This is the second item in a sometimes chronological series called “Lovebirds.”  Each is intended to stand alone, but if you want to read the first part, go here:  “Lovebirds:  Hepatitis Hotel”

Shakubuku.  A Buddhist term meaning, literally, break-subdue.  Its idiomatic meaning is slightly different.

It can be found in Grosse Pointe Blank, in which Minnie Driver’s character describes it as “a swift spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.”

For my purposes, either of these definitions work.  In either case, Shakubuku indicates a fundamental, sudden shift in habit and consciousness.  A violent change in awareness.

I don’t know what prompted me to leave Florida.

I know what I pretended prompted me to leave Florida.

Kerry read my journal while I was at work.  I came home to find him flushed, angry, and interrogative.  He confronted me about what I’d written as if I’d done something wrong.

It was established that my writing was my business, that I needed private head space.  He consented that if he ever wanted to know what was in that book, he would ask.

I don’t remember exactly what was in it.  At least not all of what was in it.  The entry in question had to do with my anxiety about leaving for Florida and the remorse I’d been feeling since I’d gotten there.  He was waving the book around, shaking it at me like someone was dead and he’d uncovered the murder weapon.

In my defense, I can only offer that Florida has no seasons.  There, I worked at at Gap Outlet and went to nickle beer night every week at a place with black-lighting and bartenders in day-glo bikinis.  Virtually everyone was a tourist or otherwise a part-timer, and I couldn’t stop feeling like one.  My presence there, according to the journal, was an “all expenses-paid lifetime vacation.”

“Is this what I am to you?!?!?!?!  A vacation????”

I don’t know if it was the artless attempt at a guilt trip, or really, genuinely, the act of betrayal itself.  Had it been one or the other, I probably would have kept my cool, but together, they were too much, and I went the other way completely.  My chest burned. I started shaking.


I was maybe crying, definitely screaming.  It went on for a while.  I was screaming so hard I made myself cough, then gag.  In snooping–in his attempt to understand why I was standing with one foot out the door–Kerry gave me the opportunity to step out completely. I told him to keep the journal.  Shove the journal up his ass.  I was leaving.

I tried like crazy to be happy there.  To be thrilled about a situation that was–or would be for anyone sane or even remotely practical–more or less idyllic.

I certainly had no reason to be exceptionally UNhappy.  My fiancee was good-looking and probably on his way to affluence.  He was considerate and funny and willing to do anything in the world to make me happy.  I was 21 and had my own house.  Or townhouse.  Or Kerry’s townhouse, but we were engaged, so it was as good as mine.

I lived three blocks from the ocean, and by dumb luck, a girl from my hometown, Nora, worked at a hotel down the road where I spent happy-hours with her on the beachfront bar patio, looking out at the gulf of Mexico.  Dolphin spotting was such a regular occurrence that it eventually ceased to be interesting, even to two girls from Minnesota.  We’d pack up roadies in front of her bartender boyfriend and sip our drinks as we drove down the Emerald Coast Highway and the 30A, flanked by white sand dunes, to Sunnyside, where we’d marvel at the rich people’s houses, many of which were painted in Caribbean pastels and stood up on stilts because they were just that close to the ocean.

Kerry and I even had a pet.  A charismatic lovebird named Paco.  Just the one.  “Aren’t you supposed to have two?” I’d asked him.

“Not necessarily.  If there’s only one, they’ll just fall in love with whatever they see.”

It’s worth explaining, probably, how I got to Florida.

Kerry and I had dated for about a year and a half beginning shortly before I graduated from high school.

Eventually things fell apart, and Kerry moved to Chicago.  I can’t remember why.  We remained friends, and every now and again, I’d drive down to visit him.  I did it for an excuse to go on a road trip, to see a friend, to do something exciting.  It was always strictly platonic.

Then he moved to Gainesville, Florida, and I went to visit him there.  Then Destin.

I was thinking about going back to school, about getting out of Minnesota.  I never had the itching need to escape or to get away permanently. I just wanted to do something else for a while.

There was a community college not far from Destin.  Faced with the choice of staying where I was and going to community college or or moving to Destin, being Kerry’s roommate, and going to community college, I chose the latter.

Kerry was in Minnesota for the turn of the millennium.  A large group of us went up to a friend’s parents’ cabin in northern Minnesota.  If the world was going to end, that was where we wanted to be.  Drunk and together, blowing noise makers across a frozen lake as close to the arctic circle as we could muster.

It made sense at the time.

Shortly after midnight (or maybe shortly before), Kerry brought me into the walk-out basement of the cabin, sat me down, and got down on one knee.

