Our friendship rebooted itself with pronounced enthusiasm. Although I found myself quite busy with school and work, there wasn’t a singular occasion when I could resist his call. Many evenings we were together, and if, by some chance, I wasn’t able to immediately confirm or otherwise respond to his summons, I would find on my phone beckoning pictures of steaming coffee cups with my name scribbled on them, valiantly pre-purchased and sitting somewhere next to him, in wait of me. I, in truth, was quite transfixed by the entire ordeal, revived and whirlwind as it was. A long time Lonely girl, I found myself relieved for a time of my cumbersome Bête noire and with it my moniker. It wasn’t merely that I no longer felt as alone, or that he wooed me in that obsequiously sweet and wordy way of his; there was also the beguiling lure of innocence to the whole affair. The combination was irresistible and so singularly unique that, against my better judgment, I started to believe we had the makings of something special or at least something that would keep.
Often, at close of evening, we would return to my humble Santa Monica abode and watch together some respectable television programming. I think, somewhat amusingly, the program we watched most of was HBO’s Big Love. My couch wasn’t exactly petit but it necessitated the sort of proximity that, in all honesty, was best suited to romantic entanglements. Said proximity though did, after a while, contribute to a blurring of those proverbial lines which govern physical appropriateness and its limitations. One night he held my arm across his lap and my hand in his, some random other I rested against his shoulder, eventually, on all the rest, we laid together, perfectly melded, without an iota of space left between us. Sadly, I do not think I had ever before been so close to another human being, or so at home. With my head cradled against his chest I listened to the alien mutterings of his heart and was, to my own surprise , conspicuously, completely satisfied. It went on this way for a while turning into a kind of ritual between us.
The obvious observation here would be that the relationship was transforming into something more than a friendship, but truly it was not. Our prelapsarian entanglement was for both of us a kind of experiment in intimacy and diversion. It was this alchemy too that drove us to the climactic eventuality of touching lips. Although the sacrilege of this act, conducted as it were between mere friends, was satisfying, I’ll admit, we both considered it a bit of a fall from grace. Of all the moments we shared, our kissing is not one I remember. I don’t remember it what so ever. I only know that it happened because I recall my subsequent thoughts and our discussion of it. I couldn’t even say if it happened more than once, although my guess would be that it did.
At some point he invited me out to dinner with his family, the patrimonial half of it anyways, as his parents were long divorced. I got the sense that it had more to do with paternal approval than the advance of our friendship. I think he needed a prop to reassure Father of his red blooded American maleness, however counterfeit it was. I didn’t mind, the night was warm and the situation interesting, albeit seasoned perhaps with a subtle pinch of dysfunction. I was by every definition as obliging an actor in that theater as I was an unwitting one in the other.
J treated me always with exceeding care and gentlemanly regard. He had no money, but still insisted on buying my lattes. When he wanted me to watch Pan’s Labyrinth, he got it for me on DVD. His enduring attentions along with many small acts of kindness relieved me eventually and completely of all my reservations. If it wasn’t a seduction, it was a markedly assiduous and well executed persuasion. Admiration grew to a kind of lonely girl love and friendship transformed into a kinship, for me anyways. When fumigation rendered my house uninhabitable, I was all set to move for a short while into my aunt’s home, but J interceded, inviting me to stay with him at his father’s domicile in the Palisades. The rest of his clan was at the time traveling elsewhere, so the house sat empty but for him. I occupied his little sister’s room the very next day, it was a perfect fir, Goldilocks would have turned green with envy.
I believe we cohabitated for about a week or maybe a little longer. A charming little vignette, we were like two odd peas marinating in their special pod. We were, by my estimation, closer than ever. He didn’t talk much about San Francisco or this mysterious crisis that sent him scurrying back to LA, but the one person from his previous circumstance that he seemed to yearn for was a certain Berkeley professor. As I understood, they shared a singularly special intellectual kinship. One night he showed me their online exchanges and emails, his reaction while he reviewed them was more telling than their actual content, which frankly was somewhat beyond my humble comprehension. To say that he admired the man would be an understatement. I considered that this professor was to him, what he/J was to me, or perhaps more. It seemed possible that their relationship was not entirely or even at all platonic.
