Humpty Dumpty: Sunday


text. I have made a mistake.
I text. Talk to me. I text some more. I text until I realize you are not responding.

I tell Murdock I have to go. I tell him I should have left two hours ago. I tell Murdock that I fucked up again. I am slurring everything I am saying. I see Murdock’s mouth moving in response to what I am saying, but I cannot hear him. Finally, he hugs me and screams into my ear that he’ll see me later. He says that he’s happy things are over. I ask him how he knows.

I see a man Murdock introduced me to last week. Murdock is behind me as I am walking toward the door. The music is loud, even though I am now walking through the dining room and there is no music playing. I think the room has been painted since I got there. I ask Murdock if his friend is single. Murdock says that the man’s partner is sitting beside him. I say, OK. I stop by the man, and I can’t even tell if he is cute or old or even looking at me, and I grab his face and I kiss him. I kiss him with tongue and I look up and open my eyes and Murdock’s mouth is open and I realize what I’m doing and I stop kissing this man with tongue and the man looks at me and says wow and I say thank you and I tell Murdock I have to go and I leave.

I walk to my car and I try calling and you don’t pick up and I realize I can’t remember leaving the bar. I get to my car in what feels like record time, and I open the car door, and I sit inside and I think I don’t feel well, but I want to go home and get on the couch and fall asleep and in the morning, I think, everything will fix itself. I turn on the car and I drive.

I realize about 10 minutes into the drive, when I’m in a tunnel, that I don’t remember entering the tunnel. I feel that I’m too close on the right and I overcorrect and end up in the lane beside me. I realize I could have hit someone. I realize I shouldn’t be driving.

I text some more. You finally respond.

I can’t deal with mind games. I am done. Thank you for letting me see Ave one last time. Goodbye Rabbit. I mean it fully this time. Please leave me alone. You will not make me cry again.

I text and I know I am texting but I do not know what I am saying and I do not know how to stop texting. I feel like the phone is the only thing keeping me together.

Goodbye. Do not call me again. Do not text. You need to stay away for your health and for mine. I seriously have a restraining order on you, and if you continue to contact me, I will be forced to use it.

You send me the picture of the extended restraining order.

Leave me alone. Really.

I feel my head throb each time I read the words, and I stop understanding the words, and I stop understanding English.

I get home and I go upstairs and I am loud coming in the door and I wake up Holly and she asks me what’s wrong and if I’m safe. And I am crying and I hand her my phone and I say this is what I keep losing. Read. And she reads some of our texts and she gets to the picture of the extended restraining order and she says, what the fuck, Will. Why would you want to be with him? I thought you said you hadn’t seen him this week.

And I am crying and I say I lied and that I had seen you and that we were back together and now we aren’t and why do I keep fucking this up and she says that you are an addict and you act like an addict and there is no rationalizing how an addict thinks and acts and I am crying and she asks how much I’ve had to drink and I tell her I don’t think I had finished one martini. She says I’m acting like I’ve had much more than that.

I am still crying, and I think she should focus on me. I think she should listen to me and help me. I think she is my wife and I am in pain and where is her commitment to for better or worse now. I tell her I am upset and she doesn’t seem to care.

She says, this is not my problem. This is not my relationship. You keep doing this to yourself. What do you want me to do about it?

I can make life hard, I say. I will take Avery away. If you want a bitter custody battle, I will give you a bitter custody battle.

Holly laughs and tells me to go ahead and try, and she disengages. She doesn’t talk to me again. I leave the loft and I go to Walgreens and I buy a Gatorade. I come home and I pass out.

I wake around 4 a.m. and I am more myself, though my head and stomach hurt. I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember how I got home. I look at my phone and I see your last texts. I re-read our conversation from the first text to the end of the messages, and I start to cry again and I think, I keep fucking up. I keep fucking up. I keep fucking up. I feel like throwing up.

I send you my final text. I tell you I will cancel your meetings with the people at my job. I tell you I’m glad you have your best friend in your life. I tell you to ignore the invitation to Avery’s third birthday; I put it in the mail that morning, so I am sorry.

I press send.

I turn off my phone.

I hope you believe me.

* * * * *

William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.

His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.

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Humpty Dumpty: Saturday

.
 walk with Avery around the Charles River. After, while we are eating breakfast, you text.

Morning. I still love you. We’re still us. I am off to grab brunch with a friend. How’s little rabbit?

We’re good. We finished our walk. He’s watching Avatar. And I’m watching something else. I still love you and you should know, I don’t want to wait for physical/emotional intimacy with you.

I am sure we can arrange that. I will text you later after lunch.

I love you, too. My life would suck without you.

Muah!

My mother calls, and I tell her you and I have gotten back together, or are on our way to getting back together, or are something undefined. She asks me if I’m happy. I tell her I am. She asks me how Holly feels about it, and I tell her that I haven’t told Holly yet. She cautions me against getting too involved with you without letting Holly know. Don’t make the same mistakes, she says. Protect your heart. You don’t want to end up where you were three weeks ago. I tell her I know what I’m doing. I tell her I’m done making those mistakes. He knows everything, I say, and he still loves me. I love him, mom, I say. You’ll have to meet him when you’re here. She’s coming for Avery’s birthday in a couple of weeks. She says she would like to meet you. I say I think he will like meeting you, too.

I address invitations for Avery’s third birthday party. I find a card I think you will like, and I write in it. The card is more than an invitation to Avery’s birthday; the card is my response to your 3 a.m. comments. The card is hope.

