The Process Involves Coffee

I drink it with milk, no sugar. Whole milk, preferably. When at home my husband humors me by not complaining that I buy expensive locally roasted beans in little 12-ounce bags that I burn through too quickly and so must buy two at a time. I often remark to anyone in earshot that they should come in one-pound bags. Or actually five-pound bags would be even better. I select a medium roast, never dark roast, because medium roast brings out the flavors of the beans themselves, doesn’t mask them with the flavor of something that has been charred. Not that that’s bad. It’s just that dark roast—a barista once explained to me—is its own flavor.

Making my coffee is the first thing I do in the morning, with almost no exceptions. I dread leaving the house without first having a cup because nothing functions until I do. Eye-to-hand coordination. Auditory comprehension. I wear a look of confusion and annoyance until I’ve gotten down the first six or eight ounces.

But this is the magic time. This is when the ideas come, when I’m still halfway dreaming, with only one foot in waking life. This is when I have at last let go of all the junk that accumulated throughout the day yesterday, when I haven’t yet begun to pick up pieces of today’s junk. As I dump the contents of my vintage red mug down my throat, as I feel the caffeine begin to lift me into the day, it is as if my mind is a landscape in which I can see my ideas arranged and resting in their terrain, waiting for me. I can draw a map from one to the next, along this creek, over that small rise. And if I am careful I can find a way to not only place the ideas on the page but capture something of their relationships to one another. This is how I begin.

NolaVie Dispatches of Studiola Curators Have Begun!

Psst…before Marin Sardy begins:

August curator Christianne Sanchez Robinson is interviewed over at NolaVie about her Studiola residency.

nolavieThe “Nola Studiola dispatch” on Robinson is the first in a series of monthly interviews with Studiola curators. Check out Robinson’s reflections on her work at the blog, and while you’re at it, check out NolaVie!

Enjoy Marin Sardy’s time at Nola Studiola, and be on the lookout for her NolaVie dispatch mid to late month!

 

September 2014 Curator: Marin Sardy

MarinEagle eyes that can make out the above picture behind the banner have recognized Marla Singer from the 1999 movie Fight Club, played by the inimitable Helena Bonham Carter. Singer is reportedly the spirit animal of Nola Studiola’s next curator.
I am pleased and honored to announce that September 2014 brings Marin Sardy to Nola Studiola.
I met Marin in a crowded bar in New York City, thanks to Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art and Sarah Perry.
Marin Sardy’s essays have appeared in the Missouri Review, Post Road, Bayou, Lumina, Phoebe, Luna Luna, and several other journals and magazines, as well as two books published by the University of New Mexico Press—Landscape Dreams (2012) and Ghost Ranch and the Faraway Nearby (2009). Sardy has an M.F.A. in Nonfiction from Columbia University and is the nonfiction editor of Cactus Heart literary magazine. She is currently writing a memoir. In the past few years her writing has mostly involved topics relating to mental illness, such as here and here. In August, she was interviewed about her writing here.
Here’s to September for Sardy.

 

Unrequited Love: A Head Case (part 3 in a series)

A friend recently said to me: “I can’t talk to you about my problems with my boyfriend. Your relationship is so perfect.” I looked at her and laughed. “Oh honey, if you only knew what I’d been through.” I relayed this story to my mother later via email. She echoed my response, having been there every step of the way. What follows here is a memoir of those relationships, a boy-chapter at a time.

I met Pierce after I’d been back in Austin for a couple of months. He was one of Dean’s colleagues. I had been on a dating whirlwind and was lamenting the fact that I didn’t really have a connection with any of the guys. I had random, intermittent communications from both Billy and Jay. I think at the beginning Billy regretted breaking it off. And Jay ran hot and cold with me, as usual.

Dean and I went to the Bob Marley festival together in April, and he brought along some friends—one of whom was Pierce. He completely captivated me that afternoon. He was tall—nearly 6’5”—we must have looked ridiculous next to each other, as I’m just over 5 feet tall. He had a shock of curly light brown hair, hazel eyes, a goatee. I described him in my journal at the time: “cute, funny, educated, intelligent, he’s AMAZING.” The group of us lounged in the sunshine, drank beer, listened to music. Pierce had a date that night with some girl he met at a coffee shop. But I didn’t let that deter me. As we all walked back to our cars, I boldly told him we should go out next Saturday. Obviously I knew he was already booked that night. He said that his parents would be in town the following weekend because it was his birthday, but maybe after that?

“That’s too long,” I simpered.

“I’ll get your number from Dean.” He grinned at me. “Until then?” And he leaned down to give me a quick peck on the side of my mouth.

I was the one to ask him out, and then I was the one who got his email address from Dean and emailed him two days later. I thought I was just being proactive and going after what I wanted, but I probably should have listened to my mother when she told me that I shouldn’t chase boys. He emailed me back, to my delight, and we made plans for Saturday.

I spent that Saturday at the lake with my friends, anticipating seeing him again with a flutter of nervous excitement in my belly. I was living with my parents at the time, and we were far north of town, so I didn’t want him to come pick me up. Similarly, since he had recently moved to Austin, he was living with his brother and sister-in-law. So I met him there, and we got in his 4Runner. He had suggested a party being thrown by another colleague.

We stayed at the party for half a beer. We were too into our date to hang out longer: people were annoying us simply by distracting us from each other. I hadn’t eaten much that day—too nervous—and he took me out for pizza at his favorite neighborhood place. We couldn’t stop talking. From dinner, we went downtown to the Elephant Room and listened to jazz. I’m not sure I had ever been on a date like that. My dates up till that point had been things like keg parties and Taco Bell at 2 a.m. And Billy hardly took me out at all. Dinner and then listening to jazz seemed so sophisticated to me.

We left Elephant Room and strolled down Sixth Street, people watching talking and laughing. At some point he took my hand. Then he was beaming at me and saying, “Wow, you’re fun.” I felt as light as air. I thought he was the fun one—can you imagine the difference between him and Billy? And he liked me? We wound up outside the Driskill Hotel, gazing up at its imposing outer walls, and Pierce suggested a nightcap. I agreed enthusiastically, telling him how much I loved the hotel. I had never stayed there, but the sweeping grandeur of the architecture, the marble floors,  and the Texas-themed bar were all so classy and cool.

“Why don’t we get a room here?” he said then, and I might have swooned. We certainly couldn’t spend the night together at either of our respective homes, and neither of us wanted the night to end. In the hotel room, I was all nervous and fidgety again. I was bouncing around the room, acting silly, pulling books off the shelves, checking out the view while Pierce lay on the bed and smoked a cigarette.

“I’ve been dying to ask you this all night,” he said.

I paused, looked over at him warily. “What?”

“Can I kiss you?”

I was floored. No one had ever asked me that before, and something about it struck me as incredibly romantic.

And so the Pierce chapter began. In the beginning, our honeymoon stage, we were electric. We went on dates to restaurants, bars, parties, concerts. Again, it was something I had never known with Billy, who was absorbed in his world of computers. Pierce could dance, and would spin me around the floor, everyone watching. I think I fell in love with him after a week. I wanted to say it but I couldn’t—I knew that was crazy, and I didn’t want to be the first one. One weekend we drove to Shiner for a picnic. Inside the picnic basket, Pierce had three roses for me. That night he hesitantly asked if I would be his girlfriend. I was ecstatic. Of course I wanted to be his girlfriend. I couldn’t get the guy out of my head.

He also warned me he had issues. He didn’t tell me what they were, but he said that his heart wanted to be with me but his head was trying to deal with the unresolved things that happened in his past. I told him I would help him, even thought I had no idea what I was signing up for. I loved him so much that I was willing to do anything for the relationship. And I think he truly loved me, but true to his word—the issues in the end were just too much for him.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

Something about his issues and his past—there was a weird religious cult thing that he would occasionally bring up, usually after many drinks, but I never really got the full story—made it hard for him to say those three little words, “I love you.” He said that he really didn’t know what love was. He slipped, though, and after we had been dating about a month, he said it while he was spinning me around the dance floor at the Continental Club on South Congress: “I love you girl!” I didn’t say anything. I pretended I didn’t hear him. I didn’t want to be mistaken. It was loud, crazy, the band was pumped and there were throngs of sweaty dancers. We were practically screaming to be heard. But then he pulled me close and said it again, in my ear—“I love you!” I was so relieved, because I was besotted with this man and beginning to fear I was in it all alone, afraid of what that meant and what would happen to us and to me.

But as Pierce said, he was weird about it, so after that night, he stopped telling me. It was like he jumped the gun, said it too early and wanted to take it back. I became obsessed with it. My friends and I called it “The Phrase.” No matter what he did or said that showed me how much he obviously loved me, I needed to hear those words. Nothing else would do. It took nearly eight months for him to say The Phrase again, and this time he kept telling me.

We were still far from perfect.

Pierce’s mother Pam came to visit when Pierce and I had been dating for about six months. I played the situation all wrong. I made jokes she didn’t like, a curse word or two likely slipped out, and I’m sure I was dressed inappropriately. It simply didn’t occur to me that I was supposed to act a different way in front of her than I would otherwise. We had an awkward dinner—Pierce, me, his mother, his brother and his wife—and then we went back to Pierce’s house so she could evaluate it. I didn’t realize at the time that Pam felt she should be involved in all aspects of her youngest son’s life, even though he was 24. She needed to determine what furnishings he needed—no matter what Pierce thought. At some point it dawned on me that I should go home, when on a normal evening I would spend the night with Pierce.

