I am sitting here shaking my head, and that is the first (and really only) word that came to mind.  Where is this (topic) going?”

And it was with that reply that Awesome Navy Guy became not-so-Awesome anymore.

His demise came on the heels of a terrible writing slump that had been plaguing me for a couple of months. My thoughts were jumbled and my ideas were trite and cliché. I was frustrated, disheartened, and panicked as I was mere weeks away from the start of an intense MFA program in creative non-fiction. I had a few phrases ruminating in my head, but nothing cohesive. During yet another sleepless night, my thoughts became fixed on Awesome Navy Guy, and I wrote.  I produced 632 words. Some of the strings of thought were passable. Most were weak, in need of structure and loving attention.

I texted him early the next day to thank him for inspiring 632 words. He replied with thanks and that he was curious to see that he inspired…of course…who wouldn’t be? I sent the draft. He sent that reply. I was done with him.

During this brief courtship, my many-months-long ex-boyfriend/friend, Vector, and I were still deciding if we love, like, or hate each other. It was sticky and tense. It got to the point, several times, where I wanted to walk away and move on, but neither of us wanted to let go of the dense friendship we had built. We didn’t move anywhere and flailed miserably during the transition from lovers to friends, instead, morphing it into ‘flovers,’ which didn’t quite work. I was in this strange limbo. A weird place where I didn’t want to date anyone, but I also really wanted to date someone. And Vector and I just couldn’t get our shit straight. So on a whim, and with no expectations, I accepted the invitation to dinner from Awesome Navy Guy, who emailed me after an absence of about three months.

We walked away from that dinner date woozy and dreamy and smitten and longing for more, as good first dates are wont to affect a fledgling couple, gooey with promise and potential.

Yet, as awesome as Awesome Navy Guy truly was, he had one fatal flaw – his communication skills suck. We were matched through an online dating service In October. We communicated via the service sporadically – I assumed he wasn’t terribly interested, so I didn’t give the pursuit much effort. We exchanged a couple of apathetic emails off the site – questions about the other’s day, work, activities, nothing deep or meaningful. His replies would arrive not days, but weeks, and in one case, months later. Always with a reason and an apology attached. I didn’t think too much of it. I was curious to get to know him, yes, but it was as apathetic a feeling as the emails. Until we met – that’s when apathy took a back seat to a simmer. That date, on a humid June evening, lasted 6 hours. We ate, walked, talked, and kissed good night at 1:30 AM. I dreamily agreed to see him again.

Despite the woozy feel-good vibes, the pattern of communication unreliability remained. He would say he was going to call that night, and my phone would ring three days later. He would always text an apology and offer a reason as proof that his non-communicative ways were the effect of a series of unfortunate goings-on: a month-long cold, stress at work, a new phone, Navy Reserve weekend, so tired, last minute happy hour with friends… I kept in touch even though the simmer had cooled. I believed that his faulty communication patterns were the exception and not his usual MO.

We saw each other twice more. Both times he arrived late or changed plans last minute, yet he texted a reason…there was traffic, a big bug was in the shower. When he finally arrived, we functioned pleasantly enough. We enjoyed light conversations, were affable in each other’s company. It was easy. Then that email arrived. My response was veiled: “I don’t know where it is going. Probably nowhere.” The topic was dropped. I knew our fate, but I replied to his texts, curious if he’d explain or apologize.

Neither happened. We hadn’t seen each other in the month of July. Come August, my MFA residency began, rendering me pleasantly stressed. We vaguely made plans to see each other ‘soon.’ A week later, he said he would call; three days later he still hadn’t; I quickly sent him a text message breakup: It wasn’t working. Thanks for everything. Take care.

As for Vector and I, time spent together in July brought us closer. It’s a perfectly dysfunctional friendship punctuated with genuine caring, compatibility, challenge, reliability and rolling, laughter-ridden conversations. We are comfortable living in our present moments, enjoying the companionship and the warmth.

Last week, Vector surprised me with a new travel mug. He is very into high-tech gear, so I should have expected this travel mug to follow suit. It did. The space-age polymers of which the mug is constructed kept my coffee blistering hot. So much so that I almost choked when I took a long draught in front of my 9 AM composition class.  Vector never disappoints.

Which is precisely why I am so at ease with our dysfunctional friendship that sometimes slides into a dysfunctional relationship, but not quite because neither of us wants to admit that we are in a relationship. We staunchly cling to this as friendship. Which it is. And more. And it never disappoints.

Happy New Year…Almost

I am fed up with this infernal sweating. This stickiness is unbearable; it makes me logey. My jeans are crying to be worn with boots and a light sweater. I miss my jackets; I’m tired of shaving my legs every day.  My armpits are raw from having to use battery acid-strength anti-perspirant/deodorant. It’s too damn hot to do anything fun. And the mosquitoes won’t die.  If I spend just 20 minutes outside, my legs are red and welted like a hooker who works the paths of Patterson Park, and my skin is slick and gooey, covered in a sheen of humid air.


Summer sucks. Especially summer in its death throes – the sweltering, confused month of September. By now, I need to be cool vis-a-vis natural air. My skin is weathered and tight from the painfully drying effects of too much time spent in air conditioning and the three or four daily showers required to sluice the sweat and gnats off me. I don’t mind that my flowers are dying. I don’t care that I’ll soon be raking leaves. I’m damn thrilled to watch my lawn turn dormant brown. At this point, I won’t even miss tomatoes – I’ve had enough tomatoes. I want some butternut squash.  And clementines, sweet, tangy nuggets of sunshine that don’t make me sweat.


If I have to endure the shrill trilling of another damn cicada, I’m going to get a bb gun and start shooting at the trees, hoping to hit the noisy offender. If any ricocheting bb’s happen to take out a few crickets, I’ll consider it a bonus. Bring me the sweetly eerie caw of the crow. She is my sound of Autumn. She sings to the death of the trees and the months of cool, crisp nights that are ideal for deep sleep. She reminds me to fluff the down comforters and pull out the thick socks from the boxes under the beds.


And oh, good grief can I please stop drinking my body weight in water to avoid dehydration on the 40-foot walk to my car? I’d like a nice cup of tea. Something I can wrap my hands around and sip delicately, savoring the herbal flavors and slightly burning mouthfeel.  I miss the steamy whistle of my tea kettle.


Perhaps what makes these early days of September so utterly loathsome is that they begin a deeply transitionary month – the long-anticipated summer ends, its gild having become tarnished way back in July. The anxiety-filled academic year begins, awash with possibility, structure, and stresses that both wear me down and delightfully stimulate me. Also, beautiful autumn finally rolls in.  This truly is my new start. January will come and go with a toss of confetti and a sip of sparkling wine. But late-September is when the real year begins. Everything is new…schedule, students, classrooms… by the month’s mid-point my routine is established. I then work myself raw until mid-December, break for a while, start over in February, and end for the year in mid-May with vacations on the horizon.


The craving for stability and routine brings out the curmudgeonly old lady in me.


It’s too damn hot.


The bugs are too damn loud.


My damn lawn won’t die.


If I eat another damn tomato, I’m gonna look like a tomato.


Come sweet, Autumn. Come to me like a lover.

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