Recently single, I have to stop myself from overcommitting to other things and causes. I want to start submitting my work to journals and presses. I want to start designing t-shirts and finish my zine. I plan a trip to Oakland to see my friend L. I say yes to weekends at the beach and housesitting. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all my ideas.
I've been trying to walk every day, but tomorrow I won't have time; I have to find a physical therapist to stop my stomach from doing that thing that feels like a snake coiling around my absent appendix. Level ten pain and screaming. It happens when I cough, or sneeze, or sit up too quickly. Once it happened when I was having sex. I worked through it. No biggie.
I’ve been going out less, so I've been walking a lot lately; a couple days ago I walked for almost two hours in the rain. I walked down the Springwater Trail, an old railroad track running through old-town Gresham. Near my house, it runs by a brick factory and the park and a cemetery. It goes under a bridge and over a bridge. While I walked, I thought about where I would camp in a zombie apocalypse.
A lot of people ride their bikes on this trail. I haven’t ridden a bike since 2008. I’m too scared I’ll fall and break a bone because of my osteoporosis. My friend H has osteoporosis. She still rides her bike though. Why am I such a scaredy cat? I guess I just keep remembering when I broke both ankles running on the treadmill. She found out she had brittle bones from a scan. I found out the hard way.
I went and had dinner with my grandpa at the Thai restaurant that my father says he likes better than the one where we normally go. Two teenage boys waited on us and the food was gross. They didn't serve alcohol. My curry tasted like they poured sugar into it. My grandfather told me about the book he's reading about Crazy Horse.
Sometimes there's no point in denying that you're sad.
I get rid of things that remind me of him – I unpack my overnight bag. Change the screensaver on my phone, wash and return the mason jars he sent me home with, full of homemade soup. I put the mix CDs he made me into the console of my car and keep them there, maybe I'll pull them out in a year or so.
But then every time I type "thanks" in a text to someone on my phone, the auto-predict function suggests his name next. (Thank you thank you thank you.) I know this will take years to change. “The” still prompts “waterfront” because that was the first text I sent on my phone, over a year ago. But now, it also suggests “reading” and “airport” too. So I guess that’s something.
I'm not angry. Ok, I'm a little angry. Mostly I'm just tired. I’m going to turn 34 Dammit.
I have friends who are always psychoanalyzing. Giving advice and psychoanalyzing. I try not to psychoanalyze why relationships end. What’s the point? Why blame yourself? But the older you get the more there are patterns. Alcoholics, pot addicts, workaholics. Everyone is addicted to something.
It occurs to me that I've wasted a lot of time getting over men.
And I get on okcupid again. My friend A tells me okcupid is like emotional cutting. I’m about to get on Facebook to see if she responded to my post asking her why. She says we should talk. Dammit, another date.
They ask you all kinds of questions on okcupid.
Are you happy with your life?
Yes or No. And how important is this. Irrelevant.
While we were dating, he taught me a life lesson. About setting goals. He said that each goal is like a platform and it’s wise to just have a couple. And if something doesn’t fit on that platform, get rid of it. Or something like that, I can't remember the exact metaphor.
But this lesson is something I keep with me, along with the fuzzy sweatshirt he gave me, with his work logo on it.
I drew him a picture of a squid holding an eggbeater for Valentines day. He hung it in his kitchen. He hung it upside down. I never told him I meant for it to hang the other way. Why? Because I guess it didn’t really matter. It was a squid. They don't stand up anyway. And depending on how you hang it, the squid was either swimming towards you or away from you. It didn't seem worth it to make him rehang it.
Being creative is the ability to take in unnecessary information. Maybe I’m too creative.
Two days after we broke up, I decided to quit teaching the writing group I’ve been leading for three years. It doesn’t fit on my platforms: Money, Getting my Real Estate License, My Own Writing, Health and Relationships.
It’s sad but it’s the right decision. My students were disappointed. S made a joke about me breaking up with the group too.
I wake up at one in the morning and can’t stop weeping. In this moment, I’m not happy with my life. I write him an email, telling him all the stuff I was too proud to say when we broke up. I’m not begging him to get back together, I just I have more to say.
He writes back to say that he plans on writing back.
I take a walk down Springwater trail. It’s miserably hot out. I’m wearing cut-off shorts with leggings on underneath.
All along the paved trail I notice little muddy paths running out into the woods. I've been too scared to investigate; I don’t want to stumble over someone’s illegal camp. But these leggings are so hot. So I walk down the next one I see. I’m headed down the bank toward the creek. Salmon berries and cedars and thick stalks of blackberry make it impossible to see where I’m going.
And then I’m at the base of an enormous cedar tree. It’s swooping branches bend over the muddy water. It’s been climbed and written on, I see where someone’s nailed stepping boards into it. To one side, in a small clearing, there is trash and the remnants of a camp.
I’m alone though, so I take off the leggings and tie them around my waist. Put the shorts back on. I want to stay here for a bit longer and soak up the green light filtering through the trees and watch the water flow by.
There are paths like this all along the Springwater Trail. It’d be fun to walk the whole thing and take pictures of them and just explore and write a story about it. But it’d be faster with a bike.
I ask my mother if I can borrow her bike to ride the Springwater Trail into Portland, all the way to the Willamette. I tell her it will be the first time I’ve ridden a bike in six years. “Wow,” she says.
My friend H with Osteoporosis has quit using Okcupid. She wouldn’t give me a specific reason, she just said it wasn’t for her. Everyone has their fears I guess.
Is it like riding a bike – loving again? No, it is possible to forget how to love.
Is it like getting back on a horse? I haven’t been on a horse since I was a teenager.
My friend A.M. says writing is brave. But it doesn't feel brave to me. Courage comes from the old French, le coeur, the heart. That sounds about right.
Is the point of getting back up on a horse when you’ve been bucked off, to get over your own fear, or to let the horse know you haven’t been defeated? I guess we’ll never know what a horse thinks.
It’s late. He writes back explaining everything and nothing. But it's enough and is comforting. He says he never felt quite comfortable around me, and when I think about it, deep down, I never felt quite comfortable around him either. Maybe I was just waiting to get used to it.
Maybe I thought that’s what being in a relationship was like, always being slightly ill at ease, like riding a horse knowing at any minute it could buck you off. That sounds exciting and dangerous.
Or maybe the point is trial and error. Or forgetting that you're even riding a horse.