Tag Archives: communication

Friends for Life by McKenzie James Part III

Meredith sat back down at her desk and picked up her pen.

I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve sat alone in this apartment with only the television to keep me company.  Tonight, I came home believing it would be another one of those too quiet evenings but I’ve already had several interruptions.  Sometimes I feel as though I’ve read everything there is to read, traveled everywhere there is to travel, seen everything there is to see, and yet something is missing. 

Listen, when it comes to the obituary…just list Marina as my surviving sister….leave the rest of them out of it completely.  If they couldn’t be close to me in life…they don’t need to be recognized in death.  Do whatever you want about a memorial service.  You know I have never understood why people care what happens after their death.  It is truly the height of self centeredness to try and control things after you’re dead.

The house phone? Carlos must have forgotten something.


“Thanks for letting me use the house phone, Carlos” Eleanor said.  Eleanor knew Meredith wouldn’t ignore the house phone.   She needed to get through to her and she was fairly certain tomorrow might be too late.

She noticed that Meredith had become more and more withdrawn and quiet lately.  She knew Meredith was saddened that her love life had never gelled but she was such a fabulous friend to so many.  Meredith had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember.  She had changed Eleanor’s life for the better the first day they met.  It was freshman year and Eleanor blushed just thinking about what a techie dork she’d been back then.  Lost and confused on her first day of classes Meredith had helped her find English Lit and then later helped her understand English Lit.

Since then they’d been through everything together from childbirth to planning Eleanor’s mother’s funeral.  She couldn’t imagine her life without Meredith in it.

“Carlos, did you forget something?” Meredith asked as she picked up the phone.

“It’s me, Mer.”

“El, what are you doing?”

“I’m downstairs, can I come up?”

“Well…um…yeah… of course…come on up.”

As Eleanor got in the elevator she found herself thinking back to that day at the campus coffee shop when Meredith decided she’d had enough of Eleanor and Jimmy smiling shyly across the room at each other and got up and invited him to their table.   After that day, it was the three of them against the world.  They got through everything together: finals, Jimmy’s parents’ divorce, graduation and the search for what to do next.  They’d been through a lot and Meredith was still the only one who could make Jimmy smile when he was in his lowest funk.

Eleanor knocked on Meredith’s door.


“Hey, Meredith, sorry to just pop in but it’s an emergency.  They just hung Jimmy’s last painting at the new gallery and he’s a wreck.  I got him settled down and left him at Louis’ with a drink.  Can you please come out and work your magic on him?”

“’Well El, I had planned to get a lot of writing done tonight.”

“Come on, Meredith, you know you’re the only one he’ll listen to.”

“Okay, okay, let me get my wrap”

As they stepped out on to West 86th Street Meredith took a deep breath and took in the streets of New York in early fall.  She’d always loved this neighborhood with its wonderful, bustling, busy, streets.

As they walked toward Columbus Avenue to make their way to Louis’, Eleanor linked her arm through Meredith’s and spoke.  “Do you want to tell me what’s got you so down lately.”

“I’m fine, Eleanor, really.”

“No, you’re not fine.  I’ve known you for 30 years and loved you for every day of it.  Do you really think I don’t know you well enough to know when the world has you down?  You’re an amazing woman, Meredith, and a woman I can’t imagine not having in my life.  You give so many people so much of yourself.   You normally take on the world with an energy that’s frightening to behold.  You’ve been withdrawn and quiet for weeks.   You haven’t stopped in to see us at home or at Louis’.  Something is terribly wrong.  If you don’t want to tell me about it, that’s fine,  but I’m not letting you out of my site until you can ensure me everything’s okay.“

She looked over at Meredith and saw the tears quietly streaming down her face.  She stopped and wiped them off and hugged Meredith close to her for several long seconds before opening the door to Louis’.  They stepped into Louis’ Place and he greeted them with open arms, planting a kiss of each of Meredith’s cheeks as was his custom.

“My favorite customer returns!  I haven’t seen you for weeks and Jimmy tells me you haven’t been yourself.  I am fixing you something very special tonight of my own creation.  It will make your taste buds burst with joy and make you happy to be alive.  Sit…sit…   Marie!  Bring my guests some fresh, hot bread.”

Jimmy smiled up at her.  “It’s an intervention.  What did you expect?  We love you Babe.  Sit and sink your teeth into these delicious crusty calories.  If my gorgeous face and Louis’ food and hospitality can’t make you feel better then there really is no hope.”

Meredith smiled in spite of herself and sat down between Jimmy and Eleanor.

