Tag Archives: interpersonal relationships

A Fragile Line

handwritingMatt was in a crumpled heap across from me in the small padded room. Just twenty minutes before he was taking swings at us and cussing us out. We had to physically restrain him to prevent him from hurting anyone. It wore us out as much as it did him, but we could never match the emotional turmoil and exhaustion he felt.

He stopped fighting and unloaded everything he was worried about. Then, the realization of his actions and their consequences hit him and the crying started. He broke his streak of good choices because he reverted to old habits under stress.

Everyone else left the room. I sat cross-legged listening to him pour out self-denigrating comments, one after another, because his mother wouldn’t be happy when she found out. She wanted perfection from her son and wore her displeasure on her face like a badly matched foundation when he didn’t live up to her unreasonable expectations. She had no idea the pressure she put on him contributed to his current condition.

A tortured mess.

Can I make him understand I know what the crushing weight of all four walls pressing in with no catch to stop them feels like? We’re taught not to share personal information, to remain strictly professional. Maintain boundaries at all times.

A knot formed in the back of my throat that refused to be swallowed. It was like peering into a mirror pool holding my past and my heart broke for him. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him it would be okay. I wanted to make it okay. But I didn’t believe in lying to the kids and I didn’t have a magic wand for the latter.

“Matt,” I said quietly.

He stirred and snuffled. “What?” he asked as his voice croaked.

“You,” I point to him, “are allowed to make mistakes. It’s how we learn to navigate life. You are in a place where you can make as many as you want safely. The fact that you are making them less than before you came to us means something.”

“But my mo-“

“Listen to me,” I said firmly.

He propped himself up on an elbow and stared intently at me with glistening brown eyes. His cheeks stained with ribbons of dried tears.

Hang the training. Matt needed to hear he’s not alone and I’m as human as he is. So I told him.

I told him how my parents placed too much responsibility on my shoulders. How I lost my childhood and wasn’t allowed to pursue my dreams.

“You’re fourteen, Matt. When you get out of here you need to be hanging out with friends, getting your first girlfriend, and going to school football games and dances. You’re not the adult your mom wants you to be. Enjoy the rest of your youth while you can and leave the adult stuff to her.”

He swiped the tears away with the back of his hand. “Can I have a hug?” he asked softly.

I nodded and crawled next to him. He wrapped an arm around me from the side and rested his blond mop on my shoulder. I settled my arm on his shoulders and squeezed him gently while I bit back my own tears.

I was walking a fragile line. His mother would likely construe my advice as undermining her authority. But I was the “parent” in the moment and I refused to let him continue to torment himself unnecessarily. If it led to him standing up for himself, I would happily accept my consequences if his mom complained.

“Thank you,” he said.

Paying the price is worth it in a case like this.

©Debi Smith, 2014

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Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Chatting with a Stranger Online

La Vida JavaHe picks up his mug of black coffee and peers around the coffee shop from his corner. Everyone sits at tables with laptops or in comfortable chairs with books or notebooks. One group across the room works quietly on a project together. Justin Timberlake croons through the speakers in the ceiling.

His phone buzzes and he snatches it off his table. Two loud, chatty women enter and stroll by him, but he is too busy reading the direct message from @yogalife on Twitter. He doesn’t know her real name or what she looks like. Her profile picture is a graphic of the chakras on an outline of the human body.

He can’t blame her. His profile picture is a mug of coffee and she only knows him as @coffeeallthetime.

What are you doing?

Drinking a very large mug of coffee.

You and your coffee. 😉

What about you?

Just left the studio & sitting in my car. About to get a drink then head home.

The chatty women sit at the table next to him. He blocks them out and returnss his attention to @yogalife.

I recommend coffee. Iced or hot.

The women complain about their husbands not helping with the kids and other household tasks. The door swings open and a woman with dirty blonde hair pulled back into a pony tail walks through. A lot of women coming in this afternoon, he thinks to himself while waiting for her response.

Nice try. Iced chai.

What are you doing tonight?

Making dinner for myself then sitting on my patio with a book.

What are you reading now?

Stardust by Neil Gaiman. You?

Your direct messages.

