bad boys, bad boys… what ya gonna do?

Last Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And oh yeah — the police car! Hello!

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

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

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

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

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

***

Sometime After Sunday

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

Okay. Well here’s what happened next.

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

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

Uhhhhh…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Man oh man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Wednesday Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“…what?”

He smiled, waiting for me to guess.

“…what?” I repeated, laughing.

“Toe-fu,” he said. Haha.

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

“A sandwich,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG-7339

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

Aun Aqui

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