Evolution of a Stone Cold Dater: Part 6

First a note to you, dear reader. I can’t believe the traffic on the blog has hardly slowed since last I posted. Thanks to those who know me “in the real world” for taking care of my fragile ego and kicking my ass when I needed it. Secondly, I apologize to you for leaving you hanging. I have no real excuse other than I felt overwhelmed by the crushing weight of deadlines I set for myself and froze up.  So, instead of posting by midnight every Sunday, I’ll be posting whenever I feel like (but not to the extent that I will go months without posting again).  I started another major project that put me in the mood for writing so I will keep up with this as best I can.  Thanks for your love and support.  Without further ado, Part 6 in a very long story about my twisty love life.

…Continued from Evolution of a Stone Cold Dater: Part 5, Part 4, Part 3, Part 2, and Part 1

Here’s the problem with expirationships: they really don’t work in real life. Love/relationships/companionships beyond a casual status cannot bear the weight of a “sell-by” date. But I didn’t learn that until things were long spoiled. Anyone could probably deduce such a thing if one used a modicum of logical reasoning. That’s not my style, though. I love to wallow in mistakes, nearly drowning before that “aha!” moment sparks, revealing my path of destruction. Thus, in true form, I barreled forward into a ridiculous situation any sane person would avoid.

A month before college graduation, I moved into a gated community apartment complex mostly inhabited by those transitioning out of the workforce, not into it.  I moved in with Ryan, my boyfriend for all of four months. We shared the two-bedroom place with a mutual friend. I have a bad habit of moving in with boyfriends too soon, but I thought this particular breach in rationality would be different because of my newfound low-stress way of living in the face of the inevitable. Surely, I could live with a man I hardly knew, since we had no real commitment to each other?

After graduation, I spiraled into job-searching hell while attempting to make a home in our apartment, a full time job on its own, akin to being a single mom of two teenage boys glued to their computers playing video games for hours on end. It made for a less-than-ideal issue of “Good Housekeeping.” The fact that Ryan and our roommate also didn’t have jobs, coasting along on disability and parents’ good graces, respectively, left the financial responsibilities to me. Spending every dime gifted for graduation on furniture, bedsheets, and towels didn’t transform the hovel into a dream house, though. Failing at that, I took up baking cookies almost every day. Instead of the desired domestic tranquility, I gained weight and lost money. The cherry on top of the already melting domestic bliss was in the form of a lump of flannel and torn jeans, named Adam, occupying the couch.

Adam was a friend of Ryan’s who was in need of a place to stay while he (surprise!) searched for a job and a place to live of his own. Two weeks after we arrived at the apartment ourselves, Adam moved in with only one trash bag of clothes and two pet rats in a cage. I repeat: TWO PET RATS IN A CAGE. Oh, and guess where that cage sat? In the goddamn kitchen. The kitchen where food was made. It was already bad enough we had Ryan’s long-haired black cat running around shedding so atrociously that I often found hairballs of my own in the back of my throat. Now I had rats to cope with. Rats that would sometimes tussle with each other, rattling their enclosure, and emitting lovely screeching noises. Rats that would eat the nose off my face if given the chance–an opportunity they never got because I slept with my face covered in case they broke out, scurried into the bedroom, scaled up the blanket, and gnawed on my delicious face without waking and enticing the house cat. Yes, I thought about it constantly.

Living in a land of zombies, with their faces lit only by the blue lights of the infinite universes in front of them, I suffocated in the vacuous space and dull noises of magic spells, repetitive dialogue and explosions. Once again, the cold and dark weight of my illness fit like a comforting butcher knife finding a home between my ribs. This time, though, I experimented with a different form of chemical therapy: boxed wine. I kept them propped up on the coffee table and, with the wine glasses Ryan gave me as a graduation present,drained them until the warm fuzzies consumed the arctic crushies. Filling my time with glasses of wine and submitting resumes and cover letters fifteen times a day, trying to keep up with the rejections, I emptied myself of any joy or hope for the future. Ryan didn’t even seem to recognize my transition from enthusiastic home making graduate to a drained, lifeless drunk who would’ve clawed at the drywall to get out if she thought it got any better.

