Thursday, 31 May 2012

Still raining.

Screaming our screenplay, off the cuff
We were both stuck pretending our dreams were enough
I awoke in the morning wanting the day
I thought I could have you,
Miles away from falling in love
To find stalling sweet enough

Please don’t call it love
Neutral territory for lunch. The kitchen island. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches on raisin cheese bread. Hot chocolate. Caleb sits down and frowns at his plate briefly before deciding to make the best of it.

If he were truly honest, as he says he is now, he would have pointed out his desire for something a little less rustic and note the fact that he probably hasn't had hot chocolate since 1976, but he humors me with my own brand of Spyri-influenced menu choices for a rainforest deluge at the base of a mountain where the waves lick the brae smooth, a treacherous combination for sheep and people alike.

We don't have any sheep. Or any horses either, sadly. I go and visit some new ones in the valley sometimes now, cursing the devil every chance I get.

I do that over a lot of things, but at the same time here we are, having lunch because he asked if we could talk and I pointed out I was hungry so he may as well come and eat something that isn't a fusion of four-star nonsense from one of his ridiculous haunts downtown. He obliged without even asking what was on the menu. I knew I should have made Kraft Dinner just to horrify him as much as humanly possible.

You like making him squirm. I say it in between choking back the thick peanut butter on heavy bread.

My words have nothing to do with him. There are certain truths in life, Bridget. This is just one of them.

'They're going to kill you' is another.

He laughs nervously. I'll probably choke on lunch and then no one will have to worry.

Oh, yay! Burial at sea. I give him my darkest stare. He catches on quickly. We are morbid and black with humor more often than not.

What's with your hair?

I'm annoying Lochlan with it, that's what.

He bursts out laughing. No doubt. You should go to the spa and have a day.

Why in the hell do you all want me to cut my hair? And why the subject change?

You look so sweet when your hair doesn't take over everything with the bad-weather ringlets. And I'm trying to mark my position and move forward from here.

I see.

Should I have not confirmed what you already know? I've had no other lasting relationships. I have my son and I have you. I am focused.

You're obsessive.

It's sweet when it's anyone else but when I make a declaration everyone runs for cover.

Because they aren't evil.

He drinks his hot chocolate. When he puts the mug down he has a pale brown mustache on his upper lip. Neither am I.

Then why are you pushing now? Why don't you just leave well enough alone?

Because I'll be fifty in less than a year and I'm not going to be alone when that happens.

I hear Sophie is free.

Yes, well, good luck to her.

I'm not anyone's bucket list, Caleb.

The hell you aren't.

Can we change the subject?

Of course. What would you like to talk about, Bridget?

Tell me some of your regrets instead.

Oh. Well. I regret the first time we went to Vegas. When you turned eighteen.

The prince of darkness goes for a terrible memory right off the bat. Should I have expected more from him or less?

Why? Should we not have gone?

No, we should have kept going. I should have never brought you back home.

Kidnapping?

Rescue.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The burning of a heavy heart surrenders like a dream.

I was let out, I can't walk away
There were eyes all over me
I stopped breathing only just half way
There were eyes all over me
Well, now that the thrill of Sunday night is ebbing slightly I suppose I need to pick up where I left off, only I'm not sure where that is, exactly. Perched on the edge of the wall in the wind, staring out to sea, where you can always find me when I'm thinking, earphones jammed tightly into my head to block out everything but the view.

I chose to ignore the words, the letter and everything since. Ben asked me if he should just make it easy for me and ban me from going near the devil. Then he wondered if he should just do it in spite of my answer because that's what he wants to do. Lochlan got all bothered and hot and threatened a bunch of things I won't even repeat, and Andrew wanted to know if this changed anything.

No, I told him. This is not new information, if you think about it.

But still he looked sad when he left and I don't think I like the new honesty-at-any-price version of Caleb that I'm seeing now. He's just too hard to predict and too hard to resist when he's telling me his deepest darkest secrets. He's vulnerable and open and transparent and far too much like Cole when he does that and I can't process that at all. My brain just shuts down and says, Oh, pretty wave every time I take a running start at attempting to sort out what he's doing now while I continue to stare at the blue-green whitecaps on the windy pacific. I'd rather focus on the sea but all the loose ends and tight confines need to be fixed. I need to deal with this. I don't think things can go on the way they are and I don't know how we all managed to make it to this point in the first place.

Oh right, I do. Ben refused to pin me down the way Jacob had and I took my unexpected freedom and ran with it. I made a mess. I made mistakes and now I need help fixing things and now help is nowhere to be found. I know what will fix this, I just can't seem to do it. I know what will end this, but I don't have the guts to put it into play anymore. I'm paralyzed and I'm angry at myself and he's taking advantage of my position to drive home his own agenda, this means to an end. Break her down and in the end she'll be unable to resist you. Destroy her and she'll give in.

Who would want that?

Don't answer, okay? I already know their names and I know their faces like I know the sea. Sometimes through and through and sometimes not even remotely well enough to recognize familiar features.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

We are behind the tent in the wind. The canvas ripples and flaps violently and the sun has taken on a quiet pink glow. It's twilight. The time of day that finds homesickness rising up like a tide inside my throat until it drowns the memories of the day into blackness.

Lochlan takes my left hand tightly in his right hand. His hands are so warm the rest of my skin feels cool now by comparison. Maria takes my right hand gently but firmly. She looks after the animals and is the carnival grandmother to most of us. Lochlan squeezes my hand and I squeeze both of my hands in response. We are standing in a circle with fourteen others.

Gregory begins the evening prayer, though it's not really a prayer, since by nature circus people are somewhat secular. It's a bonding ritual that is part pep-talk, part prayer, and part planning session. There's a little of everything. Some reminders, a little discipline, some reassurance and all of our hopes and dreams too. Surprisingly by the end of each run we usually have it down to seven, eight minutes tops. I remain silent, or my hopes and dreams would take years to list and dissect.

The prayers almost always begin with asking for strength for Lochlan and end with asking for safety for me, because they all know I am young and escaping reality and trying to live on love and they're scared to death on my behalf and his too but in that relentless wind and staggeringly beautiful sunset I am daydreaming still, my mind at the beach, jarred back ever so briefly when someone says my name, continuing to squeeze both hands as tightly as I can, waiting for the predictable part of the night to be over so that the fun can begin.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Dreaming out (sigh).


Oh hi. I'm so NOT awake.

I went to Switchfoot last night at the Commodore and just wow. It was bonkers. Thanks to the prodding just to run, Bridget once we made it through the door, we made it to the front row again because I'm such a huge, huge fan but short so I need to be way down front and we proceeded to jump up and down and sway and sing with the band until close to eleven. There is no squinting at a tiny stage far off in the distance when you go to a Switchfoot show, let me tell you. You're right in the middle of everything. You get it all. This was the tour highlighting Vice Verses, so it was extra-awesome because VV is their heaviest album yet and I like where they're going with this, frankly.

