Dinner For One, Part Forty

“With love one can live even without happiness.”—Feodor Dostoevsky

“If you asked me how many times you’ve crossed my mind, I would say once, because you never really left.”—Author Unknown

“The thing about falling in love, is that if you do it right, you never have to hit the ground.”—Kendall Lepitzki

I like that last quote. It sums up my basic mentality on the concept of love. I think with the right partner, the right counterbalance to your unique self, you can accomplish bloody near anything. I know that when Bonnie was in my life I had a much easier time facing the day and facing the world at large. I still don’t know if that was because she was there to lift me up or because, as a result of her being there, I tried harder. Maybe both, maybe neither. Some things are indefinable, really. Like love itself. You can read a million quotes and it doesn’t make a difference at the end of the day. The quotes, the poems, the novels and the romances are, I suspect, nothing but an attempt to define something that is far too nebulous for a proper, simple explanation. Kind of like trying to describe the taste of a banana to someone who’s only ever consumed apples, I suspect. Maybe it can be done, but it’ll be a task.

I like that quote. The cynic in me, however, is looking at the last four years like an epic face plant.

Four years as of December 23rd. I could write that a thousand times here and it still doesn’t make sense. Four years. Where the hell did they go?

Some days I’m still numb. Sometimes, rarely, granted, I am wildly optimistic and believe that there will be someone else in my life one day. Some days…not so much. As I have said before, Bonnie is a mighty hard act to follow. There have been a couple of occasions where I thought maybe something was happening. These days I remain guardedly optimistic.

The problem with guardedly optimistic, however, is that word at the front. Guarded. Protected. I know I’ve said this before, and I likely will again, but love to my way of thinking is seldom something that can be approached with excessive caution. To be sure there should be some sense of awareness. Only a fool would fall for the endless offers that I (and I suspect most people dumb enough to list themselves as “widowed” in their Facebook status) have received. My heavens, the sheer volume of voluptuous young women who merely want me to email them privately so that I can see pictures of them in their sexy lingerie never ceases to annoy/amuse me. Listen, I’m a writer. Some people might even call me a celebrity (I do not, for the record). I have a fairly decent following on my friends list. Used to be I “friended” (Is that a word now? I’m not really sure….) anyone. These days I’m actually getting selective. I might have hurt a feeling or two, but I get tired of instant messages offering to get to know me better in broken English.

But I digress. Guarded. Damn, I hate that word. I wish I could get past it easily. Maybe in time. In the meanwhile, every year around this time I find myself reflecting on what I had and what I lost and wondering if I have the emotional fortitude to go through that a second time. It’s not like a break up. It’s not like a divorce. (Well, maybe like an extremely bad one in either case. I dunno.) The thing is, I think that armor I was trying to avoid snuck in when I wasn't looking.

Armor. For protection.

I used to love sparring in karate. I mean that. I’d get bruised and battered and loved it. I took a few pops on the chin and jaw that left me with a profound ringing noise that didn’t want to go away and in one case I got hit so hard that through the padding worn on my opponent’s hands the impact was enough to leave me with a jaw that popped every time I yawned for almost two years. Heck, under the right circumstances I’d like to take up sparring again just for the exercise.

Physical discomfort is mostly easy. You recover from it in time. Emotional damage? I just don’t know.

I’m a romantic and I’m an optimist but there’s that little voice that I thought I got past when I graduated from puberty. It’s a nasty little voice that tells me I should be very, very careful what I wish for because I might get it. And then where will I be?

Vulnerable. Unprotected.

I have several friends who are rooting for me. I don’t talk to them about my issues. I don’t talk to anyone about my issues. They are mine, you see, and as I have said before, irrational or not, I don’t like to burden others with my problems. See, not long after Bonnie passed I did that and it went badly. It put a very serious strain on a few friendships.

Lesson learned, right?

Really, that’s one of the main reasons I started these little essays if you look back far enough.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s simply because this has not been the best year. I lost a few friends this year, people I was close to and people I’d been close to. People I let in. And when I least expected it that vile Grim Reaper came sneaking in again. I have written elsewhere about those passings. I won’t write about them further here. As you’ve likely noticed I seldom name names here. I’m not even really sure why that is, except, again, this one time it’s about me.

In a few hours I have to get out of bed and do something I haven’t done in four years. I have to wake up on December 23rd and go to work. I didn’t ask for the day off and by golly I’m now working for an eight-hour shift. The reason is simple enough: I don’t want this anniversary to stay with me. I don’t want to give the date any more power over my life than it already has.

Four years.

How did that happen?

Sometimes, just now and then, I wonder how it is I’ve survived this long.

Other times, most times, I just think about Bonnie and how much I miss her.

That’s really all there is this time around. I have deadlines, you see. Still plugging away.

Still breathing, even on those rare occasions when, just for a moment, I have to remind myself how to breathe again. And after a couple of weeks of not working out, I'm back to my routine. Push ups, bicycle, repeat as necessary. Life goes on, in other words, despite the occasional pause for reflection.

All things in their time, I suppose.

As always, I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and I hope the New Year brings you joy, prosperity and good health.

As always I’ll remind you to do yourself the favor of telling your loved ones how much they mean to you. Remind yourself how much they mean and be good to yourselves.

It is what it is.

On my way to the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, England

With a stop over in London both before and after.

First for a book signing at Forbidden Planet, London on Halloween night from 6 PM to 7 PM and then after the convention to explore the city and hopefully get into a bit of mischief. A much needed break from the daily grind. If you're over there, here's hoping we have a chance to meet and talk.

Dinner For One, Part Thirty-Nine

“There is only one happiness in life: to love and to be loved.” – George Sand

“Trip over love, you can get back up. Fall in love and you fall forever.” – Author Unknown

Did I ever mention that I met Bonnie on the Fourth of July? I did. I certainly wasn't expecting to meet the love of my life that day. I went to work for eight hours at a greasy spoon, working as a busman. I hauled dishes and washed them. I cleaned tables. I busted my butt that day too, because Atlanta has a tradition called the “Peachtree Road Race,” a ten kilometer race that brings roughly 60,000 participants and a good number of lookers on to the city for a few hours and then, apparently, sends them to their favorite diners to consume huge quantities of food.

I was working at the diner that seemed to be the only one worth noticing that day. So roughly nine hours into my eight-hour shift, when I was slated to have one of my friends pick me up to attend his party, I paid someone twenty dollars to finish my shift. Seems I couldn’t leave until the dishes were washed and as the hits and dirty dishes just kept coming, I was never going to leave without that bribe.

Best twenty dollars I ever spent.

I met Bonnie. We talked and flirted and circled around each other for several months before a mutual friend told me I should maybe take the hint and ask her out on a date (Remember, noticing when I am being noticed has never been a strong point.).

I just finished a major project. I’m still not really at liberty to talk about it, but I’m delighted by it and I am in excellent company as it’s a three book, three author deal. Seriously, I’m hyped about it. And now, it’s time to go on to other projects.


See, there are a couple of things I haven’t finished yet and I intend to finish them before year’s end. I haven’t finished them for numerous reasons, mostly because of pressing deadlines with other projects, but I came to a realization this morning while doing the bike ride (Still doing that. Still dieting, too. Still chunky. Some things never change.)

Among those things are two novels, and a novella. The novella gets finished this week. We’ll get back to the specifics.

