no.

just no. stop calling me. stop calling me. stop calling me. stop calling me. stop calling me. stop crying into my voicemail at all hours of the night. stop talking about wanting to come over. stop making me wonder if you are the reason why the dog barks in the night. stop drinking so much. stop self-destructing. stop thinking about me. stop making threats. stop making me consider calling the police. stop. stop. stop. just stop. i’m tired. i’m busy. i don’t need this. you are making me insane. you scare me. go away. i do not care what happens to you. i do not care what you do to yourself. that was years ago. i’m happy without you. you being anywhere in any part of my life, even just my phone, is making me very unhappy. i delete everything. i do not want any part of it. i do not want you to do anything to me or involve me in any way. i did not want to run into you. i didn’t ask you to touch me. that was a week ago. it was coincidental. stop it already. it is not my fault that seeing me made things go from bad to worse for you. i don’t think that is really the case at all. it is not my fault that you are making excuses. it is not my fault that your life is in ruins. it is not my problem. you are not my problem anymore. you hear me?! YOU ARE NOT MY FUCKING PROBLEM.

why are you making yourself my problem?

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knives out

well, well, well. that certainly didn’t take long. i felt it coming. felt you coming. like a storm or a virus. something to be avoided. prepared to weather. inoculated against at all costs. predicted we’d come face-to-face in this little city sooner or later in some roundabout way. i just didn’t think it would be so soon. didn’t think it would be now. congratulations. you blindsided me.

boy, was i right when i said i wouldn’t see it coming. i was so sick i didn’t see anything coming. wasn’t ready for you. you could have knocked me over with a feather when you found me bent over that pharmacy counter coughing and struggling for breath. you came at me from the side, had your hand on my shoulder before i even saw you. i was so absorbed by my illness that i wouldn’t have even felt it, wouldn’t have noticed your presence if you hadn’t run your thumb inside my shirt collar and up onto the bare skin of neck under my hairline. you didn’t say my name. you just pulled me from the counter and turned me to face you. i never expected to be close enough for us to touch again. my coughing stopped immediately. my breathing stopped, too.

we stood before each other taking it in. you dressed in artifacts of me: the t-shirt from my radio station still an obvious favorite. the hat i bought you at that concert concealing your unwashed hair. the watch that was a birthday gift strapped to your wrist. you, a walking altar to a relationship that ended years ago. me in clothes and skin unknown to you, the prescription to be filled slowly crumpling into a ball in my tightening fist.

you studied my face and finally said, “your eyes have changed.”

i jerked free and backed away. slowly, at first. maintaining eye contact to ensure you couldn’t close the distance without warning. i turned and moved toward the back exit of the store without a word. heard you calling my name in pursuit.

i made it to the car ahead of you. opened the door only to have your body appear next to mine, stopping my exit. you looked me in the face. put your hand on my shoulder again, hellbent on touching me. took a deep breath.

“i still love you,” you said.

“i never loved you,” i replied.

you stood in the parking lot getting ever smaller in my rearview mirror as i put the car in reverse and drove away.

my bloody valentine

first of all, you’re a jackass. i could probably muster some stronger language, but that would require me to break some kind of mild sweat, and, to be quite honest,  you’re not worth the moisture.

that being said, yes, i’m aware of what yesterday was. it was valentine’s day. it was two years to the date when you decided my life with my dying father was “too real” for you and left me at the bluebird, and i, in turn, walked out of your life forever. granted, i drove over to your apartment, dumped every single artifact of you left in my life — down the the disgusting ashtray i used to have to keep out on the stoop behind the dairy delivery box — at your feet, slapped you across the face and then walked out, but you get the picture. that was the last moment of effort you got from me, and it was totally worth it. i cut all ties. set fire to that bridge and salted the earth. i don’t know how i could have made it any clearer: i was done. you were out. we were over. i burned the bones and didn’t look back.

that was two freaking years ago. normally, you would continue to go unnoticed, but last night just tore it. i don’t know why the hell you called me at 3am bawling about it. well, that’s not true. i know exactly why you did it — the same reason why you ever do any sorry and tired thing you do: your dumb ass was drunk. again. some things never change. how did i ever waste a moment’s time on you? i don’t care that you’re sad. i don’t care that you’re broke. i don’t care about your family. i don’t care that you moved. i don’t care about you big plans to go back to school that will never, ever amount to anything but big talk. i don’t care if you’re still with her. i don’t care if she dumped you. i don’t care who she is.

