he’s with a pretty blonde now — cool!

“I just texted him to prepare my chakras for cleansing.” I was proudly telling this to my friend earlier this afternoon, and while I wasn’t yet 100% sure what cleansing a chakra meant, texting him had seemed like the right move. Wrong wrong WRONG.

Last night, after watching an episode of Airbender where Ang moves through the spiritually draining but restorative process of cleansing his chakras, I had been inspired to do the same. I’d even picked up three chakra books from the library during my lunch break, intent on doing yoga and figuring this chakra business out right after work.

My friend was surprised I’d finally mustered the guts to text him; it had been a full month since I’d last spoken with Captain Kangaroo. Quick recap: He’s the guy who (when I’d said that, for me, intimacy = exclusivity) said he wanted to date me exclusively, slept with me, and then told me – a mere week later – that he was afraid he’d “given me the wrong impression” as he wasn’t actually ready to be exclusive yet. Although, curiously enough, he’d implicitly said he was ready to be exclusive approximately ten minutes before sleeping with me. Yes… him.

Well this afternoon, I texted him to say that I was sorry things hadn’t worked out but that, regardless of whether or not he had intended to use slash hurt me, I forgave him and wished him well and would even be happy to be friends — listen to records, play tennis, you know; real friend stuff. And I felt good about it, this making amends. I sent him a song by Queen, too — the one I had considered sending via text two weeks before (and then deleted).

My friend, who I was sharing all of this with, is a social media guru; without me asking, she quickly typed his name into IG right as I was speaking and pulled up the most recent picture he’d shared. “Oh wow — look at this,” she said, turning her phone towards me.

My heart literally sank. I felt cold and nauseous at once and my skin was tingling and I was crying before I even thought of crying.

“I have to teach class in five minutes,” I croaked, fanning myself. I’ve always thought it looked stupid when people fan themselves in television shows and movies — so dramatic… but I get it now. You’re distracting yourself from your massively mega grief with physical movement and cooling your burning wet face at the same time. Brilliant. I love multitasking.

So I took some deep yoga breaths, opened the door to the classroom, smiled, and nobody knew.

***

It’s not even that I’d hoped we might get back together at this point; it was reliving what had happened — mostly, how disposable he’d made me feel.

I’ll never forget that Instagram picture; in it, he’d cleaned up and was wearing a suit… smiling so big… about as big as I smiled at my students today. And he’d inserted a whole string of hearts into the caption. Wow. And the girl — she was gorgeous; tall, blonde, perfect make-up. My friend clicked on the girl’s name or picture or something and it pulled up a private profile — her bio said something about “it” being “her purse.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” I whispered, “but I can’t compete with that. Ever. And I wouldn’t want to,” I said softly. “He’s found what he wanted.”

I’m short, skinny, dorky-looking, weird, and clueless as heck about everything in the WORLD due to my cult-ish upbringing, and every guy I ever meet says I’m so sweet and I’m so funny and I’m so different, but I’m not the end-girl they want on their arm in an Instagram picture. I’m the girl they’ll while some time away with, sure, until they find their forever gal.

“I just feel dumb,” I told my friend later, when I was able to cry. “I gave him everything and it still wasn’t enough.” I cringed, remembering. God. I felt uninteresting and unpretty and worthless.

“You didn’t give him everything,” she said firmly. “You gave him two weeks. And he gave you a lesson.”

That he did.

I texted him another awkward goodbye; I had to! “I don’t want him to think I saw that post and was trying to get him back,” I explained to my friend, feeling ridiculous on top of unwanted. And I actually don’t want him back now, I decided. I just want to cleanse my fucking chakras.

The truth hurts, yeah, but it’s so, so liberating. I will always prefer clarity over illusions.

***

Walking with Zach yesterday, I felt at ease. We asked each other silly questions: favorite color, what’s your shoe size, ever broken anything…

As we talked, I was reminded of some of my favorite childhood memories: sliding down hills in South Carolina on these cardboard boxes my family had pulled out of dumpsters (there was a plaza neighboring these hills); rollerblading around the Catholic School with my mom at night because the pavement was great — smooth, gray. “I can’t believe she actually did that with me,” I laughed, smiling over at him.

Zach and I talked about how there are generally two types of people: those who restore your energy and those who drain it. How it’s important to pay attention to how people affect you and how they make you feel about yourself.

Christopher and Foster and Captain Kangaroo all made me feel like I wasn’t pretty or cool enough to be worth their time, attention, loyalty; I don’t think they meant to make me feel this way, but this is how I felt around them. Maybe it’s an inexplicable chemistry thing, or a fucking jackass thing, or a combination of both.

Steven made me feel like something secondhand — like: He couldn’t have the girl he really wanted, so he played with me instead. And then told me I was the back-up plan right after getting what he wanted.

These boys made me feel like a ghost. Like they couldn’t, or didn’t want, to see me at all; like they’d rather hold my okay body and kiss my alright mouth with their eyes closed so they could imagine I was the girl with big boobs, the girl with the great hair and make-up, the better, beautiful girl from last summer.

And I’m sick of being a back-up plan, stepping stone, substitute, door knob. I remember a boy calling me that once, way before I’d ever slept with anyone, because I was the weird schoolgirl who wore long skirts with skate shoes and he just wanted to make me feel bad: “You’re like a DOOR KNOB… everyone gets a turn.”

I remember feeling guilty, dirty, when he’d say that, although I’d scarcely known what he meant by it.

Well guess what? The next guy who gets to turn this doorknob (that doesn’t even make sense) is going to have to wait at the fucking door for five million years. And if we both aren’t dead by the time those five million years are up, well then maybe. Possibly maybe.

What I’m trying to say: I feel like shit this evening, but I’m going to watch anime and warm up some ravioli and pet a happy pair of fat shepherds and be alright. I’m going to trust myself (not dudes) and protect myself (better, more!) and enjoy life outside of love: words, dogs, hikes, lattes, music. I’m going to cautiously continue getting to know these other guys I’m talking with — these new friends I’m making: Matt, Zach, Levi…

And you know, while I like to talk like I’m all independent and cool now and finally fine on my own, you’ll still catch me standing by the window sometimes — often… waiting, watching.

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Still here processing through a. feeling disappointed in myself for making dumb decisions and b. wondering why I’m never ever quite good enough,

Aun Aqui

bad boys, bad boys… what ya gonna do?

Last Sunday

We met at Red Cat early in the afternoon and played two games of chess together. When I beat him at the first game, I could tell he was pretty bummed about it.

“We can do this again,” I said, “but I’m warning you — it may end up making you feel even badder.”

“Alright girl,” he said, shaking his head and resetting the board — luckily, he won that round. And I don’t throw games, so he won it fair and square.

Anyways, leaving Red Cat, Matt drove us away from downtown and all around Hoover; we visited the mall, a bookstore, and Guitar Center. Not how I usually spend any of my off days (I don’t like malls AT ALL; they smell like bad perfume and there are too many people and things EVERYWHERE), but he’d invited me to go Christmas shopping with him and I’d said yes. I enjoyed walking around with him, anyways — noticing what he noticed and laughing at this and that.

Well after all of the holiday shopping, he drove us back downtown for dinner at Rojo — my idea. 

The parking right outside of Rojo usually stinks, so we parked at the park down the street — also my idea.

Inside of Rojo, we both enjoyed the meal (two plates of burritos, woohoo!) and then left the restaurant; he was going to take me back to my car and then follow me to my place to A. meet the shepherds and B. hook his bass up to some music recording software he’d been wanting to show me.

As we were winding our way back through the park, the front of Matt’s car entered our line of sight, and right when it did, I started laughing very loudly at his terrible parking job — it looked as if he’d been really drunk when parking the thing.

But then, after a few more steps, we could see all of his car. Or what was left of it, rather.

Hole-eee-shit, I thought, my laughter tapering off. Matt had stopped walking, too, and was just standing there; staring, open-mouthed, at the scene.

Some clown-ass had barreled into the back of his car, ripping the fender or bender or whatever you call it off entirely. They hadn’t left a note or anything. This was what you’d call a hit and run (although I think it would be more accurate to call it a hit and drive away since you DRIVE away from the scene — you do not run from it).

Regardless, the next hour really sucked for Matt; he phoned his insurance company as well as the police and then a big ole wrecker truck arrived to tow his car away. I felt terrible for him, fundamentally, but I felt super-EXTRA awful that he’d parked where I’d suggested he park. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t the meanie who’d hit someone’s car and then left without making it right. But sweet Matt was cool, calm, and collected throughout the whole ordeal.

Something I’ll never forget: I stood there with him, in a cold, light rain, while he spoke with his insurance agent. It was dark already and a little windy out, and as he explained everything to the person, I watched leaves scatter through streetlight, shuffled my feet around, and snuck glances over at Matt every now and then. I wanted to pick the fender-bender-thing up and move it out of the street, but it seemed corpse-like to me, and I know you’re supposed to leave things the way they are for a while before disturbing them. It felt like a crime scene and I guess it was, actually.

Anyways, I could tell when the conversation had ended because Matt said “bye” (duh) — but then, when I noticed him hanging on the line, I glanced up at him again, curious; he rolled his eyes at me. “Taking a survey,” he explained. I wanted to hug him then. Like: Dude… this entirely sucks, but you’re kind enough to stay on the line and take a 2-minute survey? REALLY? He colored a bit more of my heart then.

I walked back through the park to get a latte from the cafe beside Rojo (because it was already past my bedtime) and then I drove Matt back home to Tuscaloosa. I got to meet his apartment friends — two cats and an incredibly sweethearted shep mix — and then I drove myself back home.

And oh yeah — the police car! Hello!

When Matt told the cops we’d left my car at Railroad Park, they kindly offered to drive us there. I was SO excited about getting into the police car that I didn’t even try to hide it (although I did resist singing/humming “bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna doooooooo” — I wanted very badly to apply this song to our current situation).

When we arrived at Railroad Park, Matt exited the vehicle quickly, gently sliding his bass case off of my lap (we’d both been holding it). I tried to leave the vehicle, too, but could not figure out how to unbuckle myself. I struggled for about twenty, thirty seconds before squeaking out: “How do I leave the car? How do I REMOVE this buckle?”

The cop eyed me in her rear-view mirror. “Do you see the red button?” she asked gently.

“A red button?” I muttered, and then I found it. It was just like unbuckling any old seat belt. Duh.

I grabbed my pumpkin spice mug then (which, thankfully, hadn’t been injured when Matt’s car was destroyed) and exited the vehicle, thanking both cops (again) for their extreme kindness.

***

Sometime After Sunday

Remember when I mentioned hitting it off with an OK Cupid match before realizing the dude was a christian? Okay. So I canceled that dinner date with him as well as the lunch date I’d accidentally suggested having afterwards, explaining that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed right now and had a lot going on slash on my mind. He was super sweet about it, all no problemo, and I was all but I’ll hold onto your info so we can get coffee together sometime.

Okay. Well here’s what happened next.

Earlier this week, I got home from work on an evening when I knew that Charlie and Jordan (my two roommates) would both be closing. Jordan just brought a pup home in late November – a sweet pit bull mix named NuNu – and when he’s at work, she stays in a kennel in the garage. I didn’t want her to have to wait forever to go to the bathroom, so I shot Jordan a text: “Hey! Just got home; going to let tiny girl out of her cage for a bit.” This way, he won’t have to worry about her being uncomfortable, I thought to myself.

I set my phone down, hugged on my big fat shepherds for a minute, and then walked toward the garage, opening the door and calling “NuNuuuuuuuuu” out into the darkness. When I flipped the light switch on, I saw something very odd: her kennel door was already open, and the tiny girl was nowhere to be seen.

Uhhhhh…

“NuNu?” I tried hopefully. Nothing; no stirring, no sounds. “Where’s NuNu, you guys?” I asked both shepherds. They looked back at me first and then turned their eyes to the kennel, the floor, the walls; Tycho started padding about and sniffing around. They’re so freakin smart.

