How sanitary napkins relate to my love life

I stepped into Target last week for some basic necessities: paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags and the like… but while I was there, I also found a simple and suitable unpadded bra (I hate the padded ones!) and a few cool pairs of socks (one featuring cacti, for my best friend Charlie, and another donning bunny rabbits, each of them pictured mid-hop). After snagging the most perfect, rose-pink, three-ring binder for my new cover collection, I meandered over to a nearby register to check out. A young strawberry blonde with thick glasses stood readily behind it.

 

And as she rang up my items, she chatted incessantly, so I didn’t notice what she was scanning when she asked: “Oooooooh… have you tried these?”

 

I looked down at the items to her left, the ones that had just been scanned: aluminum foil, socks, greeting cards and sanitary napkins.

 

“Uhhhhhhhh… tried what? I’m sorry,” I said, lost. I wish, now, that I would have just picked something with my mind and offered some general, positive comment about it.

 

“These,” she said, lifting the box of pads into the air and then waving it around. Like a flag. Returning to that moment, I still can’t believe that she did it.

 

wait what
GC: Google Images

 

I looked around and then answered (quietly): “Oh — those! Those! No, no… I uh… hate getting them, so I usually buy like five months’ worth at a time, and uh, these weren’t here the last time I came, so they’re new, probably…”

 

“Huh! I wonder if they’re good? I’ve seen a couple of people buy them.”

 

Good? I thought to myself. Good how?!

 

“Yeah — I’m not sure. They’re chlorine-free, you know… chemical-free and what-have-you… natural…” my voice tapered off and I swallowed. When it was time to pay up, I swiped my REDcard faster than a bolt of lightning can strike and then hightailed it on outta there.

 

When I finally got to my car, I laughed about it. But I mean… really? How are they? Their sole purpose is to soak up blood, lady… so I really don’t know how to gauge the goodness of them, other than in terms of their effectiveness or comfort or what the brand does to better the world, which is, I guess, what you were wondering about. But of all things — to ask me about them.

Now, if I’d purchased something more conversation-neutral, like a fine box of Annie’s cheddar bunnies or a nice little stack of animal-themed greeting cards (which I DID buy), we could have got on quite nicely…

 

***

 

Sooooooooo, my main point: Awkwardly interesting conversations follow weird questions. Like this one.

 

“This might sound like a really crazy idea,” she warned, bracing me for it, “but have you ever thought about trying one of those dating apps?”

 

I sighed. This was last night – Friday evening – and I was driving home from work… and in light of the source, I honestly couldn’t believe that I’d heard the person correctly.

 

“Dating apps, mother?”

 

“Yeah! You know…”

 

I smiled at my steering wheel and the long line of shining red cars parked ahead of mine.

 

“Uhhhhhhhhh no.”

 

“Ohhhh!” she grumbled, in a way that implied that she’d already known my answer. “Why not, Rose? You’re so BUSY — all you ever do is go to cafes and work and school… how will you ever find someone? Other people, who are busy like you, probably use these things! Why not give it a shot?”

 

“Because whether or not they choose to ask you out on a date depends upon your PICTURE. That’s why. That picture – your exterior – determines whether or not they’re interested in you, and I absolutely refuse to date someone who is that superficial.” Although, even in real life, that is the first test we run a prospect through, isn’t it? We look at them and think to ourselves: Hmmmm… brown eyes, brown hair, and a confidently relaxed mannerism paired with a not-too-arrogant gait… could I enjoy kissing them? Would I feel proud to walk alongside them, hand-in-hand? And then we proceed to wonder what other people would think about this new, hypothetical us, imagining them answering questions like: Do you think they go well together? Is one of them too pretty or smart or rich for the other? Do they look nice in this trying-too-hard-to-be-nontraditional-and-effortless engagement photo, or is she way too fucking tall for him? 

 

“Yeah, but I’m sure they would read about you, too,” she argued into the phone. “You would have a profile where you could put interesting things about yourself… and I think that you can narrow your search down, too!” she added brightly. “That way, you can find people who like the same things you do — like writing, and music, and traveling…”

 

Halfway wondering how much time she’d already spent researching the subject, I shook my head (although the idea of typing in very specific filters like Indian and dancer and loves German Shepherds and enjoys picnics at the park was oddly tempting). “It’s just too orchestrated, Sierra. I want to meet this person naturally… within my 3D life, and in a way that’s organic.” Like my new pads, I thought. “So I will not resort to a dating app until I’m at least 30.” Which gives you four years, I reminded myself casually, and then shuddered.

