Standing Between

f7341efd46aa972e3a7e95bc3f33a9985ef383fbShe stands in that space between ecstasy and agony, forced to make an impossible decision between two men who equally have her heart, or maybe not as equally as she’s led everyone else to believe. Because if it were as balanced as she has hinted at, then this, this would be impossible. But we, her impartial viewers, can see it in her eyes, the choice she has already made, and one man is about to be completely blindsided. One approaches now, shrouded in the shadows of all the men who have already exited, stage left. He is not the one, and we, her impartial viewers, can tell, by the tilt of her head, by the pursing of her lips. But he is coming, and he can’t know, not until the ultimate moment when she tells him not to kneel…

For me it all began with Kaitlyn, but if I’m going to be honest it happened long before that, because people have been choosing each others’ fates for eons. They just haven’t been doing it on TV all that long, which is the place where Kaitlyn and others of her ilk have existed for the past fifteen years or so, for as long as there have been Bachelors and Bachelorettes. Last night the most recent Bachelorette — JoJo — made her monumental decision on one of the biggest stages ever, in prime time. But yes, for me it all began with Kaitlyn.

Because, see, it was Kaitlyn, the previous Bachelorette, who stood there in that space between the two extremes, who had the impossible decision that really wasn’t as impossible as all that, between Nick, on one side, and Shawn, on the other. Nick was ice, and Shawn was fire, the one cool and unflustered, the other a roiling volcano of emotions threatening to explode at any moment. Yes, these were her choices, and up until the very end Kaitlyn kept her cards close to the vest. That’s what the show is all about.

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But Nick was always destined to be the bridesmaid, and never the bride. As he made that walk I saw the signs in the woman of his dreams — the tilt of her head, the pursing of her lips. She was going to break his little heart into a million pieces, and I was happy about it. Yes, I was happy about it, because I allowed myself to hate Nick, a man I have never met and will probably never meet. I hated him because of what he said about Andi, how he weaseled his way onto the next season with Kaitlyn, and how he snowed her the whole way to that remote location when it was down to the final two men. So I smiled as he approached, as he was so totally oblivious to what she was about to do.

He got down on one knee, and she pulled him back up. She literally pulled him back up. I laughed because it was so classic, and he was going to be spurned yet again. Then he exploded. He was neither gracious nor contrite. After all that he had done to others time and again (none of the other guys liked him in either season) he was getting his comeuppance yet again. I laughed because it seemed like the right thing to do, since he had been painted as the villain and I had eagerly arrived at the gallery to see the finished product hanging on the wall. And I’m ashamed now.

I’m ashamed because of what came after, something that had absolutely nothing to do with Nick, and everything to do with the cyclical nature of the show itself. Because, before she rejected Nick, Kaitlyn broke the heart of “good guy” Ben, who in turn was made the next the-bachelorette-with-jojo-fletcherBachelor. Then, barely four months later he himself stood in that same place making a major life decision that would lift one woman to the heights and send another one to the depths. The girl he didn’t choose was JoJo. The definitive cruelty was that he told her he loved her before the end. Ouch.

So JoJo became The Bachelorette, and she had her own moment in that same harsh sun last night, when she made the monumental decision between her own extremes, between Robby and Jordan. In dynamic fashion she too admitted to loving both of them (after only about 6-8 weeks of showtime), and she too broke one man’s heart, Kaitlyn-style. Except this time I could see things through the lens of the “other guy.” Robby did everything right. Robby loved JoJo the way she needed to be loved, but she fell for pretty boy Jordan, becoming the cheerleading captain to his letterman quarterback.

Now I know the difference, looking at the harsh look of despair in Robby’s eyes when he was cut loose, the utter shock of the moment, when she didn’t even let him get down on one knee, after he had poured his heart out to her. Either she’s some kind of sadistic bitch or she’s some angel who touched his life for a moment and then had to return to heaven. Because there’s also a harsh line of extremes in that moment for her too, not just in the selection she has to make.

JoJo, though, tried to be as open as possible to each guy up until the very end. Which is why, even though, with Kaitlyn, Nick seemed blindsided, it was obvious in his reaction that he

ROBBY, JOJO FLETCHER

wasn’t, not really. It was clear from his belligerent side after the fact that he saw it coming a mile wide, and he was trying to get his digs in late. It was obvious from the reaction that he never loved Kaitlyn. To Nick she was the sadistic bitch who turned on him instead of giving him what he felt he deserved, which was to win.

That’s the rub, isn’t it? That this is a competition first and foremost. I think Chad said it best. “I’m not here to be best buddies with these guys. I’m here to win.” He didn’t say he was there to fall in love, to meet the woman of his dreams, any of that. He said he was there to win, which is why reality dating shows ultimately only have a 50/50 shot of the couple working out in the end. When there is no longer a competition, when the Bachelor or Bachelorette has given out the final rose, when the proposal is over, what is left? Real life. That’s what. That’s the ultimate reality.

