Thursday, January 19, 2012


My ex-boyfriend gave me a book a long time ago back when we were together, telling me it had great meaning for him, a reflection on how he lived his life. I never read it and now that we stopped speaking it was time to return it to him, why was it so difficult, I had struggled with its return for weeks.

Was there some insight into his psyche that I had missed? Would it unlock some mystery as to why he could never say he loved me? I knew he did, I could feel it when he looked at me, the way he spoke to me; he’d said it twice, but retracted it, denied it, I wished he’d never said it at all. I needed to hear those words from him, from someone; finally I decided to give up and let him go once and for all, it had been eleven years.

The book was ancient, hardcover, bound, yellowed, possibly rare. Tossing it away seemed cruel, he’s asked for my assurance that I would one day return it, I had promised. I always keep my word, it was a thorn in my side, he’d let me down countless times and yet, I always had trouble letting go.

I decided to make one last trek over to his house, I would leave it outside, on his doorstep, no phone call or note. I rifled around in the kitchen and found a flimsy bag I got from some drugstore that i would normally use for trash, the morning coffee filter, tissues, pizza crusts - it would soon be home for his beloved book, it would be joined by his sister’s latest best seller. She had skyrocketed to fame by writing stories about their abusive childhood, she spun it into gold, a sweet fairytale, but I knew the truth - I fell in love with the damage, a man that could never really love back.

The drugstore bag was a sad beige color with black type that said, “thank you”. And inglorious parting sentiment, it almost seemed ironic, I thought perhaps I should choose another receptical, as I slipped both books into its sparse waterproof shell. I had started his sister’s novel, I found her style beautiful and grating in that I knew she reinvented tragedy, it was her version of her family history, but her truth nonetheless. But the other book, the one that held the secrets to my ex-boyfriend’s truth remained unopened by me. Was it that I hadn’t had my eye glass prescription renewed for several years, or was it fear of what I would find on those faded pages? Would it reveal a sweet Tom Sayer-esque tale, romanticizing his childhood days when he would scramble into town looking to roll a passed out drunk for change, or stay after the school bell rang to rifle through the lunchroom trash looking for something to eat while his mother hid under the covers at home, gorging on a Whitman’s Sampler she had bought with the dollar or two she might have used to buy some bologna and bread for her 3 hungry children?

I pulled the book from the sad “thank you” bag. It smelled like history, his house, the slim chance that I would finally make sense of my defunct love. I opened it and started to read the first paragraph, I was immediately drawn in to the prose. Simple, eloquent, a vortex. I placed it back where I had kept it on the top of my armoire, almost out of site, a sticking point, surely one day to be returned to my now "ex" boyfriend.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I've lived in a few places, Connecticut, Brooklyn, but none more memorable than scenic Allston, Massachusetts. A total dump of a place, a low rent district on the outskirts of the B.U. campus, my parents said that I could have whatever money it cost them to house me in the Boston U dorms, I ran the numbers, I would make a pretty profit if I moved off campus.

I met my roommate in the theater department, she was studying scene design. Wendy jumped all over me when she heard I was seeking lodging off campus, and promised to stop smoking by the time I moved in.

It was a dank basement apartment, but Wendy sweetened the deal with a can of paint and an offer to coat the cigarette stained walls by the first of the month. I had a couple of lawn chairs, a neon clock, and a 1940's mannequin head that gave a living room a cool retro look. I did more of a country theme in my bedroom with some old apple crate art I had framed, a vintage hutch, and a quilt thrown over a mattress and box spring I had centered against the wall, my time spent working for Martha Stewart had a sweet design influence on my subterranean chamber. Things were OK at first, Wendy seemed over the moon that I was her roommate, and we were only a couple blocks away from the best pizza place in Brooklyn, T. Anthony's - where I had spent a couple of semesters honing my eating disorder skills with some of the other girl's in the dorm.

