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

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