I think you will think that Avery’s third birthday is the first of his birthdays you will celebrate. I think you will spoil him, and that you’ve already started thinking about what to buy him. I think Avery’s third birthday will be when you spend any amount of time with Holly.

I think she will not be happy.

I think I don’t care that she will not be happy.

Holly comes home from work, and she asks me if I’ve thought about our divorce. She asks me if I’ve started packing. She asks me if I understand that all of this is happening.

I tell her I understand. I’ll be fine, I say.

Have you thought about custody arrangements?, she asks.

I tell her I need to think about the best days and nights for me.

You know, I say, I used to think that you would end up OK about my relationship with him and since you love being pregnant, you would have offered to carry his child. You would have thought having children who were at least half siblings made more sense than him having a child with someone else. I thought that he and I would have the same tie to you, and the children would be related, and we could keep them all on the same custody arrangement.

And she looks at me and she tilts her head and she says, maybe I would have done that, but there’s no point in talking about it since it will never happen.

Holly and I watch another movie. Avery cooperates. I am meeting Murdock and Sandro at a bar, and then we’ve talked about going dancing. Before I leave the loft, I dig out the key you had given me, and the key to the outside doors of your apartment, from the box in which I had packed them, and I string each around a chain and I put the chain around my neck. The keys feel heavy around my neck, but the heaviness feels somehow right.

I don’t tell Holly what time I will be home. I do not know what time I will be home.

You have not texted me since this morning. I do not text you. You are mine. I am yours. You said so. My thoughts race ahead to where we will be in 10 days when I am living in my own apartment. I cannot keep up with my thoughts. I feel like I need to stop, but I do not know how to stop.

I drive to where you work. I consider texting you and saying I’m outside. I consider asking you to come out and say hi. I consider asking if you can take a break. Instead, I take some pens and markers out of my car and I go to a bench and I write what I think will be the message that we’ll remember as the proposal that stuck.

I think that we’ve done the difficult. We’ve moved past what happened. The impossible, the forging of a life, will take some time. But if you ask me to move mountains, or if you ask me to walk through fire, or even if you ask me to hold up the sky, I would, gladly.

At the bar, Murdock hugs me, as does Sandro. They say I look better than I did last week. I say the gym and yoga are starting to pay off.

Have you met a new man?, Murdock asks.

No, I say, but I’ve reconnected with RODA.

He took out a restraining order against you, Murdock says. What are you doing? I don’t even know what to say to you.

I love him, I say. I don’t know what else to do but forgive him and trust that we will end up where we are meant to end up.

I order a drink, even though I had decided not to drink. I send you a picture of the drink.

Don’t drink too much.

But I want to enjoy being a single gay man as long as possible.

Murdock and Sandro say they’re going out to smoke a cigarette. I tell them I am going to the bathroom. Inside a stall, I take a picture of the keys around my neck, and I send the picture to you.

I get back to the table first. I drink more of my drink. The music seems louder, and I am starting to sweat. I unbutton the top two buttons on my shirt.

You’re taken, but flirt and have fun.

Maybe I’m taken. You have not asked me to date it out or to be in a monotonous relationship.

I am having trouble feeling my fingers. I cannot type the word monogamous. I think my not being able to type the word monogamous should be funny, but I cannot laugh. I try twice to retype the word and each time I type something different.

Over dinner tomorrow.

I do not respond.

?

Murdock orders another drink. I have only had half of mine. I say I’m fine. I say I’m not feeling well. Sandro goes outside to smoke a cigarette. I ask Murdock if we can go into the back because I want to walk around. I know I’m being passive aggressive. You do not communicate with me when you’re out with your friends. Why should I communicate with you? I am not normally like this. I have craved your words and your touch and you’re giving me your words and promising me your touch and why am I acting like this, and why can I not stop acting like this?

Are we having dinner?

Murdock and I have wandered into a different room. The room is dark, so I assume I am sexy because everyone looks good in the dark. I still wish I had stayed home, and I’m starting to think the drink was a bad idea because I have a headache and I think that I’ve become a lightweight and I wonder how that happened.

I was hoping to make out with a Welshman tonight, but they seem to be in short supply, so a Brazilian may have to do.

Loving someone shouldn’t be so hard, I think. We shouldn’t be so hard. Why are we so hard? Why do I feel like my life led me to you, and the you my life led me to doesn’t really exist?

I feel like the room is spinning. I tell Murdock I need to sit down. I hate that you work Saturday nights. I want a date night. I want Saturday nights and Saturday days and Sundays. I want it all. I want the ring, too, I want to tell you. I want the marriage. I want the moving in and the engagement and the commitment. I hold my hand carefully, so I can get these next words just right:

You know, I feel everything in my life has led me to you. And that’s not just martini talking. My friends aren’t so sure about you, but I’ve never wavered in my idea of what our life could be. I love you. It’s not something I can turn off. I’ve tried. You’re inside me and I see such a brilliant future with you. The ring is being sized but I can’t imagine anything better than being taken by you. You are my heart. You are my future. I think you should plan to kiss me tonight, but that’s just me.

I put my phone back in my pocket. Murdock is talking to me, but it sounds like he is talking through a tunnel. I shake my head a little to clear my ears. I tell him that I know you want to kiss me, but that you’re at work. After, I say. He’ll meet me after. I know he’ll meet me after.

