Karaoke Therapy

Lately I’ve been self medicating with Karaoke Therapy.  This consists of me singing at the top of my lungs in my car during any period of driving.

There are a couple of rules that I made up for some reason:
Windows need to be rolled up entirely, because heaven forbid any strangers hear me belting out whatever song I’m mangling at the moment.
There is a direct correlation between the volume and ferocity of my singing, and the speed of the vehicle.  So at a stop sign I’m singing mezzo-piano (semi-soft for you non music-types not in the know) but on the freeway I am belting and wailing at the top of my lungs.  Somehow driving has become an aerobic activity.

And a couple of things I’ve noticed:
A passionately singing driver, i.e. fist pumping, steering-wheel-drumming, mouth agape spitting out words in rapid succession… looks almost identical to an angry road-raging driver.  So while I’m piping out my off-key rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” somebody is looking in their rear view mirror thinking “wow look at this angry asshole”

The One Left Sitting

A few nights ago I witnessed something that truly resonated with me.  I’ve been mulling it over the past few days, trying to figure out exactly what it meant.

An elderly woman is sitting in the restaurant at a booth for two.  She sits there, gazing intently at the front door waiting for her companion to come.  She empties her water glass, and I promptly refill it.  She restlessly pushes her bread and butter plate around on the table, furrowing and un-furrowing her anxious napkin.  Her water glass empties, and is refilled again.  She is of the generation before cell phones were used to negotiate awkward lapses of stimulation, so there she sits, un-stimulated staring down the door with ever increasing fury.  Her lips change as the minutes pass, from a politely optimistic  smile, slowly drooping downwards through her neutral mask, and then settling into a disappointed scowl.   All of this witnessed, not as an evening that dragged on second after second, minute after minute as it surely must have been for her, but as  life-slide snapshots every time I was in her vicinity or at her table.  Her evening was compressed into a mere twenty minutes of my time– but I witnessed it all.

Finally her date arrives, sweating in his haste and muttering apologies.  Forty five minutes late.

He sits.   Her water glass is refilled for the third time, as his is filled for the first.

They speak, not in the happy tones of a couple united, but the angry barking tones of people misunderstood; two opposing forces negotiating the terms for the evening.

They order.  “I’m depressed” she says as I’m walking away.  I feel the hairs on the back of my neck rise up.

I drop off the food. The conversation has not lightened or progressed. He says something trying to be funny.  The joke misses its mark, or is deliberately deflected.

“…You don’t understand, I’m really depressed.

They eat.  I clear some plates and refill their waters.

“… you just don’t understand.”   She sighs, exacerbated.  He sighs too, either out of sympathy or his own frustrations.  This upsets her more.

She asks for me to call her a taxi.   He’s still eating.  She must have seen the confusion on my face. “It’s just for me.”  She says.  He winces, as if she just struck him.  He orders more food, either out of defiance, or perhaps as a clever ploy  to make her stay.  She leaves anyway.

When I return to the table she is gone.  He has switched seats, now sitting in her spot eating alone.  Slowly, deliberately he cuts his food.  Slowly, deliberately, he pierces each piece and lifts it to his mouth.  Slowly and deliberately, he chews each bite as he sits there in silence.  His gaze never leaves the empty chair across from him and the heavy weight her absence creates.

The night goes on and I am distracted by other tables.

I return to him as the restaurant is dying down.  His table has been cleared.  He sits there in silence.  His face, unhappy and beaten as he stares at the empty chair across from him.  His silver eyebrows drooping from his forehead matching his sullen frown.  He has taken no pleasure in his food, no pleasure in the date, no pleasure in the night.

His coffee cup is cleared.  The check sits on his table, the restaurant’s way of trying to politely nudge him on his way.    Still he sits in broken silence.  He has no phone to thumb through, no book to read, just him and the empty chair across from him.  The staff watches him distantly.  What is he still doing here?  A broken man, on the remnants of a broken date, someone who should have cut his losses and slunk home the moment she left without him.  A sad lonely man who disappointed the woman he loves.  Or perhaps a man suffering deliberately because he wants to understand.  A man determined to understand what she felt– so he forces himself to feel it.  The anxious disappointing start of her evening becomes the tapering disappointing ending of his.

He was the one left sitting.

…and if he gets the chance, I don’t think he’ll ever be late again.

I know you’re out there

For the first time in over eight years– I am single.  I went from being a teenager to my late twenties all the while attached to another person.  I spent seven years with a girl who was innocent, kind, and gentle, and understanding,  a girl hopelessly devoted and unconditionally loving.  It was the perfect relationship, and I squandered it away looking for more.  My next relationship, which began before the other one was even finished like overlapping waves in the ocean, was with a girl who was worldly and passionate, a girl who had tried several slices of life, and had the knowledge and wisdom to share what she knew with me.  She loved me to the best of her abilities… and in my own way, I ruined it.

I’ve come to realize I have the emotional maturity of a teenager.  I am flawed, in many many ways.  And for the first time– I am alone.  I am this desolate structure, that remains standing after a self-induced disaster, the ashy burnt out hull and charred remains of personal tragedy.  But now, there is nothing left to do but rebuild.  I have seen my mistakes, and I understand the error of my ways.  Hammers, nails, glue.  Restore the veneer anew.

I know there is a girl somewhere who is perfect for me. I know you’re out there.

I’m not ready for you yet.  There is much work to be done.

