How’s Your Twat?

There is a famous saying that I’m sure you have heard many times: “Only in New York!” People always say this whenever something very unusual or shocking happens. Well, how about “Only in West New York .. New Jersey!” I know, I know. It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. But it applies. Trust me.

In just over two months time, come September, I will finally be leaving the town of West New York and moving back to Forest Hills, Queens; where I lived in an apartment with my best friend Sarah over 13 years ago. This time, I will be living with what I can only describe as a “Gay Angel” named Michael who was sent to me by Don – but more on that later. With everything that has happened here, and the hospital Don died in being just blocks away, and having to hear ambulances every second of the day, and having every square foot of this dusty, old, Jersey apartment bringing me pain and hurt; it is best for my sanity that I find myself a healthier living environment. So I did. And even though I am 100% certain that moving is the right thing, and will help me continue to push forward in this life I didn’t ask for, it is going to be very hard and super emotional on the day I actually leave here. Packing up the past 12 years, 7 of those years being here with my husband, and figuring out what to do with them emotionally, is exhausting. It is a long process, and a sad one. Moving sucks on a normal, ordinary day. Moving under these circumstances is incredibly tiring and stressful. It can really wear you down.

There are a lot of things I will miss about this tiny West New York town. I will miss being an incredibly convenient 8-minute busride into NYC. I will miss the hints of suburbia just minutes away on River Road – Target, Barnes and Noble, Outback Steakhouse, Houlihans, Dunkin Donuts. I will really miss the unbelievable city skyline view that lines my street for miles on Boulevard East. There really is NO better view of the city than from right here, on this road. Don and I took so many walks along the Hudson River over the years, especially at night, because there is nothing quite like the city all lit up in the evenings. I could look at that view every single day for the rest of my life, and still never get tired of it. It is gorgeous. My dreams are in that view, hidden somewhere in between all those high-rises and buildings. There is hope in that view, and a world of endless possibilities. Once you see something like that, it’s hard to ever go back.

Of all the strange little quirks in West New York, perhaps the one thing I will miss most of all are the characters. I am speaking of all the fascinating, wonderful, colorful, animated, sometimes unbelievable people who come from all over the world; who work in, operate, and own all the stores and establishments in this town. Directly behind the building I live in, on a street called Park Avenue, there are endless little family-owned stores and bodegas, take-out restaurants and delis, laundromats and liquor stores. Inside each of these places, you will find some of the most memorable and odd people you will ever meet. If I were a better person like Don was, I would be able to tell you all of their names. But I can’t do that, because I don’t know most of their names. My husband paid attention to things like that. He knew their names, and he made small talk with them, and so now, most of these people look out for me since his death. They always ask me how I’m doing, or give me a hug, or throw in something for free with a knowing nod or wink. In a really bizarre way, it is like family. They expect to see me in their stores picking up milk or bread, and when they don’t, they ask why. “You no come here in months! Where you go?”, asked the lady at the local Chinese Food place down the block the first time I went in after Don had died. “My husband died”, I said. “Ohhhhh! Here. You take extra fortune cookie!” (She literally gave me one extra cookie, and then looked at me as if this act made her a smalltown hero.)

The ironic thing is that I lived in this neighborhood for 5 years alone, before Don moved here with me. But I never had the patience or care to really notice these wonderful people who all exist and live and breathe right in my own neighborhood. It took my husband and his gift for making people feel loved and special, for me to finally stop and give a real hello, or have a bit of conversation before running out of the store. His ability to pay attention to the small, everyday details was so amazing to me, and now I find myself wishing I had listened more; or cared enough to.

