A Theory On Why We’ll All Be Okay

After a week of nights where I spent hours giggling over my phone, then staying up late, then talking ad nauseum about friends she had not met, my fiance politely, calmly, in a way that seems neither of those things, asked that I abandon twitter and concentrate on her. Being the kind, warmhearted gent that I am, I argued about it for a few weeks, and then I saw that I was actually hurting her, and I made my exit.

Cut to years later, when I left the household, a month went by, and I came back to twitter in full regalia and in no time rebuilt my life around a few friends I already had and a bunch of new friends I made through the social media network in question.

SO?  

Life is so full of surprises. There was a time when she thought that we would fall apart because I wouldn’t give her what she needed. I thought it was stupid to think that we would fall apart because I had friends that I cared about, and she was being horrible and selfish.

TIME MAKES FOOLS OF US ALL, FRIENDS. Turns out, I was the one being horrible and selfish (sadly, not the last time) and we DID fall apart because I couldn’t give her what she needed.

YEAH, BUT…SO?

Being a friend to my friends is the singular greatest thing I have ever accomplished. I’ve made mistakes, let people fall through the cracks, and been rawther dickish, but I think I’ve also helped.

I’ve made people feel better on dark, lonely nights. I’ve hugged a hundred people (occasionally I’ve also done strange chestbumps with guys so as to seem manly). I have a few friends I can tell literally anything to, and they to me.

Not being dramatic at all, if the world were to end tomorrow, or even if just I was to stop living, I know I did something good. Something that I couldn’t fuck up enough to ruin, no matter how much I got lazy and let it fall away.

I’ve…I’ve done something good. With my time on Earth. I made someone smile.

Now, tomorrow, I’ll wonder what it was all for and feel useless, but today, I feel this in my bones.

SO….SO WHAT?

If you think of it this way…you could argue that if this is the one good thing I’ve done, it was my purpose. The plan for my life.

Further…if I was still married, I wouldn’t have been there to help the people I have. I wouldn’t have been there to love them like I do every day, even on the days when I hate the world and I don’t think anything I’ve ever done is worth the energy put into making me a human.

I do love you. All. Every one of you who read this, and even those who haven’t gotten around to it or weren’t turned on by my prose.

Being your friend has been more fulfilling than a hundred crushes or sexual relationships or doomed romances. I still want those things sometimes (not the doomed ones), and I like holding and being held and kissing too much to think I’ll just be satisfied with, you know, counseling text messages forever. But I kinda suck at those, historically.

Being a good guy to talk to? I’m pretty good at that.

So, if the plan God had laid out for me was to be a good friend, if this is how I can help the world…

Then my marriage falling apart wasn’t a loss. It was a necessary change.

There was so much stupid in me, then. So much unthinking, cold….not JUST me, but y’see, I do see my part in it. I’m not excusing anything that I did. Nothing can make it not BE.

But maybe this is why it all happened, in a way.

And if you start there, maybe that’s why there’s a plan in everything.

Wouldn’t it be funny if all the bad things that happen to us turned out to make all the good things possible?

It’s possible that I’m making big things out of small things, but that’s what I’m going with tonight.

 

On a side note, my final court date is next Tuesday. Perhaps I’m looking for reason in a cloud of confusion. But thank you, all, for still reading. And for letting me love you.

(Also, if you are reading this and wouldn’t mind testing out a doomed relationship with me, I may be game. Catch me at the right time.)

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10 Months On: A Lonesome Interlude, Whining For That Which Is Elusive

It’s a fairly common belief that the beauty in humanity comes not only from it’s strength, but from it’s frailty. We have a remarkable capacity to survive, to even flourish, under pressures that seem insurmountable to us, looking ahead to them from the present.

It is rare for most of us, in these days, to look back and feel true regret. At least, if you listen to people as a majority.

“Never regret!” “Live for yourself!” “Shake them haters off!”

These are the battle cries of our generation, come due from the one before it who seemed to prize secrecy, lack of intimacy, casual sex.

I grew up at the birth of giving every kid an award, giving A’s for B work, for everyone being special. As I talk to people now, as I make new friends and fall in love with each day and my heart breaks and leaps together again (as hearts are wont to do), Im noticing the next iteration of the cycle.