It took riding on that bike between projects to understand WHY I haven’t finished them. And it annoys me. See, I try very hard never to miss a deadline. (I fail, we all do from time to time, but I do try.) I try to make sure that I am as professional as I can be because that’s the way you’re supposed to do things when you have a business. Ask anyone running a successful one and they’ll probably agree. Except the guy that made his first million off the Pet Rock. That was just dumb luck and good timing.

I haven’t finished them because of Bonnie.

No, she didn’t do anything to make me miss them. I haven’t finished because in one way or another they make me think of her and the thoughts sometimes get murky and I do a little emotional spiral. It happens. Now and then I’m not happy. That’s part of living and part of being a widower, I suspect. Sometimes happiness is elusive. Sometimes memories that are precious are also painful. As I am fond of saying, it is what it is.

Here’s the breakdown: I haven’t finished the novel BOOMTOWN because I lost my faith in it. That’s, by God, what I told myself for quite a while. I wasn't sure if it was up to snuff. I couldn’t look at that manuscript without freezing and filling with self-doubt. So I did what any intelligent (or maybe just desperate) person does in that situation and sent it along to a few people for feedback. The general consensus is that the book is good and the readers who were kind enough to look it over would sort of like to know how it ends…Okay, there might have been threats of bodily injury if I don’t finish it. That’s okay. Now and then we all need a little motivation.

I haven’t finished the book FRESH KILL, a collaboration with Christopher Golden. Chris has been very patient. He has been even MORE patient regarding the last few scenes I have to write for BLOODSTAINED WONDERLAND. The delays are all mine.

And now, after my bike ride, I understand the whys and wherefores of those delays.

And they all come back to Bonnie.

First, BOOMTOWN. Though I wasn't conscious of this little fact, I was working on BOOMTOWN when Bonnie died. There are a lot of memories locked into that manuscript. Not nearly all of them are pleasant.

Next, FRESH KILL. I started writing FRESH KILL after Bonnie died. It was the first thing I worked on consistently after she passed. I worked furiously for a while and I barely remember working, but my God it was good therapy. It was sort of like learning to walk all over again. That might sound strange to a lot of people, but I suspect the writers out there might just understand.

And BLOODSTAINED WONDERLAND. That one’s a little bit different. That one is a memory. You see, towards the end, Bonnie’s eyesight was shot. She couldn’t read very much and one of the things she once told me while we were away at a convention was that she hated not being able to read my stuff any more. Well, I had an easy answer to that for a while. I printed things with a larger font. And that helped. But part of it was simply that she had trouble focusing enough to read with ease and still manage any enjoyment. It took me a while to understand that. Pain can be very distracting. Bonnie was in a lot of pain. She didn’t show it often. She was good at hiding that sort of thing. But on one of those rare moments when my brain and my common sense were on the same page I realized that and I sat down with her at the convention and I picked up my latest book and I read to her.

I did not read BLOODSTAINED WONDERLAND to her. It did not exist. No, I read BLOODSTAINED OZ, the prequel to the aforementioned. I took my time and I read to her and she enjoyed it. We talked about the scenes and had a merry time. I didn’t read all of it to her. I read a little over two-thirds.

I always meant to read the rest of it to her. Somehow I never found the time.

Sometimes it’s funny the things we hang on to. The things we feel guilty about. It’s a trifling thing, really. But damned if it didn’t bug me. Just a niggling little thought ringing in the back of my head. Asinine. She’d tell me I was being a dumbass at the kindest moment. She’d tell me a few other, more choice variations on that theme if she were in a mood.

Among the many things I miss about Bonnie, I miss her ability to give me a good, swift kick in the posterior when I needed one. I miss so many things, even after years. And even after years, she can still make me smile.

I’ll be finishing BLOODSTAINED WONDERLAND this weekend. Chris has been patient long enough. I have let a foolish thought slow me down for long enough. I’ll finish the other two soon as well. It’s just an observation, really. Just a moment of clarity.

Sometimes the only thing that holds us back is a memory.

What a silly thing to let get in your way.

It is what it is.

Dinner for One, Part Thirty-Eight

“It's amazing how someone can break your heart, but you still love them with all the little pieces.” –Author Unknown

“Looking back over a lifetime, you see that love was the answer to everything.” –Ray Bradbury

So I drove to the bank today and took out a bit of cash. The sole purpose for this was to buy a couple of debit cards, the better to pay for my airline tickets to London, England and back again. I don’t do credit cards. A bad experience with medical bankruptcy has left me a bit gun shy along those lines. I might have to eventually break down and actually do the credit card thing, but for now I’m fine without. Except when I want to do something like take a trip and get the tickets online. I’ll be doing my first ever trip to Europe in a few months, heading over to attend a convention and spend a few extra days doing publicity for Seven Forges, my new fantasy novel, and seeing a country I have wanted to see for as long as I can remember. It is a trip that I am very much looking forward to, and it is genuinely a necessity in my eyes. The convention is a chance to do business and cement a few more connections. We’re going to try to work in a few book signings at the same time and, of course, I want to see London.

And as I was driving I got all kinds of stupid and started thinking about life. Really, if I focus on writing or work related stuff my world stays a bit less complicated. I know it’s a defense mechanism, but I’m mostly okay with that as mechanisms go. After I’d picked up the debit cards I realized (speaking of work) that I had taken the store keys home with me. It’s not the end of the world, there are other keys, but it’s inconvenient for the other people there, so I headed for the job and realized that I had to slow down a bit. See, I try not to get to work with tearstains on my face. What? I told you thinking about life is never very wise. In particular I was thinking about England and Great Britain and how Bonnie always wanted to go there. And, damn, just like that the waterworks started.

That doesn’t happen quite as often these days. I guess what they say is true; the pain never goes away, but it changes. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Bonnie. Not too many weeks go by that someone doesn’t ask after my wife. That’s the side effect of working in retail; you forget some of the conversations you have and how many people know little shreds of your life. That’s okay. If they were secrets I wouldn’t share them at all. I have a few secrets, we all do, but by and large they stay close to my withered, little heart. Not that this is about secrets. It’s just about keeping up.

I’m going to England, a place I always thought I’d eventually get to. But until just very recently I never considered that I’d get there without Bonnie. Honestly, I know a lot of couples take separate vacations and the like, but I very seldom take honest-to God vacations, and most times if I could squeeze the money together, I took Bonnie with me everywhere I could. Why? Because I suppose I must be strange, but I always liked having the love of my life with me when I was experiencing new things. It wasn’t just my new thing: it was OUR new thing if that makes any sense at all. I liked experiencing new things with her. I liked that we shared our lives on as many levels as possible, the good and the bad alike. As I have said before and likely too often, that hardly makes me unique, but I remain puzzled by the people who find they would rather not spend the best of the new times (and the worst, I suppose) with their loved ones. And I say that as a confirmed loner. Don’t misunderstand that term, by the way. I don’t think loners always like to be alone. I just tend to think they are often better at being alone than a lot of people. If you’ve ever met one of those people who doesn’t seem at all comfortable in a room full of silence, you know what I mean. I may not always like myself—I doubt there is anyone who isn’t painfully shallow who can claim they always like themselves—but I am always comfortable with myself. I remain, as always, a work in progress and I have at least progressed that far in my existence.

