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

I like you so much I’m dating other people

Last night. 

We were sitting in his car with the heater turned to medium and the radio on low.

“At the very LEAST, I still want to be friends with you,” he said, awkwardly holding his beautiful hands (yes, I notice slash have a thing for hands) mid-air.

Hear that? I elbowed myself.

Yep. Got it.

The boy I’m kinda crazy about is, at once, terrified by how intensely I like him while still interested in seeing me. He has, however, requested one (in my mind) NOT-minor adjustment to our (I guess you could call it) relationship: that we not date exclusively.

“So does that mean you’ll be dating other people?” I asked.

“…yes.”

“Like, actively pursuing other relationships or just keeping the option open?” (Because come on, guys; there’s a difference.)

“Basically,” I interrupted myself, “if we continue dating, will you just like… TELL ME if you find someone else you’re interested in dating? So that I can immediately stop dating you?”

“So you mean just date you?”

“YES!” I agreed. Duh!

And we went around in circles like this for a while; me, low-key frustrated that he couldn’t commit to dating one person at a time (me, hello!) and him — well, he looked pretty darn cute; explaining it first this way and then that. It never really made sense to me. At ALL. But one time, he let it slip that he’s the jealous type.

“PERFECT! I’ve got it now, CK. Here’s what we’ll do. While you’re dating other people, I will also – even though I don’t WANT to – date other people until you’re SO jealous that you finally agree to just date me.”

I think he found this absurd, and guess what? SO DO I! It’s entirely ridiculous. Oh, the fiery hoops we jump through… (is that the right phrase? sounds a little odd).

Anyways, we hugged goodbye and then I told him, before bedtime, that I already had breakfast AND lunch dates lined up for the next day (aka today — although I didn’t; this was understood to be a joke). And so it begins (or, rather, continues).

As you’ve likely deduced, I’m – unfortunately – back on Bumble. And while I’m keeping my mind and heart open (because there ARE lots of interesting folks out there), I’m mostly (aka 99.999%) “dating” these other random dudes because there’s this ONE stinkin especially dorky ‘fraidy-cat GUY who I really, actually WANT to date.

i will always be this awkward

Still here (thinking dating’s real weird),

Aun Aqui

sail away, sail away, sail away…

Frank and I sat talking inside a cafe together while rain pelted the street. Comfortable moments of silence passed between us as I crossed my legs, and then sat on them, and then placed the bottoms of my feet on the chair I was sitting in, pulling my knees close with my arms. I tend to fidget.

 

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While I adjusted and readjusted, Frank told me about the cute old hippie couple he and his wife had watched perform during 2 AM cruise ship karaoke a few years back. He said that the two of them would perform, wait for a few others to go on stage, and then put their names right back on the list.

I laughed. “Have I told you about my carrier ship plans?”

“No…”

“Okay.” So I explained. And come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve told you guys about this yet either, so here’s my plan.

***

Jace’s Carrier Ship Plan

I don’t know when this is going to happen (I’m hoping for next summer while betting it’ll be closer to my summer graduation in ’20), but I have every intention of boarding a carrier ship and traveling from this country to another one. In my mind, I’ve been picturing leaving (aka disembarking — sea lingo) out of NY or some other state on the east coast, but when Frank mentioned earlier that lots of ships leave from places as close as Mobile and New Orleans, it created a staggering number of options in my mind. Tabling this “point of departure” aspect for now (as well as how, exactly, I’m going to get ON a carrier ship… at this very moment, my best ideas would be to offer to A. mop the deck, mate, B. cook vegetarian food for the crew, or C. play guitar for the fishes).

But the real thing of the matter is this: I need to be with the sea for a while. I realized this about eight weeks ago after an odd fixation on the Drake Passage. I can vividly remember driving down Some Number Avenue South one morning, on my way to the cafe (like usual), when it hit me right outta the sea-green blue: GO SAIL ACROSS THE FRICKIN OCEAN; DUH! It made complete sense then, and I still (mostly) believe in it.

