It all fades to black, Pt 2

Even though I knew

It all fell apart, two years ago today. I remember writing this, hoping for a miracle that never came.


I was alone but heard a female yell out my name in my apartment the other day.

I ran out of my room and yelled, “Alison?” even though I knew she was gone.

I don’t believe in ghosts or anything like that. I do believe in auditory hallucinations caused by insomnia and copious amounts of self-medication. Yet, it seemed so real.

This is my life these days. Most days are ok. Some actually good, like when the boy and Mouse are here. Some are bad. Some are horrible.

This was a horrible day. I screamed in my blue bathroom, like I always do.

I have no plans to hurt myself. Instead, I plan on just going on a massive bender; apologies to my liver and those that will be running into me this weekend.

Still…I’m tired. I’d like to rest.

But, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

The boy: Why do you (imitates a sighing sound)?
Me: I’m sorry. Papa’s just tired.
Him: You need to rest.
Me: (nodding) I will. One day, I’ll rest. But not for a while, ok?
Him: Ok! (looking at me) Are you sad?
Me: (smiles) What do I have to be sad about? I have you. That’s silly.
Him: (laughs) That’s silly. Silly, papa.
Me: (nods, turns away)

Stop all the clocks,
Cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with the juicy bone.
Silence the pianos and, with muffled drum,
Bring out the coffin. Let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky, the message: “He is dead!”
Put crepe bows around the white necks of the public doves.
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my north, my south, my east and west,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song.
I thought that love would last forever; I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Location: the bottom of my staircase and of a bottle of rum
Mood: hollowed-out
Music: Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst
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It all fades to black, Pt 1

All the bonuses you didn’t want

 

Friday will be exactly two years since Alison left.  It’s hard for me to comprehend. She’s forever young.

No one wants to be forever young this way.

In those two years, I’ve dreamt of Alison exactly once. It was a late last year and I wanted to keep it to myself and tell you when the time was right. Suppose that’s today.

I dreamt that it was this day. and I was here/here, which is Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.

In the dream – and in real life – we were running late to a wedding. She told me to hurry up and walked down the steps leading to Bethesda Fountain and I ran after her.

She turned to smile at me one last time before disappearing around a bend. Stuck behind a crowd, I ran after her but she was gone.

I ran down the stairs and looked for her, then up again, then back down again. I never saw her again.

Then I woke up and plead to a god I don’t believe in to let me go back.

And I got the same fucking answer I always do.

It’s the same answer everyone gets.

People don’t seem to get it.

It wasn’t just Alison that died that day; my family died that day. All the hopes and dreams she and I talked about for so long, died that day. Everything we thought would be, died that day.

All our big dreams and little dreams died with her.

You know, something she talked about all the time when she was pregnant was how excited she was to push a stroller and hold a goddamn cup of coffee in the Upper West Side. She never got the chance.

How fucked up is that?

Losing alla that’s just bonus you get for free with the death of someone you love. It’s all bonus for shit you didn’t want in the first place.

Almost everything you ever loved dies all-at-fucking once.

Just like that. Poof. It all fades to black.

Location: hell again
Mood: hollowed-out
Music: So many dreams swinging out of the blue. Oh, let it come true
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The Superpower

Taking Mice for Granted

This woman named Jo Cameron was born with two genetic mutations:

      1. A different FAAH gene, which reduces her ability to feel pain, both physical and emotional;
      2. A defective FAAH-OUT gene, whose sole purpose is to activate the FAAH gene.

Essentially, she feels no pain, no anxiety. She cannot suffer. She broke her arm when she was eight years old and only went to the doctor three days later because her arm looked funny. When she gave birth, it tickled her.

She’s a mutant with a superpower.

When I was a kid, outta all the superpowers, the one I wanted the most was the ability to become invisible. I think most bullied kids would welcome the ability to disappear and not be noticed.

But, after these past few years – barring time travel and/or the ability to detect and destroy cancer – I think that the superpower I’d like the most is Jo’s power.

Because, man, do I get people being hooked on painkillers.

This week/month has been a rollercoaster of emotional pain. Both from Alison and the Gymgirl. The kind where I’m sitting down on my shower floor hyperventilating.