The women segue their discussion to how much they hate their mother-in-laws and Ponytail Woman changes her mind about leaving then sits down on a cushy chair near the quiet group.

Funny. What book are you reading?

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Good book.

You’ve read it?

You mean there are people who haven’t?


The women end their conversation abruptly as a man in a loose navy suit steps through the door and heads for the counter. They resume in hushed tones, leaning over the table to be closer while talking.

What are your plans tonight?

I don’t have any. Probably go out to dinner before I go home.

What are you wearing?

Are you coming on to me?

Maybe. 😉

White dress shirt and grey dress pants.

No tie?

I took it off as soon as I left my last meeting. What about you?

I don’t wear ties.

Funny. What are you wearing?

Loose Suit sits down with the women and they separate with fake smiles plastered on their faces. Must be one of the husbands, he muses.

Dark pink yoga top, grey yoga pants, and white collarless stretch jacket.

Wait. No. He gazes across the room at Ponytail Woman.

Where are you?


Look up.

He waits for Ponytail Woman to look up from her phone then smiles and gives her a small wave from his table still in shock.

©Debi Smith, 2014


Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Uncategorized


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How Long Will I Love You? ~ Part 8

Lara 2

Catch up here.

Chase waits outside the gallery in a tailored charcoal grey three-piece suit and pink shirt with the top two buttons undone. He smiles as I join him and presses his lips to mine. “You look gorgeous as always, but the shoes are throwing me off.”

I am wearing a jade green halter dress with black leather flats. “I knew we’d be walking the four blocks to Basil. And thank you,” I add with a shy smile.

We spend dinner discussing the last few days. Both of us were busy since dinner Tuesday and barely had time to text hello to each other. Afterwards, we head into the bar area and wait for Robin at the end of the bar.

Chase keeps an arm around my waist and an eye out on the door.

I move to face him and lay a hand over his heart. I let a small sigh escape.

“What’s wrong?” he asks with his brow furrowed in unease.

I shake my head. “Nothing.”

He uses his free hand to tip my head up and pierces me with his bright eyes. “Tell me.”

“Nothing is wrong,” I insist. “Unless you being devastatingly handsome is wrong.”

A smile spreads wide across his face. “Only if you being incredibly gorgeous is wrong.”

My temperature rises and I rest my forehead on his shoulder to hide the blushing. Chase kisses my head and caresses my back.

Part of me wishes we were anywhere but here. This moment has me yearning for time alone with Chase instead of waiting for Robin to show up.

“He’s here,” Chase whispers.

I lift my head and turn around. Robin makes his way through the crowded bar in black jeans and a short-sleeve blue henley hanging loose on his torso.

Chase drops his arm from my waist and I hug Robin then he and Chase shake hands. Robin leans into the bar and orders a beer from the bartender.

I notice his shiny boots. “Hey, did you get new Docs?”

He twists his head back, still leaning on the bar. “I polished them.”

“You polished your boots? Is the world ending?” I joke.

“Ha ha.” He rolls his eyes with a little sparkle in the grey irises.

“I see a table opening up. I’m going to grab it,” Chase says, pointing across the bar.

“Okay,” I reply and check where he is pointing. “We’ll be there in a minute.”

He takes our drinks with him. I watch as he crosses the room through the throng, remove his jacket and hang it over the back of the chair before sitting down. If I thought he was devastatingly handsome before, he was even more so now. There is something about a man in a tailored vest that makes him look even better.

Robin snaps his fingers in my face. “Earth to Lara.”

I blink hard. “Sorry.”

“What are you guys drinking?”

“I have a dirty martini, he’s drinking Basil Hayden, neat.”

The bartender sets Robin’s beer in front of him and Robin orders fresh drinks for me and Chase. We join Chase a few minutes later.

“I hear you’re a great cook,” Robin says to Chase after the initial small talk ends.

“It’s my fun time after work,” he says, shrugging his shoulders.

“What else do you do for fun?”

“I run a few mornings a week and check out local artists when I can.”

“Right. Lara said you like art.” Robin takes a swig of his beer without taking his eyes off Chase.

“I do.” Chase takes my hand under the table. “What about you? Lara mentioned you’re in a band.”

