I used to tease my sister that she really should go on one date before breaking up with a man. Just one, little tiny date. A coffee, a walk? Before she found the Red Flag, ran through the streets waving it and blowing a tuba, and then hung it on her door with a clove of garlic and a crucifix. Before she saved herself from the inevitable pain of —oh there are so many choices here —his gaze lingering a second too long at the restaurant entrance as she walked in all rosy cheeked in gust of October air, the phone call that came in while they were driving from the dentist’s office, or was it the chiropractor? She doesn’t know because she wasn’t paying attention then, but she was at 3 AM, when she woke up from that bizarro dream about her shitty high school boyfriend to find him edged just a little further than usual toward his side of the bed, ever so slightly more comfortable than he should be angled away from her loving embrace, and all of the tiny scarcely perceptible nuances of two years of estrangement played together in a montage of catastrophe ending in a cold sweat, and a woman’s fresh face inside a restaurant door and then a word to pin on a what was for so long a perpetual subsurface abandonment, bringing it ever so forcefully to the light of day. Divorce.
And now they are everywhere. Fresher faces walking the streets, languishing in empty relationships waiting for some attention from YOUR beloved, mirroring your person the way they want to be seen all glowy and important and shit while you try to keep up with dishes, and the garbage, and Rover and Puffy, or whatever your kids names are, and the Fresh Faces just sit around like prisoners making a love weapon from a cafeteria spoon and waiting for someone (hi Someone) to drop the love ball for a hot three seconds. You see the way it’s all going to go down like Isaiah prophesying Jesus when that text doesn’t come in on time, or if you’re really good, like my sister, you see it in the profile, before you open up the app or the match, or return the smile because it’s in the air that you breathe, stirred into your Greek yogurt. It’s probiotic. Microcosmic. Cellular.
And what kind of person outsmarts a prisoner with a spoon? Well you do. You’re a ninja now, by rights, and you aren’t about to bend over in the shower or slide your heart over the counter with your Starbucks card and listen to the noisy machine grind it to dust before you can say Vente Skinny Latte with longshots, two pumps of pumpkin spice and a cookie, I mean one of those rubber protein egg things, I mean a brownie. I’ll take a banana bread please.
I know you’re tired. I KNOW it’s not your first rodeo. I mean even if you haven’t been to the cow roping rodeo, or the bull bucking rodeo you’ve been to the horse racing one. You’ve been to some rodeos and that counts by me. You don’t have to prove to me that you have tried, and that you could use a small vacation right about now, and by vacation I mean a forever break on a sunny sunny beach watching tiny goats in pajamas and drinking a super rum soaked pina colada afloat with like SEVERAL tiny umbrellas in a pride rainbow of colours.
When I even so much as suggest that something “in there” may benefit from a wee tweak, there you are again at the apex of Mount Kilimanjaro (what a great name for a mountain, BTDubs) raising your flag in victory (not your red flag which you’ve left in the side pocket of your back pack because it’s pretty emotionally safe at the top of Mount K) but your celebratory territory claiming flag with your own personal logo on it declaring Dominion, when into your fleeting glory I stomp, not like a bull in a china shop but rather like an ANGRY GOD, maybe Zeus or Titan, jacking the metaphorical rent 3000 percent. What you thought was an apex, turns out was just a plateau, and the real mother of a beast of a mountain is before you. Shoot, you say, because you are much classier with the language than me. Flibbertigibbet. I guess I should have been doing some squats. And you sit down to calmly wait for death.
The point is when we have already done some deep digging or slugging or whatever has kept us alive on that slippery mountain it doesn’t always sound appealing to climb more mountains. And even if I am not there to raise your Kilimanjaro an Everest, you may think I am and be asking for a sweeter Lord to take you, before I can tell you that I make mountains into molehills, not the other way around. I actually want to EASE your burden, lighten your backpack, switch out your flag collection for a lighter aluminum, fiberglass even, and leave the lead weight on the ground and off your back.
So what is it that I, Zeus, want from you anyhow? Why does it feel so mountainous?
Why can’t my sister have the relationship she wants without going out on an actual date with someone?
Well friend, hold onto your tighty whities, because I’m just going to say it.
Relationships require vulnerability.
Go ahead and scream.
Run at me with your sharpened spoon.
I can take it.
Vulnerability. Vulnerability. Vulnerability. The V word. What does it even mean? What is that vile of the vilest curse you spoke in front of my grandmother? Why not tell me I have to jog naked down a beach, or leave the bathroom door open?
