Letting Go

Yesterday, on the way home from the doctor, I pulled up to a stop sign behind an 18 wheeler with Iowa plates. His mud flaps said Des Moines. I thought about following him but he eventually turned left and I kept straight. Several weeks ago, as I was leaving Wal-Mart, there was a 4-Runner in the parking lot with two kayaks on the roof. I instinctively looked at the license plate. Iowa. For a split second, I imagined it could be Wisebutters, come to profess his undying love to me. I imagined he was in the store, searching for a cheap bottle of wine and chocolates and would show up at my door minutes after I got home. We’d drive down to the river and float around on the kayaks, eating the chocolate and sharing the bottle between us.

Sometimes when I open my mailbox, I hope there will be a letter from him.

Sometimes I think about that scene in Brokeback Mountain when Jack tells Ennis “I wish I knew how to quit you.”

I wish I knew how to quit Wisebutters.
I wish I was someone worth not quitting.
I wish he wished he knew how to quit me too.

When will my heart stop aching for you, Wisebutters?

At the doctor, my blood blood pressure was so high
I thought I might die.
The nurse brought me a pill and when the doctor walked in and looked at me, I burst into tears.
“Please, can you help me?
I am drowning in my own sorrow, pain, and anger.
I can’t breathe.”

He took one look at my face over his bifocals and said,
“You’re headed for a trainwreck, aren’t ya? Let’s get you some help so you don’t get derailed,ok?”
Then he rubbed my back and told me a story about the time he was depressed.
Then I cried some more.
Then he prescribed me the entire pharmacy.
Then he said, “Stress kills, sister. You’ve got to let go.”

How, doctor?
How do I let go?

Raggedy Anne and Bart-Holo, A Love Story

I tried to sign up for a dating app this afternoon. By tried, I mean I filled out the 20 minute questionnaire and attempted to say kind things about myself that some other person might find appealing. I was feeling just sort of ok with the whole process and then the app wanted me to upload pictures. Suddenly, ‘just sort of ok’ turned into an immediate ‘abort mission.’

And then I deleted the profile.

I don’t know why but I’m so terribly ashamed to put myself on a dating app even though I know it’s perfectly ok and normal and there’s nothing wrong with it. I really do understand this. It’s just that I live in this antiquated spot on the map with a population of Hi, Neighbor! and I don’t want anyone to know I’m single and lonely and looking for love through an app on my phone.

I mean, why don’t I just go to church?! Everyone knows Pastor Brown’s son is divorced and in need of a god-fearing woman to help raise his three boys. Have you seen those boys?? Davey, Rod, and Jimbo sure could use a haircut, a hot meal, and bed-time prayers.

Bless their hearts.

I honestly can’t remember the last time I stepped foot inside a church and haircuts, hot meals, and bed-time prayers are beyond my scope of expertise. I’m not exactly step-mom material even though I have a kid. It doesn’t make any sense, I know.

So what am I looking for?
What do I want?

I dunno.

I should know. I’m supposed to know! Everyone knows you’re supposed to know what you want in a relationship and out of life by the time you’re 4 decades into this thing but….here I am! Not knowing!

Fucking Daredevil. That’s me.
My middle name is Knievel.
My mom named me after Evel.
It was a tossup between Marie and Raggedy Anne and one look around her in the middle of that blue van on the way to the hospital in Selma, and my mom knew. She just fucking knew. She knew in that way that you know what you know but you don’t really know how you know it, or even when you finally knowed it….. ya know?
Wait. What?
Anyway, my mom took one look around her.
There were my sister and brothers, all snot nosed and yelling;
my dad, one hand on the wheel and the other on his Coors Light.
Then, she looked down at her swollen belly, down at me under all those veins and tissue,
warm and snug inside the same womb that held my sister before me and my brother before her and then my other brother before him;
all of us coming to be inside this tiny little hut inside my mom.
She put one hand on her belly and the other hand over her eyes and said “you’re either gonna be the dumbest little bitch out there or you’re gonna be the bravest. I can’t claim dumb for you,Butterbean, so brave it is.”

With that, she took her hand from over her eyes and in the loudest whisper she could muster declared an end to the middle name debate between my dad, who picked Marie, my sister, who was really hoping for Raggedy Anne, and my brothers, who didn’t even know if they were getting a boy brother or a girl sister.