Still, here I am going to England for the first time and going without Bonnie (I’ll be attending with one of my best friends, a fellow writer.). I think I’m okay with that. On the one hand, I’d rather go with her. On the other, I guess I’ll be going for both of us as much as that’s possible. I know that virtually every time I run across a sight I have never seen I will think about her and I will wonder how she would have reacted. How do I know that? Because I find myself doing that already. Or still, of you prefer. There’s a part of me that still says, “Bonnie would like this,” or “I can’t wait to tell Bonnie about this.” Even after a few years there’s that part of me that can’t wait to share with her. So I do, as best I can. And I will when I go to England. When I do the touristy stuff. I’ll be sharing with her as best I am capable. And likely I’ll take pictures, because that’s something she loved to do and that I have always loved doing. Probably it annoys the hell out of some people that I love taking pictures, but there it is. I’m a little weird. I genuinely enjoy looking at photos that people have taken of the places they’ve been. One of my very good friends went to Paris a few years back and I spent about an hour looking over the plethora of shots she’d taken, some with me in mind, of a cemetery and a few of the sites worth seeing in that particular city. I enjoyed the pictures in part because some of them were taken with me in mind and in part because my friend was willing to share a memory with me. I never once said I was normal, people. Just you remember that.

It’s several months between now and the trip to London and the surrounding areas. Still best to take care of some things in advance, so I bought the tickets. They cost a bit, but it’s a business thing and I’ve accrued some vacation pay, so even when I’m off on my adventure, I’ll be getting paid. I rather like that notion. It takes the sting out of spending a good deal more on myself than I’m used to. Yes, it’s a business trip, but still the cost of that trip is close to the cost of a month’s rent and the part of me that was raised to be frugal quivers in dread at the expenditure. It’s a big part. I’m working on it. When I factor in the business I managed to generate from the last major convention, I think I can allow myself a little leeway.

But I digress. What this comes down to is a continuing attempt at baby steps. I’m never quite as comfortable spending money on myself. Not unless it’s a necessity. I mean, when it comes to my clothes, I am definitely a department story junkie. Bargain bins make me happy. All the scandal going on about Abercrombie & Fitch right now? Means nothing to me. I’ve never been in an Abercrombie & Fitch store and certainly see no reason to start. Besides, nothing that particular company sells would fit me. I may be getting into shape, but it’s a slow process and my waistline remains just north of tragic. Again, I’m a work in progress.

Mostly these days I’m staying as busy as I can. I’ll be off in a little while to see a movie with a couple of my siblings. Like me they are often solitary creatures, but now and then we still manage to spend a little time together.

I am moving forward I suppose. Again, as I have said before, the only other option is stagnation and I am not at all fond of that notion. I backslid a bit on the diet control and exercise thing, but I’m back on track now, working out every day and eating for fuel more than for pleasure. I will find other ways to keep myself amused, preferably the sort that don’t cause cardiovascular issues or a serious gain in the size of my pants.

It has been a very good year on the writing front; in part because of the convention I attended last year, the same one that I am attending again this year. In part because a lot of the works I had already been plugging away at finally sold and because, maybe, the publishing field is losing a little of the turbulence that has rocked it so violently for the last couple of years. Or maybe I’m just being optimistic. I’ve been accused of that more than once, hard though that may be for many to believe.

And on a couple of occasions I’ve actually had conversations with women who seemed remotely interested in me. That’s a nice notion. I haven’t done anything actively about it, but maybe sometime soon. You never know.

It is what it is.

Dinner for One, Part Thirty-Seven

“But at night time, when the house was all empty and there was nothing to do, I’d think of Jenny.” – Forrest Gump

“Trying to forget someone you love is like trying to remember someone you never knew.”— Unknown Author

Well, I keep thinking I’ve said all I want to, and just when I figure there’s nothing left to comment on, along comes a thought that bounces through my skull and refuses to leave me alone. I suppose that could a sign that I need therapy. Then again, I’ve always had moments like that and I doubt that will ever go away.

And again, ah, the holidays. I suspect no matter how much I might wish otherwise, they will never quite be the same for me.

Currently I am in my office listening to Ray LaMontagne’s “Winter Birds,” a beautiful song that is not exactly designed to put me in a Holiday frame of mind. Common sense goes out the window. What I should be listening to is another collection of Christmas songs to put me in a better place. I’ll go on record and say I’ve enjoyed CeeLo Green’s new Christmas CD, Magic Moments, if you’re looking for recommendations, by the way. Nicely done.

But I digress. Just a few days ago a madman went on a killing spree and murdered children who could not help but be innocent. Several adults died as well, and a few of them heroically. And part of me is numbed by this news, part outraged. As I have said on numerous occasions, that hardly makes me unique. I am appalled at the situation, saddened for each and every family member torn apart by this event and horrified that it happened in the first place. Beyond that, I’ll not discuss my feelings on the matter here, save to say that the events are sobering and heartbreaking. Not exactly a news flash there, though, is it?

Add that into my general melancholia this time of year and things could get ugly, but I don’t think I’m going to let that be the case. The 23rd is fast approaching. One week away as I write this. This time around, however, my plans are a little different than they were last year. This year I will go to work. Maybe that’s not the wisest plan, but there comes a point where, I feel, to do anything else is to glorify a miserable memory. I will not let myself continue the process of setting aside the anniversary of my wife’s death as a special day for wallowing in self-pity. Instead I will go to work, and I will deal with my regular life, such as it is.

I will get up in the morning and do my exercises. I will sit at my computer and get some writing done (I have epic deadlines looming just now, and that’s a good thing to my way of thinking) and I will go to work and deal with my life as I have for the last few years now, one day at a time. But I will not allow myself the luxury of a pity party. I don’t think Bonnie would want that. I’ll go one further. I know she wouldn’t want that. She rather loathed the news stories that came around every year to remind us of the horrid tragedies that had befallen the nation the previous year (or any number of special anniversaries for the same events, be it five years, ten or twenty-five.), as if there is the remotest chance in hell that people can easily forget these events. But the news media does love its opportunities to remind us. Of course, these days you can almost guarantee there will be a few editorial sermons to go along with the situations, more’s the pity.

My plans are the same as last year otherwise. I’ll see my family on Christmas Eve, as that is when we traditionally get together. And then I’ll see my in-laws on Christmas morning. And Christmas night I plan to spend with my memories of an amazing woman. Maybe not the most exciting plans, but they’ll do for me. A little time with family and loved ones. A little time with my memories. And then back to the real world, where I’ll be working on paying bills and making plans for the future. New Year’s is just around the corner, after all, and there are resolutions to make and try not to break. Hey, I got that bloody passport taken care of this time, and I made it to a convention up in Canada. Next year I’m aiming for Great Britain. I’ve always wanted to go and so did Bonnie. I suppose I’ll have to go for both of us.

She won’t be with me physically, but now and then, when the house is quiet and the darkness of night has settled on the world around me, I’d still swear I can feel her presence with me. If I’m wrong I’ll keep my delusions just the same. I find them comforting.

This time of year I am always astounded by the outcries I hear from both sides of the faith argument, by the way. On Facebook I see more than a few posts about atheism and equal numbers about religion and both sides seem determined to believe that they are the only ones who could possibly be right. And yes, I know that a lot of that goes on all the time. I suspect I see it more this time of year merely because I am more aware of it than I might be at other times. I am reminded of Bonnie, of course.

