Valor

You told me fear was necessary,
That you loved your fear,
That you respected your fear.

That it brings the most clever out of you,
Heightens every sense,
Reveals your resilience under pressure.

Teaches you how to best navigate a difficult situation.

I sat in admiration,
Thinking about how much stronger the world would be with more of you in it.

Coffee Talk

I watched her soft adolescent hands fiddle the fake engagement ring on her finger,⁣

She spoke of wanting marriage.⁣

I wanted to tell her to wait.⁣

I wanted to tell her that boys suck every last bit of life out of girls her age.⁣

I wanted to tell her she needs more time to learn how to be a strong woman in this unforgiving world.⁣

I wanted to tell her she needs to learn her boundaries for her soul’s survival in a marriage.⁣

I wanted to tell her to live and travel so that one day she doesn’t wake up to a stranger in her reflection wondering when and why she surrendered all her power to a man.⁣

Instead, I stayed quiet and continued to listen like you do when you’re learning another language.⁣

Instead, I fiddled my own engagement ring on my finger thinking about how none of this was my business. 

Are you happy?

“Are you happy?”

I stayed silent on the other end of the phone. Ugh, I don’t even know what that question means. I think for most people not suffering from chronic depression it’s pretty straight forward. I paused for my thoughts.

“What do you mean?”

He laughed, “I MEAN are you happy?”

I scan my brain for what happy looks like. I see myself laughing at various moments in life, I see others laughing, I see movies I’ve watched with characters that smile and hug. I’m hoping some of these flashes mean something that can help me answer this question. I got nothing.

I shifted my shoulders, “Happy in general or right now?”

I could hear him biting his lip, “Jesus Mel, just answer how you want.”

“Ok, ok well I guess I’m happy. I mean I think so? It depends. It depends on the moment, the time, the day. It changes, I don’t know how to explain it.”

I always feel so uncomfortable with this question. I guess because I know the real answer, I don’t even know what being happy feels like. I have moments of peace and joy, I laugh but overall do I feel comfort in knowing I’m happy? Fuck, your guess is better than mine and I’m pretty sure you already have the answer to his question. Can you tell him for me?

I come back to the conversation. “It’s complicated, the ups and the downs. I want to be happy, I’m working really hard on trying to be happy.”

The truth is, it’s been years and I have no clue if I’ll ever truly feel happy. But I can’t tell him that. I can’t tell him that this is just me. One of us has to have hope in me getting better. I wish it were me, but you can’t count on the depressed person and that’s too much pressure on him.

I’m not completely hopeless, like I said, some days are good. I meditate, I eat well, I cut down on drinking and smoking. I’m mindful of the way I affect others. When I see myself plummeting I say my affirmations, I spend time alone in nature, I seek help but not too much so that I don’t burden anyone. I get massaged and do therapy when I can afford it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I work my ass off when it comes to counteracting these attacks. But they still come.

He cleared his throat, “Do you still want to get married?”

I cupped my hands around my forehead. “Yes, of course. That’s the one thing that does make me happy, well not the ONE thing, there are others, but yes, I’m sure.”

It’s true, I love him so much. He’s so patient with my shit, he loves me, he makes me feel safe and I need all the safe I can get. It’s easy mostly and when it’s fucking hard, it’s still pretty easy. We get each other and that’s everything.

“Do YOU still want to get married to me?”

He took a deep breathe in, “Na.”

We both started laughing.

I decided to go for a run on the lake on the wealthier side of town. Let’s face it, they get better views and I needed some scenery. Running helps my depression, so I run. I began to wonder what it’s like being with someone like me. I know it’s not easy. I also know it’s not boring.  I try to imagine being in my partner’s shoes and I began to run faster for a few minutes until I realized I need to slow down.

I heard a faint noise through my headphones and as I began to turn around a large man brisked past startling me and I squealed.

“What’s a matter girl, never seen a black man in this neighborhood?”

I laughed, “Actually no I haven’t but it’s not that. I was raped by two white dudes, my fear of men isn’t racist.”