And I know the easy slash normal thing to do would be to simply book a cruise, but I don’t want to go on a cruise because I don’t want to be caught up in endless rounds of cruise festivities with a bunch of noisy and intoxicated humans. I’m craving, not a party or an escape, but a quiet bout of solitude with storms and sunshine and just a little bit of danger — where I’ve got time to reflect and wonder and let the salt dry on my skin without having to shower it off for school or work. I feel like it’ll be really magical and really cleansing.

And assuming I leave out of NY (again, this is still up in the air), depending upon the weather, it can take 10-14 days to make it to Europe via ship. Once there, I’d like to ride my bike and take trains and stay in hostels as I adventure my way through the continent — and mostly, I’d like to visit these places: England (bc Spice Girls), Spain and Portugal (bc Espanol), and Germany (bc German Shepherds). I also think that, around this same time, writing a book about being at sea would be quite interesting… the theme sounds sorta classic, doesn’t it?

 

hemingway on turtles

 

One of the nicest things Frank shared with me was in response to something I told him.

I pulled up a running draft within Gmail and read off a few quotes, explaining: “My professor specifically told us to eavesdrop on folks, so I started doing that last year — jotting down interesting, isolated tidbits from people’s conversations so I could build characters based on them later and craft dialogue that rang true…” I paused.

“Anyways, I wanna throw these into an illustrated book someday, but here — here’s my favorite one. I was watching this little girl run around with her friends at the park one afternoon when she stopped suddenly and exclaimed: ‘A PICNIC BASKET! I’m off to my picnic now, and I’m never coming home.'”

I loved it, but it also made me a little sad, because you read it the first time and laugh, right? It’s cute. But then, you start reading into it… and I don’t know.

 

But here’s the thing Frank shared: He pulled a collection of small cards out from his wallet — on them, he’s written down lines he’s liked — and one of them was so beautiful I plan on getting it tattooed someday, right above, underneath, or beside a bunny ghost (which is what I wanted to be for Halloween this year): “It was crazy. I turned into a ghost, and I was like whatever.”

 

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Two random things:

  1. Can’t end this post without thanking Enya.
  2. I’ve got a sad little EP hitting (or rather: cruising its way over to) Spotify in a few days here… woohooooooo! If YOU like listening to gloomy tunes, my artist name is (as you might’ve already guessed) Aun Aqui.

 

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Still here,

Aun Aqui

coffee and tea and bourbon

My breath still smelled like bourbon when I considered stepping into Target.

I imagined walking the aisles for a while… trying on over-sized sweaters, eyeing the healthy snacks, and scouting end-caps for little discounted treasures (you know: the good kind of candle; a suitably general stack of floral greeting cards; or a soft-hued tumbler of some kind). But I mostly imagined looking at notebooks and journals and coming home with one. Thinking back on that, it makes sense; my aunt handed me a journal when I was 12 and told me that it could be my closest friend. I was feeling kinda lonely and invisible last night, so I would reach out to a friend — my oldest and most trusted one.

***

Two hours before my imaginary Target run, I was sitting outside of Rojo with two girlfriends. I couldn’t eat, so I ordered a drink.

I listened eagerly as they caught me up on their lives (which mostly revolve around their guys) and then I caught them up on mine (which, right now, mostly revolves around this new guy). Love. Damn it. 

“Soooooooo,” I began, telling them everything from my experience on Bumble to my defining meeting with CK, “he’s out of town right now and hasn’t texted me all day and I’m kinda really bummed about it.”

“Why don’t you just text him?” they asked. But this would have been too reasonable, you see.

“Because.” I paused, took another sip from the tiny bourbon straw the bartender’ed given me, and looked from one girl to the other. “I realized, when I woke up this morning, that despite him wanting to see me every day while he was in town, he’s mostly been responding to my texts… so I thought, let’s just give the guy some space and see when he WANTS to talk with me. Right? Well when is looking like NEVER!” I exclaimed.

They stated and restated their case many times — guys aren’t as communicative as girls are; our dudes were like that; you have to “train” them; you should just text him — but I consistently declined.

“If I WERE to text him at this point, it would NOT be a cute and endearing text… it would be more like WHAT THE HECK in all caps – no punctuation – or something else bratty and schoolgirl-like.”

