Monday, November 01, 2004


October 6

Did this really just happen? I

I stormed through the apartment, seizing everything that he had left here. These, these were his DVDs. His books. His CDs. His clothes. I started piling them in the middle of the floor, and then went to get a bag.

“Katie, don’t. Please. What are you doing?”

“These are yours. I don’t want them here. I want you gone, and I want you to take these things with you.”

He’d already started to leave at least three times. I’d made him take the spare set of keys to m apartment off of his key ring and leave them. That was the last time, but he’d turned around and come back over to start all over again.

“Come here.”


My eyes filled with tears, again. I couldn’t believe this was happening. None of it made sense. This had started about four hours ago, and he hadn’t done anything to give me any idea what was wrong.

“Sometimes I’m not sure if I can do this,” he’d said.

Do what? Love me? Be with me? Move in with me? We were supposed to be moving in together. I was going to move to be with him as soon as I finished my degree, and he’d found us an apartment, one that he thought I’d be happy with. He was supposed to sign the lease on Monday.

It was Saturday.

“Get out.” I’d said.

He’d started to comply, but then turned around to talk some more. I don’t know what he thought that was going to accomplish.

“Come here,” he said again. His eyes pleaded with me. “Please”

I sat down next to him on the couch, and he pulled me to him, almost crushing me in a hug.

“I love you so much. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

”Then why, Alex? Why are you doing this?”

”I don’t know. I wish I did.”

The phone rang. I didn’t pick it up, afraid it would be my mom. I didn’t want to talk to her, not yet. She’d know I was upset. She’d know something was wrong.

“Hi, this is Katie. I can’t take your call right now…”

It was Emily. She started talking, fast and loud.

“Hey you, I know you and Alex are probably, ahem, busy, but…”

I grabbed the phone.

“Hey,” I said. “I’m here.”

“You didn’t need to answer,” she said. “It wasn’t really important.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “Alex is leaving soon. Is it okay if I come over?”

"Of course. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. Sure,” I lied. “I’ll see you soon.”

I walked back over to the couch and sat down. I felt deflated. Hollow.

“I think I need to go sit in a dark room alone until I get my head right. You go have fun with Emily. One of us should have a good time tonight.”

I didn’t say anything.

“I’ll call you as soon as I wake up tomorrow.”

“Are you taking this stuff?” I gestured toward the pile in the middle of the floor. He shook his head. “What about my keys? Does the fact that you’re leaving them here mean that you’re not planning on coming back?”

He picked the keys up off the coffee table and put them back on his key ring. I was more confused than ever. He kissed my forehead.

“I’m sorry. I’ll call you.”

October 7

So the truth, the real truth comes out. He couldn't even say it to my face. Pussy.

Three phone calls later, this is what he tells me.

“I just can’t live a lie,” he said.

“What on Earth are you talking about? Stop speaking in riddles and tell me what’s going on.”

“A few months ago, something happened. I did something terrible. I cheated on you.”

My heart slid down my body, dropping somewhere into my lower abdomen.

“I asked you that yesterday,” I mumbled. “You said no.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’ve debated ever since it happened about whether I should tell you.”

I didn’t say anything. Couldn’t say anything. He continued.

“She was a friend from law school. We hadn’t really talked since graduation, and she called me, started talking to me again. She was all upset because she and her boyfriend had broken up. She called one night, and was all upset, and asked me to come and hang out with her.”

“This was in Rochester?”

“No. In Buffalo.”


“Where was I?” I demanded.

“I don’t know. I don’t remember.”

”What did you tell me you were doing?”

”I don’t know.”

I don’t know was about to become my least favorite phrase.

He said some more things, sounding much like an adult in the Peanuts universe.

Wah wah wah wah.

“And when I went to drop her off, she said, ‘Please stay.’”

“And you DID? What were you thinking?”

A sick, disgusted feeling washed over me.

“I don’t know.”

