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Cafe Everyday: Day 110 [17 Sep 2007|09:12am]
[ mood | amused ]

Biscuits and gravy. Fried potatoes with ketchup and Tabasco. Dark rye toast with lots of butter. Two scrambled eggs. Water and coffee.

I had two nickels today today, and I listened to “Girl Watcher” twice.

(c) 2007 Jamie S. Rich

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Cafe Everyday: Day 109 [16 Sep 2007|10:26am]
[ mood | mellow ]

Corn-beef hash and scrambled eggs with white toast, buttered. Mimosas.

Yes, I skipped the coffee.

I am not sure what I was expecting. I brought my book to read, but I also kept an eye out just in case Traci was dropping in. Really, though, why should she? I mean, would you? I know I certainly wouldn’t.

The funny thing is, here I am, backing myself into the painted corner of another Sunday, and with the full knowledge that I did it to myself. Like Scrooge McDuck dying alone with his treasure.

Or do I mean Charles Foster Kane?

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Cafe Everyday: Day 108 [15 Sep 2007|11:47am]
[ mood | mean ]

Mexican scramble with chorizo and potatoes. Lots of Tobasco. Mimosas, biscuits, coffee.

Saturday I would have expected to be a dead day. Take the weekends off like a regular Joe Lunchpail, because Traci's morning treks would be in similar suspension.

"There you go thinking again," my stepfather would say, "and screwing everything up."

I was halfway through my meal when Traci slid into the booth next to me.

"That looks like a heartburn risk right there," she said.

I wish I could say my quick-witted response actually came quick, but I had to wipe my mouth, gather my thoughts.

"Aw, look at you," I said, "already thinking about the state of my heart."

She laughed.

Turns out her last shift of the week is Friday night, all night, and the Saturday crawl home is the final marathon toward relaxation. Which I guess would make me that little table where they have cups of water and Gatorade to spell the runners. I realize, too, that I've neglected to note what she does for a living. She's a security guard in a cardboard warehouse. Or, not cardboard per se, not just big piles of it, but boxes and shipping materials and things. The day shifts, she sits at a gate and lets people come in, puts them on a list. At night, she roams the dusty building, hoping that sound of movement she hears off in a back shadow is just more rats and not some burglar looking for one big cardboard score.

"Is that really a concern?"

"Of course! The cardboard black market is fierce and lucrative."

Senses of humor are such polarizing things, and there are so many varieties, there's a comfort in finding someone who can laugh at your jokes and who makes you laugh. I have dated girls who have found my humor too outrageous and were always offended by things I said in jest, and that kind of relationship never works. No matter how delicately I walk on those egg shells, they are too easy to break around that sensitive of a person. I am never myself and always in trouble.

Traci and I joked and shared more stories, and before I knew it an hour and more had passed. The sun was peeking ever so briefly through the overcast sky, and Traci took a deep breath and said, "Shall we?"

I paid the bill at the counter and met her outside. The day was wide open in front of us. She was looking at me--expectantly, I think. I might have been projecting, though, might have been casting her in the light I feared she might be in.

"Well, I'll be here all week," I said finally. "Stop by again, okay?"

She was still standing there on the sidewalk as I walked away.

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Cafe Everyday: Day 107 [14 Sep 2007|09:54am]
[ mood | contemplative ]

A cinnamon bun. Coffee.

Listen, I know what you’re thinking. “Here we go again, Lance dropping down the rabbit hole of romance.”

No, mate, sorry. I’m on top of this one. You don’t know. I’m not going to fall in love. I’ve had a lot of practice not falling in love these days. There is no bitter irony coming where all of my protests crumble in a heap of gushy poetry and emotion. I meant it when I told you that squishy stuff had been banished and I’m sticking to that. Despite my melancholy epigraph at the outset of yesterday, I am not letting my heart out of the penalty box.

Just to prove I’m being honest, I will admit that I felt a little deflated when she didn’t show up today. It’s Friday and all, it would have been a nice way to start the weekend. It’s just natural I might have an “aw, shucks” moment.

Such nonsense was quickly stamped down. I knew Traci was playing a strategy. This was her move. After all, she had told me why she hadn’t stopped the first day, and then warned me she might not be back. I even had half a mind not to show up here myself, to maybe camp out across the street for the duration until she showed up again looking for me.

