5:50 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze.
6:00 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze again.
6:30 am: Backup alarm goes off. Wonder what you did wrong that the ten-minute snooze didn’t work. Make mental note to pay more attention to which way you swipe the button on your phone, maybe you’re turning it off by mistake. Make mental note to delete alarm and set it up again, maybe it glitched somehow. Mentally bet yourself that you’ll immediately forget both mental notes. Resolve to yourself to get up at the first alarm tomorrow, you have to, your hair is getting greasy and you really need a shower.
6:35 am: Jesus, your hair’s even greasier than you thought. Consider the merits of wearing a hat. Consider that it’s going to be warm today and the only hats you have are hand-knit beanies. Remind yourself that it’s possible to take showers in the evenings, too, dipshit.
6:36 am: Wash your hair in the sink.
6:40 am: Finish brushing teeth and stare emptily into the mirror for a second, trying to remember what comes next. Notice you forgot to put in your earrings. Recall for the billionth time how your friend said that gauging your ears would make the earring-holes look like cats’ buttholes. Agree for the billionth time that she was right, your earlobes do look like cats’ buttholes. Make mental note to put in earrings. Maybe match them with your shirt or something.
6:41 am: Push the actual cat off the bathroom counter for the billionth time, that’s not where you belong silly kitty and you know it.
6:42: Fucking A those claws are sharp.
6:45 am: Stand in front of an open drawer in jeans and a bra, holding a still-folded pair of socks. Debate merits of various tee shirts. Realize tee shirts don’t have merits, they’re fucking tee shirts. Grab the one off the top.
6:45 and a half am: Fuck, that’s what you wore yesterday. Grab the second one. Pull the cat out of the drawer, jesus christ cat what if you get stuck behind the drawer somehow, that’s no place for kitties, you could die or something
6:45 and three quarters: Close the drawer. Open the drawer. Grab the folded socks out of the drawer, you’d forget your damn head if it wasn’t attached.
6:49 am: Finish tying your shoes as quickly as possible. You have to leave in one minute exactly or you’re going to miss the bus for sure.
6:50 am: Realize as you’re locking the front door that one shoe is tied noticeably tighter than the other. Too late now. Fuck it. You’ll fix it when you get to work.
6:52 am: Put in headphones and start audiobook. Realize you never put in earrings. Restart the chapter because your inner monologue about cats’ buttholes distracted you from the story and it’s a good part.
6:58 am: Arrive at bus stop. Smile awkwardly at the lady you lent a cigarette to and made small talk with that one time. Feel guilty that you don’t really want to talk again. She’s got her headphones in too though, it’s probably fine. Maybe.
7:01 am: Check OneBusAway. Scheduled arrival for the express bus, 7:01 am. Expected arrival in three minutes.
7:04 am: Check OneBusAway. Expected arrival in two minutes. Ponder the possibility that people on buses do not experience linear time.
7:10: Get on bus. Try to smile politely, cheerfully at the driver while also tapping your pass on the waist-high reader. Fail at both. Now you’re holding up the line, good job.
7:10 and a half: Try not to step on anyone while walking to the back of the bus. Try not to sit on someone’s coat as you squeeze into the middle seat. Fail at both. Good job.
7:10 and three quarters: Find the one small angle where you can look out the window, without looking too close to someone else’s line of sight where they might think you’re staring at them, but also without cricking your neck for the whole ride.
7:30: Give up and stare at the floor.
7:32: Give up on that and just close your eyes.
7:40: Disembark bus. Adjust shoulder bag to account for the crick in your neck. Walk another several blocks to work. Briskly. You’re late.
7:46: Hold the elevator door for someone just a little too far down the hall.
7:46: Come on buddy, the least you could do is hustle just a little bit.
7:46 and a half: Oh, he’s not going up. Let doors close. Press button futilely a few times, mildly panicking alone in the elevator, until you remember you have to scan your access card because it’s the morning, dipshit.
7:46 and three quarters: Wonder at what time the elevator lets people ride it without having to scan an access card.
7:47: Probably 8.
7:48: Open office door. The lights are off. You’re the first one here. Again.
7:49: Almost 20 minutes late. Fuck it. Make coffee anyway.
7:55: How many different ways are there for an automatic espresso machine to avoid doing its job?
7:56: At least one more. Wonder if baking soda removes coffee stains, or was it just grease stains?
7:57: Use up the last of the creamer. Make mental note to buy more. Remember mental note to delete and re-set alarm. Make mental note to remember that mental note later.
8:00: Do the thing.
9:15: Do the other thing.
9:20: Ugh, almost forgot that thing. Do that.
10:00: Go outside for a smoke. Try not to make eye contact. Someone asks for a smoke anyway. Tell them it’s your last one. It’s always your last one. Hope they’re not still hanging around this block at lunchtime.
12:05: Oh good, they’re gone. Smoke. Buy lunch. Bring it back to your desk because you don’t want to sit somewhere and eat alone in a sea of suits talking about their business-related business.
