#scintilla13: the sink story.

scintilla-twitter-badge I’m a cofounder of The Scintilla Project, along with the beautiful and talented Kim and Onyi. We believe that your stories make you who you are and we’re asking you to share yours. Interested? Learn more at scintillaproject.com and find us on twitter @ScintillaHQ.

prompt: talk about a time when you lost control.

there was a period of time where i was trying very hard to be the kind of girl who went to happy hour.

never mind that i’m not a big drinker, never mind that i know i need a lot of sleep, never mind that i am kind of a homebody. no. i am a young professional in the Big City and goddamnit, i will take advantage of two-for-one specials. so, i would ask the bouncer to come with me and i would feel mildly cosmopolitan. there was one bar around the corner from my job, right near port authority (which tells you something about the quality of the establishment), with the nicest bartenders, a pool table, and very cheap well drinks. so this was my place of choice.

i mean, we’ve all been drunk on a thursday, because most of us have been to college and all of us have made mistakes. before we left the bar we got into a fight about something and i cannot for my life remember what, which probably tells you that the results weren’t worth it. we get back to his apartment and we are yelling and a thing about me, i am kind of violent. i have a propensity for throwing things and i find crashes and shatters very satisfying. mostly, i had tamed these urges but i guess all bets were off.

i decided to try to take my anger out on something that i cannot possibly break, so i grab the sides of his bathroom sink and i pull with all of my might and guys, the SINK DISLODGED FROM THE WALL IN MY HANDS. my face immediately went from clenched and ragey to oh shit. it did not come off the wall entirely, but it definitely was no longer firmly attached. and some of the pipe joints came apart too. as a bonus, we could no longer fight because i needed to tell him that i just took his sink off the wall. to his credit, he was not even mad at me. to my credit, i was very sorry.

all of his friends called me she-hulk for months.

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#scintilla13: between june and autumn.

scintilla-twitter-badge I’m a cofounder of The Scintilla Project, along with the beautiful and talented Kim and Onyi. We believe that your stories make you who you are and we’re asking you to share yours. Interested? Learn more at scintillaproject.com and find us on twitter @ScintillaHQ.

prompt: the saying goes What you don’t know won’t hurt you, but sometimes the opposite is true. talk about a time when you were hurt by something you didn’t know.

we developed a habit of laying in bed and talking. i suppose this isn’t uncommon, when you’ve been together a while. our conversation drifted to the past, and i asked, in one of those sappy ways that they do in rom-coms that i should know never translates well to real life, i asked when he knew he loved me.

what’s sad is that i can’t remember what is answer was. i can’t remember the thing, the thing that should be so important. he mentioned something i’d done that happened in the fall of the year we got together. except he first said the words in june. there are many months, between june and autumn.

and i should tell you, that the subject of those three little words between us was always fraught with awful, because i said them first and i said them at the wrong time and he could not say them back, not for a month. and i don’t think i have ever been more vulnerable in the most terrible way or splayed open than i was that night, where all i can remember is staring at his pre-war wall with cracks, and they blurred over and over as i sat in shame.

but now,we’d come a few years past that and it’s astounding how quickly i went from normal to disaster. it’s a talent i have, i think. it took me less than a minute to put the timeline together, and from my first “so, wait…” to hysterics, it didn’t take long.

he was shocked, to say the least.

“so you lied to me? how do you lie, about something like that? how do you…how do you let me think i am safe when i am not? how do you leave me alone in this?”

he said he was confused. he said he did not know how to identify what he was feeling. he said he wasn’t trying to do anything wrong. i believed it all, i still do, but still. still.

this is a lie you just don’t fucking tell.