“Pass the butter,” she said as she grabbed a hot crusty roll out of the bread basket.   “This is no evening to worry about saturated fats.  I love you two, do you know that?  Thank you so much for watching out for me.  Quite a few of my friends have checked in this evening.  It’s hard to believe with so many who obviously love me I was feeling isolated and alone. ”

“You never have to be alone as long as El and I are still kicking, you know that Mer.”  Louis chose that moment to sit a platter featuring a scrumptious, roasted Poulet de Bresse on the table.  There was a group “Mmmmmm……” as they began to dig in and share one of the simplest joys in life.


Meredith let herself in to her apartment and dropped her wrap on the chair by the door.   She looked over at the clock on the mantel to see it was close to 2am.  They had sat at Louis’ for hours, just like the old days, talking, laughing and simply enjoying the closeness the three of them shared.

She walked over to her desk and looked down at the letter she’d been working on when El had called.  She sighed, picked it up and ripped it in half once and then again and tossed it into her waste basket followed by the pill bottle.

Tomorrow was another day.  Who knew what changes would come with it or what difference the next 24 hours might make?  As long as there are people who love you, and there are tomorrows, the exploration never ends.




Thank God for the Oregon Rain!

The wet days have arrived and they’ll hide my pain.

I can let my tears flow and no one need know.

How many times can the same heart break?

How many heart aches can one woman take?

I tried to hold back and not get hurt again

but I opened myself up to more of the pain.

I asked all the right questions and I did everything

I could to make it work out

yet I still find myself alone on the couch.

Is this all there is?  Is this all there will ever be?

Just me and Bob alone watching TV?

Never a man who wants more than sex?

No one ever again who I trust has my back?

Men must not need love the same way women do.

They must prefer being alone to being with you.

I feel like joke, a middle-aged cliché;

the woman searching for love while the man walks away.

I’ve been determined to live; to not run and hide.

I’ve tried my best to keep an optimistic heart.

But now I want to get off this ride

and stay under the covers the rest of my life.

I’m tired of soaring to heights

only to crash once again on the rocks down below.

There are only so many hits a woman can take

before the pain begins to show.

I loved you a bit.

You couldn’t stay and let it grow.

You loved me not at all.

I should have known.

McKenzie James

September 26, 2011

Is Heartbreak One Word or Two?

My husband and I were together for 19 years and then just two weeks before my 49th birthday he asked for a divorce.  Happy Birthday to me and then almost before I knew what was happening I was single and thrown into the dating world again.  Looking back I remember that my mother was only 50 when my father died.  As far as I know she never dated or slept with another man again.  At the time that didn’t seem the least bit strange to me, but now it occurs to me that perhaps she understood more about men than I ever gave her credit for.  She always had admirers, even at 85 she had a gentleman sending her poetry about her beauty, but she just smiled with a twinkle in her eye and carried on alone.

Recently I received one of those funny emails where someone had written eloquently (and humorously) about how men and women view their bodies at different stages of life.  I wish I knew who wrote it (actually I wish I had written it myself!) and I would give her credit here.  What she said so profoundly is that women feel very differently about their bodies at every stage of their lives until around age 50 when we finally all figure out that regardless of our body shape…we’re awesome!  Men, on the other hand feel the same about their bodies at every stage until old age.  They have a penis, it works, and they’re obsessed with it!

It was right on target and it made me think perhaps this is one of the reasons why men and women find dating so hard in middle age.   We’re finally at a stage of acceptance and the men we’re dating still feel the same way they did as teenagers.  It also explains a great deal about why so many middle aged men want to date women who are so much younger than they are.  Because they have a penis, it works, and they’re obsessed with it.  Wow, I never realized it was so simple!

Seriously though, sitting here today after suffering yet another middle-aged heart ache, I have to admit there must be more to it than that.  I swore I would not become one of those bitter, middle-aged women who hate men and have given up on relationships altogether.  But, it’s been seven years, and I have to admit to dating a lot of men, and each time things became serious, one by one, they broke my heart.  Some slowly, some quickly, some in person, some over the phone or with a text!  And every time I got up, brushed my heart off, and got on with my life.

Somehow, today feels very different.  This was, by all accounts, a very good man.  A nice, well-educated, well-spoken, attractive, fun, sexy man who just two days ago told me he wanted a “relationship”.  Just forty-eight hours later, nothing at all has changed in the world, and he calls me at work to let me know he can’t do it.