I walked back into the kitchen, trying not to panic. “Sooooooo her cage is open and she’s nowhere to be found — guess you took her w/you somewhere, so please disregard my first message, haha!” I texted. And I’m just going to have to assume that this is what happened, I told myself.

But Jordan messaged me right back: “Well I neither sleepwalk nor know enough about all of this to answer.”

I paused, rereading the message a few times. What?

“WHAT?” I texted. “Are you saying I need to go on a pup hunt?” I immediately imagined the pup wandering the house alone, biting on a cord somewhere, and electrocuting herself to death. Oh shit hell, I breathed out (and this is one of my favorite curse expressions; I think I made it up). I was beginning to panic now and I think the shepherds (who’d followed me back into the kitchen) could feel it.

“I don’t even know your dog,” Jordan replied, which only made everything more bizarre.

“WHAT KIND OF DRUG ARE YOU ON,” I cried out in the kitchen, shaking my head in disbelief. “My dog? This is YOUR pup, dude…”

Then, because all of this was just way too absurd, I scrolled up to the top of our conversation, to see where things had first gotten weird. The last message from Jordan (received on a different day) caught my attention. Then, my heart started racing in a different kind of way as another sort of panic settled in.

“Wait — noooooooo!” I’d texted the wrong Jordan; not ROOMIE Jordan (who is listed in my phone as Scorpio Jordan and who, btw, HAD taken the pup w/him to the grocery store), but CHRISTIAN JORDAN WHO I’D JUST CANCELED TWO DATES WITH.

Man oh man.

You can probably guess what happened from there; I apologized and clarified that the tiny girl I was letting out of a cage (CREEPY!) was actually a puppy and that I was worried my roommate’s dog had gotten out and died, blah blah blah. He seemed extremely amused over everything and then asked me an unrelated question, and another, and mentioned that he’d listened to that album I’d recommended…

So we accidentally started talking again, and at this point, I felt like I was supposed to meet the guy. So we scheduled it: Date attempt number three!

We met at a noodle house two evenings later and I knew, right away, that he wasn’t my type, but I was still glad that we’d finally met because I believe this dude and I can be good friends. Turns out that he identifies as an existentialist-agnostic-christian (wow! he’s as confusing as I am!) and he’s had some really GREAT book recommendations.

Something curious: During dinner, more than once, I heard him whisper: fucking trains. 

“What was that?” I said, too intrigued to pretend I hadn’t heard it.

“The trains in my head… they derail sometimes.” I really loved that. Fucking trains! This might be my second favorite curse expression.

Eventually, we revisited the awkward conversation that had finally brought us here, facing each other in a red booth with steaming noodle bowls on the table and metal music playing near the walls.

“Yeah — I was just playing an online game with my friends when you texted and I was like, what the fuck is this girl talking about?” We laughed and laughed and laughed.

And while we were talking about religion (because I always bring it up), he asked, very nonchalantly, why I didn’t have a religion anymore. I summarized my experience with it and then told him something that I don’t think I’ve told you guys yet. It’s a kinda recent revelation.

“What’s funny is I don’t worry about my salvation anymore,” I said. “At all. But as a christian, I ALWAYS worried; every day, I was concerned that something I might do or say would ‘keep me out of heaven’… because growing up, that was how my family talked about it; always worrying, and always nitpicking and preoccupied over panty hose and the minute the sun set and rose and whether or not a package of noodles had MSG in it…” I shook my head. “Essentially, it’s like they were constantly checking themselves in the mirror and never, ever happy with what they saw. Never.” I paused.

“While there isn’t enough proof anywhere for me to base my life on anything, I think the heart of every religion out there is just saying: be kind. Be nice, and don’t be a jerk. And I do that, naturally. It’s what I strive for. So if there are any powerful god entities out there, and I definitely wouldn’t rule the possibility of that out, I’m not worried about them, because I’m already doing what matters. I’m being kind — trying to be, anyways, and trying to be more kind always. And I’m not doing it so I can get something — salvation, eternal life, whatever. So I don’t worry about what’s happening next anymore. I’m not afraid to die, or to live… although living is pretty painful.” I smiled, because everything I’d just said was completely and entirely true.

***

Wednesday Night

I was at the house with a friend earlier this week and we were watching anime together. At first, I was over here on the couch and he was over there on the couch and there were, at various times, either one or two or three dogs sharing the couch with us. Well this friend got up to get some juice once and then, when he came back, he sat closer to where I was. I noticed this, of course, because I notice everything, but I didn’t think very much of it.

Then, as the episodes rolled by and the pups adjusted and readjusted themselves on the couch, I noticed that my friend’s arm was suddenly touching mine. When did that happen? I wondered, but I didn’t mind at all. I’ve had a bit of a crush on this friend for a few months now and love cuddling anyways — this was sort of like cuddling, so I said nothing.

Well eventually, his arm was around me and then his hand was resting on my knee and then his hand was beginning to slide up my shirt. Danger, danger! I had to say something.

“Sooooooooo,” I began, awkwardly talking over one of the show’s characters. “What’s goin’ on?”

“Huh?” he said, and then it was difficult for him to speak.

I admitted that I’d kinda, sorta liked him for a while and he said that he wasn’t fit to be in a relationship with anyone right now. THEN WHY THE HECK WERE YOU TRYING TO CUDDLE WITH ME, I wanted to scream, but I was just like cool dude, no problemo. We went back to watching the show then and now, I’m still wondering: Was it just that I was there, or do you actually like me?

Either way, I’m proud of myself for demonstrating that I’ve learned to NOT get intimate with a guy under the assumption that he’ll then love me and stick around forever. Yeah frickin RIGHT.

But after having lunch with Zach today, I don’t really care anymore. And that’s what I’m going to talk about next.

***

Today

So this afternoon, I went on a second date with Zach. It was all very simple — we met at a cafe where he ordered a grilled cheese with tomato soup (it was actually chili) while I had a half stack. We stepped into a library afterwards, discovered the SciFi book I was looking for was at a different location, and Zach immediately offered to drive us there so I could get it. Very sweet.

We snagged the book, threw it in his backseat, and then walked around in the rain together, taking turns deciding, at intersections, whether we wanted to veer left or right or continue straight. At first, we paused to make and announce our decisions; then, we just started following the other person’s lead.

And somehow, over the course of eating and walking and driving and talking, I saw something special in Zach. It was the combination of his voice, eyes, and smile, I think — and not just the way his smile looked, but the way he smiled. Does that make sense? He’s got this innate goodness that you can feel, and he’s also fun and he’s also awkward and quirky and really, really smart.

I was thinking about visiting Tuscaloosa tomorrow (to see Matt again), but a girl friend has asked me to go do weekend yoga with her twice now. I made my decision re: tomorrow while spending time with Zach today.

“Hey — I’m going to be staying local tomorrow and doing yoga with a girlfriend in the afternoon; would you want to join us?”

“I’d rather embarrass myself later than tomorrow, but I’d like to see you right after yoga.”

So we’re making plans for tomorrow afternoon now, and I’m trying to stay super cool. Because you know how not-cool it gets when I don’t play it cool.

One of my favorite things about Zach: His terrible jokes. Last weekend, I’d casually mentioned that one of my “hobbies” is initiating joke making competitions with friends at random times. He said he could come up with a few original jokes over the course of the week (before our second date rolled around) and then today, he brought it back up, saying he had some ready. I was surprised, and happy, that he had remembered.

The worst one: “What does a vegetarian employee at Shoe Locker eat?”

“…what?”

He smiled, waiting for me to guess.

“…what?” I repeated, laughing.

“Toe-fu,” he said. Haha.

Later, I created a joke that he claimed was just as bad: “What did the beach magician make for lunch?” I asked (just as we were passing a Jimmy John’s).

“A sandwich,” he said.

“Dang it,” I said. “If we hadn’t of been passing a sandwich shop right now…” I sighed.

Something very terrible happened just as Zach was taking me back to my car; we were paused at an intersection when he asked: “Did they just HIT that man?”

“What?” I asked quickly, looking around. Sure enough, a man was lying down in the street and his friend was standing there beside his body, looking stunned.

“Will you wait here for a second?” I asked, grabbing my phone and then struggling to unlock the door (I am SO bad at doing that). I quickly walked over to the man; he’d made it to the sidewalk and then fallen down.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “Did that car just hit you?”

He was crying and moaning; yes, the car had hit him, and he believed his arm to be broken.

I looked at both of the men, considering the clothes they were wearing. “Do either of you have a phone?” No. “Do you want me to call 911?” Yes.

I stayed with Jason (the man who’d been hit) until the police and ambulance had arrived. I provided officers and paramedics with all of the information I’d slowly drawn out of the guy: His name was Jason, he did not have a phone, his right arm and elbow felt broken, and his left leg had also been hit during the incident. And no, I had no idea what the car looked like.

But one of the police officers took down Zach’s name and number, as he’d actually witnessed the car hitting the man. I’m glad I didn’t see it. I could not (and still can’t) believe the indecency of the hitter… to just drive off after deeply hurting another human being. Wow. But people do this on a smaller scale all the time, when you think about it. It’s interesting to think about it.

Before we left the scene, I noticed a paramedic take out a pair of scissors. “We’ll have to cut through the jacket,” he said, waiting for permission.

“Cut through everything,” Jason said; his voice sounded so sad, so desperate.

Watching them slowly cut through a denim jacket and two thick sweatshirts, I took a twenty out of my wallet and walked over to one of the police officers.

“Hey — will you make sure this makes it into his pocket? So he can buy a new jacket later?” I made sure Jason had it tucked into his jeans before I walked away.

Zach brushed his hand against my arm once we were back in his car, saying I was a great first responder and would probably make a great paramedic, too.

“I feel things too deeply,” I said, shaking my head. “Got too much empathy… it would break my heart.”

He dropped me off ten feet from my car, like I’d asked him to; I didn’t want him to catch even a glimpse of how chaotically messy it was.

When I got home, I spent twenty minutes cleaning the car out (the majority of the mess: books and clothes). He’s the first guy I’ve actually cleaned my car out for… ha.

***

Since finals are over with and I’ve got three FULL weeks to read, write, and hike, I’ve just started on a new book that I picked up (secondhand) in Denver: Are you somebody? The foreword already has me on the brink of tears, it’s so good! I’m sharing a few lines the author’s friend wrote about her (the book is a memoir of sorts) because a lot of what he said resonates with me personally. I can already tell the late woman he’s describing carried a lot of sorrow with her hope, and I get that completely.

“…when we consider the life of this woman who wore on her sleeve, not only her heart, but her mind and soul and whatever else she could offer… ”

“…in her person and in her work there was an urgency – no time to waste – as if she knew…”

“…she loved love and in pursuit of it suffered; my aim in life was something to do with loving and being loved, she said…”

“…she lived intensely, and that, perhaps, is what frightened the men in her life, that and her sparkling intelligence…”

“…she was whistling in the dark, keeping at bay the demons of self-doubt…”

“…wherever she went she collected degrees – and men…”

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Still here (not exactly sparkling with intelligence but definitely unintentionally collecting men… I JUST WANT ONE GUY WHO WILL NOT PULL A HIT AND RUN — FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE!),

Aun Aqui

maybe I should stay like this.

“Do you ever wish you’d just like… break your leg or something?”

My barista pressed a button that set something to whirring and then raised her eyebrows at me. I waited for five seconds while she said nothing.

“Or maybe that’s weird…” I continued slowly.

“No!” she said finally, her voice really high up there. “No… I’ve thought that before. Kinda.”

“It’s just… it’s not that I don’t love my job and enjoy my classes and ALL of that; I do! You just get tired sometimes, you know?” She nodded, agreeing with all of this. When my drink was ready, she placed it onto the bar.

“I hope the rest of your day goes well and that it ends with you in one piece… or not?” she smiled.

I smiled back at her, taking the mug with my left hand. I didn’t know what I really wanted to have happen, either.

