ready to go

A friend and I grabbed lunch downtown today; she ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of pasta salad and I asked for a house salad with some fried tofu.

 

We were meeting up with an old coworker of ours — a spirited and adventurous gal who made a bold career move after spending nearly two decades in the same office — and after catching up on each other’s adventures, we all said goodbye.

 

My friend and I walked to her car quickly, needing to report back to corporate by 2 PM for a shared meeting. I remember the sun warming my skin and the wind shaking the trees.

 

“How was the grilled cheese?” I asked her.

 

“SO good!”

 

“Nice… I’ll have to try one next time.”

 

“You’re navigating, right?” she asked, closing the door.

 

“Yep! I know my downtown,” I boasted, warming both of my hands with a to-go latte. I could feel her grinning.

 

We turned left here and then I directed her to go right there. She inched forward, trying to see around a truck, while I thanked the universe for the flavor caramel.

 

“Can’t really seeeeeeeeeeeeeeee… don’t know if we’re gonna make ittttttttt,” she sang out, continuing to edge forward.

 

“Eh, it’s alright… I’m ready to go,” I replied, taking another (final?) sip.

 

She completed the turn (without incident) and then laughed sadly. “Wow, Jace…”

 

“Yeah. I really am, though!” I laughed, much more lightheartedly. Because being ready to die basically exempts you from the fear of dying, you know? So go ME! 

 

***

 

Ohhhhhhhhhh depression; we’ve been riding a tandem bike for years now, haven’t we? Always dissecting you — peeling back layer after layer via meditation and writing and music and free therapy sessions with my friend from the car ride, but you just NEVER go away — not all of the way, anyways. You’re adhesive, like a sticker, and thick as a shadow.

 

You’re like this endless ride — with exhilarating highs and soul-crushing lows and then some deceptively even patches here and there that make me feel like the world and this existence are finally going to level out on me… and the very worst part is that I never know when the great descent is going to start back up again, OR when it’s going to let up, because there’s not an exact pattern or science to this thing (high –> low –> normal); it’s all scattered and stupidly unpredictable, as well as viscerally corrosive.

 

But this I know: One of the biggest (and most loyal) contributors to my depression — dating back to a few years ago now — is my deep and sustained sense of loneliness. So here goes psychoanalyzing that:

 

Why are you lonely? Because I don’t have a companion.

But you have friends, right? Yeah, but not a companion. It’s way different.

What is a companion? A life partner — that ultimate, sole somebody who’s 100% got your back. They’re your greatest confidant — basically, an extension of yourself; somebody you can invest in, count on, fall backwards into, and adventure through life with. They are a nearly-perfect complement; a sweet comfort; a warm home.

Why can’t you be your own best confidant — your own warm home? Ohhhhhh shut up. You’re obviously CLUELESS.

 

 

So that’s how that goes. But what do you do when you’re companion-less? Really? I’m actually asking you, reader. I think that many of us end up settling (at least short-term) for lesser companions… and by lesser companions, I don’t mean less valuable or talented or lovely humans than ourselves, because those don’t exist; I mean, not-really-the-right-fit-for-us humans…

 

I believe that we become so lonely that the first hint of a spark renders us branded to an individual who just doesn’t really mesh with who we are. You know what I mean?

 

The guy I dated back in February was like that — really sweet, really smart, and well-mannered (now I’m thinking about German Shepherds)… but there was no real spark there. No soul kindling. No profound shift in my alignment when I saw him or spoke with him or held his hand.

 

And then, when I met a guy who did ignite a spark/nudge at my soul/rattle my alignment a little (more than a month later), I told him – via text (DUMB) – that I liked-him-liked-him after performing a Backstreet Boys song and drinking one-too-many hard ciders at a gig (aka ONE hard cider) and was then left wondering whether or not he felt the same way (as it stands, I still don’t know, so I’m assuming no). Bummer, right? Really puts a dent in one’s self-worth; like: Why am I not interesting or pretty or cool enough for you? What am I fundamentally MISSING that makes me so “other” from everyone else… so bleh and ehhhhh and take-it-or-leave-it-but-better-just-leave-it?  

 

So back to my (revised) original question: If you refuse to settle, what should you do when you’re companion-less and don’t wanna be?

 

My car friend recommends god, and while I’m warming up to the idea of some kinda entity (or entities) being out there because of amazing shit like love and music and rabbits and the wind, I’m not ready to subscribe to a god.

Several friends suggest antidepressants. I (personally) refuse to alter my biological makeup, fucked up as it is. I want to be authentically me, even if that means super authentically depressed.

And then OTHER friends of mine cope w/their loneliness with drugs, alcohol, and meaningless hookups… but I just can’t. The recent tour a friend gave me of Tinder (how it works, and how to market yourself) brooooooke my heart — I can’t possibly be a part of that. So I’ll just continue cuddling my stuffed rabbit, Governess, and popping melatonin-infused chocolate candies on restless nights.

 

So what, then? What the frickin’ WHAT? What other options are there? Because as of right now, I imagine the rest of my life playing out like this:

  • Fighting for the humane treatment of animals (and mending a broken heart every time I pass a dead rabbit in the road)
  • Campaigning for social justice (while staving off contempt slash hatred for racist and sexist assholes)
  • Learning Spanish (so I can get even more worked up over how much I can’t stand racists)
  • Drinking lattes in cafes (alone… people-watching old and new couples and the young people with such promise)
  • Writing inspiringly sad but redemptive books and entirely sad songs (about old loves, lost loves, and never-gonna-be loves)
  • Going on solo adventures to other states and countries (and wishing I had someone to share that wonderful meal or magical view with)
  • Lessening the suffering of and empowering the people around me (while doing my very cherry best to maintain my own sense of sanity and to hold together this hopeful, breaking heart)

 

And it just sounds exhausting. Doesn’t it? This earth world is so harsh and heartless… and so bleak! Without a solid shoulder to lean on, or a bonded soul to rely on, it’s just a real fucking lot to bear.

 

 

one of my fav buildings in downtown bham —     i feel like this old house

 

 

So… your thoughts?

 

Aun Aqui

Me and Audio

OH MY BLOG — I FREAKIN’ MISS YOU!

We’ll be back in sync w/each other soon, but in the meantime, I’m sharing my final short story of the semester below…

and in case you’re wondering, it’s 71% truth and 29% fiction.

 

 

Me and Audio

By Jace Yarbrough

 

 

I met Audio at a Thursday night bike meet.

It was cool outside of the bike repair shop. I was sitting up on a raised concrete slab that jutted out of and ran parallel with the back of the building, resting my bony back against a whitewashed brick wall.

Holding a pen in my left hand, I had a book about loneliness spread open in front of me, the front and back cover of it resting against my thighs. As I read through the book, I marked the lines that I really liked — the ones that resonated with me so deeply that I felt like crying and rereading them over and over again until we both fell asleep together. Me and the lines.

And I was looking up every few minutes, realizing that other bikers had joined the growing crowd whenever things would become noticeably rowdier, and one of the times I looked up was when I first saw him: A skinny guy rolling into the alley from the left, wearing a bandanna on his head and a scarf around his neck and sticking his arms out at his sides so that they ran parallel with the ground. He was cute. Very silly, and very cute. Seeing him and watching him made me smile.

As the wheels of his bike slowed, I noticed him allowing his eyes to roam the crowd – taking in all of the other bikers smoking and drinking and staring at or showcasing their phones. His eyes found me, eventually, as I’d hoped they would, and when they did, I felt an inky wave of nausea pass through me. It was terrifying and electrifying – being seen by someone you want to have see you.

“Ahhhh… a fellow reader. What’s the book about?”

Startled, I tracked the unfamiliar voice with my eyes. I quickly discovered an older guy standing just to the right of where I was sitting. He was leaning his hip against the outer rim of the concrete wall, staring down at the book in my lap and then looking up at me.

“Oh – it’s about loneliness… basically, how to be happy with one’s solitude.” I smiled over at him apologetically, like I wish I could tell you it was a nicer kind of book.

The old guy nodded his head slowly. “And are you lonely?”