i. just. don’t. fucking. care.

you clearly don’t realize that i don’t have this anniversary marked on my calendar or my psyche like you do, but now that you mention it, it’s a pretty good day for me. it’s my independence day. the day i ran like hell and got free of you. years and years of your bullshit, and i was finally free of you. two years later, i’m freer than ever. i listen the music we listened to together and completely forget that you ever gave it to me. it’s mine now. i watch tv shows and movies we watched together, and in my memory, i watched them alone or with other people. you were never there. i go out to eat at our favorite places with other people. you never shared a table with me. you are not in my life in any way, and that’s just how i want it.

i’m glad i told you that i’d rather be with him. that i missed him. that you were just filling space. a poor replacement. i’m glad you know that he was my choice, and not you. i know that stung. ate you up inside. was part of what set you off. you couldn’t handle it, but it was true. i meant every word. i hope it made you wish you’d never met me.

i don’t miss your fragile and all-consuming ego. i don’t miss you being a child. i don’t miss you crawling into bed next to me in the morning reeking of sweat and cigarettes, stealing the covers and wrapping yourself around me and burrowing your head into my stomach until i suffocate. or worse yet, elbowing me in the face during your booze-and-jail-time-induced night terrors. i don’t miss your greasy ass occupying an ever-deepening dip in my couch. i don’t miss having to tell you to put down the call of duty and take a freaking shower. i don’t miss driving you to work because you’re late again. i don’t miss you cornering me in the kitchen after last call and crushing me between the counter and your stench of camels and cheap bourbon in a fit of something you were mistaking for love or affection or passion or something. i don’t miss you drinking every beer in the fridge and never replacing it. i don’t miss finding that you’ve gone through my underwear drawer to find the bottle of vicodin i have hidden from you in there and that you’ve taken them all and left nothing to treat my migraine. i don’t miss your limp, vanilla sex or the fact that you cried through it half the time. i don’t miss your drama. i don’t miss your issues. i don’t miss your suicide threats. i don’t miss your lies and your let downs and your cheating. i don’t miss making excuses for you. i don’t miss you at all.

i know you made an effort. well, your version of an effort. for a minute there, it looked like you might actually pull it off and manage to be somebody for me. i knew it was too good to last. you couldn’t do anything that was like work. i know you loved me. i know you still do. i know you are sad about your brother. i’m sad he died, too. i’ve answered the phone for you twice in these past two years — last night, because i left my phone on in case a friend in crisis needed me, and when the accident killed him. i didn’t answer for you, though. i answered for him. i loved your brother. hell, sometimes, i thought he was the one i should have been with. don’t think the two of us didn’t think about it, because we did. we never did anything, but we thought about it. we probably should have, but not everyone is wired to cheat. still, he was the good one. the one i wish was still here. i only agreed to come to his funeral at your begging because of him. i stayed away at your request for me. god, what an asshole you are. as horrible as it makes me, sometimes i wish it had been you in that car. your brother was a good kid who deserved better, and i would truly be rid of you for good. no more phone calls. no chance of running into you in this tiny town. they could call to tell me that you’d died in an accident, and i wouldn’t answer. in fact, make sure they know that. when you finally do buy it bloody or in a flaming wreck, don’t have anyone call me. it doesn’t matter to me.

every time i hear your voice on the phone i immediately feel the weight of you wrapping around me, gripping me tight, and dragging me under. feel my fingers clawing for the surface as it slips away from me, taking the light and the air with it. feel you doing your level best to bring me to the bottom in record time. i have to kick and scratch and scream to get loose of you and stroke to the surface with all my might and due speed, gasp for oxygen and head to shore. and so go ahead and call. give your dime’s worth to my voicemail. i will just delete it without listening to it. i wish i could block you completely, but my phone won’t let me. you’re easy enough to delete, though.

