All posts by X Teri

Another Helping Of Buoyancy

I told the two initially hesitant young people, “Lunch is on me. No, really. No, it’s okay. Just say thanks and have a great day!” The young man said, “Well, okay, thank you!” as a smile almost certainly formed on his face. The young woman with him just widened her eyes in surprise and nodded. She was so demure that she may have spoken – and her voice was so faint it might not have pierced the fabric of her mask. I stepped up to pay for their food and tip and then ordered my food. The cashier got tickled that I tipped on my bill, too. They thanked me again as I walked past to wait for my to-go order. It was a Lemon Moment, one that lightened my beleaguered step.

As I left, even though my right knee still hurt, I hurried down the sidewalk and across the crosswalk, barely recognizing the backdrop of discomfort. The sun was on my back and face and my arm was laden with delicious and healthy food that I would certainly enjoy.

I stopped at the mailbox on the way home. A van was parked in front of the community boxes. As I stepped up to use my key, a voice said, “Hey Pelón!” (He’s Latino and we always speak Spanish as our preferred language. He has much more personality in his native language, too.) I turned to see an old friend smiling at me. We once worked together. The job was often grueling and thankless but many friendships were forged there. He lives in the same neighborhood. In fact, the day he came to see about buying a house, it was me who introduced him to the overall pros and cons of choosing a house here – before he had to suffer the presence of a salesman who didn’t speak Spanish and had no discernible sense of humor. My old friend is moving for a variety of reasons, some of which don’t reflect well on the area. We traded several laughs. Out of left field, he casually told me he has a specific type of cancer. He caught it early and he’s stoic about that sort of thing anyway. Through the laughter, I felt terrible for him. He is a hard worker and left his other job so he could enjoy life more, something I mentioned to him often when we worked together. In the middle of simplifying his life, cancer knocked on his door. Still, we laughed.

I forgot all about my knee for a moment and whispered a word of thanks to the universe. Not because the fickle finger of circumstance chose another, but because in this instance, the person afflicted did not take his selection as an indictment about life. He still laughs. Undoubtedly today – and always.

The food was indeed delicious. The moments, though? Sublime.

I’ll take another helping of those.

Phoenix (A Story in 888 Words)

Mary sat at her writing desk, one particularly suited to her eclectic style. Every exposed inch was initially covered with ornate, floral wallpaper based on black and gold, followed by hundreds of notes and reminders. The few tears she managed to cry earlier were long dried, salty patches that slightly itched. She hadn’t bothered to wipe them away. By a certain age, you learn that another set will inevitably follow. There were times she expected to see a series of wrinkles on her face forming a dry riverbed.

For fifteen years, she passed countless hours at her desk, her fingers flying furiously and fluently across the remote keyboard in her lap. Though her life was mundane, an unseen muse inside her continuously provided her with an onslaught of romance and flowery language. Those words fueled the fantasy lives of people she’d never meet. They also came from a place she couldn’t quite define. Her words paid the bills, though the skill was accidental. Her muse was her humanity, and she’d never found her own well to be empty.

Until four interminable days ago.

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The officious hospital administrator relented and allowed her to go to the hospital’s fifth floor to accompany her best friend, Ashley. Her husband of twenty years was dying, dwindling more each day. Ashley managed to keep her wits for a couple of weeks. The idea of her husband dying made her immobile. “I’ll go with you,” Mary blurted out to Ashley. Ashley grabbed her and hugged her until her arms grew tired.

As they entered the room, Mary’s eyes scrutinized the alien medical monitors, tubes, and devices crowded around the bed. Ashley’s husband Mark seemed like a doll in the sheets. Mary found herself being led to the bed by Ashley, who gripped her right hand fiercely. As Mary neared the bed, she was surprised to note that it smelled like plastic in the sun or a recently-opened shower curtain.