Wow. Bold. And way too fucking old. “I am… depressed. From being lonely. But I’ve learned to manage it well.”

He nodded. “I also struggle with that.”

Silence.

It was hard to gauge his intent, but I chose to believe it was harmless. I closed the book and gripped it with both hands, reassured by the weight of it. “And how do you manage yours?”

He looked at me with surprise, as if I was the one who had first crossed the line.

But then suddenly, the route leader was screaming into a megaphone, reciting the usual: no texting while riding; keep in the right lane; scream “pothole” if you see one and make sure all of the newbies feel welcome.

“I’ll catch up with you on the break,” I said to the guy, scooting across and off of the concrete and then hopping onto my bike. I strapped my heavily-stickered helmet on and then spun and tugged at the rings on my right hand while I searched the crowd for Cute Guy.

I couldn’t find him, but soon, we were all cruising the streets of downtown Birmingham together — our discordant music blaring, our bikes’ sporadic lights touching hands and cars and concrete, and the lead singer of Glass Animals crooning into my ears only as the sun rolled backwards with us.

***

Mid-ride, Cute Guy rolled up beside me and looked directly over at me. The stuff of dreams.

“Hi.”

Did he just say “hi” to ME?!

“Hi!” I echoed him, grinning. And then I felt panicky… like I was balancing on the brink of something. “How has your week been so far?” I ventured.

He squinted. “Challenging.” He nodded to himself, seeming satisfied with his answer. “And you?”

“Same – emotionally challenging, but… it’s going well.”

We chatted on and off, here and there, but he tended to disappear – leaving me to weave through the crowd… he seemed to be catching up with friends and introducing himself to strangers.

So confident, so open — so compelling. I wanted him to ride with me all night.

After five or six miles, we stopped at a park – tonight’s secret destination. It always changes. Sometimes, it’s an abandoned warehouse, a ball park, or an old parking deck. But it’s always cool. And this half-way break is when people lay their bikes down and wander around for a bit… drinking and talking and flirting and playing. Kids come on the rides, and ninety-year-olds do, too. People cuss and throw frisbees and munch on protein bars as they holler at each other, laughing loudly because they’re having a great time. I usually find a quiet spot to people-watch from, because when you’re as lonely as I am, the reality of striking up a conversation is more terrifying than the idea of watching a train barrel towards you.

But this park had a swing set — unresistable. So instead of cozying up next to a tree trunk, I plopped down onto one of two swings and began kicking my legs into the air, giggling to myself as I rose higher and higher. I was wearing purple corduroy pants and a reddish sweater that read carpe diem. My outfit looked so bright and happy… I hoped it looked right on me.

Nadia, the only girl who works in the repair shop, plopped down onto the other swing. Most girls make me nervous, but she doesn’t. She has wild, brunette hair, wears cool skirts with a fanny pack, and has one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard. We started talking about kombucha and she explained how she brews it at home. I enjoyed listening to her.

I really didn’t need another heart attack, but Cute Guy ran over to where we were and then leaned against the pole closest to me. “I was hoping I’d get to swing with a beautiful girl tonight, and here are TWO!”

Nadia and I both laughed; it was obviously a lame line, but he was so incredibly genuine. And I couldn’t believe my luck! Not only had he noticed me, but he had also thought that I was beautiful…

Seeming unaware of his profound affect on me, he strolled off toward a little girl named Emme. I watched him as he helped her go up and down the playground’s slide. Absolutely precious.

Let it go, J — he’s too perfect, I warned myself. He’s either gay, already dating somebody a thousand times cooler than you, or a monk who would never, ever date anyone, including – especially – you. I sighed, letting up on my swinging and hovering a little closer to the ground.

After about twenty minutes, someone shouted that we were rolling again. On our way back to our bikes, Cute Guy passed by me and smiled. I couldn’t fathom what was happening; was he really noticing me as much as it seemed? Or was my overly-active imagination just being cruel with me? I wanted to grab his hand, or give him a hug, or ask him if he liked getting coffee on the weekends – OR do all three of those things… but in reality, outside of the pretentiously brave confines of my mind, I didn’t do any of them. I just lowered my head and gently took my bike back from a tree.

You’re going to get hurt again if you keep on like in this, I chided myself. Nobody normal falls in love this quickly… and never with you.

***

Another six miles and we were back where we started. Some people go home right away (usually, this includes me) while others – the cool kids – stick around in the alley outside of the shop to smoke and drink and hang out.

And tonight, I was awkwardly but bravely standing in the back doorway of the shop, passively waiting for something to happen… like a fall, followed by a catch or a crash. Something.

Out there in the dark, I noticed yellow streetlight touching the brick and the concrete and some of my pale skin, and it made me feel like I was in some sort of cigarette dream.

And then, something did happen: The nosy old guy from earlier spotted me. Sigh. He walked over to where I was and then stood beside me, placing himself right underneath the yellow light. He looked older in it, but also, wiser.

“So – back to what we were talking about earlier… how do you manage yours?” I asked quickly, gently assuming control of the conversation.

He adjusted his glasses and inhaled deeply through his nostrils.

“I think of it like this; when you know it’s going to be cold out, you wear a coat, right?” He paused, so I nodded. “Well my depression is cyclical; I can feel it coming from a ways off, and when it starts, I know it’s going to last a while. A real downward spiral. And while I could just ride the whole thing out — the onset of it, the downward spiral, and then the slow uptick – when I feel it coming, I go ahead and put a coat on so that I’m better prepared for it. Because you dress for the weather, physically, and you should do the same thing – spiritually, emotionally – for your depression.”

“That makes total sense. And what’s your coat?” I probed. “Like, for me, I know what to do to sort of insulate myself against it; get out of the house, be around people, drink lattes, write stories, make music… what do you do?”

He never really answered me. Not directly, anyways, which is the way I wanted him to. But he did mention something interesting: guided imagery.

“Imagine you’re in a tank,” he said. “A sort of fish tank. It’s like a mile wide and several miles deep, and you’re on this endless spiral staircase inside of it, always walking down, down, down. And occasionally, a door appears, and when it does, you have the option of getting out — of leaving.”

He stopped speaking, and I understood why.

“Wow. That’s so wonderful,” I whispered. “I was imagining you saying that, the further down you go, the more upward climbing you’ll have to do later on to ever get out, because I imagined a single door at the very top. How depressing!” I laughed. “But I love that, with the way you explained it, you can pretty much leave anytime you choose… I mean, you know — at intervals; whenever that opportunity presents itself again. If you take it.”

“Right. Exactly.” He smiled, and I was glad, then, that he was nosy.

Cute Guy had wandered outside while we were chatting; he’d looked over at me and then sat down onto the metal landing outside the door, a canned beer in his hand. My heart had started racing then, in quick pursuit of that wave of nausea, and I begged myself to muster the guts to sit down next to him. It doesn’t have to be a big deal! I said. You could ask him what he’s drinking, what his plans are for the weekend, or whether or not he likes to read…

But my nosy friend continued talking – moving onto the less-interesting subject of personality tests – and by the time I’d been able to politely excuse myself from his company, a group of people were already huddled around my guy – one of them, a lovely girl with pink and purple hair. I heard her refer to him as Audio. His name was so great. And she was so pretty.

I turned around to leave, feeling sad and frustrated with myself for being so small, so quiet, and so plainly dirty-blonde…

But then I turned around again, marched out the back door, and tapped Cute Guy on the shoulder. He turned around slightly to face me, looking surprised – possibly in the same way that I’d looked surprised earlier when Nosy and I had first met. I stuttered slightly, but eventually managed to say: “I just wanted to say goodnight.”

He smiled at me warmly. “Goodnight, Jane.”

And then I left… smiling and wondering how he’d known my name. The soft thud of my skate shoes reverberated off of brick and concrete, and when I rounded the corner and stepped up onto the ghostly yellow sidewalk, a gust of wind swirled my honey-blonde hair into wild tangles. Beautiful, I remembered, grinning.

The scent of his beer faded as the sound of their laughs grew distant, and the small but distinct sound of me muffled in volume also as I drew the yellow city into me like a lover…

And then I realized that if I just rearranged his words a little bit, stripped of their tone and context, I could make the nauseatingly magical evening even better:

 

Goodnight, beautiful.

