solve for ex

i do not know if they serve drinks in hell, but i do know this: it is 7 p.m. and one hundred two degrees outside. and as odd as it seems, it kind of makes sense.

like this statistic from a recent article regarding marriage and infidelity: that three fourths of those who suffer thru such indiscretions maintain their relationship.

for all the discomfort we endure, for all we go thru for that moment in time in which we instinctively seethe and boil, in the end we stay.

we move on, but we don't move away.

. . . 

my parents were divorced before i even knew what a marriage looked like. or what a relationship was supposed to encompass. my eight year old brain still imperceptive to anything more dense than pop tarts.

my friends had parents that served as childhood role players. the moms volunteered in the pta and made kool aid so we had something to drink after running around outside. the dads stayed late at work, came home defeated, and wanted to have dinner and a beer in front of the tv and not much else.

perhaps they had deep rooted connections that i was never privy to, or maybe they were too busy fulfilling the demands of being responsible adults, but i don't ever recall my parents, or anyone else's at that time, having shared anything i can recall as emotionally or physically substantive.

what i do remember is this: surface tension. how we all gravitated to the same room to maintain a sense of civility when there was trouble. i remember the silence of angry wives. the occasional slammed door. but not much else.

and i don't think any of it was unusual. not for the time, anyway.

these were the seeds in the soil of the divorce era; the genesis of a blossoming selfishness that would mark the next few decades, and in its wake produce generations of demanding, self important offspring with obsessive compulsive disorders.

. . . 

another excerpt from said article: '...the strongest risk factor for infidelity, researchers have found, exists not inside the marriage but outside: opportunity.'

this idea makes my head spin.

it could mean:

your partner (or former partner) is not completely morally corrupt afterall; they simply exist in an environment which affords them more opportunity.

and if you are socially active and still morally solvent, than you must be a saint.

or your company must be decidedly boring and unattractive.

or you must be a troll.

. . . 

it was so much easier to think of infidelity as the dividing line between the good, the bad, and the ugly. but this new bit of information turns my brain inside out.

it makes the whole thing more of an equation than a condemnation. and all the people involved just factors in a defined mathematical statement.

if so, the there really is no one to blame. 

the people you see on tv.

the people who live down the street.

the people who live in your house.

it's all just a matter of opportunity.

immunity is futile.

everyone is guilty.

everyone is innocent.

rock banned


i killed a dream with one mindless keystroke.

and that dream was to one day own the more than five hundred songs i had queued up in my 'stuff to buy' folder on itunes; really great, sometimes obscure music i had compiled over the last several years from sources far and wide.

but this buffoon highlighted the wrong item, and when the delete key was hit, instead of losing one song, lost an entire collection.

ugh.

to aid in my recovery, i figured i'd immediately buy a few of the songs i could recollect from my wish list. here's a sample.

• • • 

band of horses
the funeral
eerie and haunting with lyrics that can be interpreted to mean just about anything to just about anyone. melodic and triumphant all at the same time without losing its hypnotic rock roots. to see a phenomenal video featuring this song, go here.

the airborne toxic event
sometime around midnight
make sure to listen to the acoustic version which has a little more grit and less polish than the original. the song moves along with a slightly eighties feel, but has a timeless, relatable story. read along with the lyrics, and this song will break you. to see it performed live with a string quartet, follow this linky.

manchester orchestra
i've got friends
sure, it starts carefully enough, but soon builds to an all encompassing, booming passionate plea for attention with piano, multiple choruses, and even some trippy spaceship sound effects. great depth. so who cares if they're not from manchester, or not really an orchestra. to watch them kill this song live on letterman, click here.

coheed and cambria
the suffering
album rock is not dead. and neither are giant afros. this band does both incredibly well, and this song is perhaps their most 'pop' friendly and a good taste of what they do best; large, intricate, dynamic anthems that seamlessly flow from one to the other. for the freaky video featuring mermaids, click this.

the sounds
no one sleeps when i'm awake
a dale bozzio like voice served over a happy beat that has just the right amount of punk bite. plus they're from sweden. what's not to love? watch them get down right here.