Is everyone so broken down by their previous heart aches that they just can’t do it again?  I try not to be cynical but I’ve heard it all before.  He actually said the “I’d like to be friends” phrase!  What is wrong with men that they think after you’ve slept with them and given a piece of your soul up you can just turn back the clock and be friends?  I can only determine they don’t “feel” things the same way women do.

I miss my twenties.  Not just the hot, firm body I had.  Not even the fact that everyone else was single too and there were a lot more men to choose from.  Mostly I miss that there were rules.  I have fond memories of dating in my twenties.  The rules were clear and everyone was aware of them.  You met a man somehow… through friends, or out at a club, or in the grocery store, or the parking lot of your apartment building.  You struck up a conversation.  If he was interested in getting to know you better he asked you out, usually for lunch first.   If that went well he’d ask you out again — usually for a Thursday night — because Thursday night was official first date night.

If you weren’t in a relationship, Friday night both men and women went out with their friends and continued to try and meet people of the opposite sex.  Saturday night was serious date night.  You didn’t ask a woman out on Saturday night unless you were serious about her or already in a relationship with her.  If you wanted to see a woman on Saturday night you had to call and ask her by Wednesday.  No self respecting woman would say yes to a weekend date any later than Wednesday.  If all went well after your first Saturday night date…you began to see each other regularly.  After a few weeks you began having sex and you were now a couple.  It was simple, everyone knew the rules, and it worked really well.

The Beach Boys knew what Saturday night meant.  In their famous cruising song, “I Get Around”, they sang:

None of the guys go steady ‘cause it wouldn’t be right
To leave their best girl home on a Saturday night”

We all followed the rules back then and a good time was had by all.  Now dating again at middle age it appears there are no rules.  For one thing dating was designed for two people to spend time together in order to see if they have the possibility of making good partners.  In middle age, very few people are looking for a life partner any more.  In fact most of the men I’ve met have no idea what they’re looking for.

You can date a man for weeks, sometimes months, and it usually never gets past lunch or a walk by the river.  (Walking by the river seems to be big with men over 50.  Don’t ask me why because I can’t answer for them.   I suspect it’s for budgetary reasons, since they’re all divorced and have been hit financially, but that would just be a guess.)  After hours spent talking, eating, walking sometimes you get to the sex part but you still have no idea what it means to them.

For me, sex means we’ve reached a new level of intimacy.  We now have a new dimension to our relationship; a joyful, exciting, fresh area to explore.  For men it appears to mean one of two things:  either they now own you and expect you to be with them every free moment, or the relationship is now over.  They become uncomfortable, don’t want to talk about what it meant, become frightened about commitment and ride off into the sunset.

Most recently:  I met a man.  That’s how it usually starts!  We enjoyed a lot of the same things and had a lot in common.   We met for coffee and couldn’t stop talking.  We enjoyed some lunches and dinners and a wonderful trip to the coast.   We dated casually for a while and then one Saturday night I invited him over for dinner and a movie.  We had some dinner, we watched part of the movie, and then in the middle of a quiet boring patch…he made his move… and we ended up having sex.  The next morning we got up and took my dog for a walk, after which he went home.

No flowers were delivered.  No phone call telling me what a wonderful evening he had.  Days came and went with no phone call, email or text.  Finally, being a person who has a need to know, I called him and asked why he would walk away without so much as a word.  He hadn’t called because: he didn’t know what to say; it was too soon; he shouldn’t have done it; it’s not me it’s him; he didn’t want a relationship, etc.   Oh my God — I’ve heard it all before – from men I’ve dated and similar stories from my girlfriend’s forays into the dating world.

Sometimes I wish they’d make up some fascinating new reason simply for entertainment.  Something like this: His first wife, who he believed walked out on him, really was in a car accident in New Mexico and suffered from amnesia.  She just recovered and remembered she was married and showed up on his door step the very morning he left my house.   If you’re going to dump me at least be creative so I have something new to write about!

It makes a woman wonder if she’s no good at the sex thing –but over the years I have had the opportunity to learn that can’t be the case.  Sex just simply seems to turn most middle aged men back into foolish teenage boys who treat girls badly because they’re embarrassed by their own behavior and it’s easier to make light of it in front of the other boys in the locker room.

I’ve been thinking of writing a sitcom entitled “Another One Bites the Dust” wherein every week a middle-aged woman meets a new man who for one reason or another isn’t ready for love.  My girlfriend said she can’t see the humor in it but I think if I’m going to survive middle-age and not become a bitter, old woman I’m going to have to find a way to laugh about it.