Pierce walked me to my car and we had a heated discussion. His mother had gone home a half hour ago, but he was actually afraid she would drive back by and see my car there. And then he would be in deep trouble with her. I couldn’t wrap my head around the situation. This man seemed so smart and in control, yet he was terrified of his parents. He was so terrified that he would alter his behavior to suit them. I took the situation harshly and personally, as always. Pierce wouldn’t have been able to spend the night with anyone—this was not about me, but about propriety—but I didn’t see that. I was laser-focused on what I saw as her rejection of me, and his inability to stand up for me and for us.

The weekend was awful. Because Pam was around, we couldn’t have a “normal” weekend—and he was at her beck and call. Our phone calls were short and clipped, and later Pierce would tell me how awkward he felt talking to me while Pam was standing there listening. We went out Saturday night and he allowed me to spend the night. (How did I manage that? He must have felt bad for me, or maybe I wore him down.) Sunday afternoon his mother called after her return from antique-hunting with his sister-in-law, demanding he come to their house immediately. I was pointedly not invited. The afternoon was bleak, spitting rain from low gray clouds. Pierce drove me back to my apartment and I remember staring out the window of the 4Runner, feeling like a tramp.

Though that first night was not about me, I had already made the terrible impression that would ultimately spell the end for us. His mother didn’t like me. She had not chosen him for me. It was as simple as that. A couple months later, we went to Lubbock for a concert. As we drew near, Pierce detailed all the things I should keep in mind: don’t talk about religion, don’t say curse words—in other words, don’t be yourself. I drew inward and stopped talking. In the silence of the car ride, he took my hand and asked me what was wrong. “I get it,” I spit at him. “I’m not a dumbass.” But I clearly was—because I had already screwed up so badly it could never be repaired.

We had been dating for about a year when Pierce broke my heart for the first time. I was so happy that night—we had just come home from a party and I was thinking that he was such a good boyfriend. I felt pretty too. My hair was curly and wild and Pierce kept telling me how much le loved it.

In his kitchen, we started discussing music and I drunkenly maintained that he needed to hear Rod Stewart’s cover of a particular song. He thought Everything But the Girl had done it better.

“I’ll download the Rod Stewart version,” I said to him, sure I could prove my point. In his office, I fired up his computer. His ICQ list flashed to life in the bottom right corner of the screen. I glanced at it—honestly, my intent was just to download the song, not invade his privacy like past boyfriends had done to me—and saw several names of girls whom I didn’t recognize. Frowning, I clicked on one of the conversations with a girl named Maple Sugar.

The screen swam before my eyes and I felt sick to my stomach. I thought, “This can’t really be happening.” He was having cybersex with her. Sometimes begging her to get him off quickly as he was on his lunch break. It was disgusting. I stalked into the kitchen, tears blurring my vision.

“Who the hell is Maple Sugar?” I was hollow.

Pierce looked trapped and confused, and tried to explain it away.

No,” I said, trembling. “No. Read the fucking conversation, Pierce. You’re fucking her.” I started sobbing, and sank to the floor in the hallway. I screamed at him that he had betrayed me and I couldn’t forgive him for hurting me like that. My heard was absolutely breaking.

He was looking at me like he didn’t know what the hell hit him.

We talked for a long time. He said he didn’t realize what he was doing and it was no big deal and he would never do it again. He insisted it was just another persona and not really him. I told him it was completely unacceptable and I didn’t know what to do. I sat in the hallway, leaning against the doorjamb of his bedroom. I felt deflated. I felt like I wanted to die.

He asked if I wanted him to take me home. I was living with Dean at the time, and I couldn’t face him. Dean didn’t like me dating his friends, and he didn’t like that I was dating Pierce. Going home and admitting that he was right—that Pierce and I were wrong for each other, and I was an idiot for jumping in wholeheartedly, with both feet—I just couldn’t do it.

Finally we went to bed. I lay fully dressed on my side of the bed, refusing to touch him. I tried to sleep, hoping when I woke up it would all be a dream. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. Suddenly, manically, I was shaking him, waking him, saying “I want to read it.” Groggily, he stumbled out of bed and sat in his desk chair while I peered over his shoulder. We scrolled through every last conversation, every single word typed and exchanged. Two things stood out to me: he called her “lover” and he also said that I was an “on-again, off-again girlfriend.” He fairly sank into the chair as he kept reading further.

“Do you feel pretty awful now?” I whispered. “I hope so.” I went to bed.

He uninstalled ICQ and swore he would never use it again.

That morning, I woke up before he did and watched a movie, still unable to go home and face Dean. Pierce got up and sat across the room from me and made me some food. We hardly spoke. Coldplay was the soundtrack for that awful weekend—it was on repeat. To this day, when I hear a song from the Parachutes album, I remember sitting in the shadows at Pierce’s house, feeling broken, unable to walk away, yet again. Again. At some point, he sat next to me on the couch and asked how I was doing. We talked some more about what had happened and how deeply he had hurt me. I was tired—I had hardly slept the night before—and wanted to nap. He came with me to bed and held me. I let him.

He started crying then, and he said that he knew how badly he had messed up. When I saw those tears, I felt so hopeless and so convinced that he didn’t intentionally hurt me. I tried to believe that he hadn’t realized what he was doing to me and to us.

“I didn’t expect you to be lying next to me this morning. I don’t deserve for you to be here.” His voice broke.

The next day at work I wrote him a long letter. I was alone, again. I didn’t want to tell anyone what he had done. I was so confused about it. Was there something really wrong with him, or me? Was it okay that I considered it real cheating? My heart certainly couldn’t tell the difference. He said he would be lost without me and wanted to get past this somehow.

I should have left him, and that’s why I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. I was sure my friends, my mom, everyone would say that I should leave him. But I couldn’t. How could I leave this man, who made me Portobello mushrooms cut into hearts for Valentine’s Day? This man who wrote me sweet emails, who called me sexy, smart and amazing? This man who took me out, showed me off? He said that I was too good for him. He told me all the guys at work were jealous because I was so awesome. He loved me enough to do all the stupid things I wanted him to do, like call me each day at work, and make plans each weekend because I needed them, even though he wasn’t a planner. This man who told me he thought about me all day, from the moment he woke up to the moment he went to sleep. He had broken my heart into smithereens, but I couldn’t leave. I didn’t know how to breathe without him.

So we stayed together. But it was never quite right. I kept trying to make him into someone he wasn’t. I made up rules to satisfy my own insecurity, and then I got angry and hurt when he broke them. He didn’t want to call me every day—I insisted. He didn’t want to spend every night together—I did. He felt backed into a corner constantly. Pierce didn’t want to be controlled. And as soon as he started to pull against my needs and desires, I would back down for fear of losing him. It dovetailed nicely.

I didn’t want to love him anymore. I knew he was going to hurt me again. But I couldn’t pull away from him.

In October, after we had been dating for two and a half years, we went to Lubbock for his dad’s birthday. Things had been tense with me and Pierce for a while. He kept chafing against committing to me in some way; I kept looking for ways to be more secure in the relationship. The weekend was awkward, weird. His family, as usual, didn’t talk to me very much. Saturday night Pierce retreated to his bedroom to watch TV. I lay on the bed next to him and tried to touch him but he shied away. He was being cold and indifferent. I chalked it up to being around his parents, which always freaked him out to some extent. I gave up and went to my own bedroom. Surprisingly, he followed.

“I got the job with Tom,” he said. He was sitting at the foot of the bed; I was leaning against the pillows. Pierce had quit his job earlier that year, and tried his own thing. Several of his “own things” actually—nothing was working out, he had moved back in with his brother, and things weren’t looking great for his career.

“But the job’s here in Lubbock,” I said dully. Alarm bells were ringing in my head. This was why things had been so weird lately. Somewhere in my mind I knew he was preparing to end the relationship and I was panicked, reacting.

“And you don’t want to do long distance, so…” Pierce looked everywhere, all around the room, anywhere but at me.

It was Maple Sugar all over again. The world was swimming. This couldn’t be happening. Pierce was leaving me. The thing I had been worried about, fighting against—it was happening. My entire life I had worried how men would leave me, starting with my dad. And it was happening again.

We had another long talk. He kept clinging to the fact that I didn’t want to do a long-distance relationship and I had previously made that clear.

“I don’t prefer it,” I said slowly, “but I would be willing to work it out if you’re sure that’s what you want.” I paused, and looked at him. “You are sure about us, aren’t you?”

He hesitated, finally meeting my eyes. “I don’t know. I know what you want from this.”

“What is that?”

“You want to spend the rest of your life with me.”

“And you?” I waited, holding my breath.

“I just don’t know.” Pierce shook his head, staring at the coverlet. “I think maybe I don’t know what love is. I mean, I don’t think I ever really loved you.”

I’ll never forget those words. They fell between us with a thud. I don’t think I ever really loved you. How can you say that to someone? It had been two and a half years. We had our ups and downs, and I needed a lot of reassurance, but this? This was brutal. This was savage. I was absolutely stunned.

He left my room and I cried myself to sleep. In the morning, he asked if I wanted to come to breakfast with the family. “Are you kidding?” I asked. “Why would I want to come?”

“What should I tell them?” he asked. Since our talk, he had assumed a hangdog look that made me want to scream at him.

“Tell them whatever you want,” I snarled. “Tell them you just dumped me and it might be a bit awkward.”

While the family was gone, I called my mother and told her the story between sobs. She offered to fly me home—Lubbock was a six hour drive from Austin—but I declined. I wanted Pierce to feel as awful as I did for that long drive.

“You don’t want to be in this car with me, do you?” he said, somewhere around Sweetwater, Texas.

“No. You fucking broke my heart. What do you expect?”

As we drew closer to my apartment, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to give him the stuff he had left there because he was between places.

“Do you want any of it?” he asked.

“No, I don’t want anything that reminds me of you.”