I still find I don’t much care to judge people for their beliefs. I prefer to take the measure of the individual not by what they say, but by how they act. I have met a goodly number of non-believers who were far more “Christian” in their actions than a lot of Christians. I have also seen equal numbers who were, frankly, not kind and not decent. At the end of the day they get to live with themselves. I don’t think denomination has much to do with decency when all is said and done. I believe that faith might have a great deal to do with it, but religion and faith are not the same thing in my eyes. Should we meet in person and you find you must ask me about that, the odds are good I’ll answer. I’ll even listen to counterarguments. And for the record, lest anyone take what I’ve written above out of context, I have nothing against Christians. I merely use the term as stated above to clarify that sometimes actions speak a great deal louder than words in my estimation. Put another way, I can say I’m a millionaire until I’m blue in the face, but that doesn’t suddenly make me financially well off.

I have no idea what’s started me on that particular subject this time around. I recently had a discussion with one of my siblings who had a rather unpleasant revelation about a church attended briefly. Maybe that’s it. Or it could be any of a hundred different conversations in private settings or from a dozen or so discussions at conventions. In any event, it’s on my mind this holiday season.

So, too, is the thought that three years have passed.

A little story then, a small one. No names, of course. I don’t do that.

The day that Bonnie passed is lodged in my mind. It won’t leave me. Neither will it ever be a moment of clarity for me. My mind and my heart were well and truly broken on that day. Both have mended, though exactly how well is for others to determine, not for me.

With my wife in my bedroom above me, the police on the premises and a backlog for the coroners, I was not even allowed to be with Bonnie for a while. Because I had tried to revive her, and thus moved her body, there had to be a determination that no foul play had occurred (For those who might be outraged by that notion, you shouldn’t be. I suspect it’s common practice and that few people who tried to commit foul play have in fact been caught by that sort of thing.). I think the delay was a couple of hours. It felt like roughly a lifetime. I was a bit numb, to be kind. I was, in point of fact, spiraling into darkness. That might sound overly dramatic but it shouldn’t. That’s exactly what was happening.

Because my mind would not shut down and because I couldn’t quite bring myself to scream myself into oblivion, I called a few people to let them know. I called my family. I called my friends. I even called work, because there was a good chance I would be late over the next few days. They were good enough to clear my schedule for the next week or so. One of the people I called, a very good friend of mine, said three words that shocked me back to myself in one sentence. After she had expressed her shock and after she fumbled for what to say—I could hear her trying to find the words to express her sorrow though the phone lines—she said, “I love you.”

She didn’t say it as a declaration of romantic desires. She simply stated three words that were enough to pull me back from falling away into grief. Three words that reminded me that I was not alone more than any other gesture or action could have.

I’ve told her a couple of times that she saved my life that day. I’ve never said just how.

And now I’ve told all of you.

Just a memory that has been running through my mind today, that I thought I would share.

Call it a reminder if you choose to do so, to remember to tell your loved ones that they are loved. I suspect those words have saved more lives than they’ve ever cost. Mind you, under the wrong circumstances I suspect they can be killers. There's another song spinning away on iTunes now, "Down Don't Bother Me," by the Derek Trucks Band. Just of late that's rather become one of my theme songs.

Three years ago three words saved my life.

Happy holidays.

It is what it is.

Dinner for One, Part Thirty-Six

“Today I caught myself smiling for no reason, then I realized I was thinking about you.”—Author Unknown

“A man is not where he lives, but where he loves.”—Latin Proverb

“Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.”—William Shakespeare

It’s December again and I have been busy. Not busy enough, to be fair. From time to time I still find myself thinking and as much as I would like to avoid that particular trap, I find my mind is the sort that likes to think more often than not.

Well, before we get to that, let’s discuss the usual stuff, shall we? I’m alive. I’m relatively well. I have a roof over my head and friends. I am, and I mean this when I say it, blessed in many ways.

October 29th of this year, instead of lamenting my wedding anniversary at home and contemplating how little I have managed to accomplish (I need to point out here that no matter what I accomplish, I always feel it’s not enough, it’s just the way I’m programmed and I’ve come to accept this. I often have a sense of satisfaction in my accomplishments and it is just as often crushed by the need to do more. Trust me, I’m not nearly alone when it comes to this particular characteristic.) I spent the day visiting with a friend of mine and preparing for the World Fantasy Convention. From the Boston area, we drove up to Toronto and had a mighty fine time.

World Fantasy, for the record, is one of those conventions where business actually gets done. I haven’t gone to a convention that was mostly about business in a very long time.

I mention this because it’s a bit different than what I’ve done most Halloween seasons for years and years. This time around there were no decorations, I did not go to my in-laws house and help scare tykes. Instead I focused on scaring up business. Believe me when I say this: publishing is changing and I needed that chance to get a little networking done.

I had an amazing time. I reconnected with a lot of people and friends. I made new friends, ran across people I felt like I already knew and had a wonderful time. I had philosophical conversations with editors, talked about the changing market with other writers, met the family of a friend of mine I met shortly after Bonnie passed (He has a lovely wife and a beautiful baby girl and I was delighted and honored to be invited to his home to meet them.), I caught up with people I haven’t seen since before my wife passed away, people who’ve shared in my grief through long distances because sometimes in this world that’s the only available method that exists. I was challenged to write a short story in 45 minutes or less, because I am a boastful man and have often allowed that I am a word whore, and because a lovely lady who writes for a website called wordwhores.com heard my standard boast (I would gladly write Doctor Doom Versus Barbie if there was a dollar in it, but I’d make it the best damned Doctor Doom versus Barbie story I could) and said she had five bucks in her pocket. My friend who was with me took that as a good reason to run around collecting money and the next thing I knew I was sequestered in my hotel room on a Friday night writing said tale. It was read aloud a short time later. I made sixty dollars and a free bag of popcorn in exchange. I had fun and the entire story and the story of how it happened can be found here: http://genrefied.blogspot.com/2012/11/word-whore-put-up-or-shut-up-or-great.html

I flirted, which, believe me, is a bit of a rarity for me. Seriously, you have no idea. Seriously. Stick in the mud, that’s me. Always has been.

Where were we? Oh, yeah. I had a really amazing time.

And on the way back, driving down to my friend’s house, he said that it had been a successful convention and I agreed. And then I got teary-eyed, because, damn it, I felt guilty about that. Irrational, I know that, but it happened anyway. I got my mild case of the blubbers because instead of celebrating an anniversary of my marriage to my deceased wife, I had the audacity to focus on my career. And you know what my friend did? He pointed out the obvious. He pointed out that Bonnie would have preferred me working on my career. He’s right of course. I know that. My mind knows that. My heart, on the other hand, insists that guilt should be there. Partially because it felt good to get out and do something for me, instead of for someone else.

Call it a variation of survivor’s guilt if you’d like. The fact of the matter is that for the last decade I rarely went to conventions and even when I did, whenever humanly possible I took Bonnie along with me. She enjoyed the conventions and seeing our mutual friends. And sometimes that meant a rather hellish amount of scheduling to take care of her health needs. The last few times we went to conventions I had to work out the details of her dialysis, sometimes traveling 20 to 30 miles away from the convention for several hours in order to take care of medical necessities. I did it gladly, but it definitely took away from getting any work done and it left Bonnie as exhausted while on a trip as it did at home.

I’ve done a few local conventions and a couple of small cons since Bonnie passed, but this was the first professional convention (as opposed to media heavy convention) in several years. And like I said, it felt good to get out there and do my stuff.

