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