He seemed surprised. He kept saying “This isn’t how it was supposed to go.” I was so confused. You tell your girlfriend you can’t picture a future with her, that you think you were lying about loving her and you don’t expect her to end that farce of a relationship?

“I hadn’t gotten that far,” he managed.

“How far have you gotten?” I asked.

“This conversation right now.”

I stared at him, dumbfounded. He was clueless.

After we arrived at the apartment, I started throwing all of his stuff in bags. I slammed cabinet doors. I heard him sniffle and I realized he was crying. Let him cry, I thought. This is his mess.

He took all the bags to the car. The final item was, strangely enough, a vacuum cleaner. I set it down in front of him in the door way.

“Is this it?” he asked.

“Yes.”

He just stood there, with that stupid look on his face and his hands in his pockets. And he cried.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” I said quietly, breaking finally in the presence of his tears, his real emotion.

He said he was sorry. He hugged me and I didn’t hug him back. He kissed the top of my head and said that he wished me the best. I remember thinking how lame that was. That’s the way you’re going to end our relationship?

I closed the door and sank to the floor, head in my hands, sobbing once again over this man who had completely wrecked me.

The next few months were some of the hardest of my life: I dated. I drank. I cried. I thought about him constantly. I compared everyone I met to him. I was alternately sad and angry. I wrote emails and letters that I didn’t send. I was depressed. A not insignificant amount of men told me that man must have been crazy to leave me. It almost made things worse. It just didn’t make sense to me.

In February, I heard through the grapevine that he would be in town for a wedding. I broke down and called him that Friday night. He didn’t answer, and didn’t return my call. The following day, I was eating lunch at our old favorite restaurant with my mom when he walked in. It felt like my heart stopped.

He walked up to our table; I rose to meet him. He hugged me, and I drank him in. He was wearing my favorite sweater, this cable knit forest green v-neck. He was so tall. He had a fresh haircut He told me he had gotten my message and was planning to call me that afternoon, so he would talk to me soon. After he walked away to get a table outside, I promptly burst into tears.

“I’m still in love with him,” I said to my mother.

“Maybe you should tell him that,” she said gently.

I was so nervous that afternoon that he wouldn’t call. But he did call. We met at a bar down the street from my apartment. We sat at a picnic table drinking beers and grinning at each other. He played with the label on his bottle. He confessed that he missed me, that he loved me still, thought about me twenty times a day. Lubbock was making him miserable.

“I go to sleep hugging three pillows each night,” he said. “I always wish they were you.”

The wedding he was attending started at 5 p.m., so he walked me to my car and we stood next to it, fingers entwined. I wanted so badly for him to kiss me. Then he did, and I melted.

“Stay with me tonight,” I whispered.

Pierce didn’t think it was a good idea—he didn’t know where it would leave us—more confused than ever?

“Look, we’re both miserable and we still love each other. Why don’t we just try it for now?”

He promised to call around 10 after the wedding. I went out with my friend to an Irish bar, hoping to distract myself, but as soon as the clock struck 10 p.m., I was watching my Nokia like a hawk. He waited until the excruciating time of 11:30 to call me, but it was worth it—he was on his way to the bar. We fell into each other, kissing, hugging, breathing “I love you so much.”

He stayed the night with me.

“I made a mistake, letting you go. I won’t make it again,” he told me as he left for Lubbock. The night had convinced us we could make our lives together work.

We were going to try the long distance thing after all.

He seemed like a changed man over the next few months. We coordinated visits between Austin and Lubbock. When we were together, we were like drowning people who had found a life vest in the other person. When we weren’t together, we emailed or talked on the phone. The attentive boyfriend I had always wanted him to be—had tried to make him into, stupidly—finally existed.

“He looks so happy,” my mother told me after we visited her one weekend when he was in town. “You look happy too. I think he’s changed. He’s really grown up.”

When I got laid off in late February, somehow the idea surfaced that maybe I could look for jobs in Lubbock. Pierce latched on to the idea. He was unexpectedly excited about it. He emailed job listings to me, talked to his friends, was always brainstorming and supportive. Now I see how it was really a selfish thing for him to do. After all, he didn’t see himself leaving Lubbock for several years because he needed to rebuild his career. Why not bring me in to his carefully arranged world? I could be his plaything while Lubbock bored him.

Of course there was a huge roadblock still in our way despite our new-old love. His parents. I decided the only way we could move forward and make our relationship work was if they accepted me. And for them to accept me, Pierce had to stand up for me and tell them I was his girl, that he loved me and that he planned to be with me long-term.

I learned some painful truths during that time. Pierce confessed he may have been partially responsible for his parents’ attitudes toward me. He complained about what didn’t work in our relationship, and never told them how much he cared about me. Pam was convinced the woman for him would be chosen by God, and clearly I wasn’t that person. It was clear, she told him, because when he found God’s chosen one, everything would be easy. He would never have to work at the relationship.

I should have run fast. I had almost gotten away once.

But I was so crazy in love with him and he was finally the person I had wanted. It was as if the months apart had helped him see clarity. He couldn’t stop telling me how much he loved me. How beautiful and kind and smart I was. How he was a fool before. How we were going to spend the rest of our lives together. There was a ring, he promised, and a plan.

And so it was with that backdrop that we finally had The Talk with his parents. It was a spring evening in Lubbock, following a dinner with the usual stilted conversation—me, because it was always hard for me, and I knew what was coming—Pierce, because he knew what was coming as well and he had never backed down from something his parents wanted. The fact that he would do this for me solidified the idea in my head: this man loved me.

Pierce began the discussion bravely. I was so happy he was sitting close to me, with his hand on my knee. I thought at the time it was to help me be strong, but now I wonder if maybe he needed me so that he could be strong.

“I think we all need to get our issues out on the table,” Pierce said.

I was choked with tears from the beginning of the discussion, but I managed to tell his father how I felt invisible around him. Several times he had left a dinner or an evening without saying goodbye to me. Once I arrived at a dinner and everyone had already finished eating.  Pierce kept jumping in and claiming fault for parts of these interactions, but his mother didn’t want him to take any of the blame.

Suddenly she fixed me with her steely gaze. “You know what your problem is?”

“I’m sorry—what? My problem?” The conversation had been steering me toward weepy and sad, but her words had shot me through with adrenaline. I was pissed.

Pierce tried unsuccessfully to intervene. “Mom—“

She turned the gaze on him, her mouth pinched in anger. “You be quiet.” Back to me. “You have an inferiority complex. I don’t appreciate your attitude. You haven’t tried at all to fit in with the family.”

“That’s not true, I did try—“

“No, you didn’t. You aren’t good with uncomfortable situations. It’s up to you to make it better.”

At that point, I was flabbergasted in addition to angry. Why, I wanted to ask, were these “situations” so uncomfortable? Because she was correct, they indeed were uncomfortable. Excruciating might be a better word. Pierce, as he had attempted to point out, had actually created these situations by telling him about how his girlfriend was a real drag and a gold digger, and it seemed my role had simply been that I was a person his parents had never imagined for him.

Which was the point his mother drove home next, by asking me if I believed Jesus was our savior. Now, on top of my confusion, hurt and anger, she was going to tear apart my religious beliefs. Pierce gave my knee another reassuring squeeze. I explained that I didn’t believe in Jesus as the savior, but as a prophet. I haltingly told her that I believed in a number of aspects from different religions, including reincarnation. I thought her head was going to spin and pop right off her neck. Her eyes may even have bulged from their sockets. Unaware that I was damaging my life and love with Pierce beyond repair, I blundered on.

“We all have different beliefs about God,” I said, ignoring Pierce’s silence, “but it all boils down to one thing—you should love all people and all things. The specifics don’t really matter to me.”

His father, sitting across from me in a huge leather chair, looking nearly as stern as his wife, considered what I had said. He shook his head slowly, almost as if I were an idiot, which I’m sure he believed. “You and Pierce don’t have a foundation for your relationship because it’s not based on God. Everything else,” he went on, “shared interests, respect, attraction—they don’t matter without a foundation in God.”

How do you know what it’s based on? I wanted to yell. I wanted to yell at Pierce too—he was part of the problem here—talking trash to his family about me for the past two and a half years.

“You shouldn’t be sleeping together either,” his father continued, his fingers steepled together in an illustration of a foundation. It reminded me of the Saturday Night Live skit about George P. Bush–“1,000 points of light” and I wanted to laugh deliriously because this was going from bad to worse. Worse than I had even imagined, if that were even possible.

“Because marriage is a covenant, not a contract. And if you’re taking all the benefits of marriage, then you’re just trying it out, and that’s not right.”

The fight went out of me. I had underestimated my opponents. Resigned to listening, I heard his father tell us that a contract means that you can back out if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain; and a covenant is only broken by death. “And not only that. You’re not considering what God wants for you; you’re selfishly only thinking of yourselves.”

It was his mother who finally delivered the death blow. “I will not allow my son to marry a woman who believes in reincarnation,” she said, fixing us again with her stare. “It is an Islam belief and that is wrong.”

Then she told me if I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior that he would fix my inferiority complex.

Remember how I said I should have run?

Yeah. As fast as my legs would carry me.

The lecture completed, Pierce drove me to my hotel room. I was so emotionally wrecked I couldn’t really talk. We sat in the depressing glow of a table lamp and he said, “Do you love me?”

I nodded. I did love him, but at what cost?

“Good, because I love you,” he told me, wrapping me in his arms. “You’re the one for me.”

He couldn’t stay with me, of course, because of his parents. I couldn’t stop crying, even after he left. I dreamed he broke up with me, again, and it was so real that waking up felt like I was still trapped in a nightmare. Because I was.