I actually do have to take painkillers to manage it. That’s how severe it’s been. The insomnia’s back too, because, of course it’s back…

I’d like to tell you more about the Gymgirl but now’s not really the right time.

I will say that she floored me the other night because we hadn’t spoken for a while. And when we did, she said I took her for granted. That’s the last thing I would do.

Then again, I’ve always said that communication is what the other side hears, not what you say.

It’s my fault if she somehow heard that she wasn’t that important.

Her: (dismissively) I’m just a placeholder in your life.
Me:  (shaking head) That’s precisely the opposite of what you are. You’re not even a front-runner; you’re the only game in town.

That placeholder bit kept me up all night because it’s so far left field. I didn’t really fully appreciate the depth of what she was saying until I was alone in bed.

The worst things creep into my head in the middle of the night because it’s when the world and my thoughts quiet down. And I start to understand things.

I’m trying to wrap my head around everything but, FWIW, I was trying to do the right thing by her but it turned out that I did exactly the opposite of what she wanted me to do.

To top it all off, afterward, I behaved in a way that I’m not proud of and I’m disappointed in myself. It was rough all around.

I should remember that this never happens when I drink rum. But that’s neither here nor there.

There’s more, but that’s all I wanted to say for now.

That, and, should she and I exit each other’s Venn Diagram, you can still keep up with her wit and charm by following her blog: Melee Mouse/Mouse in the City.

Me: Hurry up, we’re gonna be late!
Mouse: We? You’re gonna be late. I’m gonna be a pleasant surprise.

She was my pleasant surprise in all this shit. I thought she knew.

On that note, I’m just going to call her Mouse here from this point forward, for however long that is.

Because the only reason I used Gymgirl instead of Mouse, which is what everyone calls her, was because of our inappropriately possessive ex-coach and his insane jealousy, which is a whole ‘nother story for another time.

Location: home
Mood: uncertain
Music: Oh, I guess I should have told her; I thought she knew
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Conversations in May

Hugging porcupines

Been having a lotta interactions lately. Probably because it’s May. Some have been funny…

Him: I wanted to make sure you were still alive.
Me: It’s still early in the month.

…some just amusing…

Me: (holding out hand) My name’s Logan.
Her: (taking it) Malaga.
Me: Like the city in Spain? You know, I gave a lecture there years ago.
Her: Really?
Me: I know, I’m as surprised as you are.
Her: (laughs)

…some less so:

PT: I think about her a lot.
Me: Well, that makes two of us.

Alison’s really amazing physical therapist came by for the first time in almost over two years. She used to come here two-to-three days a week to try and help Alison – and refused to take any money for it.

We caught up and she saw the boy again for the first time in ages; he wasn’t speaking and had just started crawling the last time she saw him.

Her: He’s adorable! (later) I’m so glad we did this.
Me: Me too. I would have written you sooner but…(trails off)
Her: (gently) I know.
Me: I’d like to see you again, if I could. When you’re free.
Her: (nodding) I’d like that.

Actually, I communicated with a number of people that I’ve not spoken to in a while.

Her: How are you?
Me: (slight laugh) Probably exactly as you’d imagine.
Her: (later) I wanted to mention that my ex and I moved in together.
Me: That’s great. I always just wanted you to be happy.
Her: (pause) Why didn’t you ever let me meet him? Your son…
Me: (sighing) Alison told me once that, when you have a kid, and you see someone love that kid, you can’t help but fall in love with them. We were both in a weird…
Her: (interrupting) But the Gymgirl met him.
Me: Yes. She did. I set her apart.
Her: Before or after she met him? And did she set you apart?

Speaking of the Gymgirl, the boy asked about her every single day up until a few days ago. I’m not sure which of the two bothered me more.

And a dear friend took my breath away…

Her: The toughest thing for me is that the joy of my daughter’s birth is shadowed by my brother’s death. Every year she celebrates is a reminder that he’s gone for that long too. My mom took down almost every picture of him. It’s just too painful to see them right now.
Me: Yes. Someone, who lost his wife also told me that memories are like trying to hug a porcupine; you want to but it hurts too much to do it.

