"You're incredible."

I smiled as I continued to hug her and felt the warmth of her skin beneath my hands and her body pressed up against mine. "Thanks," I said. "I don't hear that nearly enough."

"You're incredible," she repeated and then paused. "Is that enough?" she asked with a soft voice in my ear.

I still felt playful and traced my hands up her back gently, still very happy to continue the embrace that we shared in her forward living room where people walked around us. "Nope," I said impishly. "It'll never be enough."

"You're incredible times infinity," she said with a small, quiet laugh. "I love you," she said.

For the fraction of a second it took me to process those words, I tried (impotently) to discern the meaning behind them. Does she love me as a friend? Does she really dig how our energies seem so compatible? Does she love the way I stroke her hair and caress her skin? Does she love my sense of humor and intellect? Does she really, really love me, as in... that kind of love?

Do I love her back? Certainly, I care for her and would feel unhappy if she found a reason to be displeased with me. I have always thought of her as little more than a friend, as far as emotions were concerned. But don't think I haven't noticed how sexy she is or how easy it is to be physically familiar with her, even though we haven't done anything naughty yet. I know that I like her hugs, which are different and more sensual than anyone else's I've had in years and years. And I truly, honestly and sincerely DO care for her. But love? As in love-love? Geez, I never really gave it any thought before. Should I start to do so now?

So I said, as I held her in my arms and looked into her eyes, "Thank you. That..." I leaned back while I still held her in my arms. "That... means a hell of a lot to me." I looked deeply into her eyes, unsure of what else I should say or what had just happened between us, if anything. There were so many other factors and people and things involved here.

Then she kissed my cheek softly and I kissed hers and she hugged me close again. This time I held a little more tightly and thoroughly enjoyed each brief second of our closeness. She's a belly dancer, almost ten years my junior, smart as hell, sexy, funny, cautious and decidedly female in all the delicious and fantastic ways a young woman can be utterly female. She smells nice and exudes... something... from every pore of her body and presence. She is intoxicating to hold in my arms, always has been and hopefully always(?) will be. That much I know for certain.

I thought to myself, It's been too long, buddy-boy. That's all. She's just being her warm, friendly self. She trusts and respects you. She's not hitting on you, just being nice because you're so nice to her and the people around you. That's all. She simply appreciates who you are. She's not in love with you. She just... loves you. Agape, not eros. I mean, dude, she can't be in love with you: you smoke and you don't dance and she has her policies about those things! I thought this even while we held our embrace in silence and felt each other breathing. I wanted to ask, to clear up the air about what had just been said. Those words are special words, where I come from, and people don't- I don't!- bandy them about lightly. I wanted clarity and elucidation, understanding. But there wasn't enough time.

I sensed the presence of others on the approach and relaxed my hold on her body as she let go of mine. "It truly was a pleasure to watch you dance tonight," I told her. "Seriously. I can't thank you enough for inviting me to the show. I really, really needed to get out and that was perfect."

She beamed beautifically at me and the compliment. "Thank you! I'm so happy you could come out, too. I'm really glad you were there."

I took a small step back, reached into my pocket and withdrew my cell phone, which is currently out of service. The timer on it read: 11:38 PM. I had made plans to meet a friend at the movie theater at midnight and didn't want to be late. I looked back up at her and smiled weakly. "I'm sorry I have to leave, but I really should go. I hope you have a wonderful time tonight and I hope you get some rest. Lord knows you've earned it. You really worked your ass off tonight."

She smiled demurely and nodded. "I know. Believe me, I know. You go on. I'll call you soon."

I smirked as I made to leave. As I approached the doorway, three other guests for the party entered, right on cue, and breezed past me with barely a nod of acknowledgement. Kids. "No, you won't," I corrected her without a backwards glance. "No one will. Not until I get my cell phone turned back on. But there's always email and Jessica has my address. If you want to get in touch with me, you know how." I turned to flash a smart-assed grin at her and found, much to my surprise, that she was directly behind me, right on my heels. "When Jessica gets back from the store please say goodbye for me."

"I will," she said. And I knew that she would. "Have a good time."

"You, too." She leaned in as I opened the door, as though she wanted to really kiss me this time. But I was already in motion and all I could offer her was a small smile and bright eyes. I could see the surprise on her face. A few weeks ago she'd offered me a kiss for my birthday, which I all-too-happily accepted, but now I was sorta-not giving in to temptation this time. For the first time in probably a long time a guy had actually refused her a kiss goodbye. Make no mistake: I really wanted to double back and kiss her goodbye, but something inside me said that to not kiss her would be better in the long run, that it would impress her more.

And a thought: Why, all of the sudden, are you concerned with impressing her? What the hell is going ON?

