Saturday, December 2, 2017

Saturday Morning Pep Talk

Soon, I will go grocery shopping.

At Meijer.

On a Saturday morning.

During the holidays.

It will be ok, though. After all, I did part of a yoga workout dvd this morning.

I took a long, relaxing shower and spent an equally long, relaxing time on Facebook, letting my hair air-dry into an unflattering frizz (nothing a Santa hat can't hide, amirite?).

I will drive to Biggby's drive-thru and order a latte. I will sip it as I browse through the grocery store. I won't spill it all over my favorite, freshly washed “Namaste in Bed” shirt.

I will be Zen.

I will enjoy my refreshing walk in the bitter cold from the credit union, because some small-dicked d-bag in an oversize truck double-parked in the last remaining spaces in Meijer's car lot.

When that old woman cuts in front of me and then parks her shopping cart in the middle of the aisle, I will take a deep, healing breath and say, “Merry Christmas!” to her.

I will not punctuate my greeting by flipping her the bird.

I will close my eyes briefly to fully experience the cheer of holiday music sweeping through the store when that toddler in the international foods aisle decides to throw down with a blood-curdling scream.

I will not focus on the petty things, like that trashy-ass bitch stomping on my foot and taking the last of the canned french-cut green beans. I will instead search the store to find items that bring me joy, like a cinammon-apple scented candle or Taylor Swift's album Reputation.

I will not grind my teeth and swear like Samuel L. Jackson when there are only two cashiers and the check-out lines fall back to the clothing department. Instead, I will put in my earbuds and delight in YouTube videos on my phone while I wait to pay for all this overpriced holiday shit that I don't want to bake or wrap or clean with anyway.

Shopping in December is all part of the holiday experience, and we should all take a moment to appreciate the simple beauty in being out in the community and sharing in the festivities.

Although I'd rather namaste in bed.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Multiple Personality

As a kid I was obsessed with twins. From the moment I saw Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap I knew I was destined to be a multiple. I was unaware at the time that it wasn't necessarily a life choice I was able to make. After all, Mom said I could be anything I wanted when I grew up. Some kids wanted to be President of the United States; I simply wanted to be an identical twin.

My fascination with twins eventually extended onto my summer reading list. By age eight my chapter book staples included the Double Trouble series, with the protagonist sisters Sandi and Randi (I can still feel the euphoria when they were later joined by identical cousin Mandi in the explosive Triple Trouble) and of course the adventures of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield in the Sweet Valley High universe.

I absorbed every detail I could find on the topic, paying special attention to updates on my own twin cousins and studiously watching The Patty Duke Show. I would recite on demand my vast knowledge of all things twin: the difference between fraternal and identical, the meaning of "twin language," and you didn't want to get me started on mirror twins.

At night I would lay in bed and imagine myself and my sister playing the old "switcheroo" game. We'd trade places and fool everyone. I was the bookish twin naturally, so my sister would be both athletic and good at math. She'd play volleyball as me so I'd never have to take another gym class again. I'd return the favor by pretending to be her during free reading time and recess. No one would ever know, except maybe our closest friends and Memee, my faithful stuffed lamb.

It wasn't long before I began to suspect my parents were hiding a big secret from me: that I was in fact a twin. It was so obvious I'd been adopted and separated from my sister at birth. After all, my parents and my brother were obsessed with football, and I could care less about it. What more glaring evidence did I need?

Soon I came to the conclusion that there was a twist to my story: I was separated from not one but two sisters. I was a triplet! I quickly grew jealous at the thought that somewhere out there, I had two sisters who did everything together, like sharing a room and clothes and playing Barbies. I bet they did each other's hair. They probably lived near Disney World, too. Meanwhile I was stuck with my stupid little brother, Scott. He wouldn't even sit still long enough for me to paint his fingernails pink and cut his hair. I tried to tie him up until Mom caught me. How unfair was that situation?!

I likened myself to Little Orphan Annie. I'd stare out my bedroom window and sing "Maybe" off-key until my brother screamed at me to shut up.

I decided to become proactive, planning ways to trap my parents into admitting their scam. Before dinner one night I thought of how to broach the topic in conversation. "This meatloaf is really good, Mom. I bet my sisters would love it!" Dum-dum-dum! My parents would drop their forks in horror. "How did you know?" my mother would gasp as my father would cry, "What have we done? We should've kept the triplets together and sold Scott!"

