Wild Things

It is untamed. Wild and unplanned. I wake deep in thought, recalling the mornings in the Redwoods – the air cold and damp. There was nothing around but the untouched forest. Standing there, facing the west, I saw the Pacific resting between the hills – the brush wild and untamed. So perfectly beautiful and lonely.

This is what it’s like to love you. On a day I least expected you, there you were. We are perfect partners. We think alike. But not. In that place in between, where we differ, you shine most.

There are more questions than answers. In the beauty of this wild thing, I long for you. What is and will not be follows me around like a coastal fog. Through the haze I see you. I don’t hold it against you – you can’t tame wild things.

I live here in this tension, with what will not be, settling into the cold, wild – alone.

*I originally wrote this in August. It’s what prompted me to start writing a new novel. I can’t say it’s fiction. But it did inspire me to write fiction. I’m currently knee deep in edits of this novel. It looks very different than the one I finished writing in November. But I’m grateful the inspiration continues to flow.*

Everything Made Sense Again

This is an excerpt of my novel, A Thousand Years.

The day everything made sense again, the sweat dripped down my shirt, pooling between my breasts and running down my back. I longed for a swift and harsh southern thunderstorm to rip through town, cooling everything in its wake – including me. But I’m not that lucky. Standing in the center of town, I turn around in a circle taking in the bustle of a town getting ready for its tricentennial. My tiny staff is directing and guiding city employees in the finishing touches. Our official celebration kicks off in two hours and marks a week of events – most planned by yours truly. I told my staff earlier today that I couldn’t function unless I’d showered before the kickoff. But it’s August in North Carolina. I am sopping wet again. August in the south is about as close to hell as one can get. Even here in the mountains – especially this year – a scorcher for the record books. I guess there’s really no point to worry over this, everyone’s in the same boat.

As if on cue, a bolt of lightning lights up the ever-darkening sky and thunder quickly follows on its heels. The deluge begins then. I race across the street & duck into The Filling Station, but not before the rain has soaked me to the bone. Macy, the new owner, is behind the counter. I head toward her hoping I don’t look as bad as I feel. “What can I get you, Birdie? An iced-coffee maybe? I know you’ve got a long week ahead, maybe have a seat and dry off a minute, before getting sucked into the craziness?”

“I think I’ll take you up on that offer,” I say, as water drips onto the black and white checkered tile of the town’s oldest café. “It’s probably best if I stand here though. I’m sopping wet.”

“Eh. Don’t worry about it,” she says, pointing to an open barstool at the end of the counter. I sit down and moments later, Jess, one of the servers, walks out with a towel and hands it to me.

“Thank you, sweetie,” I say, taking the towel and wiping down my bare legs and arms and then slowly patting my head with the towel – feeling a little weird doing so at the busiest restaurant in town.

Johnny, the former owner and now sometimes cook and barista, when he’s not fishing or hunting – that is, walks out of the kitchen. Without missing a beat he says, “You look like a drowned rat, Birdie.”

“Thanks, Mr. Johnny. That’s exactly the look I was going for.” He hands me my coffee and as usual, he’s added a little extra flair of chocolate and caramel sauce on the whipped cream – just for me. I love my town.

Only me. Only I would be drenched from head to toe – today of all days. After checking on my hair and makeup in the bathroom, I grab my coffee and head back outside. Now that the storm has passed, the steam roils and rolls in smoky wisps from the asphalt. The air is cooler, but only slightly. I cross the street and set my drink down on the gazebo bench and stand in the sun, hoping my clothes will dry quickly all the while contemplating if I have enough time to get the two blocks to my house for a quick change. I look at my phone and then all around. Everything is done. My staff, the city employees, and volunteers have done an incredible job. We are ahead of schedule. I slip off my flats, grab my coffee in the other hand, and run toward home.

Good thing I had a back-up outfit ready. Once in the house, I race to the bedroom, thankful that my old house has a new AC unit. It is gloriously cool inside. I slip on my white eyelet Michael Kors dress. Since it’s already rained, I’m willing to tempt fate with the white. I grab my espadrilles on the bedroom floor and as I step into the hallway, the doorbell chimes through the house. What a racket that thing makes. Note to self – it’s time to get a new doorbell before I leave on vacation. I come around the corner and through the glass on my door I make out the form of a man. That looks like Graham, I think, as a I reach for the door and open it.