So who are the people in my neighborhood – as Mister Rogers would say. Well, there are many. There is the Spanish woman who runs the beauty salon down the street, who somehow blowdries my hair with one hand and holds her infant daughter with the other. There is the older, Italian man who works at Cella Luna take-out. When he found out about Don’s death, he said: “You need wine, my dear. I give you a bottle of our best wine, on the house. God Bless You.” Since then, everytime I order delivery service, he puts something extra in my order. One time he gave me an entire pizza, another time some cannoli. He is a sweetheart. There is the Indian man, Victor, who owns the bodega and used to talk to Don all the time in his store. Now his funeral card sits inside the store in the corner of the window. Breaks my heart every single time I see it sitting there, right next to the scratch-off tickets. There is the African-American man in the tiny post-office, who is always smiling and always wishing everyone a great day. He is the kind of guy who literally whistles while he works, and makes your day a little bit brighter just by running into him and having a small exchange of words. The way that he tells you to have a great day is so sincere and direct, that you can’t help but want to have a great day. “Now you go out there and have yourself a great day, okay, ma’am? You promise me you’ll try, okay?” Normally, these too-happy types drive me insane with their phony platitudes and generic glee, but he is very genuine, so I walk out smiling. There is the much older caucasian man with white hair who works in the Pharmacy, and who keeps a very loud and annoying parakeet in the store. Everytime you walk in, that thing screams it’s head off and starts yelling: “Helloooo! Helllooo! Helllloooo! Hellllo!!!” It is the most annoying goddamn thing in the world, because he never shuts up. He never stops talking. I am only in the store for maybe five minutes to pick up a prescription or birthday card here and there, and by the time I leave, I want to commit a homicide from the migraine that has developed. I cannot imagine living with that noise. There is also the sweet Cuban woman who works in the Brazilian take-out place, and always says: “You sit down here and wait for your order. You can watch whatever you like on the TV. Relax, relax. This is like your home for the next 10 minutes. You be comfortable.”

All of these people are true characters in every sense of the word, and part of me feels ashamed at not bothering to notice them before Don came along. However – in the world of interesting people of West New York – there is one woman who stands out amongst the rest. She is the Godfather of all Characters. I wish like hell I knew her name, but I do not. What I can tell you about her is that she is a refreshing dose of harshness. She says whatever she feels like saying, and thinks nothing of it. She is wonderfully chaotic and loud and outrageous and somehow sweet. She is an older woman, probably middle-aged or more, with dark, Latin skin and no makeup. She is usually in sandals, bare legs, and a sundress of some kind. She calls everybody “Mami”, and she works with and acts like one of the guys. She is the front desk receptionist at Ramirez and Sons Auto Shop. This is the shop that Don and I frequented all the time back when we had his old 1997 Pontiac that gave us so much trouble those last two years. The mechanics in this shop are great guys, and because Don used to be a car mechanic himself, he would hang out in the shop with them and just talk. He did this often. I never went into the place until after he died. I had no reason to. He always took care of everything having to do with the car, then he would make sure it was perfectly safe before I drove it anywhere. Now; I have my 2002 Bonneville, and, of course, I have to take care of this kind of stuff myself.

The other day, I was driving home from my normal, hellish commute from Long Island back to New Jersey after a day of teaching my summer Acting Course. I was on the Long Island Expressway, when all of a sudden I heard the loudest noise I had ever heard from inside my car. It sounded like someone had shot at me, or threw a giant boulder at my back window. Seconds later, the “Tire Pressure” light went on, and I was about to drive into the Midtown Tunnel. For anyone who knows this area, there is nowhere to pull over, and it was 98 degrees outside. All I could picture was having to wait in that heat for hours for AAA to come out and help me. Meantime, all of New York would loathe me for causing THEM to sit inside the tunnel for hours behind me. So instead, I continued to drive the car home, and to the mechanics. Minutes later; my brake light came on, and the brakes stopped working. Oh this is fun. Now I have no brakes and no tire, and I’m going 5 miles per hour through midtown Manhattan, through the Lincoln Tunnel, and finally to the mechanic. Miraculously, I somehow arrived at my destination without killing myself or harming others. They were able to repair the brakeline, which was leaking, and put on a new tire, since the old one was completely ruined by me driving on it like an asshole. They had to keep my car overnight in order to do all this, and so the next day was another hellish nightmare commute to Long Island as I braved the bus into the city, walked the 10 blocks down to Penn Station in another 98 degree day that felt like 250, get on the train, transfer to another, then walk to campus.

 On my way back to Jersey that afternoon, the bus I took home had no air-conditioning. It was apparently broken. We sat on the bus for almost 40 minutes, waiting for it to fill up. I could feel myself being overtaken by heat and dying inside. I’ve never been so hot in my entire life sitting on that non-moving bus. Then it got worse. The man that sat next to me had the most foul body odor of any human being ever in the existence of time. He smelled like he rolled himself in hippo fesces, drank a gallon of urine, then jumped into a tank filled with rotting fish, garbage, and sour milk. It was all I could do to not projectile vomit on him right then and there. I closed my eyes and had fantasies of my air-conditioned bedroom, and never leaving it until the end of time. When I finally arrived home and walked to the mechanics to pick up my car, the sweat was pouring into my eyeballs and down inside my lips. My hair was soaked with disgusting sweat, and I just wanted my car and my air-conditioner and my life back. I entered the front Office looking like I had just returned from being prisoner in a refugee camp. And in that moment, the woman behind that counter took my horrific, awful day – and turned it around completely with this bizarre, unbelievable, real, shocking exchange of conversation:

 

Me: Hey – Im here to pick up my car.