superchunk
learned to surf
a crunchy, indie rock tune that's even a bit liberating. a raw anthem that's great for road trips. or just getting stupid. but not for stupid road trips. no video, but you can listen to the tune courtesy of npr.

yeah yeah yeahs
zero
if you mixed one cup of blondie with a half cup of the ting tings,  and added a dash of lords of acid, you'd get this song. totally groovy with great lyrical delivery courtesy of lead singer karen o. watch her get all sexy here.

the thermals
now we can see
just a great upbeat tune with great alt/rock energy and a chorus that anyone can sing so long as they've seen an episode or two of sesame street. watch the trio here.

crystal method
drown in the now w/ matisyahu
not since moby's 'alice' has there been such a compelling combination of electronic music fused with hip hop. and in this instance it's matisyahu; an eclectic entity unto himself who helps add dimension to this track. watch the cool black and white video by clicking on this.

in the end

she'll have a story to tell tonite. because after all, it is friday.

so after she gets home and finishes unloading groceries, she'll unwind for a bit. change into something a little more fun. add a spray of perfume and meet her friends around the corner where they'll catch up on the week and share cheap margaritas and salty one liners.

and at some point she'll mention this trivial anecdote.

she'll mention how she stopped by the store on her way home from work. and as she's pushing her cart down one of the unusually long aisles, she notices a guy doing a poor job of concealing his ogling.

she ignores it for the most part, but just as they're about to cross paths, they catch eyes, and as they do, the creep practically squeals and jumps out of his skin.

she picks up speed, grabs the her last few items, and checks her rearview mirror on the way home.

freakin' weirdo...

and on this they all concur. clink glasses. and quickly move on.

• • •

it's a simmering friday afternoon. been a long week. and all i want to do is get thru this traffic so i can get to the megastore, pick up what i need and officially start the weekend.

they serve frozen yogurt here. i grab a giant cup and begin to roam the air conditioned aisles of discount goods; a sweet relief from the heat outside.

and so i turn the corner, floating in my own little bubble of cool friday delirium, and notice the silhouette of a woman at the far end of the store with a tiny waist and an unusually large top.

an unusually large top retained by an unusually small amount of clothing.

as we slowly approach each other, i play it cool, but my mind is overloaded:

air conditioning. yogurt. bargains. boobies.
air conditioning. yodel. brothel. boobies.
yogurt. conditioning. barbies. boobies.

and just as the stranger and i catch eyes, as we're about to share a sultry moment, a friend who's been stealthily stalking me thru the store quickly grabs me from behind.

caught completely off guard, i practically jump out of my skin and yelp.

i yelp and jump as the attractive woman rolls her cart right by; as if she'd run straight over my toes.

not exactly how i imagined things going in my head...

• • •

but that's sometimes how it happens.

in relationships.

we operate in our own little world; a slow motion, soft focus version of our lives seemingly in harmony with everyone and everything. completely connected.

then something happens that rattles us to the core. something we never saw coming.

in a state of shock, we move on. go our separate ways. try to put the pieces back together.

they have their version of what happened; you have yours.

and in the end, what we share, is that we all have a story to tell.

c o u p l i n g

she scribbles a few lines on an orange post it note; a list of unambitious requirements, and sticks it directly beneath the monitor in my office.

it is a list of things she would like to have in a mate.

'if you know of anyone, let me know,' she says.

young, attractive, and incredibly outgoing, she has met and dated many eligible bachelors. but at this moment, my female coworker is stifled. un love struck. a talented pitcher throwing strike after strike, just waiting for someone to make contact to keep the game interesting.

i can picture her on the mound, dressed in pinstripes and exhausted from her efforts. standing there in the middle of a crowded ballpark, she's been bringing the heat all day, everyday, for the last fifteen years. she wipes the sweat from her brow before she starts the next windup, all the while thinking: can't someone hit the goddamn ball already?!