He snapped his head around surprised, “Damn girl, comin’ with the real shit! I feel you.”

“Thanks, man.”

We smiled at each other and moved on.

Old Friend

I hadn’t seen her in a long time, so we made a date to catch up at a new bar in north Austin.

We grew up together raising hell, but we both settled down after her rehab, and my new admittance to university.  Not that she was worse off,  I had spent my time in rehab as well,  just not as recent.  I think because we had started at such an early age, we were both already exhausted of the shit colors drugs had brought to our lives.  Like I said, it had been a long time since we had seen each other, about 3 years to be exact.

It was early around 5:30 p.m. when we met at the bar.

She was sitting there just as beautiful as always, grinning at me with that familiar, mischievous grin when I walked through the door.  I noticed two guys in suits next to her that gave me the kind of look that warranted us moving further from their area.

Giving her a big hug, I whispered , “You want to sit down here?”

I suggested the seats furthest down the bar from the covetous men.  She agreed, while glancing at them salaciously. She was always a sucker for the worst types of men, way more than myself. I shook my head at them.

I once pulled her out of a bathroom with a needle sticking out of her foot while getting groped by two junkies, but thats another story.  I guess track marks are easier to hide when they are on your feet.  I wouldn’t know.

She looked good in her newfound sobriety plumpness, with her freshly cut blond hair and clear blue eyes.

I spun her around on my finger tips, “You look good, I missed you.”

She smiled, bowed, and adjusted herself in her seat, “Why thank you!”

She swirled her straw around with her tongue and took a sip of her drink, “Mel, I’m getting married.”

Not a suprise to me, I rolled my eyes, “To who?”

“A guy I met in rehab from California.”

“Jesus Evie.  That sounds like a brilliant fucking idea.”

She laughed, “I know, I know.  Fuck it, he asked me, and I said yes.  You know me, I love love, and I’m terrible at saying no.”  She laughed and crossed her legs, flashing another smile at the men across the bar.  They ate it up and when they shifted their eyes to me, I said ‘fuck you’ with my mine.

“Evie, A good sober fuck isn’t always love honey, or even marriage worthy.”

Evie was always textbook manic, rash in her decisions.  Her highs were as high as highs get, and lows as low as you can pretend to imagine.

Breaking the men’s stares at Evie with another ‘fuck you’ look, I indulged, “Well then tell me all about this lucky guy.” I knew she would never listen to any objections. She rarely did, in fact, she enjoyed doing the opposite of what others wanted, especially those she loved.

I don’t know which one us had the most sense growing up, but she was definitely more risky than I was, ready for death if she was having a good enough time.  I was usually the one that stopped things from getting completely out of control, which was a high threshold for me to face during those days.

She smirked, enjoying me humoring her latest endeavor, “He’s sweet and good enough.  Ex-heroin addict.”

“Sounds like a match made in hell.  How are your parents?”

Not that they would be too thrilled of our rendezvous.  Especially, after we drained her dad’s business bank account by forging checks to an elderly teller in a small town, but again, that’s another story.

“My parents are good, excited about the wedding and my sobriety.  Moving into a smaller place.  What about you?  How’s your mom?”

The men across the bar laughed, sending chills down my entire being, and spouted,  “Sobriety eh? Looks like that is working out for you.”

I wanted to smash a bottle over their heads and instead, I ignored their comment, ‘like a lady,’ and continued, “My mom is doing better, she just recently had a hysterectomy, so I was down in McAllen taking care of her for a couple of weeks.”

Evie looked confused, “What’s a hysterectomy?”

“Well, it’s when they remove the uterus due to fibroids causing heaving bleeding.  She was bleeding for months without telling anyone, she could’ve died if she’d continued to bleed much longer.”

I noticed a look of disgust in one of the guys faces as I spoke of my mom’s uterus and bleeding, he shook his head, “Come on ladies this isn’t exactly the type of bar talk we want to hear.  What are y’all doing later?”