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And on my way out of this cafe, which is actually inside of a library, I walked along glass walls and then out through glass doors. Just outside of these doors are 6 potted poinsettia plants: candy red, just beautiful. I’ve been noticing them for the last week.

I love plants AND weird, awkward things, so – just for fun – I asked myself: “What would that police guard and team of desk librarians do if they saw me pick up a poinsettia plant right now, like it was nothing, and then continue walking away with it?”

I didn’t do this (of course — that would be STEALING; see here for my feelings on stealing), but for kicks, I kept imagining doing it and then imagining how strangely it could all play out — what kind of chaos or lack of chaos would ensue. I wanted to star in and film the whole thing. (Sidebar: I’m auditioning for Matilda in February… isn’t that cool?!)

Anyways, thoughts like these made me chuckle as I neared the car, and when I passed by a young couple who’d obviously seen and heard me chuckling to myself, I thought to myself that they probably thought I was crazy, and this made me laugh until I cried.

***

“So you spent a lot of time on boats, then,” I said, summarizing things. This was inside of a different cafe, the evening before the imagined poinsettia incident.

“Only a year,” he clarified.

Even sitting in a chair he looked tall; this six-foot-whatever ex-army-or-navy dude I’d met on Bumble. I had been gently declining his invites to meet up over the past couple of days, but when he’d been sorta insistent about seeing me this evening, I thought that maybe the universe was nudging me toward the one. Ha. He’d wanted to order a brewski when we first got there but they weren’t serving alcohol for some reason, so he’d settled on an iced cold brew. I was extremely happy with my white chocolate peppermint latte.

“Then I started flying planes,” he said.

“Interesting. What kinds of planes?” He told me about them. I like learning about various modes of transportation.

“Was it very scary — falling asleep on a ship with a million billion weapons and then flying around everywhere?”

He shook his head no. “The only scary thing was when my instructor asked me to intentionally spin the plane out. I had to do this because he needed to see that I’d know how to correct it.” I loved this. I will always remember this about him.

Algae (not his real name) was VERY interesting, no doubt; tall, wealthy, brilliant… hunk-like, I guess… he was, by most girls’ standards, a real catch. But there was no chemistry between us.

He was in Alabama for another week and then heading back up to DC, where he’d be working about a mile from the pentagon. At some point during our conversation, he’d talked about maybe flying down to Brazil without any kind of excitement — like it was as ehhh as maybe walking into Publix for some Eggos. Meanwhile, I had looked forward to visiting Ecuador for 10 stinkin’ months; dreaming of it, planning for it, talking about it incessantly… and I’d have it no other way, really. I’m glad it was such a big deal for me. I always want it to be like that.

I’d made my decision in less than an hour, so I told him I needed to go grab food for my roommates from the grocery store next door (and I did; I don’t lie). We left the cafe then and when I gave him a side hug goodbye, I noticed his eyes drop to waist-level just before I turned away. Dummy.

I bought 5 frozen burritos and drove home.

***

“Do you really think there’s only one one?” a friend asked recently.

I thought about it, but only for a second. “Nope,” I texted back.

I used to think there WAS only one one, back in the day, but now – older and wiser and way less naive – I believe (like my friend) that there are lots of people we’re compatible with and that different folks will compliment us slash change us (because change is inevitable) in different ways. Statistically-speaking, out of 11 in-person dates, I’ve already found three guys I’m very compatible with: Corey, Matt, and the stupid Captain. Do I still miss the captain? Yes, somewhat… and I cannot STAND it, because he obviously isn’t thinking about me AT ALL. The grand idiot. If he was a STUPID latte, he’d be a size GRANDE. Unless that’s not actually the largest size.

Anyways, the same friend who asked this question also sent me a podcast about love and dating apps. (She sent three podcasts, in fact, and threatened to unfriend me the very next day if I hadn’t listened to at least one of them… #HIGH #MAINTENANCE.)

So I listened to half of one to appease her, and what I heard during those ten minutes is still sticking with me. It was something about how there are different facets to love, or to a successful relationship: there’s chemistry, yeah (and that’s what we all get the most excited about), but then there’s also behavior… and not just “beginning of the relationship” behavior, but trends. Behavior trends. How the person is, and usually is; how they react to this and that, and how we feel about their temperament and these reactions. It takes time to observe these things.

And then there’s a third thing that I’m just going to throw in there (because it makes sense to me): lifestyle. Lifestyle and behavior are two different things, I think.

Basically, the podcast people and I were discovering that chemistry, alone, isn’t enough for a relationship to stay cohesive. Neither is having a similar lifestyle if the chemistry isn’t there. And it ALSO won’t work if your lifestyles vibe and the chemistry is there but the person’s behavior is, in some way, irreconcilably off from what you’re okay or comfortable with. (While a little bit of adjusting and compromising is normal, there’s definitely a point…)

Try picturing a successful relationship as a triple threat; you’ve heard of that, right? A person who can sing, dance, AND act? Well here’s my version of a triple threat: a latte. It’s coffee, creamer (aka 2-3 three pumps of flavor), and whipped cream. And a healthy, balanced relationship will have these three components in harmony with one other.

When I think about lifestyle (the thing I added), I think similarities (as in interests/hobbies). Like:

  • “We’re both vegetarians!”
  • “We both like to hike!”
  • “We’re both into chillwave music!”
  • “We both can’t stand Donald Trump!”
  • “We BOTH think kangaroos are frickin cute, you stupid idiot man!”

But in addition to sharing some hobbies and interests and a great disdain for presidential assclowns, the lifestyle component has another VERY important aspect to it, and I’ll demonstrate this with an example:

One guy I was talking to (on OK Cupid) was really funny and exceptional, so we made plans to get dinner together. Then, BEFORE our dinner date rolled around, he let it slip, via text, that he’s a christian.

Mannnnnnnnnn, I exhaled. This was an immediate deal breaker for me.

I canceled dinner and then accidentally scheduled lunch with him (I know! what the heck!). So now, I’m trying to figure out how to cancel that, too, and just straight up tell him that we cannot date.

Do you think that’s insane? Discriminatory? Really unreasonable? Because I don’t. Here’s why: Values. They’ve been on my mind all week. Values are the things that deeply resonate with you; the things you believe in so strongly that you live and, almost without realizing it, judge by them.

Anyways, I spent a few minutes asking myself what my values were on Friday. It was surprisingly easy for me to define them:

  1. Kindness
  2. Honesty
  3. Creativity
  4. Appreciation
  5. Love

The next question I asked myself was, do I want to be with someone whose values mirror my own EXACTLY? Or someone who holds different values that I could benefit from, and vice versa?

Because here’s the thing: You’ll probably end up spending more time with your person than with anyone else. The things they know, you’ll know; the way they think and believe and view the world will, inevitably, influence your own thoughts and beliefs (to an extent).

So you need to ask yourself: Are they going to exert a good influence on me? Challenge me to grow, to become better? Are their unique values going to add to my own collection, or is their influence going to be toxic? Could it be dangerous? Are they going to bring me down, in other words?

Another big question: Am I going to weigh them down?

Whew. I don’t want to ever weigh anybody down, which is why I’m constantly writing — I do this to connect with others, yes, but mostly, to maintain my own sense of clarity and stability. You and your person should support each other, for sure, but not depend on one other. Doing the latter is extremely unhealthy.

You’ve gotta fix yourself — nobody else can. They can help DISTRACT you from yourself, but then you’re just letting shit fester forever. My strongest piece of advice today? TAKE A DEEP, HARD LOOK AT THE THINGS YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE… because I promise: You’ll feel better as slash after you figure it all out.

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this is me in the middle of figuring everything out

I know I’ve gone for those savior-and-saved relationships before because I wanted to feel needed; it made me feel safe. But now, I just want to be wanted — as in: My presence and company enhance another person’s existence; they aren’t the focal points of their existence. This is a pretty big shift, yeah, and while it makes me feel really vulnerable right now, I think that, in the end, it’ll be a lot better for my self-esteem if I know I’m with someone who wants me instead of needs me.

But going back to our example (Christian guy): If I were to date a Christian, having been a Christian myself, I know how it would go: They’d be all worried over my “salvation” and hoping I’d “come around” while I’d be annoyed that they were bugging me about my “salvation” and “expecting me to change.” So forget about it. Forget ALL about it, man.

And I’m not JUST avoiding Christians, either; anybody who’s devoutly religious and into any creed has my respect, for sure, but they’re also NOT on my dating list. Why? There’s a severe contrast in values there. We both may feel the same about not lying, not cheating, and not stealing, and you’d think that’d be enough… but they’ve got a god that their life revolves around, and I do not. Religion is a value, and it’s a very strong one. This is how I feel about it, anyways.

Friends have even suggested (mostly because of how “moral” and “prude-like” I am) that I just date a christian who’s not “super into it”, but I’d respect this person even less for half-assedly adhering to something that, if it really DOES resonate with their soul as being true, should have all of their devotion.

So my dating pool = atheists and agnostics only. And I’m shooting for ones who have their own weird, made-up morals, like me.

Now, I’ve got my list of 5 values; yours may be different entirely or, more likely, there could be a shared space between us. I think having a shared space (like on a Venn diagram) and not a mirror image of values is key. Why? Because then, there’s a strong sense of familiarity while still allowing room for both people to stretch, see things differently, and grow because of each other.

My dad, for instance; I can tell you that one of his consistent, deeply-embedded values is having nice things. I wanted to try the violin out when I was 15, right, and specifically asked for a piece-of-shit starter instrument (because I, reasonable and thrifty as ever, didn’t know how things would go yet), but he insisted on getting something name-brand and fancy anyways. He’s always into the newest phone, greatest TV, latest whatever. Nothing wrong with that at all… he just appreciates having and using nice things.

Well I went on a date with a physicist yesterday afternoon and then called my dad later on in the evening to tell him about it. Right in the middle of me beginning to talk about another guy I was getting to know (a forester-farmer who sends me videos of creeks and cows and pictures of sunrises), my dad said: “The physicist.”

“…yeah,” I said, pausing to switch gears. “I like him, dad! We’re getting lunch together next Saturday.” And I do like the physicist; despite his smartness and stability (warning signs of boringness, haha), Zach (not his real name) has got a fun, quirky side. He keeps interesting lists on his phone, for instance (like: dumb horror movie plot ideas, original puns and insults, and media suggestions with friends’ names attached to them so he can gauge the quality of their future recommendations), and we both spent fifteen minutes happily thumbing through and describing gumball charms in an antique shop yesterday afternoon, pretending we were on one of those weird QVC sales channels. Again — he’s fun. I’m definitely going to keep seeing him.

“Forget the farmer guy… this physicist could take CARE of you,” my dad continued. “You could live in a MANSION.”

“Padre… I don’t WANT a mansion,” I laughed. “And you KNOW this. I don’t like things. I want a small old home on some land, for the shepherds, and I want to travel. That’s it. As long as the little house is warm, and the food is good, and there’s a river or a creek nearby, I’m happy.”

“Are you high?” my dad asked later.

“WHAT? No, dad! Jeez… it isn’t legal here yet. I’m only high when I’m in a state where it’s legal to be high.” I paused. “But I’m looking at socks at Target while talking with you, so it’s basically LIKE I’m high.”

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= me trying to pick one pair of socks @ Target… chaotic

***

One day last week, I went to pick up Indian food on my lunch break. When I arrived, the veggie samosas weren’t quite ready yet, but I told the server I was happy to wait. As I danced on the balls of my feet, Charlie and I’s favorite waitress walked by; with dark hair and dark eyes and the VERY best accent, she’s a completely magical character, just full of mystery and intrigue.

Whenever she speaks, I try to memorize every word she says. I remember her asking us, back around new year’s, whether we wished to go backwards or forwards in time. We both answered and then when I asked her which she would do, she just said “2012” and walked away. I wanted to know so much more.

“So… how are things?” she asked me.

