mr. craig

fleeing

We were vacationing on the coast the night that Dad died. And when we came back, our things had all been packed up.

Arrangements were made for us to live for a while in the mountains, in a pair of rooms bestowed on us by Mr. Craig, Dad’s former boss. Just for a year or two, while Mum got back on her feet.

Dad never got along with Mr. Craig while he was alive, but I figured that death must have made them fonder.

My sister, being older, had a different take on it.

“For a good time, call Ann Catherine,” she scrawled on the sides of bus stops and underground tunnels, referencing Mum’s room number.

“Your father always believed you should have a good education,” Mum noted, upon sending Celia off to private school.

This was true. Dad always said that.

“Don’t make friends while you’re here,” Mum in turn instructed me, as regards my own education. “We won’t be staying long.”

While we never stayed anywhere long, even when Dad was alive, this type of counsel was new to me.

“She makes friends wherever she goes!” Celia once screamed angrily, of me and my accidental ease with people.

I wasn’t sure if I knew how not to, but I vowed to give it my full effort.

~

“This is Delilah,” the year five teacher announced my first day of class.

I slouched down deep in my seat and did my best to appear stand-offish.

“I expect all of you to introduce yourselves, find out two things about her, and submit them to me in writing by the end of the week.”

Oh dear.

I called Mum during morning recreation.

“I’m busy, Delilah,” she told me.

“They’re asking about me,” I tried to explain. “I’m not sure what to say.”

Mum sighed. “You’re a smart girl. Just make something up.”

I didn’t know quite what to make of Mum giving me permission to lie.

But in some ways, it was a relief. Life felt slightly off, and I couldn’t place what was happening anyway.

“Delilah’s father is a pilot. He travels a lot for work,” was what every child in the class would have written about me by week’s end. “She grew up in the country, where she had a horse named Shadow.”

When it came to creating a fictionalized life, I was, oddly, a natural.

And yet, even so, my thwarting of friends proved impossible.

“We’re not really friends,” I told Mum, upon being invited out with Brandy. “She’s just going to help me with maths.”

Mum was putting on lipstick in the vanity mirror, didn’t even look at me.

“It’s fine,” she permitted. “Mr. Craig is coming by after work, and it’s better you’re not here.”

I considered this.

Mr. Craig wore lots of silver jewelry inlaid with turquoise. Belt buckles, rings, bolo ties. I’d never really had an opinion about such a thing before, but lately silver and turquoise had become visually offensive to me.

“It’s unbecoming for men to wear jewelry,” I mentioned to Mum. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

Mum stopped dabbing her lipstick, shot me one of her sharp iceberg glares.

It was always fascinating how quickly Mum’s beauty could be transformed.

I could feel that she wanted to hit me, and a part of me wanted that as well.

All it would have taken was one more line, but I couldn’t think of one.

~

Brandy’s mother worked in a bar and wore flannel shirts that were mostly unbuttoned.

“Delilah’s dad is a pilot,” Brandy told her, as we sat on high stools at the bar’s counter, waiting on some peanut butter and marshmallow cream sandwiches.

“He’s not home very much,” I confirmed, easily.

“Oh, that must be so hard for your mom,” Brandy’s mother commented. “She must just worry herself sick about him.”

I pictured Mum. She really didn’t seem very worried. About anyone.

“I don’t have a mum,” I said.

I really didn’t mean to say it; I didn’t even know I was going to say it. It just came out.

“She’s dead,” I said then, trying to get some kind of a handle on the situation.

“Oh sugar, I’m so sorry!” Brandy’s mum cooed. She reached across the bar and placed her hand on top of mine. Her fingers were a little gummy, from the marshmallow cream.

I took my hand out from under hers and licked the sticky sweetness from it.

“It’s all right,” I told her. “It was a really long time ago.”

Idiotically, I almost said that she died before I was born.

“I never really knew her,” was what I chose instead.

~

Life went on like that for the better of two months.

Then one day I came home to find Mum packing our bags.

“Eldorado Place is open,” she informed me.