We kept up our long distance relationship for the next two months. The relationship even marginally improved with his parents. We tolerated each other, much like my pets do now—the Labrador giving my old cat a wide berth, as she cautiously sniffs at him. It was better than out and out war, but the words they had hurled at me that night in March still haunted me. I suppose I knew they weren’t going to let us happen, but again, I underestimated them. I believed that our love would trump everything.

In late May, I got a job in Lubbock. I was ecstatic to finally join Pierce and put an end to our long distance relationship. But leaving Austin—again—was hard. We had an impromptu going-away party with friends and family. My friend Monica hugged me fiercely and told me not to put too much pressure on Pierce. He was going to be my only friend for a while. “But he’s not responsible for your happiness,” she reminded me. “Keep it in check.” I promised I would try.

She was right. Life in Lubbock was a roller coaster of emotion. Even though we were finally living in the same town, he was still living at his parents’ house. That meant we couldn’t spend the night together. There were so many nights that I just wanted him by my side, and I hated it when he’d pull away and say it was time for him to go home. I think there was a part of me that felt if he really loved me and wanted to start a life with me, he’d stand up to them on this. The big talk had been a huge step, but I needed more from him.

I always needed more.

My job also required that I travel quite a bit. Sometimes I was away for 10 day long trips, flying into airports in large cities and then driving to stores that were off the beaten path. I have never been particularly good at going somewhere on my own, forging a new path. I get lonely and scared and unsure of what to do. I function best when I have a routine, when I’m confident I’ve handled each thing that’s coming my way each day. So moving to a new city, starting a new job as a Sales Trainer—something completely new for me!—and trying to get on track with this man I was obsessively, crazily in love with—was difficult for me. So much change all at once will make anyone a little crazy, and I was already crazy.

It was especially hard for me to believe that Pierce was serious this time around, no matter what he said. The experience with Maple Sugar, the previous breakup and his harsh words wouldn’t leave me. In my lowest moments, I remembered them and they played through my head like a serious of sad movies. When I would tearfully confess my thoughts to Pierce, he would reassure me.

“I don’t just stop loving you,” he told me one night.

“But you did,” I said.

“I never stopped loving you.  I was confused and mixed up.”

It worried me. What if he got confused and mixed up again?

Those were the bad times. There were great ones—didn’t I say Lubbock was a roller coaster? Pierce would tell me all the time I was the prettiest girl in the room. He would always make sure we talked on the phone while I was gone. He was patient with me. We had fun: Willie Nelson concerts, restaurants, bars and art openings.  Sometimes he would join me on a work trip and we’d have a little vacation. July Fourth weekend we watched the neighborhood parade. Over cheese fries and drinks at Cricket’s, we talked about getting married in Belize. Afterward, we would have a reception in Lubbock and a reception in Austin. Pierce’s friend Ben was a jewelry designer and Pierce hinted, with a gleam in his eye and a grin on his face, that Ben was already working on something special.

I couldn’t wait to get that ring on my finger. I kept hoping it would fix what was broken with me—maybe I could look at the ring and the prior hurts would disappear. No more Maple Sugar, no more of his parents’ ire, no more wondering. Maybe that ring would spell confidence and security.

I know now how stupid that was.

I started to catch Pierce in little lies. I’d be out of town and he supposedly went to a party, but Ben would say, “What party? We went to that new club.” Or I’d return to the table at the bar and everyone would clam up because of the story Pierce had just told—“I swear to God that story was about my brother and a strip club in Mexico”—when it was nothing of the kind. He started hanging out with his beautiful blond colleague after work. When he’d tell me he was leaving work, he was really at her apartment doing drugs. I was helping him pay his bills because he was terrible at paying anything on time. I had access to his cell phone records online. I saw 900 numbers. And I saw repeated calls to a local number, always late at night, after he had left my apartment. Was he cheating—again—this time via phone? When I asked him about it, he claimed it was the blond colleague’s mother, and it had something to do with managing a band. At one a.m.? The conversation about the late night local phone calls happened in the backyard at his parents’ house, and Pierce was annoyed I would bring it up. He was defensive and nervously smoked a cigarette and kept glancing inside to see if they could tell we were fighting.

He delivered the second death knell, broke my heart again, in December. I had been in Lubbock for about six months, and my birthday was days away. We got into a stupid fight over the phone—Pierce wanted his space—and I pointed out that when you get married, you don’t have that kind of space.

“You know, presumably we’d live together and spend the night together every night,” I spit at him.

“I don’t know if that’s what I want,” Pierce said.

I felt sick.

He came over at my insistence so we could actually talk. I hate the phone, and especially for something like this. He sat heavily on my purple couch. “I just haven’t been happy lately,” he told me. He said t wasn’t just me. But as we delved into it, he accused me of resenting his family and said that I didn’t understand how he needed them in his life. In halting words, he went on to say I hadn’t tried hard enough to get back into their good graces. Then, in even an even more bizarre turn, he said that he couldn’t deal with our conflicting beliefs.

“We have an Eastern philosophy vs. a Western philosophy and that won’t work,” he said. I started at him. It was as if Pam were feeding him lines off stage.

I again made a last ditch effort to save our relationship. “We’re good, Pierce. We’re really good. People are trying to find what we have.”

He agreed. But then he said, “I think we both know deep-down that marriage won’t work for us.”

“Sounds like your mother told you what to say.”

He protested—“No, these are my feelings”—but I didn’t believe him. I still don’t. His parents told him to end it, and he did.

“I just need some time to get my head on straight and figure things out,” Pierce said, running his hands through his hair.

“I thought you had,” I whispered, my eyes pooling with tears.

He said he needed a couple of days.

“What am I supposed to do?  Just sit here alone in my apartment?” I retorted.

He shrugged, but he didn’t get up.

“Well, are you leaving?”

“Yeah,” he answered. But he still didn’t get up. After a few minutes, he finally stood. He looked down at me and said, “I love you” and tried to kiss me. He got a corner of my forehead. Then he grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go and tried to kiss me again—this time on the corner of my lips. He stood at my door and looked like he was going to cry again. It was like a carbon copy of the year before, standing at the doorway to my apartment. He was making this decision, it was killing him, and he somehow wanted me to fix it, when I had nothing to do with it.

“What do you want me to say?” I asked, still sitting on the couch.

He mumbled something about calling me when he could. I didn’t respond. I stared ahead at the television, which was muted, the actors on One Tree Hill playing out their fictional drama as my real one unfolded. My dinner sat untouched.

After six days of silence, he came over again, simply to confirm what I already knew. I can still see him standing in the kitchen, edging toward the garage door, while I sat in the same position on the couch as the week before. “I fully expect to walk into a Barnes and Noble someday and pick up your book and read about the asshole on page 36.”

Here you are, Pierce: your page 36.

Playing with Adulthood: My Awkward College Experience (part 2 in a series)

A friend recently said to me: “I can’t talk to you about my problems with my boyfriend. Your relationship is so perfect.” I looked at her and laughed. “Oh honey, if you only knew what I’d been through.” I relayed this story to my mother later via email. She echoed my response, having been there every step of the way. What follows here is a memoir of those relationships, a boy-chapter at a time.

My college experience, as I’ve already more or less described, was weird. It wasn’t the time of my life, filled with frat parties, beer and freedom. It was a struggle for me. I studied very hard, and was obsessed with my grades. I made very few friends. In fact, I don’t have a single friend from college that I still keep in touch with, even with the advent of social media.

I can think of three boys I went on casual dates with, one a real relationship, I think—who also went to school with me. Otherwise, I dated people who didn’t go to college at my school or at all. It’s probably why I was so disconnected from the college experience. My senior year, my friend Mindy and I walked through west campus—I call her my friend at the time, but as I mentioned, we made no lasting connection—talking about our creative advertising class. I was having a difficult time coming up with my concepts each class session, frowning over my ideas late into the night at my desk in my bedroom.

“You need to come up to school and hang out with us,” Mindy told me. She was a tall, elegant girl with classic good looks—dark hair, perfect skin, almond-shaped eyes. She was always perfectly put together, always seemed to have a styrofoam cup of coffee in her hand. I half-wondered if she ever drank it, as her red lipstick was perfect and her teeth even and pearly white. “The reason you’re having trouble is that you don’t come to school and brainstorm with the rest of the class. You’re totally isolated with…Billy.” She said his name—always—with derision. Mindy didn’t think I should be tied down to one guy, I was in college, after all!—and Mindy was extremely concerned with looks, money and popularity. Billy had money, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him.

One of my mistakes, as I’ve mentioned, was not being strong enough. My other mistake, my big regret, is that I dated people who were friends with my brother. It was sort of a natural fit, because that was my crowd. I had one foot in each of two worlds, really—college being one, and I wasn’t really doing that one right—and his world being the other. My brother Dean didn’t go to college. He tried it, and it wasn’t for him. He had a job and an apartment and a corner store where he could buy beer without getting carded if he walked in wearing a suit from work. So his world seemed to me terribly adult, and it was fun to hang out there. He, of course, had friends who also didn’t go the college route, and they had jobs and money and seemed to already be doing this thing I was trying to figure out. And—bonus!—they thought I was cute.

That’s how Billy and I sort of…fell into a relationship. He and Dean worked together. I didn’t think much of Billy at first. A brutally honest and mean point here: Billy was ugly. It makes me cringe to say it, but it’s quite simply true. Billy was well over 6 feet tall and skinny as a rail. It didn’t help that he had a strange birth defect I’d never heard of before, nor since—his rib cage was backwards, so his chest was concave. He had deep set hazel eyes, a long skinny nose, and thin lips. But Billy was one of the nicest guys I had ever met. He was smart as a whip, and he could make me laugh.