The Orange Dress Part I: Discovery


It’s a moment that travels with me, a moment that defines me.   Deeper than the scar on the base of my right hand where I thought I could cut myself free from this tragic wreckage of a relationship.  The moment when I realized the woman I loved had cheated on me.  She would have never told me, had I never found that snippet of a text message that she saved as a picture and forgot to delete.  The conversation itself, long purged from her phone, along with any other trace of him.  A snippet, I found by accident the night she was out with her co-workers, and I picked her up and carried her out of the bar, I drover her home and tucked her into our bed.  Her phone buzzed, and that’s when I saw it.  I went looking for a picture she had taken of the two of us the day before where I thought we looked particularly nice, and that’s where I found this:

The Text

I shake her awake, bleary eyed she denies  everything.  “It’s a joke” she mutters.  Though, there’s nothing funny about this.  I’m surprised by how easily the lie comes to her lips.  Then again I’ve heard her lie countless times to her family and her business partners.  I assumed these lies were reserved for others– not for me.     I am left alone with my thoughts until the morning.  The day passes and I almost forget.  Almost.  Like an afterthought, as casually as if I had asked her about the weather or what she wanted to eat.  Her face drops.  For the moment, she can’t speak.  And that’s when I knew.

We sit there on our bed.  She tells me this in great detail because I keep asking questions.  I am torn between the fury and the fascination for the truth.  I need this, I need this image, as bright and as accurate in my mind, deep and embedded into my flesh so I can never forget it.  So it haunts me forever.  I ask questions, because it keeps me from screaming and unraveling the very room.  She paints it for me:  She’s drunk in Mexico while on vacation for her friends’ wedding, and her ex-boyfriend carries her from the party to her bed.  He undresses her, and presses himself inside of her, and there they lay until morning.  That same morning, when she texted me she loved me, and that she was thinking about me.  That same morning where she joked about riding golf carts and sunrises and longing for my arms.  That same morning I spent sanding and polishing the wooden stand for the globe I was restoring, a present to surprise her on her return.  To show her she was my world, encapsulated literally on a stand for her to twirl under her hand and survey at her whim.  My world, given to her.

That same morning, she’s wearing the orange dress I helped pick out, the dress she modeled for me in the wedding shop, talking about how one day in the near future we’d be there again, and she’d be trying on a white dress instead of an orange one.  That orange dress, pulled up around her waist, and her wasted on a bed somewhere in Mexico, with him thrusting on top of her, and everything here, everything at home, everything that was us completely forgotten.  She never did unpack that orange dress in front of me.  I always assumed it was stained with him.

The Orange Dress

I close my eyes.  She continues talking.  I feel something shift and shut off inside of me, it hurts terribly as it moves.  A little blinking light attached to a switch to a thread of my humanity.  The light flickers and goes black; the bulb cools with the cold wind of each one of her words as they pass through her lips.  It’s weeks later when I even notice its absence.   I try the switch again, fluttering and muttering to myself, wondering when it broke and what it did in the first place.  Over time it becomes just another dismantled piece collecting dust, mounted on the wall-turned-museum of all the things I used to believe, like miracles and Santa Claus– just one less light in the world, one less thing to believe in.

I’m inside of her repeatedly that night.  She cries.  I’m not sure if she’s thinking I’ve forgiven her, or she’s just happy she has me for a few hours more.  I push myself inside of her, reckless and unprotected.   Somehow I’m thinking if I fill her with my seed, there’s less of him and more of me, and I can somehow push him out.  I know this is the last time I’ll ever get to see her like this.  This is the death of us, orchestrated by His cock and her inability to remain faithful to me.  I watch her panting, as she finishes, her back arching and her mouth open, her toes curled and her eyes rolled back in her head.  She says I’m the only one who can make her cum like this.  She’s probably told him the same thing too.  I think about how many other people have seen her this way.  How many other people will.  It kills me.  The light in me has gone off.

– – – –

Somehow we limp on, battered and embattled, this bitter ragged relationship.  Bound by stubbornness and pride relabeled as love.  I watch her, like a wounded creature waiting to be struck again.  My heart never stops wincing, always anticipating the next blow falling, the next lie unraveling, so much so my face has contorted into a permanent snarl.  Part sneer, part scream, part fear, each day– less and less me.  We’re held together by superglue and band-aids.  The slightest upset to our delicate balance pulls us apart at the seams, sending us spiraling in opposite directions only to smack back together like two cocked fists made of glass.  I begin striking preemptively.   The rage explodes without warning: it covers the walls in frothing butter, lines the floors with broken glass and sends her cowering to the side of our bed.  Door frames get kicked off their hinges.  We run out of dishes to break.   Even on the good days, we’re still picking shards and splinters out of our feet, drinking out of plastic cups because everything else has been smashed to pieces.  The light has gone off.   I am no longer me but I refuse to leave.  Stubbornness and pride, mislabeled as love.   I love her, but I can’t stand her.  I hate her, but I can’t stand the thought of her with someone else.

I begin to realize there is nothing more she can do to me, no further way she can harm me than she has done already.  In our final fight, I shred that orange dress to pieces.  It’s become a symbol of everything wrong with us.  My fingernails claw through it, as if it were her flesh.  The seams tear as I twist it violently, ripping, unraveling– destroyed.  I leave it as a tattered heap on the floor of her room.  The light in me is off.

…and it never goes back on again.