I decided against it. That wouldn’t be in keeping with my strategy.

What Traci sees is what she gets.

Or so we’ll make her think.

The bigger question, though, is now that I have her here, what next? Though I might be content to have a breakfast companion, to meet here regularly, keeping our outside lives separate, more fodder for our sunrise catch-ups, it seemed far-fetched to hope that she might be down for the same. Monotony is my hobby, not hers. And the explanation that the beauty of our relationship would be that nothing would change, that we would never be any more than this and thus never tempted to hurt each other, there was no way to suggest that without sounding like a coward. If you’ve been hurt enough in your time, sure, it’s just common sense; if you’re still naïve enough to think life ever ends well, it’s nonsense.

Trust me, it’s not the kind of thing I like to be proven right on, not for anyone’s sake; but I also don’t want to have to put it to the test and become the reason the non-believer is converted.

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Cafe Everyday: Day 106 [13 Sep 2007|09:22am]
[ mood | curious ]

Biscuits and gravy, biscuits and gravy, biscuits and gravy.

“My past has become a bitter thing to me, and my present is something I never understand until it’s too late.”
This is what I scribbled in my notebook while I sat and waited. I had another backing board at the ready. “HOW ABOUT TODAY?” is all it said. Simple.

Simple, too, was my gambit. I wasn’t going to sit with the sign out, I wasn’t going to signal her, I was just going to be nonchalant, I was going to wait. If she happened to be on the path today, if she was at all intrigued by what had happened yesterday and interested in seeing where it could go, she would look. She wouldn’t necessarily come looking, but if she passed, if the thought struck her…

It’s amazing how on-the-spot I felt when she passed by. The moment I saw her, I got nervous and started sweating. My stomach went hollow and dry. That trick of time was happening, every step she took felt like the duration of ten steps. Would she keep going? Would she slow down? Would she look, much less stop?

Then it happened.

She turned her head. I saw her eyes, saw that mole, she was looking at me. My hands moved on their own, grabbed the card, held it up.

The woman read it. She placed a finger to her lips and tapped it, pantomiming that she was thinking, comically considering my query.

Then she laughed and she came inside.

I stood to greet her. I didn’t extend my hand. That’s proper etiquette, you know. A man shakes a lady’s hand if the lady holds it out, but it’s up to her to initiate, up to her to decide if she is to be touched. Just in case, though, as I rose, I quickly wiped my palm on my pants just to make sure it wasn’t clammy. Good thing, too, because she did put her hand out, and I took it lightly. She understood what was proper, too, and let me do the work. She wasn’t limp, the hand was firm, but once it’s initiated, that handshake is my test to fail.

“I’m Lance,” I said.


“It’s a pleasure to meet you. May I buy you a cup of something?”

She sat down in the seat across from me. The booth suddenly seemed incredibly large. Oh, mistress, why so far away?

“Is the coffee good here?”

“The coffee is excellent here.”

We ordered her a cup of decaf. And we talked.

She opened by asking how I happened to be here every day, I told her a little bit about my life. Most people wonder how a musician can afford a life of leisure such as mine, but she was actually more curious about how I managed to be out of bed so early and so regularly. “Good genes,” I said.

I clarified the spelling of her name, which is how I know it is with an “I,” and I asked her how it is that some days she passes me going in one direction, and some days she passes me going in another.

“Geez, how did you know that? Are you spying on me?”

“Only in a small sense, in that way that once you notice someone, it suddenly seems like you see them all the time. For all I know, you passed me fifty times before I saw you last week, and I had no idea.”

That seemed like a fair enough explanation for Traci, and she told me it was because she worked different shifts, and sometimes I see her going to work and some days I see her going home.

“Which day is today?”

“Going home. That’s why I have time to stop and chat.”

“Then why couldn’t you stop yesterday?”

Traci laughed. “I wasn’t going to give in right away, Lance, I had to make you wait at least a day.”
Fair enough, that.

We talked for nearly forty-five minutes when she finally admitted she was crashing from having been up all night. That’s why she ordered the decaf, because she knew she’d have to head off to sleep--which is what it was time for her to do.

