     He felt the weight of the night fall off of him the instant he slid inside of her. She grabbed at his back, digging her nails into him as she pulled him deeper. He felt a rush of excitement that went beyond anything sexual; he would erase the night with every thrust inside of her. There was no abortion, no Facebook status, no ex, no fiancĂ©. He would erase it all until he felt sure none of it had actually happened.

     “Wait,” she said. “Condom.”
      “No,” he said and moved faster inside of her.

     “Get a condom,” she repeated, her words slightly slurred.

     He ignored her, instead taking her wrists in his hands and pinning them up over her head. She arched her back and moaned. Her breathing was fast, her eyes shut, her legs wrapped tightly around his waist.

     “Look at me,” he told her. He wanted to see her need for him in her eyes.

     She opened her eyes but quickly turned her head away.

     “Harder,” she half moaned, half whispered. He obliged, but as he looked down at her face turned to the side, he saw her cheek was wet.

     “Are you crying?” he asked.

     “No,” she said quickly. “Now don’t stop, keep going.”

    But even as she insisted that she was not crying, a fresh tear slid down her face, disappearing into her hair.

     “You are,” he said. He let go of her wrists but did not move off of her. Her legs remained tight around him.

     “It’s fine,” she said, wiping the tears away as new ones fell. “Just keep going.”

     He touched her face tenderly. Finally, she was soft and small beneath him. Finally, she was crying before him.

     “What’s wrong?” he asked softly.

     She kept her head turned to the side, looking, it seemed to him, at some distant, invisible spot in the trees.

     “He said he didn’t want kids,” she said, her voice so quiet he could barely hear her. “But she’s having his baby. And he’s going to marry her.”

     Adam Greene. All of her fucking, her wanting, her urgency, it had all been about Adam Greene. He felt a wave of heat and adrenaline wash over him, a rush of fiery anger like he had never known before.

     His hands were around her head in a flash, without thought, lifting it and slamming it repeatedly against the slide, 1-2-3-4, with as much force as her betrayal warranted. She grunted, a stunned look on her face, but before she could make another sound he had released her head and clenched his hands around her throat.

     Her throat. Her sweet, delicate throat that he loved to run his tongue along, loved to kiss, loved to smell, felt small in the fierce grip of his hands. She was panicked beneath him, her eyes wild as she clawed franticly at his arms. This was just like Kyla, to be so full of fight. His sudden anger had caused him to go limp, but he felt himself grow hard again as she struggled, the crushing of her windpipe within his hands leaving him in awe of his own strength. He squeezed tighter as her eyes rolled back in her head and she slipped from consciousness, but he did not let go, not until her chest had stopped rising and her throat was no longer pulsating beneath his fingers. Only then did he release her, stepping back from her body to catch his breath.

     She was more beautiful than he had ever seen her, lying there naked and exposed, one leg draped over the side of the slide, the inside of her pale thigh still shiny with fluid from their sex. Her neck had turned a brilliant shade of purple and he was glad for it. It was a tangible sign that she was his now, that he had finally, at last, contained her. Her head was resting at an unnatural angle against the rail of the slide.

     He wanted pictures. He wanted to be able to remember this, to look upon the photos whenever he was feeling low or insecure. His phone was in his pants which, with his shoes, were next to the slide. He hadn’t bothered to remove his shirt.

     He no longer felt intoxicated, he noticed, as he was easily able to balance as he stepped into his pants. It wasn’t until he had pulled up the zipper and buttoned them that he realized his belt was no longer strewn within his pant loops. He peered around the area surrounding the slide but could not see it. He tried to recall Kyla taking it off him, but it seemed her hands had gone from struggling to taking his pants off in an instant. She had most likely pulled it out of the loops and tossed it aside, he rationalized. No matter, he had others. And he wanted to get pictures of her body while it was warm.

     He began photographing her from afar in order to capture the hard sloping line of the slide in contrast to the soft curve of her leg dangling over the side. As he moved closer to take pictures of her face and neck, he scowled with the realization that he hadn’t had the release of an orgasm. He briefly considered masturbating right there, next to her body, but ultimately decided against it, as it was beneath him to do something so lewd in a public place. No, he would go home, take his time viewing her pictures, and let his excitement rise and fall until he could no longer contain himself.  

