Category Archives: conflict

Coffee Clutch

for David

Coffee. That’s how it starts. “Buy you a cup of coffee?” “Meet me for coffee?”

Plastic to-go cups of iced coffee on a hot summer evening, you wondering how it’s going to turn out. You know that if it goes badly, your second cup will be a decaf and you’ll go home. But, if it goes well, you’ll go home with him, so that second cup will be regular. Maybe espresso.

Coffee in steaming mugs, the two of you cocooned by shared blankets, watching the leaves fall and float from the trees in the cool autumn air.

Delicate cups of gourmet coffee in the bistro where you had your first real date; you gazing out the window as the snow piles up outside. He plunges the French press and pours. Taking a sip, he says, “I’m not feeling it.” You laugh. “Maxed out your caffeine tolerance?” you ask. “No, it’s not the coffee,” he says. “It’s you.” He pushes his chair back from the table and sets down his cup. “I thought I’d be feeling something by now, but I’m not. Sorry.” He leaves, and you stare at the widening stain on the tablecloth where his coffee sloshed out of the still-full cup.

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Filed under autobigraphy, coffee, conflict, dating, flash fiction, irony, memoir, relationships, single, women

Smoked Him

for Everett

“You mean, on a date?” she asks.

“Well, if that’s what you want to call it,” he says. He kicks at the grass growing up through a crack in the sidewalk. “I was thinking I’d pick you up, we’d get some dinner, see a movie, and then I’d bring you home. Yeah, I suppose that is a date, if that’s what you want to call it.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she says.

“Why not?”

“Because of the smoking.” She leans back against the white picket fence that lines the sidewalk and exhales from of one side of her mouth to avoid clouding his eyes.

“But I don’t smoke,” he says. You’re the one who smokes.”

“Yup. That’s the problem. I’ve been through this. I know exactly how it’s going to go down.”

“What?”

“Okay, see, I’m going to end up liking you, probably a lot. Enough, I’m sure, to quit smoking for you, and that will ruin everything. Now, don’t get that look on your face and try to argue with me. I know for sure that I’m going to systematically ruin our relationship, in three succinct phases. Want me to explain?”

He watches her toss her cigarette to the ground a few inches from his foot. He worries briefly about fire when it lands on top of a wrinkled brown leaf and then relaxes as he watches her grind it into the concrete with the toe of her shoe. She picks up the crushed butt and puts it in her pocket.

“Sure,” he says. “Enlighten me.”

“Okay. Think of it as a bell curve. We start out on the far left, the place where things are new and fun. I fall for you, and this is Phase One:  Dedication. I convince myself that smoking is bad for me, and that you’re a really amazing guy and I’d like to get closer to you, and what the hell, I’ve quit before so this will be easy.

“We’ll get about three weeks of that before we plateau at the top of said bell curve. I call this Phase Two: Elation. We’re having a great time together, everything is sunshine and roses. I have a sense of accomplishment. I’m feeling good physically, I’ve conquered my demons, and I’m happy. The duration of this phase is unpredictable – in my experience it could be a month, maybe even a year, but what’s right over the hump is Phase Three: Resentment and Hatred. This is the phase where I realize that I’ve changed for you, that I’ve lost sight of my personal promise to never change for a man. This is when I remember that I deeply love smoking; that it’s not hurting anyone, and furthermore, I can do anything I damn well please so back off, mother fucker!

“And on that lovely sunlit evening you’ll find me here, leaning against this fence and waiting for you to come pick me up for a date. I’ll have a blazing cigarette clamped between my fingers and a look in my eye that says, “Go ahead, asshole, I dare you to say something.” And, that, my friend, is how it’s going to go down. The end.”

“You’ve got it all figured out, don’t you?” he asks.

“Well, yes,” she says, “Yes, I do.” She takes the butt out of her pocket and drags it along the fence in a long black smear.

“Well, then,” he says. He leans forward and kisses her. On the cheek. “As long as you’ve got it all figured out,” he says. His feet crunch in the fallen leaves as he walks down the sidewalk and away from her.