• • •

i take a look at what she's written down, at what she's seeking in a potential partner. her list is broken down into two sections.

first the non-negotiables:

male
heterosexual
full set of teeth
single (or married with wife living out of state)

then there were the negotiables:

over six feet tall
under 45 years of age

easy enough i think.

because it's always easy to be on the other side. always easy to be on the outside of a relationship looking in.

when it's your own, that's when things get complicated.

crazy.

incomprehensible.

but this? this is simple. this i can understand.

• • •

i once dated a girl who was obsessed with lists. and it took a while, years actually, but now i am list obsessed as well and generally write down anything that needs to get done. if i don't write it down, it doesn't happen. and when it does, there's a sense of accomplishment in crossing it off and moving on.

but a list for love?

that thought never crossed my mind. not even once.

really important things deserve more than a post it note. they exist in the cloudy ether that we often try to dissect into mental or emotional instinct, when in reality, they're connected to something even more potent; that deep rooted internal part of ourselves we wake with each morning, carry with us thru the day, and put to bed each nite.

• • •

we all envision what an appropriate partner or relationship may be, but too often it comes down to the intangibles; those things that have no measurable value on paper, but are immeasurable when it comes to coexistence.

it is the difference between fortune and failure.

• • •

we're sitting in the theater practically alone, in the wake of a one of the most dynamic, violent, brilliantly schizophrenic films i've even seen. the credits are rolling and i'm lingering in the afterglow of the experience.

my partner has been unusually quiet and still during the screening. we haven't shared a word since the previews, and i'm wondering if this was a bit much; if this pushed that button that led from revelation to revulsion.

i give her some time. then more time. and then a bit more. it's becoming uncomfortable as i try to process my own thoughts and get a read on hers.

then she leans in and says in almost a whisper: 'that director is a f@#*ing genius.'

and i knew right then and there we had something good.

a shared connection beyond anything i could have scribbled on a list.

dis connected

sitting at the small orange table is a man and his incredibly attractive wife. or girlfriend. or whatever. it doesn't really matter because i am admiring her just the same.

neither are the wiser, since both are completely engaged in anything but my presence, or even each other. they are far too busy texting other people; squinting and thumbing at miniature keyboards, tapping out randomness.

if i could, i would join in and send her something like:

omg u r so hotttt!!!!

or something equally profound and eloquent. but i do not.

because in the last few weeks, i've decided to simplify my life, and in my own kind of way, get off the grid. or at least parts of it.

• • •

i can not say that i invented the internet, but i can say that i was an early adopter before i even knew it.

my first real job was at a university, which meant there was a fair amount of money and resources invested in technology. one day, a team of infotech guys visit. they give us new terminals and hook us up with wubba wubba wubba access.

this was way back in dialup days, before there was enough bandwidth to adequately handle pictures and images. which meant i spent time online visiting various sites consisting of nothing more than text and the occasional stagnant logo.

and then i discovered chat rooms.

during the workday, i'd check in every once in a while to see who was online and what they were doing. there were lots of other young folks like me out there, aimlessly wandering around, most at colleges ranging from minnesota to australia. and that was kind of cool.

so cool, that one day i'm abruptly cut off for exceeding my six hour web limit during my eight hour work day.

only then do i realize that by logging into our crude system each day, that the infotech guys have a full and complete history of everywhere i've been and everything i've done. i also realize that they're pretty tight with the boss and meet with him pretty regularly to update him on the status of this new venture.

that sinking feeling hits.

the same one i feel months later, when i use our electronic messaging system to send a romantic note to a friend, but accidentally forward it to the entire department.

ugh.

• • •

after that premature walk in cyberspace, i'm hesitant to grasp emerging technology. everyone but me has a hotmail account. and when i finally get a cell phone, it takes many months and lots of convincing for me to keep it on full time, and not just power it up every few hours to check messages or make emergency calls.

but after that, i'm off and running. completely accessible at any given moment, and taking it personally if an email is not responded to within twenty four hours. and like everyone else, i become an online entity. i pay my bills, join forums, order gifts and keep in touch through electronic interface.

it is no longer a novelty, as much as it is a standard part of life. electronically checking in is the first thing i do each morning, and the last thing i do each nite.

