Friday, April 3, 2009


I perch on a tall chair and rest my elbows on the counter. My chin in one hand, I half-turn to watch Daniel as he orders the coffee: some fancy, milky, sugary thing for him, black for me. I watch his smile as the young barista takes his change. He flirts with everyone. He can't help it.
He carries the cups over to the table. My chair is facing towards a a tall window. His faces a cork board with ads tacked to it, torn along the bottom where pet sitters and landlords have provided phone numbers. A tiny piece of paper, the size of an index card, is barely hanging on to the bottom right corner of the board. "ONE-BEDROOM APARTMENT, WOOD FLOORS, ONE-CAR GARAGE, WICKER PARK, $625/MO," it says.
"Daniel." It comes out as a whisper. I've been sick all weekend. Again.
"Daniel," I repeat myself. This time, the El Train is rambling by a block away, and he can't hear me.
At least this is what I tell myself.
"Look. We could live here. That would be affordable. I wouldn't even want a car."
He looks at me, half sad, half exasperated. I am the only one who calls him by his full name. Everyone else calls him "Dan," or relies on his silly nickname, "Dan the Man." After two years, I can't bring myself to shorten his name. Something about "Daniel" is endearing. It makes me feel like somehow, somewhere, he needs me. It is the same feeling I get when I see him reach for something and notice the slight tremor in his hands, or when I watch him sleep.
I know this trip is the beginning of the end. I cleaned out my bank account and maxed out my last credit card so we could go away and spend some time together, and on the way here, I got sick. Even after all this time, Daniel doesn't understand. He seems to think I have control over it, and can turn it on or off at will. He does not want to be with someone that is going to die. He is focused now on school and parties, and in a few years, will want a home and children. Things I can't do now, things I won't be able to do in the future. Nothing left for me to do except "try to enjoy life!" they say, leaving out "what's left of your" in the middle of that statement. Illness kept me isolated for so long that I have few friends, and Daniel feels pressured to be everything for me. I know this, but I can't vocalize it. I can't change it this late in the game. I will die without friends, I will die misunderstood, and the only thing that will be left is a pile of paper covered in my handwriting.
Daniel remains silent; he is now flipping through a newspaper. He has his eye on an ad for a warehouse party. Another part of my past life. My life BD: Before Disease. I rest my head on my folded arms for a moment. When I look up again, a small handful of blonde hair is attached to my dark sleeve. The tears begin to well up and I try to fight them, try to think of honey and puppies and my dad, anything that makes me happy. Eventually, the tears win, and one falls right into my untouched coffee. Daniel starts to say something, but I look up and notice a small painting hanging above the bulletin board. The colors are dark, and it is oil on canvas but has a watercolor-y feel to it; the outlines are not very defined, and the brush strokes are wavy. It is a woman with short blonde hair, in a claw-footed bathtub, clinging to the pushed-aside shower curtain, seemingly trying to get out. You can see her entire back, and her small arm grasping the curtain. There is no water in the tub. The tiny card at the bottom right of the painting says "BATHTUB" and an artist's name.
The painting makes my soul ache. This girl is me. I cannot explain why, but she is so much me that I almost can't move. I look at the $300 price tag and the tears begin to flow freely. I am dying, and I can't buy a $300 painting that moves me. Daniel reaches for my hand, and I wonder if the girl in the bathtub has a Daniel, or an illness, or a crazy mother, or debt, or a friendless existence, and which of these things she is trying to escape.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Let's go back and visit one of my forays into online dating.
I signed up for an account with a popular service. Thought it would be fun. My now-husband was a co-worker (actually my boss) at the time, he had a girlfriend, and (at least I thought) he loved my stupid dating stories. Everyone I worked with was supporting this. Everyone loved my stupid dating stories. So there I was, signed up on *****.com.
And dear God. The first day, I got close to 100 responses. 100! Wow, Most were creepy or very clearly married and looking to cheat. A few were guys that I actually cried for...lonely single dads, older guys, etc. (I was tempted to contact a few, but they weren't on there to find me as a friend...and I wasn't interested in more with them.) Maybe 4 of the responses actually interested me. One in particular wrote me back almost immediately after I re-responded, and we set a date.
We met up in a very public place and set off to go hiking--8 miles! I already liked the guy. He had a nice (but not overdone) car, and was adorable (he looked like John Mayer, prompting one of my bosses to call him "Mr. Mayer" during our gossip sessions). He was funny, sweet, and a good kisser. Wow! How did I get so lucky?
He called me often. He took me to see a new band that just blew me away. He surprised me with tickets to my favorite band and then surprised me even more by liking them. We went to see mutual favorites, and laughed at all the kids dancing before finally giving in and dancing ourselves. We went to wineries and drank bottled water and watched the sun set. He was unpretentious and understood my need to go to yoga every day, to spend a certain amount of time alone, to call at 2a.m. and talk about nothing.
Sounds amazing, right?

Well. He had a little sister. He talked about her a lot. He talked about her domestic problems a lot. Ok, I thought, he trusts me. Great!
Hmm. He lived an hour away. On more than one occasion, I was over at his place to stay the night after drinking wine or whatever, when his sister would call crying. She would want to come over, and I was asked to leave. Oh. Okay.
One time, she showed up while I was still searching for the shoe I had tipsily misplaced. LS kissed her on the mouth...the only word I can use here is "passionately" greeting.
Okay. We all went to a concert together. I brought a male friend to set up with LS's sister. She stood next to me. It was loud. She told me about her degree, her job, where she lived. I told her I was taking a break from college, and then shared a funny story about work, since our industries were similar. Then we stopped shouting and watched the show.
Apparently, she told LS something, because late that night, after everyone left and
my friend and I were sitting around doing nothing, he called me. He actually shouted at me for not asking her enough questions about her and talking about myself too much, and told me that his family was the most important thing to him, and that I needed to respect that. I was shocked. Really? My friend told me he was probably just drunk and to ignore it.
The next day, he acted normal, but I was starting to wonder. We made a date to do something, but when I got there (now that I think about it, I was always driving to his place) he was in a weird mood and couldn't muster up the energy to go. I sat there feeling like crap, bored and defeated. Another dating disaster. I went home.
A few days later, a call. A plan. A real plan, with tickets, involving a small road trip. I took the chance. I told everyone at work. I was excited.
I went to yoga, went home, got ready. The time for him to pick me up came and went. His phone was off, or at least it went straight to voicemail. I finally fell asleep, cursing him. I woke up a few hours later, and dialed the phone with bleary eyes and a fuzzy mind. He answered. Shit, it was 3a.m.
"Hello?" he answered breathlessly.
"Yeah, um, HELLO???!?" I responded.
"Oh, shit." (guiltily)
"Yeah. What happened?"
I heard stirring, whispering, and if it wasn't the sounds of two people in bed, I don't know what it was.
And I just sat there wanting to cry, but instead said, "Well, actually, that's fine, you had an emergency, but it's a little rude not to call me after the emergency died down, what with technology and mobile phones and all. Even a text message takes about 7 seconds," and hung up.

I never heard from him again, but I to this day, I think that it really is possible to love your sibling a little too much. From the looks of it, his sister really did always come first. (Sorry, couldn't resist the gross pun.)