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Cold Chicken, Hot Bun, Not What I Expected.

Why do we assume anything that includes the words “Hot Bun” is going to be about sex? At what point did radiant heat and flour/water/yeast become so licentious? I certainly don’t know, and I didn’t mean it that way.

Today’s lunch didn’t turn out as expected. I made a sandwich of cold chicken, served on a hot bun (stop giggling). Cold chicken is sublime, completely different from warm chicken, and a mini-baguette, hot and crisp, is much better than tepid white bread. Add mayonnaise and a leaf of romaine you’ve got the makings for a tasty and satisfying lunch. But it didn’t turn out that way. The crispy bread shattered upon contact, and the chicken fell out and hit my plate with a mildly wet smack. I got mayonnaise all over my face. It occurs to me that the last sentence, paired with ‘hot buns’, has the more lascivious of you rolling in the aisles. Notice that I used Licentious, and Lascivious to describe you people, as if SAT words could ameliorate your libidinous minds.

So, appearances were deceiving. I seem to have many stories about the deceit of appearances, and I doubt I’m the only one who has fallen deeply in love with someone who turned out to be as hollow as, well, that flaky bit of golden brown bread I tried to enjoy for lunch. I also seem to have a lot of stories about falling and failing in love – but hey, I’m an artiste, we’re known for the angst of our amour and besides, never since Romeo and Juliet has a tragic love story failed to entertain.

His name was Cameron. Six foot three in his bare feet, muscular, quiet in that stoic, brooding way that I can’t resist. There was a frayed denim jacket he wore everywhere. And, he drove a gold Trans Am, white firebird emblazoned across its hood. Everything about him was manly.

Now, you don’t know this, but I have sat here at my desk for an hour and have used over 700 words to explain, in a languorous and extremely boring way, how I finally ended up in that gold Trans Am with Cameron. But life is short; at least I’m sure your attention span is, so I’ll get to it. I strapped myself into that passenger seat, put my hands on the dashboard, and braced myself for the ride I’d been waiting for. I listened for those six cylinders to rev, for the squeal of rubber on pavement and the snug knock of the gearshift as Cameron slammed that thing into second for a mindboggling lurch of a jump start. It was not what I expected. Instead, Cameron carefully set his foot upon the clutch, gently turned the key, and cautiously looked both ways before he eased into the street. There was no ‘foot to the floor’ as I’d dreamed of; there was just a gingerly tap of the gas pedal. I’d thought we were going to race around the hairpin turns of the Asheville mountains, but no, Cameron chose to use the turn signal every time we went around a bend. My grandmother channels Mario Andretti compared to this guy. I have to say ‘guy’ now. I can’t say ‘man’. There was nothing manly about Cameron, he was about as lame as warm chicken on a cold bun.

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I’m Ready for My Close Up, Mr. El Paso

It’s all about the lighting.

Good lighting can make even the intolerable desirable. Take my lunch, for instance. Leftover burrito* with carrots and chips- monochromatic, tepid and mushy, should be disgusting. But scroll below** to see what two-o’clock afternoon sun in the northern hemisphere can do. See how the salsa glistens? Delicious, right? Can’t wait to dig in.

Yes, I’m going to parallel this to dating. It’s what I do.

Take that mediocre guy from accounting. As he walks down the alley of cubicles and turns the corner toward reception, you see him eclipse the morning sun as it streams through the window. In his silhouette, you see no pocket protector, no black smear where the pocket protector failed. You don’t see the worn, shiny ass of his Dockers, nor the bit of jelly on the back of his left hand. No, what you see is the dark shape of a man, sun glistening around his tall, narrow form, and your mind wanders…

Then there is that lackluster friend of your sister’s. And here he is, at the family picnic once again, another valiant effort by your sister to orchestrate a Certs encounter between the two of you. And this time, it might just work. The sun is setting, the men are wrapping up their game of touch football, and as your man draws back his arm in what will surely be another botched pass, the setting sun breaks through the clouds, and he is haloed by brilliant rays of gold, azure, and ruby red. Your mind wanders…

And, let’s jump in the time machine for a bit, back to those days of our youth. Was it not lighting, pure and simple, that drove us to make our decisions vis a vis romance? Prom, with its strobe light flashing; roller rink and its laser show; the dusky bar illuminated by nothing more than the neon glow of the Budweiser and Jose Curevo signs. Your mind wanders more than it already was wandering, what with the beer and tequila and all. Yes, it was lighting that made the good look better and the better look great. Never underestimate the lighting.