…while another friend took my breath away for different yet similar reasons.

Me: I was hoping I could avoid your fate. But Oedipus, and the Moirai, and alla that ____.
Her: You’re the only man I know that can bring up obscure Greek mythology and expletives in the same breath.
Me: I’m special like that. (later) I think about what you said alla time.
Her: But that’s me, Logan. You’re not me. (thinking) You should come visit.
Me: Maybe. I’m not the same person you knew. I’m not sure I can be or want to be.
Her: None of us are the same people we were. Everyone grows and changes, for better or worse.
Me: (laughing) That’s where you’re wrong. New York is fulla people who never grow up or change.
Her: (laughs) And that’s why I had to leave.

Finally, my old boss from decades ago contacted me too. Someone called him about his mom, who died, and he felt compelled to contact me.

Him: It was great to talk to her, but it was tough to get off the phone and be in tears. I thought you’d understand better than most.
Me: I actually signed off FB messenger because I was getting so many messages from people that meant well but didn’t really get it. Death is something no one truly understands until they experience it firsthand.

It’s funny. I wanna be alone alla time but I value these interactions – and rando bits of kindness – more than you might imagine.

Location: at the bottom of a bottle of rum
Mood: thoughtful
Music: missed you more than I thought I would
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Hitting the button

©Lauren Herschel

Closure is a myth

Was planning on just going on a bender this past weekend because the kid was supposed to go with ABFF to NJ for a cancer walk. Unfortunately/fortunately, he got sick.

The Gymgirl’s upset with me for reasons I don’t fully understand.

But I will say that, after not speaking for a week or two, I asked her to watch him because there was something I had to do on Saturday morning (which I’ll tell you about some other time).

She came, no questions asked, and left as soon as I was back. She even made coffee and brought me some rum. And wrote a lovely note to me, the kid, and Alison, to boot.

Like I said, a boy could fall for a girl like that.

Some friends came by later on that night, I think they were worried about my being alone.

Him: What do you have to drink?
Me: Rum. And cinnamon whiskey.
Him: (groans) So, what’s going on with you and the Gymgirl?
Me: I’m not sure.
Him: You should try to work it out.
Me: (laughing) You just like her, which makes sense. But she’ll make her decisions and I’ll respect them.

Drinks at The Aviary in NYC

Her: So, how was your Mother’s Day?

People keep asking me how I was this past weekend, so lemme start by telling you that – over the past two years – I’ve met a number of people that make offhanded comments about my needing closure from what happened.

Sociologist Nancy Berns wrote a book on it and said, “It’s not the dominant narrative in research in bereavement, but it is in popular culture. Those who are working with people who are grieving tend to be less likely to use the concept.”

In other words, “closure” is a word used by those that never dealt with true grief.

I met a lot of people the past couple of years that characterized Alison and my father’s death almost like a high school breakup, where one needs closure to be alright.

You’re never alright watching the people you love adore die. There’s no closure, no peace.

Robin Williams said, in Good Will Hunting, You don’t know about real loss, ’cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.

I remember wanting to grab this person and telling her:

It’s not like when Jimmy broke up with you in eighth grade, Cathy. Why don’t you watch two people you love more than yourself suffer and die slowly – for years – and then talk to me about what I need?

On the flipside, my brother sent me what may be the best explanation of grief I’ve ever read/heard from a blogger named Lauren Herschel, who was, in turn, quoting her psychiatrist.

She said that grief is like having a box with a pain button on the inside and a large ball in that box. In the beginning, every movement causes the ball to hit the button and course pain throughout your body.

I thought I’d share the Ball in the Box analogy my Dr told me pic.twitter.com/YfFT26ffU8

Over time, the ball gets smaller and still bounces around inside the box; it hits the button less, but when it does, the pain is just as crippling as ever.

That’s the truest description of pain/loss/grief I’ve ever read, versus closure, which is teenage angst horseshit.

I’m fine most of the time and most days. But, when I’m alone in my apartment, I’ll just randomly scream. Legit, scream.

My neighbors must think I’m a madman.

But that’s what happens when the grief button is hit. You fall to your knees and you scream.