As I sit here alone again tonight, just having been dumped by my most recent love and drinking the bottle of wine he bought me and told me to save for a “special occasion”, I find myself wondering: Is heartbreak one word, or two?  (Because that’s the kind of things writers think about even when they’re in pain.)  The other thing I’m wondering is:  Is getting dumped “special” enough of an occasion?  And:  Is this it for me?  Is there a limit on the number of heartaches one person can endure?  Have I reached mine?  Will I now become that cliché I so wanted to avoid?  Will I have to learn to live alone for the next thirty years?  Other than the spelling of heartbreak, I don’t have the answers.  We’ll have to stay tuned to life and see what happens next.

McKenzie James

September 27, 2011

Origins of a Dear John letter

I am leaving you, and I will write the words that you can never hear on this page, so then you can never again accuse me of refusing you honesty. You accused me of so much, so here I will explain my going, in the quiet vacuum of literature so you cannot twist my words and deny my intent. Nine years spent believing you were meant for someone is a hard habit to shake. I realized that every day I was gathering up the strength to not answer your phone calls, not respond to your emails, slowly beginning that uphill battle against your psychotic ego and voracious tendency to destroy anything you encounter in the name of self-adoration. You claim innocence from the bloodied bodies lying next to you, saying you are not responsible for the terror you have sown.

I am here to tell you, in simple English so you understand me, you are. Every day I look around at the myriad of men in the world, and wonder what it was about you that entrenched itself in me until I was dead. I am tired of you. You throw beautiful women up into your sky and claim you make them shine, how do you expect me to stand out in such a cosmos? Yet if I do not try you decry me, claim I am flawed.

I am more than flawed. I am beyond imperfect. I am tiny shattered shards of dismay awkwardly glued together. I do not need you to love me for what I could become, if someone were to come along and fill in the cracks. I do not need you to tell me how great I could be, if I were only more like her (or her, or her). I do not need to bend my words carefully so as to not damage your ego. I do not need to quietly stand here, carrying your past like a trophy, listening to you claim greatness while refusing to see the happiness already in your world.  I do not need you at all.

I am leaving you because it is not my duty to make you a great enough man to understand a love like mine. I am leaving you because I am proud, selfish with my love, and because my pride can no longer tolerate watching my body cry when you forget to call, when you leave me for other women, when you forget my birthday.  I am leaving you because I want to believe in love stories again. I want to still believe in princesses, that I merit feeling like one. I deserve to have my hand held proudly, I deserve to be in love and be unafraid. I am leaving you because I want a love that is brave enough to want me, to want to build a life with me, a love that is not afraid of saying that. Your only words of commitment came after I had committed to leaving you. A safe bet for empty words.

You accused me of not caring for you, of not loving you, of being so enamored with the glint of titles that I did not see who you were. For those words, for that idiocy, I will unabashedly give you my anger, coldly and without pardon. For years you had my heart in a shoebox in your closet, a dusty toy you had long since forgotten to play with. I loved you intensely, the only way I knew how. I loved you with forgiveness, for every word you had said and more importantly, for the ones you never did. I loved you so much the force of it almost made me lose myself in you.

When finally, I stood up and faced you down, roared out my freedom with savage screams and tore off your shackles till there was blood running down my body, then came the accusations of selfishness, of lack of love. I am not leaving you because I am flawed, although I am, nor am I leaving you because I am weak, although I am that as well. I am leaving you because you failed me, and my anger filters through you back towards my straggling limbs for having latched on for so long. I am leaving you because when I laughed you said it was too loud, and when I cried you said you didn’t understand, and when I was angry you said I was irrational. I am leaving you because you never wanted a lover or an ally; you wanted a doll made out of mirrors to reflect your current obsession.

Staying with you is a lie, a play I can no longer act in. You spread your hands as if drawing a question mark in the air, easily forgetting your role in this two-man show. You repeat ‘I love you’ to me with a look of condemnation. I am the deserter, a criminal in my own right. I am leaving you for my own preservation, beyond that I am walking away because a life is built in moments of bravery, and you have faced life with nothing but cowardice.

I am leaving you now, and in a year I will be able to say why. In two years I will have forgotten the black anger that coats my muscles, in three I will believe someone when they say they love me. And in five, I will have forgiven you, and myself.

In Session

Lewis taps his fingers rhythmically against the paperclip. He always has something in his hand to tap against. I picked him from the long list of other therapist profiles because he looks so… Southern California. The therapist website in itself was weird, looking like a dating site with pictures and small quips about the counselors, their educational backgrounds and particular therapy styles. Lewis’ profile was different, the way most profiles that catch your eye are. He didn’t write the profile as if he were talking to you, rather it read like a Curriculum Vitae of a potential research professor.

