The Obsession Post.

I wanted to post something, but not anything terribly deep or earth shattering. I also don’t really feel like delving into my past right now (though I’m toying of writing a Christmas Memories post sometime over the chaos of this weekend), so I’m going to switch directions.

I’m going to write about an obsession of mine, because I am so in the habit of forming them. My obsessions can last anywhere from a few weeks until basically forever (Let me tell you about my Narnia obsession)(Kidding. We’re not going to go there)(Yet). The subject of my obsession can be almost anything, from books to music to movies to television to…nail polish.

So world, here is my current obsession.

-Nigthingale

*

While watching The Crown with mummy dearest on Netflix about two weeks ago, I saw a new show sitting in the page header.

Medici: Masters of Florence.

Now anyone who knows history knows that the Medici family were really fucking badass. They produced a few popes, a few queens, and were huge patrons of the arts. They were bankers, they were wealthy, and they had power.

Also I feel like they are the original Italian Mafia family. Just my opinion.

That alone gave me enough reason to watch it.

The other reason? My unending, very one-sided love affair with Richard Madden, aka Robb Stark, aka Prince Charming, aka WHY THE HELL HAVEN’T I MET YOU?

My coworker once accused me of not really caring if a show is good or not. She claimed that the only reason I usually watch something is because one of the men in the cast is hot. Now while that does completely influence whether or not I will watch a thing, it does not guarantee I will watch more than one episode.

Like the dude who played Spartacus in Spartacus? Yeah. Smoking hot. But did I watch more than one episode? Nope. It was just that bad, that even the eye candy couldn’t keep me. If I remember correctly, I found it to be poorly acted and incredibly cheesy. Also the violence was waaaaaaayyyyyyy overdone. And this is coming from someone who adores Game of Thrones.

So hot guy is not enough to keep me interested.

The power struggles in Medici kept me riveted. They were not nobles, yet they had eclipsed them and managed to take hold of Florence. Crazy and inspiring.

I binged all 8 episodes. Which meant I ended up watching the opening credits a lot. At first I hated the song that they chose. I thought it was trying too hard. But then around episode three, I found myself rewinding to listen to the song again (obsessed already).

The song lodged in my head. The rest of the soundtrack for the show did as well. I knew I needed them. So I logged onto itunes.

Alas, there is no soundtrack available yet.

But the credits song was available! And guess who bought it?

Me.

And it’s been playing on repeat because it’s the kind of song that makes the gears in my head begin to spin and start chucking out plot lines. A novel I’ve been struggling to plot suddenly comes churning out to the tune of this song. So I can’t stop playing it, because I’m getting so much out of it.

It’s just so perfect.

It makes me think of a million things. When I listen to it, I can see scenes from the book I’m trying to plot. I can see character arcs and dramatic scenes. I see my characters fleeing. I see the conquering. This song pretty much sets the tone for the entire series (along with a couple others). It helped me figure out what I wanted to write.

I’m obsessed. Officially and utterly obsessed.

Have a listen (and also see bits of Medici):

xNightingale.

Mark Me.

This post contains a story I have shared with very few people. Even though I hate this word used this way, there may be some triggering here. I don’t know. It feels like a pretty big deal to me.

This is the story of Mark.

It’s not a happy one.

Nightingale.

*

It was a week after my 21st birthday and only my second time out at a bar. I was excited, I was nervous, I wanted this to be a night I remembered forever. Young, passionate, and free. My friend who took me was 23, older, wiser. She promised to keep me out of trouble.

But she didn’t tell me to stop drinking Long Islands even though I had no idea how much alcohol was in them. She let me go, glass after glass, because as I drank more I became entertainment for them.

Was I entertaining when I met him? I have no idea. I was three Long Islands deep when she introduced us. Mark was her friend, I was her friend, and boy was I grateful.

Mark was an athlete, one of the stars in fact for our local Division 2 college. So kind of a big deal, but not quite the biggest. He was a year or two older than me and he had a killer smile. I was done for the moment we shook hands.

He bought me a belated birthday shot—some weird bubblegum tasting concoction. I downed it because, why not? I was 21 and that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. We continued to hang out for the rest of the night and I had my first and only experience with jag-bombs (disgusting, those things).

All I could talk about as my friend’s fiancé drove me home was Mark. I thanked my friend for introducing us and begged her to help me get him to go out with me. I’d always dreamed of dating an athlete. I wanted him so bad.

She said she’d try. But really she didn’t, because a few weeks later her roommate started dating him. The roommate that she’d pimped out to him.

I wish this story ended there. But it doesn’t.

She dropped me off at home that night. I stumbled up the stairs, drunk out of my mind, waking everyone up in the process. I still lived with my parents (trying to save money) and my mother was none too pleased when I woke her up. I’d been trying to go to the bathroom and wound up puking instead. Even though I was locked in, that didn’t stop her from pounding on the door and threatening to take my alcoholic ass to detox (note: I was and have never been an alcoholic, though there is plenty of history of it on my mom’s side; she was overreacting and honestly from anecdotal evidence I KNOW she partied way harder than I ever did).

When my older brother returned from his night out with friends (generational living is really great), I was still locked in the bathroom. In fact I was laying on the floor, my jeans around my ankles, trying not to throw up again. He was laughing even though my mother was furious. He talked her into stepping away and talked to me through the door. It was him that coerced me to unlock it, by bargaining between my drunken self and my enraged mother.

What happened next is a fond memory of mine. The pocket door slid open and my mother pounced. She yanked my jeans completely off and grabbed me by the arm to drag me down the hall to my room. Still wearing my shirt and underwear, she tossed me into my bed.

I tried to protest, saying I want my pajamas but she told me to stay where I was and sleep it off. She was too mad to say anything else, but when the door closed, I could hear her talking to my brother in the hall. Moments later, my door creaked open and then my brother flopped on my bed.

