Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Because You Probably Want to Know What Happened

I could tell you that Saturday afternoon we set out for Boulder but changed course when we stumbled upon an airshow. Old World War II planes swooped in a pattern that resembled a winged waltz. Present-day fighter jets quietly approached before disappearing into the clouds, a thunderous boom following in their wake. And as we watched the sky, as we marveled at the planes twisting and turning, he loosely laced his fingers with mine.

I could tell you that at a certain point I lapsed into a pensive state that pulled me away from the moment. My tongue lashed against the back of my bottom teeth. I pressed my spine into the banquette in an attempt to disappear. Though music played loudly through the speakers, conflicting conversations cluttering my head drowned it all out. And there, in the midst of me withdrawing, he gently pulled me back.

I could tell you that when he dropped me off, after kissing me goodbye, I walked away without looking back. I curled my hand around the grip of my suitcase and settled my tote on my shoulder. Though it took a moment for the automatic door to start moving, I kept my gaze directed forward because I wasn’t sure I was capable of watching him leave.

There are a lot of things I could tell you about this past weekend. It is amazing how many moments can fill the span of forty-eight hours. Small moments barely worth a glance and more meaningful moments that linger for much longer. But for some reason, for some reason I’d rather keep those moments to myself.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Opposite of Alone

There are some amazing aspects of a single life. I get to sleep in the middle of the bed, scissoring my legs and rolling from side to side without a care in the world. In the morning, when I rush to the bathroom to pee and I leave the door open, it doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t matter that I let out a little squeaker as I lean over the sink and brush my teeth while making funny faces. But for all of the good, there can be some bad.

Most noticeably, the silence is louder when you are single. Random creaks of the wooden floor and clanging of wind-rattled windows are more jarring. Somehow staying in on a Friday night, sprawled across the sofa like a beached whale while viewing a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress, feels more pathetic than if there were another person confined within the same four walls. It’s at these times that you think you’d give it all up. You’d be happy to pee with the door closed if only you had a warm body to crawl up next to in the middle of the night.

“You haven’t said anything about Alaska all night,” a friend mentioned as we sipped iced coffees and peered into the windows of closed boutiques lining the avenue.

“Oh yeah, no. That’s done. Dead in the water. Finished-finished,” I said as I squinted against the darkness to admire a strapless Lily Pulitzer dress.

“Congrats!” she offered as she tapped her plastic Starbucks cup against mine.

It took me a very long time to get to this place. Stalled out in the abyss of the unknown, I welcomed his suggestions of reuniting and cursed his last minute cancellations, his pulling back excused by his fear he’d hurt me. “How ironic,” I’d always say in response to this claim. “Yeah,” was all he could ever muster. All the while, I remained single while distantly attached to this ghost of a man.

“Better yet, there’s sorta kinda maybe someone else,” I said as we sat down on the worn stone stairs leading up to a bank.

“Ooh, exciting. Do tell.”

A bus pulled up to the curb, idled loudly as passengers stepped off, and then crawled back into the stream of traffic. I glanced up at the starless sky and waited for the quiet of night to return. Then I told her everything.

I told her that it’s actually a friend, a guy I met through blogging. That while I can’t recall how our paths crossed over the wires, we met in person a few years back when he came to Philly for work. It was a friendly get together that included an evening tour of the Philadelphia sites followed by mussels, burgers and beer at Monk’s. Various things kept us from exploring anything further. He was deploying to Afghanistan. I was still attached, albeit by a thread, to Alaska. We’d kept in touch over the years and now, now seemed liked a good time to explore things further.

“I fly out Friday night,” I announced as a man and his Labrador moseyed by.

“Get out! Awesome. I’m really happy for you, Paige.”

“Yeah. Me too. And while I have absolutely no expectations, he makes me laugh. So at the very least, it should be a fun weekend.”

Plus, I thought quietly to myself, it will be nice to curl up next to him and rest my head on his chest, my hand on his stomach. After all this time, it will be nice to feel the opposite of alone.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I never set out to become an insurance broker. My father needed part-time assistance and I needed a job. Somewhere along the way, it became a career.

“I don’t know how you do this,” a new client once noted as I walked her through carrier chaos regarding submitted paperwork. “And with a smile,” she added.

“You either laugh or cry. I’d rather laugh,” I said as I pointed to a section she needed to complete.

Insurance sales is far from glamorous. No one, and I mean not a one, grows up aspiring to sell employee benefits. Indian Chief and Policeman are far more appealing. Plus, they both come with better accessories.

“Do you like what you do?” my mom once asked.

