"And I just want to hear you,
Cause I know just how it feels.
I'll sell you short, and stay away
But God knows somehow this will work out.
Because I'm not tired of writing songs,
No I'm not tired, I need you so bad."
--The Dangerous Summer, "Wake Up"
We haven't actually spoken in quite a while, before things got bad, even. I know that was mostly my decision, but lately I've been craving your voice, with its reassuring tones and the quiet way you laugh when everyone's asleep. You can't hide your feelings when you're actually speaking to me, and maybe that's the point. Text makes it so much easier to deny what we could have. Maybe I don't deserve you because of the mistake I made. I'm still glad that I was honest about it, even if the distance I feel now hurts worse than being too many miles apart.
Maybe it was just the idea of you that was so nice. Someone who actually understood me, who I enjoyed talking to and could trust with pretty much anything. I've talked to you easily about things that took a shrink two years to pry out of me. I've hand-delivered an arsenal of things you could use to hurt me, but you haven't used them against me...pretty sure normally you would, so I guess that's saying something. Now I just need some sort of decoder to figure out what it's saying.
The question that's on my mind is, what now? I thought maybe if we didn't talk for a while things would work themselves out, but I really can't imagine a day where I didn't at least get a 'Hope work is going ok' out of you.
I don't want things to feel so strained anymore. When I flip through my phone and come across all of these amazingly sweet text messages from you, it's like you're not even the same person. I'm debating on whether or not I should just delete them, but they were real. They weren't just an idea. Those thoughts and feelings were real at the time, and it seems like it would cheapen them to just throw them away and forget they ever happened.
I'm not even looking forward to my vacation anymore, to be honest. So I'm going to hole up in some condo, play in the ocean by myself. The breather will be nice, but part of me thought that we would have spent this week together, and you might come with me and stay a day or two in Florida. That was before the train derailed. Now I'll be lucky if you ever step out of this screen. Again, my fault. It is what it is.
I understand the frustration you must feel, as what happened is completely out of character for me and I honestly have no excuses or explanations that can make it sound ok. I wonder what she told you when she tried to explain herself...Just another thing we have in common. More deja vu to freak you out. I hate the thought that some of your anxiety is derived from my actions.
I'm trying hard to redeem myself. I just hope that you still trust me with your thoughts and feelings, because at the core of our friendship, that's what I'm here for. I do care about you, as much as I don't want to when you say harsh things to me (especially when they aren't remotely true). I understand why you have to do that, and if it brings us closer to the end of the weirdness, I'll take it. I was a teenage girl once...I can handle a little shit talking.
I wish I could just turn this off, but I can't. And if I did, I would still wonder what might've happened if I didn't. That's why I can't just walk away. Maybe we'll be ok, maybe we won't. If we make it through this rough stuff, though, no one will ever be able to touch us. That much is certain. You can't fake a connection like the one I felt (and feel) with you. Here's to the future, if indeed there is one for us. I don't expect you to make me any promises, and I won't make any either.
Sometimes things aren’t the way they should be, like when you meet someone who has the potential to be a really great friend, and they’re hundreds of miles away. Luckily, technology can fool you into thinking they’re next to you, especially when it’s late at night and the only noise you hear is their voice in your ear. Sweet trickery.
Distance is both a measurement between places and a feeling you get when the ones you want to be with feel far away from you, either physically or emotionally. In some ways, there’s no distance at all between here and there, like when we finish each other’s sentences then laugh about it. Sometimes, especially when I’m laying down in my bed, alone again, I can feel every single mile measured in the dull ache in my stomach. Every time I think about him really hard, a text shows up within ten minutes, like he felt it and had to say something.
I’ve been thinking about you pretty much all day.
(Author's Note: I wrote a series of journal entries entitled "On ____" which feature three sections: Heaven, Earth, and Hell. This is my entry called 'On Life,' and I apologize if the formatting is weird or hard to follow. I thought this was an important entry to include because it really encompasses the ups and downs of the last couple of weeks.)
"And there you were,
6 years old, ashes in your hair,
You're not scared; you've seen so much pain in so few years,
As the world becomes a place where no one wants to stay,
We remain silent until it's too late,
And as I see the flames that go in the sky,
I can feel it coming to the end."