 

IMG_0835
Audio was inspired by a real-life biker dude… I even wrote a song about him!

 

***

 

Talk soon…

Aun Aqui

Before the Break: 10 Things I Like About You

  1. How honestly and openly you love (and whether it’s requited or not, you never love less, stop loving altogether, or wish the person anything other than the best).
  2. How you create songs and write stories as a means of discovering yourself, exploring the world, healing old wounds and conveying a high level sense of “togetherness.”
  3. How you don’t eat animals because you love them and you get that loving them means leaving them the hell alone (unless you’re petting them or feeding them or otherwise strengthening and enhancing their existence).
  4. How you pause to study puddles and stare at trains (and seem to notice and enjoy the magic welling up everywhere, from the earthy scent of your home-cooked perfume to the sorta peculiar texture of a stone you found).
  5. How you believe in yourself enough to try things you’re scared of (like learning a new language and dating and performing on stage — over and over and over; it just never gets easier).
  6. How you lovingly maintain your “let’s-stay-sane-with-some-self-therapy” routine (coffee and grits coupled w/reading and writing) while mixing things up every now and then (by going on solo adventures or hanging out with a friend).
  7. How you view your job as a meaningful way of bettering lives (not just a paycheck).
  8. How – beyond dreaming of traveling – you actively make plans to travel; Ecuador and Canada in the same year?! You’re nuts. I love it.
  9. How you heart burritos so much that you had the word “burrito” tattooed onto you… the point is, you don’t take yourself too seriously — and that’s wonderful.
  10. How you intuitively know when to hang back; when to let go, process through shit, restock on social reserves, and let yourself grow. You’re good on your own, you know — learned how to be as a kid and now you’re strengthening that skill as an adult, becoming more independent and adventurous with every single year that passes. And it’s liberating, isn’t it? You don’t like being alone, but you’ve found strength in it. You’ve confronted your very own worst-case-scenario and can now live happily through it every damn day. Well done.

And if I can add an unofficial number eleven… I’m probably most proud of your compassion for others, commitment to continual self-improvement, and genuine authenticity. Your transparency is – sometimes – terrifying to witness, but for you, you know that a life without secrets and with a heart resting right on your sleeve is the one that brings you the most peace. I respect that you have the guts to live it.

Basically, you’re doing great. Keep pushing, keep trying and failing, keep writing and singing and loving forever, until it’s done. Hope you enjoy this morning’s latte.

***

I’m taking a spring break from the blog, friends… feeling some distinct vibes that it’s time to write another book. I’d love to tell you the name of it, but I know myself; if I spill any cool details, I’ll lose my momentum, so we’ll all just have to wait…

But before I go, two quick things:

  1. Why don’t you make a list, too? Scribble (or type) out ten or more things you really admire about yourself, because pep talks don’t have to come from other people, and when you remember your strengths, you feel better about managing your weaknesses
  2. (Please) maybe consider keeping some easy-to-hand-off fruits and crackers in your purse, backpack, or car — why? There’s a very good chance that, before they even have a chance to go bad, you’ll spot a person who needs them (and with stuff like oranges, apples, and bananas, you can literally just roll your window down and pass them over). Also, if you’ve got an old shoebox lying around, keep it in the car, too, along with an old pair of gloves (so that if you happen to come across an injured-but-still-alive animal, you can safely transport them to a nearby clinic). 

That’s all she wrote! I’ll catch you guys in the summer. Please stay healthy and happy annnnnnnnnd remember: Every word we say and action we take brings us into greater harmony with ourselves or sets us more at odds with our true selves. Trust your intuition.

IMG_0450
featuring yours truly, here’s a nice little “drama pose” to punctuate our temporary farewell… 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

forget the forest — i’m betting on love.

“I’m going to the forest tomorrow,” I said.

She squinted at me. “What does that mean?”

“The forest,” I repeated, shrugging at her. “You know… trees and rivers — rocks and leaves…”

“Ohhh… so you’re going into THE WOODS then,” she clarified, shaking her head. “The forest sounds so weird! Why would you call it that?”

“Because it’s dramatic,” I explained. “I’m not simply going into the woods tomorrow… I’m visiting the forest. It’s a big deal.”

She smirked at me, rolling those clear blue eyes. “Whatever, crazy.”

***

But the more I imagined it, even the forest didn’t seem grand enough.

“You like to travel around the state, right?” I asked a friend.

“Yeah, kind of… why?”

“Well I want to go on a little adventure tomorrow — a road trip of some kind. I was considering the forest, but I’m open to other ideas. Have any suggestions?”

She and another friend named off some places: Nashville, Atlanta, Greenville, Charleston, New Orleans…

“Sweet — I’ll look into all of that… thanks, guys!” And I did look into all of it, but nothing really stuck out to me.

So I sat there with a racing heart and wheels that couldn’t find traction spinning around in my head; where to go, what to do… 

 

I jotted down some other very original ideas:

  • Jump out of a plane (no; A. sounds basic and B. you could get paralyzed)
  • Go zip lining @ Red Mountain (no; the wire could break and you could – again – get paralyzed — remember: you’d rather die)
  • Go ice skating (not cool enough — ha, you’re funny!)
  • Go to the forest (we already decided against this)
  • Buy a loop pedal AND a reverse reverb pedal and then create something that’ll resonate with your soul (not your worst idea)
  • Buy a ticket to Portland (too expensive)
  • Buy a ticket to San Fran (too expensive)
  • Buy a ticket to Missoula (too expensive)
  • Buy a ticket to Denver (too expensive)
  • Buy a ticket to Chile (WAY too expensive)

Eventually, feeling mentally and emotionally drained, I set the pen down to flex my left hand.

What am I even DOING? I asked myself. What is it that I am manically running toward or away from? 

I thought on it intermittently, in-between tasks, and then it hit me (like a big, fat duh): You want to do something so massively cool that you’ll enjoy it as much as (or more than) being with him. And nothing is cutting it.

Ahhhhhh, I exhaled, truly relieved that I’d uncovered the motive behind the madness.

But… FUCK, I thought right afterwards. If flying out to em-effing Chile wouldn’t exceed – or even equal – talking with him over a local cup of coffee, then what the heck am I going to do with my life?! #drama

Annnnnnnd nothing; I was actually out of ideas.

Go to a cafe like usual, I guess, I suggested gently.

Yeah… guess so, I sighed.

***

Believe it or not, he texted me late yesterday afternoon, mere minutes after I’d realized all of this (we hadn’t really spoken since the breakup). In his text, he said lots of nice things: I miss you, I had such a nice time with you, when my phone vibrates and it isn’t you it makes me sad, I think that breaking up was a mistake, why did we throw something special away over hypotheticals and theoreticals…

And when I saw his text come in, I felt like vomiting (in a nervously good kind of way) and couldn’t bear reading it. I continued dutifully arranging Spanish words in this column and English words in that column, but the sudden knowledge of him thinking about me again got me so mixed up that I started forgetting which language was which, and then Spanish was everywhere and English was, too.

I miss you too, I said (finally). If you’d like to talk or meet up sometime this weekend, we can. 

Yes, I’d like to do that. Tomorrow?

Sure! When/where?

(Nothing…)

If you’ve changed your mind and sending that text was all that you needed, that’s fine, I reassured him…

(Still nothing…)

So I fell asleep, worried and wondering, and woke up to my answer an hour before the sun rose:

Yeah — I changed my mind, he said.

Un-fucking-believable, I thought to myself. Then why even text me in the first place?!

So I got dressed, grabbed my backpack (already stocked with my typical “weekend fun” supplies: a laptop, Spanish textbook, some gum, and a pair of frayed headphones), drove over to where he works, and very nicely confronted him about it.

“Look — I was caught up in planning all sorts of weird stuff yesterday; driving here, going there, doing this wild thing or that not-so-wild one… all because I wanted to do something I’d enjoy as much as spending time with you. Turns out that nothing felt right. And RIGHT after I realized this, you texted me, and it seemed like you were on the exact same wavelength I was… but then, hours later, you chickened out.” I shook my head at him. “I don’t want to drop these feelings for you prematurely, but if they’re one-sided or going nowhere, I will… so look,” I continued, quietly. “We officially canceled for today, but if you end up deciding that you would like to go play frisbee with me somewhere, I’m still free. But if you continue to feel like you don’t want to, that’s totally fine, too.”