Her: (looking me over) How you doin Mami? You look tired, huh? Its hot as balls out there, no?

Me: Yup. Disgusting.

Her: Your car is ready, I’ll get Jose to come over and give you the keys. (pausing – looking at my jeans) I don’t know how you wear them pants like that, Mami.

Me: Huh? What do you mean?

Her: I mean, how’s your twat! Your twat must be suffocating up in there with them jeans, no?

Me: (stunned) Um … my whole body is sweaty as hell. Its gross outside.

Her: Yeah, but I no ask about your whole body. Im talkin’ bout below the waist, Mami. I’m talkin ’bout your TWAT. If I wear jeans like that, my TWAT just dies up in there. It’s just dead. (She makes a motion with her hands to signify a dead, flattened twat. Meanwhile, I silently pray that she will stop saying the word twat.) What about your boobs? You got pretty big boobs. They must sweat a lot underneath, no?

Me: Am I on a hidden camera show?

Her: (laughing) I make you uncomfortable. I’m sorry Mami. How you doin’ though, since your husband pass? You doin’ okay? You takin care of yourself?

Me: Im trying. Thanks for asking.

Her: It’s been almost a year now without Don, no? We like him here. He hang out with the mechanics and shoot the shit. He’s a good guy. Good guy. You take care of yourself. Get in the air conditioning. He wouldn’t want you walkin’ around with sweaty under-boobs and a dead twat!”

And in that one shining moment, my day went from annoying and awful; to hilarious and epic. I do not know this woman’s name, but I will now make it a priority to find out, because I will miss her when I leave this place. Sometimes all it takes to turn your day around and make you smile and laugh, is for someone to ask you about your twat. If only more people would ask: “How’s your twat?”, maybe the world would be a better, more unexpected place.

Only in West New York, Mami.

 

 

 

Schadenfreude – A Husband’s Revenge

After almost 11 months of not ever “feeling” my late husband’s presence or that he is “with me” in some way, I am finally beginning to see signs of him in small and big ways. It is not in the ways that most might expect, or that I have heard about from others who are widowed. He isn’t leaving me coins or butterflies or small tokens of love. There aren’t any feathers that fly by at unexpected times, or pretty birds landing near me when I feel most alone. There are no songs that come on the radio at the exact moment that I’m missing him intensely, and there is no special star in the sky I can look at and automatically think of him. No. Nothing like that has happened for me.

But recently, I have started to feel my husband in another way; in a way that is much more indicative of who he was and who he will always be. One of his favorite things to do in life was to laugh. More specifically, Don loved to laugh at me. He really enjoyed chuckling and pointing out to me that I tend to exagerrate everything, that I’m a “drama queen”, (one of his favorite things to say to me was: “Stop being so overdramatic, Boo.”), or his favorite thing; that I had gotten myself into a situation that would eventually turn into a trainwreck of epic proportions. If there was ever anyone that loved watching a good dose of schadenfraude, (the term for laughing and delighting in other’s small misfortunes), it was my husband. He was one of those “I told you so!” douchebags, but he always said it as he was laughing good-naturedly in my face. Yesterday; along with my friend Sheila and my mom; I participated in The NJ Sharing Network’s 5K Walk/Run for Families and Friends of Organ Donors and Receivers. It was something I wanted to do to honor Don, and in memory of him. And what did I get for my troubles? The entire day, I could literally hear my husband laughing gently … no, cackling … at me, and at the situation I had once again gotten myself into, and in his eyes, deserved. My husband came to me in the form of his laughter, and he was here to get Sweet Revenge. I’m sure of it. Let me explain ….

