(This has been sitting in my drafts for a while now. Found it again the other day, gave it a once over, and hope you like it.)
The call would come sometime between two and four am. You, unable to sleep. You, insomniatic, looking for the same from me.
But you’d never actually ask me. For an hour or so, you’d hem and haw and turn it back on me. “Do you want to come over?” Of course I did, I rolled my eyes, or I wouldn’t have answered the damn phone.
It was easy to pack, in those days. My makeup bag still in my purse from the day, add a pair of leggings and a toothbrush, and I was already walking to my car when you finally said “Okay, come over.”
We didn’t have a greeting, per se.
I’d open your bedroom door, and there wasn’t a hug or a kiss, it was you. Sitting on your bed. Sometimes the guitar was on your lap or your notebook on the table. But, more often than not, it was just you, sitting there, still in jeans, watching the sky outside, smoke trailing from your cigarette. And I’d sit down, on the folding chair across from you, and reach for your lighter.
We’d talk, or listen to music, or sit in silence for hours Watching the sky grow from black to purple to pink with orange hues. The breeze drifting in and your pack emptying out. You’d brush your hair out of your face every few minutes, switch between music, look out past me, through me, shaking your head at unvoiced thoughts.
I would listen to you, focus intently on whatever you were saying, but my gaze would often drift down to your lips. I liked the way you formed your words, the way your mouth moved as you softly sang along to parts of songs, the way you spoke about anything and everything I liked the way you kissed.
And your head would tilt to the left, hair falling out of where you’d just placed it, and your mouth would twitch into a smile. That 5AM smile. A smile that felt like it was only mine. If only for a moment. It was only mine to see. This is stupid, I know. Untrue, a fantasy then and now. We tend to romanticize the past.
And then, with the sun in the sky and the birds twittering you’d look at your phone and moan. You had to sleep. Or try. Be at work at whatever time. Demand I be your alarm clock and wake you up, make you move. And at this point, you still would not have touched me.
So, we’d crawl into bed, and you’d ask if I was sleepy. 5, 6, 7 AM. “Are you tired?” Of course I was. I was exhausted. But I would stay awake and say, No. Because then, and only then, would you wrap your arms around me.
And when your mouth found mine, pretense faded. And all your shouldn’t, can’t, and won’ts turned into my clothes on the floor and you on top of me, kissing me, pulling my hair back. I’d sometimes make my eyes meet yours, and when I did, you’d fuck me even harder. Because it was only in those moments, the seconds of fevered movements, that you could admit If only for an instant, if only in that way That you really did want me
You’d roll over, and groan, again, at the time. And I’d say I’d wake you up as you pulled me to you, cuddling me against your chest. In the morning, you’d have let me go, and when your alarm went off I’d press my lips to your skin, and gently tell you to get up. You told me once it felt nice, to have me holding you. I’d stay there until the music played two or three more times. And when you left, you’d kiss me goodbye.
You couldn’t tell me that you miss me Instead, in the after, you said that you miss having an insomniac to call. That you miss “those nights.” So now, as I can’t sleep, my mind racing and aching, I use your language I miss watching your face under the light of the rising sun And the cigarettes and the music and your voice And you know, full well, that means I miss you too.
I remember when I was waiting for this book to be released, years ago, when I was working at a bookstore. The stock manager, or whatever her actual title was, set one copy aside specially for me. Its lived in various bags far more than it’s designated place on my shelf, with a beat up cover and water stained pages to prove it.
I was on a vacation the last time I was reading it, while we were together. And lying in the sun, studying its contents, I thought of you. We’d discussed the author before, I’d discussed the book with you before. So when I came back, I gave it to you.
Temporarily, at least in intention.
The time before the last time I saw you, you had it in your bag. You were bringing it to work with you – you were definitely reading it. And that made me happier than I could say.
Do I bring this up now? How? It feels seems petty and unnecessary. Reopening a wound that should be closed by now, and I’m still picking and re-picking at the scab. It feels both like an excuse to talk to you and an excuse to make sure we never talk again. So long as you have that book, I have an excuse to message you. Have a reason to reach out.
And again, it also feels petty and childish as all hell to ask for it back now, after so much time has passed. And I’m afraid of what would happen if I did. If I’m ready for the closure of you.
But really, honestly, I want my book back. I want it back on my shelf and the ability to carry it with me again. I want to revisit sections and reread favorite parts.
I don’t want to want to reach out to you. I don’t want to have this idea in the back of my mind. I simultaneously want you to leave it where I can grab it without seeing you, and sit down for a drink with you, and have the discussion we should have had months ago.
The discussion about more than just the book. About the things you still admit to me you don’t know, or rather, haven’t let yourself think about long enough to figure out.
I suppose, at some point, I’ll simply buy another copy. Let you be, and accept in my heart these are the things I must let go. But I’d bet it will stay pristine for far longer than the original.
I hadn’t seen him in about five years when we were at that wedding. We got through the ceremony, to the reception, and we were sat next to each other at the table. And I think it took a grand total of three minutes before we were balls deep in a discussion of something political, or literary.
And we laughed, and we danced and had a great time. At one point a couple of the girls went to the bathroom, and while we were touching up our makeup one said to me,
“You know, everyone is betting you guys are hooking up tonight.”
And I know they meant it with all the kindness in the world and I know they meant it from a place of thinking he and I would be good for each other and I know they said it because we have chemistry and blah blah fucking blah.
You know what also requires chemistry? The best kinds of friendship.
The truth is, and it’s been discussed with him, many a time; if we dated, we would fucking kill each other.
To say nothing of the fact that we are wholly incompatible. We want fundamentally different things, in our partners, in our futures. We want to be in different places in the country, we want to experience life in similar and yet completely dissimilar ways.