I’m on my knees less these days. But it’ll never fully goes away.

Anyway, my Sunday was spent drinking, hitting that goddamn button, and screaming.

So, that’s how my Sunday was.

Me: (shrugging) Oh, you know, the usual…

Location: the gym, trying to sober up
Mood: hell
Music: I can never get over the love
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Mother’s Day / Alison’s Birthday: A mother’s love for her child…

…is like nothing else in the world

Me: (to Steel) When did you get married? I’m looking for a picture I took of Alison that day. For some reason it’s stuck in my head.
Him: August 28, 2009
Me: (later) God, I found it. Thanks.

Alison and I went to my buddy’s wedding around the way a decade ago and she wanted to walk in comfort there. She changed her shoes right before we went in because she always liked to be put together in public.

Dunno why I thought of that pic. Just did. Finding it was some form of relief.

Her birthday is this Sunday. It also happens to be Mother’s Day. I expect to be pretty messed up this weekend.

She woulda been 40, which is such a kick in the head. I remember throwing her that surprise birthday party for her 30th birthday.

Man, I cannot express how writing all this affects me. It’s like someone hits my chest with a sledgehammer. It was a lifetime ago.

But I digress.

This isn’t actually a post about Alison; it’s actually about her mom.

You see, her mom stayed with us every single day Alison was sick. Every. Single. Goddamn. Day.

She was at Alison’s side at the very end because I couldn’t be. I couldn’t fucking do it. I was too weak to say goodbye.

I’m too weak even now. My knees shake just thinking about it.

Her mom: I worry about your drinking so much. Does it really make you feel better?
Me: For a bit. Just for a bit.

Yet, her mom endured saying goodbye to her daughter. As a father, I have no idea how she did that. I can’t even bear the thought of it.

She endured everything I endured and more. I am quietly humbled and forever grateful for her and her love for Alison.

Agatha Christie once said, A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things, and crushes down, remorselessly, all that stands in its path.

Holy shitballs, that’s her mom in a sentence (or three).

Actually, that’s my mom too – and how she handled herself with my dad. But that’s another entry.

Speaking of my dad, he told me, just before he died, to always be kind to Alison’s mom and to never take the boy from her.

Me: I would never. But why?
Him: (sighing) Because, she’s a mother that lost her child. Whatever you feel you’ve lost, whatever anyone feels they’ve lost, she’s lost more. Whatever pain you think you have – and I know you have a lot – she has more. She gave you Alison, you’ll always have a debt to her for that.
Me: I know. (nodding) You should rest.

It was one of the last things he said to me and it crushed me because the truth is a powerful thing. The power of the truth crushes things, that’s what it does.

I write her at least every other day about the kid. Because Alison woulda talked to her at least as much. I wanted to give her back a tiny sliver of what she lost.

It’s my little way of saying thank you for being so strong when I couldn’t be.

Alison would have been the best mother and I know what I do pales in comparison, as she would have loved this kid in ways I never could.

Cause a mother’s love is like nothing in the world – my dad knew this, Agatha knew this, and I know this.

Especially someone like Alison, who wanted this kid more than anything else in the world. She loved him even before he was born. Everything she suffered to survive the cancer – and you cannot fathom the pain she went through – she did for him.

But she’s not here. So, with her mom’s help, I do what I can to raise the boy as she woulda wanted. It’s not her but it’s the best we’ve got.

Him: I love you, Papa.
Me: That’s good, because I love you!
Him: (thinking) And mommy too.
Me: (sighing, nodding) You should. Because to know her is to love her.
Him: (staring at me) Are you ok, daddy?
Me: (nodding) Of course. I have you. (hugging him) And stop calling me “daddy.”

Location: alone in my apartment, with some cinnamon whiskey
Mood: drinky
Music: I can’t believe she’s gone
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Getting your way

My Big Head

My brother’s in town and, despite him being on a carb-free diet too, we both indulged because the Gymgirl’s away so that means a break from the diet.

Him: Ok…just one slice.
Me: …maybe two. We’ll see. I mean, if the kid doesn’t finish his, I gotta, right?

Thought of Gradgirl recently because I got into a discussion with someone about the book Getting to Yes. It’s one of my faves.