One particular evening, the lethal cocktail of alcohol, depression, loneliness, and restlessness was too much for my mouth to bear and I lashed out. I asked Ryan if he wanted to spend some time with me that didn’t involve video games or sex: a walk, dinner out, or even just grocery shopping. I loathe grocery shopping, but I was desperate for contact with a man who scarcely left the bedroom in two months, let alone the apartment, leaving me to do the errands (including that deplorable grocery shopping). However, he declined in the most severe petulant child-manner a rotund bearded man could muster. Furious, I attacked him verbally. My memory of that moment is a bit fuzzy due to the constant wine-veil I was sporting at the time, but I believe I said something about him being a loser and wasting his life. He retorted by skulking away back to his cave to play more video games. He never wanted to confront issues verbally. He was more of a “gestures-and-grunts” type, living in moments of short-term gratification strung together by 4-hour bouts of mind-numbing PC games, cursing at nobody in particular about pixels, load times, and frame rates.

So, I followed him into the bedroom and leaned down into his face, “Why won’t you talk to me?” I had him pinned to his high seat in Valhalla. I was determined to either have a meaningful conversation that would fix us or an all-out fight. Still I got nothing from him.

“Just go on and play your game and run away from what is real,” I slurred into the side of his head as he looked away. He continued to do just that, sucking on his bottom lip, eyes darting across the electric field,

“I think you’re really mean and really drunk,” he managed to say with a vacant look. Instantly enraged at the hot-button insult (considering my family’s alcoholic heritage), I spat back, “Haven’t you noticed that my proportion of alcohol consumption and depression is directly linked to how much you ignore me? I’ve tried making this a home, spending all of my graduation money on this place, and I feel fucking neglected, disrespected, and invisible.” His emotionless face was more infuriating than if he had yelled back. Standing there for two whole minutes of silence so wide I felt a truck could drive through it, I just stared at him, pleading with my eyes, wanting to yell that I was trying, really trying, harder than I ever have. I was drowning in an ocean of love to give and wasting it on someone reveling in his own spring. His eyes never left the screen, completely ignorant of the open-veined woman before him. I stormed out landing back on the couch, scared and trapped between my boxed wine and a blissfully snoring Adam. I had no car, no job, and nothing left of the respect I’d had for Ryan.

A few days later, I hadn’t made any plans to leave opting to do nothing for now. Ryan and I had never settled or discussed anything. We were sharing a bed, but that’s about it. My diet still consisted of wine, potato chips, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. It was during glass three or four, I realized it was Rob’s birthday. My five-year-relationship-Rob. I logged into Facebook and sent him a simple, private message: “I know you hate your birthday, but I thought I would tell you to have just a good day. Not a good birthday.”

Alright, it wasn’t simple. It took me about 10 minutes to craft that greeting/bad joke. I proceeded to stalk his profile, scrolling through his photos. He had lost some weight and had lots of pictures of himself hanging out with some of our friends back home. He looked happy, but mainly he looked like he was over me. He looked like the kind of guy who wouldn’t reply back to an ex-girlfriend. And why would he? The last time we saw each other, I’d told him in a crowded cafe that after two months apart, I was with a new guy. I started closing my laptop to go refill my wine, when I heard my Facebook Messenger ping, and for the first time in months, my heart thawed, sputtered, and coughed like it had just learned how to beat again.

He thanked me graciously without the venom I deserved. We exchanged pleasantries and “hey, how you’ve beens.” What should have been a quick birthday catch-up session turned into six hours of talking, joking, and laughing, reminiscent of our origins to be perfectly honest. A few times, Ryan silently walked through the living room to the kitchen. Not angry, just self-absorbed as he gathered much-needed soda and snacks to aid in his digital quests.

Rob and I continued our online friendship for a week and found myself explaining to Ryan that this wasn’t going to work out. I cited that we had too many differences and clung to the opposition we had regarding kids and told him I decided I didn’t want to be in an expirationship anymore, that I was wasting my time and his. He seemed more pissed off than hurt and told me to stop using “that stupid fucking word.” Not aware the milk was spoiled, he tried to shake it off and asked for “break-up sex” as a parting gift, which I declined as politely as I could.

…Next up: will Rob and Alicia get back together? Does anything really change? WHEN THE HELL DOES THIS END?!…

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Evolution of a Stone Cold Dater: Part 5

…Continued from Evolution of a Stone Cold Dater: Part 4, Part 3, Part 2, and Part 1

People saw these changes in me: the new dresses, the new colors, the brightened attitude, the sudden air of maturity. But, other changes surfaced too. I neglected old friendships, needing to spend all of my time with Rob, helping him ward off depression. Being alone for an extended period of time was difficult for him, so I became his sole warrior against the dreaded “lonelies.” Soon, I couldn’t make decisions without Rob. My new wardrobe and demeanor were as much his making as mine, and I second-guessed what I thought was right for me. Everything I wanted for myself had to be cleared first with Rob. To determine which pair of jeans to buy, which album to listen to, which classes to enroll in, his blessing was crucial. If I decided something without consultation, Rob’s backhanded comment was there, betraying his initial encouragements for me to be a strong woman. Once, having gone shopping with my mom and sister and bringing home a few cotton summer dresses, I tried them on for him, and he said they made me look pregnant.

