It was going to be a rough Sunday. I was chairing our DBSA Albuquerque board meeting, and I had the prescience that Rasma and her mom would show, make things awkward, then leave. Folks, I stopped wanting to be president of DBSA Albuquerque three years ago, yet year after year I got dragged back in to manage the chapter. I’m a farging volunteer, and I had enough episodes of bipolar and PTSD symptoms triggered by events and people at DBSA Albuquerque to last more than just this lifetime. I’ll
be paying off the Turmoil o’ Cox for the next three or four permutations of Steve I’m certain.

I’ve got my buddy Charee who I met (all on her lonesome) at an All American Rejects gig downtown (more on this in another blog), and I had reached out to her after ditching Rasma asking her to introduce me to some of her movie industry friends, just to get me out of behavioral health. So, right after our board meeting at Dion’s (the one by Sadie’s), I strolled over to 66 Bowl to meet Charee and one of her besties, Clare Castellano.


I gave Charee strict instructions that I wasn’t dating and I didn’t want to be set up with anyone. I was going through legal crap with Rasma that was sapping every cent I had, and I didn’t want to drag a woman into my mess. Charee said she really wanted Clare to know there were good men in the world, because Clare tended to date folks like gunrunners and alcoholics who beat her.

Yep. That’s me. I am a very good man and I would never harm a woman. Charee knew this of me. In fact, she even told Clare, “If anyone ever hurts you, Steve will make it his life’s work to destroy that person.” Charee is very correct. And it is ongoing, despite Clare’s passing.

But I don’t want to talk about Clare’s passing. I want to talk about the day I met her for bowling. She sucked. Badly. I threw a game just so she could win and feel good. I don’t do that. I’m far too competitive, or perhaps the right degree of competitive and everyone else just sucks. That’s what it is.


I asked her, “What do you do for a living?” This shocked her. No man had ever asked about her or shown interest in what she did. Turns out she was a Care Coordinator 3 at Molina New Mexico . . . working with behavioral health peers as an LMSW. That was so cool! And she was passionate about exactly what I was passionate about (I just got a Lifetime Achievement Award in Behavioral Health Innovation from the State of New Mexico right before meeting Clare). Still, I turned to Charee and said, “Er, didn’t we talk about me stepping outside the BH world for socialization?” No matter. I told Clare I might be working at Molina since I was transitioning from geology to BH, seeing as I did so much volunteer work in BH it was time to be a paid professional, stepping in as a CPSW.

Bowling over, Charee gave me a hug goodbye, and to my delight so did Clare. She’s pretty damn wonderful, I thought to myself.

Later that night, I got a text from Charee.

Clare asked for my phone digits “In case I had any questions about Molina.”

While Sarah, my sister, claims I’m not oblivious and my subconscious picks up on romantic interest from girls quite accurately, no subconscious was necessary for Charee’s text.

I replied to Charee “Sure, give her my number, you know, in case she ever has a question about a rock.”

Charee lost her nut over this one. She’d been tormented by me at stand up gigs I’ve presented, she knew my sense of humor and laughed at a good number of both splendid and shitty jokes that spew out of that hole in my face. This, Charee told me, was one of the funniest things I’ve ever said. She knew her friend Clare, and what took a month or so to be truly obvious to Clare and me, Charee and everyone else saw the first day at 66 Bowl. Jana saw it. Alan saw it. Frank saw it.


Everyone saw it. So did I. So did Clare. But I was shitty at relationships, if the recently discarded Rasma was any indication of just this. And what Clare told me of the men she dated, she sucked at choosing romantic partners just as bad as I did.

Clare often asked me what I thought of her the first time we met. Well, she’s way hot and way short, so that was as any easy answer. Talking with her over the next two hours at 66 Bowl, I later came to tell her what I really thought. She is awesome and passionate, and she’s the type of person who when I was around her I just wanted to be more of a person. I fell in love the day I met her, only it took me (both of us, really) a month or two to realize what everyone else saw in us that first day. We’d fallen for each other.

Towards the end of April, I turned the question back on Clare. “What did you think of me the first time we met?”

“I loved you the day we met. But I was afraid I’d lose you because I get too close and push people away. I’m a runner. The problem was I was already losing you. You told me it hurt too much to be with me and not be able to hold me and comfort me. So we took a chance and fell in love.”

A question about Molina. A question about a rock. Funny stuff. I miss her and I wouldn’t trade back any of the moments we had, even with the heartache that started when we both began falling apart.

I kept every promise I ever made to Clare, a first for me in the romantic realm. This included buying her an engagement ring while she was dying over the course of the month of October last year. That’s another sweet blog with an unnecessary sour core. For another time.

If you are not a believer in “love at first sight”, you never met the Clare Clarissa Nina Castellano I met that day at 66 Bowl in March, 2017. Sucks to be you, because I saw her face, now I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind. Or heart.