Well allow me to break it down for you.
Pretend there is a locked room. Fort Knox kind of locked. Twenty first century prison.
And in that locked room are the things about you that you want to keep hidden. Not like the time you put the tack on teacher’s chair or pulled Susie’s hair. Not your Jack Nicholson you can’t handle the truth moment, when you did what you had to do to survive the jungle or the war. Not the day you were so tired you forgot to wash your hands after changing the baby’s diaper, and you just made lunch anyway. Deeper. Down past that time you were mean. You, actually mean, and you don’t know why, but maybe because there was so much meanness crushing you at any given moment that for a second you thought you’d try it on for size and then Susan cried because you actually scared her, and you spent the whole night and probably the next three years trying to make it up to her and then moving to the mountains because who wants the power to fairy tale freeze everything and everyone who happens to be in your path when something pisses you off anyway?
Deeper (Cue the soft eerie music, maybe a jewel box with a spinning dancer here).
To the ghostly things that brush you in the dark.
We don’t want to open that door. Nope. Nada. Busy grooming my hamster that day. Throwing a party for my caterpillar, you? L’il ol’ me? Aw shucks. I’ll be about a third of the way up Mount K, on my knees crying because I thought I was done and no one is repelling by with a Snickers anytime soon.
I mean I know what’s in your room.
Fear lives there.
Guilt lives there.
But truth? Nope. It ain’t in there.
It’s an empty vault. But the casino can’t let you know that, or it won’t get paid.
So it haunts you.
Keeps you on your toes and your toes in your shoes and your shoes in your cramp-ons.
The locked room is all of the horror movies ever and we play the villain.
We are Carrie.
I mean not when someone opens the freaking door we’re not.
Not in the daylight.
Not when we see the vault is empty and we’re betting the house on air.
But no one wants to open that door.
Or go on the metaphorical date.
Or run naked (I mean I know some of you literally look good running naked and I don’t want to take that away from you).
But if you come to me and say “Hey girl, I would like a relationship, but maybe one where there are no romantic attachments and just keep it scientific, or one where we skip the me grieving my marriage falling apart last week and just send me over a replacement and we’ll pick up where that left off, can I call her Janet? Or I found the right person and we’re really happier than I thought possible but I am going to throw it into Ghost Lake to see if it drowns because my Aunt Rosy thinks I’m jumping in too fast and there’s a remote possibility that lives in a remote village in Remote Town that she could be right”, well guess what? My job is to not let you fuck yourself over. That’s all.
I don’t want to make you take a shower, or tell you you can’t have candy for dinner every night of the week. I don’t want to be the bad guy.
BUT, I want to be a good Mom. I want to whisper in your ear like those tiny starfish in Aquamarine how good you really are and how fabulous you look in that new do, all the way to the locked room so that when we open it you barely even notice, and you’re like, “Ya, Erin, I knew it was all good’. And then you’re just happy, finally. Or on your way to happy. Or at least no longer cutting happy off at the pass and floating it like a baby in a basket Attention: Lady of the Lake.
It’s not up to me to tell you how you feel, or what you want. I will never profess to be an authority OVER you.
I don’t want to. They don’t pay me enough for that kind of hell. I don’t want to piss you off, or step on your cramp-ons. I don’t want you to roll your eyes at me because I am fully stocked on literal eye rolls from raising my literal children. But I’m gonna risk it if I have to. I spend a lot of time unlocking locked rooms. I camp out in them. I make a lot of friends there. On Mondays and Fridays I’ve got Carrie and the mean girls hugging it out.
The shiny lights and spinning wheels and golden chips are diversions. They want you playing the game that no one can win, and climbing a mountain that never ends. But the farther you get from that room the more power it has, and the harder the climb.
I’m sorry to make you uncomfortable. Or to suggest that you don’t have it all under control.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. You’re killing it! But sometimes you’re killing it to death. I’ve done it for me, and I keep doing it for me, and I’m doing it for my beloveds, and it turns out that you my friend are among my beloveds.
Lucky for you I live in Calgary, so all running naked with be saved for July 14th 2020, the day when the Stampede ends, the rain stops and the lilacs are ready for the festival that happened a month earlier.
BUT If you are willing to forgive me my trespass I am going to walk you toward that door as painlessly as possible, snow blower in hand, and we will practice taking off our socks together, until the light shines in.
— Love Erin
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