I’d even polled coworkers on the matter hours before; the majority (I’d say 80%) felt the same as my friends @ Rojo: just text him! But a few agreed with me — that playing it cool was the best way to go. I felt like a crazy daughter of a gun regardless for thinking about the lack of texting so much. There are way more interesting things to think about, like: What is the planet “Venus” like? Which coffee shop will I visit first when I fly out to Denver in two weeks? Are there any videos of rabbits riding skateboards on YouTube? And how do you fix the broken heating element on a dryer?

***

Even so, I woke up this morning wondering if he’d remembered that I exist overnight; apparently NOT.

So I cuddled with my pups, worked on a few in-progress tracks in Logic, and then met up with a friend at Moss Rock Preserve. We hiked over to a gentle waterfall and talked abooooooout — you guessed it: our guys! And this friend was, btw, another one of those “just text him!” voters, as my cashier friend @ Whole Foods turned out to be later on in the afternoon when I asked for her opinion. I’m feeling so outnumbered! 

 

 

Anyways, two of my friend’s friends joined us shortly after we arrived — this neato punk-rock couple with black clothes and gauged ears. The girl mentioned buying a trashcan for their friend’s housewarming party that evening and the guy talked about working for a paper destruction company; interestingly enough, on Wednesdays, he visits a morgue to collect medical waste material. He’s seen everything from organs in clear bags to old breast implants. Pretty freakin crazy. 

I listened quietly while everyone talked and shook my leather jacket off. I folded it neatly and then tucked it underneath my head so I could lay out on the rocks for a while. When I first laid down, I could feel my skin stretching tightly across my ribs. It was a little uncomfortable. For the last week, it’s been really hard to eat, and I know I’ve lost some weight. Literally, the hunger just isn’t there. Anxiety (even good, exciting new relationship anxiety) usually refers me back to old coping mechanisms, so I’ve mostly been subsisting on coffee and tea (and, as you know now, just a little bit of bourbon).

Eventually, I stood up, ran my hands through the water, and said goodbye to my amigos so I could continue my journey downtown. I’m now sipping on a latte that one of my fav baristas made and about to work on some Spanish (procrastinating pretty heavily because I so enjoy writing).

 

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But before I go, I realized something kinda interesting with my Rojo friends last night that I’d like to share.

I’ve always gravitated toward those savior-and-saved-one relationships. Know what I mean? Like: One person’s basically got their shit together (me) and is trying to help the other person patch their life up (on an emotional, physical, or financial level… or, if you’re REAL lucky, all three; the bigger the scope of the project, the better!). I think I like these kinds of relationships because A. they’re a challenge and B. they make me feel needed, important, and special… NOT invisible or temporary or inessential.

But here’s the thing with this new guy: He’s GOT his shit together. Like — seriously; he’s got a strong sense of self, seemingly little emotional baggage, and a healthy independence about him. I don’t really have a precedent for any of this.

“Soooooooo it’s VERY scary to be so fond of someone that doesn’t… need me. That only needs to… like me.” I paused, looking down at my hands. “I guess I’m afraid that he’s going to realize, while he’s up there in whatever state or country he’s in, that I’m just a boring and prematurely elderly credit union representative… and that I’m not cool or wild or interesting enough for him.”

My girlfriends got it completely (and, very kindly, disagreed with me when I referred to myself as boring). They’re actually in similar situations: Their “project” dudes are shaping their lives up pretty nicely now which is leaving my friends wondering: Now what? How do I fit into your better, more stable world? Am I still essential, or are you going to forget about me soon? Sucks.

 

Soooooooo basically: I’m a strong, busy, and independent not-clingy woman who doesn’t give a flying flamingo whether or not the guy she likes texts her every single day. I mean DUH… that would be silly (and borderline crazy). Give me a BREAK. I’m not even worried about it bc I’m too busy wondering about rabbits and heating elements and thinking about bar chords and autumnal fruit picking options and making five fucking thousand cups of tea…

 

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stressin? nahhhhh… i’m a TOTAL cool girl (picks up two more boxes of chocolate melatonin)

 

Still here,

Aun Aqui

red red red

I wanted to know two things: how the glass behind her had shattered and what they’d done with the old carpet.

So I raised my hand, twice.