The longer Rob and I were together, the more we both spiraled. By the end, we were both more unhappy than happy. He became distant while I relied on him for any sort of decision I made in my life. He hated the parts of my life that made me happy, and made me feel guilty for feeling content when he didn’t. Being with someone that long changes you. When he met me, I was a partying, gothy, Pagan tomboy who wanted more than anything to have children. By the end of our relationship, I was a quiet, girly, grown up atheist, who didn’t want anything to do with motherhood. The transformation was drastic but it is something I needed. I’m glad he made me question my impulsive and hard-wired predilections towards instant gratification, comfort, and motherhood. Breaking up with him was the hardest break up I ever had to do. Even though he made me hate myself a lot of the time, I still care about him and my gut still twists recalling the sad cardboard box of birthday presents (make-up, earrings, and a coat that looked like Penny Lane’s from Almost Famous) sitting between us on the last day, our eyes red from crying. His pleading and calling me Sweet Pea, his pet name for me as I walked him to his car made the tether he had on my life taught, strangling me. For a moment, I saw the sweet, romantic man I fell in love with instead of the abyss of self-loathing he had become. It would have been so easy to call off the break up and have all the power of our lives in the palm of my hand. I had done it before with other boyfriends. But, the miraculous changes never last and things quickly return to “normal.” Always learning from my mistakes, I held firm and watched him drive away blasting our song, “Flames” by Vast, through his car stereo.

I never want to have another break up like that again. So, of course, I go back to building walls, making rules, and protecting myself any way possible. This time, a new concept: being in an expirationship. It honestly happened on accident.

My expirationship partner was Ryan, and he fit my profile: a man with a warped wit, a penchant for all things nerdy, a great appetite for sex, and of course, just the right amount of chubby. I started seeing him not long after things with Rob finally dissolved, so I was hesitant to enter into something serious. But what I confessed at the start is the deepest truth I have to confess: I need to be with someone to sleep at night. I worked to keep things suitably superficial, a convenient routine of cooking food, having sex, and watching cartoons. But soon after breaking the freshness seal on the relationship, the hypothetical question of kids came up.

Ryan was adamant about having kids in the future. I told him I never want little gooey blobs of drool. He has his reasons for entering fatherhood, and I have my reasons for not contributing to overpopulation of the Earth. I could have just ignored the difference and continue, but it nagged at me that I ditched Rob, my five-year-long-last-guy, because all the seemingly small differences wore out the engine of what we had. So I asked Ryan if, given our fundamental difference on kids, he was comfortable living in a relationship with an expiration date. He turned from his PC game and looked at me lying across the bed, musing into the light of the television, “I guess, we enjoy it while it lasts.”

I thought maybe he would have argued, or broke up with me. I probed to make sure he understood.

“So,” I started, sitting up on the bed, “you’re okay knowing that this thing is going to end?”

“Don’t they all?”

“Well, most do, I guess. But you don’t know about it until it happens. I mean, I don’t go into a thing if I don’t think its going anywhere.”

“Well, I don’t want this to end, but we can take it as far as it goes.”

He turned back to his game, as if that settled the matter, but I kept pressing.

“So you’ll just move on when you think it’s time for you to have babies?”

“I guess so.” he shrugged and killed something in his game. I lay back down on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

A boyfriend with an expiration date. All the surprises are taken care of, all the seriousness sucked out. All that is left is the good part: date nights, lazy Sundays, sex, companionship, and, yeah, love. It’s still there despite the expiration.

I sat up sharp.

“The way I see it,” I said, after I made him turn around, “we have three options. One: we keep doing like we’re doing, enjoy each other, and when you need to sew your seed or whatever, you go do that.”

“Okay…”

“Two: we call it quits right now.”

“No.” He focused his eyes on me. “Do you want to?”

“No. I wasn’t saying that. It just might be easier because the longer we’re together, the harder the end may be later. Let me finish. Three: we stop dating, but we stay friends, maybe friends with benefits. We date other people, though, so you can find your future baby-mama.”

He laughed. He came and sat next to me.

“Let’s pretend we never had this conversation. Just keep doing what we’re doing.”

“You really don’t mind?”