She was referring to a rental property that our family owned, in which we irregularly lived. During odd-numbered years or something. I didn’t know the algorithm for determining when we’d be there.

“The school year isn’t over,” I pointed out, knowing it made no difference.

Mum kept packing. I went outside and got sick in the snow.

I don’t know what happened to Mr. Craig. I never asked; Mum never told me.

I can say with relative certainty that neither of us ever missed him.

When we pulled up out front of Eldorado Place, Mum let out a big exhale, as if she’d been holding her breath this whole time.

“Let’s go in,” she said.

“I’m going to stay here a moment,” I told her.

Mum was piqued, and made no show of hiding it. But she went inside without me anyway.

I sat in the warm car with the dust motes.

Eventually some familiar neighborhood kids came by and knocked on the window. I rolled it down.

“We’re sorry to hear about your dad,” they said.

And suddenly, my dad was no longer a pilot, but a dead man.

And my mum? She actually belonged to me.

“Enough of this Delilah, get out of the car!” she came out then, yelling.

The neighborhood kids stepped away from us.

“She’s not my real mum,” I wanted to tell them.

But she was.

~

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mr. kane

finger

He likes me because of my thigh-high stockings.

I know this because he told me.

He’s charitable in his verbal appreciation of me.

Though I can’t be certain, I suspect his loquacity probably helps dispel thoughts of his dead, manic-suicide, ex-wife.

Filling up the space with sound.

I’m curious as to why there are no pictures of her in the house. I want to know if I look like her. Or decidedly don’t.

“This is the library,” he told me, on the tour. “I’m very proud of it.”

I perused the books at eye-level, having read every but one.

“Your degree?” I asked, in the abbreviated way I prefer.

Whatever degree he holds, I was guessing it to be similar to mine.

“Hmm?” he said, leaning in.

He placed his fingers delicately on the small of my back, as though that would help him balance himself while he listened so carefully to the two words I’d been asked to repeat.

I didn’t repeat them, thinking instead as I was about the tentative fingers on the small of my back.

There was something so sweet about it. Kind. Slow. Old-fashioned, almost.

“You don’t have to be afraid to touch me,” I allowed, turning, touching the top button on his shirt, as if to show him.

He’s tall. I like his height. And there’s something else I like, but I can’t quite place it.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said, completely genuine. “Please stop me if I do anything to hurt you.”

As if.

As if.

I tugged gently on his shirt, inviting his lips to mine with upward-facing eyes.

It’s perhaps unlike me to be so willing to look at a man as bravely, as nakedly, as I do him. But I sense in him a bizarre and wholesome sincerity.

“All right,” I agreed.

And that was a defining moment.

Mr. Kane liberally grabbed my bottom up in his hands, and went a little too wild in his kiss.

It’s fine. I understand. Exuberance.

I just wasn’t prepared for it.

Just as I wasn’t prepared for his ardency to grow and continue so immediately.

I was operating on the assumption that a bit of physicality would put him at ease, make way for the rest of it to be well-paced.

Likely because I’m an adult woman. And he an even-more-adult man.

But no. Once started, he was unable to back down.

“Okay,” I said, separating myself from him. “Let’s take a moment.”

He nodded eagerly, pretending to understand. But even so, I could tell the next hour was already written for him.

“I’m going to the wash room,” I let him know. “You just calm down.”

I knew he wouldn’t calm down while I was in the wash room. Even though I stayed in there a really long time.

And when I returned, I sat at a distance from him.

“So,” I began.

He walked over and sat on his knees at my feet, first adjusting the hem of my skirt, and then lifting it slightly.

“The stockings are really magnificent,” he wanted me to know.

“Okay,” I said.

He ran his fingers hypnotically across the cuffs of the stockings, smoothing and manipulating them so that they were in some kind of ideal symmetry I couldn’t comprehend.

“Are you a little OCD?” I questioned.

“OCD?” he echoed, the majority of his concentration still on the stockings. “No. Yes. Maybe. I’m really not sure. Yes, I suppose about some things I am.”