Girls are starting to label every situation with suitors as a different level of some . Almost none of the single people I know have a boyfriend or girlfriend; they are either “talking”, “dating”, “just seeing what happens”, or “concentrating on their career/school”, “just having fun”, “hanging out”, and if this list seems long and arbitrary, that’s because it is.

Guys seem to be pulling into themselves again, and being complicated and thoughtful and having a thick shell is the sign of a real man again.

In our society of instant gratification and of constant input and information flowing and secrets harder and harder to keep, we have started keeping real things close to the chest again. Everyone has a bad experience with a love lost, or a friendship torn asunder. Embarrassments thrust in the open. Fallibilities brought to light.

It’s only natural then, that openness is gauche. The ability to answer the question “How was your day?” has been undone again. I think in a year, “Fine” will be the state of all of us.

So. What is left?

I think….folks, I think it was fun, but my reign as King of the World has come to a close.

We had a great time, you and I, and we still will. Though I can be cold, distant, hurtful, I don’t know how to change who I am.

I will always be hyper-emotional, frail of heart, and aside from a few moments of pure divine grace, adaptation and resilience will be the best I have to offer. I am not…flashy.

I may be best suited now in a somewhat minor role. Heroism and amazement and spectacle are best left to those dignified guys who can grow a beard and maybe keep their feelings locked up, only to come out in sports majesty or feats of manly car talk.

I am good at the things which have made my life what it is. I can occasionally listen well. Sometimes, I give good advice. I can probably make you laugh, if you can survive the onslaught of jokes that I throw out in a given day.

This is a not a treatise of capitulation. There is never any surrender for me, or rest for the wicked, or whatever the other beta males out there who, like me, choose to poeticize our lives with. We know too well that life will go on, and the smartest thing I’ve ever told anyone is that there is always more to life than what is now or has been., Always more happiness, more sadness, more disappointment, more happy surprise, more life, more death.

I have lived, in the past ten months, after what is still the strangest, most turbulent event of my life. I have seen smiles, and tears, and the friends I have made and rediscovered are unlike any that I have ever experienced. I feel like I have a family. I have people who love and care about me. I have people who depend on me, though sometimes it is hard to see and be reassured of.

My life now is different. Sometimes lonely. But still my own. And I am excited for what tomorrow brings.

I just….I think it’s time to see who I am, for real. Maybe I can find peace better with what I have, then, instead of desiring that which won’t come. If I can see my lack of uniquity for what it is, maybe I will ward off the Sunday blues, be able to speak plainly, and be stronger on the whole.

The whole of the universe is in all of us. Good and bad and sweet and cold and resolute and weak of integrity.

It is my greatest strength and my greatest weakness that I don’t know how to easily move on, to wall off the parts of myself that hurt, to open wide the doors that lead to happiness. But maybe I can learn. If I am not unique, then I can learn what everyone else learns as they get older.

I just…I’m ready to get it done so I can be whatever I am supposed to.

Ten months ago, my marriage ended, almost four months ago I turned 30, and some days I still feel like a naive boy. The world is all maybes and “talking” and changing the subject. I may have to learn to change, too.

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Christmas Is The Time For Everything

As I walked into the restaurant for the Office Christmas Party, I noted sadly the inclusion of an extra place setting next to mine. It was no one’s fault, and I might’ve brought a date, but that chair sat staring at me the entire night, and brought to mind the true nature of my favorite holiday.

I have always loved Christmas. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather (I look better in sleeves than in shorts), the tv specials (I cry at everything), or the proximityto my birthday (December 28th), but I would throw a Christmas party like you wouldn’t believe, I make a punch that will knock you happily on your ass, and my favorite activity as a child was leaving school early and watching Miracle on 34th Street with my mom.

As I get older, I notice how I can remember each year and catalogue them by how happy or unhappy I was. I even have started viewing some years as good even if they had bad things attached to them.

For instance, there was my trip home from Seattle.

I had reached a point of depression up there, feeling alone, the farthest away from family I had ever felt. On December 18th, very drunk (I was drinking every day, then), I came home to a cold, empty apartment (a blizzard had blown the power out and my room mates were out of town) and…I guess you could say I came very close to suicide.

