Part 4: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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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.

Go to——->Part 5: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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Chapter 3: Pretty, curly, barefoot monster

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Art: original

Chapter 3

Half an hour later we pulled up to the high-rise where my husband and I had been living for almost a year, one of those swanky buildings with a marble lobby, a jolly doorman and an aggressively starched, dehydrated concierge. I popped out of the cab, asked the bellboy to take care of my bags and hastily walked across the lobby towards the elevator. The concierge was a skinny severe looking man in his fifties, with one of those squinty facial expressions that drills holes in everyone around. I always wondered what it would be like to sit down with him and have a candid conversation, the sort he could have with a colleague or a close personal friend. I knew that behind that stoic facade there was a wealth of insight, opinion and possibly even, judgment. As I walked past the front desk, he ceremoniously rose from his chair to offer me a greeting.

“Good morning, Miss Hart, welcome home.”

“Hello Mr. Brooks, thanks ..it’s good to be home!”

I could tell that, uncommonly, he wanted to say something else, but I wasn’t in the mood for pleasantries, so I avoided eye contact and kept a steady course towards the elevator. I pushed the button, but in these very tall buildings, the elevators often took a while having to travel up and down across 50 floors, and I hadn’t the patience to wait. So I turned for the staircase. Finally I was at my door, my hair fell out of my headband and I was short of breath, having overestimated my stair climbing fitness. I paced myself for a second and pulled out a compact mirror. TV noises were seeping from underneath the door. I detected a faint smell of bacon and something sweet, like molasses. Yay, breakfast. My face was uncontrollably convulsing into a smile. I inserted the key and turned it slowly to cushion the loud click of the deadbolt receding into the door, then pushed, the door swung open. He was standing by the stove with a spatula in hand, the sinuous aroma of maple syrup and frying bacon filled my nostrils. My eyes met his immediately, I emitted a squeal, and trotted up to him, jumping into his arms. For the next minute we were locked in a tight embrace, any closer and we would have fused together. My face rested on his shoulder, as I waited for him to recover from the surprise and say something. A moment passed, then another, nothing was said, no movement was made, I continued to cling, waiting on his reaction. Then my heart jumped. A pair of strange eyes met mine from across the kitchen nook. They came at me like a runaway train, bam, its impact produced a sensation of physical pain. When I was ten, much to the dismay of my dad, I pried open one of those disposable cameras at a convenience store near my house, when it shocked me, I thought an invisible fist had literally punched through my arm into my chest and pinched my heart. This felt just like that, but worse. The shock travelled through every cell in my body, taking away muscle control, paralyzing. She sat at my antique hardwood table, his mother’s wedding gift, in only a T-shirt with a fried egg on her plate and a fork in her hand. Pretty, curly, barefoot monster. It did not compute. I stared at her over his shoulder; she stared back, then slowly put her fork down and folded her hands in her lap, as if trying not to spook or aggravate a wild animal. That’s when it really hit; I recognized her T shirt. I bought it for Matt years ago; there was a cartoon of a hot dog running from a fork printed on the front. At the time I thought it was so funny, but it wasn’t funny now. I realized that I was still clinging to him, with my fingers dug deep into his shoulders, but he stood still as a statue. I unlocked my arms and slowly pried myself from his chest. Pulling away, I looked at him with some faint hope that there was a reasonable explanation. But his expression, frozen as it was on his face, told me otherwise, shock and fear were perhaps its most obvious hues. Or maybe I was projecting and there was no expression. Maybe, he was utilizing the same strategy as the aubergine hotel employee, offering no reaction in order to discourage the embarrassing scene, which certainly took place in most situations such as this one. I couldn’t tell anymore, my own horror had permeated everything around me, her, him, the bellboy, who had arrived right in time to witness my meltdown and now stood frozen in the doorway, with eyes wide as an owl’s. Then it all started to move, swarming, banging around, loud like a hurricane. Hyperventilating, I backed up towards the exit.

“Jesus Christ Matt.” I wasn’t sure if I whispered or screamed “What is this?! What is….”

I made a step backwards, then another. My knees buckled, I tried to turn towards the door but the ground seemed to have leaped up at me, smashing into my back. A sharp stab of pain shot through my body, it had a sobering effect. I found myself collapsed on the floor, having tripped over the purse I dropped when walking in. Matt finally unfroze and made a concerned movement towards me, hands outstretched. I scrambled to get up, gesturing against his approach. All I wanted was to be out of that space, to be free of him and her, the stench of bacon, that stupid hotdog shirt. Next thing I knew I was running down the staircase with the sound of her voice ricocheting inside my head like a bullet.

“That was intense…that was intense…that was intense.”

I heard the sound of feet behind me and thought it was him, but as I looked back I saw the flushed face of that poor bellboy, who not knowing what to do, had abandoned my luggage by the door and was now awkwardly chasing after me.

Mr. Brooks stood in the center of the lobby, like a statue, he had been expecting me. He looked larger than usual, taller and even dryer. Dear God, I thought, he had been waiting for me since the moment I went up, he knew all along. I was exposed, tears were welling up inside me along with the most unbearably urgent need to disappear. I ran by him, with no other thought than to escape those walls, where everyone knew everything and I wore the dunce’s hat. He muttered something to me as I flew past him. I had never before heard Mr. Brooks mutter, he was the kind of man who always annunciated his words perfectly like a catholic school rector or a German officer. It didn’t matter what he said, I imagined he was asking if I was well or whether I required a cab. Maybe he was telling me what an idiot I had been all along, what a naïve laughable idiot I was, and how many dozens, no, hundreds of molasses laden breakfast scenes had taken place in that apartment during my absences. But it didn’t matter, because none of it seemed real anymore, in that kitchen reality had collapsed on top of me like a house of giant lead cards.

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