Went through it with Gradgirl for one of her electives; there’s a part that goes something like, You don’t want to win your argument, you want to get your way.

Essentially, the book was saying that people want to win an argument to the point that they lose sight of what they truly wanted in the first place.

In fact, the full name of the book is: Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. – I bolded the last part, because the last part is the “getting your way” part.

For example, I hate Trump. But I want him to succeed, because if he’s successful, the country’s successful. Those that want him to fail miss out on the bigger point that we, as a country, fail if he fails.

He’s still a(n enormous) douchebag, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anywho, I mentioned wanting to get my way with my friend who looks at this line of thinking like some sort character defect on my part.

It’s because he never read Getting to Yes. To him, the only way for me to win, is for some other party to lose. Evidently, he’s never heard of win-win.

See, I told him that I was going to install a signal repeater for my sister – and me so I could record some shows – but my sister told me she didn’t need or want one.

But I was just going to install it anyway since I measured the signal strength and I knew she was one storm away from it totally failing on her one day.

Anywho, I never got around to getting it set up and she just wrote me last week that her antenna failed, which I knew it would.

Had I installed it, we both woulda gotten what we wanted; television. Instead, neither of us have it now – it’s pure lose-lose. The earliest I can head out to her is a few weeks from now.

Of course, all this is in theory.

The reality of negotiation breaks down when your major daily adversary’s a three-year old, who has no issue with playing dirty.

Son: This has spinach. I don’t want it.
Me: But it’s *mostly* egg with just a little spinach. Don’t you want to grow up big and strong? Just try…
Him: No! (pause) You have a big, big head.
Me: What?! Where did that come from?
Him: (laughing) You have a big, big head. (points at my head)
Me: Why are you saying that?
Him: Because…you have a big, big head. (laughs)
Me: (grumble, eats spinach eggs)

Location: yesterday, running around with friends
Mood: understanding
Music: I can’t do this again, do this again
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Dear Nate… 004: Understanding is gold

Defending something you didn’t choose

Dear Nate;

It’s May so I spend a lotta time thinking of your mama.

This fella named Nilesh Jain once said, “Five minutes after your birth, they decide your name, nationality, religion, sect, and you spend rest of your life defending something you didn’t choose.”

I’ve always felt that everyone is who they are because of the parents to whom they were born.

For good or bad, you either inherit your parents views or rebel against them. Don’t know which path you’ll choose but I hope you understand why I live my life as I do.

I chase understanding, not knowledge. Friends, not fortune. Meaning, not entertainment.

There’s a saying called, “Tiger Parents,” where Asian parents push their children for success through any means necessary. To a large extent, I’m the result of tiger parents.

But I don’t want that for you. I want something greater for you: Not knowledge but understanding.

I look at my role in your life as your guard and instructor. My job is to protect you so that I have time to show you what I know and hope you find some wisdom in it.

My life is full of instructors: Uncles Chad and Agapito teach me violence but are some of kindest souls I know. Uncle Aki is the single smartest human being I’ve ever met, yet uses that brilliance to help others, including us.

You see, we are all the average of the five people we spend the most time with so I make sure to spend time with those that can instruct me. Because they bring value to me, so that I can bring value to you.

I don’t want you to root for a team because you happen to be born in that team’s city, or – even worse – hate someone else because they were born in a different city. Or to different parents.

That’s beyond worthless in my eyes and, I hope, with time, your eyes as well.

Understanding lets you maximize the valuable and minimize the worthless. And none of us are here very long so the sooner you can separate the wheat from the chaff, the better.

If most people aren’t here very long, your mama was here for just a beautiful moment in time. But she died knowing things. Things she told me that I will tell you because they made my life richer and will do the same for you.

For all this, I also hope you grow up enjoying frivolous things, because there’s joy in the ability to be extravagant.

But knowing that something is frivolous makes it ok; thinking that the unimportant is important is not.

To collect gold, you have to know what is tin. Because, you see, you don’t get gold by making it; you get gold by washing away everything that’s not gold.

The self-made wealthy are wealthy because of what they eschew, not because of what they acquire.