And then the reality of the situation kicked the sin out of me and left me feeling miserable in ways that are hard to express. Guilt over doing my job. Guilt over having a good time. Guilt over feeling guilty about the aforementioned. Guilt over continuing on and trying to have a life without Bonnie. Sometimes, just now and then, mind you, guilt is a tidal wave and drowning would be the easiest thing in the world.

And then I get over the worst of that and remember that I’m supposed to live. She wanted that for me. Some days that notion is easier than it is other days, and on that drive back from Canada, while me and my bud were sharing music and comparing notes on what we were trying to accomplish with our careers and whether or not I’m moving up that way, he was good enough to remind me about what Bonnie would have wanted for me.

Sometimes I forget. It’s just that simple. More often than not I catch myself existing instead of living. Working out and writing and going to the day job does not constitute living.

And that’s part of the guilt, too. Because in October I went to a concert with several good friends and I ran across people I haven’t seen in a few years and caught up with them. I went out of town and I visited friends and I visited with friends. I went down to Savannah, Georgia and saw one of my best friends and then I hung out with a few more friends of mine for a weekend and I had a genuinely wonderful time. I relaxed and I smiled and I had fun. I socialized, and that, too, is something that was limited in a lot of ways by Bonnie’s health. Not that she wanted to cause those limitations, I need to make that clear. But when she was feeling badly enough that she could barely stand up, we left parties early or in one case left a wedding early, out of necessity. And she hated that she caused that, and I hated it for her.

And I suppose there’s a certain level of reflex in it now. There’s a part of me that feels I should be looking after Bonnie, even as I close in on the three-year anniversary of her passing. Listen, that’s a lot of conditioning. I’m working on letting go of that sort of guilt and maybe even relaxing the self-control a bit, so that I can actually try to enjoy life with a bit more regularity. But there’s also a lot of other mental debris mixed into that mess. I’m still working on being a better me, giving up on anger, giving up on the bitterness that sometimes nips at my heels and tries to color my world in unpleasant ways.

Yes, bitterness. As I have said before in different ways, this was not the happy ending I was planning for. Life came along and stole away my happily ever after and yes, now and then that notion makes me bitter. But I don’t much like being bitter, so I’m working on it. Constantly. Like the weight issues and the health issues, it’s a regular struggle. And again, and with feeling, I know that hardly makes me unique in the world. I have offered my condolences to several other people, male and female alike, who have lost their hearts to the Grim Reaper since Bonnie passed.

And on the subject of the whole health thing, my doctor when last he saw me, suggested I might ease up a bit on the rampaging self-control. Seems he’d like me to ease up a little and I don’t know, actually eat now and then. Someday. For now I still have a few pants sizes to drop. I still have my goals, no matter how skewed the might me.

It’s December, and it’s closing in on Christmas, and three years since the most important person in my life was taken from me.

And maybe it’s time to go a little easier on myself.


I’m working on it.

I am and I remain a work in progress.

Despite the powerful desire to curl up in a corner and hide until the New Year comes around, I will continue to write. I will continue to work out. I will continue to try this whole living thing.

And someday I might even manage to get it right.

So as I sincerely doubt there will be another of these before the holidays are done, I’ll wish one and all the happiest of holidays and as I sincerely doubt the Mayans got it right, I’ll even go so far as to wish everyone a happy New Year. May the season find you happy and healthy and with loved ones.

It is what it is.

Dinner for One, Part Thirty-Five

“Pain is the biggest power of love.”—Stephen King

“Sitting next to you doing absolutely nothing, means absolutely everything to me.”—Author Unknown

“No man is worth your tears, and when you find one who is, he’ll never make you cry.”—Author Unknown

Another anniversary just snuck past. The elopement. It would have been 24 years. I requested the day off from work, and then I went to an event held by the company, the better to look at the possibilities within the company. I think it’s fair to say I’d like a little more challenge in my life. And more money, too, because I’m tired of scraping by month to month.

Nothing like eking out a living to make a man look good to the opposite sex, unless it’s looking like Jabba the Hutt when you climb into your clothes. I’m working on the waistline. Figure I might as well work on the rest of it, too. It’s not that I don’t have money, it’s more that I’d like to keep as much of what I have as I can for a rainy day.

The 12th of July this year brought a few unexpected things. First, the mail delivered to me a small cardboard envelope that looked like it was designed to carry a CD or DVD. Instead of either of those things, I could a card inside with a collection of coins from different countries and a few obscure ones from this country, as well. The card came from a couple of good friends with a note that said, “Thought you might like to ‘share’ these with Bonnie.” I think the timing was coincidence, but it was a nice one. I took the coins, described them to Bonnie and set them in my little jar of coins set aside for her. She offered no comments, but I felt closer to her anyway when it was done. It was a very kind and generous gift and one I won’t forget.

I am reminded again that I have wonderful friends. A good number of them live in other parts of the country and we seldom see each other often enough, but they remain wonderful and I remain a very fortunate man. From time to time I think of them and remember that I have a good number of blessings in my world.

Still, it has been a long time without Bonnie and I miss her. I don’t think that will ever change. I don’t think it should, either. She was a very large part of my life and helped shape everything that I am.

I went the day before the anniversary to see my doctor. I only have the one and he checks me over every four months to make sure I’m still alive. So far, so good. No rigor mortis, despite the fact that my smile tends to look awfully stiff in most pictures.

Miracle of miracles, I have lost six pounds since the last time I saw him. Looking back over these entries, I see that in the last year I’ve lost right at 13 pounds. I’m glad of it. I’d hate to think all the dieting and exercise was a complete waste of effort. About a year or so back, the last time I was on a buy-pants-for-work kick, I grabbed a pair that was the wrong size. They were too small. I’m not blind; I did it on purpose. I kept them and tucked them on the top shelf of my closet. I figured “someday.” Well, I wore those pants to work on the 11th. They were a touch snug, but they fit. The belt I’ve been using to hold my pants up? Not so much. It’s now too big. Okay, just barely, but I’ll call that a victory and move on. I will gladly take my victories wherever I can find them.

Where were we? Oh, yeah, anniversary.

I did not spend the day pouting. I found things to do, instead. Ten-mile bike ride. 90 push-ups, recover from 90 push-ups. Tell myself to stop calling myself a sissy and accept that 90 push-ups really is a lot. I wrote. I attended a meeting for Starbucks where I could actually ask questions of my boss’s boss’s boss. I visited one of my siblings. I washed laundry. That last part? Sometimes you just gotta wash clothes. When the floor starts disappearing under dirty socks and shirts, it’s time to fix the situation.

There are always things to do, aren’t there? Some of them might not be fun, but if you look around, you can find them. Personally I prefer the idea of washing a load of boxer shorts to the idea of sitting around in a funk.

I remembered my wife. Not just in a casual way, but consciously. I remembered the good and the bad and all of the in between. I thought about the pets we had, the children we didn’t, the decisions we made and the choices that were thrust upon us. I remembered the times when we could barely scrape together enough money to pay the bills and the times when we had enough extra breathe a little easier. I contemplated the decision we made to quit smoking and I’m still glad of it and glad I haven’t gone back down that particular path (Really, it wouldn’t do well at all with the exercise bike thing. I’m already red-faced by the end of the ten miles. I’d be purple and panting at when the ride was done.).

I won’t say the trip down memory lane didn’t cost me a few tears. It did. But they’re a necessary evil and I accept them. I earned them. They are mine.