I'd put up a setlist but I'm still coming down off a high here and I have no idea. I know they played The War Inside and Dare you to Move and Where I Belong and those are my three favorites so everything else just became an added bonus, okay? (Also I took so many pictures I broke my phone, but again, that's neither here nor there.) The opener was The Rocket Summer, and they were tight, like a younger Our Lady Peace. I was impressed. Better live than what I could find online to preview beforehand.

After the show ended we waited behind the venue, watching the load-out and eventually Jon came out and did a little aftershow with his acoustic guitar. It was beautiful and a big treat for me because the other shows we've been to saw us bring the children and kids don't want to wait in back alleys three hours past their bedtimes for anything so we would always come home when the concert proper was over. But not last night.



The aftershow featured:
  1. Wouldn't it be Nice (Beach boys cover)
  2. Thrive
  3. Vice Verses
  4. Learning How to Die (from Jon's Spring EP)
  5. Your Love is Strong (from his Winter EP)
I think we were spoiled rotten. He usually only plays three songs out back but we were gifted five. It was truly an incredible night. If you haven't checked them out yet now is the time. Start with Vice Verses and work your way backward. You won't be sorry, I promise.

(Previous Switchfoot show reviews here, here, and argh, the other one was from 2007 and those archives are offline, my apologies but it was the first show for me so it was extra-amazing.)

I'll resume with regular programming tomorrow. :)

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Lost in translation.

The dinner party was an easy cleanup thanks to the barbecue and everyone eating everything. No leftovers save for a tiny bit of cake and every wine bottle in the house emptied and rinsed and packed into a box by Dalton, who is good at those things. When they were all outside on the porch I wiped down the counters and tables and then I went upstairs to sit in the walk-in closet and I opened my envelope from Caleb.

Three words on the page in his handwriting. Those very predictable three little words you think of when someone says think of three words.

Not I am fine.

Or How are you?

Or even Just a minute.

Or help me please.

It said I love you.

I just don't understand what he means.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Oh there it is. Plain as day. The catch.

Revealed during lunch, just as my plate is placed in front of me and I contemplate asking the server how I'm supposed to eat what I thought was going to be a Reuben sandwich and some fries and instead is some sort of deconstructed essence of bread possibly with a drizzle of something precious and a curlicue piece of carrot on top. The fries are organized vertically, in a glass. There are eight of them.

This is not food, this is sculpture and I don't know why in the hell Caleb can't just take me to A&W like all the others and then I can horrify him with how positively fast I can pound back a bag full of giant salted onion rings and still walk out of the restaurant under my own power.

I pull out a french fry and bite into it suspiciously and he starts to talk, only I missed the beginning of his thoughts because with great dismay I realize the fries are parsnips because the menu was in a different language so I merely pointed at the list provided and hoped instead of asking because when I ask it's almost as if I am giving the staff license to spout contempt. And I wasn't about to let him order or he would be all champagne and caviar on me and I can't eat those things for lunch anymore. Too rich. Too much.

Sort of like Caleb.

But parsnips are the unholiest of vegetables, in my big list of what vegetables are good and what ones should just be ignored, avoided or outrun entirely.

Suddenly I catch him saying ....and what has he done for you recently except cause more strife?

Oh...WHAT? You want to know what he's done for me.

If he isn't good for you or to you, then what is the point exactly?

This is not your business.

Sure it is. You're the mother of my-

Leave Henry out of this.

He looks down at his napkin. He has finished his carrot curl and whatever abomination of a vegetable he was given. I apologize. I want to know that you are being looked after and that you are happy. Aside from the boys coming to the new house, and it being almost summer, I mean. If Lochlan can't find his common ground with Ben anymore than that puts an extraordinary amount of stress on you. If he can't make an effort-

He's fine. I lie.

How fine?

Fine.

I see. Smile and nod, right, Bridget?

I smile at him. God, I'm such a brat. The server comes back and I tell her to take my plate. She frowns and I ignore her. Caleb makes a note of my one parsnip bite of lunch and frowns too. Great. Frowny faces all around. Parsnips bring everybody down.

I see how you place all blame squarely on one and not the other.

Ben is justified in-

What? This was Ben's idea! Ben's bright ideas rise and set with the fucking sun, don't they? As long as he's shining everything's a go, one too many bad days and everything is off. We can't live like that. I had to make a stand.

You could make a bigger stand, Bridget. You could end their contest. You could have the happiness you deserve. He reaches out and touches my face. You could show a little gratitude for the life you have been given.

I stop arguing and nod. I get it now. We're not going to mince words forever. Some of them must be swallowed whole. The house he bought is going to cost me dearly.

Caleb reaches into his breast pocket and removes a small deep-grey envelope. He places it in front of me. There is a small letter b engraved on the front. Great. He special-orders his stationery now.

I pick it up and tuck it into my handbag. He stands. I know. You have to go. Read this one after your dinner party. Please. You know where I'll be.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Vanishing points.

So the plan as it stands now is to move the big electric gate from the end of the driveway to the top of the road proper. Possibly even rerouting the driveway so that it isn't so close to the highway. Right now it's almost beside the actual road, as in when you turn off the highway to drive down my street, my driveway is right there. It's almost it's own road. I'm not sure if the city will allow that due to municipal work and such but Caleb assures me money can buy anything.

When he says that I always point out his marital status. He will retort that it's just a matter of time and we drop the whole thing and pick up the features of the new house instead. Like how come our porches and patios are all wood-trimmed and next door is all glass panels and who the hell picked that color for the kitchen floor tiles, they must be a genius and taking turns looking up the rangehood over the island cooktop or touching the natural stone feature walls throughout.

The plan is for Schuyler and Danny to sell their beautiful little house upneighborhood for what they paid for it, to get out from underneath their crushing mistake of a mortgage, and Christian (!) and Andrew (!!) will sell their places to move into the new house. Corey (!!!) is going to sublet his condo and give it a trial run. Sam (!!!!) is considering swapping his parish digs for a housing allowance and is waiting for approval for that before he can even consider living here.

I have been walking around smiling for days due to these wonderful turns of events.

Batman did a little financial postmortem on Caleb's wheelings and dealings and said Caleb has a knack for coming out ahead no matter what. Caleb has paid Batman in full plus interest for his uh..mafia bailout and has liquidated so much besides that he's now sitting flush on a pile of Robert Bordens taller than the pine trees out front and then some. He still has a lot invested in Ben. He still has the remains of the umbrella company (which is technically mine now I suppose) and his profits from his newer forays into venture capitalism. He plays the stock market. He does consulting. He works pretty much twenty-four hours a day and he's very very good at what he does so it was less of a surprise than you might have expected.

I don't care, I was busy trying to ascertain how the clear glass washbasins in the master ensuite are sealed. Because I will be forever curious and eager to learn about all things construction thanks to my hundred-year-old castle in the grass back home (Huh. I wrote home. It wasn't home but I will leave it in.)

Caleb walked around behind me with his shirtsleeves rolled up, hands in his pockets and a genuinely pleased look on his face.

Does this make it better? He asked at one point.

What, exactly?

You'll have everyone here.

You did this just for me?