“Another morning, perhaps? I can be here earlier if it works for you when you’re going in the other direction.”

“We’ll see, Lance. Take it as a lesson of learning to live with mystery. Will she or won’t she?”

“The lady or the tiger. Or in this case both.”


“That’s your mystery to live with, Traci.”

Fair is fair.

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Cafe Everyday: Day 105 [12 Sep 2007|09:26am]
[ mood | ecstatic ]

Melted cheese on my potatoes by special request, along with biscuits and gravy, because you can never have enough. Cranberry juice. Plain bagel with peanut butter. Coffee, life’s blood.

I took a sturdy white sheet of comic book backing board (shut up) and wrote on it with a sharpie marker, “HEY, YOU! YES, YOU. STOP FOR A SECOND.” I saw I was running out of room, so the COND in SECOND is kind of squished in order to fit, but it should still be readable from the street.

No reading this morning, barely any writing. I have to keep my eyes out for the prize. The waitress asked me what the sign was for, and I told her it was a joke between a friend that was too long to explain. She gave me a kind of screwed-up face that made me think she was assuming I was just being a jerk and didn’t want to let her in on my fun. I don’t suppose she was entirely wrong.

And I felt like a right jerk when it looked like it wasn’t going to be of any use, when my usual time for sightings had passed and I was getting closer to going home.

Only there she was, walking swiftly by, going in the same direction as I had seen her go on the first day, which made it seem like she would never look my way, it was just wrong because she wasn’t coming toward the way I was facing, I was staring at her back. Panicked, I reached up and pounded a fist on the window. The cook shouted, “Hey, cut that out!” from back in the kitchen, and I turned and shouted back, “All right! All right!”

When I turned back around and looked out the window, it took me a second to focus and actually accept what I was seeing. The woman had stopped. There she was. She was looking quizzically at me, and I held up the sign more affirmatively, to assert its message. “Yes, you!” I said out loud, stretching out the syllables dramatically to make it so a blind person could lip read my words through the glass and over the distance.

She laughed, wagged her finger, tapped her watch with the same finger, and then pointed down the street.

No time. Gotta go.

And so she went.

But whatever. Contact!

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Cafe Everyday: Day 104 [11 Sep 2007|07:47pm]
[ mood | nauseated ]

Too much drinking last night, and so I have a horrible taste in my mouth that won’t go away. I order an omelet with lots of green peppers and spicy jack cheese and put Tabasco on it in hopes that I can remove the raunch from my palette. Orange juice leaves a hairy residue behind, coffee shaves it away.

I was up to no good, so it really serves me right. I was letting a young lady play a tit for tat game with me. She bought a round of drinks, and then I bought a round, and it kept going, largely with me goading it on, ordering more. The conversation was good and I was having fun, but even had I intended to seal any kind of deal at the end of the night, by the time it came to that point, I was too drunk and it wouldn’t have mattered. There was no way I could have been any use to anybody.

It was clear that she was upset when I put my hand on her shoulder and told her good-bye. The look on her face causes me a little regret. I am sure she is wondering today what happened, things seemed to be going so well, why did the guy leave without even exchanging phone numbers? Then again, we were just talking. Conversation was all that was promised, and it was delivered.

Sure enough, though, instant karma. This morning, feeling so wretched, that’s when the girl from the window returns. Today she was walking in the opposite direction as last time. I saw her coming and was able to keep my eye on her as she approached. Light hair, full lips, a mole on her right cheek, blue eyes and heavy lashes. She was wearing a grey sweater with dark stripes.

The girl was on the phone, and she was talking and laughing about something. Her eyes caught mine, and she saw me staring, and she gave me a little wave like she knew me.

Then she was gone again.

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Cafe Everyday: Day 103 [10 Sep 2007|10:17am]
Egg sandwich with ham and cheddar on a garlic bagel, a mimosa, coffee.

Monday mornings are probably my favorite mornings for breakfast. The taste of the food, it’s the taste of something conquered, a sign that I’ve made it.

Even though I don’t have a regular schedule, Sunday nights are pretty rough. It’s not the return to the workday grind, the end of freedom, though when I used to do the 9 to 5, 7 days a week thing, I definitely understood that. Yet, it was also the same back then.

