Umbrella Love

Here is the second piece I wrote working with an amazing photographer Justin Leveque. I had the privilege of having Justin in a writing class where he wrote pieces that were acerbically witty and filled with heart. He's a cartoonist, artist in general, writer, and photographer and I was so glad he was willing to give me a couple of images to write a story around. Here are his images and the words I wrote around them:

UMBRELLA LOVE by Tanya Eby Images by Justin Leveque


Image by Justin Leveque

The umbrella waited for him in the rain-kissed street, as if a movie had been filming nearby and had wetted the pavement just to enhance the moment for him. When Brent saw the umbrella, he felt drawn to it. If he’d had an umbrella when he’d run out to order a burrito from Señor Loco, he’d have had one of those sturdy black umbrellas with the sharp point at the end. Actually, he’d have had one of those cheap umbrellas that they sell on the corner for five bucks. The blue kind. The kind that tatters and flips in the first strong breeze. If Brent had been an umbrella, that’s the kind of umbrella he’d have been: easily flipped and torn apart.

This umbrella was different. See-through, spotted, feminine, delicate. It rocked in the middle of Fulton by the corner of Fuller, the corner where bistros sat across from the Veteran’s park where they lined up for free tacos on Tuesday. This umbrella called to him and before he knew what he was doing, he was crossing the busy street to rescue her.

This was an umbrella that belonged to someone and Brent knew in his gut that something bigger than himself and Señor Loco was happening tonight. Something that could possibly be love.

He scooped up the umbrella, held it above his head even though it was no longer raining, and ran across the street as an angry driver in a Cadillac laid on the horn and flipped him the bird. Brent turned his back to it.

Now what? What did he do? His hunger was momentarily forgotten, as love and burritos did not mix, and he scanned the street. This was one of those moments that happened in the movies. Those cute-meet moments. He would find the quirky girl that this umbrella belonged to. She would be wearing a red rain coat and a beret. He would say “Hey, I think I have your umbrella,” and she would say, “Yeah, that’s mine. It doesn’t go with your outfit,” and they would laugh and there would be a close-up of her red lips, of his hand running through his messy hair, and this would be the start of love.

Men thought of love too. Not just in the movies. Just this morning, Brent had stood under the lukewarm stream of his apartment’s shower, imagining a woman with curly brown hair in the shower with him, her red lips parting, a smirk on her mouth as she wiped a bead of water from her chin and then said “I want to taste you,” and he closed his eyes and knew that was love. Real love. Love you could hold in your hand, or in your mouth. Love that fit in your palm like the weight of a handle.

But where was she?

That was the question.

He would look for her and find her on the corner of Fulton and Fuller. He would hand her the umbrella. “This must be yours,” he’d say, and they would laugh as it started to rain again.

But how do you find love on the corner of Fulton and Fuller when it is no longer raining? When the homeless across the street look to you and hold up signs asking for money and food? Do you run to the library and cry out your longing? Do you go into the dress shops in Monroe Plaza and scare half-dressed women trying on clothes that don’t suit them? “Is this yours?” do you call, knowing that you sound desperate, and sad, and hollow?

An umbrella in the road is not a mistake. An umbrella in the road has been abandoned.

After a few moments of searching, Brent closed the umbrella up, and crossed the street again to Señor Loco. He ordered the burrito that promised to be bigger than his head and was, in actuality, exactly the same size as his noggin. He sat in the cold booth, letting the air conditioning chill his skin. He cut into the burrito, sprinkled it with hot sauce, and clutched the closed umbrella between his closed thighs to keep it from falling.

What he wanted was more than a moment. He wanted words against his skin, and laughter, and those ridiculous inside jokes. He wanted beers with her on the porch, and hungry kisses at a party while the music pounded in their blood and in their hearts. He wanted her thighs wrapped around him. He wanted to look into her blue eyes or dark eyes or hazel eyes and he wanted her to see him and be okay with that. He wanted to say “You know what I mean,” and have her laugh a little and say “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

The burrito sat in his stomach like a weight. He left it on the table, half-eaten, grabbed the umbrella and walked outside where the sun was shining.

He began to walk.

A man was not supposed to want love so much, but a man did. A man dreamed just like women did. A man noticed couples everywhere, happiness everywhere, balance, perfection, kindness. A man held an umbrella even though it wasn’t raining and waited for the moment when he would be needed.