‘* Yes, I eat leftover burritos every Saturday. I have dinner at Tacqueria Pablano in Arlington every Thursday night, and leftovers are pre-planned frugality.

‘**I put the pictures at the bottom so you can read the good stuff without having to scroll down down down past dozens of glamor shots of food before you get to anything interesting. I hate when they do that.

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stories are everywhere

for example, my life today:

We had a blizzard.  Mid-storm my neighbor shoveled his front walk. He left his shovel outside overnight and it was buried by morning, so he borrowed my shovel and dug out not only his walk but mine, too.  There’s a story in there.

My cat might be bulimic. She ate kibble and puked and then ate more kibble and puked again three times within 25 minutes this morning. A few more adjectives and that story is good to go.

I decided to paint my nails Carolina blue for the Super Bowl, although I  have no allegiance to either team – light blue nail polish was all I had in the closet. But now I see that the color is gray, not blue, so I’m worried what that says about me as a football fan and what my friends will think. Further, the minute I got wet polish on all ten of my nails I had to pee like a fiend. That story writes itself.

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snow ponder

Sometimes I ask myself, why am I so fearful? And of all the things to be afraid of, why these things? My three top fears are: snakes, physical pain, and something bad happening to my cat. Actually, those are pretty reasonable things. I found a fourth fear yesterday: I have a paralyzing fear of the utilities going out. This awareness was brought on by the blizzard, the one that hit the East Coast yesterday, the fodder of countless Facebook posts and the joy of terror-mongering meteorologists worldwide.

It seemed like just another snow storm, until my friend brought up the likelihood of the power going out. I hadn’t even thought of that. A quick check with the National Weather Service confirmed – there would be at least two feet of snow and winds gusting to 65 – they said there was a “high probability of whiteouts and blackouts.” White and black and out. That’s not good.

My friend also mentioned that the last time the power went out, it was out for three days. She told me that her family had already procured provisions including food, water, and a back up generator, to last a week. I have one flashlight, one blanket, one bottle of water I found in the backseat of my car, and a meager amount of cheese. My extremities were going to freeze, slowly, painfully dropping off one by one. My cat would suffer a similar fate. Short of snakes, this snowstorm threatened to be my own personal hell.

So, at 2am the morning of the blizzard, I started to chant. I’m hesitant to say ‘pray’ for fear of losing half my readers who’ll think I’m one of those praying-types. Somehow ‘chant’ seems better – y’all might think I’m weird, but it will be in a bohemian, cool kind of way.  So, this chant.  It followed the tune of the kindergarten sing-song, “Polly Put the Kettle On,” and went like this:  “Please God, keep the utilities on, please God keep the utilities on, please God keep the utilities on, that would be so nice.”

I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I’m sitting here in the warm draft of indoor gas heat, sipping hot tea from an electric kettle, the only thing that hurts is my back from shoveling snow, and my cat is sleeping contentedly on the desk beside me. In other words, they chant/prayer held it’s own. Now, if whatever animal it is that has taken up a desperate haven in my attic is not a snake, all will be well.

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nuts on the brain

squirrel 2I might be a little off since today is the first day I’ve been off the couch/out of bed since Thursday at noon (I had a cold – might have been the plague), but it sounds like there is definitely a squirrel in the attic over my studio.  Not on the roof, no, this is definitely right over my head on the other side of the particle board and plaster they call a ceiling. Now, I know that with the windchill it is 12 degrees outside, and I appreciate that the attic here might be warmer than a hole in a tree, but I am certain that if that squirrel comes crashing down or worse, sets up a condo-type situation that lasts into spring, that the property management company will deem it my fault.

But maybe I’m making too much of it.

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