Racing Thoughts And Running Time

Well, it is almost 10pm here, and though I’ve slept fewer than 10 hours since last Thursday, it’s apparent that there will be no dozing for me this evening either. I am, you see, in a state of disrepair, and my mind will not quiet. “But this is regular life, for you, Yawps!” you exclaim, and with reason. It is not out of the ordinary for me to go days without sleeping, but this, this is something else. There is pressure here, pressure of a sort I’ve never encountered, and a kind of hopeless helplessness that is devouring me and precluding any easeful moments. Peace has left me and that old familiar anxiety has taken residence in the pit of my stomach again, churning out the jitters like a crafter with a thriving Etsy shop.

This morning I underwent an ECV in an attempt to get the Littlest Yawps pointed in the right direction for the natural and unmedicated birth that I’d been preparing for since that October day I was assured of her existence and imminent arrival. I braved the necessary IV (it would require an entire post to describe what the practice of having needles stuck into my body does to me) and signed the informed consent paperwork, and then submitted bravely to the almost barbaric process of trying to externally rotate a baby into a head down position. It took extreme concentration to relax into the pressure exerted upon me by the doctor, who used her full body weight to attempt this task. I was breathing as well as I could through the ‘discomfort’ when I caught a fleeting look of sheer fear at the violence of the procedure on the Old Man’s face. There but for an instant, it told me everything I needed to validate the fact that I was enduring something quite unreal.

It was, goddamn it, all for naught. The Girl refused to turn.

And so, here I am, at 38 weeks, running out of time, and expected to show up to a doctor’s appointment tomorrow to schedule a day and hour to have her surgically removed.

I am a person of words, and yet my words fail me. The overabundance of feeling is drowning me and I can’t seem to get ahead of it.

My community has been so supportive, but the outpouring of love and platitude has left me hollow and somewhat irritated-not because I don’t appreciate the concern and effort, and not because it isn’t all heartfelt, but because I am who I am, good or bad.

Yes, I am healthy and so is The Girl. Neither of us is in imminent danger, and this is not an emergent situation. YES, I AM THANKFUL FOR THAT, and yes, I recognize it for its rightful power and truth and LUCK for not being otherwise. But to hear over and over that BECAUSE THAT IS SO, every other feeling and disappointment is nullified and “won’t matter once I hold that sweet baby in my arms” is a platitude that I cannot abide and makes me wonder, “Don’t you KNOW ME?”

So much in my life is based on the process and road it takes to get somewhere. I form ideas of how things SHOULD BE and make plans to ensure that they ARE. I attach value to the journey and, in the end, the shape of the experience, and so, IT MATTERS how I get there. The blow of blown plans affects me ways much different, I suspect, from everyone else around me, and I can see it in the visceral reaction I have when confronted with knowing looks and matter-of-fact statements like, “Just you wait” and “Oh, you’ll see” or “You say that NOW….”

Yes, I say that now, because it is the TRUTH. Yes, the important thing is that we are both healthy and not endangered, but that DOES NOT MEAN that I will forget about the fact that I wanted so badly for it to happen in a certain way, and circumstances beyond my control prevented that from being a possibility. A medicated, surgical birth IS a big deal, and it is mutually exclusive from the fact that we are both healthy.

I can be thankful and relieved by one AND completely devastated by the other. It’s allowed, and I don’t feel especially guilty for saying so.

Beyond this, I am feeling rushed into a decision that I don’t yet feel comfortable making. There is still time and some recourse, albeit little and a longshot. There is a chiropractic technique that I can avail myself of that has indicated some success, but after numerous unreturned phone calls this afternoon, and a doctor’s appointment tomorrow where I will be asked to set a B-Day, I am feeling pressed and pressured to a point I never felt possible.

