Monday, April 16, 2012

Take Care

This time of late night, early morning there's hardly anyone out. We are flying down the highway, the moon roof on his rental open as far as it can go. It's one of my favorite times of year, before it gets inconceivably, unbearably hot and you can stand to expose yourself to the elements. I lean my head back on the headrest, enjoying the breeze on my bare shoulders and thighs.

It's there that his right hand has been occupied most of the drive. Lithely traveling the expanse from my knee to mid-thigh where his fingers, barely a few shades darker than the palest part of my inner thigh, rest comfortably at odd intervals. It's equal parts soothing and erotic and possessive as hell.

I like it.

"This song reminds me of you," he says, turning up Flashing Lights.
"Well I know it's your favorite. But also... this." He turns the volume up even louder.

“I know it's been awhile sweetheart we hardly talk I was doin’ my thing. I know it was foul baby, hey babe, lately you been all on my brain…”

"Reminds me of us."
"Hmm," I purr under my breath, remaining noncommittal.

We lapse back into comfortable silence for a moment, letting Ye say it all for us. Him focusing on the part where you find your way back to someone you lost after realizing you can’t conquer the world without them by your side. And me on where I'm at right now...

"She don't believe in shooting stars, but she believe in shoes and cars…"

I am not looking for a benefactor, but I do crave something more tangible than wispy edged fairy tales. And this, whatever it's been all the years that have passed since a mutual acquaintance introduced us, since the last time we tried this and stopped speaking until we were set up again over the holidays, certainly has been a shooting star. Pretty and promising, but far away and elusive as hell. Coming and going so quick you find yourself wondering if your eyes are playing tricks in you.

But you still feel the memory, so you know it was real.

He brings me back to where I’ve gone in my mind with his lips, first on my open palm, then the delicate skin over the blue veins of my wrist. He leans further, one eye on the road, steering with his knee to kiss the curve of my shoulder. I shift in my seat to look at him, and remove my neck from the line of fire. I might don’t make it if he makes it there.

"It could be like this, you know. With us. If I move here."
"Oh, no. Don't do that. Don't dream sell me."
He laughs. "Not dream selling. Just presenting the possibilities."
"Hmm," I say again .
The iPod shuffles to a new song.

"This one reminds me of you too." He's quiet as the first few words of the song beat through the speaker.

"I know you've been hurt by someone else, I can tell by the way you carry yourself..."

"Did you just tell me a song by Drake, the Paddington Bear of the rap game, reminds me of you? No T.I.? No Outkast? No ‘Pac? Bah."
He laughs loud and hard at me.
"You don't have a single shred of sense."
"Just sayin’."

"When you're ready just say you're ready when all the baggage just ain't as heavy..."

"It reminds me of you because I'd take care of you if you let me."
"I don't need a savior. And I’m not really big on the whole knight in shining armor thing."
"I know. But you could use a partner. An addition to the home team."

Now this? This gets me. He knows that. Because I am a team person. I believe in we. Equals. Building together. Partnership. No homo.

"But I get why you're leery."
"I've loved and I've lost," I say along to the song, turning my face back to the window. He accelerates.

"Here is what I'm saying. No sales pitch. Just facts. You listening to me, La?" he turns down the music to make sure I get every word.
"I know how things ended with us last time. How I ended things last time. And I’m sorry for that. But there's some reason why we keep getting back in touch. Or why we never really completely lost touch. There's a reason why when we do wind up back together it’s like no time has passed. I dunno what that reason is. But I know for once in a long time, we are both single. Not nursing any serious old wounds. Ready for what we both want. And, for the first time, maybe in the same city."

I struggle to keep my face passive despite the fact that everything he's said is something I've already thought to myself without my permission.

"Look, I know you've been in this situation before..."
I raise my eyebrow at him, subtly warning him to watch where he's treading. Because that foolish craving I had in a situation very much like this one, is still a bit too raw for him to poke at.

"But we are not that. Whatever this is, I dunno what it is, but I'm not that dude."