He rolled his eyes. He was used to the backlash of Rob always making decisions for me and I felt like gravity shifted and I had nothing to anchor me without a solid opinion.

“Naw. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.” He kissed my forehead, and then went back to his game.

…See how the “expirationship” pans out in the next (possibly final) installment of Evolution of a Stone Cold Dater next week by 11:59pm EST Sunday night…

Evolution of a Stone Cold Dater: Part 4

…Continued from Evolution of Stone Cold Dater: Part 3, Part 2, and Part 1

Rob gave me a tour of the store on my first day, assigning every section a joke and a smirk. He made a pun during the first section and made me laugh harder than a normal person would. I love puns. I love them too much. A play on words will have me rolling on the floor while most people would groan and roll their eyes. Rob had me at that first pun, he just didn’t know it yet.

Rob towered over me, intimidating in both stature and intelligence. At 6 feet 5 inches, he pontificated on the finer points of philosophy, talked circles around people about bio-ethics, and he made my music knowledge seem cursory, at best. Very soon, we began talking about the various artists we liked or hated, creating road maps of each other’s musical histories and personalities, finding intersections. Our feelings in person ignited quick and fierce although we had significant others. We moved our conversations from the book floor to cyber space where most affairs incubate. We wrote long letters to each other, talking about our lives and how much we hated the places we were currently stuck in. Our secret and platonic love affair was anything but brief and light. We passed notes at work like a couple of high school kids too shy to talk outside of the confines of notebook paper. Sometimes a sentence, sometimes a letter. Sometimes he left me crudely drawn pictures referencing songs. He compiled a playlist for me once that included “Red Right Ankle” by the Decemberists and left a note on my register with a drawn foot with the ankle marked in red. I still have it, along with most of his little notes and letters, tucked in a shoe box in my closet.

Every once in a while, our downtime synchronized, so we could spend the day together outside of work and our “real lives.” We met at a diner forty minutes away, the only possible place to spend time together in public, and reserved all rendezvousing in town for emergencies only.

Most of the affairs in Frederick meet up at the same diner. You could always tell which couples were meeting in secret. Two people would show up in the parking lot in separate cars and embrace and kiss like long lost lovers before walking into the diner. We were among the guiltily in love, and we belonged. The décor, done in avocado green and what used to be white (now a dingy gray) and walls of chrome or mirrors made you feel like you were eating in a fun-house. We usually held hands the whole time, our palms sweaty, as if holding each other from certain death, clinging to something that meant the future was real. Sometimes we sat on the same side of the booth, his arm around me, reading books and drinking coffee for a couple hours before our lives called us back in from recess.  I look back on those moments now with astonishment.  It reads like a romance in an Austen novel filled with letters and innocent hand touching.  Most of my relationships started between the sheets and then getting to know the person and falling in love.  This time, I did my usual thing backwards or the right way as some might say.

Apart, our normal lives felt unnatural, half-real, remote, so we broke it off with our significant others. Breaking up with the metal singer was a good move for me, easy. Poor Rob had to go through a lengthy and heart-breaking divorce. We vowed we weren’t ending our other relationships for each other. We both needed a change, we said, regardless of whatever it was we had been sharing, covertly, via instant messenger and rendezvous diners.

In the fall-out that followed, Rob and I maintained the appearance of separate singlehood in consideration of our grieving departed, meeting up only in distant diners and dark movie theaters. We hid our union at work, too, because, technically, he was my boss. During this time of underground dating, I underwent a series of changes, all thanks to my ghost partner. I dyed my hair back to my natural color and grew it out. I started wearing colors, not just shades of black. I stopped biting my nails, even. I donned dresses and embraced being a girly girl. Rob and I would walk through some other town’s mall, and he would point to a store window dress and declare, “I can see you wearing the hell out of that.” I laughed. I, Ali, Queen of Darkness, wear some yellow-and-white A-line cotton sundress? Those kinds of dresses made me think of Full House and how I never wanted to be DJ Tanner. I wanted to be Joan Jett. But he treated me like a woman, which no other man in my life had, so I bought the sundress.

I was ripe for his routine, because guys like to pal around with me and, just as my father had, treat me like a dude. Past suitors gave me comic books, Batman and Star Wars toys, and super-hero-themed Chuck Taylors. One of these earlier boyfriends, a guy named Eric, illustrates the problem perfectly. Picking me up for special dinner date celebrating my birthday and seeing me emerge from the house in a little black dress, done up with blush and lipstick, Eric had laughed and asked “who are you and what did you do with my boo?” I blushed like a five year old who got into her mother’s wardrobe and vanity. “I felt like looking more grown up?” Later, sitting down to dinner, Eric said my neck was “missing something,” and pulled from his pocket a jewelry box, sending the girl hidden within me into squeals. I ripped the box open to discover, nestled in its suede interior, a ball-chain necklace crowned with a glow-in-the-dark pendant in the shape of Batman. Eric had bought it from Spencer’s, where he worked. I’m too nice. I said I loved it and put it on. So, when Rob talked about the woman inside me, it made me want to be the woman he saw.