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#scintilla13: event horizons.

scintilla-twitter-badge I’m a cofounder of The Scintilla Project, along with the beautiful and talented Kim and Onyi. We believe that your stories make you who you are and we’re asking you to share yours. Interested? Learn more at scintillaproject.com and find us on twitter @ScintillaHQ.

prompt: write about the event horizons of your life – the moments from which there is no turning back.

a note: this post is the inspiration for this prompt. as i am wont to do, those specific horizons focus on a break, a turning away from. getting rid of something. i want to keep these in the vein of moving towards. let’s see how i do.

two years ago: i am walking to the train in the middle of the day and my heart is beating so so fast. i am practicing deep breaths to slow it down, because i’m convinced they’ll be able to hear it. i didn’t lie to be here; i told the owner of the place i’m temping that i had an interview, maybe in hopes that he’ll stop trying to make me take a shitty job that I don’t want. the job i’m going to interview for is a dream. when i walk into the office, i say, i could be here. yes, i could.

four years ago: it’s mid january and i have a bitch of a sickness. i stopped talking to the boy i could see myself with* because i liked him too much, and i started carrying on with someone else in an only slightly more defined way. when his friend introduces me to someone and says, “this is colin’s girlfr…wait, ARE you colin’s girlfriend?” and i have to truthfully respond that i don’t know, it stings. but i’m sick now, and i’m taking it as a cue to ignore the shabby state of my romantic affairs. a coughing fit wakes me up at 4am, and i lie there for a moment, willing the nyquil haze to set me back asleep. my phone buzzes, and it is the boy i like too much. “if i had ever told you that i really liked you, do you think that would have changed our path?” my heart drops and my chest flushes and it spreads to my brain, down to my fingers. i take a while to answer, “yes.”

a year and a half ago: it’s been a far rougher transition than i imagined. we’re not doing particularly well, living together. it’s a weeknight and we’ve fought again and i’ve put myself on the couch because i just need some distance, and sleep. i am likely questioning the whole arrangement. i notice someone leaving comments on my blog posts – she is in the habit of doing a bunch at once, and the emails are pinging through accordingly. i am not good, usually, at talking to people i admire but i am just in enough of a space that i send a message. eventually, we end up chatting, and she keeps me company until two am. she won’t know for a long time how many tears she saved me that night.


*you know him as the bouncer.

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#scintilla13: a closed meeting.

scintilla-twitter-badge I’m a cofounder of The Scintilla Project, along with the beautiful and talented Kim and Onyi. We believe that your stories make you who you are and we’re asking you to share yours. Interested? Learn more at scintillaproject.com and find us on twitter @ScintillaHQ.

prompt: write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.

i really had no business at a narcotics anonymous meeting.

by this point, “used up” was the only term that could be used to describe me. i was shaky and lost. i thought i’d abandoned my original ideas saving him (god, how trite) and yet, here i was, again.

it’s very hard to keep track of the twists and turns of the particulars. explaining how i got there is a longer, more private endeavor, and not all mine to tell. but i think, if my memory hasn’t fuzzed this one out, i think we were supposed to be separated. i think he called me and told me he needed help and i think by this point i knew there was only so much i could do, that help needed to be something far larger and more empathetic. i still thought it was my job to deliver it.

if you’re not familiar with twelve step program meetings, there are some that are open and some that are closed. this wasn’t the first i’d been to; we always searched for open meetings, meaning that non-addicts could sit in. the only one we could find this time was closed. i walked in anyway, he asked around a little, and a woman said she’d keep me company outside. that wasn’t the goal of the asking around, but it was what came of it.

she was older, somewhere in her fifties. long gray hair and a weathered face and most importantly, one of those glowy souls. you know the kind – the radiant people.

“what are you doing here?” she inquired, not unkindly.

“he called. he said he needed help. i’m the only one…”

“could he not get himself here?”

that, i had no answer for.

for the first time in three years it was ok to talk about how this affected me. for the first time, someone told me flat out that there was nothing i could do, and if i kept trying it would be me, in a meeting room someday. this fight would destroy me, if i let it.

someone finally told me i was worth more. that there was a lot of life left in front of me. i’d mostly forgotten that, at twenty years old.

i don’t have the right words to explain what it is to love an addict – there are years now between me and this, and that distance has dulled it all a little. thank god for that, really. so i can’t tell you how empty and hopeless it is, and how quickly you lose all sense of light. how the fight seems eternal and unscalable. but more than anything, how soon you completely forget that it’s not your fight. people told me, sometimes, but those people loved me and did not love him, and i loved him, so their opinions weren’t to be trusted. the word of a neutral party was far more powerful.

i never saw her again and i doubt she knows that she reset the course of my life a few degrees. which was just enough to change things, eventually.

