Over coffee with my mom this morning: “Sometimes we hesitate to invite people into our life because we feel like our space isn’t good enough yet. things are a little messy, or our place settings don’t match, or our situation isn’t quite what we want it to be. don’t let that stop you. invite people in anyway.”
You work so hard, just to end up at home crying yourself to sleep; remember you’re trying, you are moving mountains that have plagued you since you were young, and you’re trying so hard.
Keep fighting, fight until you have won. Fight until you have found your way home, until the sun comes back and your heart learns to love the mornings again.
That was my new nickname for her. The new girl. She sat in the cozy lounger office chair swiveling back and forth as she twirled her hair. I eyed her when she wasn’t looking and continued taping box after box. My wrist hurt from all the taping, all customers seemed to have SOME problem or another, and best of all-the new girl. She seemed to be the new drama on the block. The day before I had to help her jump off her car. Her sketchy boyfriend sat inside with the windows down not saying a word as two girls fixed the problem. And here she was, twirling her frizzy hair and talking on the phone with said boyfriend. The company phone. All I kept hearing was “I love yous” and “miss you too”. I turned my head back around and packed some clothes in a small box. I taped the top and slapped on the label. It was her third day here. Patience, patience, patience. My new word of the day.
SS: “Can you hand me that tape?”
Me: “Yes sir. Here you go!”
SS: “No, I asked for the tape. Give me the tape. “
Me: “?? What tape? Box tape, scotch tape?”
SS: “Right there!” (Points in random direction)
Me: (looking everywhere) “I don’t know what you’re talking about sir I’m sorry.”
SS: “The tape thingy…tape….what’s it called? Tape measurer!”
Me: “….you said tape.”
SS: “I know and I meant tape measurer. What took you so long?”
They never tell you what real grand adventures are all about. Sure it’s exciting to get away and see new parts of the world, but who do you know and how do you get there? Where do you go? The real grand adventures are about pain. They involve struggle, indecision, hard choices, and growth. That growth sometimes means cutting people out of your life. And then you’re lonely, really terribly lonely. You were just faced with who you really were, and you didn’t like the face staring back at you. The lines are too hard, the eyes too large, the nose upturned, and fat cheeks. But then you suddenly start healing. So lightly and subtly at first you don’t realize the growth. Then you feel the excitement again in your veins, your stomach. You feel the warmth of the sun, the ache from smiling too much. You see that life is the big adventure. The adventure is in pain. That’s where you find your true self.
I stare at the vast expanse of black in my window, and most of all my reflection staring back at me. I don’t know how it came to this. I don’t know how I came to you. I guess I should be punished because I loved you the minute I saw you sitting there in that leather jacket trying to inconspicuously look at me while you thought I was distracted. But I noticed. I noticed everything about you. Your unruly hair was jutting out in all directions, your hands were nervously running over your phone pretending to text or look for music, you jiggled one of your legs up and down, and I couldn’t get enough. There I was sitting opposite of you, very much in a relationship, and couldn’t think of anyone but you. The no-name, curly-haired, nervous lanky guy sitting in front of me. It was your eyes, though, that drew me in inch by little inch until all of my brain capacity was 100% yours. I knew my relationship was having problems, and that I didn’t really love the guy I was with. But I felt safe with him. I didn’t get nervous butterflies dancing in my belly but I did get comfort. And you were the opposite of all those things, I could tell. You had it written on your forehead like a tattoo. I knew I should look away, make myself seem unavailable. But it was like my body wanted you to know I was yours the minute we locked eyes.
You said a joke, I laughed.
That’s when my world turned upside down.
It all started with the music. Meaning, we met through the most unique way possible, or not so unique if you really thought about it.
I was meeting a friend who I hoped would be a little more than a friend at a coffee shop. A coffee shop that just so happened to know a band that would be playing that same night.