…Read more about when the bloom comes off the rose next week by 11:59pm EST Sunday night…

Hey Readers,

Sorry I missed last week, but I have a good excuse!  I was in the mountains with no wifi or 4G reception, and, well…otherwise engaged.  Back in the swing of things now, though!  Stay tuned for more Mid-Week Meta and the continuance of Evolution of a Stone Cold Dater which may have to go through a few changes due to some events from last week.  Thanks for reading!

Meta Wednesday

I decided that maybe on Wednesday I might post a short blog about current goings-on, writing stuff, or something else.  Expect little polish and a lot of informality.  I get eager and a little impatient waiting for my once a week post.  So let me tell you about my various optimal writing conditions.

First, let me be clear: this is never consistent.  There are different varieties of my rituals in order to suit my mood or time of day.  Secondly, it doesn’t always help my creative process (see: ADD).

When the mood strikes me to write, I don’t usually need any sort of ritual or setting.  I’ll just do it.  The mood is moody and likes to wake me up (or never let me sleep at all) with just a single sentence hanging on a wrinkle or synapse of my brain.  I’ll lay in bed, tossing and turning, trying to scrape away this sentence with my pillow or blanket but it holds fast and fierce to my gray matter starting to make scars upon the squishy tissue.  Angrily and with a whine, I’ll throw the covers off and hop to the computer desk next to the bed, tripping on the pants and shoes I deposited just an hour before.  Usually at this point, my partner rolls over toward my side slurring his words with sleep, “You ok Sweetpea?” to which I answer in a biting and irritated tone, “Yeah, I just can’t get this out of my head.”  The poor thing will try to work out what I mean while falling back to sleep.  I’ll pound away angrily and fiercely for about thirty minutes– long enough to wake me up completely, and then that nagging little sentence that scored my brain will dissolve and *poof*.  I’ll sit at my computer, fully awake, and nothing more to write for the night.   My partner will rise a little while later to me staring into the white/blue bug zapper of a monitor, motionless, and tell me to come back to bed.  Oddly enough, some of the best snippets I’ve written were born this way.

My favorite way to write, and the most consistent ritual I have to date is the Almost Famous way.  If you’ve never seen Almost Famous, shame on you.  Stop reading this right now and go beg, borrow, steal, or (preferably) buy “The Bootleg Version” of the movie.  It was the cut that Cameron Crowe intended and it is well worth the extra hour of content (and oh my goodness, the commentary).  I just wrote and deleted a saccharine sweet synopsis and love letter about the film.  I tend to over sell.  Just watch it.  Anyway, back to the method.

First, I make myself something warm like a cup of tea or coffee.  I’ll set it on some small space on the desk that isn’t taken up with papers, mail, jewelry, makeup, or God knows what.  Before sitting down, I’ll remove my pants.  I don’t know why I am more comfortable writing in some form of undress.  Maybe it has something with baring my soul?  “Bare all, bare soul?”  Oh, also, very important: lighting.  I have a desk lamp that I point towards the wall so that it casts an indirect light in the room and it is the only light in the room besides my computer screen and the annoying little flashing ones on the internet router.  Once the room is lit to my standards, I’ll fire up the computer and put my headphones in.  Almost Famous will most definitely already be in the disk drive.  Once it pops up and I hear the DreamWorks music I’ll open what I want to work on, fiddling with the window size so I can fit the movie and the page on one screen.  It’s a wonderful time we live in isn’t it?  How the hell did Oscar Wilde or Jane Austen get anything written at all?  I like the approach because it gives my mind something to focus on while my subconscious can float around in the ether and simultaneously inspiring me (thank you Lester Bangs/Philip Seymour Hoffman wherever you beautiful bastards are).  Also, the soundtrack just kicks so much ass.

I started this ritual when I was writing every week for my Creative Writing Capstone class.  I only had a handful of movies in my dorm room, Almost Famous being one of them.  I started to just play it every time I started writing because I like a little background noise.   My mom is actually the culprit behind this necessity.  She always had “background movies” on while she did housework, floating into the living room when a favorite part was on or when she wanted to mouth the lines along with the actors on the screen.