I swallowed the heat rising through my throat to my head and snapped my head around, “And what the fuck makes you think I give a shit about what you think of our private conversation?  Mind your own fucking business!”

He began to walk closer towards us, “No!  Stay in your little area.  Leave us alone, we aren’t interested in fucking either of you, so back the fuck off.”

Evie, poised, let me talk and continued to finish her drink, tilting it at the bartender for another.  I could tell she was feeling my heat and waiting for her moment to do something, possibly worse, than what I resisted in my mind.  Old habits die hard.  I waved my hand over her face to break her thoughts, “Just chill, you don’t need anything else on your record at this point.”  She nodded at me gripping her drink so tightly the ice began to melt.

The man stopped and walked back to his seat, “What makes you think either of us would want to fuck some up tight bitches like you anyways?”

Evie, got up, walked over to the man, hiked her leg on his stool, slipped a knife out of her boot and slid it right between his legs, while licking his ear.  It took him a minute for him to look past the ear licking, and once he noticed the blade grazing his balls, he froze and his friend sheepishly took a couple steps to the side.  Smart move mother fucker.

I shifted my attention to the bartender, “You make it a habit of letting men harass women like this in your bar?”

The bartender shrugged and laughed it off, while pretending to clean a glass.  This piece of shit.

I walked over to Evie and pinched her under the bar signaling her to get up.  She didn’t, and whispered in his ear loud enough so I could hear, “No Mel, I want to feel him piss himself first and then we may go.”

She was in it, so I shrugged and faced the bartender, “Well I can tell you,  we will never come back to your shit bar.  You don’t even have the balls to protect your own female customers from assholes like these…Actually, it seems my friend here is preoccupying one of your precious patron’s balls at this very moment. Due to your lacking, she might give them to you if you ask nice enough. Although, they certainly don’t seem worth much, but you know, beggars cant be fucking choosers.”

Knife still tucked under the poor saps sac, I slid Evie’s drink to her, which she slammed, while making close eye contact with me.  The bartender still said nothing.  I grabbed an empty beer bottle from the bar and looked at Evie while squeezing her hand.  She nodded and I immediately threw the bottle against the back mirror of the bar, shattering it to pieces.  I laughed and finished my drink while the bartender yelled something I didn’t give a shit to hear.

Evie, knife tightly wedged in the scrotum, threw her head against the man’s nose, his blood immediately spewing over the two of them.  She wiped the blood from her arm with her tongue and lapped it all over his face.  She spit blood on his friend with accuracy and spewed out, “’The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts. While the stupid ones are full of confidence.'”

I whispered, “Run,” as we walked calmly, hand in hand towards the door.

Tarot Bully

It was New Year’s Eve.

“Mom, just pick a card!”

She looked terrified.

“It’s just tarot, you can make whatever you want of it.”

She looked away from me, nose high, “I don’t want to, it’s just not my thing.”

“Well it’s kinda my thing. Don’t you want to step out of your box for a moment and try something different?”

“Mel, I don’t know why you stopped coming to mass, you know you can be forgiven.”

I sighed, ” I don’t need to be forgiven.”

“I’m just saying with all the men and the drinking, it’s not healthy for a girl your age. You should be finding a good husband, planning children. You don’t have as much time as you might think.”

“What about me screams husband and children? Besides, I’m a lesbian!”

Her mouth dropped, “Are you a lesbian?”

“Mom, no, I’m not! But what if I was? You could have really offended me.  That was fucked up how far your mouth just hit the floor.”

She relaxed a bit in her seat, “You know I would love you no matter what, right?”

“I know. Now just pick a damn card.”

“I told you I don’t like to play with this dark stuff.”

“It’s not dark. You do realize there are different forms and avenues for spirituality don’t you? Now, you spent my whole life shoving yours down my throat. It’s time for you to take a crack at mine.”

She hesitated and pulled a card. The devil. God damnit of course. The absolute worst card a god fearing woman could pull. She gasped and I began laughing hysterically. I couldn’t help it.