Sorry, at work. I am taking my last 15 now.

You get off soon, though.

I am not using full words. I am typing in letters. I do not want to be typing. I want to be home. I do not feel like I can drive. I never can not drive. I’m the best drunk driver ever. I’m just drinking with my friend.

So I don’t know these friends, right? I have plans tonight with my best friend. He’s got my TV from our other friend and is going to help me set up the living room and my Wii.

He’s getting high tonight, I say to Murdock and Sandro. His best friend is coming over to set up his Wii. He’s not picking me.

How did this happen again? How did I get here? I tell them that you need to set up your Wii. I can’t keep doing this, I say. And I put the phone on the table, and by the light of a fake candle, I type the only thing I can think to type.

That’s fine. Have fun. Bye.

Something isn’t right. I need you tonight. I can’t feel my hands. I can’t feel my heart. The room continues to spin and I am sweating.

I thought you had asked me to go out to dinner with you when we were out and about with Ave? OK. I guess we’re done talking. I still have 10 minutes of my 15 and I took it so I could answer you. I just can’t text when I’m sitting at the front desk because there’s a camera on me recording at all times.

I show the text to Murdock and Sandro. He’s not picking you, Murdock says. He will never pick you, Sandro says. I feel like they’re a fucking Greek chorus. You have your own Greek chorus. Your best friend. Your roommate. I know both will stop at nothing to make sure our relationship ends. They will say whatever they need to say. They’re jealous of me. They’re jealous of us. You know that. You told me so. Why would you listen to them? How could you let them talk about me the way they did the night you snorted pills? How could you have talked about me the way you did the night you snorted pills? How could you have lied to me about snorting pills? How could you tell me last night that you want to marry me and tonight tell me that setting up your Wii is more important?

I know I’m the guy who has to decide if he’s going to look back or not. If I look back, I know I will turn into a pillar of salt. Or is that some other story. It’s not a myth. It’s from the Bible. Lot and his wife. What myth am I thinking about? Persephone. Hades. She has to live six months out of the year in Hell. Icarus. His melted wings. He falls and his father is helpless. Falling. I couldn’t even fall right. I should have fallen. I am falling. I have fallen in love with a man who will never love me the way I want him to love me. I have fallen in love with a man who will never love me the way I deserve to be loved. Or maybe I have fallen in love with a man who will never love himself the way he should. But who am I to decide how anyone should be loved? I am no one. I am dizzy. I do not want to be sitting, but I don’t feel I can stand. What the fuck is happening to me? I ask Murdock how much I’ve had to drink. He points to my one drink and says I haven’t even finished it. I say I’m not feeling well. I say I can’t do this. I say I love you but I can’t keep doing this. It’s insanity, I say, and they don’t know what I mean, but I know they can understand.

It’s fine. Have a good night, D. I’m done. I think my children and I are going to pass on a relationship with you. But I wish you nothing but the best. It’s a Wii. I’m a person. As much as I love you and as much as I think it, I deserve more. And I will find it.

You respond 15 minutes later.

I wish you wonder. Goodbye.

I read your text message. The letters of your first name are buried inside of the word wonder. Why didn’t we see this before?

* * * * *

William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.

His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.

Humpty Dumpty: Wednesday

For the previous entries in Will Henderson’s “Humpty Dumpty” series, click here.

Good morning. Take time today and do something for you. Go to Costco. Buy strawberries. Wash them. Take them outside. Sit in the sun. Close your eyes. Taste red. Failing that, compliment a stranger.

I will do that, sir. Thanks.

I take Avery to daycare. He asks for chocolate and I give him a piece. He eats the chocolate quickly, and when he finishes, he asks for more. His lips are brown. I take a video of him asking for chocolate. I send the video to you and Holly.

No more D?

Avery has not asked for you in a few days. Maybe he’s forgetting you. I sidestep your question.

During my lunch break, I come over to the park near where you work with some Sharpies to mark a new bench for us. You have been at work more than six hours, so I don’t expect to see you outside.

I hadn’t thought about what to write. I don’t look at our old bench. I don’t want to re-write I wish you wonder. I’m not sure if the phrase still fits. So I write lyrics from an Amanda Palmer song on the bench: And it is getting harder to pretend that life goes on without you in the wake.

I write the words and I know they are true. I’m tired of telling people that I’m OK. I’m tired of hearing people tell me that I will be OK. I want to not be OK until I can be OK. I want to grieve for our relationship until I no longer have to grieve. I may no longer be proficient at the ending of relationships, but I don’t want to just forget about you. I don’t want to just jump into the arms of the first man who says hello to me. I don’t want to be fixed up with a colleague’s friend of a friend. I want to go through the end and come out the other side and be better for it. You and I are talking, I think. That’s a start.

I reach for my phone so I can take a picture of the bench and send it to you. I look up. You’re walking toward me. You saw me first, I think, and you’re still walking toward me. I stand still.

Hi, you say. Hi, I say. I haven’t seen you in more than three weeks, and you look the same, and I think I look thinner, and I want to touch you and make sure that you’re real.

I’m sorry, I say. I didn’t think I would run into you.

You told me to sit outside and eat strawberries, you say.

I know, I say. But I figured you had had your lunch hours ago.

It’s been a busy day, you say.

We’re standing close enough to touch. You look down. I look down. We’re wearing the same pair of shoes. You chuckle. I smile. I say I have to go. You say OK. You move toward me and you hug me. The hug is brief, but your arms feel right, and I inhale, and I don’t smell your lotion, and then you’re not hugging me and I’m not sure what to say and I tell you I’ll talk to you later. I walk to my car. I don’t look back.