I really like Lewis. Lewis really likes himself, which we seem to have been trained to despise but in Lewis it glows outwardly, inspiring people around him to like themselves as well. Which makes sense as to why he is a successful therapist with an office in a high rise building in downtown, the view of the harbor glittering sunshine back in. His office is mild, clean, with an outdated laptop humming away in the left hand corner of his desk.

I started therapy because the depression had gotten to the point of destruction. I found myself in my kitchen one night, in an apartment that was too big for me, crouching like some crazed beast on the cold linoleum floor holding a knife and screaming through thick, clotted tears. I wrote words down that night that were so angry I cannot read them on the page, it does not look like my writing. The next day I could not get out of bed, because the only motivation I could find for removing myself from my bed was to jump off the roof and I could not do that to my mother. I didn’t understand before this, that depression could cripple you. Grab your mind and suffocate it slowly, a boa constrictor that takes over every aspect of your life, your mind, until you are a victim to it as if a stranger were squatting like a little black lizard where your heart should have resided.

Lewis titles these episodes as my ‘earthquakes’. He says this triumphantly. Lewis loves metaphors and his own cleverness, mainly the latter.

“It’s like an earthquake! You don’t know where its coming from or how long its going to be. And then afterwards you have little aftershocks, don’t you?!”

He sits back, a self-satisfied smile still floating over his lips. I look at him from across the desk. I sit in a deep leather seat, with a pillow on my back because otherwise I’m too small and my feet don’t reach the floor.  In Lewis’ office, I always make sense. I love it there, when the words tumble out of my mouth like tiny pebbles being thrown around by white water, Lewis just leans back until I am done and then carefully reconstructs what I have said, following the tangled strings of emotions until he has clean lines laying before us. Unlike anyone else in my life, Lewis presents me with cool, linear logic that doesn’t condescend. He never angers at my reactions, in fact for the most part Lewis treats every single one of my emotions, outbursts, tears, and laughter as the most singularly important thing that has ever happened in the world. He seems truly excited and enthralled by the fact that I, indeed, exist.

Today, I am explaining to Lewis about my self-sabotaging in relationships. Not only romantic ones but friendships as well. He leans back in his chair and looks at me through his spectacles while I take him through the claustrophobic vines that I attempt to machete through when explaining how I feel to people. Therapy is an odd art form, we attempt each session to place into neat categories every memory, touch, and influence we have had throughout our lives.

“Why is it concerning you now that you do this?” Lewis asks. He pretends it is an innocent question but Lewis is a very deliberate person. He explained to me that he is the most important person in his own life, and as such his time is invaluable. He does not spend it circumventing what he really wants to know. When he told me this, I asked him if he ever worried about offending people and having them not like him. He looked slightly confused when I asked him this.

“Not like me because I am asking an honest question? Well they sound like someone with something bad to hide and, I don’t want to know those people anyway”.  Lewis lives his life with a close-knit circle of people he loves around him whom he will do anything for, and the rest of the world he treats as if they were in an interview for the last available slot to be his friend; politely and with extreme discretion.

“I’m concerned because I don’t want to sabotage anything this time. I can’t lose him, and I like my friends and I’m tired of feeling as if the only way I’ll be happy is if I am completely independent of everyone. Like my safety net is figuring out a way that I will be completely okay if any particular person is no longer in my life”.

Lewis doesn’t say anything at first, just looks at me as my body clenches and tenses. Expelling this darkness in this neat rectangular office is the most exhausting thing I have ever done. It is a chain weighing 10,000 pounds that I have wrapped around me, longer and longer, for years. Slowly we are tracing back the knots and the kinks, figuring out what I have done in order to undo it and free me, pound by pound. Sighing inwardly, Lewis sits his small frame back up in the black chair and says

“No. You are not alone, you are not independent, you are not unattached. And it is not an admirable quality to be those things. I haven’t cooked a meal in 20 years because my wife is an incredible cook, if she were to leave me I would have no idea how to cook for myself. But I don’t refuse to revel in her cooking, I take it in, I bask in it”

At this point Lewis is leaning back in his chair, arms stretched out and an almost monk like expression of peaceful bliss extends on his face.