I had worn something that I had thrown together to look thrown together, but not so much thrown together that I was mistaken for a homeless woman. Black tights, black boots, mini skirt, lacy top. I thought it was sexy, I thought it was thrown together. But most of all it was the opposite of all those things. Somehow, though, because of the people I was around and the weirdness of their personalities, I could get away with pretty much anything. I had straightened my unruly hair. It had been growing several inches and was now past my shoulder blades, and I had put on entirely too much makeup to impress the not-so-much-of-a-friend I was hoping to meet.
I had brought a friend, or rather someone who I called a friend and then when looking back I realize was not a friend at all but a first-class leech. I didn’t want to go by myself to this little upstairs concert, and I felt he would be a safe bet to steer me away from the creeps.
We got there and walked up the stairs to where all the sound was coming from. I smelled coffee beans, assorted pastries, and cigarette smoke. I’ll never forget the smell of coffee and cigarette smoke from that night. The stairs were rickety but I swallowed my anxiousness and carried on. At the top of the stairs I saw a mass. More people than could technically fit were truly fitting there, and they were all thrumming with music in their veins. They moved this way and that, seemingly together, but all the while trying to outdo the person next to them.
I saw my not-so-friendly-friend-who-I-hoped-would-be-more talking to his brother in the corner. We made eye contact, and he started over. But my friend Alan nudged me in the side, “Look at the band..” He said and trailed off. I looked up, and there he was. He was in the back, beating on drums like his life truly depended on it, and I thought how much I wished I was that way. He kept flipping his head back and to the side to flick the bangs out of his eyes. There was sweat dripping off him, and yet, I couldn’t look away. There were two skinny boys playing bass and lead guitar on either side. One was blonde, the other brunette, and the brunette was crooning next to an old fashioned mic. The word indie kept popping into my mind. And yet, my eyes kept flicking back to the sandy haired, blue eyed, passionate drummer in the back.
I felt someone’s breath on my skin and a voice in my hear. “Hey Alyce, glad you made it. How was the drive?” I could barely hear him over the beating of the drums and the thoughts in my mind. “It was good, Nolan. I was hoping I would see you tonight.” He smiled that lazy smile. But somehow, in that moment, unlike every other moment with him I felt how weird he was. All I wanted to do was move closer to the band and away from him. I felt guilty and ashamed and looked down to collect myself.
Somehow this not-so-friend-friend took that as me being shy and flirty. He took my hand and pulled me across the room to meet his brother again, with Alan pushing through the crowd behind me. I looked back at Alan and shrugged. He wasn’t so much a fan of the not-a-friend-friend and more interested in the music.
Not-so-much-a-friend introduced me to his brother. “Don, remember Alyce? Yea yea the girl I was telling you about.” I smiled politely, and in return he gave me a lingering once-over. Creepy vibe heightened and Alan nudged me inconspicuously. That was our code for, “get out of here quick we might be killed or raped”. I just smiled even brighter and tried to act like nothing was amiss, shook his hand and said eloquently, “Hi.” I’m a real smooth talker when I want to be. Not-so-much-a-friend asked if I wanted a beer, Alan and I agreed and he vanished, leaving me with Creepy Don.
Creepy Don was quiet though, so Alan and I made an escape route, and I took Alan’s hand to pull us toward the front. There was a magnetism. I wanted to know the drummer, and being 18, I wasn’t all that shamed by my wishes and lusts.
The Drummer looked up and made eye contact with me in that moment, and I was momentarily stuck in a time warp. Weird, that was the feeling. He seemed to feel my eyes on him from across the room and he almost missed a beat on the drums. I smiled then, because I wanted to laugh. He smiled back because it was contagious. I felt electricity in my veins and it made me brave. I gave him my best come-hither look and he couldn’t pull his eyes away. I saw a mischievous grin come into focus and thought he reminded me of a naughty elf for a second.
