Tag Archives: Cultural

My Intellectual Biography

14 Feb

by Terry Rachel

I’m a plant, but I’d never repeat

a confidence. I wouldn’t betray, hope to slay,

get in your way. I’m all that it’s about and

yet know nothing. I’m high water but

I’d never let you drown. I’m brave bordering

on idiocy.

I’ve been blued, unglued,

and charged for example.

I’m fallen, forgotten and fragile.

I saved your skin,

lied and compromised.

I’ve bitten off more

than I can chew and been spat

out by others better than you.

I’ve been adored, loved, and put on

a shelf.

I’ve been escorted, reported, and


I’ve been jailed, nailed,

ridiculed and railed.

I’ve been Black, Puerto Rican, and poor.

I’ve been a tissue that wiped snot

from your nose, the tears in your eyes.

I’ve been bandaged, bottled-up and broke.

I’ve been the key that opened doors

to your fears.

I’ve been the party with the lights out,

the formal dinner,

the take-out,

the 4 am diner.

I’ve been controlled, cajoled and caged.

I’ve been the face facing the fist,

I’ve been the back that held a whip.

I’ve been the long highway, the sharp turn,

the dead-end.

I’ve been loved, cherished and left.

I’ve been wind, water, and mountain streams.

I’ve been chicken cooked and cleaned.

I’ve been saved, salvaged and sugar-coated.

I’ve the hands of hard work,

the eyes of a believer.

I’ve sought truth and strangeness in

good reading.

I’ve been the sinner, the saint, and was

once followed by Jesus.

I’ve been July 4th, the blasting radio, and

the early morning vacuum.

I’ve been summer and the sounds it holds,

I’ve been a chandelier, a flashlight and

a faulty bulb.

I’ve been sickness, despair and death.

I’ve lingered long alone and jailed in

running thoughts of regret of

what I could not save nor salvage.

I am the book that you can’t put down,

I’m the book that was passed around.

I’ve listened and then ran out of time.

I’ve checked in and checked out,

been passed over, been ruled out.

I’ve choked, gasped, and couldn’t

come up for air.

I am the service counter, your

customer rep.

I am the fruit that puckers your cheeks,

I’ve been the design of your mind,

strong and kind.

I am temptation. I’ve been a puppet,

and the last person to make a

joke at your expense.

I am a cat and a dog,

I am not a fish.

I am butter melting on warm pancakes.

I am the cherry on your tongue.

I am smooth, squeaky and clean.

I’ve been sheltered, battered and mean.

I’ve been the brunt of jokes, the

joker and the fool.

I’ve suffered fools when

no one else cared.

I’ve bussed it, carpooled, hitched it.

I’ve orgied, three-somed, backseated some.

I’ve pretzeled, potato-chipped and

popcorned fun.

I’ve run miles, won ribbons and

been trophied.

I’m long limbed and short of breath.

In my eyes I have seen your

blues, browns, and greens.

I’ve bad deed it and I’ve

James Deaned it –

better than most.

I’ve broken up fights,

fought and fretted.

I’m a writer no one reads.

I am the seed, I am the weed.

I’m a jumper, a bowler, a

coaster rider roller.

I am oak, old van Gogh,

I hear nothing.

I am brass, polished or not.

I’ve fine China’d and flatware’d it.

I’ve paper-plated and aluminum

foiled it.

I’ve sung out your praises

despite your chord.

I’ve danced, wall-flowered and


I came back, hit the note but

missed the mark.

I’ve Rome’d and Paris’d it and

loved in Swiss sheets.

I’ve hammed it up with

tomato and rye.

I’ve spoken with babies, old men

and ladies.

I’ve spoken with God, the prophets,

and the saints.

I’ve honored thy mother and father


have given grace.

Somewhere ages and ages hence…

Somewhere in my mind’s eye, I

shall be telling this with a sigh.

When I am asked,

I will summon you to

tell me that all is not lost,

all is not forgotten.

There is a certain glory in

that I have led a full life.

Face me then – see me or not at all.

This is “My Biography”

one of the wounds,

in the wounds of geography.

Copyright February 16, 2023, Terry Rachel

The Cocktail Party

27 Nov

I’ve been looking at friend photos of the Thanksgiving that just passed, and it reminded me of a dinner party my companion and I held while living in Albany, NY. We lived in a really cool rehab brownstone around the block from the governor’s mansion. It had all the cool – brick walls, original floorboard, galley kitchen, great outdoor space, and I did some artsy deco stuff around the faux fireplace that made the mantel stand out. Needless to say it was great for parties, and my companion and lover at the time, was a young, absolutely gorgeous, Julie Christie look-alike. We were young, fun, fabulous, and we both believed in an open door policy – where our generosity knew no boundaries, particularly around the holidays.

By six at night, the party was in full-swing. People were bringing gifts and placing them under the Christmas tree that was centered between two big, floor to ceiling windows. The tree looked perfect in the living room, nearly 8 feet tall, it filled the apartment with aromas of freshly cut pine. Both Edie and I greeted each guest, taking their jackets, and offering a first glass of wine or champagne.

I had invited Erin and Lisa, two friends who I had known from Brooklyn, and who had transplanted themselves, moving to Albany a few months earlier – over the summer, for a job with New York State. “Oh!” I said to Erin, “How are you?!” We kissed and hugged, introductions all around. And I remember Erin winking at me and whispering, “Wow, Ter, she’s beautiful.”

“She a lot of work, Erin” we smiled knowingly. “Does this have to be refrigerated?” as she passed the tray, so many people were in the kitchen, and it was Edie pulling me aside, “I’m putting the ice on the deck, there’s no more room in the refrigerator. What’s that?!” she said, pointing to what I was holding.

“It’s something from Erin and Lisa – “

Edie, always in a rush more than me, “We can’t fit it! I’ll put it under the tree!”

The next day the regular clean-up began, the expected dishes in the sink, the leftovers sitting on the counter looking half-dead, the open bottles of wine with their mismatched corks, and someone forgot their gloves. Where was the Advil?

I walked into the living room and the cats had taken over the tree, it was askew and one particular gift was ripped apart, and I could see tiny bits of food strewn across the wrap that surrounded the Christmas tree stand. I picked up whatever was left of the “gift” and read the tiny card that was still intact, “Terry and Edie, Merry Christmas! Love, Erin and Lisa”.

That was so sweet and kind and thoughtful of them to bring a gift, and the shrimp cocktail that never made it to the frig.

Texas Too Soon

30 Aug

By Terry Rachel as told by Terri Mason

Thoughts on Mitzi

Remember how we use to call it the She-Shed because I was always running out to get some tool, and you would always tell others when they called, She’s out in the shed. Well, this morning I sat in the she-shed and cried because, like always, I needed your help. Without you I am not that strong. If I could just hold off till you get back home it would all be better, but then I realized you’re not coming back, you’re never going to be here again to help me, to tell me there’s a better way. I choke up and cry when I talk about you. Even the funny stories are cut short by my heart thrusting into my throat, stopping the words in their tracks. I keep thinking I heard you call out, that I saw glimpses of you in misty forms moving quickly in front of me. I wondered if that dish that slid off the dish rack, after having been there all day with no movement, was you. I thought I felt your hand on my shoulder, on my cheek, and I convinced myself that your lips pressed against mine in one last kiss. I trudge on and get the work done, but I know it won’t look as pretty, but I hope that it will at least be level, because straight it will never be. Maybe later, we could go pick some clover and make jelly.


Some couples survive in their relationships, we thrived. In our twenty years together, Mitzi and I had less than six fights where we raised our voices. During the Chattanooga years, we often spent weekends at the nearby lake. We enjoyed pebble games, where I’d toss pebbles her way when she wasn’t looking; she’d toss the pebble closest to a forgotten can, or in the divot of a piece of inland driftwood. While fishing, she would sometimes fall asleep, but always kept her hand on her fishing pole in case a cantankerous catfish or bass pulled the line. When she was asleep, I’d tease her, tugging her line to signal an ensuing battle. “Stand up, you got one!” I announced, shaking her out of her sleep, She’d jump up and pull hard on her line, sure that she had a big fish on the other end, “now reel it in… hard!” I don’t know how many trophy fish she thought tempted her line, but every time she battled one, I’d cheer her on. The stories we shared are too many to tell, but you couldn’t help but laugh along with her, as her laughter was contagious. We were truly each other’s best friend.

Every morning before sunrise, Mitzi would get up and feed the neighborhoods strays. We were running an unofficial rescue center. She’d trap the cats and take them to the shelter not too far away. We fed birds, Mourning Doves, squirrels, and other visiting critters. A bird she named Broken Wing came within a few feet of her – and that was a couple of feet more than the week before, to feed from her hand. She had a way with animals. She also gained the trust of a cat she named Blackie. The fact that Blackie, one of the many stray cats in her fold, actually let her touch him was not only a miracle, because Blackie was feral, but she gained his trust in only a few short weeks! Meanwhile, we had a running order from Amazon for cat food – for cats we didn’t even own.


We left Tennessee and moved to Texas because Mitzi wanted to move closer to her family. I agreed for Mitzi’s sake. I wanted to make her happy. I remember joking, you’re not going die on me once we get to Texas, are you? Like a lot of people, we bought a modest home with some land, but the house needed some work. For starters, we had to get rid of the godawful orange walls in the kitchen and the nasty linoleum floor. After hours of prepping we were both tired, so I suggested she take a nap, and I stayed up all night getting the kitchen floor ready for the new flooring.

It’s day eighteen, or twenty-one, depending on the actual or official date, I can’t remember. All I do know is the anguish and pain I am feeling, and I can’t can. She never woke up from that nap, I can’t do anything about it. Three months living in Texas and I go and lose my perfect person. It’s easy to tell the facts, they never change. They just are. What’s hard is talking about this hole in me, the emptiness and the loneliness I feel, especially at night. What’s impossible right now is not being able to release the image of her while I frantically pumped her chest and screamed her name.