"No," I decided, dragging a high chair over to the table and strapping my stuffed lamb, Memee, in it, "too obvious. Better to just drop hints first, then the bomb."

I sat down in my chair and stuck my tongue out at my brother Scott, who was already whining about not wanting to eat dinner.

"MOM!" he screeched, "Jenny just stuck her tongue out at me!"

"No I didn't," I said quickly, sticking my tongue out again, then shooting him an evil smile. Typical family dinner.

Mom grabbed plates out of the cupboard. "STOP it you two I am not in the mood tonight."

Dad sat in his chair as Mom put our plates down in front of us. "Mom," I whispered urgently, "aren't you forgetting someone?" I nodded at my Memee, sitting patiently in her high chair. "It hurts her feelings when you forget about her."

Mom let out a big sigh. "Right." She put a small plate in front of Memee, which I promptly filled with meatloaf and peas, and began feeding her. (I was a weird kid, OK).

I decided to stick with my original plan. "This meatloaf is really good, Mom." I paused, then announced dramatically, "I bet my sisters would love it." I looked smugly at my parents, waiting for the shock and forks to drop.

Dad continued eating. Mom pushed Scott's plate closer to him and replied, "I'm glad your Memee likes it. Scott, I'm not kidding, you'd better finish your dinner."

"No," I said sternly, causing both of my parents to look up in surprise. "I know, OK? I'm a triplet and you guys adopted me and my sisters go to Disney World every. single. day. Without me!"

"Jenny," Mom sighed again, "You were not adopted. You look just like your father! And you are not a triplet either, believe me, I would know."

She had my attention. "How do I know for sure? Am I twin at least?"

Mom replied, "No, it was just you. You can look at your birth certificate if you'd like. And why do you want sisters? You have a perfectly good brother right here." She looked at Dad and continued, "I just wish you two would be best friends. Why can't you just get along?"

Scott and I exchanged mutual glares across the table.

Later that night, before bedtime, I found my birth certificate and was devastated to find the word "single" checked in the space that indicated multiples.

The next morning I went to school with determination on my face and a picture of myself in my pocket. I spent the morning contemplating my situation. Should I admit defeat and walk away, alone, single, sisterless in this world? No! I grabbed the picture and tapped the shoulder of the boy in front of me, Evan.

"Evan," I whispered, handing him the picture. "See this girl here? Her name's Jessica. We're identical cousins. She's the wild one. She's French and has diabetes (I was also fascinated with France and diabetes, checking out several books on the topics at the library. But that's a story for another time).

"Oh, OK," Evan replied pleasantly, handing back the picture and turning his attention back to the teacher.

At recess I showed my friend Sara the picture. "This is my identical cousin Jessica. She lives in France and has to give herself insulin shots. She's the prettier one." I started my self-deprecation at an early age. Even my imaginary identical cousin was prettier than me.

I still wasn't satisfied, however. What about my switcheroos?

The following weekend, I went downstairs to find out what Scott and his friend Petey* were doing. The basement at our house was a kid's paradise. My parents finished the space, putting up paneling on the walls and carpet on the floor. They pretty much gave the whole downstairs to my brother and me. There was a TV with a Nintendo hooked up, a couch with a pull-out bed for slumber parties. We had a full-size chalkboard and books, toys, my treasured dollhouse, Barbie dolls, a box full of play clothes and even a finished bathroom downstairs, not to mention lots of empty spaces for running around and playing indoor sock baseball games.

I sat on the stairs and spied on Scott and Petey, who were playing Mike Tyson's Punch-Out on the Nintendo. "I wanna play," I announced. Without removing his eyes from the TV, Scott replied, "You can't, stupid head. Leave us alone." His hands moved expertly on the controller.

"It's my game, too," I said quietly, not sure if I wanted to start a fight or let it go. Petey, sweet kid that he was, looked at me and gave an apologetic shrug. "Maybe Jenny can play next," he said to Scott.

"No. Go away Sissy."

"You can't make me." I glanced at Petey again. "Is your sister home?" Petey's sister and I were friends.

"She can't go out until she cleans her room. Mom said," he replied.