He made up a road trip game (made up? I don’t know—like the birth defect, I had never heard of it before, and haven’t played it with anyone else since) called The Cow Game. The simple rules were as follows: each person counted the cows on their side of the car, if you passed a graveyard, you lost all your cows and had to start over, and the person with the most cows when you arrived at your destination won. Of course much of the game was estimating; it’s pretty tough to count cattle as you’re speeding past them at 70 miles an hour. Billy and I had returned home from a road trip to Dallas, and I got in a fight with Dean. I was feeling down, so I called Billy to talk.

“Hey, what are you doing?” I asked, lying on my daybed in the apartment I shared with a high school friend named Krissy.

“Oh, not much. Been driving circles around the Sirloin Stockade to try and win the cow game since you beat me.”

I laughed out loud.

And so it went. I fell in love with his kindness and his wit, and as I mentioned above, his seeming adulthood. It was my sophomore year in college, and I liked dating a guy a few years older than me who got paid handsomely for his work in computers. I’m not sure what he saw in me. The only thing he seemed to actually care about was computers. He was absolutely lost in that world, and it was that world that ultimately drove us apart. He was a child, not an adult, in that way. Sometimes he stayed up all night playing computer games. He would rather spend his Friday nights in front of a glowing screen, in an alternate universe, than hang out with me.

It was during my relationship with Billy that one of the most formative events of my life happened. In typical fashion, I had no idea it had such an impact on me. I brushed it off, moved on, didn’t think too hard about it—and it wasn’t until years later that I realized it was a big deal. I walked into my therapist’s office for my first appointment. I knew I had to talk to someone because I was unhappy in my latest relationship and I suppose I finally had this inkling that I was indeed broken, because I just couldn’t make these things work. I sat down in the plush purple armchair and looked at the therapist Kat and I announced, “My dad died when I was 19 but he was never around anyway, so I don’t think it’s a really big deal. My problem right now is my boyfriend.” Kat smiled kindly at me and said, “Let’s back up just a bit and talk about your dad, okay?”

Billy and I lived in the same apartment complex at the time. It was a botched situation, since he had asked me to move in with him and I had agreed. But then I panicked a little bit—I was only 19, was he really The One? Was I ready for such an Adult Move?—and I backed out. Billy was terribly disappointed and I had hurt his feelings. I think it was a little bit like turning down a marriage proposal, but one of our issues was that Billy just didn’t talk to me. My decision not to move in with him had, in his mind, meant I had made this huge statement about the State of Our Relationship, but he didn’t tell me. He just quietly withdrew.

Because I had agreed to live with him and then retracted my statement, he took his own apartment and so did I. I was again bridging the gap, a part of me in both worlds. It was a Saturday morning, I had spent the night with Billy, and the phone was ringing. Billy had a stupid Mickey Mouse alarm clock that was in its usual place: facedown on the floor.

After trying to wake Billy several times to pick up his phone (1997, landlines, no cell phones), he tossed himself off the bed and barely made it through the doorway to the living room. I laid back down, closed my eyes. Something was off, like the light was all wrong outside, and Billy didn’t get that many calls.

He entered the room, holding the cordless phone.  “It’s for you.”

I frowned.  “Your mom,” he said, and left abruptly, no doubt to have a cigarette.

I held the phone carefully, looking at it.  There were icy fingers of fear closing around my heart.  My mother could only be calling about something important, most likely bad.

“Hello?” I said cautiously.

“Did I wake you, sweetie?  I’m sorry,” she said hurriedly.

“Yeah, but it’s okay.  We should be up anyway,” I fumbled for words.  It was still a bit awkward for my mother to call me at my boyfriend’s apartment, but it didn’t seem to bother her.

“Honey, I got a call,” she began, and the icy fingers of fear grabbed hold with the strength of claws.  Never is “I got a call,” a good sign. I sat up in bed, letting the sheets fall from me with a sudden clear head. No more cobwebs of sleep.

“It appears that your father is in the hospital in Maryland.  I don’t know how serious it is or how they found us, but I thought you should know right away.  Your brother is making calls now.”

I was silent, unable to speak.  I had known in the back of my mind for so long that it would happen just this way. Automatically I started counting back…how many years since I had seen him? And at least a year since we had had an actual telephone conversation, if you could call our stilted one-way talks something like that.

“….So you should probably call Dean, as soon as you can…” she continued.

“Yeah, okay,” I managed, feeling hot wet tears welling behind my eyes.  “Thanks, Mom.”

I pressed the off button on the phone and sit looking at it for a moment. I wondered what Billy was thinking, probably sitting on the couch, as was customary in the morning, watching soft tendrils of smoke curl from his Camel. He was just as I had pictured him, patiently waiting. He knew, just as I had, that the call wasn’t good news. My mother could have waited for that.

I sank to the couch next to him. He took a long pull on the cigarette and looked at me, waiting. Always waiting.

I set the phone down, finally, carefully, as if it is a bomb that may explode at any moment.  “My dad….my dad is in the hospital, and I don’t know what’s wrong.  He’s…probably dying.”  I broke into bitter, heart-wrenching sobs then, as the full weight of what I was saying hit me, and Billy immediately stubbed out the cigarette and took me into his arms.  He didn’t say anything but “I’m sorry,” very softly, and stroked my hair and let me cry.

I talked with Dean later that morning. Our father was lying in a coma thousands of miles away, in the final stage of cirrhosis of the liver. He was jaundiced, unresponsive, and ready to die. Dean and I made immediate plans to fly out there, if for nothing else than to say goodbye.

An image kept coming to my mind, of an old, broken man—broken by life, by relationships—lying in a sterile white room, alone. No one at his bedside but an efficient nurse who is checking his machines, and tubes, and fluids, making sure he was comfortable and perhaps wondering briefly who was this man? Does he have children? A wife? Where are they? Surely, no one should have to die alone.

That’s what made me cry. I was sure that he had been alone for a long time now, not just in the hospital, but every day, until he no longer had the strength or the will to do it anymore.

“I love you,” Billy kept saying, because there is nothing else.  “I love you so much.  I’m sorry you’re sad, baby.”

How could I explain what really made me sad? I was a girl who missed some vague shadow in her life.  It was him I was sad for, him, who at age 57, had decided his life was over. He missed his ex-wife, he missed his children, he missed the life that he had before and now that life was gone. He replaced all of it with alcohol. He drank and he was lonely, and he waited. He simply waited for his pain to end.

It was not my pain that I shed tears for, but his.

*

Dean and I sat outside the airport in St. Louis, Dean smoking a cigarette thoughtfully.

“Are you sure you want to see him this way?” he asked, as if we could actually turn back at that point.

“Not really,” I replied, watching a man calm his enormous dog, thinking perhaps it was half Great Dane, half Dalmatian. “But I feel like we should be there.”  I don’t want him to die alone, I almost added, as if an hour at my father’s deathbed could make up for so many lost years.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Dean answered, stubbing out his cigarette and shaking a fresh one from the pack.

I looked down at my hands.  “I know he can’t talk or anything, but we can talk to him, can’t we?”

Dean took a long drag.  “Of course.”

*

Baltimore, when we arrived, was cool and humid. I headed to the baggage claim while Dean found a payphone to call our uncle. After I grabbed our bags, I joined him. He was hanging up the phone with a terse expression.

“His condition’s worse.  He could go at any time.” It was already midnight and I was exhausted, but there was such urgency in Dean’s voice that I knew we had to hurry. We grabbed a cab. It’s was a 30 minute drive, and all we could do was wait for the ride to be over. I wished again, for the thousandth time, that we had had more time.  Just a little more time.

At the doors to ICU, Dean and I looked at each other. It was a look that passed between us and was understood without words: This is It. No turning back. We had to face whatever was on the other side of that door. Dean took my hand, and I squeezed.

We walked into the entryway, where a few doctors and nurses were monitoring patients and working on menial tasks. A man approached us with a gentle smile. He seemed happy—maybe relieved—that we were there.  I wondered if this was one of the nursing staff I had imagined, one of whom was hoping this man wouldn’t have to die alone. The doctors had done all they could, and now we needed to take care of the rest.

“Your dad’s been waiting for you,” he said to us.

Behind the curtain, my dad was lying there, hooked up to monitors and tubes: breathing, heart rate, blood pressure. His forehead and ears were covered by a small towel, and the rest of him covered by a hospital blanket. I immediately started crying, and Dean put his arm around me. It shouldn’t be this way, I thought. It shouldn’t be this way after so many years.  More time, dammit.  We need some more time.

We approached his bedside, and I looked into the face I used to know so well; the long, dark lashes under bushy brows, a strong nose and wide lips. He was yellow, jaundiced, and as Dean reached for his hand under the blanket, I noticed that he was puffy. The fluid he was supposed to be getting rid of through his liver was collecting, poisoning him from the inside out.

“Hey, Dad,” Dean said softly, next to his ear, “We’re here. It’s me, Dad, Buster Brown…” My dad’s nickname for him. My heart went out to Dean to hear the way his voice broke as he finished the sentence.

“Hi, Daddy,” I said tentatively, wondering if he could hear us. “Hey, Daddy, your Precious is here.” Precious was my name. There was nothing. No response, no squeeze of the hand, no movement behind closed lids. Somehow I thought maybe we would know, that we would feel his acknowledgement that we were there. We just had to go on blind faith.

We sat at his side, examining every part of him, looking at his face. We pulled back the towel covering his head and touched his hair, as if we could make it more real by putting our hands on something tangible. He never moved; nothing ever changed but the blips and beeps on the monitor. His heart would speed up, slow down, sometimes beat at an amazing speed, and I kept thinking, He’s going to go, right now, right here, with me holding his hand. But he hung on. The breathing, slow and ragged, with the help of a machine, kept going. We talked to him, told him our names over and over. And that we loved him.

