It was true what they said–snooping doesn’t pay off.  You get more pain than satisfaction out of it.  But I just couldn’t help myself, could I?

I sit at the breakfast table, picking at my plate of eggs and sausage.   He shuffles towards the coffee-maker, rumpled and yawning.  The man I love.  The man I know.  The man I thought I knew.

But then I remember that I’ve seen his browsing history.  The websites he went to late at night.  Those pictures of strange men.  I have to ask, even though I realize it will wreck everything.

“Honey, did…did you vote for Trump?”

He turns around and stares.  “What?”

“Don’t lie.  You’ve been reading Breitbart.”

“And you’ve been checking up on me.”  With a sudden burst of energy, he strides out of the kitchen.  “That’s an invasion of my privacy.”

“This is for your own good,”  I plead, getting up and following him.  “You’re only hurting yourself.  The first step is to admit you have a problem.”

“I don’t have a problem.  Conservatives have a right to their opinions, too, you know.”

Conservatives?  But he’s a progressive!  Or…I assumed he was a progressive, because, because…this is the twenty-first century!  Everybody’s a progressive…right?

“What about the horrible things Trump said?  About Mexicans, about…”

“Oh, come on.  The things he said weren’t racist.  He’s only getting bashed for saying them because he’s a white man.”

Oh, dear God.  Not this shit.

“You don’t really think you’re oppressed, do you?”

“I’m not sure.  I do know that everyone gets offended if I speak up about something.  Does that qualify as oppression?”

Somehow, I should have seen this coming, and yet I’m so confused.  “Okay, I promise I won’t get offended if you’re honest with me.  Why did you vote for someone like Trump?”

“Well, all you hear about him on the fake media is the bad stuff.  There are a lot of good things he’s doing.”

“Like what?”

“He drove the media insane, didn’t he?  And the mainstream politicians.  I loved the way he gave it to that one annoying guy on Twitter, what’s his name…”

“Those are not achievements!  Attacking people is not an achievement.”  I look down at the napkin I’m tearing into little pieces.  “Would you ever attack someone like that? Call them names?  I can’t imagine it.”

He shrugs and turns to the window.

I take a deep breath.  I have to hear the very worst of it.  “What about his comments about grabbing women by the pussy?  Are you okay with that?”

Exasperated sigh.  “Stupid boys talk…”

“He was talking about sexual assault!”

“Women are so sensitive.  Everything is sexual assault these days.”  He turns to face me for a moment.  “Look, I don’t want to talk about this right now.  And I’m not going to let you tell me what to think.  I’m not a fucking cuck.”  Then the bedroom door slams shut behind him.

We live in the same house.  We sleep in the same bed.  We’re a family.  How did I miss this?  What didn’t I notice?

Maybe we’re no longer really talking to each other, each of us focused on our own personal screen, posting our own version of the world.  Too busy telling our story to listen.

I want to scream at him to go fuck himself.  I want to walk away, but I can’t.  Neither one of us can make it alone.  We’ll have to find our way back to each other somehow.

Sooner or later, I’m gonna have to knock on that door.

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For The Women’s March

I confirmed all of his worst fears.  Because even though he was an atheist, he still believed women came from the devil.  My unwillingness to sacrifice my life on the altar of our relationship was the first hint that something was horribly wrong.

And something was wrong.  I committed one mortal sin after another.  Laughing too loudly.  Going out too often.  Writing too much.  Refusing to hide my weirdness.  Refusing to live like the saintly women I knew–starving themselves until they fainted, inspiring their men with their very presence, full of gratitude and grace.

Never satisfied, angry and opinionated.  The serpent from hell had once come to chat with a woman just like me, or so I’ve been told.

Well, you can have your devil.  He crumbles before my Kali–She who can destroy the universe you’ve built with one touch.  Fear of Her is the reason you’ve tied us down and locked us away for all these centuries.

But even when we’ve been tied down with velvet ribbons and smothered in lace, She never really goes away.  At night, when I’m curled up next to him, breathing into his ear, She’s there.  Silent, but breathing with me.

Are You still asleep, my love?

 

One of the more amusing aspects of traveling around America’s little motels is the reading material you might find in your room. While staying at the Sweet Breeze Inn on my vacation trip last week, I ended up perusing a 1960s Ann Landers book encapsulating some of her life advice. I believe it was titled “Since You Ask Me”. Some of the advice was quite outdated–Ann took a firm stand against interfaith marriage, for instance. But other parts of the book sounded like they could have been written today. In particular, there was a section talking about how not everyone is meant to be married. Ann wrote about women who don’t have the desire to get partnered up–and how she rarely received letters from those women asking for help, because they were, for the most part, content with their lives.