• • •

at our last family gathering, my nieces and i spend a fair amount of time texting each other silly insults, even though we're all under the same roof.

on a recent road trip, i spend more time looking up things using gps than i do enjoying the scenery or the company of my passenger.

if there's more than one person in line ahead of me at the grocery store, i'm using an app on my phone to check the weather, the latest news, or tinkering with a new game.

i get automatically generated notices about the latest health news, music releases, and updates about my movie queue.

at a breakfast with friends, we all spend time looking up the latest viral videos and hovering over tiny mobile screens.

• • •

in the end, it feels like the cost of being connected to everything inevitably means being more disconnected from everyone.

i don't tweet, and don't have a spacebook or myface page to maintain, but still feel like i have hit my critical mass.

i have become consumed by my consumption. developed an insatiable hunger, and a need to feed on whatever is on my plate.

so now it's time for a change.

• • •

i've lived without the dazzle of my iphone for three weeks, and just yesterday completely zeroed out my inbox. i've unsubscribed from every email list, shut down unnecessary online accounts, and disabled texting from my calling plan.

at a time when everyone seems eager to add even more electronic function to their dysfunction, i have regressed to the point of the modern caveman. and i kind of like it.

i no longer feel the pressure to read the latest headlines, update the software on my phone, review the latest special offers, or add my two cents to an online thread. i've done my best to reduce my cyber footprint to something more reasonable and humane. less distracting.

i interface with people more, and machines less; all in an effort to get back to that place where my life was a little less complicated, and i was a little more happy.

yesterday i had a two hour conversation with a good friend i hadn't talked to in a while.

it was far better than any instant message could have been.

in treatment

i haven't been the same since therapy.

since the day i made an appointment to unload all the things that had congested my mental and emotional state; revealing myself in a way that i have never been able to with family, friends, or partners.

odd how the anonymity is liberating. you would think the people you know and love the most would serve as a natural release, through some spiritual osmotic kinship. but that doesn't seem to be the way it works for me.

i had to hire a professional.

but there, on the couch, in a simple office on the seventh floor, i felt safe. i could express those thoughts and feelings, say those things that kept me up at nite, and have someone there whose only job was to listen and help.

and for that, my therapy was more than therapeutic. it was that dark room where i could scream; a place to be ugly and honest that i could exit from an hour later, and feel a little less loaded.

after each session, during the elevator ride back down to terra firma, i always felt like i was descending back into myself, leaving parts of me behind that could look out the office window, but never escape.

• • •

selfish as i am, i did not seek out a therapist for me. it was for something far greater; it was for us.

during the course of our treatment, which sometimes involves personal sessions and other times couples counseling, i learn that i am the great void.

as strongly as i feel about things, i lack the ability to verbally express myself emotionally in a way my partner can understand.

i can communicate well about lots of things.

just don't ask me how i feel.

• • •

in all my years of life, i have only seen my father's eyes well up with tears three times.

my mother, by contrast, seems to break down every time i talk to her on the phone.

i am the creation of this collision.

a stoic emotional wreck.

• • •

things work out. we get thru some rough spots. and i at least become more aware of the challenges my existence can create.

it takes time, but i try to be more open. even more open than i already thought i was. and not just with her, but with everything.

it is an uncomfortable role for me. but it is good to share this new dimension.

i always thought of it as weakness to expose yourself emotionally, to tap into that feminine dynamic. but in the end, i realize it's exactly the opposite.

through it all, she has been completely fearless, and i have been the coward.

• • •

it is far too easy to come across a bit of insight and think that the revelation is the cure.
but it is not.

it's just a sign that you've been lost. way off course.

you still have to find your way home.