My depression had snuck up on me. Feeling alone had become a way of life, and I hadn’t yet learned to let people know that I was miserable. I also hadn’t really taken into account the effect that not seeing the sun for months on end has on you. That night, in my darkest of hours, I reached out. I called Mom, I posted on myspace, I called anyone who was up. I reached one person, who told me she loved me and to go to bed and we’d talk about it in the morning. I finally did.

The next day, my whole world seemed to surround me. My roommates came home, and tearfully told me how much they loved me and wanted to help, in any way I needed. Someone called my Mom, and….I still remember the terror in her voice when she called. She told me to come home for Christmas.

I remember walking out of the airport, the cool air (so warm and thick compared to the air in the Pacific Northwest), seeing my Mom…

She took me to my little cousin’s Christmas program that night. The 7 year olds sang Silent Night, and I cried, happy to be alive, seeing a future before me I could have missed.

That was a good Christmas. And a terrible one.

There was also last year’s. My wife and I had our family over for Christmas Eve. Hers spent the night, and the next morning we woke up, made a huge breakfast, and opened presents. Her dad told us how proud he was of us, that we did Christmas RIGHT in my house.

That was a FANTASTIC Christmas. And It’s a sad one now.

The thing about Christmas is…it’s for everyone.

Happy, in love? Who doesn’t love Christmas with their significant other, meeting their families, or exchanging gifts specially, just you two, sitting cross legged in front of the tree, maybe making love after?

The giant family Christmas is the bane of existence and the happiest time of the year for many people. I felt both ways, tired, annoyed, and in love with life.

But that’s not all. Are you heartbroken? Do you feel alone? Do you walk around and hear the songs, watch the movies listlessly, and wonder why everyone should celebrate the coldest time of the year, inside and out?

At Christmas, everyone (I think) is a little sad, too. They think of people they’ve lost, times that have passed, and a holiday that used to mean so much more, that used to last from Thanksgiving day to New Year’s Eve.

At Christmas, if you feel happy, or sad, or all of the emotions in between (I like lonesome and wistful, myself) you can walk around in good company. All the world is ready for a new beginning, a second chance, or a renewal of love, and passion, and a life we all dream of.

Now, as I write this, still wearing my tie and my chucks (I love writing while dressed “Christmas party snazzy”), I think of the empty chair at the table.

I remember the girl who used to sit there, and I long for a time when I felt happy and loved and surrounded by family.

But I also think of who might sit there next. And dream of how happy my next Christmas might be.

And in the meantime, I’ve got every other chair at my table filled with people I love. And that means I can feel my Christmas blues, then shrug them off and laugh and celebrate with friends.

And that’s a pretty swell gift.

 

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Fight

He is a trucker, burnin the highway

his heart is strong as stone

Countin the yard lines, passin the hard times

Ridin that black top home

My Dad has been in the trucking industry for over 15 years. I remember waking up at 4 am to go riding with him, each time not wanting to go, each time knowing he wanted me to….I would go, sit there, not understand anything on the CB, and sometimes fall into what I can tell you was the most uncomfortable sleep I’ve ever had. Around 3 or 4, I would pray that he would be done so I could go home and be left alone and maybe watch some TV. It never occurred to me that he did this EVERY DAY.

A few years ago (when I wasn’t around), he moved into the office as a dispatcher. It seemed like a good move, as he would have a regular schedule, would make the same money, or thereabouts, and wouldn’t have to worry about having a wreck or doing truck maintenance.

After I moved home last time, I realized that things had started sucking pretty bad. He’d eventually had to come out to them (and who knows how much fun it could’ve been to say “I’m gay” to a room full of truckers in Hicksville, TX), and the boss had started to take his “salary” status for granted. Dad started getting home at 7 instead of 6, then 8. Some days, he and I got home at the same time, and I would have had rehearsal AFTER work. Money got tight, and stayed that way, and all the hours he worked seemed to add nothing to the general health or welfare of his household.

Sometimes, I see him, so angry and depressed that he looks on the verge of tears. I ask him how his day was, and he’ll just look at me with such sadness in his eyes.

