riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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Remembering (and Writing About) Love

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day, not just because Kaz isn’t around to share it with me, but because it seems forced and commercial, not to mention superfluous. Every day should be about love in my book. And people should express it in their own ways, not feel pressured to do so by some public measuring stick.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m a little sad. I’m happy for anyone who is enjoying this day and celebrating love. It’s just impossible to not think of Kaz and remember times gone by.

My favorite Valentine’s Day (which I wrote about here) was the one when we had the least amount of money and went camping in Joshua Tree National Park. The only expense was the price of the campsite ($15), wood for the fire ($20), and the food and wine, which we would have had anyway at home. During the day we hiked. At night we ate dinner and talked. We had no entertainment other than the fire, the stars and a radio. It was lovely.

As a writer attempting to capture our story, it’s easy, cathartic even, to describe scenes like the camping trip. Less easy is to describe what it felt like to be in love. (To be fair, I think this has been a challenge for writers since the beginning of the written word.) Some folks who have read my memoir draft have commented that while it’s clear that Kaz and I really loved each other, they found themselves wanting more of the “being in love.”

How does one write about being in love? To me, it’s not very effective to say, “I had never felt so happy” or “I felt like my heart might burst,” even if it is an accurate description. It’s easier to write an argument – a moment of conflict – than it is to describe those silent moments where everything was happening on the inside.

Maybe it’s because I come from screenwriting. One is never supposed to write how the character feels, unless the character is saying how he/she feels, a slippery slope which only the greatest screenwriters can pull off. One is supposed to write the scene in such a way that the reader knows how the character is feeling without being told.

I recently discussed this with a friend, and she asked me describe out loud what it was like being in love with Kaz. This is what I said:

“I remember looking into his eyes and feeling like the rest of the world had just faded away. It didn’t matter if it was for several minutes or a split-second. In those moments, it would feel like there was only us, like we were inside a bubble. Inside the bubble we didn’t need to speak out loud because we could speak with our eyes. Outside the bubble was everyone else.

Looking into his eyes was also like looking into a mirror. I saw him… but I also saw myself. I saw myself the way he saw me. In his eyes, I was more beautiful, more intelligent, more talented… always a better version than how I saw myself.

There were moments when he would take my hand and bounce it lightly in his, or just play with my fingers, or he would squeeze my hand and I would squeeze back. It was this private thing between us, a way of communicating without words. We did it when we watched television, on long drives, in public, when he was sick, all the way to the end. Actually, that’s how I knew we were at the end… when he stopped squeezing back.

At concerts, he would always find the best spot in the crowd to see the stage and let me stand in front of him. He didn’t dance, but he would put his hands on my hips as I danced.

There were other moments when we would make each other laugh, or we’d be hanging out in the kitchen, drinking wine, cooking dinner, just talking about our days… and I would suddenly feel the sensation of fullness, like my heart had expanded to fill up my entire body, like my heart had become my body. Sometimes I would hug him out of the blue because… I just had to. Moments like this would always be followed by a hint of pain, because I never wanted them to end.

I used to fall asleep before him when we watched TV, and he would always guide me to bed and tuck me in. My mother used to do that too when I was a child. She would sit with me for a few minutes before I fell asleep. Kaz was the only other person who ever did that, and it always made me feel so good and safe, like I could trust him with my life.

When we were in nature, like in Joshua Tree or driving up the coast of California on Route 1, everything sort of sparkled. I know that sounds silly, but that’s how it seemed, like everything had a layer of diamond dust. I used to feel like a divine presence was with us, like the heavens were pleased, like my mother was smiling down from above. One of the ways I knew that Kaz was special was this certainty that my mother would have loved him, and vice-versa.”

It was a good exercise to describe these moments out loud. I often wonder if I’ll ever feel like this again. In any case, I never want to forget what it feels like to be in love.

Wishing everyone a love-filled day, every day. xo

Joshua Tree sunset

Me looking at the Joshua Tree sunset, pic taken by Kaz


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Wind Chimes in the Breeze

It’s windy out tonight. The wind chimes are singing and the trees are rustling, but the chimes are in the foreground. They remind me of Kaz. Of nights lying in bed next to him, hearing the wind chimes late at night.

On nights like this, I would sometimes close my eyes and pretend we were on a tropical island or somewhere warm (he bought these wood chimes in Costa Rica). The chimes were outside our beach bungalow, and the rustling trees were really ocean waves lapping at the shore just outside our window. If these moments happened after sex, I would picture the moon glittering on the white sand outside as we were actually sleeping under a silk canopy on the beach, not a one-bedroom apartment in Hollywood. With my head on his shoulder, my nostrils filled with his scent, a combination of Irish Spring and his own natural muskiness (he never wore cologne or after shave), I would smile to myself.

Such is a woman’s mind. Or at least, this woman’s overly imaginative mind. We don’t always think like this. But certain things trigger us, like the sound of wind chimes on a breezy night.

And music.

As I mentioned, I went to see CLUTCH last week. I could write several posts just on what this band meant to Kaz and our time together. They were the most-listened to, most-heard music of our three years, which is saying a lot given that he was a musical aficionado and listened to music for a living.

Last week’s concert brought back so many memories. Seeing them in DC at the 9:30 Club, hanging with the band backstage and in their tour bus afterwards, seeing them at the House of Blues in LA, listening to them on road trips, listening to them in the ICU (I would play them on my phone for him), listening to them at his memorial (his ashes were released to their song “Electric Worry”). We had some of our happiest moments at their shows, and one of our saddest too. Because Clutch was also his last concert and we both knew it when we were there.

Seeing them last week was both joyful and heartbreaking. Afterwards, I went backstage to say hi to the band. They all remembered him. They all said he was special, a good spirit, a good man. They didn’t know what else to say about what happened to him. I told them they didn’t have to say anything more, and thanked them for the kind words.

It was wonderful to see live music again. Before he was sick we would go to a show almost weekly. He would go more often than that. Part of his job was to keep up on music. We saw shows at probably every major venue in the Los Angeles area, and several smaller ones too. We rarely paid for tickets and always had VIP passes. And he always had new music before it came out, which was a treat indeed.

Now I have no idea what’s going on in the music world and hardly ever see a show unless it’s one of his favorite bands.

But I still have the wind chimes. And when the wind gets going like it is tonight, it takes me back. A couple of times the wind has blown hard and the chimes have clanged about loudly. But mostly they’ve been singing in a gentle, rolling rhythm. I don’t talk about him as much with people as I used to. But I can still remember what it feels like to lay in his arms in the dark, under the imaginary silk canopy. He would laugh at my tropical island fantasy but not be surprised. He knew I was a cornball.