They weren’t sure how the glass behind the sculpture had become broken, but they did know about the carpet. “It’s being preserved,” they assured me and the rest of the group. The new carpet (patterned in pink, red, and blue; it supposedly looked exactly the same as the old stuff) had just been installed two months before our visit — before that, the old carpet had stretched all the way back to the 1920s.

My creative writing class continued touring Alabama Theatre, settling finally into the exhibition area. I’d never been. I don’t watch movies often, and when I do, I don’t “go see them.”

Our professor thanked the tour guides for showing us the place, taking us up on stage, and letting us peek in at the pipe chambers, and then he asked us to read our journal entries (from the week before) aloud.

When my turn came, I swallowed.

“I mostly read, so I just imagined being at a theatre,” I explained, pulling on the edges of a crumpled sheet of paper.

 

A small piece of popcorn. 

It really wasn’t worth moving to readjust, because I might lose his arm — the light grip on my shoulder. I needed the warmth more than I needed to be comfortable.

I followed the movie sometimes, with my eyes… catching characters in different states and gauging situations by sounds from an attentive audience. 

But mostly, my eyes were off while open. I was trying to understand him, and his arm; wondering if he’d really rather be talking with me than facing a screen right now. 

 

My friend Jackie squealed beside me. She likes when I write about boys. And I always do.

Our professor then asked us to write another journal entry based on our time at Alabama Theatre. I didn’t share this one.

 

Red curtains, red floors, red lights point toward the stage. 

We sit on red seats, the velvet kind that fold down and out, and then watch as the red organ rises out of the floor. When the music comes at me, it’s in lines – diagonal, straight, curvy; purple, crimson, indigo. I cup my tea with my hands and feel that it’s grown cold. 

I wonder about the stage… about the pairs of feet that’ve scratched and tapped at it; danced until they’ve bled on it. How many broken legs? Who were the broken hearts? How often is it cleaned? 

And wouldn’t it be nice to jump up there and pretend tonight, get lost in the red?

 

 

Non-boyfriend (he’s sort of like a boyfriend; we’re dating exclusively but without titles) is out of town this weekend. He left on Wednesday.

I miss him, but I’m also tired and busy. I met up with a new friend last night; we sat outside in a misty rain, eating Indian food and talking finance. He’s got a really good heart, and we’re looking forward to hiking and playing music together. I’m grabbing drinks with a few girlfriends tonight, hiking with another girlfriend tomorrow, and then having dinner with one of my favoritest couples on Sunday. I’m reserving Monday for some kind of solo adventure.

And then he’s back in town on Tuesday. It’s really just a matter of waiting around until Tuesday, isn’t it? Damn. I wonder if he’ll still like me? 

 

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Still here,

Aun Aqui

 

It only took THREE dates.

My first date was with Sam. He was a sweetheart who drank morning coffee and walked with me at the park. When he mentioned being so fair-skinned that he was prone to getting burns, I noticed how sunny it was outside.

“I forgot to put on sun screen this morning,” he sighed.

“No worries,” I said. “We’ll just find a place in the shade.”

So we sat and talked about our jobs and school and hobbies. He’s getting his doctorate’s degree now (biochemistry) and his hobbies include building computers and tweaking with other kinds of technology. He shared that he’s got his something-or-other programmed to where, when he wakes up and says “good morning”, lights flicker on, the TV comes alive, and his coffee pot starts brewing. The most interesting thing he told me was about his childhood.

“We lived in Wisconsin, out in the country, and we had a really long driveway. We’d use chalk to draw roads on the driveway and then ride our scooters up and down these roads…” Pretty adorable.

 

We politely side-hugged goodbye and I knew that was the last time we’d see each other. He was sweet and interesting and beyond-smart, but despite the nature of his degree, there just wasn’t any chemistry between us.

***

The second date was lunch with Kevin. I sorta liked Kevin.

He liked to travel frequently (once a month), and his travel adventures included everything from kayaking + snorkeling in the ocean to camping out in the desert. He was a hockey player and jewelry store manager with big brown eyes and a toothy smile.

When we left the diner together, he hugged me and said he’d like to see me again. I agreed. He texted me ten minutes later: “So when are you free?”

