Exes and Owes – Part Two

November 11, 2008

I’m writing about the things that are raising my internal alert level to, like, magenta. (You know: I’ve gone beyond plain old orange & red, here, people.) What started as a single post morphed into a series. Depressing, but true. You can find part one here.

 

One of the other things keeping me up at night is an outgrowth of the strange interconnectivity of this technological age in which we live. Like half the planet, I’m on Facebook (but no, I’m not linking to my profile, because I’m still semi-anonymous here, remember?) and about two weeks ago, I got a friend request I never thought I’d see.

 

Dylan Brown* wanted to be my friend.

 

******

 

I have to back up a little bit for this story, so bear with me. Dylan moved to our town about halfway through high school. I can’t remember now if it was in 10th grade? Or over the summer before 11th? But we became friends pretty quickly, since we shared so many classes (taking the Honors and AP track really narrows down the crowd – and my graduating glass was just shy of 200, so it was already fairly small.) He sat behind me in my junior year math class and geometry has just never been so fun. I remember choosing dresses that would flash a LOT of thigh when I crossed my legs at my desk, knowing he’d be looking over my shoulder. At first, we were both dating other people, but when those relationships came to their natural high-school end, we gravitated toward each other.

 

He was, to be frank, my ideal boyfriend. Smart? Oh hell yes – planned to major in physics or some mathematical field in college, and was already getting the grades to make it possible. Sweet, sensitive, funny? He charmed me in a dozen ways. Left notes in my day planner weeks ahead of time, had a sentimental nickname for me, gave the best bear hugs, understood my emotional rants about my parents. He was a Christian, and both of his parents were in lay ministry. He had two sisters and a mom he *adored* – and he got along reasonably with his father. Oh, and have I mentioned? Good.looking.man. Seriously. I’m petite – 5’2”, and probably in the 110-120 range at that point in high school. He was 6’3” and 270-odd pounds of solid muscle. Defensive end for our football team – he could literally pick me up and carry me around campus. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his smile, or his laugh – he had an easy laugh, a quick sense of humor, and one that never went for a cheap shot or easy target (at least not with me – with the guys in the locker room, who knows, right?).

 

We were together from somewhere in the middle of my junior year until the late winter or early spring of my senior year. It wasn’t a perfect relationship – my parents were not happy about their white daughter dating a young black man, and found every excuse in the book to keep me grounded, on restriction, and away from him. But for the circumstances we were up against with them, and considering that we were young and in high school – it was good.

 

I loved him.

 

And then I got scared – we’d both gotten our acceptances to college. I’d be on a full academic scholarship in north Georgia, and he’d be on a full football scholarship in South Carolina. So I suggested that we should take a break, and not go off to college “committed” to each other, but leave ourselves open to our new surroundings – and we broke up. I don’t think that was what I had intended, but maybe my memory is off. I spent the last months of my senior year heartbroken – because I hadn’t just lost my boyfriend, I’d lost one of my best friends, and my first love. That small world of our classes and friends didn’t understand my decision and mostly took his side – so I was suddenly on the outside of our group of friends. It was a bad way to end good experiences (both the relationship and my high school years).

 

Months went by – summer passed, and we both went off to college. Then one day, during my first semester, we were suddenly back in touch. I don’t remember the details – did one of us email the other? Was it instant messenger? It couldn’t have been a phone call, because we didn’t have cell phones yet. However it happened, that first contact spiraled and blossomed into a rebirth of our relationship. (Yes. The whole long-distance romance I’d been so sure wouldn’t survive, the reason I’d dumped him and caused all my own grief and sadness the year before. It was suddenly thriving.)

 

We talked on the phone, we emailed, he even found a buddy with a car to drive him more than halfway so that we could spend a weekend together. When he got to my dorm room and threw his things on the couch, he mentioned that he had something in his bag for me. My heart almost stopped beating – I thought he was going to propose. It wasn’t a ring; it was a teddy bear, but he’d seen the look on my face. He knew without my telling him what I’d suspected was in the bag, so he asked me, “What would you have said? If I did have a ring in here?”