I had no idea it was coming.  None. We were not dating and had not been dating–not dating, not sleeping together, not even kissing, not so much as holding hands–for almost 3 years.  I was sitting there in snow pants, sniffing, my thawing snot trying to run out over my frozen lips.  I was not prepared.  In any sense of the word.

I remember being intensely confused and flattered.  And drunk.  I remember my brain saying “No!” immediately but my mouth saying something more tactful.  Like, “I need to think about this.”

In my memory, the remainder of the trip was an uncomfortable blur of trying-to-be-normal interactions with Kerry.  He’d told everyone there what he was going to do, so to their head-tipped, pursed-lipped, nodding sympathy faces, I had to relate the story of my answer and my rationale for not accepting that instant.

These explanations to the same people who had kept their foreknowledge of this violent turn of events from me, at least one of whom, I was fully aware, knew the full gravity of the situation and how poorly I was likely to react.  I was unprotected and set adrift by friends in the interest of a relative stranger and a “surprise” that was a surprise like a mail bomb is a surprise.  This was reality of adulthood, though.  I certainly couldn’t get mad at them.  Could I?  Surely not.  “Just be graceful.  Be a grown-up.  Stiffen your lip,” I told myself.  There would be no hiding behind John or Jake.  Their girlfriends were there.  Girlfriends frown upon boyfriends propping up other girls.

John and I ended up alone in the kitchen at some point.  “Big day!” he said, knowing full well what it meant and per his habit, refusing to speak it out loud.

“Did you know about this?”  I pointed in a general way towards the backyard, where everyone was still stumbling around the fire pit and hooting across the lake.  Where Kerry was, somewhere.

He nodded silently, pursing his lips, again pressing back words.  He extended the bottle of champagne he held in his hand and raised his eyebrows in a gesture that was equal parts defiance and resignation.


The next day, Kerry and I made the 4-hour drive home.

When we pulled into my hometown, we went directly to a bar to meet our respective best friends, who just happened to be married.  They, too, knew he was going to do this.  My indecision was exhausting us both.  Kerry moped.  I felt guilty.  I couldn’t bear to tell the story to any more sympathy faces.

Something came over me.  A panic, maybe, that this might be my ticket to adventure.  I’d never dated anyone as ambitious as Kerry.  Or (I thought) as normal.  Maybe I was doing a remarkably stupid thing by not saying yes.  Maybe no one told me because they thought it was a good idea.  Our best friends were inside.  We could be four married best friends.  How bad could it be to be married to a smart, good-looking, ambitious guy who lived three blocks from the ocean?  We got along well, apparently he adored me…not accepting his proposal was surely self-sabotage.  What or who was I waiting around for, anyway?

It was a thought progression that was familiar to me, but there in the car, outside the bar, was the first time I was ever consciously aware of it.

The crippling terror of limitless possibility lies in time’s march straight through, disregardful.  No rewind. While numerous potentialities can exist comfortably and simultaneously in one’s head, in reality, you’ve got to choose.

Do this or do that; you will regret both

So just before we went inside, I accepted.

And I moved to Florida.

And I was miserable.

In Destin, a week or so prior to the journal incident, I awoke to the ceiling fan buzzing and watched it.  It cast a pulse against the venetian blind shadows on the wall.  Shadows upon shadows.  Beating like a drum or a heart or whatever you prefer.  Kerry lay, snoring lightly, to my right.  It had been months and I still hadn’t totally unpacked.  There were boxes everywhere.  The house was a mess and I didn’t care.  Out on the patio, there was a decrepit lawn chair, some trash, a small family of geckos, and lots of weeds.  All had come with the house.

It was March, maybe 7 AM, and I could already smell the oppressive, sucking, steaming gulf air outside.  At that moment, something changed, and my mind was made up.  I slipped into the spare bedroom that would have been my bedroom had things gone according to the original plan. I slept there for the rest of my nights in Destin.

Nora was moving to Louisville in two weeks, and I was right behind her.  To Kentucky, to Derby week, to a place that had seasons–to a place that had another guy named Kerry.

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BECKY PALAPALA is the author of many unpublished poems, diatribes, and terse letters, which she holds captive in a homely tote bag in her bedroom. The poems that escaped can be found in online publication at Strix Varia, Paper Darts, and in other nooks and crannies of the internet. In 2008-2009, she served as a poetry editor for Ivory Tower. After an iliadic battle with higher education, Becky graduated with a B.A. in English Literature in the spring of 2010. She currently lives with her husband, daughter, and dog on the outskirts of the Twin Cities, where she pines for her rivertown home and attempts to befriend the rabbit that lives in her yard.