I want you, he said. I want to make this work.

I think you’re overthinking it, I said.

Maybe I am.

Then maybe I’ll see you later. 

***

For someone who likes to loosely (aka not that loosely) plan her life years into the future and who openly lays every damn card on the table when it comes to matters of the heart, it’s terrifying to NOT know how to proceed with this: take a scary chance on love, or hide behind flimsy walls that (mistakenly? yes, no?) make you feel safer?

It’s a gamble, for sure. But it’s like, I could maybe win this round (if I give it a real, honest go), or I could for sure lose and miss out because of not trying at all…

IMG_0316
= me imagining a future where guac doesn’t cost an extra 1.95 @ Chipotle

Still here (bravely flippin’ cards and blindly throwin’ chips — and I’m not talking about the safe and yummy tortilla ones that you eat w/guac),

Aun Aqui

six perfect dates and then… goodbye

Date 1: Monday, February 19th. Sigh.

***

Date 2: A chilly Wednesday evening.

We were both lying on our backs, looking up at the stars. He was talking about meteorites and asteroids and the vague differences between them.

“But honestly,” he interrupted himself, “I really just like talking about black holes.”

 I laughed into the deep navy blue. “Yeah? My German Shepherd IS a black hole. She’s depressed all of the time,” I explained, smiling up at a star, or a planet. He can tell you the difference between them, but I’m not sure yet. “Tell me about them.”

 So he did, and he also mentioned that I could use him as a pillow, if I wanted, since neither of us had brought one.

“Yeah?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said.

So I did, and when he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and pulled me closer to him, I could have just DIED from contentment.

***

Date 3: Sunday, Feb 25th 2018. 

 I got in his car and he drove us to a coffee shop downtown. I ordered the usual and he ordered what I now understand to be his usual: a hot chocolate with soy milk as its base.

We took our drinks with us on the road while he showed me his childhood home, situated in a woodsy area just outside of Birmingham. The home still had its 1928 swing, its perfectly antique windows, and the same old mailbox; I asked him if he’d like to buy it back someday, and he answered, quickly, that he definitely would. I wondered if we’d live there together someday and then slapped myself on the wrist for thinking too far ahead again.

 We continued on to Ruffner Park, hiked a solid mile in (to the rock quarry), and then climbed up, up, up until we decided on a good resting point.

“I keep thinking about the other day,” he said suddenly, shaking his head as we sat on a shared rock together. “I should have kissed you.”

“Well don’t feel bad about it!” I laughed reassuringly, beginning to feel all nervous and throw up-y (you know what I mean? Like, you like someone SO MUCH that you just feel like VOMITING all of the time?). 

 

“I’d like to kiss you now,” he continued.

“I’d like to kiss you, too,” I said.

“Yeah?” he said.

“Yeah!” I said, laughing.

And then he held my hair back and smooched me on the lips.

 

Afterwards, there was tofu and noodles and cilantro swimming around in two matching owl bowls at the old, red diner table back at the house, but neither of us could eat much of it.

Instead, we walked upstairs, cuddled in bed, whispered to each other with nobody else around and kissed each other like a thousand times, the dogs barking outside and the rain tapping softly at my window.

***

Date 4 = Chipotle picnic at the park and some kissin’ in his car. Pretty perfecto.  ❤

***

On date 5, we rode our bikes for several miles, launching from the Innovation Depot and then landing at a park near Seasick Records (where I stepped inside to pee). We leaned our bikes against a tree and explored the surrounding neighborhood on foot together — passing by quaint, old houses I knew he’d like to see.

Back at the park, as it was growing dark out, we people-watched, his arm draped along the back of the bench and resting on my shoulder. I tucked his right hand under my chin and watched as a little girl (several yards away from us) suddenly spiked a football into the ground. Her tiny frame, messy ponytail, and wiry little arms told me she was seven, maybe eight.

I studied her as she marched across the lawn. When she passed a boy near her age, she offered: “I’m going to kick it off.” He nodded agreeably. I smiled.

“SHE’S going to be just fine,” I laughed, and felt like crying.

 

Back at my house, our bikes relaxed and so did we — having a picnic on my bedroom floor and playing a word game that he love-hated: he was an ice cream cone, and I was “starting a fire.”

Before he left, he handed me a necklace he’d found in his car after our fourth date — a tiny, black pendant of mine featuring a shimmery green fox.

***

Date 6: Goodbye

We had a great time together last night… a homemade dinner with his best friend (and her fiance) and then cuddling back at my place.

But when it was getting late and we both knew that he almost had to go, we parked ourselves at the doctor pepper table for a little while and sipped on mugs of orange juice. We talked about his socks and the ocean’s sharks and my outsider syndrome and then I asked him the thing that I hadn’t really wanted to ask, because I knew that he wouldn’t lie to me.

And he didn’t; yes, he did have romantic feelings for his best-friend-since-childhood (who he lives with), but they were never going there. She was happily engaged and, even in some hypothetical future where she wasn’t, it still probably wouldn’t happen. Probably. Probably. I hated the word. And his honest face — his hopeful eyes — and his busy hands were just too easy for me to read.

My heart broke; you’re smart, and sweet, and goodhearted, and creative, and outdoorsy, and we have SUCH chemistry… but I can’t keep on (FOOLISHLY) liking you more and more with the very-real possibility of you someday leaving me for this longstanding “big” love. 

 

Deeply understanding the dilemma of forever loving someone who doesn’t love you back, I took his hand, kissed him gently, and then hugged him “goodbye.”

 

“Don’t worry — you aren’t going to be alone,” I reassured him. “It took me two weeks to fall in love with you — the next girl, maybe two days? Who knows!” I smiled into his neck. We were both crying. “There are so, so many wonderful, remarkable souls out there… please stay open to them. Because one day, you’re going to brush against someone and it’ll just click. Just like that, they’ll make you forget all about her — rather, about imagining her in that light.” I just wish it could have been me, I thought to myself.

 

After we promised to stay friends, he left. I cried downstairs and then upstairs, texting my best friend Shelby first and then calling my other best friend Charlie.

 

When Charlie got home from his closing shift, he sat with me on my bed for a while… we took turns talking and being quiet and listened to one of Daniel Johnston’s best songs together. He brought me a cup of water, tucked me in, and promised we’d have dinner together the following evening.

 

“Salad and pizz?” I asked hopefully.

“Yep. Salad and pizz. And I bet you don’t regret falling in love with him,” Charlie offered, just before heading back downstairs.

I didn’t even have to think about it. “No,” I sighed, burrowing deeper underneath a comforter that looked like Indian food and still smelled like him. “I don’t. He was really special. And I’m glad I got to know a new soul.”

 

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Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

PS, I couldn’t handle listening to it last night, but Daniel Johnston’s very best song is actually this one

the brown-eyed, spinning space boy

“Nice shirt!”

 

I jumped a little; he’d spotted me studying on the couch as I’d been waiting for him to arrive. I hadn’t heard him enter the cafe.

 

“Oh — haha, yeah! NASA… hi!”

 

We side hugged and then it was quiet for a minute. After pointing out the brick walls, concrete floors, and exposed pipes to him, we walked over to the front counter to place our orders; a hot chocolate with soymilk for him, and a white chocolate peppermint latte for me.

 

We returned to the couch and talked for a long while, holding our drinks close and showing our socks off to each other (his featuring dinosaurs and mine picturing bunny rabbits), and then he suggested going for a walk.

 

“Do you like spending time outside?” I asked hopefully.

 

“Yes!”

 

“Me TOO!” I exclaimed. I felt like a child in summer.

 

So we drove to the park, walked through its wind and sunshine, and then sat in the shade together, a solid block of concrete cooling our elbows and thighs. We talked for another hour, at least — about caves and circuit boards and future games of frisbee — and then he suggested doing lunch.