 

I looked into his eyes, and I told him the truth: “I would have said yes.”

 

*****

 

Life has a way of being cruel and unusual. On my next visit home, my parents saw the extra miles I’d driven the past month and started up the Spanish Inquisition. When I revealed that all that driving had been to pick up Dylan for our weekend visit, all hell broke loose. They told me, in plain and simple terms, that I had a choice to make. I could either break up with him, again; or I could continue in a relationship with Dylan, and be cut off from my family forever. I had 30 days to decide.

 

But then, somehow, that’s not how it ended. I’m fuzzy on the details, but I got a couple of late-night, drunken emails from him. First, an email that confessed to cheating on me and never really loving me – and then a phone call the next day, when I was still shocked and stunned by what I’d read, telling me that his roommate had logged into his email account and sent it as a prank. I thought he was scared by the ultimatum from my parents, that he was afraid I’d choose him over them and we’d be stuck with each other forever, that we were too young to be deciding our whole future. Then a second email came, saying that our whole new relationship had been a ruse – that he’d been angry about how it ended in high school, and had sought me out for the chance at revenge. That he was now sleeping with Z, a mutual friend of ours from high school, and that they laughed together about how I’d fallen in love with him all over again. At that one, I blocked his emails and stopped answering calls. I wasn’t sure if that was truth, or another prank from his roommate – or had the first email been true, too? – and my 30 days was nearly up. I couldn’t risk losing everything again. This time, I just lost him – but I kept my family, and I kept all my friends.

 

******

 

So two weeks ago, the friend request. Ten years eases a lot of hurt, and I was honestly glad to see that he was at least alive, somewhere out there. I clicked “confirm” and read his message – topped off with his old endearment (or, hell, maybe he calls everyone that now, I don’t know) – and I replied. Just the basics: where I’m living, how long I’ve been married, Smooch and Doodlebug. When he replied, he said he was glad to hear that I was well, and apologized for “being an asshole.”

 

And then my sleepless nights took a new turn. I awoke at 2:00 a.m. from an inside-out, Twilight Zone dream in which I was married to Dylan, not Gruff. And Dylan hadn’t cheated on me, hadn’t helped me rack up debt, still looked like his chiseled high-school self, and looked at me with utter adoration. You know those dreams that scare the shit out of you? It was one of those. I woke up with my heart pounding – I felt scared, I felt ashamed. My subconscious had betrayed me! Why was my mind playing the “what-if” game, wondering how life would have gone with the man I loved…. before I met The Man I Love?

 

A few days later, I logged into Facebook and got an alert that Dylan had posted new pictures. I couldn’t help but click; he has a beautiful wife (who I think looks a little bit like me, only taller, thinner, and probably cuter) and two adorable children. My dream rushed back to me – and I closed the laptop with a bang. It’s dangerous territory, isn’t it? It’s too easy to glamorize an old relationship – to disremember the bad parts, to exaggerate the good parts – and to use it to compare would be so wrong. I don’t WANT to compare.

 

So we’re still Facebook friends, and that’s about it. Hopefully all my other – bigger, more legitimate worries – will crowd this out of my mind and it will be just another forgotten chapter in an old, forgotten history of an old, outdated relationship.

 

X’s and O’s (An American Girl) – Trisha Yearwood

Slow dance, second chance
mama needs romance
And a live-in maid
Fix the sink, mow the yard,
Really isn’t all that hard
If you get paid

She used to tie her hair up in ribbons and bows
Sign her letters with X’s and O’s
Got a picture of her mama in heels and pearls
She’s trying to make it in her daddy’s world
An American girl
An American girl


Well she’s got her God
and she’s got good wine
Aretha Franklin and Patsy Cline

She used to tie her hair up in ribbons and bows
Sign her letters with X’s and O’s
Got a picture of her mama in heels and pearls
She’s gonna make it in her daddy’s world
An American girl
An American girl
She’s an American girl

 

 

 

*total pseudonym, I swear


A Post Worth Coming Back For

July 15, 2008

 

I’m trying to remember a lesson I thought I learned a long time ago: I choose the hard stuff.

