My fingernails are too long. Is why I'm not writing right now. My keyboard dexterity is fingertip-based. The nails get in the way. Another busy week means I've put off cutting the nails. My cats', too, their nails are too long. Incidentally painful, they're not even trying to inflict it, they reach out for a touch and then you're bleeding. Another busy week.

I've turned off the air conditioning and I have to pee and it's 2:30 in the morning or 0230 hrs military time, which is what we're on, now. My wife has an unexpected month off, which I am kind of thrilled about and kind of not, the not being only because I had promised myself a big bad bundle of writing time when she left. Writing, my mistress, who's especially keen on the foreplay and will not cooperate otherwise. Problem is I love my wife more than my mistress, I've discovered. I choose Gretchen over writing at any given opportunity and I've been doing it for years now and I'd promised myself, promised my mistress, hey, baby, you know I still care about you, you know you're always in the back of my mind whenever I'm with her, and she gon be busy real soon, and then we'll make sweet love on the page, the kind of love designed for an audience.

Perhaps I value my privacy more than an audience.

Hard, though, to keep a straight face when you're placating your mistress and you know you're lying through your beak, squawking out platitudes or outright malicious falsities, I'm in deep now with the marriage, it's fresh and exciting and yet already I forgot I was wearing my ring while typing, I can forget that now with so little a distraction as an extra millimeter of keratin.

Our last and final reception party was this Saturday, so at least the Summer of Wedding is no longer an excuse I can use. This one was at my parents' house, this one was on my home turf and thus included my stable of long-term friends, people who have been around long enough to have seen my through other if not several relationships. Many of them told Gretchen I am currently looking happier than I have ever been, which is good to know, I'm so out of touch with my own emotions, even my current emotion, even on the pills, that it's good to get some validation of what I can only suspect. Many of them also knew my recent long-term ex, and naturally none of them gave my new wife very favorable reviews. Whether this was just common courtesy or a long-awaited venting I don't know, but it was sincere enough that Gretchen asked me later, she said I just don't understand why you ever dated her in the first place.

Well, because I loved her. Why did I love her, because she made me feel important. In retrospect, especially towards the end of the relationship, it is highly plausible that this feeling of importance that I assigned to the whole was merely an average of the parts. Or not even an average, it was that the majority of the time, which I mean in the literal sense, as in over fifty percent, more than half is all, the majority of our time together at the end was strict and boring normalcy. I did not feel special at that point, I merely felt like I was not currently screwing things up. Which by itself is no healthy or desirable relationship, obviously, but the bad times were so bad for me that by comparison I could still read the normalcy as important. At the end the highs kept getting lower, and the lows were such an emergency red-siren world-on-fire type fight for the right to exist that whenever I didn't feel that way it was like treading water in the open ocean, at least right now I can breathe, at least, currently, temporarily, I am not drowning. Which is not the right frame of mind to remember you have wings, that you yourself can fly.

At the beginning, she was different. Patient, encouraging. She read my fiction and claimed to like it. I read her poetry and claimed the same. When we did have fights, they were so obviously fights (once my stuff wound up on the front sidewalk of her apartment at two-thirty in the morning, that's 0230 hrs) with discrete borders, with no bleedover into normal life. Towards the end the fights were not always so obvious, nor did they ever seem to end so much as pause until the next one. The drama was toned down but the venom lingered longer. At the beginning I felt special because she told me so. Unique, talented, full of potential. She said these things; what reason would I have to doubt them? At the end, I felt special because she hadn't left me yet, but to me the value was the same, and I coveted it. Desperately.

I may have been predisposed to such conditioning, my personality, my psyche, but it still took a chessmaster to orchestrate its eventuality. I was only just coming to terms with this when I met Gretchen. That essentially I had been manipulated and used. I have only ever told my ex this once, that I saw things, see things, differently now. That I don't blame myself anymore, the way she told me to. It is possible she never read that email, it is possible she's forgotten about it, it is possible she looks at the whole relationship as a bit of slumming on her part, dating down in the ranks just for kicks, seeing how the other half lives. To which my waking mind is all whatever, but a couple days after this most recent reception I had a dream where she showed up. First at some neutral location where we both were for whatever reason and I told her point blank that I knew now that she was a bad person (what with time being what time is in dreams, I was telling her both that she had treated me shitty when we were together and that whoever she is now, that person isn't so great either and ought to be judged on the person she was in the past). That brief interaction didn't settle things, and later on in the dream (could've been the next scene for all I know, but again, dream time) she showed up at my door for clarification. This wasn't the house where Gretchen and I live now, it was some sort of cabin-type apartment where it was not just Gretchen and myself but also some other people close to me living there, and my ex showed up outside my woodframe screen door and I tried to describe, like for her own good, what evil she had loitering inside her.

And all of this is to say, a decent chunk of my decision to propose to my now-wife was intellectual. And by decent I mean more than the average, I'd guess. Because the love was there in spades, and also more nuance and intellect and intrigue and attraction than I've ever had in a relationship before. But I had learned not to trust love. I had come to realize that my love function could be hacked. Altered, to suit some whim of another. So to call this relationship my forever home, I had to allow reason in on the action. I had to take into account my own scars, get all objective with it, recognize and name as best I could the values and maxims we were already living by and what I could hope for with Gretchen in the future. It wasn't just love. My love is a little broken. I'm not proud of this but it's the truth.

All of that is to say, now that I've come out of that journey, now that I'm setting forth on another grander one, it's hard to get myself to remember my long-term mistress, which herself seems as thought she's always been with me. As long as stories have been with me I've called them my own. I co-authored a story once in third grade with my friend Stephen and for my part of it (it was an adventure tale) I ripped off the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where he has to step on the right letters or else he'll fall through, I think our main character might have even been named Indiana, but I didn't make the distinction between what stories felt important to me and which ones I claimed as original to me. I wrote stories before I recognized the attractive parts of girls and then again after I'd gotten used to it, and I've been writing ever since. Easy, effortless expression. Never fails to make me feel important.

I can imagine one day having a dream wherein I am talking to writing outside the screen door. Where I'm explaining to it how it led me astray, how I've been coming back to it with regularity for years, decades, and I've never seen the proper return one expects from a relationship. I had been, yet again, unwittingly dumping my love down a chasm. And now I'm done, writing. I'm a family man now. Eat a dick.

ALL OF WHICH IS TO SAY, I don't want to ever have that dream. I would like my writing to return the favor, please, one day, if you please. Which is the only reason I am anything but thrilled to have my new bride for a bonus month we didn't expect, free time, just to be together. An incredibly lucky break, from all perspectives save one.

So, writing. You bitch. You best return to me when I call on you, you hear?

You hear me?

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