Third and final writing condition is early morning.  This one is rare, but irritatingly effective.  I’ll set my alarm to go off about an hour and half before I have to get ready for work.  I’ll get up right when the alarm goes off: springing to life full of writing ideas and optimism.  Don’t believe me?  Good.  Because it’s totally not true.  I’ll push snooze and curse nighttime Alicia for this bright idea of getting up early.  After repeating the snoozing-and-cursing three times, I’ll roll out of bed with a whine in my throat and stumble down the stairs.  Coffee is first and foremost and I’ll fire up my little laptop that really should have its hard drive wiped or just put out of its misery.  Then, I’ll sit for about 15 minutes and play on my phone while sipping coffee until I look at the clock and whisper an expletive and something about wasting my life online.  When I actually get started that early, interesting things happen with my writing.  I come up with weird shit for fictional stories.  If you’ve frequented my blog, you know that I write creative nonfiction.  True stories.  However, in the morning, I can’t handle reality that early and dive into weird worlds that are absolutely gorgeous.  It’s like I’m two different writers in the same body that exist soley in the ebb and flow of the sun.  And to be totally honest, my nonfiction self (let’s call her Alicia) hates my fictional self (Let’s call her Fae).

Alicia deeply wishes that she could relay reality how Fae describes her weird worlds.  Fae’s writing is delicious, thick, and intricate while Alicia is more about the internal and riddled with her own sarcastic commentary and hard-won attempts at humor.  Alicia is trying to learn more from Fae, but she’s a little “sour grapes” about it.  Fae has her own troubles though.  She’ll start strong, but she fizzles quickly from boredom and gets intimidated by the lack of an ending.  She NEVER knows the ending to any story she starts.  Anyway, we digress.

So there you have it, my optimal writing conditions with some interesting tangents.  Come back next Wednesday for Meta Wednesday.  Thanks for reading.

Genuflect: Metal, Vodka, Jack, and Sex: Part 2

…Continued from last week: Genuflect: Metal, Vodka, Jack, and Sex: Part 1

After nine months of late night bitch sessions, Star Trek: The Next Generation marathons, and clothes swapping, we became very close.  We stuck together after kicking our toxic boyfriends to the curb giving each other the much needed willpower and courage to do so.  We both came from generations of women who defined themselves by the men in their lives and we were no exception.  Both of us afraid to be alone, to the heterosexual life mate we found in each other yet gaining the agency we desperately craved.

Eric moved out: I stayed. Reuben lingered a while longer and still came around, but quickly grew bored of the secret language Kirsten and I spoke. Then, we realized it was just us in the apartment. Our apartment. We were scared though, and of course we were.  We always relied on men to make us feel relevant, beautiful, and safe.  We cited on numerous occasions that we were strong independant women, and we finally had to put it to the test.  So we pooled our fears of becoming crazy cat ladies (which we we joked about regularly because we had 4 cats already), put it in a bottle, and took shots of it in the dark.  Little by little we became the strong independent superwomen we always talked about being.  However, I think both of us knew that if one of us faltered, the other would too.

Most of our time was spent going to parties, drinking, and going to shows. We hunted our instant gratification and vices like zombies clamoring for fresh brains. On Monday nights, we went to the Ottobar in Baltimore for something called Metal Monday. Metal Mondays were in the upstairs of the concert venue where on any given weekend you could see a local metal band show, an indie rock band, or a touring label-legit band. On Mondays the bar housed the bare minimum of metalheads who happened to have the next day off or didn’t care about toting a hangover to work.  The folks who weren’t into the metal scene seemed lost among the uneven pool tables, neon lights, and red walls plastered with band notices and stickers.

On Metal Mondays, drinks were on special until 10pm, and they played metal music at an ear-peircing level, the optimal decibel for metal music. I made the same requests to the DJ every Monday until the point came where he would play them automatically as soon as we walked through the door. My favorite song to request was “Lay Down” by Priestess, the perfect song for lip syncing and dancing around with a pool cue like a music video girl.

Kirsten and I became the unofficial mascots of Metal Monday. It was never crowded, but there were regulars just like us, though not as lovable because we were usually the only ones with breasts. We became acquainted with one regular, Dave, over a game of pool.  Only 3 pool tables occupied the space, but only one existed to us: the one closest to the window which also happened to be the one closest to the speakers spouting our every requested song. Once though, we arrived late and saw our precious pool table being violated by the pool cue of another. Dave looked like Satan in human form. He dressed in black slacks, a flowy black shirt, and his shiny leather shoes gleamed in the red lights of the bar. His goatee and slicked back short hair were as black as his clothing. His eyes: dark, small and close set accented by a perpetually raised eyebrow gave him a look of curiosity and mischief. To be more accurate, he looked like mischief itself. But we were no stranger to such devilry.