 

In the fall of 2001, Gruff (then my fiancé) was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Two surgeries followed in the next whirlwind month, and as he recovered in hospital after the last surgery we made a decision. All those plans for the April wedding – the sage green bridesmaids dresses, the dogwood sprays we’d carry, the delicate springy flowers I would use to decorate the church – were gone. Instead, we would marry in December; the new date was just six weeks away. Amidst the new flurry of  rearranging and downsizing the plans, and the rollercoaster of Gruff’s physical recovery and appointments and meetings with the oncologists, I had a conversation with my dad.

 

“I love him. I need to be married to him, even if it’s only for a little while. I’d marry him in his hospital bed if I had to.”

 

“He’ll be sick. Chemo will be hard.”

 

“I know. But I need to be the one who takes care of him. Even if it’s hard. It should be me.”

 

But I didn’t really know – I couldn’t. I was just twenty-one years old (and barely that. I had my birthday, then started my first “real job”, then graduated from college, and then got married – all at two week intervals at the end of that year.) and I had no idea what chemotherapy would really be like.

 

One evening, midway through his treatments, my husband stood at the sink of our tiny bathroom in our postage-stamp one-bedroom apartment. Hands braced on the countertop, his shoulders shook, and he looked fragile for the first time since I’d met him. His head was newly bald – we had shaved it when his hair began to fall out in alarming clumps – and he was so pale. I crept in behind him, put my hand on his back, tried to comfort him.

 

And suddenly, he collapsed toward me. I think I let out a little scream – I was so scared. He caught himself, braced against me, and I helped him walk the few short steps across the hall to our bedroom. I tucked him in to our bed – my double bed from my parent’s home, which seemed so big to me as a teenager, now too small for my 6’3” husband – and fetched a glass of water, a pill. He was asleep before I knew it, and I hovered at the doorway listening to his breath in the dim light of dusk.

 

Then I ran to our sofa and dialed my parent’s phone number through my tears. I’m sure I scared them, calling with that voice – sobs and hitched breaths – but I told them about what had just happened, how scared I was. What would I do if he had passed out? My young heart was trying so hard to be grown up, but faced with the very real mortality of the man I loved, I just wanted to hear my dad’s voice.

 

“You chose this, hon,” he said. “You told me that day – you wanted it to be you who took care of him. You knew this was the hard part. You are strong enough. You love him enough. You chose this.”

 

Through the years, I have clung to that conversation. My dad’s voice rings in my ears now when something painful, or difficult, or challenging comes my way. I choose the hard part.

 

Today, I lay curled awkwardly on a toddler bed, my body molded around a sweaty, sniffling toddler. When we got home from our playgroup this afternoon, Smooch had a rough time with his nap. He got out of bed over and over, throwing himself on the floor and peering under the crack in the door, calling my name. I tried to stay calm, send him back to his bed, leave the room again, and pray he’d sleep – but after the third go-round I realized he was becoming hysterical. His little body was shaking, his voice was trembling, his head was covered in sweaty curls. I held him in my arms, and I heard my father’s voice.

 

We climbed into his bed together, and within moments he was fast asleep. His breath still caught in his throat, those trembly sighs that follow a long hard cry. My inner type-A wanted to hop right up and go DO something – but I resisted. Lately, we’ve been working at cross-purposes, my little Smooch and I. Two-and-a-half has been hard. He needs more independence, more control… and I’m pregnant, hormonal, and tired, so I haven’t always met those needs very gracefully. There have been potty progresses and potty battles. There have been the first aggressive incidents with little friends. These are normal things, but they are the hard parts of this age. As I tried to bend my knees a little, finding a more comfortable way to spoon my son in his little bed, I realized that I am simply re-learning this lesson.