“Goooooooood,” I sang out, smiling. I raised my eyebrows at her. “I’ve actually been dating a bunch of guys recently, trying to find the one.” I know there’s more than one ONE, but I still like to say the one.

Her jaw dropped and she reached her hand across the counter, taking mine in it. She fell silent for a minute, and it surprised me a little.

“It’s hard,” she said finally, awkwardly patting my gloved hand. “I am single. I want them to take me to dinner, to movie… this is not what they want.” She paused. “American, Indian, Spanish… they all the same. They all cheat.”

I felt heartbroken for both of us.

When the samosas were ready, someone else brought them. I said thank you to the person, took them, and then looked over at my friend again; she gave me a beautiful, hopeful, knowing smile. I wished, then, not to go backwards and change things, but to move bravely and cautiously forward. I also wished us both happiness someday.

***

On Friday night, I didn’t want any dates. I wanted to stay home and drink wine and do schoolwork, but I was out of wine, so I just drank water and did schoolwork. Charlie had invited me to come with him to a karaoke party at someone’s house, but that someone was an old jackass I’d dated, so I said no thanks.

My other roommate, Jordan, stayed at home to watch anime, and when I asked him, after about an hour of Spanish, if he wanted to watch Airbender with me later, he said yes. So we drove to Publix together for chips and yogurt and ice cream and then sat down on the couch with a fat Shepherd between us, uninterruptedly blazing through six episodes of the show. It was wonderful. I ate way more ice cream than he did and kept getting the names of the characters wrong; we laughed a lot.

I woke up with the same fat Shepherd in bed with me upstairs and another one sprawled out on the floor. The familiar old house was quiet and warm. Looking to the window, I could see bamboo stretching across the side yard, curving the light with shadows.

Maybe I should just stay like this for a while, I thought to myself.

***

I’m wrapping this post up at my favorite cafe and then hanging out with Matt again — remember him? The smart and snarky guy who manages a bike shop? Well he’s going to show me some music production software that he uses and then we’re going Christmas shopping together (his idea!) and getting dinner @ Rojo. It’s our third date and I haven’t scared the guy off yet! Go me! 

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I’ve deleted both dating apps from my phone. I’m going to continue talking with the guys I’ve already met, to see if we can be friends or get married to each other someday, but if everything just fizzles out, I’ll be okay with it. I think I’d rather just see what happens than make things happen, moving forward. I like planning adventures, orchestrating music, and writing stories — not relationships.

Love should surprise you, I think… like Alabama snow, and like the surprise plates mom would make for me and Bobby, back when we were kids. I don’t want to see it coming. I don’t want to know when it’s on the way, how long it will take to get here, or what it’s supposed to look like. When I see it, and when I feel it, I’ll just know.

And in the meantime, everything’s alright already. Like: I got to see red and green traffic lights in a puddle last night and then watch a yellow leaf fall to someone’s driveway this morning. Perfect. And when I had my window rolled down on Thursday evening, driving to my first author reading ever where I actually read something, I could hear two people laughing as they crossed the street. Their laughter was so soul-stirringly beautiful.

Do you notice things like these? I’m beginning to believe that happiness can be very easy to find when you aren’t grasping after it — when you just let it come to you.

If you’d like a song suggestion, here’s my numero uno right now. Thanks, Cate!

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swiping left on dating apps for the next little while… happy rest-of-December, folks!

Still here,

Aun Aqui

I really think…

He apologized in advance for being late, saying he’d buy my coffee and anything else I wanted to make up for it.

“No worries! Always got a book on me,” I texted. “Just drive safely.”

Twenty minutes passed and then I think I saw him before he saw me; I looked up from underlining something in my book when I noticed a cute guy kneeling down just outside the cafe, petting a lady’s pup. I smiled, hoping it was him.

And it was, because when he walked in, he looked right at me; we hugged and then he ordered a boring regular latte (with a lemon poppy seed muffin on the side) while I got an Irish creme + caramel one. We sat across from each other and talked about all kinds of things: careers, religion, states of mind, adventures, psychology, old wars, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, California… he’s remarkably intelligent, very well-spoken, talented (another musician, duh: sax and bass), well-educated, and snarky. Snarky as all get out. Beard, eyes, hands, voice… definitely my type.

Something of interest: He grew up doing that boy scout stuff. When it came time for him to graduate, he gave a grand ole presentation and then answered a series of questions. The final question from the panel (a required one): Do you believe in god?

“I already did not,” he said.

“And you told them this?” I asked.

“I’m getting there,” he said. Spunky… love it.

Turns out, he did tell them the truth. And when he answered the question, their faces changed and they looked uncomfortably at one other. They told him they’d need a few minutes to discuss things, and when he walked out into the lobby and told his friend’s mom about the hold up (this cool Catholic lady), she started freaking out about it, on his side entirely.

When they called him back in, they confessed that this was very unusual and that, in order to pass him, they were going to have to ask one last question: Do you believe in the possibility of a god?

Holy shit, I thought. What a question. And he was able to honestly answer yes to this [he followed up with a disclaimer that he’s now 99% atheistic while I remain open-mindedly agnostic… I def feel something(s) out there].

“So yeah… I’m an eagle scout,” he said finally, lifting his voice and eyebrows and rolling his eyes a little. Whew. Let me just tell you: I love it when people are pessimistic, sarcastic, acidic. To me, it’s a breath of fresh air — like: You’re REAL. You’re a real person. You aren’t trying to be cute or impressive at all… I’m actually seeing you right now, exactly as you are; no pretensions, no masks. I respect it. It’s an extremely attractive quality in a person — this kind of transparency.

Anyways, we’d been talking for more than 2 hours when I started giving him cues: sticking my book into my backpack, slipping my jacket on, pushing my cup aside. He picked up on it. It’s not that I didn’t want to keep talking with him — I just want to play things differently this time: stay cool, NOT latch on, NOT spend too much time together, and NOT scare him off.

We moseyed outside and I showed him my bike. He manages a bike shop down in Tuscaloosa and was gently critical of my ride, insisting I needed an upgrade.

“Nope,” I said. “I like THIS bike. You could stick a brand new Dodge-Charger-whatever in front of me and some beat-up 80’s Volvo and I would always go for the Volvo.” I paused. “And this is how I am with bikes also.”

He actually got on the bike and rode it around the parking lot, circling around like fifteen times as he fine-tuned the bike’s tensions and explaining what all was wrong with the bike as he rode. I laughed, watching him.

After making all of these circles, he still wasn’t satisfied and led me over to his car. “I’ve got tools in the back,” he called out, hands still gripping the handlebars. He murmured something about wanting to make sure I was safe. Aww.

Standing next to the car, I offered to help but he said he had it, so I just watched as he activated the quick release, took a tire off, spun it around (it had actually been situated on the bike backwards!), and did something to a cable or a spinner or whatever. I noticed a black thingy fall onto the ground at one point and told him the pouncy thing had gone off somewhere (this was me finally getting to be helpful!).

The pouncy thing? he repeated.

Yeah — you know. The springing thing.

You mean the spring?

Yes.

Where did it go?

It went that way, I said.

Annnnnnnnnd here it is, he said — it had somehow ended up going in the exact opposite direction of what I’d thought I’d seen (and indicated). Ha! Sounds about right.

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my beautiful bike + cool blue scarf + neato Vans

He eventually hugged me goodbye and then talked to me some more; hugged me goodbye again and then talked to me some more again; and then he apologized for hugging me so many times as he went to hug me AGAIN. I laughed; he smelled and felt really nice. This last hug occurred when I was already wearing my backpack, riding gloves, and dorky stickered helmet.

“Annnnnnnd you’re hugging me while I’m wearing this dorky helmet,” I narrated aloud, his chin resting on top of it. There are generally few thoughts I keep to myself, but I’m learning.

“Adorable,” he disagreed, pulling back and smiling.

We both agreed that we want to A. see each other again and B. TAKE IT REALLY SLOW. I spelled out, quite openly, that I’m intense and have skipped stages and phases with other people before and that it was not pleasant. He invited me to travel with him to a city in Georgia sometime (he’s got friends there) and to visit him down in Tuscaloosa sometime sooner, saying they had some alright food joints.

“I’ve heard you guys have a good taco place,” I agreed, nodding. “I REALLY like burritos.”

“I saw that,” he said, indicating he’d read all the way down my profile. He also randomly mentioned being done with Bumble. While I happily took note of this, I’m not going to hold the thought too closely. Remember what happened the last time a guy said that?

Anyways, I took off on my bike then, feeling really happy to have unexpectedly met someone so special. And I say unexpectedly because, to be honest, I went into this date with super low expectations; the guy was REALLY cute and half a year younger than me, so I’d already developed the notion that he’d be superficial, immature, and arrogant. I was very wrong.

Looking forward to seeing what happens with him if I can keep from being a total weirdo. Or I guess I can be the inescapable weirdo I am while getting to know this guy and other guys and just try to let go a little more than I have in the past… relax, and be okay with NOT planning and controlling and fast-tracking everything because, as I just saw today, the best things sometimes happen randomly. Unexpectedly. Awkwardly and perfectly.

And hang on — before this ends, you won’t GUESS who walked into the coffee shop while Matt and I were there! But go ahead; guess, and then scroll down down down.

 

 

 

IT WAS CAPTAIN FRICKIN KANGAROO! Holy FUCK! 

Now, because I haven’t said which cafe this was, I can tell you that CK does work at the place next door sometimes, but because I’m no longer in his world and have no clue what his work schedule looks like, I didn’t think much of visiting this cafe. (I had actually expected that Matt and I would meet up @ Red Cat, but when we were making plans together, he’d specifically said that he wanted to visit any cafe OTHER THAN Red Cat as he’d already been there before.)

Anyways, Matt was in the middle of detailing a road trip to California and the beginning of an old relationship when I saw this tall figure in a blue shirt walking by and then in. I swear, I just knew who it was before I even saw a face; I could just feel it.

So I looked away quickly, feeling as awkward and indiscreet as if I was back in Dr. Hagler’s old English classroom, loudly sharpening a pencil and breaking the room’s still quiet. But I tried to focus on what Matt was saying and what the cup of water in my hand felt like and I told myself maybe he didn’t even notice me here in the very fucking front of the cafe. Maybe.

But then, I felt myself relaxing right after he left, realizing: You know what? It doesn’t matter whether he saw you or not. You’re spending time with someone who’s interested in spending time with you right now. Forget that other guy. You’re okay. You’re right now, remember?

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an elderly cup of hibiscus-rose tea @ Satellite aka Saturn

Sidebar: Corey (the wonderful boy from Boulder) just texted me: “Heading to NJ, laid over in Chicago. Thinking about you.” Sigh. With that guy, if we’d just lived closer to one another, I really think… 

Anyways, I replied that I’d be flying into Phoenix this March and then road-tripping through western CO. I feel like I’m getting closer to finding the right city, you guys… I can’t let it go.

“Can I meet you in Phoenix?” he asked.

!

Who knows, you guys. This guy, that guy… I’m learning to get comfortable with uncertainty. To go with the flow. It’s scary, because I like stability and commitment and printed road maps that don’t change a whole, whole lot…

But it’s also exciting, because along with these detours, I’m making so many friends and falling in love with so many different souls — each of them is precious, special… and one of them just might end up being my ACTUAL boyfriend someday. Maybe.

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until then, I’ve got the BEST girlfriend in the UNIVERSE ❤

Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

it was foggy and colorful, so I cried

“I’m going to ask you to vote on something,” I warned Charlie. He hates when I do this, but I was too tired to make a sensible choice on my own this morning.

“So here’s what we’ve got: the fluffy poodle sweater, the prisoner sweater, or the I’m-just-a-poor-boy-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nah sweater.” I paused, looking over at him after having held each of the three candidates up against me. “Which one should I wear?”

He pointed to the rusty red sweater, outlined in 70s fringe; one of my very best thrift store finds. “Fluffy poodle,” he said.