She is an intern, fighting the love burn

Riding the tears like a wave

That angel’s boyfriend left her with nothin

but she’ll never be his slave

There’s a girl I know who is young enough to experience for the first time things some of us take for granted. She works hard, but she’s not quite old enough to have developed a great work ethic, she’s smart, but a bad speller, and no one has pulled her aside and told her that text with ThIs KiNdA tHiNg makes a lot of mature people cringe. She is beautiful, but she does that thing where she takes her picture EVERYDAY and posts it on Facebook and we’re all like, WE KNOW YOU’RE PRETTY. STOP CELEBRATING.

Anyhow, this girl is the sweetest girl. A little young, but she gives good hugs. A year ago, she met a boy (EMPHASIS ON THAT WORD), fell in “love”, and got pregnant. She found this out, of course, around 5 months after they broke up. They soon got back together for the interest of the family.

She went through the rest of the pregnancy like a champ, and had the prettiest little girl that I was ever able to hold on THE FIRST DAY SHE WAS ALIVE. (As Instadad, I freaked right out.)

You know that moment where the ditzy young girl has a baby and is suddenly a pro at life? That’s what happened. A few months later, she finally ditched the father and set out on her own, her baby on her hip and her compass spinning wildly, no idea what she would do or how she would provide for the prettiest girl on Earth.

I’m like my grandma, short, but I stand tall

Playin every single card that’s dealt to me

You know, some days are aces, well, some days are faces

Some days are twos and threes

For the past week, my lack of money, my living with parents, my growing need for female affection (complete with the dirty jokes that have been issuing forth, almost unfiltered), and the fact that I am still legally married have made me feel quite pathetic. Not only do I feel like my life has spun out of control, I feel like my life was never really on track.

Were the past three years so happy and comfortable because of us, or because I was leaning on her? What does THIS say about our divorce? And where does that leave me now? With a life to build?

And there are no easy answers, nothing anyone can do for me that will make it better. The most I can hope for is a lot of luck, and maybe a girl who likes to laugh  more than she likes to not pay for dinner.

I have, really, no idea how my life will climb out of this hole, or what person I will be when it finally does.

So what do all these things have to do with each other? How do my Dad, my friend, her daughter, and the ruins of what used to be my life (and my self-confidence) all fit together in what I have to tell you?

None of us can give up. None of us can forget all the things we’ve been through to get to where we are now, wherever that is. We (including you) have to keep the horizon in our sights and keep sailing, because yesterday, you didn’t have what you had today. And tomorrow, you could have the world.

I feel like absolute shit today. Left out, forgotten, worthless, losing at life.

Tomorrow, it’ll get a little better, hopefully. By the weekend, I’ll be the happiest guy alive, ready to stand in front of a freight train for any of my friends (and a few strangers). And I know I’ll have a few friends ready to do the same, and a LOT of friends ready to at least petition the train to stop.

We’re all going to be okay.

You gotta fight fight fight fight all the way

you gotta fight fight fight all the way

you gotta set your sight on the lord in your life

You’ve gotta fight til your dyin’ day.

 

Fight, by Ben Kweller (C) Twelve Sided Die

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Our Damn Story, Part 3 (The End)

I’ve been going back and forth all week, trying to figure out where to end this, my essay on the beginning and end of my relationship with my wife.

I’ve been cheered on by friends (love you guys, more than I could ever write about) and ideas have been running around in my head like horses having a pre-storm fit.

Should I tell you guys how we fought? How we both said and did horribly hurtful things to each other, even before we knew we had problems?

There was the time I snapped at her and called her idiot, and she went upstairs without dinner and spent the rest of the night alone. There was the time she got wine drunk and refused to leave a friend’s house until 2 am, knowing I had to be up at 7 for work the next morning. (I finally, shamefully, had to yell at her in front of everyone until she agreed to leave, and we drove all the way from McKinney to Dallas arguing, each threatening to leave the other on the side of the road.  The worst part? We had two friends in the car at the time.) I could tell you about how we began to focus on our different interests, and not include the other (I would play xbox while she watched basketball in the other room.) Or, I could simply tell you how we broke each other’s hearts, over and over, without meaning to, but were too proud to look back.

I think the best thing to tell you, the real nugget of truth in whatever I could say is…things fell apart.