 

The biggest part of love, I think, is choosing to be there for the hard stuff. You don’t pass it off to someone else. You don’t let the other person bear the load alone. Whether it’s your lover or your child, you come alongside them – you throw your lot in with them – you hear their hurts, feel their pain, share their fears. It sometimes pierces your heart, it sometimes seems insane. When you come out on the other side, though, it is always worth it.

 

So I stayed in that toddler bed until his breathing was still and calm. Easing my gravid belly off of the little frame, I felt a peace unfold deep inside me.


Scrap Happy (or, Bloggy Giveaway #1)

April 21, 2008

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks!

PhotobucketWelcome, Bloggy Carnival-goers! If this is your first time here, I hope you’ll take a little look around Fizzledink. It’s nothing special, but it feels like home to me.

After my great & amazing fortune in the last carnival, I decided it would only be appropriate Bloggy Karma to do multiple giveaways here myself this time. So go ahead – bookmark me and come back over the next few days so you won’t miss anything! Each giveaway is something that I think tells a little bit about me, or something I really love. So the little bonus is that you get to know dear old Fizzy just a little bit better!

First up? Here’s a tidbit for you: I started obsessively taking pictures in 8th grade, and then took a “real” photography class in high school. Originally, I scrapped on 8.5×11 papers that I slid into school-report-style page protectors. *giggle* I’ve come a long way, baby! I have enormous, stuffed-full albums from high school through college. Along the way, I switched to using Creative Memories albums, and right now I’m in the process of retroactively re-scrapping my old albums. As any busy mom can tell you, it’s a lot harder to find the time & space for this hobby now that a toddler’s around… but it’s also more important to me than ever to have our photos and stories documented for Smooch, and it’s also become one way I de-stress when I just need some quiet time all to myself. I just can’t shake this idea that it’s incredibly important for me to keep our family history, because if something ever happened to me or my husband I’d want our children to know as much about us as possible. (I know, that sounds a little morbid, but it actually makes me feel happy when I think about it, not morose or depressed.)

Which brings me to my first giveaway – a great little package of scrapbooking goodies. I’ll be honest, these are things that I’ve had around for a while and don’t find myself using. I just recently started a small business with these products, and I am SO in love with CM stuff that these little things have fallen by the wayside. If you’re not as exclusively minded, though, you’ll love it!

A package of loose paper with titles & slogans, “LMNOP” – a book of decorative lettering, two templates (one shapes, one lines for journaling), a set of looseleaf layout and album idea pages, “99 Best Secrets for Scrapbook Success” – a book of scrapbook tips & tricks, and five packages of spring embellishments (flowers, butterflies, etc).

Disclaimer: I may actually add a few things to this package before it goes out in the mail to you, if I find anything else in my craft room between now and then! 🙂

This giveaway is open to anyone with a US mailing address. Just leave a comment on this post telling me either: the motivation behind your love for scrapbooking, OR describe an album you are working on or have completed, OR one reason you think scrapbooking’s not for you. Make sure to enter your email address in the little box (it will NOT appear on my blog; I will not put you on any mailing lists, I swear!) so I can get in touch with you if you win! I’ll use a random number generator to draw a winning comment on Monday, April 28th, and post the winners here after emailing them.

Happy Carnival-ing, and I hope to see you again!


Pediddle

February 21, 2008

Sitting in the passenger seat tonight, after a lovely dinner with my two guys, I spotted a car with one burned-out headlight. A smile danced across my face as Gruff swung the car to the left and we headed up the steep hill into our neighborhood. Once, a long time ago, I sat in another seat and searched for single headlights in the dark.