Of course he isn’t. He's That Dude. The one that bears an incredible, remarkable resemblance to the Prototype. If I believed in building people to my specifications or the concept of The One, he’d be almost unreasonably close to it. One of only two men I’ve known that carry that distinction.

That's intimidating as hell.

I say nothing, determined not to give anything away.

"Just don't judge me by the bullshit you went through before I fucking got here."
"That's fair."
“And then maybe you can stop holding against me what I did before.”
"Thank you."
"You wanna hug it out now? Or go back to the hotel and braid each other's hair or whatever?"
"I’m just sayin’. All these feelings and whatnot. Thought we were friends bonding at a sleepover or some shit."
"Yo, La, you are a real life asshole."

We laugh, the spell of the moment effectively broken, as I intended it to be.

"Ain’t nobody trying to be your fucking friend. Though I wouldn't mind a sleepover." He looks me up and down, that cocky smirk on his face, just as alluring as the first night I met him. His gaze lingers on my exposed thighs. I may as well be naked. I squeeze my knees together and take a deep breath.

"I'm a grown ass man, La. I don't have time for all them bullshit games you play with these dudes out here. Hide-the-feelings and shit. I know what I want. I'm not so scared that I can't put it out there. It's just up to you to meet me halfway."
"You don't live here yet. And you might not."
"True. But ignoring it won’t kill it. You should know that by now."

He turns the music back up, his hand finding its way back to my thigh, and I turn my face back to the window.

This is too familiar. I have been here. I’ve done this. And this too, isn’t it part of my pattern? Developing feelings for a friend because of what could be, for a great person whom I have intoxicating chemistry with who lives in some state that is not the one I reside in? With whom eventually, despite it all, the distance becomes the thing keeping us no longer just literally apart but painfully figuratively estranged?

It’s enticing, the idea that someone might be able to take care of you. That maybe there is someone who can fix all the wounds you've not been able to heal completely yourself. Especially when you’re weary. And feeling alone. But no one can "fix you." And there’s a reason the credits roll once your favorite rom com heroine gets to happily ever after. Because ever after, after you’ve been “fixed” ain’t always so happy.

I know why all these things from my past are coming back. Because I moved on without resolving them. Most everything that's come back around, I’ve been able to effectively sort out and put to bed. This though...


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Letter to my 18 Year Old Self

My dearest La,
You are running. Plain and simple. There are no fancy words for it or kinder ways to put it. You will regret it, because in a few years when you have your heart broken by a man you love more than air, everything you thought you left behind will be right in front of you and you will have to fight through it. It will hurt. But like Joy says, you are a palm tree.
Your running will take you away from home where you will regrettably spend upwards of $80,000 just to learn what you could have, should have learned anywhere else in the world for free; not everyone will leave you. And you are no island. The bad news is, the ill planned escape route commonly known as college will cause you financial stress for years to come. The good news, the amazing news, is that there, and in the years that follow, you will meet the family you have been looking for all your life.
These people you will meet, these lessons you will learn, the tears you will cry and fights you will have and smiles that will be permanently tattooed across a memory in your mind will shape you into who you always thought you could be, if you ever got the chance. You will not be alone anymore.
You think that running is the answer because you don’t think you’re strong. You chastise yourself for being intensely empathetic. You think your propensity for welling up at profound experiences and feeling everything, everyone so deeply hold you back. You feel guilty about being hurt. You feel weak for needing, for wanting. You are willful and selfish, not because you really are at your core, but because you don’t think anyone else is consistently looking out for you. And who can blame you for that with your history? You think this will protect you. And being able to protect yourself makes you feel strong. This, like so much else, in an illusion. This is what makes you weak.
About two years from now, you will find out something that will fundamentally change the way you’ve looked at your life. It will make you so angry that you will become numb. And you will stay that way, for far longer than you will be proud of.
If I could tell you anything, teach you anything that I know now at 28, that you cannot know at 18, it would be that you are no safer, no stronger for holding yourself back from people who wish to love you, flaws and all. You are no braver for holding things is. You are a pressure cooker. You will explode.
But unlike other times, you will have people in your corner to help you pick up the pieces. They will love you. They will find your brokenness uniquely lovely. They won’t be able to fix you, you will learn this lesson painfully, but they will be there. They will wipe tears and tell jokes and push back and ignore you when you proudly say you don’t need help. They will be there. They will love you. Please, let them.
Looking back at you now, even as you are stubborn, even as you are fractured, even as you are sometimes cold and quick tempered and unaffected, I am so proud of you. You are wildly creative and incredibly astute. You are exceptionally intelligent and, underneath it all, you are so incredibly kind and empathetic and not judgmental that it makes me weep. You instinctively seek goodness in people, to compliment the goodness you don’t believe you have in yourself, and you will find it, love. It won’t always be easy, as a matter of fact, it will hardly EVER be easy, but you will not just survive, you will flourish. Because at 18, you are stronger than some people are at 38, 48, 58.
I wish you knew that.