79 responses to “Lovebirds: Shakubuku Road, Take Me Home”

  1. Ashley Menchaca (New Orleans Lady) says:

    Captivating story, Becky.

    You’re strong to walk away from a life that everyone else tells you is the right path. The “smart thing to do”. You are courageous. Just knowing there was more for you wasn’t enough. You did something about it. How many of us can say the same? Not many.

    Your description of Destin was perfect. I’ve been there many times and even the people who live and work there, aren’t from there. Gives an eerie feeling. Why would so many people leave such a beautiful place? Makes me wonder…

    My husband made the mistake of reading my journal once. That’s all it took. We weren’t even married at the time and I freaked out on him. He knew his jealous ways had crossed a line and he hasn’t been that stupid twice. Other ways, yes.

    Anyway, loved this post!

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks, Ashley.

      The journal thing was a dumb move on his part. Not the way to handle a flighty girl with trust issues.

      People here might be surprised to know that I almost never raise my voice, and I certainly don’t lose my shit and scream like that very often. That is reserved only for the most serious violations.

      I probably would have eventually left, anyway, but that was as good an indication as any that he had no idea about who I was.

      • Ashley Menchaca (New Orleans Lady) says:

        That doesn’t surprise me.
        You have no reason to scream.
        You’re long winded and use your vocab as arsenal.
        I’m sure most just walk away….confused.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Long winded!

          Well I never…

          Allow me tell you my theory about long-windedness along with about 6 other theories I am aware of on the matter and why they may or may not apply to me in varying degrees based on my perception of their logical fortitude and ulterior motives…

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Now that I look at this, though, I think my timeline must be off. I was in Florida more than 3 months. It must have been April when I left. Derby week is April.

  2. Richard Cox says:

    I love how you make an environment associated with the laid back setting for a vacation sound so cloying. And I understand the courage and blind faith it takes to say yes, and then walk away from it anyway when everyone else seems to approve of it.

    My favorite line is “…a ‘surprise’ that was a surprise like a mail bomb is a surprise.”

    Can’t beat that for putting into succinct words an emotion we’ve all felt and hated.

    At the risk of sounding trite, it’s nice to see this side of you. A bit of emotion. Well guarded are you, young Jedi.

  3. Irene Zion says:


    There was nothing wrong really with Kerry #1.
    It’s just that he wasn’t the one for you.
    Can’t wait to hear about Kerry #2!
    I’ve never met a human named Kerry.
    I knew an Irish Setter named Kerry, though.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, in retrospect, proposing to a girl you haven’t had a romantic relationship with in 3 years is a bit strange.

      But my life was so strange at the time, I accepted a lot of odd things as normal.

      And whether or not it should be acceptable or forgivable in some objective universe, the snooping in my journal was a huge fuck up. We had discussed it. In great depth.

      On the other hand, if he was the one for me I may have been more forgiving.

      And don’t worry. I’ve only ever met one person named Kerry, and neither of these “Kerrys” are him.

      Names have been changed. To protect…me, mostly.

  4. Greg Olear says:

    Shakubuku is the Pluto energy, sounds like. But I’m sure you’ve figured that out already.

    It’s probably a good rule of thumb, if someone asks you to marry him, and you aren’t overcome with delight and scream yes, to say no. Some things you shouldn’t talk your way into.

    I like this series. Well done, as the first one was.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, as will likely be revealed in upcoming installments, I was basically convinced, and acted like, I was certifiably insane at the time.

      So I wasn’t too trusting of my own feelings. I was to some degree convinced that the “right” thing to do would simply always be the opposite of whatever I wanted to do.

      Ironically, looking back, that conclusion was probably the craziest thing about me. A couple of my exes might disagree, but they were fuckin’ nuts, too.

  5. Matt says:

    Someone told me once that if a woman hasn’t unpacked her suitcase within three days of moving into your place, she isn’t staying. Even if she doesn’t know it yet.

    Your third-to-last paragraph, about waking under the fan, rang especially true for me. I had several moments like that while living in New Orleans, sort of like that Talking Heads song “Once In a Lifetime.” What is this place? How did I get here?

    If you’d stayed, it would have eventually made you both miserable. Good on you for getting out when you did.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I think it was pretty safe to say we were already miserable, but it certainly wouldn’t have gotten any better.

      Ownership is a weird thing. I never felt like belonged to that house or that guy or that state or like any of them belonged to me.

      “This is not my beautiful house,” indeed.

      Looking back on it, even having written it out, I still don’t know how I got there.

  6. Zara Potts says:

    I like this series too, Becky. I love to hearing the back stories to life.