 

She sighed. “Well you know,” she continued, unabashed, “if you’re looking to find a really DECENT person, there IS a place you could go to in-person…”

 

Now, it was my turn to sigh. “No, mother. I’m not going back to church.”

 

And that was that.

 

And then, she texted me early this morning, asking: “Did u ever hear from DMV guy?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Loser”

 

No period, exclamation mark, anything. And in case you didn’t know, “Loser” hits with triple the impact when it’s written without punctuation. Oh Sierra. I truly love the heck out of you.

 

IMG_20180127_103544_975
Tycho says that she hates my phone because it takes my attention away from her (reason #007 why dating apps and boys in general are a no-go)

 

Still here (with a host of self-identifying Buddhist pads and no dating apps or losers),

Aun Aqui

 

 

 

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Ditching Love (and watching fires burn)

I was talking on the phone last night, but the conversation was distracted, as ​there was a car on fire about three hundred yards in front of me.

“Oh no!” Mom exclaimed when I clued her in.

“Yeah,” I breathed.

“Are there people in there?”

Although she couldn’t see, I still shook my head quickly. “No way. There are like four cop cars scattered around the place. They wouldn’t have left somebody in there.”

“Well that’s good… I think I hear an ambulance?” she asked hopefully.

“Yep — it’s on its way now,” I said, looking for it as it came.

***

For years now, I’ve been training myself to climb out of love. Cause you fall into it, right? Easily. Too easily. And things are really, really great for a while. But then, one very sad day, figuring out how to un-love that person suddenly becomes your all-consuming problem. If you’re there right now, my heart is with you, because I’m still there, and I’ve got some half-good news for both of us, because I believe that – to a certain extent – I have finally figured it out: How to ditch love. And the approach might surprise you.

First of all, here’s what I imagined love to look like this morning, driving to work again, my vision blurry with those stupid tears again:

Love is like a gift.

Your love for someone (romantic or platonic) essentially crafts a gift that is entirely unique to the person you want to give your love to. Right? And you’re excited to give it to them. You can’t wait to see the delight on their face and get a nice, big hug or a smooch on the lips from them afterwards.

But sometimes, that person doesn’t want your gift. Or they did before and now they don’t. And you’re suddenly standing in front of a closed door, a perfectly wonderful gift in your eager hands, and can hear them laughing with and loving someone else on the other side. And hearing this possibly makes you vomit.

You feel so bad that your body can’t even contain the sadness of it; it leaks right out of your eyes, nearly pulling you off the road, where you’d honestly like to just bury yourself underneath a crumpled car in a tragically smelly ditch.

But if you don’t end up wrecking your car, what DO you do? How do you bear the burden that love becomes when it is unrequited and doubles its weight with sadness? How do you move on — enjoy life, meet people, and all of that other, nice bullshit? 

Here’s my brand new (and now undergoing testing) theory: You simply store it away, like a gift that can’t be given yet.

You take the gift and place it in a closet, or on a dresser, or some other safe place. If the person ever comes around, you’ve still got their gift. If they don’t, you’ll die with it in your closet or on your dresser. That’s okay, right? Better than just throwing it away (because unfortunately, in the case of love, returning it for a refund isn’t possible).

You might be thinking: Can’t I just give the gift to someone else? If only. It’s like a jacket perfectly tailored to the height, weight, and style of the guy or gal you loved before — the one you made it for. It wouldn’t fit the next one right. It wouldn’t look right, or feel right, and you’d hate seeing it on them.

And while love isn’t transferable, it is indestructible… so if the person you want to want it doesn’t want it, store it away, and then look away.

***

The firefighters showed up quickly. Soon, I was watching tall flames transform into thick billows of smoke, and I thought to myself, when and how will my inner chaos die down? Because unlike the car, no firefighters are heading my way.

***

And I received my answer this morning, foregoing – once again – listening to tunes on the way to work for some more “talking out loud” self-therapy. I navigated through – not around – all of the grief and guilt and jealousy and false hope and finally arrived at my answer.

And I can already hear it… a week, a month or so from now, another friend asking: “Soooooooo, it’s been a while. Are you over it now? Are you finally okay?”

And I’ve got my answer ready for them. For you, too, if you’d like to hear it (I really hope it helps… at least a little):

“I’m not over it, but the good news is: I’m no longer waiting to be. I’ve discovered that love – real love – isn’t something you can get over, ditch, or toss away. It’s something that sits peacefully and quietly, hands folded neatly in its lap, and waits. Daringly hopefully, at times, and then desperately and bitterly at others… but it waits. And not just for a while, sorry… for always. And I’ve reconciled myself to this: Always waiting.”

Pause.