"Oh, I said, resting my head against the stair railing. "Hey Petey, wanna know a secret?"

"Yes!" Petey dropped his controller and turned to me. I had his full attention.

I hesitated for a moment. "Not many people know this, but I'm a triplet."

"Shut up Jenny! Don't listen to her Petey. She's lying."

"Am not." I said smugly. "Mom and Dad just don't think you're old enough to know yet."

"You're a lying liar you stupid dweeb butt. Leave us alone or I'll tell Mom on you."

"Fine, don't believe me, Poopface." I smiled warmly at Petey. "Do you want to meet my sisters? They're upstairs."

"They're here right now?" Petey was fascinated.

"Yeah, but we can't all be down here at the same time. Mom doesn't want anyone to know they're here. So my sisters will just have to come down one at a time to meet you, OK?"

"They're not really there, Petey." I detected the faintest flicker of doubt in my brother's voice.

"You'll see," I said kindly to him. "Isn't it cool you have three sisters?"

I could barely hear his "not really" reply as I thundered up the stairs.

I shut the door to my bedroom and threw open my closet. I grabbed a pair of shorts, a White Sox tee-shirt with Bo Jackson on the front, and put on a pair of cleats. I pulled my hair back in a high ponytail, and looked at myself in the mirror. "Perfect," I thought.

I came downstairs. "Hi you must be Petey and Scott!" I said brightly. "I'm Jessica, Jenny's triplet sister. I'm the athletic one." I was secretly glad I didn't choose rhyming names. Because that would just be ridiculous.

Petey was enthralled. "Nice to meet you!" he said enthusiastically.

"That's just stupid Jenny wearing different clothes."

"Oh yeah?" I shot back. "I'm good at soccer, so how could I be Jenny?" This clear logic silenced my brother. "Anyway," I continued, "Jenny told me all about you so you'd better watch it. You're gonna wish you were nicer to Jenny once you get to know me."

"Well Petey," I said, turning my attention to him, "It's time to pull another old switcheroo over Mom. You'll meet my sister Jean soon. I think you'll really like her."

I ran back upstairs, careful to take two steps at a time. I went back into my room and pulled what I thought was my most sophisticated outfit out of the closet--a totally eighties, flared, black-and-white polka dot dress. I put lace leggings on and raided my ballerina jewelry box, covering my neck and arms with plastic pink beaded jewelry I won at an arcade. I put on my ballet slippers and put my hair down. Then I snuck into the bathroom and put on my mom's frosty pink lipstick, completing the look with hot pink blush and blue eyeshadow.

I sashayed down the stairs, swinging my hips back and forth like Betty Boop. "Heyyy," I said softly, "You must be Petey. I've heard soooo much about you!" I batted my eyelashes and giggled. Petey smiled at me. My brother went back to fighting the fat guy on Mike Tyson's Punch Out.

"I'm Jean," I informed Petey, "I like to go shopping and I even babysit sometimes."

"Hi Jean," Petey said, and not knowing what else to do with myself, I exclaimed, "Oh my! It's getting late! I'd better get upstairs before Mom finds out about the switcheroo!"

I ran upstairs, changed back into my clothes, washed off my makeup and walked back downstairs. "Hi guys," I said, "Did you like my sisters?" I gave a high, weak laugh. "They're crazy, aren't they? We look soooo much alike."

"You guys do look alike!" Petey bobbed his head enthusiastically. "We should all hang out! Have they met my sister yet?"

I'd had enough of this game. "Petey I have to tell you something," I said apologetically, "I'm not really a triplet. That was just me changing my clothes and pretending to be Jessica and Jean."

"Duh." Scott chimed in the background.

I turned back to Petey. "Sorry to psych you out."

Sweetie Petey replied, "It's OK. I kinda already knew. But that was a fun game."

*Names have been changed to protect Petey

Monday, March 1, 2010

High School Musical 3

high school musical 3 Pictures, Images and Photos

Being at the older end of the Millennials Generation and having not yet achieved parenting status, I had successfully managed to escape the new heights of pop culture hysteria also known as the High School Musical franchise.

Until now.

It all began with a simple e-mail message sent by my very own bff, K, who makes her living as a nanny to S, a young pre-"tween."