Sunday nights are the longest nights. The darkest nights. The nights when the soul is restless and the heart weary. It’s the culmination of all the things that didn’t happen that weekend, the calls unreturned, the drink-ups you missed, the time spent alone when you suspect you’re the only one. It all hits on Sunday, the feeling that Friday night was wasted and Saturday just passed aimlessly, and that morning when other people were having brunch with either friends they had been wanting to see or with the person they woke up next to that morning, new acquaintance or old, the knowledge that I sat there and ate a child’s breakfast, something I told myself was rock ‘n’ roll like Elvis, but that really only a dumb kid orders and tells himself is okay--that knowledge has the sting of a thousand wasps. And so Sunday night, when a burp comes and it tastes like peanut butter even though I’ve brushed my teeth twice, it’s just clear that the yellow stains of shame are something that will never be polished off.

I watched the window today, expecting maybe I’d see that sight again, see the woman I saw on Friday. Like I waited two days for potato pancakes, I waited two more for this, for the workforce to come back out and the vain idea that maybe she’d be among them.

There was a moment when maybe I caught a glimpse…but I’m not sure.

I sipped my mimosa and silently toasted to the woman I thought I might have seen and toasted to the reset button that is a new week and the six days of illusion where I actually believe it all won’t happen again.

As the song says, “Every day, every day, every day’s the same this way.” Too bad they don’t have the Housemartins in the jukebox.

I kept watching the space I thought she disappeared into after that fateful non-encounter, expecting the bodies to part, and to reveal that they were hiding her all along, but alas…I took a second mimosa instead.
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Cafe Everyday: Day 102 [09 Sep 2007|08:24am]
[ mood | depressed ]

An omelet with peanut butter and bananas. It was on special.

I drank coffee and read from a book about places where men go to hide, either to do things the law says they aren’t supposed to or to get away from the eyes of their women. It comes complete with photos, grainy black-and-white evocations of sin.

For those who think there is some poignancy or irony in this, I want you to note that my café hideaway is brightly lit and fully out in the open. After all, as I’ve indicated, I do sit by the window. Know those facts, and then make of this reading material what you will.

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Cafe Everyday: Day 101 [08 Sep 2007|10:34am]
[ mood | numb ]

More potato pancakes. I know I just had them two days ago, but I couldn’t get the taste off my mind.

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Cafe Everyday: Day 100 [07 Sep 2007|10:31am]
[ mood | curious ]

Two scrambled eggs. White toast with butter and strawberry jam. Hash browns with ketchup and Tabasco. Coffee. Orange juice.

Someone in the mad blur outside my window smiled. For the first time in I don’t know how long, someone smiled.

At first, I even thought she was smiling at me. She was walking past, turned her head in my direction, the grin already parting her lips. I actually started to lift my hand to wave.

Only then she kept turning. She looked back over her shoulder and waved at someone else. Someone behind her, I never saw who. Obviously this person would not come sprinting past as part of the traffic, because if so, she would not be alone, not be left to have to wave and smile and move on.

She waved and smiled and moved on.

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Cafe Everyday: Day 99 [06 Sep 2007|10:02am]
[ mood | bored ]

Potato pancakes with apple sauce and sour cream. Coffee. Water.

One interesting thing about sitting in the booth by the window at rush hour is that my view of the outside has a weird stilling effect on the inside. With everyone out there dashing to get to work or wherever they need to be, the activities on the sidewalk appear to be happening very fast, in real time or maybe even in hyper time, whereas for me I am slowed to a crawl. I hang suspended.

People are so angry, so inconsolable with their lives. They dart past, eyes ahead, face pinched, anxious to get somewhere but totally a wreck about everything else regarding where they are at. I see nothing but hardened jaws and squinting eyes. Only motion.

I scribble notes and wonder, if I write faster, will they go faster? And will I go even slower? Is it possible to slow my pen down so much, these rushers will all but stop?

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Cafe Everyday: Day 98 [05 Sep 2007|09:24am]
[ mood | listless ]

Not very hungry today.

Yogurt and fruit, egg bagel and peanut butter. Coffee.