Things went swimmingly it seemed, until one day I literally went swimming. The first and possibly only time he treated me with sternness and irritation was over his laptop. I had dragged it off with me towards the pool, and the discovery of its proximity to water agitated him completely. While it was a perfectly reasonable reaction, as computers and pools are in fact an ill advised pairing, for the first time he was towards me not very patient or kind, and it sorely surprised me. In retrospect it might have been the beginning of the end, but I don’t know, it certainly seemed like nothing at the time.
In the interest of factuality and not because I think the event was significant or consequential, I must add that during my stay with him we did haphazardly take up our alchemic experiment again. It was a coital effort as anticlimactic in its commencement as it was in its near instantaneous termination. Without getting into details too graphic for my blushing brain, we suffered technical difficulties, amongst perhaps some others, which resulted in hasty and permanent abandonment of the whole ill conceived scheme. It was the most awkward undertaking of my entire sexual history, especially as neither one of us was particularly interested in it to begin with. Regrettably, since you’re wondering, we were at the time stone cold sober. Did we technically have sex, in the strictest and most reductionist definition of the act, I suppose we did. Did we in fact HAVE sex, no, absolutely not. And again, although this piece of the puzzle might seem of note, because so often the involvement of sex is, in our case and in my opinion, it was in fact completely meaningless and changed none of the implied terms of our friendship.
After the laptop incident, there was perhaps a small but perceptible shift in J, I felt like he withdrew some tiny part of himself from me, the warmest part. I was never a daft person, especially in terms of interpersonal relationships, so I quickly noticed a subsequent change in his mood. Although there were no obvious signs, I could feel that he didn’t want me there with him anymore. I tested the water and determined that my suspicions were correct, he wasn’t exactly asking me to stay. Marked by his sudden disengagement, I could feel for the first time between us a kind of ocean. Although it was unexpected, I wasn’t worried about it because I understood well the prevailing urgency of solitude, being quite prone to it myself. I didn’t take it personally either and, in the interest of friendly consideration, packed with great urgency. I am a huge proponent of giving the soul exactly what it wants when it wants it, and so I did my darnest to oblige his.
In the moments before my departure I was more worried about J, than myself, I wanted to relieve him of my company and all of its supplemental obligations as quickly as possible. I had no reason to believe that something was wrong, but my heart did bounce around a bit. I remember how it beat erratically inside my chest for no evident reason when he was ushering me outside, and how I tried to will it into abject submission. Still it sank some, it really it did. Once outside, we embraced briefly exchanging sweet goodbyes. It was as normal a parting as any, except that I could tell he was a million miles away. I had no way of knowing that I would never see him again.
How do I squeeze into conventional terms a completely unconventional love. It feels a bit like trying to explain to an orange what it’s like to be a shrimp. Regardless, one important note I’d like to make is that I’ll be using the word “love” in this story differently from its usual application. The love I’ll be talking about is not amorous in nature; it is not fraught with romance, physical attraction, sex, vows, obligations, promises, valentines, commitments or hopes of some future together. It is a different kind of love, irreverent, somewhat indescribable and quite punishing in its end.
I ran into J again years later, completely at random. I was around 23 by then. To my Mother’s extreme jubilation I ventured north for a second date with a plastic surgeon, a Jewish one at that. Following our first lackluster outing conducted in my neck of the woods over a salmon kale salad and a hefty serving of decidedly bad jokes, the doctor invited me to join him on a yacht in his lovely homestead of Santa Barbara. It was a kind of a sailing fete hosted by some of his fancy doctor friends and, if nothing more, it meant for me an exceedingly picturesque drive up the coast. Scantily clad in my nautical best; stripes, shorts and of course top-siders, with Mother cheering at my back, I set out on my adventure into proper maritime society with an optimistic hope of, at the very least, a very merry time.
Two hours later I was almost there, driving into town. A car cruising in the apposite direction caught my attention and I spun my head around trying to get a better look at its driver. Although I barely caught a glance of his profile, instant pangs of nostalgia filled my stomach. I thought I saw J. But what were the odds really? It couldn’t have been him, so I shooed the idea away and moseyed on. A few minutes later, I finally arrived at the designated address, parked, hung my feet out of the car door and, as per my custom, surveyed my surroundings. Once again, my heart jumped, this time, unbelievably and indisputably, J was getting out of a car right across the street from me. I yelled out, he turned his head, our excitement to discover one another in this way was palpable. Laughter, hugs and all around gaiety were quick to follow. Our reunion was rousing but brief as we were both en route to other appointments. I scorned him a bit for falling out of touch, he protested, I gave him my email address and we dispersed, filling the air between us with promises of fast reunion.
