In Adoration

Do you even remember
When we first met?

You were strong, vibrant, so very full of life.
I could only watch
In amazement.

There was no place for me.

The rules were clear:
The door was barred and
The gate closed.

I was patient, my dearest, so very patient.

Do you even remember
Our first tentative declarations?

Shared transmissions of our mutual intentions for
Respect, friendship, and enlightenment.

I was not so naive,
To believe in fairy-tale happy endings,
At least, not for me.

I was unprepared for the
Awakening of something
Thought long lost within me
By you.

Do you even remember
The novelty you were?

We have both changed,
Grown, for the better I hope.
But we are not always the best
For each other, anymore.

I still love you,
But I can not always
Live with you, as you are.

Do you even remember
Your former Spirit?

Our long history magnifies
Our mutual metamorphosis’s.

Others weigh in,
Heavy handed with their opinions.
I accept their criticism with as much
Silence and Grace
As I can muster for
Your sake.

Do you even remember
Why anyone would care?

I am your creation still,
Even as you radiate
The remnants of my final strokes.

I will never truly leave you,
Though you will go on without me.

Expressions of Love

My border collie has me well-trained. Just a few minutes ago she called me downstairs and had me open the back door for her so she could go patrol her domain for squirrels. I left the door open too, even with a 45F rainy day outside. If I hadn’t, she would have insisted on a cookie for being made to wait, rather than being able to walk right back in whenever she wanted. I can leave the cookie box out; she won’t help herself if I am out of the room. But as soon as I return, she will herd me to it and bark once or twice, just to make sure I know what she wants.

Now, this didn’t happen all at once. When my husband and I first met our G-girl at the mobile adoption center thirteen years ago, it was love at first sight. We weren’t looking to adopt a dog; in fact, our apartment complex had a single-cat policy. We already had a Maine Coon mix, and a guinea pig too. G-girl was a two-timer, we were told, adopted out to a local family who brought her back because “it didn’t work out.” The one-year-old, shaggy, black-and-white puppy tore at our hearts. We took her for a short walk. Ears up, fluffy tail bobbing with every step, she seemed so bright and alert. We signed the papers right then and there.

It took the complex management nearly two weeks to catch us out walking our G-girl along the edge of the woods. My husband pled with the manager, in tears, to let us keep her. They relented, telling us we had to keep her out of sight until we could move. We made arrangements to rent a house. During that time I learned that border collies get bored. And when they get bored, they find things to amuse themselves, like chewing shoes. I filled the apartment with chew toys, empty paper towel rolls, balls of newspaper. We would come home from class and she would be sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by unpalatable alternatives, with one of our shoes cradled between her paws. Her head would in shame, her normally perky ears down. She wouldn’t run and hide, though. She would come up, drop to the floor right in front of us, and demand a belly rub.

Eventually, she stopped chewing, bored with the whole thing.

One thing we loved about that rented house was the fenced-in back yard. In the beginning, we would let G-girl out the back door, into the yard. She quickly found ways to get out. One time, my husband watched from the window as she carefully climbed, paw over paw, up the chain-link-fence. Another time she nosed the latch of the gate open and simply walked out. I even saw her leap up onto the dog house, left behind by the previous owners, and easily jump from there into the neighbor’s yard. Each time she would go to the front door and bark to be let in. When we opened the door, we would be greeted by a dancing dog: her eyes bright, her tail bouncing, ears up. She was proud that she had solved the puzzle we had given her.

Eventually, we managed to persuade her that she was supposed to stay in that yard. She did, but grudgingly.

We taught her both audible and hand signals for the typical doggy commands: “come,” “sit,” “stay,” “heel,” and “lie down.” And while she understands the commands speak and sing, she refuses to do them unless certain that a treat will follow. We are fairly certain she has learned a fair amount of English. My husband and I have several nicknames for her; not only does she respond to all of them, she knows when we are talking about her even if we do not mention her by name. While she won’t beg at the table for people food, she will wait patiently for someone, ok me, to offer her a bit of biscuit or some other nibble from the plate.

That is, until one of us shows her two open palms, fingers up, and says “all gone.” Her face, always expressive, will droop a bit, and then she will go flop down in some other part of the room, certain we are holding out on her.