Somewhere around September or October of 2010, a friend of a friend was trying to put a team together of people who wanted to participate in a 5K “Walk for Hearing” – a charity that benefitted The Clarke School; a school for deaf children. This friend of a friend worked with these kids at this school, and was recruiting as many people as possible to join her team. Apparently, she did an amazing job in convincing a whole bunch of us to do this walk, because for some reason, our whole group of friends agreed to do it. I vaguely recall filling out some sort of application form online, registering for it, and saying: “Okay. That sounds fun.” I also sort of remember getting our friends John and Jessica involved in this event as well. Looking back now, I’m pretty sure I was drugged at the time. Whatever the case, one thing that I neglected to do was to inform my husband that we were doing this walk, until this conversation that happened maybe 2 days before said event: (dialogue is from memory, but I pretty much remember this like it was yesterday, so it’s extremely close to the actual conversation that occured.)

Him: Boo, I think Im gonna play some tennis on my day off Sunday, and then I was thinking of maybe heading down to the music store to check out some of the new lefty guitars that just came in. Then maybe we can get dinner or something.

Me: You can’t on Sunday. We have plans. I thought I told you, sorry. We are doing the Walk for Hearing for Missy’s school in the city.

Him: (with most perplexed expression of all time on face) We are doing the what for WHAT? and for who???

Me: Walk for Hearing. For Missy.

Him: Who the hell is Missy?

Me: Missy. Kevin and Michelle’s friend. You’ve met her before. You know who she is.

Him: No. If I knew who she was, I wouldn’t have just asked you who the hell she was. (still confused) When did I agree to do this thing? Was I on crack at the time, because this is not something I would agree to do – ever.

Me: No. You didnt agree to it. I signed us up for it. John and Jessica are doing it. Kevin and Michelle. All their friends. It’ll be fun.

Him: I don’t think you know what the word fun means. Getting up at 6am on a Sunday to go into the city and WALK for no reason on my only day off, in no way, sounds fun to me.

Me: Its not for no reason, Boo. It’s for kids who can’t hear.

Him: Uh-huh. Please explain how me walking in the cold and rain at an ungodly early hour against my will is going to magically make them hear again. Cant I just write them a check and stay home and sleep?

Me: No, cuz I already commited both of us to doing it. (laughing at him) It’s really not that big of a deal, hon. Lets just go and have a good time.

Him: Why do you hate me?

Me: (laughing) I dont hate you, Boo. This is just one of those things that married people do. It’s part of marriage.

Him: Oh really? Married people forcibly sign their spouses up for 5k Walks? Funny. I don’t recall that being in our vows.

Me: It was in the fine print, Boo. You’ll be fine.

Him: Did you read the fine print where it also said that if mean spouse enters you into a 5K Race against your will, that is acceptable grounds for divorce? Cuz I think that’s in there too.

The day of the Walk for Hearing was really raw, cold, and rainy. We had to get up super early to get into NYC for the early start time. Don was grumpy and exhausted and sort of pouting and whining the entire time into the city. My husband was not a whiner. He normally just went with the flow and would have a good time wherever we would go together. On this day, however, he was clearly annoyed; in a playful way; and wanted me to know it. When we got into the city, we started walking the wrong way for about 4 avenues, and then had to turn around and go back. I remember Don walking with me on our way there and saying: “Jesus, Boo. We just did a freakin’ 5k on the way to the 5k. This sucks. Im cold. Im tired. Can we go home yet?” He was purposely trying to irritate me, in order to give me payback for roping him into this. It didnt work. I just kept laughing at him and his silly whining. When we finally got there, Jessica was also extremely unhappy to be anywhere except in bed sleeping on a Sunday. Here is a picture of Jessica and my crankypants husband that morning:

During the walk, Don kept complaining about his sneakers. The trails and paths were very rocky and hilly in some spots, and he never got used to that up here. He always missed the flat roads and paths in Florida for walking, biking, everything. “Ah, my feet are killing me. I’m getting blisters. Can we leave yet? How about now? Now? Or now?”  I remember making fun of him for being such a baby. I believe I said: “Arent you an EMT? Werent you in the Air Force? You cant handle a little walking in a light sprinkle? Come on Boo, suck it up!” He looked at me with daggers in his eyes, and we kept moving. When it was finally time to go, hours later, we had to walk more blocks and avenues back to the bus to take us to NJ. The second we walked in the door, Don kicked off his sneakers harshly, fell into our bed face-down, and mumbled something under his breathe. “What did you say?”, I asked him. “Oh nothing, Boo. I just said that I’ll get you back for this misery you’ve caused me today. I will get my revenge when you’ve forgotten all about this. I will never forget, Boo. Goodnight. Wake me up when my feet stop throbbing or when you’ve completed making the delicious homemade meal you surely owe me for making me take part in this travesty you call fun.” Jesus. And he calls me overdramatic?