Naturally, Kirsten took the lead when it came to getting our table back.

“So, you know this is usually our table, right?” she cozied up to him. He didn’t even miss a beat. He continued to shoot balls into the bumpers, missing every shot.  She might as well been a dust mote in a whiff of vodka in the air.

“It doesn’t have your name on it. There weren’t any quarters on the table. You weren’t here.” he said coldly, not looking at her.  Kirsten gave her best pout, but he wasn’t swayed. After an exceptionally hard glare from Kirsten, he finally said, “Tell you what, you both play me at the same time.  If you win, you get the table, and the right to kick me off of it any time I’m here. If you lose, I get to get in on whatever game you play.” Without consulting me, Kirsten agreed to the wager. Even though I played pool with Kirsten every Monday night for about six months I was still rubbish. Kirsten was a shark though. She assured me a win stating that no one knew the uneven screwed up tables like we did and Dave didn’t. However, Dave’s horrible playing earlier revealed to be a ruse and took us for a ride. He sunk three balls on his first turn despite our best efforts to be distracting, dancing and preening to the music in our low-cut tank tops and tight ripped-up jeans. Kirsten only sunk one on our first turn. We caught up later in the game, but then it was down to the 8 ball, and it was my turn.

The 8 ball and I have a strained relationship. If the Dreaded Eight is the only ball on the table and I’m trying to sink it, I scratch 9 out of 10 times. I lined up my shot as best I could in my tipsy state. I consulted with Kirsten who tried her best to build my confidence after which I consulted with my Jack and Coke. Chalking up my cue, I sized up Dave and sneered back at the smirk on his face as I bent over the table. Corner pocket. Lined up perfectly. Dave was sitting right behind the pocket and I could see that eyebrow arching further than I thought possible. I pulled the cue back and hit the cue ball. It gently hit the 8 ball and it sunk right into the pocket with a satisfying thud. However, the cue ball kept going. “No no no no no no…” I pleaded, but it was no use. The second thud, like a crack of thunder, telegraphed our defeat. I scratched on the 8 ball. Yet again. tails between our legs, Kirsten and I gathered our things, but Dave asked us to stay. He didn’t gloat. He wanted to play another round with us and gave me some pointers. He became one of the regulars after that and was the cute older cousin I never had who flirted with me even though it was wrong to do so because I was young and stupid while he was old enough to know better.

…Read more about the adventures of Alicia and Kirsten next week by 11:59pm EST (or close to it…sorry!) every Sunday night…

A Blog by Any Other Name…

Hey Readers,

you may notice something a little different…my name has changed. This is the price I have to pay for sharing stories that, according to some, I don’t own completely. By that, I mean that some of the things I talk about tend to shed light in dark corners that people would rather forget about. Where some feel shame, I feel growth. Where some hide, I shine. I try to be an open book and be truthful even about my own shortcomings and fuck ups, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone feels that way. Anyway, the name change meant having to change my blog url in the process. So if you have the previous link bookmarked, re-save the blog.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and for reading my stories. Those of you who provide feedback on a regular basis, I truly appreciate it no matter whether it praises it or rips it apart. I hope to be the writer you want me to be, and the writer you want to follow.  Check out the next installment of one story or another by 11:59pm EST this Sunday.

Genuflect: Metal, Vodka, Jack, and Sex: Part 1

Hello readers, I know you’re chomping at the bit for the next installment of my love life story, but I need to take a break from it for a while and do some tweaking.  So, for this week (and possibly weeks to come) read on about my troubled early 20’s with my best gal pal and worst influence (sometimes for the best).

If my id had a name, it would be “Kirsten.” Kirsten: my Goddess of Indulgence, my iron maiden of metal, my spectre of mischief.  She was my roommate during my wild and crazy early twenties. To be more precise, she was the reason my early 20’s left me nearly deaf and a connoisseur of  men and cheap liquor.  We met through my then-boyfriend Eric, who was looking for a place closer to the city.  Kirsten’s boyfriend and Eric’s friend, Reuben, suggested Eric live at her place since she had a spare bedroom in her shoebox apartment.  Looking for anywhere other than my mother’s house, I spent most of my time with Eric in that tiny room, sitting on the Ikea couch in the living room that was only slightly more comfortable than the floor.