It happened rather quickly, for me.  She started spending more and more time away from home, and when I finally got her to tell me (over the phone, as I drove home and she sat in the breakroom at work) what was going on, she said she worried that we didn’t have the same goals. I wasn’t ambitious, and I was lazy, and I didn’t make enough money. I begged her to let me fix it, to sit with me and solve whatever problems we had so we could be stronger. She said something that I’ll never, ever forget.

“I just…I don’t know if I care anymore.”

I tried to give her space, but spent every night for two weeks alone at home, making dinner, waiting up for a key in the door that only came when I was already in bed.

By the time Dad asked me to come dogsit over Memorial Day weekend, I was wondering if I could do anything. She said it would be a good idea, so that she could have some real space.

While I was at Dad’s, I caught up with an old friend on Facebook, got drunk, and ended up sexting with her by the end of the night.

Kelley immediately found out. I spent hours apologizing, and didn’t sleep for three days, but it was…it was probably over, then. I came home two days later, Kelley had me stay in the guest room, and asked me to move out for a while the day after that.

I stayed with Dads. I would call Kelley every day, try to get her to let me come home, and she would talk about banal matters of the day until she said she had to go do something with friends, or spend time with her family.

After a couple of weeks, I sent my wife, the woman who I had met, lost, won back, and apparently lost again, a text message.

I asked her, and she said yes.

But this time, the question was…Are we over?

The next few weeks were…I would go to work each day, and some days I would have to run to the bathroom and let the tears flow down my cheeks and pray and beg the Lord and Kelley and whoever could hear me for another chance…but most days I didn’t.

I would come home and be fine until I saw my dog, looking up at me. She always seemed to be saying Daddy? When can we go HOME? I would hold her, rocking back and forth, and wonder if anything could ever be home again.

Over time, it got better.

I began to see that we rushed into things in the beginning. We overlooked problems that should have been addressed.

I think we are two different people who both have the same ideas of happiness. We both wanted a wedding, a marriage, a family so much. I think we were…we were in love. What can you say about people who are crazy for each other, for the lives they want, other than the lyrics from Smoke Gets In Your Eyes?

I think she was unhappy for a long time. I think I was, too, but I pushed it away long enough to make her be the one to stand up and call a time out.

I think of all the times we fought, over nothing, and the battleground our lives became.

We would always make up in the end…but so much time was lost.

I don’t want you to think we had only bad times.

When we were planning our wedding, we sat in bed one night, playing songs for each other. This was my idea for our first dance, this was her idea for the Father/Bride dance. We both cried openly, so moved were we by the love for each other we felt, and the dreams that were coming true.

I remember being at home on Sundays, the one day of the week we had together off-work. We would sleep late, I would go get breakfast from Goldrush Cafe around the corner, we’d eat in bed and watch TV and snuggle and enjoy each other.

And there were so many good conversations. She is still one of the smartest, funniest, kindest people I know.

So why did we waste so much time together fighting, not sharing ourselves with one another? It’s…so…stupid.

As I sit here on this rainy night, thinking about the girl I fell in love with once, and the man I was when I was in love with her, I can’t stop thinking about all the wasted time. 

We all have so…little…time on this world.

We have to work, to do laundry, to work out and to eat crappy food. All of this leaves us with a tiny fraction of our lives left with the ones we love and the things we love doing.

And how we spend it, that small portion of time, defines who we are and what we live for.

I went outside earlier. The rain was falling (looks like this long, hard, terrible Summer is finally over) and the clouds were so thick that the lights from this tiny town reflected back off them, creating a false daylight, a sort of cloudlight.

I thought about my wife, and how wherever she was, she may not be able to see the Moon and stars either. But I also know they are still up there. And we will see them again one night when the world isn’t covered with false images, reflected off of dark, stormy clouds.

She was my best friend for three years. I hope she knows that. I hope I told her enough. I’ve apologized, but I hope she knows how sorry I will be for the rest of my life.

Beyond that, everything is the past. It will always be sad. But the clouds disperse of their own accord, and life goes on beneath them.

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Our Damn Story, Part 2

So here I was, after a first date with a girl I was pretty crazy about, dating another person (one with a lot of baggage, to boot).