“I’m supposed to make sure you don’t die,” he told me as he simultaneously pulled out his smart phone and started recorded everything. He egged me on for probably an hour, getting me to say things I normally wouldn’t. The only part I remember in crystal clear clarity was when he asked if I’d be going to church with the family the next morning.

I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Hell no!”

I’m pretty sure that recording still exists somewhere. My mom was disappointed with me for several days, and she took away my credit card for a month (which I admit, she did foot the bill for at the time). After my mom realized I wasn’t going to become an alcoholic, she actually began to view the event as something funny a few years later.

I wish that was all that night ever was. Because while that part of the story is now viewed with a certain amount of fond humor, nothing about Mark is humorous. Nothing about what my friend ended up doing was humorous either.

Like I said earlier, my friend ended up setting Mark up with her roommate instead of me. After losing my credit card, I was also a little mad at her for telling me I could keep drinking Long Islands all night because they were good and I wouldn’t get “that drunk.” I still can’t drink Long Islands to this day.

I didn’t stay mad at her long though. I moved on.

And then in December, Mark finally re-emerged after the roommate decided she was a lesbian and dumped him for a girl before Thanksgiving.  I knew that of course because I’d seen it on Facebook. By this time I was pretty sure Mark had forgotten about me. My friend remained mum on the matter.

But then one Friday night, before finals, I was studying and on Facebook at the same time when Mark began to message me. Thrilled, I shoved aside my nursing textbook and began talking to him right away. He had my full, undivided attention. I had all weekend to study anyway.

Our chat turned quickly to flirting and eventually we agreed to exchange numbers. We continued texting and finally he asked if I wanted to come over so that we could talk face to face. He came to my house and picked me up. The ride to his house I was a little nervous, but more excited because I really liked him and had spent 2.5 months mooning over him.  I’d texted my friend and she told me to go for it.

“Mark is a great guy.”

Her words exactly.

That night at Mark’s we played Mario Cart on the Wii, which I admit I was horrible at. I couldn’t even finish some of the races. He thought it was endearing and wrapped an arm around me. The grin he gave me set my heart aflutter.

I thought finally things were going to work out in the romance department.

After playing Mario Cart, we settled in for a movie. It was weird as fuck about some kind of beer drinking Olympics. I watched it because he wanted to and I wanted him to like me. We talked over most of it. Our conversation covered a vast amount of topics from religion to politics to future plans to hobbies. Every new topic we explored we found we only had more and more in common.

We agreed and aligned on almost everything. It was the start of a beautiful new relationship. Or so I thought. Late that night as I was starting to fall asleep on him, he suggested he take me home. He kissed me on the cheek and helped me down the ice covered steps and driveway.

I told him I was a big girl, I could make it by myself. But he insisted on escorting me.

“I don’t want you to get hurt.”

We continued to text after we separated. A night or two later, I got another text from him asking if I wanted to go bowling. I jumped on it wanting to further whatever blossoming relationship we had. For some reason my mother wanted me back at a reasonable hour. I think it was because I’d just been royally sick and had a near anaphylactic reaction to penicillin and was still on a boatload of medications.  My doctor had also advised me that with the combination of meds I was on to treat the reaction that I really shouldn’t drink until I was off them. Since I’d already had my quota of feeling like crap, I listened.

So I was sober when I arrived at Mark’s house.

Unfortunately Mark was not.

He wasn’t that bad though. He wasn’t slurring or stumbling around. He just couldn’t drive because he’d had a few. I ended up driving him and his friends to the bowling alley. He called shotgun because I was his girl, he said, and the others weren’t allowed close to me.

I had fun bowling. I was focused on winning (I’m way too competitive for my own good) that I didn’t notice how drunk Mark was getting. As the evening wore on, he got more bold, his hands sliding into the pockets of my jeans, his arms wrapped around me. None of this bothered me. I was fine with this because we were flirting and I wanted to kiss him.

On the drive home, he put his hand on my thigh. I’d stuck to my no drinking rule and was still completely sober. At first I’d tensed because no man had ever really touched me that way. My ex-boyfriend hadn’t even really gotten that far.

Mark laughed and told me to relax. His hand didn’t move any higher up on my thigh, but I was keenly aware of its presence the entire drive back to his place. It was already getting late as I parked in front of his house. I didn’t mean to go inside, but Mark told me he wanted to show me something. I remember not taking my shoes—purple moccasins—off right away because I was supposed to be getting home.

But then Mark smiled and suggested we watch part of a movie. I checked the time on my phone and said okay, but maintained that I had to leave within a half hour to an hour. He accepted that popped the movie in.

Dumb and Dumber.

It’s not anything I would have chosen. But like the clothes I was wearing—American eagle skinny jeans, a purple and navy plaid button up with a tie at the waist, a black bra, and long dangling earrings I’d bought in Spain—I remember it in vivid detail.

I sat next to him on the couch, Mark right next to me. He slung an arm around my shoulders and we started watching. His roommate was in the chair right next to us. I watched the first ten minutes before I felt Mark’s lips brush up against my skin. They’re on my neck, his stubble scratching me. A bolt of panic shoots through me as he began to suck my skin.

Do I want this? I thought we were watching a movie. I had no intention of this happening.

But it started and I hesitated. I didn’t want to say anything for the fear that he’d decide he didn’t like me and kick me out into the cold. I just wanted him to like me.

His lips traveled from my neck to my ear. I felt his tongue trace my lobe. Shivers went through my body. It had been a long time since I let anyone get this close to me. And I wanted him to like me, so when he turned my head, I gave in and kissed him.

His roommate was still there.

It was awkward, so I pushed Mark away and told him I wanted to watch the movie. He listened for two minutes before he tried a second time. Again, I pushed him away and tried to focus on what we were watching. His roommate was staring intently at the screen.

The third time, I was tired of saying no and pushing him away. I figured we might as well get it over with and make out if that’s what he really wanted. So again, I let him kiss me.