The door swung closed behind me and I got into my truck quickly. I decided that I would think about it later. Right then, I had a friend to meet and a movie to go see.

What the hell just happened?

I'm still trying to figure out what happened last night; I'm still trying to figure out how much of it I should describe, how many details I should put in, whether it should go in the Hyde Park node i'm working on. The participants didn't mind me writing in my notebook, but they were drunk, and one of the people was a shy nethead who'd only been in Oz three years... so he may go here, or a place like it, and I wouldn't want to upset him.

In my creative writing class, my teacher talked about 'Australian grunge lit'-- stories about teenagers doing nothing, having sex, doing drugs. I laughed at that, wondering why that would be important, how Australia could be 'sordid' at all. I still don't think 'grunge' is the right term, but spending Saturday night with a group of high schoolers in Ramones and Dead Kennedys shirts as they drink cheap alchohol from the bottle and have sex in a public park does change your perspective on things.

A writer ought to have experiances. There was nothing going on last night; i didn't have copies of the free music papers I read, and the bar near the uni was dead and boring. I took a bus into the city, figuring I'd walk until something happened. I know my way around Sydney; its a reasonably safe place. There's always bars and clubs open, if I could find them.

They were standing outside a bar, and they looked pretty cool. I asked them if there was a band playing nearby, I asked why they were dressed like punks (Converse All Stars, the afromentioned band shirts)-- it was like a uniform. They said there wasn't a band, they were too young to drink, they were heading to the park. I said 'I'm bored. I'm coming with'. They dubbed me Andy, after a boy they met last week.

(I am gettting to the point where I describe physically, and i'm not sure how much to tell. Ages? How hot one of the girls looked? Chance remarks have gotten me into trouble before; let us say that I did nothing illegal, as they had already bought the alchohol and any action did not involve me. And how did i become the older, wiser one? I'm 19, and the only reason I wasn't doing stuff like that with my friends was because I skipped off to a little bubble in the woods)

There was alcohol and sex, and it was horrendously important to the people involved. Started fun and random, ended on drama and tears-- though two, who were encouraging me in my writing, noted the events dispassionatly. As with all people i find, they were intelligent, beneath it all-- i was reminded a bit of the kids in Jon Katz's book 'Geeks'; they were losers but they were appealing; there was nothing else to do last night.

I'm daylogging this to organize it in my head; I'm romantasizing a night not spent home with Pixelships and porn (but it takes an odd sort of intelligence to want to do something, be somewhere). Hyde Park is beautiful; they shouldn't have done what they did. One got chased by a homosexual who hit on him after telling good stories; I still can't imagine Sydney being sordid; tommorow I will arrange this and make it interesting.

What am i missing? I forgot much of last night; i'm faced with the problem of seeing things; my mind has been warped by Ulysses and The Illuminatus! Trilogy; I could follow the guidelines of a similar mental state in the former novel, but I can't do it justice; the things twist upon themselves; am I glad nothing happened or annoyed? Was i there as a guy wanting to have fun or a writer wanting material he will not turn into anything good? Will i show up next Saturday?

(i'm dancing around the guilt from fucking up my final papers, dancing around the sense that i'm slim slow sliding my potential into oblivion; i'm already getting too old for some things; they are not my life, but they correspond with people i knew at the Bubble, none who I think are here; his pants were tottally off and he looked sad, though she was tottally hot, a teen wet dream fairytale in thigh high white boots, short skirt, and a tight sweater. She was out of it, drunk, his pants were tottally off and they were tottally doing it in the bushes; anybody could have seen but I don't think they did; Sydney isn't that sort of place; i've been here 9 months and already this city is choking in my memories of it)

After deciding to move our family checking account from Compass Bank to USAA Federal Savings Bank, I went down there to close the account and ask what had happened to the $5000.00 my son deposited in college monies. Any guilt or reservations completely vanished after she told me they had been deposited to another account. She moved them back without so much as an apology.

This is the fifth time they have been careless with our money. The first FOUR times were the result of a customer in Phoenix walking into a bank making out a withdrawal slip that had the same account number save the last number. This person makes their fives look like eights and instead of the teller asking the customer who is standing right there in front of them what that number is --zip goes our money into a complete strangers hands. I told her I expected the bank to make compensations for any overdrafts, bounced check fees and a note in our credit report to explain their derelictions. The bank manager put a note on our account but after the FOURTH time she suggested that I close this account and open a new one.

What a pain! There were at least a dozen automatic withdrawals and two direct deposits had to be rerouted, but after the last SNAFU I was glad I went through the hours of filling out forms and following up with phone calls. Things get easily confusing for me at times like this and when the automatic withdrawal for car insurance didn’t show up USAA called and helped me take care of it on line.

