Monday, May 30, 2011

Dating: Out There

I was sitting at my bff's house last night watching movies and expressing my dating woes. She's been married going 8 or 9 years and seems content to live vicariously through me. She calls me up every day so we can chat about kids, my job, her husband, and the lack of dating that seems to be my life. Last night as I was sitting on her couch, we were joined by a mutual friend. This woman has been single almost as long as I have. We are both jaded and are prepared to throw in the dating towel and just be content with a book and a slice of pie.

Or, in my case, Oreos.

"You just have to get out there and meet new people," my bff kept advising us. I am hesitant to take dating advice from anyone who has been in a relationship longer than a year. Why? Because the rules of engagement change so drastically, so quickly, that unless you have both feet in the arena, 'out there' can mean anywhere.

"Wes, you would probably find your dream guy at the bookstore. Or somewhere else. You just got to get out there."

Which brings up the whole point of this blog post. Where exactly is 'out there'? And how do I find it?

When I was single, in my early 20's, out there was the club. No question about it. The club was my home every Friday and Saturday night. I met the most interesting people there. Of course, to be fair, after a few shots of tequila, just about anyone is interesting. Still, when people referred to getting 'out there' to meet people, I knew what they meant. But, 10+ years and two children later, I have no interest in the club scene. I say leave that to the generation of 20-somethings coming up behind me. Let them tackle the testosterone field meat market that is now home to over priced drinks. Let the younger, less satiated, combat the numerous social diseases you can get from sitting on the public toilets. To me, you take your life into your own hands when you enter those places.

I'd rather stay home. At least I know my bathroom is clean.

"It takes time," she advised me. Our mutual friend agreed, but shared my impatience.

"You know, I think I'm just going to give up," our friend said as she folded her arms across her chest. "I'm giving up on online dating also. These guys read my profile and totally misrepresent themselves. First impressions mean so much, and they show up on a date looking like they are ready to go out into the woods."

I haven't done much online dating. As a matter of fact, I have been on precisely two dates that originated on the computer. On the first date, the guy showed up drunk and proceeded to try to unsnap my bra in front of my friends. I ended that night by threatening to throw him out of a moving vehicle. The second date just didn't lead anywhere. We decided to remain friends. There was no chemistry. No spark. Nada.

And, in all honesty, I don't really like online dating. When I do the exchange of the basic pre-dating information, I want to hear their voice. I want to look into their eyes. I want to see their body language as they describe the demise of their previous relationships. In my opinion, this is how you get to know someone. Nothing else can take the place of it.

But, what works against me is my dork. In the event that I do meet someone that holds my interest, I turn shy and start stuttering. I manage to make an ass of myself before I get the first two words out.


A guy that I have a nice size crush on returned a phone call of mine Friday. It was a legitimate call. I had recently gotten a tattoo and he was the one that performed the work. Good work too. So, he calls and his name shows up on caller i.d. Seeing his name on my phone caused me to get so nervous that I dropped it while I was driving down the road. Two dead squirrels and an injured possum later, I retrieved it from under my seat and proceeded to put forth my sexiest 'hello'.

"Yeah. I got a message from this number and I was returning it."

"You don't know who this is, do you?"

"No, I can't place the voice."

"This is Wes. You did work on me Wednesday?"

"Right! Hey love, how are you?"  Unfortunately for me, his 'love' came across as 'Mitch'. I have no clue how.

"Did you just call me Mitch?"

"No! I would never call you bitch! I don't know you that well!! Not all us guys are assholes."

Dork. I became so flustered that I actually forgot my whole purpose in calling. I eventually found my ground, but not before making myself look like a total spastic.

So, what do I do? How do I find the elusive 'out there' and keep my cool when I speak to someone? How can other women make it look so effortless? I see these women, who manage to stay single less than a month, and think to myself: 'See, it's easy enough. She did it. And I bet she can answer the phone without taking out a whole squirrel population.'

Maybe I should revisit the whole online dating scene. At least that way, no animals will be harmed.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Knock. Knock. Knock.

I don't know how long the person's been knocking at my door. It's one o'clock in the morning and I'm not sure that I'm even hearing the noise correctly. I roll over on to my side and try to get comfortable again. Whoever is outside the house can come back during waking hours. Sighing, I find a cold spot in the sheets and nestle down into it.

"Mommy," I hear my little one call out for me. He is standing in the door way to my bedroom. "Someones knocking on my door."

"I know, baby." Yawning I tell him to ignore it and go back to bed. I hear his little footsteps retreat as I begin my decent into sleep.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

No. No. No. I am not answering the door. I open one eye to see that it is now 2:30 am. There is no way I am opening that door to anyone at this hour. Whoever it is is up to no good. I get up to look out my window, but the front door is not visible to me. I can only see the side railing of the porch.