Too much? I know you didn’t want to see me.

True, I didn’t want to see you yet, but it wasn’t that bad. The park kind of feels like a neutral territory. It is a nice Amanda-esque sentiment. How are you?

I’m good. A little stunned. A little like, really, universe? Cosmic jokes all around. Are you OK?

Crying a bit, but OK.

I’m sorry. My therapist says you don’t fall in love in a day and you don’t fall out of love in a day. But that’s not even my problem.

I could have turned around and walked back; it’s fine.

You could have.

What’s not your problem? It figured we were meant to talk. Just like sometimes I should just get in the car and shut up.

Yes, I think. Sometimes you should just get in the car and shut up.

My feelings for you aren’t my problem. I can’t get the voice in my heart to stop screaming that we needed this to happen to stop pretending, to become real. I wasn’t going to change on my own. And I just want to kiss you to see if you still taste like home.

I told you I want to be friends and it will take time.

I know. But that just seems like a waste, kind of. But it’s fine.

I still love you, and I always will.

I know. That’s what sucks. It’s like we have the pieces to put it back together but.

It’s a lot. It is and it was.

I know.

It’s difficult. It’s difficult.

I guess I just feel it’s all out there now and we just need to find each other again.

I worry that I won’t trust you like I need to be able to do.

I’m willing to earn your trust. We have time. My life was and is a lot, but before I met you, I wasn’t living. And despite your inner voice, I think the same held true for you. Until you text again, I love you.

I meet a former editor of mine for coffee. I come out to him. He welcomes me to the family, tells me I look better than he’s ever seen me, and listens with an appropriate amount of interest and concern to the parts of my story I tell him. I ask him if he thinks there is a story in all of this, and he says there is. Work on it, Will, he tells me. I think there is definitely something there.

When I get back to my office, I call you. I need to tell you that I am thinking about writing our story. It might be a book, I tell you, or maybe a magazine article. But I can’t not write it.

That sounds good, you tell me, and then you say you have to go.

I’m glad about your article/book. Sorry if I seemed short, but people were around me. I thought something bad had happened since you called.

You didn’t say anything about skinner, glowier rabbit.

You look much healthier and happier; it’s true. I commented as much as I felt appropriate at the time. So will I get an advance copy of our story?

You lived it. That’s about as advanced as you get. You’re living it. You know. I write to figure stuff out. I’ve written hundreds of pages now. I just handed over about 25 and shared the story and I wait.

I’d like to see it in words. I am sure it will be more than a story, and I understand that it will be written from your point of view.

I don’t think I’m innocent. I never thought that. I don’t play the victim.

I wasn’t talking about that. Only simply that it would be written by your eyes. I will hold information I as the other party never knew was going on.

There’s really not much you don’t know.

I didn’t know you were married to Holly. There’s a lot I don’t know. You told me once when I said that I felt like you were hiding something that you were an open book. This can be your open-book chance. I don’t mean now. I mean the story you give to them if and when it comes to that.

When Holly told me you could only find one glove, I was on a treadmill going nowhere at 4.5 miles per hour, and we were going to end up with half of a matching set, which is what I think we are as people, and I thought that was the right end.

I like that.

But you found the glove, so it doesn’t work. And it doesn’t change that I think we’re a matched set.

It took a lot of searching in my closet. I started to clean it immediately after that.

You should have kept it up after I did it. My feelings were hurt. I had spent hours doing that. But it’s your closet and your mess so I kept my mouth shut. I just can’t imagine living like that.

It’s how my closet has been for a while now. Old habits …

Your system works for you. Old habits. That’s my line for not telling you everything. And really, it’s just the legal nature I omitted. Everything else I told you about the relationship is true.

I guess I learned that marriage is really important to me. The idea of it being forever, and if it doesn’t work, you need to fix it or the situation. I don’t think marriage works with three people. Are you honestly content with a friendship with me?

No. But I think that that’s what you’ll need now if we are ever to move forward together. I don’t think it’s impossible. I would be content sitting and talking to you for a while. Answering your questions, listening to how you feel, and seeing what’s there or not there. I don’t want to be married to two people.

I am not ready for a Will speech. I know you could sell me a boat because I love you.

This is the first time you have said you love me since we broke up, and not in terms of always loving me and Avery. My heart soars. You love me. I knew you loved me. I knew we had a chance. I knew.

I want to be married to you, co-parenting two children with Holly.

Right now I have a lot going on: potential job or second job hunting, buying a car (because that was the intent and already in the works because of Ave).

You tell me you’re considering looking for work at Panera. I stop texting. I call you.

Really, I ask. You’re thinking about a second job, and at Panera? What I want to say is why? Why don’t you aim higher?

I’m going to need extra money, if I’m going to buy a car.

You’re in human resources, I say. You don’t need to go backward and start making coffee again.

I’m just thinking about it.

We don’t say anything for a minute, and then you tell me that you bought a Wii.

Holly’s keeping our Wii, I say.

You’re done with work. You’re on your way home. I tell you I have yoga. I tell you that I will be done with yoga at 6:30 and ask if you will meet me at a Starbucks. Don’t give me an answer, and don’t text me your answer. I will not have my phone, I say. I will walk past Starbucks and I will see you if you are there and I won’t see you if you aren’t there.