No, I did it for the land. For the dollar figure. As a side benefit, I get to see you happier than you've been in weeks. Can you fault me for that?

No. I admit it and then there is the sound of a doorbell and he smiles and turns away, heading to the front to see who it is. Probably Sam, he was going to come on his lunch hour and see what everything looks like.

As he walks away down the hall Caleb calls back to me, Now you've truly got yourself a commune, Princess and I frown at myself in the wall-to-wall bathroom mirror. This is not the commune I imagined. That one had chickens running loose and I would ride around the yard naked on a motorcycle while the boys fixed their cars and chased ten toddlers around. We would grow our own vegetables and be off the grid completely.

This is some sort of completely different commune with expensive marble floors, Macbook Pros, guitar sponsorship, two very refined children and a bunch of fortysomething hipsters with portfolios and nice boots and new trucks instead. The obligations to and reliance on the outside world staggers me. It's unwelcome. I thought there would be more camper-vans and cookouts involved. More stars. More iced tea. More time to spend together instead of time spent apart.

I guess sometimes when wishes come true it's not always in the form you pictured. Sometimes it's something else altogether. But it's still very very very good because I like it when we're all here. All home.

All in, as Lochlan said the other day. Yes, all in.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

B sides.

PJ has put on his epic little-boy frown. Can't hardly see it behind his full beard but I know it's there. I reassure him that he is not moving again. He can keep the suite downstairs. He's very happy there. He is plotting his future there, or something, since I have graduated to not needing care and keeping twenty-four hours a day save for certain scenarios as detailed in the rules that they have about me/for me. I need to be escorted when on the grounds or at the water. Otherwise I am free to confront bears in the woods, play in traffic or just stick close to home to wallow in my own misery as I see fit.

At this rate I should just walk around naked for all the privacy I suddenly have.

But I don't like it much and frankly if PJ wanted to move to the new house I'd probably shut that down with some sort of fairytale emergency just to keep him close by because he's my big bearded shadow. I would grow a beard just to lead the PJ fanclub but when I tell him that he pretends to be touched but mildly horrified at the thought of a beard on my face because wow.

That would be something.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Checking for the blast (here, then, take this instead).

She once believed in every story he had to tell
One day she stiffened, took the other side
Empty stares from each corner of a shared prison cell
One just escapes, one's left inside the well
And he who forgets will be destined to remember
He came back today, cleanshaven and freshly shorn. He rivals Henry for his military cuts only Ben's hair is finer and less likely to behave, haircut or not. He looks like my Ben again. His eyes have dark circles, his irises see ghosts when he closes his lids over them and his brain is ruined, pickled and fried like carnival food, having seen too many things he would like to forget and now he exists in a space where he lives for himself, owning no one anything at all, while at the same time needing an almost debilitating unspoken amount of reassurance and support. He has been through as much as I have but that isn't why I'm with him.

I'm with him because he demonstrates a clear ability to comfort me. To love me. He can hold me and smile and everything vanishes. He is kind and sweet and incredibly silly and passionate too. He's a good hockey player and an okay guitar player. He can make me laugh with enough in-jokes that we have our own language that we send each other messages in and no one else knows what is going on. Ever.

I'm with him because I. love. him.

He does not give up even when the going gets tough. He doesn't back down but he'll back off to keep the peace. He keeps everyone on an emotional leash that helps him navigate this new blown-out tilted world we live in.

He's certifiable. Crazy. Hilarious. He's started food fights in each and every high-end restaurant we've ever visited (across the continent) and been banned from almost as many hotels for throwing furniture, people and drunken rages (sorry). He has always paid for the things he's broken and then some.

He does not fit in my car but he'll drive it anyway because I suck at things like overpasses, parking garages and drive-thru lineups. He crunches down with his knees around his shoulders and pretends to hold his breath while he steers with his fingertips. He'll talk in a high breathless voice until he gets out. I laugh so hard I cry.

He loves me, in a time where I am incredibly difficult to love, selfish and ignorant, to boot. He ignores all that and just says some day things will be different. While he says that he's busy eating my lip balms because he HATES when I wear them. He literally hates kissing me when I'm slathered in sticky, slippery gloss so if he eats them then I have nothing to wear. It's not working, I just buy more. Someday he's going to die of pink glitter poisoning, I can feel it.

I hope I'm a thousand years old and don't hear them when they come to tell me that he's gone. That's the only wish I have left is that I don't outlive any more of them, but especially him because he is different, he is mine and I am his and frankly I don't care what you think of our arrangements or my love life or polyamory or communes or musicians or circus rats or anything else.

He's downstairs now teaching himself Nothingman because it's a song I can sway to in place and he laughs when I do that. He notices when I do that. Not sure anyone else ever has.

And he doesn't like to be written about because he only cares what I think of him. No one else. So that makes it seem as if he is absent, or forgotten or lesser somehow.

Don't make that mistake anymore, okay?

I asked him about what happened with his devastating plans and the camping trip and the loss of his courage and everything else and I'm satisfied with the answers he gave me, whispered into my hair where all secrets go to hide.

At least the ones that don't belong here for all to see.
I know I haven't said much about the purchase of the house next door. I've been very busy juggling hearts and I haven't had time to even think about it and then Satan sends a message this morning telling me it is closing day and did I want a tour now that he has the keys?

That was fast. Doesn't it take longer to move furniture out of a house that size? Apparently they were mostly out the door anyway and the staging was all that was there, removed the day after the sale was approved. We probably could have gone in before now but Caleb is in no rush.

Also, change the locks first. Always change the locks first. I was going to tell him this until I saw New Jake heading out with him this morning. Jake will look after putting new locks on and then Caleb can pay him for doing so. Unless Jake goes to live in the new house too and then it can come off his rent. Don't ask me what their plans are, I'm never told anything until it's too late to change anyway.

***

Fortunately for him, Lochlan did not have his cat that swallowed the canary expression on when I saw him. His look was pure concern.

Where were you last night?

Theater.

You could have messaged me.

I don't think that would have been appropriate. Besides, I left my phone on the desk.

Are you okay?

Why wouldn't I be okay?

I can read, Bridget.

Then why did you ask where I was?

He looks up at the sky abruptly. It's an exasperated, almost eye-roll. Because I was hoping you would have a little more to say than this. Don't shut me out.

What would you like me to say?

Have you talked to Ben?

I really wish people would stop asking me that.

Does he know you know?

I'm guessing yes, since he can read too. In spite of everyone's assumptions that he can't.

When are you going to talk to him?

If and when he brings it up. It's not an issue. He didn't go through with it. Everything remains the same. If you want to push him around then that's your problem. Don't make it mine.

You want to stay with someone who would give you away.

I want to stay with someone who considered being unselfish and letting me out if I wanted out but in the end couldn't let go? Hell yes. Yes, I do.

I'm not sure who is more fucked up, you or Ben.

Then we make a good couple. So if you're so perfect, why are you with us?

Can't let go.

Then you understand him perfectly. And me. Are we done here?

He nods, eyes glassy, words forgotten.

Good. I have a house tour to get to. Want to come? It'll piss Satan off.