 

So we rode over to a cafe downtown where I know the staff; we shared a meal and then wandered around. I bought an empty, amber-colored bottle for mixing essential oils and a box of incense; (not)incidentally, his favorite scent.

 

He complimented my hands at the park and my eyes on the amber bottle aisle, and I felt my cheeks flush both times.

 

So this WAS a date! Ha… I KNEW it! 

 

And this afternoon, he texted me, saying that he’d had a great time and would like to go out again, if I was interested.

 

Another great suggestion! I celebrated to myself, dancing in the driver’s seat. I tucked my phone into my leather jacket and skipped into Whole Foods to say hi to my best friend before responding.

 

***

 

“Hey — will you please tell Charlie that I said bye? I want to try to beat the traffic,” I explained.

 

“Sure thing,” Charlie’s coworker said. We’d been able to chat for a few minutes, but then Charlie had disappeared into the back, checking for product.

 

I grabbed a root beer-flavored kombucha and an alkaline water on the other side of the store and then headed toward the checkout line, but I was intercepted on my way.

 

“Heyyyyy, Jace.” Christopher.

 

“Helloooooo,” I sang out awkwardly.

 

“So look,” he began, stopping in front of me. “I read the blog… I can tell that you hate me and I hate that you do…” and from there, we stepped over toward a case of frozen foods so that several dozen customers could make their way past us.

 

“I hate you and I love you, Chris… you know this,” I said, smiling weakly. “I will always love-hate you.”

 

We talked about the breakup; about whose idea it was to do that, and whose idea it was to set him up with someone else… about the amazing duo that we were back then and how that was the thing of it; we belonged in the past.

 

“And I regretted both of those decisions long after making them — right after emerging, alive, from my identity crisis,” I admitted. “But it was too late then. And I’m not an indecent person — I wasn’t going to try to interrupt or disrupt your new relationship.” I paused. “I doubt you’ll ever read the story I wrote,” I continued, “but in the end, Jinx dreams of you coming back for her… after you’d already died. And last year, it was a matter of me facing the fact that sometimes, dreams come true, and other times, they don’t. They just remain dreams.”

 

We continued talking; 10, 15, 20 minutes…

 

“I’m a manager now,” he said, pointing over at his bakery. “And I’ve started playing music in this alt-rock band. I mean, I toured last year…” he shook his head. “I’m doing really well.”

 

“I know you are!” I encouraged him. I didn’t understand why he was saying all of this to me.

 

“Look, Chris — I went on a date yesterday, and he asked me to go out with him again today. And I think I’m going to say yes,” I smiled. “I wouldn’t go back on a second you and I spent together — and I’m so genuinely sorry for shaking your world up with mine two and a half years ago and then not being there for you during and afterwards — but the truth of it is that we’re morally and fundamentally unaligned.” I shrugged. “I’m glad you’re with someone who cares about you and shares your lifestyle and standards, and I’m very glad that you’re happy. I’m so proud of you — of everything you’ve accomplished, and of the person you’re becoming. And if you ever need anything — like a kidney,” I laughed, “or if you ever just want to grab a coffee or whatever, I’ll always be around. I will always love you.” I reached over and hugged him and then smiled my “goodbye.”

 

And there it was: peace. Finally. And for the record… Christopher is a wonderful person; charismatic, brilliant, talented and beautiful. Despite the love-hate that you’ve read on this blog over and over and over and over and over and over and over and OVER again… 🙂 he’s a great guy. And I am beyond lucky to have spent so many years by his side. I wouldn’t call him an ex-husband now so much as a wonderful, old friend.

***

Back at the house this afternoon, feeling as weightless as a soul on the moon, I texted him back. “Roger that on date numero dos, space boy!”

 

And then I wrote a song and ate a salad and couldn’t imagine sleeping at all, wondering how soon I’d see him again… that brown-eyed, spinning space boy.

 

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me and my “furever” loves… GET IT?!

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

kindness, badasses, and jackasses

When I was a kid, my family decided to pitch their tent in a quiet little town just a few miles north of Georgia’s southern border… and up there in North Augusta, South Carolina, I quickly befriended two neighborhood kids, who were siblings: Jacob and Rachel.

 

We got along nicely and went on all kinds of small-scale adventures together… picking our way through the twig-and-tadpole woods that encircled our little suburb, skipping to the gas station down the street (where they sold the COOLEST alien lollipops), and sneaking behind the subdivision to explore this creepy, overgrown field that both frightened and intrigued us. It was here in this field that older kids in the neighborhood had stashed a gross-looking mattress, sticking it right underneath a lush and looming tree… I’m not sure what the older kids used it for, but Jacob, Rachel and I would take turns climbing the tree and then courageously jumping off it, laughing hysterically as we bounced onto and off of the soiled mattress. We felt like real badasses back then.

 

But in addition to acting like badasses, Jacob and Rachel were also kind of jackasses.

 

A young cousin visited them once, riding into town with her parents, and while I can’t remember the girl’s name, I can vividly recall her scent. It was genuinely horrific. I don’t know if it was biological in nature or if her parents simply weren’t badgering her to bathe yet, but she gave off a distinctly rancid odor, and Jacob and Rachel were just cruel about it.

 

“We aren’t going to hang out with her,” Rachel informed me as we were standing by the mailbox together. I turned to look over at my two friends’ front door, quickly spotting their petite and shy cousin peeking at us from behind it.

 

I felt terrible. Ostracizing the smelly little girl didn’t feel like the right thing to do — and the idea of blatantly ignoring her while we had our usual fun physically made me feel bad.

 

And while I don’t know how I phrased it (because I was like six), I do remember telling my friends off, preparing a picnic out in my front yard, and then inviting the smelly cousin over to dine with me. Jacob and Rachel were openly disgusted, and I think they felt a little betrayed (because they weren’t allowed to join us), but Smelly and I had a delightful time together, anyways. Looking back on it, I think that we had vegetarian deli-“meat” sandwiches (and that I possibly accidentally ate a bug while I was chewing on mine), but I can definitely remember biting into a sweet, red apple and feeling really, really good about it.

 

***

 

As an adult, I was once again warmed by the innate reward of kindness yesterday morning.

 

I was leaving Urban Standard after a few hours of studying when I noticed a homeless guy tucked into the dark inlet of an abandoned storefront. Our eyes met briefly, and a thought occurred to me just before I passed him.

 

“Hey — do you like chocolate?”

 

“Yeah,” he said.

 

“K… then hang on a sec.” Sliding my backpack off of my left shoulder, I knelt down, knees touching the concrete, to investigate its contents… and after a few awkward seconds, I found it: the plastic-wrapped, heart-shaped box my sweet HR department had gifted each employee with a few days before.

 

“I’m particularly excited about the orange creme flavor!” I’d thanked them via email, but I hadn’t actually opened the box yet, preferring to save it so that I could ‘look forward’ to it.

 

“Heeeeeere we go — happy LATE Valentine’s Day!” I laughed, handing it over to the guy.

 

He accepted the box gently, chuckling back at me. He had a very beautiful smile.

 

And it was just so nice to share the chocolate with someone. I enjoyed sharing it more than I would have enjoyed eating it! The good feeling that followed reminded me of a late-summer afternoon — enjoying a crisp apple alongside a smelly little girl; the vibrant green grass tickling our ankles, and the bright orange sunshine warming our faces…

 

***

 

On days when I’m feeling down, the easiest way to reframe my world view is to get outside of my own head, as it can sometimes steel itself into a sort of prison.

We inhabit these bodies and live in these minds — with their fiction and reality — constantly, rarely pausing to imagine the thoughts, longings, plights and ailments of others… but when you take just a minute to do so — to remember that the pain or anger or loneliness you’re experiencing right now is being felt by many — you don’t feel quite as alone, or misunderstood, or enraged. You suddenly feel this sense of community and this compulsion to practice compassion and you realize – or re-realize – that we’re all just doing the best we can to be happy… to become better and stronger people than we were yesterday, to be kinder to others than they have been to us, and to strike notes that sound increasingly more in-tune with our truest selves. Being kind to and gentle with others is, perhaps, the very best way of showing kindness to yourself.

