I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to Beyonce and Jay-Z for opening up their personal marital struggles to the world. So often we look at celebrities and we only see the money and the beauty without the struggles the rest of us seem to face. They are breaking down those barriers by talking about stuff that is, well frankly, freaking embarrassing as hell. Being cheated on. Breaking vows. Giving in to baser desires and hurting your loved ones. This is deep stuff we are all looking at here with the release of Jay-Z’s 4:44. Continue reading
I will hold you, quietly. I can be still long enough to listen to your pain. I’m not good at being still. You know this. You know. I think that’s why my embracing still moments mean so much to you … because you know.
I had an epiphany about myself yesterday. A realization. And it was such a simple answer, I was certain I must have realized it some time in the past. I thought about the times I’d been embraced by somebody, only for them to get close long enough to see my utter humaneness, and then walk away. I thought this meant I was bad at love. Now I realize it’s more about the ideal of me not matching up with the reality of me. And you never did that to me. You always understood. It’s amazing to be truly seen that way.
The essence of it all? You understand why the things that matter to me–matter to me. You also understand that I am an embodiment of celebration. Even my quietness can be a spectacle. I think that comes off like obsession, or possessiveness, to some people. And in all truth, I was possessive in my first marriage. I was jealous in that life I once led. I was a teenager when we met. And that was a difficult twenty years. I grew in that time, particularly starting around my early thirties. I know the difference between excitement and jealousy, between celebration and possession. I know it for myself, even if others don’t. And you know, maybe that’s why I can appreciate the abundant trust I am now the recipient of, because I know how rare it is.
I’m trying to get over that fear of being misunderstood. You really help with that, did you know? Because even though I’ve read that Anaïs Nin quote a million times, it really sunk in yesterday. It isn’t that my love is wrong, it’s that my love is viewed through the filter of others. It’s about the way they experience my love that makes it work, or not work. Its about their past relationships and what they learned.
Maybe at some point I can stop writing and vlogging about being afraid to be misunderstood, and that will be the measure of when I am cured of that concern.
“They had apples. Honeycrisp. Some other kind, too…I forget what–well, they’re all new apples.”
I smiled. “Thanks.” It was the closest I would get to the market that day. I love choosing my fruit and veggies from the farmers who grew them. The dried mud on a mound of small potatoes, flaking off around the little crate that contained them. The weight of a fat tomato in my hand. The smell of a bundle of herbs. Feeling like a Duchess as I peer at each package, choosing which would serve me best. But I wasn’t feeling my best that day, so he went alone. He delivered, though–Honeycrisp is my favorite. Pink Lady, second.
“I got some peaches, too.”
“Ohhhh.” I tiptoed to the kitchen to peer inside the bag. There they were, three perfect peaches.
I selected my favorite, though they all looked lovely. I turned around and let water run over it, washing the fuzzy skin gently. I gave her a little rub with the dishtowel on the counter, to dry her off. I put the fruit to my nose and inhaled, to my satisfaction it was delightfully fragrant. I bit into the fruit, grabbing a paper towel to catch the juices. Sweet, wet, divine–the last taste of summer.
“This peach is perfect. Come have a bite.”
He poked his head into the hallway, peering at me standing near the sink. Eyebrows up, “Well, alright.”
I watched him take the four paces to me. His light brown hair in want of a trim. His green tee making his eyes more green than ever. His eyes are magic that way, pulling green, light brown, or hazel–depending on the shirt.
I held the peach up, about breast high. He stood in front of me for a beat and looked at the peach, put both of his hands around my hand, cupping it from beneath and raised the peach to his mouth. He looked me in the eye as he bit into the flesh, I was transfixed. Any words that had begun their journey to my mouth were halted in their tracks as I watched him take another bite, his eyes locked with mine. Juice running down our hands. I forgot the paper towel in my other hand. I forgot that I could look away, if I wanted to.
He released my hand, smiled and chewed, still looking me in the eyes. I felt a chain of electrical tingles run down my spine, then back up again. He made a sound that indicated the peach was, indeed, as perfect as reported. He then turned and walked back into the bedroom to sort books, and fold laundry. I enjoyed watching the back of him as he went. I stared at the space where he stood as I finished the peach in four bites, then made my way to the bedroom as well.
