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 different one. But after all this time, was I just seeing a mirage?
Were you really a fantasy?
I’m here, standing at the crossroads, looking at you through the dust. Will you grasp my hand and pull me towards your side?
Laying under the covers and I see your sleeping form. Your face is so peaceful, so at rest. I slip my hand into yours and you don’t even move a muscle. Can it be that I will be looking at you, just like this, in a year…two…ten…fifty? Your hair is mussed and your lips are slightly parted. The scent of you cascades off my pillows. I brush my fingers against your knuckles and your eyelids flicker. I hope you are having dreams about me, about us. In that moment, all that matters is your sleeping form, and that I couldn’t imagine being with any other person in the world.
We were skating around the rink in circles, and it almost felt like real life. The skates rubbed against my ankles, and children were flying past me, fearless as usual. When did I lose that? You were holding my right hand. The room was steamy from all the moving bodies. Everyone was laughing too loudly, smiling too brightly. You looked over at me and suddenly I was disoriented. The lights on the floors made it seem we were traveling a different path than we were. The skates were heavy on my feet, and I stumbled, clutching desperately at your arm, dragging you down with me. Teenagers were talking close in one of the corners, with their hard pushed to the side and too much cologne. Overtired mothers sat at one table, staring blankly at the floor as children ran screaming past them. The fathers were all in a gathering looking very serious and manly, probably discussing football. And it seemed to me that each one had a story, but they were all putting on a mask for the people around them. One of the teenagers in the corner was flirting behind his girlfriend’s back. One of the mothers had thoughts of ending her life when she got home. One of the fathers thought about smoking pot, like the good old days. It was just a little too real for me. Their eyes pierced mine, and I couldn’t take it. I looked at you. You smiled. They were afraid of the truth. They were afraid it would break them. But they weren’t good enough at hiding their dirty little secrets, unlike me. You looked over and grinned your devilish grin. Our sweaty hands slipped apart, and I was alone.
You grab my hand, and we take off through the grass giggling like we are five again. You make me feel so young. We both want to forget every part of life that is too heavy-almost like we shed the weight of a past life while knee deep in blades of grass. The sun is beating down on my neck and my head is pounding, but I do not care. Being here with you, feeling your thumb caress a rhythm on the back of my hand…how could I ask for anything more? You start to hum a tune that’s vaguely familiar, and it makes me smile. Somehow you hold the key…the key to all my happy memories, and even the key to all the darkness in my life. You keep the darkness closed, tight in a box, unopened, just for a moment. There is a breeze and my shirt picks up around my torso. You turn and give me a devilish grin as you pull me towards you and run your hands up my back. The steady rhythm of your hands translates to my lips, and I lean in to kiss you. I can’t help it, I smile as your lips greet mine. I will forever remember the nothingness of this day-because we melded together as one, like a secret tune only we could hum.
I wake up to the sound of your heartbeat against my neck as your breath travels over my hair and tickles my face. I breathe in the scent of you, of your skin, breath, and our lovemaking. The smell of you has become my best friend. I remember it while grocery shopping, and I remember it while talking with friends. When I lay on your chest and lean over to touch my lips to yours, the wisp of a kiss, I feel your breath on my skin and it makes my body tingle. I could stay like that, almost kissing, for eternity. Just to breathe in the scent of your delicious mouth. Everything about you envelopes me. I wish I could wrap myself in a blanket of us, and our memories, for the rest of my life. Maybe that is what true love really turns out to be, loving even the minute and seemingly unimportant details of them. Maybe truly loving a person is remembering the smell of their almost kiss as you buy produce at the grocery store.
I can see us with the Colorado sunset at our backs and dogs at our feet.
We are happy and well as music fills the house, our home we have built.
The past mistakes, regrets, rejections, and denial are left in the dust.
We only have the future. We only have each other. It’s more than enough.
Thank you for loving my every blemish, my every flaw. Even when tough.
I look at your hair, fraying at the temples and see wisdom in your aura.
You make me better with each passing word and every single glance.
I want to hold your hand when I’m eighty and remember how you squeezed my fingers.
I want to remember all of you when I’m on my deathbed in the dark.
I want our memories to hold me in peace and bring me tears of joy.
I want each embrace to be carved in my mind because those moments…
They are what make us.
The rush of the lights whizzing past my muddled mind.
All I can see is your pain.
You love deeply…you love without looking back.
But I can see the scars. I want to heal your wounds if you’d let me.
All I can do is make this moment better…
To make you smile.
To compliment everything that goes unnoticed by others.
And I’m inspired to be maybe half the person you are.