Mark was immobile, having spoken his last known word four days ago. As Ashley leaned over him, he said, “Phoenix.” The nurse standing by the head of the bed on the opposite side raised an eyebrow, asking without really asking. Ashley smiled at her, though tears were clouding her face. “It’s where we promised to go to spend our last few years together. We’ve never been.” The nurse nodded. There was no right or wrong response, but her mouth wouldn’t open. Even the most seasoned and hardened heart sometimes couldn’t pierce the silence, lest they risk losing control of the mass of emotion lying behind the wall they created to protect themselves.

Mary stood next to Ashley for several minutes, her arm across the small of her demure back. Ashley leaned in precariously to touch the exposed cheek of Mark’s face. Her glasses slid from her face and fell to the bed. As she bent, a few minor beeps began to ping and buzz. Anyone there could discern a crescendo building in their warning. In moments, a nurse strode into the room.

Mary watched the nurse’s face as she inspected the monitors. The nurse looked across the bed. Ashley’s eyes were riveted on her husband’s face. As the nurse’s eyes locked with Mary’s, Mary saw the fleeting sorrow that passed across her face.

The nurse pressed a small disk at her neck and said, “It’s time. Room 5234.” She stood by the bed, waiting. Moments later, another woman entered the room and stood next to the nurse. Mary whispered, “Ashley, they need to talk to you.”

Ashley raised her head.

“As we discussed, Ashley. Do you want to do it, or do you want one of us to?” The doctor waited patiently.

Mary stood frozen, realizing that she was there to bear witness to Mark’s passing for Ashley.

“You,” Ashley said, surprisingly confident.

The nurse and doctor busily began to press buttons, move sliders, and close off fluid and oxygen flow.

It didn’t happen as it does on television. No monitor marked the decline of functions taking place. The doctor and nurse stood by the bed for another few moments. Finally, the nurse said, “We’ll be outside when you’re ready.”

It was Mary who sobbed when she heard the words, not Ashley.

Ashley reached and found Mark’s right hand and gripped it. She kissed her hand and then pressed it to his face, quickly and lightly. “Okay,” she whispered.

Ashley stood up and hugged Mary. She stepped away and walked toward the door.

“Where are you going, Ashley?” Mary asked, her voice hollow and lifeless.

“Phoenix, for both of us.” She smiled as she said it.
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Four days later, Mary still sat at her silent desk, the words not flowing, the imagined love-filled lives she effortlessly created all stopped.

In a flash, the image of Ashley’s face as she left the room flooded her mind. She was smiling. In all that pain, she knew she had to find a way forward or crawl into the bed with Mark and die with him.

Mary turned slightly in her chair, placed her nimble fingers on the keyboard, and began to write a new love story, one grounded in an appreciation for a love monumental enough to fuel optimism in life. Her inability to create a life with words was already behind her and forgotten.
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1972 Understood

Meeting my sister answered so many questions. Not all of them, though. Expecting complete answers at any stage of your life is a denial of the fact that as we change, the same answers can ring hollow or fail to give us satisfaction. We often don’t understand our motives or what led us to those choices, even regarding our own lives. Usually, the simple answer is “nothing.” You might be comforted by realizing such a thing. Many people are uncomfortable with the idea that our lives might be a game of pinball, with our choices volleying us across an almost random field. Careful observation of other people’s lives tends to reinforce it, though.

Isn’t it strange that we stridently ask and demand explanations and answers from those who preceded us, even though we well know that there may not be a reason that falls blithely to our hearts?

When we’re young, we falsely believe that the adults and people in our lives somehow have a magic formula for safety and love. Growing up exposes us to the harsh alchemy of people being people, making mistakes, and quite often winging it. In my case, I should stop surprising myself with revelations. At this point, almost any combination of things may be valid. It took me until I was 52 – and in the face of constant argument – to find out that my Dad not only had fathered another child but that he had done so with a girl much younger than he and from a different background. For those of you who understand my hometown’s circumstances, this alone gives ample berth to find credibility in any rumor or suspicion.

