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Sitting in a cafe – the cafe of my-so called life of dates & divorce & goodbyes to dear friends – with good music playing, hot coffee on a sun-filled morning, researching the favorite songs of my three parents, thinking about what this means to me. To who I am and how I am in the world.

An autobiography of sorts, vis-a-vis the hearts of three people I know so well and, yet, know nothing about. And I wonder what OWL will think, when he is 33 and looking at his own life, at the strange fact that me + then-husband = him. What will he make of being soothed through newborn cranky spells by Leonard Cohen records, danced to stillness to the White Album, sung to sleep by Sleater-Kinney’s Duck Song (The Fox). Will he remember dancing on my feet to Saturday night swing music? Or that the 1st song he sang was the theme to JAWS, followed, more appropriately, by Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? Not to mention the album that, in pretty plain language, documented the impending descent of me+then-husband while he waited in darkness for birth.

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We set a date. The 16th of December. Life and death and funeral all in one. It’s the right thing to do, and well past time. I was disappointed that the 18th was Saturday, when the courts are closed up, since it seemed fitting that it should end 5 years and 6 months to the day, or 8 years and 7 months to the day of the beginning-beginning, whichever one counts in the end, if any do.

This is what I want. It’s Closure, Moving Forward.

I don’t know if anyone really thinks about the ending. I remember so many details about that first day – the bus ride to Georgetown with my friend GR, my red cashmere sweater and chunky black shoes, his baby blue pants, talking about the Pixies, how he asked me for my phone number so he could ask me on a date (“with dinner and a movie and kissing at the end”), a stolen kiss behind the club, the drive home in the back seat of his 1963 Dodge van next to the drummer’s passed out girlfriend, my twisted ankle….

And I remember so many and so few details of all the in between, which I suppose reflects the successes and failures in equal proportion. Either way, I am not repeating them here. I am not a fan of recaps even though I can play scenes from my life in my head – real and imagined – over and over again to the point of exhaustion and depression. And my point is that there was a lot of living even when it wasn’t exciting. Or perfect. That we did bear witness to each other’s mundane and extraordinary. And that in some ways there’s more intimacy in watching someone pick out fruit or learn to cook or demolish a wall or garden in the rain or sign a dissolution decree than there is in anything else. That the day-to-day is where we live, moment to moment, each and every one of us.

In the clarity of this defeat, I see myself and where I hold on. I resist who I am because I cannot let go of what I am not. I see it again and again – here in this day, there in the past long before I crossed paths with then-husband, and in the future where I am always raw and incomplete and never enough.

I long for something rough, and pull out From the Burnpile.  The cello and Madigan’s voice match and settle my mood while I cook rice with stock, turmeric & chipotle onions, and saute carrots with leftover spinach (with cinnamon!) and black beans for dinner.

I’m trying to write you a love song
because I know it’s time you heard one
I’m trying to write you a love song
because somewhere you know you’re someone

Come tell me about yr dreams coming true
I need you to
Come tell me about your dreams coming true

The snow has laid down blankets and the cold air forms ice as the wind sweeps the trees clean and the sky drops more flakes, alternating between perpendicular and sideways. I watch it swirl like a breaking wave, change direction, and gust in sheets to the south. The window rattles against the wind. The cat is curled at my left thigh and purrs when I brush against his coat. OWL sleeps peacefully through the storm, maybe with good dreams about our afternoon walk in the whitened landscape in his red snow suit, a knee-high gnome with his green car in one hand, hairbrush in the other.

But I can’t write the love song. I can’t seem to right the story. All I can do is crawl into the bed and pull the covers over OWL’s body as he sleeps, his cool feet finding the side of my colder right thigh, and weep.

Future happiness included, of course.

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Quite a week or weekend around here, or whatever the semi-graciously unemployed call 5 sequential days.  Forms at the doctor’s office.  Sex: female.  Children: yes. Marital Status: foreclosed.  I mean, divorced.  Divorcing, actually.  Mind wonders back to the first question.  Sex: maybe, eventually.  Hopefully sooner than later.