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#scintilla13: home training.

scintilla-twitter-badge I’m a cofounder of The Scintilla Project, along with the beautiful and talented Kim and Onyi. We believe that your stories make you who you are and we’re asking you to share yours. Interested? Learn more at scintillaproject.com and find us on twitter @ScintillaHQ.

prompt: write about a thing that happened to you while you were using public transportation.

the new york city subway is an absolute hellhole.

no, i’m not kidding. it’s really, truly awful. it’s not the dirt or the homeless people, though both exist in spades. it’s not the fact that it can take you an hour-ish to go ten miles, or that sometimes when it brakes you think your train is going to hop right off the tracks.

it is a hellhole for the sheer fact that so much humanity is packed into such a tiny space and my god, people have no home training.

i have a ton of peeves on the train, and i won’t even call them pet peeves because they’re NOT – that makes it sound like they’re quirky and individual to me and basically, i just want people to have manners and a middling standard of decorum. i don’t like people who play their music out loud. i don’t like people who use crappy iphone headphones meaning they’re essentially playing their music out loud. i don’t like dudes who spread their legs open as far as they can go. i don’t like people who jam their elbow into my waist. but i really do not like people who hug the pole, or use it as their own personal leaning support.

a couple of years ago i had to get rid of my car. it was in impound (again) and it was getting incredibly expensive to maintain it, plus it was probably falling apart because it had only cost me $900 from some guys i did not really know. i had decided to junk it; i did not have the wherewithal or knowledge or lack of conscience necessary to sell it, in the condition it was in. but first i had to get it out of impound. for the second time.

in the city, your car gets impounded when you’ve amassed $350 or more in tickets and they’ve gone unpaid for a while. you need to go to an Office (which is not at all conveniently located) to pay your tickets, their late fees, the tow fee, and various other Fees. it ends up costing about $1,000. i swear to god, subway cars should be made of platinum for what the city collects in parking fines, but, anyway. so you go to the Office and you give them all your money and then you get some Paperwork and you can go to the impound lot and retrieve your car. the particular impound lot where my car was located was about a mile walk from any subway in an industrial section of brooklyn. the first time i went, the bouncer chastised me for not taking a cab from the subway station. this time, he just came with me.

i have extraordinary anxiety about money – and you’ll say, but dominique, if you have such anxiety about money, why did you let your parking tickets sit for so long? and i will tell you that sometimes i deal with this anxiety by shoving a problem in a corner, sticking my fingers in my ears, squinching my eyes shut and shouting lalalalala and hoping it goes away. i am slowly learning that it doesn’t. in any case, i was REALLY not happy to have just given the city all my money and i was even less happy because i had no idea how junking a car worked or how long i’d be sitting in front of the impound lot after rescuing my car or if anyone would even come and i’d have to drive it back (and i was convinced it was going to blow up or something). basically, a host of unknowns plus emptying my bank account equaled a very frazzled person.

the bouncer and i are finding our appropriate train and i am in tears walking down the train platform. i get into a yelling match with some teenagers who were horsing around (ohmygod i am ninety years old), but they nearly pushed me onto the tracks. we board the train we need to be on, and it is quite empty. there are lots of places to stand and hold on to a pole. there is one pole that has a man hugging it, with his hood up. you know, the casual lean, wrapping an arm around. and i am NOT HAVING IT. i march up and tap him on the shoulder, saying excuse me. no response. i tap again, harder, say excuse me again. no response. i tap again, even harder, and the tone of my excuse me has become maybe a little shrill. and it is just kind of registering that i am making relatively rough physical contact with a stranger who is larger than me. the man sloooooowly starts swinging around, and i see that he has headphones in, and he is really not appreciating my interruption to his day. i do not care. he removes one earbud and glares down at me.