***

So I dressed presentably (dingy grey skate jeans, a fluffy poodle sweater, an old pair of Vans and this blue velvet scarf from CO) for my Saturday morning date and then drove downtown, ordering an Irish creme pumpkin spice latte and then sitting down with it and a book. I generally arrive early to everything everywhere so I always come prepared.

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latte @ Red Cat

The first time I heard the cafe’s front door open, I looked up and it was him. He nodded at me and smiled. I smiled back, setting my book down onto the table and getting up to hug him. He smelled like some kind of cologne I don’t know. Gauged ears, stubbly beard, rectangle glasses, Converse: adorable.

We’ll call this one Jake.

***

Jake and I took our coffees outside, walking to the park across the street in a light rain. We were both wearing jackets.

I asked lots of questions, so I learned a lot about him; he’s worked 15 different jobs (from optical and plumbing gigs to security and financial ones), plays the heck out of the electric guitar (I seem to have a policy of only dating musicians), and has a seven-year-old kid he’s unable to see right now.

“She just disappeared with him three years ago — called me once, a year and a half ago, and let me have a brief phone conversation with him.” He’s pursuing legal aid through his work now. I felt for him. He seemed like a genuinely nice and – despite the 15 jobs – relatively stable guy.

Jake talked about growing up with parents who were more like friends (heard), showed me some of the tattoos he’s given himself (DAMN), and shared his hope of getting a pilot’s license someday. He pulled on his vape as he explained the business of denture-making (one of the 15 jobs) and then painfully described sticking safety pins through his forearm as a schoolboy and then connecting his forearm to his side with these same pins, just to freak people out. Freaky indeed, I thought to myself. He was a very interesting fellow.

Three of my favorite things:

  1. He has an uncle named Popcorn. After they both got trashed at a bar one evening, Jake was driving them home and struggling to do so, seeing double. “Try keeping just one eye open,” drunk Popcorn suggested, and this had proved helpful. Now, I don’t plan on driving drunk EVER, but I will certainly remember this.
  2. When Jake worked in welding (another one of the 15), he got burned — literally. Here’s what he explained to me: When liquid metal gets on you (say your hand) and it hurts like HELL, your natural inclination is to wipe the metal off RIGHT AWAY using your other hand — but doing this would be TERRIBLE. Why? If you do, it’ll just burn in two spots instead of one (this is starting to sound like a life metaphor, isn’t it?). Instead, use a rag or a bucket of water or SOMETHING external to cool/ clean/ salvage the area. Then, enjoy that beautifully badass-lookin’ scar.
  3. With roots tracing back to Germany, Ireland, and California, Jake still has a purely southern accent. Super cute.

There are generally two things I notice about a person first, and before anything visual, it’s the voice. After the voice, it’s the hands. Jake’s voice was cute, and his hands were very beautiful.

Despite the cute voice and lovely hands and how interesting, talented, and adorable he was, I believe we’ll be just friends. I intuitively know he’s not the one. I mean, I still seem to think that DUMB one is the one (although I’m not talking to him and he’s not talking to me and he’s basically gone forever — and in case you’re wondering, YES; I do feel very mature and sensible with the way I’m handling “this”).

But hey, bright side: Maybe one of tomorrow’s dates will be the stupid one. We shall see!

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red rose tea @ Urban Standard — I used to only take tea when I was sick, but it’s growing on me!

When I left cafe numero dos, I headed to my friend’s new apartment in Trussville. She showed me around the place and then thrusted a dying plant into my hands, asking me to take it home and help bring it back. 

We left to visit a cafe together (my third one today! I’m really on a roll), ordering matching bourbon caramel lattes and splitting a cinnamon roll between us. She caught me up on her small bit of non-drama and then I shared all of my shit with her.

“Here’s the thing. Your craziness aside,” she began, blue eyes filled with humor and love, “any guy who spent any amount of time with you would see how special and amazing you are… so if this kangaroo character isn’t reaching out to you at all and isn’t trying to spend more time with you, then how can you POSSIBLY see him as being the one? As being worth your time and attention at all when he doesn’t seem to get or care about you?”

Holy shit, I thought, feeling bad about my unrequited feelings and myself (as in: Why WOULD I hold onto the idea of someone who didn’t care about me enough to even check-in post-break-up? Is my sense of self-worth really THAT low?).

“Well my goodness,” I exclaimed at the quarter cinnamon roll left on the plate. “Forget HIM!”

“There you go!” she said, sounding pleased.

“Although I will say,” I continued quietly, “objectively speaking? I DO come across as being a little crazy. If I were in his shoes, I’d probably run for this hills FROM me, you know?”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “I know. But the thing is, you aren’t ACTUALLY crazy. It just really seems like it. You’re very… intense,” she smiled, shaking her head. “And dating apps are just so not you,” she added, sharing a statistic from a podcast she’d listened to recently; apparently (and she told me to NOT quote her on this), using them, you have a 33% chance of meeting someone you’re compatible with.

“So basically, if you date 33 people, there’s a chance that things might work out with one of them,” she said.

Something clicked in my brain then. She’d asked, earlier, when I was going to quit “manically dating people” until I’d “found the one.”

“Oh my gosh. Maybe that’s it! I’ll just go on 22 more dates and then, if I haven’t found this one we’re speaking of come date 33, I’ll stop for a while. OR get off of dating apps altogether forever and go back to organically waiting for somebody to just fall down in front of me… show up, swoop in… whatever.”

We both agreed that I, obviously, still wasn’t feeling whole on my own, and I’m still not sure how to remedy this. She suggested god again; while the idea of there being a powerful friend slash force slash intelligence out there makes me feel all warm and hopeful, it still doesn’t check out for me. I remain agnostic as ever (unbelieving but open to the idea of there being higher entities while not pretending to know who they are and how they are and what they are slash want slash demand). I asked her about the creek before leaving.

“What creek?” she said.

“Google maps says you have one near your apartment,” I said.

“Oh — there’s something down there, yeah, but it’s not really a creek.” I let it go, hugging her goodbye and then driving down the interstate with tears in my eyes. I was coming into a foggy Birmingham now, red and green and orange and yellow, and there was this mist over everything that looked like ghosts; it overwhelmed me. I decided to visit a cafe for a fourth time instead of going home. I just wasn’t ready yet.

Creeks and rivers have brought me such comfort recently — does that make any sense at all? What strange things bring you peace, comfort, joy? For me, if I were to pick just five things, it would be these:

  1. Water (creeks, rivers, falls)
  2. Lattes (fun ones, with mixed flavors and lots of whipped cream)
  3. German Shepherds (especially dark, fat, broody ones — aka Tycho)
  4. Plants
  5. Colors and blankets and scarves (see how I snuck seven in there instead of five? ha!)

Still here,

Aun Aqui

did you see me?

I was explaining that, with this plan, they could afford bananas, beans, rice… maybe even some mac and cheese.

“It’s okay,” the girl’s friend said. “You can put butter and parmesan in the macaroni and it makes it a lot better. I do that when I baby sit.” They both went with the thrifty plan.

During today’s reality fair, I was manning the groceries station — asking high school kids holding worksheets what their fictitious situations were (married or single? any kids? how much disposable income?) and then lightly advising them.

As they traveled the room making decisions re: housing, transportation, clothing, and etc., they fell anxious at times and grew giddy at others (depending on a few things: circumstance, chance, and repercussions of the choices they’d made).

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this was on the wall, just outside of the library

Anyways, at the groceries station, food options ranged from the thrifty plan (basic necessities from Walmart or Piggly Wiggly) to the liberal plan (frequent meals out and tasty treasures from places like Sprouts and Whole Foods).

“And you’ve gotta keep in mind,” I kept telling the kids, “that although the figure for the thrifty plan is ATTRACTIVE, you probably love food like I do and want to be happy with your choices — right? Try to balance economy with diversity and health, and keep in mind, too, that it’s not just YOU that you need to consider; if you’re married or have kids, your family members are going to have preferences, and they may not be as disciplined and committed to the thrifty plan as you are.”

I was pleasantly surprised that about half of the kids admitted they’d need a moderate to liberal budget for food. Realistic. There was this one kid who’d opted for a super expensive car and could only afford the thrifty meal plan for himself and his daughter.

“You could always revisit the transportation station — make a different decision that frees up some cash?”

“No, that’s alright. She’ll be fine.”

Well then. 

The insurance station was right beside mine and tended to get traffic-y, so I stepped over a few times to break it down: home, car, and health insurance were required while dental was optional.

“Worksheet says you’ve got a kid,” I said to one guy who was deliberating. “Say she gets a toothache; you wanna take her to the dentist to have it taken care of or just pry the tooth out at home?”

“I’ll pry it out.”

“Alrighty then. We’ll skip dental.”

When I worked an event like this in Chelsea last month, I’d been given the childcare station. I remember one kid walking up, sighing at the figures on his chart, and asking: “Can I just smother the child?”

“Nope,” I responded promptly, eyeing the little jokester-slash-possible-sociopath carefully.

Another kid in a tracksuit and afro (who’d just finished visiting each station) had strutted across the gym afterwards, singing: “LOOK good, FEEL good, GOT ten dollars…” I loved his spirit so much that I may tattoo his words on someday. Because he got it right, damn it. Damn right.

One of the last girls I helped today frowned as she calculated things. “I think I’m going to be broke,” she said.

“That’s okay,” I said. “As long as you’re happy.”

I really enjoy working with these kids. They’re funny, nervous, excited, weird, and they’re all going to change sooooooooo much over the next several years. I’m glad they’re mentally bracing themselves for this world of finance they’re about to fall into, but I also can’t help but wonder how we’re preparing them for the confusion and heartache and loneliness and uncertainty that all lie ahead.

**

I thought I had four dates scheduled for this week slash weekend when I realized, early this morning, that I’d forgotten about the fifth.

I met a guy for fancy grilled cheeses on Wednesday night. He was a sweetheart who was nervous about making eye contact, and I was extremely excited to learn all about his time working on boats (as you may recall, I have a small dream of boarding a carrier ship someday and sailing to Europe upon it). Along with a few Kid Cudi song suggestions, this Wednesday guy was able to give me lots of helpful info re: boats, like licensing requirements, how to generally conduct yourself on a boat, and what kinds of things one might experience while at sea.

“My first week, we came up on an abandoned boat. Found the guy it belonged to and my captain charged him a finder’s fee — we all got an extra three hundred bucks that week,” he smiled. He also shared stories about catching a shark (on accident) and putting out a rope fire (quite deliberately). Again, a real sweetheart, but he wasn’t the fish for me (haha — catch the nautical reference?).

I met another guy for Indian food last night. What was interesting: I immediately felt at ease around him — this random bartender from New Jersey who’s now joining the police force. Super handsome and confident; deep, gravelly voice. He talked about working out daily and driving over salt flats in Arizona once at one hundred and twenty, and I thought to myself that this was much too fast. He was well-spoken and strong, but my masala was spicier than we were (is that lame? I’m really trying for fun references here).

I’m going to a storytelling event solo tonight before embarking on those three other dates this weekend (I’ve got double duty on Sunday — oops), and I’m going to try very hard to NOT think about CK this evening. I’d invited him to go to this event with me before weirdly and sadly and rashly breaking up with him, but he’d said he couldn’t go, anyways, because of some farewell shows his friends would be playing.

I was talking to a respected guy friend about CK earlier. He agreed that this dude had pushed things along quickly, just as I had, but disagreed with my opinion that he should have agreed to date just me so early on in the relationship. He talked a lot about balance; about compromising my needs and sense of comfortability with someone else’s. And the guy I’d gotten Indian food with the night before was a Libra who’d also talked about the importance of balance. Weird.

Anyways, after our conversation, I was driving downtown when this song by Queen came on: Under Pressure. It sounded like a song he’d like.

So I pulled up our old thread and was just about to send the song along with a text that read I’m sorry and I miss you and can we please keep listening to records and being dorky and getting to know each other? when I imagined him happily on a date with someone else — someone pretty and cool and not crazy clingy and DEFINITELY not stupid-emotional. I deleted the text and continued on my way.