--Silverstein, "A Great Fire"
The water felt like it was coming from everywhere. As it fell down in sheets, lyrics from Brand New’s “Jaws Theme Swimming” were echoing in my head, and I sang them quietly under my breath as I hid my camera underneath my poncho. My jeans were completely soaked to the knee, although I wasn’t sure why, as I had made sure to stay far from the water’s edge. Taking pictures of the flood damage was one of the best things about March and April in Indiana.
I crept carefully through the woods, making sure to keep my cell phone dry in case I needed to call for help at some point. I pulled my camera out every so often, especially under a particularly thick patch of trees that offered better shelter. I could tell from the previews that I was getting some amazing shots. The river was swollen, swallowing trees and the first floors of houses too close to its edge. Someone had secured a doll to a tree, and its ghostly form was floating just under the surface, face up in the rain, being pulled by the current. It looked hauntingly like a small child, drowned in the local swimming pool. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
My head was down for most of my walk, making sure each step was carefully placed so as not to slide in the mud and muck. I consulted my phone for the time, knowing I had to be at work in a couple hours and desperately needing to shower before going in. It was time to head out.
A sudden movement caught the corner of my eye, and I looked to my right to catch the culprit, expecting a squirrel or some other woodland creature. It was a deer, coming out of the trees to take a drink at the water’s edge. I held my breath, not wanting to startle it. With graceful steps, it made its way down the makeshift banks and lapped at the murky water. There was an aura of magic around it. I raised my camera, pointed it at the deer, and like a hunter, lined up my shot. It looked at me just then, and I felt so out of place and put on the spot that I forgot to take a picture. At that moment, I remembered a clip of an antelope drinking from the Nile that I’d seen on the Discovery channel. Unbeknownst to the animal, there was a crocodile lingering right below the water, and as it bent to take a swallow, the croc attacked, pulling it under and beginning its death roll.
With this thought in my head, I felt the need to get away from there. The deer watched me turn and take my leave, but evidently felt no danger from either me or the water, because it languidly finished hydrating before finding its trail and going back to whatever it is deer do. I found my way to the car, climbed in and turned on the heat, then made the short drive home, Brand New still playing in my head.
“And we learn, as we age. Wait for nothing, and my body still aches. And you take, cause they give, though I love you, and my body, it leaks like a sieve.”
The breeze was crisp and cold seeping through the cracked window, bringing the sounds from the baseball field with it. I watched, feigning interest, as the town’s team practiced on their field, its freshly-painted dugout gleaming orange and white in the afternoon sun.
The phone rings, and I ignore it. It’s probably someone I don’t want to talk to anyway, considering the lack of assigned ring tones. Jack’s Mannequin is playing in the background, and I decide the proper way to deal with the day is to climb back into bed. I slide between the sheets, pulling my comforter up to my chin and staring at the ceiling, tracing the cracks and ridges with my eyes. “Rescued” fills my apartment from the kitchen, where my laptop is perched on the counter. The phone begins to ring again, and I look at the incoming calls and decide that yeah, I definitely don’t care about this person at all. I hit reject and turn it to vibrate before drifting into my usual sleep-coma. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve slept previous to this moment.
As my eyes drift shut, the text alert causes my phone to vibrate. I decide to check it. My inbox is currently full of terribly cute text messages, and this is another to add to the list. I have so many saved that I have to delete the stupid texts from my other friends pretty much daily now. It’s the quickest way to happy for me to flip through the good ones I’ve kept. “I hang onto the good ones for awhile.”
It’s nice to find people that seem to understand me. This thought trumps all others, and I drift to sleep clutching my phone with a smile on my face.
Spring is a terrible season for people who drive the back roads. These roads, full of potholes and cracks from the asphalt swelling and constricting with the changing of the weather, will see hardly any service until preparations for next year’s winter season have begun. The car was hitting them left and right.
“You’ll pop a tire if you don’t slow down a little,” she said, leaning with her head against the window, which was cracked enough to let in a little air. Her breath had fogged a small circle around her mouth and nose.
“I’m more concerned about slaughtering bunnies,” I said, glancing at her. She was writing on the window with her fingertip, little swirls and hearts and an enormous dick that she labeled with one of the professor’s names that we had shared the previous semester when I was still going to school.
“This has been quite the adventure,” she remarked, settling back into her seat and nudging the volume dial up a little on the CD player. “Fuck, I love this song.” Death Cab’s “Follow You Into the Dark” filled the car, and she sang along quietly. When it ended, I realized my face was wet with tears. “Are you crying?” she asked, putting her hand on my arm over the console.