I spin my martini glass by the stem between my fingers with my free hand.

“Yep.” He nods. “Punk band. Lara comes to most of our gigs in town. You should join her for one.” I could hear a hint of Robin trying to egg on Chase in his statement.

I shift slightly in my chair.

“I would love to.” Chase releases my hand then drapes his arm on the back of my chair and massages his thumb into my the back of my shoulder.

“We play tomorrow at The Dive.”

Chase looks to me. “Shall we?”

“If you’d like,” I answer and put on a smile.

“We’ll be there,” Chase tells Robin.

“Great,” Robin says a little less than thrilled.

I narrow my eyes at Robin.

“Pardon me,” Chase says standing, his eyes on the bar. “I’ll be right back.”

I wait for Chase to shake another man’s hand at the bar then I lean across the table. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Getting to know Chase,” he says feigning innocence.

“I know you better.” I narrow my eyes at him. “You’re setting him up for something.”

Robin leans in. “He’s obviously likes you, but he’s so…proper.”

“Proper? Just because he likes to cook, supports local artists like Trevor, and takes me to the opera?”

“And his clothes!”

“Dammit, Robin. He’s an investment banker! What’s the difference between how he dresses for work and how I dress for work?”

Robin presses his lips together to form a line. I had him and he knew it.

“We can’t all dress down like you do for the record store,” I remind him.

He averts his eyes and looks past me.

“Yes, Chase is much different than you, but he’s just as attentive and caring. If you can’t see that past your own feelings then maybe this was all a mistake.” I push my chair back quickly and it scrapes against the wood floor.

Robin reaches over and grabs my wrist. “I’m sorry.”

“Damage is done.” I state tartly. “I think you need more time.”

I stand and he looks up at me with sad eyes, pleading for me to stay. He releases my wrist and I pull my purse onto my shoulder then carefully remove Chase’s jacket from his chair.

“He’s buying your affection to get you into bed,” he says flatly, staring at my empty chair.

“Fuck you!” I grab the rest of my martini and throw it in his face.

Chase rushes back, pulling me to him by my waist. I shove his jacket into his chest, still glaring at Robin. He swipes his hand over his face then wipes his hand on his leg.

I bend down close to his ear. “He hasn’t bought me a damned thing and I haven’t slept with him, you ass.”

He turns his head to me with steely eyes. “Maybe you can’t get him into bed because he’s still in the closet,” he returns acidly.

I douse him with his beer then march off with Chase following as Robin jumps up from his seat. Chase folds his jacket in half and gently lays it over his forearm then twines his fingers into mine once we’re outside.

“What were you two whispering about?” he asks as we walk towards my apartment.

I tell him then tears well up and overflow.

He untwines our fingers and pulls me into him by the waist. “I’m sorry, Lara.” He rests his head on mine. “I had hoped we could be friends.”

“Maybe in time,” I say wishfully, then more seriously, “We’ve never fought like this before.”

“I never wanted this to happen,” he says soberly.

“You didn’t do anything,” I remind him. “It’s not your fault he decided to declare his love for me after he found out about you.”

“You know what this night needs?” he asks, looking at me with a glint of mischief in his eyes.


“Chocolate cake.” A grin forms.

“Chocolate cake sounds divine right now.” I smile in return. “Cuppa Joe?”

“Unless there is somewhere else nearby with good chocolate cake you haven’t told me about.”

Half an hour later we’re at my door wrapped up in each other’s arms engaged in a chocolate-y goodnight kiss.

“Thank you,” I say breathily as I slide my hands down from his neck to rest on his biceps.

He touches his forehead to mine. “For what?”

“For being supportive and understanding with all this.” Then add with a grin, “And for the chocolate cake.”

He beams. “I know how you love your chocolate cake.” A long sigh escapes him. “If I could make this better for you, I would.”

I give his biceps a squeeze. “You are making it better. You’re making me want to trust you. That hasn’t happened in a long time.”

One of us has to trust the other first.

A smile returns to his lips and he closes in on my mouth, brushing his lips against mine. I open up and let him in for another chocolate-y kiss.

©Debi Smith, 2014

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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


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