Unexpectedly, his body then lunged at mine. He coincidingly grabbed the back of my head in one hand in order to keep it from knocking into the lamp behind me.

An impressive maneuver, I suppose, stemming perhaps from his history of lacrosse. But no.

Despite his affections, some important part of me felt largely ignored.

I pushed him off and stood up.

“I’m sorry,” I told him “but this needs to be redefined.”

“That’s okay,” he assured me, simply.

And then, after a beat, “What are you talking about?”

He was avidly offering up his body, when what I needed, at least in part, was his mind. So I explained to Mr. Kane that he was heretofore no longer permitted to touch me.

“But you can otherwise direct me in whatever way you want.”

I explained to Mr. Kane that he was free to undress, but that my clothes were staying on.

“If you’d like me to touch you, I will. But you are absolutely not to touch me,” I reiterated, sternly. “If you do, I’m leaving.”

By this time, he’d already stripped off all of his clothes. I anticipated his being more shy than that. But men of his size seldom are, I suppose.

“On a scale of one to ten, how dirty am I allowed to talk to you?” he wanted to know.

“Ten,” I answered, curious as to what this tender-hearted man could devise.

To my great pleasure, he narrated the events with incredible articulation. I’ve never heard anything like it. Not one stutter, pause, error of speech. Just a fluid purging of words.

At some point, Mr. Kane positioned me reverse-kneeling on the couch. Positioned my hands on the couch’s back.

“Don’t touch me,” I warned, feeling him behind me.

“I won’t,” he reassured me.

He stretched his long arms around me. Put his hands down on either side of mine.

“I’ll keep my hands where you can see them,” he whispered, nuzzling his scratchy face all up in my hair.

Hair for which he then used the verb spill.

As in, “Now arch your neck, and let me feel your hair spill across my bare chest.”

And as promised, I did exactly as I was told, Mr. Kane looking down from just above me.

Mr. Kane, and his magnanimous, overflowing library of self.

~

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indelible ink

I finally reached my sister’s hospital room on the night of Christmas Eve, in the year that I was 24, she 28.

Her head was a swollen mess of bruises and stitches and blood and hair. I’d caught a ride with a stranger to find the girl I’d loved for all these awful years so close to gone that I could feel the death on her.

I was afraid to really look at her, or even touch her without a doctor’s permission, so I sat down in a chair against the wall, in the dimly-lit room, and put my head in my hands.

I tried to decipher how one small family could have so much go so wrong.

Incongruously, I felt sorry for my father, who’d been dead for 13 years, knowing how much he loved this girl, and imagining what this would have done to him.

Outside, a light snow was falling. Back in our apartment, my 14-year-old brother would soon be waking up to a Christmas so destroyed that it would surprisingly pale every horrible Christmas he’d had before it.

“Are you Delilah?” a woman’s light voice asked, after a time.

I looked up and nodded. There was a nurse peeking her head in.

“You have a phone call.”

I stared at her a minute. I wanted to ask if my sister would live until I got back from the call, or if we should perhaps take a message, but I didn’t know how.

“At reception,” she urged.

“Right.”

I couldn’t imagine who would know I was here, but the call was from Steve, my sister’s boyfriend.

“You know how much I love her,” he told me, a strange urgency in his voice.

Yes, I knew how much he loved her. Enough to hang around and pay for her drinks while she treated him like dirt and slept with his friends.

“They’re not sure if she’s going to make it,” I let him know.

I bent down and put my head below my heart when I told him, because the prior time I’d said that surreal sentence, I’d lost consciousness.

“Oh God, oh God, oh God, your sister is crazy, you know that, right Delilah?”

I was quiet. Of course I knew my sister was crazy, but it seemed a strange time to comment on it.

“Where are you?” I suddenly thought to ask. “Why aren’t you here?”

“I’m at my parent’s house, up north.”

“You left town?” I asked, feeling betrayed.

The pieces weren’t fitting together yet.