And that’s just how it happened. I never even saw it coming. When the Sharing Network called and asked me if Id like to participate in this year’s Walk for families of donors, I figured it would be a really nice way to honor him, and pay forward his kindness to others. So I said yes. And about 2 months ago, I started to let everybody know that I wanted to start a team, and that I wanted everybody to walk on my team. It would be great. We would be Team Shepherd. We would get t-shirts made up. We would cheer each other on during the walk. We would hold up signs and yell Don’s name and say things like: “GO TEAM SHEP!!” People from all over the land would come out to join my team for Don. And at first, that is exactly what it seemed like would happen. Family, friends, and even some acquaintances and connections seemed genuinely excited to be part of the Walk. “I’m so there!”, they chimed in on my Facebook posts. “I would love to walk on your team! Count me in!”, they bellowed. Before I knew it, I had a minimum of 15-20 people that really seemed as though they were going to do this with me. It was exciting.

And then, about a week before the walk, it suddenly became clear that of all the people who said they would like to walk with us, only 2 would actually be doing it; my friend Sheila, and my mom. Turns out my dad’s knees and legs have started to give him problems in the last few months and he cant walk long-distances, so he was out. The walk turned out to be on the same date that John and Jessica were on vacation in California. Lots of other friends had family obligations, weddings, graduations, you name it. Andrew and Rodney and Sheri wanted to come, but didnt realize how far into NJ it was, and had no real way to get out there. Very quickly our enthusiastic group of supporters started to dwindle into nothing. “Team Shepherd” was now 3 people, and a homemade Sign I made that listed everyone’s name that made a donation. And because we raised so much money and so many friends and family donated in Don’s memory ($1460 and counting), I now felt obligated to do the Walk, even though at this point it seemed a bit .. well … pointless. 3 of us? Really? That’s kind of lame. But all these people gave money, and they are going to want to see some pictures and know that we were there and we did this thing. The night before, I heard it was going to be ungodly hot and humid for the Sunday Walk, and I honestly just wanted to cancel and not even do it. But then I remembered all the people who supported me, and realized I was stuck doing it whether I wanted to or not. I didnt really have a choice in the matter. And that was the first time I heard Don laughing at me.

It started out as a light chuckle that evening, and then it began to progress the next morning and throughout the entire day of The Walk, as a loud, bellowing, “HA HA HA HA HA!!!! Have fun, honey!”, in your face kind of thing. I tried to ignore it at first, but then I just couldn’t. There were too many elements that pointed in the direction of this working out exactly the way that Don had planned it to. The weather was hot as hell. The high was 87 that day, and very humid. Every surrounding day before and after was in the low 70’s. And just as my husband and I had to walk a 5k before walking the 5k, my mom and I did too. The parking situation was atrocious, and we were led to a giant lot that was at least a mile … or four … from the Event itself. When we finally found the starting location, they made me stand in a “pre-registration” line to get a Number, even though I had already registered online in order to avoid standing in huge lines at the event!

The sun was blazing as I stood in this line for minimum 30 minutes to receive my number. Before we even began walking, I started to notice that my sneakers felt really tight. I don’t recall them being too small for me in the past, but my toes felt like they were being squished into my shoe. As I stood there with my tight shoes in the hot sun with my TWO teammates, I heard him laughing again. “Ha ha ha! You thought this would be FUN! You thought you’d get 15 people to do it with you! But they didn’t show up. They were SMART and did what I suggested in the first place. They stayed home and wrote a damn check! Ha ha ha!!! Oh, this is awesome! Go ahead and walk, Boo! Go on … it’s FUN!” I could literally hear him inside my head or my heart, or wherever evil, late husband spirits with a twisted sense of humor speak to you.

 And as me, mom, and Sheila walked along; the heat became unbearable, and my toes felt like they were on fire. I was sweating like Robin Williams, and I just wanted to lie down or take a 45 minute freezing cold shower. The water we were drinking to stay hydrated went from semi-cold to luke warm to sweaty-ass hot. I felt sticky and nasty and gross. When we crossed the finish line after what seemed like decades, the only emotion I was feeling was the intense pain coming from inside my shoes, where I knew I had developed blisters on my toes, just like Don. The walk was over, and then we had the second walk to our car. I was convinced that my feet would just burn right off of my body. I kept hearing Don and his sarcasm: “How exactly is you walking in the nasty heat going to get some poor soul a kidney any faster?” And he was right.