“I told you I didn’t want to pick a card Mel! Why did you have to push me so hard? This does not align with my faith!”

She stormed out and I still couldn’t stop laughing as I reached my hand for hers.

“Mom, you really think your god is that petty? Let me explain the card!”

The bedroom door slammed and I heard a muffled, “Fuck off!”

“Well that certainly didn’t go as I planned,” I mumbled to myself while pouring us two glasses of wine. Still giggling, I sheepishly snuck into her room.

She accepted the wine and we both shared a good laugh. Nothing more satisfying than hearing your mom awkwardly say “fuck.”

Bitter Ass Bitch

She was the friend that I’d never expected to ask me this fucking vanilla question.

“Mel, when are you gonna have kids? You would make such a great mom.”

Misery likes company eh? A thought.  A quick thought.  A long thought.   I almost had the nerve to ask, “So when are you gonna get a divorce?”

I didn’t.  I feel like it’s just as inappropriate to ask a lady when she’s going to bear children as it is to when she’s going to leave her lame ass husband or drown her whiny ass kid.

To be truthful.  I don’t support killing your children, but I guess as annoyed and anxious as you are about me having a child, I’m equally as ready for you to make your kid shut the fuck up.

I get it. Both ridiculous. Both uncalled for.

But seriously, can you get your kid to shut the fuck up?

I’m trying to have a conversation with my once sexy ass vibrant friend.

Is this just age?  You watch your once colorful friends fold into a bland ass manila envelope.

I’ll do without.  Khaki always looked like shit on me.

“Leave your Wife”

“Hey Mel.”  

You whispered in my ear from behind, I was alone at the bar writing.

I didn’t turn around.  

I shut my eyes and all our memories flashed quickly,  emotions tagged along.  

Excitement, fear, despair, resentment, longing.

I opened my eyes and reached for your hand over my shoulder.

Your touch, a wave of thick honey running through my body.

I rested my head over our bound hands.

Still.  I hadn’t turned around.

I almost didn’t want to, I almost couldn’t.

Years waiting, my eyes began to water and tears ran down my knuckles onto yours.

You immediately reacted and hugged me from behind.

I was dreaming,  I had to be dreaming.  I’ve seen this one before.  

Surely, all of this time living with lingering lost love was a reverie of my imagination.

I didn’t wake from this dream, it wasn’t a dream.

Still I hadn’t turned around.

Where have you been?  You hugged me tighter.

We met by chance as adolescents. You instantly illuminated the pieces of myself that were the hardest to see, especially at that age.  

I adored you.

I was always codependent with those that never seemed to fit the bill and as we grew we saw each other in passing with other lovers.  

The last time we saw each other you demanded that I tell you to leave your wife.

We had spent the summer together while she was away and fell in love again.

Once, you pleaded, only once

I couldn’t.  

I needed you to make that jump for yourself. 

You didn’t

and you resented me for not telling you those seemingly simple words,

“Leave your wife. I want to be with you.”

I’d spent years trying to ward you out of my heart.  

Sage, meditation, writing, drinking, begging,

it never worked.  

Some months easier than others

but still always had you floating in my dreams, my awake, my everything.

I touched my mouth to your hand and inhaled.  

You smelled the same as you always did, even when we first met.

Soaked with tears, I gripped your hand tighter

Still, I hadn’t turned around.

I almost didn’t want to, I almost couldn’t.

Years of reserving this abject space in my heart for you, I took a deep breath and began to turn around.

I woke up.  

Silence.

Dawn.

Birds chirping and I could still smell you and without a thought I said aloud,

“Leave your wife.  I want to be with you.”

My husband rolled over, eyes wide, “What did you just say?”

Xanax Mom

I wasn’t surprised when I heard she burnt down the house.  She’s been on Xanax for as long as I can remember.  I sat in the waiting room while they looked up her room number, she only suffered minor injuries.  My neighbor saw smoke and carried her out of the house before it completely went up in flames.  I rubbed my finger along the scar on my shoulder. One of the few visible battle scars from being on the front lines of her addiction.