When I got back to my sister’s room, the nurses were changing her diaper. I stared at her trampy tattoo, at her perfect, concave belly. And finally, I touched her still-warm arm.

It was as if I’d thought it would hurt her, to do so.

When actually, it hurt me.

“Oh, she’s menstruating,” one of the nurses commented.

Menstruating. My sister’s dying body was menstruating, of all things.

It’s odd, what a body will do.

And odd, too, a person.

~

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absence

“I want you to be fast asleep when I get there.”

This is the text he sends, in response to my letting him know I’m in the city.

It’s a little game we play. Although, honestly, I’d forgotten.

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, and there is no guarantee that the unknowing which once existed between us will still be enough.

Even so, here I am, unlocking the window and sliding it open.

The beautiful spring air its own caress, I guide my body to the wide bed.

Lay it down on its side. The long, slow arch of my hip an unspoken invitation.

How he noiselessly ascends the fire escape, I’ll never know.

Silence is a gift very few have.

The sheet loosely covering me lifts, as if by a breeze. And for a moment I wonder if he’s in the room with me now, or if simply, in my wanting him so, I’m imagining it.

But then his warm lips meet the skin on my inner leg.

Ever so delicately.

And again.

This scenario, without fail, is its own seduction.

The sun is low in the sky. The room, behind my closed eyes, will now be cast in long shadows.

And by the time I open them, will be filled by darkness.

His pace is slow, patient.

This, also, is rare.

To be clear, this man is not my confidante. We will never share long conversations in which he uncovers anything about me.

Instead, he bears witness to my body when I’m unable to conceal its tremors. And this is somehow, for me, a more profound and necessary intimacy.

His velvet-soft tongue grants him access to some hidden place, within me, that seemingly belongs to him.

I experience it, occasionally, as a betrayal.

“It’s okay,” he intones, his deep voice hushed, as if in secret.

He stops, waits long moments for my staccato breath to lengthen.

Allows my fingers to entwine reassuringly in his.

I don’t know how this man learns to do what he does.

Nor how two bodies are able move together so effortlessly.

In due time, I’ll marvel at it. But for now, my carefully-assembled mind has already begun to collapse.

“Are you all right?” I ask, wanting to make sure, before I’m gone.

“Just let me take care of you,” he answers.

I think I’d find his generosity unbearable, were it entirely altruistic.

But ultimately, there is undeniable evidence that it’s not.

Afterwards, we lie together in the darkness I prophesied. He smooths the damp hair from my temples, and again pulls me towards him.

His kisses oddly become even longer, deeper, more searching.

As if there’s so much he’s yet to say.

But when he stops for a moment, I curl up in a nest of myself, and fall instantly and very deeply asleep.

For real, this time.

I suppose he leaves the way he came.

Some time later I wake, my mouth looking for his.

~

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our legacy

airport

This week my son, Django, went off with his dad, The Piranha, to the islands.

This was a big step, I guess. Because there have been years, off and on, that the two wanted very little to do with each other. And that’s in addition to those years when I shunned The Piranha altogether, finding my son’s innocence too precious to spoil.

Those were the years that I wished The Piranha would just go far, far away. Which were contrasted by many more, when I wished I knew where he was.

It’s a lot of years, is maybe what I’m saying.

Though the general themes are pretty well established, I’m not sure that we’re any closer to finding the ending to our story, we three.

But tonight, as I wait at the airport for their plane to arrive, I find myself rolling back to the beginning.

It’s a beginning that precludes Django, naturally. Back when it was just me and The Piranha.

Or perhaps just me and my incredible love and adoration for a man whose grittiness was palpable.

Or perhaps just me and my fascination with myself, ultimately.

That does seem to be the determining factor in so many of my relationships. “Do I like the character I create for this particular man?” being the defining question.

One forever-night ago, the character I’d created for the Piranha was in an airport just like this, in a short brown suede skirt and motorcycle boots, waiting on his arrival.

She was smoking a cigarette outside the terminal and scowling openly at every single person that passed.