You say OK.

I say have a good night. I hang up.

Before I leave for yoga, I write you a letter. I know you said you weren’t ready for a Will speech, but I think we are one Will speech away from getting it right. You’ll read the letter. Maybe reading a speech will be better than hearing one.

I enjoy my yoga class, though I am not fully present. I think that you won’t be at Starbucks. I think you will text me later and say you’re not ready, but you will thank me for inviting you, and we will talk about my yoga class. I get closer and my heart is racing and I want you to be there and I pass by and there is no one sitting outside and I sigh. Next time, I think.

Have fun with your Wii tonight.

Did you look inside? Did you look at our spot?

I turn around. I see your back in the window. You came.

You are sitting in a chair you had claimed as yours a few months ago. The chair I had claimed as mine is empty. I put my bag down and you are reading a book and drinking coffee and I ask you if you need anything and you say no. You are wearing clothes I recognize. I don’t want to stare, but I do and you have on a new necklace, and you have shaved your head since I saw you earlier, and I still think you’re beautiful and I wonder what you would do if kissed you.

I order tea and I bring my cup over to you and I sit in the chair next to you and I say hi and you say hi and I think for the first time since we started talking again that we’re going to be OK.

We talk for an hour. We look at each other. We look for changes, differences, moments we missed, or at least this is what I think we’re doing. You’re wearing different keys around your neck. You look mostly the same. I am in gym clothes. I never wore gym clothes when we were together. I’m in sneakers. I never wore sneakers when we were together. You show me your bag. You had ironed on a Union Jack patch I had given you. You ask about the gym and yoga. You ask about Avery. You tell me about a book you’re reading. We talk more about your job hunt. We talk about your Wii.

I ask if you’re planning to use the small television in the living room, and you say that a friend is moving back home to be with his family and he is selling you his television. I say you may need to get connectors so you can have color. I know this may be true because Holly and I needed to get special connectors in order to play games in color. You say you didn’t know that and that you will look for the right connectors.

You tell me that you want to figure out how to have me in your life. You say you need to have me and Avery in your life, but you don’t know what that will entail. You don’t want to lose us.

You tell me that you’re not even supposed to be there.

What do you mean?, I say.

The restraining order.

I thought it had expired, I say. I haven’t received notice of it being extended.

It’s in place for a year, you say. I showed up; you didn’t. I’ll have to tell you later what that day was like.

OK, I say.

I wait for you to tell me how we reverse or overturn the restraining order. I wait for you to say you don’t feel you need a restraining order. But you don’t. You’re sitting with me and you’re close enough to touch and yet you are unwilling to address the unnecessary restraining order you took out against me. I know Erin would say the restraining order gives you power. And I think you need to feel you have power in order to even talk to me. I do not like thinking that you feel you need to have power in order to even talk to me. I want to tell you that all I have is yours, I want to say. Take it. Take me. Try.

Holly and I are having a daughter, I say. Aurora. I don’t tell you that I know you already know. I wait for you to tell me that you know, but you don’t.

You had mentioned that name as a possibility.

We have decided to give her a middle name that begins with the letter S, so that Avery and Aurora will have the same initials. Holly likes Simone, but Aurora Simone sounds too much like Au Revoir Simone, and I can’t do that to myself.

Really?, you ask.

Really.

So I’ve been approved for a car loan. Mum needs to fax some paperwork to the store. I have to stop there on my way home. I guess I’ll look for those cables while I’m there.

We have finished our tea. You get a phone call. A friend needs some technical support. You tell her you will call her back later. I think you’ve asked someone to call you to give you a reason to leave.

I have to go, you say. You look at the coffee mug you had used. The mug is a Clover mug and cute. You say you are going to take it. You look around and I laugh and you put the mug in your bag and put a shirt on top of the mug.

We could make a habit of going to different Starbucks in the area after yoga on Wednesdays and stealing mugs, I say. We can create a map of all of the Starbucks and tick them off each week.

That sounds like a good idea.

I think these mugs will be the mugs we use to tell our story.

We walk outside and you look at me and I look at you and you hug me and I hug you and you do not smell like yourself. I give you the letter. It’s not a speech, I say. Just words on a piece of paper.

I’ll read it later and text you, you say.

I just read the letter. I need space, and I want to be able to talk about things and see how us as friends works. I need you to be prepared for the fact that I may only want friendship with you in the end. I can’t say right now and I’m not comfortable pushing myself to make a black and white decision about the future and what it holds or doesn’t hold. I think friends is a goal we need to attain first. I need to feel like I can let you back into my house. I don’t feel like that right now.

OK. We’ve taken on water. But we haven’t sunk. Goodnight, D. Thank you for your honesty. I love you, and I look forward to discovering who you are as my friend.

I know we haven’t sunk. If we’d sunk then we wouldn’t be talking. But a few days of texting and coffee is only the start. You will have to earn my trust again, and that’s not going to be easy, and I’m not going to lie and say it would be. Night rabbit.

I think that I will have to learn how to trust you again too. You lied about snorting pills. You felt protecting your friend was more important than being honest with the man you said you wanted to marry. You were already growing interested in someone else. How do I forgive that? Can I forgive that? Do you even realize that I know? I think that if you’re going to be in my life and around my children, then you’re going to need to get sober. I think about telling you this, since you feel telling me how little you trust me is appropriate, but I do not.