He came to spend the weekend with me on what would have been his wedding day. And you know what we did? Smoked cigars, drank a shit ton of whisky, and talked about books. Because he’s one of my best friends, and that’s what best friends do.
I really, truly, do not understand when (cishet) girls and guys get jealous when their partner has friends of the opposite sex.
Seriously guys? Do you just want your girlfriend to be with her female friends all day? More than likely, you will either end up in an argument over why you haven’t gotten her a big ass diamond yet (ITS BEEN 6 MONTHS, CHAD. WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME?!) Or, she’ll dump your sorry ass because she’s been surrounded by the friends who won’t tolerate your shit.
And girls, do you not want him to have the friend that he can go to and say hey it’s Lauren’s birthday and I have no idea what to get her please help me what’s the difference between a size 6 and a size M? (So much. So much is different.)
We need balance and perspective. And that balance and perspective does not need to include romantic chemistry.
This friend and I, we’ve known each other for coming up 13 years. And we’re there for each other, we support each other. We edit each other’s writing and know not to coddle the other. We’re comfortable enough to actually talk about how we’re feeling and when we’re having a bad day, which isn’t something we do for many people. And so believe me when I say, we also know we’re never going to date.
But I will happily wing-woman him, give him advice and brutal honesty when he needs it. And he will tell me when I need to raise my standards because the current fuck boy is treating me like shit, or when I should be patient and wait for explanations.
I had a phone call the other day, with that same group of friends from the wedding, and I mentioned his name. And one said, you guys are definitely the “if we’re not married by 40, we’ll marry each other” friends.
We’re not, though. We’re the friends who say, your partner needs to like me and my partner needs to like you so when we’re stuck in the old folks home together and we’re still debating trade policy they know to continue on with their bridge game because we’ll be here a while.
It’s one of the first things they tell you, it’s repeated and repeated and repeated. By the instructors, the textbooks, the videos.
Keep your head up.
Because the wind is blowing against you, even with your helmet you can feel it. The throttle is beneath your hand.
Eyes on the horizon.
Your first time riding a motorcycle, and it’s terrifying. I don’t care who you are. Even on a tiny little 125cc engine, you feel it go, how little it takes, and it’s goddamn terrifying to have that kind of power. You’re running through exercises, trying to remember everything they taught you. Trying to remember how to shift gears and how far out your bike needs the clutch and where the fuck are the rear brakes, anyway?
And they tell you, don’t look at the ground, when that’s all you want to do.
I tried this, after the first day of class, to look up more when I was driving my car, walking around the city, etc. My posture has been dreadful for years, and it’s only thanks to 2 years of bodywork and ballet that it’s starting to feel less grotesque to hold my head where it’s supposed to naturally be.
That being said, I still, far more often than not, look down more than ahead.
And trying it, the wind blows at my eyes, making them water, making my left eye stream, (it’s never the right, for unknown reasons, like only half of my brain is experiencing some traumatic event). It pulls against where my triceps want to go and makes the constant pounding across my forehead worse. And it feels unnatural, like I’m staring everyone and everything down in some perverse contest of self importance.
All that is to say, you remind me of riding a motorcycle.
Because I am fucking terrified of everything you make me feel.
I told you this, one bourbon filled night, that you scare me, that having this love for you is frightening beyond measure. And you held me, my head against your chest, and told me of course it was, the fear was a part of it, and you understood. You were scared, too.
Do you remember the night, lying on your living room floor, you looked at me and said, “I didn’t think anyone could tie you down,” ? And I told you, “I want to call you mine.” The cutest, most wonderful smile spread across your face, and you pulled me down to kiss you.
I knew, I was in for you.
But you know that you are a first for me. The first “I love you,” The first of so many emotional steps. And those are much, much bigger than any physical thing we could possibly do.
You ride on a bike, and the wind is flying past you, and you’re holding onto a machine and trying to remember to look up, to not be afraid, when in truth it is new and horrifying and why did anyone think you could do this and give you a license to do this and let you loose on city streets?
I have survived you leaving me once before. And I keep hearing things about this girl who had you then, and try to keep my bitterness at bay. But the more I hear and the deeper into you I fall, the less restrained I become.
I hear it in your voice, in their voices, when you all talk about her.
Everytime you say she called, or you have to tread on eggshells because of her.
I hear the hurt in you. And the more I care about you the angrier I get. Not just at her, but at you. For choosing someone you knew would hurt you again, and again, and again. And in that process, hurting me too.
I understand, if you had been happy, then we would not be ‘us’ now. But I think that would be easier to swallow than knowing we both went through hell just to wind up in the same place.
Keep your eyes on the horizon. That’s where you find your balance.
Except, we’re not in the same place. I became somehow simultaneously more jaded, and more vulnerable to you. Found the ability to be open and tell you that you, who you are and what you give me, is what I want. Is what I’ve been wanting. And you not just found your way back to me, but are even more of what you were and who you are, and have opened yourself to me too.
I love you, and I know you love me too. We can say this to each other, now.
Look up, look up, look up.
I remember the first time, on the back of your Harley, holding on to you for dear life, knowing you wouldn’t let anything happen to me. And you told me afterwards, that with the seat placed as it was, I didn’t have to hold on, I could let go.
I will survive, if you leave me again. I will not cause scenes, or chase you down, or show you any of the hurricane that would be inside me. But I would also never come back again. I think a part of you knows that. But I can’t help remembering, when you give me glimpses to a future that might be ours, that this is not new to you. These feelings that are so true, promises made in a moment that could disappear as fast as it came into being.
I hate that I still feel this way. That I can’t let these feelings go to just believe in you, and in us.
I want to feel the engine beneath me and soar up the hills. I want to look out to the sky and enjoy the ride, without fear, without a sense of impending doom.
Loving you has been less scary, with every passing day.