• • •

this new part of me is still growing. and like a regenerating nerve, there are times when it sits idle and numb, and others where it fires off beyond my control.

last week at work, i hear a radio interview with a veterinarian describing the connection between dogs and their owners; and what it's like to ultimately have to put an animal down.

she describes the process in an incredibly heartfelt way, and with every word, i am transfixed and feel a little piece of my self breaking apart and falling away; leaving me completely raw.

and though it may have been years ago, i remember the day my partner and i had to do the very thing we did not want to do. physically i am at work, amidst the daily commotion. but inside, i am there, in that moment, and it is terribly sad.

a few days later, i come across a hauntingly slow acoustic number i've always liked. this time, the whispery lyrics sting me:

oh my god
i nearly died
when i saw you in that dress
i felt alive for the first time
since i left home

i play the song again and again, reminiscing in those words. every thought and feeling and emotion so vivid i can feel my nose buzz with warmth, the way it does just before my eyes tear up. i have to sit there for a moment and let it all go before i move on.

• • •

before the day i sat on that couch, i don't know if i could connect a song or picture or story to such a strong emotional response.

but now i find that depth in everything around me; randomly flipping on or off when i least expect it.

all the parts are there, but there are still flaws in the circuitry. still ghosts in the machine.

detours

i do not feel connected to many things, but when i am on two wheels, i feel at home. comfortable. totally in control regardless of circumstance.

so each saturday morning i try to plan a quick bike ride thru the heart of our sleepy metropolis. i run stop lights, chase buses, and generally behave like a hooligan; accompanied only by a fervid soundtrack of my choosing.

i stop off at my favorite coffeehouse for a hot chocolate, take some time to enjoy the scenery, and then head home.

it only takes me a couple hours and offers just enough danger and escapism to make me feel a little more alive.

but as much as i enjoy this routine, i also enjoy change. so i figure i'd try something different this day and join in on a small group ride

 there were many lessons learned from this fateful last minute decision. specifically, six.

• • • 

lesson one: fat men in lycra
when i first got involved in running and cycling and the like, i dressed like everyone else, which meant i spent an unfortunate amount of time in obnoxiously patterned shorty shorts, gauzey tank tops, beanie caps with giant visors and other buffoonish accessories. then one day while standing in line at the grocery store after a local 5k, i had an epiphany: this is really, really stupid. since then, i've come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with black shorts and white t-shirts. but there is an even more devious culprit out there: lycra. and i can steadfastly say that unless you are chiseled from stone, you have no business wearing it. because if you do, you will undoubtedly look like a piece of sausage anxious to burst from it's casing. and you thought muffin tops were bad...

lesson two: mint commodes
you don't really know somebody until you spend some time with them. and since no one else showed up for the group ride, i learn a lot about my fellow cyclist. instead of taking the usual ride south, we head north to swing by a citywide garage sale he heard about. i'm game, and so we make our way through some back roads and onto the other side of town. and though i've lived here most of my life, we travel thru neighborhoods i've never seen. i take mental notes so as to find my way back should we get separated. the crack dealer in the red shirt is on our right. the obese lady on the lawn chair is on the left. once we make it to the yard sale, i learn something else: my compadre is not just a bargain shopper, he's a collector, a packrat, a rummager and scrap metal dealer. and every man's trash is his treasure. he gets excited when we spot three hundred pounds of rusting metal beams; just sitting there on the curb, waiting to be taken. but the showstopper is a toilet. he spots it a full block away and we slowly ride toward its green hue as if pulled by destiny itself. he is beside himself. and i stand there with him. in overwhelming awe of his overwhelming awe. 

lesson three: god and cookies
i made the mistake of not eating breakfast, and after puttering around much longer than expected, i'm starving. i keep hoping one of the tables of personal items contains a pizza box with some discarded crusts, but no luck. i convince my riding partner that we're way past chow time, so we leave the neighborhood en route to a restaurant and run directly into a church parking lot abuzz with rummage sale activity. i know we're in trouble when he dismounts and begins to walk his bike. i reluctantly do the same, and that's when i notice the table full of baked goods. i grab as many items as my two bucks can buy and greedily dig in. and then the lady tells me it's a fundraiser for the boyscouts and i just about spit out a large chunk of oatmeal chocolate chip. ugh. the boyscouts. the same group that requires an oath to god and forbids openly gay members. now i am in a dilemma; i am physically hungry, but ethically repulsed. in the end, i choke down my mouthful of sugary sludge. moral turpitude never tasted so delicious.