 

I was intimidated by her when we first met. Kirsten towered over me at six feet tall, with slender arms and legs – graceful-looking without any movement at all.  She was of Nordic descent, with pale skin like porcelain dipped in condensed milk punctuated by her blue-green eyes, forever-rimmed with dark eyeliner.  She bleached her hair, to the point of stripping all pigment out, but left a shock of hot pink underneath. Kirsten belonged on the cover of Maxim, oiled-up and bikini-clad, staring half-lidded with soft, sultry lips. Her body should have been on a 50 foot tall billboard modeling Victoria’s Secret or draped in red silk, embodying a fragrance’s spirit in a TV commercial.  She was my complete opposite physically.  I had mousey brown hair I dyed blue black, a short, stocky body.  I had no idea how to properly apply make-up if I wore it all.  Nor did I possess the grace that seemingly leaked through her pores.

 

We didn’t become friends at first, when I was helping with moving Eric’s boxes into the narrow hallway.  In fact, she seemed downright frosty to me..  She always bared an expression of extreme underwhelment.  Her voice, a low rumble from years of smoking and drinking straight vodka, was rarely used, as if she was saving the energy or power that resided in her vocal chords.  I took that calm and collected self as her being upset by my presence, a threat to her way of living, trespassing on the little part of Egypt she ruled over with her Antony.  In actuality, it was her Antony making her so cold.

 

Reuben was having an affair with a married woman and Kirsten knew about it, but he still came and went as he pleased.  They fell into a comfortable routine well practiced by the time I arrived in their lives.  He disappeared for 3 days, leaving Kirsten to dig herself a self-inflicted drunken pit, returning as if he had just gone out for errands.  She would lock him out of her heart, but never the apartment.  I’ll give Reuben credit; he was relentless.  He poked, prodded, and squeezed his way back into her good graces by calling her by her pet name “Wabbit,” talking sweetly to her and telling her how much he loved and missed her, eventually making his way back into her bed.  After a few days of good, a disagreement on something trivial arose and off went Reuben to the woman married with children.

 

After a few months of living with her as a pseudo-third-wheel roommate, my 21st birthday came around. Eric took me out to dinner, meeting up with Kirsten, Reuben, and a rough-looking bunch of Eric’s friends at the local bar down the street. Already three drinks in, everyone put shot-after-shot in front of me, screaming “Just drink it!” to my inquiry of what it was I was about to swallow. My head, spinning by the time I decided to go outside for a smoke, made it difficult to maneuver a graceful dismount from the bar stool, so I fell to the floor with a muffled thud and a scuffed ego. Kirsten, my peroxide-blond savior, stood over me.  I expected a jeer, a laugh, or a cold stare.  Instead, her extended hand swam into view and pulled me up, quickly guiding me outside to the smoker’s picnic tables dotting the parking lot. I sat down even harder than I fell, only to find her doing me the courtesy of lighting me a cigarette.

 

“Are you having a good birthday?” she asked. This was the first time I had been alone with her and I was suddenly very aware of the sweat on the inside of my elbows.

“Yeah. It’s nice to be out with my older friends.”

“Good. I’m glad.” She flashed a brilliant smile, usually reserved for Reuben when he finally got back into her good graces, the smile that belonged on fashion magazine covers.  For a moment, I was caught off guard.  But I gathered myself and slurred forth.

“Thanks for letting me stay with Eric at your place all the time. I know you only signed up for one roommate and got two. I really like this area, and…” I stopped and looked down at my cigarette. I hadn’t taken a single drag and the ash, a column of gray asphalt, would crumble with an exhale from the wrong direction.

“…and what?”

“and… I think you’re really beautiful and cool. I’d like us to be closer.” Heat crawled up my neck, filling my face and ears. Unsure if it was the alcohol or the conversation, I remembered that making friends with girls was always difficult.  Even now, after years of maturing, I don’t get along with a lot of women. Girls perpetuate their own stereotypes: acting like catty, back­stabbing, giggly idiots, throwing you to the side for a guy as soon as they’ve snagged one. Perhaps it has something to do with my tomboy upbringing.  When trying to be a girl’s friend, I’m nervous about rejection, as if I’m proposing marriage to a stranger. I braced for a brush-off from this Madonna of Metal Music, but she surprised me.

“I’d like us to be closer too. It’s been nice having another female in the apartment. We have to stick together, you know?” It was like she was sensing the future.

…Read more about Alicia and Kirsten’s adventures after they kick their bad boyfriends to the curb next Sunday by 11:59pm EST…