 

And here’s a parting thought (which is not an original one — I ran across it pretty recently in an article or book that I can’t remember the name of):

 

Every word we speak, action we take, and decision we make brings us into greater harmony with our true selves or places us more at odds with ourselves.

 

And that makes sense, doesn’t it? Kindness is intuitive, really… your gut will quickly tell you – in any given situation – whether you’re being kind or unkind. Going back in time just a little, imagining myself walking past the homeless man with the box of chocolates still in my backpack feels BAD. It would have clearly been the wrong decision. And conversely-speaking, I knew, the very second I saw him, what the right decision was.

You can’t “save” everyone, of course, but when you’ve got an extra box of chocolates lying around, why not share the love? Your gut instinct, or intuition, is an excellent, inherent, and trustworthy guide for good decision-making…

 

For instance: Earlier today, when a cute boy asked me to grab coffee with him tomorrow morning, my intuition immediately answered yes. Yes, yes, yes. 

 

hola! did i just agree to a DATE? who knows! am i freaking out a little? nahhhhh…

 

Still here (and with kind regards),

Aun Aqui

I’d like to love, but…

Yep… it’s happening again. Come this time tomorrow evening, there’ll be cheap wine and overpriced flowers drooping in nearly every person’s humble (or not-so-humble) abode. Sidebar: If you hope for longevity in your relationship, SKIP the prematurely dead flowers and give your guy or gal a potted plant instead! I mean SERIOUSLY — what is up with these poor bouquets of DEATH? Are they supposed to symbolize that your relationship has already peaked and is now slowly wilting away? #thinkitthrough

“And I hope everyone’s Valentine’s Day is without explosive fires,” my professor joked with us yesterday evening as he was dismissing class. The joke was in reference to the creepy ending of my recent short story, When Things Got Out of Hand, which classmates had workshopped just moments before.

 

“You’ve really found your voice,” some of them said. And it was a cool thing to hear — that the cadence of my words had rung true to them.

 

“But this kinda felt like three different stories,” others pointed out. “Like… you’ve got three threads dangling here and none of them are tied together.”

 

And that made total sense… there were three stories within the story: divorce, the origins of an eating disorder, and jealousy. Any way of tying those loose strings together?

Absolutely — my classmates presented several really good and intriguing ideas for doing so… but in this blog post, I don’t really want to keep on talking about the story. I’d rather talk about love, and specifically, about how we sometimes chase after and then revolve around it instead of simply letting it come to and envelope us.

 

For most of us, love is revered as the ultimate thing to have — whether you stumble your way into it or specifically seek it out, it’s like unknowingly building a house atop a secret river of oil: Once you’ve realized what it is, you know that you’ve really lucked out.

 

And then – in addition to obsessing over this newfound wealth – we begin to define ourselves by this love… complimenting ourselves on the strengths, talents, and good looks of our companion — and having a companion, or lover, makes us feel other nice things, too, like being whole, and having worth, and – sometimes most importantly – not being alone.

 

But here’s the thing: You’re already whole on your own, you’re worth just as much as the person you hate and the person you love and the person you admire and the person you think little of (no more, no less), and you are always actually going to be alone. Always.

Because 1. when you die, you will die alone… nobody can feel that pain, experience that weirdness, or see that shit for you, and 2. until the very second that you die, no one will quite understand your mind, your desires, your motivations or your fears to the extent that you do… and while realizing this usually makes people feel deeply lonely, truly, isn’t it wonderful? Knowing that — although the whole world will sometimes stares right through you without feeling anything and that, often, it doesn’t really care about or understand you at all — that YOU get you, and you love you, and you’ve got you?

 

And there’s this, too: The amazingness or lousiness of the person you’re with doesn’t add to or detract from your own inherent worth. Want to be a super great and remarkable and respectable person? Cool… be one! Don’t date one. Or do date one, but don’t think that doing so makes you awesome (or vice versa).

 

I was just talking with a friend about love (#hottopic) earlier today… she’s in her early forties now and I’m in my mid-twenties, and we were both laughing over our predicaments: We go to work, shop for groceries, and fill our cars up with gas… and in the secret background of these mundane activities, we’re both often awkwardly hoping that, one of these days, Mr. Perfecto will just magically be there on aisle 9 or at pump 4 with enough guts to ask us out.

 

“And you see, that’s just it,” I said. “It has to happen like that — organically… in real life. I’m sure that, after several dating app-based dates with various people, I could find someone that I got along with, but that’s not going to be enough for me. I don’t want to date someone who is simply agreeable, or stable, or nice… there’s gotta be chemistry between us. A spark. And I’ll know when it’s there, because I’ve felt it before. But the thing is, that spark is something that you just inexplicably feel — not something you can know about it… you know? It’s not like you can’t deduce a spark from the picture or text on somebody’s online profile,” I sighed. “You’ve just gotta feel it. Sense it. So the real question is, when is this going to happen, and where, and am I supposed to be the brave one who initiates or ignites the spark? And if so, how the hell do you do that?” I laughed.

 

So while I am admittedly passively waiting and half-assedly looking for love, I’m mostly actively living my life… learning a new language, traveling (to Ecuador! In FOUR months!), writing stories, making music and friends, developing myself personally and professionally, and planning a fulfilling and fun-filled future.

 

For instance, did you know that I wrote a book last year and that you can now purchase it on Amazon (old news) OR at your local Whole Foods in Mountain Brook?!!

 

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So yeah — I’m waiting, but I’ve grown to be good at waiting, and because I’m keeping so busy and having so much FUN, it doesn’t really feel that much like waiting.

 

I meannnnnnnnnnn check me OUT; bein’ all single and whole and creative and happy and stuff!  🙂

 

 

Still here and single af,

Aun Aqui

a pond on fire and an almost-fight

This semester’s creative writing class is already in full swing, and of all the journal entries, character descriptions, and short stories I’ve written so far, two stick out in my mind:

 

  1. Those Stupid Mints
  2. When Things Got Out of Hand

 

So I’m sharing these two pieces below with a bit of background info prefacing both.

 

First Up: Those Stupid Mints

BG info: “Those Stupid Mints” was written in response to an assignment where we were supposed to depict two (or more) characters ALMOST having a fight, but not quite… like, there’s bickering, and there’s some tension, but everything is sort of misplaced and blown out of proportion, because the loaded statements and general heaviness in the air are over a remote control instead of who has (or doesn’t have) control in the relationship. OR, there’s a mother/daughter pair nitpicking over socks on the floor and dishes in the sink when the deeper issue — revealed to the reader or not — is bad grades, a recent diagnosis, or a suspected pregnancy. Something along those lines.

And while this is primarily a fiction writing class, the old adage still applies: You write what you know. So I often (but not always) recycle material – either loosely or actually – from real-life characters, memories, and experiences… and Those Stupid Mints — a short little number that features an unpleasant encounter with an ex in a grocery store — actually happened a few weeks back.

And in the short passage that follows, you’ll discover a girl who is pretty straightforward with her request and a guy who becomes oddly emotional and defensive in response to it. Bonus detail: There’s a sensitive line that I chose to leave out of the workshop version: “I was willing to do anything.” Why would he say that? I mean… what the ACTUAL hell? 

 

Those Stupid Mints

 

“All I’m saying is that if I ever need help, I can find someone else to help me… it doesn’t have to be you.”

 

He shook his head quickly and laughed at me, but not in a funny way. You probably know the type. “Whatever.”

 

“What do you mean, whatever? It’s not a big deal.”

 

He disagreed, of course. “I think it’s insane… you, coming in here and asking me to NOT do my job. To not be friendly. Trying to make me do something that isn’t natural,” he continued to himself in a descending mutter.

 

“I am not asking you to do something… I’m LITERALLY asking you to do NOTHING,” I cried, exasperated. “We haven’t spoken in six months, anyways, so I’m just asking you to please keep up with that. Unlike yesterday, when you said hello to me and I cried for a half hour afterwards. It’s just easier if you don’t.”

 

He folded his lips together in an unsmiling line as I watched one of his nostrils flare. Turning to me, he shrugged his shoulders in a way that tried to suggest I really don’t care, but the almost absent catch in his voice gave him away anyways. “Alright. Whatever. You just keep coming in here, getting your rosemary sourdough bread and that vegan chocolate cake.”