"Momma," my son yawns. "I hear the knocking again."

"I do too." I tell him. "Come on. Let's go put you back into bed."

"I don't want to go to my bed." He twists his little four year old face up at me. "I'm too scared to sleep there. Can I sleep with you?"

My son has made a habit of sleeping with me almost every night since I left his father over six months ago. I am trying to break him of this. It doesn't help matters that I find the rhythmic sounds of his breathing just as soothing as he finds my presence. We have been playing a game with each other for the past couple of weeks. I pretend to make him sleep in his bed. He pretends to obey, but always manages to sneak in beside me when he thinks I've fallen asleep. It's unhealthy for both of us, but I figure he'll grow out of it. Or at least I hope he will.

However, tonight I finally put my foot down. I told him he had no choice but to stay in his own room. Using phrases like "big boy" and "little man" I convinced him that he didn't need me anymore. The trick seemed to be working until someone decided to come and bang on my front door in the middle of night.

I walk him to his room, which rests on the opposite end of the house. I ignore the front door and the mysterious visitor on the other side. I'm not too worried about it. Two months ago a similar situation occurred. Only it was closer to eleven at night. The late night guest happened to have the wrong house. Living in a neighborhood can have those sort of disadvantages.

Still half asleep, I don't realize that my little boy has come to a complete stop in front of me until I almost fall over him. He stands, frozen, in front of his bedroom door. I lean down to him. In the glow of the digital clock on the cable box, I can see the look on his face.

"Baby," I take his face into my hand. "What's wrong?"

"There's a monster in there, mommy." He whispers to me. Fear colors his eyes. I gather his small body into my arms. I feel him tremble as I hold him to me.

"Monsters don't exist." I tell him.

He looks at me, eyes wide with terror.  "Can I sleep with you tonight?" 

Quietly, I carry him back across the living room into my bedroom. I tuck him into the comforter and wrap my body around his. We both drift off into an uneasy sleep.

There are no more knocks at the door.


By the next morning, I have all but forgotten about the knocking. My son is sitting at the table with his older sister. She, having slept through everything the previous night, is oblivious to our sleep deprived state. She is chatting away about school and how excited she is to be going to the media center.

"Sissy," my boy whines. "Stop talking so much. I'm tired."

"Momma," Laura begins to tattle. "Jason told me to hush. That's not nice."

"Honey," I say as diplomatically as I possibly can. "Your brother is tired. Neither of us slept good last night. Try to keep the chatter to a minimum please."

My daughter looks to her brother with worry. "What's wrong? Why didn't you sleep good?" She asks him.

"Somebody kept knocking at the door." He informs her. "It scared me. It was a monster."

"Oh, don't be a silly-nilly." She tells Jason. "There's no such thing as monsters."

"See, I told you." I kiss my tired four year old on the head. "Even your sister agrees with me." I smile at her to show my appreciation. More often that not, Jason will look to his older sister for guidance before he looks to me. It helps when Laura and I are on the same page.

She nods approvingly. "That's right. No monsters. Besides, that was Paint knocking. He was wanting to come out and play."

I sit down at the opposite end of the table. I look at my beautiful daughter and inquire as to who Paint is.

"Well, he's my friend." She tells me. "He's very special. "

"How so?"

"He's an orphan. His parents died a long time ago. So, that makes him special." She says with wisdom that only six-year-olds have.

"Why was he knocking on my closet door?" My son asks her.

I go to correct him. I inform him that the knock came from the front door.

"No it didn't." They say in unison. "Momma," Laura says as she stands to put her breakfast plate in the sink. "He was knocking on Jason's closet door. I keep the door to my closet closed at night. So, he probably went to try and come through Jason's room."

"Why do you keep your closet door closed?" I ask.

"Because if I didn't, he'd always be in my room wanting to play." She states matter-of-fact. "He travels through closets. But, I think he can get around in other ways too."

"How so?"

"I saw him in the bathroom mirror once."  Not knowing what else to say or do, I gather the kids up and usher them off to school. 

On the way to work, I marvel at the imagination of my daughter.


Later that evening, I am tucking Laura into bed. Having spent a full day in daycare on little sleep, Jason shut his eyes and drifted off before we were able to finish our nightly prayers. Laura giggles as I kiss her forehead.

"I love you baby," I say quietly.

"I love you too." I begin to get up and leave her side. "Momma, can you shut my closet door?"

I go to try and shut the door, but it won't latch all the way. Again, I turn the handle and force it closed. The door refuses to obey my commands. It sits slightly ajar.

