• juliadestefano

Updated: Mar 28

Hey you. It is March 26th, and I’m having my typical breakfast of oatmeal and coffee. I can feel you shudder through the screen. I know you don’t like oatmeal. I’m watching a squirrel play against the backdrop of the neighbors’ fresh new siding. I've hung a new shelf, myself. Why I hung a shelf if I am planning to move, I’ll never know. Maybe I've finally accepted that I’ll never have another work office. Maybe I just needed a place to put some things. It’s in the Writing Room. I’d like to show it to you sometime. Then again, there are a lot of things I’d like to show you. I wish you would shock me by letting me. No, "shock" isn't the word. "Surprise" is the word. I wish you would surprise me by showing up in front of the house with your little car, or calling me out of the blue to say you were thinking of me. You see - this is what women want. To feel special. I know you know how to do this. You have done it for me before, really made me feel loved and treasured.

I don't really know what happens to us every few weeks or so - how we can go from so close to so distant with the changing of the tides or the phases of the moon. It seems to me that the planetary alignment has to be just right in order for you to say “good morning” to me, ask how I am, or hold me. Sometimes, it feels like something as mundane as a toe stub or as frustrating as a conversation with your boss will impact whether or not I hear from you for a week, two weeks, even a month. You blow so hot and then so cold with the wind that I don't know whether to put on a dress or a down jacket. You can probably tell I've been thinking about this much, and I have. I think you're very good at compartmentalizing, putting me into a little box until you feel able-bodied enough to deal with me. But my thoughts and feelings can't help but bleed into everything I do and am. The only thing I ever needed from you was some consistency in your interactions with me. Could you say "good morning" to me? Start a round of Scrabble? Ask me how I am? Take an interest in my life? And then there's the biggest one: hold me. I am touch-starved. Blame the pandemic. I don't know if that makes you a friend with benefits, or what. But I'd be lying if I told you that my body didn't want that. My body and mind want anything but the sickness they've been contending with for so long. Call it a respite. I struggle to call you a friend with benefits because I really love you. But I know people can be more than one thing to each other.

I guess I also feel like, when things are going badly for you elsewhere, you automatically file us into the "bad" category, too. I used to self-sabotage a lot and still do at times, so I get this. Maybe that's why it impacts me so greatly with you. Because you're me in so many ways. You are my mirror. We can both be our own worst enemies sometimes. But I'm the kind of woman who responds best to "I need space" rather than full on silence or an abrupt ending that comes out of nowhere because you feel stressed elsewhere. Do you think it's fair that you begin to self-sabotage when things get hard and in doing so, shove away the one person who will ever truly love you - me? No? Neither do I. We've got to go easier with each other. We're all fragile. There will never be another me. I know I am the Red Queen to you. But sometimes I feel like this title makes you believe I am some superhuman. I am human, just like you. I have always tried my best to give you what you need and to make you happy. But I have feelings, too. I don't want to have to tell you to care for me or see me. I want you to because you want to - because you cannot imagine your life without me in it. It sounds more complicated on paper than it plays out in real life.

Sometimes, I feel funny telling you all this - though, with the things we've done and said to each other - how could I feel funny? Then again, sometimes I can't find you to tell you and so, I write because I feel unseen and the words help. Sometimes, I fear that by telling you, I am trying to force your hand. Because the truth is, if you don't want to say "good morning" to me but only say it because I want you to, then it wouldn't really mean anything. I don't really know where I'm going with this. I just haven't been well for some time now and needed you to know that it isn't you causing it. It seems when I do tell you how I feel, you take it to mean that it is you causing me pain and go even further away. In reality, you and I are a bright spot most of the time. That is, until the cycle of disappearance and disconnect rears its ugly head. But we're worth trying to figure it out. Honest. Even if it just means a walk in the park again. My heart hopes you will agree, and surprise me. I wouldn't refuse flowers, but what I really want is your face. You know why.

As Tom Petty sang: "You oughta want her more than money. Cadillacs and rust. Diamonds and dust.... Good love is hard to find,"

Your (very human) Red Queen

Running Season

The weird chill is upon me,

and I see you’re lacing up your running shoes -

not minding the snow blanketing our small earth

or the probability of slip and fall.

But there are whiteout conditions out there!

Surely, you’ll freeze to death.

Shivering outside love’s shelter.

And why the straitjacket?

We both know it can’t keep you warm -

no matter how tight you pull.

With no finish line in sight,

how will you ever know when it’s time

to turn back towards this woman who’s missing you?

Or will the bell-like peal of her laugh

fade into distant memory like the sound of the starting gun?

But you’re already off.

The cold penetrates me -

icy wind blowing in from the screen door

that I can’t get to shut

as I realize it’s me you’re running from.

I knew when the icicles resurfaced on my bones

that you were pulling at the laces.

Making them taut.

Readying for another journey where I am not welcome.

This chapter I tear from the book

that always reappears

just when I think it’s safe to say running season has ended.

Are those shoes new?