It is hard to say NO to doctors, because really, WHAT DO I KNOW? What part of the information that I am receiving is just a practiced norm and what part is a genuine risk? These people are well-educated and experienced but it is MY BODY AND EXPERIENCE. We are both healthy and doing well, so why would I not give her every opportunity to turn on her own, up until the last minute? Why must I choose a day when, in the end, I could have a surgical birth all the way through the moment she decides that it’s time on her own? None of the answers I’ve been given have answered these questions to my contentment, and they’re all still bouncing around my head with the aggravation and sadness and disappointment.

So here I am, listening to the quiet of the night roar in my ears, with no action to take until a tomorrow whose arrival is delayed by sleep’s absence. The Girl is playing quietly but with fervor down there, unaware of the turmoil she’s already causing as she gives the Nurture portion of the argument a run for its money. This is the first of many boundaries she and I will explore together.

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Make Like A Fetus, Please; A Prayer

Dear Baby Girl,

I knew when I first learned of you, that the lessons in patience I’d that far learned were to be but little dots of color in a broader work; the fuzz of a Monet up close. I wasn’t so naïve as to think that I was prepared for all you, all your existence, entailed. I have passed these months in silent preparation for your arrival, quietly opening myself to the change following soon upon your heels.

But your heels, my beautiful girl, are faced in the wrong direction. So while I know that I am sent to you to open the doors of the world, and you to me as graduate work in patience and flexibility, there is one last thing that I would like to plan to a T, and that is your grand entrance.

So please, sweet girl, know that I have spent these months caring for you the way I will always care for you and do not make this the first exertion of your inevitably stubborn will.

I need you to turn around.

Turn around so that we can begin your life together free and unclouded. Turn around so that I may hit the ground running with you and not waste time in sluggish recovery. Turn around so that I may nurse you and not myself.

You will have plenty of opportunity to teach me how to handle plans gone awry and unexpected U-turns; how to go with the flow and follow detour signs. Plenty of chances to drive me crazy and dye your hair blue for school pictures. But on this, I plead with you; turntuRNTURN. A little flip so that I may bring you into the world in the way I had planned; in the way that is best for you.

Just a little turn. Please.

Beyond Borders

So, when I got pregnant, I was totally unprepared for just about everything.  The Armchair Mommies and other assorted backseat parenters, the completely overwhelming task of creating a gift registry and the equally daunting job of finding a nice way to tell all gift-givers to PLEASE NOT VEER FROM IT, the nightmare that is maternitywear to any self-respecting clothes horse.  Everything is a goddamned process and the entire world looks at you with a knowing smile while they shake their heads smugly and tell you with a condescending sneer “Oh, you’ll see…” or “Not what you expected, IS it?” 

Most of those things, I can handle, because thankfully I still have a mouth that functions much as it did pre-parasite, though perhaps a bit LESS filtered due to hormonal tempest.  I have no problem being clear with people who cross a line and I’m completely past worrying if telling people to stick to a registry lacks etiquette (If Emily Post disagrees, then she obviously never played host to an unruly passenger), and if I’m honest, the prospect of wearing stretchy black pants and oversized tunics for the next 5 months isn’t exactly a poke in the eye with a sharp stick; I can do a lot with accessories and shoes. 

But what I can’t handle, what is proving to be THE WORST, the sand in my vagina, is the complete malfunction of every bodily system of my corporeal being.  My body is no longer my own.  At all.  In the slightest.  Yet with each new malady, my physical form rebels against my nature and shouts at the sky: “THANK YOU SIR, MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?!”           

At the beginning, the nausea came riding in on a bile-colored steed, an evil harbinger of things that would never be the same.  It took my appetite and energy and will to live, and, sustained on a couple of saltines and some flattened ginger ale, I crawled through the weeks, cursing the Sacred Mother and the womb she rode in on. 

It eventually released its stranglehold, but with the dawn of the 4th month, the instant I relaxed into a good meal of solid food, the constipation descended, and the hits keep on coming.  I can move and exercise, but only so much before my heart starts pounding and the blood rushes to my head.  My balance is shot and while before, I approximated a baby deer just getting its sea legs whenever treading uneven ground, I must find a stable seat to even put on socks. 