We’re all given 24 hours here; what you do with it plots out your life, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have 26,280 days here. Use them wisely. Surround yourself with kind and knowledgeable instructors.

Speaking of luck, you’re my son – and Alison McCarthy’s son – by pure luck. For us, it was the best possible kind. For you, only time will tell if it was good or bad.

I hope it’s the former but luck, and life, is what you make of it.

In the end, I don’t want you to be some imitation of me. I want you to be better than me.

Love,

Papa

Him: (randomly) We don’t have a mommy at home.
Me: (pause) No, we don’t.
Him: Is she stuck?
Me: No. Papa misspoke.
Him: Where is she?
Me: She’s…she died.
Him: She died? Why?
Me: She got sick.
Him: She got sick? Will she feel better?
Me: I don’t…no. She won’t. But I’ll tell you all about her because I was her best friend and she was mine. (clears throat) OK?
Him: (laughs) OK!

Dear Nate… 001
Dear Nate… 002: Wait and wish
Dear Nate… 003: Rain happens

Location: Central Park West and W 72nd, crossing the street
Mood: unhappy
Music: Not enough time for all that I want for you
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Catching a film

It’s a good thing


I finally saw Avengers: Endgame the other day. It was pretty good, I have to say.

It also makes sense why they split it into two films, cause, man, it was long enough as it was.

A buncha my friends said it made them cry, but there was only one part that made me. Without giving too much away, one of the dead significant others came back and called a character on his mobile phone.

That made me cry.

Because it’s just another thing that’ll never happen again.

The Gymgirl patted me on the shoulder, which she does a lot for me. Her kindness helps.

Well, that and our inadvertent comedic moments.

Her: I’m balling in this bathtub.
Me: You’re “bawling?” Are you ok?
Her: No, not “bawling” – “balling.”
Me: We have a 17-year age difference. I have no idea what that means; is “balling” good or bad?
Her: (laughs) It’s a good thing.

It’s May. I hate May.

Location: earlier today, 68th and Broadway, with a toddler
Mood: blah
Music: I would never do you wrong
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All the places I’ll never see

Decrepit old man

The Gymgirl kept doing things for me all week for my birthday, including buying me a Red Velvet cupcake.

She also pulled a bunch of my friends from the gym together for a surprise dinner for me last week but I had a stomach bug so I couldn’t really eat anything, which is a shame because it was at my favourite local joint of Cuban-Chinese food.

They came back to my pad to play some games but I had to call it an early night because I started getting feverish. It was a rough two days – we were supposed to go to see the Gymgirl’s family the next day but I was so sick that I couldn’t make it.

Her: Call me if you need anything!
Me: …

The next day, she came in to check in on me.

The Gymgirl: (upbeat) You look much better. (pause) Hey, are you ok?
Me: Sorry. (distracted) I’m better. I’m just thinking of Alison. She felt rotten for years. I just think about how much she suffered and endured…
Her: I’m sorry Logan.
Me: No – I’m sorry I’m such a downer all the time.
Her: You’re not. (later) At least you’re not projectile vomiting.
Me: Yes, there is that.

Eventually, I felt good enough to get out of bed and we had a nice day together and watched a few travel programs.

I like to look at all the places that I’ll never see in real life.

Her: Why don’t you actually go?
Me: (shrugging) I’ve lost that drive. Plus the kid and work means it’s hard to get away. This is like the next best thing. (watching a show on St. Paul Cathedral) I do like London, though. I’d climb that the next time I’m in London.
Her: It’s 30 stories! You’d never make it, you decrepit old man.

Also saw my boss for drinks the other day.

Me: I wanted to say, “I’m sorry.”
Him: (surprised) For what?
Me: For how things turned out. I had all these beautiful plans – personal and professional. And life ____ed me outta all of them. I thought I’d come back this summer but I just wanna take care of the kid. That’s all I want to do these days.
Him: You don’t ever have to apologize for any of that. And raise your son. We’ll be here when you’re ready. Trust me – when he goes to school, you’ll be itching for something to do.
Me: (laughing) Maybe…

Location: the gym, pretending I’m not 46
Mood: hopeful
Music: I’m a little bit home, but I’m not there yet
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