“I don’t fucking cry,” I said.
“Good, I hate cry-babies,” she replied, smacking me playfully before leaning into my arm and linking it with hers. “What’s making you so sad, Kelsey? Are you upset with my decision?”
“Yes. No. Yes. I don’t know how to feel,” I said, keeping my eyes on the road. Sometimes, sickness creates such a strange, horrific beauty, and once you’ve looked, you can’t bare to tear your eyes away. That was the case with her. I knew if I looked, I wouldn’t want to stop looking and trying to sort her out. She had been going to hundreds of doctors appointments, chemotherapy and radiation treatments for months now, but had made the decision earlier in the day to stop treatments, after the doctor again reported that there was no improvement.
This drive was about that. I set off earlier on the trek to Muncie because my friend told me she had something important to say to both me and the third person in our Bestie Triangle. I had navigated the Ball State campus easily enough, found myself in our friend’s complex, and was sitting on her couch soon enough. After small talk and plenty of jokes, a sort of calmness washed over her, and I could tell she was getting tired, so I asked what she needed to tell us.
The news fell quickly from her lips, and suddenly all of the air was sucked from the room. Without the treatments, she was given a projection of 3 more months, news she took with stunning grace. “The idea is, you two make the next three months fucking amazing, full of adventure, and don’t make fun of me when I’m shitting myself because I’m too weak to get up and walk to the bathroom,” she said, trying to lift some of the weight in the room.
“Kelsey will wipe your ass for you,” my other friend said, and we all laughed. The small talk continued for another hour before I decided it was time to drive home. The clock read three am, and I knew my friend would need to sleep soon. We took off, stopping at McDonalds for a sweet tea for the ride home.
The CD ended about twenty minutes later, and instead of replacing it, I flipped to the radio. Familiar chords came through the speakers, and we both looked at each other, laughing. I cranked it up, and we sang along obnoxiously, especially the chorus.
“Throw it away, forget yesterday, we’ll make the great escape, we won’t hear a word, they say, they don’t know us anyway… Watch it burn, let it die, cause we are finally free tonight…”
The music tapered off as we pulled into the parking lot of my apartment building. “Kelsey?” she asked, leaning against me, sounding tired and far away. I made a noise of acknowledgment, turning on the dome light and looking at her. “Let’s just keep driving. Let’s just drive forever. Die by the roadside.”
At that moment, I wanted so much to do that, for her. At that moment I would have done anything for her.
Bukowski is fucking amazing. That's all. Here's one I've been feeling lately.
alone with everybody
the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
and nobody finds the
crawling in and out
the bone and the
for more than
there's no chance
we are all trapped
by a singular
nobody ever finds
the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill
“Here’s the dose of reality, Kelsey. I tried to commit suicide last Monday. I’ve been in the hospital since. Your stepfather came home from work early, and I guess it’s a good thing that he did, or this would be a call about my funeral instead of my hospitalization.”
“Don’t yell at me.”
“I wasn’t going to yell. I was going to say that I understand. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt. I just know how it is to feel completely trapped by your situation. I’m also not saying that what you did was right, Mom. Because it wasn’t. It was very selfish, and although we may not be the most religious family, it’s not exactly the best insurance policy for your soul, either. We’ve never been the type of people to take shortcuts, so I don’t understand why you were trying to take one out of life.”
“Well, I’m bipolar. My lithium has kept it under control for the last 16 years. This last depression spell was particularly hard because I was having panic episodes simultaneously, which has never happened before. I’m going to be meeting with a psychiatrist, probably three times a week for the next few, then slowly decreasing to about once a week. I should be checking out of Harbor tomorrow, or by Monday at least.”
I let her talk as long as she needed to with minimum interruption, and tried to breathe normally, even though there were tears caressing my cheeks on the way to their final resting places on my sweatshirt. When we said goodbye, I immediately had my own manic episode with a dose of panic. I desperately searched for airfare and a dog sitter, trying to figure out how to get next week off work. I felt like I had to be there with her, regardless of the fact that I was the last family member to learn about this situation, per her wishes. My brother had found out on his birthday, three days ago, and hadn’t bothered to call me. My stepfather knew on Monday, obviously, and failed to notify me. My other brother didn’t call either, although my stepfather told him first. I felt like shit. My heart was buried deep in my stomach, throbbing, heavy like a sunken ship on the ocean floor.