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rose tea before live stories

***

In last night’s creative writing class, we workshopped seven stories. Something is staying on my mind, with one of them.

It was Jackie’s story about a single mom who, discovering she’s pregnant (again), is considering an abortion while driving to her daughter’s ballet thing. She gets there late with a bear in her arms — the show’s already ended. The kid seems happy enough anyways and asks if she can have chicken nuggets for dinner.

A classmate who felt the daughter’s reaction wasn’t realistic suggested tweaking the ending a little.

“At this age, the child needs to notice and wonder about these things. I’d suggest putting the narrator in a hard place where she has to decide between making the kid happy and being honest with them by having the little girl ask the mother: Did you see me? Could you see me up there?”

When she said this, I felt like crying. It’s hard to explain. But maybe you can feel it too?


Still here,
Aun Aqui

he’s cute and you like him, but the truth’s in your thoughts and dreams

“So how do you say it?”

I knew he meant my name. “Jace, not Jace-y — like ace, but with a J.”

He nodded and smiled. Cute cute cute.

“And your name is pronounced Core-ee?” I asked (to be polite), immediately realizing that DUH; OF COURSE COREY IS PRONOUNCED COREEE.

“Yep,” he said.

You’re doin reeeeeeeal great, I told myself, slapping my back once, hard.

Corey was a dude from Boston who moved to Boulder four years ago. He’s a music degree-holding bassist who works (for himself) as a video tech, and as we talked about his job, I found it really interesting (basically, he travels around the country setting up for shows and conferences — working 1/3rd the amount of time an average person does while making bank).

I soon realized I was awkwardly holding him hostage in a corner of the cafe’s bookstore, asking question after question while holding a rabbit postcard for my friend, Frank, in my left hand. So we relocated to a bar — a place called License No. 1.

We ended up in two bars that night, talking and laughing and playing pool with a group of dudes (we even won a game, woohoo!). I ordered a rum-and-cognac (“it’s actually pronounced cone-yak,” he smiled) and a hard cider (two adult beverages in a single night — I know!) while he opted for local brews. Some of our most interesting topics of discussion were outer space, Buddhism, Christianity, finance, music, books, predetermination, free will, and impermanence.

When he asked about my tattoos, I enjoyed (as always) explaining the shattering bunny glass one most. I told the story and shared how my best friend Charlie had said: “Jace, imagine that you knew that bunny glass was going to shatter the first time you held it — like you could already see it breaking and then broken. Wouldn’t you have loved and enjoyed it even more, while it lasted? That’s how I’m able to love you so fully right now — it’s because I can see that you’re already dead.”

I told him about the jerks who’ve used me recently and how – older and wiser now – I’m cautiously entering into new relationships. “I just assume, right from the beginning, that they’re going to leave and that it’s going to end. Then, with the worst case scenario already out of the way, I can just enjoy every minute with the person without grasping or worrying. I can love them and appreciate them fully because I already miss them.”

His blue eyes opened wider and he said he was falling for me. I laughed. Eventually, he asked where I’d be staying the night. I told him Denver, right away.

“Okay — I’m NOT trying to be weird,” he began, so I waited for him to be weird, “but instead of driving you home to Denver now and then driving right back in the morning to pick you up for hiking, you COULD just stay the night at my place.”

He’d really caught me off guard and I didn’t know how to answer, so I didn’t; instead, I asked a question.

“Do you live alone?” If the answer was yes, then no.

“No, I’ve got a roommate.”

“Okay… is she female?” If the answer was no, then no.

“Yes — her name’s Ellie.” Hmm.

He could have been lying, of course, but I was getting good, honest vibes from the guy. I was also very sleepy (it was 11 now — MANY HOURS past my bedtime); the idea of falling asleep in ten minutes versus forty five (after the drive south) was nice. So while I could hear my mother and three of my closest friends positively SHOUTING their concerns and disbelief at me, I said yes. But along with yes, I spelled out something very important: There was to be no funny business. He agreed.

Back at his place, he let me borrow a pair of pajamas (loose and comfy) and showed me where I’d be sleeping. We kept talking and listening to music and sharing dreams. One of his was particularly interesting to me; in it, he was sitting on the floor of his childhood home when he noticed a purple, stained glass heart propping the front door open (just barely). He also noticed something else then: a boy standing beside the door, holding a stuffed t-rex in his arms.

“You have to pick one,” the boy said.

Corey looked down at the purple heart and then up at the dinosaur; he chose the dinosaur.

Right when he did, the boy in the doorway slammed the door shut, shattering the purple heart to bits. Corey was suddenly transported across the street — holding the t-rex, standing on a neighbor’s porch with his dad, and watching, in horror, as his mother walked off of their roof. He understood this to be the consequence of choosing.

He guessed that he was 3 or 4 when he dreamed this. Holy fuck. When we looked at the clock, it was 2 AM, but we kept talking and listening to Radiohead; and then it was 4, and I was showing him songs by Wye Oak and Metric; and then it was 5 and we were basically just waiting for the sun to rise while jazz piano played lightly in the background. I had first arrived in Boulder (via bus) when it was already dark out, so I’d be seeing its mountains for the first time soon.

“I already miss you,” he said suddenly, holding my hand. I smiled and kissed him.

(AND NO FUNNY BUSINESS! Way to go, Jace! You DID go home with, basically, a stranger, and that was REALLY fucking stupid, but good job being slightly more normal and responsible and self-respecting this time in terms of NOT sleeping around due to your extreme desperate loneliness.)

***

We slept for maybe two hours and then I woke up, randomly asking Corey about a friend he’d mentioned the night before; a brilliant slash crazy musician professor guy on the east coast who – frustrated with art – had stopped playing music for a while to paint music instead.

“Was he good at painting?” I asked. It weirdly felt like an important question, like something I had to know. I think my subconscious was asking for reasons of its own — healing, exploring, changing? Unsure. But Corey said he didn’t know.

“You know — you would actually, TOTALLY be his type,” he laughed. I had found the friend interesting from the isolated memories and descriptions Corey had shared of him; with music and other things, the guy seemed to have a tendency to completely deconstruct the things that interested or puzzled him so he could understand and love them better. Thinking of how I’ve burned through all of my own old layers so I could grow better, new ones, I did think he and I could be friends.

Corey and I left the house to get coffee at his favorite place. I ordered an amaretto latte and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. We sipped coffee while he drove us around Boulder, calling out names of mountains, showing me the boulders he climbs, and explaining the difference between a project and a problem. I listened while staring lovingly at the river winding, along with the road, through the mountains.

“Can I please get out and touch the river?” I asked hopefully.

“Of course!”

We parked the car at his favorite boulder (where he wants 25% of his ashes spread) and then he tried to find a spot where I could get close enough to the river to touch it (the river was in different states, you see; liquid, frozen, and snowy). It was snowing softly on us then.

I disagreed with the first river route he recommended, but the second spot he suggested seemed doable. I stepped from rock to rock gingerly and then, holding one of his hands while extending one foot out from rock to ice, I dipped my left hand in the water, shrieking from coldness and delight.

“Remember how we were talking about really young kids not yet being ruined last night?” he asked. And I did; I remembered saying that I could tell once a kid’s reached the self-conscious stage of life (sucks after you get there) and sharing a story about two boys riding bikes together; one of them had cried and screamed his sadness when the other had gotten too far ahead… it was a beautifully open display of emotions that he’ll, sadly, begin suppressing someday).

“Well you’re like that,” he said softly, smiling. “You have this honesty and childishness about you that’s really wonderful.”

I smiled back at him, and maybe it was a sad smile, because all of these guys who say I’m sweet and fun don’t ever seem to get the rest of me. “I think it’s important to not lose your sense of wonder,” I told him, “and I do feel things very deeply.” And this can be wonderful as well as terrible.

Later on, he went on to say something about how “his girl” would feel a certain way about him someday. When he said this, I immediately thought of Captain Kangaroo, and it made me mad, so I went back to thinking about the river and my new friend that I’d kissed and I wondered who I was and what I was doing and when the path would look clear again.

***

We got lunch at a diner named Dot’s and afternoon coffee at a cafe called Stella’s, sitting close to each other on the couch.

“Wanna hear about all of my bullshit?” I asked suddenly. He looked surprised.

“Uh… that might be a lot to handle, all at once,” he said. I laughed in my head — he doesn’t even know! But for some reason, I just wanted to go ahead and tell him about the worst parts of my life. Not normal for an already abnormal 22-hour first date, I know. Can’t really explain it.

“How about I boil it all down to like thirty seconds, with no details, and then it’s over with?” He seemed intrigued and then agreed, so I ran down the old list, which – over time – I’ve compressed and condensed down into emotionless and factual bullet points: losing my brother, best friend, dog, husband, and sanity. It took SLIGHTLY more than 30 seconds because he kept interrupting me to ask questions. I couldn’t help but remember what I’d realized the night before when I was (lawfully!) high out of my mind: You aren’t your history — your tragedies, accomplishments, relationships, regrets; you’re right now. 

After sharing my bullshit with him, he seemed pretty unphased and shared his with me. He’s definitely experienced his share of tragedy and heartache.

We talked about how much we’d miss each other and how I should move here. The truth is that, while I did fall slightly in love with Boulder (it resonates with me even more than Denver does), I’m not ready to leave Birmingham yet, and I still don’t think I’ve found the EXACT next place that’s home. Maybe it’s a different state, or just a different city. I’m in no rush, really; I’m thoroughly enjoying exploring, and when I see it and feel it, I will know.

Right now, I’m still at home in my house; still enjoying my job and loving my classes. We also agreed that long-term dating wasn’t a good option for either of us, so we committed to keeping in touch and staying friends. Since he travels constantly for work, we plan on meeting up in NOLA or Atlanta as soon as possible to continue our adventures. He was catching a plane to DC the very next day (and wanted me to come with him!), but I was going home the day after.

So I kissed him goodbye in his car and then he asked if he could get out and hug me. He hugged me on the sidewalk and kissed me and then pulled back to look at me and kissed me again. He laughed sadly the way I smiled sadly and then he drove off as I walked away.

***

This morning, I put on some old black boots (found ’em at an antique shop yesterday — they said size 6 but fit me like a 7; perfect!) and walked a mile in the snow. I thought about the other boys I have dates lined up with back home [there are three: an IT guy, a musician who works in finance (like me!), and a bartender]. As I wondered about them, about what their voices will sound like and whether or not we’ll like each other, I realized something important: Even when I find someone who loves me as bravely as I love them, when I die, I’m still dying alone — they aren’t coming with me. And when they die, I can’t go with them, either. This probably sounds very “duh” and sad to you, but to me, it was a comforting and perspective-shifting thing to discover.

Because then, as I crunched on ice and sank into snow and wore my cute, confetti-pink beanie, I wasn’t wishing that a boy was watching my boots move in the snow or observing the cuteness of my beanie OR that he was thinking I was cute or thinking that he was falling in love with me now.

Instead, I was thinking about how I was enjoying catching peeks of autumn leaves underneath the snow; how the beanie felt cute and warm on my head; and how I couldn’t wait to sip on a pumpkin spice latte soon.

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The real essence of what I’m trying to say: Enjoy your personal experiences as much as your shared adventures. They’re all special, and they’re all to be lived and loved and appreciated fully. Everything (good things and bad things) can inform, change, and empower you (if you’re paying attention, interested, committed, and ready).

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Eventually, I saw a sign that said “cafe” and knew I’d found the place. I stomped my boots out, walked inside, and slipped a copy of Jinx into Whittier’s little free library, withdrawing (because it’s a trade system) a book called “Are You Somebody?” I’m looking forward to taking a side journey with the author, Nuala, during tomorrow’s plane ride, and I have committed the rest of today to wandering around, looking at colors, eating good food, trying on old clothes, leafing through books (going to try to find a secondhand copy of Dune — two people have recommended it recently) and writing about my brother.