“Gray?” I ask – as if the past few years have somehow made me forget what the love of my life looks like.

“Hi. I know this is crazy. But I needed to see you. Can we talk?”

“Now? I’m kind of busy. I mean, I can’t talk now. You always did have shitty timing. I have this event. I have to go – “I say, shaking my head as if this mirage of a man standing in front of me will disappear.

“I know. I’m here because I saw you on the news. I was in the café when you came in. I’m not going to lie. I obviously can’t. I followed you here. I knew I had to take my shot. I can stay and talk to you afterward. Or when you have a free moment. I can just hang out. I need to talk to you – please?”

“I guess. I – I have to get moving,” I say as I pull the door shut, locking it and slipping my keys into my dress pocket. Graham follows me down the steps. I don’t wait for him. I take off in a jog, leaving him behind. I mean, I barely jog. He’s a runner, runner. Like ultra-marathon runner. It’s not like he can’t catch me. But I do it anyway. I don’t look back. Kind of like I did after the last time I saw him.

Within seconds of leaving my porch, the town square comes into view. It’s then that I realize my phone has been buzzing and pinging with texts and alerts. In the brief time it took me to get home, change, and head back – the park has filled with residents, the tourists that pay the bills, and former residents. And who can forget the media? I practically had to pay them to come. But whatever. They’re here. I stop jogging and drop my shoes on the concrete. I slip into them and bend down to buckle them. When I stand up, I try to sneak a glance behind me. Gray is nowhere in sight. I’m relieved. He has the worst timing – always has – since literally the day we met.

I’m Gonna Let Him Fly

“And there ain’t no talkin’ to this man
He’s been tryin’ to tell me so
It took a while to understand the beauty of just letting go
Cause it would take an acrobat, I already tried all that
I’m gonna let him fly”
~Patty Griffin

I live each day as if I belong to him. But I come home to an empty, quiet house. The silence has become deafening and churns the anxiety and the overthinking until I’m lost in the wild crashing surf – knocked around by my doubts – by past losses and heartbreak.

I’m gonna let him go.

I don’t want to know anymore – if she exists, who she is, or what she has, that I don’t. I don’t want to know why. I’ve tried to talk myself into being okay with this – with this – No-Man’s Land we tip toe in and out of. You can wait this out, I whispered over and over again to myself. But I’ve been here before. You’ve been here before, I remind myself. It all looks so familiar.

So I’m gonna let him go.

Letting go isn’t an easy, snap of your fingers decision that *poof* makes it all go away. There’s an active, conscious decision to do so and sometimes it’s a daily decision – particularly when you love a man that can’t, doesn’t, or won’t choose you.

I’m gonna let him go.

In a few days, I fly to the coast. There’s a decision to be made – move back for good and face the future and all it brings – by myself – or stay in place, wondering if he’ll find his way to me. I fly into one of my favorite cities in the world and then drive three hours south. I don’t need to take that route. But I need to take that route. The highway hugs the treacherous cliffs. The winding road and the slow pace it takes to get closer and closer to my Granddad’s house, offer a kind of therapy that others pay thousands for. Those cliffs are a harsh and entirely stunning reminder that we are just a mere blip in time. The grandeur of it all puts things into perspective. Or at least it used to. I crave perspective. And like the humidity has come to do in my adopted home, I pray the cool fog seeps down into my bones and clears my head and heart.

Because I am gonna let him go. But I’m going to need some help with that.

I Miss You Today

I miss you today. I miss you often. Some days hit a little different though. Today it’s the sound of your voice and how I feel when you look at me – in that way you do – that I’m missing. The way you look at me always knocks me a little off center. Mostly because I equally long for it and fear it, at the same time. Fear it because I love you through this wild, alone.

If there’s one thing I need now, it would be to hear you say my name – to hear your voice. That and having this thing that stands between us, a distant memory.