Feeling completely helpless, I curled up on the bedroom floor, cradling a picture of Mom. I was bawling my eyes out, flipping through contacts in my phone, deciding which friend would be home in the middle of afternoon and knew my family enough to understand why I was so upset. It’s hard to think about losing my mother. I consider us to be pretty close now, for the first time in my life. I’ve tried to figure out what might have triggered her depression, but I keep coming up empty. One thing’s for certain, though… It’s hard to find answers when you can’t go directly to the source. If she wanted me to know, she would have told me. I keep repeating that to myself, but I’m still baffled.
What is it that pushes someone to think there’s only one way out? How could death be better than life? Does my mom not know that she is loved and adored by three doting children, who would each die a little bit with her if she had succeeded? What lasting repercussions will there be on her body from swallowing all of her meds and overdosing on her insulin? What happens next?
Questions swirl like planets in orbit around my head. They press in from all sides, and there’s a voice inside my head that’s screaming, ‘How much more of this will I have to carry?’
may i feel said he
(i'll squeal said she
just once said he)
it's fun said she
(may i touch said he
how much said she
a lot said he)
why not said she
(let's go said he
not too far said she
what's too far said he
where you are said she)
may i stay said he
(which way said she
like this said he
if you kiss said she
may i move said he
is it love said she)
if you're willing said he
(but you're killing said she
but it's life said he
but your wife said she
now said he)
ow said she
(tiptop said he
don't stop said she
oh no said he)
go slow said she
ummm said she)
you're divine!said he
(you are Mine said she)
--ee cummings, "may I feel"
Being as in love with the English language as I am, it physically pains me to read the work of poet ee cummings, but the honesty in his work is undeniable, and with so many liars out there, it's refreshing to dive in every once in a while. If bad punctuation were sharks, however, I would be missing all of my limbs... That's kinda the point.
Will I ever be known for my writing? Probably not. Will I ever finish college? Probably not. What do I want to do with my life? Nothing spectacular. I have no false ambitions for stardom or fame, and I don't want people to know my name. I just want to disappear into the scenery, be another tree hiding in leafy greenery.
“When I’m with you,
there’s no point in breathing.”
--The Format, “Tie the Rope”
The new kid was stretched across my futon, one leg hanging off, looking through a back issue of Alt Press from my coffee table. “This magazine sucks,” he said, discarding it on the floor beside him and picking up an old issue of Cosmo. “Hmm. How to please your man in 110 easy steps,” he read from the cover. “If you need it broken down into 110 steps, it’s kind of a lost cause, don’t you think?” he asked, smirking at me.
“Huh?” I asked, completely distracted by his lean body.
“Nothing,” he replied, sitting up. I just liked watching him move. “I should probably get going.”
“Yeah, probably,” I replied, looking up from my game of spider solitaire.
“I have a question, though.”
“What’s stopping you from just asking?”
“Shut up--anyway I was wondering, do you make it a habit to bring strange guys home from work the first day you meet them?” he asked.
“Only the ones who buy me green tea and bagels, talk about a Brand New show we both attended and were disappointed by--which takes a certain degree of honesty to admit, you know? Because no one ever says they’re disappointed in Brand New. And besides, we work together. If you slaughter me, someone’s bound to have seen us leave together. There will be gossip.”
“Dreaded gossip!” he exclaimed, tossing Beckett’s tennis ball for her and tackling her when she brought it back. I watched them wrestle on the floor for a minute. The new kid likes dogs, too. He was scoring all kinds of brownie points.
“When do you train in the house next?” I asked, plopping down on the floor beside them to aid him in the transition from all-out brawl to tummy rub assault.
“Tomorrow. Will you be there?”
“Yeah, I work a twelve hour shift tomorrow and Sunday,” I replied.
“Good, so do I . We’ll get to hang out.” An ear-splitting internal squeal of delight erupted inside me. He stood up and stretched, his shirt coming up an inch or two and exposing the skin of his abdomen. If I wasn’t drooling before, I was now, for sure.
“Alright, well, I’ll see you then,” I said, walking him to the door. He turned around when we reached it.
“This was fun,” he said. “Can’t wait to do it again.” I watched him pass through the doorway and walk down the stairs.