Wendy's room was less than refined, it smelled of dirty laundry, the floor would have been a great landing strip for a faulty mosh pit. Jeans, sheets, mismatched pillow cases, all these smells intermingling with the ever growing pile that was now being fed by her new boyfriend's dirty flannel shirts and jeans. I never saw a light turned on in there, I wasn't sure if all the bulbs were burned out, or if she, in fact, had any lighting in there at all. She seemed to be happy with whatever residual light was being thrown off the urine colored glow of the bathroom light as she picked out the day's "look" from the bedroom floor: one of two pairs of 501's she owned, and a choice of 5 faded navy blue t-shirts. She was kind of a pretty girl, but she did her best to hide it. Her boyfriend seemed fond enough of her in spite of, or because of her stage-techie de rigueur. They would spend hours in her dirty laundry padded cell with the door almost closed, the door nob was missing, and I would have to shade my eyes as I passed, I was scared that I might catch a glimpse of their dirty laundry love making. Eventually, I would hear her emerge from their sex cell, the door in desperate need of some WD-40. She would throw a used condom in our communal wastebasket in the tiny bathroom, grab a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke, her pack of Salem Menthols, and pad back to the bedroom in her navy t-shirt and beige panties. Contrary to our verbal contract, Wendy had never kicked the habit.

I kept my bedroom immaculately clean, Wendy's bedroom had become a cautionary tale to me. The living room was similarly kept by me, but the kitchen was Wendy's domain, as I never set foot in it. Her previous "roommates" had never moved out, when she flicked the switch they all went for cover under the stove she used for the only dish I ever saw her cook - a cooked-on grease-stained cookie sheet scattered with tater tots. On her nights off from Romeo she would sit at the kitchen table in her t-shirt and beige panties, selecting the next desirable tater tot from the tray with one hand, with a lit Camel Menthol in the other. This would go on during what was usually laundry night - which consisted of soaking one of the two pairs of Levi's she owned in the bathroom sink with dish liquid, the shower rod serving as her cost efficient dryer. The drip-drip of the water from the jeans hitting the dirty bathtub became a makeshift Chinese Water Torture to me.

It wasn't all bad, a couple of girls moved upstairs from us, although they didn't look like any of the girls I knew back in Westport, or even in the dorms at B.U. They had shoe polish black hair, wore a lot of tank tops without bras, and had tattoos the likes that I had only seen on some of the Irish boys who lived on the wrong side of the tracks back in Connecticut. But they were fun, funny, and friendly. One morning I was approaching the building after doing a load of laundry, the girls were on the stoop smoking, and asked me if I wanted to come up for some coffee. I didn't drink coffee, but it sounded more enticing than going home where I would be met with a sink full of dirty dishes, Diet Coke empties, and the ever growing heap of Camel Menthol butts that covered all but the rim of the dusty topaz ashtray that doubled as a centerpiece on our kitchen table.

I went upstairs with the girls, they had a fair amount of light in there, it smelled a bit of old smoke and something else I couldn't quite identify - still, it was fun hanging out with the funny bad girls all before breakfast. The tall skinny one got out three mismatched coffee mugs while the short skinny one grabbed some bottle of booze - they married the two liquids in the three cups and rolled a joint. I was now regretting not stopping at the donut shop on my way home, I would have missed all of this, but it was too late. The substances were taking over, I was trying to act cool while I took in their prison-esque ink and their black bras that littered the kitchen floor. Just as they took a pass on my offer to go for breakfast, two men emerged from somewhere, they dropped a roll of bills on the table in front of us, stole a couple of butts from the cigarette pack on the table and went out the front door with a groggy "see ya". I never ran into the rock n roll looking fellas, or the girls again, for I would be leaving Allston by the end of that coming month.

