Before the Break: 10 Things I Like About You

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

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

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

***

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

But before I go, two quick things:

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

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

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

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

forget the forest — i’m betting on love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

“Yeah, kind of… why?”

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

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

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

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

 

I jotted down some other very original ideas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annnnnnnd nothing; I was actually out of ideas.

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

Yeah… guess so, I sighed.

***

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

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

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

Yes, I’d like to do that. Tomorrow?

Sure! When/where?

(Nothing…)

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

(Still nothing…)

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

Yeah — I changed my mind, he said.

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

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

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

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

I think you’re overthinking it, I said.

Maybe I am.

Then maybe I’ll see you later. 

***

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

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

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

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

Aun Aqui

six perfect dates and then… goodbye

Date 1: Monday, February 19th. Sigh.

***

Date 2: A chilly Wednesday evening.

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

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

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

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

“Yeah?” I asked him.

“Yeah,” he said.

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

***

Date 3: Sunday, Feb 25th 2018. 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

“I’d like to kiss you, too,” I said.

“Yeah?” he said.

“Yeah!” I said, laughing.

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

 

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

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

***

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

***

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

***

Date 6: Goodbye

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

“Salad and pizz?” I asked hopefully.

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

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

 

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Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

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