Sunday, 29 April 2012

Metallicorigami

(A rather awkward and half-assed portmanteau for a title, isn't it? Forgive me, I'm tired today. I'll pick up where I should have tomorrow.)

This morning Ruth remarked that her most recent purchase of origami paper had some metallic sheets in it. Only when she spoke I had turned the water on and my ears heard Metallica sheets. Almost immediately the jokes began to fly about hardcore paper and shred-folding.

Ben grabbed a piece of tinfoil and began to sing at the top of his lungs while he constructed a paper airplane:
Take a look to the sky just before you die
It is the last time you will
Blackened roar massive roar fills the crumbling sky
Shattered goal fills his soul with a ruthless cry
Stranger now, are his eyes, to this mystery
He hears the silence so loud
Crack of dawn, all is gone except the will to be
Now they will see what will be, blinded eyes to see
I sank to the floor on the other side of the island in laughter, for when he launched it it crashed into the stereo, ruined. He threw up both arms and yelled It's been an amazing night tonight, thanks for coming out-ah! Hope to see you again real soon-ah yeahhhh! in his very best James Hetfield.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Breaking points.

Standing above the crowd,
He had a voice so strong
and loud and I swallowed his facade
cause I'm so eager to identify with
Someone above the ground,
Someone who seemed to feel the same,
Someone prepared to lead the way, with
Someone who would die for me.

Will you? Will you now?
Would you die for me?
Don't you fucking lie.
Don't you step out of line.
Don't you fucking lie.

You've claimed all this time that you would die for me.
Why then are you so surprised to hear your own eulogy?
Lochlan is awake late, picking out the notes to Bach's Prelude Suite No. 1 on his guitar as I write out the important spring dates on the calendar. I'm attempting not to be impressed but I fail wildly.

That's beautiful!

You like that? He smiles. I figured I should learn some familiar tunes at the very least.

Yes. It was great. I stop beside the stereo, pressing the power button, pressing Lochlan's buttons. Tool swells through the room, earsplittingly loud from where he turned it off earlier as he marched into the room yelling about honesty and wolves in sheeps' clothing and how I don't listen.

I WAS listening.

(To the music, which I always face head-on. Like a car wreck about to happen.)

I turn around and he is right there in my face, shouting again. I can't hear him because my teeth are chattering from the drums, my brain is reverberating through my skull, rationale replaced with firecracker explosions of instruments and he's saying arrogant things about promises and nostalgia. He's saying entitled things about life before this kind of stereo equipment when I could hardly hear the words and I would have to wait patiently for a moment when I would catch him off guard so I could listen to him sing the words and then I would know them too.

He finally has enough and turns off the stereo. As violent as the noise was, the silence is worse, falling like a shroud over the moment, choking it off. He starts talking again but I miss it. I'm considering how I feel about the music changing again, I'm not paying attention, finishing the lyrics silently to myself.

Abruptly Lochlan grabs my whole head and presses my forehead against his. BRIDGET. You forgave me. What in the hell is this?

Inability to function as logically as you can.

What do you mean?

Exactly. I don't know.

Who are you punishing by spending so much time with Caleb? Me? Ben? You?

Everyone.

It's working, isn't it? Where is Ben?

Downstairs.

When's the last time he came up for air?

Tuesday, I lie. I don't remember. He isn't speaking to me past repeating his magical rules so it's not important right now.

It's been a long week, Bridget. Can we call a truce? Can we just go back to the way things were?

Talk to Ben.

What in the hell is he doing exactly? Trading me for the devil? That's not going to help his cause, that will just make things worse.

He doesn't see it that way, Lochlan. He thinks you don't care about him.

Of course I care! I can't believe I'm pleading my case. Fuck this. We've been all fucked up since I pulled you out of the water in November and it's time I straightened us out. He pushes past me, headed for the stairs.

Where are you going?

To talk to your husband.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Batman and the space where gravity meets levity.

Someday you might find your hero
Some say you might lose your mind
I'm keeping my head down now for the summer
I'm out of my mind but pour me another
I'm going to take that tiger outside for a ride
New-Jake pulls a corner of his toast away with his teeth and chews noisily. Someone's getting a cold. Probably because most of the boys have been wearing shorts for a month when the weather still calls for jeans. I'm not sure how much of a mother I should be to this one because sometimes I am a little in awe of how much he observes in the run of a day, honestly.

He holds out a piece to me.

I don't like toast, Jake. But thank you.

Did you eat today?

Banana.

At what, six this morning?

Yes.

Then I'll make you something.

Lunch is right around the corner, Jake. Don't worry so much.

So let me get this straight. Ben's cool that you are sometimes with Caleb?

No.

But he doesn't freak out.

He has his own issues, Jake.

And all of you speak Gaelic to shut him out?

No. Yes. Well, not at first.

Ben is the outsider, then.

No, he's the longshot. There's a difference.

I don't understand this house.

Me neither. Now finish your toast. You shouldn't wait so long to eat.

I stick my tongue out at New-Jake as I get up to tidy the kitchen. Batman walks in unannounced. He greets both of us and sits down at the island beside Jake to read the paper. Jake stares at him until Batman looks up and says What? and then, caught, Jake holds out the half-eaten toast. Breakfast? I laugh behind my hands and Batman regards me coolly.

What are you up to, Bridget?

Cleaning up before we leave.

I mean with Satan.

Keeping the peace. I stand my ground. It's a tile, twelve by twenty-four. Sicilian baroque.

He is amused. He looks at Jake and then stands and comes over to me, right up close until he is breathing my air and he softens finally. I worry about you.

It's a club now, is it? I'm going to lose it. My eyes are watering madly and my knees shake.

It's always been a club. Bridget, look around you. Don't you see how everyone tightens up when Caleb bends your ear? We all want what's best for you.

Because I'm the child.

Because you've been through enough.

I don't play the sympathy card.

I know. I admire you for that.

You shouldn't. My chin is quavering and he's such a gentleman, he changes the subject.

Where to for lunch today, Bridget? You decide.

Red Lobster or Chipotle. (Jake begins to laugh and I ignore him.)

Batman sighs. Where are they?

Um...Richmond, I think?

Are you sure you don't want to go downtown?

I don't think this city is big enough for you and Caleb and he's already heading there, to the hotel for lunch.

Amusement lights up his face. I think sometimes you're right, Bridget. It might not be big enough. We're too old for these games but at the same time I made a promise and I intend to keep it. He checks his watch and I am put in my place, neatly and with finesse.

I don't think Cole ever intended me to be a burden to you, ______. I say his name softly and he stops, surprised.

Bridget, who said you were a burden?

You just did. Saying you're too old for this.

Hell, Bridget, this keeps me young and as a bonus I get to see your beautiful face whenever I want. Caleb isn't a threat to me. I am mindful of your history with him as well as his role as a threat to you.

Tell me about it. The history part, I mean. Tell me what you know.

I don't think I have to, Bridget. I heard there are tapes if your memory is lacking.

Was that a bad joke?

The very worst. He winks at me and changes the subject once more. Chipotle. Really?

If we can find it. If not, I know where the Chuck-E-Cheese is in Langley.

You age me. Do you know that?

Where do you want to eat? Room service in your stuffy hotel?

What's wrong with room service?

It's boring.

Now you're calling me boring? But I'm the Batman!

Oh my God. You did not just say that.

I did. Now come on. Alfred's waiting.

Alfred...what?

I'm kidding. Sadly. I drove my own car here. But if you really want to drive to McWhatever, I'll call you Alfred and then we'll have the full Dark Knight experience.

Really?

No, Bridget, and after today I'm picking the restaurants.