I clean, but continually find another footprint or smear from the dirty feet of the ambulance team, and I am reminded again of how she was laying on the floor with her clothes cut down the center so they could place the nitroglycerin patches on her chest. And then I move the bed to clean up the cat hair that always finds its way underneath, and I find the mouthpiece they used to push air into her lungs.

And people say call me anytime, but you know they don’t want your burden added to theirs. That’s why they don’t call you. They never know what to say, they think you’re going to turn around and be the person you were before. But you can’t, because you don’t know how. You’ve never known this pain before. It feels like a charley horse in your chest and throat, and the tears won’t dry up. And you tell yourself that you’re thankful for the fur babies that keep you going, because they are your sole responsibility. Only you will be taking out the trash, and watering the garden, cleaning the litter box, and feeding the chickens, and mowing the lawn, and painting the rooms, and laying the floors, and going to the grocery, and paying the bills, and figuring out how you’re ever going to sleep in that room again.

Five Months Later

At one point, just over a month ago, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I felt empty, and in agony, every waking moment of the day. My world has been so screwed up, that I have not been able to think much beyond the immediate. I haven’t been able to entertain future options or possibilities much past a week. Making big decisions has been foreign to me recently, and even decisions involving regularity has come with major difficulties. However, on Friday, I thought that I had lost the one thing that held me to the bond of what we had for the previous 10 years. I lost my wedding ring. I looked in the dirty clothes, in the trash, in the refrigerator and dishwasher. I looked in the crevasses of the car, and in the parking lot at the vet’s office, and at work. I asked around, but no one found it. I wondered if this was a sign that I needed to start thinking about moving forward, about getting out of the rut I’ve been living in.

I began thinking of my next adventure, either with or without a new relationship, and I felt a lightness in my spirit – a freeing of some sort. The thought of going forward without a companion was sad to me, and I decided that I would not become a person who lived a life of solitude. I pulled the blankets back to get into bed, and there was the ring. It was like it had been placed there. I don’t recall taking it off, and my finger hasn’t shrunk enough to have it slip off. It is however, how it will stay. I laid the ring besides hers in the jewelry box.

Doctor, I’m Fine

18 Jul

by Terry Rachel

I can’t get this thing about growing old into my head. It’s just not working for me. I have to keep busy, I have to be part of something, I watch very little TV, and I’m not online a lot. Instead I think about nature, and being outside, walking two or three miles, and getting fresh air. And those projects: Furniture needs to be stripped and varnished, and those boxes. Utilize the boxes and place your tools in them. You should get some things to storage, so you can start empyting the closet. And, unlike a lot of people, I am not an online shopping addict, not a compulsive buyer. I think about what I need and then shop in a real store to find it. If it fits, and I need it, I buy it. If not, I don’t think about it again.

When it comes to eating, it’s now a matter of what is good for my body. Is my body going to be bored with it? Will it be too much? I can’t eat a lot now, and I can’t eat late at night. I used to love drinking wine and pairing it with cheese, nuts, and fruit, with cured meats such as pepperoni, and hard salami, always a favorite. But after a glass or two, I’m no longer a sparkling conversationalist (no pun intended), and the cheese and nuts are bound to be stuck somewhere in my digestive track. I have to be sensible. Maybe I’ll have some green tea before bed.

I try to keep western medicine at bay. I’m afraid of taking pills. I debate on whether or not to take 200 milligrams of Ibuprophen when someone else might pop 2 or 4 pills within hours. On a recent visit, my doctor said, “You know, your blood pressure is elevated. We can get that down. I’d like to prescribe 5 mg of…” I looked at her like a deer in headlights. “I’m just nervous right now,” I said, “I get that way whenever I go to the doctors.” I filled the prescription, and when I got it home I stared at the bottle. I didn’t want to be on a prescription drug. That was 6 months ago. Since then I increased my exercise by including bicycling two times a week and staying an extra 15 minutes at the gym for a total of 90 minutes five times a week. My body likes to be physical. Afterall, the doctor doesn’t know my body like I do.

Working still and working with a team. I know some people enjoy their retirement years. For them, getting up at a six o’clock alarm is no fun, and sleeping in is their preference, maybe even lounging in bed with a cup of coffee. I can’t do that. I like routine. I have’t lounged in bed in “I can’t remember when” no, not for me. I like working. I like producing. I like being part of a team, and I really love being a part of the ever-changing technology landscape. Technology is fascinating and I keep in the know about IT and tech.

My relationship with God has taken on a new level of faith. I got away from the church for nearly 30 years, but I returned in 2019, going to mass almost every Sunday. I went to confession on Ash Wednesday in 2020. There was a line that day, nearly 6 people ahead of me. I was nervous. I was looking around. “You should go,” I thought, “What are you going to say, anyway? No. This is wrong.” But I stayed, and I waited on line. I kept checking my watch. Thirty minutes! Wow, this priest must be popular. My confession went off without a hitch, but I have to admit, I stunned the priest when I told him it had been 50 years since my last confession.

My life is a very simple one. I live in a very simple world that I created. With the passing of friends and family, threads of communication, my once reliable byways, have shrunk in size. And maybe that’s why I keep running around, I keep chasing time. I keep wanting to make something happen. I keep getting up for that alarm. I can’t get it into my head that I have to slow down. It’s Sunday. If I buy varnish and stripper today, I can get that piece of furniture ready for October, when it’s not too humid.

Mourning Dove Road – A Butch/Femme Tale

18 Sep

Part I


Before leaving a flat fine line to the west, October’s sunlight burns down to fragmented dots and dashes infusing color to the liqueur bottles standing like soldiers behind the bar at Restaurant 518.  Familiar are the scents of bread and tomato sauce as I witness the cooks in the kitchen labor through the cacophony of pots and pans. One cook mans the larger stove replacing lids to the escaping steaming water. Steam charges his face with every lid he removes as he takes his apron to wipe the sweat pouring from his forehead. He catches my stare, nods, and manages a smile.

Launched from speakers set high off the corners of the ceiling come the breath of a soprano’s voice and the dramatic timber of a baritone.  As I stand beneath the glow of an amber light, I wonder if the other patrons knew that in opera some divas go mad, some leap to their death, some are stabbed, always in some tragic fashion, over immortal love?  Maria Callas, one of opera’s great sopranos, said, “When the curtain rises, the only thing that speaks is courage.”

Waiting for Katherine, I felt fearless.


 It was early Saturday night and Katherine and I settled into a booth near a brass railing. I rested my arm on the rail and lit a cigarette. She leaned in to smell the flowers   arranged in a glass vase for the table centerpiece, then moved the unlit candle to the side, then pressed both palms into the linen to lay flat any unwanted wrinkle, but there was none. “This is so nice, Jo,” she said.

I lit the candle and sat quietly admiring Katherine’s face; her blonde hair fell in curls to her shoulders. Her jewelry was simple but elegant and her nails were polished a translucent pink.  Under a white blouse her camisole revealed a lace border. “You look lovely,” I told her, “and your blouse is beautiful.”

At a height of 5’ 8” Katherine was long-legged with a fast walk that spoke of certainty and happiness. Voluptuously built, her breasts full and supple, one night I asked her why she wore a bra to bed. Smiling coyly, she revealed that she “didn’t want the ‘girls’ to sag.” Blessed with a good sense of humor she’d call herself “The Burberry girl.” She carried around a big Burberry bag and in it she carried everything. She wore Burberry sunglasses and a Burberry scarf and when she wore her hair up, she’d shake her big gold hoop earrings making sure they didn’t catch in her hair. She’d wear sandals or boots but never wear socks because her feet were always warm; she liked going barefoot. She never threw off airs and never thought about her looks. I told her she was a ‘lady’ for never having gossiped, never having an unkind word to say about anyone, her modesty didn’t allow comfort with even the slightest compliment.  She was a shy girl who could pout and cry in a moment’s notice and she would explain, as if it were any consolation, that she was “just feeling emotional,” and then, by that admission, she would cry again.

I loved her company, she was exciting and loved doing anything.  I loved watching her dance. Her dancing was a mix of American erotica and Middle Eastern belly dancing, a siren’s song, a dance I’d never seen before. When I’d tell her that her dancing made my heart race, she’d say,

“Oh, I probably look like a fool up there. My daughter’s friends must think I’m crazy. Come on, I’m forty-one. I don’t care. I just dance. But I’m glad you like it,” she’d say, and kiss me.

Katherine had no idea how beautiful she was – she never kept to the mirror, never felt beautiful, felt her looks only adequate, sometimes she felt pretty. But in her soul, in her heart – her deep-down beauty, the beauty I had seen in Katherine, the goodness that she couldn’t hide, that which radiated from within, that which she could not contain, had taken front and center as I watched her turn heads in Restaurant 518.


                        The month of October is sun-kissed and cooled just enough from the remains of summer’s heat and a weekend away in early fall has always been a welcomed favorite of mine. It was Columbus Day weekend and I had Monday off. I woke early to pack and gave Romeo, the cat, food, water, treats, and a clean litter box. I nuzzled him close and kissed him goodbye, “I love you.  I’ll be back Monday.”

Asheville from Raleigh is about two hundred fifty miles east. It was a blue and clear fresh morning and I had an early start. I was spending the weekend with Katherine!  Katherine had rented a cabin in Asheville every year booking for the same week – Columbus weekend –  a year in advance. Because she had expressed that the cabin was her retreat – a place where she could wind down and be alone (and I suppose, nurture her soul), I was reluctant to join her at first. But she encouraged me to go by sending links of the cabin, various museums, antique shops, restaurants – even directions, and with these assurances I decided to join her.

‘We only know each other a week’ I told myself on the drive out.

How I came to find Katherine at all, came only just a month before on Labor Day. It was a quiet holiday, and I began searching different dating sites and found one called Curve Personals. I limited my personal search to North Carolina and found Katherine’s profile. Her status read, “Seeking friends/pen pals.”  She described how she “loved the fury of the ocean in a storm,” that intrigued me, so I wrote her saying that I had grown up on Long Island, near Jones Beach, and walked the beach in many a storm. When she finally responded on her birthday from a hotel computer, her e-mail began, “I’m here with Chris and I’m here writing you, this is not good or is it?”

