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In the box where I keep this story, the woman in the doorway of the hotel room was tall and blonde. She had swept-back bangs in the process of growing out. At 2 a.m., the Flagstaff air was crispy outside. Jacket-weather already. Winter was on deck with its frost threat. Besides the front desk staff I passed on the way to the room and this blonde woman who was in my way, I hadn’t seen another person since I’d arrived. Most people were done for the night. I stood in front of room 234 of a Courtyard by Marriot waiting to be validated.

I was 20-years-old, and believed in terrible things. I thought Savage Garden made some pretty good music. Folgers made some pretty good coffee. And Drew loved me. Love, like lust-love, like he needed me in the middle of the night because the middle of the night is when you truly realize what you want, like it was crazy but understandable how he’d always burned or bit his tongue and that’s why he couldn’t ever kiss me.

“Drew is sick,” this woman said.

Not sick-sick. Drunk-sick. Curled in a ball while his body expressed poison. The metamorphosis. Toxic to non-toxic.

“He called me,” I said in the key of I don’t know who I am, my voice rising in pitch.

“I quit, you bitches,” he yelled before ripping his apron off, throwing it on the ground, and storming out Starbucks, leaving me with my rival to finish the shift. Neither of us were sad to see the guy go — he was a grown man who replied, “Do I have to?” when asked to fetch a pastry or sweep — but we begrudged being left alone together to finish the shift without anyone to break up our passive aggressive feuding. Both of us were bitter that we had to be baristas in our mid-20s after earning college degrees and building professional resumes, but instead of bonding over our similarities, we complained to our boss about one another and swapped shifts to avoid working together. That evening we finished our work with a minimum of conversation. As we were locking up the store, we spotted the quitter waiting for us in the parking lot, idling in a late-model convertible. He sloppily hurled a melted Frappuccino in our direction, did a few screechy loops around the parking lot, and sped off. It was such a hideous and absurd display that all my rival and I could do was go get a few beers and laugh it off.

The other night at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, a few local poets read some poems aloud. The store was crowded. Those who came late had to stand, or sit on the floor.

Because I live in Iowa City, I should point out that by “local poets” I mean Dora Malech, James Galvin, Mark Levine, Cal Bedient, Robyn Schiff, Christopher Merrill and Jan Weissmiller. The event was organized to help Dean Young whose heart failed him, and who in April, thanks to a donor, received a new heart. But now it turns out that it will cost approximately $50,000 a year to keep that heart beating. $50,000 a year, out of pocket, to keep Dean Young alive.

This is generic advice, aimed at no one in particular (except a few older men I work with who won’t ever have the opportunity to read it). I’ve been mostly single my whole dating career – a few three to four month interludes throughout the years – and I’ve only recently come to terms with it. Throughout those years, though, some things are constant.

1. Always (always, always, always) think before you open your mouth. This is especially true when conversing with a single woman nearing 30. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you’re not quite sure if what you’re about to say is going to offend me, take a few seconds to consider just how awful your own foot might taste when it’s stuffed into your mouth.

2. Don’t worry that there’s something wrong with me because I’m approaching 30 and haven’t yet had a stable, long-term relationship. It’s like Deborah Kerr said – “Personally, I think if a woman hasn’t met the right man by the time she’s 24, she may be lucky.”

3. Stop telling Cat Lady jokes. Seriously, just stop.

4. Just because I’m happy without a romantic relationship in my life, doesn’t mean I’m prepared to walk into a room full of couples by myself. Bravery is one thing, but stupidity is a whole other. Cosmo Magazine would never tell you, but that’s why gazelles travel in groups – because it makes it harder for the lions to pick one out for dinner.

5. 99.9% of the people who are in loving, wonderful relationships are the EXCEPTION. I think it’s wonderful that you met your husband or wife by chance while choosing melons at the local market, but stop telling me that I need to shop for melons on a daily basis so I can meet the love of my life. I don’t even like melons.

6. Please stop telling me that it will happen when I’m no longer looking. The reasoning here is twofold: first, because I’ve stopped looking and it’s still not happening and second, because if this statement applies to dating then shouldn’t it apply to most other things? For instance, if I’m constantly looking for a bus and it doesn’t appear, then the minute I stop looking for a bus one will show up…and most likely run me over. This seems unpleasant.

7. Hollywood: STOP MAKING ROMANTIC COMEDIES. They’re not funny, they cause damage to one’s self-esteem, and they create unachievable goals in a world already filled to the brim with broken hearts. See here.

8. Not everyone gets a “happy” ending. Some people get the ending that makes them happy.

9. Do not (I repeat: DO NOT) suggest online dating to me when I complain about how difficult it is to meet men in this day and age. I won’t even say anything. I’ll just throw something at you (most likely something soft…maybe). Just let me bitch and moan and then tell me to suck it up and eat a cupcake.

10. Don’t worry so much. Life happens at a pace it sets for itself. You’ll be the first to know when I’m head-over-heels in love. Until then, let me be. I have a wonderful group of friends and for now, they keep me sane.

The 6 month sabbatical was supposed to end this month. I don’t think it will, at least not officially. I’m not saying that if some approximation of my better half pops up in front of me and asks me to dinner I’m going to say no. I’m just saying I need some more time to figure it out…whatever the hell “it” is.

A few weeks ago I was watching Planet of the Apes, the original version, circa 1968, for the first time in many years. It’s a movie you can only enjoy fully one time because of the famous concluding scene, the Big Surprise. I was streaming it on Netflix and only half-watching, at least until the point where our confused astronauts encounter a tribe of wild humans. One of those humans turns out to be a woman who eventually becomes Nova. Like all the wild humans, Nova can’t speak, and mainly she’s there to look pretty.