And I bet Nick is still pissed.

Sam

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Flash Fiction Challenge #2 (I Didn’t Go There)

12-ParisRules of the Flash Fiction Challenge:

  1. Each entry has to follow a set prompt
  2. Each entry has to be 1,000 words or fewer
  3. Each entry has to be written specifically for this challenge

Getting back to my roots has been an amazing experience already as I’ve begun to dive into this Flash Fiction Challenge. My first story was well-received, and even more important than that is the feeling I got from writing it. It’s interesting to have a topic, a prompt, that I have to work with and through, and to be able to adjust it to myself and my own style.

One of the primary reasons for my completion of the Flash Fiction Challenge is to stretch my boundaries, to dig deep into my writing resources and come up with completely different pieces of work for each challenge. I also want to keep each entry fresh, so I’m challenging myself to only look at the prompt right before I begin writing the particular challenge, then to create the piece all in one sitting.

The more difficult the challenge, the more ultimately fulfilling it will be for me in the end. To that purpose, here is entry #2: I Didn’t Go There.


I never ended up going to Paris, not with Moira anyway, which according to her means I never went to Paris. Whenever I want to bring it up I have to remind myself that I didn’t go, that three months of my life never happened. I have to shift the whole of time, to stitch together the frayed ends on either side of those months, for my own sake, and for the sake of harmony. And even though it was five years ago, the time between then and now has not gotten any easier.

There is jealousy, and then there’s whatever Moira is, but I don’t question it because questioning always leads to yelling, and I’m for smoothing everything over. That’s why I never ended up going to Paris, because to admit that would be the beginning of the end, and I’m not ready yet to say goodbye to the woman I can’t help but love. There’s just something about her that makes me want to lie early and often, to cover over all my rough spots so that I come out smooth enough for her and her world.

She couldn’t go that summer, which is what started all of the issues in the first place.

“So I know you have this amazing opportunity, but you can’t go,” she told me in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Glad to know we can talk calmly and rationally about it,” I said, my ire starting to rise, a sure sign that I was approaching the invisible line she had drawn.

“I’m just saying,” she said in that lilting voice of hers that drew me in from the start, “that you don’t really want to go without me.”

It was a statement, not a question, but I heard it the way that suited my rationalization. Truth be told, yes, I did want to go, with or without her. It was a huge opportunity for me to further my career, and to be in a truly international city at the same time, two things that weren’t exactly mutually exclusive. Yes, I was with Moira, but who was to say we would even be together past the summer, regardless of if I went.

If I had only held a crystal ball back then, or at least if I had known I would have to alter the events of that summer for more than five years, maybe then I wouldn’t have gone. Maybe. But I had no such talisman of the future, so I went, and when I got back I had to hurriedly re-script things.

First it was the photographs, of which there were many. I downloaded them to a flash drive and buried it deep in my file drawer, officially erasing every shred of Parisian memories from our shared camera. Next came the clothes, which she claimed smelled of France, of beaches that I never visited, of tours I never took, and of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. It was the only time she admitted that I went. Once the clothes were burned the trip essentially went up in flames as well.

Paris became our Bermuda triangle, and it has been so ever since. June, July, and August of five years ago have passed into the ether, have tumbled down the rabbit hole with Alice and left me breathless. My mind maintains that I went, that I enjoyed myself, that there were several women I made breathless love to on the trip, but that’s the only place any of those memories will ever exist, in my mind. Which is the one positive from the whole thing, the denial of the thing, that I need no excuse for anything I did while I was over there. While I wasn’t over there.

“You have got to go with me to Marshall’s,” Moira told me this morning while we were getting ready in our bathroom. Her hair was securely in a towel bun, and I was naked, preparing to get into the shower.

“What’s so special about Marshall’s?” I asked, not wanting to go shopping again.

“It’s not about Marshall’s,” she whined. “It’s about being with me, about wanting to spend time with me. I’m your girlfriend, and we haven’t been out in ages.”

“It takes two,” I said quietly, but she heard me anyway.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” she asked, getting heated.

“It means you should have let me go to Paris,” I spit out, and five years tumbled out along with it, five years of regret, of pain, and of a sublimation I hadn’t thought I was capable of, all out like so much vomit. “It means you should have given up something for me just once, that you should have come with me instead of standing firm against it.”

“But you never went!” she practically screamed in my face, her own getting red, the towel slipping from her hair.

“Yes, I did, and it was glorious” I said, getting into the shower and pulling the door closed behind me. I could see her silhouette through the glass shaking with sobs, but I couldn’t get out to comfort her. The time for comforting was past, along with the time for denial.

“You asshole,” she said under her breath, but I heard it just the same. There was a rustling on the other side of the glass, her towel dropped to the tile floor, and she was gone. I assumed she was heading to Marshall’s without me.