And I suppose it makes sense that I loved The Piranha, from that perspective, because I love that girl.

I love how good she is at pretending. Because I know for a fact that she’s as delicate as they come. But tonight her act is so fucking convincing.

And I wish I could talk to her. I’m curious about her mind, her maturation.

About the long, falling-down path that will lead her to me.

But instead I watch as a scruffy man with a great strut sneaks up behind her and grabs her tight in his leather arms.

And she sinks into him, rests the back of her head on his chest.

“Did you bring me something?” she asks.

The man laughs.

“You know, I forgot until the last minute,” he says. “But then I found this.”

He lets her go, reaches into his pocket while she turns and watches expectantly.

The man pulls a thick silver bolt from his pocket.

When he says he found it, he means it literally. In the street, beside a puddle of grease.

And it’s for this, of all crazy things, that our character has reserved her smile.

She fits the bolt over the knuckle of her thumb.

“I love it,” she says.

And she actually does.

Silly little waif.

I don’t have the silver bolt anymore.

But tonight the memory of it is oddly precious.

It almost makes me want to go outside and rummage around in the gutter, to see if I can’t find something to give The Piranha when he lands. I wonder for a second if he’d remember.

But he would. I know he would.

Because I once overheard him telling that exact story to Django, a mixture of nostalgia and hurt in his voice.

“Your mom used to be so easy to please,” was his master conclusion.

“Wait. You gave Delilah a dirty bolt you found in the street?” Django asked, confused. “Are you serious?”

I laugh now, remembering this, too. It’s all so gorgeous and stupid.

~

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tagging the surgeon

So the surgeon suggests, three consecutive times, that we go out. Like on a date, I guess.

I have a fondness for the surgeon because, despite having my number, he only ever corresponds with me occasionally. This is a good quality in a man, if you’re me.

So he’s got that going for him. But I only ever met him once, very briefly. At one of those celebratory events you attend when your friend beats cancer.

It’s not the best circumstances under which to meet a man. Because there’s the whole gratitude vibe happening, which makes it’s hard to gauge what people are really like. You know, when they’re not pretending that they have a concept of life’s preciousness.

Oh my God, I just realized that I’m saying this about someone who cuts people open for a living.

He just came off as being so nice, is all.

Nice being a trait to which I’m unaccustomed.

I’m not even sure how to respond to nice.

So I ignore the surgeon’s suggestions that we get together until the third time, when it kind of starts to seem like he’ll pick up on my ignoring it, and stop asking. And even though I’m not sure I want to see more of him, I’m not sure that I don’t want to either. I’m probably 50/50.

“Look, I should probably tell you something,” I announce, and already it sounds more dramatic than I intended. It sounds like the warm-up to letting someone know you’re married, or wearing an ankle monitor, is what I think.

But he just says, “Please do.” Which kind of puts me at ease.

“It’s just, you know. I don’t really do dates.”

“How so?” he inquires, which wasn’t what I expected.

He’s surprisingly solid, this one.

“As in, I don’t know how,” I say, for a start, and then decide to risk exposing more. “As in, the idea of sitting across the table from someone and trying to get acquainted that way sounds hideous to me.”

I fight the urge to follow up what I’ve just said with a statement that would imply there is something wrong with me. Something like, “There’s probably something wrong with me.”

Because it really doesn’t matter what’s wrong with me. Not yet, anyway.

The surgeon takes me off guard by not putting me down.

“You don’t do dates,” he says instead, restating what I’ve just said in that kind of way therapists do when they want you to know you’ve said something important.

It’s oddly validating.

“Are you a therapist, too?” I ask, suddenly suspicious. I’m pretty sure I’d have to draw the line at therapist.

He laughs. “No.”

“Oh.”

I think about how, when the surgeon asked for my number, I picked up the sharpie that was on the kitchen counter and wrote my number in large digits on the inside of his forearm.

“He’s a doctor, Delilah!” my cancer-free friend scolded, about the sharpie thing, after he’d left. “Not a character in a John Hughes movie!”