You mean it's room service from here on out.

I don't even need a menu. I have it memorized.
He struts out the door like a peacock. I grab my bag and follow. Jake throws the toast at me as I pass and I duck.

(Update: I question the existence of the Chipotle, which we never did find. We wound up at the hotel. Had room service. He ordered from memory. It was good. The end.)

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Somewhere between.

I sat curled in the center of his large corduroy couch underneath a triptych of myself, in which Cole painted me swirling a blood-red maple leaf in a puddle of water, my hair blowing up mischievously in the wind. But it isn't a happy picture, it's so very cold and bleak and hopeless. I can't remember what he called it and I don't want to ask. Something like Waiting for November, I think.

Calling December, Caleb returns to the room with hot chocolate and cookies. I pick one up and put it back. Cranberry cookies. Store bought. Read my mind now, Diabhal.

But he fails and hits the button to resume the movie. We are, as Henry put it so eloquently yesterday, hanging out. Spending time in all of its brutal honesty which isn't what I would have chosen, for I am completely out of my element at this point and Lochlan has picked enough fights to make a bouquet, maybe since there's one in the front hall he didn't sent to me. Caleb did, because he promised he would when he was drunk as a skunk the other night. Possibly less drunk than I suspect, since he remembered more than I did.

The card read not mean. It made me smile.

This movie does not, however but I am riveted nonetheless. The Ledge. Patrick Wilson, Liv Tyler, Charlie Hunnam (who will forever be Nicholas Nickleby anyway) and I don't want to watch it but I can't not watch it because of the chemistry and Patrick as a bad guy and Liv as a power-mouse, as always. Caleb points out the compelling nature of her mannerisms in the movie. I am struck by how embedded his dominating tendencies are. It's like he is two different people, but then again, aren't we all?

I look up again at the girl with the maple leaves and wonder if she has this problem too. Probably not, she is confined to three panels and seventeen colors and she has no idea she'll be watching some sort of reverse-biography late in the evening in the pouring rain in the place she shouldn't be but sometimes the places you escape to to avoid the endless condescension of those who think they get it right, every last time, are the places where you can exhale for a moment.

This movie is a reminder that sometimes no one gets it right.

It goes on the pile with Into the Wild and Blue Valentine, I guess. Sad movies for ruthless realists. Misery, conjured on purpose. Unhealthy pastimes for people who definitely know better and still choose to get it wrong because it's easier.

Nevermind me. I'm a little down today. I know how the movie ends.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

"Your princess is quite a winning creature. A trifle simple, perhaps. Her appeal is undeniable."

I knocked softly and was rewarded with an opened door. Caleb is up! Surprise of all surprises he is showered and dressed and nursing a teal-green-black mug of strong coffee in the kitchen. His blackberry is buzzing nonstop, the newspaper is deconstructed and all over the counter top and the remnants of a hard-boiled egg and toast remain on a plate near the sink. I'm suitably impressed. I had considered bringing the cymbals over, figuring I would have to make some serious noise to get him up.

He kisses my cheek in greeting. I see the fatigue then, in and around his eyes. He didn't bother shaving and is in jeans and a long-sleeved white waffle knit tee. A home-day at least. Good. I think he needs a break today. I tell him I will bring him with me to run errands and that he can rest assured he didn't recite most of the Princess Bride in his drunkenness last evening (it's a thing, every. single. one. of the boys has done this at one time or another) and he holds up his hand and tells me he drank water on my advice and doesn't feel that badly today and besides, he read word for word what he said in my journal and is there anything he can do or offer in exchange for not writing publically anymore?

Of course not. I look cross at him, because cross is what that comment deserves. But then I soften. How are you really feeling?

Like a forty-nine-year-old frat boy.

Excellent. Get your jacket. We're going grocery shopping.

Is Loch coming? I don't think I could take that giant food warehouse and the redhead at the same time right now.

No, he has work to do.

Thank Christ.

Funny, he said the same thing.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Goatscaping, Caleb-style.

(Banning alcohol from the grounds is next, but for tonight, hubris, Bridget-style.)

When I go outside with my basket of strawberries and knife tonight he is already there, waiting for me, sitting on the step in the place where I usually sit late in the evening, keeping company with the sea.

I freeze and turn to go back in. I was quiet, maybe he won't notice.

Don't go back inside, princess. I won't stay if you don't want me here tonight. He tips the rest of his glass up and swallows down the honey-colored liquid. I frown and stay rooted in place.

He turns and gazes at me curiously. How do you do it, Bridget? A question delivered in a broken whisper, blurred around the edges just enough to take the sharpness off.

Which part? I advance with my strawberries and walk down to the steps, sitting down beside Caleb. He pours three fingers of scotch into the glass and holds it out to me. I shake my head and hold the knife instead.

Missing someone who was a part of your life. How do you do that? I thought I could throw myself into work and different causes and your life and raising Henry but Cole is still gone. It's like a big black hole in my life. I don't want to be an only child. I'm so glad my child is not an only child. I realize this is not the same as never having had a brother or sister, but at the same time it's still about being alone.

I watch him quietly. His eyes are glassy, his hands shaking ever so slightly, his words slurred in the slight accent that I hardly ever notice anymore. I still vividly remember the last time he let his guard down like this. It's unnerving and shattering, that's what it is.

How do I move forward without my little brother being there? How do I step up and be as good a father as he was? How do I stop feeling guilty for finding pleasure in life when he doesn't even get to have a life?

He wouldn't want you to feel guilty because you're still alive, Cale.

Maybe he would, Bridget. Maybe he would call this a just reward for what I have put you through. Maybe he's waiting to take me down with him. Maybe this is why I'm still alone in virtually every aspect of my existence.

I am inspecting my knees. I don't know if he wants comfort or justification or a scapegoat.

He is gazing at me. He's having trouble focusing. This can't be the first bottle for Caleb, I know him better than this.

You're not alone, Caleb, I offer quietly.

He releases a bitter chuckle. Essentially I am, Bridget. I have worked my fingers to the bone for everything I have and I would trade it all in in a heartbeat for you.

For 'someone', you mean.

For you. Let's just be honest. Honesty is the only thing I have left that I haven't offered you.

Maybe you should get some sleep.

Why, you don't like to hear what I'm thinking? I live with the ever-present noise from within your head written down for all to see while you stand there and never say a word out loud but you can't take my thoughts for what they're worth?

I stand up, leaving the berries and the knife. I'm trying to protect you, that's all.

His eyes spill over suddenly and he turns away as he stands up. It is late. I think I do need a little more sleep, that's all. He wavers, giving himself away and sits back down quickly. It was that or fall down the concrete steps. I take his hand and take the bottle from him and pull him back up. I wait there while he steadies himself.

Are you okay to walk back home without help or do I have to call someone?

Maybe you could walk me to my door. I'm just a little bit out of my element this evening. Still with the formalities, since we are not behind closed doors. He can be the most amazingly proper gentleman in the universe sometimes and the biggest monster of my nightmares that I can conjure up in the very next moment. It's uncanny.

Sure. He holds out his elbow and I take it. I turn back quickly and stand the bottle on the ground. He doesn't need any more, what he needs now is sleep.

We take the long way around to the front of the house and then across and he tells me a little about his next project. Retirement has not been an easy sell for Caleb, who refuses to stop and enjoy the results of his efforts. I am intrigued because for once it sounds perfect for him. Finally we reach the glass doors on the deck of the boathouse and I remind him to drink some water before he lies down. I re-offer the assistance of one of the boys but he is adamant that he's only a little bit trashed and he'll be better tomorrow.

My apologists, your majesty. They will make my excuses.