"I don't know what's wrong with this thing." I say. "I'm going to have to get someone to come over and look at it."

She sits up in bed. "Momma, if you don't shut it tight, Paint will get out."

"Baby, Paint is not real. He is just an imaginary friend."

"He is real." She says, nodding her head to affirm her belief. "I know he is. If he wasn't real, I wouldn't be able to see him."

Trying to close the door for a third and fourth time produces no results. Aggravated, I give up and push it as far as it will go. I place a stuffed animal at the base of it to keep it from swinging open.

"That'll have to work for now," I tell her. "I'm tired. I want to go to bed."

"What if Paint comes back and wants to play?"

"If Paint comes through that door," I say pointing to the closet. "You send him to me."


Cold hands. Icy fingers trail up my leg. I can hear a chuckle in the distance. I turn over to my side and reach for covers that are supposed to be there, but aren't.  I roll over to my other side and without opening my eyes, I reach out to find my comforter.
It's not there. But, something is.

I open one eye. Then the other. A smell reaches my nose before my eyes can adjust to the darkness. I catch the strong stench of rancid milk mixed with cookies. I gag as I reach for the light.

I wanna play.

He is laying beside me. I sit, frozen, looking at my daughter's imaginary friend.


In real life, he must have been about 10 years old. He has short carrot-orange hair. Freckles dot his face. A thousand freckles. Hideous freckles that ooze a black sludge. His eyes are yellow. His left eye dangles at his cheek. The right eye is bloodshot and sits a little too far back into his head. He grins a wild grin filled with decaying teeth. Reaching a hand out to me, he sits up in bed and begins to giggle.

His hands are ice cold. His finger nails are black and broken. He wears a battered flannel shirt. My eyes trail down his bloody jeans to his feet which are caked in mud. My bed is filled with dirt, leaves, and other outside debris.

Maggots crawl all around his feet.

I wanna play. Let's go play.

I can not handle the smell that escapes his lips. Before I can help it, I vomit last night's dinner all over him and me. Paint recoils in terror mixed with disgust. He begins to shriek at me.

Noooooo. I wanna play. Noooooooo.

I being to scream. Paint screams back. We sit there, in my bed, covered in vomit, mud, and maggots screaming at each other. Both of us, terrified and revolted, beyond recognition.

My daughter comes running into my bedroom; followed closely by her brother.

"Momma!" She yells. She comes to an abrupt stop at the foot of my bed. She carefully eyeballs the situation. Seeing his mother in bed with a corpse brings my son to tears.

"Momma!," He cries. "Momma, is that a monster? Momma, are you ok?" My poor baby wails.

"Run," I scream at them. I try to free myself from Paint's grasp. "Run and get help!"

Paint continues to scream at the top of his lungs.

"Stop it!" My six-year-old commands. "Stop all this screaming NOW!"

The room becomes silent. Jason looks from me, to Paint, to Laura, back to me again. I look to Paint, to my daughter, to my son, and back to my daughter. Paint stares directly at Laura.

I wanna play.

"Paint," my daughter points her finger to the zombie sitting in my bed. "Not another word."

Paint quickly shuts his mouth. In doing so, his bottom jaw falls into his lap. I can't help but feel a little bad for him. My daughter has such a stern way with words. I gently pick the bottom portion of his mouth up and hand it back to him.

Tank-ew. He mutters as he fixes his bottom set into place.

"I told you we couldn't play all the time." Her eyes are a blaze with anger. "Didn't I?"


"So, why did you sneak in here and scare my poor momma? Huh? Answer me."

I wanna playAnd you said to come here.  Paint lets go of my arm. He bows his head and looks away with shame.

My son walks over to him and rubs his other arm.

"It's ok." Jason soothes him. "It's just that it's late. We have school tomorrow. But, you can come back tomorrow night and play. Tomorrow's Friday. Right, Momma?"

They all three turn and look at me with hope filled eyes.

"Uh, sure...."I say.  

"Yay!" Laura and Jason cheer. Paint looks at me and grins.

"Does that hurt?" Jason asks Paint as he points to the eye that is hanging out of its socket.


"Let me help you with that." Before I can protest, my son has fitted Paint's yellow eye back into his skull.

I faint.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Insomina Part Four: The Raven

It has been such a long time since we last spoke. Therefore, I barely recognize him as he saunters into my bedroom. He leans against the door frame with a sigh of relief. He smiles to find me sitting up in bed. As I look up from the book I'm reading, I hear him sigh again.

"Glad to see you awake," he says.

I say nothing. I refuse to entertain the devil anymore than I already have.  But, the bastard's persistent.