If it/we were easy, I wouldn’t fight for it/us. I’d rather build a foundation that may support forever then just say the words. You’re just going to have to take the lead on this. I won’t know what’s too much/not enough until you tell/show me.

I think the focus should be on your life and finding out what and who you are when you’re alone. You need the space and time to be ready for the next step in life. I may be the next step eventually, but I’m not the next step for you right now. I think that the words are: Maybe he came too late or maybe too soon. It’s all in due time, rabbit. There is no fast-lane on this one.

I kind of don’t want a fast lane.

You realize that even if we eventually get back together that you still have my friends’ trust to gain back as well.

As you would have Holly’s.

Why would Holly not trust me?

I do not tell you that she will not let a drug addict raise her children. I think I should tell you this, if only to see what you will say.

I didn’t take you away from her because I didn’t even know that was a possibility.

She wants me to be happy. She wants the kids happy. She knows I’m going to find that with a man. I was already away from her when you and I met.

This timeline was not in our plan. Life is life. It’s messy and it doesn’t always go our way.

Holly and I were selfish. Neither one of us wanted to give up Avery time, so we struggled. But I think it’s possible, even just as friends, that we may look back and say from that point everything was different.

Which doesn’t always mean [the universe] doesn’t go and decide what’s actually best for us without asking …

I think to be your partner and best friend, I needed to break down. I wish I could have done it without hurting you. But I needed the crisis.

I’m tired, rabbit. My mind hurts. Night.

* * * * *

William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.

His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.

 

Humpty Dumpty: Tuesday

.
wake up thinking about your saying
you were contemplating therapy. I flip through the handouts I read in the program. I pick out some of my favorites, and a blank goals sheet. I take these handouts to work and photocopy them.

During my lunch break, I go to where you work. I tape an envelope containing the handouts behind a bench. I include a postcard. The front of the postcard shows chaos. On the back of the postcard, there is a rabbit. I write: Even in chaos, there is rabbit.

I believe what I write is true. I want you to believe what I write is true.

I photocopied some handouts from group you’ll like. I put them in an envelope and left them taped behind the bench closest to Costco in that side park.

Did you scribble out the bench/I wish you wonder note?

I’ve been avoiding everything with ties to us.

What does that mean? Yes? No? It doesn’t matter, but someone did.

I’ve been to Costco and Supercuts, but nowhere near your store until today. It’s too much, you know.

I understand.

If I had seen the bench, I would have assumed you had done it. That’s why I picked a bench far away. I didn’t want to see it.

Well, I am not like that. You should know that. I took care of all of your/Avery’s stuff.

True. But I hurt you and you lashed out. It’s a natural protection mechanism. I don’t blame you. I’m not angry about it. I forgive you.

Lashed out on what? I didn’t deface my own graffiti. Someone else did and then added stuff in color. I did think you had done it at some point, before you went into the hospital.

I wonder if one of your friends had defaced the graffiti to help you get over me.

I didn’t have time for that. I was busy trying to die.

Yeah, let’s not do that again. You have so much to live for with or without me.

I didn’t want to die; I just didn’t know how to ask for help. I’ve never been good at asking for help. I’ve given myself a second chance and I’ve learned from my mistakes and I’m sure I’ll make new ones, but not so spectacularly. The two attempts are invisible scars on my forearms.

I wanted to call you when Holly sent me the e-mail. I was scared. I also worried that if when I called and it wasn’t to take you back, that you might try harder to end it.

I tried hard enough. It wasn’t my time. Seriously, it’s not your fault. You gave me a push, but I was already in freefall. Don’t blame yourself; I don’t. It wasn’t really about you.

I don’t blame myself, but I still wanted to help you.

You couldn’t. I needed to do it alone. And I had Holly and Avery. And I wrote a lot. It’s like I opened my head and dumped it out. I was lucid and sane by Friday night. I needed to sleep and I needed to talk. I was compartmentalizing everything and I needed to unify my head. Talk about tearing down walls. I needed to do this on my own. But thank you for being concerned.

You’re welcome. I need to go back. Lunch is over.

Thanks for talking.

Later, you and I talk briefly about yoga. You do not recognize the names of poses I am practicing. I think we’re practicing two different things.

Holly makes dinner. We eat together, and then give Avery a bath. He falls asleep early. Holly makes us tea. We sit on the couch and talk about our day. I do not tell her that you and I have been talking.

* * * * *

William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.

His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.

Humpty Dumpty: Monday

.
olly doesn’t want to be the conduit
between you and me. She was not part of my relationship with you, and she does not want to be part of the end of my relationship with you. Besides, she hates you, or, if not you, then the idea of you, and if not the idea of you, then what I did as a result of loving and being loved by you, and then as a result of loving and being left by you.

You don’t know that I know that you know I tried to kill myself two weeks ago. Or, now you know, since I sent you a link to the suicide video I made and later posted to Youtube. You broke up with me by text message, and we had promised to not break up with each other by text message, and yet here was the text, or there was the text, since I have deleted it and the 27,000 preceding text messages we exchanged during our six-and-a-half month relationship.

I had planned on saving those text messages for always, and you had planned on saving the text messages for always, and deleting the messages from my phone took seven minutes. I want to undo what I did after I did it, but the IPhone offers no take-backs, and you offer no take-backs, and I did what I thought I had to do to keep you safe, and if you had been sober when you found out, I think you would have understood, but you were not sober – which is the point, I think – and you broke up with me by text message and then took out a restraining order.