Love always,
La =)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Party of One

I am not much for holidays. Perhaps I lack that sentimental gene, or maybe I just don’t understand waiting for some arbitrary day to celebrate. But either way, I only look forward to the holidays that mean I will get to miss work. I am fond of New Year’s Eve, but only for the drunken debauchery. I think Hallmark has swindled us all with Valentine’s Day. I mildly enjoy 4th of July, but mostly because I enjoy anything that involves beer and grilled hot dogs. I don’t get into Halloween because I don’t have an extreme sweet tooth and I don’t really require an excuse to dress like a whore if I want to. And any long time readers know that I would prefer Christmas not ever come around for me again.
I said all that to say, holidays don’t really do it for me.
BIRTHDAYS, however? I go hard for birthdays.
I buy gifts months in advance and plan parties and dinners. I make travel arrangements and demand people wear crowns announcing them as the official born day reveler. I organize trips to get tattoos and piercings and vibrators and that drink you set on fire before you shoot it. I cook food and mix drinks with a heavy pour and pick out club outfits and scout the perfect 24 hour diner at which to have a hangover breakfast. Really, birthdays are my opportunity to celebrate the people in my life, relish them being born and fete the fact that I get to see another year with them. Birthdays are important to me.
Which is why it’s such a shame mine will be so quiet this year.
Usually for my birthday, I am travelling. Firstly, because travel is the love of my life. And secondly because most of the people I love and would want to spend my birthday with are in states that are not the one I reside in. But this year, like most other years if I am being honest, my birthday snuck up on me, in no small part thanks to the fact that in a short three months, I have gotten in a car accident that rendered me carless, gotten my best friend married, broken my own heart a little bit, travelled to Jamaica, and countless other little things that have fragmented my stride and pilfered my time.
And now, as usual, I am blindsided by my birthday. It’s fucking April already.
As I usually do around this time, I reflect on the last year and size myself up against where I am and where I thought I’d be. To be frank, travelling or not, surrounded by friends or family or alone, the last few years I have fallen short of my own expectations.
And maybe that is part of why I am wearily side eyeing my birthday this year, willing to let it slide by with little pomp and no circumstance.
I am 28 and not where I want to be in my life.
“Where”, part metaphor and part literal state of being, has been the cloud hanging over my head. The last six years I have become a well versed student in solitude. I have taken long walks with silence. I have sat, completely still and unmoving, next to alone. I have curled up to wrestle through fitful bouts of sleep with only loneliness to spoon me.
This birthday will be no different.
It’s not lost on me that I have finally learned the lesson that no man is an island, a warm and fuzzy idea I fought almost the entirety of my life, and now I can’t seem to get back to the people I love so ardently and wholly for the life of me.
Thanks for that, Universe.
So, today on my birthday, as I have so often in the last few years, I will try to smile and enjoy my day and ignore the loneliness that settles cold in my chest. I will appreciate the friends who’ve grown to love me despite my penchant for slow dancing with seclusion, who will drink with me and make sure I get home safely. I will turn a blind eye to the longing to be closer to my friends and family that tugs at my heartstrings. And tonight, I will fall asleep, happy in a melancholy way, grateful to have seen another year, even if I have fallen so short of where I thought I’d be.

Today is my 28th birthday. Wherever you are, have a drink for me. I’d like that very much.