"You and I have somewhere to go," he informs me.

Again, I say nothing. I bow my head and begin to pray while the zombie book I am reading rests in my lap.

The devil knows me. He knows my weaknesses. He listens to my prayers. Lucifer understands that given just the right amount of time, I will lose my train of thought and look up.

I stubbornly refuse to. As I am saying the Lord's prayer, I hear it. Not the beautiful cackle of his laugh; but the call of a bird.

The devil has disappeared. There's a raven sitting on my dresser.

I toss the book and the prayer to the side. The raven looks at me and utters another call.

"If you croak 'nevermore' I'm gonna shit a brick farm house," I tell him.

As if answering me, the raven flies out of my room. I hear a thump at my front door.

I forget the devil, my zombie book, and even my prayers. Sensing what the raven wants, I open the door and follow the creature out into the night.

No moon exists tonight. The darkness holds no greeting for me. The wind remains still. There is no evidence of any nightly creatures making their way in the moonless night. The raven gives me a moment to adjust to the darkness and then sets out down the street.  Away from the house.  Away from the children. Away from safety.

I do not hesitate to follow this black bird. It's not trust that forces me to pursue him. It is a force that I'm not familiar with. A pull that tugs at me and compels me to walk down the desolate street. I do not look back as my house that holds my children disappears from view. I only have eyes for the raven.

The neighborhood quickly falls way to a wooded landscape. The bird circles ahead.  Never to far away. Calling out to me to hurry.  It knows that dawn approaches. It tells me with every beat of its wings that once the sun begins to show, it will leave me there; caught in the purgatory that is the space between waking and dreaming.

I travel through brush and trees until I come upon a clearing.  The moon that was not there before, shines brightly over headstones and statues.  They mark the graves of people who died long ago.

The raven travels around one marker in particular. His weary wings rest as he lands on a statue of a black angel.  It is like no other that I have ever seen before.  The wings of this magnificent piece of stone spans at least six feet from one end to the other.  The feet of the statue are human and rest on a grave marker.  I can not tell whose grave it actually is.  The torso is long with scales chiseled on each side. It gives the granite a realistic look of breathing. The head holds nothing, but a set of closed eyes.  There is no hair to indicate male or female. No mouth to whisper its secrets. No ears to hear mine.

I look about the rest of the cemetery. Old tombstones reveal hundreds of graves. I am unable to read the ones nearby. The faces of the markers have been worn down with age.  Thus keeping the identities of those buried underneath a mystery.

I look to the raven, who continues to sit on the statue, for answers.

"Why have you brought me here? What do you want from me?"

Chah! The raven replies.

I glance at the statue. Unable to look away, I see that the illusion of the object breathing is not an illusion at all. 

It is breathing. Aginoal breaths. The breath of someone dying. Someone not long for this world any longer.

Frightened, I begin to back away.

"Don't go," it says.  I don't dare look around for the source of the sound.  I know already that the voice is coming from the raven.

"Why," I ask. I can not say too much.  My heart beats loudly in my ears.  I fear that the organ that beats so vigorously to keep me alive can be heard outside my body as well.

I swallow against the lump in my throat. I know I can not find my way back home. I desperately want be in my bed, cocooned in the safety of my covers.  Out here in the night, I am exposed.  The moon, with its fullness, reveals my weaknesses to the raven and the statue.  Before them, I stand alone, cursing my stupidity.  I am at a loss for hope. I have no strength to flee.

I am at the raven's mercy.

"This is my camp," the bird tells me. It indicates to the sleeping angel. "This is my warrior. He does my will when I call. He can not speak or hear.  But, he can listen to me."

"I'm going crazy," I say.  "All this time without sleep has finally done me in."

Chah! The raven calls.

I shake my head furiously as hot tears fall down my face.  I imagine my children, sleepily walking to climb into my bed only to discover me gone. Will they open the door in search of me? Will their travels land them here? In this hellish place?

The statue shifts its weight impatiently.

"My warrior is eager to get started," the raven informs me.  "A war is coming. Soon you will see the carnage, the blood shed.  Soon you will hear the cries from the damned as they realize their fate.  You will see this first hand."

"I don't understand," I sob. "Why will I see it? Why me? I don't want this."

Chah! The raven calls again.

The feet on the statue being to move. It wiggles its toes, bringing one foot up and down; then doing the same with the other.  It's as if the feet of this stone angel have lost all feeling and it is desperately trying to get the circulation back.

"Why you?" the raven mocks me. "Why poor, pitiful you? You are not the only one. But, you see. You observe when others are too busy to notice. You are awake when others dream.  You feel what others can not explain."

