Sunday, June 30, 2013


Ready? Ready set go. Here's a tour of our life. In a blur, speed lines trailing behind, all lit up like fiber optics. This is not an exhaustive history. God, I'm exhausted. Don't expect any order, you know I'm not a linear thinker. I remember everything, I promise.

You know all about my freakish memory. You were there when I gave the maid of honor toast at my sister's wedding. My first memory, clear as day, was the day she was born. I stood there, teetering a little, champagne in hand, and tried to hold my voice steady as I told 500 people what I'd never just managed to tell my baby sister. How pivotal she is to my existence. How much I love her. That meeting her was the first thing to gain enough traction to stick into my developing mind. I wasn't even three years old. You were there for that speech. You were sitting right next to me. You were a groomsman that day. You were part of my sister's wedding. You were my date and my backbone. You squeezed my hand and smiled at me afterward and that's how I knew I hadn't fucked it up. I nailed it. What a relief. You are the relief. You're the check-in. I swear if I tried to have that procedure from Eternal Sunshine to delete you, the past ten years of my life would be gone. Glaring, gaping, empty you-shaped holes. I remember everything.

This one wasn't that long ago. We were together, at least. You'd send me pictures of the turtles you rescued from the middle of the street while you were driving around on country roads for work. You're so stoic most of the time, you know. Damn it, like the only thing you had feelings for in abundance was me. You're a softy, though. You saved those little guys, couldn't bear the thought of their shiny bodies becoming speed bumps for some soccer mom or idiot teenager driving too fast. Any person that pulls over to the side of the road to rescue a turtle on a hot summer day, that's a person I want to know. That's a person I want to associate with. Then again, I would have loved you anyway. I already did. 

Things are weird, and I don't know how to deal with it or make it better, but the distance between us has never been greater. It's an abyss and we're standing on opposite edges and I can't even shout across it. It feels cold. Mostly I associate the time before we were together as summer, but this memory, this one is chilly, dreary, gray.  I'm 22. You're dating Her. She 'knows how you used to feel' about me, so we don't really spend time together anymore. Not like we used to, driving around aimlessly for hours every night whenever I blew through town. But for some reason you agree to meet me and we go to McDonald's and glance awkwardly at each other and push food around on our paper wrappers. Not a whole lot of eye contact is happening. We're not laughing. I hate it when we're not laughing. I'm trying to talk about anything but Her, and you seem to be doing the same thing. We've got all these things we can talk about, anything, really. But we're not saying a lot and it's excruciating. The last time we hung out we both got drunk. And we kissed. And you crashed on my parent's couch. We stayed up watching shitty reality shows all night because at least we were spending time together. That was right around the time you met Her. Whoops. We go to a store after we eat, like a warehouse with junk and trinkets and statues and shit. You buy Her a little porcelain unicorn. Actually, you forget your wallet, so I buy her the goddamn unicorn. I drive you back to your car. You get in it and drive away. It feels like a punch to the gut when you don't even look back. You always look back. I've really made a mess of things this time.

We're driving to Nashville with D. All of us are under 21, I'm probably 19. We have my friend M buy us a bunch of cases of cheap beer and we hit the road. You guys drive three hours out of the way to come get me. God, you drove to come get me so many times from school. Remember that New Years Day when we cooked breakfast and I scrubbed the confetti stains out of the linoleum with bleach? That was the first time I ever saw you wear shorts. Your skin was so pale it looked otherworldly. We walked to the grocery store, which was mercifully open, and when we got back you whipped up hashbrowns soaked in beer while we listened to Sunday Morning Coming Down on repeat. But that's not part of this memory, fuck. It's just a splinter sticking out of it. I probably owe you $4000 in gas money from all the times you would just come and get me, just know I needed rescued for a day, night, weekend, however long it took until I could handle that place again. On this trip we're driving to Nashville and having exhausted the pitifully small amount of music we can all agree on, I'm forcing you to listen to Brand New. We thought the trip was going to take three hours, but we're on hour eight now. You've let me drive this gigantic diesel truck you borrowed from your uncle through a narrow construction zone, which was terrifying but made me feel like a badass. D didn't get to drive it. Now I'm back in the passenger seat. We've made D sit in the backseat because it's an unspoken agreement that the front seat is mine in any car of yours, regardless of the fact that you guys have been friends since you were five. We've been in the car so long that I'm starting to get loopy. Like, crawling-up-the-walls slap happy. I'm being so ridiculous that you're both looking at me like I'm an animal that has escaped from the zoo. I unleached, I fully unleached the crazy. And you took it. You just took it. Our first kiss was the weekend. We slept in a half-constructed tent in the rain in a campsite that was really only made for RVs. And then you drove me back to school and drove away. One of us is always leaving the other, it seems.