And I looked toward the future. It’s still an uncertain thing, but then it always is, isn’t it? There are no guarantees in the world, save, of course, for death and taxes, well, and the near certainty that too many politicians will make too many false promises come election time.

Nothing has changed, really. I’m still just me. But I am and I remain a work in progress. And part of progress, I suppose, is looking toward the horizon and wondering what is just beyond what we can see. I’m a writer, and that’s part of the job anyway. Now I’m just conscious off it, I suppose. For the moment at any rate. You never know what will come along to distract you from philosophical moments.

What’s next? No notion. For the present time I’ll continue on the current course. Work, write, exercise, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

Douglas Adams, the genius scribe behind the HITCHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY series of books (and radio shows, television and cinematic movies) once explained that flying, the actual act of defying gravity, is learned by accident. The idea is that one aims for the ground, jumps off a high object (say a cliff or a building) and then misses the target, normally by getting distracted. I suspect there’s a possibility that the act of living is much the same. One aims at a target, sets one’s goals and then when you least expect it, life comes along and distracts you.

And the next thing you know, you’re flying.

For the moment I am earth-bound.

That’s okay. Now and then it’s best to remain with both feet on the ground, I suppose. And should a distraction happen, I can merely hope that I’m not too busy to notice it.

It is what it is.

The Fine Art of Bike Riding, Part One

“Two things only a man cannot hide, that he is drunk and that he is in love.”—Antiphanes

“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true Happiness.”—Bertrand Russell

“Love never reasons but profusely gives, like a thoughtless prodigal, its all, and trembles lest it has done too little.”—Hannah More

“Love is shown in your deeds, not in your words.”—Fr. Jerome Cummings

Why the fine art of bike riding? Because according to many people the notion of moving on with your life when a relationship ends is like riding a bike. You just have to get back on and start pedaling. I suppose after that it’s just a question of muscle memory and balance, right?

Yeah. Right. I’ll get right on that.

Everything is always more complicated than it has to be, I think. Especially when you tend toward caution. I envy the ones who can throw themselves with complete abandon into any situation. It’s not me, that’s a certainty. Unless there are extremely extenuating circumstances I suspect I’ll never be called a man of action. More like a man of contemplation. Not that I think that’s a bad thing. It’s just…different.

So how do I do this? How do I move on from one monumental incident that completely changed me? Now and then I think I have a notion. Then I take a few steps and realize that I am headed in the wrong direction, looking toward the wrong horizon, thinking of the wrong person, dancing to the wrong tune or trying to adjust the view in all the wrong ways.

What am I talking about? I think the quotes above could be considered a proper hint. I am considering my world view more than anything else, but the subject comes up and demands a certain amount of my attention, regardless of my desire to ignore it.

I’m human. I make mistakes. Lord, I make a lot of them. Sometimes I even make the same mistakes repeatedly. Its not that I am not trying to learn from past errors, but rather that I hope for resolutions that simply aren’t meant to be.

And they say getting back on the bike is easy. It would be, but the damned obstacles are everywhere.

What will I do? I have no idea. I’ll keep on exercising. I know that much. I’ll try to stick to the diet, too. The progress may be slow, but so far it continues. That much in life has not let me down at least. Certain experiments work. Others do not. I head to the doctor’s office in a few weeks and we’ll see if I’ve actually managed to do more than rearrange the weight distribution this time around.

I have to wonder if I’m sabotaging myself.

I think about my actions at certain times and shake my head. The things I do should be signs of adolescence, not of any part of adulthood. Again, it’s all relative when you get right down to it. I am a long time away from anything that resembles looking for relationships. I remain uncertain about how to act, if I’m acting inappropriately and whether or not I should just become a hermit. It’s an easier proposition than taking risks, as I have said more than once. True, the rewards of a good relationship are substantial. But the risks? Well, the dangers of falling in love, as I have noted before, include the dangers of simply falling. I find that as I look at my life it’s rather easy to be afraid of heights.

On the subject of leaps of faith: Sometimes you leap and no one is there to catch you. Other times you look at the distance to that next possible safe spot and you hesitate. And you are lost. Maybe there will be more on that another time. I don’t know right now. I don’t know much of anything. That’s the point, isn’t it? Or is it? Once again I find there are more questions than there are answers.

Maybe the problem with faith is that it is not always rewarded. Or if it is, sometimes the rewards are not what we are expecting. Maybe the problem isn’t with faith so much as it is with anticipation. Again, it’s hard to say. This is a new territory for me. Faith is as unnerving a concept as there is when you get right down to it. I normally manage faith that I can get through whatever is coming my way, but there are seldom guarantees that I’ll get through the process unscathed. In my defense history has shown me that getting cut a few times happens whenever you reach beyond your comfort zone. Of course, as I’ve already said on a few occasions, I think that you have to get past the comfort zone; you have to strive for a little more, or risk stagnation. I think that’s a fate far worse than a few scratches or the occasional all out cut.

All of which is to say that I’m looking at this damned bicycle and I know it’s a one seater but it sure does look as big as a stretch limo from here. That said, I also know that I have no particular desire to spend the rest of my life alone. I may not be in a hurry—I find that rushing in this sort of territory doesn’t really appeal to me, even without looking at the endless list of pitfalls—but I will eventually have to climb on this here bike and give it a spin, even if it’s just to the end of the driveway the first few times.

All of this is theoretical, of course. There are remarkably few women who have caught my eye for more than a millisecond since Bonnie passed. I can name them on one hand, though I won’t. Of the ones I’ve found myself interested in, exactly none of them are currently available for consideration. They are in relationships with differing levels of commitment.

What was it Sammy Hagar said in his song? Oh yeah. All of the good ones are taken.

Which means that for the present I will continue to look at this here bike and kick the tires a few times. Maybe I’ll even hop on the seat and think about it for a while. But, really, I’m not in a hurry to get anywhere.

I just need to remember how to ride a bike.

That’s okay. Like I said I’m not really in a hurry, and like I also said, I am hardly a man of action. Contemplation, evaluation and consideration. They’ll do for now.

It is what it is.

Dinner For One, Part Thirty-Four

“The worst part of life is waiting. The best part of life is having someone worth waiting for.” –Jessica Brumley

“Love looks through a telescope; envy through a microscope.”—Josh Billings

“The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings - words shrink things that seem timeless when they are in your head to no more than living size when they are brought out.” –Stephen King

It’s been said by many writers and critics that fiction writers are liars (among many other words of praise and condemnation alike, thank you very much). There might be some truth to that. I tend to think that the act of writing fiction requires the same talent set as a good liar has: you have to be able to spin a tale and make it believable. You also have to be able to keep your fictions straight in your head or, believe me on this, the critics will come after you like piranha.

As I was out to dinner with some friends a few nights ago, we got to discussing this simple aspect of writing. And Charles Rutledge, a co-author and friend, brought up a salient point that Stephen King made eloquently: King said, “Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

I tend to believe that’s an incredibly accurate assessment. Okay, to be fair, I tend to think that Stephen King is incredibly accurate far more often than he is wrong. It’s the mark of a truly phenomenal scribe: A writer sees everything and sometimes, if fate is kind and the stars are aligned properly, that writer can even find a way to explain what has been seen with mere words.