Everyone has issues.

I was going through menopause. I liked not having my period anymore, but I was going through night sweats and would often wake up soaking wet. I didn’t like my mood swings either. I was very touchy, edgy, and would become strangely melancholy. This behavior had affected me professionally and was costing me my livelihood. I didn’t want to tell Katherine – it was too early to say anything. I blamed it all on being butch and not being able to voice my sensitivities.

When I arrived at Willow Woods in Asheville my thoughts settled. The air was free of clouds with big skies, and I swallowed hard to clear my ears because of the mountainous elevation. When I arrived Katherine was in bed. I guess I arrived too early. She answered the door, smiled, took my hand, ushering me inside, and then ran back to bed because the cabin was so cold. I undressed and got into bed with her.

We had taken a picture together on the cabin couch near the fire, posing cheek to cheek. We were so clear-eyed and hopeful. The next day, Sunday, we took a walk, got lost, and walked two miles out of our way. We laughed it off. We’d found a good tree to carve our initials “JB & KP” inside a heart and wrote the date. She carved in the date but carved the wrong month:  11/06, when it was really 10/06.  “Oh, Jo – why didn’t you say something?” she whined. “I don’t know,” I said. “It’s okay.”.

She gave me the picture in a frame and took the complimentary cookie tin from the cabin and used it to hold autumn leaves from our walk and sent these to me with a card saying how she loved our weekend together. We made love in the hot tub outside, on the couch, on the king-sized bed, and on the floor in front of a roaring fire. In the middle of the night, with her hands touching mine, exchanging caresses and kisses, stroking every line, every curve, licking my fingers, sucking them into her mouth, our hands made love for a long while until I nearly orgasmed from her touch. It was hard leaving her that weekend, but there was never enough time between us.

The Affair

            Katherine and I began our love affair in the fall of 2006, and when I’d suddenly and completely became so involved, I realized I had wasted my time with everyone. Nobody was like Katherine. She was sexy, sassy, a whore in bed. She loved that I talked dirty and I loved the way she gave it up. She allowed me everything: spanking her, pulling her hair, throwing her down, fisting her, nipple play, anal intercourse, love bites, hard kisses, strap-on sex for hours and she loved my butch cock. She would suck it and love me for it. I was in a beautiful Dom role that I hadn’t been in for years. She was a beautiful submissive. I was so horny all the time for her. She loved sex and I loved sex with her. Then we’d lie down and she’d rest her head on my shoulder, playing with my hair. We’d exchange soft and sweet kisses. I’d touch her hands and tell her how beautiful her hands were, how beautiful her body was, that her body was a ‘gift’ and she should love her body.

She’d say, “Why do you love my body so much?  You really think it’s beautiful?”

“It’s a fast car.. It’s such a beautiful body, you just don’t see it.”

She tapped her stomach, “Even with this kangaroo pouch? Come on.”

“That’s a beautiful sweet belly,” and I’d kiss her.

She’d smile and we’d continue to lie in bed talking, sharing secrets. She had the softest skin. “Jo, I love you. I love you so much, baby. You’ve made me so happy.”

Through November and December she visited Saturday afternoons, stay twenty-four hours, and leave Sunday.  We’d share every other weekend together. It was a promising love and I was ready to give her what no other had woman ever seen in me. We had exciting sex and shared a deep warm chemistry. She assured me she loved me over and over again. She’d write loving e-mails, send romantic cards, and call nearly every morning and every night saying how much she cared and loved me. She got a Star Registry Certificate and named a star after us in the Constellation Drago. She planned on getting a tattoo with our initials, we talked of marriage, she wanted to marry and have a baby with me, she gave me a ring on Valentine’s Day, and her card read,

“You are my life, my love, and my friend, and that’s forever, baby.”

We fit in bed like puzzle pieces. Katherine was a dedicated and loyal lover. She was kind and consistent. She was the only woman who never tried to change me. She never nagged me. She’d found me ‘perfect.’ I was lost in her in so many of our lovemaking sessions.

“Jo, I want to have your baby,’ she said over the phone.

I said, “How are we going to do that?”

“With one of your first, closest male cousins.”

“You’d sleep with one of my cousins?” I was astounded. “You would do that? You’d get pregnant because I like kids?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“I’d do anything for you, for us. I love you that much. I want a part of your lifeline in me.”

Katherine spoke of love all the time. Maybe she needed to speak the words to remind herself of how love could be, maybe she needed to say them in order to have them returned, maybe she’d miss tender words because she was going through a divorce and Tom had treated her so cruelly in their marriage. I didn’t know what it was. I trusted Katherine and believed her.

When her floral bouquet arrived at Halloween, her card read,

“Jo, you love me so well.  Thank you for loving me.   If you could see my tomorrows, you would see yourself in every one of them.  You wreck me, your holiday, your Wifey, Katherine”


            One weekend in early November, Katherine arrived on a Friday evening with her children. She packed their bicycles into her SUV, along with a camera, firewood, a model car kit, and the game of Twister. It was a time to bond with Katherine’s children. The first thing I did was get out an old football because I didn’t want to corner the children into conversation, but I knew a game of catch was an ice-breaker, so that’s how we began.  We went out for pizza, rented a scary movie (where I was the most scared), we rode bicycles, pieced the model car together and decaled it, saw a Saturday matinée, made Smores – which I’ve never made before –  and played the game of Twister where I nearly wrenched my back, even falling backwards on purpose, just to get a laugh.

Patrick chased Romeo in circles around the couch, and the cat looked forlorn as if to say, ‘help.’ But he never scratched or hissed and even let Patrick pick him up. I think Romeo liked the attention. Neither of us had much company and that weekend our lives had been satiated with love and laughter.

I didn’t realize when the children left that I’d never see them again.

Katherine stayed during weekends in October and November and part of December, arranging schedules with her ex-husband to be, making sure her son, Patrick, 9 and Jessica, 12, would be okay until she returned on Sunday afternoon. Tom had the children on weekends, but it seemed every time Katherine wanted to leave on a Friday to visit me one day early, he’d always throw a wrench in the plans, having to work late or some other engagement would pop up out of the blue, and she’d call to say,

“Baby, I’m sorry. Tom is being a prick. But even though I can’t come tonight, I’m dropping off the dogs at the kennel tomorrow–early, and I should be to you no later than one o’clock.”

I felt like shuffling my feet when I’d say, “Ah, it’s okay.”

“Don’t be mad.  I love you. And baby, I can’t wait to see you. Jo, you are everything to me and I will do whatever it takes to see you.”

Sometimes I felt like a mistress, I really did. I’d never been to her house; I’d never seen the way she lived. I wanted to, but I never pushed the issue. Her house in Charlotte did look pretty in the pictures she’d sent. It looked like a big house, lots of land, pretty nicely furnished. It would have been easier for me to travel to her, but she never invited me. And since she was still technically married, soon to be divorced, I didn’t think it appropriate for me to stay there. I didn’t want to upset her divorce proceedings or get in the middle in any way.

When Thanksgiving rolled around, she’d gone with Tom and the children to New Jersey. I felt badly, but I never said anything. “Next year, baby, it’ll be different,’ she said.

“I know, sweetheart, its okay. Did you enjoy your holiday with your family?”

I always tried to be on her side. I just couldn’t find it in my heart to be unkind to her.


She told me in a crying jag one night that she was bulimic.

“That’s why my teeth are so bad, Jo.”

“You’re bulimic, Katherine? You throw up?”

“Yes. But I’ve never thrown up at your house.”

“Is that why you don’t eat, or you eat very little with me?”

“Jo, if I feel like I’m eating junk, like fast-food, I purge it.”

“Wow.  I can’t believe it.”

“Look, I’m sorry I told you, “she said indignantly.

“I mean, you’ve been doing this since …how long? Have you gotten any help?”

“See, this is what I get.  I’m sorry I ever told you. You don’t know a thing about bulimia.  You don’t know a thing about it!”

“Kath, I—“

“I’ll call you tomorrow. And don’t write me an e-mail telling me how you’ve got to think this over.  I don’t want to hear it. I am the way I am. You don’t have to like it.  But it’s my life. I thought I could tell you, talk with you, but I see I can’t.”

I was just listening; I didn’t know what to say. I mean she had an eating disorder and for three months I didn’t know. I didn’t know anyone who was bulimic, until Katherine.

“Kath,” I said, gently, “I would have found out if you didn’t tell me. I would have noticed.”

“No, you wouldn’t have,” she snapped, “Tom lived with me for 16 years and he never knew.”


The first Saturday in December I went to Flowerama and bought a dozen red roses then headed to a local jewelry store and decided to buy Katherine a ring. It was a beautiful ring in silver with a misty topaz stone cut on eight sides and beveled high so that when you viewed the ring, it shined green, magenta and turquoise. I wasn’t sure of Katherine’s taste in jewelry but I had chosen this type of ring because it was how I felt my love should be: bright and bold, out in the open, willing to change colors, and one of a kind. I would present the ring today because she was spending Christmas with her family and I probably wouldn’t see her until New Years.

When I returned home I was beside myself with excitement and before Katherine arrived I called Laine.

“Laine, I’ve got something to tell you!”

“Well, if it’s about Katherine, I don’t know about her, Jo.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I don’t know…but I just get the feeling she wears a mask.”

“What do you mean?  Laine?”

“Seriously, Jo. I don’t even know why I’m saying that, but I just get that feeling.

“I’m not calling to complain, Laine. I love this girl.”

Her voice was calm. “I’m only telling you this because I don’t want to see you get hurt. Jo, you’ve been down this road before. Remember Sharon? You have a house that you bought for Sharon and she’s not even around. You always give too much too soon.”

“Don’t worry about anything, please. After her divorce goes final –– Laine, look, this girl loves me. She does. I just bought her a ring.”