You and I were engaged. You didn’t know I was married. You knew about my children. You loved them, and called them yours, and I called them yours, and I called you mine, and the night I recorded you buying drugs and selling drugs and using drugs, I thought I would share the recording with you and say: This is not the man I want to marry, and you would say, this is not the man I want to be, and I would say, let me help you, and you would say, I love you, and then everything would be good.

But everything is not good, and Holly is driving to your house to give you what I had of yours in my house, and to get from you what you have of mine. She won’t see you. She’s asked you to leave everything on your porch. And you’ve agreed.

She texts me when she’s gotten everything from your porch. The men who live across the street had had to help her. Those same men used to watch me leave your apartment at all hours. I wondered if they knew, or thought they knew, what you and I had been doing before I had left.

Our son, Avery, knew where she was taking him. She had said to him that they were going for a drive, and Avery said, to D’s? And Holly told him yes, even though she didn’t want to tell him yes, and she tells me later that somehow Avery knew.

I do not know when I will be able to go through what you’ve given back. I do not want to take an accounting of what you’ve returned and what you’ve kept. Holly tells me that you sent me one last message and she will forward it to me later if I want to read it. I tell her to forward the message to me.

I still love Will. I just can’t overcome the other stuff. I wish all of you wonder.

I type the words Goodbye Horse into my phone and I text them to you. I delete the text from my phone’s history, as if deleting the words will keep me from thinking about them and wondering if you will respond.

You respond: Goodbye Rabbit.

You have called me rabbit since our first date. I started calling you horse after Avery stole my nickname for you: D, the first letter of your first name. I no longer remember why I picked horse, but I didn’t pick horse as in hung like a, because you are not hung like a.

I read your text and I am crying because I hear you saying Goodbye Rabbit, and even though it is Goodbye Rabbit, it is you and we are talking and I want to keep talking to you and I want you to want to keep talking to me. I feel something break open, but it is not my heart. There is nothing left of it to break.

*

Monday

Holly shared your last text. I still love you, too.I forgive you. I understand, and I forgive you. I needed to break myself in order to reassemble and let go of what was holding my back. I’m finally who you wanted me to be all along. Ironic. I just needed you to push me a little. I’m sorry I couldn’t let you in all the way. I was working toward our life. I just got a little lost along the way. Beautiful endings need beautiful mistakes. Maybe someday there will be a sequel. But if not, we were a great book. I love you, D.

I am still terribly hurt. I think we can eventually be friends despite my rules.

I know I hurt you. Hurting you was the furthest thing from my mind. I just thought I had to save you. And if I could save you, then changing my relationship with Holly would be OK because I’m finally learning that sometimes the easy way isn’t the best way.

I left you alone so that you could cope with whatever you needed. I cannot be with you as my partner. But I can see a friendship again eventually, or we can consider that we just pressed pause for a few weeks.

I needed to learn to love me while falling in love with you and our promise and trying to normalize everything for Avery. We were just trying to ease him into two homes. Maybe someday we’ll get a chance to fall in love with our true selves. Or not. If the only thing that came out of all of this was me finding me, then I’m OK with that. You were not an affair. We were real. We were real rabbits like velveteen rabbits.

And I know that once you are real, you can’t become unreal. It lasts for always. We were real. We are real. Even if this is all we have – and even if what we had is all we get – then everything would have been worth it. I would have been worth it. You would have been worth it. Our time together. Even the relationship I think Holly and I are building. Real. Can’t be unreal.

I think it’s a draw.

Avery asks for you. My heart asks for you. My head runs away and my friends wish I had let them in months ago. You know everything now. If one day we can be friends, then that’s a good day.

I don’t ever doubt your love for me. However, you are/were married. You had no right to bring me into your marriage and lie to me about it. But I forgive you. I can’t see you yet, and I am not sure when I can.

I’ve learned a lot in the last three weeks. Holly says after 12 years, she wouldn’t have thought it possible for me to change, but when you’re left with nothing, and that’s what you have to work with, then you have no choice but to examine what you like and don’t like about yourself and pick the parts to keep and the parts to lose.

I think you have more growing to do still. I am pleased that you are finding yourself and an inner peace; a friend within yourself.

I’ve found balance and yoga and an amazing support network. Maybe it’s not forgiveness and trust that are difficult; maybe it’s love.

I can’t imagine how you held anything together living a life with us both as close as you did. You knew I would find out if we were forever, right? How did you think I would handle that? Or how were you going to tell me?

We couldn’t do IVF if we weren’t married. We stayed together basically for Aurora. And we’ve already talked about divorcing in January.

You realize I could have handled that, right? So many times I knew there was something more and you weren’t telling me.

I thought I’d have to tell you on his birthday. I couldn’t see a way to celebrate his birthday without you there. I couldn’t think of how to explain that to you. So I thought I’d tell you both at the same time.

That wouldn’t have worked. I would have left you right where you stood with a scene similar to the roadside.

I wanted to desperately tell you, but you said you’d been hurt by a married man before.

Who can say if I could deal with it later. You should have told me then or walked away. Now I’ve been hurt once again by a married man.

And it was for the kids and you had had issues accepting the second baby and I couldn’t unmake her. And I didn’t want to unmake her.

I am the one with issues now. I’ve been contemplating therapy.

It’s not so bad. I didn’t trust that me and my baggage would outweigh our fights. I fought because my judgment was gone. I slept 15 hours total our last two weeks.