I can no longer enjoy cheese without intense discomfort and I can feel my organs being squeezed into a smaller space, hip-checked out of the way by the mannerless thug(ette?) that has taken residence.  There is cramping in my lower abdomen as my uterus explodes out of its rightful place, a roommate with shit overflowing, heedless of personal bubble.  Pants are abandoned and meals cut to a third of their rightful size lest reflux rear its acid-head to chew holes through stomach and esophagus. 

What was once a strong and defined shape is now rounded and overflowing; the cup runneth and runneth, expanding beyond boundaries, turning soft and pliant where once it knew angles and borders.  Even my mind is full to bursting, overripe with the effort of remaining contained, exhausted and split beyond its skin. 

There is nothing, I contend, that is beautiful about this process, and I am apt to call a liar the girl who beams beatifically saying that she LOVED being pregnant.  I can smell the smoke of her pants from here, aflame from the fib as I lie awake writhing from stomach cramps because I haven’t shit in 3 days.  I shake my head at her in disbelief as I finish yet another novel in the wee hours because sleep won’t come despite my exhaustion, and is only to be interrupted anyway when some tiny foot trods blithely on my bladder. 

This body, no longer mine, is instead the domain of its yet-to-be issue, and while I relish the future and envision the tiny hands and eyes, I cannot glory in or express joy for the nerve it has to so completely usurp that which it doesn’t have the voice to ask for kindly.  I have been taken over, and there is nothing pleasant about it.  There is no miracle here, only discomfort and unease with the promise of more in hoards.  Each morning I shower and run the loofah over an alien landscape, distended and misshapen, veiny, plump and awkward.  With these new dimensions my self is shed and every inch becomes less my own. 

Where is that beauty?  That miracle?  That reason for being?  As my waist disappears, so does that idea.  It was a myth.  A misty legend meant to lure strong wills into the depths, to sugar-coat and make palatable a less convenient and infinitely more lurid and unseemly truth.  I am hijacked.  And my body, apparently, negotiates with terrorists. 

Building Castles In The Sky

So there you are down there, all snug in the armor that is the soft tissue of my body, nuzzled in for the long haul.  You are so tiny, but the havoc you have wreaked has already brought me quite literally to my knees.   I had asserted, quite matter-of-factly, that I would avoid sickness simply by deciding to forego it, by denying its existence and continuing to live with my customary vigor.  I realize now the error in that logic.  So tiny, and already pointing out my limitations. 

If we are to make this work, you and I, we must start off on the right foot, and for me, that requires full disclosure.  You’re only just growing feet, so you’ll have to let me decide how this is to be done for the both of us. 

What you should know first, is that you nearly weren’t.  You’ll learn this in the years we spend together, as I’m sure the people I surround myself with will delight in telling you.  You’ll also hear some “Well, I knew all along,” but those people are full of shit and you heard that here first.  You very nearly weren’t, and truth be told, though you were planned, I find myself wondering what in the fuck I’ve done and what could have possessed me to make this choice.  I’ve even seen you on a screen once, and I’m thankful I was alone, because to share that moment with someone else, would have meant to pretend to feelings that were conspicuously absent.  I cannot feel you yet, or see your marks on my body and so, in a sense, I am in denial of your existence. 

You are there and not there and that is how I am learning to live with you. 

I will not pretend to maternal instinct.  You will not be born to a mother with a soft heart and milk-and-cookies demeanor.  I’ve spent tens of years denying you existence, so, though I’ve chosen you, you will be a product born despite that past conviction.  You will puzzle before you delight and who you are will invariably be coloured by the fact that your very being is confounding. 

You terrify me. 

So for now, I concentrate on the delight in the eyes of your grandparents Sciolino and Moore when they learned of your imminent arrival. I think of the return of King Farglebargle stories and the fact that little feet keep old souls young.  I think of you with a book in your hands and a too-smart-for-your-own-good comment on your lips as I remember that I am paying for my raising.  I think of your hand in your father’s and our laughter as we realize that you’ve grown taller than me so swiftly.  I think of all these things because the reality is still a little bit too much. 