I can only hope he heard.

We sat in our vigil until four a.m., when we decided that our job was done. The doctors were  instructed to let him pass when the time came; there was no need to resuscitate him.

We peeled back the towel from his head; we each kissed him in turn and whispered, “Goodbye, I love you.”

He died twelve hours later.

*

I found an old diary entry from this point in my life. There were exactly two mentions of this event. I recall bombing a statistics assignment shortly after my trip to visit my father. I tentatively explained the situation to my professor after class one day—I had been out because of my father’s passing—could I get a redo on my homework assignment? I had been distracted. I actually felt guilty for my excuse.

I honestly and truly thought my situation didn’t warrant any special treatment, and life should go on as though nothing changed.

Billy’s reaction? He picked me up from the airport and there were red roses in a vase on the front seat of his 240SX. He didn’t talk to me about it, didn’t ask me how I felt, and when I asked him, he said he didn’t know what to say. In retrospect, in the relationship I have now, in which my husband is my best friend, my confidante, my entire world—it sounds completely insane to me. My father died and we hardly said a word about it. I didn’t spend nights curled up next to Billy, reminiscing about the good times with my dad, or voicing my worries that I or Dean would end up just like him, crying about how he ultimately died alone. Nothing. We had one brief discussion about it, during which Billy admitted how uncomfortable he was with, you know, feelings, and we moved on with our lives.

We had no idea what we were doing.

I eventually moved in with Billy, despite my earlier misgivings. We lived together for my junior and senior years of college. Billy pushed me to enter the Adult World on more than one occasion. Another time that my inability to be strong, to stand up for myself, to take care of me—was a huge problem. I wanted to study abroad for a semester, but Billy wouldn’t let me. I wanted to take a series of classes that meant I would graduate in the spring, on time, instead of early, in the fall—Billy didn’t like the idea. He wanted me to Grow Up and Get a Real Job.

I think Billy was similar to Alex in this way—Billy didn’t go to college, and had a chip on his shoulder about it. He, of course, wouldn’t say a word about it, but I knew it made up a big part of him. He felt like a failure because he dropped out, and it was hard for him to relate to me. He was a little bit jealous of me. I spent my days walking through campus and looking at the couples, feeling jealous of what they had. I wanted to sit on the lawn between the buildings we called The Six Pack and do nothing in the sunshine, like they did. Again, I was doing both things—college and Adult World—neither of them well.

I was alone during much of my relationship with Billy. Because he was always playing computer games, it was rare that we even went to bed at the same time. Sometimes I felt like we were nothing more than roommates. I had to ask him over and over for something that made me feel special—to take me out on a date, to buy me flowers—these things seemed so important to me at the time. I was looking constantly for signs that I was a good girlfriend, that I was loved. I wanted romance and fun and excitement, and he didn’t, or perhaps he thought we had all of those things. He was satisfied with life, and with our relationship, just as they were. He didn’t put a lot of work into anything—except the computer—and certainly not our relationship. We entered a never-ending cycle of me begging him to do something with me, take me out, go somewhere, hell, have a fucking conversation, and his response would be to get me a stuffed animal or a rose, with a note about how much he loved me and wanted to marry me. Two months later, repeat. At the time, I thought I was completely justified. Now I realize I was trying to change someone’s fundamental being. He just wasn’t that guy. I must have been driving him crazy asking all the time. I wonder why he stayed with me so long. I spent the entire relationship screaming, jumping up and down and waving my arms, “Look at me, Billy! No, really look at me!”

Sometimes while he was gone, working or pretending to work because he was really playing computer games at work, I would sit in our apartment with tears running down my face, splashing the keyboard, and I would type into my journal, “I am so lonely.”

It’s not surprising to me that I had an emotional affair. It’s also not surprising that it was with one of Billy’s friends. I’m not proud of it, but I can see now with clarity how it happened. Isn’t that the reason people cheat? They’re not getting something from their current relationship that the outside one provides. Billy’s friend Jay was definitely in Adult World—ten years older than me, with a failed marriage and a son. He lived in Dallas, and I met him on one of our trips there. I remember what I was wearing the day I met him—a pair of cutoff shorts and a striped midriff-baring top. He couldn’t take his eyes off of me.

We started chatting on the computer. It was 1998 and the underground chat program was called ICQ. It was a play on words, meaning “I Seek You.” It was a fitting theme for the relationship I started with Jay. He gave me everything I wanted from my relationship with Billy. He told me how beautiful and funny I was; he was also a writer. He wrote me poems. I was a hopeless romantic writer, who was afraid my life had passed me by. I felt like I was already married to a boring man who was addicted to computer games and would say that he loved me, but he didn’t really know why.

I was a goner from the first words Jay typed.

Jay came to visit us one weekend in the fall of my senior year. Strangely enough, I had told Billy that we were talking, and that sometimes Jay said things that were, to put it mildly, inappropriate or flirtatious. I’m sure that I told Billy for two reasons—one, I tried to be completely transparent and honest with him, always. It was something my mother instilled in me from an early age. She always said that she would forgive me anything but lies, so I should always tell her the truth, and we would work through whatever truth I had confessed. The second reason is one I’m not proud of, but it makes sense when I think about it now. I wanted him to care. I wanted Billy to be jealous. He had this maddening way of either being completely unfazed by other men—or completely flipping out. I had no way of knowing what would trigger his jealousy. And in my mind, jealousy meant he cared. Yet again, I was waving my arms at him, frantic for him to “get it.”

I don’t think we even left the house when Jay came to visit, except for a drive around the block at 5 a.m. after we’d stayed up all night. The three of us sat around drinking beer, watching football and talking.  We couldn’t stop talking. Well, Jay and I couldn’t. The three of us stayed up all night. Billy might even have been dozing at points during the evening, as the night stretched into morning, but Jay and I couldn’t get enough of each other. He had a brand new Mustang, and I wanted drive it, hence the 5 a.m. cruise. After his visit, it occurred to me that Billy and I had never stayed up all night together. Just…being together.

Our chats became more serious. One night, about a week after his visit, I asked him if I could tell him something and would he please not laugh at me or think that I’m stupid?

“Your mind is beautiful,” he typed to me. “Of course not.”

How could I hesitate after words like those? So I told him that I was having “Jay withdrawal.” He admitted he, too, had been a little bit depressed since the weekend ended. We were both trying to ignore it, given that I was in a relationship with his very good friend. But once we acknowledged it, a torrent of feelings was unleashed. Jay said we had a different connection than most people.

“It doesn’t mean you don’t love the person you’re with – it just means this other connection fills a void in your heart or mind,” Jay typed. We rationalized our relationship, trying to convince ourselves this connection we had wasn’t dangerous. We pretended that it wasn’t going to destroy my relationship with Billy.

We kept talking over ICQ, and after a couple of weeks I realized I had fallen in love with Jay. It sounds insane. Maybe it was. I loved Billy too—or, I thought I did—and it was only then I understood that you can love more than one person at the same time. My relationship with Jay starkly exposed the faults in my relationship with Billy. What I was describing to myself as a “different” connection was really just a connection. Billy and I were just bumbling along together; we just fell into each other as a couple. If someone had asked me why I was with him, I’m not sure I could have answered. I would probably have said, “He’s nice.” That also sounds insane, because I wanted to marry the guy. Because he was nice? Because he didn’t treat me like I was disposable or yell at me like Alex had? I was painfully young and I simply didn’t know any better.

That’s why Jay rocked my world. That’s why I fell so hard. It was practically inevitable.

Billy figured it out. He may not have had a plethora of endearing qualities, but the boy wasn’t stupid. I was acting way too cagey about my ICQ account, hurriedly closing the window on my computer if Billy happened to walk in the room at a bad time. Logging on to ICQ from school in the computer lab, just to get a dose of words from Jay. He was my drug, and I couldn’t quit. I was at a football game with my friends in late November when it happened. The game was amazing. That was the game Ricky Williams broke Earl Campbell’s rushing record, and we were chanting “Run Ricky Run!” at the top of our lungs, high-fiving, hugging each other, shaking the bleachers. It was one of those days that was a college day—a real college day. The sky was overcast and it was deliciously chilly, perfect football weather. As the stadium began emptying out, I called Billy for a ride.

From the moment I heard his voice, I knew what had happened.

The elation from the football game evaporated instantaneously. Billy was stoic, hardly looking at me as I got into his car. He had already called Jay, and Jay told him we’d fallen in love, that we didn’t mean for it to happen, that Jay felt like the biggest asshole on the planet. But it sounded like Jay was willing to fight for me, for us. Billy and I went home, fought, cried, hugged, talked, and cried some more. Billy was furious at me, furious at Jay, and furious with himself for being played a fool. He knew he should leave me, but quite plainly, he loved me and he didn’t want to. He laid down the law—if I wanted to save this relationship, I had to cut Jay out of my life. I told him I couldn’t. Jay had become too important to me. I wanted to see if what we had was real.

I went out that night with my friend Mindy. Before we left her apartment, I called Jay. We talked for nearly an hour. We both felt like heels, but we were giddy hearing each other’s voices. I promised him I would figure out what to do. I decided it was time to take a break from Billy, move out of the apartment we shared and give me and Jay a real try. We had only been in the same room together for a total of 24 hours, ever. Before we got off the phone, Jay said, “I really really love you Christianne,” and my heart melted. I was head over heels for this man, and I had to be with him. Billy was the “logical” choice, the comfortable choice, but he didn’t make my heart sing like Jay.