I believe that fiction writers—maybe all writers, though I’m not experienced enough at non-fiction to make a proper judgment—have to carry an element of truth in their words, or else they fail in the task of telling a compelling story. Truth can be a painful thing to deal with. Maybe that’s why I prefer fiction: less painful or at least the truth is diluted that way. Let me give you an example, if I may.

As I have made clear before, I knew that barring unforeseen incidents, there was every likelihood that I was going to outlive my wife. We both knew it. The cards had been dealt and there is absolutely nothing kind or gentle about a chronic illness. Let me be direct here: Diabetes is a chronic illness. You treat it the right way and your life expectancy isn’t the best. You ignore it and you’re likely shaving decades off of your life. Decades. That is not a gross exaggeration. The thing I can’t emphasize enough is that it’s one thing to know that intellectually and another to really comprehend it. Sometimes I think you want to sugar coat the universe you live in, whether or not you are conscious of that desire to make the world more palatable.

And that’s where the truth comes in. I don’t think you can lie to yourself constantly without some rather unpleasant side effects. I think that maybe if you manage the feat of lying constantly and convincingly you just might find yourself on the path to mental illness. What makes me say that? Common sense and a little perspective, really. Perspective is also not always easy. I’ve told people before that now and then an editor is a writer’s best friend, because now and then the editor can offer distance when a writer is too close to a subject. I don’t necessarily mean with the subject matter, though that too can apply. I mean that as a writer, I KNOW what I’m trying to say and sometimes I can’t convey it properly (Hopefully that’s a rarity) and other times. I think the mind tends to put the right words in the right places for me. Not on paper as it were, but behind my eyes when I’m reading. Put another way, though in this case it’s very much accidental, the mind lies. What I meant to say in a sentence might be “She spoke to the policeman and gave him all the details she could clearly remember.” And that might very well be what I SEE because my mind knows what I’m trying to say, when in fact the words typed are “She spike to the please man and save him all the details she could clearly remember.” It’s close, but it’s decidedly not what was intended. Sometimes the mind lies.

Other times, the mind insists on the truth, and I think that if it can’t force the truth into your conscious mind, it will find other ways to handle the situation. It might, for example, affect your dreams to the point that you have repeated dreams of looking for a new job when you fear for whether or not your current employment is going down the crapper. Or it might offer up a dream of your potential love interest sleeping with someone else, someone you desperately despise, to let you know that said possible paramour is slipping away and losing interest. Seems like just another dream but there are signals from your unconscious mind. Then again I could be completely off the mark. I am hardly a psychiatrist.

So, a little evidence to consider then.

It seems I was preparing myself for Bonnie’s passing. I’ll explain. Bear with me. I wrote a novel called DEEPER a while back. About two years before Bonnie passed, actually. The main character of the novel was a man named Joe Bierden. Joe is an average guy and he has a wife and two kids. He loves them, of course. Hey, if you’re going to write a novel, here’s a hint for you: if your main character has no one in his life it’s going to be a good deal harder to make anyone care about him or her. Characters who stand alone and don’t play nicely with at least a few people tend to be unsympathetic. That tends to make your readers not care at all about the trials and tribulations that character faces. Look back on a few of the novels you liked the least and you just might see that played a part in it. Of course it could have just been a really bad novel or a bad time to pick that particular book. Hard to say, but I’d guess there might be a little something to my suggestion.

My point is, Joe is a likable enough character.

I actually felt a little bad about murdering his wife.

I don’t work from an outline. Most of the time the story is in my head and I just write and let it sort itself out. Now and then that leads to the darnedest challenges. In my very first novel, UNDER THE OVERTREE, that led to a character that refused to die. I mean, seriously I tried to kill her a dozen times and she just would not let me kill her. Obviously I wasn't done with the character, but it was both an amusing dilemma and a frustrating one.

Joe’s wife was a bit different. I never planned to kill her originally. It just sort of happened. She was taken abruptly and when he finally got to see her again, it was too late. The following section is from the novel. Well, the second draft at any rate. There might have been a few changes but this should make the point well enough.


As bad as the phone call was, it was nothing in comparison to looking at Belle’s lifeless face. She was as beautiful as ever, as calm as I had ever seen her, and yet her body was a cold, dead thing.

I would never know her touch again, or hear her laughter, or feel her breath on my neck while we hugged. Or look into her eyes and marvel at the way she looked when she smiled. Or kiss her again. Or hear her gripe about the fucking Red Sox when they blew a game. Or taste her cooking, or hear her fuss good-naturedly about the fact that she’d married a slob. She would never surprise me with breakfast in bed again, or pretend to be surprised herself after I’d made a mess of the kitchen while trying to return the favor. She would never wake me from a doze and lead me to the bedroom on a cold winter’s night when I sat too damned close to the fire and I was going stir crazy from a month of not working every single day for three or more months. She would never again keep me at bay and fend off a much-needed hug because she was still frying another pan of potatoes and ham. She would never, ever kiss me awake again.

Dear Lord, the list of things she would never do again was endless, almost as vast as the gulf that separated us as I stared down at her refrigerated corpse, unmarked but still so very, very dead.

I know I talked, eventually. I know I did things. I took care of matters, because, really, that’s what you’re supposed to do. I made arrangements to have her body transported back to our little town, and I called the priest at our church and the insurance company, and a hundred other numbers. I know I spoke to my kids and listened to them cry, listened to their slow realization that it wasn't just a social call because I missed them.

I remember all of it in a distant way, like it happened to somebody else. Because for all the world, the only thing that mattered to me was that Belle was dead.

Belle was dead.


Stolen from me for all time.

There are things we do in our lives that we regret. For every single thing I got right in my life, I suppose there is at least one action or idea I had that I would gladly do over. That’s the way the world works.

I never regretted any part of my time with Belle. I was ashamed of certain things I did, and if I could have changed those things, I probably would have, but none of them involved her, not directly at least.


It's fiction, of course. My wife was not murdered. She was merely stolen away by the Grim Reaper. There are differences, naturally, because I was not writing about Bonnie. I was writing about Belle. At least I thought I was when I wrote the piece. Now I suspect I was merely telling myself a truth I didn't want to face. I was getting ready for the inevitable in the only way I could.

We try to prepare ourselves, I suppose. We try. As a writer, I think the truth wants to come out, even if, sometimes, you don’t necessarily approve of that truth. You may rest assured; I don’t have an easy time reading the words above. They come too close in a lot of ways, though to be fair they are diluted. The reality was far, far more intense than my words conveyed.

I did not mean to write about Bonnie’s death. I did not intend to prepare myself, because I wanted very much to believe she would always be with me. It’s been almost two and a half years now, and I still miss Bonnie every day.

But we move on, don’t we? I never thought that would be possible. I still miss Bonnie every day, but, yes, I can breathe without having to remember how any more. I can sometimes go several days without feeling a sudden onslaught of tears.

We move on. I’ve been thinking about Bonnie a lot lately. To be fair, I’ve never stopped thinking about her. I sincerely doubt that I ever will. But now and then I can think about moving forward and I can make plans instead of simply forcing myself to get through the day.

I continue to work out every day, and I am still dieting and trying to get rid of the extra pounds I managed to put on through the course of years. Judging by comments made, I’m doing all right in that department. My pants are too baggy again, and sometime soon I’ll likely invest in new threads a few sizes smaller. I still work at Starbucks as a barista, and I still write novels for a living. One of my regulars is looking to start a private school and has asked me if I’d be interested in teaching a creative writing course. Might as well ask me if I’d like to try having fun. Should the opportunity arise, I’ll very likely take it. As with the writing deals, I’ll believe it when I’m looking at the contract and until then it will remain something to consider as a possibility. I remain, in other words, a work in progress.