I’d never done anything but kiss a boy at this point in my life. No one had ever seen me naked. No one had ever really truly touched me.  What I wanted to just be a kiss turned into his fingers fiddling with the buttons on my shirt. Embarrassed, I brushed his hands away.

Mark relaxed behind me on the couch. His lips still grazed my neck.  Soon his tongue was in my ear again. Then he pulled my earlobe, including my earring from Spain into his mouth to suck. I wanted to ask him what the fuck he was doing, but he jammed his thumb in my mouth.

I didn’t know what was happening.

Why was his thumb in my mouth?  I bit him—not hard—but he only laughed and stuck his thumb in deeper.  He liked it. His other hand went for my shirt, flicking open the buttons before I had a chance to yank them away.

Things were rapidly getting out of hand, but I was too afraid to tell him to stop. He didn’t know I was a virgin and I didn’t want to tell him. But I also didn’t want him to go farther.

His hand slips beneath my bra to cup my breast. My body freezes. I try to bat his hand away, but he just takes it and get me to feel his rock hard abs. He’s officially into territory where no man has ever gone with me and I don’t like it.

This wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

I grab his wrist, I remember because they were hairless. He shaved his arms for his sport and I could just feel the prickles of new growth. I kept my hand on his arm because I thought if I held onto it he wouldn’t be able to do anything I didn’t want him to do.

I was wrong.

He still has his fingers in my mouth.  Was he testing me to see if I’d give a good blow job? God, please no. I’d never done that either and I really didn’t want to see his penis at all. I barely even knew him for Christ’s sake.

I remember wanting to tell him to stop as his hands snaked down to my jeans. The only “no” I managed to say was when he reached for my zipper.

But that no wasn’t enough either.

He pulled his fingers from my mouth and rolled on top of me. I wanted to push him away, but my arms were pinned. Couldn’t he see that I didn’t want this? Where was the nice, chivalrous man who’d helped me down the steps the night before?

This was not how I wanted to lose my virginity.

He took my mouth again and tried to slide his hands down the front of my jeans. Every time I pulled them away, hoping that would be enough for him to get the picture. I wanted him to stop, but my heart was beating a frantic staccato in my chest and my breath was only coming out as raged gasps.

“Come upstairs with me,” he whispered as he kissed me. His hand darted to my jeans again. When I once more didn’t let his hands beneath them, he stuck his hand between my legs like a blade and began to rub me.

I tried to wiggle away. My thoughts were racing. How do I say no? How do I get him to stop? How does this end?

He kept me pinned beneath him, his mouth making work of mine, his hand sawing away at the fabric beneath my crotch.

I wanted none of it.

“Let’s go my room.” He whispered when he released my mouth for air. “Let’s go to my room.”

“No.” I tried to push him away, tried to turn my head away from his mouth. I wanted that to be it and I wanted it to be over. But his lips found my jaw again and even though I laid there without responding to him, he began trying again. No matter how many times I pulled his hand out from between my legs, he put it right back.

I couldn’t get out from beneath him. I couldn’t make it stop.

“Let’s go to my room.” He’d pull me, but I’d stay where I was. I would not go up there.  I knew that would be it if I did. I couldn’t go up there.

I thought if I refused or didn’t respond enough times it would end.

But there was nothing I could do to make it stop.

Until my phone began to ring on the table, loud and annoying. It made Mark pause enough that I was able to reach out from beneath him and grab my phone. I ended up missing the call, but I saw the name flashing across the screen.

“It’s my mom. Oh my God, I have to go.”

The phone had jarred him enough that I was able to slide out from under him. My shirt was all askew. My bra was beneath my breasts and I felt my stuck churn as I pocketed my phone to fix myself.

At least his roommate was gone now. How much he witnessed, I don’t know.

I wanted to button my shirt all the way up to my throat, but they didn’t go that high. I tied my sash and jammed my feet into my moccasins.

“You don’t have to go.”

I couldn’t look at Mark as I grabbed my jacket and put it on. Everything was reeling and I couldn’t process anything except my mother’s missed call.

She was going to be pissed.

I focused on her anger.

“Yes,I do.” I didn’t wait for him to try anything else. I let myself out and ran for my car. All I could think about was how mad my mom was going to be. I was over two hours late. She’d expected me hours ago. I’d missed my med dose.

When I entered my house, my mother could tell something was wrong almost immediately and I hated it. She followed me into my room and quizzed me about the events of the night. I took my earrings from Spain out o my ears and was almost sick looking at them.

They’d been in his mouth.

It hit me in an awful whir. I felt so dirty and used.

And I hated myself for going back in that house when I should have gone home. For not telling him to stop. For being so damn afraid to say anything at all.

My mom got all the facts from me. She didn’t say much at the time. I thought I was stupid and an idiot. I thought I’d done something wrong.

I texted my friend about what happened the next morning.

Mark’s a great guy, she wrote back,  don’t over think it. Give him a chance.

I was studying with 2 of my nursing school friends when that exchange occurred. I had given them a brief narrative of what happened because I didn’t know what to do. Did I tell Mark that things went o far the night before? Did I tell him I wasn’t like that?

It’s not a big deal. My older, wiser friend told me.

My nursing school friends’ jaws dropped.

“No. He doesn’t get to do that to you.”

I eventually ended up sending him something about how I believed the night had gotten out of hand and that I wasn’t just going to be a bootycall for him because that is not what I wanted at all.

Lol. He texted back.

I never saw him again and I tried to put it all behind me.

Except it’s not behind me. It’s made me afraid to trust. It’s made me scared to let other men touch me. There have been a few, but they’ve all given me a reason to trust them.

That trust isn’t easily earned anymore.

When it happened, when I was 21, I didn’t think any more of the experience than that it was awful and it happened.  But this summer as consent became a trending topic on the internet I finally realized something:

Mark sexually assaulted me.