But it simply didn’t matter anymore. Our relationship was toxic. It always had been. I just hadn’t seen it because I had been so preoccupied with forcing Paris from my mind, for her sake. I hadn’t seen it because I wanted us to be something we were never meant to be. I turned on the water to drown out the cacophony in my own head. And to remember Paris instead.

Sam

being in love

fallinginloveThere is a difference between loving someone and being in love with them. When my wife first told me she thought she was falling in love with me it carried so much more weight than a simple “I love you” ever could.

There’s just something about the process of being in love that is dynamic, that is special in so many ways. I liken it to making love a place, a room, a safe haven, but not just anyone can enter. Only those who have a key can get in, and then the two of you are IN love, and it’s perfect.

Okay, so it’s not quite perfect. As I’ve said before, love is not some flawless thing that you can set down on a shelf and admire. It’s a living, breathing thing that needs just as much attention as another person would. Being in love with someone means taking the time and the energy to understand what being in love with them means.

Being in love means compromising. It doesn’t matter how in sync the two of you are, there are always issues, some big and some small. Every single issue matters, because it’s often the ones you initially categorize as small that can tear you completely apart. That means spending time hashing things out early on. If you know you’re in love with them then it should be a labor of love to sit down and figure those things out.

I can love you like a brother, or a sister, and that’s swell, but when I’m in love with you it means we are in this together… until death do us part. Why beat around the bush? If the feeling is mutual, if the two of you are in the same place, why not make that ultimate compromise and join together in holy matrimony? Now, I know it’s a human construct, but the joining of two souls is precious. When you’re in love that should be the goal, right?

And this business about falling out of love, it’s all horseshit. You can’t fall out of love with someone. If you can separate yourself from them then you were never truly in love to begin with. Maybe you loved them, but you weren’t in love with them. Perhaps you were in love the-truth-is-we-are-not-afraid-of-being-in-love-we-are-only-afraid-of-not-being-loved-in-return-quote-1with the idea of them you created in your mind. That happens way too much in this day and age. We get these ideas in our heads of who people are supposed to be, and we see them through this haze… until we don’t anymore, and everything falls apart.

Being in love means communicating early and often. It means giving the other person more of yourself than you ever thought was possible before. It means being more vulnerable than you’ve ever been. And sometimes being in love means understanding that you might be the only one in that place. That’s hard to fathom, that we could fall in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same, and yet it happens all the time.

Sometimes being in love means letting go. Sometimes it means pressing down our feelings for the greater good. It’s lucky when the person you’re in love with is also in love with you. Hang on to that feeling. Work hard on that relationship, to keep those feelings at the surface and maintain their deep roots as well. Because it’s the most special, most important, and most spectacular feeling in the world.

Sam

Burn

“Tell me why I should stay in this relationship when I’m hurting baby. I ain’t happy baby. Plus there’s so many other things I gotta deal with. I think that you should let it burn.” ~Usher

lighting-a-match-2_21209539Why is it so hard to light that match? No matter how toxic a relationship may be, it is still after all a relationship, and those are not easy to come by. Believe me. Sometimes we stay in horrific situations just so we can say we are “with someone.” But being single doesn’t make us some kind of pariahs. Of course that’s easier said than experienced.

“It’s not you; it’s me,” is usually true, no matter how cliche it sounds at the time. You are not the problem. Whatever way he/she views you is the problem. It’s their own hangups that doom your relationship, not the idiosyncrasies you may or may not have. And just because more than one person may have fed you that line, that doesn’t make it any less true the second and third time around.

But it hurts nonetheless, the conversation that ends something you thought might last forever. And the other person moves on while you’re standing still, while you’re going through the stages of grief that should be reserved for someone’s death. But for you it’s the death of love, which can be so much worse than the death of a physical person. Because with the death of love comes the possibility of seeing that person again and stirring up all those feelings again. It’s devastation at its finest.

We all deserve to be happy, don’t we? If being in a relationship makes you happy then enjoy that, but don’t let the initial happiness blind you to what’s becoming of that same relationship. Sometimes happiness dies and is replaced by something else like pity or worse, apathy, a sense of routine that takes over everything and blinds you to the truth. That’s why we should analyze our feelings early and often. Why should we be blindsided by the other person when they say “we have to talk”?

Light that match. Let it burn. Sometimes that’s the only way to be mentally healthy. Don’t think about how much you love him, how much you adore her; think about what being with him or her does for you and to you. Love is not enough. Love is just a Band-aid that can cover up some serious issues at first, and then it becomes an excuse to stay together. Love is just a start. It has to be followed up by real, honest communication and a pact to always have the other persons’ best interests in mind.

Stand still with me.