“You bought her a ring?”

“It’s beautiful. I’m giving it to her today. She’s coming this afternoon. I can’t        wait.”

“Oh, Jo, I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“Laine, I love her. You don’t know her. But she’s everything to me. And she         loves me. You know something?”


“She’s getting a tattoo with our initials.”


“Well, this is what she told me, she said:  “’Jo, you are my love, my life and my     friend and I’m going to get a circle of that on my back with those words.’”

“That’s gonna’ be some big tattoo.”

“Well, it’ll be something, right! But, Laine – can you believe it?  She loves me!”

“And I love you too, Jo. Just be careful. How much was the ring? Wait…don’t tell me.”


After I’d hung up with Laine, Katherine arrived wearing her hair up in a French twist with her sunglasses, tight jeans, boots and she smelled delicious with her signature scent, Burberry.

“Oh, baby! Come here,” she said, “God I’ve missed you so much. I want to make love right now. Please can we go upstairs?”

In bed I said, “Kath, I’ve got something for you. I know it’s a little early in our relationship, but I can’t help it. I know we won’t be together for the Christmas holiday and I want you to have this.”

The jewelry box was purple with a pink bow and bagged in black lace. I handed it to her, at first I thought about slipping the ring on her finger, but I wanted her to enjoy the presentation, I wanted to see her face when she opened it.

“What’s this? Baby…” she said coyly.

“Honey, I love you.”

As she untied the ribbon and opened the box, the ring sparkled as the afternoon sun shined through the bedroom window.

“You got me a ring?”

I took the ring and said, “What finger should we place this on?”

She had bought herself a ring after Tom left and she had worn it in place of her band. She took off her ring. “It goes here.” She put out her hand and I placed the ring on her left ring finger.

“Oh, Jo! I love it!”

“Do you?”

“Oh, I love it. I love you, oh, Jo, baby…”

She and I sat outside on my deck as the afternoon sun melted away in our eyes.     “Do you really like it?” I asked.

She sat and stared at the ring, flashing it all ways, bringing it back to her face and pushing out her hand. “Oh, it’s beautiful, Jo, really. It really is.”

“Kath, I didn’t know what you liked, but it’s—“

“It’s perfect, it’s perfect.”

“I know we won’t be together for Christmas, but I wanted to let you know that I’ll           be there, in spirit. Wear my ring, that’s a sign of my love.”

“I will, baby. Always.”

“I’ve got to get this Christmas tree up, want to help?”

“You better believe I do!”

We decorated the tree and it looked beautiful. Something about the way she decorated it made my heart lift. I hadn’t had any help decorating my tree since living with Linda. The tree went up in less than a half hour. She said,

“Now that it’s all up, I’ve got something for you! I’ll be right back.”

She ran out to her car and she came back with two boxes, both wrapped pretty and neat. One box was smaller and I thought, “God, how come femmes wrap gifts so good and I can’t?”

She placed the two boxes under the tree. I smiled, “Are those for me?”

“They are! Open them now!”

“Can’t I wait for Christmas? I won’t have anything to open Christmas morning if I open them now.”

“Oh no! You can’t. Please open them now. Please, please, please? Honey, this        isn’t just it, they’ll be more. But please open them now, please?”

I opened the small one first.

“Katherine, you got him a toy?  God, I can’t believe you remembered him. That’s so nice of you, really.”

We placed the toy in front of Romeo, spun it around and toyed with the ball and feather contraption, teasing him, taking it back and forth and moving it around in circles. He batted the feather a couple of times then went back to sleeping. “Oh, you old man, “ I said, “now if Angelo were here, my once great former mouser, he’d be all over this ball.” I picked up Romeo, kissed him and he licked me on my nose, “Okay, go lie down boy.”

“Kath, that was so nice of you, really. Thinking of Romeo.”

“I like Romeo, babe. He’s the coolest cat. He’s the only cat I’ve ever really liked. …Now open the big present.”

I was wondering what could be in such a big box. I hadn’t asked for anything. For me a gift is good enough if it’s got socks and underwear, maybe a car wash certificate, but she had gone overboard and felt I’d deserved it. The wrapping was perfect, but the gift was better, “Wow! You got me a CD player?!”

“It’s from the kids, now mind you.”

“Kath! You knew I needed a CD player! Honey!” I immediately put the speakers and wires together and programmed my favorite radio stations.

She commented, “You’re reading the manual?”

“I always read the manuals. Actually, this one is written pretty well.”

“Oh, God,” she said and started to laugh.

That night we danced in the kitchen while The Stylistics CD played, one that I hadn’t listened to in a while, I began to sing to her as I held her close,

“You are everything and everything is you, whoa-oh, you are everything and everything is you…you are everything and everything is you.’


            Katherine and I would go out to clubs and she’d order a “Jack, back.”  I’d ordered several of those for her one night, not knowing what I was ordering, but the bartenders knew. Jack Daniels and Coor’s Light. Her drinks came in at $10 bucks a pop, and between my Chardonnay at $6 bucks a glass and her drinking requests, we’d spent a small fortune many nights when she was in town.

When Katherine came on New Year’s Eve day it was a slow day in Raleigh, there was no traffic anywhere. I had gone shopping for some special groceries the day before.  I bought shrimp and scallops and good cheeses, dips, and a bottle of champagne. I was planning a nice meal with the uncorking of the champagne to toast at midnight. She had arrived early, before noon, and she had packed very little. She had the clothes she was wearing and in her overnight bag, her make-up and a lingerie.

I asked her if she’d like to go to lunch, get something to eat, but two places that I’d chosen were crowded and we wound up at a bar and grill called the Bull and Bear. We sat and talked at the bar and watched some football. It was the last day in 2006.

I don’t know why I took her there except that I could blame it on my own melancholy that day. Suddenly I’d become sad on the last day of the year—even with Katherine’s company, and I wound up in a dive bar with her, without even ordering a burger. So she began with the beer and chasers and I sipped a cheap glass of wine.

We then proceeded to drink some more. We went back to my place, made a little love, and I asked her if she wanted to go to Cinelli’s, a local restaurant, one that we’d both been to before. Before we left, I made the scallops and shrimp, and put out a cheese platter, but she didn’t want to eat. “Let’s eat later,” she said.  So, I refrigerated everything and we left for Cinelli’s.

It was raining and on the way into the restaurant Katherine tripped and fell on her leg. She didn’t get up readily. I was half-drunk but she was drunker than me. It was New Year’s Eve and we were celebrating. I watched her fall in the rain, wearing my borrowed shirt, I asked her, “Are you okay? Baby?!”

“Oh, I’m all right,” she said.

Inside Cinelli’s the music was playing, and there was a good singer doing his very best at Karaoke. Everyone there was dressed nice, except Katherine and me, with our rag-tag jeans. But she was pulling out the credit cards and I had some cash, ‘Fuck it’, I thought, it was New Year’s Eve. We were sending out 2006 with a bang. On the dance floor she started her hypnosis on me, gyrating into my groin with her ass. She and I were both deliberately out of control. We were fucking each other on the dance floor in front of a bunch of white Anglo-Saxon Protestant people and then started making out in front of them. We ordered a round for a couple of people we knew and I placed a party hat on Katherine and she placed an Hawaiian lei around my neck.

When we were leaving Katherine’s arm had caught the door and she tripped going out the door. The manager followed us, holding an umbrella, yelling through the rain, “Are you okay?!” Are you sure?!”  It was pouring. I told him, “Glen!  We’re fine!  I live just around the block!”

When we returned home I said, “Are you hungry?” and she said, “Yes, I’m starved.”  Of course we both were—we hadn’t really eaten anything all day.  I gave her a plate of Gemelli pasta with shrimp, scallops and mushrooms, and she took the plate upstairs to the bedroom. I stayed in the kitchen making my plate, finishing up a few things before joining her. But she had eaten fast and came running down the steps saying, “Can I have seconds?  Baby, I’m sorry I finished so fast!  It was good!” and off the last step into the living room she had fallen.

I looked at her lying on the floor. She had fallen three times in one night. She was holding the empty plate. I never thought she was fooling for a second. I knew immediately something was wrong. She said, “Jo, I can’t get up.  My leg really hurts.”

She laid there in her underwear and a top. I went from being half-drunk to sober in a matter of minutes and called EMS. I dressed her in a pair of green sweatpants and put her in a new air cast I had purchased for my own ornery ankle that was prone to sprains, just three weeks before.

The driver drove slowly and I followed behind in my car. We arrived at the emergency room and she went in right away, but everything after that, the X-rays, the diagnosis, the doctor coming, the wrapped leg, the paperwork, took long. We were told at 4:30 a.m. that she had severely damaged her leg but they couldn’t operate because of her insurance carrier being in Charlotte, so they bandaged her up, gave her a few pain pills and I drove her back to my home in Raleigh. She was given a prescription but it was New Years Day and it was hard to find a store open to fill it.

I didn’t know what to do. Katherine said, “Jo, I’m going to have to call my mother. I’m going to have to call Tom.”

Through the phone his voice was loud enough, “Were you drinking?” he said, “Were you?”

I left the room. I didn’t want to hear it. I knew she was drinking—we both were. I had not taken care of my lady. I did not watch out for her. I had let her down. I called her mother, entering the number for Katherine, never having spoken with her mother before. “Hello, Elizabeth?”

“Yes?  Hello.”

“Happy New Year. I’m calling for Katherine. This is Jo.”

“Happy New Year,” she said.

“Hold on, Katherine needs to speak with you.”

“Mommy?” Katherine started crying.

I left the room again.  I went downstairs looking at the step where Katherine fell.  Romeo was sitting and staring into his food bowl, it was dinnertime for him. I fed him, washed a few dishes, took out the garbage and washed my hands and face. When I went back upstairs to my bedroom where Katherine was now laying, she said,

“Mommy’s coming. Can you please call her back and talk about some things?”