I burst out laughing and nod. I wish I had this on film.

He leans forward, the smile slipping to the floor and kisses me. Hard. I can't breathe. Then he leans back again and touches the tip of my nose. I wish I had that on film.

I frown.

Oh, that's right. I DO. Goodnight, my sweet doll. Sometime you should come and watch our movies with me. But as I said, I am always alone. You're always with someone else. I know exactly how Loch feels and it fucking blows. All this, he gestures around, and I can't have the one thing I worked for.

Are you finished?

His gaze drops back to me and he smiles wide. Yes, princess. Stick a fork in me because I'm done and done. Tomorrow I will send flowers to atone for my verbal outburst. I mean you no harm anymore. I know I seem like a monster but really I'm just mean because I'm alone. Goodnight.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Under Loch and key (first bonfire of the year).

(It doesn't matter what date you put on this one. 1983 or 2012 will be fine, really.)
If I had a gun, I'd shoot a hole into the sun
And love would burn this city down for you
If I had the time, I'd stop the world and make you mine
And every day would stay the same with you

Give you back the dream, show you now what might had been
If all the tears you cry would fade away (away, away, away...)
I'll be by your side, when they come to say goodbye
We will live to fight another day

Excuse me if I spoke too soon
My eyes have always followed you around the room
'Cause you're the only god that I will ever need
I'm holding on and waiting for the moment to find me
I am buzzing with the effects of the alcohol and the cool night air, sitting on the sand, wedged tightly against and in front of Lochlan, his arms down around me. He tilts the bottle toward my lips, just enough for a small warm sip of burning fluid to trace down through my body. When I try to have more he says That's enough, peanut. You're too little to drink much of this. He laughs and raises the bottle to his own mouth, swallowing several times. He is warm. Too warm. Lochlan-warm which is less human and more fire. We watch the antics of the others on the sand in front of us as we lounge close to the bonfire against a log. He puts his head down against mine, his lips against my ear.

I missed this. I love you.

I pull the bottle back and take a huge gulp before he can stop me. Before I have to answer. The pause is so loaded he's been shot before I have had time to aim.

You shouldn't. I have too much baggage. I'm watching Ben as I swallow. He is standing down by the water talking to Caleb and Sam. Tide's out. Sea monsters are everywhere.

Better Bridget with baggage than no Bridget at all. He says it quietly and I smile. No Bridget at all was tough. No Bridget at all was a difficult time period that we don't talk about anymore, much.

Ben walks up the beach and I am shoved roughly to my feet and in his general direction. I turn and pass the bottle back to Lochlan who has turned to talk to Christian and fails to acknowledge me. I kick his foot and let go of the bourbon. It falls vertically, caught easily by the juggler. He looks up at me and smiles conspiratorially. He gets away with so much. His endless, automatic charm and pragmatic attitude make for such easy prominence within the collective. His long red curls are pulled back in a simple ponytail, he's in new cargo shorts and a black tshirt. The most unassuming king of all.

He leans forward with a torch and lights it from the burning wood. Time for a show, peanut. Be a good girl and stay close, okay? I'll need help putting everything away and you're the best helper I've ever seen. 

Second thoughts.

He's home in one piece, sort of a nice surprise compared to the last trip he took alone, where he didn't come home at all and instead we went and collected Lochlan and the pieces of his motorcycle that remained. I threw myself into his arms and was rewarded with a brief hug. A ten-second hug which is very unlike Lochlan at all and then I realized why.

He brought flowers for Ben. He reads everything. I knew he would but I didn't think he would go all out like this. The bouquet is huge.

I attempted to keep my composure and failed, spilling it all over the floor in muted peals of dismayed laughter. I will clean up the mess later. He and Ben clapped each other on the back wordlessly and then Ben opted to stare at me for around seven hundred seconds, maybe deciding if he wanted to start laying down even more rules and then he chose wisely, excusing himself to go and get some work done.

Another truncated hug from Lochlan and a kiss on my forehead as I am inspected, ruefully.

You drug your freckles out of winter storage while I was away, peanut.

I frown in response. I hate my freckles. Every last one of the millions there are.

You look beautiful. He waits. I know he wants to inspect me for himself to make sure there are no marks, no seared-in cloven footprints, no lashes from a forked tail or tongue. I make no move to reassure him. I know the marks are there. They already scar his soul.

I distract instead.

Hungry?

Starving. He smiles. That's his promise to let things go for a second. We'll pick it up later, as always.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

He reached out and pulled me against him, my back to his chest, and held me there, one hand around my neck, not so gently after all, the other hand gripping my hip bones until they grated in protest. He picked up speed and rode me through the darkness and just as the sun was threatening to blow out the nighttime sky he brought his other hand up to my throat, tightening his hold. When I saw the stars he named them after me, each and every one, whispering my name into my hair, his voice hoarse and ragged.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Trying to get them all to read the same thing at the same time.

Raising the alarm for what?

This war. 

There is no war, Bridget. Things have been pointed out to me and so I am trying to prevent a lot of heartache. 

Who is going to get their heart broken? 

Me. 

Oh. But you don't worry about Caleb walking around flashing his millions and assuring everyone within a thousand mile range that he will be victorious in the end. 

No, because you don't love him like that. You just use him to hold on to Cole. 

You don't think he would know that and understand it for what it is? 

Maybe he's delusional. Ben grins.

I am trying not to laugh. This is serious! But I cave in and smile at least. That he is. And so are you, because I am not trying to break your heart. 

Is this like that Wilco song? 

No, that's 'I am trying to break your heart'.

I see. Well, what if you don't know what you're doing either? 

Oh, I know what I'm doing. 

How is that? 

I have experience. 

In what again? 

I punch him square in the chest. Being married. 

Right. You have a fabulous track record, Ms. Taylor.

Wow. 

A spade's a spade, Elizabeth. 

Fuck off, Ben. It's a warning. Both my previous husbands stopped breathing before anything was official so unless you're looking for a hat trick you should change the subject. 

What if the pyromaniac comes back and you guys decide to make up? 

It's not possible. 

I want to know why. How can you love someone like that and not give them everything? 

You know why, Ben. And I was the one who told you, if you want him out of my heart, he's out. We've been just friends before, we can go back to that. 

Ben snorts but doesn't say anything.

This is very tiring, Benjamin. And if you're never going to let me sleep then you can't expect me to make any sense. 

He's coming back this weekend, Bridget, and I'm nervous. 

Maybe he'll bring you flowers. 

Your turn to fuck off, princess. But he says it quietly to soften the blow.

Stop worrying. 

It's hard. You're the best thing that ever happened to me, and I'm not going to let Pyro or Satan, for that matter, fuck it up. 

Then stop listening to both of them. You never used to. 

I've lost my edge again. Fuck. This keeps happening.

We can put up posters around the neighborhood. Maybe someone has found it, like last time. 

Do you think? Jesus, Bee, in the wrong hands that could be downright dangerous. 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

"There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality." ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

I tiptoe into the room where Ben is sitting on a low armless chair, headphones firmly in place. He is playing because I can see his arms moving but I can't hear anything. He is facing away from the door.

I lean against the wall and wait. I haven't thought this through. I want to be careful. I look down at my toes. Sky blue polish. Glitter. I frown to myself. It's more suited to Ruth only I'm the one who still feels twelve. When I look up again Ben is watching me. He has twisted around and pulled off his headphones and he laughs and asks Why the sad face? Could you hear the song?

No, I tell him, I can't hear anything. I was just thinking.

He puts the guitar down and comes over to the door. Great. Now I'm intimidated by his attention. He's looming over me so I duck around him and go and perch on the chair he was just on. It will force him to sit on the floor. We're at eye-level.