Forward motion is always preferred to stagnation.

It is what it is.

Dinner for One, Part Thirty-Three

“When love is not madness, it is not love.” –Pedro Calderon de la Baraca

“If yet I have not all thy love, love dear, I shall never have it all. —John Donne

“Love is friendship set on fire.” –Anita Hodzic

Bonnie loved coins. Actually, I think she loved the memories they held for her. She loved her father very, very much. And for a lot of her youth, her father traveled a great deal for his job, often going to other countries or other cities for extended periods of time. Normally when he came back from areas that were a bit more exotic, he would bring her back a few coins from the local currency. Now, I’m sure this was just a way of clearing the change from his pocket and I am fairly certain that she never confided how much she liked those silly coins to her father. Though there was love in that relationship, there were also levels of complexity (aren’t there always?) and while when it came to certain things the two of them could be thick as thieves, they did not always speak easily to each other, even when they lived in the same house and they were both enduring their own health issues. It is not my place to air their laundry, and if you were expecting me to, you don’t know me very well. Let’s just leave it at they loved each other, even when they weren’t quite sure how to express it.

I found out about Bonnie’s love of strange coins when we were dating. She worked at a local fast food place where, one night, one of the customers paid with a couple of rolls of pennies. When she opened one of the rolls, all of the pennies that came out were the wrong color. Back in WWII the need for copper became rather dire for the military at one point, and for a brief time the pennies in these United States were forged not from copper, but from tin. She and her brother ran across a good number of tin pennies on that day and being of like mind, they promptly bought those pennies from their change till. Cost them around 78 cents as I recall, though, to be fair, it’s been a while and the numbers could be wrong. At any rate, those stupid pennies put a smile on her face, and as I have said before, I absolutely loved Bonnie’s smile. She could light my whole world with it.

I couldn’t afford to give Bonnie everything I wanted to in this world. Had I more money than Bill Gates, I’d have never been able to give her everything I wanted to in this or any lifetime, though she’d have said she needed none of it (Paradoxically, that just made me want to give it to her more. No one ever said the human heart made any sense.). At any rate, I knew of her love of foreign coins, old coins and bicentennial quarters, etc. To that end, working in retail, I made it a point to collect any of the odd coins that came across my register over the years and if it was stamped with the 1776-1976, it was almost a guarantee that if I had the change in my pocket, I’d switch it out. On particularly rare occasions I might run across an Indian Head nickel or even a coin so old that the numbers and images had faded to nothing. As you can imagine, the chase was seriously increased around the time some smarty pants in the government decided to do all those state quarters. I added them to the quest. As soon as I saw a new state quarter, it was a guarantee that Bonnie would have it to add to her collection. State Parks? I’m on those puppies too.

I need to clarify something here: Bonnie didn’t really collect them in the purest sense. She didn’t buy coin books and carefully set each in its special place. No, she just pooled them in a plastic odds and ends box and stowed them on her nightstand. She’d eye them, do her best to make out the details with her limited vision, and them plop them in the box with a smile and a thanks. Sometimes I think she might have been tempted to tell me not to waste my time, but she never told me to stop so I kept on doing it. Really, it was hardly much effort.

About three week after Bonnie died, I ran across a bicentennial quarter at work. I didn’t even really think about it. I just dug in my pocket, pulled out 25 cents and made the exchange. The coin went into my pocket and I forgot about it until I went home and emptied my pockets in preparation for another load of laundry.

I looked at that coin for a few seconds, said a few words to Bonnie, and then set it in her little plastic box of coins. And every day since then, when I run across a special coin, I buy it if I can afford it (I only pay the face value and I only get them if I can afford them), I wait until I get home, I say a few words to Bonnie and I put that coin into her little plastic box. Today was a banner day. I found three bicentennial quarters, two five-cent pieces and a one-cent piece from the Bahamas. I told Bonnie about my day, described the coins from the Bahamas (as we had never shared those particular coins before) and plopped them in her jar.

It’s just a little way of coping and honoring her memory. They brought her joy, and at the end of the day, I sock away a little change for a rainy day. I’m not a complete moron. Sooner or later that little jar fills up and I empty out most of the quarters, leaving behind mostly her tiny collection of foreign currency.

I still talk to Bonnie every day. Still like to think she’s listening. Damn, I still miss her. Every day. Every minute and hour.

There’s a little video game called Bejeweled. It’s a simple enough game: match three like gems and they explode and you get points. The higher the level, the more gems there are on the screen and the more complicated the challenge of moving forward. Bonnie loved that stupid game. I guess you could call it her Zen moment for the day. She’d play on a sort of autopilot and the pains and grief of her existence got more manageable. For the last couple of years of her life it was not at all uncommon for me to hear her playing that game while I was writing. I’d hear the music, the sound of gems exploding, and on rare occasions, when the combination of exploding gems was simply too intense for mere noises to convey, the game would call out “Amazing!” “Extraordinary!” “Incredible!” Background noise. Listen you live in a busy house, you learn to block out most background noises with relative ease.

The other day Bejeweled was offered as a free app for the iPhone. Yep I have an iPhone. Just for grins, I downloaded the app. I wasn’t thinking about it consciously, I just thought it looked like fun and sort of remembered Bonnie playing it and having fun.

And I played it. I, who never play video games because they get in the way of my writing time, started playing the goofy game and hearing the same sounds that I’d grown to tune out as so much white noise while Bonnie was alive.

Yesterday I called in sick to my day job. Believe me when I say this: That doesn’t happen very often. The last time I called in sick was a little over four and a half years ago. Doesn’t mean I’m a workhorse or anything, it’s just the way I was raised. You don’t call out sick unless you are, by God, sick. I managed to catch a stomach bug from my in-laws and spent the vast majority of the last two days, achy, feverish and visiting the bathroom with ridiculous frequency. The worst has passed, thankfully, but I am still annoyingly achy.

The last time I got really, really sick, Bonnie was still with me. She came home from work, took one look at me in my misery, and laughed. I believe her exact term was “You big baby!” She said that, but she still spoiled me a little and brought me a cup of soup and even let me pick which shows we were going to watch (Hey, you have to celebrate these little victories. Don’t judge me.). Seriously, aside from being diabetic and chunkier than I like to think about, I’m ridiculously healthy. Even my doctor has said so a few times. I’m not gonna get cocky about it, of course. That sort of thing never lasts and I am hardly immortal (Thus the regular doctor visits). But I really don’t get sick often.

This time I was on my own for the misery of a fever and all the fun asides. Turns out Bonnie was right. I’m a big baby. There was some hardcore pouting and whimpering going on. And you know what? No one got me my soup. I had to do it myself. It’s just not the same somehow. Still, I managed to survive the storm. And because it was about all I could do, I played the hell out of that Bejeweled game. Damnedest thing. I found the sounds soothing. I imagine I will eventually grow tired of the game, but for now it’s a nice, different way to remember my beloved.

Sometimes the littlest things get us through the day.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day. If you have a sweetheart, don’t forget a card or something. Why? Because you have a sweetheart. Don’t go taking that fact for granted or you might regret it. That’s my advice at least, for what it’s worth.

And if you don’t have a sweetheart, treat yourself instead.

It is what it is.