“I love you, but…” begins so many breakup conversations. And let’s be honest. It’s never really a conversation, is it? It’s really a rehearsed speech by the other person that goes on as planned even if you interrupt. Because it’s not about you. It’s not the time to try and apologize for being the you that you can’t help being. It’s not the time to grovel for them to give you more time, to say that you can change. Because why should you change when they so obviously want someone else? Why apologize for being the person they claim they still love?

You need to let it burn, even if they are the ones who gathered the kindling and rubbed the sticks together. Don’t let someone else determine your self worth. Let it burn down to embers and ash, and emerge from the blazing inferno fresh and new, like a phoenix rising into a spectacular rebirth. Respect yourself enough to realize it was truly about them, not you, that they made the best mistake because it means you’re free in a way you never could have been when you were with them.

Let it burn.

Sam

A Perfect Marriage

d0fdb7547031a98032dadc7689c43bf6Marriage is not easy, and anyone who says it is, well, they’re a liar, or at the very least delusional. I mean, imagine it. You come from two different places, with a series of experiences that have shaped you individually, with a wealth of preconceptions and idiosyncrasies that don’t just go away. Instead, you come into a marriage ready to compromise, prepared to give up or modify some of the things that won’t mesh with the other person and what they bring into the union on the other side.

I can’t stand it when people say that marriage is two halves making a whole. It’s really two wholes compromising in order to make something bigger than their individual selves, a third whole that consists of both always striving. It’s in this striving that marriage truly lives and grows, this constant growth together, like vines intertwining but never choking each other out. I love that view of marriage because it’s realistic, not this pie in the sky envisioning of everything being perfect from here on out.

Because it’s not going to be perfect. Nothing ever is. Perfection is a construct that assumes no human interference. But we are humans, which means we are not perfect, so if we can’t be perfect individually how can a union between two of us ever be perfect?

“We’re not perfect but we’re devoted.”

That’s the crux of a good, solid marriage, being devoted to each other and to what you’re building together. Marriages fall apart when we lose sight of that as a daily goal. It’s not something you look at beginning the year and say you’ll hit it by year’s end. It’s a never ending challenge that both of you need to be committed to in order to make it work, in order to make it last.

I’ve been married for 13 years, and it’s true even more now than it was back in 2003. The times when we’ve been most distant, when we’ve had the most friction, have been the times when one or both of us let things go, when we didn’t communicate, when we lost the thread that we had been sewing together for so long. It was in those times that we grew frustrated with each other, and things began to spiral. But every single time we caught ourselves before everything disintegrated. That’s the key.

We’ve learned over the years that the old adage about never going to bed angry is a good one, that talking about things, no matter how difficult, is always the best way to go about anything and everything. And today, on our 13th anniversary, I can honestly say that our relationship is stronger than it has ever been.

Not because we’re the perfect couple, but because we work hard at this relationship thing. And it pays off.

Sam

Holding Hands

couple holding hands

Yesterday, I saw an older couple walking hand in hand. It may not seem like much to you, but I don’t often get the chance to see something so endearing, at least not out in public anyway.

Usually I see people yelling at each other, people yelling at their children, and the general malaise that comes with simply trying to maintain while out in public. That’s why people yell, you know, because they want to present their best face (unless they’re in Walmart, in which case it doesn’t matter), and something the other person is doing is detrimental to that.

But anyway, this older couple was strolling along as if they didn’t have a care in the world, blissfully holding hands and seemingly oblivious to the rest of the world. They are my heroes. I wanted to take a photograph but it was one of those moments that needs to exist by itself, without the intrusion of eyes and lenses.

You have to understand something. I’m one of those old school, love conquers all, black and white movie kind of people. I absolutely adore public affection. But you know how when you get married there are things called compromises? I don’t mind them. They’re a small price to pay when the ultimate gift is getting to be with the love of your life.

And I found the love of my life. She just doesn’t like public displays of affection. She’ll hold my hand for small amounts of time when going into and out of places, and sometimes even when we’re inside (you know, when others can see us). But she is generally for staying focused when we are out and about, and I have to stop her if I want to hold her hand or look into her eyes.

Like I said, it’s a small price to pay, and I can guarantee you that the compromises she makes for me are way more than the ones I make for her, but it’s a price nonetheless. I look at that older couple, and I want that.

While I know that my wife loves me completely and unconditionally, sometimes I want the show too. Sometimes I want the grand public gesture. Sometimes I want the pomp and circumstance. Does that make me a bad person? No. It makes me human.

It’s funny, though, that she’s perfect for me precisely because we are not the same person, because we don’t share every interest and proclivity, that we don’t have the same views when it come to everything (she’s a — gasp — Democrat!). She’s focused on making sure everything gets done in an orderly fashion, and I’m more laid back, not that I can’t get things done too. It’s these differences that make us work, that bring us together.

But I still want to hold hands more often. Maybe I’ll bring it up again sometime.

Sam

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