He walked for a long time. And when the day blended into night and he walked down an abandoned alley, the umbrella nestled against his shoulder instead of using it like a cane, Brent thought that maybe it was time to do something with his life.

He didn’t know what that something was, but he was sure it had something to do with being a better person, a fuller person, a person who had some kind of purpose. He could’ve set the umbrella next to a dumpster and it would’ve blended in with the shadows and the detritus of the alley. Instead, he walked home, the see-through, polka-dotted umbrella still in his hand, waiting for the time when it would be needed. Maybe that time would come. Brent would be ready for it. It would rain again, someday.

Image by Justin Leveque




Follow Justin on Twitter @levequejustin


When Your Heart Went Boom

I was searching through my old documents for a novel I abandoned. The characters still talk to me, and I'm disappointed that I haven't been able to write the novel for them that I think they deserve. I'm trying to decide whether to commit to this YA Suspense title, or return to this little abandoned novel. So, that's what I was doing when I found an old file of stories and monologues I've written over the years and have never done anything with. Some are pretty bad, of course, but this one still makes me laugh. And there are some lines in it that I like. Mostly, I like this Julie character and I hope that she found a man to make her as happy as I am with Kealoha. Here, then is that old monologue, from my younger self:Romantic Dinner

When Your Heart Went Boom by Tanya Eby

My Dearest Victor,

As dates go, on a scale of one to five, you were definitely a three and well on your way to a four. I was telling some joke, something about a fireman and a priest and a hose, not a great joke, not hysterical, but you were laughing and while I was telling it and feeling charming…I thought…just for a moment…how life might be with you if we happened. If it happened. If love happened between you and I.

And then, suddenly, you clutched your heart and stopped laughing and I looked in your eyes that were remarkably blue and I thought you sensed it too. This kismet. This cosmic connection, and that’s when, very clearly, the date was turning from a three to a four, on a scale of one to five. I smiled and you looked like you were smiling, or maybe that was just the muscles in your face tensing because then you passed out and then, you know, you passed on.

There was a bit of commotion at first, but don’t be embarrassed. I helped them sit you up and I wiped the chive butter from your forehead and then loosened your tie. It would have been one of those sweet, tender moments that happen when two people just start dating and realize there’s something more going on beneath the surface. It would have been one of those moments, us staring into each other’s eyes, if it hadn’t been for your dying and all. I thought, for a moment, that there was still a chance. I thought about it especially when our waiter (his name was Pedro and did you know he was pre-med? How lucky!) ripped open your shirt and started pumping on your chest and breathing in your mouth. I thought there still might be a chance for us and how terrific a story it would make at our wedding.

Your best man, Bob, would raise his glass to us and tell our friends that when we met on our blind date, you fell instantly in love with me and it happened so fast and so hard that your heart exploded. And everyone would laugh then and tink their glasses with their forks so that we would kiss. And we would kiss. Long and slow and with real love, so much love I would feel it in my belly, in my toes, this love of wanting you. Then I would wipe the chive butter from your forehead because all good things in life come round full circle.

But that didn’t happen because somewhere in the middle of my joke, you stopped. You just, stopped. And sometimes, mostly at night, right before I fall asleep, I see Pedro shaking his head and I see you on that burgundy carpet with your shirt open, and I see the open napkin on the floor next to you, and the roll you dropped when your heart went boom. It’s the roll I think about mostly, though you did have a magnificent chest, with just the right amount of hair, but it’s the roll I think about. There was a bite out of it. The last thing to touch your lips was a hard sourdough roll and to tell you the truth, no life should have to end like that.

I was sad to see you go, and, well, a little embarrassed. I didn’t even know your last name. All those emails and photos we sent each other, the phone calls we made, all the planning of finally meeting and when and where and how soon, and I never did catch your last name.

I thought about writing a note to your parents, but how would I find them? You said they were in their seventies and lived in Florida and I thought of going to Florida with your picture but, to tell you the truth, most of the people in Florida are in their seventies so how could I ever find them? I wouldn’t really know what to tell your parents anyway. I could say it was quick and painless (though I think there was some pain), but what’s it matter? I would like to tell them that the last thing you did (besides eat that roll) was laugh, and when I think about life and fate and how everything happens for a reason…I think maybe the whole reason I met you was to tell you that dumb joke about the fireman and the priest and the hose.

I was there with you in your final moment and you were laughing at something I told you and you clutched your heart and we looked at each other and when we looked at each other, my soul reached out to yours and wrapped around your heart too so that you were also, by extension, holding onto the tender part of me.