    I like how you tell this – it’s straightforward but surprising, honest but gentle, emotive but strong.

    It’s a weird thing when you accept a proposal without really wanting to, huh? I did the same thing with an American I was dating when I was 19. I knew from the moment he asked me that the dread I felt in my gut, was not a good sign for a long and happy marriage. But I continued with the charade until I finally had the nerve to pull out just before we were meant to take our walk down the aisle. It was awful.

    I’m so glad you left. Imagine how different your life would have been if you’d stayed…

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks, Zara.

      What possesses us? I mean, what on earth? It didn’t even occur to me that in accepting this proposal on a whim, I was goofing around with the outcome of my life. I suppose that’s just part of being young–making big decisions without realistically thinking of their implications, but I thought I WAS being realistic.

      Amazing what we can talk ourselves into.

  7. Simon Smithson says:

    Oh, man. The journal bust-in. Ballsy move. Ballsy, ballsy, stupid, stupid move. Why would you do that?

    Oh, Kerry. You poor stooge. Your skills in finance and springing an ambush of surpassing tactical genius sadly failed you when it came to maintaining.

    You never read the diary.

    Not unless you’re sure you’re going to like what you find.

    And be able to keep it to yourself.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Rule number one: Don’t get caught, and for Godssakes, don’t turn yourself in.

      I think he thought–and with some women, maybe, the argument would have worked out–that he was justified in snooping since I was acting strange and what he found further confirmed that he was right to worry.

      Poor guy.

      Still. Snooping renders evidence impermissible. At least in this case. At least in many cases. It certainly cedes a large chunk of the high ground in the ensuing battle. It’s just bad strategy, for Godssakes. If nothing else, it’s just not smart, even ignoring all that moralizing trust stuff.

  8. D.R. Haney says:

    I’ve been on both sides of the read-diary showdown.

    I used to keep a diary because I thought it was a writerly thing to do, and many of my jottings were what I considered the writerly sort. I was harsh in my judgments of everyone around me, including my live-in girlfriend, because to write well of people, I thought, was sentimental, and no serious writer would ever want to be accused of sentimentality.

    My girlfriend kept a diary, too. She wasn’t an aspiring writer like me, but she was very enamored of Anais Nin, and she imitated the Nin style in her diary, as I discovered when I read it. I noted her imitation of the Nin style in my own diary. It was “girlish nonsense,” I wrote, or something to that effect.

    Then my girlfriend read my diary. Not only did she learn that I’d been cheating on her (with someone who later married extremely well), she also learned, naturally, that I’d read her diary, which justified her reading of mine.

    “I’m sorry my writing is ‘girlish nonsense,'” she hurled at me. Much else was hurled. I hurled nothing back. How could I? I asked — no, begged — for every bit of it.

    Ah, love.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      At least you both kept diaries. It was a sort of mutually-assured destruction.

      It’s such a strange thing. Like, why would you want to keep things from your significant other? But on the other hand, does being in a committed relationship constitute an abdication from all private thought and feeling?

      Both are valid questions. After this incident highlighted the paradox inherent in keeping a journal private from and off-limits to a significant other, I simply chose–whether right or wrong–to put greater weight on the second question and my answer to it, which was “No. FUCK. NO.”

      I suspect the way people weight those two questions has a lot to do with personality. I’m so individualistic and constantly paranoid about people trying to take my “I, me, Becky” away from me that any relationship that expected me to weight the dilemma otherwise–not in favor of the individual–would probably be doomed anyway. On a fundamental personal incompatibility level.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Well, in the case of my diary, it wasn’t a matter of keeping things from my significant other so much as trying to discover my voice as a writer, which is a process that can’t really be shared. It just happened to take this rather ugly (as I now see it was) form. But I do think, for a writer, this all falls a bit under the “room of one’s own” heading. I wouldn’t try to answer for a civilian, which hopefully doesn’t sound self-satisfied. God only knows I’m not self-satisfied.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I’m pretty sure God isn’t the only one.

          But it begs the question: Why were you a writer if you didn’t have secrets? There’s no reason to be a writer if there’s not something you want to express.

          Something you can’t eject otherwise.

          Believe me, I’m no fan of heart fart literature, but as my boy Tommy Stearns said, “only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”

        • D.R. Haney says:

          “I’m pretty sure God isn’t the only one.” Rapier sharp!

          It’s the secrets I don’t know I have that keep me interested in writing, I think in part. I try never to blueprint too carefully for that reason. I like to discover what the writing brings out and build from there.