What about? Have you decided what you want to do tonight?

No.

I have some ideas. He smiles at me but I remain determined.

Did you have something to do with Lochlan's trip?

Yes, he says, waiting for the next question. I'm surprised into silence for a moment. I figured Ben would say Of course not and pretend everything was just fine.

Why?

Simple. It's our anniversary, not his. I wanted to spend it alone with you.

But Caleb-

Today. I meant today. Last night doesn't count as our anniversary, does it?

No but-

Bridget, just say it. Look, I know you didn't like the way last night turned out but-

You have regrets. About us.

Is that a question or a statement?

Both, I whisper.

Yes and no.

My turn to wait for him to talk. We've worked very hard on listening to each other. It's obvious.

I don't regret anything we have done but I regret how I've behaved, Bridget.

I keep listening.

I regret that I didn't set limits in the beginning. Because I don't think I want Loch this close to you.

He isn't close. He's very far away right now.

Yes and you're miserable.

I'm sorry.

Don't be. If I thought you could help it I would take that apology and expect things to change but Caleb's right. Loch is...He's your other half.

I shake my head and my eyes begin to well up but Ben is immune.

If I wanted to be with him I would. I'm not. I'm with you.

You're with him, Bridget. I don't know if I'm a novelty or revenge but you're with him. Always have been, as far as I can tell.

I spin away from him in the chair so I am facing the door. So I can look anywhere but at Ben's face. He takes the chair and turns it back.

I'm fixing it, Bridget. I think I know how to fix things.

Is there a hit out on him?

What? No. Jesus. I don't function like that. If I wanted to kill Loch I would sneeze and he'd fly off the edge of the cliff. Featherweight.

Then how do you fix things?

I set limits. I make rules.

On how you'll interact with him?

No, on how YOU will interact with him. New limits for you. To keep you in line.

To keep me in line. I'm repeating him slightly disbelievingly. Everything coming out of his mouth is something I have heard before.

Caleb-

Yes, he's been helping me a lot. He knows you best.

No, he doesn't-

After Lochlan, of course. But how do you approach your adversary and ask him to teach you how to make him go away.

I thought you loved Lochlan.

Oh, I do, Bridget. But he's non-reciprocal and I finally realized that he is simply waiting me out. He doesn't care about me. I don't think he cares about Ruth. The only thing he sees is you.

That pisses me off. First of all, he's a good father. Not like he's had a lot of time to absorb all of this. And second, I have no intentions of being with him exclusively.

The ring.

Was a gift.

It's a band, Bridget. Do I look that stupid?

This was YOUR idea. The commitment ceremony, the sharing. All of it came from you. I asked for none of this. I didn't ask for last night either. Caleb-

MY MISTAKE, Bridget. I screwed up. I was fine with it until I started watching the two of you and I realized I was on the outside the whole FUCKING TIME. Maybe last night was retribution against both Lochlan and myself. Maybe I'm just punishing myself.

But you're NOT on the outside. Lochlan is. He's the one that's not here.

And right now, sorry, honey, but neither are you. Your heart went with him. And somehow I don't think it's coming back.

I get up. I'm not going to do this today. I cross my arms and rock myself. I didn't come in here to fight with you about Lochlan. Or talk about last night.

Liar. He says it softly.

You should talk, I whisper. Looking to the devil for advice, Ben. How could you do that again?

Caleb still has complete control over you. That tells me all I need to know. I watched you. I SAW him order you to do things last night and you didn't even hesitate.

But he doesn't-

You're here aren't you? He told you to ask me about Lochlan and HERE YOU ARE. If that isn't control then I don't know what is. Jesus, I'm in third place after all. It's worse than I thought.

But you're NOT!

I had hoped I wasn't but your behavior tells me different. He pulls me down onto his knees abruptly, pinning my wrists at my sides, forcing my attention. I asked you to tell me if I was a sitting duck but you're not being forthcoming. I am shaking now and he just holds tighter. How do I get that control, Bridget? How do I get you to follow my lead the same way they do? Huh?

The tears multiply until they begin to drop over my lids and soon the rivers down my cheeks have begun in earnest. Ben is horrified suddenly and he drops my wrists and throws his arms around me. He sits back on the floor and begins to rock. I am holding on for dear life. He pulls back and wipes his thumbs across my cheeks. He's saying Shhhhh. I look up into his eyes, breath hitching and I say Happy anniversary. Four years, Benny. Can you believe it?

Then, true to recent habit I push off him, stand up and walk out. I hear him throw the chair but I just keep going.

***

He finds me later, buried in a book, curled up on the couch, forgotten cup of tea next to me, determined to die a slow death of ennui in order to protect myself from a war with four sides. That is, if I get a say in my life. I don't think I do, however.

He gets down on his knees and puts his head on my legs. I start to shift and I hear him say Just stay like this, Bridget, please.

Bridget, please. So much of that lately. I should just draw and quarter myself and then everyone would be happy. The fourth piece would be all that's left and to that I would stake my claim and make my own decisions. But I give in, because I love Ben. I PICKED Ben.

I reach out and run my fingers down the side of his face. Let's do something tonight. Just the two of us. We need some alone time. You were right.

He looks up hesitantly. A little boy, hopeful and anticipatory. Look, I'm sorry about last night, I get carried away-

Onward and upward, Benjamin.

Oh, there's Zero's line again. You need your own catch phrases, little bee. But his mood has changed one hundred and eighty degrees and he looks relieved. We spend our days going out of our way to sabotage each other and then making up. It's a slow doom. Perhaps if he holds tight to my hand we can outrun it. My legs aren't long enough to go very fast but his, well, he's very tall.

And I'm not letting go.

He takes my hand in his and pulls it up to his mouth to kiss it and then he answers, as if I spoke out loud. I won't let you go. But then he gives me that smile again, the one that doesn't reflect in his eyes and I'm left wondering how much of his allegiance is mine and how much has returned to Caleb. Two against two.

(You're dreaming if you think this is a fair fight. It won't be fair at all. That's what last night was all about. Not being fair. I am a living warning now, meant to cause alarm. Or raise it, at the very least.)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Misled/Miss Lead.

I will survive cause I want more
And I will create a bigger war
Then I will rule over and give you hell
And then you will do as I command
Cause I will be here when you are gone
Yeah I'll still be here when you are gone
The envelope arrived this morning by courier. White Canada Post, so I opened it right away, standing in the front hall in my pajama pants and a baby-pink tank top. A printed email fell out, folded and taped to a pewter envelope with nothing written on the front. I frown. He's just not going to dry up and blow away. I look at the email first. It's a directive from his lawyer, pointing out an option to have my lawyer direct me to visit with Caleb if I won't abide by the rules of our custody arrangement. I roll my eyes. This has nothing to do with Henry. I can email my costs for Henry's spring pictures and new clothes to Caleb. He's just decided to make things difficult because he misses me. Or something. Maybe the Devil is hungry for another soul. God only knows, he likes to lick mine and taste his future.

Curiosity (killed the princess) leads me to open the pewter-colored envelope as well. It's on his monogrammed letterhead. Two words, handwritten in his modern scrawl.

Bridget - please.

I sigh. It's going to be a long day.

I head upstairs to get ready. I am so tired. I need some coffee. I need breakfast. I shower and grab a black dress from the closet without looking. I zip myself in, carry my high heels downstairs and put them on by the back door. I grab the envelope of receipts and my phone from the counter and head outside. It's raining. Great. My hair curls as I cross the driveway and by the time I knock on the glass door of the boathouse I feel like wilted lettuce at the grocery store.