See what I mean?

“I was so disgusted with myself. After it was over, I just sat in my car and cried.”

As if this was supposed to help, make me feel better. It didn’t. I felt shitty.

“You deserve better than me.”

“So what does this mean?” I asked. “What happens now?”

“I think that’s up to you.”

I licked the edge of my lip, where the salty trickle of tears paused on its way down my chin, onto my shirt. I muffled a sob, choking back the hurt, anger and disappointment.

“I think you should take some time to think about what you want.” I could hear the tears in his voice, too. “I’m not going anywhere.”

I hung up the phone and collapsed onto the couch in a heap of exhaustion and defeat. I had lessons to prepare. I had more important things to worry about than the fact that my relationship had just fallen apart in front of me.

I was completely blindsided. How could I have been so stupid?

(Archived post...March)

When I was twenty-two years old, Dan Cotter broke my heart. I believed in him, in us, more than I had ever believed anything in my entire life. Three years after I met him, he said "I’m sorry Katie, I just can’t be with anyone right now." I forgot to eat that day. I had never understood that before, people saying they forgot to eat.

He tried to do it over the phone, but I forced him to meet me, thinking that maybe seeing me might change his mind. At the very least, I was going to make him face me. I thought it would make me feel better. But instead, it brought me face to face with the reality that the sweet, wonderful man I’d fallen in love with was gone. All I know is that when I got home at 11 o’clock that night, I was hungry. Starving. Sharp pangs tearing through my stomach. It hurt so badly I was afraid to eat, afraid it would just make the pain worse.

I didn’t think I’d ever let another man get close to me again. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me, if I was looking for something that didn’t exist.

But it does, I told myself. I’ve had it, held it in my hands. I know it exists.

And so I waited, and wished, and hoped. I nearly gave up.

My mom gave me a hard time. "Katie, you know there’s no Prince Charming, don’t you?" she said.

"Oh mother," I sighed, rolling my eyes. "You just don’t get it."

What she didn’t get was that I wasn’t looking for the perfect guy; I was looking for the guy who would be perfect for me.

It wasn’t like I brushed the others off at first glance. I gave them all second chances. Some even third and fourth chances. But none of them turned my bones to jell-o when we kissed. None of them made me feel like I must have met him in a previous life. None of them made me feel like I was standing on the edge of something wild and wonderful, unafraid to fall.

Not one. Not until I met Alex.

October 8

I'd like to kill my alarm clock for the way it
The alarm clock shrieked and I reached over and pounded the snooze button. It couldn’t be morning already, could it? I squinted at the clock, 6:01 glaring at me in those obnoxious red numbers.

It had been a fitful, restless night of strange dreams. I dreamed about the night Alex and I met. I dreamed about the wedding I’d been planning in my head for months. It had started out perfectly, just the way I’d planned it, but then it started to rain. My dress, which had apparently been made out of white spun sugar, began to melt into a sticky, thready mess.

Somehow, I dragged myself out of bed and into the shower. I’d lived in this apartment alone for the past two years, but it had never seemed so empty.

I made my way through the day on autopilot, in a blind stupor. I somehow got through my lessons and my evaluation without completely losing control. I had to duck into the bathroom a few times to take a few deep breaths and wipe away the tears threatening to escape.

I wonder how I looked, if the students could tell. I put on my best false face, forced my way through the SpongeBob SquarePants video and the following lesson.

My supervisor said he could tell there was something wrong, that I seemed "off" somehow. I thanked him for being kind.

When I got home, I had to deal with my missing wallet. I’d realized it was gone in the morning, but didn’t have time to look for it. The last place I’d had it was the ghetto grocery store down the street. There was no sign of it. I panicked, and then began the tedious process of canceling my various cards and requesting new ones. Some might have called this a blessing in disguise. No real harm was done, and it kept my mind off of Alex for a few hours.