“And that’s okay! While I’m waiting, look at what I’m doing… working, writing, furthering my education, learning another language, going on all sorts of adventures and enjoying the company of people who do love me… now, I won’t lie to you; I sometimes reach my right hand over in the car and pretend that an invisible person – that person – is holding it; I laugh when a song they liked comes on, wishing we were dancing to it, and I tense up nervously slash excitedly slash angrily when someone who looks like them passes by me, here and there, as I’m ambling along… but I just keep telling myself that their gift is still out there, and that it isn’t going away. It’s reassuring to remember this, and simply surrendering to the forever-ness of this love – of all real love – INSTEAD of continuing to resist it has taken the edge off of my pain. Where sadness and missing him and wondering about “our” could-be future used to preoccupy my mind, I’m now free to think about other stuff, like lunches that consist of more than just coffee and pistachios. I feel free, and happy, to plan new adventures and to look at other people and to wonder about them… because I’m no longer trying to put out old fires. Now, I’m just watching them burn.”

 

And the longer that gift stays there in its box, catching dust and dog hair on its fancy wrapping, the less I remember or think about it. So I’m doing okay. Very well, actually.

 

Still here,
Aun Aqui

A car, boy, coffee shop and conversation

You might remember the pizza plate hero (the guy who used a soiled paper plate to scrub ice off my windshield a few weeks back?). Yeah… well sadly, that comical and endearing event is not where my car woes ended.

My sometimes sweet and sometimes salty (like a #chocolate covered #pretzel) ’99 Neon’s been having issues for a while now — like, years. But without getting too deeply into it, within the last month ALONE, it has refused to turn on a few times and conked out on a rather steep hill, causing me – to my great alarm – to involuntarily roll backwards.

So I took my Neon to the shop in early January for a thorough inspection. My favorite and most trusted mechanics delivered the grave news to me a day later.

 

“I mean, it needs a new transmission,” one guy said.

 

“Among MANY other things,” the other one added.

 

I didn’t like the way he’d said transmission. I didn’t like the word itself or his sober tone.

 

“So… should I… do that? Get the new transmission?” I asked them both, quietly.

 

One of the two (the taller one) shook his head a few times, left to right, and right to left, before answering. “No ma’am. If I were you, I’d just get another car.”

 

***

 

I cried on my way to the car dealership and on the way back, but within a week, I was in a new car. A NEW CAR! Literally! For the last decade, I’ve only driven the Neon, so parting ways was, understandably, very difficult. I kissed it on the steering wheel before grabbing a trash bag full of stray items and walking away.

 

“So this car has heat? And air conditioning?” I quizzed my salesman fifteen minutes later, sitting on the clean, gray driver’s seat of a brand new Ford.

 

“Uh — yeah!” he answered quickly, eyeing me curiously.

 

I was elated, and told him so. And from there, the good news just kept getting greater and better.

 

This car’s odometer worked (meaning I could now know exactly how far I’d driven — in total, and from trip to trip!), and its speedometer worked, too (which meant that I would no longer have to ‘gauge the pace of traffic’), AND – just like the good ole’ icing atop the cake – I could even play my favorite Spotify tunes through the car’s sophisticated speakers (via Bluetooth).

 

I was sold.

 

“And to think — I originally wanted this car simply because of its NAME!” I laughed. I think he thought I was joking. He doesn’t know that I’m majoring in Spanish. 

 

After negotiating a little and signing some paperwork, we walked outside together. “Is that my car?” I asked excitedly, pointing at one. He looked over at me without speaking. It wasn’t.

 

And we’ve been painting the town purple together for two weeks now. Fiesta Fantz and I are very much in love. I walked past her, on accident, while trying to leave Railroad Park yesterday, but bonding takes time, you see… sometimes, an entire decade. But you never know.

 

***

 

Yesterday, I got up very early and drove down to Birmingham’s DMV (to transfer the Neon’s tag over). I purposefully arrived early and stood outside of the courthouse for a bit, shivering in the cold and peeking my nose into a paperback copy of Writing Fiction.

 

After patting me down and inspecting the contents of my backpack, a guard directed me to walk down a long corridor that ended in double doors. I tugged on one of these doors and discovered that it was locked.

 

“Ahhh, shoot — maybe they open at 8,” I thought to myself. It was like 7:48ish.

 

So I turned around and noticed a young man (who was still a ways down the corridor). His gait instantly struck me as familiar, so I narrowed my eyes a little, zooming in on him. When he suddenly tossed his head back in that certain way, it struck me: UGH! Shiiiiiit… not HIM!