I guess I’ll end this post by admitting that I dreamt of Captain Kangaroo last night. Dumb, huh? In it, he was standing about fifteen feet in front of me and telling me he’d gone on a date with somebody. In response, I flipped (or is it flicked?) him off. Now, I’m not that cool (or mean) in real life, but when I woke up, I laughed at the ridiculousness and transparency of dream me. Then, thinking about him, I was sad again. I believe he’s one of the ones I’ll always miss. Why?

I just went on a date with a wonderful, special, now-forever-friend boy yesterday but I’m still thinking and dreaming about this other one today. Sigh. At least I’m making lots of new friends and we’re all learning interesting things about and from each other. Dating is just weird, guys — plain and simple. I really cannot wait to be done with it.

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missing words = “do” and “body” — while I love the culture + agree w/the political climate here in Denver, I know I’m still looking for my place

Still here waitin’ for my big ole love to show up while more happily adventuring solo,

Aun Aqui

hiiiiiiiiii, denver

Yesterday

“Should this happen, try to locate the nearest exit, keeping in mind that it could be behind you…”

While the flight attendant continued giving her spiel, I turned to watch him: an old guy wearing white sneakers, blue jeans, and plaid long sleeves — red, white, and grey.

He was one row ahead of me, to my left, and I noticed that he kept looking over to his right with this twinkle in his eye. Twice, he reached his arm out across the aisle, in a kind sort of way. I discreetly peeked over the seat in front of me and saw who was receiving the arm: a similarly-aged woman covering her face with her hands… gold ring, black nails, curly hair. It seemed she was crying; probably afraid of flying, I thought to myself, feeling for her.

I stole another look at him. He appeared amused with her, just a little, but also, his eyes glistened as they gazed at her.

My throat tightened and I looked away. That man has loved her for a very long time.

***

Today

“What are you thinking about?” Charlie asked. We’d gotten up early and walked to a cafe together where he asked for slow-drip coffee with a cinnamon brioche roll while I got a fancy plate of almond-butter-banana-and-honey-drizzle toast on seeded bread.

“A latte,” I smiled.

“Sure you aren’t thinking about getting a date?”

I thought about it. “No… not right now.”

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fancy toast @ Thump Coffee (Capitol Hill)

When we’d flown from Birmingham to Atlanta the day before, my Bumble queue became flooded with faces of dudes who’d swiped right on me. And then in Denver, the number of right-swipes grew absolutely insane; after working through about six sets of 50, I had to put my phone down, exhausted from the emotional stress of making quick judgment calls based on just a few pictures and a short bio.

 

“I mean, there are a few guys I might be seeing this weekend,” I continued. “May be getting coffee with one and hiking with another… but I’m not seeking out any new dates, or any actual dates. They’re more like hangouts.” I paused, an early morning high making my mind fuzzy again. “I just really, really liked Captain Kangaroo, Charlie. He was so interesting. And special. It STINKS!”

I wrote a little poem about Captain Kangaroo the other day; it goes like this:

(Captain Kangaroo), you stink.

You really suck a lot.

I hope you think about how dumb you are.

Has a nice rhythm to it, doesn’t it? And it sounds even better with his actual name inserted, because his name SORTA (loosely) rhymes with “stink.”

Anyways, I’d explained the whole situation to Charlie’s friends (a cool married couple living here in Denver; guy works for the government and lady works as an editor) the day before during our car ride over to a Thai place. I summarized, at the end of my tale, that I felt supremely uninteresting and bummed out and that my self-esteem had dipped a little (again).

“It sounds like it wasn’t you at all,” the guy said.

“Yeah. That guy doesn’t appear to know what he wants, from minute to minute,” the gal agreed.

“So it’s not that you weren’t enough — it’s that he doesn’t know what he wants,” they said. Whether this is true or not, it was very nice of them to say it, and it did make me feel better.

At the Thai place, I was eating pineapple fried rice with delicious chunks of tofu mixed in with it when I suddenly woke up from a dream.

“Hey guys!” I said brightly, happy to see them. The three of them stopped talking and looked at me. “Oh — shit,” I said, realizing what was happening. It’s happened before.

I’d purchased this special, lemon creme chocolate bar from the dispensary across the street earlier on in the day (as well as a magical orange soda — this is still in the fridge, waiting for me). The chocolate bar’s wrapper stated that it contained 10 doses (100 mg total), and while I originally thought it sensible to take a single full dose (10 mg), I followed Charlie’s friend’s recommendation of taking half of one since I have a zero tolerance (and it will unfortunately — despite the many mental and emotional and even physical health benefits of marijuana — stay this way until Alabama finally gets its shit together). And let me just go ahead and get this out there: I’m *so* glad I went with the half-dose, you guys.

I timed the event; on an essentially empty stomach, I swallowed the half-dose around 4:00, and when I looked at the clock again and saw that it was 5:15, things were really happening for me.

Just 5 mg of THC took me there, and then way beyond there, and for the next few hours, I was constantly slipping in and out of space and time (mentally).

I remember explaining (very loudly, unfortunately) to my table of friends that I could feel the teeth inside of my mouth today; that I could calculate the density of my neck bone, which I intuitively knew was curved here and there; and that I could vividly sense the temperature of my hands. “They’re cold,” I explained, “and I’ve never experienced this kind of cold before.” I held my hands up for everyone, looking at them myself as I demonstrated. “It’s like — it’s not that they’re VERY cold; it’s that I’ve never really felt how cold feels until now.”

I freaked out with these heightened sensations, as well as the unpredictable comings and goings — it was basically like I was recalling a memory, or dreaming of something, and then suddenly awake again, and sometimes, I’d find myself awake and in the middle of speaking (about what? who knows!).

“It’s like — every time I come back, it’s different,” I tried to explain, “and there’s this weird 2-second lag where I don’t know what I’m saying until it’s already been said. And then I’m trying to figure it out,” I sighed, totally freaked.

I fixated on a vase of water for a while — the waitress had brought it, along with our glasses, at the beginning of the meal; it had “1” embedded in the glass here and then “1litre” embedded in the glass there (underneath) and I just couldn’t fathom it. Couldn’t trust it.

“Does this say one and then one litre, or ilitre?” I asked Charlie, very seriously. It was worrying me. I didn’t know “ilitre.”

I had to stop eating my food, too; it was delicious, but I was convinced that I wouldn’t remember how to swallow in time to keep myself from choking to death. Charlie packaged leftovers for me and I ate them later on, before passing out.

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ultimate yumminess @ Suvipa

When it was time to get up from the table, I wasn’t really sure how to make my body move, but I willed my mind to make it happen anyways and, somehow, made it to the car and then into the car and then – after fifteen minutes on the road that felt more like 15 years in outer space – back out of the car and then UP the stairs and into the apartment. Whew.

To keep from babbling incessantly (I was extremely paranoid that I was doing this; it was hard to know what was staying inside my head and what was leaving it), I grabbed a book from my backpack and sat on the couch with it, marking my favorite passages with a pen as I read. It helped keep me sane and in the moment. 

When I woke up this morning, I saw I’d written a few notes to myself inside of the book:

  1. Jace, you look at yourself as “things, accomplishments, regrets, tragedies, and relationships” — but you are your MIND (soul)… it’s so different. You aren’t your history; you’re right now — not a 2-second lag.
  2. Every time you go and come back, it’s different.

***

(back to) Today

Late this morning, I rode the 16L from Denver to Golden (following the suggestion of a dude on Bumble; got a yummy white chocolate lavender latte + scrambled egg, avocado, and veggie sausage platter from a cafe in the area — would def recommend).

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breakfast for lunch @ Cafe 13 (Boulder)

But even more interesting than the cafe itself and the lovely creek winding around it was the dude I met on the bus — the one toting a blue backpack, white blanket, and gorgeous German Shepherd along with him.

Right after purchasing my day pass at the front of the bus ($5.20, btw), I spotted a German Shepherd lying down near the middle of the bus (with a free seat right in front of him). I immediately walked over and asked if I could please sit with the dude who had the dog; he said yes, and then we spent the next 40 minutes talking about everything. He was SO COOL! I wish I’d had an audio recorder on me (why the heck haven’t I invested in one yet?!), but recalling as best I can (as per usual), here’s his story.

 

Crash retired after his wife of twenty-one years passed away in January. He had been living in a trailer park in Florida — in this little town called Holiday (where, funny enough, my late Uncle Junior once lived) — when one morning, Crash woke up and decided that he was suddenly sick of being there.

He called one of his daughters, told her to come grab anything she wanted (sentimental stuff, pieces of furniture, whatever), and then he sold or gave the rest away. He simply wanted to get on the road as quickly and easily as possible.

“From the time you decided this,” I interjected, continuing to pet his shepherd with my left hand, “how long did it take for you to actually get on the road?”

“Made my decision that morning and then got on the road the next,” he said.

“Wow. And your stuff — all of it’s gone?”

“Yep. All of it. Everything I own is in this backpack, and half of the stuff in here is his,” he chuckled, nodding at his dog. He carries toys and a blanket for Arbor (his shep) for when it’s really cold outside.

And for three months now, Crash has been journeying across the United States; hiking around, dipping into hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and striking up conversations with strangers. He’s heading down to Texas in a few weeks here to pass Christmas with an old friend of his.

“How far in advance do you plan your next adventure?” I asked.

“Not very far,” he said, although he did mention keeping a calendar. “If I hit a spot I wanna stay in for a while, I do. Nowhere else to be, really,” he smiled. I was so happy for him, and definitely a little envious.

We talked about socialism and communism and NOLA and Cajuns and books and book stores and technology and communication and how weird people are about talking on the phone now.

When it was time to go, I shook his hand (as we finally introduced ourselves) and wished him well. I watched him and his beautiful friend begin walking through the park together (where our bus lady had called out “final stop!”) and then I headed toward the mountains, solo.

 

***

I’m taking the GS up 93 (to Boulder) in fifteen minutes here; a guy named Corey is picking me up @ a cafe slash bookstore, taking me to dinner, and then driving me back down to Denver this evening. Charlie, cool married couple and I are then going to get drinks and watch a midnight showing of The Room (one of the worst-quality movies EVER — can’t wait!). This is, of course, assuming Corey isn’t a psychopath. So if you never ever hear from me again… (that line sure does appear on here often, doesn’t it? ha).

But before I go away (missing, forever!), here’s what I said to Charlie at the cafe earlier this morning [and it came out extremely very slowly, because – circumstantially (even on just 2 mg) – I found it was difficult to A. focus on a single theme and B. speak words, period].

“The reason why I want to be with someone so badly is — I want that connection. I want to really know them, and I want them to understand me. I want to engage with somebody’s mind, and hold their hand, and call them partner, and I want them to stick around. I really wish someone would stick around. While the world can be really disheartening, having a companion makes it so much easier to bear. But what’s AWFUL…” and I could feel – really feel – my lips now; chapped, soft, curved, “is the things I love most — writing stories, creating songs, loving somebody — they’re things I can’t really control. It’s not like you can decide when it’s time to write a story, or schedule when you’re going to compose the next song, or predict when, exactly, a compatible person will happily cross paths with you — it’s entirely random. Always catches you by surprise. And when it does show up, bam — then you can make your move. There’s no planning for it, no speeding it up OR slowing it down. I kinda hate it.”

And I think that’s why I really hate using these dating apps — swiping right thirty times and then left once; shopping for souls like they’re sweaters. It feels like I’m taking something organic and magical and crumpling it up — destroying it with graphs and percentages and weird expectations.

Because here’s the thing: You can’t really get someone’s personality by looking at still images of them and reading their stats and bio; the soul, and its personality, is truly DYNAMIC — it’s something you just have to experience. There’s the voice, and the way it sounds to you; the body language, and what you’re able to infer from it; the way a person’s eyes look, and where those eyes go; and the natural manner of speaking a person has that you can either fall right in love with or grow weary of quickly (versus simply reading the short, clipped, and groomed sentences you get from them electronically — no tone, no volume, no inflection, and little substance).