So here we sit, you and I; a little stand-off that I have no hope of winning.  I could apologize now, I know what I’ve had to say isn’t very reassuring.  But I’m certain there will be many apologies in our future so I won’t start prematurely.  Instead, let’s agree that we’re on this road together, just the two of us, picking our way as we go. 

I Am A Serene Lake At Dawn

Reverb13:  Day 18

Peace:  In the midst of living, did you find moments to breathe?  Were there moments that held you in the embrace of peace and quiet and pure contentment?  Did these moments catch you by surprise or did you create the space for peace to find you?

 

It may surprise you, Dear Reader, to discover that I am not a peaceful soul.  My mind races constantly and I’m easily distracted.  I am a worrier, a doomsday naysayer, a pessimist and a sufferer of severe and chronic agita.  The slightest sound and I am up for the night, beset by insomnia and Restless Everything Syndrome.  A small stressor and my bowels revolt, setting phasers to either Frequent or Maybe Once This Week If You’re Lucky depending on their whim.  I feel injustices acutely and my fight-or-flight response has a hair trigger with a split end.  It ain’t no reaction if it’s not an OVERreaction.  Anxiety attacks, night terrors, rage issues…these are all part of my every day.  

I’ve tried yoga and meditation, massage and acupressure.  Talk therapy, light therapy, narcotic therapy.  None of them have ever been anything but fleetingly effective.  And you know what?  It’s okay.  It’s taken some time, but I’ve gradually accepted that I will never be one of those “grow where you’re planted” zenmasters.  I’m just not wired that way.  There are no breathing exercises that slow the breakneck speed of my thoughts, and I’ll never exude the unadulterated joy and love that comes so naturally to the Dalai Lama, but I have discovered and cultivated small things that ease the pressure and make me fit for human consumption.  

And so, my tension hacks:

If my mind is on over drive, and I can’t breathe, I just breathe harder.  I go to the gym.  With the music loud and my body pushing pushing pushing to that edge, I am able to squeeze out everything but what is happening in that specific moment.  When I am hitting those plyo lunges and tuck jumps and my quads and lungs are burning and nausea is justthisclose, there is nothing else that my mind can focus on beyond the immediate discomfort and the gritty determination to bang out 15, 14, 13, JUST 12 MORE perfect reps.  And when those reps are finished, and my heart rate slows to normal, there is nothing left in that tank but this perfect exhaustion; a quiet moment of fatigue and accomplishment where I won and was more powerful than the anger, the stress, the anxiety.  For that 30 or 55 minute session, I am able to let the beat take over, switch on to autopilot, and rest my weary head.  

I also read.  A lot.  The voices in my head are like children and kids love a good story.  If I want them to shut up, I simply ply them words expertly woven and let my eyes fly across the page.  If the author knows her stuff, those beasts are lulled to sleep on a flight of fancy, and I’m thankful for the reprieve, those little moments where the problems are not my own and go away with the simple folding shut of a cover.  

And beyond those two things, temporary fixes for a permanent problem, there is the one, the end all, the panacea, The Coast.  The closer I draw to a roaring body of water, the quieter my demons’ rattling chains.  If perchance, I am able to dip my toes into salty water, their wailing stops completely and every buzzing sinew of my frame slows to my breath and suddenly I am made of patience and peace.  There is a small caché, my Beach Cottage Fund, which grows slowly over the years, but steadily, as dime by dime, I approach my own piece (my own PEACE), a little house on the water with a slanted board fence and mismatched pottery mugs on the shelves.

So peace is something that I have to fight for, to work towards, to work FOR.  It is an effort, and costly, and I pay for it with the violence I wage every day against myself.  I cannot imagine that 2014 will be any different.  I am me, with a capital H-I-G-H-S-T-R-U-N-G, and the two hours it took to bang out these words are proof.  But I cope, and I function, and I am able to create spaces of quiet, and that may be half the battle.   

