What He Said

Graham Greene on jealousy:

"Insecurity is the worst sense that lovers feel: sometimes the most humdrum desireless marriage seems better. Insecurity twists meanings and poisons trust. In a beleaguered city every sentry is a potential traitor. Even before Mr. Parkis I was trying to check on her: I would catch her in small lies, evasions that meant nothing except her fear of me. For every lie I would magnify into a betrayal, and even in the most open statement I would read hidden meanings. Because I couldn't bear the thought of her so much as touching another man, I feared it all the time, and I saw intimacy in the most casual movement of the hand." -The End of the Affair

Morning Bus Scenes

A man with calloused hands darkened by time and labor pulls apart a mango with thick fingers. Juice falls onto a weathered tin plate that sits atop his lap. 

The front door of an office building is wrapped in shiny striped wrapping paper, as though what's inside is a gift.

Flyers for shows where we could dance together peel away from the street pole. We'll go if I can stand being 15 years older than the girls grinding in crop tops.

A poster showing a portly Seth Rogen hangs beside one featuring a forever-thin Kate Moss. 

A man wearing too many coats argues with himself or someone none of us can see. He pounds his fists against a truck spray painted with the word Reyes, the name of the artist whose work lives forever on the arm of my lover.

Last Night I Thought I Was Dying

I spent some time today looking for a psychologist because last night I thought I was going to die.

"I'm going to lose consciousness alone in this bedroom," was something I thought. "How long will it take for them to find my body?," was another.

I was just sitting and reading. I was propped up in bed with a book and my cats and a glass of wine. I was a portrait of relaxation. Then, out of the cold blue, I was awash in panic.

The words on the page shrunk and danced. Sweat bubbled up on my forehead. My neck and chest became slick and the hair at my nape grew wet. My heart was a wild thing, as big as the room.

"I'm having a hot flash," was another thing I thought. "Could I be pregnant?"

I swung my legs onto the floor and tried to stand, but couldn't. The room seemed wavy. I considered walking to SF General Hospital just five blocks away, but knew immediately that I'd have to crawl. I picked up my cell phone and wondered if I'd still be alive when the ambulance arrived.

My hands tingled to the point of numbness. I tried desperately to slow my breathing. The sweating became so profuse that I shed my clothes, though doing so left me unstable and dizzy.

"I'm having a stroke," was something that crossed my mind. "Is this a heart attack?" was another.

Doom and dread and absolute fear pressed down on my entire body. I entertained the idea that I'd never see my boyfriend again, but I was too panicked to feel the weight of that notion. I thought about my cats and how much food was in their bowls. 

I wiped my face and neck and chest with the shirt I'd discarded and it became dark with moisture. I placed my hand on my abdomen to make sure the breaths I was taking were real.

My fingers trembled as I sent a text message to my best friend and boyfriend. Both of the messages said, "I don't know what to do."

Never before had I felt so physically helpless. I was convinced that I was going to the hospital. I was sure that I was going to die.

Then, as quickly as it began, it was over. The panic receded. My hands steadied. My breath slowed. The sweating ceased. 

A quick Google search later and I discovered I'd had a panic attack.  The internet tells me that if I had one, I will likely have another.

I wonder if next time I'll think my life is over.

The Sarcasm is Strong with This One

Me: "Hey, I worked out this morning."

Co-worker: (gives me an evil death stare) "I was only awoken nine times last night by the baby. Nine times. Every hour or so. Now we're in a cycle where my wife is so tired she can't hear the baby crying, and then the next night I am so tired that I can't hear the baby screaming and back and forth. But it's fine. It's really fine. 

Me: "One day I'm going to have children and look back on this and think, 'what an ignorant childless person I was.'"

Co-worker: "Having children is a staggering life change. But good job on working out."


"It is hard to be without him in this city. There are pieces of him everywhere."

A woman with smooth brown hair and a French accent is telling a tale of heartbreak between sips of hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream.

"He doesn't want to be my friend."

Rain falls, blurring the windows of the cafe. Her voice is sure and unwavering, without a hint of sadness. She presses her finger onto fallen flakes from her almond croissant and places it on her toungue.

"I told him, 'You will forgive me when you fall in love with someone else.'"

Her mouth slides up at the corners. She strokes the handle of the mug.

"He said he didn't want me to come because he was scared of getting hurt. But I had to."

Her voice suddenly goes from matter-of-fact to giddy.

"Because Max is driving up from San Jose." 

She polishes off the pastry with a quick flourish, then rubs her hands together, sending a fine flurry of powdered sugar into the air.

"He would die if he knew."

(As seen and overheard at a cafe in North Beach, San Francisco.)

Joy Now Allowed, No Eye Rolls Required

On Sunday as I sat across from my boyfriend at brunch, my plans were to share a meal with him and then spend the rest of the day reading or writing or both. He'd made mention of needing to write charts that afternoon, so when he looked at me with that grin, the one that starts on the right side of his face, and said, "What if we went to Six Flags today?," I didn't think he was serious.

Then he pulled out his phone to make sure the park was open (it is January after all, even if we are experiencing 70 degree weather every day), and sure enough, it was. He looked at me again, grinning even bigger this time.

"Want to go to Six Flags?"