But by the time I woke up Saturday morning, extremely hungover, Jay had removed himself from the situation. He called the apartment, and the three of us had the most bizarre three way conversation. Jay told us he wanted us to “fall in love again” and that I couldn’t really examine my feelings for Billy with Jay in the way confusing things. I was heartbroken and angry at Jay. In turn, Billy was heartbroken and angry at me.

Saturday night Billy and I grabbed some beers and went to the top of the cliffs at the 360 bridge to talk. Again. It seems all we did that weekend was talk, and rehash, and talk, and talk some more. But we weren’t getting anywhere. Billy knew he should leave me, but he couldn’t. He wanted to fix our relationship, but I was exhausted and unhappy. I’d had a glimpse of something else, and I wanted that. I didn’t want the relationship I already had. Those exposed faults didn’t seem fixable to me. There was no real foundation for us, and even though I was young and bumbling around in the dark when it came to this stuff, I had figured that one out.

By December, we called it quits. I moved in with my parents temporarily. I knew it was the right thing, and I didn’t want my current relationship, but I was so used to Billy. He was a habit I had to break. We didn’t know how not to be with each other. Even thought we’d split up, we went to my office Christmas party. Went back to the apartment and talked about still hanging out even though we had broken up. It was ludicrous.

And so my last semester in college was exactly that—ludicrous. Billy and I tried again. We moved to a new apartment just off campus. He interviewed for a job in New York. Sometimes Jay and I chatted on ICQ, or sent long sappy emails, or sneaked conversations on the phone Sometimes we were silent, trying to stay away from each other. I promised Billy that I wouldn’t talk to him. There were times when I looked at Billy and knew I didn’t love him anymore. Then I would imagine my life without him and not be able to breathe. There were times when I wanted to get in my car and drive to Dallas and knock on Jay’s door. I should have, because I would have forced his hand. Jay was never going to make us happen. He always had an excuse. He slayed me with his gorgeous words. But he didn’t make the effort. And at the time, these two men were my whole world. I couldn’t fathom the idea that neither of them was right for me. They were all I could see.

In May, I graduated college and moved to New York to be with Billy. We were so battered and bruised it was pointless, but we just couldn’t let go of each other. It’s another time in my life that I feel badly for the earlier version of me. I was depressed. I felt directionless, boring, bland. I got a job at a little magazine, made some friends, tried to be an Adult.

It didn’t work. In December, Billy informed me he wasn’t happy and wanted out. New Year’s Day, 2000 – I woke up hungover, our apartment trashed from a party the night before. I switched on the TV to watch the Longhorns. They were losing to Arkansas. The vet called to inform me that my cat, who had been sick and in his care, had just died.

A rather inauspicious start to the new millennium.

I moved back to Austin on a brutally cold day in January. Billy helped with my suitcases, but he wasn’t wearing shoes so we wound up in the vestibule of our apartment building, and he put his hands on both sides of my face, and kissed me. I cried. “Tell me if you want me back,” I whispered. He didn’t seem to hear me.

High School Love, aka a Learning Experience. Also, a Trainwreck.

A friend recently said to me: “I can’t talk to you about my problems with my boyfriend. Your relationship is so perfect.” I looked at her and laughed. “Oh honey, if you only knew what I’d been through.” I relayed this story to my mother later via email. She echoed my response, having been there every step of the way. What follows here is a memoir of those relationships, a boy-chapter at a time.

I was a junior in high school when I met Alex. The phrase “high school sweetheart” perhaps could have applied when we first met: Alex was a grade behind me, and so earnest, so dogged, in his attempts to become my boyfriend it was almost painful to watch. Ironically, my mother encouraged me to give him a chance, something I’m sure she regretted later as our relationship took a twisted turn and spiraled quickly downward. I don’t think I realized at the time how bad it truly was—wasn’t everyone’s relationship like this?

Junior year. Other than meeting Alex, the thing that stands out when I look back now is that I had finally made the cheerleading squad. Junior varsity, not varsity, but still, it was something I’d been working hard to achieve. In summary, my high school curriculum vitae went something like this: Not popular. Latch key kid with a single mom and an absentee alcoholic father. I certainly didn’t consider myself pretty and to my knowledge at the time no one else did except my mother. (I can see now how Alex dug his hooks in and got them in deep.) But cheerleading! It was a little glimpse, my own little slice—of popularity, of pretty, of rich.

I took newspaper class that year as well, which is where I met Alex. He was a gangly 15 year old, acne on his face and some funky crooked teeth. His best feature was probably his big blue-green eyes. It was the 90s, and he would show up for class in the baggy jeans and steel toe boots we all favored at the time, topped off with a cheap tee or a flannel shirt if it was cold. Alex took the class as a blow-off, and it showed. There were about six of us who actually did work—obviously, I was into the writing—and six others who didn’t do anything. Alex was one of those.

Alex spent most of his class time flirting with me, relentless in his pursuit. He would tell me later how hot I looked in those cheerleading skirts. No one had ever said those kinds of things to me before. Me, pretty? Me, with a nice ass and good legs? I still refused to go out with him. It wasn’t as if I had boys knocking down my door, but he just seemed like friend-zone material to me.

The thing that finally changed my mind, oddly enough, was the chicken pox. When I came down with it, I was out of school for weeks. Alex called me every day from newspaper class, telling me how much they (he) missed me, giving me the gossip from the day, telling me stories about our poor tortured teacher, who kept trying to make him do some work for a change. He begged to come see me, but I was too vain to let him. He was the one boy who actually thought I was pretty—I couldn’t chance ruining that. Even if he was firmly in the friend zone, honestly, I liked the attention.

When the worst of the spots had faded, I acquiesced. However, I didn’t let him come see me. I was dying to get out of the house, and I was a newly licensed driver. My mother let me take her Acura to see him.

I can’t recall now if I’d been to his house before. I can picture it perfectly now—a modest one story with three bedrooms, a two-car garage that had been converted into what I suppose we now call a “media room”—at the time, remember, the 90s—it was the movie room, or the den. I’m sure that Alex greeted me at the door before his parents or his brother could interfere.

This was a big deal for him.

We crossed the shabby living room to his bedroom, which was painted a garish blue and had the requisite boy posters tacked to the walls with actual push pins. Sports, girls, bands. I don’t recall what we did exactly, probably sat uncomfortably on his bed and talked about school and my recent illness and recovery. I do know that at some point he leaned in to kiss me, and I didn’t push him away or pull back like I had so many times before. You might say I had given in. Or given up.

*

Our high school relationship was just that—high school. It was homecoming dances and prom dates. It was football games and gathering in the school parking lot afterward to talk about where to go next. It was trying my first beer. It was sneaking more and more beers after that. It was my first time to have sex, thinking to myself, “That’s it? That’s what all the fuss was about?” It was growing apart from my best friend Lily, because she was into drugs and I was into my boyfriend and those things didn’t go together anymore. It was lunch off campus for seniors. It was driving our parents’ cars, it was working our first jobs, it was house parties until the cops came and broke them up.

I’m not sure when it all took a turn for the worse. I think it built slowly, Alex’s resentments and insecurities piling up, as the inevitability of what was going to happen to us became apparent. He kept trying to slow things down, to stop that inexorable march of time, to keep us—maybe me?—in this box where he had some measure of control.

I was only six months older than Alex, but I was a grade ahead because of an early start in kindergarten. I made excellent grades, and I knew I was on my way to the University of Texas by October of my senior year. I had made the varsity cheerleading squad. My mother’s boyfriend, a man who would eventually become my stepfather, had moved in with us, which meant I had a father figure for the first time in nearly 10 years. I was still a frightened, insecure teenager who didn’t know much about relationships or how men should treat me, but I was doing okay considering.

In contrast, Alex was struggling in school, nearly failing his junior year, certainly not even thinking about college. His family life left much to be desired. His parents yelled instead of spoke, his father usually in bed by 8 p.m. so he could do his job as a postal worker early in the morning. This meant we all had to tiptoe around the house lest we disturb him and get a good tongue-lashing. Alex’s mother was not much better—she was a substitute teacher and I think sometimes cared more about her kids at school than her own. I’ll never forget the day I won an award for some scholastic achievement—that woman cut the article out of the school newspaper and taped it to Alex’s bedroom door. She might as well have told him, “Your girlfriend is better than you.”

He probably wanted to murder me right then.

It was a powder keg, ready to explode. Alex and I both got jobs at the local grocery store. When I was promoted from bagger to cashier, Alex couldn’t handle it. He was so jealous and insecure that he wanted me to step back down to bagger. According to him, it was because he liked it when I was near him, bagging groceries at his register. I cringe when I think back to discussing the situation with Rodney, our boss. Rodney was a small, worried man, with narrowed eyes and a fluff of quickly disappearing blond hair combed over his head. He studied me as I stumbled through an explanation of why I wanted to move down positions.

He could see right through me. “Is this because of Alex, or is it something you want to do?” he asked.

“It’s not Alex, it’s me. I want to.” I blushed, stared at the floor.

“Sorry, Christianne, you’re a good cashier and I need you on the floor. Alex is just going to have to deal with his issues.”

He was right, but I had no idea how to handle my boyfriend.

His jealousy didn’t stop at the grocery store. It invaded every part of our life as he worked frantically to manage me. He hated it when I cheered at games as it took time away from his time with me. I loved cheerleading, and he was systematically destroying my enjoyment of it. He didn’t like it when I went to work, even though it was time for my shift. One afternoon, we were fighting, and he wanted to finish it. I was exasperated.

“Alex, I have to go. My shift at work starts in half an hour. I’m leaving.”