I had grown quite depressed, my boyfriend and I had broken up before I moved out of the dorm, and he had started sleeping with some of the boys in the theater department. Seemed everyone had someone to love, Wendy and her man rolling around in the dirty laundry room, the girl's upstairs with their mystery men, but I was completely alone, curled up under my antique quilt. I soon met a handsome boy on my way home to visit my parents in Connecticut, he was sitting across the way from me on the Amtrak train. He looked exactly like John Cougar Mellencamp, he was wearing a gas station attendants shirt that said "Phil". It was actually his name, but the shirt was for affect - he was a student and artist attending Tufts Museum School. I gave him my number and didn't hear from him for awhile. I had given up hope and was sobbing in my Martha Stewart bedroom when Wendy tapped on my door and opened it, holding a lit cigarette. "Someone named 'Philip' is on the phone for you," she said flatly as she pulled on the 100 feet of tangled phone cord so that it could make it's way over to my bed. We went on a date that night, and the rest was history. He was smart, looked like Mellencamp, and lived in a huge loft on the South Side of Boston. He worked nights as a waiter at one of the best restaurants in Boston, he had cash to burn and wined and dined me mercilessly until I was spending almost every night cuddled up next to him in his loft bed in the heat-challenged loft; I was in love.

But Wendy had a bone to pick with me when I returned home one morning to fetch a fresh batch of clothes from my Shabby Chic bedroom. She said that I had broken a contract to be there, to be her roommate, friend, confident - which was surprising, she spent most of the time behind the cracked door with her boyfriend, and had nary offered me a single tot. I shrugged, inhaling the second hand smoke of the cigarette she had promised to snub out before my move-in date, I called Phil to confer and he got a friend's station wagon and moved me out that Sunday. I never made it back to Allston, not even for T. Anthony's pizza. I was loft living now, with real Punk Rockers living upstairs, performance artists in the loft next door, and a motorcycle jacket manufacturer below us, life was sweet.

I must have run into Wendy at school after that, but I don't remember, I had moved on from Allston, and Boston University pretty much altogether. I spent my days skipping school watching Philip paint, or riding his bicycle around the expansive loft. We would cook and have large parties, a girl he knew from school came up to me at one of them and said, "you sleep with Phil?" I nodded at her downgrading of my girlfriend status, she went on, "so did I, he's terrible, how do you stand it." It was true, our first night together was horrible, lasting all of 58 seconds, and it never improved; but he was a wonderful guy, showed me all the cool stuff in Boston, made me dinner, I decided early on he was the one.

A year later we moved to Brooklyn, I had gotten my first advertising job in New York, and Phil joined me in New york shortly thereafter. The years took their toll on the relationship, I'd had a sexual awakening in the halls of my ad agency, everyone was dirty, drunk a lot of the time, and fun. Philip and I had grown apart, he was working nights at The River Cafe, I was working days. I offered him a chance to work on things, to get counseling, he took a pass - he wasn't much for communicating, so we both moved on. Many moons after that, Wendy resurfaced, turns out she lived in Brooklyn, too, she friended me on Facebook. Her profile picture seemed as though it was professionally shot. It was showing off her new husband, a very wasp-y looking man. It was a close up of them on a sailboat, gazing into each other's eyes, apparently she'd ditched the Levi's and flannel, and possibility the beige panties judging by the look of longing in her Wasp's eyes. I commented on the photo, "Very romance novel!!" She de-friended me immediately, but that was always the way with us, Wendy and I could never find our groove.

I don't think of Allston much, I lived there for all of a couple of months. But every time I see an overflowing ashtray, a used condom in the street, or a tray full of lingering tater tot grease I look back with a certain fondness and vow to never, ever go back there again.

Monday, January 9, 2012


You look at me like a miracle;
don’t wanna let you down.

Sending me a love song
that’s hard for me to hear.

You say I saved your life
while I look down at the floor.

Or put it in a love letter;
was this thing meant for me.

All you ask is that I hold you
but you deserve much more.

If only I could love myself
as sweetly as you love me.