A Saturday to clean.  Top to bottom.  East to west.  OWL’s walk-in-closet-turned-bedroom, my bedroom, bathroom, hallway.  Living room, the clothes-sewing-crafting-photographs-storage-closet.  Look for thoughts & lessons & learning between reshelving scattered board books and discovering 3 of the 7 stacker rings under the bedroom blanket.  Tender flood of excitement about a good friend’s pregnancy, knowing that one day soon she too will find these treats hidden in their bed.  Sooner than seems possible, but I see how quickly time marches & swirls forward & about these days.  Imagine lessons & hopes under clean sheets warmed last night only by me and the curled up cat.  Clean floors.  Folded clothes. Empty dresser tops.

Sit at an old table.  Beer in the early evening darkness.  Light rain kissing the air on its way down.  He wears a shirt I’ve never seen before.  Looks faded & old & soft, like something I want to curl up against, feel the heat of his shoulder through the flannel threads.  Instead we exchange books, keys, a mug.  Words say part of what I want to say, but so much of it is a feel, a spectrum of time & place – a currency I cannot exchange over drinks.  Drive home under the weight of absolute ease turned to an absolute goodbye.  Who would have thought ironic detachment was bullshit? Well, me.  But I always second guess myself.  Move on to the kitchen.  Dishes. Countertops.  Pantry.  Table.  Dust shelves and baseboards.  Mop floor.  Sulk out in the cool wet evening to avoid watching a scary movie alone.  To avoid 9 pm sleep on a Saturday.  To avoid the silent & blank screen of my phone.  To avoid no more words.  Sometimes it feels like life is only for other people.  But the rain runs rapids down 15th Avenue East, pools and moves on.  Recall the texture in the gap between the out & the in-breath.  My life runs in those rapids, snags on branches & rolls over leaf jams & around crumpled potato chip bags.  It’s just not very glamorous.

Rain cascades in sheets, white-orange under the glow of street lights.  I dry & sit & drink & stand & listen & drink.  And talk.  Life without the details, without the storyline.  Feel human.  Memories in this place strong.  Late night dance floor spins with the sister.  Wedding song slow dancing.  Sold out club.  Me, at the end of the night.  Standing.  Dancing.  Beaming.  A million years ago.  In the rain I discover that I was a witness, too.  Select groceries & cook meals.  Buy textbooks & study astronomy.  Performances.  Tears.  Witnessed you curl your fingers around OWL’s endlessly small fist minutes after he was born, hold his face against your cheek. Stand in the room of this bar and see my life in the running rapids and hard sheeting rain.  Feel my life in the smoke as it drifts inside towards the warm air. People come & go.  Short exchanges & extended stays.  Long breaks.  Years of friendship. Rekindle & break.  Kids as common ground.  I cycle through it all – roar like a lion and sleep like a lamb.

Four full days in solo mode.  Four days of decadence & endings.  Out late. Foreclosed. Mopping floors.  Nyinthun in hangover.  Hostessing & food & wine. Good friends & old friends & new friends.  A little little baby learning to roll & watch this world.  Pick up OWL from his papa only to find, within a few hours, an absolutely transformed creature shouting & twisting & convulsing with “no-no-no-no-no’s” and the strength to back it up.  Goat-like resolve.  Tangle in car seat straps.  Walk home carrying his crying shaking body parallel to the ground.  Shrieks induced by everything.  Diapers.  PJ’s. Stroller parking.  Socks.  Sweatshirt.  Bathtub.   Hand-washing.  A 5 minute temper tantrum is an eternity.

I’ll say it again.  A 5 minute temper tantrum squeezing through the lungs & throat & mouth and twisting body of a 16-month old is an eternity.  And there I am in that eternity: foreclosed, divorcing, solo, incapable of doing it all, not everything, faking my way through, not x-y-z enough, jobless.  No gaps or breaths or breaks, no full nights sleep.  In that eternity, there is a full sink of dishes, unswept floors, laundry spinning about in machines & reproducing in the corners, diaper covers to air dry, a noisy cat to feed & scratch & snuggle, the next snack to prepare….