          Oh, and I think a variation on the Tommy Stearns quote is “Consciousness is a curse.” There’s more to it that escapes me, but it’s something I read in a Kerouac bio — a remark by William Burroughs.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well. Never let our easy relationship allow you to forget who you’re talking to. I keep the pointy sword close at hand.

          Tommy Stearn’s point was that [writing] is not a turning loose of emotion but an escape from it.

          He had an essay on it.

          “Tradition and the Individual Talent.”

          It talks mostly about poetry, but it’s broadly applicable.

          Everyone gets sentimental talking about Kerouac. I’m inclined to distrust it.

    • Gloria says:

      Man. The dumb shit we do…

      I think I’ve mentioned this before, maybe to you, actually. But I read my ex-husband’s diary exactly once. Ten years we were together. Ten years I wondered what he thought and how he felt. After ten years (my entire twenties), I realized that not only did I not know him, but that I never would and that the person I probably would end up getting to know, should that happen, I’d likely not like any better than the person in front of me. (Untangle that thread.) But still, the one lingering question remained: does he even love me? So, a few weeks before I moved out, read his diary for the first and only time. He said a lot of mean, mean, mean things. Nasty, horrible things. Unfriendly things. I also learned that I “eat like a pig.”

      I closed the book, feeling like I’d been mule-kicked in the chest. But I was more angry at myself than at him. I shouldn’t have read the fucking journal!

      • New Orleans Lady says:

        You never told me this!
        You’ve told me some of the things he’s said to your face (or phone/email) but I didn’t realize he kept a journal. Holy shit! I didn’t realize that it could get worse. The man is an ass. period.

        You shouldn’t have read the fucking journal!

        And I happen to think you can eat any way you please.

  9. Megan says:

    I love thwarted love stories better than anything in the entire universe. It’s not healthy for me to consider why it is so.

    “Is this what I am to you?!?!?!?! A vacation????”

    So good.

    Confused, flattered and drunk is how we make all our worst decisions…

    • Becky Palapala says:

      God as my witness, that is what he said. It is clear as a bell in my memory.

      As is part of my screaming rant that went, “You RAT! How DARE YOU!!”

      I remember thinking, even at the time, that a soap opera writer couldn’t have done any better.

      We were SO pretending. Playing house, playing relationship. I’m so lucky I got out of there…

    • J. Ryan Stradal says:

      Out of all the comment threads inspired from this story, I am compelled to stop here, because of the simple truth of this comment:

      “Confused, flattered and drunk is how we make all our worst decisions…” Yes. Any single one of the three will do, but in concert, only the devil could wield such a trident.

      Becky, wonderful story. Your youthful rationale in sticking it out with Kerry #1 is a lesson that hopefully you didn’t need to learn again. Some time ago I was making a pros/cons list of the woman I was dating at the time and when I told a friend about that list, she said, “you should just break up with her.” I realized at that point that the cruelest thing I could continue to do would be to “stick it out” with this woman. It wasn’t so much later that the reverse happened to me. A love that’s rationalized is no kind of love to give or receive.

      Honest doubts are a killer, but god bless the people who listen to them.

  10. Ryan Day says:

    I’m with Haney on this one. Sadly, I’ve been on both sides too. The strange thing is you almost always find exactly what you expect. I don’t know if that is because you look because you know something is wrong, or if we, as in those who feel the need to write down their daily doings, are just naturally inclined to shittyness, or, maybe its the act of looking that somehow creates the…. nah.

    The very last time I peeked, I found doubts and all they did was make me realize that we all have them, and I think they made me even more enamored because they were well-worded… and totally justified… And I decided I never needed to look again. There’s enough to be insecure about right out in the open.

    Anyway, this was a fun read Becky. I look forward to installment 3.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Well, that’s part of it, too. I didn’t want to explicate too much in the recounting, but part of my indignation surely had to do with some amount of resentment that he thought he could propose out of the blue like that…the situation being as unconventional as it was…and NOT expect me to have some uncertainty, some homesickness, some misgivings about what I was doing there.

      Like, how unreasonable were his expectations of me and the situation that he could possibly be shocked, let alone derisive that I was scared or unsure? He’d never had a misgiving in his life?

      As irresponsible as my decision was to accept his proposal, the whole scenario revealed that we both had delusions and that they were fundamentally incompatible.

  11. Lorna says:

    Now I know to blame Shakubuku for my first marriage.

    I only knew my ex-husband for two weeks before he proposed to me. That right there should have been reason enough to say no. But did I? No, I said yes. Not even ONE person tried to talk me out of marrying this guy I only knew for two weeks. Not that I would have listened, if they had. We married and off off he went on his Navy ship on some ocean for nine months and I had all of this time to figure out that I had made this horrible, horrible mistake. I think being young (21ish) and a struggling single mom and being proposed to by this handsome, well adjusted guy with a Navy career and a Georgia accent that could carry a nice tune was one of those this may be the only chance I get at this moments.