“KNIEVEL!”, she whisper shouted. “KNIEVEL! Stephanie Knievel. That’s Butterbeans’ name.”

And so it was.

Stephanie Knievel Butterbean was born.

SLAYER OF LIFE. BAD ASS BITCH TO THE BONE. Chapter 1.

You would not believe how many people don’t believe that story when I tell them. It always amazes me. As if I would lie about a thing like my own middle name. Come on!

Ok.

I’m totally lying.

None of that actually happened except my sister really was hoping I would be named Raggedy Anne. I mean, I kind of do too now. Sure,my formative years would have been tough, no doubt. But fuck yeah, I could rock the shit out of Raggedy Anne now. Imagine being someone’s plus one to a formal event.

“Mom? Dad? Senator Kirkland? I’d like you to all meet Raggedy Anne.”

“I’m sorry Bartholomew Junior…..did you say Raggedy Anne?”

“Yes, father.” Bart-Holo (my pet name for him) would answer. “This is my girlfriend, or, as she likes to be referred to…my Shack Job, Raggedy Anne.” At which point, I, being Raggedy Anne, would smack Bart-Holo’s ass hard enough to make him jump.

Later on in the hotel room, Bart-Holo would turn Raggedy Anne ragged for displaying that very defiant claim of ownership. But, Raggedy Anne being Raggedy Anne, would welcome her punishment like the good little rag doll she is.

Raggedy Anne’s are fearless and feral and brave.

Stephanie Butterbean’s, though?

Stephanie Butterbean’s wake up forty chapters into their life and realize they’re stuck in Hi, Neighbor! with nary a Bart-Holo in sight.

There’s just Pastor Brown’s son who is recently divorced and really needs a step-mama for Davey, Rod, and Jimbo. Those boys could really use a haircut, a hot meal, and a bed time prayer. Or two.

Bless their hearts.

Bless their fucking hearts.

Bart-Holo and Raggedy Anne 4Ever.

Love Kool-Aid

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
“Stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.”
“Don’t be someones second choice.”

Why not? How come? What if I don’t mind?

Oh, that’s right. I forgot. I’m supposed to set boundaries and junk. If I don’t set boundaries, I might get triggered and if I get triggered it’s game over.
Game Over, Bitches.

Sometimes I think we’ve all gone a bit overboard with all these rules regarding our hearts and emotions. I mean, sure, we can’t go running around naked and crazed all over town looking for you after you’ve declared us unworthy of your special Love Kool-Aid. That would just be uncouth and embarrassing. Especially at our advanced age. We should have figured out by now how to have a little decorum and not be tempted to take the electric razor to our luscious locks like Britney Spears circa 2007. But come on! Even 36 almost 42 year olds still dream of tattooing your name in hearts across their lady parts. We’d never do it, of course. Definitely not….
Probably not….
Well….maybe….
I’m not saying yes but I’m not saying no either.

Listen, just because we’re old and have hips that go out on the regular (even in our sleep) doesn’t mean we don’t feel all the feelings our 22 year old selves felt when our hips didn’t lie and we could shake them better than Shakira.

I know! I know, I know, I know.
Boundaries are important.
Triggers are bad.
Got it.

I’m not going to drive to the middle of the map and show up at your doorstep with a caramel apple I made from scratch and a carving of your name in clay for Valentine’s Day.
I’m not!
Besides, I already tried that and you thought I was batshit insane and that was only one day after we’d said goodbye to each other and were still in love. Or so I thought. Imagine your reaction now! Hilarious!

In all seriousness, this composure stuff has gotten way out of hand. I’m not really interested in keeping my composure all that much when my heart has been ground up and turned into shredded beef and left discarded on the butcher table for the flies to lay their eggs in. It doesn’t really interest me to pretend like I’m not just standing over there in the corner staring at my stringy heart, all bloody and broken and prone to decay after you so carelessly tossed it aside.

I’d really like to write a 12 page poem for you and call you on your cell phone and read it to you in slow motion and freeze time in that instant so you can’t answer the 400 incoming texts from all the women who are hoping you will pick them; or take the 57 phone calls from your female co-worker who can’t get over the way you foraged in her forest last night and found her lost treasure – a gift just for you from the Universe between her thighs. That would probably feel like eternal hell for you, having to listen to some not-quite-perfect woman you once thought the world of, wax poetic about all the ways you broke her in half while the multitudes of other, more better, women are just waiting for your voice in their ears to tell them all the ways you’re going to make them see all the colors of the rainbow when your fingertips just barely graze their erect nipples through the flimsy fabric of their t-shirts.