K wrote, "I told S I'd take her and a friend out for her birthday, and she wants to see High School Musical 3. Wanna come with us?"

I stared thoughtfully at the computer screen, watching the arrow hover over the "reply" button. High School Musical 3. Is this going too far? It's true, I've seen my share of Hannah Montana marathons on the Disney Channel. There may be a Hillary Duff song or two on my iPod. In our time K and I were quite the boy band aficionados.

But lately, I felt I'd matured. I saw the Jonas Brothers perform on a late night entertainment show and felt this marked the end of my boy band days. I mean they look like kids to me now. When I liked the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys, the members were always older than me, and I'd dream about our weddings as I flipped through a Tiger Beat magazine. Now seeing the youthful Jonas Brothers I just feel the urge to yell at them to get off my lawn and get a goddamn haircut.

On the other hand, I'm a whore for all things musical, and I love spending time with K. Why not?! I replied with a confident "YES, please!" and scribbled High School Musical 3 on my calendar.

When the big day arrived, I marched up to the ticket booth and said, "One for HSM3, please.' I swear I saw a smirk spread across the face of the clerk as he handed me my ticket. I felt that familiar wave of shame and euphoria rush over me, the same way it did when K and I saw Justin Timberlake, strapped in a harness, fly over the stage singing Christopher Cross's "Sailing" at an N*Sync concert.

Armed with movie essentials--popcorn, candy and soda pop--we settled into our seats, surrounded by giggling groups of teenage girls around us.

"Girls," K announced, leaning toward young S and her friend B, "Jenny's never seen the first two High School Musicals. What do you think she should know before the movie starts?"

Both girls snapped to attention, eyes wide, sitting at the edge of their seats. "See, there's this girl Gabriella, and she loves this guy Troy.."

"..Troy is like, the coolest guy at school, he plays basketball and stars in the high school musical and stuff..."

"...and then Taylor, she always gets what she wants in the end...."

" Sharpay, she's like the richest girl in school and she's always trying to break up Troy and Gabriella..."

I turned to K and mouthed, "Sharpay?" K rolled her eyes and smiled.

"...yeah Sharpay is the girl from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody except she's nice and poor in that show and she's rich and mean in this one..."

"Oh!" I said brightly. "I know that show!" I whispered to K, "So is this pre-nose job Ashley Tisdale?"

"Post, I think," K whispered back, giggling. "And hey, thanks for coming tonight. I know it's just a kids show, but..."

"Hey, don't worry about it," I replied, "It's fun, actually. I used to like to watch the Olsen twins movies, but the last one I went to was just me and some old men sitting by themselves in the theater. It was kind of weird."

The screen lit up with a shot of Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston chasing a dog on the beach for the soon-to-be-released Marley and Me. "Auggh," I whispered to K, "another movie about a poor puppy dying I bet."

"Would you look at the balls on that dog? They're huge! Just flapping in the wind while he runs," K muttered, fascinated.

"Hey," I said, "I was at the video store the other day and there's a movie out called Bible School Musical. I thought it was a satire but it turns out it's an alternative to the 'raunchier' HSM franchise."

"Well," K replied thoughtfully, "Home-schooled kids need to be represented, too, I guess."

A few more adorable puppy movie previews later, the room darkened and the show began. The lead character Troy, played by the superbly light-on-his-toes Zac Efron, appeared in the shot, and the theater crackled with excited gasps from the crowd. Troy immediately goes into song, showing us possibly the gayest and most fabulous basketball game ever on the screen.

You could hear people in the theater singing along. Young S and B sat perched on their seats, eyes glued on the screen, their lips moving silently along with Troy and the school basketball team. K covered her face with her hands, shoulders shaking. She may have been laughing or weeping, I'm not sure which. I leaned over and whispered, "Oh my god. This is so lame." I paused.

"I wonder if this song is on iTunes."

K wiped the tears from her eyes and said, "It is kinda catchy, isn't it?"

After Troy leads the basketball team to the state championship, he and Gabriella climb up to his childhood treehouse and reminisce. "Awwww..." is the collective reaction of the audience. Here we learn that although Troy has a basketball scholarship to his father's alma mater, and he totally, like, dude, loves basketball in the manliest of ways, he's also feeling theater, and now he just doesn't know what to do.