It might explain why Dad decided to move everyone to Springdale and Northwest Arkansas for a new life. After he went to Indiana and ended up in prison, he returned to Monroe County to stay. Whether he would farm, be a mechanic, or work one of several other jobs available, he made it clear he was back to stay.

Now, thanks to DNA and an ongoing decision to keep looking, I’ve changed the narrative of how I came to live in this part of the state. Much of my adult life revolves around terrible misbehavior on the part of my Dad. Knowing that I live here due to it changes nothing. Yet, it does make me think about the spiderweb of cause and effect.

In the summer of 1972, we packed up and moved to Northwest Arkansas. It was probably August, not long before school started.

I am convinced that we moved in 1972 primarily because my missing sister was born in May of that year.

If I heard rumors of her when I was younger, they would have been snippets of angry revelation from my Mom or others, probably during a drunken tirade. I did hear hypothetical insinuations, but I don’t recall concrete accusations. Such a truth would have certainly caused a homicide between my Mom and Dad. I have to admit the possibility, though. The existence of my new sister in itself proves that we are all unreliable witnesses to our lives. I used that concept of ‘unreliable witness’ on one of my first blog posts about genealogy. We will never have all the facts of our lives coherently arranged. We can’t trust our memories, much less those around us, who actively conceal and camouflage their lives for one reason or another.

I lived most of my life suspecting that my new sister was out there in the world. She lived most of her life without the answers that could have given her the ability to understand herself better. It wasn’t her choice, but she paid the price and consequences of not knowing. I hate that for her.

I don’t know how life would have looked had Dad been honest with everyone about having another child. He died in 1993, another lifetime ago. My sister was around 21, and I was about 26. His shame or inability to acknowledge his indiscretion robbed other people of a fuller life. I can’t understand how a man who beat his wife and children, went to prison, and killed someone in a DWI accident would have difficulty saying he had another daughter. This is doubly true after his Mom died on May 21st, 1983. My sister turned eleven years old the next day.

I wish.

I wish that people could be open to the complexity of their lives.

Were it my choice, all of y’all who know me well also know that I am no fan of concealment. We’ve done it, said it, and lived it, precisely in the same way that my Dad and others did before we came along. In the future, our descendants will whisper, pry, and discover. You may as well give the painful answers now if you find yourself in any way in the role of a secret keeper.

Somewhere, there is another me, looking for answers and wishing that my sister didn’t have to spend so many years without her truth being exposed.

I wish.

I wish. For me, for you, for us all.

Let’s all shine the lights in whatever direction they are needed.

Two Truths & A Lie

On Father’s Day 2019, I discovered that my ancestry and DNA quest had not been in vain: I found a sister (or we found each other), one whose existence defied any possible expectation. We didn’t meet initially – and then the pandemic struck. We both survived 2020. So, ironically, we met for the first time on New Year’s Day. While y’all were eating black-eyed peas, I was meeting a reflection of myself and wondering about the spectacle of life and how decisions made five decades ago continue to reach forward. Unlike other parts of my life, this has been a reward, one welcomed by both of us. How we got here was the result of other people’s decisions. We still have questions, though one of which is no longer what we might be like in person: Carolyn is as kind, witty, and outgoing as I could hope.


When Carolyn arrived, I discovered that I had met my match for the longest hug ever. I’m also not the baby of the family any longer. I kept telling her that I saw Aunt Barbara is so much of her mannerisms and look, which compliments everyone involved.


It’s incredible how good-looking we both are, isn’t it? 🙂 Due to Carolyn’s presence next to me in the pictures, I realize how much of my Dad’s devil-may-care attitude is reflected in me. I’m still wondering how it is possible that Carolyn is my sister.


I also met her youngest son, who tolerated our hours of catching up on 48 years of missed lifetime as we sat, talked, and pondered into the night.


When I was younger, I suspected that I might have family in the world. I’m still amazed that I kept the hope into my 50s – especially to find someone who seems to be a bit like me, even if she got there from an opposite path.