Forgive me if composure and sensibility and pomp and circumstance are not wells from which I can draw from at the moment.

Love is everything we are but mostly what we don’t want the other to see.

I saw you.

I don’t have it in me to get over you yet. I know I should. My brain understands this is a dead end and I need to turn around and start walking back the way I came. My heart, though. My heart just keeps pushing on this brick wall in front of me, hoping beyond hope the love stored inside it will be enough to make the bricks crumble all down around me and you’ll be standing there on the other side.

Love is the good bad ugly dirt underneath your fingernails and a fresh coat of paint on top.

A shattered heart is a jigsaw puzzle and every time the pieces get all mixed up and put back together, a different portrait appears.

“Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
“Stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.”
“Don’t be someones second choice.”

I don’t want to live in a world where the only time we give grace is when we receive it.
I don’t want to live in a world where the only time we swim across shark infested water is if someone else does it first.
I don’t want to live in a world where we don’t understand that sometimes being second is better than being first.

So why not? How come? And what if I don’t mind?

Seven Point Two Seconds

I was rummaging through the warmer, looking for a sweet potato casserole when Brenda Faye called my name. She was standing by the stove, watching me quietly. She knew I had been down for far too many days in a row.

“Stephanie.”

I paused in my search and looked over at her

“I love you,” she said. I quickly looked away and grabbed the casserole.

“I love you, too,” I said as I closed the warmer door.

And then promptly turned around and left because the tears were already pooling in the bottom of my eyelids and I knew I was going to lose it all. My composure, my dignity, my goddamned mind. It was all going to come gushing out right there onto the floor of that kitchen in that store on Highway 80 in some town no one has ever heard of but where the story of my life keeps unfolding. Or unraveling. Faster than I know what to do with. I want to scoop up all the pieces of me that are floating all over this town I’ve never loved and pack them up in a suitcase and take them somewhere…anywhere. Away from here. Away from this. A hotel room in the city, a cabin in the woods, a shack on the beach, a tent in the desert, a sleeping bag under the stars.

My Life: The Series

Bad Decisions
Failed Attempts
Wandering Lust
Half Attempts
Daydream Realities
No Attempts
A Too-Sad Heart

All I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.”

Hallelujah.

A cold and broken hallelujah.

If I could carry your grief until it was light enough for you to lift it, I would.

If I could take your pain and expunge it from your heart and bury it in the farthest corner of a place you can’t find on any map, I would.

The time it takes to say “I love you” and choose not to cry for the sixty-seventh time today. How much time is that? A minute? Thirty seconds?
Maybe 7.2 seconds and it’s lights out forever. Maybe it’s only a journey as short or as long as a sentence. From the first capital letter all the way to the period. Question mark? Exclamation point! Commas are just baby heart palps along the way.
That hardly seems fair, does it?
Maybe if I don’t punctuate any of the sentences things will never end and we’ll just go on and on forever and can stay here on the surface and not get sent into the abyss
the void
the nothing
the eternal darkness
the nether
the nor
the final fade
the last curtain
7.2 seconds and it’s lights out forever and ever amen hallelujah and do you think there’s a god in the universe or a place to see light or just this darkness that eats away at the lining of my stomach and sits on the far reaches of my soul until I can’t breathe and I want to drown in my own misery just to stop feeling all the feelings when a simple thing like “Stephanie I love you” threatens to unleash all the tears as I try for the sixty-eighth time in one day to choose not to cry but it’s never a choice not really it’s never a choice,
I am a hostage
inside my mind
inside my brain
inside my heart
inside these fingertips
inside this mouth
that speaks words of love but hurls words of insult against the aching breaking heart of a nine year old little boy who’s whole world is built on acres of broken glass and burning coals where the threat of disaster looms with each unsteady step he takes and I don’t know how to clean up this mess we have created for him in his one and only life that I tried so hard to keep together but it all just fell apart and I don’t know how to put it back
I don’t know how
I don’t know how
I don’t know how
and in 7.2 seconds it’s lights out and he’s left there in the destruction as I fall into the abyss
his nine year old face looking out over this scorched field of glass and coals
my own personal hell
I’ll live in
for all eternity
forever
and ever

seven point two seconds

maybe not even that long.

I did my best, I know it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come here to fool ya