From day one I knew in my gut exactly who J was. I knew to dispense with all expectations in regards to him, unless I wanted my heart broken and scattered in his wake, along with all the others. I knew this because he was to me what I had on plenty of occasions been to others. He was aloof and inconstant and there was a part of him that few, if anyone, could reach; a kind of karmic taste of my own medicine. Years ago I had taken the necessary, conscious steps of steeling myself against him. Although I wasn’t completely successful at wrangling my attachment, I did manage to will my heart into a formidable check, so his departure didn’t much affect me then. Now i had to once again remind myself, that although he could mean everything to me on one day, he would as easily be gone the next. This had already been lightly confirmed by our history. Furthermore, I had to consider that despite the numerous, excited promises made on that sidewalk, I wouldn’t hear from him again.
But I did, I heard from him right away. Here is an excerpt from that email, it is the only correspondence of ours that I was able to find, luckily it’s just right. It set the tone for J & M version 2.0, our ill fated reboot.
“I’m living in LA and YOU are officially my only friend there— this entails for you a number of abject responsibilities, like hanging out with me regularly and pretending to adore me. My old email address got overrun with vaguely pornographic adverts re: enlarging the penis, shrinking the dating pool, so I abandoned it years ago– guess I threw the M out with the bathwater. I traveled, then I went to Berkeley, then I lived in San Francisco and worked as the definitively MALE host at a transgender restaurant/bar, spent my time preening and flirting and being pretty obnoxious I suppose, indulging in different forms of wickedness… this stint eventuated in something crisis-like and I left the bar and city and scampered back to Father in the Pacific Palisades to be an innocuous, aerobically inclined non-smoker who doesn’t pay rent and eats well… I work for dad flexibly as a verbally adept pseudo-para-paralegal with almost no responsibilities and vast groves of free time. I have been reading more than writing but always with a view to writing– I’m going to take some writing classes at our paltry Santa Monican Alma-Mater this summer, one in fiction, one poetry workshop. In the Fall I’ll apply to PhD programs in literature and, depending on my productivity this summer, maybe MFA programs. Most importantly, I’m in L.A. indefinitely and you simply must be my friend– I’ve missed you (you who stands out from and over a boggled vastness of less resonant memories and persons from my earliest twenties). Anyways, i have to insist that less time separate our last meeting from our next, less time than our custom would have it– if you’re exceedingly busy, too busy for idle socializing, I’ll commission some tennis lessons. Warmly, moi ”
The quickest way to a lonely girl’s heart is through a perfectly crafted sentence that tells her how significant and singularly special she is, how she is not to be forgotten. This knowledge is not to be misused, as lonely girls are an endangered species, and playing with their surprisingly squishy hearts is not only ill advised but also strictly against regulation. To be fair though, no heart should be played with, as most are quite breakable and none, in fact, are toys.
J and I met that very night for coffee, the fire flickered from its artificial coffee house pit, words swam in streams, more fervent than before; we had both grown some and not at all. It was as if no time had passed between us, and once again, against my better judgment, I found myself teetering dangerously close to his edge.
These last few days I struggled trying to formulate in my head this “Part 2” of my “Lonely Girls and Broken Hearts” blog post, because it is the part where I gotta get to the actual story and stop waxing poetic about what a beautiful, special person I am. 😛 I find myself facing a few obstacles, one is that while I still have a firm grasp on the meat of the story, my feelings, my impressions, I no longer have all the bones i.e. the facts. I worry that I’ll be constructing a kind of tottering Frankenstein with no leg to stand on, slumping on a crutch engineered haphazardly out of fiction.