“You have to allow people to love you. You have to just, take it all in, enjoy it, swim in it. When people want to do nice things for you, you must nod your head in agreement and say ‘yes, do nice things for me!’. Otherwise life is miserable and short. And why wouldn’t they want to do nice things for you, why wouldn’t they want to love you? You must expect people to treat you as if you were the most important person in your life because you are.”

I laugh. Lewis is not joking but I can’t help but laugh, the idea is so freeing. I am still in shock when people love me the way my friends and family do. That demonic little presence in my head has slowly convinced me it is all false, Lewis’ main job is to tell me that I am fine, that I will be fine, and that no one has the capacity to hurt me anymore than I allow myself to react by being hurt.

The hour ends, and Lewis stands and smiles at me. Therapy is precise, within a set time frame, the way situational comedies always resolve themselves within a half hour.

“Next week, same time?” he asks as he opens the door for me. I nod as I walk out the door and back down the stairs, preparing myself to re enter a world that overwhelms me, a world that never seems to resolve itself no matter how many hours tick by. I look over my shoulder and Lewis smiles and waves goodbye, until next weeks session.

Fix Me Up! (Fourth in a Series)

Fix Me Up!

This town is devoid of interesting, single men between the ages of 45 and 60.  It’s not just a complaint, it’s a fact.  So when my girlfriend down the street told me her former brother-in-law who she was really fond of had recently moved back from Hawaii and asked if I would like to go out with him, I said “sure, fix me up!”

I was still game to give it a try even after she told me he had a handle-bar mustache which I find completely offensive.  I figured, what the heck, if he’s a good guy we can work on the facial hair issue sometime down the road.  And, I didn’t even flinch when she told me his name was “Lester”.  A person has no control over what his parent’s name him, right?  I could always call him “Les”.

So he called and we talked on the phone.  He sounded relatively normal, other than the fact that he couldn’t make a plan, so I took the reins and said, “Let’s meet for dinner”.  He couldn’t figure out where to go, so I said, “Let’s go to P.F. Changs”.  He wanted to pick me up and since he was a friend of a friend, and not an online connection, I gave him my address and we set an evening and a time.

The evening came and I was looking gorgeous as always and waiting for my date to arrive at my door.  When he did I looked out the window and what did I see?  A short, bald man with a handle-bar mustache wearing stained chinos at least two sizes too big for him cinched at the waist with a belt.  Don’t be shallow, I told myself as I opened the door, she said he’s a great guy.

After the initial introductions and a little “how’s your friend Joanie doing?” we’re on our way to the restaurant.  He hardly spoke at all in the car.  Luckily, the restaurant was only five minutes away.

There was a long wait so we asked to be seated in the bar.  The waiter brought the menus and we began to take a look.  Then he leaned over and asked me, “What do the numbers mean in front of the items?”  I thought, finally a bit of a sense of humor, but then I realized he was asking a serious question.  “That’s the price of the item,” I told him.  Okay…things were going downhill fast.  Fifty years old and he’d never seen a restaurant menu where the prices were in front, rather than behind the entrée names?

So, we order, and still he doesn’t have much to say.  In an attempt to draw him out, I think…what do men like to talk about?   Someone had just recently been teaching me to target shoot so I asked him, “Do you shoot?”   “Oh yeah,” he replied, “I’d never hesitate to kill someone that’s why they loved me when I was a prison guard.”  Once again, completely straight faced and totally serious!  Now, I was getting worried.  I was married for nineteen years to a Marine who served three tours in Vietnam and I know he killed people when he had to, obviously it was a war, but I NEVER heard him speak of it and certainly not in an off the cuff manner that suggested people’s lives don’t really matter.  The evening had crossed a line from boring and not my type to a little bit scary.

Silence again, so I made an attempt to change the subject to something lighter, “What did you do for fun in Hawaii.” I asked him.  I was expecting him to tell me about the sun and the surf or exploring the islands but instead he replied, “Gambled and hung out at strip clubs.”  OH MY!!!!  If this had not been a friend of a friend this would have been the cue for me to excuse myself to the ladies room and never come back.  Instead, I sat through the rest of the meal relatively quietly and let the man take me home after which I left my friend a voice mail that I’m sure you can imagine for yourself!

The best part of the story is the next day Joanie responded to my voice mail and called to let me know she had heard from Lester and he had told her I really wasn’t his type.  “Of course not”, I told her, “I don’t dance naked around a pole in public!”

Needless to say…should you ever know a guy, an old friend or someone new in town who’s looking to date…please…DON’T FIX ME UP!

McKenzie James

July 27, 2011


Note to self:   Never use but and love in the same sentence!