Go If You’re Going

Deverb-Because venting is healthy too.  

Prompt 7:  Road Rage….You can eliminate one type/category of driver from the roads; describe the poster child for this type.  

 

My very best girlfriend on earth is from Long Island, NY.  She is everything your preconceived notions tell you she is; brash, outspoken, and accented in that stereotypical, tri-state way.  We met in college, and have taken a fair number of road trips together in a varying array of vehicles, ranging from Barely-Limping-Along to, Hey-Look-I’m-A-Grown-Up-Now.  Together, we would bomb down the throughway on any of our various adventures, smoking cigarettes and blasting music, reveling in the freedom our friendship afforded us.  

Early on in our relationship, while stuck in traffic on the Hutchinson River Parkway (The Hutch), she used a phrase that I promptly stole and continue to use liberally to this day:  “Go if you’re goin'”

Go if you’re going.  Shit or get off the pot.  Speed up, or, if you value your life and rear bumper, GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY.  

-If you are in the far left lane, doing less than the posted speed limit, you are an asshole.  Get out of the way.  

-If you are in the far left lane, and there is no one in front of you and no one to pass in the lane to the right lane, you are an asshole, get out of the way.  

-If you are in the far left lane and are driving the same speed as the person in the lane to your right while there is a line of cars behind you, you are an asshole, get out of the way, then go home and slam your head in a door.  

-If you are on a two-lane highway, and there is a line of cars behind you that numbers 3 or more, you’re an asshole.  Pull over and let them pass.  

-If you are on a two-lane highway, doing less than the speed limit with a line of cars behind you that numbers 3 or more and you come upon a dotted yellow and proceed to speed up so that those cars can’t pass in the allotted span, YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE and deserve a sound beating.  

If you are any of the above people, and, by some miracle, I manage to make my way around you, you DO NOT GET TO BE MAD AT ME.  Save your middle finger, save your gesticulating hands, save your rolled down window and hurled half attempts at insults because it is YOU that is the fuckwad jackass.  If I were rich, I would have rammed your car with impunity and then strangled you at the side of the road when you pulled over.  

GO IF YOU’RE GOING.  There is no reason to maintain the position of prestige in the passing lane when you’re not going to make use of it.  It isn’t a lane for your highness.  It is a lane to GO FAST AND AROUND.  You are the cause of 98.6% of the rage on the road.  The oblivion in which you live is an addled haze of entitlement to which you have no right.  

Get out of the way, and as I pass, I will wave and smile and say, Thank you, thank you for being aware of your surroundings and recognizing that you exist in a community whose harmonious existence relies on the courtesy of it’s members.  

Don’t be an asshole.  Go if you’re going.  

Back Against The Record Machine

This prompt was for Project Reverb on Day 11.  I’ve been off for a few days, so a free write is just what I needed.  

 

Write for five consecutive minutes on the word “jump” as it pertains to this past year.  No editing.  Set a timer.  Just write.  

 

This is it.  Make a decision.  To do or not to do.  I’ve been thinking about it.  Worrying about it.  Fleshing out the years and years and years I’ve spent forming an opinion about it.  Do it.  Do it.  Don’t do it.  What are you thinking?  Seriously?  What’s the point?  Are you certain?  Certain that this is the path that you want to be on?  How committed are you and what if and think about and if only and flash forward and failure and burning and flames.  Look at those eyes and believe, but I don’t believe and how on earth can I pull it off and who am I kidding?  And one two three jump but my feet are still planted firmly on this cliff’s edge and I saw it but it’s not real and no feelings at all and did I tell you….NO FEELINGS??  Just a dead space and no time left and what in the fucking shit is this going on inside my head?  I felt the leap but my feet are still here and the water is still below me and I could feel the dip in my stomach but my feet ARE STILL HERE, planted.  And everyone is leaving and what if they’re gone and no one sees and everyone judges and I’m not the same….but I’M THE SAME I’M THE SAME DON’T LEAVE ME think less of me cease desiring my company because I am still here and the same.  