            At Terminal A in RDU Airport, bag handlers were busy with the last-minute rush of holiday travelers. I pulled my car close to the curb where she was standing; it didn’t seem to faze her; I knew it was her standing there lanky and lean, dragging long on her cigarette outside in the wind, as the terminal police stood by, eyeing me for any violation, waiting for my departure.

“Hi, I’m Jo.” I greeted her as happily as I could, hurrying to load her bag into the trunk.

Her first words, “Mind if I smoke in your car?” took me back.

“No, not at all,” I said, politely. “How was your flight?”

“Expensive.” She stretched out a hand and awkwardly shook mine while my left hand took the wheel, “Nice to meet you, I’m Katherine’s mother Elizabeth.”


            On the evening of January 3rd, I called Laine. My Christmas tree lights were shining and I had heated up some left over pasta and shrimp and scallops from the night before.

“Laine, it’s me, Jo.”

“Jo! Happy New Year!”

“Happy New Year, but it ain’t so happy, Laine.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Well,” I began slowly, nearly choking on the words, “on New Years Eve Katherine broke her ankle, kneecap, fibula, and tibia. And today Katherine’s mother flew from New Jersey into Raleigh..”

“Are you kidding me? How?”

“She fell in my house, she fell down the last step, Laine, it’s unbelievable.”

“Is she going to sue?”



“Are you crazy? Have you completely lost your mind?”

“Jo, hey, you never know.”

“Look, I didn’t get much sleep last night, I’m a little aggravated. We were at the emergency room till four in the morning. Last night, New Years Eve, we were both out of control, but she was worse than me and she broke her friggin’ leg because she was so damn drunk! …Laine, do you know what a ‘jack-back’ is’?”

“Yeah, it’s a chaser of Jack Daniels with a beer.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Jo, this is not your fault.”

“In a way it is,” I said.


            Katherine left the morning of January 3rd.  I gave her a comforter, two pillows and a pair of green sweat pants. I kissed her goodbye. I laid the comforter underneath her on the backseat and propped up the two pillows. Her mother sat in the driver’s seat adjusting the mirrors for the ride back.

“Are you comfortable?” I asked Katherine, “are you sure?” “Yes,” she said. “Baby, I love you. I love you so much.” And she’d said that right in front of her mother. I said,

“I love you. I will call you. Okay?  I’ll call you tonight.” I tapped the door and said to Elizabeth, “Drive safe.”

I said goodbye to her on Mourning Dove Road.  She waved goodbye in the silver-gray, Buick Rendezvous that came to greet me every other Saturday.

To be continued

© Terry Rachel 2011

Just Fetching

11 Sep

 “But that’s the part I do understand, Swillie,” he stuttered, “It is, ‘Swillie’?”

She obliged him ‘yes’ with a quick back and forth head shake.  He smiled.  “It’s a different name.”

“Yes, like silly! Don’t ask, don’t ask. My mother must have been drunk when she named me. Do you know – this is a true story, I swear! When they put a wristband on a hospital patient, one woman – this is true – this woman, after having her baby, she’s looking at her wristband, right, and she says to her husband, ‘Lookey here, Dave, (let’s say his name is ‘Dave’ – I don’t know – but let’s just say), anyway, she says, ‘Dave’ isn’t that so nice. The hospital people named our daughter ‘Fem’ale’’. Now isn’t that a hoot! Some people are idiots!”

“For ‘female’? That’s a riot. True story?”

Swillie slaps her chest, crossing her heart, “I swear to God. You can’t make up this shit. I’m kinda’ glad my name – at least – sounds like ‘Tilley’ or ‘Sally’ even!”


“I’m a regular riot, stick around.”

Anyway, Swillie.  No, I don’t know you, it’s true, and it’s no problem to me, that you’ve divulged these things.  It’s actually ironic that you can speak up, you know, be so matter-of-fact, about a topic that is, well, taboo.”

“‛Taboo’!” she remarked quickly. “Oh!  I remember that as a fragrance!  Yes, yes! My mother would buy Tabu at Jaller’s Pharmacy!  We’d stop in for Easter or whatever and she’d buy Tabu and old man Jaller would wrap it up, pulling out some generic wrapping paper from under the counter!  He’d take forever too.  He was, like 100 years old and he walked liked this,” she stood, rounding her shoulders, the pretense of a lame foot dragging along the floor. He smiled at her; her mimicry wasn’t lost on him. “Parkinson’s?” he remarked.

“You got it! Ding, ding, ding! Winner here!”  Swillie was deliriously happy. She felt understood.

“It’s taboo,” he continued.  “It’s a topic that’s got taboo written all over it.  For years it’s been a dark chasm! And it was not discussed in social circles and it will probably be taboo for quite a while.”  He stopped and looked at her for a moment as he felt her steady gaze upon him.

Was he flirting? Or was he just being friendly? She couldn’t tell. To ponder this, Swillie leaned back in her chair, an impractical wrought-iron type sitting on too shiny a linoleum floor, and began to laugh aloud over the thought that she actually told her fantasy to him about being raped by a tall, dark, handsome stranger.  She continued laughing, and in her enthusiasm, the chair went smack! And she grabbed the table to right herself before nearly falling on the floor. Suddenly she was looking in his direction. “Wow! Close call! Hey, do you know all this is natural?” She laughed. “I’m not on any pills!”

“Too much caffeine, then.” he told her.

Something fierce was coming from deep inside her. It was coming. It was coming on very quickly. With a gurgle and growl she jerked in her chair again and this time, she threw her full weight forward into the table.  “‘WaaaarraaarrrghOh, my God! I don’t normally belch in public! Oh! I’m so embarrassed!”

The waiter, passing Swillie’s table said good-naturedly, “Oh my!”

Swillie was flabbergasted.  “Oh my goodness!” she said, “Excuse me!”

“Swillie! Please be careful!” said the waiter. “We want you to return and not fall on the floor. Stay in the chair!”

“Oh, Stankos!  I’m okay!  Thank you!”

“Are you all right, sir?  Anything I can get for you?” Stankos said to the stranger.

“No.  No.  I’m fine,” he said to the waiter, and to Swillie he said, “It’s fine, really,” and started to laugh – but not at her, and ever so slightly.  “A walk might do us good.”

Swillie sat up alert, positioning her napkin, folding its end, demurely touching the corners of her mouth.  She shifted her eyes about the room.  “You know, I love this place,” she told him.  “The waiters make me feel so comfortable and all.  And, not only that,” she whispered, as one of the waiters filled their water glasses.  “They’re sort of a fantasy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ya know,” said Swillie. To drive home her point she pushed out her left hand to make an “O” with her index and thumb fingers, and with her right hand she pushed her index finger into the O several times.

“Hmmn, both of them?”  He laughed under his breath.

“It would be heaven.”

He said, “And over and over again, eh?”

She flashed her eyes at him over the rip of her coffee cup, “Is there any other way?”

They both sat offering polite smiles to the passing waiters, and then smiled politely at one another as couples do when love is young and fresh, when both parties offer pleasantries and try hard to be on their best behavior.  And it occurred to Swillie that this first conversation was somehow blossoming into something more.

“You know that burp was awful, but you’re lucky I didn’t throw up on you!  Oh God, that would be awful. One time, with hot dogs – I had one too many at a friend’s barbecue, I don’t know how it was in two large pieces.  But, let me tell you, I ran to the ladies room, and forced myself to throw up.  Felt it coming up and boom!  A piece of the hot dog hit the toilet seat and came back hitting me in the face!  A full projectile!”

“Oh, my God!” said the stranger, now standing, his eyes fixed on the TV in the corner behind Swillie. “Turn that up!” he said to the waiter, “Turn that up!” This got the attention of everyone in the restaurant, suddenly Blackberry’s were pinging alerts, and phone calls were buzzing, Swillie turned in her chair – everyone in the restaurant had stopped eating, a waiter, trying to fit between two tables, dropped two breakfast plates, several different languages were being spoken at once – there was a defining freakiness and then the umbrella of fear.

“Oh, my God? Is this real?” Swillie screamed. “Stankos turn on a different channel! Turn on a different channel!” It was the same from one news channel to the next. “That’s right down the block!”

Swillie ran to the window and saw what she could not believe, people running down the street, newspapers being used as shields from the white ash plume making its way up Broadway.

“My dog!” said the stranger, “I’ve got to get to my dog!”

As the white ash was making its way closer and closer to the restaurant, Swillie said to him as the man was making his way out the door and into the chaos, “I don’t even know your name!”

“I’m sorry! I’ve got to get back to my dog! I’ve got to get into my apartment! It’s right on Pine Street!”

People were running in the street, business people, people in shorts, people in suits, people in hats, in sneakers, in sandals, in sunglasses. Cabs were rushing up and the sirens of fire trucks and police were rushing down. “What’s your name?!” yelled Swillie.

And with a split of time before heading out, he yelled back, “Miles! My name is Miles!”

And he was gone.

Stankos yelled to his brother, “Domitri! Shut off all power! Put on security mode! Now! Hurry!” Stankos yelled to the patrons, “You can stay here or go! I’m giving you two minutes to either stay or leave the building!” Some people hurried out – home was where to be, with loved ones, but some people stayed behind, choosing to watch the chaos from behind security bars instead.

Swillie looked to the tray where Stankos had left her check and unwrapped the token candy. She rolled the dark chocolate and mint, sucking in the bitter sweetness to her mouth, sitting in silence, preparing herself.

The End

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Grand Slam Pam II

28 Aug

Grand Slam Pam II

“Are you okay?”

A simple question like this doesn’t always yield a simple, sweet answer.  Jo was afraid of asking this of Pam. She didn’t want to hear bad news coming so early, she didn’t want to know if Pam’s life had turned upside down. Jo had recently left a sour relationship herself having simply walked away. There was no drama, no unkind words; in fact when Jo left her lover of only 6 months, the morning she left, she washed their bedding, cleaned the kitchen, packed up all her things, arranged the furniture the way it was, and left a note on the kitchen table,

 This isn’t working anymore. I gave it a try, it didn’t work out. Be safe, be happy.   Thank you for coming into my life for a while. I will miss the kids.