Sure. Just give me a minute.

Okay. I soften and try to smile for him and it fails. What a mess. What a godawful fucked-up mess.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Transparencies.

Today's bad joke involved walking past microwave egg poachers in a store and discussing the merits of hunting eggs out of season, or perhaps on crown land but only for their yolks. But not just any eggs, radioactive ones. It was a halfhearted and vaguely overtired joke sacrificed in place of simply discussing anything else at all, because sometimes that is what we do.

***

Last night I was cornered between Ben and Duncan halfway down the hall. I put my head down and Duncan gently took the forbidden bottle out of my hands and took it away, leaving a kiss slammed against the top of my head, bruising my brain. I didn't fight him. I let him take the alcohol and the kiss. Ben took the laptop and tucked it under his arm and into his other arm he tucked me and we went downstairs where he sat me down on the big couch while he hooked my computer up to the big screen and then Jake in all his former blonde Viking glory filled the fifteen foot wall while his voice filled my ears.

I don't cry when I watch him anymore.

Well...much, anyway.

Ben turned off the lights and locked the double doors and turned my head away from the screen with a kiss. A kiss that became something else and he worked his way through my clothes until I was free of everything and I put my arms around his neck and turned my head back toward the screen as Ben moved against me and there was Jake, watching us, smiling innocently, benignly, not knowing how to read the future yet except for the predictable parts.

When Ben stopped hours later, he rested his mouth against my ear and he asked me if I wanted to leave the movies on or if I was finished watching and I didn't say anything but one tear ran out of my eye and down into my hair and he brushed it away and sat me up and pulled my clothes back together and rearranged his own clothes and then he sat back down and pulled me in again, close to his chest, wrapping his arms around me, kissing the top of my head over and over again, squeezing me every time Jacob said my name on the screen.

It was like a party game except instead of drinking shots when I hear a specific word I get stabbed in the heart every time. And I've died a million times over here tonight but we keep watching. It's a montage of Jacob, six hours of smaller videos strung together chronologically of everyday moments, not big ones, just ones from the times when I would turn a camera on him when he was doing normal things. Sometimes he responded and sometimes he ignored the camera. Sometimes he made faces and sometimes his annoyance was written right up front for me to read first in his expression.

Sometimes he didn't even know he was being filmed, like when I was watching him warm up for a hockey game, doing laps around the rink. I see him turn back briefly to say something to Ben and then he turns away and Ben calls something to him. Jake turns back in a flash, launching himself into Ben's net. They go down swinging, brawling and in the background you can hear me say He's not worth it. Jake, come on, Ben's nothing to you. and I feel Ben's jaw tighten against my head but we just keep watching because we're masochists now and it's in the handbook, the actions we take to grind it in good and keep on going.

***

I arrive in Caleb's kitchen promptly at nine, in my battle-stilettos and a pencil dress (armor) so tight I'm seeing black spots at the edges of my vision but he won't take me seriously if I show up in jeans and a t-shirt so Pepper Potts is the only way to go.

What in the hell was that?

Did you talk to Ben?

Yes, I talk to Ben all the time. Now tell me why you tried to keep me from going on a one-night suburban camping trip?

Did you TALK to Ben?

Why don't you just tell me what I need to know and we'll go from there.

Caleb frowns and crosses the kitchen to the cupboards, pulling out two glasses. He pours three fingers of whiskey into one and drinks half of it before asking me if I want some. I tell him it's nine in the morning so he thinks for a moment and pours one finger in and hands me the glass. I return it to the counter and ignore it while he drinks the rest of his in one gulp. He looks pale.

I didn't want you out in the fucking woods with a pyromaniac who can't handle conflict and an indecisive drug addict with all the wrong bright ideas even though his heart is in the right place. What happened, anyway? Caleb looks up, dazed, distracted, and not at all like he usually does.

We camped. Then we came home. I smile. And then Ben and I spent last night watching ghost footage and fucking on the theatre floor. He's very good-

Bridget. Jesus Christ.

Why don't you just cut to the chase here? I have things to do, Caleb.

Your husband was going to tell you that Lochlan could have you.

What?

Exclusivity for Lochlan. An offering. You were to be a gift. Ben doesn't want to stand in the way of your happiness, if that's what he's doing by holding on to you.

I find the glass and drink the whiskey without returning his gaze. It burns and I feel alive and dead and somewhat blindsided and more than a little disappointed. So you didn't want me to go because...?

I didn't want that sort of disclosure to take place in an unsafe location.

You didn't want Lochlan to win.

I wasn't even thinking that far ahead. I know that Ben just wanted privacy for the three of you but it was a bad idea from the start and I'm glad he decided not to go through with it.

I wipe my mouth with the back of my hand and hold out the glass for more. Yeah, me too. He fills the glass this time and I drink half. How did you know what he was planning?

He came to me and asked for help.

And you told him to give me away?

The look on his face smolders, burning a hole into my soul. No, Bridget. I told him to do whatever he could to make you happy. And not be selfish about it. That's what he came up with.

You told him not to be selfish? That's the pot calling the kettle black, isn't it?

You would be surprised. He looks back into his empty glass. He didn't tell you any of this, did he?

No. I say it softly. I don't think I can take any more, Caleb. It's a plea. Shut up. Shut up shut up shut up.

He really loves you, Bridget. The fact that he doesn't want to let you go is comforting.

We haven't been getting along so well lately. Things have been rough and I always put Loch in the middle and I-

The bad times will pass. They always do.

When?

When things are better. You both need hours of therapy and a good swift kick in the-

Nice.

It's true.

What's in this for you?

Hmmm?

Why would you tell me this, since apparently he changed his mind?

I want you to know the kind of person Ben is.

I know the kind of person Ben is. That's why I married him instead of Lochlan. Or even you.

Was I in the running?

I'm leaving now. I need to go home and sober up for lunch.

Good plan. By the way, you look lovely today.

This dress is killing me.

You should wear it more often.

Only you would say that, Diabhal.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Child all the way.

Oh, now this is a toss-up.

In one hand? A deep grey envelope inviting me down to the boathouse to discuss my camping trip because apparently it wasn't sanctioned though no one made a fuss because the children were present and wow, how adult we can be when reminded and how childish when not.

In the other hand is a stolen bottle of white lightning and a laptop full of videos of Jake.

Just guess which one I'm choosing.

See you on the other side of two hundred proof.

*self-destructs*

[Update. I have a passenger! He gets no fucking moonshine. Ben's not allowed to drink anymore. And I don't know why he would want to watch my home movies but hey I won't look a gift-Ben in the mouth.]


Sunday, 20 May 2012

Synecdoches.

And he still gives his love, he just gives it away
The love he receives is the love that is saved
And sometimes is seen a strange spot in the sky
A human being that was given to fly
Home again, just after lunch today as the rain began to pour down steadily and the temperature, though mild overnight, dropped again mid-morning. My teeth were starting to chatter when I spoke and my shoulders shivered uncontrollably until the heat in the truck kicked in full on the way home. I reached a point where I just couldn't get warm anymore.