I’m glad you came out for the better. I still have a lot of repairing to do. I asked if you were OK, but I never would have looked this deep into it. I never would have guessed that this was your life because you weren’t letting me in.

I thought you had enough to deal with. You have to be strong for a lot of people. I needed to be strong for you. I was afraid you were going to die. And you’d joke about your head and I’d just want to cry and scream and tell you to stop.

Lies hurt people. They don’t help them.

I didn’t think about it when we were together. I feel we’re married on paper and nowhere else. I withheld information from you, yes, but the relationship is how I described it.

Did Holly know I didn’t know.

No.

Now is when I needed to meet you. You were a great partner, and I’m sure you’re 1,000 times better now. I’m sure you feel free and new. I wish I had just reinvented/ rediscovered/accepted myself.

I know. The thing is, D, that person you think you can be, I’ve seen him all along. He’s who I fell in love with and planned a life with and I had a hard time when he wasn’t there because he’s wonderful and amazing and the other you is escaping something. I started thinking you were escaping me. And I couldn’t figure out how to talk to you about it.

You should learn to live with yourself and continue this healing process, as will I.

We kept having the same fight.

I was never escaping you. I think the fights came from underlying stuff.

Maybe you were escaping you, then.

You were acting irrational.

I was irrational. I just wanted to sleep.

And telling me things were OK and I knew they weren’t.

I needed to sleep.

I suggested that once, that we just stay in and sleep. We never did.

No, and that’s really all I wanted. That and you in my life with my friends doing the things I do with my friends because I think sometimes you need a little push outside of your comfort zone.

Well, this is who and where we are right now. We need to work toward a friendship. I’d like to meet Will someday. This is how I have to think of it in my head right now.

I know.

You’ve had to change and tailor a lot to speak with me. Thanks for talking with me. I will need more answered eventually, but this is all I can handle tonight.

Your ex-boyfriend doesn’t live here anymore. You’ll see.

PS: The pills were just that once. I didn’t want you to have to worry and think that I snort stuff all of the time. But, I’m sure the audio told you that already if you listened.

There were lies on both sides. It was everything I feared. But you couldn’t tell me about it. We all deal with stuff our own way. I forgave the lie. I feared what the lie meant, but I forgave it.

We all do stupid things to protect others I guess.

I can’t listen to it. Except for about 20 minutes of the audio from the morning before your party, I haven’t and I won’t listen to it.

What’s in the 20 minutes?

The 20 minutes? You snorting pills. You making fun of me. You ignoring my 2 a.m. text. I couldn’t listen to any more.

I do not say anything about you telling your friends that there was someone you wanted to get to know better, someone you wanted to get high with, someone with whom you wanted to see what could and would develop.

I need to process this. I don’t remember making fun of you. I’m sorry. But I was high most likely. Not that it’s OK either way. Send the audio if you’d like? I may learn something about myself I don’t see right now. Or which I choose not to acknowledge. My head is full, rabbit.

Goodnight, D. Thank you for talking, and for loving me and Avery. If you watched what my friends call the suicide-that-wasn’t video you know I wanted him in your life.

I know. Thank you for that.

Holly has watched me text with you for more than three hours. She doesn’t ask who I am talking to. I don’t tell her I am talking to you.

You have a scar the size of a newborn’s fingerprint on the right side of your body. You told me that when you were born, your left hand was connected to your body. Your hand had to be cut away. The way your arm must have formed and grown, even in the womb you protected your heart.

* * * * *

William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.

His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.

The Chronicles of Sarnia, № 3

~In which editor DLR recalls his youth on the island of Sarnia.~

№ 3: Shallow Waters


here is an actual shipwreck museum in Sarnia. So little is there to document and preserve that there is a museum dedicated to shipping mistakes, preserving footage and photographs of events that happened to Sarnia by accident.

The need for a shipwreck museum I found always a little perplexing. It’s true that there are few tourist attractions in the island, but those that there are – neolithic cave carvings and Nazi Occupation remnants, for example – should really be sufficient for the dwindling number of visitors from France, the UK, the Netherlands, and, of course, Germany. I had been to Fort Grey, the museum in question, a couple of times with either family or friends, though to me, it was just a roomful of seagoing paraphernalia.

I had left Sarnia for The Mainland in 2002, but on a visit back to the island the following January, we woke to very strange news: a shipwreck. The west coast of Sarnia faces roughly northwest, into the English Channel and towards the Atlantic, and apparently a ship being towed from England to Holland had broken its towing line and been left to drift into the shallow waters on the rocks north of Fort Grey.

Nearly 400 feet long, and towering above as as we neared it, the ship was one of the most incongruous things I had seen on a Sarnian beach. It was named the Vermontborg, a brand new cargo ship that was empty of fuel, passengers, or even cargo.

Image copyright Flickr user gypsy_roadhog (http://www.flickr.com/gypsy_roadhog), used by Creative Commons.

Stranded, its full height was visible, and if you made your way any closer than 15 or 20 feet, it blotted out the sunlight above. Parents with their young children were playing in the rock pools surrounding it, and locals slowly circled the husk of a boat and hammered on its hollow sides. Eventually, I left for the capitalised Mainland once again, and a few days later, the ship was lucky enough to hit a high tide that allowed it to be towed back out to sea.

Around a year later, the song “Practically Zero” came along, with a very glancing memorial to the Vermontborg shipwreck. Click below to hear an old recording of the song.