This strange, strange world holds a few surprises still.


Carolyn and I are the two truths; the lie is that love and truth can be concealed, even in a world convoluted by people’s inability to tell their stories due to fear, shame, or for some other human reason that eludes definition.


Though it isn’t a contest, I am convinced that I won the New Year’s Day contest for the most rewarding.


P.S. You might wait until we hear Carolyn’s opinion; you’d have to be crazy to accept mine without corroboration.

Love, X.

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mmXXi

Exhausted as I was, I was awake again at midnight last night. I didn’t initially fall to sleep at first. I died a little death, one that immersed me into blackness. I certainly wasn’t quietly whispering a prayer for 2020. This was the first year in many that my eyes were open at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The power went out long enough to cause everything to flicker and beckon to be reset. The cat screamed and demanded attention. Because I live in east Springdale, the locals insisted on going out into the cold and rain and using their finest and largest artillery to announce the New Year. Several of the guns were truly cacophonous. I felt the vibrations in my ribs, like a discordant xylophone. It was amusing to note that I ended the year forty-five pounds lighter than I’d started it, with my sanity along for a wild ride.

For all those who made promises to go to the gym, I can save you a lot of time and money, if you’ll listen. Just ask me. I’m wrong about a lot of things, but not this. Even though we tell ourselves that there must be some external and elegant solution to most of our problems and habits, the truth is that simplicity and focus will get you there more quickly. Get those first. Your best resolution might be to take a long moment, even a month, to consider your life.

Running in place won’t get you where you want to be.

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” – William E. Vaughn

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates

“The calendar reminds us when we are. We’d be better served if it told us who we are.” – X

“The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year’s Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you’re married to.” — P. J. O’Rourke

“If you’re making a resolution, I’d remind you that the New Year is just a way to make the same old mistakes again. Don’t make a promise to change. Be the person you are supposed to be and the rest will follow, hell or high water.” – X

“Why would I need a resolution to remind myself that I am perfect just the way I am?” – Unknown

“The most negative word of 2020 was the word ‘positive.'” – Unknown

Weight Loss That Works

Everyone knows I’m not an expert regarding nutrition and fitness.

The yearly promise to work out is just about on us. If you want to build strength, that’s great. If you’re going to lose weight, I would ask you to read this first. Then, decide to focus on your food choices, where you will save yourself time, trouble, and money. Skip the gym if you want to lose weight. You can walk anywhere.

As an adult, I have yo-yoed a few times. The lesson I learned makes people skeptical: if you want to lose weight, stop stressing so much about exercise. Just keep food out of your mouth as much as possible. And when you eat, eat foods that fall in the Venn diagram of what you like and what is healthier. Over time, that change alone will work miracles for you.

It’s equally valid that most of us suffer from a misunderstanding regarding the role exercise plays in the realm of weight loss. Our metabolic rate is set already. Most of the energy we expend isn’t variable. Activity is, of course, a portion, but not as significant as most of us believe. Most of our culture is immersed in the ‘exercise more’ mantra. Science demonstrates that weight loss occurs more efficiently through healthier diet choices – even if you don’t increase your activity level. We should focus much more on our public and private food policies.

Note: exercise yields impressive benefits to us physically and psychologically. Stop reading into my point. Exercise isn’t as important as diet, though, in weight maintenance. It is one of the biggest fundamental flaws that plague us. (I imagine Rob reading this and already arguing.)

People of the same body composition, sex, and other factors have markedly different metabolisms, which results in the one using a lot more calories than the other. Despite what some will preach, no one definitively knows why this is the case. Those same two people can engage in the same diet and physical activity – and one of them will weigh less than the other.

https://www.calculator.net/bmr-calculator.html

If you want to increase your basic metabolic rate, the science is settled: greater muscle mass requires much more energy to sustain. I’ll leave it to you to read the literature. Running will burn calories while building muscle mass will burn more calories even while you are resting. A word of caution, though: as you increase your muscle mass, your body will trick you into consuming more fuel to sustain it.