"What a whiner," K muttered, "Why doesn't he just play basketball and major in theater? Problem solved, movie over." I snickered, glancing around the theater. No one hears us over the music numbers.

Gabriella looks at Troy lovingly and tells him, "I have some decisions to make, too."

"Yes but the abortion clinic has closed for the night," I whispered. K giggled.

Later in the movie Troy takes off his shirt to put on his basketball jersey. I nearly choked on my popcorn as the room filled with blood-curdling shrieks and catcalls.


zac efron Pictures, Images and Photos

K and I burst into giggles. The girls around us were jumping and screaming and crying like we were at a concert.

"This is fun!" I smiled at S and B, who were looking at their older, teenaged fellow HSM fanatics in awe.

The audience participation continued for the rest of the movie, with girls randomly shrieking whenever Zac Efron appeared on screen. When Troy and Gabriella dance and sing in the rain, the girls behind us cheer, and K is compelled to whisper, "I bet Gabriella's not the only one all wet right now."

During a head-scratching moment in which Troy and his bff dance in a scrap yard dressed inexplicably in tight flannel shirts with bandanas tied Laverne and Shirley style around their heads, K turns to me and says, "Umm...I think they're doing Flashdance."

"I know, right? They're like ripping off every single musical!" I exclaimed, "Let's see, they've done Flashdance, Footloose--"

"Grease!" K chimed in, "And Mary Poppins and--"

"Chicago," I offered, "Everything Bob Fosse, really."

We watched Gabriella, wearing pedal-pushers and a summery white shirt, dance with Troy outdoors. K and I turned to each other. "Dirty Dancing!" we exclaimed in unison.

The movie continued and wrapped up, with Troy and Gabriella reunited and feelin' so good, Sharpay put in her place and set for the future HSM franchise, and Troy deciding that he can play basketball and major in theater at UC-Berkeley, of course.

"So," K asked as the lights came on. "What did you guys think?"

Young S and B gave enthusiastic replies, as I shrugged and said, "it was OK." I paused.

"Wonder when it comes out on DVD?"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Roller Skating Hell

Inspired by Girl Clumsy’s fantastic post on re-visiting childhood moments.

Roller skating plays an inevitable, um, role *cough* in the social infrastructure of most children’s lives. Well, at least in my childhood.

Weekend events often included trips to the local skating rink, for birthday parties, holiday bashes and end-of-the-school year gatherings.

Born a natural non-athlete, I loathed roller skating and whenever a party invitation arrived in the mail, my stomach dropped upon reading the location as “Roller World” or worse, the card itself was shaped like a skate. As the date neared I’d come home from school and face that skate card with the same enthusiasm as taking a math test or getting an allergy shot.

I tried to like it. I practiced. I had my own PlaySkool skates from Santa, bright red, yellow and blue colored skates that could be adjusted as my feet grew bigger. I scooted myself around in them all over the house in the summer. I was quite the champion on carpeting, specifically brown shag carpeting. But once I entered dangerous flooring—the tiled kitchen or the slick hardwood in my bedroom—I was as horizontal as Paris Hilton at a casting call.

My mom tried to help. She would take me outside and after gently coaxing me onto the sidewalk (I preferred skating on the grass—it was kinder on my backside) she would grab my hands and slowly roll me down the block. I kept my arms out straight like a zombie and would bend my knees ever so slightly. I would freeze in absolute terror as my mom grasped my hands, walking backwards as I rolled. When she finally let go I would lose my balance, arms flailing at my sides as I fell forward or backward, scraping either my knees or my ass.

It wasn’t too attractive for a seventeen year old.

I kid, I kid. At seventeen I’d already tried and failed at the latest fad in transit footwear—the roller blade.

When the day of one particularly dreaded roller skating party finally arrived, I had an idea. As I got ready, pulling on my black lace leggings and adding pins to my jean jacket—my favorites were New Kids on the Block and a big, yellow smiley face that said Don’t Worry Be Happy—I went over my plan. The goal was to spend as little time on the rink as necessary. This was probably the best and only option I decided as I pulled my crimped hair into a side ponytail.