lesson four: secretaries
we're crossing a major highway intersection via access roads and wrong way signs. my buddy shoots ahead and i'm stuck at a stop sign. a car pulls up and the occupants stare at me blankly. then the passenger speaks, his heavy accent cutting normal words into unusual sounds: 'secadiddy.' what? what did he just say? 'secondtitty.' huh? 'secondary. we're looking for secretary.' i'm completely confused. is secretaries a bar? a place like hooters where the waitresses dress in business casual attire? i'm lost. the driver sees my puzzlement and chimes in: 'secretary. where is secretary. electronic.' what the... wait a second: circuit city! they are looking for circuit city! that's what they're looking for! I smile and mentally congratulate myself for solving the linguistic puzzle, and then realize i have no idea where circuit city actually is.

lesson five: hot chocolate mexican death
we forgo the first two taco houses because they are packed with pickup trucks and loyal customers. we settle for a mexican food joint that was once a convenience store and now serves fish in addition to fixing computers. i know this because it says so on the sign that once displayed the price for unleaded fuel. to say this place is sketchy and a little suspicious is putting it mildly. and while the pictures on the menu are thoroughly engaging in a rorschach test kind of way, after i look around the premises and into the open kitchen, i'm certain that ordering any one of the blotches is certain to kill me. my mate is more adventurous and orders the plato rancho. i try not to touch anything, and against my better judgement ask for hot chocolate even though it's not on the menu. the waitress brings me a cup of hot water that still has a clump of chocolate powder waiting to be mixed in. i drink it begrudgingly, certain that i will have salmonella or botulism or both by days end.

lesson six: home free
the headwind has been killing us on the ride back, draining me of my enthusiasm to be on a bike. the gusts are blowing us all kinds of sideways and dangerously close to the morning traffic. we're nearing a recognizable thoroughfare, and if i bow out now, i can make it home in no time. i thank my companion for the ride, as he rolls on, and i take a hard right. it's quiet now, and the wind is pushing me forward. i jump into the big chainring for the first time all day, and hit that perfect rhythm where cadence and speed and effort all seem to synchronize and overlap with one another. i am a blur down main street. a solitary blur boundless and free.

devil inside

i am not savvy enough to make it as a full time artist

not yet at least.

so i live this double life. this confused oreo existence of black and white.

i am the hard chocolate cookie to some. the mushy white filling to others. each clearly and distinctly defined by their own unique laws of physics. neither aware the other exists until that moment when they are introduced to each other, mashed on by heavy teeth, and ultimately destroyed. swallowed to provide nourishment for the giants all around.

but it is better than the alternative: an office job. an incandescent desk. a personalized cubicle with generic family pictures, everyone beaming. probably because the photos were taken elsewhere; far from this place. outside of this building. away from the breakroom and its abused microwave.

and those stupid chairs. those stupid wheeled chairs we roll around in like invalids; pantomiming importance. i hate those chairs and that awkward kick-walk lazy people do to get around the office.

• • •

i was hungry.

alright, i was desperate. completely and absolutely desperate for anything and anyone that would pay me a buck and help put me back in place. back onto some path of existence that included money and the liberties and freedoms it affords.

like pants. and protein powder. and other marvels of social and nutritional engineering.

they liked me at the interview; they always like me at interviews.

they call me two days later. can i start monday? you bet your ass i can. and so i did.

• • •

everyone is nice to the new guy. it's like the beginning of a romance. there's lots of smiling and eye contact. everyone and everything is soft and pliable. the single girls are especially friendly. the married ones talk about their husbands, how long they've been married, and the neverending demands and importance of their children.

and then you realize you just moved in together; for eight hours a day. with eighty seven strangers. that's when you get a little nervous.