     The pictures were stunning. He felt confident that he had successfully captured every angle of her that he would ever desire. Satisfied, he made his way back to the park entrance. He was eager to get home and as he crossed the street toward his apartment, he found that he felt happier than he had in months. For once, hue felt a sense of pride in himself as a man. He had asserted control in an out-of-control situation. He had contained the uncontainable. He was the master of his own universe, he thought as he strode up the stairs of his building and let himself into his apartment. All was right in his world. He would sleep soundly tonight, of that he was sure.

     It was the call of approaching sirens that woke him the next morning.   

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Girls Chase Boys Chase Girls

TO: Girl
SUBJECT: sorry

I'm sorry okay

*     *     *     *     *

Boy and Girl connect on dating website. Boy emails Girl. Girl replies. Boy and Girl exchange a number of emails before Girl finally gives Boy her phone number.

Boy texts rather than calls. Texting has its place, but it's not a great way to get to know someone new. Girl is not impressed.

But Girl likes meeting new people, exchanging stories, getting to know each other a little. So when Boy suggests Girl meet him for a drink, Girl says yes, Thursday night. Boy picks a place, as Girl is new to the area. Girl checks it out online and texts him that it doesn't look too murdery, so it's a go. Boy responds, "It's not very loud, so you'll be able to hear me talk."

Girl suddenly realizes Boy has not asked her very many questions about her. Girl begins to think that a cold beer alone on her couch with the company of a good book sounds like a better way to spend her Thursday night.

Wednesday afternoon, Boy texts Girl, "I can't make it tonight, hung up at work."

Girl is relieved. Girl doesn't bother pointing out to Boy that they were supposed to meet the following day. Girl figures Boy wasn't all that interested, Girl wasn't all that interested and it all worked itself out in the end. Girl texts back, "Okay, no problem" and assumes that is the end of that. Just as well since Girl already has another date, one she's excited about, lined up for Saturday.

(Girl will go on to cancel Saturday's date when THAT Boy tells her he has only been separated for 4 months and is living in an in-law apartment attached to the marital home where his wife still resides.)

However, a week later, Girl will receive an email from Boy saying, "I'm sorry okay".

Boy feels bad and wants Girl to make him feel better about it. Now, Girl is not an asshole. Girl has been dating long enough to know that it's complicated, that old baggage and fear of rejection linger behind every step of the process. So Girl says, "Dude, if I had a dime for every time I freaked out when a guy either gave me his number or asked me to meet, I'd have enough money to pay for every date ever with a guy I finally want to go the distance with. Dating is hard, people get freaked out and bail, I get it. But I've found that the times I've freaked out have been because I wasn't really ready to be dating, I wasn't actually interested but felt like I should give someone I had no online chemistry with a chance, or I WAS interested but there were red flags that I couldn't ignore. So don't sweat it, it's usually your gut telling you it's not right. First dates should be exciting, something you look forward to, not something you dread and want to bail on."

Boy replies, "I think it's sexy that you called me dude."

Girl shakes head. Boy is definitely not her type.

Boy messages, "Your sweet lets start over"

Girl responds, "I think at this point we should just wish each other well..."

Boy replies again with an "Awww come on" that Girl ignores.

Boy and Girl don't speak again.

And so Girl keeps looking.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Send Me On My Way

I knew this house was ours immediately.

It wasn't the bright kitchen or the jacuzzi tub in the bathroom that lured me in. It was the sunlit staircase, with one window at the top of the stairs and another at the bottom. I had only been a bride for two months then, but we agreed that children were in our future and as I stood just inside the front door, I could see myself carrying a baby down those stairs. We told the realtor we needed to think it over and then parked just around the corner.

"We're going to have babies in that house," I said.

And so we did.

The house bore witness to my life, as houses do. I waddled pregnant, rocked infants, read stories, nursed fevers, kissed boo-boos, calmed tantrums, set up sprinklers, stuffed stockings, planned birthdays, baked cupcakes. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner and Easter dinner. I nurtured, and then ended, a marriage. I fell to my knees on the living room floor and cried for the death of my father. I blared the kitchen radio at 6 a.m., high on adrenaline and strength, the morning of my surgery.

I adjusted as the house continually ceased to represent my former life and morphed into my current one.

I have long loved this house. I love the way the light comes in through the expansive kitchen window. I love the way my bedroom smells, like fresh air and perfume, when the windows are all open. I love the scraping sound my son's door makes when he opens it in the morning. I love being under a blanket on my couch, watching the snow fall out the front windows. I love sitting on my back porch with a coffee or a beer or a book or a friend.