If you’ve tried diets, especially gimmicky ones, it’s not you who failed. They don’t address the science of human physiology and weight. Don’t start any program that you can’t do for the rest of your life! If you can’t imagine yourself making better food choices for the rest of your life, you will not succeed. All long-term weight management plans that work start and end with healthy food choices. It is that simple. Simple observation will remind you that it is EASY to lose weight. It is damn near impossible to keep it off.

We can all agree that our energy intake is based on the food we put into our mouths. If everything is equal, reducing how much you put into your mouth will inevitably cause you to lose. If you go on a starvation diet, you can expect your body to fight back by lowering your metabolic rate. You’ll need to adjust your plan of weight loss accordingly. Not that most people can do it, but the best way to lose weight is to do it on a very long, consistent schedule. I can’t say I didn’t fall victim to the all-or-nothing approach. It gives results. They don’t last, though. That is true for almost everyone who diets to lose weight.

You have to eat to lose weight.

This sounds ridiculously simple.

For a variety of reasons, people tend to eat more after intense exercise. They also tend to overestimate how many calories they’ve burned while exercising. Other behaviors undermine our exercise routines, as well. Regardless of how much you exercise, it takes a vastly disproportionate amount of activity to overcome overeating caloric intake.

I’m in no way saying that we shouldn’t exercise more. Exercise is vital for good health but not as crucial for weight loss and maintenance.

You can read the last paragraph as many times as you’d like.

Poor diet has a more significant impact on obesity and weight than exercise. Science says it. Not me.

I don’t remember where I read it, but someone said, “You can’t outrun a bad diet, no matter how much you run.”

I’ll remind you one more time that I am not saying exercise doesn’t offer benefits; they don’t compare to healthy eating where weight is involved.

This isn’t a justification for laziness. However, it is a bold statement to tell you that if you need to lose weight, whether for weight loss or better health, you will see a significantly greater result if you focus first on diet.

If you do it incrementally, you’ll have a greater chance to maintain the weight you achieve. Fighting your body’s set point comes with significant risk. Very few people can adapt to a new diet and regulate how they do it sufficiently to give their body time to adjust. The longer you were overweight, the greater this tendency will be. Our bodies don’t resist gaining weight nearly as much as they resist losing it, even to go to a normal weight naturally.

Less than 10% of people who commit to losing weight tend to keep it off long term. If you can think of obesity as a disease, you’ll likely adopt lifestyle changes that stick. Even though it isn’t rocket science, some of the changes include avoiding high-fat foods, avoiding needless sugar, some form of exercise, avoiding unnecessary snacking, regularly weighing, eating less for each meal, choosing more filling and healthy alternatives, and maintaining a record or awareness of what you’re eating.

Though it borders on stupidly obvious, most people do best when their activity is based on walking, free and always available. Everything that complicates your ability to exercise and eat healthily will be an impediment if you want to maintain your weight. For this reason, gyms, specialty exercises, and expensive supplements aren’t sustainable long-term for most people.

Please keep it simple.

Find healthy food. Eat it instead of the foods to which you are accustomed – as much as possible. Reduce snacking. If you can do that for six weeks, you will see a loss in weight. Find literature that is based on science, using some of the things I’ve mentioned here.

Here it is, for most people, boiled down to its essence: if you are overweight, you are overeating.

Nothing can change that.

Likewise, though, there is a way out if you are truly willing to look at what you eat and admit it’s a problem.

Right In The Eye

“Humor is in the eye of the beholder but in the craw of the begrudging.”

Underestimating the distance chasm between intent and receipt is one of my greatest weaknesses. But also one of my strengths. How much love, mirth, and creativity fail to shine because we suffer the illusion that we have any control over the manner in which anything is interpreted.