At one point Ben zipped me into the front of his hoodie, wrapped his arms around me and exhaled on the top of my head and still, the sides of my knees were cold. At another point I was sitting as close to the bonfire as humanly possible and Lochlan started to yell because he was worried I would catch my hair on fire (it's happened) and I moved back because the heat wasn't reaching me anyway.

I ate smoldering, charred marshmallows without even blowing on them first. When I slept I dreamed of being a hotdog on one of those stainless steel rolling racks because then I would be just toasty and done to perfection (that's what I imagine a tanning bed is like) and I woke up colder than I have ever been in my life, in spite of sleeping wedged between the human fireball and a man big enough to have his own independent climate control system onboard. He keeps it set far too cool though and the fireball is generally too hot to touch comfortably.

So there you have it.

Next time we go I hope it's warmer so I can complain about the stifling heat and how Ben's skin is icy and wonderful because he's the undead or the living dead or whatever they used to call him that was funny before too much time passed and we actually had to distinguish between those kinds of things.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Last minutes.

Seven o'clock on a Saturday night and Ben walks into the kitchen and says simply,

Little bee, let's go camping.

Who?

Caleb's got the kids for movie sleepover so I figured you and I would go. Go pack your boyfriend and let's get going.

He turns and walks out of the room. If I know Ben, he'll put his truck keys in one pocket, a guitar pick in the other pocket and proclaim that he is ready to go. Not sure he's ever really figured out the whole tent + sleeping bags + food part of the deal. Ben doesn't actually live in the reality he claims to. He lives in a different fantasyland, where camping equipment just falls from the sky for him to use. That hasn't changed in twenty years.

I take off, scrambling. Sleeping bag. Check. Tent. Check. Food. Check. Run down the driveway to the boathouse and kiss the kids and tell them where we will be. Check. Urg. Phone isn't charged. Will do that on the drive in the truck. Check. Sketchbook and pencils. Check. Extra blanket in case it's colder than the forecast. Check.

I am waiting in the front hall with mostly everything when he returns with his guitar case and he looks around.

Where's Lochlan?

I don't know? Camper, probably?

Go get him. Come on. We have to get moving to get a site before dark.

I thought you were being sarcastic about bringing him.

No. I wasn't.

You want him to come camping with us?

Yes?

Are you going to kill him in the woods?

Only if he tries to kiss me again.

He doesn't do that. You do it to him!

Oh, right. Okay, I'll only kill him if he doesn't respond to my advances.

You've a very hard man to figure out, Benjamin.

I hear you like guys like that.

Just..wow.

That WAS sarcasm. In case you were wondering.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Between two thieves.

It's a carpet bag with lavender stitches along the outside of one seam, a painstaking repair job done in the dark with a flickering flashlight and a rusted needle while I waited for him to return from tear-down. The rotation is horrible some weeks and so I am forced to go to the medical station each night and be watched over by the disapproving nurse because no one else is free. She doesn't like him. I think she likes me but she seems too worried to confirm that and instead I am treated to an endless routine of disapproving clicks and checks so I go out and sit in the dark behind the trailer.

She wants proof that I have not been kidnapped, stolen or otherwise forced to be here against my will. She wants proof that I'm eating, growing, menstruating even. I am weighed every week. Just beforehand Lochlan pours sand in my pockets and in my shoes. But she wants proof that he isn't doing anything to me that I don't want him to do.

All of this is carried out through charades. She doesn't speak English and I don't speak Romanian.

Lochlan does, but he isn't here now, is he? I just wait for him to come back and flash me a brief tired smile and she'll launch into a barrage of words at him that sound even stranger than the ones in the songs he sings when he thinks I can't hear him, and he'll answer back just as fast, beginning softly and ending in that stern none-of-your-business voice that he deploys as proof that he can handle this.

This.

This life, with it's broken camper with the makeshift lock on the door, one pillow to share and one thin blanket we hardly even need for the temperature Lochlan runs at. I often think if one of his torches goes out during a routine he could just blow on it it to reignite but he laughs and said it's his Scottish passion that heats him to a slow burn and it's his Bridget that fans the flames. Oh, the charm. It works magnificently when he is standing in front of me defending this life. The one with the stolen tablecloth and the hard-earned toolbox and the warm beer and fifty dollars in hand to procure a week's work of food but we run out on Thursdays usually by mistake and have resorted to borrowing regularly with no intentions to pay it back because if we do then we'll never get ahead.

The zipper on the bag is finicky, catchy and almost broken but not quite. In it always the same things. Something warm to wear. Something good to read. Some music to listen to (then it was the walkman with the expensive batteries. Now it's the expensive phone that can't last half a day on a charge), some photographs of times when I could still smile spontaneously, and a half-assed plan to rule the world on our terms, because there is no me in we, as Lochlan says late at night when we giggle as he pulls the threadbare blanket up just to the stars, calling it our night-fort. It's the safest place in the whole world.

It's where he teaches me those other languages I will instantly forget and where he tells me about all of the places in the world that he will take me someday and where he describes in great detail the food we'll eat on Saturday when we cash out again and head in town. I think I like that part best.

The part I like least is when he reminds me to keep the carpet bag packed and near the door. Just in case. I still listen. It's still there. His stuff is in it too.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Champion of the world.

Nothing you would take
Everything you gave

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn't I'm a fool you see
No one knows this more than me
And I come clean
Outrageous. He's not holding to his word anymore, Bridget.

He's using logic as a weapon tonight. He's highly annoyed. The eyebrows are working overtime. I'm glad he cut his hair, I get treated to the full complement of facial expressions. Otherwise I just see a faceful of curls and his mouth.

I know but look at the other side of the coin. We have the whole peninsula now.

It's a trick coin, Peanut! Remember?

It will be good for the others.

My whole wing is vacant, Bridget. You could fit a couple of them in there.

That's your space.

That's my space, right there. He nods in the direction of the driveway where the camper sits with big wooden chocks behind the wheels. I never needed much. My sketchbooks and torches. He looks down at me. You.

I know.

But now it's out of control. I can't live like this.

You don't have to change anything.

Sure I do. This is it. The deciding factor. The final piece of this experiment and now it's all-in, Bridget. It's a compound. And he owns all of it.

You're making it sound like it's such a big deal. Caleb bought the house next door. That's it.

But now he has the whole peninsula, as you said. A hell of a lot of prime real estate.

And you're threatened by his money suddenly?

Lochlan shoots me a warning look. No, I'm threatened by his proximity. To you. To my daughter. To Benjamin. This isn't healthy.

Like you said, it's an experiment.

And you're the subject. That isn't right.

I would use Caleb to get Daniel and Schuyler out from under their mortgage any day. They can't afford that house. Having them move into the house next door and having Christian and maybe Corey have their own suites there too will help all of them immensely. Do you want to deny your friends the same help you received?

I want nothing from him. I never asked for this.

But you got help by default, Loch.

Jesus, Bridge. You're not going there. Not tonight.

I want to help them. It has nothing to do with Caleb.

He sees it so differently. His eyes are pleading and I can see his thoughts.