And those introductory convos are always awkward, and always the same: 

  • Ooooh, what records did you find?
  • What books are you reading right now?
  • Have your next travel adventure planned?
  • How’s your week going so far?
  • Best cafe in town?
  • Is the pup in that picture YOURS?
  • Any rivers or hiking spots you’d recommend?
  • What a cute baby deer!

And what a cute fuckin deer it was.

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

don’t sleep with him… YET

“Before I go,” Jon said, picking up a small dish with half a peach muffin left on it, “how did that talk go?” He gave me a big smile that showed most of his teeth. We’d been sharing a cafe table for a while this morning, chatting about bike rides and backpacks and crazy characters on the bus.

I exhaled deeply. “Well… before he left for his trip, he said he was down to date exclusively. Right? Great. So we kissed and got really close.” I raised my eyebrows at him and pressed my lips together, hard. “THEN, when he got back, he said that he wasn’t actually ready for the exclusive thing. He still needed to see who else was out there. And this was after he got what he wanted, of course — the thing you can’t go back on.” I paused. “The dude’s got a date lined up for today, actually.” And you should absolutely know better by now, I thought, feeling deeply disappointed with myself.

“Wait — wait…” Jon held up both hands, looking away from me. Neither of us said anything for a minute.

“I’m really sad, Jon, but–”

“No. Don’t be sad.” Jon looked right at me now, brown eyes glistening. He’s one of my very best friends. “Chock it up to experience. At least you know, now, who he is and what he wanted. And now, you’re closer to finding the right one. Don’t let this drag you down.”

***

I attended an author reading last week — the lady’s name was Irene Latham, and something she said during her presentation struck me as being very important; here, I’m going to boil it down and sum it up: “As a writer, you know what you want to say, and you also know why YOU are qualified to say it. So say it.”

While there are relationships of all beautiful kinds out there, I’m specifically writing this post for the girls who are dating boys. And this is honestly one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever chosen to write, because it’s painful to admit you weren’t good enough for someone to whom you gave all. It’s hard and it’s scary to be so open and vulnerable.

But I’m really only very scared of cockroaches, so here it goes.

***

Girls: Falling in love fast isn’t a bad thing. It is what it is — exciting, euphoric, unforgettable, untamable; but do know that it’s dangerous.
Girls: Sleeping with a guy because you love him isn’t a bad thing either. But it’s also dangerous.
Girls: You’ve gotta understand that a guy who sleeps with you doesn’t necessarily love you (and it’s unlikely that he has intentions to JUST sleep with you).
Girls: Sleeping with a guy you barely know because SAYS he’s going to stick with you, just you, for a while doesn’t mean he actually will.
Girls: You deserve stability, loyalty, and honesty, and unfortunately, crushes and intuition and soul recognition aside, it takes TIME for you to really get to know a person — their personality, tendencies, character and soul caliber — and it also generally takes time for a boy to fall in love with you.
Girls: Here’s what I’ve learned the really hard and soul-crushing way: Spare yourself the despair of feeling like a wasted thing instead of a wonderful person by simply waiting a while before doing the damn thing.

Now — it isn’t fun to wait and it can be difficult; for a gal who grew up without hugs and kisses and who now wants to hold hands and cuddle with someone more than anything, it’s ESPECIALLY difficult to establish and enforce boundaries. But in the end, waiting is worth it — the best relationships I’ve had so far (two) were both ones where we waited.

Know that I’m not coming at you from a religious angle because I don’t subscribe to any religions… this is what I’d gently-but-strongly recommend from pure, unadulterated (ha; not funny but also kinda funny) experience: Unless you’re good with slash into hook-ups (if so, go you!), DON’T sleep with someone during the infatuation stage, where you’re only seeing the perfect illusion of an imperfect person… instead, sleep with someone you know and deeply trust — someone who possesses the ability to annoy you (bc once you’ve perceived a person’s flaws and still like ’em, you’re really getting somewhere). While you’ll never know for sure that a person is 100% invested, well-meaning, and “in it” FOR REAL, the more time you spend interacting with and observing them, the clearer who they are and what they intend will become.

Am I holding grudges? Do I hate that ding dang Captain Kangaroo character? No. To be perfectly honest with you, I still don’t think he consciously MEANT to use me, and I’d be lying if I said that I don’t hope even a little bit that the ding dong dumbhead’ll change his mind about me someday.

But the truth is that, deliberately or not, he DID use me, and the REALLY sad thing is that I thought I was doing it all right this time: We discussed expectations of the relationship BEFORE going too far (unlike this stupid time and that awful one), and I was proud of myself for initiating that conversation. The sucky part came in when he changed his mind less than a week later. #shit #didntseeTHATcoming

His indirect rejection of me made me feel like, having given everything to him, I STILL wasn’t enough — not worth investing more time, attention, or affection into. And while this definitely put another big dent in my sense of self-worth, I’m very well aware of the damage and consciously working to remedy it.

I’m glad to be traveling out west this week. Good timing. Interacting with the unknown and navigating new spaces sharpens your senses in a special kind of way — it gets you outside of yourself like nothing else can. And I really need some time away from myself. I also need to take better care of myself. I know this, and I’m always working on getting better at it.

I hope this helps someone, somehow. I embarrassingly bare all with the honest hope that it’ll lessen someone’s suffering and empower them to be and do better. So to boil my own runoff of words down into a nice summary “puddle” — girls: Please take it slow, and take it easy… you’re worth it all, so don’t give in or give up or ever give yourself away (AGAIN) uncertainly.

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earlier, I read something relatable in Heat-Moon’s novel, Blue Highways: “The wanderer’s danger is to find comfort.”

Still here,
Aun Aqui

You’re too colorful, so I’m making you black and white

“Blue Jets” on white brick walls, in different shades of blue.

I drop my head and watch grey sneakers wade through red-blue patterns on the floor. My heart starts rising up a little, knocking into chest bone as it anticipates the bell. I know it’s hoping I’m already sitting when it strikes.

There are voices coming from everywhere, fading in and out, and normally, they’re just there… but they’re changing now, going strange.

I jolt my eyes up in time to catch the blurry, slow-motion play of two tall bodies slamming into lockers. Someone else who’s seeing what I’m seeing laughs, sounding like a tropical bird, while several others let out gasps and shrieks. I smell iron, like a vitamin, and sweat, like my dog when it rains, and there’s now blood on the red and blood on the blue and a bright wet red on my black leather jacket.

***

My creative writing class was asked to write about Banks High School. The school’s been closed and vacant for I don’t know how long (five, ten, twelve years) and Urban Studios is currently researching ways of revitalizing the space. I believe their proposal (which is going up for a vote next week) is to turn it into a vocational school with a shared work space onsite (a collective of sorts that offers classes and tools for rent). Pretty cool! I’m excited for folks in that area.

“But old students of the school are sad that it’s changing… going away, in a sense,” my professor explained. “So I’d like for you write about the school as if you had been a Blue Jet. Reflect on what it was like to be there in general, or pull us right into a moment that took place within those walls…”

So I googled the school’s colors and then wrote about something I’d witnessed at my own high school: two boys beating each other up in front of a locker. And while I had gotten blood on me in real life, it had splashed onto my shoe — not my jacket. It was extremely unsettling, regardless.

Also unsettling: Dating a boy who couldn’t date just me. Growing closer to and fonder of someone who I knew would be seeing other people both before and after me (and, inevitably, comparing me to them) was just too anxiety-inducing (and demoralizing). So I called it off with Captain Kangaroo last night and then wandered around a thrift store, holding old sweaters close and trying to keep a straight face until I made it out to my car, where I cried and cried and cried. I don’t want to date anymore, you guys. It stinks. It MAJORLY stinks. I just want to hold someone’s hand and know they’re not wishing they were with someone else, someone different… someone exciting and cool and – in some way – better. 

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***

I’ve had two dreams recently that I’d like to share.

The first dream was from two nights ago. I was looking out a window when a truck pulled up, one with a trailer hitched to the back. A dad and two kids spilled out of the car — all smiles, all happy. When my eyes drifted to the trailer, I saw a deer lying sideways, a red wound on its back. I understood that it had been shot, and I also knew – from the rising and falling of its chest – that it was still alive. I cried. Heartbroken. 

I left the room and entered another where someone asked me what I was doing. “I don’t want to be a distraction,” I said, thinking of my emotions and knowing they were different from other people’s somehow. I tried to drink cold water and felt like it was freezing in my throat.

The second dream was of my brother. I was in a house that was full of people — I think they were having a party of some kind. I’m not sure what I was doing there.

But when someone brushed past me, moving from this room to another, they put their arms on my shoulders as a way of greeting me. I looked up and saw those old green eyes: Bobby.

“I have something for you, sister,” he said, smiling — the sound of his voice was like magic, “and I can’t wait forever to give it to you.” I felt warmth, love, goodness, and an ancient sense of home that’s hard to describe. I also knew – intuitively – that he had been waiting to give whatever this was (information? insight? peace?) to me for a while. And then I woke up.

During my waking life (earlier this week), a close friend asked how the novel was coming.

What novel? I asked her, thinking she probably meant Jinx while also knowing that she knew I’d already published it.

The one about your brother, she said.

I was shocked; I haven’t spoken of that novel in years because it’s been years since I worked on it. Right now, it’s just a dauntingly huge draft — this long stream of scenes and memories. But two weeks ago, the idea entered my mind that I needed to revisit it; then, I dreamt about Bob having something for me; and THEN, this friend randomly asked about the book. TWO DAYS ago.

Holy shit, I thought. Is that what it is? 

I’m heading up to Denver for Thanksgiving; while I love my family very much and would love to see their faces again, I also know myself: Solitude is what I need most right now.

My best friend Charlie is flying up there with me and then we’re both going to do our own thing; he’s got plans to hang out with his long-time pal (a cool writer dude) while I’ll be packing a picnic, renting a car, and driving up into the mountains. I dreamt about this river a while back and I just can’t wait to be with it.

I’m also going to work on this book about Bob and me and try to be okay with still being alone, because I’m discovering – the longer I am alone – that I am so incredibly strong, you guys… and I know that someone will eventually see me – just me – as being enough. Because I am enough, and I know that I am. I am more than enough, actually, and it feels really good to say that.

***

Before I go (I know — this post has been all OVER the place), there’s something else I wanted to mention about Urban Studios (that place my creative writing class visited last Thursday).

While we sat in a circle and critiqued stories, I sipped hibiscus tea and let my eyes roam a little, noticing things about the room. What intrigued me most was the idea behind the pictures and sketches that were taped to the wall.

“They’re all black and white,” the architecture program guy explained, “because I don’t want the students getting distracted by how beautiful these buildings are. Colors make them too interesting. I don’t want anybody fawning over a doorway, or a staircase, and then getting too attached to it — trying to recreate the same old design. I need them to dissect each building from top to bottom, in an objective manner, so they’re able to clearly discern what worked well and what didn’t and then create something good, unique, solid…”

I already felt like crying, because I knew what was coming. I had to take the boy with a purple-indigo spirit, grey-green eyes, and brown hair and take him apart in my mind. He was too beautiful, too colorful for clarity, and I needed to deconstruct him piece by piece so that I could see him clearly — like: you are flesh, and blood, and bone. You are smart, and familiar, and interesting, and magical, but you are also scared, and you are also hiding, and you are also looking for someone who isn’t me. Because if it was me, you’d know; you’d just KNOW. You would see it, weird and sudden and scary as it is, as clearly as I see it.

But he doesn’t see or feel what I do. And that’s okay. I took his colors away and made him black and white… taped him to a wall and then left the building, because I obviously need to create or find or imagine something else with someone else. If I were to bottle my feelings up in a song (which I did), it would be this one; but if I were to convey them using another artist’s song, it would be this one.

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Still here (with this tortuously sensitive soul that I wouldn’t ever actually want to change),

Aun Aqui