Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Very Germy Christmas

Thanks for the linkage, Claire!

Dad update: He's been released from the hospital! Dad, I'm proud of you.


December 24, 2005, 7:15PM
Tim's house

"Merry Christmas, love," Diana says as she opens the door, somehow managing not to crack a smile.

"Diana," I say, kissing her cheek. I'm going to be civil, even if it kills me.

Tim rises slowly from the couch. Her green velour dress hangs from her body, and her nails are worn well past her fingertips. "Hey," she says, slipping a hand around the back of my neck.

I kiss her cheek. "You ok?"

She shakes her head. "I have a cold."

Our eyes lock. "Guess I better not kiss you," she says, and we stand staring, Diana watching closely.

"Mom, dad," Tim sniffles, getting more nasal by the minute, "Steve and I are going to go talk."

A newspaper lowers, exposing Marvin's face. "Hi, Steve," he deadpans as I walk by.

"Merry Christmas, Marvin," I say to the newspaper.

Tim closes the door to her room and sits on her bed. "Are you going first, or me," she asks.

"I will," I say. "First of all, I need to apologize for my... display with the whisky bottle."

"You scared me, you know."

"I know. Anyway there was no excuse for that and I want you to know I'm sorry."


I breathe deeply. It feels like I'm in the middle of a poker hand with my cards facing the wrong way.

"For the first time ever, I really feel like I need someone, like I would die without that person. That scares me, but it also makes me really happy, because I do want to have a forever after with one person. I want a wife and a family. Someday.

"I'm glad to know that I'm capable of feeling so strongly for you. I'm glad that you make me happy, and even that you make me really angry sometimes, because getting angry means that I care.

"We were really good together, and I think we could be even better. Maybe permanently better. I think we'd be crazy not to give it another try."

I can't tell if she's wiping her nose or crying.


"I have to finish blowing my nose."

She trumpets loudly into a tissue, wads it up and drops it to the floor. "It's so funny you said you feel like you would die without me."


"I swear, I wanted to kill myself," she says.

"Me too!"

"OK, maybe we shouldn't be so excited about that," she chuckles.

"I believe it's your turn."

She pulls another tissue from the box and waves it lazily, like a magician preparing to do a trick. "Waiting for a sneeze," she says.

"I keep telling myself that it's not worth it and I should move on, but every time I try to I can't. It scares me too, because I don't like having to depend on someone else. If I depend on someone, that means they might not come through for me."

She sneezes loudly into the tissue. "Know what I mean?"


"Seriously, I don't know what it is with you. I don't know why I care about you so much." She pauses. "That sounded bad," she laughs.

"I just mean I haven't been this serious before, ever, but I guess we just grew up at the same time."

"Yeah," I say.

"We're all grown up," she whispers, and her smile tells me everything is perfect. I rub the back of her head, almost having forgotten how soft her hair is.

"I got you a present," I say, handing her a rectangular jewelry box. She opens it to find the letter I wrote, and a platinum wire necklace.

She turns the necklace over in her hand, as if trying to figure out what it is, almost puts it down, then examines it again, finally dropping it back in the box and placing it on the floor next to her feet.

She laughs three times while reading the letter; the third time, her foot moves and she almost kicks the jewelry box.

"So does this mean I have to write you a love letter now?"


"It won't be as good. You should totally be a writer!"

Hey, good idea! Maybe I'll start a blog! Nah, that would never work.

"Come on," I say, with a cheerleader's chirpy enthusiasm. "Let's go to my house!"

"Wait! You didn't open your presents yet!"

"You got me something?"

"Of course I did!"

She hands me a tall thin box that swishes. "Wonder what's in here," I smile.

I tear the shiny silver paper away, read the box, and smirk at her. "Jack Daniels?"

"I had a feeling you needed a new bottle."


"Now open this one," she says, handing me a shoebox-sized package. Too light to have shoes in it, though.

I open the box to find a roll of duct tape. "What's this for?"

"In case you break the bottle," she giggles.

"Did you come up with this shit all by yourself," I ask sarcastically, but I'm laughing too.