She Did What?

Reverb ’13 Day 4:  Grieving

What have you lost?  What are you grieving?

Image

I should have seen it coming.  I really should have.  I should have seen the change, the shift, the evolution, of someone I knew into someone I didn’t care to know at all.  I should have called out the warning signs and noticed the white lies, the spin that her stories began to take on.  I should have seen it coming, and stopped that train in its tracks, but instead, I blundered on, and let that train hit me, head on.  I can’t even say that I’m grieving, because the anger is still alive and real.

And so, an open letter to a friend de-friender:

It was instant, when we met you, the friendship; a forever thing, a don’t-let-go thing, a you-are-ours-always thing.  You balanced us and added that mindfulness and buoyancy that our bodies were somehow incapable of producing.  Your giggle, that giggle, was contagious, and the medicine for all that ailed.  You gave us the hippy dance and art and an easy, natural beauty that we envied.  You were quiet and reserved and careful with your thoughts, and that forced us both to listen harder; it made us better.  I loved you then and I love you now but you are not you anymore and all I can think to say, is FUCK. YOU.

Fuck you for vanishing into thin air like the 13 years past were mere days, and insignificant.  Fuck you for hiding behind social media and letting it do the nasty work for you.  Fuck you for disappearing that night, leaving me stranded and drunk so that you could do the dirty, and then leaving me to break the news to the broken heart you’d left on the line.  For flaking out for a swinging dick and not having the balls yourself to OWN UP TO IT.  For not listening to WHY I had to cancel.  For making me pull up short when I begin to dial your number to share news.  For lying.  For abandoning.  For sins against sisterhood.  FUCK.  YOU.

Some day the anger will vanish, I’m sure, and I’ll paint over the shadow on the wall where our picture hung.  There will be a throw rug and an end table decorating the spot in my heart that was held for you and maybe even a candle in memoriam.   My thoughts will wander over you and the scab will be gone and your face will be filtered through light.  The hurts will fade out and the laughter will remain in the rose-colored light of time.  But for now, there’s a crevasse and a furrow in my brow, and this middle finger’s for you.

In Your Facebook

First, let me send more than a little “shout out” to @GeekinHard for taking a little idea that started with a flippant tweet, and turning it into an ACTUAL THING with virtually no notice.   This is going to be a field day for those of us with no filter and hair triggers.  Thank you.  

DEverb; Prompt 1:

How many friends do you have on Facebook?  How many would you have if you had to hang out and interact with them regularly?  Who would be the first to go, and why?

As of press time, Facebook puts me at 216 people on the friends list, and I’m proud to say, I run a pretty tight ship.  After a glance over the smiling faces of the people I know, I’m pretty confident that I wouldn’t mind spending time with any of them regularly.  As a rule, I am pretty swift with my de-Friending.  I’m sure, Dear Reader, that you’re not surprised to learn that.  I don’t suffer fools well, so I long ago got rid of the homophobes, the closet racists and all the cunty girls with gossipy mouths bigger than their asses.  Life is too short to have to read some bullshit about the sanctity of marriage from some bitch who’s already been divorced, and, not for nothing, gave her husband herpes.  

This is not to say, however, that I don’t sometimes dream of a social cleansing.  Here’s who has to go:

1.  The Sportsball fans.  Not the ones who love a team and post about it, but the ones who take it too seriously and can’t handle good-natured joking about their teams.  The ones whose feelings ACTUALLY BREAK when they read memes written at their team’s expense.  The ones whose rage shines through if you even SUGGEST that maybe there exists a better fan somewhere, for some other team.  These people make me want to strap them to a chair and make them watch as their favorite quarterback, let’s say, Russell Wilson, gets peed on by the entire starting line-up of my Buffalo Bills.  The future comments on my Facebook wall over this assertion are already proving my point.  