The more I think about that date, before your dying and all, the more I think it was a four on its way to a five. I’m sure it would have ended as a five. Maybe that night was on its way to being the best night of my life because maybe, just maybe, you were the one and destiny finally brought us together.

Destiny was late, true, and it was the shortest relationship I’ve ever had (we didn’t even make it through the first course), but I want you to know that I’ll never forget that night. We shared something most couples never do. We shared a moment so deep your eyes sparked blue with life.

Thank you for that, at the very least.

All my love,


On Weddings (more deep thoughts)


This weekend was a weekend of weddings with a heavy side of expectations and disappointments. Now there’s a sentence that will make you want to keep reading. It’s not depressing; I promise you.

We went to a friend of Kealoha’s wedding. Funny thing is, once upon a time, she was friend of mine. In fact, she was a housemate of mine fifteen years ago, in the very house I met Kealoha. She was the owner of the house and the hot tub (from which I emerged wrapped in towels). I lived with her for over a year or so and it was the first time in my teenager and young adult years (I was 22) that I lived in a home that was both beautiful and safe.

She was older than me…I think she was 35 to my 22 and I remember thinking how ‘old’ she was, something I laugh at now. Watching her get married, a peculiar thing happened. I was flooded with happiness for her, but I also felt regret…for ways I’d behaved when we were roommates. In my early twenties I was particularly self-centered. Lots of reasons for that, but a lot of it came down to immaturity. I didn’t understand loneliness at that time, or wanting to find a life partner, and I wasn’t very sympathetic to her wants.

Now, at almost 38, having felt deep loneliness and luckily having found my ‘life partner’ I can look back and think: man, I was an insensitive little turd. That’s right. A turd.

So I attended the wedding as I am now: 37, with my 2 kids and Kealoha and lots of learning under my belt, but my younger self was there too…in how people I haven’t seen in a decade or more responded to me, and that little ghost whispering behind my ear.

My roommate did eventually find love. She married and was happy for a time, and then became a widow. Then she found love again and the couple beamed with good humor and love and warmth. It was lovely. Plus, there was a crab boil afterwards. I don't know. It gave me hope for my girlfriends who are still searching.

It was light and summery and fun….and I just thought for a moment that isn’t life funny, the way it works out. 15 years ago, I never thought I’d have a family of my own, never imagined my life would turn out the way it has. Thankfully, where I’m at now is exactly where I want to be, even if all the details are different than I imagined.


Then for father’s day, we went over to Kealoha’s parents for chicken and corn and pie. Mmmm. After dinner and while the kids played over and around Kealoha, his mom and I went into the basement to look at photos. She showed me their wedding album from about 45 years ago. It was actually really interesting. I loved her dress and the bridesmaid’s….and how everyone was just plain young. She pointed out people in the wedding and on the dance floor and told me of their future.

Some of them divorced; some remarried. Some stayed single. Some were gay. Some died early; some died after a long life. Some struggled. Some were happy. Some she never saw again. It’s all very Our Town.

It was all so random…and then I had one of those moments thinking about the wedding we were just at, and the wedding we’ll have in October. How all these people will come together to help us celebrate. For that one moment, we’ll all be frozen in what will be (hopefully) a joyous occasion…and then life will go on. There will be heartbreaks, and disappointments and joy and love and twenty years from now who will be left? And who will be living exactly the life they envisioned they would?

Kealoha’s parents thought they’d be grandparents by now, but they aren’t. I feel for them. It's hard to have expectations and dreams that you have no control over. By this time, I thought I’d have a bestseller and a huge house and a kitchen with an island so big you’d get lost on it. (Actually, that was just a dream, not an expectation.)

I don’t know. I guess what I’m saying is I realized that even though you plan your life out, you never know what’s going to happen. I guess there’s something beautiful to that too. That life will, no matter what, surprise you.

My roommate found love not once, but twice. I’ve found love at 37.

We’ve all grown up, lived, suffered, rejoiced. I find this to be really, really comforting.



A Soft Sort of Sadness

There’s a phrase that I’ve used over and over in my writing, probably ad nauseum, and it’s “a soft sort of sadness”. I like the sibilance of it (especially when I say it out loud. I’m a bit of a lisper with S.) The phrase to me sounds like the feeling, as if sadness is that type of snow that falls in heavy flakes and in pure silence. It’s a sadness that is not all consuming, but comforting somehow, in an artistic-I’m-alone sort of way.