 

And then with those green eyes ablaze, he continued transferring clear packages of soft rolls from cart to shelf, his sidekick name tag catching the store’s harsh lights and then flashing them in my eyes, ruefully.

 

Stalker, I thought, storming off to buy him an apologetic container of those stupid, 10% ginger mints, because I can’t forget that he likes them.  

 

Numero Dos: When Things Got Out of Hand

BG info: This was my first short story of the semester (classmates are critiquing it this Monday — eek!), and in crafting it, I blended fiction, nonfiction, and magical realism all up together (like a smoothie!). I found a bit of inspiration within an awkward conversation I eavesdropped on at a cafe (hey — professor’s instructions!), wove some light fiction into the middle, and then carved my ending out of an unsettling dream I had last week.

 

When Things Got Out of Hand

 

She’s holding the latte with her left hand; I wonder if she’s left-handed?

He’s watching her other hand, the right one… she waves it around constantly; wiggling her fingers, and clicking her wrist back and forth as she paints pictures that illustrate her words. She’s been talking about design, and improv, and what’s tangible and what’s not, and when she speaks, she sounds so sure of herself, so in love with the sound of her own voice… but a minute ago, I heard her saying that a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant she’d tried shared a plaza with other things that weren’t that tangible, which didn’t make sense. Things that weren’t that popular would have made sense; things that weren’t that interesting would have been fine, too. But the word she chose to use was tangible, and I smirked a little after she said it.

Anyways, the guy she’s with has spent all morning staring at her, spending half of his energy listening to what she’s saying and the other half devising interesting ways of agreeing with what’s she saying. I’ve heard him say: “Yep!” And: “Yeah.” And then: “Oh yes. Oh yeah. Absolutely. Completely!” But most recently, we’ve been on a real “yep” spree. I haven’t heard him disagree with or challenge her yet… not even once. Remarkable.

And she’s dressed nicely; tight denim jeans and a soft blue sweater with a distinctly winterlike purple, blue, and green scarf skiing down both sides of her neck, gently crossing over her protruding collarbone. Her thin lips look a bit fuller with two careful swipes of red running across them, and the rouge on her cheeks makes her look even more sophisticated; even more alive.

“Didn’t you order something?” she asks, after an uncomfortable pause.

“Oh yeah — an omelette!” He gets up quickly, marches to the front counter, and I can overhear someone apologizing. Minutes later, the omelette has arrived, the man who ordered it seems to feel like a real hero, and all is well. He asks her to take a bite but she declines.

“Juice fast,” she explains, rolling her eyes.

Ahhhh… fancy, I muse. She and I both sneak glances over at the forbidden omelette as the pair continue talking: 3D printers and the cafe’s sound-bouncing construction were – sadly – the main highlights.  

***

“I think we’ve established that you like fun things,” he says suddenly, maybe thirty minutes later.

Well that seemed out of nowhere, I think, reflecting on our – their – last few minutes of conversation.

“Yes, I do.” Her tone is heavy, but also smooth, like shea butter. If her words carried a scent, they’d smell like incense, and if they had a look, they’d look like tangled bed sheets. Wine-red ones. 

“Then we’re going to find something fun to do,” he states coolly.

Oh god, I mourn on his behalf, laughing inside my head.

“Yes we are,” she murmurs back at him, and I can hardly contain my laughter now. Is she really not picking up on the complete and utter lameness of him?

They’re getting up to leave now — her coat is a hard-to-read gray, and his jacket is black. She’s carrying a pricey-looking purse and he’s got a laptop case.

When they step outside, they realize it’s raining. I’ve been watching the rain pummel the window all morning. Seemingly feeling brilliant, he whips out an umbrella and tries to open it; I observe him, amused. Standing underneath the cafe’s awning together, they eventually figure out how to keep the thing open, and then off they are, to do something fun together.

He’s likely wondering how much more time he’s gotta put in and she’s probably asking herself whether or not she can actually stand his arrogant attempt at coolness… whether or not kissing those agreeable lips will do anything for her at all.

***

It was totally a first date type of deal, I tell my best friend, and we laugh over it.

Could they tell that you were watching them?

Nah… they were too busy sucking up to each other. She was trying very hard to look and sound cool and he was trying very hard to match her. Vomit. We laugh again.

I exit the kitchen and kick off my shoes in the hallway; dingy black Vans. I shrug my leather jacket off, too, and hang it on the spacey-orange coat rack. I bought it off of Amazon last year when I decided to reclaim the house, thinking that a coat rack would make me happier somehow… bidding me goodbye in the morning and welcoming me home again in the evening, like he used to. I’d sold all of the furniture my ex and I’d bought together a few months after we split, and the place had nothing in it for a while, other than your basic appliances and a bed to sleep on. But now, a coat rack, a collection of cheerful plants, and scarves hanging like drapes from windows and door frames.

Turning away from the coat rack, I plunge my fingers into my German Shepherd’s thick, black fur and then give her a tummy a rough rubbing. I watch her jaw drop as she opens her mouth to grin up at me. I smile back down at her, pat her firmly on the back in a “run along” kind of way, and then make my way over to the staircase.

A few minutes later, up in my November Skies Blue bedroom, I’m laying in bed with a book. I try reading for a while but soon realize that I’m just re-reading the same sentences over and over again, waiting for them to register. I can’t stop thinking about that dumb couple.

Are they a couple now? I wonder. One semi-successful encounter… a two-hour long conversation… and now they’re a thing because they didn’t immediately repel each other? Shouldn’t there be a real spark in the air when two souls go ablaze? Or was there a spark and I just didn’t see or feel it?

I proceed to imagine having my own first date with someone someday. A new someone. I indulge myself in wondering where we’ll be; at a cafe, like them, or a park, or a restaurant…

Not a restaurant, I decide quickly, because I’d be too worried about them watching me eating. The ideal situation, I decide, would be a quick dip into a cafe downtown for two lattes and then a long walk around the park. If we’re walking, they’re looking at me less, I reason, and then I feel settled, having sorted this pesky matter out ahead of time. Possibly well ahead of time. I sigh.

Flinging the book onto a pillow, I scoot off of my bed, and over in the bathroom, I flip a switch on so that I can look into the mirror.

And there in the mirror, I catch my eyes first; blue-green, like late afternoon ocean water. My best friend calls them cosmic eyes, and he says it in a nice way, but I’ve always wished that they were brown. Brown eyes are so mysterious, so full of depth… and some of the loveliest things in the world are brown: coffee, chocolate, tree bark, pine cones, pinto beans, German Shepherds…

Through with my eyes, I travel down to my lips (small), nose (too round), and jaw (too round also). I take a sideways step so that I can examine my profile. What an awkward shape, I frown. I lift my wrinkly t-shirt up with one hand, bunching it against my ribcage, and cover my exposed belly button with the other, feeling the warmth of my curvy stomach and the coldness of my bony hand meet, like two opposing weather fronts. My stomach is never flat enough. Never ever ever. But I’ve always liked my hands. My grandmother casually mentioned them looking like piano hands once, back when I was much younger, and I’ve held the unintentional compliment close ever since.

But because of my stomach, I put the scale away months ago… watching it slowly tick upwards from 105 to 117 was just too painful. I decided that I would live with the belief that 117 was where I’d maxed out and fuck it if I was wrong. Since adolescence, I’d read and written all kinds of stuff about eating disorders, but I decided that owning one would be too trendy. It was simply like this: Sometimes I eat, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I eat a whole damn lot. I thought about the guy’s omelette again and let my shirt fall.

Done scrutinizing, I skip down the stairs and poke my head into the living room. My best friend has his headset on and doesn’t seem to have heard me, so I figure that he’s playing video games. No need to interrupt, I decide.

Instead, I mosey into the kitchen and open the fridge; taking a quick inventory, I can’t seem to see past the numbers — two hundred and sixty calories equals x miles of jogging, y number of sit-ups, or z minutes of cardio… and whether it’s a single-serve cup of yogurt or some thick spoonfuls of egg salad, it is really worth it?