I knew J twice. The first time was over a decade ago, I think I was 18 or 19, he was 21 or 22? I met him in a community college classroom. Inexplicably there were numerous occasions when I took random classes at SMC while enrolled as a full time student at UCLA, I am not sure why I did this, but it definitely contributed to the extravagant 6 years I spent as a UCLA student working on a paltry undergraduate degree in comparative lit. J was there, like me, on an academic hiatus of some kind, but from Cal. He wasn’t someone who immediately caught my attention, admittedly because he just wasn’t at all my type. At the time I had a pretty specific penchant for men of considerably greater age, stature and accomplishment, so peers hardly ever registered on my discriminating radar. In fact I never dated a peer, never ever. I remember that when I finally noticed J it wasn’t so much he that caught my attention as it was the way in which he commanded the attention of all the other females in that classroom. His obvious sway over them was what really piqued my interest. Closer inspection revealed that, although to me he didn’t appear particularly attractive, he was by conventional standards quite comely. Medium height, well built, very athletic, with wild, curly hair, light eyes and a bright smile. Further examination was necessary and thoroughly conducted, it proved that he was wickedly bright, intelligent, ironic, self-aware, free thinking and completely, disarmingly, dangerously charming. Additionally, to my surprise, he was easily one the most literary people I had met to date. Despite all this I wasn’t quite sold on him yet.
I remember as I was getting to know him along with some of my other classmates, it became evident to me that he had spent time out of class with one of the girls who was in our shit-shooting group. The way she looked at him one day let me know that something had happened with them. He proceeded to make a comment to her about her alluringly transparent blouse, calling her an enchantress, she laughed and sort of blushed, but I knew then that she was in trouble. His compliment was executed publicly and jovially, playing to the audience rather than to her. I read that playfulness for what it was, a way to trivialize whatever had transpired between them. One thing about me worth noting is that I always spoke rather fluent Male-ese, the male agenda was as obvious to me as a circus parade, which is actually quite ironic given how the rest of this story unfolded. Later that day, the girl in question confided in me that they did hang out and that something sweet or intimate transpired between them, like he held her hand, and maybe there was a kiss? I don’t remember now. I also don’t remember how him and I actually ended up spending time together. I think he may have given me a ride home one night. When I later teased him about whatever had happened with that girl from class, he shrugged it off and steered the conversation elsewhere. It didn’t much matter to me, and really wasn’t any of my business. But I guess in retrospect I could assign it the metaphorical meaning of a tiny red flag.
As little time went on I became more and more taken with him. I was impressed with the way he thought, the things he said, the words he used. We were able to talk and talk and talk on the subjects of so many things, and although our opinions varied, I felt we always understood one another completely. I found a true counterpoint in him, as well as an intellect vastly superior to mine. Let no mistake be made though, it was a truly platonic friendship. I never for a second wanted more, in fact had he attempted more I would have been sorely disappointed and the whole thing would have gone left. Luckily, we were of a similar mind on the subject, he never indicated to me that I was of any interest to him as a woman, which flattered me rather than otherwise, as I got plenty of that kind of attention elsewhere. His friendship flattered me all around, he wooed me with it like a professional tamer of tigers and lonely girls, and before I knew it I was quite under his spell, purring like a kitten. I finally had a friend who understood me. It was as if I had dreamt him up and the universe obliged me by spitting him out in human form, but only for a pinch.
Our time together ended as seamlessly as it began, he went back to Northern California, back to school, back to some girl he loved and pined for and I continued with my lonely girl life. In the years to follow I frequently thought of him with great and rare fondness. I knew that he had backpacked through Europe for a few months at some point, I think this was something on his agenda shortly after going back to Berkeley. Our shared love of romantic poets meant that we were likely to have somewhat matching itineraries, especially in England, so when I went to Europe at a later time, I thought of him quite a bit. When finally I rode horses in Hyde park and visited Lord Byron’s grave, I wrote to him, J not Byron.
It seemed like of everyone I knew J would best understand the revelry of those particular experiences. It also felt like the thing to do, whilst I was so inside literary history, to reach across time a little into a history of my own. The email went unanswered and, as I later learned, unread.
According to Exupery, we are responsible for those we have tamed, I subscribe to this religiously now, but certainly neither one of us knew it at the time.
I didn’t see him again for quite a while. We were reunited some three or four years later under strange and serendipitous circumstances. It was a true chance event that seemed to be imbued with special meaning if not for any other reason than its timeliness and randomness. It was a reboot of J & M, version 2.0, but don’t be fooled, the newer version is not always the better. Our reunion yielded a peculiar revival of our long lost friendship, transforming it and, in a somewhat dramatic fashion, ending it completely….