I love this house and the life I have lived in it.

But a person cannot truly move forward if her feet remain in the same spot. You can't stay where you are, I remind myself as I pack boxes, digging through the rubble of the last 13 years of my life. You have to keep going. 

I'm excited for a new beginning, a place that is free of ghosts. A place where I am not the ex, not the mourner, not the brain tumor.

A place where I am just me.

A place where I am home. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

This Must Be the Place

June 5, 2013
This is the water bottle with the red top. This is my red v-neck t-shirt. This is my pair of dark blue jeans. This is the trash barrel I stuff it all into. This is my contempt.

This is the ambulance. This is the rush-hour and pre-Bruin's playoff game traffic. This is the fear of hearing 'there's nothing we can do.' This is my watch. This is 5 pm. This is the thought that I would give anything to be in my kitchen making dinner for my sons. This is my father at my right shoulder. This is my grandmother on my left. This is the thought that they are here to guide me through my death. This is the prayer to my grandmother, woman to woman, to help me mother my children through whatever is coming next.

This is the longest ride of my life.

April 29, 2014
This is me with my head in my hands, crying for the biting shock of it all. This is my best friend. This is her hand in mine. This is her crying for the biting shock of it all. This is the processing. This is my scar. This is where it hurts.

September 12, 2013
This is the first MRI to check for regrowth. This is my stomach in ropes. This is my cautious optimism. This is the arm with a ripe, swollen vein that the woman can't seem to tap for an IV. This is the bruise she leaves. This is the set of foam blocks stabilizinging my head. This is the table I lie on. This is the noise the machine makes. This is the flashback to June it evokes. This is the hour the test takes. This is the tiny, cold room where I change my clothes. This is the man who comes over that night to rub the day out of my shoulders. This is the floor I sit on while I describe for him the complexity of emotions that day. This is the door he leaves from.

June 12, 2013
This is the white mark on my forehead from the Mayfield pins screwed in to my head to stabilize it. This is the razor used to shave my hair. This is the breathing tube put down my throat. This is the #10 scalpel that cuts my skin. This is the muscle that is sliced apart. This is the drill that bears holes into my skull. This is the circle of bone that is removed. This is the lumbar puncture in my lower back that drains off cerebral spinal fluid. This is the brain tissue lifted and shifted. This is the specimen sent to pathology. This is the muscle removed from above my jaw and patched up on my head. This is the 150 ml of blood that is lost. This is the 5 inch scar that remains.  

June 11, 2013
This is the quiet night.

June 12, 2013
This is me at 6 a.m. This is my kitchen. This is my blaring radio. This is me ready.

April 30, 2014
This is my scar.

This is where it hurts.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

5 Reasons Why Being Single Is Just The Greatest Thing Ever And Ever, Amen. Infinity. For Real.

Being single is underrated. Sure, there are moments of loneliness that settle in every now and then, but at times like that I chose to focus on the things that are really super amazing and awesome about being single.

1) The Whole Not Getting Knocked Up Thing: Guess what, kids? Turns out the Catholic Church was right, abstinence really IS the best way to avoid pregnancy (unless you're the Virgin Mary)! This has also proved to be cost-effective, since there are few things I love to do more than take expensive pregnancy tests after I've been within five feet of a real, live man. So thank you, men, for staying away and thereby providing me with free birth control.

2) Abandoning The Two Forks Lie: I'm a sweets girl. Put chocolate on just about anything and I will order it off the menu. So the last thing I want to do when I've just ordered something called Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love is share. I DON'T WANT TWO FORKS. I want to eat ALL of the Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love myself. If not now, then I want to take it home and sneak-eat it at 3 in the morning by the light of the refrigerator like the normal woman that I am. But that's like 20th date behavior. There's a certain level of intimacy I need to have with a man before I'm comfortable reaching across the table and biting his hand when he tries to get near my Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love. Being single means I don't have to pretend that I'm down with him wanting to get two forks so we can share. The Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death Love is ALL MINE, MOTHERFUCKER.