• • •

i make it a day and a half before i have a breakdown and call the ex from my car in the company parking lot. i have to talk hurriedly and quietly while trying to communicate the full state of my panic, as some of the drones are on their way back in from lunch.

i am impassioned. slightly hysterical. if you didn't know any better. you would think i was getting attacked by a swarm of bees within my very own automobile.

i think i made a mistake, i say. i don't think i can do this. i mean: i can do this, but i just can't do this.

she settles me a bit. tells me it's okay. that i need to do what's best for me, not what's best for them.

but everyone is so nice, i say. there's the 401k to consider. and they have a sweet insurance plan.

i make it til friday, which just happens to be payday. i feel terrible about the whole thing. but reluctantly take the check just the same.

my corporate life is dead and buried deep.

• • •

when it is not full with obligation, stress, and all the drama that comes with helping run a small business, my head is full of colors and words and grandiose visions of future projects.

but by the end of the day, i am dry; pulled from the bone by my duties and drained of the enthusiasm i wake with most mornings. 

i am the idiot in need of a recharge. so, i sleep. and wake. and do it again.

and on my better days, i tap into my other half. the mushy white filling that only a small part of the world will ever know or see.

on my better days, i feed the giants. and then i feed myself.

choked


life was better when i couldn't eat food.

or at least parts of it were a bit more simple. less complicated. mindless.

now, after undergoing a third procedure to fix my troubled esophagus and getting exactly what i want; namely the ability to once again consume solid nutrients after nearly a two year absence, my world is in chaos.

i am cured. but i am also fat, bloated and lethargic. stressed out. sleep deprived. unfulfilled.

i do not know how the two coincided so perfectly. how i slowly drifted away from shore, pulled out to the cold, unfathomable depths.

but i am here now. and i am drowning.

• • •

i've grated on the nerves of at least three family units in the last couple years with the unsettling roar of an industrial blender. it is the first thing they hear in the morning and most likely the last noise of consequence they hear before they turn in for the nite.

it is my kitchen. my prep area. my wet bar. my solitary tool for nourishment.

you know that question people ask about your house being on fire and only being able to save three things? my kitchenaid 5000 with pulse control is one of them.

to say i am addicted to blenders and protein shakes is a lie. i am not addicted. they are my life. they provide me life. in a consistently stale variety of frothy semiliquid.

• • •

when i could swallow no more, i became quite adept at pulverizing nutrient rich foods into sloshy meals. along with various protein powders, spinach, apples, pumpkin, berries and bananas made up virtually my entire food pyramid. I would consume three to five of these frosty drinks a day, and the results were striking.

though i had taken an extended hiatus from any real physical activity, i became quite lean. almost gaunt. i looked like a highly trained endurance athlete though i hadn't run in months.

all the nutrients did wonders for my skin and hair as well. i was blemish free, with thick lustrous locks, and polished nailbeds.

i could fit into every piece of clothing i ever owned. and even had to buy updated skinny jeans. for someone who once came close to three hundred pounds, it was nirvana.

to not workout and be so small was the secret life i imagined everyone else lived. and for a while, i was part of the class; that elite group who never worried about how they looked, because above all else, i was not fat. everything aside from that was trivial.

• • •

the good news:

you never have to worry about what to eat.
you will look amazing.

the bad news:

you will suffer in the winter.
you will panic when the blender breaks.
you will miss taking your girlfriend out to dinner.
you will lose your soul.
you will eventually go crazy.

• • •

it started with applesauce. then oatmeal. and then refried beans; anything soft and mushy that i could swallow without the potential of obstruction. after lying relatively dormant, i had to re-educate the muscles of my esophagus. and it was weird. and uncomfortable. some days better than others.

eventually i worked my way up to energy bars. and that's when the trouble began. because even if it took me a quart of water and thirty minutes to consume a single protein bar, that meant cookies and cake and pie were not far behind. and they weren't.

the junk food came hard and fast, as did a newfound addiction to chocolate and the subsequent extra pounds. at first i just filled out into a normal looking person. and then a normal person with some extra weight. since then, every time i step on the scale, i am stunned. amazed at the trajectory of my personal weight chart.