(No further. No more. You'll only get so far from me, Peanut and then I'll call you back and you'll come skipping down the dirt road at sunset, sugar streaked across your cheeks, tangled hair with daisies braided into your curls, and you'll ask if we can stay out later but I always have to disappoint you because you need a good nights sleep while I hold you so you can grow up healthy and someday leave all this danger, these thrills behind. Only I failed to help you do that and it's all still here, right behind me. I drag it with me as I walk.)

I straddle his knees and take his face in my hands. It's how I get them to pay very close attention. Old habits die hard, I've been doing it since I was nine.

I don't care how he sees it. I only see it as a means to an end. The land is worth far more unified and everyone will be in one place. I'm even going to propose some space to Matt and Sam, if they want, it might help them sort out their stalemate on living together. It's a good thing, Lochlan, please.

Then tell him you're using him.

He knows. I don't think he cares.

Exactly. He doesn't put your feelings first. It doesn't matter who you love, there he is, right there dismissing your plans for his own. That's not right, Bridget. Things aren't getting better with him here.

That's what Ben has been saying about you, remember?

I always put you first.

If you did that you wouldn't be here now would you!
I shout it at his face. It's not a question, it's an observation.

Do you want me to go? Because I can go, Bridget and then you can live happily ever after with the Boogie Man and Frankenstein but don't cry for me when you wake up and you're afraid of the dark because I won't be there to soothe your fears. No one will. They're both too wrapped up in themselves to do the job. You know it and I know it and THEY know it.

You weren't there for y-

I'M HERE NOW!

He was so loud I was scared into silence.

I'm here now. Repeated in a whisper as his hand takes mine and brings it up to his lips, warm as they press against my skin.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Hades waits.

(A very vivid dream, but a dream nonetheless. Dalton said it was 'just a dream' which reduced it to manageable for me. If it's only a dream I can control it. Right? What do you mean, no?)

It took him forever and a day to open my hands. In one was a broken lock, the inside of the tiny door handle, the mechanisms that failed. In the other was everything else, the air removed, sealed into a tiny package. I can add water later and it will grow back to normal. It took even longer for me to open my eyes, I had squeezed them shut tight against the lies and promises, against the epic block of time I would never get back again. Life is over before it's even begun, that's what this sign says, while the one up ahead says Hell: Next Exit.

We get off here, sweetheart.

He smiled when he said it, arm resting on the door sill, aviators in place, hair ruffling in the breeze.

I didn't even want to come here. I sit back and cross my arms. It's a momentary lapse, this outward petulance. I resume the vacant stare out the window. I've been subsisting on panic and silence. Neither contains enough fuel to see me through. I know the platitudes involve things like keeping my strength up and looking after myself but somehow that just happens and I'll have nothing to do with it. I can stand here on the side of the road and watch as I drive past and wave only I don't know where I'm going. I don't know what the directions mean or what hell even looks like. This is not the roadtrip I planned. This is not the life I lead. This was not how things are supposed to be.

Pull over, I tell him. It's not a request, it's an order so he does when he sees the panic in my eyes and I rush out the door, almost tripping in the dry tall grass on the shoulder and I bend over, automatically pulling my hair back with one hand. He comes around and puts his hands on my shoulders and I wait for the retching but it doesn't come. Why is my head spinning? My stomach is empty and he knows that so he yanks me back up to face him.

You lied, Bridget.

I nod. I'm not going to verbalize anything. I no longer care. I'm the passenger. This is not my trip.

Why did you lie?

Silence again. What am I supposed to tell him, that I thought I could pull it off? That I thought I could eat the cake, that I thought everything would work out, that I like to torture myself because I've never felt worthy of any more than that? Fuck him. He doesn't deserve an answer any more than I deserve to know the reason I'm here in the first place. A few words on a page and complete and total invisibility besides.

He forces me back into the car, buckling the seatbelt around me, frowning at my obsolescence.

This is not a reason, it's a minimum at best, a tangent. A will to persevere in spite of nothing. Some will say it wasn't for nothing but that's a lie too and I see right through it. We drive through it and it spreads and dissipates onto the wind.

He takes the turn too fast but nothing happens. The car drives like it's on a rail. He smiles.

Almost home, Bridget. Then we can rest.

I've been here before. It hasn't changed a bit. It's exactly like I remember it and at the same time I have no memory of this at all.

This isn't my home.

Everyone feels like that at first. Just give it ti-

We need to turn around! I shout it and scare myself but Caleb just smiles.

Give it time, beautiful. All of this belongs to you now.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Texts from Satan.

Eurydice. Brilliant. I forget how incredibly bright you are sometimes.

Eurydice waits.

Back into your endless honeymoon, I see. Everything is straightened out with Ben?

For the time being.

And then what?

We'll see, I guess.

You know what the best part is, Bridget? You give away everything and you give away nothing at the same time.

Caleb, what are you talking about?

Your writing. You have zero class when it comes to detailing things you can't control but when it comes to finishing what you start, you come up short.

Maybe you should read someone else's words then, since I have no class.

I said when it comes to-

I heard what you said.

You're a very cranky little thing today aren't you? Boyfriend keeping you up all night?

Yes, actually.

Oh, good, that made him stop talking. He fussed with his tie for a moment before loosening it significantly and then as he rolled up his shirt sleeves against the heat he tried a new topic. It was not a better choice.

So what in the hell are you going to do without your Jake-substitute around for the next ten weeks to pacify your need for oversized Newfoundlanders?

Aren't you late for a meeting or something?

I've already been.

Oh.

So I have time.

I don't.

Sure you do. You're here, aren't you?

Not anymore. I turned to leave.

Bridget, don't think I can't be a force for good in your life. I'm trying really hard here.

I know.

Then let me help you.

Help isn't supposed to be your means to an end, Cale.

I'm one of the few with means-

Money can't help you. Don't you think if it could everything would be fixed by now?

Lose the charades then. Do it now.

Slipping a little, are you, Mister Honest?

I can't help it, Bridget. We're wasting time.

You can go do whatever you want. I'm not holding you back.

What I want is in front of me.

No, it isn't.

He laughed out loud. I can assure you, it is.

Then you're the one who's wasting time. I balled my hands into fists and turned to leave but he grabbed my arm and pulled me in close.

You think an amateur seaside commitment ceremony protects them from losing you?

Yes.

Bridget, you are truly amazing. I've never seen someone fight so hard to surround themselves with such a loyal army of lovers.

I do what works.

And it's an illusion, princess. Just like your fire boy. Your future is predestined. Stop fighting it.

I wanted to say You stop fighting it and get used to the idea that you will die alone but in that moment I could not be so cruel. I guess that's why he still has hope that things will turn out differently.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Manual transmission (AKA Happy Mother's Day!)

Today when we were leaving the shopping center, we were walking between cars in the parking lot and we passed a car with a couple inside, sitting oddly close for bucket seats. It only took me half of a heartbeat to realize that the girl in the car was giving the guy in the car a handjob. It took me the rest of that heartbeat to realize that Ruth and Henry saw everything I saw.