Caleb opens the door quickly and I give him my look. The look that says I know what you're up to and I don't want to be here.

Notice I didn't actually choose to involve the courts, Bridget.

The effect is the same. What do you need? I take several steps into the room as he closes the door behind me. I drop the envelopes on the counter and weigh them down with my phone.

He comes up behind me and puts his hand around my neck, pulling me close against him. You. I need you, he whispers.

I reach out and pick up my phone and turn at the same time. He is smiling. It's not a hopeful smile. It's one of those lie-smiles, where he decides for both of us whether this will be easy or difficult.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, princess.

You know, I haven't found that. Strange, isn't it?

He picks up my hand and shakes the phone out of it. He counts my rings. There it is. An extra. Are you ready to explain why you're wearing a ring from Lochlan?

No? Last time I checked I didn't have to get your permission to accessorize.

How quickly you've forgotten.

I'm not playing your game anymore, Caleb.

Sure you are, this is just one of those times where I have backed off in order to see what you do.

And what did I do?

You got closer to that fucking redheaded freak again. But where is he today, Bridget?

He headed out early this morning for a short trip.
I frown. I don't need this shoved down my throat.

What do you suppose your husband said to him to make him agree to leave you here alone in the company of wolves? What do you think Ben would have to accomplish to make Lochlan leave, just as things were getting interesting around here?

Ben had nothing to do with this. Loch is going to see his father. It doesn't happen often but it was a good time for him to go. Who am I convincing? I sound doubtful to my own ears.

Is that what you think happened? He laughs. You might want to take a good hard look at your husband's attempts to suddenly set rules for you. Do you feel like you're back to obeying someone? That you're taking orders? He moves in closer and brings his hands up to my face so I can't focus on anything but him. Do you think at last the big beast is trying to rein you in just as you were finally settling into a pattern? My brain is hurting so badly. Still no coffee, and Caleb is trying to make me think about things I've been pushing away lately because it's too disturbing a place to go. You always submit so willingly to authority. It's so beautiful.

He runs his thumb across the center of my bottom lip and I suddenly bare my teeth and give him a shove. Ben doesn't do that. Stop it!

He decides releasing me is best and heads around to the other side of the kitchen, turning on the coffeemaker and giving me a generous smile. You might want to think about that, Bridget. And also? That beautiful new dress you're wearing? He's going to be angry when he learns you wore it for me.

As I'm walking out the door, he calls to me. You always pick the hard road, princess. You should really do something about that. My offer still stands, whenever you're ready. As long as it takes, I will wait for you.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

I want love to walk right up and bite me,
Grab a hold of me and fight me, leave me dying on the ground.
I want love to split my mouth wide open,
And cover up my ears and never let me hear a sound
I want love to forget that you offended me,
Or how you have defended me when everybody talked me down
Yeah and I want love to change my friends to enemies,
Change my friends to enemies, and show me how it's all my fault.
Last night I took a glass of wine (which I swear I don't drink any more but you see we have a tiny vineyard and there's thirty bottles of wine in the cellar, which is not actually a cellar but the space above the cabinets as you head toward the dining room proper. It was wasted space so I christened it the wine cellar) and a box of strawberries outside to hull with Jacob's old pocket knife.

His favorite one went to Henry and I keep a different one for stupid chores like sitting outside wishing he was making fun of me for so much wastage on each berry at the expense of keeping my flesh intact. Because he would never cut himself and I always do so it's easier just to buy more strawberries than I need and sacrifice fully a quarter of each one to the slice of a blade wielded quite awkwardly. I was never good with knives.

I was humming along with the song I could hear from the driveway. Lochlan is in the camper. The lamp is on inside. I can hear the song plainly which means he is busy. Probably sleeping-busy. He could sleep on a roller coaster if only I wasn't screaming. It's one of the few sounds he won't sleep through.

And wow, I've told you nothing so far, but with so many words.

Anyway, Caleb came across the driveway and sat down beside me. I stopped humming and started listening. He asked what the star was next to the moon and I answered automatically, without looking. He shook his head. Interesting, since the cloud cover is too thick and there are no stars tonight, Bridget.

I look up into his face and see disappointment.

You want to argue.

Of course not, you're holding a knife.

I'd be better equipped if I smashed the top off the wine glass and used that.

I don't doubt it. You fight like a long-haul trucker.

Nice. Thank you.

Put the knife down.

Tell me what's on your mind and I'll decide if I'm going to put the knife down.

When are you going to come and see me? I have a list of things we have to go over and it's been weeks, Bridget.

Months, actually.

I'm well aware.

Then keep waiting. Unless you just want to have a throwdown right now. You're unarmed and I am dual wielding. It'd be perfect.

Not as easy to manage your life as you thought it would be, is it?

I throw the knife in the bowl and look at him. Is there something else you need or can I have some time to myself?

He leaned in as if for a kiss, pressing his cheek against mine. I had to listen hard.

Just remember, Bridget, when all is said and done, I will be your saving grace. He pulled back briefly, long enough to plant a long kiss on my lips and then he got up and left.

Monday, 16 April 2012

I walk the fault into the cold
The fate can take your breath away
I hope you don’t open the door
To see the ghost walk through walls
I know the smoke can choke your hope
A lesson learned push comes to fall
They walk away, they walk away
(I hope you don’t) walk away

Oh, why did you take flight?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

And I'm not even drunk.

The new plan tonight is to sell everything and buy a houseboat. And live on it. On the water twenty-four-seven with the lights and the breeze and the sun and the rain and the seagulls and the whales and never ever ever have to pay property taxes or utility bills again.

I would have to give away all of my shoes. And probably my dresses too and the four drawers full of lingerie and the snowglobes, four couches and my books. The pets. The cars, too. Possibly some of the boys.

I am fine with this, I like small spaces and minimalist living.

I like the sea.

(Update: two glasses of wine later, Caleb texts me that I can have the yacht whenever I want it. I said houseboat you asshole. And I can't afford any of these ones that I'm looking at anyway so no one hold your breath. Now if no one minds I have half a bottle left and I'm going outside to enjoy it on land. I can look at the water, at least.)

Friday, 13 April 2012

Forty two inches minimum height.

It's called the Round Up. Other places call it Meteor or Zero Gravity sometimes.

Here, come and stand on the edge of the world, Bridget.

He smiles and I let go of his hand as I am buckled in tightly. He gets in beside me and fastens his own restraint without help. He'll be checked nevertheless but I am always momentarily envious of his self-reliance.

When the ride begins to move I close my eyes. Within a moment I feel his hand close around mine again and then something deep inside my chest soars just like that feeling you have before you burst into tears. He squeezes my hand and calls to me, Open your eyes! You're missing it!

So I do.

We are spinning up on one end at a dizzying pace, the lights leaving trails in my eyes, the music loud, so loud it almost hurts, but in a good way. Smiles and squeals of laughter are all around me. I scream and it comes out in a high peal of sheer delight that lasts on average twenty seconds. He always laughs so hard when he counts and then again when he tells me my new high score. I can't help it. To be honest, I can't hear it and I can't control it either.

I am in Heaven and Heaven is the midway.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Absolute and foolish bravery.

Slightly defective, not what I had planned.
After dark when all of the boys were squarely on my side, I took one of the torches and lit it. I was quiet, I promise. I held it against the wooden railing of the bridge that separates me from Satan. Eventually the whole bridge went up in flames but he didn't notice, because he was busy, and then Lochlan was mad that I took the torch in the first place and didn't clean it properly afterward and he pointed out that when one burns bridges they tend to leave one on an island all alone so what's the point if you are the only one affected?