“That which can be adequately explained by stupidity should not be attributed to malice.” It’s a wise cliché for a reason. My version is better: “That which can be adequately explained by humor, stupidity, or simple oversight should not be attributed to malice unless the other guy is a real asshole; in which case, fire away.”

It’s not that we can’t spout malice with frequency.

The reality is that most of the people we allow in our lives just don’t behave that way, not really. And if they do, it’s our fault, not theirs, that we gave them room in our sumo ring.

For every angry word, a laugh is displaced. For every frown, a smile withers.
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“It’s always funny until someone gets hurt. Then it’s just hilarious.” -Bill Hicks
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“Keep your sense of humor. As General Joe Stillwell said, ‘The higher a monkey climbs, the more you see of his behind’.” -Donald Rumsfeld
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“I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.” -Walt Whitman
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Here’s an old one: “I, for one, like Roman Numerals.”
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The Booth

Fletch sat restlessly in a booth near the back of Joe’s diner, a place with food that was close to inedible. He loved the owner, though, a small, wiry woman who seldom hesitated to remind everyone that she was from Alaska. She hurled insults like candy. Today, he was glad to see she wasn’t cooking. She ranked dead last in cooking ability compared to anyone.

“What will you have? Something on the light side? Your pudge is a bit pronounced, Fletch.” In case her words weren’t barbed enough, she pulled at her imaginary love handle on one side.

“I’m meeting someone, so just coffee for now, Ellie. Thanks.” He ignored her insult. He did smile and shake his head, though.

“You’re meeting someone? Didn’t the last girl show you up? I’m going to start charging you booth rental.” She walked away before he could reply. She was a terrible cook but amazingly fast and efficient. He assumed she went to bed at night fully clothed.

Fletch indeed had lousy luck with women. The last two women no-showed, and the last one didn’t call, email, or even pretend to explain. “Ghosted” was the phrase his co-worker offered. At least a ghost has the courtesy to haunt you, he thought. Over the last two years, Fletch lost most of his enthusiasm. At forty-five, love was a picture of a menu inside a window he couldn’t even reach. He endured several dates, horrified looks of surprise when he asked someone out, and empty inboxes and swipes on the two dating websites he foolishly attempted to use. He was outclassed at every turn. He joked that he lost his touch being married for twenty years. The truth was that he never had the touch. His wife asked him out, told him they were getting married, and then failed to tell him she was in love with her dentist. He found out the hard way by finding them on the picnic table in the back yard on July 4th. He hated that picnic table already. Seeing his wife on it in that position convinced him to make firewood out of it.

Ellie returned in five minutes. She put a cup of coffee on the table in front of him. Then, she put a plate of hashbrowns and a hamburger patty with grilled onions next to it. Before he could ask, she said, “Who are you kidding? She ain’t coming. And you’re like clockwork with the patty and onions. And I didn’t cook it!” She placed a finger against her lips to tell him to be quiet. As before, she pivoted, push the empty food tray next to her hip, and marched off. “Hopefully to Alaska,” Fletch whispered.

On a whim, Fletch decided he wanted to try Sriracha on his burger patty, so he got out of the booth and made his way around the “L” of the diner and went to the waitress alcove where most of the good extras were stored. As he passed the register, he heard the doorbell’s chime and the other waitress murmuring with the new customer.

Going back to his booth, he held up the Sriracha bottle to show Ellie, who rolled her eyes at him. “You better have insurance if you’re going to eat that, old man!”

As he neared his booth, he could see that a woman sat with her back toward him in the next booth. She wore an absurd purple hat. Her reddish-blond curly hair cascaded down past the collar of a bright blue jacket. She held a purple cellphone against her right ear. Scooting into his booth, he thankfully realized he could barely hear her soft voice.

He squeezed the Sriracha onto the plate in an optimistic tiny mountain. As he did, he realized he could make out the words of the woman in the booth behind him. “Remember to send a card to Raymund. And another to his Mom. Find the antique desk Joyce wanted tomorrow before you forget again.” Fletch guiltily tried not to listen. Her voice was soft and sweet, like someone who never raised her voice. She continued to murmur for another thirty seconds until Ellie approached.