My mom, typical baby boomer, believed to her core that her and my dad would stay together forever.  Same old story, she gained some weight after having us and couldn’t seem to get back to her once slim, childless body.  They grew apart while raising kids and he chose a woman that was twenty years younger and untainted by the stress that comes with children.  She was completely devastated. She had devoted her life to being his housewife and raising the kids and he had made up his mind.  All my brothers and sisters had fortunately escaped and it was just me and my mom for about four years.

Shortly after he left, she started having trouble breathing and the doctor prescribed her Xanax for anxiety and that was how it all started.

When I was twelve I tried to flip my body around an iron bar of an old trailer while playing outside.  The bar snapped and crashed down onto my mouth, smashing my head against the concrete and knocking  me unconscious.

I woke up choking on my own vomit. I  stumbled back to my house with ears buzzing and blurred vision.  I could see blood splashing across the leaves along my path.

When I got home all the doors were locked.  I banged on it a couple of times, nothing.  I leaned and looked through the living room window and saw my mom, face down on the couch.   I banged on the window, still nothing.  Xanax, you son of a bitch.

Annoyed and extremely concussed, I grabbed the rock bunny statue sitting by the stairs and launched it through the window.  Not to my surprise, and yours as well if you are familiar with Xanax, she still didn’t wake up.

I climbed through the broken window catching my shoulder on a sharp piece of glass.  Hence the scar.

I shook her as hard as I could, dripping blood all over the couch and onto her clothes. “Mom!  Wake up!”

Her eyes rolled behind her skull a few times before finally focusing on my face.  She screamed and jumped up off the couch and rushed me into the bathroom.  She grabbed a few tiny pieces of toilet paper and put it over my mouth and shoulder.  They both soaked immediately. “Mom, I’m bleeding like crazy alright!  I need a little more than a fucking cotton ball?”  I was beginning to panic after seeing how much blood was pouring down the back of my neck, mouth and now, shoulder.

She swayed against the wall, “Honey, wha–wha happened?  We have to get you to the hospital.” She was nodding off again.  She caught a glimpse of the back of my head and fainted as soon as she saw the blood spilling out.  Probably from shock, but mostly from the Xanax.

I ran into the kitchen, filled a pot full of ice water and threw it on her face. As always, worked like a charm.  She sloppily grabbed the sink and raised herself up.  I was starting to feel even more light headed and I threw up again on the bathroom floor. I wrapped my arm and head with a few shirts I found, they soaked immediately.

“Mom, please, we have to go to the doctor, I don’t know how to stop the bleeding.”

Nodding off, she murmured, “Okay honey, juss needa find my keys.”

I smacked her back awake, “Mom, wake the fuck up, you need to drive!”

She stumbled into the hallway and dumped her purse all over the floor and began laughing.  “I know they are ssomewhere in here.”

I grabbed the keys off the table and threw them at her.

She gulped and brushed her hair out of her face pretending, and failing completely, to look sober, “Okkay, good yea thas was what I was saying, les go.”

I somehow managed to get her in the drivers seat and before I had a chance to get to the other side, she backed down the driveway and into the neighbor’s mailbox.

I ran down to the car and pushed her over to the passengers seat and climbed into the drivers seat.  She laughed, “Whoah how did that happen,” and passed out again.

I had never driven before and I could barely see over the steering wheel but felt confident I could get there.

Remarkably, we made it to the hospital, which was only a few miles away and I parked in the drop off area.  I saw a wheelchair by the door and figured I would use to get my mom inside without falling all over the place.  Right when I reached for the wheelchair, the earth flipped upside down and I hit the floor.

I don’t remember much between fainting and the stitches.  They made me stay in the hospital over night.  The hospital assumed my mom was responsible for my injuries and put her in jail after she attacked a nurse over the accusations.  I cringe thinking about how the events might have unfolded after I fainted.