 

It was one of my ex-husbands (of which I have one), and there’s just no other word for it; I felt absolutely repulsed. Not because he’s a gross person, but because I simply couldn’t stand the idea of standing out there, behind locked double doors, and having to speak with him for an excruciating 12ish minutes.

Since last summer, sometime in July, I think, we haven’t spoken at all. I didn’t want us to end on bad terms, but when I had texted him – more than a year after our divorce – and asked him to please get coffee with me, explaining that I truly did want to remain friends and would love to actually do stuff friends do, he told me that he didn’t have time for me anymore. After 5 years of being his everything all of the time, suddenly, my worth didn’t even equal that of a warm, 12-ounce latte and thirty minutes of his day.

 

Well fuck him, I thought to myself, and haven’t spoken to him since.

 

So yesterday, realizing that he was now a few mere yards away from me, I turned around – re-facing the double doors – and fumed silently. To my surprise, an employee on the other side was unbolting the doors… HALLELUJAH JESUS AMEN. 

 

“You need something?” he asked gruffly, once one of the doors had opened.

 

“Hi! Yes! Oh, wonderful… well, I’m just here to purchase, or I guess transfer, my car tag… but I wasn’t sure if maybe you guys weren’t open ye–”

“We’re NOT. Go have a seat,” he grumbled, slamming the door shut and re-locking it. The thud sound that the locking made hit me right in the heart.

 

Taking an extra-extra-extra deep breath, I turned around and realized – to my extreme delight – that the man sitting on the bench wasn’t my ex. It was somebody I didn’t know at all (who oddly had the same gait and, seemingly, mannerisms as my ex).

 

Feeling a little embarrassed now (because I wasn’t sure if he’d noticed my intense staring and look of disgust seconds before), I sat a few feet away from him and smiled at the floor.

 

“Pretttytjdk;arfk;alskxnnya, eh?” he said.

 

……….I couldn’t fathom what on earth he’d just said but believed that he’d slurred some southern expression I wasn’t yet aware of, so in response, I offered: “Cold out there, huh?!”

 

About fifteen seconds passed and I felt myself turning red, or possibly just pink. What if he was just asking me about my behavior — the staring, the repulsed expression? He was far enough away to have not seen clearly, right? Is he wearing glasses? Maybe? That would mean he has bad vision — so surely…

 

“So uhh… are you uhn uh-spy’ring wry-tuh?”

 

Holy shit, I thought to myself. This guy isn’t incredibly southern — he’s incredibly SCOTTISH. Like David Tenant! And now that I’m looking at him, he’s actually really cute… not repulsive in the slightest!

 

“Oh — oh, yes! This book!” I held the book up for both of us to see. “Yes… well, I wrote a book last year — published it on CreateSpace, which is an Amazon-owned company, so it wasn’t like a for real published book, but you know… I really like it!… but I gave the only copy I had on me to a girl yesterday who was making my smoothie, because she mentioned she was working on a comic book, and I thought that she’d like to see what her final product might look like if she ALSO published on CreateSpace… and anyways, yes, I’m going to school now, with this book, to become a BETTER writer.” How many words was that? I’m doing awful, aren’t I? Could have just said “Yeah”, “Yep!”, or “Yes…” 

 

But despite my rough intro, we continued chatting for the next 11 minutes and it was really, really nice. I learned a good bit about him… like: as a self-proclaimed avid reader, he has shelves full of books; he lived out in California for a while and played music with some people; they covered the infamous song “Toxic” in a bar once (“Me and my band did, too!” I cried, laughing), and although he used to write a lot of original songs, he hasn’t really created anything lately.

“I’ve been sort oof bizzy, yoo’know… with (something I didn’t catch) and a kit…”

“A… cat? Like a kitten?” I encouraged him. I couldn’t wait to mention my German Shepherds.

 

“No, no… a KIT…” he repeated, holding his hand about two feet off the ground.

 

“Ohhhhhh! A kid! A child!” 

 

He nodded, smiling cutely. A boy, he said.

 

He has a child, I thought. A boy. That’s okay. I peeked down at his left hand and saw zero rings there, and then slapped myself on my own left wrist (spiritually-speaking). He could be dating the person, you idiot! It’s the 21st century… HELLO. 

 

The double doors unbolted suddenly and, without looking at him or saying goodbye, I walked right through them… taking my place in line and then transferring my tag over with a quick swipe of my Visa.

 

***

 

“What was his name?” my friend asked yesterday evening.

 

“I DON’T KNOW!” I texted back. “We never really introduced ourselves!” I’d given him a business card of mine (pre-kid business… still don’t know what his relationship status is) after sharing the title of my novel. “If you’d like a copy of it, just shoot me an email and I’ll send you one!” I’d said.