You're whiskey drunk and I'm really skinny. Depression-chic, from my breakup. It's J's going away party and we're down at IU drinking and carrying on, a bunch of us. The usuals. Some randos. Why am I not at school? Maybe it hasn't started yet. OSU started so much later than anyplace else. Your hair is long and stringy and I'm flirting with everyone. We're avoiding each other because you want to be with me and I know it and I've still got a broken heart from the guy I dated my first two years in college. You made it really hard to love him, but somehow I still did. It's my first real heartbreak so I feel like I'm bracing for impact on a moment-to-moment basis, my entire person is bruised, my entire essence feels whip-lashed and battered. But I feel pretty tonight. I'm tan and I'm wearing my favorite jeans and oh my god am I fucking thin. I feel like I'm attracting everyone. But not you. I'm avoiding an inevitable stand off. Suddenly your face is in my face and you're angry at me. You're shouting "I'm in love with you! Don't you fucking understand that? I am in love with you and there's nothing I can do about it!" And I'm getting angry because you're so drunk and causing a scene and now everyone knows you're in love with me and I'm the girl who refuses to love you back. I just keep yelling "I'm sorry," like I'm a bitch and don't mean it because you're pissing me off right now. Except, you know, I do love you back. I just can't do it. I just don't know how to be with you yet. I so didn't want to be the villian tonight. I was avoiding this confrontation with you. It has found me head-on anyway. I say I'm sorry some more and you storm off into the trees. I let you go. I have no idea what to say to you. You tear through the house when my high school boyfriend shows up with a bunch of weed, you hate him. You break the shower curtain rod in half and punch a hole in the wall and start throwing shit around when you find out I'm in there smoking with him. D looks at me like "Well, this is your problem. You did this." So I corral you into the bathroom and talk to you softly and hold your hair and rub your back when you vomit. Which you do, a lot. I put you into D's bed and crawl in next to you. When I wake up, you're sitting in the computer chair next to the bed with a blanket wrapped around you. It must have been too hard to lay so close to something you couldn't have. It broke my heart to hurt yours. It always has.

We're driving, god, we drove a lot. We're driving and I'm scratching the back of your head. You know the spot. The one you love. I'm running my fingers through your hair and we both wearing sunglasses. God I hated those sunglasses of yours. We're in the Chevy Aveo we rented for the weekend. You're in a great mood. We're on our way to St. Louis because I bought you tickets to see the Phillies for your birthday, months ago. For once I felt like a did really well on a gift for you, our seats are going to be killer. Usually on long car trips we've been getting into tiffs and spending a lot of time in a pissed-off silence. Not today. Today the weather is beautiful and we're going on vacation and we're in love. If you hadn't been driving I would have climbed into your lap and curled up in the warmth of the feeling. We make jokes at each other and talk about what we're going to do while we're in this new strange city. We're getting along, it feels like it has been so long since that happened, since it was easy. It's like we were best friends again. I could cry thinking about that moment. I'm crying thinking about that day. Fuck.

We've both smoked eight swisher sweets. We're cruising around singing duets together and trying to get lost on the country roads. Sometimes we succeed. We hit a huge puddle and we both scream. The engine gets wet and stream starts pouring out of the hood, so you stop the car. We get out of the car in the middle of nowhere and both walk up to the front, headlights still on. You're wearing a Phillies shirt that is too small and we're both looking up at the zillions of stars in the sky. All I want in this moment is for you to kiss me. The moment passes. We don't even touch. We slide back into our seats and practice blowing smoke out of our noses. We're probably old enough to drink, but we're not drinking. Kind of like that Christmas night when we kidnapped D and made him drive around with us until four in the morning. We kept fucking with him and we wouldn't let him fall asleep, which is what he tried to do when he realized that despite his pleas, we were not going to take him home. It was snowing and night time and we drove around the deserted downtown streets talking in Australian accents, cracking up at each other and our conspiring against D. Poor guy, he's such an easy target and we're an unbeatable team. But the cigars, we sit and practice smoking them in the Kroger parking lot. It is just what we did that summer. I'd wake up and my pillow would have that sweet tobacco lingering all over it. I'd be taken back for a moment to the night before while I was still balancing on that tightrope between awake and asleep. Being with you was so easy, effortless. It made me so happy to not have to work for it.