As I get older, I’m turning into one of those women. In fact, I’m starting to suspect that I’m a person who’s happier when she’s not in a relationship. A relationship requires compromise, it requires a give and take. There’s no way around that. I get frustrated about having to give up time and space to a partner, and that’s not fair to either one of us. I like to spend my time doing the things I’m passionate about. I like writing. I like being involved in volunteering and politics and social events. Whether it’s because I’m the creative type or because I’m just plain selfish, I don’t want to have to sacrifice all that for another person. And I definitely don’t want to have to listen to a guy bitching and complaining because I want to go to a protest rally or want to go out dancing.

Our culture is in such a fevered rush to pair everybody up, as if our life isn’t complete unless we’re part of a couple. As if we don’t represent something complete as an individual. The problem is there is already so much going on in my mind and my soul that I have trouble making room.

So I have to say that it would take a lot to convince me to try dating again. I would have to be sure that my partner would recognize the real person I am, instead of trying to change me or make me over to match his tastes. I would need the freedom to still follow my passions. And I don’t know if any of that is possible.

Because inevitably, a relationship would require that I give and change as well. And like those single ladies who never wrote to Ann Landers, I kinda like my life as it is right now. Is this a bad choice on my part? Am I too self-centered? Am I settling for something less than? And if so, why do my wrong decisions make me feel so damn satisfied?

For the past week or two, Facebook has been pressuring me to post my year in review photo slideshow, under the headline of “It’s been a great year!” Because it’s always a fantastic year on Facebook! Yay! I took a peek at my slideshow, and it looked like a year in the life of a fake person I don’t know. Which is my own fault, since when I’m on Facebook I’m a strict follower of the “polite small talk only” rule, and I don’t exactly show my true self there.

This is what the year in review would look like for a real human being, instead of one created by the Facebook-bots:

January: Working lots of hours of overtime. This is going to be a continuing theme for the rest of the year. My profile picture for the year in review should be a pic of the cubicle wall I’ll spend most of my time staring at.

February: Relationship falls apart. Insert adorable video of screaming couple.

March: Don Lemon spends the entire month playing with a model airplane.

April: Great vacation at the coast. Rented a room right above a brewery. Insert hangover pictures.

May: Fuck! Did I really just turn a year older? More hangover pictures.

June: The weather outside is finally getting nice! Another picture of the beautiful view of my cubicle wall.

July: Burned my fingers on fireworks, and the cops came looking for the illegal explosives. This was actually a great month!

August: Hot and bored. Nothing interesting ever happens in August.

September: This is the month when I always volunteer for the local arts festival, in a futile attempt to feel like I’m more than just an office cubicle monkey.

October: Another Halloween, still no idea for a costume. Insert selfie in bulky, unflattering sweater.

November: Election night. WTF, America?

December: It’s holiday time! Insert picture of people in a mall killing each other.

So yeah, it’s been a year. And it appears another one has started. Don’t know yet if it will be “great!”, but for now, I’m wishing all of us a 2015 marked by the absence of pain.

Dear Portland…our relationship has been difficult lately.

There was the time when we went for a gallery walk on First Thursday and none of the art galleries were open, because it turns out you shut everything down super early.  The same thing happened when my friends and I decided to go out on a Wednesday evening.  The night was still young, but you were a ghost town.  As my mother so aptly put it, “Portlanders go to bed with the chickens…except that here, the chickens are wearing hand-knitted sweaters.”  Portland, you’re a city.  Part of the deal is that you’re supposed to entertain me after it gets dark.

And do I even have to bring up Cover Oregon?  You had such big plans–our health insurance exchange was going to be the most ambitious in the country.  Obviously, it did not work out that way.  It’s embarrassing when Kentucky does a better job at socialist health care than we do.  And now, the FBI might be investigating Cover Oregon to see where all that money went.  Portland, please leave corruption to the big boys like Chicago.  You are inept at it.

But in spite of it all, I still love you.  Even though you try way too hard to impress me with your weirdness–were the bearded men in tutus really necessary?  Even though you’re not very wealthy, not very good at sports or business.  Every time I think about walking away into the arms of New York City, I end up staying.  You’re just so damn pretty and intelligent.  And like you, I’m a failing dreamer.  Yeah, we’re stuck with each other.  I’m even willing to forgive you for that Unipiper guy.

Like any long-time lover in a worn relationship, all I ask for anymore are the simple things.  Please, would you give me sunny weather for my week off?  I know late May is when you bring back the rain, but will you make an exception for me?  I won’t complain when it rains in June, I promise.  I’ll post pictures of you on my Facebook and talk about how beautiful you are.  I know how much you like being flattered.

P.S. —  I’m also planning to see an art exhibit this Sunday.  I’m sure it will be empty and closed.

xoxo, Karolina

So this is what it’s like when your favorite city becomes a minefield, every place you go a reminder of what you’ve lost.  The park trails you used to hike.  The scones you would eat in the morning.  The police horses sneaking nibbles of grass through the fence, the cormorants over the cold river.  The streets which were white that last time you got snowed in together.

I will forever love my rainy little town, but right now every moment in it brings a tiny explosion of pain.  In time, I will be stronger again, and Portland will turn back from a minefield into a city.