I stormed through the living room of his house, with Alex in hot pursuit, spitting words at me. It seemed that lately whenever we argued, it involved him telling me that I was a bitch, that no one would ever love me like he did, that I was essentially insufferable. The illogic of him loving me despite my extreme bitchiness didn’t occur to me.

The screen door banged behind me as I strode down the sidewalk, fishing my keys from my pocket. A neighbor across the street tended to his flower beds. Suddenly Alex had gripped me from behind, around the waist, physically dragging me back toward the house.

“We’re not finished talking!” he screamed at me in the relative safety of the front entry way.

Disturbing, again, how at the time, the fact that this was very real abuse hadn’t occurred to me. Disturbing that the neighbor across the street hadn’t noticed, that Alex’s parents hadn’t noticed. My mother knew things were bad, but perhaps not how bad. He was able to hide most of it from her. And she felt powerless to help. Try telling a 17-year-old girl what to do.

As school got worse for Alex, he started skipping. One spring morning, I went to pick him up and he refused to go to school. I sighed, idling in the car blocks from his house.

“Fine, Alex. What do you want to do? I’m going to school.”

“Take me to your house.”

Desperate to get rid of him, and because my parents weren’t home, I took him.

My morning at school was odd. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was very, very wrong. Had my mother come home and found him in our living room? Was I in huge trouble? Had Alex done something awful? Because it was my senior year, I had a half day and was able to come home at lunch. I found Alex in our wood-paneled living room, sitting on the couch with a look on his face I had come to know well—he was, to put it quite plainly—pissed off.

It turns out my boyfriend had spent his morning playing hooky from school and reading my diary. Of course he knew where I kept my diary, because Alex couldn’t stand that I would keep anything from him. My recollection now is hazy, but I’m sure he wheedled his way into that knowledge, much like he did everything else. And because Alex couldn’t stand that I keep anything from him, including my very thoughts, he had read the diary.

The diary was a big blue spiral-bound notebook, with three manila divider folders. He sat with the notebook open on his lap. With that look upon his face. I could see my perfect penmanship within the college-ruled lines, black ink stark on the paper. Now I understood my feeling—that very odd feeling that something was very wrong.

“What’s wrong now?” I asked wearily, dropping my backpack to the carpeted floor with a muted thud.

At this point, I must confess that I had a very high school crush on one of Alex’s friends. His name was Bo, and I saw a kindness and an understanding in his brown eyes that was missing from most of the high school students I knew. I sensed he could see the misery Alex was putting me through, that he thought I was worthy of more. He was with me and Alex one night when I was driving and got into a car accident. Thankfully we were all okay, but the car was nearly totaled, and I was in tears. As my parents dropped Bo off at his house, my mother watched him put his hand on my leg, briefly squeezing it in a gesture of solidarity or hope or friendship or…something, and I think in that moment I fell a little bit in love with him.

I had increasingly become aware I was in a cage and I had no idea how to get free.

This high school crush was more or less detailed in my diary. It was, after all, my diary, and I was, after all, a teenager. It was my safe place. The place where I could be honest. The place where I could think, because Alex was always in my head, banging around and screwing me up. Alex, had, of course, read every word. Alex had destroyed my only safe place.

I no longer recall the details of our fight. I imagine it went much like the others, with tears streaming down my face, while telling him I didn’t really like Bo, not like that, him telling me that I had broken his heart with, you know, feelings. Feelings that were completely justified for a teenaged girl who was in an awful relationship with a manipulative asshole. All I know was in the end, he forced me to burn the diary. I watched my words burn into ash in the fireplace, and I’m sure I wondered where it would all end.

*

Alex didn’t want me to live in the dorms. As spring turned to summer and graduation was behind us, we fought almost constantly about it. My life had become a tedious routine—fight with Alex, try to placate him, try to simply get away from him, and then wait for the calm before the storm of the next big blow up. There were plenty of times when he refused to get out of my car, or to stop calling me over and over again. Once I took my phone off the hook—I had my own line, as this was way before cell phones—and he called my parents’ line instead in the middle of the night. I was so angry, hurt and confused. The sweet boy who desperately wanted a date with the pretty junior girl in his newspaper class had utterly disappeared. In his place was a jealous, manipulative and desperately unhappy person who thought the entire world owed him something because he’d been dealt a shitty hand. And for some reason, instead of being let off the hook because I was his girlfriend, I was even more responsible because I didn’t cater to his every need, or do exactly as he told me. Like daring to go live in the dorms. I wasn’t even leaving town to go to school. I would be just a 30 minute drive away, but he was terrified of letting me go.

He knew I would most likely not come back.

Somehow I found the strength to move into the dorms, despite his vehement protests. I want to cry for that girl. I want to reach out and hug her, hold her tight, whisper in her ear that everything really is going to be all right. I was a wreck—instead of looking forward to leaving home and starting a new adventure as an adult, the next chapter of my life—I was terrified. I was already lonely. My parents helped me move in, a flurry of activity, and then they were gone, and my tears started. I had no idea how to move forward with my life.

One night my mother came to the dorm to eat with me. I hadn’t made any friends. I knew a couple of girls from high school, but they were rooming together in the other wing of the dorm and didn’t really have time or space for me to intrude in their twosome. I was so messed up from the lies and the manipulation of my high school sweetheart that I had no idea how to move forward with my life. I had no idea I had value as a woman or a person.

We limped along until my sophomore year. There were several break-ups, several we’re-back-togethers—when I could see the disappointment in everyone’s eyes—people like my mother or my brother Dean or my high school friends. I know I wasn’t blameless, but I struggle to figure out what my mistakes were besides being, quite frankly, an emotional mess. That alcoholic absentee father had affected me more than I thought, despite my mother’s excellent parenting. She gave me all the love she had and more. She sacrificed everything to make a cozy, loving, comfortable home for me. But I was completely broken. I craved love from a man, and I believed somewhere deep down in my gut that I didn’t deserve it. When Alex told me things like, “No one will love you like I do” and that he was the only person who thought I was beautiful, I believed him. He fed me those lies for three years. I was damaged—and I honestly didn’t know—and he just kept chipping away.

My mistake was being too weak to walk away and not look back.

I suppose it finally ended because Alex put a stop to it. That was the only way it could happen. Again, it was so long ago now that I can’t recall the details, but I do know he moved on to someone else. By that time, I had more or less moved on too. We were hanging on by a thread, doing that thing couples do when they know they should be done with each other, but try to be friends, or date each other while dating new people, or whatever bullshit story helps them put one foot in front of the other and get through the day. There’s something comfortable about being in a relationship with someone you know as well or better than your own self. The flip side of that is being terrified to put it all out there and meet a stranger.

I was visiting my friend Lily in Dallas. She had moved there with her boyfriend Jeremy after high school. Lily and Jeremy had a roommate, Travis. By Saturday night I was lying in his bed, making out with him, and he fingered the ring I wore on a chain around my neck.

“What’s this?” he asked quietly.

It was a promise ring from Alex, an awful yellow gold thing with diamond chips. I wore it for a while, then wore it on a chain because we were in that no-man’s land of dating, friendship, whatever. “Nothing,” I answered uncomfortably, and tried to distract him with a kiss.

Travis wasn’t having it, though. He pushed away and looked me in the eye—“Do you have a boyfriend in Austin?”

I rolled over onto my back and sighed. “Not exactly. He’s my ex from high school. We still talk, sometimes. You know how it is.”

Travis smiled. Honestly, Travis wasn’t much better than Alex in many departments—he didn’t have a car, he smoked too much—both cigarettes and pot—and he wasn’t in school. Much like Alex, he seemed to be drifting aimlessly through life. But Travis had a wonderful smile, and he smiled at me like I hung the moon, and right then? That was what I needed. “No, how is it?”

I laughed. “It’s a mess. I’m sorry. I should take it off,” I said, and reached for the necklace.

Travis put his arms around me, pulled me close. “You should. Because I want you to be my girl.”

*

Summer is ending. That means Nola Studiola returns to its monthly-curated format. Different artists in and out of New Orleans take over the blog on a monthly basis and determine content according to their artistic needs.
Studiola’s curator for August 2014 is Christianne Sanchez Robinson.
cjsChristianne is an attorney in Houston, Texas, who claims to be someone who loves words. So far, what she’s been able to produce include: a diary, short stories, various half-finished pieces, blog entries, articles for a now-defunct venture capital magazine in New York City, and a self-published novel. Her husband, their Labrador Retriever and somewhat-bitchy cat are the best things in her life. Christianne is a big fan of the following, including but not limited to: reading, snow skiing, Tex-Mex, cheesy TV, Longhorn football and happy hour(s). Find her blog and links to her self-published novel here: www.gorgeousandsassy.com.

Curatorial intent:

Note the above claim to love words and laundry list of written pieces; thus Christianne hopes to use Studiola to awaken her creative juices. Since completing the writing and editing of her novel, starting her law career and just, well, in general, living—she has been slow to get back into a regular groove of writing things other than contract drafts. She hopes to share some of her history in a memoir format, to simply enjoy the process and hopefully to entertain.

nolavie

Christianne Sanchez Robinson’s “residency” (we are fancy like that now) marks the first month of Nola Studiola’s content partnership with the New Orleans arts and culture online publication NolaVie. NolaVie was founded in 2011 by a veteran Times-Picayune journalist and a local non-profit leader to fill the gap in cultural coverage of New Orleans. Each Nola Studiola curator will reflect on his or her work at Nola Studiola in a brief article titled “Dispatches” over at the Vie, sometime during the month-long residency. This is a huge honor and an exciting opportunity for Studiola participants to join in the commitment to make cultural connections among artists in New Orleans, the Gulf South, and beyond. Stay tuned for the first one around mid-month at www.nolavie.com.

 

August Curator/Christianne Sanchez Robinson