Our baby-girl is fourteen years old, has cataracts and arthritis. We have been told that she will still go into vicious-attack-dog mode if someone tries to enter the house when we are not home; this is a face I have never seen. She still chases squirrels, even though she has no idea what she should do with one when she catches it. She is demanding, a little whiny, and we have no idea what we are going to do when she is no longer with us.


My hands are locked up tight in fists
My mind is racing filled with lists
Of things to do and things I’ve done
Another sleepless night’s begun

~ Barenaked Ladies ~ “Who Needs Sleep”

Insomnia is a bitch. She creeps up on me most nights, curling her long, cold fingers around the root stem of my brain. I try to fight her off, using all of my Ninja skills: deep breathing, happy places, self-hypnosis. If I know I am winning then all is lost. Mid-yawn, my body insists on gasping for more air. I hold my breath and hope for the best.

The fluffy bunnies, running on the wheels inside my head, Chug! Chug! Chug! their Red Bull and power up the mental generator. The inner screen flickers to life; it’s time to start the show. My worst moments of the day run on continuous loop. There is only one way to stop the horror: my eyes snap open. I am wide awake now. The sleepless witch pokes and prods me; I feel every ache and pain as if it were a new wound. I am too stubborn, or perhaps too stupid, to take anything stronger than a handful of NSAIDs. I struggle to remain silent. My bed is not empty tonight and he needs his sleep. Slipping out from the warmth of body and blankets, I steal his bathrobe and sneak away.

Something will amuse me, somewhere. I scan the Internet, read my e-mail, and wonder why no one else is updating at this late (or is it early) hour. The television gives me nothing but infomercials and bad porn. I am interested in neither. However, the sound of a human voice is comforting, lulling. I leave the garbage on. It is with supreme effort that I do not turn to my video game. I am not that pathetic. The sexcapade is still on; people are making animal noises. I have my own bathroom down here in the basement. The potential release of a languorous bath springs unbidden to the surface of my thoughts. If only I had some bubble soap and knew where my towel was.

I realize I am lonely, alone with only my thoughts. I surf the channels from cries of passion to lies of fashion, settling on QVC. There are not enough hours between now and morning to take a drink or pop a pill, so I will stay awake until bedtime comes around again. I pull my laptop desk to me. I write the rant I won’t post, with gripes about people I don’t know and defenses of the ones I do. I listen to the voice in my head who warns me I might want to rethink being online. I give in, and I turn on my game. After a while, I watch a virtual sun rise in real time. I prepare to head upstairs to greet the new day.

He will ask me, “Did you sleep ok?” He knows that if I go too many nights without good sleep we are both screwed. My moods are so brittle, I can flip from the safety and security of what passes as normal to something far more dangerous with the loss of only one night. Slumber is my strength, and my salvation. Take that away from me, and soon all is lost.

“No, but I will be fine,” I’ll tell him. And I will be, eventually. Meanwhile, the muses sing to me in their songs of color and light. Their words dance like inverted fireflies on my screen. The annoying twin sisters of nightmare and fantasy will have to wait another day before we three meet between the sheets, while their bastard cousin hallucination plays gentleman-caller. The lich insomnia has failed at sucking the life out of me tonight. On the contrary, she has shown me a new, beautiful, and deadly truth: I could stay awake forever, if forever felt this good. G-d help me when the end of forever comes. It is going to hurt like hell.


I lift my head from my chest and rub my gummy eyes. The undersized television flickers some late-night talk show, the audio mute, and barely illuminates the room. I thumb the off switch of the remote and the screen goes dark, but not the space. An array of blue and green and red indicator lights shine on, casting ghastly shadows through the mass of gadgets and wires in my entertainment center. I close my eyes, but the colors continue to glow, to pulse, to burst in a shower of sparks against the backdrop of my eyelids. It is my own private fireworks show, exploding suns I dare not touch.

* * *

I’ve missed my medications, quite accidentally, three days in a row now. The first night I simply forgot. The second night I fell asleep on the couch and forgot in the morning. Tonight, I fell asleep on the couch again, waking up at this odd time, in this odd mind, with this odd rhyme winding its way through me.

* * *

I stumble up the stairs, through the dark. The hardwood floors are cold beneath my feet. In the master bedroom, I avoid the harsh glare of the room lights and make my way by memory to the master bathroom. A single Indiglow nightlight, soft and soothing, does nothing to banish the shadows from the corners of the room, but it is enough at the vanity to find the hated little plastic containers. I count out my pills blindly, two and two and one and one, matching the shape of each to its function: control my flights into madness, take charge of my mood, slow down the tremors, let me sleep. Their taste is bitter in my mouth.