Was the event more than that? Yes. It was. There were close to 6,000 people walking and running. Families. Kids. Dogs. Strollers with babies in them. Teams of people all wearing homemade t-shirts to show their love for the person they were there representing. Lots and lots of stories. So many stories. One woman I met was part of a very large team of people, probably at least 30 people, all there in memory of their friend who was struck by a car and died. There was a man there whose brother had lost his life in a freak work accident, and his lungs ended up going to one of the man’s best friends at their job. I met a father who just lost his 21 year old daughter to a violent crime by commited by a college guy who was apparently obsessed with her. There were people there that had received organs, and were walking with the families of those that gave them life. Perhaps the most surreal moment for me was having people ask me why I was walking, who I was walking for; and then hearing myself say out loud that my husband was dead. I never quite get used to hearing my own voice say those words. It seems like someone else talking and not me.

So, in the end, just like everything else surrounding my husband’s death, nothing is the way that I pictured it would be. In my mind, I pictured this Walk being life-changing and motivating and inspiring and beautiful and so many other things like that. In some ways, it was those things. But it was subtle. I do think things like this are much more powerful when you can rope a whole bunch of your friends to experience it with you, like Missy did on that day that will always make me laugh. Maybe next year more people will be able to take part wtih me, and we can start to make it a yearly tradition. Or maybe I will take my husband’s advice of staying home and writing a check. Who knows. The only thing I do know is that I need to stop expecting that things will turn out a certain way. Things never turn out in the way you thought they would. Not even close. This is not a good or a bad thing – it’s just true.

But when I got home later that night and harshly kicked off my sneakers, I saw two big blisters, one on each pinky toe. I limped into the bedroom and I fell into our bed face-down, as I felt my husband’s laughter all around me. He was laughing at me, and he was enjoying himself.

 It was schadenfraude. It was marriage. It was the sweet revenge of a husband, who never forgot that day. Whatever it was, it was there, and it was real. It made me feel close to him the entire day as he found joy in my misery; and to me; that was all the reason I needed to do a 5K.

But maybe next time I’ll just send a goddamn check.

 

 

I Need to Be Touched. But Please Don’t Touch Me.

Can we talk about a very sensitive subject? Would that be okay with you? Because quite frankly; this topic makes me incredibly uncomfortable, and with all the many things I have shared with the world in these writing pieces, I still find myself stalling and putting off discussing this. But it’s time. So here we go.

Human touch. Sex. Intimacy. Hugs. The holding of hands. Making out. Hugs. Placing one’s head in the center of someone else’s chest and lightly humming almost subconsciously, because you are so happy lying there. Backrubs. Neckrubs. Hugs. A husband who looks directly into your eyes and says: “You look beautiful.” The stroking of one’s long hair. The washing of hair in the shower. Wrapping a towel or his jacket around me. Affection. Massages from someone who wants you to feel good. Feeling the love in the tips of his fingers, in his arms grabbing me gently from behind as I cook dinner, in his hand resting on my knee as he figures out a guitar chord. Hugs. Amazing, safe, wonderful hugs.

After almost 11 months into this “new life” that I didn’t ask for and that was handed to me without my permission, I can honestly say that most of this kind of stuff didn’t really cross my mind until recently. No. I was much too busy staring at the wall for 2 hours straight, or clicking refresh over and over on my husband’s Facebook profile picture of him sitting on the deck at our Cape Cod honeymoon suite, looking so content and peaceful. My mind was clogged with the fog of early grief, the chores that had to be done, the job I had to get to, the day I had to attempt to get through. There are also so many different ways to grieve your husband’s death. So many losses to consider. There is the loss of his life, which I found myself grieving for on his behalf, because he wasn’t here to do it himself. There is the loss of the past, our present, and our future. Our dreams together. The family we might have had, will not have. I was grieving the possibilities of what was to come. Growing old with each other. Having time. Decades of time. What does my life mean without him here? What comes next? What is the point of pursuing my dreams if I cannot share them with my husband? These are the things that have been in my heart lately, to name just a few. But somewhere hiding in there, was the extreme loneliness, and the need to be held. Lately, I’ve allowed my mind to start comprehending the idea that I will never again feel my husband’s touch, or be able to slow dance with him, or sigh in the warmth of his arms – and the reality of that horrifies me. Never mind everything else. Never mind for a second that I can’t have a life with my husband. What about the fact that I can’t have a hug?