The next morning they had a piteous counselor come talk to me about what happened.  I assured her that it was all an accident and that my mother was having a hard time.  I called my neighbor, whose mailbox my mom had hit, to pick me up from the hospital.   Same neighbor that saved my mom from the fire.  What a fucking Saint this guy.

I ate peanut butter and jellies for a week until they released my mom from jail and then I ate peanut butter and jellies for 3 more years until I reluctantly moved out.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

Like I said, I wasn’t surprised she burnt down the house. She’s been on Xanax for as long as I can remember.  Ever since my dad left.  Fuck a partner that leaves you for someone twenty years younger.  Fuck a man that leaves a good woman that sacrificed her career and body for a family.  I guess thats why you should never put all of your eggs in someone else’s basket. Hide a few in your fucking underwear drawer or something.  Better yet, weave your own damn basket.

 

 

 

Marriage

It has been months since I’d slept with him.  Hell, we haven’t even talked in weeks.  It’s true that no matter who you marry, they inevitably become a gaping wound that disgusts you.

I went to the grocery store on my way home and picked up some wine to share with him.  I guess you could say I am trying to make something happen.  I want to get drunk with my husband and get to know the man I use to love.  We are strangers.  I used to enjoy sleeping with strangers, so maybe this can work. Maybe we can fall in love with each other again. Maybe I am fooling myself.

I skipped my workout class so I could buy some lingerie for him.  I miss being touched.  When we first met there wasn’t anywhere we wouldn’t fuck.  I want to get back to that.

We don’t have children.  I guess the idea of combining our genes became hideous to the both of us and instead, we focused on our careers.

I met him at a bar in east Austin 10 years ago.  While I was getting a beer at the bar I noticed him staring at me with an attractive woman at his side.  She didn’t seem to notice his wandering eyes as she affectionately rubbed his back.  He immediately broke eye contact to her touch and focused his attention back to her.  I was appalled.  When she left for the restroom he approached me.

“I want to take you out sometime.  I saw you walk in and I couldn’t help myself, you are stunning.  I could smell you as you walked past and I couldn’t help myself.  I’m sorry.”

“You smelled me? I don’t think your girlfriend would appreciate you saying all this.”

At that moment, she walked in between us and put her arm around his waste.

“Who’s your friend honey?” She looked me up and down.

Quickly, I replied, “Oh, we are not friends.  Actually, I don’t even know him.”

“Well, you two seem to have something going on with how close you were speaking to one another.”

He interjected, “Sevi, it’s okay.  Nothing is going on here.  I was just asking her for matches.”

She waited for my reply impatiently.

“Matches, yea? Okay, yea he was asking me for some matches…Wait, you know what? Fuck this, he was asking me out actually.  I think it is important for you to know what a tool your boyfriend is.  You can’t even take a piss without him trying to fuck another woman.  Have a good night!”

She grabbed my arm, “Boyfriend? He’s my brother.  Sorry, I just wanted to fuck with you.”

They both laughed and my sassy stance turned sheepish until I eventually started laughing as well.

“Now I really have to take you out.” His eyes fixated on me as if he wanted to swallow me whole.  I spent the evening with his family, who were incredible, and we’ve been together ever since.

Now, 10 years later here we are, cringing at having to share space with one another.  How did it get to this?  How have we allowed ourselves to become these people?

Today is the day that I am going to break this unbearable silence.  After all, it isn’t others that I want, just him.  The him that used to awe over me cooking a fucking egg.  I want to show him her.  Me.  The her that felt like a lifetime wasn’t enough with him.

So here I am sweating uncontrollably on my way home to re introduce myself to my own husband.  I listen to Conan Mockasin for ten minutes in the drive way and pull the tags off all my lingerie.  The armor in my battle to save our marriage.

I walk into the living room and find my husband burying his face in the tits of my best friend.  I quietly slipped back out the door and into my car.  They didn’t notice.

I guess sometimes it’s bad timing for everyone.  And I also guess that’s my last attempt to save my marriage.