I broke down crying as I realized how many times I’d withdrawn my consent from the situation. How many times I’d said no with either my mouth or my body language. But that hadn’t been enough.

I couldn’t wear those fucking earrings for over a year. I wanted to burn the clothes I’d been wearing.

But my mind never went to sexual assault back then.

I wouldn’t have been able to deal with it.

Shortly after this realization, I called my mother. I’d just ended a two date thing with a guy because I didn’t feel anything towards him and I wanted to tell her about that. That eventually stemmed into what happened years ago.

“You know what happened to me was assault, right?”

My mother sighed into the phone. “I’ve known since the night you told me what happened.”

“Why didn’t you tell me then?”

“You couldn’t have processed it. You needed to realize for yourself in your own time.”

Some people might have screamed at her for doing this. For knowing this all along. But I knew she was right. I knew it was something that potentially could have destroyed my 21 year old self. I was not the girl that got assaulted. Nothing bad was really supposed to happen to me.

But this did and for many years I made myself forget—but not truly—about it. It was never completely gone. I’ve still felt the repercussions of what Mark did to this day.  I think this summer I was finally at a point where I could reconcile it with myself.

He made me feel less than I was. He made me terrified. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if my phone hadn’t rang and I thank God that I hadn’t been drinking at all that night. That I was sober instead of drunk. He could have raped me that night.

Instead he touched places no man has ever touched, places that I didn’t want him to touch. It wasn’t rape, but it’s still a violation of my body.

Of my trust.

I always thought it was small compared to what has happened to other people. But the thing is, it wasn’t small to me, and no matter the perceived size, sexual assault is still sexual assault.  I felt violated. I felt like I couldn’t be me anymore for more than a month after.

The passage of time healed most of me, but the memory of that night will always be with me.

I wish it wasn’t.

“I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Ironic now, isn’t it?

xNightingale

Mothered

I write about horrible things that happened to me that I couldn’t help because it’s easier to write that than the horrible things that happened to me that I could. 

~~~

There are two facts that have irrevocably shaped my life.

My mother died when I was 8 years old.

I have never been mothered.

~~~

One of the few memories I have of my mother is of the moment when she told me she had cancer.  She told me that the doctors were wrong. It wasn’t MS like we thought. It was brain cancer. I remember hugging her – one of the only times I remember her hugging me back and crying that I didn’t want her to die.  Even at six years old, I understood that cancer meant someone could die.

~~~

Memories from the time my mother was sick are patchwork.  I remember sights and clips, like little movies, but no large swaths.  My memories of before her illness are even more vague. I’m sure she loved me, but I don’t remember her showing it. I don’t remember hugs.  The only time I remember her touching me was when she slapped me across the face for getting out of bed at the wrong time.   It was the middle of the summer and I had been put to bed at my usual time. However, it was still light out.  I woke up maybe an hour later, and thought it was morning. I went down stairs and my mother was talking on the phone. I tugged on her hand to get her attention, announcing that I wanted breakfast. She told me to go back to bed. I was confused, and asked if I could have some cereal for breakfast, tugging on her hand. I remember what her hands felt like. They were always cool to the touch, and smooth, and I could always feel the curve of her long nails.

My questions were interrupted by her hand pulling itself out of my grip and slapping me across the face. I remember being hurt and bewildered and hid under the covers in my bedroom. It didn’t take long for it to start getting dark and I realized it wasn’t morning.  I don’t remember her checking on me after that.

~~~

My mother meticulously planned everything.  According to relatives, she had my future mapped out.  I was going to learn French, study physics at the Sorbonne in Paris and become some sort of academic.   I have a strong suspicion it’s something she wanted to do herself.  She planned our household down to the minute – her agenda and phone book were always full of neat timetables and to-do lists, all with tidy check marks.  You could lick any surface in our home and not taste dust. She even meticulously planned her own burial and funeral.   I remember walking into her room before her final decline (I know this, because my parent’s king size bed was still in the middle of the room – later, it would be pushed to the side to make way for her hospital bed) and finding her looking at mausoleums advertised in the nearby cemetery. The one she circled was the one she was buried in a year and a half later.

It made for a bitter realization several years later when it occurred to me that while she could be bothered to plan her own burial, she never bothered to leave anything for her daughters. No letters, nothing.  No words of love, or advice. It’s hard to feel like someone loved you when you realize that.

~~~~

It’s hard to explain what changes when you loose a parent, because most people don’t loose one until much later in life.  I lost one so early that I haven’t know anything different.    The biggest difference is the knowledge that the worst can happen. This paralyzed me for years.  Friends thought me overbearing and clingy, because I would call them to ask if they had gotten home safely, or I gave them “safety” instructions while crossing a road.

“I know how to look both ways!” I remember my friend B snapping irritably, pausing in the middle of the crosswalk to put her hands on her hips and glare at me.  My anxiety shot upwards as I looked frantically around for oncoming cars.  There was a few that had stopped to let us cross, but it was otherwise a quiet street. I don’t remember what I said to her. I don’t know how I could explain that I could literally imagine a car hitting B’s body and the sound a skull makes when it hits the ground.

I couldn’t find the words to explain the terror I lived with of loosing all my friends to death.

I still live with this terror. I just hide it better.

~~~

The day my mother died was a quiet one.  Looking back, I realize now that it was an inevitable decline. To me then, it was just another visit to mom in hospital.

I remember her bed being the locus of the dim room.  The lights from the bar above her bed highlighted the pale fuzz of her patchy shaved head and there were deep shadows under the austere bones in her face. She didn’t move when I squished past the bed railing to give her a kiss on the cheek and no lashes remained on her closed eyes.  Her skin felt papery and cool.

We were coloring in the waiting room when my father came to tell me she had died.

I remember looking at him and saying “You’re joking” in a disbelieving tone.