The Drummer pulled his eyes away finally and I was suddenly very disappointed. Why had he looked away? I mean, I know he had to play, but I was here and I had given him a look! Alan leaned close and pulled me out of my reverie. “Have you already forgotten about what’s-his-face?” That was Alan’s little nickname for the not-so-much-a-friend. I was surprised he had noticed the drummer’s exchange with me, but I was secretly thrilled. That meant I wasn’t the only one thinking we had a moment. I had to meet him. I had to.
Suddenly there was silence and a lot of clapping ensued, and Alan smiled at me and winked. The song had ended and the band was taking a break apparently. I could meet him. This was my chance.
But I suddenly couldn’t move. My feet were stuck to the floor. I was shy…nervous…scared. I had never gone up to a guy before and introduced myself…what would he think?
Then the not-so-much-a-friend was at my side leaning against me handing me a beer. Joy. I hated beer. “How do you like the music?” I smiled politely, suddenly I didn’t like him so much as before. “The drummer is great.” He laughed and said, “Yea? I go to school with him. He’s a singer too.” Before I could ask his name, there he was before me. The Drummer. He was there looking at me and wearing that mischievous grin again. It seemed it was the grin he reserved for me.
Not-so-much-a-friend smiled and clapped him on the back. “Good set dude, I loved ‘Take Me Back’. Did you write that one or Grant?” The Drummer dragged his eyes away from mine and laughed. “Well, that was me. Glad you liked the song. It’s one of my favorites to play cause I can just go crazy with it.” He smiled an easy smile, and I wished I could see that smile for a million summer nights just like this one.
His eyes returned to mine and that mischievous grin reappeared. “And you are?” He asked slyly. His voice was like molten chocolate. And that’s how I felt-melted. “Alyce.” I smiled my come-hither smile. “What’s your name?” I asked. His eyes bored into mine, like I was the only person in the room. “Kolin. Kolin Winters.”
And that was the beginning of us.
I laid in the dark thinking about my next move. All my greatest decisions were made in one of three places: the shower, my car, or in the cozy warmth of my bed. I guess today it would be the latter.
It’s as if seeing my best friend since birth jogged my memory, and I suddenly grew a watermelon sized conscience. Why now, all of a sudden, have I decided that all the choices I’ve made this far were mistakes?
Each mistake had something in common….it’s a four letter word with dire consequences.
Every single boyfriend, lover, friend, father-they made me choose. They made me choose between my true self and a fake persona. I hate to admit the latter is more often true than not.
But tonight I kept thinking about Him, with a capital H. The Him that all my friends never named and my mother tried her best to forget. He was the one that made me question everything. He’s why I’m here now, laying in bed, wondering who I am at all.
I guess 22 is really half a mid-life crisis.
Him, the almond colored skin, the no middle name, that pert little nose, and large grasping hands.
I remember the night out on the bridge when he lifted my shirt and buried his hands in my skin while I made sounds unfamiliar to my own ears.
…But I couldn’t think of that now. It was a long time ago. He was the worst mistake I ever made.
Then why couldn’t I let it go? Why couldn’t I let that bastard of a love story die.
But those eyes, his eyes. The ones that buried in your soul and asked to stay forever…they were ingrained in my subconscious.
Who am I kidding? He will be with me until I’m blue in the face, cold in the limbs, and warm in the heart.
I reached over and grabbed my phone without thinking….maybe just one text message. Then he will remember me…he will have my name on his lips…he will claim I’m the one that “got away”…you know, all that old cheesy stuff you wish he would say.
And so I texted, “Hi”. Simple. Sweet. To the point.
I wait for a reply and find it quite ironic that our relationship was much of this-me initiating and waiting for his love in return.
My phone pings and pulls me out of my reverie. I look at the screen, “Hi, it’s been a while since I heard from you.”
Just like that I’m pulled in again, crashing against the waves…waiting for a chance to breathe.
Why does this happen? We are two people. We felt that hot streak, that passion…the flame. But now I’m here, at this crossroads standing alone. I’m staring at your blurry figure, masked by the dust. I don’t know what happened to the whispered forevers and wet kisses beneath the covers. You were the…