I love you but…

I can’t commit.

I love you but…

you’re just too fat.

I love you but…

I forgot I’m married.

I love you but…

the timing’s not right.

I love you but…

it’s not the BIG love

I love you but…

my kids come first.

I love you but…

my mother says you’re wrong for me.

I love you but…

I need my space.

I love you but…

I’m not attracted to you sexually.

I love you but…

you should guard your heart.

I love you but…

can we just stay in?

I love you but…

only as a friend.

I love you but…

I can’t promise you anything.

I love you but….

your sister’s cute too.

I love you but…

I’m too tired to come over.

I love you but…

I sleep better alone.

I love you but…

I have to go home.

I love you but…

I’m confused about it.

I love you but…

I can’t be exclusive.

I love you but…

I’m on a spiritual journey I must make alone.

I love you but…


It’s hard to say BUT really

I don’t,

I don’t love you at all.

McKenzie James

August 9, 2011

Dating in Weird Town, USA (First in a Series)

Dating in Weird Town, USA

Divorce hit me hard, even though I thought I was ready for it.  It signified failure, loss, and the end of a life we’d built that I thought was what I’d always wanted.  So, like the age old cliché, I ran home to Mama.   Back to the town I never thought I’d want to live in again, back to Weird Town, USA.  I thought that the lower cost of living in such a small town and the beautiful summers would be such a change from my East Coast life that it would comfort me.  Not to mention having the support of my mother and sister, no small thing when life as one has known it has been flushed down the toilet.

I’d gained a lot of weight during my 20 years of marriage.  I look back at it now and realize it had to do with being unhappy, boxing up a huge part of my nature that couldn’t co-exist with my husband, and feeding myself in other ways instead.  So, when I arrived in Weird Town I decided to join a gym.  (Working out…another thing I hadn’t done in 10 years or so!)

The first week there, as I painfully moved from machine to machine I overheard a conversation a group of women were having regarding dating.  Since I knew I’d be in this dating pool very soon, and they were more or less in my age group, I blatantly listened in.  And, after several minutes of discussion this is what they came up with as the list of items a man had to possess in order for them to consider dating him:

  • a car
  • a driver’s license
  • a job, and
  • he couldn’t live with his mother.

REALLY?  Really?  My head was spinning.  Coming from the East Coast I had the sense that the bar was being set WAY TOO LOW.  Raise the bar ladies!  Where was humor?  intellectual stimulation?  shared activities?  good looks?  I realized I was much older than the last time I was in the dating pool but my needs were still the same.  The items on their list were things that I had always taken for granted as a given, then my list carried on to good looking, a good dresser, a good dancer,  a great conversationalist, intellectually stimulating, makes me laugh until I cry, gives me lots of freedom, can hang with my friends, and has a REALLY DIRTY MIND.   There’s my list for consideration and I may be leaving a couple of things out (like no children who want to fry in oil any woman who looks at their Dad and isn’t their mother).  I went home wondering how these women could have come up with such a minimalist list.

I’ve now been dating in Weird Town for five years and it is quite possible I’ve already been out with every unmarried man between the ages of 45 and 65 in this town (and a couple of married ones who forgot to remind me they had wives at home!).  And now I get it.  I understand my fellow gym mates and their pathetically short list.  Because now I realize if one waits for a man who possesses more than those minimum traits, one will be spending a lot of time home alone or out with girlfriends.

The truth of the matter is, if you can find a man in Weird Town between the ages of 45 and 65 who has a car, a driver’s license, a job, and doesn’t live with his mother you had better snatch him up fast before the hordes of attractive, creative, successful single women descend upon him.

So, you can sit and wait for that perfect man believing that someday the universe will stop laughing and answer your prayers.  Or, you can do what I’ve decided to do and get busy enjoying your life and your women friends and not worry about whether or not you’ll ever have an intimate, monogamous relationship with a man again.

Off and on I decide to give dating another try, but these days I look at it more as a hobby, something similar to golf, crocheting , or pool.  And every once in a while a man comes along and reminds me that I’m female and that there was a time when the world and I were both younger and men desired me.

Mckenzie James

July 17, 2011

In the name of freedom

Jake is 25 years old now. When he was 18 he was my senior prom date, and for years before that he was my friend. I don’t know how many years we were friends, but I know that it took 5 years for Jake to change from the boy I knew and loved to this stranger sitting across from me now.