I’d follow my friends to the rental store, where we would pick out skates in our respective sizes and then sit down on a long bench and lace up. I’d take my time, slowly loosening then tightening the shoes as I gossiped and giggled with my girlfriends over our latest crushes.

Then we would skate around the carpeted party room, mingling with the new arrivals as they trickled in. This I could handle. This was slightly heaven to my hell party. With ease and considerable traction I would be able to glide around the room as the event progressed, from present opening to eating of the cake and ice cream.

My plan played out as expected, but then the inevitable, dreaded moment came and I knew there was no escape. The lights dimmed, the disco ball began its spin, and the DJ’s voice boomed from the booth.

“Who’s ready to PAR-TAY?” he announced, and all the girls around me jumped up and squealed. Someone grabbed my hand and we floated across the safety of the carpeted floor onto the dangerously smooth surface of the rink.

I was fooled at first. Holding hands in a line with my girlfriends, slowly gliding to the Bangles’ slow, sultry “Eternal Flame” I felt like I was soaring. As we circled around the first rounded edge of the rink we all belted out with Susanna Hoffs “I don’t wanna lose this feeeeeeeling…”


The music stopped abruptly, and MC Hammer flooded the speakers. “LET’S GET THIS PAR-TAY STAAAAAARTED!” the DJ yelled over the bass, and my safety net broke apart, my girlfriends squealing and speeding up with the music.

“Wait for me!” I called desperately, trying to keep my balance. I slowed to a crawl, taking tiny steps forward with my right hand up against the ugly padded wall. The lights began to flicker and change color, from pink to red to green.

I was halfway to the rink’s exit. I bit my lip as Debbie Gibson’s “Electric Youth” blared and my friends lapped me once, twice, three times a loser. Everyone was going so fast around me and the lights were flashing and the DJ yelling.

I had my very first panic attack.

I pressed my body up against the padded walls, digging my fingernails in as I inched closer and closer to my destination. I could hear my friends as they passed me. “Jenny! C’mon! Are you OK?”

“I’m fine!” I yelled, my voice muffled by the padding. “This is totally awesome, haha!”

Suddenly the music stopped, and the DJ boomed “Alright you crazy kids, time to switch it up! Everyone now go in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION!!”

I clung to the wall, groaning as people cheered and turned around behind me. I was so close to the exit. I couldn’t stop now. I took another step forward.

“YOU! In the jean jacket! Yeah you missy! You’re going the wrong way!” I grimaced as I glanced up at the DJ booth. He was glaring and pointing at me.

“You have been ELIMINATED.” The rink went dark and suddenly a bright spotlight shined on me, my arms and my body pressed hard against the wall. I could hear a splatter of giggles echo across the room.

“Let’s not let Little Miss Party Pooper ruin our PAR-TAY!” The DJ bellowed, and the place erupted in cheers as “Ice Ice Baby” bounced off the speakers and the disco ball started turning and throwing light around the room again.

I continued inching my way to the exit, cursing the DJ under my breath as I went. When I finally reached the safety of the carpeted floor, I clunked over to the bench and removed my rentals, rubbing my tensed, aching feet, and vowed to never skate again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Black Rubber Ball

When there is loss, grief inevitably follows. Grief is round: a black rubber ball. It's thick and opaque and has lots of give--it bends, it folds, it sighs. It never breaks.

Grief has no definable size. You can carry it in your hands, your pockets, your heart. Or it can carry you--you can live inside of it, burrow in it, die in it.

I'm still grieving. I wish I could say I was over it. I wish I could toss it in the bin with tonight's trash. I wish it had an expiration tag.

All I can say is that I'm better than I was yesterday, and it aches somewhat less than it ached a month ago, and the shock that kept me up nights last year has eroded into a mild jolt of insomnia.

It's not an obsession over the past. It's more of an attempt at reconciliation, between what's lost and what's found. I don't mean to think about it, really. It's just when you live with someone for nearly a decade and suddenly they're gone, you find yourself constantly reminded of things, stupid things really, from your time together and everything comes back in a wave of nostalgia, some good, some bad.

It's never big things, obvious things. I can go to a wedding and be absolutely fine with it all. Happy for the bride and groom, having fun at the reception.