When I was a kid, we camped on the beach. The waves crashed against the course sand – endlessly through the night. They were an ever present reminder of how something so wild and unruly can also be stable and predictable. How weird is that? Loving you is like that. Deeply comforting. Wildly unpredictable. And on days like today, as needed as the breath that fills my lungs.

I miss you today.

Fiction Friday: One Way or Another

Here’s another excerpt from my novel, A Thousand Years.

On Friday evening, after we’d stuffed ourselves with pizza and we’re comfy in our favorite spots in the family room, watching a movie, Gray came through the front door. Total chaos ensued, as he was a whole week early. I always love seeing him like this – such a contradiction. He is dirty and smells. He’s mostly cleaned up before his drive home, but even still he’s looking and smelling rough. It’s a total contradiction from this quiet, studious man I’ve known most of my adult life. Amelia is in his arms in an instant and Jake is talking a mile a minute. We’ve paused the movie for the mini-reunion. When they finally relax a little, Gray lifts up a backpack. “Can I shower and change?” he asks.
“Of course. I set out some fresh towels. They’re on the counter in the upstairs bathroom. There’s pizza when you’re finished.”
“You are literally the best. The best everything.”
“True. I am. Now go shower – you stink.”
“True story,” he says.
A few minutes later, when I hear the water turn off, I walk into the kitchen to heat him a plate of pizza. I choose his favorites from what’s left of our four different types and put them in the microwave. As the microwave finishes, he walks into the kitchen. He didn’t shave – which I love. And he smells amazing as always. “You are a saint. Thank you for being there for us – as always,” he says, hugging me.
“You’re welcome. I’d do anything for you and the kids,” I say. He’s not letting go. I don’t want him to. And I want him to at the same time. Isn’t that just like us? I pull away from him. “Eat,” I say pointing at his plate. He pulls out a bar stool at my kitchen island and sits down.
“Listen, I hate to bring this up now but, you need to talk to Jake. He’s having a hard time with the stuff Adria is doing and he’s frustrated that you don’t just cut her off. He asked if he could move in with me.”
Gray put the piece of pizza in his hand, back on his plate. “Yeah? What did you say?” He doesn’t look mad. But I can tell that he’s not thrilled with me.
“I told him that wasn’t possible, but that I would always be there for him. For all of you. I told him that he needed to talk to you about how he’s feeling and to ask you the questions he asked me.”
“Oh,” he says flatly. “What kinds of questions did he ask?”
“Rather than specific questions I would just sum it up by saying that he’s tired of Adria’s behavior and doesn’t understand why she never has to deal with consequences for her bad choices. He said that when he does bad things, you hold him accountable.”
“Ah. These are big thoughts for a little boy. I can’t blame him,” he says, the defeat of recent years etched in the new lines in his forehead. He runs his hands through his hair. He needs a haircut. I don’t know how it’s possible, but the older he gets, the more handsome he gets. “I don’t know why I let her stay in our lives, Bird. Why do I allow this?”
“I don’t know, Love. I ask myself this all of the time.”
“Thank you for being there when he had these big worries and questions. You’re a good mom to Jacky. And you’re a good mom to my kids, Bird. You love us well. And you deserve -” His statement trails off. I already know where he’s going with this.
“I deserve to be with the love of my life,” I say, as I put the pizza boxes back in the refrigerator and walk back out to the family room. I sit back down on the couch and Amelia crawls into my lap.
“Will you braid my hair now, Aunt Birdie?”
“Yep. Run to the bathroom and grab the comb and some hair bands, okay?”
“K,” she says, running down the hall to the downstairs bathroom. As a boy mom, Amelia is my only chance to enjoy girl stuff, so I keep a basket for her here with makeup and hair barrettes, and nail polish. She races around the corner with her basket and climbs back into my lap. “Got ‘em!” she says.
She leans back as I start brushing her hair. Like every other time, since I’ve moved back to Newton, we’ve done this very thing, I’m overwhelmed – with love, hope, fear, and a dread that surrounds every moment with Gray and his children – worrying its end could come any moment. I make myself a promise, as I braid Amelia’s hair – Gray will not ever devastate me again. So this foggy haze that hangs between us, is gonna clear, one way or another.