On that fateful night, the night Alex walked into my life, I’d been perched on top of a dryer, cross-legged, reading "A Wrinkle in Time," of all things.

I couldn’t sleep, so I’d headed down to my building’s laundry room with my book in hand. The weathered paperback, given to me for my 12th birthday by my godmother, had seen better days. The book, and its characters, were like family.

The hum of the dryer made pleasant background music, and I breathed in the comforting aroma of fabric softener. I wiped a stray tear before it dropped onto the already tear-stained page—the one where Meg saves Charles-Wallace from the clutches of It with her love. It always tugged at my heart, no matter how many times I read it.

"That one always got me, too."

I jumped when I heard the voice. It had to be at least 3 a.m., and I hadn’t heard anyone else come into the room. A good book will do that to me. Really, sometimes the newspaper will do that to me. My mom used to say the house could burn down around me and I’d never look up from my book.

I looked up and there he was, grinning at me.

The first thing I noticed was his eyes, clear, bright and blue. The wire-rimmed glasses he wore, the kind my best friend Emily and I dubbed "preppy glasses," only magnified them. They were warm, inviting, with just a tiny glimmer of mischief. They crinkled a bit at the edges with his smile.

The second thing I noticed was his dimples, deep enough to hide a quarter in. I’ve never met a pair of dimples I could resist.

Oh God, I’m such a mess, I thought in a panic. My unwashed hair was stuffed under a baseball cap. I was wearing my "laundry pants;" sweatpants with the cuffs cut off, covered with spilled paint and bleach marks, a sweatshirt that didn’t match, and fuzzy slippers.

I wanted to crawl inside the dryer.

"Mind if I join you?" he said, hopping onto the machine next to mine. "Didn’t you always wish you could travel through time?" he said, gesturing toward my book. "Or kythe like Charles-Wallace? I know I did."
I relaxed a little. He didn’t seem to notice how ridiculous I looked. Maybe that was because he looked almost as ridiculous; backwards cap, faded Big Country t-shirt, and plaid shorts, with a pair of rubber thongs on his feet.

"Sure," I said. "I still do."

We talked for an hour before I knew his name.

"Oh, God, how stupid of me," he’d said when I asked. He held out his hand. "Alex McDougall."

"Nice to meet you Alex, I’m Kate Miceli." The feel of his hand, warm, firm, and just a little rough, sent a shiver up my arm. I wanted to have his hands on me, touching me, cupping my face just before he kissed me.
I didn’t believe in love at first sight, but this was the closest I’ve ever gotten to it. Sure, I was attracted to him, but it was more than physical. I felt connected to him.

I pulled my hand away, blushing, afraid he’d be able to see what I was thinking.

We talked until dawn, folding towels, t-shirts, and socks. I found out that he was a law student…in fact, he and Emily had probably had classes together. He had two sisters, his parents were from Scotland. He had a degree in communication, just like me, loved 80s music, "A Few Good Men," and all things Scottish. Then he asked me to have breakfast with him.

"I need to know how you take your coffee," he said.

"I don’t drink coffee," I told him. "I actually prefer tea."

"I have so much to learn," he grinned, his dimples creasing lines across his face.

We parted only long enough to take hasty showers and brush the fuzz from our teeth. We left the scent of Downy behind, trading it for the strong, black smell of coffee.

"Miss me?" he’d asked when he greeted me at my door.

The funny thing was, I had.

We ate, and laughed, and as the morning passed, we began to act like old friends instead of complete strangers. And just twelve hours after that chance meeting in the laundry room, I was already trying combinations of our names.

Kathleen McDougall. Kate McDougall. Kathleen Miceli McDougall. Mrs. Kate McDougall. I liked the sound of it.

"I don’t know your middle name," I blurted through a mouthful of ice cream, as we strolled through Delaware Park.

"It’s James," he said. As if it were a perfectly normal thing to ask.
Alexander James McDougall. Mrs. Alexander James McDougall. I liked the sound of that, too.