There is no day where one would not have the coffee.

No nickel today either.

I’m halfway through the first half of the bagel when a woman sits down across from me and tries to hand me some religious tracts. “Even the best of us need saving,” she says.

“Honey, it’s cute of you to try, but I can’t be saved. God had doom on his mind when he invented me.”

Adolescent, but effective.

This seems to make it kind of a significant day. Each half of the bagel is like the marker. I’m on the second half when a cute brunette with a ponytail sits down at the counter. I don’t say anything to her, and she doesn’t see me watching, but she orders an egg sandwich to go. On an English muffin, I think. No meat, but veggies. I’ve learned to spot what other people are having. I know the menu pretty well.

The waitress comes to give me more coffee and takes away my plates. While she’s there it blocks my view, and when she’s done, the brunette is gone. I look through the window at the street to see if she’s passing by, but it’s just the regular traffic. Lots of people on foot, heading to work in both directions, everyone in a hurry, everyone looking cranky and half-awake and just unhappy. We’re always rushing around to be unhappy, and none of us really ever notice. We don’t have the time to notice, we’re too busy trying to catch up to the misery.

Still, one weirdo, one cutie. Not bad by any count.

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Cafe Everyday: Day 97 [04 Sep 2007|10:37am]
[ mood | artistic ]

Biscuits and gravy. Fried potatoes with ketchup and Tabasco. Dark rye toast with lots of butter. Two scrambled eggs. Water and coffee.

Biscuits and gravy are the litmus test of any breakfast place. If they don’t make a good gravy, tangy with pork and pepper, then they aren’t worth a damn. This was one thing I got from my stepfather. We didn’t bond over much. I was convinced he was more interested in his real kid, and I can’t blame him if he was, it’s only natural. At the same time, I probably never gave him a real shot either, too quick to cut him off at the knees.

But biscuits and gravy, that was our thing. It took me a while to get him to not put too much pepper on mine, but he’d sometimes make it for me and that was pretty good. Anytime we’d go somewhere, he and I would order the same thing, and my mother would never understand why. She thought it was gross the way the starchy biscuits would stick to the roof of her mouth, and we tried to tell her that was kind of the point, but she wouldn’t hear it.

This place has a really good gravy. It’s also good on their chicken fried steak. I get the biscuits a couple of times a week. I come in here every morning now. It’s my morning ritual. Everyone has one. Mine is coming here and getting the same booth by the window, eating breakfast and scribbling in my notebook. If I have a nickel in my pocket, I put it in the little jukebox they have on all the tables and I play “Girl Watcher.” If I don’t have a nickel, I don’t. I try not to plan or save the 5 cents if I get it. It’s just got to happen.

That’s the whole basis of a philosophy right there, if I wanted to take the time to write one.

Anyway, that’s what I’m having today, the biscuits and gravy and all the rest, and I did have a nickel and so I play the song because it’s what I am. A girl watcher. I’m a people watcher, really, but I like the girls best and so I pay a special eye to them.

These days, watching is all I do anyhow. It’s just easier that way. I’ve been coming in here every day for about three months now, and I just watch, but it has nothing to do with this place, I decided long before that to banish my heart. I’ve exiled it from the kingdom. My feeling is that if I meet a girl I like or am attracted to, I have one of two choices.

First, I can just ignore it. The celibacy option. It’s probably the smartest way.

Second, to be a scourge upon women. Take them in, but don’t let them in.

This second option has nothing to do with women, per se, like I’m trying to punish them or something. If I could get things going for a guy, I’d apply the same rules. It’s not about them, it’s me. It’s about what I’m willing to give.

I want to live only on the surface. Let some other guy handle the feeling. I realize that’s not going to endear me to a lot of people, but that’s sort of the point, too, isn’t it? I’ll stick to the roof of your mouth because that’s how I’m made.

Today, the café is surprisingly empty, though, and there’s no one really to look at. I suppose I’m the biggest spectacle in here, and I’m one refill of my coffee away from being done with the meal and then I’ll be gone, too.

Back tomorrow. Same booth, same time.