“excuse me! i’d like to be able to hold on.”

and guys, i am not kidding when i say he took my wrist and placed my hand on the pole, said, “so hold on then,” and i almost 100% lost my shit. i think the bouncer did not see this happen because i’m fairly sure he would not let a stranger touch me, and if he did see it, well, brb, i’ve got to go have a fight now. i snap back, “I’D LIKE TO HOLD ON WITHOUT TOUCHING YOU.”

it was at this point that the bouncer stepped over and firmly said, “honey, you can hold on to this other pole right here,” and the pole he was referencing was empty, and he was right. there was no reason to start a fight with a large hooded stranger man over a pole that i did not need. so i moved, and then just started yelling at the bouncer for interrupting my perfectly justified argument.

it was the principle of the matter, you know?

and in case you are wondering, i successfully retrieved my car and gave it to a nice man with a tow truck, and he gave me $200 cash, and then i went to a really good italian restaurant.

(nb: someday i will also tell you the story of the time i called a lady on the bus a see you next tuesday.)

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#scintilla13: pale compromises.

scintilla-twitter-badge I’m a cofounder of The Scintilla Project, along with the beautiful and talented Kim and Onyi. We believe that your stories make you who you are and we’re asking you to share yours. Interested? Learn more at scintillaproject.com and find us on twitter @ScintillaHQ.

prompt: sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. write about teaching someone a lesson you did not want to teach.

this is not a story where you’ll be able to clearly delineate the cruelties and the kindnesses. don’t expect that.

i’ve written about him before.

we lived a thousand miles apart and spent hours a day on the phone. we had a schedule – i knew exactly when his breaks were and he knew mine and we rang then. he considered moving here and i considered moving there, but despite fantasies, it never happened. i don’t use the term best friend anymore, because nothing comes close to the ways we chained ourselves together.

we weren’t in love. at least, we told ourselves we weren’t. after we crossed a line and crossed it again, this is when the house of cards began to fall, in slow motion.

he told me i was a tease, i didn’t care, i abandoned him. we told each other to grow up, in hateful tones. in one breath i would tease him about being secretly in love with me and in the next i would tell him about how i spent the night with someone. i would question his devotion to me, to our friendship, when he told me he didn’t want to hear these things.

for people who loved each other so much, we were horrific.

we said i love you all the time, but never in that way. we never sat down and said, this is what we’re doing, and this is why, or this is what we’re NOT doing, and why. we let silence speak and we made assumptions and we were so fucking wrong, all of the time. maybe if we had really communicated, instead of hurled accusations, maybe…but i don’t let myself really think of maybe. my heart will collapse on itself if i even consider that path. there is no maybe. what’s done is done. black and white is much, much easier.

the last thing he said to me was something about calling him when i could get my head out of a guy’s ass. it was when i first started dating the bouncer, and i was asked to lie every time i saw him. you would think i’d remember his final words to me, but i don’t, because it was routine at that point. and so, i let it sit. we needed a break, i reasoned with myself.

it sat for a few weeks before i reached out. he never answered. three quarters of a year later, i sent a handwritten letter for his birthday. i wished him well. i told him how much i missed his friendship and that i was here, but that i was also happy to see his life growing, getting better. he seemed to be emerging out into the world, something he’d never done when yoked to me. he was dating, and back in school. i was proud, really, truly. i was devastated that it took the loss of me, the absence of my presence, to set him free.

i say to myself that after the spectacular fire we made of ourselves, at least we have grown. i say, though i can’t know for sure, that he is better off without me, and i don’t say this for pity. he stayed withdrawn as long as i was there. i was a safety harness that maybe choked him sometimes. i never meant to sever us the way i did, but i also never imagined that this would be the requirement for his happiness.

i will never know if these are only the pale compromises we give ourselves to be free of the weight of loss, or if they are the truth.

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