“Right,” I responded. “Roger that.”

It’s not as though I’m behaving badly on purpose.

Is it?

“You should come over to my house Thursday,” I say to him now, impulsively. “If you want to. But don’t try to talk to me while you’re here. I mean, if you have something to say, say it. Of course. But let’s don’t do the whole forced conversation thing.”

“We’ll converse only when necessary,” he reassures me, perhaps teasingly.

I like being teased. Almost as much as I like being taken off-guard.

And tomorrow is Thursday.

Which means, very soon, I maybe get to find out what else I like.

~

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narcosis

narcosis

.

are you

feeling

this night

and me in it

breathing its rain air

as you dream, wide-awake

of vacating your boyhood home

.

to trespass

as man

my body

.

which sleeps, even now

quiescent, tranquilly coiled

in wind’s savage embrace?

.

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final frame

The last time I saw the photojournalist, we scheduled a tearing apart.

I was so dazed afterwards that it’s been hard to find the words.

Even now, with a few months distance, I doubt I’ll be able to do it justice.

I wore a blue and gold dress for the occasion. Silk. It was beautiful.

“That dress is beautiful,” he told me, accordingly.

“I thought it was befitting a proper conversation,” I responded, slightly betrayed by the fact that by then it was all bunched up around my thighs, my black stockings more the highlight.

I planned to wear my hair down but, at the last moment, pinned it up high. On this he did not comment, but later did his best to take it down by grasping the single knot affixed the top of my head and pulling as hard as he could.

I was straddling his slim waist at the time, and enjoyed the tension.

When he finally relented, unsuccessful, I sat up straight atop him and removed the pins myself.

Long hair is a beautiful thing, in moments such as these. A very form of communication.

The loosening of my hair served as a transition between scenes.

We were, by then, moving from animosity and hurt towards connection.

So I took my time.

Prior to that night, the photojournalist had warned me about his propensity for anger. Hinted at it from time to time in his physicality. But that was the first time I experienced it in any kind of personal way.

And oddly, where I probably should have been put off, shrunken, I was instead fascinated.

This came in waves, between the crests of which I was in fact crushed.

But I just couldn’t help rising back up.

The interaction itself brought out so much life in me.

For a while afterwards, I couldn’t figure that out. For a while afterwards, I didn’t try. Just wandered my life in a state of wonderment. Careful not to speak of it, lest I disturb its memory.

And slowly, like impossible petals unfolding on a blind world, it dawned on me.

This was love.

Not the love in which I was trained to believe, not the love that was marketed to me.

But my love. My version of it.

Mine.

The photojournalist screamed in my face about all the misdemeanors I had committed. He had never, before then, looked ugly to me. Not even for a second. Jeering at times, yes, but not this. This true unveiling of who he was. All his horrible judgements of me reaching a peak.

By all rights, the photojournalist shouldn’t have had nearly as much on me as he did. I’d been, I thought, very careful. But I suppose, in his quiet, serious way, he’d been paying more attention to the details than I’d realized.

Filling his library of me to bursting, only to come to this very place in which he could hurl the books off the shelves so that their pages would fall open in front of me and he could say, “Look at this! This is you! This is what you do!”

There were issues about which he was absolutely correct, and in these I felt more seen than I’d ever felt in my entire life.

But then there were issues so rooted in some combination of his own narcissism and damage that they simply didn’t belong to me.

“You wrote those stories yourself,” I wanted to say, but didn’t.

I guess because I was trying to protect him. Much, it turned out, as he’d been trying to protect me.

“Why have you been so polite, all this time, when these things were driving you crazy?” I asked.

It seemed a reasonable question.

“Because I fucking love you!” he shouted, and I thought he would throw over the table, he was in such a state.

I’ve been afraid for my safety around men, before. I’m familiar with the loss of control they occasionally experience.

But with the photojournalist, I somehow always felt free from harm.

Even when he was slashing me to bits with his words.

I don’t know if that’s rare, or special, or anything at all.

I do know that I miss him.