When you lose the love of your life in an instant, you find yourself doing a lot of crazy things in a desperate attempt to try and connect to them again, to feel their presence. Everybody will keep telling you the person is “always with you”, and maybe he is – but here’s the thing: he isn’t HERE with me. It isn’t enough. I want more. Lately, the type of sadness and grief I’ve been feeling is different than before. Along with the intense crying has come a physical “reaching” for him. Sometimes I stand in our kitchen, say his name, and put my arms out as if I’m hugging him. Or I will hold our cat, Sammy, a tad too close, just to feel something against me. Or I will grab the tin that his leftover Ashes are in, sit in his favorite old chair, and just rock in the chair while trying to pull the ashes as close to my chest as possible, and pull me as close to his chair as possible. It sounds sick, I know. But all I can tell you is that it’s an urge, a need, and when it happens, I don’t fight it. About a month ago, I got in my car one night and drove out to a large park nearby that has a baseball field in the middle. I don’t know why I went to that specific place. My heart just brought me there, and suddenly, I was driving there. When I got there, I sat in the grass on my knees, and just sobbed. I called out his name. I screamed. I wailed. And I was silent. It helped, and it didn’t. None of these things ever help me to feel him again, to physically feel him. They don’t work. But they get me through a moment, and sometimes, that is my only goal.

To have the knowledge that you wont ever physically touch or be touched by your husband again, is a sad thing to be aware of. It’s heartbreaking, and after almost 11 months of nobody touching me or being affectionate with me, empty doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling inside me. Other people have tried to be affectionate with me. It effects me in strange ways. For some reason, whenever my parents hug me, I feel like I want to cry. I get extremely sad. Maybe because I know they are missing him too, they are in pain too, and that everything will be different forever. Friends and relatives try to hug me. Some people hug me like it’s their mission to make me better. They grab me and hold me for much too long, and they rub my back or say something like: “Awww it’s okay. Let it out.” They act like they are the Grief Whisperer, and their magic hugs will send me reeling into a mountain of tears and set me free. But that’s not how it works.

Here is where it gets complicated. I hate being touched by people. I mean – I hate being touched by people. Im not talking about friends or close family members hugging or kissing me, that’s fine. I am talking about everybody else on earth. Massages, manicures, pedicures, spa days … all of these things make me shiver with an awkward, creepy feeling. Most people find a nice pedicure or massage relaxing. Almost every female I’ve ever spoken to enjoys this sort of thing. These things were offered to me by many as a stress-reduction after Don’s death. I can’t think of anything more awful or uncomfortable than some random stranger touching my feet while I have to sit perfectly still; in a tiny cramped room, surrounded by other people’s nasty feet sitting in bowls filled with murky, gray water. Manicures? Yuck. Sitting there being forced into conversation with an old Russian lady who has a moustache and is painting my nails while telling me about her grandson’s chess match, is not my idea of a good time. The two times I was forced into getting a manicure, my instinct was to reach up with my freshly-painted hand and punch the manicurist in the face. Someone rubbing a green sandpaper-like mask on my face or wrapping me up in some weird-ass seaweed thing and making me sit there to clear out toxins and shit – no. That is not ever happening. Not in my world. Take your spa gift certificate and give it to someone who enjoys hanging out with 50 strangers in germ-infested rooms that smell like warm ass-crack. Give it to someone who doesn’t mind that 900 other people’s ballsacs and clammy vagina’s have sat on that very same bed of arugula treatment, or whatever the hell it is. Just get the hell away from me with your touching.

I am not a touchy-feely person. I have to know you really well to feel comfortable with you showing me affection. I have never been into casual sex, one-night stands, or anything like that. I cant be with someone unless I know that they care about me deeply. So I don’t want a hug from just anybody. I want a hug from Don. I cannot have that ever again, and I’m not quite sure how to be okay with that.

Eventually – in time – I will grow and heal and really start living again, one day. I will rebuild my dreams. I will figure out how to be happy, or a new version of happy. I will adjust to this new, bizarre life that was handed off to me. But human beings need affection. We need to be held. We need that physical connection to someone. How will I ever get past the concept that my husband will never hold me? What do I do with this insane paradox of strong feelings; where I need to be touched, but by the one person who cannot do it? It is perhaps the biggest oxymoron of all-time:

I really need to be touched. But for the Love of God, please don’t touch me.