I don’t know if I would undo it if I could. Your shirts are here. And your toothbrush with the fancy nubby side. I actually folded socks today (not my specialty). They weren’t mine. That’s how you know I care.
When you lift your head and put your feet on the cold hard floor, I swoop in and grab your favorite pillow, hook my arm around it and pull it in tight. I watch your naked back bend forward, the valley of your spine is perfect and I reach out and run a finger down.
You wipe the sleep and look over your shoulder, peeking through a mop of messy hair.
“I wish you didn’t have to go.”
It doesn’t matter who said which, because we trade off these sentences, depending on what day it is.
I don’t know what force on this earth got to decide what love is or how it manifests, but I know what it is for me. Love is in the Don McLean song that crackles out the same line every morning, “The auctioneer saaaaaaaaid, I’m not through yet…” from your alarm clock. Love is around the edges of your iris, where light brown gives way to hazel. Love is in scrambled eggs and toast next to the window, on a single plate with two forks.
“I like ketchup on mine, do you?”
And now, even after what happened, we’re still here and maybe a little less sorry about it than the two years that followed, because love can also be an opportunity to choose somebody every day. We keep making that choice. I can’t undo it, so I will take solace in this.
I miss waiting for “The Wizard of Oz” to come on once or twice a year. I miss the lead up to the end of the school year and the phenomenon of the summer blockbuster. I miss not understanding about bills and politics. I miss jump-rope and jacks and creeks with smooth stones. I miss that first kiss feeling, when you weren’t even sure how kissing worked. I miss grape soda and skinned knees, tire swings and climbing trees. I miss swimming all day for weeks in a row. I miss the coolness of a desert night, sitting in a concrete pipe with a friend talking about everything, after the rest of the neighborhood had gone to sleep.
The tenderness that comes from the mercies we grant, and the pain we bear, and the wounds we salve, will make us more bonded for the trouble.
There was a reading of Red August at Scarborough Fair Bed & Breakfast in Baltimore this past Saturday. Actors Erica Smith and Will Hardy read excerpts from the book and we enjoyed warm cider with a tiny audience.
This particular excerpt is one of about four I will post.
The excerpts I chose include those where August and Faolan have interaction. I came to realize that the excerpts may give the impression that the book is straight romance, but it’s a fairy tale adaption of Red Riding Hood set in 1980s small town Maryland.
Find out where to buy Red August by visiting HLBrooks.com.
This is an excerpt from the book Red August, by H.L. Brooks – read by actors Erica Smith and Will Hardy. It is available at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Nobel and iBooks, among other places. Links can be found at http://www.hlbrooks.com
In this scene Red and her handsome neighbor meet for the first time. She is new to town. She’s had a rough several months, including having been assaulted by somebody, which she is trying to heal from. On this night she watches something kind of naughty on TV and falls asleep and wakes up restless in the middle of the night, so goes for a walk along her property.
This reading took place at Scarborough Fair Bed & Breakfast in Baltimore, Maryland.
*This is an abridged version meant to be read out loud.
What if you found out that you were descended from a long line of clandestine fighters, and that your family was still at war? Or that the love of your life was something other than human? August Archer thinks she’s a normal teenage girl—even though she has been having disturbing and erotic dreams about wolves lately. Still grieving over the loss of her bookish, charming father, and wondering over his final gift of a red hooded cloak, August is uprooted from her New York City apartment to a tiny town in Maryland, and the rambling Victorian house where he grew up. There she meets a wise woman with a gift for herbal medicine, the gentle old man who keeps the house in repair and the grounds thriving, and her new neighbor: an enigmatic, irresistibly fascinating man who refuses to talk to her, yet who seems to know her better than she knows herself, and fuels her most intense romantic fantasies. But it’s when August begins to coax her feisty Scottish grandmother out of her self-imposed catatonia that a strange tale of werewolves and hunters emerges—one in which the man of her dreams may be her family’s oldest enemy—in this modern-day telling of the Red Riding Hood story.