“I love where I work and the people I work with, so yeah.”

With my father at the helm, employees were treated like family. His partner always had a more miserly approach, but he was never the point of contact. Well, he wasn’t until January 1st of this year.

“December 31st will be my last day,” my dad announced on December 19th, three days before he left for Florida on a one-way ticket.

I went pale. His partner almost choked.

You see, my father had been handling everything: payroll, business expenses, property management. He cut all of the checks. When he was gone, I took over. And for the most part, I also managed the office. It was one of my original tasks that I never gave up. So, in between managing a book of business and prospecting new clients, it was my burden to research and order a new network printer along with paper and toner for said printer.

The feel in the office has been different since my father passed the torch. When he is in Philly, he still comes into the office every day and he still cracks jokes, lightening the mood. But there’s a general sense of panic and dread between the rest of us.

“I get the distinct sense I’m fall out from your decision to retire,” I said to my dad one afternoon when we were the only people left in the office.

His left eye twitched a little as I shared the evidence: snippy comments, a reduction in my commission split, and my monthly commission payout being withheld for over six months, something that I quickly learned was not occurring with any of the other employees.

“That is ridiculous. You need to say something,” he urged.

“No point. As you always asked: Would you rather be happy or right? I’d rather be happy.”

A few weeks later, as the dings continued to pile up, I worked harder to turn the other cheek. But today? Today I was yet again reminded that things have changed.

“This week is Diane’s five-year anniversary and Simon’s twenty-eighth birthday. Should we do a combined celebratory lunch?” my dad’s partner asked as he stood by my desk rifling through mail.

“Sure. Hey, this month marks my anniversary too. Thirteen years,” I noted with a little pride.

He chuckled a little. Then he spoke. “Yeah, well, you have technically only been on my payroll since January so that’s your anniversary to me.”

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


For the last two weeks, my mother has been nagging me and Leslie about our childhood possessions littering their home. Part of it had to do with my mom wanting to get the house on the market before the end of July. The other part of it had to do with Leslie being in from Atlanta with the kids. Here, our mom thought, here is an opportunity to get things sorted out once and for all.

“I’ll be up on the third floor,” I said to Leslie who was in the laundry room folding Olivia’s shorts and Anders’ t-shirts.

“Okay. I’ll come up in a little bit to help.”

I didn’t have much stuff left to go through. Sure, my old touring bike with a busted quick-release was leaning against a wall in the garage. And photo albums from my high school summers sat dusty on bookshelves. But otherwise, all that was left was a collection of keepsakes.

One by one, I went through a box of junk. Halfway through a pile of letters, Leslie came upstairs and plopped down on the bed on the far wall.

“No, really, why do I have a bar of soap from the Harbor House? We stayed there when, like, I was eight.” As I pulled the faded box to my nose, embracing the curious urge to smell the past, a dried nub of soap fell from the packaging and landed on my lap.

“You don’t even want to know what I found in my collection of stuff,” Leslie said.

I returned to the letters. Some I read and some I didn’t. Most I tossed but a handful I kept. Like, the letter from a childhood friend who committed suicide in her early twenties? That letter I put in the ‘keep’ pile. Same goes for a letter or two from my dad. I wanted those not for what he said but as a memory of what his handwriting looked like before he got sick.

“Wow,” I said with a chuckle as I started to read a multi-paged letter from our mother.


“Wait.” I exhaled. I paused. Then I returned my gaze to the beginning and started reading aloud.

I stopped after the first page, a page littered with accusations of atrocious grammar and a failure to adequately respect the people reading my correspondences. Sentence after sentence, I was chastised for a poorly written letter that was likely scribbled in ten seconds and used as a meal ticket. None of that mattered. This yellowed paper adorned with my mother’s elegant cursive dripped with disgust and disdain.

I looked up at Leslie. Tears poured from the corners of my eyes, stained my sun-kissed cheeks. I reached for the envelope and searched for the postage date. “I was eleven years old,” I sputtered between gasps for air.

“Don’t cry,” Leslie said as she came up behind me and offered a hug. “I hate seeing you hurt.”

And I hate being hurt. I hate that at thirty-eight, these words still sting like a slap whipping across my face. I hate that as a child I had no ability to challenge such unreasonable ridiculousness. And I hate that to this day, I’m trying to unravel the damage that was done.

“I’ll be okay,” I said as I folded the letter up and tucked it back in the faded envelope.

I closed my eyes and with my lips parted, I struggled to pull in one deep breath. Then another. And another after that, my only goal to calm myself down. Then I set the letter in the ‘keep’ pile and went back to the rest of my things.