I'm not, I insist. I grab another torch and light it. Lochlan takes it again and puts it flamefirst into the water bucket. He rolls his eyes. We have to find another way, peanut.

This might work, I say, and pick up a third torch. Lochlan kicks the bucket over and tells me we can do this all night but I am wasting my energy. You know those people you just can't impress, ever? They'll stand and watch your whole act, criticizing everything, insisting the fire isn't 'real' somehow and then when you pass the hat they walk away? He's one of those people, peanut, and he's never going to change.

Oh he'll change, I say above the roar of the flames. Just you watch. I can make him change. I've just never wanted to, before now. I didn't think I had the capacity to do it, before now.

But I do.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

They're going to hate it.

When things get interesting around here I haul out Lochlan's big laptop and sit on the floor in his room pretending I can use all of his exciting art programs. It keeps me busy for a little while and then you get something new to look at. Like the new header above. Shipwrecks and soliloquies is going to be the new tagline here. I used Jon Foreman's Nothing in the world could fail me now for a hell of a long time and then I switched to Marc Arcand's In all the ways I've dreamed you, I chose a song to reach you, but I am so so fickle and loathe to put any more songs up on pedestals. Essentially they are all there already anyway.

So I came up with my own line.

It seems very fitting. Shipwrecks to honor my beautiful and violent Atlantic ocean and the mess of relationships crashed upon my shores, and soliloquies because, well, that's what this blog is. A place where I can talk to myself and describe how I feel.

Hope you like the header, in any case. It's certainly not perfect and so it fits in here just fine.

Just bring me all the fairy tales and I'll point out who's who.

Whenever you're sorry
You're not in my hands
You're in some other defect hands
Hey beautiful. I turn and he is there, black wings folded, paint-spattered jeans and hands to match. Dark brown curls hiding his eyes. But he is smiling, so that's something. Rough week?

I nod slowly. I'm wanting to look for Jake but Jake is nowhere to be found. I don't come out here to talk to Cole, we have nothing left to say. I start back toward the door but suddenly he is blocking it so I stop.

You need to do something for me, okay, paper doll? You need to not make any sudden moves right now. I want you to just hold tight to Ben and don't think about anything else right now. Can you do that?

I nod again, like a child. It's akin to being hypnotized. Cole's directives have weight anyway and the wings now give him all kinds of insight into my past, present and future so he knew I was playing scenarios through my head like reel to reel tapes and he worries (GOOD) that I might do something he wouldn't want me to do.

This is none of your business now, Cole. I tell him softly. I watch his nostrils flare and he shakes his curls back and just for a moment he is my lizard king again, the one who force-fed me a cure for homesickness that turned out to be a sham in of itself. The one who took over, raising me from fourteen to thirty-five. No small feat, especially considering he did so with Lochlan and then Jake, too, breathing down his neck. Cole the Great and Terrible.

No sudden moves, I give in and repeat his instructions. He's so very good at this.

Good girl. That's my girl. You're doing well, munchkin.

I look at the floor.

You can do this. Just keep going. Keep yourself in check.

You're gunning for your brother to win and I don't even know the rules. I'm not the one playing games, Cole.

Doll, who is filling your head with these ideas?

He stabbed you in the back over and over again and you take his side?

He looks up and smiles under a curtain of tousled waves. Blood is thicker than saltwater.

No it isn't. I turn and walk out on him again. It's becoming part of our routine.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Dissonance and the art of knowing a little bit about everything and a whole lot about nothing.

He left the house shortly after midnight Sunday morning, basket in hand, and he stroked flat out all around the neighborhood, dressed in a tux, morning coattails flying in the dark out behind him, spats making him appear to be gliding on air. The spats obscured his inline skates from view quite nicely in the dark and the giant rabbit head mask concealed his identity completely.

He threw tiny foil-wrapped chocolate eggs everywhere, onto the grass, front walkways, flowerbeds and gazebos, and rang a tiny handbell as he went. It was just enough to spool up talk in the neighborhood, among the youngest set, that the Easter bunny was real, because they all saw the same thing when they got up to see what was making that strange sound overnight.

This year it was not Lochlan in disguise.

***

What seemed like three nights was actually only one since we flew in overnight on Thursday and then out again on Saturday evening. I am so ridiculously underslept right now I have taken to gritting my teeth as I answer what are seemingly innocuous questions disguised as blistering irritants to my very being.

Ben took me shopping when we had a little free time on Saturday afternoon. He stood and smiled benignly while I tried on impossible shoes and scandalous lingerie and dresses that I'm not sure I could wear out of our closet for their sparingness. He bought everything he liked most and as we were leaving, my hand in his, with his other hand holding all of the bags, he said all of it could only be worn for him. I stopped in my tracks and just stood there looking up at him because he's never been one for rules or quiet derision and here it all is suddenly, far from home, a familiar format to him, a foreign concept to me.

He shook his head as if to clear it, giving my hand a squeeze, changing his expression to one of silliness abruptly, suggesting a bath and some room service later in the night. I nodded, still sort of frozen when he started to walk and I fell all over myself as I was pulled along with him. Abruptly he stopped again and turned to face me, rightening me at the same time. He laughed softly, looking shy and confused and so much like the Ben I fell in love with that I melted and ran into the sidewalk grates into the subway tunnels below.

Don't...

Don't what? I am trying to keep my hair out of my lipgloss. I fail. It whips into my eyes and he takes his hands and smooths my hair down, keeping them there.

Don't let me make you feel bad for missing him.

I duck out of his hands, turn and walk fast. I want to be out of this wind.

***

We pull in just before eleven Saturday night and I stand shivering as Ben helps the driver unload our things. He makes no move to tell me to go in ahead of him and I make no move to go in on my own. I am just watching him, so at ease with suitcases and strangers and his old routines. Finally it's us and he loads my suitcase on top of his and pulls them both easily with one hand. His other hand slides around my neck, pulling me in against his shoulder. He stops me and asks if I had fun.

I nod and he smiles. Actual fun?

I start to shake my head and all the composure I held so carefully all week spills all over the front walk.

It sucked, didn't it?

Yeah. Too much work. My shaky breath makes him laugh sympathetically and he nods. I know, little bee. We'll make it up. Maybe we can plan harder with a little more time and do something later on in the spring.

I am waiting. I nod politely. We won't. Ben is a huge homebody now. And I'm not all that far behind him, except when I am strung out feverishly from cabin closeness and wanderlust. Those times the sickness is horrible and the rest of the time I am completely fine. And he is as mercurial with his monopolization of my time as he is with everything else.

Go.

Hmm?

Go see him. Tell him we're home. Peter Pan needs his Wendy.

Which one are you, Ben?

What?

If he is Peter Pan, and we already know Caleb is Captain Hook, then who are you?

I'll be Tinkerbell. Plotting to have him to myself. He wagged his tongue but instead of being funny it was sad.

I know who you are.

You do?

Yes. You're Mr. Barrie. You're the one writing this story now.

Hope clouded his brown eyes into a pale tan reflecting the sand at the bottom of the cliff.

Ben, have you read Peter Pan?

I saw the mov-

Did you read the book?

No. Why?

Their relationship is as ambiguous as all hell. One minute she is his mother, the next they argue like siblings. She loved him when she was a child but it's never fully explored. It hasn't played out properly.

He leans over and kisses my hair and shoves me away at the same time, while he whispers Exactly. His face is grim but he flashes me a dismissive smile anyway and he turns and hefts the bags up the steps. When he gets to the top, he turns back to look at me and he nods toward the garage. I turn to look and see Lochlan. He is helping New Jake with something on the bike. The worklights they have set up blind me.