It took me the rest of the trip home to explain that private cuddles in public aren't supposed to be in places where children could witness things they don't need to witness. My big-city-living, cross-country-moving, worldly, sophisticated, knowledge-sponge children are just that: Children.

I'm not all that impressed, truth be know and I'm the furthest thing from a prude that you will ever meet (see previous uh...eight years worth of entries). My kids have taken sex ed. I've talked to them, they get the rest from the boys' talks with them, books and questions and everything else so they're not shielded or bubbled or ostriched into ignorance here. I just don't think coming out of the Hello Kitty store and into HELLO FETISH was how I wanted to spend Mother's Day, but your mileage may vary.

All I'm asking is that when my elementary-school age kids are passing your windshield at least stop moving your hand, goddammit.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

(Not safe) Swimming in velvet.

When he moves to slide my rings off Ben stops him, shaking his head briefly once. It's enough. I exhale my relief visibly, rewarded with almost-smiles in near darkness. Golden bands are threaded back onto my ring finger gently and deliberately. I watch, holding my breath. Loch smiles and pulls me in closer. He kisses up under my neck. I lift my head up and the back of it rests against Ben's chest. No space. No need for distance now. No room for error.

Ben takes my hands and holds them clasped in front of me. His head comes down to kiss along my shoulder. He slides the strap of my dress off my skin and turns me around as Lochlan's hands fall to my waist. Another kiss, this time stretching far up to meet Ben as he lowers his head. His hands slide around my head to hold me up closer to him. And then he lets go and I fall onto the feather bed. Lochlan laughs and pulls me over. He is already stretched out the full length of our in-house cloud, a dreamlike place where, once fully relaxed, you only feel peace. It's designed on purpose, similar to the giant soaking-bathtub of total sensory deprivation.

Ben has my wide green velvet ribbon and the last thing I see before he covers my eyes is his expression. He craves me. He ties the ribbon gently around my head and now I am blind. His lips are on mine. Cool rough stubble lingers against my philtrum. His breath warms my cheek. His hands pull me back toward the edge of the bed, lifting my knees, wrapping them around his waist. He pulls away and then he is back. When I cry out Loch's hand slides over my mouth. His head presses against my ear and he tells me that everything is okay. And then he disappears again and there is only Ben with his hands locked around my hip bones, grating them against his fingers. I have no leverage. I am in thin air, blind and at his mercy.

And oh, he likes it that way. Abruptly I am dropped back onto the cloud and then pulled back toward Lochlan. His arms pull me in close against him. His skin burns mine until we are fused glass and he stays against me, his mouth against my forehead, exertion forcing his breath out in harsh gasps. I throw my arms around his neck and hold on tight. He moves his head again, this time matching his face to mine, biting my lower lip, whispering things I can't hear between bites. Suddenly he lets go again. I am lifted out of his arms forcibly, back into Ben's embrace. When I cry out loud in dismay, Ben pulls off the ribbon and asks me if I'm okay. I nod. I am delirious and overwhelmed by their coordinated efforts to bring heaven down here. They become one person, blurred lines becoming a blend of red into black. Of blue into brown. Of hot into cold and romantic affection into something so outlandish and depraved that even I tend to ignore the safe words, if only I knew what they were. If only I thought they might heed them.

I am bent and pulled and taken to places I have never seen or heard of before. What we've seen of life is strange enough and so there is nowhere to go but here and there is nothing to do but let go and be honest and try harder and stay together.

Eventually we slow to a sleeping crawl and my eyes close against the rising sun, my head against Ben's heartbeat, Lochlan within reach as ever now. I hear the birds and see the light through the windows, burning off the ghost fog over my mind, taking with it my lingering reservations as it rises high into a Sunday sky to highlight the green velvet ribbon, lying tangled on the floor.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Boy sandwiches.

(Again, not putting a time reference on these. When is not important. What is. Besides, it's mostly obvious. One is from thirty years ago. The other, thirty days.)

I knew that he drank most of the whiskey from the bottle on the picnic table but I still didn't know why he couldn't follow simple directions.

Ow! Let go. You're hurting me.

Stay with me, Bridgie. The last thing I want is for you to get lost in the woods tonight.

Lochlan has my hand clenched so tightly in his my fingers are crushed and I'm tripping as I try to run with him. We are making our way through the woods toward the lake as the sun goes down. Not the public swimming beach but the rope swing the boys put up with their fathers years before.

We're going skinny dipping only I don't do that because I don't feel like I'm one of them. Bailey will. Her eyes are bright gold, full of beer. She scowled when she saw that Lochlan was bringing me with them. She's safer at home. It's past her bedtime anyway. I'm not looking after her.

We will, Lochlan says. Caleb nods.

Bailey looks fierce. Don't give her any alcohol. I don't want to get in shit.

I don't want any!

You're not having any anyway, Bridge, you're too young. Here, I brought pop for you.

Caleb twists the cap off as I watch. He is nineteen and this is his first year home for the summer from university. I take a drink. It's really sweet. I don't drink pop late at night. I don't even know late at night, we've never been properly introduced. I'm usually in bed by nine o'clock. But when it's summer and everyone stays out late my parents are satisfied that the older kids will keep me safe and entertain me besides and then they are free to sit on the dock and talk into the early morning hours with their cottage friends. It's a win-win situation.

Caleb doesn't seem drunk but he drinks a huge gulp from the whiskey bottle and then he's the first one out of his clothes, leaping ahead to grab the swing and launch himself out over the deepest part of the lake. With a holler he lets go and disappears under the surface. Everyone laughs and Cole goes next. I stare at his nakedness. They have no modesty whatsoever. Bailey is next. Her long hair covers her chest and she leaves her bikini bottoms on. She laughs and squeals as she flies out over the water and then screams when Caleb leaps up from below to catch her. I smile. I picture them as a couple someday. Maybe next year when she gives up the mall for more serious pursuits, because Caleb is so serious. He wants to be a lawyer. I can see that. He's very good at talking, reasoning. Adults trust him.

Lochlan has not gone on the rope yet. At sixteen he is well-respected but a loner on the fringe of the group even though he pretends he's right in the thick of it all. He's sitting beside me drawing pictures with a sharpie and a composition book. He turns to me and draws a ring on my finger and writes Love is the most important thing down the length of my arm. He tells me never to forget that. I write I won't on his knee. It wears off before we go home because it gets wet. My words don't because I don't go in. In the morning my mom asks what it means and Bailey tells her that Lochlan doodles on everyone.

I don't show my mother what Caleb wrote on my back. I saw it in the mirror this morning because he wouldn't tell me what he wrote in his modern cursive script from shoulder blade to shoulder blade. He tells me he's going to get a big tattoo on his back in a few years. I ask him what he's getting but he doesn't know yet.

***
Your shadow
I will show you something different
I will only stop you drifting so far
I find Lochlan flat on his back on the floor in the library. Oh, he is so loaded I can't get him up. He wants to get up but he can't. I don't want to tell anyone else to enlist some help because they will just judge him. He needs to forget things so he uses a liquid lobotomy and then he will forever be sixteen and I will be ten and nothing will have ever gone wrong and the worst thing we will ever have to deal with is homework and eating our vegetables and rainy days in which we can't go to the lake or beach at all. He stops singing when he realizes that I'm there.