I am the designated driver for you and D tonight, which never happens, so the novelty of it actually makes me not mind watching all of you drink all night. It's T's birthday and we go to this bar his family owns in this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere that I've never been to before. It's dark and I'm just part of the caravan driving out there, so that's easy enough. It's a dive bar, which is fun. You're all drinking whiskey and having a good time and we make D go up and dance with some random middle aged woman. Pictures are snapped. The Skunk Holler Band comes on and more people are dancing. I do one shot of whiskey with you guys when we first get there, but mostly I'm laughing a lot and taking it all in. This wannabe cowboy from high school somehow shows up and asks me to dance. I say no at first, but eventually acquiesce. I'm not a good dancer. I'm talking to this guy uncomfortably, he's being too forward, thinking about how I'm going to make fun of him to you when this song is over. I glance over at you and we lock eyes. You storm out. I could leave him standing there, I know you're mad at me and I should go smooth things over. But part of me is just a little pissed off. I'm not your girl. I'm just a girl. I'm just your friend. You don't get to throw fits every time I talk to another guy.  Eventually the song ends and I walk out into the warm night and you're leaning against the building, a lot more drunk than I thought you were. It wasn't much after that when you stopped drinking whiskey all together. It doesn't do good things to you. I step toward you and you're seething, you're so angry. We're not really talking, but suddenly you're yelling and you punch the wire cage that holds propane tanks. The sound is high and hollow. It's broken, your hand, I know it instantly. You've got to stop punching things when you're mad at me. You cradle your mangled limb in the other arm and that is when I know it's time to go home, wherever that is right now. I wrangle D and get you both into the car. You're on the passenger side whimpering and fading in and out of consciousness. I play all of our songs and sing my parts at the top of my lungs to try to keep you awake. D is saying asinine things in the back seat and I'm ignoring him. I'm kind of lost because I've never been here before, so I'm leaning forward, gripping your steering wheel and squinting into the darkness. When I finally see something familiar I almost shout for the relief of it.  I don't know why I have this effect on you. I don't understand it. I'm nothing special to anyone else.

I walk in the door and throw my keys on the shelf. The dog bounds up to me, all 150 pounds of her at full force. I give her the obligatory hello scratch and head to the bathroom to wash my hands. I'm so allergic that if I forget to wash my hands I'll be hitting my inhaler in less than five minutes. But we're living together, so I'm making it work. I'm getting allergy shots every week and she's not allowed in our bedroom. It's working. I come into the kitchen and you're making bacon, back turned to me. You're making dinner. Our dinner. I bury my head in your neck and shoulder and you turn to me, bear hug me, crack my back, kiss me hello. You taste like the sun has been beaming on your face all day. Burning sunshine. We have our routine, and it's good. You cook dinner, we watch our shows and hang out for a few hours until I go to sleep or go read. We're building a life of sorts, I never realized how much of everything we have to make up as we go along. Right now, it feels good. 

I'm drunk, again. And I've been smoking cigarettes, which is going to cause a major argument. Something is wrong with me but I can't explain it to you because I don't even understand it. Getting drunk with Erin on random Tuesdays after work feels good, though, and not a whole lot else does right now. I get home and you're in front of the TV and I know it's bad because only your eyes move to look at me when I come in the door. Usually you look at me with your whole body, especially if you haven't seen me in several hours. You're angry. I figure I should maybe try to disguise a little bit of the drinking and smoking, so I just run into the bathroom really fast like I've been holding my pee in for three days. I'm fully aware that we both know I'm not fooling anyone. But at least I'm trying. I jump in the shower and brush my teeth and when I get out, you're in bed with the light out. You don't turn to me when I get into bed and it scares me a little. What am I doing to us? Why am I doing it? 