"Now open your real present!" She hands me an envelope, and I pull it open.

"What's Meadowbrook," I ask, reading the certificate inside.

"It's a bed and breakfast in the mountains. We can go for a weekend whenever you want!"

Oh good, because it sounded like a nursing home.

"That's sweet, Tim! Great idea!"

"Read the letter!"

"So you wrote me one after all?"


Dear Steve,

If you are reading this, it means we made up, and all I can say is you have made me the happiest girl in the world.

I hope we never have a fight like that again, or if we do I hope we can talk about it. I'm sorry I let my mother interfere in our relationship, but I hope you understand that I love her and she will always be a part of my life. I will work on putting "us" first from now on. Ok?

I am so happy we are back together, and I wish I could say "I told you so" to all the people that said we couldn't do it.

I missed you so much - I love being with you, I love talking to you, I love just watching TV or sitting around with you... I love sleeping next to you and hearing you snore (you do snore, so don't try to deny it), and I love waking up next to you in the morning. Sorry, I'm getting corny now...

It's hard writing this letter, because I am trying to think of all the good times we had, but I also keep thinking that we might not make up. I guess I'll just write it and put it away somewhere and hope that we get back together someday.

I just talked to you and we had a nice conversation. I wanted to say "I love you" so bad but I know we have to "talk first". Speaking of that, I hope we make up before Christmas so we can spend the holiday together.

Well, you are probably tearing my clothes off by now, so I guess I'll stop writing..


"Now can we go to my house," I smile.

She pulls me by the hand toward the front door.

"All better now, kids," Diana asks.

"Mom, we're going to Steve's house. Call later if you want to."

"You're just going to leave us here?"

"We're not in the mood for company."

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Christmas Eve, the Blogger-delayed edition

"Hi, Steve," she says with a distracted grin.

"Come on in!"

I go to hug her. She hugs back, but presses a hand against my shoulder as she does. I move in to kiss her and she turns her head and kisses the air instead.

"You ok, Steph?"

"Yeah, I'm alright. Merry Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas to you! So what brings you out this way?"

"I can't really stay, I just... well, I wanted to say hello. And Merry Christmas, which I just said..."

"Steph, sit down. You want a drink?"

She shakes her head and follows me into the family room. She pulls her coat off and sits on the recliner, and I'm reminded that we've had sex on that chair more times than I can count. She used to love doing it there; she said the angle was just right for me to hit her G-spot.

"So, how's it going," I ask.

"It's ok. School's not quite as bad as last year."

"You acing everything, as usual?"

She rolls her eyes.

"You're gonna make a good lawyer."

"I need to talk to you."

"Aren't you gonna ask me how I'm doing?"

"Steve, don't."

"Don't what?"

We stare at each other, birds of prey sizing up our next meal, each of us sure we'll devour the other. Just like it used to be.

"Nancy's sister keeps calling me."

"Holly?" I gasp.

"Yeah, Holly."

"Where did she get your number?"

"I was going to ask you the same question."

"I didn't give it to her, Steph! Shit!"

"What's going on? Are you dating her now?"

"No, Stephanie!"

I'm starting to really dislike this whole line of questioning. Steph has a way of making you feel like you committed murder, even if you didn't.

"Well, it's getting a little out of hand, Steve."

"What's she saying?"

"She keeps saying that she would be with you, but I ruined it, that I hurt you, and because I hurt you, you're not ready for a relationship."

"That's ridiculous!"

"So you mean to tell me you didn't say anything to her? About me?"

"No!" I shout. "She knows we were together, but that's all."

She stares at me, surely reading my face for some clue that I'm lying. The nostalgia vanishes, drowned by resentment. She never trusted me, did she?

"You don't believe me," I say, staring her down.

"Why is she saying these things?"

"She's stalking me. She has been for weeks. Chris and I went and talked to her, and she stopped. But I guess she didn't really stop, she just turned it onto you."

"Well, I had my criminal law professor talk to her. I think he set her straight."

"How so?" I want to know, but I also want her to leave. I hate that she thinks I could do such a stupid thing as to tell Holly my relationship business. It hurts that she thinks so little of me.