“Grab a fan, because the teen hormones are raging, in full, intimate detail! Red August by H.L. Brooks is not your childhood fairytale come to life, but rather a contemporary version starring an older Red, caught between womanhood and childhood. Filled with wonderfully quirky and kind secondary characters, a feisty grandmother, an ancient feud, death, misunderstandings and a cameo appearance by the Woodsman, H.L. Brooks has taken May-December romances to an entirely new level…”
“I absolutely loved this book and the characters! I immediately fell in love with August she is such a smart young lady, takes crap from no one and is a very relatable character; Oh, and Faolan, gosh that man is complete perfection such a gentleman and he loves to read, he is very swoon worthy. The side characters also have a place in my heart; the way H.L. Brooks wrote them just makes them so lovable.”
Went on a late night drive with Will. He was restless and happy when he came home from rehearsal. Hair mussed up from his moon roof, chilled-neck hug and then a pat on my backside. “Let’s go on a drive,” he said. “I want to take you out somewhere. I don’t know if anything is open, but the night is amazing and I want to take you out. Maybe we can just drive and find a little place. Soft-serve maybe. Maybe pie.”
I said I didn’t think we’d find any soft-serve, but maybe we could find a diner and some pie. “Yes, let’s go. I’d love to take a ride with you.”
Cool and humid night air. Windows down. Talking about stuff we did when we were kids and why we’re always trying to capture that wonder you feel when you discovered something new. The roads were empty and nothing was open. Missed the I-Hop by ten minutes. We’d pass clumps of trees filled with singing insects, then buildings covered in windows, lights on, but no life inside. End of the world, but not. Empty parking lots. Parts of Route 1 smooth as butter all black and shiny, other parts pocked and shaking the car. We were holding hands and saying I love you, too many times (if there is a such thing, when you mean it, and we did).
Hardly anybody was driving like a jerk and mostly we had the road. It reminded me of being on the road with my family – military, back and forth – California then Virginia, then California, then Virginia, then Texas and Virginia again. Many hours on the road, watching the streetlights go by. There was no portable DVD player, just the games my mom and dad made up. Dad would say, “Hey, there’s a rub-broka,” and we were supposed to figure out what it meant. Mom would toss out “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” questions and my sister and I would play “Paddidle.” When games grew old it turned to sisters annoying each other.
“Mom, she’s touching me!”
“Stop touching your sister!”
“Mom she’s not on her side!”
“Stay on your side!”
Stopping at I-Hops and Shoney’s and Denny’s on whatever route my dad decided for this trip. There’s something exciting about eating in a nearly empty diner after midnight. That’s still true for me. A middle-of-night visit to Silver Diner excites some part of me that’s still wild and still seven. You’re not supposed to eat in the middle of the night. You’re not supposed to especially eat in the middle of the night at a restaurant. Always – silver dollar pancakes and “dippy eggs” – usually with milk, or hot chocolate (with whipped cream) if I could convince my parents. There is something decadent about a spherical scoop of whipped butter that spreads neatly over the hotcakes. Mom would eye my syrup portion – I always overdid it, even for a runty beanpole of a kid, she didn’t like my sugar addiction. Grape Nehi, grape-jelly donuts (powdered please), grape Now & Laters, grape Pixie Sticks, grape Tootsie Pops. I might have had a thing about grape. I ate a lot and burned it hard and fast, running, climbing, skating, swinging, flipping, jumping – nonstop.
Will and I talked about camping and fishing and he kept laughing and telling me how cute I am, and I held it. He told me his family went on a lot of camping trips and I tried to count mine. Not a lot, but enough, I thought. And for some reason paddle-boats were amazing to me.
He’d rub my thigh with his palm. We’d talk about the empty buildings. The lights.
“Does that one look open?”
“I think it closes at midnight.”
“Phone says there’s a Tastee Diner nearby that’s 24 hours.”
“That one’s dinky and really a greasy spoon, you sure you wanna try it?” He knows more about these things than I do. He knows these roads. He knows what everything used to be.
“Maybe not. I’m fine just driving. Sorry we can’t find any pie for ya.” He loves pie.
“It’s ok, I’m fine, too.”
We listened to a podcast we recorded together that had just been posted. We got home before it was over and we sat in the car, windows down, leaning into each other, listening to us telling the story of how we met.
Now we’re both back in the house, distracted by pixels and electronic machines. But I’m going to end this now and go climb into bed with the love of my life.