Meetings at work are never a barrel of laughs, but more like a barrel of monkeys. The same people, arranged in a too-small room with not enough chairs, listening to lectures on how the policy’s been updated (the wording’s been changed), watching the dreaded videos (causing cheese shortages around the world), or playing games to really drive the training home (public humiliation in front of co-workers). It happens once a month, and it’s required. I got there early, hoping to actually get a seat this time. One other person had made the same decision.
I’d never seen him before, but as he turned to greet me, flashes of us rolling around in the back seat of a nice car stormed my subconscious, warming my cheeks and turning them a tell-tale shade of rosy pink. He smiled. “Hi, I’m Matt. I’m new here,” he said, sticking out his hand for a quick shake. I gripped his hand firm-but-not-too-firmly, and shook twice, memorizing the important details, like how his fingers were half an inch longer than mine and his nails were clean and trimmed, not chewed.
“I’m Kelsey, but I’m not so new. Where are you working?”
We chit-chatted, swapping all of the important details, and I was thrilled to find out he’d be working in the other side of the duplex that I work in, so we’d see each other fairly often. He asked me about my shirt, an old band tee, and we found out we like the same music. We talked about the Appleseed Cast, and he bragged that he was going to see Four Year Strong next week. I told him I might see him there, but that I was going mostly for Thursday.
People began to show up about ten minutes later, but I barely noticed the seats filling around us. I noticed his jeans fit just right, not too tight like faggy hipster boys. He was trying, but not too hard. His hair was just messy enough, and his ear plugs weren’t overstated. He had a tattoo peeking from under the sleeve of his black tee-shirt, but I couldn’t make out what it was, my mind being too preoccupied with thoughts of fucking this guy senseless.
When the meeting itself started, we listened to the higher-ups talk about safety in the workplace. We were picked for the same team in a Family Feud-style knockoff trivia game, and his witty responses and sarcastic comments under his breath were hilarious and intriguing at the same time. Could it be, here at my shit job, someone else with mild intelligence had been hired? Someone with good taste in music? Someone who actually gave a shit?
“What are you doing after this?” he whispered as the game finished up.
“Going home to sleep for a few more hours,” I replied, nervously picking at a thread hanging off the hem of my shirt.
“You should come to Panera with me and get some breakfast,” he said. “You can tell me more about the house I’m going to be working in.”
“That’s what your training’s for, silly,” I said, looking up at him through my lashes. He pushed me lightly, smiling.
“You can’t say no to the new kid. What if I get a complex?” I let out an exaggerated groan.
“Fiiiine,” I whined. We clocked out and made arrangements to meet in half an hour. I checked my phone as I walked to my car, noticing the text alert going off. It was from King Asshat. ‘Oh boy,’ I thought. ‘Life’s about to get interesting…’
"I think I'm crazy, baby, let you off the hook too easy.
If you were a telephone, you'd still be off the hook.
What do I do when you get close?
If I kiss your neck, would you slit my throat?" --Brand New, "Moshi Moshi"
The window, cracked as it was, let in a breeze that brought smells of summer in with it, and the sound of children playing at the park made me smile over my coffee. I turned the pages of the back issue of Rolling Stone that I was perusing, feigning interest in what the reviewers had to say. “Pretentious douche bags,” I muttered, tossing the magazine back to its loathsome spot on the coffee table. “If Rolling Stone were the Bible, pretty sure Kings of Leon would be Jesus.”
I sighed, tucking some stray hair behind my ear and turning up the volume on my laptop so I could hear it from the kitchen. I refilled my cup, spilling a bit of coffee on my hand and muttering a string of curse words in the process. “I could be the one to turn you out, we could be the talk across the town,” broke through the Brand New song that was currently playing on my computer. Jason Mraz only meant one thing: he was calling. I rolled my eyes.
“Hello?” I answered.
“Homo?” he replied.
“Hi there,” I said, smiling, even though I was a little pissed off at him for having his phone off when he’d asked for a wake-up call.
“What are you up to?”
“I was reading. I’m about to play some solitaire and listen to more Brand New.”
“You like playing with yourself! Can I come over?” he asked. “I have something kind of important that I want to talk to you about.”
“Yeah, sure, like I said, I’m not really doing anything.”
“Give me ten minutes.” We hung up, and my text alert started going berserk.
“Just a heads up, he’s mad at you,” it said. The text was from his best friend. As if I couldn’t figure that out on my own. Boys are stupid. A few minutes later, there was a knock at my door. He never knocks. He knows he doesn’t have to. I let him in, wondering what the hell I could have possibly done to piss him off.