    At least you were wise enough to get away before the I do’s.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Wow. Two weeks!

      Kerry an I weren’t dating, which is weird for sure, but we had known each other for quite a while.

      I think you take the Shakubuku award.

      A dubious honor, maybe, but we impulsive gals have to own our…umm…delightful spontaneity.

      • Lorna says:

        Spontaneous – Yes. Delightful – No.

        In looking back I see is a girl that wanted so much more than what she had and she believed it was all possible because she saw that other people had it. And in walked this man who offered up just about everything that my wishlist contained. So I took the number 1item off the top of the list and added to the bottom convincing myselft that it did not matter. Had just one person spoken to me Greg’s words above, it may have saved us both the heartache. The thing that bothers me the most is that I may never get to tell that person how truly sorry I am that he became my Shakubuku. It rough enough screwing up your own life, but when you drag someone else into the picture…….well, that just f’d up.

        Anyway, thanks for the story, Becky. And the Shakubuku trophy and letting me process my junk.

  12. Gloria says:

    There would be no hiding behind John or Jake. Their girlfriends were there. Girlfriends frown upon boyfriends propping up other girls. We’ve discussed this – about how tough it can be to be besties with mostly guys. I was too – and they’re still some of my closest friends. One of them, Nathan (I’ve known him since he was 12), might take a break from his family life and come see me for a few days. I’m so relieved that we’re all finally at an age where this doesn’t raise any flags. His wife and I have talked. We’re all good with each other. Nathan is my brother. Fifteen years ago, though? No frickin’ way, man.

    All that said, it’s lame you weren’t warned – especially by the person who knew the score the most.

    The ceiling fan scene is incredible. The way you build up to that moment – a moment we all have our own version of – is fantastic.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      “John” is much more the type to let events unfold as they will, then come along and offer to help clean up after the fact.

      Part of the difficulty of these years was that it was a transition period with those friendships; going from “do your responsibilities as an ex and a boyfriend any maybe kind of sort of not-ruled-out future boyfriend still apply, or are they friend obligations, or what exactly is the state of our situation and what does it even look like?”

      Things have settled now, of course, perhaps unsurprisingly into that sibling-type relationship. I think after you’ve known someone and been close to them for a very long time, it’s almost inevitable.

      But man, at the time, I did not like those girlfriends butting in on “my boys” any more than they liked having me around…even if I didn’t even WANT the boys.

      Women are so territorial and wretched.

  13. Eber says:

    Another fine read Ms Palapala. More focus on story this time and your prose/voice is captivating. A kinder gentler Becky. Digging these!

    I always thought that the classic journal invasion incident with couples is a long term net positive. It flushes out the insecurity and untrustworthiness of the invader. And usually exposes the ultimate intent and true feelings of the invaded thus precluding the need to reproduce these in the heat of argument when no one is thinking or listening anyway. If the relationship survives this, boundaries and corrective actions are put in place and the door is opened for more frank communication going forward. While more commonly, if the relationship desolves as a result, it serves to hasten the inevitable.


    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks, Eber! Glad you like.

      Though as I was remarking to someone earlier, I feel like it doesn’t take much to get people saying things like “kinder gentler Becky.” I have to be careful to conserve, or before too long, my petty lamentations won’t do the trick and people will want real emotion.

      Then what will I do?

      Because we all know I have none of those.

      I think a lot of “classic” couple fights can be viewed through the same lens. Or any fights for that matter.

      Arguing and violations–real or perceived–are a given. They’re going to happen. So the questions left are: Do the people involved care enough to actually attempt to fix the problem and are their resolution processes compatible?

      If the answer to either of those is no, it’s going to be a rough ride.

  14. Eber says:

    Oh and the single lovebird was fucking great. Finding poetry in life is almost as fun as finding irony.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      It was one of those literary things life just hands you.

      If I had been slightly more literary at the time, I would have recognized it as foreshadowing and hit the bricks.

  15. jmblaine says:

    in heaven
    doing the
    cabbage patch

  16. You know, oddly enough, I’ve been an obsessive keeper of journals forever, and I have rows and rows of shelved black-bound sketchbooks filled with drawings and clippings and other journaly stuff … and no one, to my knowledge, has ever bothered to look inside them. And they’re right there out in the open. I’m almost offended by this. I might start a fight just because Joe hasn’t read my journal *cracks knuckles*.