12:05: Oh good, the suits in the office are talking business-related business. Glance significantly at the empty conference rooms as they part just enough for you to get to your desk. Try not to murder the suit who’s leaning on your cubicle wall.
12:06: Where did you get lunch? Lucky Noodle. It is neither lucky, nor is it noodle. Inwardly kick yourself for the horrible dad joke. Kick yourself because that it’s not the first time you’ve told that joke. Stay so busy kicking yourself that you don’t even care that no one laughs. They’re right not to.
12:35: Wonder, not for the last time, if bamboo chopsticks are compostable, recyclable, or none of the above.
12:36: Compost? We’re going with compost. That can’t be the worst thing that goes into a city compost bin today.
12:37: Pretend to work while you finish reading that article you started over lunch.
12:50: Fuck, that was a longer article than you thought. Decide to skip your last break to make up for it.
3:00: Remember you forgot to get creamer when you were out for lunch. Make a mental note to get it on the way in tomorrow. Remember your mental note about the alarm thing.
3:45: Leave 15 minutes early, because you skipped your last break.
4:15: Wonder how it is that the bus home is so much longer than the bus in. Wonder if it’s actually a longer ride, or just feels that way because it’s at the end of the day. Wonder if time maybe actually is non-linear and timekeeping is just a man-made construct.
4:16: Oh that’s right, the bus is super late in the evenings because fucking everyone in the goddamn world rides it.
4:19: No please, don’t worry about taking up space sir, your elbow between my ribs is quite refreshing and will certainly keep me awake and standing for the remainder of the trip.
4:36: Try to politely, cheerfully wave goodbye to the driver while also gauging the distance between your foot and the curb without really looking. Fail at both.
4:37: Don’t light your cigarette until you’re past the park. People will think you’re deliberately poisoning their children.
4:39: You’re definitely the trashiest person in this neighborhood. At least since the truck with the Trump bumper sticker stopped coming around. Not that you’re actually trashy, you’ve just never seen anyone else in this neighborhood with a cigarette in their mouth. Or anyone under the age of 60, for that matter. Or anyone who looks like they might not own the house with the view of the water that is every house in this neighborhood.
4:40: Oh look, the million-dollar house is up for sale.
4:41 So are two others on this block.
4:42: Maybe it’s me. Trashing up the neighborhood. Scaring the neighbors out.
4:45: Unlock the door. Immediately discourage kittens from scratching at the rug. Encourage them toward the cardboard scratcher literally six inches away. Wonder if catnip really does anything.
5:00: You have the house to yourself for the next couple of hours, you can do anything you want.
5:05: Anything at all. Just… pick a thing.
5:07: Eh, it’ll come to you.
6:45: Only realize you’ve been hate-reading Facebook for two hours when you hear the key in the lock. Greet partner. Suddenly remember that you wanted to knit and write and read that comic and listen to that audiobook some more, you’re at a really good part, and you were kinda planning to surprise him by having dinner ready when he got home. Dammit.
7:00: Watch TV while eating pizza.
10:00: Consider going to bed early.
10:05: Consider staying up late because who cares.
10:15: Fall asleep watching a movie. Apologize to partner. Get up to brush your teeth and get ready for bed.
10:25: What is so sleep-inducing about the couch that is simply not true about the bed?
10:29: Does toothpaste have caffeine in it?
12:30: Try to pretend you’re not still awake when partner comes to bed.
5:50 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze.
6:00 am: Alarm goes off. Hit ten-minute snooze again.
6:30 am: Backup alarm goes off.
Um, hi. It’s me, Penny. I’ve been away for a while.
Life got real hard there for a minute, you guys. And then it got easier. And then it got hard again. I assume writing is like riding a bicycle – you never forget how to do it? But… well, I’ve never been great at riding bicycles. And there are a lot of hills around here. And I’m super rusty. And so is my bicycle. Or it would be, if I had a literal bicycle and not a vaguely metaphorical one.
Where do I even start?
Sullivan and I are well and truly divorced now. It wasn’t all that hard in the doing-things sense; the paperwork got submitted and looked at by the state, it got reviewed and approved and stamped and signed, sealed, delivered (I’m yours! Ooh baby). There’s a new name on my driver’s license, one I chose that’s all my own. And that feels good. It feels like a concrete step away from some parts of my past I’ve been struggling to leave behind. New name has been my official name for over a year now.
Fun fact: Banks can not EVEN DEAL with it when you change all your names. Last name? Easy. First name? It’s been done, not insurmountable. First, middle, and last? Blank stares…. crickets… ominous clouds gather… a wolf howls mournfully in the distance… a wild wind tosses leaves across a cold pale moon… the pine trees rustle and sway… a raven bursts into flight from the shadows with a raucous cry… a quiet, soaking rain begins to fall… awkward cough.
It was hard in the emotional sense. In the space of a few months the conversation turned from being best friends, supporting each other, staying in each other’s lives… to jealousy, insecurity on both sides, squabbles about mostly petty things, and what I can only imagine must have felt like a pretty big betrayal.
I, uh… I fell in love. With a dude.