I didn't need to think about the answer. Of course, I wanted to go to Six Flags. Especially with him.

The spontaneity of his proposition reminded me of one of the happiest days of my childhood. One Sunday, before my parents were divorced, my sister and mom and I were on our way home from church. In the car I asked my mom if we could go to Opryland

"Ask your father," was her response, and every kid knows exactly what that means, and that's a big, fat 'no.'

I asked him anyway, knowing full well we weren't going to be riding the Wabash Cannonball that day. 

"Daddy? Can we go to Opryland?" I was already deciding on which coloring books I would fill that afternoon as consolation when he said yes.

Plot twist! What?! You mean I just *asked* if we could go to the amusement park on a Sunday afternoon without any advanced planning and the wish became a reality? I was drunk with power, loopy with giddiness. I was about six years old.

Add thirty years to that six years of age. Cut to me smiling widely over a plate of eggs. We were going to go to Six Flags on the spur of the moment. Because we wanted to. This was the adulthood I always dreamed of as a kid.

Happy and laughing, we took his car to Vallejo. We secured expensive tickets, scoped out which roller coasters to hit up first and then tackled them. We wound through the park hand in hand and stood embracing while we waited in lines. We pecked cheeks and let the sun warm our faces. We shared a vanilla soft serve cone and took our photo with a real, live penguin. 


It was the best day.

As we waited for the wooden coaster, our limbs entwined like 14 year olds, I watched an actual pair of 14 year olds. Two girls, both fully teenaged with the scowls to prove it, waited with their arms crossed and their eyes permanently rolled. 

"This sucks," one of them said. Her eyes were full of disgust, her body rigid.

Her friend just sighed and ticked her eyes upward in response. One thing was clear: they would both rather be anywhere than at Six Flags on a sunny Sunday.

Suddenly I was transported back to my own year at 14. How I spent the entirety of it with my arms crossed and my eyes rolled, too. How I'd rather be caught dead than having fun, because having fun wasn't cool. And I desparately wanted to be cool.

These teenaged girls were wearing cute little dresses and their hair was expertly rolled. Makeup had been applied carefully and in excess. It was as if they had somewhere they wanted to go, but it definitely wasn't where they were. Their posture read, "I'd rather die than admit I'm having a good time." I seriously think their arms were crossed even as the roller coaster sent them spriraling upside down.

I looked up at my boyfriend, his grin, his face, how happy he was to be waiting in line for a ride, and I exhaled hard. I wasn't there any more. I wasn't 14 and miserable and vulnerable and afraid to show that I'm happy. I'm miserable and vulnerable in different ways, but I'm no longer scared to be seen smiling. 

Good thing, too, because it happens a lot these days.

Missed Connection

I don't know what he was trying to say to me, but I know feeling vulnerable on the train, feeling like you know someone when you don't. I know sitting helplessly as eyes brim with tears, being unable to control your face.

I was on the N for an afternoon of exploring a neighborhood that is not my own. I watched out the window as rows of homes flipped by like a shuffled deck of cards. I wore headphones that filled my ears with sounds I selected.

He was young, a little scraggly looking. He seemed nervous, and I caught him eyeing my phone. I stuck it under my purse. That's when he motioned to me that he wanted to talk. I pulled my headphones down.

"I'm sorry," he said. I didn't know what he was sorry for, but he seemed genuinely regretful. 

"I'm sorry?," I said it back to him as a question.

"This is embarrassing," he told me, and with the side of his flattened palm he wiped his eyes.

I didn't know why he was embarrassed. I didn't know why he was crying.

"Are you okay?," I asked him. 

"Yeah, I'm sorry. Ugh. I'm sorry; I'm embarrassed." He dabbed at wet eyes with the sleeve of his shirt.

"You sure you're okay?"


And so I put my headphones back on, even though the exchange chilled me. I didn't know what else to say. I didn't know what he wanted. I didn't know what caused his tears. But I know succumbing to them in public on a train beside a stranger. I know what that is like. And I know what it feels like to try to communicate something you can't. And to feel ashamed. 

Was he seeking solace? Did he have a story to tell? A request to ask?

The young man watched as I deboarded at the next stop. His face looked ripe with things to say.

No Need to Worry

I was worried. I always worry.

I called him twice the night before, but no answer. Not even acknowledgement the following day that I'd rung. 

I was worried. I always worry.

When I saw him last night I cried into his sweatshirt. I feel ignored, I told him. I feel unimportant, I said.

I was so worried. Always so worried.

He busy was writing songs, he told me. He was busy writing a song for me.

You Are Making Me Cry

He was screaming into her jeans. Every inhalation was ragged, his entire body stuttering as he tried to take in air. Every exhalation was a desparate declaration: "You are making me cry."

He looked to be four, no more. His face was dirty, but his clothes were clean. The woman he was with held her hand to his back, but said nothing. He cried with his whole, tiny body, and he repeated his accusation into her pants: "You are making me cry."

The bus would be there in four minutes, but his wailing could be heard over the mariachi music blaring over loud speakers at 24th Street and Mission. The happy brass fist fought his constant throaty sobs, and my heart was breaking. He said it over and over and over: "You are making me cry."

His face was a slick mess of pain. His refrain, steeped in tears, became a song, sad and long: "You are making me cry."