"We called her together. He basically told her she was breaking the law. He offered to take her for a tour of the women's prison. Her 'future home', he called it," she says with a chuckle. "By the way, she also said you committed statutory rape," she frowns, lifting her eyebrows disapprovingly.

"Steph, she was-"

"Sixteen? I know. He told her it was legal. Don't sweat it, Steve, you're off the hook for that one."

Oh, good! Maybe I'll go do her again!

"I told her the same thing."

"Well," she says, standing up, "I just wanted to see what the deal was."

"You mean you wanted to rip me a new one."

"No I didn't."

"Yeah you did. You never believed in me, did you?"

She stares at the wall behind me.

"I didn't come here to discuss that."


She tilts her head at me. "Oh, come on, Steve. Like it was ever going to work out with us."

"I had fun with you. I hate that we never got a chance to say goodbye."

"Me too."


She nods. "Thank you for some really nice memories," she whispers.

"You too!" I say, trying to see her downcast eyes. "Can I have a real hug now?"

We embrace tightly.

"I have to get back. My-- Josh -- is bringing his family up for midnight mass."

"Yeah, I'm actually supposed to be at Tim's house in a little while."

"So you're dating her now," she squints.

"Yeah, we're actually really happy."

She bobs her chin. "Well, I'm happy for you both," she says, and she almost sounds genuine.

"Me too. I'm glad that it's going ok for you."

She smiles. "It is."

"You deserve that. Look, I just want to say I'm sorry-"

"Don't." She shakes her head. "It's ok."

"I hurt you."

"I hurt you too. Didn't I?"

"I deserved it. You didn't."

"We're both better off now. It just wasn't meant to be."

She hugs me again, body-to-body, like she used to do before bed. I feel her lips against my cheek, and then by my ear.

"Merry Christmas," she says, and then she is gone.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"You didn't happen to see a maniacal teenager out here, did you?"

Wednesday, December 21, 2005, 7:01PM

"What's a saltbox," Tim asks.

"It's a kind of house. A colonial. Why?"

"My mother said, 'Do you think the two of you are going to buy a four-bedroom saltbox with a picket fence?' "

"The two of who? Me and you?"


"So you and your mom were talking about me?'



"She asked me what our status was, and I told her I didn't know. But I said I was hoping to talk to you."

"I'm hoping to talk to you too," I say.


"How about Christmas Eve?"

"Sure! Come over around 7 or 8, ok hon?"

This might sound corny, but I really like that she called me that. I like that we're talking. For people like Tim and me, that is huge. Normally, both of us would run at the first sign of relationship trouble and never speak to the offending party again.


Saturday, December 24, 2005, 6:00PM
Steve's house

My doorbell rings.

Damn that Holly. I should have known it was way too easy getting rid of her after all that demented behavior. She left me alone for what, a week?

I leap up the stairs two at a time and, at the last moment, I peek out the window to see who is there, even though it's definitely Holly.

It takes a minute for her face to register. It's a familiar face, one I'll never forget. She made me very happy once.

I study her, happy that she doesn't see me; watching her brings happy nostalgia, like finding an old poster from my childhood bedroom.

She's pretty. Prettier than I remember. I like her appearance, her shiny shoes, her comfortable-looking jacket. I'm even impressed with the way she stands at my door, her back straight, her chin up. I am glad to say that I loved her once, and that she loved me.

I open the door and smile warmly. "Hi Steph," I say.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

...if only you were older, and more mature, and less psychotic..

December 18, 2005

Sometimes it seems like everything is the way it used to be.

Tim and I talk most every day, but as soon as the conversation turns serious, one of us tells the other to knock it off. We talk, laugh, and flirt like we always have, but nothing more ever seems to happen. It's maddening.

I don't know if I'll ever give her the letter I wrote. I just want to see her and tell her face to face how I feel. We've talked about "stopping by" or "getting together" a couple of times but it's never happened. At this point, I have my eye on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. If we can't reconcile then, when can we?

"I thought you were coming over to bring me my skillet," Tim says on the phone.

"I'm not ready to talk right now."

"Who said anything about talking?"

"You want me to just give you the skillet and leave?"

"If you want to."

"Do you want to talk to me?"

"About what?"

"Tim," I say, impatiently.

"About us?"


"I don't know. I'm not used to - reconciling."

"Me neither!" I laugh. She laughs too, and I'm glad that we feel the same way.

"We'll talk soon. All right?" I ask.

"OK," she says. "Are you going to talk to that chick?"

"Holly? Yeah. Any advice?"

"Just tell her you wish you could be together, but it's bad timing. Make sure you say that: bad timing. It works for me."

"You've had stalkers?"

"Oh God, yeah. You guys can get pretty clingy sometimes."

"Bad timing, eh?"

"Bad timing."


I love the mall at Christmas. There's nothing like 20-foot Christmas trees, Paul Bunyon-sized wreaths hanging from the angled ceiling, and stampedes of frenetic soccer moms running each other over for the last Xbox.

"Why won't you take the coupon?" a man complains at an Auntie Anne's kiosk.

"You have to buy three pretzels for that, sir."

"That's fucking bullshit," he replies.

Isn't it funny how people get so mean around the holidays? The only reason they come to the mall in the first place is, ostensibly, to buy gifts for loved ones, to celebrate the spirit of Jesus' birth. And evidently, they intend to bask in the love shown to us by that little baby boy, even if they have to snap someone's neck in the process.

Chris and I walk up to The Body Shop on the second floor, and Holly is there in her apron, amid the massage oils and scented candles. She sees me immediately, and she glares angrily for just a second before her face softens into a big grin, as if she tried to hold back but couldn't.

She trots through a maze of browsing customers and stands on her toes to hug me, then kisses my cheek longingly, holding her lips to me for so long that I find myself pushing her away.

"Hi, Chris," she says with a glance at his face, shaking his hand limply.

"Can we talk to you for a minute?" I ask, and she looks from my face to Chris's, and then back again.

"Hold on," she says. She walks behind the counter and whispers to an older woman who nods. "Let's go!" she says, pulling her apron off, and we wade into the wall-to-wall foot traffic.

"Holly, things are getting a little out of control," I say.

"You're the one who won't return my messages. You're being rude!"

"I don't have anything to say to you, Holly!"

"But sometimes I just want to make sure you're ok or something, and you won't even call me back."

"Holly, you don't need to check on me. We're not together. You're really great, and you're gonna make some guy really happy someday, but it's just... bad timing."

"What do you mean, bad timing?"

"I mean, the time just isn't right for us. It just feels wrong. At a different time, at a different point in our lives-"

Chris glances at me. He doesn't look happy, and I'm not sure he's pleased with the direction in which we are going. "Holly, look, you've done some inappropriate things. Some of those emails you sent Steve were... pretty scary. And the door... I know if it was me, I would have called the police."

"Steve raped me. If he calls the cops, I'm gonna report him," she snaps, looking angrily at me.

"He raped you?"

"If the girl is under 18 it's automatically statutory rape."

"Holly, the age of consent is 16 in this state."

"No it's not."

"Trust me, it is. And even if it was statutory rape, that doesn't give you the right to stalk him."

"So you're calling the cops on me now?" she says, her face going pale.

"We don't want to call the cops. We don't want to call your parents either. We don't want to call anyone. But you have to cool it on the stalking."

"What do you mean, my parents?" she says, wide-eyed.

"We don't want to call anyone," I say. "If you give me your word that you'll stop calling, and emailing, and visiting, then it stops right here. But if your parents get involved, they're probably going to take your car away, and you might not be able to work anymore. From what I heard, they needed a lot of convincing to get you a car in the first place."

She looks at me for a long time, with the wounded pout of a little girl.

"OK," she says.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Good thing I decided not to build out of straw...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Thump, thump, thump.

I stop typing and tilt my head towards the sound, which seems like it's coming from upstairs.

Thump, thump, thump.

Holly, I think. Who else would be here this late?

I've ignored dozens of phone calls, deleted scores of email. Or, more accurately, saved them for future reference.

Thump, thump, thump.

I'm going to ignore her. She's not going to win. I'll just keep IM'ing, and she'll get tired of standing out there. It's pretty cold tonight.

Steve: holly is banging on my front door

Tim: so let her in!

Steve: are you high? this chick is psycho

Tim: you are so cute how you exaggerate sometimes

Tim: you get all flustered


Tim: isnt she like 16 or something

Steve: 18 almost

Tim: your scared of an 18-year old? :-)

Steve: im telling you shes fuckin psycho

Tim: did she attack you

Tim: slash your tires

Tim: break your windows

Thump, thump, thump. Thump, thump, THUMP! THUMP!

Steve: shes gonna break my fuckin door right down

Tim: still banging?

Steve: yep

Tim: go let her in!

Steve: im not letting her in, tim! im telling you, shes coocoo for coco puffs

Tim: lol

Tim: thought you were coming over tonight to bring me my skillet

Steve: i will as soon as i get rid of mighty mouse out there




Steve: shes gonna huff and puff and blow my house down in a minute


Tim: tell her not by the hair of your chiny chin chin

Steve: im glad you find humor in my misery

Tim: shes harmless, just a teenager in love... ahhhh how sweet

Tim: how many times did you sleep with her

Steve: just once

Tim: i guess she liked it

Steve: she was fine for almost a year


Steve: shit i think she just broke my storm door

Steve: SHIT

Tim: you take her too seriously

Steve: she broke my door tim!

Tim: told you to let her in!

Steve: brb

I run upstairs and fling the front door open. Holly stands unshiveringly in the windy cold, wearing tight, flowery bell-bottoms and a powder blue baby-doll shirt with frilly sleeves, examining an 18-inch long crack in the storm door.

"What's the matter with you, Holly? What is the matter with you?"

"I knew you were home and you weren't letting me in! You made me mad!" she says with a little stomp of her foot, white plumes of steam escaping her mouth as she speaks.

"Holly, you've gotta give this up. You have to!"

"Please let me in, just for a minute?" she begs, her voice muffled slightly by the thick glass.

"No. And you're gonna pay for that door."

"Oh yeah, like you can't afford it," she sneers, slamming the side of her fist against the glass, and I am struck by how much louder the Thump! is now.

I stare at her for a second, and she hits the door again, her eyes hard and furious, her chin tensed visibly, her teeth gritted.

"You're an asshole. You're an asshole!" she shreiks, her voice rising to a shrill scream that actually hurts my ears.

"If I'm an asshole, then leave me alone-" I begin, and she replies with a "fuck you!" before I'm even done saying it.

She stomps off to her car and speeds away, tires squealing wildly.

I call Chris.


"We need to do something tomorrow," I say.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

To Tim, from Steve

I have a black, wire mesh inbox on my desk where people put faxes and papers to sign. I used to get such a feeling of satisfaction from looking at the box and seeing it empty; it meant that I had finished my work for the day, that I had accomplished everything I set out to.

Now, I like seeing it full. I get nervous when there are only two or three pages left, because when the work is gone, my mind will wander and I'll think of you.

The other day I was cleaning my kitchen and I saw a little white piece of paper underneath the dishwasher. I picked it up, and it broke in two in my hand. It wasn't paper; it was a tiny piece of an eggshell.

I don't eat eggs. The eggshell was from a Saturday before Thanksgiving, when you came over and we made cookies from scratch. It's funny how something so small brought back so many memories.

We were like two kids, laughing and smearing each other's faces with flour. I didn't appreciate it when it was happening; I just assumed that every Saturday would be the same, forever. Now, the kitchen table we made the cookies on is clean and shiny, all the flour is gone from the floor and the cookie sheet is spotless, with no trace anywhere of our time together, except for that tiny little shell that I missed.

I examined the whole house, like Gil Grissom from CSI, digging up reminders of you: A note you made on my wall calendar; a curtain you adjusted in the dining room; the "hi babe" you wrote on my bathroom mirror with your finger, that still shows up faintly when the shower steam hits it.

I am a proud man. I am happy that, until now, no one has truly gotten to me, and part of me wants to stay that way. But you have gotten to me, and all I want to do is to tell you, to see you, to be in the same room as you so that everything can be the way it used to be. That would make it ok, wouldn't it? Being face to face again? We would talk, and make dirty jokes, and maybe we'd fight. But we would find a way through it.

I've been thinking lately about growing old. I've never thought about that before. I know this is corny, but I've actually imagined us driving a minivan with three little kids screaming in the back seat, spilling apple juice everywhere. (Actually, forget that last part - they wouldn't be allowed to drink in the car).

The point is, you make me happy, and you make me comfortable. I can relax with you; I can let my guard down and think about the future. It all seems so easy with you; I don't have to try at all. It just works.

Losing you wouldn't hurt me so much if it had ended differently. Neither one of us got caught selling steroids or screwing underage gardeners (though you did seem to be infatuated with that kid behind the counter at Dunkin' Donuts). I lost my temper over something stupid, and I didn't talk it over with you when you wanted to. Looking back on it, it seems so stupid. If I had another chance, I'd never let you go again.

For once, work seems like a distraction. Sitting at my desk feels like a waste of time. I don't care who's on hold for me, or what report has to get done before I go home. Sometimes, I just want to run out of here and find you at a catering job, in your apron and your do-rag, and drive us off somewhere, where we can run a fruit stand and go to bed early every night. (Actually, in this part of the country, fruit would be subject to seasonal downturns. Maybe costume jewelry would work better. But we can work out the details later.)

I hope that you can forgive me, and I hope we can give this another try. Because if we don't, I'm going to need a bigger inbox.

I love you,

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The point of no return

Dad update: He's doing better, still on a little bit of oxygen, and most of the time he is lucid. They are talking about moving him out of intensive care soon. He's very sentimental and he is thankful for all the visitors and attention he is getting.


I couldn't quite believe my luck.

I had sex with Lila, hot sex, so hot that when I think about it I get the overwhelming urge to whack myself off. But I saw her at work the next day and said hello, and she gave me her little work-smile and hello'd me back, just as she always did. For a while, it seemed that we would just go about our business as if nothing happened. I would keep trying to figure out how to get Tim back, and she would keep dating whoever she was dating, and the whole thing would be forgotten. It seemed too good to be true.

It was.

I know I played Lila dirty. I used her as a support system when my mother died, and when I recovered from the loss, I discarded her like a used band-aid. I didn't actually dump her, but I didn't let her down gently, either, and that feels just as wrong. Every time she spoke to me after that, I asked myself why she still bothered with me, why she didn't hate my guts.

I always assumed that we'd get back together someday. She was just a kid, too young for a serious relationship, but any idiot could see that she was going to be a beautiful, smart, successful adult someday. I would keep her close, stay friendly, and assess her maturity level from time to time to see if she was ready. I'd check on her periodically, as if she were a pot roast, then simply pull her from the oven when the time was exactly right, and savor her forever.

How could I view another person, someone so close to me, in such an impersonal way? I don't know. Why is your favorite color blue? Why are you allergic to shellfish? Because you're wired that way.

Thursday, December 15, 2005, 6:00pm
Steve's house

"I need to see you. Can I please come over?"

"Sure, Lila. You ok?"


She taps twice on my door before opening it, just as she always has. She hugs me, and I'm immediately overcome with her perfume, her green-apple shampoo, the way she manages to look like a picture in a magazine, even as she pulls her knit cap away from her staticky mane of dark brown hair.

I am happy to have Lila here. I look forward to hearing what she has to say.

"Steve, I need to talk to you," she says, twisting the cap on and off her Evian bottle.

"I know. That's why you came," I smile. I bet she's going to tell me she's having more trouble with those three bitches at work.

"We need to talk about what happened."

I get stiff. I can't help it. I like that she's talking about it, thinking about it. I like that it might happen again right now.

"What do you mean?" I ask. I know exactly what she means, but if this is going to be a confrontation, I'm not going to make it easy.

"You know what I mean, Steve!"

"I do?"

"We can't keep hooking up like that."


Her lips get tight for a second; it's the same face she makes right before she yells at me. But she closes her eyes for a moment and stays calm. I'm impressed with the way she restrained herself.

"It's not healthy for us. It's not fair to me or you."

"Since when do you not like hooking up?"

"I don't like hooking up randomly with you. I feel like shit afterwards," she says, her eyes wide and pleading.

It doesn't have to be random! We could do it every Tuesday at 3:45, if that would make you feel better!

"That did kind of... take us by surprise."

"I think it's time for us to make a decision."

"About what?"

"About us!" she says, staring at me, letting the words settle. "I care about you so much. I love you. I've loved you ever since Christmas Eve two years ago. I want us to be together, I want us to have a relationship."


"I'm sorry about what I put you through. I'm sorry for all the drunk dialing, and high-dialing, and I'm sorry I was such an immature bitch. But you weren't perfect either. Right?"

"Absolutely right."

"I know I can make you happy, and I know that you can make me happy. So?"

She stares at me again, unflinchingly.

I can't be with Lila. It's not that she's imperfect in some way. In fact, I probably should say yes. But I don't want to. It feels absolutely wrong. I love Tim, and haven't stopped thinking about her since Thanksgiving. I need to reconcile with her.

Lila and I had our chance. Things didn't work out, after nearly a year together. Now it's time for Tim and I to have our chance.

I know there are no guarantees; Tim and I might never get back together, and then I would be alone. But I should be with someone because I can't stand to be away from her, not because she's the safest bet.

"Lila, part of me will always love you."

She slumps a little in her chair. She knows what's coming.

"I love Tim. We're fighting now, but I love her very much, and I think about her all the time. I need to make things right with her."

"She's gonna hurt you, Steve."

"Maybe. But I have to be true to my feelings, and I feel like Tim and I have unfinished business. I have to resolve that. And I just want you to know that, whatever happened with us, whatever went wrong, it was my fault. You were so great to me, probably better than you should have been. I was selfish with you and I'm sorry I didn't consider your feelings more."

She pauses, looking down at the floor. "If you say no, Steve, that's it for us. Relationship-wise. If we don't get back together now, it's over forever."

I'm proud of her. Even though she's putting me in a difficult position, I like how she is taking a risk, forcing my hand. She's taking control of the situation, when I'm trying intentionally to leave things unresolved. She's being mature and decisive. She's being an adult.

She's being exactly the person I was waiting for her to be, and now I'm going to let her go forever.

"OK," I say, even as part of me thinks I'm making the biggest mistake of my life.

Monday, January 16, 2006

How to deal with kooky chicks, part I

Saturday, December 11, 2005
Steve's house

It's time to do something decisive about Holly.

As I feared, blocking her only made things worse. I'm sure that what she has done constitutes stalking or harrassment of some type, but I don't want to press charges. I don't want her reporting me for statutory rape, but I also believe that filing charges would backfire anyway. If, for some reason, the charges didn't stick, she'd really come after me with guns blazing. Then, of course, her parents would be involved, and my family, and I'd have to tell the whole story 600 times over. And if I did, I wouldn't necessarily be looked at as the good guy.

I like talking to my brother Chris about personal issues. He's very level-headed and calm, and usually thinks of angles that I did not.

"You remember what happened with me and Holly last year?" I ask him on the phone.

"Holly who? Nancy's sister? The one you nailed in Dad's bathroom?"

"Yeah, that would be the one."

"What about her? She turning freaky on you?"

"How did you know?"

"What else could it be? You're in love with her? You wouldn't ask me about that."

"True. Listen, man, she's getting out of hand. I'm not sure what to do."

"Call the cops."

"She said if I call the cops she's gonna turn me in for statutory rape."

"How old was she?"


"So she was legal then!"

"The age is 17 in this state."

"No, it's sixteen."

"Chris. I think I know the sex laws better than you."

"You're wrong this time."

"I know I'm right, Chris, but I'll go to ageofconsent.com just to prove you wrong."

I log on to the web page and stare at the screen in disbelief. It's sixteen.

"Shit! Holy shit, you were right! How the hell did I mix that up?"

"I told you," Chris says. "I read it somewhere recently."

"She's got no case," I say in disbelief. "Of course, if I call the cops on her that could make it worse."

"Yeah, she could really freak out then," he says. "What's she doing, anyway?"

I read him the emails and tell him about the late-night, staring-through-my-sliding-glass-door incident.

"Holy fuck. This girl's out of control. What happened? Why now, after all this time?"

"No frigging clue."

"It sounds like she's fairly harmless. She's a kid; she'll get bored. Just stop paying attention to her, and maybe she'll give up."

"And if she doesn't?"

"Then I'll go talk to her."

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Happy new year, my ass

Thanks, all, for your kind words at this difficult time.

Dad was rushed to the hospital several days ago with kidney failure. When your kidneys don't work, fluid backs up, sometimes into your lungs, which makes it difficult or impossible to breathe. It also releases massive amounts of Potassium into your bloodstream, which interferes with the electricity of the heart.

Dad somehow survived all that (after a very scary 12 hours) and he seems to be recovering reasonably well. However, he's also got a raging infection and they are struggling to find out where it's coming from. Hopefully we'll know more tomorrow. As of now, he's heavily sedated and the most we can get out of him is a nod. Sometimes he'll open his eyes and look at us for 10 seconds or so. Hey, it could be a lot worse.

I'm spending a lot of time with him and the whole family, but I managed to squeeze out an update for you. Hopefully there'll be more soon.


December 10, 2005, 10:22PM
Steve's computer room

From: holleehollaback1225@hotmail.com
Date: December 10, 2005, 10:01PM
To: mildlyunwell@gmail.com
Subject: WHERE R U?????

steve please talk to me

From: holleehollaback1225@hotmail.com
Date: December 10, 2005, 10:06PM
To: mildlyunwell@gmail.com
Subject: hello

steve i know ur ignoring me but please just answer 2 tell me ur ok

From: holleehollaback1225@hotmail.com
Date: December 10, 2005, 10:11PM
To: mildlyunwell@gmail.com
Subject: hi
ru there

From: holleehollaback1225@hotmail.com
Date: December 10, 2005, 10:21PM
To: mildlyunwell@gmail.com
Subject: whatever

steve ur an asshole

I click the delete key four times in a row, and her messages are gone. But no button can erase this creepy feeling.

I have come to realize that the "stalkers" I had before were nothing of the sort: They left me a couple of pissed-off messages, then got on with their lives. Holly is clearly in this for the long haul - single-mindedly committed to eroding my defenses, barraging me with voice mail and email until I finally crack under the pressure and ride off in my convertible to some happily ever after with her next to me. For some reason, the thought of looking to my right and seeing Holly there, idly stretching the chewing gum out of her mouth while Fallout Boy blares from the stereo, fills me with a horrible sense of dread.

Maybe I'll send her a not-so-subtle message. I'll block her email address, and her messages won't go through. Then, maybe she'll get frustrated and give up.

I know it's crap. This will frustrate her, all right, but her anger will simply strengthen her resolve. She'll be even angrier than she is now, and she'll harrass me more. This will probably backfire.

But I'm feeling vulnerable, and my desire to build a wall around myself wins out. It somehow makes me feel safer knowing that I can distance her from me.

I click the Block Sender key.

It works - for about an hour.

From: holleehollaback1226@hotmail.com
Date: December 11, 2005, 12:03AM
To: mildlyunwell@gmail.com
Subject: ru serious?!?

RU blocking me? why? what did i ever do to you? You are so rude!

I click Block Sender again, and the adrenaline rages inside me as I realize that the battle is on.

I know she'll get pissed. Fuck her. I can do this all night if I have to. I'll block her bitchy little psychopathic booty forever, until my fucking hand falls off from fatigue. It's harder to set up a new email address than it is to block one.

From: holleehollaback1227@hotmail.com
Date: December 11, 2005, 12:22AM
To: mildlyunwell@gmail.com

The subject field is blank, and there are about 100 empty lines. I almost delete the message, but instinctively, I scroll down to the end, and my mouse finger trembles as I read what is typed there:

"die asshole die die die die die die die die die"