Jake is in the army. He was sent home on leave after he lost his mind and tried to kill another soldier in the motor pool. When I ask him why he just shrugs and says

“The guy was pissing me off”

Jake spits a lot now. When I was 16, Jake and I skipped our 4th period class and he taught me how to spit while we dangled our legs off the side of the football stadium. He doesn’t spit like that anymore, now he says he’s asserting his dominance. I think it’s a joke but Jake doesn’t laugh anymore, so I’m not sure.

He’s built like a wall, and his jaw muscles ripple because he keeps them clenched so much. He has a black tattoo, poorly drawn and sinister, cutting into his right bicep and cursive poetry on his left. Jake used to have blue eyes but they are so cold that they look black now, and his beautiful blonde hair is falling out. Jake hates that he is losing his hair, blames it on the Kevlar and hats he’s always wearing, but we all quietly know it’s not that.  He was sent to what he calls “the head doctor” and diagnosed as being hyper cognizant, anxious, and aggressive, all in that order. He was asked to go see a therapist but refused because he wants to be a pilot someday, and “they don’t let you fly fucking planes if you’ve been to a fucking head doctor”. Jake gets angry when he says this, narrows his eyes and says. “Can’t be a fucking pilot anyhow, cause I’m god damn color blind”

Jake doesn’t know how to have a conversation anymore. He can’t seem to stop talking about things that have happened, gets angry when he realizes he has given away too much, and then angrier when he understands that he’s making people uncomfortable.

When we went to the prom together, Jake drove his moms fancy new car and made sure his tuxedo matched my dress. My high school boyfriend broke up with me three months prior, and I didn’t want to go to the dance. Jake got me the biggest corsage he could find, and when the last slow song came on he grabbed my hand and dragged me to the front of the whole school and waltzed with me just like we had at my 15th birthday party. Afterwards, we drove the car back to his parent’s farm, grabbed his dad’s truck, and in all our fancy gear went driving through the mud, Jake telling me jokes till I almost peed in my prom dress. Jake never turned away when I was sad, I couldn’t have loved him more.

Jake was stationed in Iraq for a year. He was 20 when he joined the army, a family tradition. I didn’t want him to go and, being 20 and in college, thought I knew everything. I didn’t say goodbye when he left and lost touch with him. My life continued and so did his. While stationed in the Middle East, Jake patrolled with his unit looking for explosives, and manned the machine gun that was mounted to the top of the patrol vehicle. He killed human beings before he was legally allowed to drown the pain in the U.S. His anxiety got so bad when he was stationed there that Jake developed full-blown alcoholism. He doesn’t drink in a bar and then go to meetings. Jake drinks while holding an M16. He has to drink if he goes out with people now because otherwise when he is in large crowds his eyes wont stop scanning and sometimes the sensation of being about to be killed makes him black out.

“I guess something in me broke” he says “Cause I just lose my fucking mind now. Every week like fucking clockwork I lose my fucking mind”

The other boys in Jake’s unit don’t blink an eye, they know him as Private Lewis and when Jake has his mental breakdowns they leave him alone in a room to scream and claw at himself till he gets too tired and falls asleep. If it takes too long they’ll wrestle him down and drink whisky with him till he passes out. Jake has also developed an alter ego, a personality that takes over when the pressure, anxiety, and horror of his daily life become too much and he can no longer just be. Jake doesn’t remember becoming this other person, but knows it happens more and more often. He won’t take medication because “there ain’t no shit beer can’t cure”.

Jake plans to leave the army in three years, and go to college. If he could, he would become a pilot, although on his scholarly days he dreams of a PhD. I smile when he says this, seeing a glimpse of the brilliant, sweet, blonde boy that was my friend, my protector, and my ally. Then, those dark eyes narrow as he swigs the last of his drink

“Some days though, I think I could just fucking kill people for the rest of my life”.

Adding a little levity to the site…..

The Car Ride

My sister drives

My mother rides

and I sit in the rear.

And all throughout

our shopping trip

this is what I hear.

“Are you feeling cold?”

“Yes, I saw that house sold.”

“Then I’ll turn up the heat.”

“No problem with my seat.”

“Do you want a coke?”

“No, I don’t smell smoke.”

“Then shall we get something to eat?”

“Really, you can smell my feet?”

“We could stop there if you want.”

“It must be these new sandals I got.”

Each with one deaf ear,

talking away as if they can hear.

I sit in the back a smile on my face

enjoying the way they communicate.

My sister, as always, attentive and anxious to please.

My Mom simply happy her girls are both with her.

Me just content to ride along with them both

knowing these are the days that I’ll always remember.

McKenzie James

July 9, 2011

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