My brother began to wail, and not knowing what else to do, I did as well.

~~~

Two weeks ago, I was sorting through old pictures.  My dad was so disorganized when we were younger that I had taken boxes of family pictures and heirlooms with me when I first moved out, because I was scared of them getting lost in his periodic manic declutterings or to the whims of any of his new girlfriends – we already had one ex-stepmother who had tried to wipe out our family history.  I even took my sibling’s passports, birth certificates and SIN cards with me, and kept them with mine, because I didn’t trust my father not to loose them either.  As my siblings got older, I handed back the passports and other documents, but kept the pictures, intending to eventually digitize them.

Initially, I started looking for a funny childhood picture of my brother – one that precisely echoed a photo that my sister in law had posted of my niece, smeared with spaghetti and grinning madly at the camera.

I quickly got side-tracked, sorting pictures of family from shots that my mother had taken of lions in Africa and strange Scottish landscapes.  I figured I should focus on digitizing the photos that actually showed us – our family.  Fuck all those out of focus rhinos and shots of crowds at Madurodam.

In the bottom of the box, I found a plain white envelope. From its weight and shape, I could tell in had maybe a dozen pictures in it.  Puzzled, I opened it and slid the stack out into my hand.

Only to let out a sob that caught my throat harder than a fist to the jugular.

I don’t know who thought photographing my mom’s funeral was a good idea.

I remembered the cedar coloured casket clearly enough without photos.

I remember the day clearly enough. Blue skies, barely a cloud in the sky.  I had argued with my aunts because I hated the black dress they had picked for me. I remember the cemetery workers sealing up the mausoleum with white glue.  There was

In the picture, we stand in front of the casket, as its being prepped for burial. It’s a candid shot.  My dad holds my sister’s shoulders, drawn, pale and much thinner than I remember. I am staring at my feet and my brother faces the camera, but with a distant, bewildered look.  We look greyer than I remember.

I sob until I can’t sob anymore.

~~~~

When you loose a parent so young, grief doesn’t operate the same way as it does when you loose someone as an adult.

Someone on Reddit had a beautiful way of describing grief as an adult.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

-/u/GSnow

Processing grief as a child is somewhat different.

At the moment of reckoning, you feel nothing.  Someone has died, but you don’t really feel it.  You don’t know enough to know what it means.  You know, abstractly, that they’re gone.  That you’ll never see them again.

But your brain doesn’t process it. It continues to do what it did before. You haven’t experienced enough to know what it’s like to loose someone. You’ve barely know what having a mother is like. My brain stayed concerned with the long-winded dramas of my barbies, the books I read and whether I got more cookies than my brother for a long time after that.

The first wave hits the moment you realized you need your mother and she’s no longer there.  So you cope, even as you’re foundering, treading water desperately against the current, because there’s no alternatives.  No one is going to magically mother you because you need a mother. No one cares enough about you do to that. (a harsh, bitter truth to swallow as a preteen) You have to gather the internal reserves. brush away the tears, square your shoulders and keep going as you always do.

I’m not even sure what those first moments were, for my mind has buried them thoroughly.  I don’t think I’ve told anyone about them.  I see them coming, the waves.  They’re towering over every milestone in my life, like a malevolent shadow, ready to crash down the moment I confront a comment that someone makes about how their mothers helped them, or how I should consider asking my mother… blank.  I stare at them. I don’t mince words anymore, because if I’m hurting, then I don’t really care about pussyfooting around other people’s feelings.

My mother died when I was eight, I say.  Hard, unyielding fact.

Oh. I’m sorry.  They respond. I didn’t realize. 

No one ever considers the worst case scenario.

So now I always do.

Peregrine.

 

The J Parade

This is in response to our love life topic. This post is probably going to end up being a snap shot of majority of guys I’ve been with or dated or made out with. For some odd reason when I begin to tick off all the names (at least the ones I know and remember-yikes!) they begin with the letter J. Why? I have no idea. Maybe I have a fetish for the letter. Maybe it’s just some crazy coincidence.

Maybe it’s cosmic fate and I’m destined to be in love with a J named guy forever (right…because we all actually believe in cosmic fate).

Or maybe it’s just the universe trying to tell me that I should really stop seeing the J’s. I mean, look at my luck.

Sit back and I’ll enlighten you all. Enjoy the J Parade. I’m not sure if I have.

-Nightingale.

*

It begins with Joel. I’m four or five years old. I don’t really remember to tell you the truth. I know I wasn’t in kindergarten yet and it was during my “Snow White” phase so we’ll put me at the tender age of 4 or 5.

Joel is my best friend. We’re the same age. We go to the same preschool and church. His dad is the vet for my dog. Our older brothers are friends. Our moms are besties. They’re also stay-at-home moms (at least for the time being, they both went back to work when they got bored), so Joel and I have plenty of playdates.

At some point, I decide Joel is my prince. Boys and girls are supposed to be together, so very clearly Joel and I will someday get married. Honestly, I’m pretty sure we play acted marrying each other more than once. One of those times, I decide to take a page out of my Disney story books. I want to be kissed. I had my Snow White costume on. Joel and I were playing in the basement when I grabbed him by the arm.

Then I yanked him to me and kissed him smack on the lips.

It was messy and it was slobbery. Neither of us really understood what was really so great about it. I think we tried again. If we did, we were both left scratching our heads. Nothing changed of course. We continued to be best friends and I continued to plan on marrying him.

Two years later Joel moved to another state. I never saw him again.  Sometimes I wonder where he is and what he became. I’m just curious to know what became of that little boy I kissed when I was pretending to be Snow White.

Fast forward to middle school. Everyone is all awkward with braces, acne, and oh yeah, the first stages of puberty. I’m not the most awkward, but I’m also not the coolest person on the planet. I’m average. I’ve got plenty of friends. And my one friend just happens to like this one boy. My almost thirteen year old self can’t contain it, so I run up to him and spout off, “MAGGIE HAS A CRUSH ON YOU!”