It takes every ounce of my strength & courage at 6:27 am to throw the blankets over my head, find my silly voice.  The voice, with an audible smile, giggling “Where’s Mama?”  Peek out & hear the echo of my giggles.  Duck back under as happy snorts dry big puffy tears.  Footsteps racing to the bed.  Outstretched arms.  Lift & snuggle. The courage to coo and play.  Fearlessness to let the eternity dissolve into the emptiness.  To let my solid mythical self dissolve into the emptiness.  The compassion to come back to it again & again.

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First pumpkin ale of the season.  Car ride home discussing autumn soundtracks. The poetry of being left recorded and imprinted, a map of notes and newsprint and digital information.  Span of our history.  San Diego Times.  New York Times. Pitchfork. Background music on a home loan commercial as our house sits empty, winterized by a stranger’s hands.  Hands that never sliced bread or made love or pulled stumps from the ground or swooped up a crying baby at 4 am in that house. Hands that never held on under that roof during hard times.  Seasons of asking questions only to be reassured only to become a living-breathing-sad-generic-pop-song. Honeymoons and camping trips.  An unborn & unknown baby OWL.  Ghosts. Outside, behind garage doors, the 8-track records.  In heated and dimly lit space I sit, immerse in the act of breast-feeding, give my body again & again.  Sustain and nourish this new life, this life that I grew & carried & birthed.  Terrified.  Sore. Elated. Depressed.  Layers peel among laundry piles and wet diapers and more time sitting on the couch then seems humanly possible.  The act of being present.  Being one with another human being.  The depth of lies reflected, apparently, by the number of stars in the sky.     

In one month I turn 33.  Recall hostessing then-husband’s 30th birthday party, OWL a full on swimming being inside my low abdomen.  Body swells with rising organs.  Fall asleep among jackets & purses & scarves strewn across my bed.  Scent of cigarettes and perfume and cold air mixing with the dirty pillowcases.  Cat curled warmly among the layers.  Love’s Forever Changes skips on the turntable in the next room as friends chatter over the sounds.  Carrot cake forgotten & stiff in the freezer.  People like waves wash over me.  Sleeping, I imagine bringing OWL into this world of friends & food & great neighbors & music.  Relief.  Anticipation.  Joy. Remember the year before, walking into the basement and hearing that first new song.  Water.  Desire to hold so strong it had a taste.  Letting go again & again.

Everything these days is touchy ground.  Everything a memory.  A place or a drive or a wedding dance or a laugh.  A gesture.  Whisper in the dark.  An offering.  My new autumn soundtrack needs to be the antidote.  Falling leaves carry introspection. Calls for redemption.  A need to set things right & prepare to start anew.  Sow seeds that emerge strong in spring.  Reconnect with the basic ground.  Redefine home. Family.  Work.  Cats and dogs and rooster calls….

Try as I might, I cannot pick myself out of the past, out of our shared life, out of the years at that house.  Out of who I was before we met.  Before we fell in love.  Moved in.  Bought a house.  Got married.  Had a baby.  And autumn has me reaching for Nico.  Leonard Cohen.  Devendra Banhart.  Bob Dylan.  At least Bruce Springsteen was always mine….  And there is the sound of my scarf wrapping around & around my neck.  The sound of sweaters fresh from the dryer.  Leaves crunching under OWL’s eager feet shrouded in little yellow rubber boots.  His breathing from behind the pink animal-print curtain.  The sound of his hair as he turns clockwise over & over again on my pillow in the morning as he settles in to finish sleeping.  Wind through changing & drying trees.  Times for coffee with the ex, with papaOWL. Random texting about Sesame Street, how everyone other than Big Bird is a puppy. About making OWL faces & making OWL sounds.  Reports on lullabies.  The smell of heat turned on for the first time.  Pumpkin ale and baking pies.  Afternoon sun.

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