    • Becky says:

      You need to act shady and slightly unbalanced to drive a person to this. That’s the secret. Act like you’ve got a secret.

      You can’t expect people to just snoop for no reason, Cynthia. Distrust is a two-way street. You only get out what you put in. Dysfunctional relationships are WORK!

  17. Aaron Dietz says:

    “You will regret both”. So true….

    • Becky Palapala says:

      The first time I saw that quote, I was instantly in love. “Who is this ‘Kierkegaard’ genius?” I wondered.

      Deceptively simple summary of a pretty wild existential quandary.

  18. Erika Rae says:

    Excellent entry, this one. The solo lovebird and the assumption that it would fall in love with whatever it saw based solely on its solitariness! Good stuff in this.

    And now I am a fan of the term Shakubuku.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks, Erika!

      It wasn’t entirely an assumption. It’s sort of what those birds do. Paco WAS pretty in love with Kerry. Free to roam the house most of the time, he just sort of followed Kerry around, and if you took too long to acknowledge him, he’d stark squawking and chattering like crazy.

      More interesting is that knowing this about this species, Kerry was like, “Yes! That’s the bird for me!”

  19. I don’t think I’ve ever kept a diary, and I’m sure that I’ve never read one. I now feel a bit boring… It seems that in this day and age, everyone just blogs – a sort of self-conscious diary-out-loud thingy. When I first began to blog I did so under pseudonyms because I didn’t mind the idea of the world knowing my stories, just not the people I knew. I suppose that was kind of a diary…

    The fan scene was familiar, as I suppose it’s familiar to everyone when your emotions – negative or otherwise – get somehow tied up alongside an inanimate object.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Oh, but Dear David, this was before blogs. Or before everyone had them. Back in the dark ages.

      Look how far we’ve come in 10 years!

      Now privacy–of just about any type–is indeed a warm delusion. But once upon a time, ’twas not so…

  20. Tawni says:

    Wow. He read your journal and then had the nerve to get mad about what it said? Huge, huge cajones. If you decide to snoop, you have to suck it up if you find something you don’t like. Everybody knows that.

    I once had a computer savvy ex who hacked into my email. He read something I wrote to a girlfriend about another guy being attractive and got mad. I broke up with him pretty quickly after that incident. He gave me the creeps.

    I went back and read the first part to this piece to refresh my memory. I am enjoying reading about past Becky adventures. It’s really cool to hear about where you’ve been in this life.

    It is so weird how he proposed so out of the blue like that. Crazy. And telling all of your friends about it ahead of time? Double crazy.

    That lonely little lovebird makes me sad. Did the human version of him ever find love? I hope it wasn’t the next thing he saw after you left. That rarely works out.

    I’m looking forward to your adventures in Louisville. I hope there are mint juleps and fancy hats involved. (:

    • Becky Palapala says:

      The proposing-out-of-the-blue was sort of my first indication that he wasn’t quite as “normal” as I originally thought.

      There were other things, but I shall spare even his pseudonym from discussion of that stuff, since I’m not bitter about it. I mean, I don’t feel the need to come down on him. You’re right. It IS a sad story.

      The human version (I assume you mean Kerry, though depending on how you like your metaphors, it could be either of us) is indeed married and has a lovely family. As far as I know–and I don’t know much, since he refused to speak to me after all this (the nerve!)–he is happy and healthy. And has found Jesus.


    • Richard Cox says:

      Love the new Gravatar, Tawni.

      • Tawni says:

        It’s the Best Parka Ever. Because it is so cold where we live, Richard. Brrrrrr. Hatin’ it.

        I think what perplexed me the most about my recent DNA test, and the discovery that I am of Scandinavian haplogroup descent, is that I have always been such a cold weather pussy. How can I be Scandinavian and loathe winter so very, very much?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Maybe you loathe it because you’re Scandinavian. Some kind of trauma passed on to you from your Nordic ancestors.

          Genetic PTSD.

        • That’s awesome, Becky. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love the concept of genetic PTSD, and the idea that this is why I inherently hate winter. I’m totally using it to deflect husbandly mockery.

  21. Slade Ham says:

    Becky with the claws in instead of out. Me likey.

    I always find stories like this – and the people who end up pulling the trigger – somehow inspiring. Getting out of a bad situation is hard. Getting out of one that isn’t necessarily fucked up in any of the usual bad ways seems even harder.

    The thought of living in Florida forever would scare me too, though I say that from a perch in Houston, which by many standards is an even worse place to spend one’s life. At least Florida’s beaches are nicely distracting.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Everyone calls it “claws in” when I opened with me psycho-screaming at a guy who was just trying to figure out why his fiancee suddenly appeared to hate him. Writing this, I felt like the biggest villain/asshole/bitch/douchebag in the world.