We need to go back in time, Bridgie.

Too late, Lochlan.

Tears slide out his eyes and into his hair. He does not get up. There's music on the stereo, I can't hear what it is. I just know I want to get him up off the floor and upstairs so he can sleep it off but I don't want the kids to see him and I can't do this by myself.

You need to get up, Lochlan.

Bridget, just go out and lock the door. Come back tomorrow please.

Come to bed, Lochlan. Come on.

I can't feel my teeth, sweetheart. I'm sorry.

You're an adult. You didn't fall into a vat of whiskey, Lochlan. How can you be sorry for something you did on purpose?

You don't think sometimes things turn out not to be the right decision?

I don't know.

I'll rephrase it then. Bridget, you've chosen wrong. Now what?

He doesn't wait for me to reply. He is singing again. His accent is all over the place and I want to laugh only this sucks.

You looked beautiful this morning.

Thank you.

No, I mean it. It's hard to believe you have grown up in front of all of us.

What was I supposed to do, stay little forever?

Maybe. Then I wouldn't have taken you to that godforsaken place.

I look away. I really don't want to do this now. I sit down beside him on the floor.

Then you wouldn't have this stupid tattoo. He lifts up my shirt in the back and runs his hand across my shoulder blades, where it says Innocent in Caleb's neat cursive script, in Gaelic. Neamhchiontach. To match his tattoo that says Devil in Gaelic. Diabhal.

I like my tattoo. It keeps him forever accountable.

It makes me feel guilty.

I forgave you.

But you didn't forget, peanut. He tilts forward and puts his head down in my lap. He closes his eyes and I automatically start to comb through his curls with my fingers. He goes to sleep. He's the only one who doesn't look like a little boy when he's sleeping. He looks like a man. A man conflicted and torn, a man who carries such a heavy load all the while refusing to claim it as his own.

How am I supposed to forget? And why can't you follow simple directions?

He doesn't hear me. He's in his whiskey dreams where I am a child. Little more than someone to bounce his fears off. Little more than a mirror, his little shadow. A little hesitant. A little suggestible.

Little.

****

The library door opens around seven. I see the light spill into the hallway and I get up and go to see how he is. Lochlan walks out into the hall and sees me and then turns and heads upstairs. I am behind him the whole way but he doesn't stop. Finally outside the bedroom door I ask him how he's doing and he stops for a beat but then he goes into my room and closes the door on me. In my face, if we are being particular.

I turn and slide down the door to sit against it. I can wait for him. Eighty-five minutes pass and Ben comes to the top of the steps and just looks at me. I ask him what he wants and he says he's been looking for me. I snap that I've been here for a while, that Lochlan went inside and never came back out. Ben says that he probably went to sleep. That he weighs a hundred and fifty pounds soaking wet and probably can't handle a forty all that well. Why don't I come down and let Lochlan sleep through the rest of the evening?

I shake my head. I'm fine right here, I tell him.

What's more important, Bridget?

Love. Love is the most important thing, Ben.

Who told you that, Bridget? I wouldn't say it's true all the time. I watch his face. He is choosing his words so carefully. Each one is made of land mines disguised as letters. Each one ticks like a time bomb. Each one is locked and loaded.

Maybe you're right.

He stops thinking and reacts instead, changing expressions and I know I went too far.

Are you choosing sides today?

Trying not to.

You might want to think about that, Bridget. Because from here it looks like my team is down a player.

We're all on the same team, Ben.

You know something, Bridget? You and Loch may live in some kind of fucked-up Neverland fantasy but some of us are right here in reality and I've got news for you. We've never been on the same team. Ever. I gave you as much latitude as I could and it's making me crazy.

The door opens suddenly. Lochlan doesn't come out or say anything but the door is just...open. An invitation. An escape.

A decision.

I did not have to think twice. I grabbed Ben's hand and pulled him in with me. He didn't fight me. We made a Lochlan sandwich (Ben and I were the bread, Loch was the meat) and stayed with him until he started making sense again. We took turns watching over him, took turns sleeping and took turns talking him out of his drunken opinions and stalwart proclamations. It took a while.

When the tides had turned we were forced to do the same for Ben, unencumbered by alcohol but positively hobbled with doubt, fear and massive waves of regret. I'm not picking sides, I prioritize based on need. Once reminded of that Ben was more comfortable and far less resigned. His generosity hits me like a brick wall only to mix with Lochlan's possessiveness. The heartbreaking honesty and depth of our words leaves me exhausted and suddenly doubtful of everything and nothing, least of all this very unconventional love affair that finds me squarely in the center.

Because this time I got the middle. It's very hard to be the meat. And yet, here I am.

Neamhchiontach go cinnte. And please pass the whiskey.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The dreams we have as children.

He either grew tired of us mentioning his curls nonstop or he went Hare Krishna on me (it's happened before) but when I walked into the kitchen this morning I didn't recognize Lochlan, who finally went for a haircut. By the end of summer he will be strawberry blonde and have perfect curls again but until then we get treated to this virtual stranger with dark red and weirdly straight hair. I can see his eyes. He can't hide behind his curly charm now.

***

I'm listening to Noel Gallagher again. I know. The Birds album turned out to be a literal masterpiece to my ears. They are so selective sometimes I even surprise myself.

***

We're out of cake.

I did not care to acknowledge much about this birthday just because I can't count this high and when I try I become sad in a way that seems so permanent and regretful and completely unusual to the fleeting and crushing sad feeling that I am familiar with. Life is far different from what I pictured. Not in a bad way, just completely different, and I have had to be far braver than I thought possible and still every day things are new and different and kind of unbelievable and those are the dreams you can pop like bubbles and I know I'm a fatalist but I mean well, really I do.

I worry the bottom will fall out. That's all. I've always felt as if I stood on the outside and my life is a movie I watch on a big screen, so lifelike I can feel what everyone feels, so intangible after all that any decisions are put to a committee vote instead of a whim.

***

People want to know what's going on. With triangles and declarations and boys and life here in the collective and I tend to ignore writing about it when I get overwhelmed or distracted.

Well, sorry, I've been distracted. An awful lot actually.

I stepped into the garage and Jake growled at me to smile, oh and to slow the fuck down, and really pay attention and count the stars that are lucky and leave the rest for others (no, I need them all, Pooh) and then I tried a new tea and learned that yes the afternoon coffee will now destroy me because caffeine makes me crazy and then I had to bite my lip when I realized I really really wish I could control the universe sometimes because then it would make perfect sense and I realized who I sounded like and it was that much-needed stab of familiarity mixed with an ache for a time when things were so simple the only things I had an opinion on were the color of my cotton candy (blue, always blue) and whether or not my hair went into a braid or a knot at the back of my neck (I liked the braid, he liked the knot).

I went to tell him about the ache but he had left already. To get his hair cut. And when he came back my courage left to make room.