You’re faster than I’m used to,

or is it my exhaustion holding me in place?

Oh, barefooted, naked me -

it’s not my job to chase you

in this sprint faster than Cupid’s arrow

that dares an avalanche.

How it rocks the boat of our bond,

almost willing it to tip over

as the lines in my face deepen.

Watching you take off with my golden heart in-hand.

Held high like the Olympic torch.

And the imprint of yesterday’s kiss upon your frostbitten lips.

Estimated time of return — unknown.

© Julia R. DeStefano

I think, as women, asking for what we need is always a vulnerable thing. To ask for what you need is to expose yourself. Sometimes, it can feel more naked than if you were to expose flesh. Whether you've gotten hurt repeatedly or if you fear getting hurt for the first time, you're still scared it's going to happen. When you love someone, you don't want them to think less of you if you show them who you really are, or talk with them about what you really want - not what you're supposed to want. It is my road. It is my destiny. It is my travel. Sometimes, I set myself up for disappointment even when disappointment hasn't come yet. Great literature has called it a "self-fulfilling prophecy." I've come to call it, "just being me." Why is this? I wrack my brain to try to understand that missing chromosome or serotonin level that always results in me anticipating when the other shoe will drop, so much so that I find it difficult to trust or revel in pleasure. Because pleasure never stays too long in my world. For so long, I have been trying to understand what seems to be a phenomenon of self.

Yesterday, another birthday came and went. I used to love my birthday. But this year, hours before the day arrived, I began to feel a significant sense of "oldness" that I couldn't quite put my finger on. I know it was likely in my head, having managed to complete my hour-and-a- half workout each day this week and feeling stronger physically than I have since the summer months. Maybe it's just me, noticing the lines on my face much like Lucille Ball did in one of the first I Love Lucy episodes. Another year older, she is sitting at her vanity and points out her "crow's feet" to Ricky who, in a moment of quintessential Hollywood magic, kisses her cheek and tells her that she's beautiful. The image always stuck with me, not her perception of her oldness, but that there could be someone - this other half of her - who loved her so much, someone so perceptive of her inner uncertainties and internal feelings of anguish, and yet still call her beautiful, and that she could represent the same for him. Maybe, at this stage in my life, I'm waiting for someone to tell me I'm beautiful and actually stay. Of course, I'm not that vain. The "beautiful" part doesn't matter. But the "stay" part is everything to me and always will be. No, "beautiful" is more a state of being. Ricky thought Lucy's soul was beautiful and recognized they were more powerful together than apart. Recently, my friend Gary was telling me about a "must-see" television series called The Chosen. It slipped my mind until I saw a pamphlet the other day that read: "What does it mean to be chosen?" Though I knew it was to be taken in a religious context, I felt something stir inside of me. Of course I would relate it back to interpersonal connections. At this point, I've come to recognize that that is just what I do. I've always pondered what my purpose is in life. Maybe my purpose is to touch something deep inside my readers and in the process, become closer to myself. Maybe my purpose is to encourage others to feel. My friend Dan used to say this to me. I don't know and ponder on the thought. I mean, I am not some guru.

Lately, I have been thinking much on the concept of twin flames. I don't want to call it "hokey" or dismiss it as such, but some aspects of it are too much for me to buy into. You could say that the concept of the twin flame is one that I have always been intrigued by but have kept at arms length and for good reason, I suppose. Though I am fascinated by the world around us and its ever-increasing unknowns, the only real dive I have ever taken "into the mystic" is through the Van Morrison song of the same name. But then again, there is the title of my new book and the accompanying "right place right time" photograph taken on a friend's patio in Maine - the upright flame that eerily resembles a finger pointing upwards if you look closely enough. My father's words, not mine. Even my recent writings have had so much flame imagery, the majority subconscious. Where does it all come from? I would like to believe that it comes from some place deeper, a higher place, perhaps.

Almost involuntarily, my mind circles back to the theory of twin flames, this belief that two people can feel so familiar at the onset, be magnetic, and feel like they are mirror images of each other - often to the point where you feel like this person could even be you. It shakes you up a bit, this thought that you are looking at yourself in this other person but in different bodily form - and I think of someone I have been close with for so very long; someone whose presence I feel sitting next to me as I write this; someone who I can hear cheering me on and encouraging me to keep writing despite the tears I feel welling in my eyes because to write is always to crack my heart wide open; someone who asked me, just last night, "Are we twin flames?" Surely it would seem so, for my soul doesn't know the difference between "goodnight" and "goodbye" and reacts accordingly, sometimes embarrassingly. But then, something hits me. Twin flames aren't only about love. They are about truth. The hallmark of a twin flame relationship is two people who see straight through to one another, far beyond the "surface" of what the world sees. "Challenging" and "healing" are the two words most often used to describe this connection that is not a walk in the park but rather, a catalyst for love, growth, and harmony in each other's lives -

and also, maybe, the realization that you can have the very thing you've always wanted but never could attain,

and feel safe to revel in a pleasure that stays.

Burn, baby, burn,

The Red Queen