I am twenty five and we went to a wedding last night, which means I'm hungover as fuck and you're driving my car back in the direction of home. It's been an okay morning, rehashing last night's events and saying goodbye to my college friends. I was a bridesmaid. I had an awesome hair day. All was well. We woke up in a bed with a feather comforter that felt like a cloud. It was luxurious. The night before the wedding we stayed in a smarmy motel by the airport because it was cheap, but that wasn't even too bad either. We just really get along well when we stay in hotels. It's probably the sex in a different environment. Whatever, it's been a good weekend. But as soon as we get into the car, I am unable to function. I insist that I am dying the way that I always do when I have too much to drink the night before and you matter-of-factly inform me that I am not, in fact, dying. The way you always do. Something in that transaction always makes me feel better, like you really know me and still care enough to placate me on the most basic level. I demand we stop for provisions and you run in to the gas station to get me beverages. When you come back out, you've procured me no less than four different drinks. Because you know me. Because you know how I get when I get too thirsty and I don't have exactly what I need to quench it, which is bratty and insolent. With the right person, even feeling like you're dying doesn't have to be the worst thing. 

I haven't told you that T and I are back together and I have no idea how I am going to break the news. It's summer and I went back up to the island after graduation even though I knew it wasn't the right choice. It was what I wanted, so I did it. That's pretty much how everything happens for me which means I'm a pretty selfish person. You came to my graduation, drove three hours with my two best girlfriends, who you barely know, to see me for a couple of hours, sit in a sweltering stadium for an afternoon, and hang out with my family. T dumped me three days before my graduation because he didn't want to have to buy new clothes or meet my grandparents. Still, this is who I am choosing to give my heart completely. You already know my grandparents. You already know everyone. You already love me back. Anyway, T and I are back together, or at least we're sleeping in the same bed every night and hanging out with the same group of friends at the same time, which we were basically doing anyway, just with a much more tense flavor to it. Anyway, you've just driven five hours to come and see me. M is here too, you both decided to visit at the same time, which is great, but a little weird too because I won't be able to fully devote my attention to either one of you. Plus I've got this boyfriend who really isn't that nice to me, but for some reason I believe him every time he promises he's going to change. You hate him already. God, you're the best teammate. If it's ever the end of the world and we have to pick teams, you're the first person I'm going to pick. You're so loyal. You meet him and it's awkward and I force him to come to dinner and I can tell the instant it dawns on you that we're together. You close up completely. You're already shy, but now there is no getting in. Luckily T is underage, so at least you and M and I can go out to the bars together, just the three of us. I feel so horrid about not telling you that I am back together with T that I get stupendously drunk. You try to come upstairs with me to help me get my shit together and get into bed, and suddenly my boyfriend has his first moment of semi-lucid chivalry in the entire course of our relationship. He asserts his dominance or desire to act in the role of caregiver and I wake up the next morning next to him. He told me years later that he always felt intimidated by you, even when I'd only bring you up in casual conversation. Sometimes people just know when they're outranked. You decide to leave earlier than expected, so I drive you to the ferry in my friend J's car, half drunk again. You confront me about T and I brush you off, give some bullshit excuse about it being easier than being mad at someone I have to deal with every day. I can't bear to tell you that I'm so in love with him that I am drowning. I am a sinking ship. You never should have seen me here. I am in this phase the least lovable I've ever been and I know you're leaving because you can't stand to see me this way, with him. I don't blame you, but I'm not coming with you either. I won't' be saved. As with most things, I have to figure out a way to do that for myself. 

We're driving to the movies. I am seventeen. You are driving. You're always driving. We're playing the padiddle game and it's the best because you get so animated and you're never animated, as far as I can tell. It's hilarious to me. It's a very competitive game, we get worked up on purpose because there is too much energy bouncing around the car. It's spewing out of us so rapidly and whirling around us, trapped in the vehicle, no place to go. It's dark out and we're going to the movies and we're just friends but you're becoming my best friend and the summer is almost over which means I'm leaving for school soon, but we're not talking about that. We don't talk about that. You're smiling over at me and arguing with me and for some reason I break the force field between us. I reach across our seats and I put my hand over your mouth to stop you from talking, to quiet you so I can argue louder. Really, it's just because I have to touch you. I'm being drawn to you. I had to touch your lips with some part of my body or I was going to explode, spontaneous combustion. That's the only time we touched that entire summer, I think. The tickle fights and bruises came the next year. That's the first time I touched you. It felt like getting struck by lightning, in a good way.