I sigh loudly to highlight my own frustration and turn on my heel to head across the driveway.
“Wendy," Peter Pan continued in a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist, "Wendy, one girl is more use than twenty boys.”
― J.M. Barrie
Touché, Mr. Barrie. Touché.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Safely home. Kissed my babies and boys, got the hockey scores, going to shower and go to bed. Forgot how much I hate the smell of plane fuel on bare skin. More tomorrow. Oh, and Christian sent me this earlier this morning and I love it. Really I do.

XO

Friday, 6 April 2012

Pretty Boy Floyd.

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have you found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.
When I said hello he started singing and he sang the whole thing before hanging up. I was in the vestibule of an expensive restaurant and there was no free place to sit down and I wanted to go and stand behind the curtains and hide but it would have been weird so I walked outside and people fell all over themselves getting the doors open for me or I probably would have walked right into them.

I continued down the sidewalk in my too-cold dress for the weather and too-high shoes for a stroll until Ben caught up with me and tucked my arm through his and held it with his right hand and turned me, walking me back down the street until we reached the restaurant where everyone was still seated inside, oblivious to my escape. He turned me to face him and bent his head down, kissing my philtrum and scraping my nose with his fledgling stubble. He looked into my eyes and smiled a little. Only a little. His eyes weren't in it. It wasn't real.

He doesn't really want to be here either but at the same time as it's necessary, as is a private little break for the two of us right now, just two or so weeks shy of our fourth anniversary, which is some sort of record, since I am such a bad wife but most of the time he doesn't seem to mind.

Until he does.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Back Forty/Salt in the wound.

(I'll be back before you miss me.)
Throw me line if you will
My trembling hands can't hold the truth you tell
Go home, Bridget. His voice startled me from the dark. He was sitting on the stump just up from the water, tucked into the edge of the woods proper.

Why are you hiding, Lochlan?

I bet you don't listen at all, do you? He laughed but it was a harsh sound. He stood up and walked over to where I stood on the grass right beside the lake. He planted a kiss on my cheek. Sloppy. Now I smell like beer too. Yuck.

He points at me. You really should go home.

Why are you drinking beer? You're not allowed yet. You have to be like twenty. I think. I don't know what I'm talking about but I know he is fourteen and too young.

Bridget, you're too uptight for an eight year old. Most kids wouldn't even notice.

You're sitting in the dark alone. Where is Caleb?

On a date or something.

Why don't you have a date? It's Saturday.

So I should be out with some girl?

Isn't that how it's done? Do you like someone?

Maybe.

Then you should ask her out.

She doesn't know I like her.

Why don't you just tell her?

Bridget, have you ever thought that you were in the wrong time and space? That something that should be easy can't be because of circumstance?

I don't know what you mean.

Nevermind. Now why don't you tell me why you're at the lake by yourself after dark. You know you can't swim alone, right?

I wasn't going to go in. Bailey is up the path at the swing and I didn't want to be there. They're smoking. It's gross.

So you decided to wander in the woods?

I'm not in the woods, I stayed on the path and came straight back to the beach.

What is the plan, then?

I have to go back and ask Bailey to take me home.

How about we go together and let her know that I can take you home.

You can't drive. You've been drinking.

We'll walk. It's nice enough. Are you warm enough?

Not actually.

Here, take my sweater. He took off his hoodie and zipped me into it, pulling the drawstrings of the hood tightly. Then he smiled at me. You look like a pixie. You look cute. Let's go.

****

And sadly, just as I start to write about last night (which wasn't all that different than that moment in 1979), Ben comes upstairs with my carpet bag and tells me I should go pack, because we have a two a.m. flight to New York to catch, a long weekend in the biggest city I have been to, unless you count Paris but that might be area rather than density and I was only there for a day anyway so it might not count if I did know what I was talking about.

But I don't. What else is new?

Lochlan does not want me to go, and so he's taken a turn from my bookmark in the big book of immaturity and gotten himself onto a good bender. A mild one, but one nonetheless and he can hang out here with New Jake and PJ and lament the sorry state of his (amazing) life all he wants while he sips all of the good (Irish) whiskey and I play Pepper Potts for another day or two and steal all of the attention from Ben, who is all business these days anyway, and then visit some of the restaurants I have read about lately, so I can make butternauts with freshly churned goat butter siphoned from a thousand cashmere pearl mountain lambs born under a waxing crescent or whatever the hell ridiculous things are written on menus now to sway the one percent.

I am hoping we can get in and out before the Russians find out I am in town. Batman assures me I am safe but I'm not in the mafia so I have no idea what their clubhouse rules are or what sort of revenge they enact past breaking knees and scaring women. And since I don't know what I'm talking about that's one of those side-worries, kind of like what if I die when my will isn't up to date? and Jesus H. Fucking Christ, Schuyler, please don't let Henry drink chocolate milk morning, noon and night for the next three days.

And PJ, please look after my Lochlan so he doesn't miss me too much. Because as I took the bag and headed upstairs to pack, Lochlan pointed at me from across the room.

Wrong time and space, peanut. That's what this is. I am the outsider. You were right.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Gold Stars (It's never going to work so here, laugh at my expense).

You land so awkwardly and never seem to learn
Still I follow you at every single turn
And I picture darker nights and longer sunny days
And hope that you will stay the same all year round

A message in the air that caught you by surprise
I sent it many years ago when I was wise
And I see you've built an army now while I have built a home
And I hope you haven't come to burn it to the ground
Just on the verge of my wanting to tear a strip from Caleb for his non-admissions of late, discovered on accident by a frustrated Lochlan (who would have rather kept silent for the rest of his life, truth be known, if only to protect me from the weirdness), the children decide to stage a coup d'état, demanding that their fathers start doing things together.

Or what? I asked. Or they start resisting everything, they tell me. Oh, and it's for your own good, Mom.

Every event features one man or the other but never both. The exception to this rule is (was?) family dinners, in which there are enough places and spaces in the house that they could both be here but never come across one another in the course of the evening. Opposite ends of the table and everything.

They both like it that way, frankly. But the kids do not and I'm sure the counselors/mediator/teachers/judge/Sam/God had something to do with this but they want us to do things as a family now. All six of us! Sorry, PJ, they mean (as) nuclear (as we can get), so step-dad, both dads, mom and both kids.

Six.

But we can't just jump into these things, because it would be weird and no fun and awkward so it's far better to warm up by having Lochlan and Caleb hang out together (Oh my God). Do things together (Jesus Murphy Christ). Ruth helpfully suggested if they could become friends maybe they wouldn't punch each other so much anymore.

So friends they will be.

(Children aren't stupid and they aren't completely unaware, but life has been softened for them in varying degrees with regard to our memories because that's the way it has to be.)

This morning I decided to get started, and take both of them (Caleb and Lochlan, not Henry and Ruth) grocery shopping. I played my insanity card, clearly. I failed to remember Caleb has his groceries delivered and has no clue about things like lists and budgets and comparison shopping, or better, waiting in line. He doesn't do pedestrian errands. Why would he? He doesn't have the need to blend in with the working class. I function as his personal assistant when I'm not busy being his torture victim/sugar baby or whatever he demands depending on the day.

(Hush, you.)

We started out on the wrong foot, too. First there was a dust-up over the fact that we were taking Lochlan's truck. Duh, Caleb. Three people and enough groceries for ten don't fit in his car or mine.

Then he expected us to go to one of the high-end markets downtown. I'm like, DUDE. We're going to Superstore. Oh, yeah. Yellow labels all the way. No-Name everything. I thought he might die from the bourgeoisie of it all, actually.