There was something almost predatory about the way he was staring at me from across the room. Two blazing emeralds, brimming with his anger that he kept under weak wraps, cut right through my skin and charred my soul to a deep black.
“Hi there,” I said, stepping towards him and feeling the tension in the room soar to new heights. His face softened, its hard edges smoothing and contorting back to normal as his anger dissipated.
“I can’t be mad at you,” he said. “I just wasn’t happy that you had Aly over when I was here the other day. You know how I feel about that.”
“She was dropping off some pillows for me. She was here for maybe five minutes,” I replied, my agitation turning my voice to gravel.
“Look…I told you I didn’t care that you were friends with her still, but she lied about me to my best friend, her husband, and maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you, but it’s pretty much ruined my friendship with him.”
“Excuse me? If HE hadn’t been here when you came over, she never would have stopped in. You were drunk anyway, I don’t understand what the big deal is.”
“I just don’t want to be around her. I told you that. I don’t think I should come over anymore if she’s going to be randomly popping in,” he explained, leaning up against the wall.
“Maybe you shouldn’t,” I said, kicking myself as the words tumbled from my mouth. “Besides, you know, Andrew has been spending more time over here than you have recently.”
“I don’t care.”
“I know you don’t, I just meant that I rarely ever see you, and when I do, nine times out of ten, you’re pissed off. I didn’t invite her over. She was dropping something off and picking Andrew up. She was around for a total of 10 minutes. You’ll survive.”
“Whatever. I don’t want to be around her at all, Kelsey. As in never. It was a condition of me starting to hang out over here again that she never be around. I’ll start coming over again once you learn how to keep your word.”
“Excuse me? Keep my word?” I replied, picking up a shoe. I had every desire to throw it at him. In my mind, I saw his look of surprise as the heel made contact with his testicles. An internal giggle escaped.
“Yeah, tell her not to come over when I’m over here.”
“Fuck off! YOU need to learn how to keep YOUR word. Do you know how many times you say you’re coming over here, and I end up waiting around for you for absolutely nothing? Do you know how many nights I have made plans with you and been left alone? Do you know how much it sucks to be disappointed by the one person you think you can count on? Keep my word… Fuck you. Maybe you shouldn’t come over anymore,” I said, putting the shoe on.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Anywhere that you’re not. And by the way, you wouldn’t know it because your phone was off, but I did give you that wake-up call you were asking for at 6:30. I stayed up all night so I wouldn’t miss it and have you be late for work because no one called. All night. And here you are, yelling at me about something that happened a week ago. Well, fuck you. I don’t know if I want to hang out with you anymore.” I put on my other shoe and grabbed my hoodie and Beckett’s leash. She came and sat beside me, and I secured her. “Lock up when you go,“ I instructed. We left my apartment, my face flushed with heat because of my anger. I hightailed it down my building’s stairs, and took off across the parking lot.
“Kelsey! Kelsey, wait,” he yelled, coming through the back door. “Don’t go. I’m sorry,” he said, jogging to catch up.
“I used to like you because everything was so simple with you,” I said, turning to face him. Beckett sat expectantly at my feet, and I scratched her ears.
“What’s not simple anymore?” he asked.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore,” I replied. “You just have no idea what I go through for you. And I don’t even know why. You’re not my boyfriend. You don’t want to be my boyfriend, and I don’t really want you to be anyway. I just like us. Our friendship is fun, and there’s no real pressure. But you don’t see that it’s wrong to stand me up all the time, maybe because there isn’t pressure on us. It IS wrong. It makes me really mad, and when I confront you on it, you act like you have no idea what I’m talking about.”
“I’m sorry. I’m a flake… That’s all there is to it. You’ve known this since we met in 2004.”
“Maybe you should try to fix that. When you fix being a flake, I’ll start keeping my friends who actually show up when they say they’re going to away from my apartment for you.”
“I said I’m sorry,” he said, stepping close to me and putting his hand on the back of my neck. “Can I get a hug?”
“No! I’m still pissed off at you,” I said, stepping out of his embrace. He closed the distance between us once again, pulling me up against his chest.
“Please?” he asked, looking into my eyes. I felt the earthquakes start deep in my stomach, a gentle shake that meant my resolve was crumbling, once again. I wrapped my arms around him, and he held me up against him.