i could tell you that i’d like to punch you right in the face, stab you dead, set you ablaze, but i can’t even be bothered to pity or hate you. that would be throwing good energy after bad. i’ve cried all the tears i’m gonna. you’re just a loser. so, i can tell you to go to hell, beat it, get lost all i want, but the fact of the matter is that we still inhabit the same town. sooner or later, we will run into each other. it will be a surprise that will come when each of us least expects it. it won’t be a welcome one either. it will be awkward. our eyes will meet in a long pause. there will be a moment when i’ll smile, and you’ll reach for me, but i’ll already be walking away in the other direction. no scene. just gone.

i’m already gone. you be, too. get gone and stay gone.  that would be the best possible valentine you could ever give me.

and i lied, i do have one scrap of you left in my life: it’s a little memento i keep in my wallet. it goes everywhere with me, and i see it every day. it’s a reminder to never be such an idiot again, and so far, it’s working.

fever pitch

I have something to tell. It’s been needling at me for weeks. All this year, in fact. It keeps coming to a head, bubbling up in my throat, threatening to spill out and over and into the world. And just before it gets past my lips, my fingers, I ball it up in my hands and cram it back in as fast and hard as I can. And it stays there…for a while. But then, others write or say things that remind me that it’s still there. It’s amazing the way they play on it like an instrument. It’s almost like they know. They bring it out with visceral clarity in a way that makes my blood fire, my chest tighten, my teeth clench. It’s ugly and it’s painful and it involves so many other people. I tell myself I’m protecting them, but that’s a lie. Save one or two, they don’t need or deserve my protection. The truth would be closer to say that they don’t deserve my attention. But, whatever.

I can’t bring myself to sit down and spit it out. It’s stubborn. Locked down tight. Even the safe confessional of boozy strangers in bars and hotel rooms in another city couldn’t tease it from me last week. If the security of such distance and lubrication couldn’t do it, I’m not sure what can. Part of me should be thankful for distractions and this targeted case of writer’s block, but I really do want to unload and be free of it. To admit what I got myself into and my part in it. To air the choices I made. To be rid of her, even if she causes more damage on the way out. And she will. She always takes her collateral and lays waste. She always has, and it’s why it’s so tempting to just let it ride lest it cost me the peace I’ve finally earned in other parts of my life. Truth be told, I’m not terrified of the consequences so much as I am of her her. Of me. Of us. Of what we’d do together again if I breathe life back into her by speaking her name. Again, what’s dead should stay dead…only she doesn’t. And so, like the rising tide, it’s coming whether I want it to or not. That much has been clear and out of my hands for a while now.

Exorcism in print is the only way, though, and I have to declare and settle all accounts in order to move forward as a person and a writer. It’s something I also have to make some people understand as they urge me to put my toe back into those waters where it could start all over again. She’s always there waiting in the shallows just beneath the surface. I need to have the story out there so I can point to it and say, “See? That? That’s why I can’t go there again.” Like an addict, I had to give up the junk cold turkey. There is no recreational use. It always ends up bloody. There are dangers in going there again, even under the veil of fiction. Possibly especially under the protection that veil offers. Too easy to cheat. Too easy to draw the wolves back to the door.

The momentum is undeniable. I need my testimonial given and witness borne, but telling the truth isn’t so hard as facing it, especially when it’s about yourself. You have to tell the truth to yourself before you can tell it to others. It’s the first things first part that’s the problem.

can’t do a thing about it

as you learned the hard way, i love my solitude. as you know, it’s rare that i have these moments of weakness. i do just fine on my own without you.

it’s been one of those days, though. i’m weary. what i wouldn’t have given to come home to you tonight. to walk in the door to find you waiting for me with the home fires burning. hooverphonic pulsing low on the stereo. orange blossom scent on the warm breeze blowing in the doors from the patio. hot take-out waiting in the kitchen. cold beer waiting in the fridge. miles and miles of you waiting on the couch, stretched out with that crooked grin on your face and that look in your eye, ready to wrap yourself around me. my tiny feet tangled in your enormous ones — your goofy little fetish. your hands and mouth all over me until i curl up into your lap and fall asleep. you carry me to bed and let me sleep it all off long and hard.

i won’t care that you’re not here in the morning. i won’t miss you then. i just care that you’re not here tonight.  or that i’m not there.

would give anything to travel into time.