These are nothing. These are tiny, miniscule. These are grains of sand. There are literally millions of them. They build up, I find them everywhere. Like dust, it's settled over everything. Like a universe stuck on one of the lenses of my glasses. You're gone and I feel unmoored, unsteady. Sometimes I feel nothing and it's a relief and it's wretched at the same time. I keep myself so occupied on a moment-to-moment basis that usually I feel okay or better than okay. But sometimes I'll be alone and I'll catch a flicker of a memory and I'll find myself frozen twenty minutes later, lost in the night we made fire biscuits or the way we fell asleep fully clothed two New Year's Eves ago when we shared that hotel room with my sister and her husband, or how you locked yourself in a broom closet at our fancy hotel in St. Louis. You taught me how to shoot a gun, you've attended more of my brothers' sporting events than I probably have, I've been to two of your grandmothers' funerals, and you've survived so many dinners with my family that you're not even considered a guest. My mother bosses you around with the rest of us. It's just a lot, you know. It's just the weight of pushing away someone who holds all of your context. I'll have to physically shake myself, like a dog coming out of water. I'm okay. I'm happy. I'm good. It's just so strange. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

right now.

I'm thinking of a number between one and a million. I'm thinking of a day between now and the end of summer. Never. Never. Never. It's never happening, it can't possibly end. 

I'm almost certain this is the most languid period I've ever had in my life. Every day I dive into a new adventure and somehow I find a way to slip through the grasp of monotony. I'm even making money. I've got this job and my boss is so wonderful and flexible that it almost doesn't feel like a real job that an almost-27-year-old should have. I come and go and he assigns me 'projects' that I complete with ease and then I sit and laugh and joke with the other women in the office. I ride my bike to work. I ride my bike to friend's houses. I zip around town with relative ease, my hair blowing behind me in the wind. I cut myself a pair of jorts out of men's wranglers and I wear them everywhere and don't even worry how they make my legs look. It feels free to not constantly worry about cellulite and big thighs and I have no idea how it happened, but I'm so glad it did. My body gets me where I need to go, that's beautiful enough. 

I play tennis or I go on hikes or I sit and read books on my porch for entire afternoons. I went two weeks without drinking earlier this month. I woke up every morning feeling rested and happy. My friends and I did activities like making elephant ears and playing heated games of cards and sipped on ginger ale, laughing high and clear. Or I'll get loaded on moscow mules on a random bar porch and skip my way home as the sun sets. It doesn't matter, it seems anything that happens is the right thing. 

I whisper to my car and give the dashboard a good luck rub whenever I drive to a new adventure, but mostly I trust her to prevail. I trust trust trust right now. I bring home twenty books from the library and pluck one from the middle without looking. That is how I choose what comes next. In every situation. I pluck from the middle and commit to the idea until it has reached completion. It is working. It is so right in this phase. 

I am a plant sitter. I am a book lender. I am a woman on a tightrope, but it is summer, so I'm keeping myself light and believing in my own ability to balance, eyes closed. I'm listening to Paul Simon and bopping around my little apartment. I've got a laundry basket full of dirty clothes in my bathtub, but my tan has never been better and my smile never so bright. I'm doing what my whims say. I'm listening to myself. Who knew that felt so right? There's an ease in pressure right now. It's fantastic. 

I am canoeing in mountain lakes and steering the vessel from the back seat because even when I try to be light, there are still some things I need to control. I joined this group of folks who read an article from a scholarly journal each week and then meets to discuss it. Nerds prevail. We find and flock to each other everywhere, it seems. It's an almost perpetual blur of campfires and sunsets, this summer. For once I'm not already looking past it, I'm allowing myself to be swallowed by it. Holy moly, glory glory. 

My hair is bleaching out in the sun and my smile is content and real. There are sad things too, because that's life, but it is my favorite season in my favorite place and right now I have zero complaints.