And that, is how I met Jack.

Jack has the largest presence in my parade of J’s. We met in seventh grade and somehow became friends. By eighth grade he was one of my best friends in school. We sat next to each other in algebra and he’d pass me the dumbest notes (some of which I still have…yeah, let’s not talk about that). He’d continuously steal my writing notebook and read whatever story I wrote no matter how mushy or cheesy or romantic. I always pretended to not know why he was doing any of it.

I knew he liked me, but I was 14. What could I do about a thing like a crush at 14? It wasn’t like we could date. I wasn’t about to have my  mom drop me off at my dates. For some reason I decided that 16 was the age at which I could really try dating. Maybe 15 depending on things.

Jack and I bonded over algebra. Years later my mom ran into that math teacher and they did the thing where they ask questions about where your kid is now and what they’re doing. My math teacher asked if Jack and I had ever ended up together.

My mom said no.

Jack and I remained best friends during our freshman year of high school. When I went to Hawaii, he snuck a tiny plastic palm tree into my locker and told me to have fun (he’d already been). When I got caught cheating on a stupid review game in his mom’s class he offered to sneak into her computer and change any bad grade she would give me. She didn’t give me one, and maybe he talked her into not doing it (it was a stupid game for extra credit after all, 3 of the 4 of us in the group had decided to divvy up the leftover cards so we could all get the same amount of extra credit points; person number 4 decided to tattle). He gave me his sweatshirt when I was cold, and on the one time when he bumped me and made me spill Diet Coke all over my shirt.

I hung out at his locker (the cool thing in high school) and he hung out at mine. We were 2 of the trifecta of freshmen in our geometry class and the only ones who covered our papers. He still read everything I wrote.

We were just friends. Nothing more. But I always knew about his feelings. When we would instant message, he’d sign off in German. One night, I translated it.

“Goodnight, my beautiful flower.”

Yeah. No feelings at all. I lied to myself all freshmen year. When he decided to date another girl, I had to have an emergency slumber party with my BFF because I was so distraught over the prospect. He was supposed to wait for me. Ultimately, that relationship lasted 2 weeks, mostly because she couldn’t stand how he and I were together.

When we came back to school the next fall, I realized that I was fast approaching 16. It was the age I told myself I could finally date at. I hung out at Jack’s locker before school, and since it was on the way from my last hour class to my own locker, I stopped and waited for him to say goodbye. I used to play this game (his locker partner was NOT thrilled with it) where I’d stand in front of it and wait until he arrived to move me just because I liked how his hands felt on my arms, my sides, my back when he’d gently, laughingly move me aside.

One morning while we were sitting next to each other doing homework, I finally felt emboldened. I tore off a small piece of paper, scribbled, “I think I might like you,” on it, and slid it over to him.

I still remember his megawatt smile as he read it and turned to me and said, “Yeah, me too.”

The questions swirled. What were we? Were we together right then? Were we dating? I still wasn’t quite 16, but he was. Did that matter? Nothing changed then. We talked about going on our first date, like a movie or something. We instant messaged. We emailed. I still stopped at his locker every day after the final bell.

Until one day when it became awkward and I didn’t know why. He kept pushing our first official date further and further away. I thought we were going to go to Fall Ball together in November. We’d pretty much confirmed it with that one small note.

But Jack and I didn’t have any classes together.

And he and Jessica did.

I still thought we had a chance until about a week before the Fall Ball. Everyone was talking about who they were going with at our new haunt by the leaky staircase. Jack wasn’t part of this friend group, so he wasn’t there. We sat there talking and I said how I thought Jack and I were going together and that he’d promised me.

One of my friends looked at me aghast.

“He’s going with Jessica. Didn’t you hear? They’re dating now.”

My 16 year old heart split right in two. I stared at the lockers thinking that it had to be wrong, that my friend had to be lying, but I knew she wasn’t. I knew it was all true.

I went to the Fall Ball single. One of my friends (who I’m sad to say has drifted away from me) stayed at my side all night despite her blossoming new relationship. All I could see was Jack and Jessica. I didn’t want to see them. My friends new boy offered to punch Jack and I quietly turned him down.

I didn’t realize how devastated I was until I had to watch them together. My friend took me to the girls’ bathroom and locked the door because I started almost crying on the dance floor. An hour later, I ended up calling my dad in full blown tears from some corner of the room, begging him to pick me up.

When I got home, I cried and my mom held me and smoothed my hair.

“Didn’t realize you were in love, did you? First loves often do that.”

I don’t know if I loved him then. I still don’t know if I ever loved him. I spent many nights crying in the shower while “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts played on the other side of the curtain. Everything I had with Jack was gone. I tried once that year to try and rekindle it, but it was useless.

I had trouble dating for the rest of high school because of him. Because I still wanted him. Because he was always still there. I think I had a harebrained idea when I was a junior to ask him to prom. I wrote him a letter about us and giving us a chance for old times’ sake. I never gave it to him because shortly after I finished I learned he’d turned another girl down because of some athletic play off he had to go to, but he’d promised her if they got ousted he’d still go with her.  So I threw the letter away and brought a guy from another school who my mother set me up with, who also did not have a J-name. I ended up dating that guy my senior year, although we never called it dating, but then when things started getting serious, I ran.

On senior day, I decided to write in Jack’s yearbook despite the fact we hadn’t talked in over a year. He wrote in mine and we exchanged numbers. One of us became bold enough to text the other and shortly after graduation we ended up hanging out together.

And then one night we ended up making out together on his parents’ living room floor. I was 18 and it was my first real kiss.

That same night he also confessed that some part of him still wasn’t over the girlfriend he’d had (not me alas) who’d treated him horribly. If he hadn’t said that, I might not have let the fact that he was going to college two states west get in the way of things. But he said it. And I hated her for what she did to him, and he still loved her.

So I pushed Jack away, at the one moment where I could have finally had him.