 

“So we’ll just have to see if he emails,” I told my friend. “But since I awkwardly and rudely walked away shortly after he mentioned his kid (#unintentional #flirtingfail5000), I doubt he will.”

 

So yes… I’m learning how to flirt, I guess. But it didn’t feel like flirting, really, because I wasn’t trying to be cute at all, and my unwashed hair was thrown up into a messy ponytail, so I’m sure I didn’t look cute, either. It just felt like I was enjoying a nice conversation with someone, and like I’d like to continue conversing with them over coffee.

 

***

 

This morning, I was at war with myself, trudging through a cloudy and forest-y coffee crisis.

 

“I just don’t know where to go today,” I told Charlie, “and I guess that – if that’s the biggest issue of my day – it’s a rather great day.” I’d already been to Urban Standard this week (my number one) and figured that meant that I should just go to Red Cat… but I just wasn’t in the mood for their soul-nourishing Gouda grits, and I’d actually been having some odd daydreams of another coffee shop.

 

I couldn’t recall the name of the place, but I remembered that it had a brown couch in the corner of the room. I’d eaten a burrito and drank whiskey on that couch once, and for whatever reason, I felt like it would be a good place to revisit.

 

I googled names of local cafes and viewed images of them until I’d found it.

 

“FOUND IT!” I celebrated aloud.

 

So I drove out there about an hour ago. I parked my car and then strode across the parking lot, wearing black Vans, black jeans, a cool, green, corduroy shirt, and a black leather jacket. I was also donning a pair of dark blue mittens (they had been on sale at Bargain Hunt — thirty seven cents! — and were child-sized, but they worked).

 

Right after entering the cafe, I looked over to the right and spotted it: the brown couch. Oh, this will be just perfect, I thought to myself, imagining all of the writing I’d do and the Spanish I’d study.

 

I approached the front counter to place my order. “Hi! I’d like a white chocolate caramel latte, please,” I smiled.

 

“Ahhh… we can do a regular mocha?” the guy offered apologetically. “No white chocolate,” he explained.

 

“Oh — well that’s no problem!” I replied quickly, because I hate it when people feel bad. “How about caramel dark chocolate, then, with whipped cream?”

 

“No whipped cream, either,” he frowned.

 

I paused.

 

“That’s totally alright! I’ll think about it for a few minutes,” I smiled, nodding my head, thanking him, and exiting the cafe.

 

As I walked back to my car, I felt a strange surge of joy, and at first, it was totally bizarre. But then, it made total sense.

 

In the past, I would have been afraid to say no, never mind, that’s not what I want today. I would have proceeded to order a coffee that I didn’t like and then sat down feeling disappointed in myself while being unable to peg it. But today, I avoided all of that silly nonsense, because I finally knew what to do: pause, assess shit, and figure out what you really want… sans pressure. 

 

And what I really want is a white chocolate caramel latte with whipped cream, I decided, turning the key (which is now attached to a fob, btw… #nbd) and making my way over to Red Cat.

 

***

 

And that coffee shop story reminds me of a conversation that Charlie and I shared about a month ago. I had just mentioned to him that I had recently returned all of my books to the library.

 

“Oh wow — so you finished the whole Ender series?” he asked, sounding impressed.

“Oh, no… I didn’t,” I confessed. “The first book really blew me away — the character writing and the ending, my god, were so, so GOOD! And the second book was great, too — I loved reading about the piggies, and I will never, ever forget how lovely a being Human was… but the third book just wasn’t doing it for me,” I continued. “It lost my interest. I had to pick it up five, six times just to make it through like 40 pages, and that’s when I knew that I just wasn’t about that story anymore.”

 

So the third book and the fourth book and any other Ender-related books out there aren’t on my radar anymore. And that’s okay.

 

I always thought that loyalty meant that you had to stick around, feign interest, and stay for the whole ride… but it really doesn’t. You can pop in for a chapter or ten of someone else’s story and then decide to meander off for a while, or for forever… and I think that’s exactly what happened with Christopher and I. After we’d created some space between us, I realized that I still wanted to be in his story, and that I also wanted him to stay in mine. I wanted to keep talking and keep making music, but for him, my script ran out of lines and my role ended completely when I took the ring off.

And just like I have a right to decide what stories I want to read, or continue reading, and what coffees I want to purchase and enjoy, he has the right to decide which human beings he wants to invest time in. And if I’m not one of them… well, that’s alright. I just hope that we both enjoy our rides.

 

 

Time to study Spanish. Wonder if Mr. DMV Scotland’s ever going to email…

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui