The Guy Who Saw Through My “Never” (aka: Something Very Good)

You know how, when you find something really good, you just can’t wait to tell someone?

It’s been my habit for so many years now. Whenever something wonderful happened to me, I couldn’t wait to share it with the whole world. The perfect sunset sky, smeared with salmon pink and the deepest indigo, deserves an immediate photo, complete with poem, on this blog. A hipster coffee shop who makes the perfect almond milk latte gets a shoutout on Yelp. That funny movie that made me laugh/weep/think? Instant mini-review on Twitter.

Good things are even better when they are shared.

But recently, something very, very good has happened to me. I met someone who is very special to me, and we are now an exclusive couple.

I know, I know. Shock! Amazement! The girl who said “Never” did a complete 180!

It took me by surprise, too. I could never have guessed that someone could waltz into my life, see right through my “Never,” and break down the walls of fear I’d built so high around myself. It took me by surprise that someone could make me see colors that didn’t even exist before he came along. That someone could become the yin to my yang in such a complete way, that I am not even tempted to look back at what I lost before.

But world, that is all I can give you. It is all I can share. I have found something so wonderful, and so pure, that for the first time ever, I don’t want to share it with all of you. I want to keep it to myself, safe in my heart.

Also, I’m never going to say Never, ever again.

Whoops. I mean, I am going to be very careful about using the word Never from here on out.

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Crusaders for Humanity (a love story)

Crusaders for Humanity (a Love Story)

Dedicated to Alan, aka “The Albatross,” aka “Z”

Today, she was going to do it.


Call him on the phone. Invite him him to her apartment — no, to a public place. A coffee shop. A park. It would be better that way, with other people around. Avoid a scene.
She gripped her phone tightly. I’m sorry, Oliver, she would say. I can’t do this anymore. No more secrets. It’s better if we go our separate—


The phone began to vibrate. It was Oliver.


She took a deep breath and answered. “Hello?”


“Come over tonight at seven,” he said. “I’ve been unfair to you lately, I know. But tonight, I plan to make it up to you. I’ll explain everything, I promise.”


It’s too late, she thought. “I’ll be there,” she said, and hung up.


Twenty minutes, she decided as she showered and shaved her legs. She would stop by for only twenty minutes. She would tell him that she could no longer trust him. For months, he had lied to her. Told her that he was going out with the guy, for “poker and beers.” But that one night, while filled with suspicion and jealousy, she had traced his location. It was surprisingly easy to do. A small, round disc, which she’d purchased on Amazon and hidden in his car, after she’d connected it to a tracking app on her phone.
His “poker night” was not at Patrick Harrison’s house, as he’d said, but in an abandoned warehouse somewhere on the seedy side of town. What he was really doing in there was a mystery. Was it a brothel? A meth lab? A squatting facility for druggies? Whatever it was, it couldn’t possibly be good.


“So, did you win big?” she asked the next day.


“‘Fraid not,” he’d said with a tired smile. “Chuck Riley was the big winner tonight. Wiped our pockets clean.”


“I see,” she said.


The warehouse wasn’t the only strange thing she’d come across. There was that mile-long receipt from the Home Depot on his kitchen counter, filled with lumber and PVC pipes and a load of other things she couldn’t identify.


“It’s for a project my humanitarian group is working on,” he explained. Ah yes, his humanitarian group. Crusaders for Humankind, they called themselves. A sort of mercy group, whose aim was to help humankind to thrive.


“So what do these crusaders do?” she asked him. “Help the poor and needy?”


“Something like that.” He didn’t offer any other details.


Lately, he’d been edgy. Distracted, too. The last time they’d met, his eyes kept shifting to his phone, to some invisible spot over her shoulder, everywhere but on her. He’d snapped at her, too, when she asked him what was wrong.


“Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine, okay?” He’d pounded a fist on the table, just hard enough to slosh their drinks. It filled her with unease. Either something was very, very wrong, or she was getting her first glimpse of a side of him she’d never seen. A side she wasn’t sure she liked.


So this was it. She would tell him before dinner. Before he could charm her into staying the night, distracting her from her purpose. She pulled on a dress — the purple one that he liked, and a pair of heels, then applied her lipstick. She may as well look nice for the breakup, right? Then she slipped her phone into her purse and drove across town. There was a lot of traffic, and by the time she arrived, it was already after seven.


Oliver’s house was dark. She let herself in, flicked on the living room lamp.


“Hello?” she called. No answer. Leaving her heels by the front door, she padded into the kitchen. On the counter was an empty crystal vase surrounded by a ring of flickering tealight candles. Next to this was a frosty cold wine goblet filled with rosé, her favorite. Despite her resolve, she picked it up, took a sip.


That’s when she noticed it.


A trail of soft pink rose petals led away from the kitchen, toward the french doors, which were open to the backyard. She followed it. The trail continued across the patio, into the lawn, toward the garden shed, whose door was wide open. She took another sip and smiled, then crossed the lawn, relishing the feel of grass beneath her bare feet.


To her astonishment, the shed was empty inside, except for a flight of stairs leading underground. Oliver had never mentioned that he had a cellar. Was it a wine cellar? More petals were sprinkled on the metal steps. Bright lights shone from down below.


“Oliver?” she called down. Then she descended. When she was halfway down the stairs, there was a loud, metallic bang from. Gasping, she turned around. A panel had slid shut behind her, sealing the opening she’d just passed through. She swallowed the sudden feeling of anxiety that bubbled in her chest.


Just then, Oliver appeared at the base of the stairs. “Hayley,” he said. He was smiling, happy to see her. He held out a hand, and she took it, trembling.


“What is this?” she asked. They were in a large, bright room filled with comfortable seating. A kitchen area took up one corner of the room, including a large dining table, where a number of people were gathered. The walls were covered with a combination of beautiful artwork and large TV screens, each of which was playing a different movie. There were doorways, too, branching off toward hidden areas of the cellar. If you could call it a cellar.


“We call it The Retreat,” he said, leading her to a couch, where she sat and took another sip of wine. “Those people,” he said, motioning toward the dozen or so men and women gathered around the dining table, “are my fellow Crusaders for Humanity. We are preparing to launch the world’s largest effort to save humankind. And I’ve decided to include you in our effort.”


“Me? But…” she gaped, unsure how to tell him that she really just wanted to call it quits. It was over. They were finished.


He sat beside her and took her free hand in his. “I know that I haven’t been open with you. But I’d like to change that, beginning right now. You see, the Crusaders and I have been working very hard to do the right thing for all of humanity. And we decided together that the thing that humankind needs most is less humankind.”


She frowned. What on earth was he talking about? “Oliver, I need to talk to you in private.”


Just then, one of the men jumped up from his seat at the table. “Oliver, sir. It’s beginning.”


Oliver rubbed his hands together and turned toward one of the TV screens. Hayley turned, too. This was not a movie, she realized, but a camera trained on a plaza filled with real people.


“Ten thousand capsules,” said Oliver. “Planted in strategic locations by fellow Crusaders, all around the world. Each containing a deadly toxin. Once released into the air, the toxin will attack the vital systems of every unprotected human. Not pets. Not animals. Only humans.”


Hayley stared at him in horror. “What will it do to them?” Her voice cracked, throat dry.


“Kill them, of course. Except for us. And other Crusaders. We are all safe in our various retreats. We have enough food, water, and supplies to sustain a small community of people for the next five years. By then, the toxin will have become inactive. And we—” Again, he motioned toward the group of Crusaders, all of whom were smiling and nodding. “We will repopulate the planet. But this time, we will get things right. Humanity will thrive, and the world will become a much better place to live.”


Hayley felt like all the air had been sucked from her lungs. She set her glass on the small table beside her, then bent forward, resting her head on her knees.


“Are you okay, sweetheart?” Oliver’s hand stroked the back of her neck.


Hayley sat up and looked at him, eyes wide. “So then, you’re not a drug user? You don’t run a meth lab?”


He gave her a quizzical look. “No, of course not.”


“You don’t engage in human trafficking?”


“God, no. You know how I feel about such vile practices.”


She stood, waving her arms toward the TV screens, which flash to scenes in India, China, Australia. The invisible toxin is beginning to fill the air. People are choking, clawing at their chests, dropping to their knees. “So this is how you’ve been spending your time when you said you were going out to poker night with the guys?”


He hung his head, expression sheepish. “Yeah. I’m sorry I lied about it. That was pretty crummy of me.”


The cameras show London, New York City, Rio de Janeiro. Panic fills the streets. People are screaming, trying to outrun an enemy they can’t see. More bodies drop to the ground.


“It’s just, you know, a relationship can’t thrive when two people can’t be honest with each other.”


“She has a point, Oliver,” a woman piped up from the dining table.


Tokyo, Berlin, Stockholm.


“From now on, you have to open up to me. Share your hobbies with me instead of hiding everything. If you don’t talk to me, then I’m left to wonder what you’re up to, and I might jump to the worst conclusions.”


Oliver stood and wrapped his arms around her. “I promise, from now on, I’ll do better. I’ll be your dream boyfriend, okay?”


Hayley cocked her head to one side, considering. Then, over the terrified screams and gagging sounds of most of the world’s population dying at once, she said, “Okay. I’ll give you a second chance. Don’t blow it.”


“I won’t.” He kissed her then, and for that one brief moment, life was perfect.

Grayer than Gandolf (aka: Graysexuality)

Secret shhh

I have a deep, dark secret. One that most people would never, ever suspect. Ready?

I am a sucker for romance movies.

Some of my all-time favorite movies include a selection of romantic and romantic comedy films. Pride and Prejudice (2005). Shakespeare in Love. You’ve Got Mail. Sleepless in Seattle. The Notebook.

I don’t just watch these films. I watch them repeatedly. I swoon when the meant-to-be couple falls in love. I am thrilled when they paddle through a pond full of ducks, or rendezvous in the rain, or write beautiful plays an poetries inspired by their true love. I ache inside when they are separated from one another by time, distance, or unlucky circumstances, and rejoice when they come together in the end. Ah, love…

But as much as I am an inner romantic, I have another secret — one that more or less means that no matter what, my own life will never reflect those beautiful, romantic happy endings.

I am asexual.

Gray Asexual, Gray Ace, or Graysexual, to be specific. The “A” in LGBTQA. My brand of sexuality is represented by the gray stripe in the Asexual flag:

What does that mean? Well, asexuality in general means the lack of sexual attraction to other people. Graysexuals, like me, are very, very rarely sexually attracted to other people, though it does happen once in a very blue moon. You might call us…highly selective.

Highly Selective Clueless

Being graysexual does not mean that I am not ever romantically attracted to others. I am heteromantic, which means that I am only ever attracted to the opposite sex. But for me, being attracted to someone doesn’t automatically translate into wanting to be with them in a sexual way. In fact, it almost never means that. I am far more likely to daydream about doing fun things together, holding hands, or watching a sunset and snuggling.

Sex doesn’t really interest most asexuals. I know. What a waste of sexiness! For me, it just isn’t something that seems fun or interesting. Trying to convince me otherwise is like trying to convince a coffee hater to keep trying coffee, because maybe one day, something will click, and they will begin to crave that morning cup of java like everyone else. It just doesn’t work that way.

Spilled coffee mess

It’s not like I was once into sex, then the desire went away. I married as a 21-yr. old virgin, then learned during the honeymoon that sex was really not for me. During that 17-yr. marriage, I tried all kinds of things to learn how to like it, but mostly, I hated it. My ex-husband had a very hard time believing this, and took it quite personally. I don’t blame him.

The only time in my life during which I actually really enjoyed sex was while I was dating Mr. Right, my dream guy, last summer. He was the third man I ever had sex with, and will be the last one I ever have sex with, as well. It was all so different with him. Maybe because of how I felt about him. It made me want to share everything with him, to be close to him in every possible way. This is a rare occurrence for asexuals — possibly a once-in-a-lifetime connection. No, I don’t foresee any relationship like that ever happening again for me. The very idea of being romantic or sexually intimate with any other man is revolting. Ugh. No thanks.

I’m sure that the idea of asexuality is super weird to most typically sexual peeps. After all, it is rare. Only 0.5 to 1% of the entire population claims to share my spot on the sexuality spectrum. But it is a very real thing. I’m not sure why it occurs at all. Perhaps it is an evolutionary design, to control human overpopulation. Or maybe it is just further evidence that I’m an alien from another planet.

So no, my real life is never going to resemble those romantic films I adore so much. Because I just don’t believe that there is a man out there I would connect with, who would also be perfectly fine with a completely platonic, or at least sex-free relationship. Sure, the sea is full of “fish.” But I am a vegetarian. So this fisherwoman has hung up her pole, and plans to live out her days pining over the One that Got Away. Because he was the one cup of coffee that suited my very, very picky tastebuds.

Asexual flag

Barefoot is Better (aka: Online Pairing)

Two days ago, I decided it was time to go shopping for a package of socks. It’s not that I really felt that I needed to wear socks. I’m quite content to pad around the house in my bare feet. There’s a lot of freedom in going barefoot, in fact. My feet are always cool and comfortable, and my toes have all the space they need to wiggle around. I can dig my toes into the sand, or let the grass tickle the soles of my feet, just like when I was a little girl. I can even get creative with my own feet, painting my toenails any fun color I want, without an oppressive pair of socks coming along to cover them up.

It is liberating, being sock-less.

barefoot is better

But every so often, I glance around at the feet of other people. And I realize something — many, many people wear socks. And the ones who are not wearing socks are often out shopping for socks, or lamenting over their lack of socks. Some people even seem to wear a different pair of socks every day.

Sole-Mates Socks

Going barefoot all the time, it seems, is rather unusual in the world of grownups. Everyone else acts like the purpose of life is to find a sole-mate. (See what I did there?)

I have also noticed that there are certain things that one doesn’t do without wearing socks. At least, not as well. For example, I do not ever go out to restaurants in my bare feet. Nor to concerts, or live sporting events, or out-of-town fun trips, or wine-tasting, or a number of other things that sound like they would be really, really fun to do one day. But not barefoot. That would just be…awkward.

And so, I signed up to go shopping at a popular (and expensive) virtual store that specializes in socks for the sock-less. Just as advertised, after I answered a series of questions ranging from silly to deeply personal, the site’s algorithms selected a variety of socks for me to consider, some of which were selected as being highly “compatible” with my feet.

At first, it was amusing to sift through the socks. They came in every imaginable size, and lots of patterns. There were some with serious, no-nonsense pinstripes, some with goofy, rainbow-colored polka-dots, and even a couple of plain ones filled with so many holes, I wonder how on earth they made it past quality assurance to wind up on my dashboard.

lots of different socks

I even got a couple of messages from some of the socks, and responded politely (because apparently, exchanging polite chit-chat is something socks can do on online stores). Some of the messages made me smile, and a couple, well, made my bare feet want to run away. I wondered, though, what was supposed to happen next. Was I supposed to utter some magic words in order to check the socks out of the store? Is there some point when I’m supposed to wear them around once or twice, maybe to a restaurant,  or a sporting event, or a concert? Or is it up to the sock to make that happen?

And would it be frowned-upon to write “I don’t know what the heck I’m doing,” on my profile? I feel clueless, like a child who has just wandered into a casino, and is overwhelmed by the loud, clanging, buzzing machines, and choking on the smoke of cigarettes.

It also occurred to me that a large number of the socks were silent. No polite conversations. No peeks at my barefoot profile. Part of me understands that this is normal. That it’s all part of the sock-and-foot matching world. And that its only been two days. But another part of me feels indignant, certain that it has something to do with the toasty-brown shade of the skin on my feet. Because, I’m guessing, not a single one of my chosen matched socks has ever been worn by a toasty-brown foot before. Peachy-tan feet, probably, or rosy beige, or creamy ivory. But perhaps they see toasty brown feet and get nervous, their little sock minds filling with all kinds of ignorant ideas about what I must be like, due to my brownness.

I am halfway tempted to create an identical profile to my own, but put up pictures of a woman who looks similar to me, but with lighter skin, just to test that theory. But I won’t. Because if that really is the issue, then whatevs. Any er…sock who is unable to look past the color of my skin in order to see the kind, intelligent, thoughtful, witty, talented woman I am does not deserve to grace even one of my feet.

Sim Tiare

White Sim Tiare

And anyway, it’s okay if nothing comes of my browsing around the online sock store. In fact, it would be a bit of a relief. Then I will not have to reveal myself as a fraud — one who is so perfectly comfortable going sock-less, and so horribly out of her element with socks on her feet. They will be expecting me to love wearing socks and shoes, like so many other people do. Then I will have to wear them, because I am committed to do so, and will have to go back to tiptoeing around my home in discomfort, my poor toes squeezed and pinched, my feet blistered from friction…

It is oh-so-easy for me to talk myself out of visiting the sock store. Maybe it means I am still not ready, even after years of being sock-free. Maybe it means that I will never be ready; that I am a rare individual who simply was not meant to wear socks. I guess I will go and take a nice long, barefoot walk in the grass and think it all through. Because that is what I do best.

I Am Walter Mitty (aka: Life is But a Dream)

I am Walter Mitty. Okay, obviously not really. I mean for starters, I’m a woman, and I don’t work at Life Magazine. But that’s not the point. I just went to see the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I’d been looking forward to seeing it since I first saw the movie trailer a few weeks ago. It did not disappoint. 
Walter Mitty running

In the film, Ben Stiller plays a middle-aged man named Walter Mitty, who lives a small and not very interesting life. He is a daydreamer who often escapes into a world of fantasy and adventure in his own mind, though in real life, he is quiet and somewhat invisible, living an ordinary life void of adventure or romance.

The very first thing that struck me as the movie began was the symbolism, as Walter is so busy daydreaming that he does not see his train rushing by until it is too late, and he has missed it. This is a pattern for Walter, who often lets the real life and love slip away, because he is lost in his fantasies instead of being in the moment. 

Walter Mitty lost in a daydream

Walter Mitty lost in a daydream

But luckily for him, an opportunity comes his way to have a real adventure. All he has to do is get on train (or the plane, or the helicopter, or the ship, etc.).Naturally, I saw myself in Walter Mitty. I am an invisible person, living a quiet and dull life, just raising my children and trying to keep my head above water. I am too timid to make friends, and as for real romantic relationships – well, those are totally out of the question. But I, like Walter Mitty, live through a very rich imagination. When I lie in bed, wrapped in blankets and reading a good book, my imaginary partner is by my side, reading his own book and occasionally sharing the good parts, as our feet rub together. And when I out am shopping for clothes, my imaginary best friend is with me, telling me not to buy that sweater, because the color is awful on me. And when I took myself to the movies today, I was sitting with my group of imaginary friends, who were cracking jokes and laughing until the lights dimmed, and we all shared popcorn and diet Cokes as we rooted for Walter Mitty through his real and imagined adventures. 

Walter Mitty jumps on the helicopter

Walter Mitty jumps on the helicopter.

So yes, I am Walter Mitty. But he had more courage than I can even imagine. When he was presented with the opportunity to convert his dreams into reality, he faced his fears. He got on the plane. He jumped on the helicopter. He went to places he had only ever dreamed of. He learned to live in the moment, and to make his reality even better than the fantasy. And I wondered, is this only the illusion of fiction, or could someone like me do something like that? Will life always be just like this, with me hiding from the real world like a timid little mouse in her burrow? Or, should the opportunity arise, will I be able to find the inner strength and courage to jump on the helicopter?

 

Defying the Stars (aka The New Romeo and Juliet Film)

“But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou, her maid, art far more fair than she.”

It is true. It is sadly true. Deep inside, where almost no one can see, I am a sappy, daydream-y, hopeless romantic. My heart melted when Jim finally revealed his feelings to Pam. I cried silent, happy tears when Mr. Darcy finally proposed to Elizabeth. Profound love songs and poetry make my heart flutter like the wings of a hummingbird. And I still get weak in the knees whenever I read the most famous love story in the world, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

I recently learned that there is a new Romeo and Juliet screenplay, scheduled to be released in U.S. theatres this September. My initial reaction was to leap in the air and shout with glee, “Hoorayyy!” After all, Romeo and Juliet is my absolute favorite Shakespeare play, filled with such romance and passion and frustration as the star-crossed lovers are thwarted by life and cheated by death. The Starcrossed Lovers Romeo and Juliet 1968

Then I quickly sobered as I remembered the unfortunate modern interpretation of the play released in 1996, which made use of guns instead of swords and Leonardo DiCaprio instead of a real actor. (Okay, fine, maybe DiCaprio has improved remarkably since then). I was filled with trepidation until I saw the trailer for the new film, and breathed a sigh of relief. The actors are quoting the actual lines of the play, and wearing period costumes, and performing on sets that appear true to Shakespeare’s Verona.  Of course, I would feel much better if the director, Carlo Carlei, were known for more than just television movies and dramas. I would also feel better if they had chosen a slightly older actress in order that they could film a steamy nude lovemaking scene like in the 1968 film.

Still, I am looking forward to the new film’s release this September. If it turns out to be a flop, I can at least enjoy sitting in a dark auditorium, mouthing the beautiful, romantic lines along with the actors. “For never was there a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”