I have a friend who visits from new york every once in a while. she is one of the nicest people i know. each time she sees me she asks: have you put on some weight? and each time she is right.

i don't even recognize me anymore.

• • •

change is good. but when it comes all at once, it can be overwhelming. my personal, professional and emotional life have all spun out of control. 

more often than not, i lay in bed at nite, dizzy from the burden. the responsibility. the failure.

grieving for the loss of me in my own world.

i know he's out there somewhere.

treading wearily thru heavy water.

i will find him.

i will rescue him.

i will bring him to shore.

collisions

seems everyone i know has lived here, or knows someone who has; my insulated condominium community providing the perfect habitat for upwardly mobile twentysomethings or their retired, decrepit grandparents.

it's been home for a while now, but i still occasionally cross paths with acquaintances whom i never knew were so close; just across the way in another building, or sharing an adjoining wall. 

this can be a good thing, or a bad thing. and sometimes, it is both.

• • •

it's  unusually humid out, and i am walking home from the grocery store after spending the afternoon laboring on a construction project. i am tired and unshaven; dressed in cargo shorts and a whimsical print tee that becomes all the more ironic in my haggard state. i want to be home. done with the day.

i fumble and shift the plastic bags in my hands and punch in the gate code. gate opens. i am close. focused. anxious to unload.

just ahead is a black luxury sedan slowly rolling my way; the windows dark and anonymous.

it begins to slow down. slowing. steady. steady. stop.

i cut in front and across. the passenger side window glides down.

my name is called.

it's her.

• • •

it wasn't uncommon to have attractive women visit our boutique. most were professional housewives who doubled as socialites.

they carried themselves with a certain sense of entitlement, though they were no different than any other soccer mom. they just had more money. and more plastic surgery.

when she walks in, i am caught off guard by her kindness. her vivaciousness. her beauty. she smells like angels, sex and cotton candy. completely transcendent.

the room stops. my coworkers peer out from the back; watch me float around from the contact high.

and then i notice she is married. with children. to a successful man who looks like he walked out of a ralph lauren catalog.

• • •

I am renting out a bedroom in the back corner of a nondescript house. I have just quit my one and only real job to work in a small specialty shop. i drive a 1986 mazda sedan that has more oxidation than paint. my only focus and purpose in life is running. everything i do, everything i eat; everything is built around this simple function.

she happens to run too.

we begin to train together. our worlds collide.

• • •

we use to wake at four in the morning to train on desolate roads under the glow of the moon. i don't know if i would have done it for anyone else. or if she would have either.

one morning, after a particularly long workout, we stop by a juice bar. we sit and talk for a while. she tells me she's getting divorced.

explosions.

• • •

over time, we begin to lose touch. she eventually remarries, finding comfort in a beautiful mass of muscle that's every bit as physically impressive as herself.

they eventually divorce as well. and as an odd bit of coincidence, i see him around fairly often. he never says a word. when he looks my way, he burns with contempt. 

• • •

on this day, more than ten years removed from our first meeting, i am my ordinary self; my disheveled, hairy, sweaty, manchild self.

i am in no condition to meet with anything or anyone extraordinary. but here i am, in the parking lot, hands full of bags, head full of baggage. 

i lean in thru the passenger window and her unmistakable scent warps time and practically drops me to my knees.

she looks amazing. pristine. and harbors all the charming characteristics i remember from years ago.

i awkwardly hunch down and take in the cool air circulating thru the cabin; aware of my personal disarray and completely consumed with every one of my countless flaws. but i don't want to lose this moment. this temporary reconnection.

she tells me that she has been busy with work. that things are good. and that she lives around the corner, and has for a while.

i tell her i moved in recently. that i work nearby. that i'm sure i'll see her again soon.

after a while, we say our goodbyes. the window slides up and she rolls away.

i fall back to earth, grab my bags, and walk back toward my ordinary life.