The earth begins to move. A force beneath the surface have awakened.  I lose my footing as the tombstones around me begin to crack.

"It is only a matter of time," the raven says. "Soon the dead will rise. Soon the moon will crumble. And you will be witness to it all."

I cry for God. I cry for grace and strength. I plead for the protection that only He can provide.  As the stench of rotting flesh hits my nostrils, I awake to discover I am alone in my room.  A check on the children find them asleep.  A check on the front door finds it wide open.

A raven is perched on my front porch.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Mother

My memories of my mother are clouded with mystery. I don't recall much, but a few smiles and a lot of hours away from us when she was working. My mother was a hard worker. She was an independent woman that wanted nothing more than to take care of herself and the kids that she didn't really want. She loved us; however we burst into her life unwelcome, with a sense of urgency that she was unprepared for. She did the best that she could do with the tools that her own mother gave her. It is not my mother's fault that the equipment she was handed down was faulty to begin with. She did the best she could.

When my mother was home, her hours were spent doing the household chores that come along with a family. My mother was a tidy woman. A type-A personality that demanded her home was sparkling clean. She had to do things herself. She taught my sister and I how to prepare a house, but she seldom gave us the responsibility. We were shooed away.  Instructing us to busy ourselves and stay out of her way. My sister retreated to her room to pour herself into the lives of others. She lived vicariously through Agatha Christie, Stephen King, and any other author that would lead her to a life outside of the home we shared. I would always make my way outside. My imagination was my escape. Outside, my friends and I would explore other worlds. We declared war on one another with pine cones, we discovered uncharted territories, formed secret clubs that required passwords and handshakes that were unknown to outsiders. Outside is where I lived.

The moments that I actually got my mother to myself were at night. At night she was all mine. At night when my sister slept in the bedroom we shared, I would climb into bed with momma. My mom was where I spent most my sleeping hours when I was young. Young enough to need the constant attention of my mother. Young enough to believe that whatever nightmares I may have; all I needed was a kiss from her to quiet the terror that lived inside my head. My mom was my solitude. She was my safety. She was everything to me. This was our special time. The only time that I could have her near me and feel the warmth of love spread over me as she wrapped her arms tightly around my small body.

I had a system that I'd follow to sneak into bed with her. I would climb out of bed at night and tip toe through out the house in search of my mother. My goal was to find her sleeping soundly. When this occurred, I would gently pull back the covers and climb in beside her. Unaware that she sensed my presence even before she heard the sound of my small foot steps, my mom would surprise me with a snug embrace as we settled into the comfort of the pillows and blankets. 

There were times during my quest for my sleeping mother that I would turn up empty handed. Unable to locate the missing woman in her room, I would search the other areas of our home. On more than one occasion I found her sitting quietly in the dark. A lighted cigarette would cast a shadow over her face; causing her to look forlorn.  In these rare moments, I caught a glimpse of the real woman who gave me life. Never knowing how to reach out to this stranger, I remained in the shadows. I'd stare at her, feeling as though I were intruding on a private moment not meant for children.

These were the times I found most troubling. These private moments where she'd hide herself from me. When she'd retreat into the recesses of her mind and think the thoughts that I was not privy to. She never gave up her secrets. On several occasions, during the brightness of the day, I'd ask her what she was thinking. She'd gently shake her head and tell me to go play. My mother's thoughts were private. She held me at a bay with her cloak of secrecy that she wrapped herself in. This woman, who I loved dearly without limits, never let me get to know her. She was always a title. She was a mother. A mother who held her daughter at night and worked for her family during the day.

As an adult, I can appreciate her for what she was. I talk of how hard she worked. How independent she was. It wasn't easy raising two children on her income. We were her job, just like the convenient store that she traveled to everyday. We were her responsibility.

The years have not been kind to her. She is sick. Both physically and mentally. Time with my mother drains me of any strength that I have. The personal attention that was denied to me as a child is heaped on me as an adult. My mother has turned from an independent woman to a clingy patient. It is hard for me to deal with the hand that life has dealt her. Try as I might, I can not help but long for the days of the reclusive woman she once was. The only thing that I know to do is be there when she calls. Answer her questions. Listen to her rants. Tell her I love her as much as she needs to hear it.

In the mean time, I make sure not deny my own children of attention and time they require. However, I find myself retreating into the hidden spaces of my mind. I catch myself taking longer in the shower; driving home slower than need be. I now know why my  mother hid from us like she did. It was the only way she could keep that part of herself sacred. That part that lived way before a husband or children barged into her life and stole from her what she couldn't give. The part of herself that isn't a mother. The part that isn't a wife. That beautiful part that is her.

A woman. No title.