“Hey, Sarah! Stole another hat, didn’t you?” Ellie was the same with all of her customers. “Do you want decaf this time? I know you get a bit nervous.” Fletch heard Sarah laugh softly. He tried to guess her appearance. He couldn’t imagine based on her voice.

He listened as Sarah and Ellie traded barbs back and forth like an elaborate tennis match. Sarah was getting the best of Ellie, something Fletch thought to be impossible. When Sarah asked her, “Can I buy you a gallon of Oil of Olay, Ellie? Those small bottles aren’t working out for you,” Fletch couldn’t help himself. He laughed loudly and involuntarily.

“Oops!” Sarah said behind him.

Ellie stepped forward a few steps and said, “Eavesdropping, huh? I would have never figured that being a peeping Tom wasn’t enough for you.” She went back to Sarah and apologized for the rude intrusion. They both laughed. Fletch felt his face get hot.

When Ellie marched off, he was surprised when Sarah asked from the other booth, “What’s your name? Is Ellie your mom or what?” Fletch laughed again.

“I wish,” he said. “I’d love to inherit this terrible diner when Ellie dies. It is my dream to serve terrible hashbrowns.” This time, Sarah laughed.

“Oh? How much does being a food critic pay? I’m interested in getting paid for doing what I already do.” She paused to give him a second to consider his reply. Fletch could tell she was accustomed to rapid-fire wit.

“What do you do? The message you left was all over the place.” Fletch instantly realized he admitted to hearing her entire phone call.

“Believe it or not, that message was for me. I’m a stern boss. I find hard-to-find items for people. And they pay me. Can you believe it?” He could hear the smile in her voice.

They continued to talk until Ellie returned with Sarah’s food.

Surprisingly, Ellie put the plate and cup of coffee down in front of Fletch. He arched an eyebrow. “Hold on, buster,” she told him.

She went to Sarah’s booth.

“Sarah, I’d like you to meet Fletch. He is a good guy but got showed up for another date. Besides being the world’s best cook, I am a renowned matchmaker. So, save all of us some trouble and sit and eat with Fletch. The food’s on me, especially since Fletch will try to duck the check anyway.” Sarah laughed loudly. Fletch already loved her laugh.

He felt her weight shift away from his back on the other side of the booth seat. In a couple of seconds, he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Oops,” Sarah said and laughed nervously when she accidentally put her hand on his shoulder instead of the edge of the booth. Sarah smoothly swung herself into the booth.

Fletch looked across at her. She was smiling. He didn’t mean to stare, but her eyes seemed to be smiling at him, too. An awkward pause stretched into several seconds. Finally, Fletch looked away. “I don’t bite,” Sarah said. “Not at first.” Surprised by her joke, Fletch looked back up at Sarah’s face and laughed.

Ellie, who still stood there, said, “See? I told you. I’ll leave you to it.” She walked away. She turned and looked at Fletch. “But I expect to be invited to the wedding.” She cackled in glee as she marched off.

“Tell me about this awesome date you had lined up, Fletch,” Sarah said, still looking at him intensely.

Thirty minutes later, Ellie returned to see that their plates were cold and untouched.

Six months later, she laughed when she opened the envelope to find an invitation to the wedding.

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{Joe’s Diner was in another story I wrote. I wrote a novella about the owner and the place but couldn’t give it the life it deserved. Now, I visit it in my mind.}

The Hollow Place

The hollow place isn’t a place at all, even though it occupies space.

It isn’t a metaphor for an empty heart, nor a simile for what’s missing.

It is a place of comfort, joy, and reckoning.

It’s free – and freeing.

It’s simultaneous mindfulness and mindlessness.

I can’t wait to meet you there.
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Whether you read this as a metaphor or literally, it is your mind that gives it life and power. Almost all of our sexuality resides there.