Jack gives way to Jon in college after a mess of a freshmen year (very few non-J named boys involved, although I did crush HARD on a guy named Jared). Jon discovers me while his sister who happens to be my older brother’s best friend in college is watching a funny video my brother and I made on vacation. He wanted to know who the girl in the video was.

The girl was me.

My brother and his sister made us friend each other on facebook, which is where we first started talking. Then we switched to texting. Then we met in person.

I liked him. I mean, I really, really liked him and that was something new for me. Our first date went well. We were pretty much together from then on. We talked ALL the time. We saw each other a lot. I helped him move into his dorm room.

He was the first and only guy I ever called my boyfriend.

He loved to talk about the future with me. About what we were going to do. He was 23 and graduating that fall. I was 19-almost 20 and just a sophomore. We’d spent the summer as long distance, so we didn’t think there would be any problem after he graduated.

I thought about losing my virginity to him. He was supposed to be the guy.

I trusted him with my soul. We told each other everything and even though we’d never said it, I was pretty sure we loved each other.

We were together for 3 months. I went over to his dorm one night after work. He’d taken me out to celebrate his friend’s birthday the night before. He’d kissed me goodnight. He’d kissed me in the hall at school that morning and I promised to come over later. When I arrived he was standoffish. I could tell something was bugging him, so being the kind and caring girlfriend I was, I asked him to talk to me.

Shoulder to shoulder, we sat on his tiny single bed. He couldn’t even look me in the fucking face. I stared at the wall as the words came pouring out of him. I still remember what I was wearing-a maroon tee, black sweats, and fuzzy clog slippers-because that matters for some reason.

He was scared of his upcoming graduation. He was scared of the future and he was stressed and he just couldn’t do a relationship right now. But we could still be friends. He wanted us to be friends.

And then after hitting me with that blow, he asked me to stay. I shook my head and got up.

“I have to go.” I didn’t even know how I got the words out because I was shattering inside. Jon stood with me, his hand still on the small of my back. Why the fuck was he doing that? What the hell was this even? We were FINE last night. We had a future last night.

I stood there, quivering because I was trying to hold the flood inside. I think he asked me to stay again. I denied him one more time.

“At least can I have a hug?”

What a mother-fucking bastard. But I couldn’t think that at the time. I just thought about how much I cared about him and how badly he was breaking me, so I turned to him and mechanically wrapped my arms around him.

I tried to leave with dignity. I let myself out. And when the door closed behind me I fled. I launched myself down three flights of stairs, sobbing by the time I reached the bottom. My phone was already to my ear as I called my best friend. She waited for me at my house and stayed up with me until almost 4 am.

I had a test the next day.

I still got an A. Take that asshole.

We didn’t stay friends. I tried, but agony ate me up every night before bed. I lost 15 pounds. I cried. I tried buying things to fill the void he left. I was numb for months.

Stupidly, at Christmas I tried to reconnect. He was long gone and graduated. We texted like we had in the early days and it almost felt like we were going to get back together.

Until one day he stopped.

And I broke one more time over Jon.

Then I purged. Deleted him from facebook. Deleted his phone number and pretended he didn’t exist.

I ran into his sister at my brother’s wedding a year ago. I found out he’s married with a kid now. I smiled and said that’s nice. She complemented my dress and gave me a hug.

I hope she told him how gorgeous I looked.

In the end I know we never would have worked. I think he broke up with me because he realized if he didn’t, I would end up breaking him. I never really was his. Eventually I would have flown away from him.

Junior year of college was one of the most fun. I spent plenty of nights out with my friends having the times of our lives. Jeff has a brief interlude here.

I made out with Jeff. I was dressed like a pink fairy at the Halloween dance, he was a gladiator. He was also victim #3 of the night according to my friends (I’m surprised I didn’t end up with mono). We danced and I pressed him up against the pillar in the converted cafeteria and shoved my tongue down his throat.

I felt wild.

I felt free.

And even though the alcohol had long worn off (dry dances, really?), I was completely intoxicated. Jeff was the only one of the 3 who knew my name that night. The next time we saw each other, we both pretended that it didn’t happen.

And then there was the repeat at the winter semi-formal.

Nothing ever came of it. Jeff was Jeff. There were no strings, because I wouldn’t let them exist.

My junior and senior year were both filled with a lot of meaningless kisses.

And Mark. But we won’t go there. Not this time. Not tonight.

He’s not a J anyway.

That spring is the first time Jack returned to my life.

It started out as a simple like on my artwork on Facebook. I’ve never deleted Jack, no matter how many times I’ve wanted to. I still won’t, but now that’s because I’m not petty.

Sometimes.

Jack liked my painting. We start talking again. Then, miraculously, we both wind up in the same city for a weekend.

We went to the Hunger Games.

We texted.

Then he went to Iraq.

That summer I meet Jack #2 at the club. Same name, different boy. I’m drunk as fuck and we’re all over each other. We think we might want to date. We spend the entire night entangled with each other.

I spurn the guy I dated my senior year of high school (why, oh why did I do that? God, hindsight is such a bitch) for Jack #2. That he’s also a Jack has nothing to do with it. He’s new and he’s fun. And even though I like my high school ex, he currently lives in a different state.

Story of my life really.

So it’s Jack #2 and I. We dance. We kiss. We dance some more. We exchange numbers and text when we’re finally sober.

We never date.

Just as quickly as it started, Jack #2 fizzles out.

Senior year is relegated to bar kisses and dirty dancing. Like a drug I just can’t quit, the original Jack comes back. I don’t know why. I think I just felt bad. Or maybe I thought since I was graduating college that this would actually be our time.

How sugary sweet would that have been? Me and Jack FINALLY together after almost 10 years?

Like before, we go to a movie. This time it’s the Great Gatsby. We drink before. We drink after. And as soon as it starts, I’m running away again for a reason I really don’t even remember.