When Jo left she didn’t know where to go, but she left and drove 100 miles south, away from her lover. After she landed she never called the girl and decided to lose complete contact.

Not today, not now with Pam, not with most lesbians. Lesbians love drama, it’s their whole life. They don’t know the rules of breaking up, they haven’t a clue. They become spiteful, aggressive, and petty. They carry a grudge for months on end, maybe years. This was Jo’s thinking when she asked Pam again,

“Are you okay?”

Pam wasn’t okay, in fact, things were worse than Jo expected.

“I had a huge fight with Kasey, she allowed her dog to go after my dog – my little dog, my Shih tzu, he’s 12 years old, and he’s blind, for goodness sake! How could she not stop him?”

Jo was in the kitchen, barely awake,  making coffee. She loved a first cup in the morning.  The clock on the microwave said 8:30, that meant Pam’s time was 5:30.

“What are you doing up so early?” Jo asked.

“I told you. The roti attacked my dog.”

Jo, always one to draw lines right to the point, “Is he dead?”

“Well, no, he’s not, but that’s not the point…”

Pam was reticent to pick up until she felt indulged enough by Jo’s sometimes tart tongue. But Pam knew, too, that Jo was a fair listener, an empathetic ear.

“I am bringing him to the vet today, and Kasey won’t even come with me. Plus, she wouldn’t even recommend a vet!”

Being from different coasts was a disadvantage in more than one way: the thought process of these two women was wildly different. While Pam, always polite, trying to see all sides, had a very balanced tone where excitement and anger sounded the same, so Jo couldn’t tell if Pam was upset or not, and this underpinning of lady-like decorum infuriated Jo’s sense of urgency like a school bell.

“Pam, I don’t understand: what happened? Your dog got attacked by Kasey’s dog and – the dog isn’t dead?”

Pam knew she had touched on Jo’s short patience, “Jo, that’s correct. The dog was attacked-”

“How?” snapped, Jo.

“Well, the dog is blind; he’s 12 years old-”

“Yes, you said that. I heard that. How was your dog attacked?”

“My dog bumped into Kasey’s dog while she was eating and I…I…guess the dog thought my dog was going after his food…I don’t know…but I think my dog broke its jaw.”

“Jesus, Pam! Are you fucking kidding me?”

“I am not kidding you. I wish I were.”

“So what are you gonna’ do?”

“I’m looking for a vet, I found a vet. Kasey didn’t. She didn’t help me at all.”

Pam sighed a heavy breath and then began to cry, “She…refuses to help…I don’t know why…my poor dog…he’s so small, he can’t see…he didn’t want his food…he probably was going into the kitchen for his water…”

Pam’s crying quieted Jo as it always does when a woman cries because crying goes to the core of Jo’s soft spot. Jo let Pam cry, and when Pam was ready, Jo would offer good, fighting advice for Pam.

“Hold on, I need to get a tissue.”

When Pam got back on the line, she said to Jo, “I’m so sorry to call you so early. I just didn’t know what to do-”

“Pam, you call the vet and get an appointment right away. Fuck Kasey. Get your dog to the vet. You can’t worry about Kasey’s feelings or her dog or anything else. You have to get your dog to the vet. Make an emergency appointment right now. Okay?”

“Yes, well, I found a couple of vets, it’s just that it’s so early here-”

“That’s why it’s an emergency, Pam. Your dog is probably in pain. Get him to the vet. He needs to get to a vet. ”

“All right, Jo, I will. I’ll let you know. I feel so bad for him, he’s so afraid of being here…he’s so new to the place. He was just trying to find his way around here.”

Jo had been difficult with Pam and she knew why: she was confounded by women who get serious so fast, putting stock in people they barely know.


Pam’s dog would be okay, but he’d never be the same. This attack was just the first of things that would go undone for Pam.

During the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Kasey’s mother died and this upset her so much she took it out on Pam. She cursed Pam, violating her by verbally abusing her, saying mean and hurtful things to cause Pam to hideaway in her room (Pam and Kasey were no longer sleeping together). Pam would go to her room to cry and wonder how was it that her life became so upset and so unsatisfied. When she tried to comfort Kasey, sensitive to the loss of Kasey’s mother, she pushed Pam away, blaming their relationship for taking her away from her mother, that if she hadn’t gotten involved with Pam, she could have concentrated on the seriousness of her mother’s illness.

Pam and Jo spoke regularly during this time and Jo comforted Pam where she could, but it was the week before Valentine’s Day when the news Pam reeled was more than Jo expected.

“Kasey threatened to kill me if I don’t move within two weeks, Jo. She actually threatened to kill me! I’m fearing for my life, Jo!”

There was silence on the phone as Jo sat, shaking her head, looking out to a backyard filled with snow, a twilight evening, a simple Tuesday, nothing out of the ordinary; bird feeders in the distance were empty. Her dog nuzzled her nose to her lap, and Jo looked down and patted her coat.  She had pinned so much hope on Pam’s relationship, hoping that she, too, would one day find the love of her life, like Pam had found. Jo’s mind was filled with sadness.

Pam said, “Jo? You there?”

“Yes, I’m here, Pam.”

“Did you hear what I said? Why are you so quiet? Can you hear me?”

“What are you going to do,” Jo said, exasperated by the news.

A heavy sigh from Pam, “I have to move. I’m going to move while Kasey’s at work and I will. I already called two guys from Craig’s List. They’re coming tomorrow.”

“Wow!” Jo said, in support of her friend, “You’re moving fast!”

“I have to. I’m getting out of here. Kasey is crazy. Her dog is crazy. Look what I did for her? I moved here, left my job, my house – I did everything for her. I wanted to build my life with this woman. She promised me so much! What a fool I was. And you were right…”

Jo wasn’t used to hearing when people necessarily agreed to her opinion because her opinion was usually unpopular. “What did I do?”

Pam started laughing, “Jo, I will rise from this. Like the Phoenix from the ashes. I will rise from this and I will never, ever get myself into this situation ever again. I was so foolish – and I was fooled, but I’ll never let anyone do this to me again.”


By August 2011, Pam had returned to Vancouver and was working part-time at a local animal shelter, she would sometimes foster a dog for adoption.  She had set up a really sweet apartment for her and her cat, (her dog had passed from injuries endured from the attack).  And though many of her furnishings were still in storage, 300 miles away, and she couldn’t afford to get them out just yet, Pam was slowly building a new life.  “You know,” she said, having come from the tarot card reader she had seen before she left to live with Kasey,

“She started the session by telling me that I am shrouded in grief right now. I’ve lost so much over the past year. She told me that all my life I have always been the care giver. She said that I left my home and security because I believed that I had found someone who wanted to take care of me…SO effing true.”

Jo went to a tarot session once and had attended a séance; she often got a little more than intrigued when listening to things supernatural. “Wow! How long was the session?”

“Then she said, “But when you got there, you found out that it wasn’t the truth.” She told me that Kasey wanted me to be the caregiver and that she used me financially. She called her a “shark” and a “predator”.  The session was just over an hour.  It was wonderful.”

“Did she say what the future holds?”

“Well, she said it was really important to get out into the world.  She was pulling cards the whole time she was talking. These weren’t Tarot cards, I’m not really sure what she was using. Anyway, each card she pulled had some incredible connection to whatever we were talking about. As an example, I asked if my little dog passed over quickly to the other side. She reached down and pulled a card and it said “Swiftly.”

“Listen,” she tells Jo, “You are never going to believe where I’m headed to? I’m going with a friend!”

It was good to hear happiness in Pam’s voice. “Where?!” said Jo, happy for her friend.

“Oh, I’ve got to tell you this. First, I want to say ‘thank you’ you helped me so much through this time, Jo.  I have a new life and even though I’m not all there yet, I will be.  A new life, a new beginning and I deserve it, Jo. I deserve it. I rose out of the ashes and I will never let anyone bring me down again. I’ll never believe in an empty promise, and I’ll never believe anyone as quickly as I believed in Kasey. If someone wants to come into my life they will have to prove to me they’re worth it. ”

Jo sat listening, happy for her friend’s news. “You’ve come a full 180, Pam.”

Pam shrieked, “I’m meeting my son and daughter downtown for lunch and then, then, we’re going to pick up my new dog! I found him on a farm out near my mother’s house, he’s 8 weeks old. I’m getting another dog! Isn’t that great news?!”

It was the best news. “What kind of dog?” asked, Jo.

“Don’t you know?! He’s a Shih Tzu and I’m naming him, ready for this? ‘Phoenix’!”

The End

© Terry Rachel, 2011

Grand Slam Pam

18 Aug

Grand Slam Pam

When I met Pam she was working as a mortgage officer with a well-known bank in Vancouver, Washington, a beautiful area in the northwestern territory of the United States where the majestic Columbia River runs along the banks of carefully placed high rises and corporate offices. Nearer to the Columbia Basin, Pam had an office high enough to view the rapidly changing currents of the river. Having an office overlooking the river was something Pam never seemed to take for granted because it came with her planning. When we spoke by phone, usually on her lunch hour, she’d interrupt our conversation with, “Oh, Jo, I can see a great heron from here! He’s beautiful! I think he’s caught a fish!” That’s how good a view it was that Pam could watch blue heron dive for salmon and trout.

Pam had been working for the bank seven years and had come up through the ranks, starting first as a teller and with her sunny good looks and smart, facile tongue, she had a good head for numbers and she went on from one promotion to the next until she became a mortgage officer. Known for her ability to see a job through, and with her connections, she could move paperwork where no one else could. To arrive at this stage in the banking and loan industry was a coup of sorts, and though it may have come with a bit of cunning, her meteoric rise to break the glass ceiling was, nonetheless, a carefully planned move – not an exercise in complacency, but rather a bold move by a bold and confident woman who wasn’t afraid to go after what she wanted.

“This is what a woman has to do,” she told me after her excitement over the blue heron, “I work this hard for my kids, because no one is going to raise them but me.”