They also offer a small rebate every time we use our debit card and punch “credit” on the debit machine. Up to 15 bucks in rebates for ATM fees, free checks, free checking, free on line banking with unlimited Web Pay and when I asked if they would consider lower the APR on my MasterCard with them they cut it in half:)

This year my resolution is to restructure our finances. So far it’s been a very successful. Here is what’s been done so far:

  • Set up a weekly EFT of 40 dollars into my savings account so every time the cars break down it doesn’t wipe us out. Car repairs average around $300.00 because ours are so old and we can’t afford a car payment plus insurance. When it reaches $2000.00, the cost of a new engine for my Mopar then I can start saving for tile.
  • Anytime the credit card is used a check is written out of the checking account because it’s already spent. The first few months it was a bit panicky until I realized the bill was already paid. It was simply a matter of voiding out the checks and writing one to pay it in full woo hoo!
Here is an idea that some may find useful for any kind of long term debt, like credit cards, car loans, mortgages and home equity loans. For each debt:
  1. Open up a free checking account.
  2. Divide your monthly payment by 4.
    For example our five year home equity loan payment is $191.00
  3. Set up a weekly electronic funds transfer that equals one fourth of the payment.
    In this case I rounded mine up to $48.00 and picked the day after payday so my bill was paid first.
  4. Set up an monthly automatic payment with the institution that owns your debt.
  5. DO NOT TOUCH IT! Leave the extra funds that build up in there from extra weeks in the months.
  6. Make a payment to the principle loan with the extra funds at the end of the year.
  7. If it’s a mortgage or home equity loan deduct the interest off your taxes.
  8. Viola! A five-year loan is paid off in two and a half to three years.
Having Quicken makes it easy peasy. I got this idea after the bank who holds our mortgage Chase Manhattan gave our name and number to telemarketers. They called asking if I would be interested in making biweekly payments to pay off the mortgage early and save thousands of dollars. They only wanted to charge me nine dollars a month. So for $1620.00 (9x12 = 108.00 and 108 x 15 years = $1620.00) they would get the use of my money for a few days before sending off to Chase who got the use of my money two weeks before it was due! After making biweekly payments directly to Chase they credited the first payment to the monthly payment, the second payment to the principle then charged me a late fee! BTW Chase has bought out Bank One so what will they call the Bank One Ballpark now? *ugh* I hope it’s something less corporate.

Now that Gen has all of her shots we began walking this week. Getting ready for walks has been very bittersweet. It reminds me so much of Kiki and Sam. Some of the neighbors have stopped us to ask about them. But once we get out there and start training it’s all forgotten. Gen is doing fantastic! Yesterday one of the neighbors asked me if I would train his labs. She runs ahead and behind with her tail held high in such great joy only to find herself wrapped around a mailbox post. This week she figured out how to unwrap herself which is a good skill to have.

I’ve taken the neighbor’s dog into the vet for heat exhaustion because she left him chained up to a post in the back yard. He got wrapped around it so tight he couldn’t get in the shade. By the time I peeked over the wall to see what all the whining was about his body temperature was over 108 degrees F. Wrapping him in a wet towel and I raced him to the vet. My neighbor is new to the desert wasn't aware of how heat can be deadly she is also single and Baxter was her baby. We couldn’t contact her to get permission to treat the woofie so I promised the vet that I would pay up to $100 dollars for her treatment.

It was kinda cool what the vet did with the pup. She had rigged up a clothes dryer with a stationary cage in it. Then they put the dog in there while the dryer blew cool air on Baxter until his temp came down then loaded him up with subcutaneous fluids. Dogs have a lot of loose skin between their shoulder blades so by the time my neighbor got there Baxter had this huge lump on his back. They were SO happy to see each other.

Gen is five months old now, close to 40 pounds, and tall enough to put her paws up on the counters to STEAL my potholders! While dinner burns we are playing keep away in the back yard. To stop that I put duct tape with the sticky side up along the edges of the counters because most doggies don’t like the sticky sensation on their paws. After one of my dogs went through a plate glass window I used the same trick. It’s also is useful to stop jumping up on doors.

Take care:)


Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."
-John 14:18 (NIV)
Even though others abandon me I am never alone.

Devotion

Today I got somebody fired. It was my first time in my year and a half of being a manager at McDonalds. A crew person came in an hour late today for her shift. She was a good person and I didn't have anything against her but I had to document her. After calling the home store I found out it was her last strike and she was gonna be fired the next day thanks to my documentation. I know it really isn't my fault as she brought it upon herself, but that didn't make it any easier for me.

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