Nah. Not today, anyways. I close the fridge, tiptoe back upstairs, and fall asleep on my bed.

***

I wake up before sunrise, feeling that something is off. I blink a few times, shaking the drowsiness off, and slip out of bed, descending those stairs again.

I’m inexplicably drawn toward the front of the house, and I don’t question it. I creep towards the front door, hearing my heartbeat kick into high gear and feeling my sweat glands activating. In the background of my mind, I’m wondering if my best friend is awake, sensing the same weirdness that I am.

I wrap my left hand around the doorknob, molding my shape to its own, and use my right hand to draw the side-window’s curtain aside. The curtain’s pattern, or design, has always reminded me of Indian food. I can’t really explain why. My best friend and I order Indian food every Friday night to celebrate the end of another work week. And what day is it? I wonder, because I’m already tasting cumin on my tongue and curry on my lips, and I can actually feel rich bits of paneer sticking to the back of my teeth.

And now, peering through the window, I can see what’s off; there’s a man outside, standing in my front yard. That’s what it is. His back is toward me, and he isn’t doing anything but standing there. How odd, I think to myself.

And like a crazy person — like one of those idiotic, B-rated movie characters, minus the boobs — I unlock the door and step through it. The man turns around to look at me, but his face is impossible to read; the small amount of pre-dawn light outlines his general shape, and that’s it — he’s thin and of average height with short hair.

I continue facing him until he resumes facing forward, and then I notice him toss something into the front yard.

“My dog will enjoy looking for it later,” I offer, speaking aloud for the first time. My voice sounds bright, unafraid. Who am I?

He says nothing, but bends himself into halves, reaching down and then coming up again with something in his arms. He could be holding a bouquet, or a six-pack, or a stereo, or a plate carrying an omelette. But he does something with his right hand and then I hear a splashing sound, like thick drops of water are now hitting the ground.

He shakes the container, as I realize that’s what it is, and rains the liquid everywhere, and instead of watching from the window this time, I’m standing right there in the rain, watching.

In one fluid movement, he jumps further down into the yard, which has a naturally steep slope, and when he lands, there’s a splash. I realize, with less surprise than you might imagine, that the usually grassy and overgrown yard has turned into a pond. Intrigued by him and by this change in environment, my eyes are riveted on the guy as he pulls out a lighter, because it is light enough now that, though tiny, I can see what it is. I hear and watch him flick the lighter on with his right hand. He pauses.

And then when he tosses the lighter directly behind him, somehow, he lights the whole pond on fire.

At once, things become all dancey and orange — it’s beautiful, really… magical — and I’m so stunned that I’m not even sure if I’m scared yet. I return my gaze to the man’s face and he looks back at me for one hard second before closing his eyes and journeying down, down, down into the water.

A pond on fire, I think to myself, reaching for the front door knob and screaming out for my best friend and German Shepherd.

 

 

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

How sanitary napkins relate to my love life

I stepped into Target last week for some basic necessities: paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags and the like… but while I was there, I also found a simple and suitable unpadded bra (I hate the padded ones!) and a few cool pairs of socks (one featuring cacti, for my best friend Charlie, and another donning bunny rabbits, each of them pictured mid-hop). After snagging the most perfect, rose-pink, three-ring binder for my new cover collection, I meandered over to a nearby register to check out. A young strawberry blonde with thick glasses stood readily behind it.

 

And as she rang up my items, she chatted incessantly, so I didn’t notice what she was scanning when she asked: “Oooooooh… have you tried these?”

 

I looked down at the items to her left, the ones that had just been scanned: aluminum foil, socks, greeting cards and sanitary napkins.

 

“Uhhhhhhhh… tried what? I’m sorry,” I said, lost. I wish, now, that I would have just picked something with my mind and offered some general, positive comment about it.

 

“These,” she said, lifting the box of pads into the air and then waving it around. Like a flag. Returning to that moment, I still can’t believe that she did it.

 

wait what
GC: Google Images

 

I looked around and then answered (quietly): “Oh — those! Those! No, no… I uh… hate getting them, so I usually buy like five months’ worth at a time, and uh, these weren’t here the last time I came, so they’re new, probably…”

 

“Huh! I wonder if they’re good? I’ve seen a couple of people buy them.”

 

Good? I thought to myself. Good how?!

 

“Yeah — I’m not sure. They’re chlorine-free, you know… chemical-free and what-have-you… natural…” my voice tapered off and I swallowed. When it was time to pay up, I swiped my REDcard faster than a bolt of lightning can strike and then hightailed it on outta there.

 

When I finally got to my car, I laughed about it. But I mean… really? How are they? Their sole purpose is to soak up blood, lady… so I really don’t know how to gauge the goodness of them, other than in terms of their effectiveness or comfort or what the brand does to better the world, which is, I guess, what you were wondering about. But of all things — to ask me about them.

Now, if I’d purchased something more conversation-neutral, like a fine box of Annie’s cheddar bunnies or a nice little stack of animal-themed greeting cards (which I DID buy), we could have got on quite nicely…

 

***

 

Sooooooooo, my main point: Awkwardly interesting conversations follow weird questions. Like this one.

 

“This might sound like a really crazy idea,” she warned, bracing me for it, “but have you ever thought about trying one of those dating apps?”

 

I sighed. This was last night – Friday evening – and I was driving home from work… and in light of the source, I honestly couldn’t believe that I’d heard the person correctly.

 

“Dating apps, mother?”

 

“Yeah! You know…”

 

I smiled at my steering wheel and the long line of shining red cars parked ahead of mine.

 

“Uhhhhhhhhh no.”

 

“Ohhhh!” she grumbled, in a way that implied that she’d already known my answer. “Why not, Rose? You’re so BUSY — all you ever do is go to cafes and work and school… how will you ever find someone? Other people, who are busy like you, probably use these things! Why not give it a shot?”

 

“Because whether or not they choose to ask you out on a date depends upon your PICTURE. That’s why. That picture – your exterior – determines whether or not they’re interested in you, and I absolutely refuse to date someone who is that superficial.” Although, even in real life, that is the first test we run a prospect through, isn’t it? We look at them and think to ourselves: Hmmmm… brown eyes, brown hair, and a confidently relaxed mannerism paired with a not-too-arrogant gait… could I enjoy kissing them? Would I feel proud to walk alongside them, hand-in-hand? And then we proceed to wonder what other people would think about this new, hypothetical us, imagining them answering questions like: Do you think they go well together? Is one of them too pretty or smart or rich for the other? Do they look nice in this trying-too-hard-to-be-nontraditional-and-effortless engagement photo, or is she way too fucking tall for him? 

 

“Yeah, but I’m sure they would read about you, too,” she argued into the phone. “You would have a profile where you could put interesting things about yourself… and I think that you can narrow your search down, too!” she added brightly. “That way, you can find people who like the same things you do — like writing, and music, and traveling…”

 

Halfway wondering how much time she’d already spent researching the subject, I shook my head (although the idea of typing in very specific filters like Indian and dancer and loves German Shepherds and enjoys picnics at the park was oddly tempting). “It’s just too orchestrated, Sierra. I want to meet this person naturally… within my 3D life, and in a way that’s organic.” Like my new pads, I thought. “So I will not resort to a dating app until I’m at least 30.” Which gives you four years, I reminded myself casually, and then shuddered.

 

She sighed. “Well you know,” she continued, unabashed, “if you’re looking to find a really DECENT person, there IS a place you could go to in-person…”

 

Now, it was my turn to sigh. “No, mother. I’m not going back to church.”

 

And that was that.

 

And then, she texted me early this morning, asking: “Did u ever hear from DMV guy?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Loser”

 

No period, exclamation mark, anything. And in case you didn’t know, “Loser” hits with triple the impact when it’s written without punctuation. Oh Sierra. I truly love the heck out of you.

 

IMG_20180127_103544_975
Tycho says that she hates my phone because it takes my attention away from her (reason #007 why dating apps and boys in general are a no-go)

 

Still here (with a host of self-identifying Buddhist pads and no dating apps or losers),

Aun Aqui

 

 

 

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