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea; “Millicent” [Not her real name] was an extremely sweet lady. She was very smart, very talented, and worthy of the love any decent man could give her. She just also had a big past, one filled with her own triumphs, heartbreaks, children, and lots and lots of grrl-ish tendencies.

I suppose what happened was simple, and stupid: I fell into the trap of being worshipped.

Millicent thought I was a GENIUS, thought I was DEVILISHLY handsome, and was absolutely IN LOVE with me. And after kind of a tough year (laughable, compared to THIS year, by the way), to be thought of as wonderful without much effort was kind of nice. Comforting.

I liked her kids, I liked her a lot, and the physical part was pretty awesome, but after a month or two, it became obvious to me that this was going nowhere for me. The Irish in me would stick it out for too long, eventually get resentful, and it would all end in a massive nightmare which would leave friends betrayed, hearts scarred, and probably a lot of tears lost to infinity.

We didn’t last long.

(Want to know the sad part? It’s probably all in my head.

Millicent was a recently divorced mother of two. I wonder if I really thought our break up could hurt her as bad as anything else that has ever happened to her. It’s sad to think of myself as a footnote in her story…but that’s probably the best case scenario.)

Three weeks after I split with Millicent, I somehow convinced Kelley to see me again.

I walked to her front door, straightening my collar, even more nervous than before. What could I possibly say to her? Was this even the right thing to do? Shouldn’t I keep moving forward? Will it ever be enough to…she opened the door.

And folks, I tell ya, all the thoughts left my head. She was even more beautiful than I remembered her. She invited me in, and though I noticed a space between us that I hadn’t felt before, she was very friendly.

She made us a drink (scotch on the rocks, which I pretended to like and then just gulped to calm my nerves), and we didn’t talk about anything important. She was on and off her GF diet, I was still working at the truck stop and slowly learning to hate the random customer, she had just gotten back from the Bahamas on a trip with her sister who was lucky not to have been murdered (by Kelley). 

And we laughed, and looked into each other’s eyes, and the same thing was still there. She still impressed me more than anyone I’d ever met.

As she got up to pour a second drink, I went with her to the kitchen (to help, and also to avoid getting the scotch again). As the tall guy, she asked me to reach in the back of the freezer and grab the ice tray. When I turned around, she was at the sink cutting limes, and in that small kitchen, I put the ice down, slowly placed my hands on her shoulders, and bent down to kiss her.

In the microcosm of the second it took me to reach her lips, I saw a myriad of emotions dart through her eyes: fear, anger, desire…and then simple release. She put her arms around me, her hands behind my neck, and met my lips with hers.

We held each other that way for a long time.

I didn’t leave her apartment for the rest of the weekend. We went out for a drink on the following night, feeling that fusion of pure happiness and dread for tomorrow, when we had to go back to the real world. As we sat in the crowded bar on lower Greenville, smoke in the air, the cacophony of pool shots and music and loud cheering for some game that was on TV, a lull in the conversation made me notice Kelley’s eyes on me.

“What?”

She said nothing. I softened, suddenly feeling vulnerable.

“…what?”

She took a breath and said, “I’m just glad you’re here.”

I looked at her, with all of the love I never knew I could have welling up inside of me. I thought of the things I’d done, the hurt I’d caused.

“I…I should have been here a long time ago.”

We tabbed out and went home together.

***

That was November 15th. 

On New Year’s Eve, I pulled her from the party we were holding into the bathroom with me. I got down on one knee, and told her that I didn’t have much of anything. I worked a crappy job, I lived with parents, I had almost no money.

But everything I had was meaningless anyway, because she was the only thing that made me happy. Everything I had been before was just a prologue to what I was when I held her.

With her, I felt like I was Somebody.

I sighed, thinking of the time we had spent apart while I was with someone who treated me like I hung the moon. Who thought I could do amazing things. I never thought so, but hey, it’s nice to live in a fantasy  sometimes, right?

When Kelley would talk to her family about me, or poke a little fun at me in front of our friends, when we would lie in bed and just look at each other that minute before we turned out the light….she made me feel like I was important. I loved her so much that the warm light I saw inside of her seemed to pass through the air and into me, filling me with love and the ability to do good in the world.