      This might be the most interesting part of the whole thing. That people find it somehow gentle compared to my intellectual stuff. What could it all mean?

      Maybe next I’ll post the story about the time I ripped an ex’s phone out of the wall & smashed it to pieces in a fit of jealous rage.

      Hulk have feeling. Hulk express angry!

      “Adorable!” people will say.

      • Slade Ham says:

        Self-preservation doesn’t make you a villain/douchebag. I think a lot of people are capabe of being that objective with their lives. I think a lot of people stay in situations that they know are not ideal just because it’s easier to stay than to leave. I did it for a long time.

        And it’s just a different set of claws maybe. Your ability to be a totally biting bitch has never been in question 🙂 You could write an essay on unicorns and still keep your rep intact. I’m not certain why this one comes across – or came across – as more gentle. After a second read, the teeth are definitely there.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Are you implying that I can’t be gentle? That I can’t even tell a ruined love story without teeth? Huh? Huh?

          (There is no way to win, Slade. Maybe Kerry was the big winner in this scenario after all.)

  22. Mark Sutz says:


    Lovely. Freaky. I had a journal incident once with a woman I was dating that freaked me out so bad I haven’t kept one since. I now, as most fiction writers, weave most of my experiences into stories and find it works better for me in reflecting on those times. I’ve only recently come back to memoirish recollections on the page and am thankful for TNB’s lovely space to house them.

    That sacrosanct space that writers need is so fucking difficult for our sig others to understand. Perhaps they suspect what we already know is true – on the page we are most honest with the world and ourselves.

    Thanks for this little sliver of your life.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks, Mark.

      Yeah, I don’t know. Part of me thinks that in a lot of relationships this kind of snooping happens pretty regularly. Non-writer relationships, maybe.

      It’s my perception that some couples even have some sort of “understanding” in the opposite direction. That they will never hide anything or keep anything private from one another EVAR and it’s against the rules to get mad at one another for rooting around in each other’s shit.

      That’s fine for them. Would never fly for me. Obviously, it’s a bit of a deal breaker.

  23. Tom Hansen says:

    Ah, decisions, decisions. Haha. Very nice piece Becky. I have made many bad decisions in my life and in retrospect I don’t think I regret a single one. Well maybe, but it’s pointless to think about really. I do not however, keep a journal. I surely would be assassinated by whomever I was dating at the time if they got their hands on it

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Thanks, Tom.

      Yeah. My options are: Don’t keep a journal, don’t have relationships, or…OR…impose a draconian set of snooping laws upon all my relationships, and let that weed out the chumps. 🙂

      It’s a totally fascist move, but the alternatives were unacceptable.

      Of course, as David mentions somewhere up above, with the advent of blogging and the interwebs, recording one’s thoughts and opinions privately is at once much easier and much more complicated.

      At least one can blog under a pseudonym. I don’t think “I didn’t write that” would have worked with the journal incident.

  24. Great story! And I’m glad you left Kerry. Even if the journal-reading isn’t the REAL reason for leaving, it’s a dang good one.

  25. Laura says:

    Very captivating, Becky. I’m waiting on more please.

  26. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Could I arrive here any later?
    I have been wanting to read this forever… What I want in my head and what I want in the world do not always show up as a match, but eventually, they always come together. Time is a big pain in the ass.
    I am looking forward to the next installment. Let me say that in advance.

    So this would make a great Mad Libs:

    “I don’t know what prompted me to leave ______________.

    I know what I pretended prompted me to leave ______________.”

    Followed by storytime, such as the one you give us here.

    Yeah, journals are off limits. He totally asked for it.
    My journal is an insane asylum.
    I once had a boyfriend all but hand his journal to me. He’d fall asleep beside me with his journal open in his lap. He’d leave it on the kitchen table, wide open to (what I assume was) a scandalous entry. I never fucking read it. I didn’t want to know. Or I already knew.

    Well, Destin is pretty. That water! It’s so warm. Not a total loss.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      Destin IS pretty.

      I think that compounded my frustration/agitation. I’m not sure even Kerry wanted me to be happy there as much as I wanted to be happy there.

      And I love the south. That’s one aspect of the panhandle that I really did enjoy–its tendency to be more like the deep south than the peninsula while simultaneously having most of the same boons.

      • Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

        I love the South too. I love the Florida panhandle for the same reasons you do. Gulf Shores, Alabama is lovely too. And, well, New Orleans might be my favorite place on Earth.

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