Pam had two children, a boy and girl, both in college. The children were self-sufficient and were working part-time jobs to help pay their tuition, but Pam often helped by sending checks to help with incidentals. She seemed to have it together: great job, healthy life attitude, good health, good children, a life that was well-balanced, and she seemed, overall, very happy.  If she did complain the complaint was minimal and she’d quickly move onto the next topic.  A considerate and thoughtful woman, she was mindful of taking up too much of a conversation, stopping to ask, “So, enough about me, tell me girl: what have you been up to?” Underneath that savvy, smart businesswoman exterior was a woman who yearned for a simpler life, one out of the corporate world. “Well, what is it?” I asked her one day, she had just come from a tarot card reading.

“I went into a metaphysical store that has just opened in Vancouver. I heard about her, this woman, there. I was just leaving when a very beautiful woman approached me and took my hands in hers. I didn’t know who she was. She looked into my eyes and said I think you need a reading. I found out she was the psychic I had been hearing about. But she didn’t know I was asking about her.”

“Wow, hmmmn. Amazing.”

“Well, I thought so anyway. She said I don’t belong in corporate America (I knew that about myself).”

“Where do you belong?”

“When I brought up the idea of the pet shelter, she thought I meant just volunteering. The next card she pulled was a card that said “Destiny.” Then she pulled the next card and it was a picture of a half-human, half-lion and it said “Power.”

“Hmmn. so, that’s where you got the idea? You don’t belong in the corporate world?”

“I hate the rat race and the petty competition. I always have. I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something bigger that benefits people. Every time I take a job making good money (working in a corporation) I feel like I’m just doing it for the money…I feel…like a prostitute. But I have never felt that it was my purpose. I have had the idea of a pet shelter for the past couple of years. It was just something I thought I might want to do someday…later.  I’m good at what I do and this is my job for now because I need the money and the benefits. But I need to be working towards my other goal at the same time.”

As fortune would have it, realizing her world was incomplete, on one particularly stressful day, feeling the walls of loneliness closing in, Pam had gotten onto a local dating site where she began an exchange of love letters with a woman from Seattle. She would later tell everyone – including her boss – she had met “the love of her life” and that it was time for a change. Soon after that, everything that Pam built for herself, everything she had worked for, was pushed aside in order for Kasey to place first in Pam’s life.


Kasey Fairfeather was a tribeswoman, seated on the counsel of tribesmen in the Suquamish tribe of the Pacific Northwest. This tribe also approves of same-sex marriage, and so when Pam told me how high an honor it was for Kasey to be on the counsel, I was surprised, having little knowledge about tribal customs. In addition to this rank and privilege, Kasey held an RN degree from the University of Washington, and had a nice home twenty minutes from where she worked as a second-shift nurse at Northwest Hospital and Medical Center.

Pam became quickly involved with Kasey and in February of 2010 began to unravel her life – she had left her Vancouver home – doing a short sale to unload it as quickly as possible, she left her Vancouver job at the bank (and the view), and told her children she was moving to Seattle. By June of 2010, Pam and Kasey, only knowing each other four months, were living together in Kasey’s home in Seattle. Pam and I spoke infrequently during this time, and I let it be, giving her the latitude to develop her relationship, I figured she’d call when she could.

In July, she called wishing me a happy birthday and during that exchange she told me how happy she was with Kasey, how leaving her job and moving and being free of her home in Vancouver was the, “absolute best decision” she had made. I was surprised and saddened, leery of the situation happening so quickly and said, “You don’t even know her that long, Pam.”

“Jo, but I do! We are like glove-in-hand, it’s a fit. We know each other instinctively. She is the one I’ve been searching for all my life.”

They say that good news sleeps late and bad news calls early, so when the phone rang early the day after Thanksgiving, I knew it couldn’t be good.  “Hello?” I answered cautiously. I picked up to hear Pam’s sobbing voice into the phone.

To be continued.

© Terry Rachel, 2011

The Little Black “Dress” Secret

12 Aug

Don’t ask me how it came to be that my paternal grandfather married a woman who was half-black, but after several inquiries I found out the truth an hour before leaving her door.


My grandmother was a polished gal in spite of the meager wages she earned as a seamstress, later working in Hell’s Kitchen in the twenties and thirties, she arrived in Ellis Island at twenty-one as a freshly married couple to grandpa. They both spoke “broken English” when the newly-wedded, Viola and Vincente Battaglia arrived, savings in hand of $290.15 in 1910 would be roughly $6,400 dollars by today’s standards. Not a bad start, not a whole lot of money, but a start. And they both had a trade: she worked with fabric, sewing clothing, a hemline so perfect, she was appointed head seamstress when they found her work so right in every way; grandpa worked with leather, cutting shoes, gloves, briefcases, sewn together, stitched right and right in a row, and right in a row came two boys: one in 1914, my uncle Frank, and the other, in 1915, my father, Victor.

By now you know the story about the immigrants. They brought their trades. The Irish, German, the Jews, Italians, Poles and so many others, brought their cultural jewels to America, where they worked with their crafts to help build rails, tunnels, bridges – New York’s subways – the factories that pumped smoke to build steel and textiles, and the Erie Canal built to transport goods along the Hudson artery, and so forth. You know the story, it was taught to us at an early age. This is a part of our culture and history. But there’s another part of history that wasn’t taught in grade school: that is Sicily, being geographically close to Tunisia in northern Africa where the Atlantic slave trade in the 1800′s was alive and well, where slaves were shipped through the island of Sicily through the port cities of Agrigento, Marsala and Trapani – this last one being where my great-grandmother was born – were Italian girls who were cohabitating with the guys who were a little darker than them – a little miscegenation, brought my great-grandmother into a bit of a dilemma, pregnant now at 16 with her first child, would turn out to be Viola, my grandmother who was born in 1894.

The official end of slavery came in 1863, but like our current law-breaking, running drugs, for example, my suspicion leads me to think that despite the Emancipation Proclamation, the Atlantic slave trade was still going on several years later.


I was always closer to my father’s mother. She taught me how to write a letter, how to hold a fork, “switch hands when cutting your food,” how to set a table, “use the good linen for company,” how to hail a cab. “if you’re going uptown you wait on the uptown side,”  and when I was young,  showing off my piss and vinegar telling her, “fuck, grandma, leave me alone,” that came out expectantly, she put me right back in line, by getting up and throwing off her apron, taking me by the ear and into the bathroom where she washed out her dainties, pushing a large bar of soap – washing soap – the kind that you used a scrub-board on, shoving it down my mouth until bubbles starting forming.  I never cursed at her again and, in some way, every time I curse now, I think of grandma, always afraid she’s going to come out of the kitchen, stampeding my way.

She died in 1983 in between the death of my parents (1981 and 1984) and I went to see her at the nursing home.

“Grandma, I got a question for you.”

“Are you studying in school? I want you to stay in school,” she waved her fan; it was a hot July afternoon. “Where’s my ginger ale?”

I hand her her soda, “Do you want some ice?”

“That would be nice.”

I step into the hall, green like a mint sprig, I see white gowns, stretchers, the smell of urine sickens me and makes me tighten my lips, “Excuse me,” I say to a white dress, she’s pertinent, as if she knows the question will have to lead her always to a knowledgeable answer, “Yes?” she snaps and puts me at attention.

“Uhm,” I stagger, not expecting such a quick response, “do …do you know where I can find some ice?”

“I’ll get you some. Who are you seeing?”

“Oh, thank you. My grandmother.”

“Ah, you must be ….you’re Viola’s granddaughter?”

“Yes, yes, I am.”

Her glasses sit at the bridge of her nose, and I notice her white stockings match her white shoes, and I could tell she polishes her shoes. She says, “Very nice. You look like her. I’ll bring some in, hold tight.”

“Thanks, yes,” I say, “it’s a little warm. Her ginger ale is warm.”

Back in the room, “Theresa, put the fan over there and come over here, I want to talk to you.”

In my family they don’t talk with you, they talk to you – and there is a big difference.

“Sit down next to me,” she pats the bed, I obediently sit next to her, in my twenty-seventh year, I’m at the height of my annoying and bombastic self.  ”You miss your father?” she strokes my hair, “I know you do. And your mother is sick, and you know I’m dying-”

“Grandma. Come on, please…you can’t die. They don’t want you in heaven anyway,” I tell her this with a smirk.

“I sure am, you little stinker – you’re just like your father – they’ll make way for me. You’re the one who should be worried.”

“Here’s your ice!” The nurse marches in with precise steps, “Viola! How are you doing today, sweetheart?” She notices grandma’s pillow, “Sit up and let me fluff this for you.”

“Thank you for the ice,” I say, grateful for her timely interruption.

“Oh, it’s no problem. It’s hot out!” She goes to the only window in the room and adjusts the blinds, she sends back a look to grandma, “Is that better?” gauging the level of light so it doesn’t get in the way of grandma’s sensitive eyes.

“Yes, yes, thank you, Rose,” she says to the nurse; they’re on a first-name basis, ‘Hmmn, grandma’s been here only four months, but look how fast you can become familiar.’

“Rose! Take a look at my granddaughter!”

“We met outside,” Rose says.

“Isn’t she a beauty?”

“She looks like you, Viola.” And with this Rose says, “You want the door opened or closed?”

“Leave it open,” says grandma, “They can’t hear in here anyway.”

“Grandma, I have to be going soon, I’m in downstairs metered parking.”

She gets the urgency, “I want to tell you something before I leave and before you go, you ready?”

I crane my cocky head, “What?”

“You’re such a snotty bitch, but I love you. That’s gonna’ get you far -”

“Is that what you want to tell me? What are you talking about, grandma – gawwwwd.” I drone on.

“Theresa, you don’t understand something – but you need to know. Your father is dead – my son, I buried. Your mother is sick. I won’t be there for you… You’re going to have to be strong.”