Not like I meant to. I was pretty invested in the image of myself as a lesbian. I was pretty sure of myself for a while there. I had an amazing summer romance with a lady I fell head-over-heels for; a lady I am still fortunate enough to count a dear friend. I knew she was moving away when we started dating, and that was fine. I didn’t want to give her any reason at all to rethink that decision, so I learned how to love deeply and let go freely. All that is to say, if I needed to prove anything to myself about my sexuality, I think I did. I’m definitely not straight.
Sullivan disliked that I was dating women while we lived together, waiting for the lease to run out. Tried to be supportive; but, I think, couldn’t shake the feelings of possessiveness that come with several years of monogamous marriage. Maybe he found it threatening. Maybe he didn’t like confronting such clear evidence that our marriage was ending. I don’t really know; he never told me, it just came up in hurtful ways. It made for some very mixed messages. We had a hard time communicating our needs and boundaries to each other. We argued. The lease ended. We moved out.
This dude, The Dude, was someone I knew through a shared hobby and a mutual ex-girlfriend. He had also been divorced. He was from the same city as me; in fact, he and Sullivan were in the same high-school class. (Sullivan was not impressed by this; I found it fascinating.) After Sullivan and I split, he invited me over for wine and trauma-bonding. We drank and laughed and took long walks and talked about our Feelings, Of Which There Are Many. By the end of the evening it was clear to me that this was a friendship I very much wanted in my life. I became close with The Dude. Trusted him because it was clear he wanted nothing from me but friendship, and that made me feel comfortable and respected.
I don’t really know what happened there, exactly. I mean, I fell for him and we started dating and so on and so forth but… like, how? Why? Wherefore? I dunno. As I suppose most of these things happen, it just happened. I loved spending time with my best buddy, and at some point I realized I loved my best buddy. I wanted things from my best buddy that were more than just best-buddy things.
We quietly started dating. I was very confused about what that meant for my newly-formed sexual identity, but pretty quickly decided that the whole point of the exercise was to be less concerned about how anyone anywhere thought I should express my attractions and desires and just kinda threw all the labels out the window. These days I go by queer, or mostly-gay. Or, if I’m in a particularly self-effacing mood, The City’s Least Successful Lesbian.
Sullivan was not thrilled to find out about me and The Dude. There was a confession on my part and some very angry highway driving on his part. By the way, people, for the love of – DON’T CONFESS THINGS IN MOVING CARS. JUST DON’T. DON’T EMOTE AND DRIVE PLEASE. We were fine, nothing happened, he didn’t do anything scary but fuck – come on. Emoting, much like driving, deserves one’s full attention. Never the twain should meet. Leave them twain. The twainest of twains.
Interactions between me and Sullivan got colder after that. More distant. More terse. It all sort of fell apart. I wanted to stay friends but could understand that he needed time to process, to decide if he wanted me in his life, to forgive whatever hurt I’d caused by destroying the illusion that the breakup of our marriage was solely about my sexuality. There are things I feel about a lot of this now, there are lots of things I could say about what went down and how it happened… but I am doing my best, with the benefit of hindsight, to try and see it from his perspective this time around. In the interest of being honest and not hiding things, in the middle of signing paperwork and exchanging stuff and figuring out what our relationship looked like now, I did sort of drop a bomb.
Ultimately, I did what I could. I told him I hoped to remain friends, but wouldn’t push the issue. He could reach out when he was ready, and I would wish him well in the meantime. I unfriended him on social media, hoping it would give me some freedom from second-guessing everything I posted, fearing he would see it and be upset. Trying to protect him from further hurt. Fearing that just being myself and settling into this new life would seem, to him, like I was rubbing it in his face. That’s part of why I stopped writing here, too. I sent texts for holidays and birthdays – just to say I remember you, you were important to me, the door is open if you want. I’m willing to talk, to listen. If you want. If you want.
I don’t think he did. The replies came later, got shorter, stopped coming at all. He moved away, spent his birthday with my family, which I found out through Facebook. This still disturbs me; not that my family is close with him, but that they never mention it to me. Like most uncomfortable things, they just pretend it doesn’t exist. Later, they told me he moved again; going back to school in a different state. I hear he’s been seeing someone. (Okay, the few times I’ve ill-advisedly looked him up on Facebook tell me he’s been seeing someone.) I truly wish him all the best. I hope his life now is better than it ever would have been with me still in it.
I’m sometimes sad that we didn’t stay friends. Sometimes I think maybe it’s for the best, that we would have just clashed endlessly as we tried to become the people that we are now. People who are each different from the one the other married, and yet uncannily similar. So much has changed for me that it feels really odd to step this far back, to remember how it was, who I was then. Reading back through the archives here feels like I’m reading about someone else. Someone very familiar to me, but whom I disagree with on some key points. Sometimes it all bubbles to the surface and seems very fresh; sometimes it seems a lifetime ago. Like clothes in the back of the closet that don’t fit anymore and aren’t really my style – is that mine, or did someone else leave it here at some point and I forgot who it belonged to?
So. I guess I have three years’ worth of posts to catch up on. Sorry I disappeared for so long, guys. Let’s get reacquainted, shall we?