I was in tenth grade, and in my high school’s marching band as part of the flag corps. (I was one of those girls in the sparkly sequined tops waving a big flagpole around and tossing it in the air and trying not to bean herself in the head.) Over the summer, as usually happened in our military-base town, a whole new crop of kids had moved in. One guy in particular — Damien — had joined my church’s youth group for a few outings and we’d started spending a lot of time together.

Oh, lord, he was sweet. And sensitive. We talked for hours on the phone, and he wrote me poetry – sonnets, even! He asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said yes, which was rather pointless since neither of us could drive and we weren’t allowed to go out on dates. But it was still the most romantic thing that had ever happened to me.

When school started that fall, we didn’t have any classes together – but we had marching band. He played the trumpet. (I don’t know why that’s significant, but I remember it, so I’m sharing.) I don’t remember if it was our first “away” game or the second – but I remember Damien asking me if I would sit with him instead of my girlfriends on the ride back to our school. Our team lost (my memory’s not that good. It’s just a certainty. Our football team always lost. –apologies to my other ex-boyfriend who played on said team.) and it didn’t matter. I was sitting on a worn, cracked brown vinyl seat in a stuffy, hot old school bus and holding hands with a boy. A boy who wrote me poems and songs and who passed me notes in the hallway.

As the bus exited the brightly-lit stadium parking lot and turned onto the highway that would take us home, Damien told me he was nervous about sitting with me on this ride home. He’d asked his dad for advice. His dad had told him about the headlight game – you were supposed to watch the other cars on the road carefully, and if you saw a vehicle with just one headlight, you called out “pediddle!” and you got to kiss anyone in your vehicle who hadn’t called out “pediddle.” Clearly, we would not be making this a bus-wide game. It would be just the two of us. So basically, one way or another, we were going to kiss. Our first kiss. Tonight.

If we could spot a pediddle.

How this was supposed to make Damien less nervous, I do not know. Because this game? Made me excited (in that girlish, omg-he-totally-wants-to-kiss-me! squealy way) but also terribly nervous. So we sat there, holding sweaty hands, whispering nonsense conversation, and peering intently out our grimy bus window.

The ride home was over an hour, on a busy highway, on a Friday night. Would you believe we didn’t see a single car with a burned-out light? Darn these conscientious drivers and their immaculate vehicle maintenance! Our bus was getting close to the school. Any minute now, we’d turn in to the parking lot and the spell would be broken. The lights would come on, all our friends would push and shove down the narrow bus aisle; we’d unload flags and instruments and someone would offer to drive a group to Waffle House. It would be loud and chaotic and our chance would be gone.

I saw the floodlights that beamed onto the school’s stucco signboard. Damien sighed and fidgeted, now peering out our window and the one on the other side of the bus. Then he jerked his hand out of mine and said, “Pediddle! I saw one! I really did, I swear.” To this day, I tell you, I don’t know if he did or not. But my money is on not. Anyway, he leaned toward me – with only a few hundred feet of peace, quiet, and darkness left between us and the end of the magic – and kissed me.

It was not magical. I think it was probably the average first kiss of an average high schooler. But at the moment, it was sweet and perfect and right, and I liked that boy so much that it felt like an amazing first kiss.

Looking back on it, I’m still touched by the tender innocence of that moment. Damien was a great high-school boyfriend. He was gentle and quiet and calm. He was a good student and a lot of fun to be with. He charmed my parents and obeyed his own. I love that he was nervous about the prospect of kissing me – and that he talked to his dad about it – and then confessed it all to me that very night. I wonder if teenagers today are as transparent and trusting.

I also wonder where he ended up. We broke up midway through that school year and his family moved the next summer. A quick search for his name didn’t turn anything up, which is probably a good sign – no arrests, no obituaries, no embarrassing headlines or YouTube vids. I hope he’s happy, and I hope he is still as honest and kind as he used to be.

And I hope that if he sees a car with one headlight some dark winter night, that he thinks of me with a little fondness. “Pediddle!”