But then later, I'll stop at the store to buy something completely ordinary, like a bottle of shampoo, and as I walk down the aisle I'll see men's razor blades on sale and think, "I should pick some up for Justin," and then I'll remember he's gone, and there's no need to buy him razor blades, as a matter of fact I will never buy him razor blades again, and when I go home he won't be there.

And that's when that rubber ball finds me, rolling through the store, bouncing right back into my hands.

Tag. You're it.

I don't know how to get rid of the damn thing. It helps to write about it. It helps to share it. But I'm tired of the anger. I'm afraid I'll become one of those embittered, lonely women, who clutch that ball and never let go.

It's easy to tell you about the bad things he's done, to remember how awful he was at the end, how terribly he treated me. What's harder is to share the beginning and middle parts, the kind person that he once was, the man I had married.

Those stories are nearly unbearable for me to share. Those moments, not the unhappy ones, are the ones where I clutch my ball the hardest to my heart.

At the end of our relationship, he was not fair to me. He was unkind, cruel really, and he hurt me beyond measure. He cheated and lied. I can't and won't make excuses for him, but I will say that he has his issues, serious ones, and I know he will struggle with them for the rest of his life.

But it's unfair of me to share him as such a one-dimensional character. He was not always cruel. I wouldn't have married the man that I divorced.

He was funny. He made me laugh harder than anyone I've ever met. He has the most amazing laugh I've ever heard in my life. It was completely un-self-conscious: loud, joyful, childlike. It was an infectious laugh--no matter how bad the joke, how awkward the situation, if he laughed, everyone in the room laughed.

He knew how to put people at ease. He got along with everyone. He knew how to draw out people who were quiet and shy, and he could keep up with the most outgoing in a group.

There was a time when we finished each other's sentences. When we went out he always had a way to make the moment special between us. At weddings when the bride and groom were saying their vows, he'd grab my hand, look at me and smile. He was a foodie and shopping was very serious for him. At the grocery store he would be thoughtful, intense, lost in his own world, but then suddenly he'd reach over and rub my shoulder. Over the years our body language became one. We could absently know when the other one needed a touch, a smile, a laugh.

When I finished school and started working a regular eight to five job, our schedules became opposite. But we always found a way to spend each day together.

Some nights I'd go down to the restaurant and have dinner with him. He'd prepare my food himself, making everything exactly to my preference. He'd set up a quiet table in the back, and we'd talk about our day. When we finished he'd move over to my side of the table and put his arm around me, and I'd rest my head on his shoulder. At work he smelled like cigarettes and bread and BBQ sauce, and it always made me feel warm and safe.

Other nights I'd stay home, and he'd call me from work. He'd take a break when Lost was on TV, and we'd both watch it together, over the phone.

My favorite nights, though, were the ones when he worked late. I'd go to bed early and around midnight, I'd hear him come in, quietly setting his keys down by the door. There would be clattering in the kitchen, and I'd drift back off to sleep, drowsy and happy that he was home. Everything felt complete. Around one in the morning he would nudge me awake, and with him he'd have two plates of chicken or salad or steak, with some sort of steamed vegetable.

We'd go out to the living room and cuddle under a blanket. We'd eat our late dinner and he'd tell me about his day, and then I'd rest my head on his shoulder and drift off. Then he'd nudge me awake and with his hands on my shoulders, he'd lead me back to the bedroom, and tuck me back into bed.

On his nights off we'd have my brother over and we'd watch DVD marathons--Arrested Development, Lost, Curb Your Enthusiasm. We played cards a lot--sometimes with a group of people, but lots of times just the two of us, playing for hours with music on in the background.

Sometimes I'd come home and he'd surprise me by cleaning the house. He'd have music on and he'd grab my hand and twirl me around the kitchen, dancing. Sometimes he wrote me poems or when he left notes, he'd make silly drawings on them that he knew would make me laugh.

He always said "I love you" and I believe he meant it. He used to say, "I don't deserve you," I think he meant that too. I always thought he didn't believe in himself enough and couldn't see his potential, and I still believe that.

When we said our wedding vows he cried. I still believe he really felt them, even though I know he was drunk at the time and was drunk from that moment on, for the rest of our marriage, probably for the rest of his life.

He also used to say, "I never want to hurt you," and I think in his way, he meant it. I didn't understand then why he used to say it but now, looking back, I understand completely.