“I hate you,” I said, pressing my forehead against his chin.
“I hate you too,” he replied, leaving a kiss there, acting as a catalyst for the real tremors to start. We walked Beckett around the park for an hour, making little comments about this and that. His hand found mine halfway around the pond, squeezing gently and gripping my fingers between his. When we got back to my apartment, we curled up in my bed, facing each other. He tucked my hair behind my ears and pulled my head back against his chest. We napped like that for a few hours before he headed to his meeting at work, and I went back to playing Solitaire, alone in my apartment with the breeze coming in through the window, spilling secrets of the upcoming spring season. If only all of those well-wishers in my yearbook could see me now. “Have a great summer,” they scrawled, in sloppy high school handwriting.
I’m going to. The breeze told me so.
“I need to get out of the place I‘m in,
Take me to a place where I don‘t know anyone,
And leave me, alone for now.
I‘ve grown sick of every face that I‘ve known.”
--Balance and Composure, “Alone for Now”
There’s a family of four in line in front of me, so I check out the menu. Gee, I could have grease, lard, fat or salad. Salad it is. Oh, and one of those yogurt parfaits. And a large cup of cyanide. Thanks, yes, that will be all. For some reason, I always find myself at McDonald’s when I’m pissed off. Comfort food? Not so much, as eating this stuff makes me sick as hell. Being sick isn’t usually very comforting.
It’s only been four days. I don’t know what my problem is, except that my insecurities are blocking my way, jumping out like toddlers chasing basketballs in a subdivision to make me slam on the brakes for whatever I’m trying to accomplish. It’s my first full day off in almost two weeks. No meetings, no phone calls from my sloppy manager begging me to come cover the shift she forgot about. I cleaned my apartment. I shaved my legs. I took Beckett for a long run. I listened to music. I waited for him. It’s pretty pathetic, but most of my life now is either a. working, b. cleaning up after my dog because I was at work too long, or c. waiting for him.
This is not what I want. I’ve been so good at keeping myself from being attached to others, because the last time I was in a relationship, “burned” does not even cover how I ended up. I don’t want my happiness to be dependent on seeing him. I don’t know how he managed to work his way so deep under my skin, with all of my armor. All I know is that he did, and I don’t like it. No one was ever supposed to have a say in how I felt, ever again. Yet here I am, chowing down on a southwest salad, fuming because once again, I waited for nothing.
I don’t mind that he didn’t come over. I would even go as far as saying that I don’t care. What bothers me is that he is evidently incapable of texting me and saying, “I’m sorry Kelsey, but I won’t be coming over today.” I would even settle for a, “Hey, made plans with another girl who gives better head.” It’d just be nice to know that he’s not coming, so I’m not sitting here waiting for something that’s not going to happen. I told other friends I couldn’t do anything tonight because I had plans with him. If he’d called, I could have saved face a little. Instead, here I am, alone again, with absolutely no plans. Except that I’m going to be sick later, once this salad and dairy products hit me.
“Guess I’ll just look at the clouds!“ What a way to spend my day off. Fuck my life.
(Note: If you haven’t downloaded it yet, you should probably go check out last week’s Free Music Friday and grab Balance and Composure’s I Just Want To Be Pure EP.)
Few things in this world are as soft as the fur of my golden retriever, which is why I often lay with my head on her and curl up in a ball around her sleeping form. Her presence is reassuring during nights spent alone in a bed too big for just one person. She snores loudly, but I never mind because sometimes I think I do, too. The only thing wrong with her as a cuddle buddy is that she is a serial sleep-farter, the queen of SBD’s that could turn your nose hair green on the way in.
During my days off, we play games together, starting with a morning walk in the city park across from my apartment building. The neighborhood kids waiting at the bus stop know her name, and we must stop in for her daily ear scratches before the kids go to school or she will shun me all day. When we make it to the park, we do our normal loop around the pond so she can bark at the ducks and geese, which are beginning to show up again. We walk past the playground, and if we’ve slept in, we might catch more kids playing--more people for her to awe with her good behavior and affection. Beckett is truly a citizen of the world, a Good Will Ambassador of sorts with a tail. Even the toughest wankster will coo at her when she runs up to him.