Loving her made me feel like I could do anything.

I took a ribbon that had been on one of the Christmas presents from a few days before, and tied it around her finger.

I asked, and she said yes.

To be Concluded, Painfully.

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Our Damn Story, Part 1

I straightened my collar as I walked up to Kelley’s apartment the first time, repeating the mantra over and over in my head: If you’re not handsome by the time you leave the house, you ain’t gonna be. Best leave it alone and look like you don’t care.

I had showered and shaved a full two hours early, as I am wont to do on a Saturday date (I have whatever that gene is that makes waiting until the last minute seem disrespectful and inviting of disaster), so whatever flaws there were in my appearance had already bucked up and shown themselves. I wore black, as most theatre guys do, and there were maddening white dog hairs stuck in here or there. My hair had dried from it’s cool, wet looking sheen to the frazzled, wide-looping curls that I always considered a curse. My smoker’s breath was good, because I had gum, but I was terrified my clothes smelled cigarette-y and that that would be a big turn off.

I was never very good at “being cool”, but over the past few years I had been on about a hundred dates, so I had learned (somewhat) how to be funny without being creepy.  I was counting on this lasting me through most relationships, and relied on it through most every encounter I had with girls, including times when I was pantsless or drunk.

When she answered the door, whatever passed for my coolness immediately went away. My voice cracked as I said “HeEEeey” and I tripped on the door frame as I leaned in to give her an awkward hug. What I noticed immediately was that she gave AMAZING hugs.

As a hugger myself, you learn to tell what kind of hugs to expect from people. Sometimes, it can tell you how they feel about you. For instance: if a hug is kind of one-armed, with a pat on the back, you know that person is either unsure of how they know you, or another guy. If the pat becomes a thick THUD against your back, that man thinks of you as a Bro. If a girl gives you both arms under yours, it either means she is short, or it means she trusts you to a certain extent, but may see you as a woman-friend. (I know this hug well.) If you get both arms, over yours, around your neck…well, you get the idea.

Anyhow, she WAS short, so her arms went under mine, but there was a closeness she brought that I honestly hadn’t expected, and a brief holding that was lovely. Her hug showed her personality, in that she can be very warm and loving, easy to make friends, protective of the ones who earn it. 

We weren’t exactly strangers, of course. We had met on eHarmony a few weeks before, had gone through all the steps of communication, and had finally been emailing each other (using our actual personal emails) for a few days. We had spoken on the phone a few times, and by the time we met, we knew a lot of the straight facts about each other.

I was a big nerd, she was a party girl.

I had grown up in Lake Highlands, she in Richardson.

I liked classic rock and folk, she liked classic rock and novelty rap.

She was a Leo, I was a Capricorn, and neither of us knew what that really meant.

We had decided that July 4th was a good day to finally have a date, as I was off work AND the show I was doing at the time, and she had no real plans. We decided to order chinese food, watch some tv, and go watch the fireworks at Lakewood Country Club from the parking lot of a nearby office building.

As I sat in her tiny apartment, not knowing I would soon move in and live there until we moved out a year later (to a different tiny apartment in Lakewood), I began to fall in love with her.

She always had an issue of Rolling Stone with Jerry Garcia on the cover placed on her coffee table. She liked to drink, but had recently been diagnosed as gluten intolerant, and was very woeful about the idea of never having beer again.  She had great hair, as she was a stylist, and she liked the way my thick curls seemed to have a mind of their own. She was as nervous as I was, but I had never met a girl who made as many jokes as I did, UNDERSTOOD all of my jokes, and had the Evil Dead 2 on DVD.

We laughed, and we watched Knocked Up, which I hadn’t seen, and then we packed ourselves into my car and went to watch the fireworks.

As we leaned on the hood of my Kia, the sky afire with light above us, I grasped her hand. When she didn’t move her hand, but held mine tightly, I put my arm around her. When she allowed this, I went all-in and leaned over to kiss her. Amidst the booms and explosions, I thought to myself, I could MARRY this girl.

As I left that night, I walked to my car with the lightheaded, almost-skip of a guy head over heels.

I was so enamoured with Kelley that I immediately entered into a relationship with a recent divorcee who had two children and was 11 years older than me.

To be continued.

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