I roll my eyes, no one has to tell me the pain I’m in, or maybe they do, or maybe I just hide from the pain, but I know she can see it and it angers me. “I got a question for you, something I’ve always been dying to know. Can I ask you a question?”

“What is it?” She looks to me with full, brown eyes, her eyes are soft and soulful, her wide mouth full, she still has all her own teeth, her hair and abundance of white curl. “Ask! What is it?”

“There was some rumor, a long time ago, grandma, and me, I always wanted to know.”

“Theresa, just ask. If I can’t answer I’ll let you know. I didn’t bring you up to be afraid of anything. If you want a favor there’s a 50/50 chance I can do it. If it’s money I don’t have any to give.”

“Grandma, it’s not money. I make my own money.”

“Are you in school? Did you drop out? All right. Never mind, what was it?”

I let out a sigh, and then bleed all over, “Grandma, are you half-black? Are you? Because mommy used to talk about it with daddy and all the aunts on mommy’s side wondered and I used to stick up for you. And then my brothers – all of them – Sal, Victor and even Thomas, they said you were, but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe it because that would make me black, too.”

She knitted her eyebrows and looked at me curiously, “Come here,” and she opened up her arms, where I went immediately to rest my head on her bosom, she smelled so good. As she rocked me, she said, “I am half-black, but it was a relation my young mother had so long ago. And I was ridiculed for years for it. But I endured the looks and the rumors and the talk….for so, so long. Now I don’t care. I haven’t cared…must be, well, right around 50 years old. I didn’t give a damn what they had to say.”

I wiped my eyes, and blew into a tissue; I bit my bottom lip and asked, “Did you ever tell anyone?”

She grabbed me again, this time grabbing only my cheek, taking the tissue out of my hand, she wiped my eyes, and brushed back my hair, “I would tell anyone if they asked, but they never asked!”

“Then why did you tell me?”

She didn’t hesitate, “Because you asked! You’re a little snotty bitch, and that’s gonna’ take you far.”

“I don’t know what you mean, grandma. I really don’t.”

It was time to go, I kissed grandma softly on the head and put her ginger ale near her nightstand, she said, “it wasn’t a secret, it was just never spoken about it. But you…you….I knew one day you were going to ask me.”

I smiled at her, “I have to go, grandma. I love you.”

She kissed me on the cheek, “I love you. And remember -”  I was standing in between the hallway and her room, when she called out the last words she ever spoke to me,  as if my brother Thomas the hairdresser could hear,“when I die, remember! I want Thomas to do my hair!”

I rolled my eyes at her and ran down the hall, not waiting for the elevator, I took the steps, taking them two at a time, I ran out the building and looked up to my grandma’s window, seeing the flowers I had given her were moved to the window ledge.

© of Terry Rachel, 2011

Who Are You Anyway?

6 Aug

Who Are You Anyway?

She chooses quotes for her Facebook page of Ralph Waldo Emerson, George Washington, Buddha, Dalai Lama, Kahlil Gibran and  (Rumi –  born so long ago – 8th Century – in a country that no longer exists – Persia), to realize worthwhile things, to understand the world, to feel connected, to appear tolerant.


Michele Bangelo walks to her car, she is unhappy, fighting back tears. Her lover didn’t show up at Starbucks at the mall.  Though Michele’s lover, Babe Dye, has a good reason for not showing, Michele, will not want to hear “another excuse.” Babe will get stuck at school, where she works as a jobs coach for developmentally challenged teens trying to land their first jobs, and Babe had a trying time with a particularly difficult kid that afternoon when she was to meet Michele.

But as she’s been hung up before by Babe, Michele will act out the way she was taught by her mother: she will not pick up the phone to call Babe. She will be spiteful and stay silent, punishing Babe by ignoring her in every possible way. And when she’s good and ready, and when Babe gets sorry enough, only then will Michele let her back in.  This, of course, leaves Michele with the upper hand, just like she was taught, just as she had witnessed how her mother would treat her when she was out of line, or when she didn’t do something her mother liked, and in this presence of mind, she will carry out how she will conduct all her past, present, and future relationships.


Wendy Van Glow is recently broken up from Maria Losintres. Maria didn’t want to break up with Wendy, and the first year of their involvement was amazing: they did everything together, they were inseparable. This was it:  they would define their relationship as “soulmates.” But something happened the second year, something unexpected, and Maria Losintres began to see Wendy in a different light.

Wendy had resented Maria because she viewed Maria’s life in comparison to her own, and she realized what a loser she was after all. Maria had had surpassed her educationally, graduating with a Masters degree in Physical Therapy and within two years of graduation, opened up her own practice where she would build her staff to 18 others with a very large clientele. Maria was enormously successful, but it didn’t hamper the very sound lessons she learned early on.

Maria was just like her father: soft-spoken, a resilient man who took the verbal abuse from his wife. Whenever a fight ensued between Maria’s father and Maria’s mother, Maria hid in her room, feeling despair for her father who she loved most, she would put her hands to her ears to cover the hurtful words her mother slung like arrows over innocuous situations.  “Idiot! You forgot the toaster was on!!”  “Moron! I told you to paint the trim first!!” and “Jerk! flush the toilet!”

So Maria found Wendy on Match dot com, a divorced mother of three, who now wanted to explore her lesbian side and come out at forty-two.  It worked that first year, but the second year Wendy began to lose patience with Maria’s steady-as-you-go demeanor. Whereas Wendy, a little bit on the wild side, and a lover of a good happy hour, was inclined to ditch the kids, and head out for drinks early, calling Maria while Maria was still at work, sometimes interrupting Maria’s client’s physical therapy sessions, would enjoy unraveling Maria bit by bit.

And so the second year Wendy showed Maria just how it had to be: “You’re a fool to think that way,” she told Maria when Maria said, “I’m not buying a house with you yet until you behave.” And with this sound logic Wendy became worse with the sourness she felt down inside of her, “Fuck you, Maria, who the fuck do you think you are? You don’t tell me what to do, bitch, I do what I want. I don’t need you, and my kids don’t need you. With your cars, and your fancy practice. Fuck you. You have nothing over me.”

And Maria, so hurt, so hung by the delivery of these words, says humbly, “I love you, I give you so much. I give to your children, I give to you. Everything you ask for, I buy. I pay the bills here, and I give you money. All I am saying is please: don’t call the office several times a day to bother me at work.”

Wendy doesn’t see Maria’s  earnestness, “Oh, Maria, you know what? You told me when we got involved you would be there for me. Everything was going to be perfect. So excuse me. Excuse me that I call my girlfriend. Excuse fucking me.”

“You call when you’re drunk, Wendy. That’s when you call. You call to ask me for more money so you can drink. And when you drink you become like this.”

Their relationship will last another five months, through Christmas, ending right before Valentine’s Day.


Jeremy Leary has been with his partner, Rocky Lee, for nearly fourteen years. In September, they will head to New York to be married. Jeremy is a tall, slender man  in his thirties, while Rocky, ten years older, is almost better looking than Jeremy, with his square jaw, perfect hair, the color of wheat, and his eyes that shine brilliantly blue when he’s engaged in conversation, Jeremy is wrapped in his partner’s charm, and Rocky knows just how to play him, teasing Jeremy when he stands, Rocky pushes his ass  into Jeremy’s crotch.

Today is a good day to Rocky’s way of thinking, a perfect excuse with friends coming by, Jeremy will not say a word to Rocky about his drinking, heaven-sent,  so  Rocky can drink to his heart’s content without  a complaint from Jeremy.

They often argue about money, “Why can’t you just cut back to once a week,” Jeremy pleads to Rocky, “if you just kept it to Saturdays, I wouldn’t care. But you drink every night, Rocky, and it’s costing us a fortune.”

Rocky shrugs  off these accusations.  It’s his money, he works, too. After all, a man should have some vices, and Rocky works longs hours to indulge his vices of cigarettes and six-packs every night. “That adds up. Rocky,” Jeremy continues with the nudge, hoping to make Rocky see the damage he’s doing to his body, while at the same time calculating the numbers, “It’s nearly four-hundred dollars, four-hundred!  A month! That’s how much you spend in cigarettes and beer. With that money saved every month we could go to Hawaii. You like Hawaii. Think about it, Rocky.”

“Well, I’ll just drink in Hawaii, too. Jeremy, please.”

They dance around the real issue:  While all his friends and family can see it, Rocky and Jeremy never talk about Rocky’s drinking problem.

Jeremy was visited by his friend Areena, a Russian-speaking woman who befriended Jeremy at work.  When Areena asked, “Hey, why so blue?” he didn’t hesitate with his admission, “I think Rocky is an alcoholic.”

The reasoning of these words isn’t easily spoken about.  So instead Jeremy flirts around the issue of money, hoping Rocky will see his trouble as an alcoholic. They will go through the seasons together, probably like this for a lifetime. Jeremy stays with an alcoholic, enabling his disease, and Rocky knows that if he ever does go straight, finding some way to admit he is an alcoholic, Jeremy will leave him


At the start of our lives, as we go out into the  world, we are given a toolbox where we learn how to say “Please” and “Thank you.” We learn to share, we learn to kiss a boo-boo, and we learn about friendship and love. But when the positive enforcement is mixed with the negative enforcement that’s where our thoughts become muddled. With the forces of good versus bad,  we yearn  for the once sweet memories to bring us back but  we don’t know how to get back to them.  Instead we get nuggets of happiness here and there.  We go to social media, relying on friends and family to build us up, to connect to us. We post quotes of happiness , integrity, and sincerity, desperately trying to reach inside of ourselves to find the happiness that is our birthright.

Instead, like Jeremy and Rocky, and Wendy and Maria, and Babe and Michele, we become comfortable in negative behavior, suffering the consequences, we settle, either directly or indirectly, into endlessly hurtful patterns of behavior, infusing our relationships with the fucked up shit taught to us by our parents. Dump their value systems.

Socrates once wrote a profound message that he hoped would cure one of all negative emotions, it has two words:  Know Thyself.  I should know, I’m the character of Michele Bangelo.

© Terry Rachel, 2011