We made plans to meet up at Birmingham’s Dia de Los Muertos festival this past Friday night, but I soon canceled with him and a few others (who I’d, as of this point, only made plans to meet up with). The next date explains why.

***

Captain Kangaroo (not his actual name) was just different. We’ll refer to him as CK.

When we introduced ourselves, he stuck out his hand. I shook it and said: “Wow — nice handshake! Very… powerful.” It was an awkward thing to say, and we both laughed. We laughed A LOT that evening.

He let me order and pay for my own food, which I liked; the two others had insisted on paying for mine, and it felt a little too old-school-chivalry for my liking. (I’ll add here that he did pay for my spinach pie during our second date and that this didn’t bother me at all, as he hadn’t appeared ultra-macho during our first date.)

Anyways, we took our food to-go and walked it over to Railroad Park, munching on falafel burritos while trains running parallel rolled along behind us.

We talked about the standard stuff (jobs, family, hobbies), walked in the dark for what felt like miles (he took his cardigan off and then put it back on like five times, ha), and then he led me to a cool spot where we were able to stand on one set of tracks while a train passed by on the other. Talk about powerful! The wind and sound were strong. He stood next to me – tall, dorky, handsome; tattooed, quiet, awkward – and I felt it.

 

Towards the end of the night, he asked if I’d watch a movie.

“Like… with you?” I asked, unsure of the question. He laughed.

We discussed the prospect of watching a movie together (what movie? where? what movies had he already seen, and what kind of movies did I like?) for about five minutes before I nodded my head at him. “Yes… I will watch a movie with you,” I said.

He laughed, seeming incredulous. “Wow. Good. I’m so glad.”

On my third date with CK (three dates in three days — I’m cautiously hoping that he’s just as crazy about me as I am about him!), we discussed our expectations of the relationship. Happily, it turns out that we we’re both down to date exclusively. He even casually mentioned taking me to his mom’s 10-foot-tall Christmas tree later on this year if I’m “still putting up with him.” I tried very hard to hide how happy his passing comment had made me.

He’s snarky and cynical and intelligent and funny and he works as a librarian and record store tradesman and he plays the freakin guitar. He’s pretty much perfect, and I’m trying to NOT fall head-over-heels in love with the guy. Key word: trying. 

And I’m scared, of course. So in my mind, we’re already broken, like the old cup. We’ve already said goodbye, and he’s already left… so there’s nothing to do, really, but enjoy every single magical second with him.

***

Without a millisecond of hesitation, I deleted the dating app yesterday evening. A few fun facts + one piece of advice:

  • It took less than a week for me to find my guy (using a dating app). And while his bio was spot on (cute, relatable, and intriguing), it was actually a picture that inspired me to reach out to him — one of him holding a furry animal in his arms. “Cute deer!” I messaged, beginning the conversation. “That’s no deer… that’s a baby kangaroo,” he replied. Awwwww… FUCK, I thought, thinking he’d probably un-match us right away. But he didn’t. And then two nights ago, when he couldn’t remember the word “charisma” during a conversation, I was able to supply it for him, so it seems we’ve evened it all out now. (Sidebar: Is “Captain Kangaroo” making more sense now?)
  • After canceling date numero dos w/the other guy (Kevin), I still ended up going to Dia de Los Muertos. I meandered around by myself for a while (perusing the market and observing people) and then met up with a close friend of mine. I’d already known what I was ready to do before the event had started, so when we reached the public altars, I paused to pull out an old wedding ring and set it down. My girl friend hugged me and held my hand while I cried, and finally, I said to her: “The last three years have been so hard. But I’m actually okay now. And I’m so happy.”
  • If you’re like I was until one literal week ago (lonely but vehemently against the idea of “resorting” to online dating), PLEASE give Bumble (or another one of those apps) a shot. It’s not a “loser” kinda thing to do… it’s just how people meet these days. And I’m so grateful to have found such a kindred spirit — I love his voice, and his gray-blue eyes, and his guitar hands, and his good heart…

Like, I mean. I LIKE his voice, and his eyes, and his hands, and his heart… 

 

Still here (NOT already planning an outdoor fall wedding w/falafel burritos and black cats and German Shepherds and friends with guitars… I promise),

Aun Aqui