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[26 Mar 2007|08:08pm]
Juliet loves the beat and the lust it commands
Drop the dagger and lather the blood on your hands, Romeo
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All Fourteen Links to "Romeo May be Bleeding, But Mercutio is Dead" [13 Aug 2006|11:41pm]
[ mood | accomplished ]

Looking for the serial "Romeo May be Bleeding, But Mercutio is Dead"? Here is a quick list of links to the fourteen parts:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII
Part IX
Part X
Part XI
Part XII
Part XIV

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part XIV: the conclusion [13 Aug 2006|09:54am]
[ mood | for mrs. carter ]

So, why get honest now? Why release the humiliating information that I didn’t leave on my own accord, but was rejected? Is this my suicide in the middle of the street?

Perhaps it was watching Tony and Erica act out their little charade. Presumably, when they disappeared into the ditch, they went off into the dark to do the sort of fiery things passionate couples do there. Mary and I had no choice but to wait for them to finish so that Tony could drive us back into town. So, I sat down on the grass and looked at the stars and thought about the lies we all tell, the things that allow us to function, the scenarios we sit and plot and cook up.

Denying that the incident between Brianne and I ever happened was one of mine. If I ever talked about my college romances with friends, I would tell them about the triangle with myself, Adam, and Brianne much in the way I’ve written about it on this journal. I held back a part that was important to me, lied so that I might keep a piece of it myself.

Sitting there, I could feel my wallet in my back pocket. The way I was positioned, it was pressing against my lower back, almost like it was trying to tell me something. It was reminding me that it held a secret, too: the letter. I pulled it out and stared at it. I didn’t unfold it. I wasn’t going to look at it. I would tear it up and scatter it to the wind, maybe set it on fire and add it to the pile of ashes. It was another lie, its continued existence evidence of another narrative fib here.

At the end of my entry about my fight with Adam, I said, “That was when I decided to leave.”

That’s not really true. If I had been up front with you, that’s when I decided to make my final play.

read the rest hereCollapse )

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part XIII [12 Aug 2006|11:04am]
[ mood | meek ]

I haven’t been completely honest with you here. This story contains some misleading elements. Perhaps the most egregious is the suggestion that I gave up Brianne free and clear back in college.

It was the middle of the night, in a dorm room. She didn’t turn on the lights. No one saw it, no one witnessed it. And it’s a story I haven’t told anyone. Not ever. It may change how you see things by putting it down here, but it’s something I have to release now. I can’t keep it in its memory box forever, preserved in its vacuum, a fossil of emotion.

here there be moreCollapse )

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part XII [11 Aug 2006|10:23am]
[ mood | disbelief ]

We all piled into Tony’s car, a Saturn model from a couple of years before. I ended up front with Tony, which was probably the best place to be. Had I been stuck in the back seat with either of the girls, it could have meant trouble. As it was, Tony was driving without saying anything, and Mary was hanging over the seat, her head right by mine, and I could smell her bubble gum as she chewed it. “I don’t like riding in the back,” she said. “It makes me sick if I’m too far away from the nose of the car, you know?”

“You should have said something, I’d have traded places,” I replied.

“Everyone’s fine where they are.” Tony’s voice was stern. No arguments. It confirmed for me that I had done the right thing by going shotgun.

see where we goCollapse )

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part XI: rise up with fists!! [10 Aug 2006|10:20am]
[ mood | pissed off ]

Brianne and I began having an affair. It was low-key, really, secret meetings in out of the way cafés, whispers and held hands and nervous connections where I placed my face against her neck, wishing we could be somewhere far away. It was never entirely romantic, as the conversation always ended up back on Adam, to her complaining about the little things about being married to him that annoyed her. It was tiresome for me at times, because I wanted the focus to be on us. I tried to be patient, but it was growing harder.

After one such “date,” I wanted to vent. I decided to e-mail Lori. She would listen, and though her response would likely be hard, it would be what she really felt and maybe I needed to be put back in line anyway. I opened the message window and wrote out my text. I laid it all out, confessing to the kiss, the rendezvous in secret places, everything. I ended by pondering over what I should do to get Adam out of the way, because he was a tool and he had to go. Then I addressed the message to Lori.

Or so I thought. Remember how I said computers had a hand in all of this?

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