I think I didn’t feel anything when we were together.

I thought it was finally over between us.

So I let go.

And for a while I did good.

Until I read a book almost 2 years later. A book about a couple like Jack and I who just never got the timing right. And it made me think that Jack and I were Cosmic Fate.

You know those chain emails you used to get about the old man and old lady, neither of whom ever made a move on the other and alas when one of them dies we finally find out that BOTH of them have loved each other their entire life? Yeah. I thought that could be Jack and me.

Except for we’d both actually tried and failed.

So one day out of the blue, I messaged him on facebook. He was in Afghanistan at the time, and he was there for almost the entire spring and summer. We talked a lot about TV shows, my boring life, and just stupid things. When I told my mom we were talking she leveled me with this one:

“And how many girls do you think he talks to while he’s in Afghanistan?”

Jack always responded to everything I ever sent him. Even when he was over there fighting a war. I can’t even fathom the things he witnessed, but I’d like to think my descriptions of mundane life helped him while he was there.

He texted me the me the moment he was stateside to let me know he was back.

I texted him back immediately.

We agreed to go out again, give it one more try.

But my work schedule didn’t cooperate.

And there was also this other guy named Eli.

The date never happened and I found out a month after that first text that he’d moved 2 states west of me via Facebook. He never even told me he was planning on moving there. Didn’t tell me that we had a deadline.

It was a gut punch that I quickly got over.

Fall of 2015, with no fanfare or catastrophic explosion of fireworks, I finally put Jack away forever. I stopped comparing everyone I met to him. I stopped thinking about him.

I stopped thinking of Cosmic Fate and that we were destined for each other.

Clearly we weren’t. This boy, now man, that had consumed me for ten years, left my life without a sound. Not even a whimper.

Summer 2016. The next J enters the picture. I’ll call him Jamie. Yeah, I’ve changed all their J names throughout this, you really think I was going to tell you their real names? I won’t even tell you mine. But I do promise you this: I’m not lying about them all starting with J.

So I meet Jamie. On tinder. Yeah. I swiped right, he swiped right, we started talking and we set up a date.

The day of our first date, he ends up bailing on me. I didn’t really give a shit, because it’s tinder and I’m really not expecting much from a dating app. But then Jamie drops this bomb on me: he just found out his friend died and he’d be in no shape to give me his best self at our date.

I roll with it, even though my friend says it’s bullshit. I’m a nice girl and I would never use that as an excuse to back out of something if it wasn’t real. I don’t think he’s lying either because tinder tells me we have mutual friends on facebook and I checked their pages. Several of them have made posts about the dead friend.

A day later the obituary is in the paper. Jamie wasn’t lying.

I give him space. A week later I strike up the conversation. We set up a date once again.

The first date goes really well, despite how damn nervous I am. I beat him there by ten minutes and ended up walking around the block and buying a pack of gum at the gas station. I end up being the late one as I’m still walking the block when he texts to tell me he’s arrived.

Everything goes smooth from there. We laugh. We talk. We mini-golf (which I try to forget I did with Jon on one of our first dates, bad juju you know). I even get to touch the giant deflated rubber ducky. At the end of the night, I think I might like him.

I want to give him a second date, which after my recent track record of awful first dates is definitely a surprise to me.

We part ways. I’ve barely been home for ten minutes when the texting starts. Apparently in this day in age texting incessantly daily is a must do in the dating world.

It’s also something I have a really hard time doing. I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m not in college. I work, and when I’m off, I want to enjoy my free time and not be attached to my phone 24\7.

I try to reason with myself. He’s just excited. He’s so nice. We have so much in common, but honestly, all the texting is starting to turn me off, especially when he sends one that says this, “You better make time for me.”

Was I being coy with him the night before while we texted? I don’t know. But that is what I woke up to. And I almost ended things right then.

I talked myself into giving him another chance. We met up for our date. I drank too much because I was trying to feel something, anything. He held my hand. I let him, but I didn’t lace my fingers with his. While his wrapped around mine, I kept mine flexed.

I laughed. I let him lead me around. I talked with him. And I thought for maybe a minute while we were talking that things could work. That I could be with him. We sat side by side on the beach. Eventually he laid down and started drawing pictures on my back.

I kept my eyes fixed on the water. I threw rock after rock, distracting myself- and him- from the moment that was inevitably coming. For hours I sat there and let it go on, even though I KNEW it was headed nowhere.

We really would have made great friends.

But that’s not why we were on tinder.

Eventually it got really dark and we decide we’d better call it a night. He walked me to my car, holding my hand once again.

I still kept my fingers flexed.

At my car, he asks if I want to go watch the sunset with him the next day (even though we pretty much did that already that day, although our backs were to it). I shift from foot to foot and mention something about the next day being my last day before I had to go back to work and I had a lot of things I needed to get done.

A lie probably, I find I’m really good at that when trying to get out of dates. It’s easier to pretend to be busy than to flat out say to their face that, no, I’m sorry, I don’t like you that way.

He was okay with my answer. Before I could open my mouth to say goodbye, he leans in and kisses me.

Much like my first kiss with Joel, this one is wet and sloppy. I stand there stunned for a moment afterwards. That was not supposed to happen. My brain cannot compute and my stomach begins it’s override.

I haven’t eaten in over ten hours and as we say our goodbyes, all I can think about is how much I want a burrito and thank God there’s a burrito joint on the way home from there.

The goodbyes finished, I got in my car and drove off. Pretty sure I squealed the tires too. I just wanted my burrito. After buying it and shoving my face at 11 pm, I ignored his texts and went to bed.

I wanted to continue to ignore him, but my friend pointed out that I owed him an explanation and that he didn’t deserve being ghosted (I’m a fucking pro at this). So I got up the nerve and I texted him.

I broke things off in two sentences.

I apologized in one more text after he replied.

And thus ends my parade of J’s. At least until the next one.

 

xNightingale.