Slipping free from clothes that stink of two days’ continuous wear, I turn on the shower and step in. Too-hot-water scalds my skin; I stand here, in the blackness, and cry.

* * *

Shower finished, I slide open the door and shiver in the contrasting cold. I grope for the clean towel I know hangs somewhere beyond, wrap it around my shaking body, and slide my still-wet self between the sheets of the empty bed to sleep. My last thoughts, as I drift away on the waves of chemically-forced slumber, are of sea walls and ocean swells. A woman, yearning to be free of this life, leaps from one to the other. She slowly slips beneath the water with me.


“I really like you, Amy. Don’t ever marry my son.” With that, my future father-in-law Merrill Jr, his bourbon and soda in hand, shook his eldest son’s hand and left the room. Merrill Jr’s wife Laura* apologized for his brusqueness, gave me a hug, and escorted us to the door. As “meet the parents” adventures went, it was the most odd I had ever had.

I really should have paid more attention.

Merrill (the third)’s younger brother Jack introduced us in January, 1986. At the time, Jack was in a serious relationship with his planned-to-be-fiancée. Meanwhile, I was spending a great deal of my free time trying to seduce him. To get rid of me, Jack pawned me off on his older brother with firm instructions: “dip your wick and drop her.”

From our first date, Merrill and I were inseparable. I didn’t recognize it then, but I was a nineteen-year-old woman in a full-blown manic state – the perfect girlfriend. My only goals in life were sex, money, good food, and shopping. I went to my job because it was a paycheck; it got no effort. Merrill was eight years older than me, adored the sex, adored my energy, adored me. He would cook me these elaborate main dishes instead of taking me out to dinner. I moved in with him almost immediately. My mood quickly plummeted, but it was ok. He took care of me. He was needed. Round and round the relationship went.

Seven months later I was fired, hired, married and pregnant. Within weeks I was thinking divorce.

My new husband had a small problem with anger management. Ok, “small” isn’t the right word for it. Once he accidentally locked himself out of our new apartment. Rather than call me at work, or even call the building manager, he punched the door down. Places that we lived in always had holey walls.

Merrill also suffered from a severe case of irrational jealousy. I was a natural flirt in an up mood; this was long before my diagnosis and I simply went where my passions dictated. I was faithful to him to the very end, not that he believed it. He was still convinced I was out fucking everyone from one of his brothers to the maintenance men I worked with.

The first time he was physically violent with me, I was out with my coworkers after a particularly bad day at the insurance company where I worked. Merrill stormed in, ranting about how no wife of his was going be a slut. He grabbed me and yanked me out of the booth (spilling my beer). Still ranting, he pulled me out of the bar, out into the street. I was dragged all the way back to our apartment, nearly half a mile away. Our relationship was less than ideal after that.

We’d had one child, a beautiful son I named after a college sweetheart what my Mom would have originally named me. I changed jobs again, making (for the time and my education) gobs of money. I started making my plans to leave; I knew I could make it on my own, even as a single mother.

Having been denied admission to the Master’s in English program at the local university, Merrill decided he wanted another child. He needed to be needed; he needed to be loved unconditionally and he’d burned his bridges with me.

He said he didn’t have to use protection. He called it my “wifely duty.” He said it was his right.

I slept on the sofa after that. A few weeks passed; I knew I was pregnant without the pee-stick. Faced with the decision, I choose to keep my wonderful second son, whom I named for myself (the ultimate in hubris, I knew). I also insisted on permanent sterilization. I was 23 years old and I never wanted to choose again. There would be no Merrill (the fourth) from me.

It was more than a year after my second son’s birth before I was finally free of that marriage. Along the way I lost my job again, went back to school (his idea), and met someone new. I eventually learned that loving someone didn’t have to mean jealous rages and damaged goods. I still have a lot more to learn about loving myself.

I don’t ask victims of domestic violence and/or emotional abuse why they stay, why they don’t just get out. I know it’s far more complicated than that. Sometimes loving someone means never saying “I quit” even when that’s the only way to survive. It means never saying “I hate you for that” even when it’s true.

Loving someone means never saying “you were right” when you talk to your future ex-father-in-law at that last family dinner.

*some names have been changed to protect the innocent.