2.  The Attention Whores.  You do NOT know 1,347 people on a personal level.  You know it and I know it.  You’re here because your self-worth depends upon the adulation of others and your 364 profile pictures (roughly half of which show you either half-naked or wrapping your duck lips around an imaginary dick) prove it.  

3.  The Likers.  I hate to break it to you, but that poor kid STILL has feline AIDS even though you liked and shared his photo.  Maybe next time set up a couple proxy accounts and try harder.

4.  The Compulsive Commenters.  I asked for some advice on how to best clean my dog’s ears.  You responded that one time, when you were 12, a girl you knew touched a dog’s ear and sneezed.  Thanks.  I’ll keep that in mind.  

and finally:

5.  The Arrogant Arguers.  Facebook has the potential to be a an incredible space for the spreading and sharing of ideas.  An arena where we could learn and grow from the points-of-view of others.  A kind of symposium for understanding ideas that differ from our own.  It is, instead, a forum for people to post biased and rhetorical propaganda at decibel levels so insane as to cut off rational back flow.  If your article didn’t have sources, your point is invalid.  If it came from The Onion, it is invalid, and you need a helmet for getting enraged about it.  If I can see which side the author stands on a particular issue, it isn’t a balanced publication, and you need to learn the difference between a work of journalism and an editorial.   

I’m sure that somewhere, I’m on your list for my potty mouth, or your list for my incessant snark, but this isn’t YOUR DEverb post, so suck it.

Cut Away The Rotten

Reverb ’13, Day Two: Nourishment

What made your soul feel nourished this year?

 

As he stood there, screaming at me with a baby in his arms, the stale booze oozing from his pores and filling the air with its acrid stench, I did the mental calculations of what I was willing to pay for him to vanish out of my life, and more importantly, out of HER life and her boys’.  I pictured missing front teeth and inwardly shrugged.  Worth it.  A broken nose? wouldn’t be the first.  Jail time for throwing him down the stairs?  Self-defense.  When she took the baby from him, the rage in me grew, and as the spittle flew from the worthless hole in his gob, I felt the vibration start in the center of my chest.  With one calmly condescending retort he was reduced to a sputtering ball of cowardly incoherence and I watched with satisfaction as he retreated out of the house.  

Jarred, but calm, I did my best to console the oldest boy, and we all curled up on the couch, leaving the unspoken to lie, my heart breaking for my girl who I’d left alone on a different coast to fend for herself.  

In the midst of laughing at the dinner party scene in Beetlejuice, the three of us started upon hearing the lower door open, never for a second expecting the spineless lout to return that evening.  But return he did, and the vibration started again, spreading rapidly through my chest and into the tips of my fingers.   My breathing shallowed as his feet ate up the stairs and then caught completely in my closing throat, unable to finish the in or out.   When he reached the couch and bent to gently kiss the baby and then my fucking girl on the forehead, my vision clouded and all I could think was out ouT OUT!!  I rose on autopilot and fought the faint, willing the panic away and managed a call to her younger sister.  “I need you to come and get me” was all I said and I stuffed my belongings back in the North Face and went to wait on the curb.  And when she pulled up and handed me a cigarette, the years came round full circle and the story poured out.  

With the words, my voice evened out and the fight-or-flight subsided; a panic attack narrowly averted.  I found nourishment in those next hours, with a family I had chosen, that despite proximity, had no idea the truth of my girl’s life.  I cried at the timeliness of my visit and at my ignorance, and together we processed the reality.  We laughed nervously at my shaking hands and wondered how it had all gotten this far.  And then, the littlest sister, MY sister, who I’d known since she was 12, invited me out for drinks, and I took a moment to marvel at how she’d grown and suddenly become the woman before me.  

We choose our friends, hopefully wisely, and years pass without us knowing; and if we’re lucky, even in the darkest dark, we find ourselves able to shake our heads bemused.  How on earth is this 12 year old girl old enough to invite ME for drinks?