3) Accepting That My Digestive System Exists: There are few worse things about dating than reaching that inevitable point in the relationship where you're spending so much time together that you can no longer hide the fact that you are a human and, as such, have a digestive system that, if it functions normally, will demand to be reckoned with. In other words, YOU CAN'T HOLD IT FOREVER. Eventually, your body is going to be like, "Look, we get that you like this guy and you'd rather wait until he has gone home or until the middle of the night when you're sure he's asleep so you can go use the downstairs bathroom without worrying that he'll wake up and be all on to you, but here's the've been holding it for 3 days now. We tried to warn you last night with that whole fart-in-your-sleep-and-wake-you-up-thing. But here you are, still trying to talk yourself out of it. Cut the shit, sister. Everyone poops. Now get to it already before we make you VERY sorry. We have ways of doing that. You don't even want to know." As a single woman, however, I don't have such problems. My body says, "Hey!" and I'm all, "Oh, right, okay" and that's it, the beautiful dance happens seamlessly, wherein I eat all of the Chocolate Orgasm of Chocolate Death and my body properly digests it. That is called harmony. And it is good.

4) I Always Control The TV: Sometimes I just want to sit and watch a re-run of Grey's Anatomy from back when it was good. Especially if it's the one where Denny dies and Izzy is crying in her pink dress and everything is all Snow Patroly. OR if it's the one where George dies and the way you know he dies is because Izzy is being resuscitated and then she's all pretty and getting on the elevator in that pink dress and you're thinking that's a bummer, Izzy is dead right now, and then the elevator doors open and OH. SHIT. IT'S. GEORGE. In his Army uniform. Oh my God. So, sometimes I want to just sit and watch that and cry a lot and not have to worry that someone is sitting on the couch next to me sneaking a peek to see if I'm crying because OF COURSE I AM. It's practically Pavlovian; if Izzy's in the pink dress then bad things are happening and crying will commence immediately. Being single means I don't ever have to watch football. Instead, I can watch people die on TV. You might just have to take my word for it that this is better. But it is. I swear.  

5) No Pressure To Cook Anything Fancier Than Grilled Cheese Sandwiches: My friend Karen and I used to say that we were going to write a cookbook called "How To Bake A Potato" because this was the kind of lame stuff that, when were both first married and realizing that cooking at home was a lot cheaper than getting Papa Gino's pizza every night, we had to look up. But then the internet came along and sort of shit all over that plan, so thanks for THAT, Al Gore. Eventually I learned how to cook well enough to sustain two small humans and not cause heart disease or food poisoning in my ex-husband or myself. Now the men I cook for are 8 and 10, so the general consensus is that if you can dip it in ranch and/or ketchup, then it's good eats. If I were dating, I'd most likely be whipping out the GOOD recipes once I found a guy worthy of my spending 3 hours in the kitchen for a meal that takes all day to cook, dirties every pot and pan I own, and takes all of 15 minutes to eat. But until then, it's grilled cheese.

Cut diagonally if I'm feeling all fancy and shit.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Human Touch

People need to be touched.

When our babies are born, we pull them up to our chests, their little hearts beating against ours, their skin against ours, their warmth entangled with our own. When we feel compassion for friends or family members, we reach out and touch their hand or pull them in for a hug. When we are in the various stages of falling in, or being in, love, we rest our heads on chests and drape our hands over knees. We wrap our arms around waists, we nuzzle into necks, we trace our fingertips gently along the lines of a body because we crave to be closer, closer, ever closer.

We need to be touched.

I sat in my best friend's kitchen one cold, gray day not long after my father died. She was cutting my hair, snipping away until she had finished. She dried it. And then she styled it, brushing it this way, fluffing it that way, smoothing it down. Tears streamed down my face as she did. It had been so long since I had been touched by someone who wasn't one of my squirming sons that I had forgotten what it felt like. Or just how much I missed it. My loneliness, my sadness, my longing, it streamed down my face.

Because she had touched my hair.

In the days between discovering the brain tumor and the surgery to remove it, my home was filled with friends and family. People I hadn't seen in years came to see me, wished me well. My living room, my kitchen, my dining room, they were full of people who brought me food, brought me magazines, brought me flowers, brought me toilet paper, brought me love.

But at night, the house was empty and still. And the very thing that was keeping me going during the day, this sense of strength that I had discovered, this certainty that I had everything I could possibly need in my life, even without a man, would crumble in the dark as I longed to be touched. Not in a sexual way. I wanted to be taken care of, to be comforted, to be held.

To surrender.

Just for a bit. Just until morning.

The last thing I saw before my surgery was my hand as they injected medication into the IV.  How many people had I touched, comforted, connected to with that hand? How many people had held that hand within their own?

I was staring at my hand, offering up gratitude for my life, for all the things I had done and felt and for the people I had loved.

For the people I had touched. For the ones who had touched me.

Because people...people need to be touched.