My parents originally purchased her for me as a Christmas present because they wanted me to have something that would both make me happy and give me something to take care of besides myself, because I was slacking on that front. They were worried about me, because when life at work would get busy, I would forget to do even simple tasks, like eating. I questioned their decision at first. If I couldn’t even remember to feed myself, how was I going to remember to fill a puppy’s food bowl? That problem was easily solved, however. Beckett is good with reminding me that she’s hungry, assuming I don’t get to the task first. She will hop up in my bed and plop down on my chest with her paws in my face. Have you ever smelled dog’s feet? Yeuck.
We’ve settled into a routine now. She is better than an alarm clock, because if I don’t wake up, she’ll go to the bathroom on the floor. The smell of fresh puppy shit is enough to shake even the most hardcore of sleepers out of their slumber. In fact, I’m not sure why they don’t have a puppy working for the hospital to try to bring people out of comas. It could work.
There is only one thing that she seems to be jealous of--my laptop. So I’m going to close it now and head back to my nap. I just thought I should talk about her a little bit, because even if she’s snoring, or biting my thumbnail between her front teeth, I am filled with such love when I look at her. I’ve never felt like that about a person before. Here’s hoping someday I will.
Nothing is ever simple anymore. I find myself searching eyes for answers, more than trusting myself to ask the questions. I can’t bring myself to speak the words, “What do you want?” I’m afraid the answer will make the butterflies in my stomach start to riot. The words go unspoken. My hands stay in safe places… His arm, chest, tucked close to my side.
His eyes are magnetic. Two emeralds, sparkling in the low lights in my room, taunting me, daring me to do something. I’m paralyzed, frozen. This giddy feeling reminds me of those first stolen kisses from high school in dark corners, and being awkward in the halls the following Monday. All of my reactions are slowed, even though all of my senses are being stroked simultaneously by the boy in my bed.
“You broke the No-shirt rule,” I whisper in his ear. He laughs.
“Yeah well so did you,” he smirks, reaching behind me and pulling the fabric of my tee up over my back. Tingling nerves shocked out of hibernation lay in the paths where his fingers touched the bare skin. When he pulls it over my head, I feel so vulnerable, a rat catching the first whiff of a stalking snake slithering nearby. I reach for the hem of his shirt, too, wrestling it over his head. He’s purposely making it difficult for me to get it off of him, and we’re laughing. I am triumphant, throwing the shirt on the floor beside the bed. By some acrobatic genius, he’s rolled me on top of him in the struggle, and I sit there straddling his hips, unsure of my next move.
I lean over him and put my ear to his chest. His heart is beating nearly as fast as mine, and for a second I wonder which of us is the predator and which one is the prey. I sit back up and he tickles me, making me giggle stupidly, reduced to nothing but a little girl on the playground with a crush on the boy who torments her. Suddenly, he pushes my hair back behind my ears, hooks his fingers behind the back of my head, and we’re kissing, hungry mouths pressed together, taking in each other’s air. The lines between us blur as we tumble around, finding ourselves under my blanket and breathing hard.
I wish I could explain what makes me stop every time we get to this point, but I can’t. I put my head back over his heart, and he runs his fingers through my hair, circles his thumb around my lips and presses one last kiss against them. I feel like I should apologize, but I think he gets it. We fall back to sleep, wrapped around each other, shirts still on the floor. The rise and fall of my chest matches his with short, shallow breaths. Before I nod off completely, I catch a glimpse of his face in the dark. A smile presses his lips upward, and it tells me all I need to know.
“Archers in your arches, raise your fingers
For one last salute, and bleed this skyline dry
Your history is mine.”
--Funeral for a Friend, “History”
The text message alert has been going off for almost an hour nonstop. There are 28 messages lingering unread in my inbox, mostly people I’m following on Twitter and definitely nothing from the one person I’ve been dying to hear from all week. It’s a special breed of disappointment to be snubbed repeatedly by someone you care about. I shouldn’t be worried. This is just the way he is.
“I don’t make plans,” he says, “so people can’t be mad if I don’t follow through.”
“I’m sitting here telling you I want to see you more often and you’re coming back with ‘I don’t make plans’? Well aren’t you the King of all Douchebags.”
“I probably hang out with you more than I hang out with any of my other friends.”
“Oh really?” I reply. “It must suck to be your other friends.”
This conversation ends in us making some sort of arrangement for last Wednesday evening. “You’ll have to call me and wake me up,” he directs. “I don’t want to miss it.” He missed it. Douchebag.