Afternoon slipped effortlessly into evening, and I stared at Alex. We were sitting on one of the benches down by the lake at the park. It was starting to get cold, and I shivered. Alex slid his arm around me, and I let my head rest on his shoulder.

"Comfy?" he asked.

"Yeah," I grinned, turning my face toward his. He kissed the tip of my nose.

It amazed me, to be sitting with this person I knew so well, this person I hadn't known at all 24 hours earlier.

We had talked about everything. We both loved baseball; I was a Pirates fan, and he liked the A’s. I impressed him by quoting "Airplane!", and he admitted that Disney movies made him cry.

"I swear I’ll kill you if you tell anyone," he said.

"Don’t worry, your secret’s safe," I said. I thought it was the sweetest thing I’d ever heard.

There had been no hesitation. No thoughts of, "My God, what will we talk about?" or "How long until this is over, and I can pretend to be tired?" or "I’m missing must-see TV."

And at that moment, if someone had mentioned Dan, I would have said, "Dan who?"

Nothing mattered. Nothing but being next to Alex. I was completely oblivious to the fact that I hadn’t slept.

He walked me to my door and hesitated there, looking more like an awkward, shy 15-year-old boy than a 29-year-old man. I have to admit I felt like a teenager myself.

"So, do you mind if I call you?"

"You’d better call me," I said.

"Careful what you wish for," he joked. "You’ll get sick of me."


He reached out, lightly brushed his fingers through my hair. He lifted my chin, and I closed my eyes, breathless.

When his lips finally met mine, it was like someone had pushed the world's pause button. I slid my arms around his neck, let my body melt into his.

"Do you want to come in?" I heard myself say.

"Are you sure you want me to?" he asked. He kissed my forehead, stroked my hair. "I might not ever leave."

I nodded. I had never been so sure of anything in my life. "I think that would be okay."

I definitely thought that would be okay. I took his hand, led him into my apartment, and shut the door behind us.


A few days later, just as I was starting to calm myself down, just as the tears began to dry, Alex called me.

"I miss you so much. I’m going crazy. There isn’t a second that goes by that I don’t think about how stupid I am, and how I screwed up."

"Alex, I can’t—I don’t know what you want me to say. What do you want me to say?"

"I don’t know."

There it was again.

"If I decide I want to try, if I decide I can forgive you and get past this, can you tell me that you would want to work on it?"

Silence. I took a deep breath.

"Well. I guess that’s my answer."

"Katie please. Don’t leave it like that. I really do love you. I do."

"That’s not good enough." His words cut deep into me, twisting and slicing. What he had done was bad enough, but this, this ambivalence. This pathetic, self-deprecating, miserable excuse for a man was not the Alex I had fallen in love with. I needed more. I needed him to fight for me.

"I’m a mess. I’m miserable. I can’t concentrate on work, and when I’m home, all I do is sit in my room and stare at the wall, thinking about how I screwed everything up. You—you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And now I’ve destroyed you."

Destroyed me? Was he kidding? I was sad, I was hurt, I was angry…but never, ever, for a single moment, did I believe that I had been destroyed. I was destroyed when Dan left me, and that was never, ever going to happen to me again. I was going to get over him.

"No Alex." My voice was even, calm. "You destroyed us. You didn’t destroy me."

More silence. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I couldn’t stand it.

"Why aren’t you begging?" I screamed. "Why aren’t you on your knees promising to make it up to me? Telling me you’ll do anything—anything—if I just don’t leave you. Why, Alex?"

"I don’t know. I don’t deserve your forgiveness. I don’t deserve anything."

"Maybe not, but I thought I was the one who got to decide. I’m hanging up now. You call me if anything changes."

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to happen. This was all wrong.

"Katie, if I ever get my head out of my ass and figure out what’s wrong with me, I’m going to do everything I can to get you back."

If. Again with the "if."

"Goodbye, Alex


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