“We’ll see each other tonight,” he prefaced. “And then we won’t speak for a few months.”

“You’re dumping me?” I asked.

“Are you actually going to play it that way?” he smirked.

That night, the photojournalist needed to get angry, needed to get himself fired up, because in the shadow of being a person who felt forced to maintain perfect control, he was legitimately suffering.

And vulnerable.

About this, I’d been deliriously unaware.

~

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taken

taken

My son has his high school orientation this week. We arrive early, so I steer us to a row of side seats in the far back where I can monitor the influx of people.

It’s my job as a good mother to suss out the scene and liberally narrate my findings for Django’s benefit. So I’m busy calculating the ratio of girls to boys when a man in a track suit approaches and asks, “Is this seat taken?” of the empty next to us.

And it’s nothing short of unbelievable to me, because there’s a whole auditorium of other seats available.

It immediately reminds me of the time at the amusement park when a single tried to join Lovey, Django and me on the ferris wheel.

“You are not riding with us,” I told him, straight up.

And Lovey and Django were embarrassed and were like, “Delilah…”

But I said to the them, “Look, guys. We don’t know him, right? And for all I know he’s the type of  person who throws kids off the ferris wheel when it stops at the top. Do you really think I’m going to just let that happen?”

This somehow made their embarrassment worse, but I turned to the man and said, “It’s a safety issue, okay? I’m sorry. The answer is no.”

And at that I closed the little ferris wheel door, because the attendant whose job it should have been was just standing there uncomfortably and not doing it for me.

The single sat instead in the cart right behind us. The kids claimed it ruined the whole ride for them. And to be honest, it cast a negative light on my experience as well.

But no kids were thrown from the ferris wheel that day, so it’s pretty clear I did the right thing. Except for that I maybe should have also added, “And you can’t ride in the cart behind us, either.”

This time I don’t make the same mistake.

“All of these seats are taken actually,” I say, throwing my arm wide.

Referring, apparently, not only to the seat next to Django, but to all of the seats in the nearby vicinity.

“All of them?” the man echoes.

“There are plenty of seats up front,” I point out, helpfully.

The man in the track suit looks confused for a second, then retreats. As soon as his back is turned, Django literally does a facepalm, because that’s a real thing teenage boys who have mothers do.

“You are so embarrassing.”

Django has trouble being as direct as I am. This concerns me, and I make a note to review it with him later. But right then and there, I just make the teachable moment as short and sweet as possible.

“I’m sorry,” I say to him. “But did you want that man who is at a high school orientation sans an actual high schooler to sit next to you? Because I didn’t.”

Django shakes his head, but not in the way that means no. More in the way that means he can’t believe this is happening.

He’s had a relatively easy life, my son.

“Just stop, okay?” Django says, fighting a smile so that I will hopefully take him seriously.

He’s cute.

“I love you so much Django,” I let him know, loudly. “Sometimes it’s everything I can do not to scream it out at the top of my lungs.”

“Oh my God, Delilah.”

I laugh.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sympathetic to how embarrassing one’s parents are at his age.

But when it comes down to it,  I have been personally surveying the arrival of dozens of other mothers, and with all modesty, I’m for sure in the top two percent of moms you wish you had.

Unless you’re Django. But whatever.

“It’s okay to be embarrassed by me,” I tell him. “It’s part of life, totally normal. So you’re right on track. But really, boy, when you have a chance, check out some of these other parents and count yourself lucky.”

That’s what I say. And it’s within probably thirty seconds of that comment that I see The Piranha walk through the doors.

I grab Django’s arm.

“Oh my God. Is that your dad?” I ask him.

Django’s head shoots up, and before I know it he’s waving his hand in the air.

Like in that come hither kind of way.

I fight the urge to grab his hand and pull it down.

Besides, Django has already caught his attention, anyway.

The Piranha gives Django a chin nod, and begins the ascent to us.

There are a lot of sudden revisions to this situation on which I should probably focus in order to stay sharp.