Thirdly it was cold and windy and I was looking at my car before we left (thought there was a ding but it's just dirty) and he pulled all of my hair up out of my collar and put my hood down. Lochlan counted to at least six before he came over and stuffed it all back in and pulled my hood back up. Because my ears plus a cold wind equal hurt. Not sure why. Lochlan knows that but Caleb doesn't.

And with that we're off. Once in the truck the devil frowned again because I'm wearing jeans and red Chuck Taylors and a green hoodie. He at least thought I should match. I sweetly pointed out that I do. I match Lochlan, I told him in my best elementary school voice.

(Okay, yes, fine. I'm digging now. My own grave. It's inevitable, I may as well get a head-start. Not even sure I need the full ten by three-and-a-half. Probably five by two will suffice. Three by two if you bury me in a fetal postion. Oh, look how dark I can be while choosing between President's Choice and Tetley teas. Just get it over with and kill me now.)

PJ sends me a text message saying that he can be there inside of fifteen minutes if they get into it in-store but really I should probably plan to call the cops because they could be there faster. I laugh and type back Will do without showing it to either of them.

And to their credit, they managed just fine once we were there and I could give them tasks (like children). They fetched things and compared notes on flavors and packed bags and then Caleb stood there and asked Who takes this outside? I told him You do and he just looked at me. So I said, Fine, I'll do it and then he kicked into gear and he kept looking back at me saying You can push this? To the truck? And I nod because I've been doing it for twenty years or more and he was sort of in awe of my sudden, magical brute strength and a little bit surprised at the amount of food I buy each week. He offered to pay for it but I told him that it was part of the household budget and we were fine, thanks and then he was quiet for a while. We loaded the bags into the bed of the truck and snapped the tailgate up, put the cover down and drove home.

I sat in the middle, listening with my eyes wide as they discussed the best restaurant meals in the city. Not sure that was exactly fair considering Caleb won't pay any less than forty-five dollars for an entree and Lochlan won't pay any more than fifteen, but they managed to talk the whole way home and Lochlan did not drive us off the cliff into the sea or anything.

They unloaded all of the groceries together and brought them in, taking several trips, continuing their discussion while PJ and August stood there in the front hall and stared, mouths open. I ignored all of them and opted to let them put everything away too.

When the last bag was empty, Caleb kissed my cheek and said he had to run. He said goodbye to Lochlan and then to the others and left and then Lochlan immediately said This is going to be a long spring and no sooner did I nod in his direction when a text message buzzed on my phone. It was from Caleb.

It's going to be a long spring, isn't it? He wrote. I didn't answer. It's a given. I just hope it works. It's probably the only thing we haven't tried but at the same time, you don't fix thirty-two years of bad memories overnight and at this point hope is in short supply.

As is patience.

And I'll be the first to admit I am not mature enough for this. By far.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Blurry but with clear intent.

It's cherry blossom time. The blooms are fat and heavy on the branches, low over my car. They're in my car. They're all over the front walkway, and pretty much everywhere else too. They're in the house, in Ruth's shoes. They pretty much take over until around Mother's Day and then they will dry up and disappear for another year. It makes up for a winter of...muted green clawed-back vegetation and slightly chilly temperatures and don't make me laugh, this isn't actually winter in Canada, who's pulling my leg?

I'll be cursing the track of petals through the house inside of a week because I've become all jaded and spoiled like that.

No, actually I won't. I secretly love them and still lament the fact that one of my neighbors decided to cut their trees down because they made a mess. Um, what? Seriously?

I can walk under the branches. Only the kids and I don't have to duck. Next year they probably will but I won't and then maybe I'll make a fort out there and not tell anyone where I've gone.

The petals are in PJ's beard, too. He has taken to double-checking his face every time he passes a mirror and the others keep fooling him, pointing to his face and saying You've got a little pink there, Paddy and he'll start combing through his facial hair while we laugh and laugh.

It's very pretty (no, not PJ's face, the wall of blossoming trees), and even though I am terrible with photographs and even if I wasn't, a picture could never do this justice, here. Enjoy.

(It would have at least been in focus, had Bonham not been pulling on the leash I was holding.)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Dress reversal.

Wouldn't it be so much better
If we could look at what we're seeing
Late gazes wore me down
Oh won't you see what you're doing

Gaze into passing places late at night
Gaze into welcome faces when you see no right
Gaze into your own eyes
When it's too late
This morning I stood in the driveway in my Sunday best and waited for the boys to get ready. I'm sorry, but I decided a long time ago that I was not going to go from room to room mashing down cowlicks with Brylcreem or standing on the bed behind someone trying to tie a perfect Windsor knot while looking over their shoulder into the mirror to get it right and I wasn't going to point out that the braces should match the shoes even if no one could see them under a suit jacket. It takes me long enough to get dressed as it is, checking in on the children all the while to make sure they get ready too and don't become distracted by toys/cats/each other.

Eventually I wind up here, alone, loitering in the driveway freezing my butt off, but loathe to go back inside lest someone take that as a sign to slow down. Not like it matters, we're already late and I don't want to make our appearance smack-dab in the middle of Sam's announcements because it's such a spectacle as it is when we go in. Waiting outside isn't an option, there's no room and no good time to interrupt anyway once the service begins.

Sam will invariably call upon us to join in. He has Matt save space in the first two pews on the left and I will blush furiously as all eyes watch us make our way to the front of the sanctuary. It sucks, it really does. I have to pinch the children to reset their facial expressions from bored to polite and keep Ben from whacking his way down the aisle, knocking aside handbags and errant legs. I have to pull Lochlan along, he who would rather be anywhere else but here, confined indoors and I have to fight with myself to ensure that I don't spend too much time turning Sam's efforts into Jacob-memories in my head, comparing sermons, choice of hymns, you name it.

I don't like church, okay? I just don't. I'll get on my knees at home and pray. I'll say Grace. I'll talk with Sam one on one about God but I don't want to go and sit through public services because it's hard and I feel like every last word is aimed at me. Every eye is on me. Every moment is endured, cataloged and filed away as one I will never get back and one I am supposed to process and improve upon.

But I'm still in the driveway and the longer I stand here the more I have decided I hate what I have on. I fidget against the confines of my garter belt under this very proper layered dress. I stick my index finger between my teeth and pull my gloves off one finger at a time. I unbutton another button on my bodice and give my bra a mighty shrug. I stumble in my stupid stiletto ankle boots and when I recover I walk in circles watching an eagle fly the same path far above me. I hope valiantly that he shits on my head and then I'll have a funny excuse to stay home and lounge with the heathens.

I hope Caleb comes out and makes me a better offer. We have a lot of words we need to exchange, only he's made no move to do so as of yet, rolling in late Friday evening and managing to avoid me all weekend. That won't last forever. I'll give him until midnight tonight and then if he hasn't shown his face here I will march over and confront him myself. I'm not eight anymore, thought I feel like it today, plotting to scowl through the service right up until Ben reminds me of lunch out, a promise he has already made to me. Afterward we're going to see the Olympic torch, it's being lit today and I might finally see it on fire with my own eyes. That will be amazing, especially if we come home first so I can change.

I don't know why I insist on dressing up for Sunday service. Sam wears his jeans and a plaid flannel shirt every Sunday (actually every day) without fail. That makes me smile, because Jake never would dress down unless the service was outdoors. Inside he always wore khakis or his grey dress pants and a plain white dress shirt with his ragged green corduroy coat and I...

Oh it's totally post-traumatic stress.

Hey God, if I pray really hard do you think you could fix my head? It's a total fucking mess. Kind of like my morning. Kind of like my life.
Oh, on second thought, don't answer. I know what you're going to say. I used to be married to a minister, after all.