But wouldn’t you know it? I’m instead hypnotized by The Piranha’s approach.

Despite how wrong things have always been between us, the man has got a great strut.

It has long since been my undoing.

“Hey,” he says, upon reaching us.

And then he does a surprising and weird but very cool thing, and takes a seat in the row behind us.

If you’re into reading too much from gestures that probably mean nothing, his taking the seat above us kind of says that he’s watching out for us. That he’s got our backs.

You know, like how I thought he was supposed to have done from the beginning?

“Delilah has just been embarrassing me,” Django fills him in.

“Oh yeah?” The Piranha says.

These two. All these years later, and I’m still the main thing they have in common. But so it goes.

The Piranha leans back and spreads his arms across the width of the neighboring chairs on either side of him.

“You ready?” he asks our son. I assume he means about high school.

“Yeah,” Django says.

“Are you?” I ask.

It sounds about as snide as I intend, which is kind of too bad, because a part of me is actually glad he’s here.

“I’m ready,” he says, grinning. “Let’s do this.”

~

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manless january, the return

manless january

“I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” -Oscar Wilde

So I forgot to tell you about Manless January, which is a holiday I invented last year to save my own life.

This year, Manless January acted more as a preventative. And I was surprised by how strong I’d grown.

Because sometimes I don’t recognize myself.

Which is really too bad.

I don’t want to sound terribly vain, but it’s almost hopeless, because I just am.

Or maybe it’s not vanity, precisely.

It’s just that sometimes, all alone, my heart swells so big inside of my chest.

And I burst out laughing, giddy in the middle of the street, as it refuses to be contained.

Because, when I let myself be, I am really so in love.

With myself.

Ridiculous, perhaps. Should I be embarrassed?

There’s just been so much lost time.

I’m not really sure how it happened, but I somehow went from being a boy-crazy young girl to a relationship-ruined adult woman, and then on to being a sexual lightweight whose love of the act became the equivalent of a meth addiction.

No, back up, that last part isn’t true.

That’s just something of which I was was accused.

Which plays into Manless January directly. Because part of Manless January is not accepting anyone’s definition of myself but my own.

It’s unfortunate, but in other months of the year, I’m susceptible to the random and perhaps innocuous suggestions of men.

I tried to whine about this with my girlfriends, but they wouldn’t have it.

“You act like you’re the only woman who gets reckless because of men.”

What? Am I not?

Either way, I’d like to be above that.

I believe in myself, and having one month of the year that belongs to just me keeps that belief strong.

And Manless January has a certain festive quality to it, anyway.

This year I launched out and purchased a Margot Tenenbaum coat, just for the occasion.

And I wrapped up all tight in it and had a great little month.

If you were to have peeked outside of my psychic window in January—and I  would never have suggested that you do that. In fact, I would have tackled you down before you could have. But if somehow you had gotten past me and my fervent determination—I’ll tell you what you would have seen patrolling my yard.

First of all, there was the big bad wolf. In all honesty I was far more afraid that he was going to hurt himself than hurt me, but even so. He was there. He’d been lurking around out there for weeks because I’d stupidly let him catch a whiff of my sweet maiden scent. I have no idea why I did that. I was bored? I guess. Anyway. That was A.

B was the mad scientist with the tortured brilliance to whom I’d accidentally turned over the reins. Um, that really didn’t go well. I’ve never in my whole life been yelled at quite like that. It was jarring and fascinating and oddly stimulating, but we all know I needed a little break after that.

C was just a light-hearted man that was all wrong for me. Well, a light-hearted man, and his stupid  muscles. Am I really still such a sucker for a man’s muscles? Yes, yes, I am. Sometimes all a smart woman wants are some stupid muscles wrapped sweet around her.

So there was variety. But I didn’t open the door to any of them, not really.

And now I’m all woman-strong and focused and happy again, just being me. And it’s been a whole additional month in which I’ve maintained that footing, even without being manless.

So we’ll see what happens now. I really mostly just wanted to tell you about it, so you could challenge me if and when you see it crumbling.

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