I don’t know about you guys, but sometimes when I haven’t written much in a while, it’s hard to stop or filter what comes out as soon as I sit down –
it’s like written vomit; it’s like
Long story short: here’s another piece I wrote and actually it was meant to belong to the other two story drafts but maybe it doesn’t after all. And maybe there’s something missing to tie them together, I’m not sure yet. Anywho, I wanted to post it anyways because sometimes it helps to put something out unfiltered to get things in order.
Neurons & Electro Chemicals
The words burst in his mouth like overripe fruit and splattered into my face, sticky and foul. I. Love. You.
Most nights after I came home from work I turned the TV on and my thoughts off – 58 civilians die in a terrorist attack try our Tuesday special it’s delicious you’re gonna need a bigger boat all new next week on ABC frankly dear I don’t give a damn – most nights everything eventually blurred together into a cloud of sounds; white noise.
I felt the weight of three beers pulling me down and had trouble standing up straight. I stared at him for about a minute, then opened and closed my mouth a couple of times without saying something like an actual word. Sometimes too many thoughts shot through my brain at the same time; an explosion of neurons and electro chemicals that made my nervous system even more nervous and entirely inoperable: I basically turned into a half-wit in a matter of seconds.
The words burst in his mouth like overripe fruit, sputtered into my ear, sticky and moist. I. Love. You.
Whenever I worked late I just had dinner in front of the TV: a glass of beer and a candy bar. It was usually the time when I started wondering whether it might be time to clean the apartment again. Mostly, however, the soothing buzz of daily news and commercials put me to sleep before I could even get up and clean up the remains of the night before (an empty glass; a candy wrapper) . That’s why it always made me laugh how much money some people were willing to spend on their nightwear. As if anyone except for your cat and the lady at the cash register would ever see it. I usually fell asleep with my clothes on and no one minded since I didn’t have a cat.
Of course there were a million things I could have easily said. Things that had been said before; things that never sounded quite right because there was nothing to say that sounded quite right in the first place. Things I’d read in books and seen in movies (just that I was lacking empirical evidence, but that usually didn’t bother me; usually, I made something up – but now: just neurons and electro chemicals).
I could have tried the obvious: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, I swear. I just don’t wanna ruin our friendship, it’s not you, I promise. Or something less friendly, maybe some of the generic bullshit. I guess I’m just not the relationship type. I’m not ready for something like this. Blahblahblah. I had an entire conversation with him in my head and that’s where it stayed: in my head. The thought alone made me want to cry or punch something.
There were a million other things I needed to tell him but couldn’t. Because often the things you need to say the most are the things that just won’t come out. I already gave my heart to someone else. Someone who, in fact, broke my heart what feels like a second ago because that’s how life plays you sometimes. I’m busy holding my shit together I can’t handle someone else’s. Would it be okay to throw up right now? I didn’t know if I should hug or slap him.
I ended up not saying anything all the way to the train station. He might have said something but I didn’t hear it. I only heard myself think; neurons and electro chemicals. After a while I heard blood rushing through my veins. And car engines. I heard my heart break. I might have heard his heart break in between.
Of all the words running through my head, I chose the only two that felt genuine enough at the end of the night: Good night. I watched him get on the train, watched the door close behind him. I watched the train drive off and disappear. I tried calling a friend but she didn’t answer; it was almost 2 in the morning so I wasn’t surprised. I just took a deep breath instead and threw up right in front of the tracks, then I slowly walked home.
I turned on the TV; I wanted to turn his words off. After 3 hours and 4 episodes of Law & Order I finally fell asleep.
Sometimes life gets so busy, you have to take a moment and recapitulate just so you don’t outpace yourself. And I don’t even mean busy in a spectacular I-just-shot-a-critically-acclaimed-motion-picture-and-now-I’m-having-Spielberg-over-for-dinner kind of way. Because sometimes you’re busy with things that are not that interesting, even though they matter a lot to you personally (like studying, work, cleaning the house or calling your mom). The past weeks, I’ve been jumping back and forth between class and work, trying to (finally!) finish my thesis somewhere in between. I have no idea how people can have a job, get a degree and have kids. The thought alone simply blows my mind. I have two plants (they’re doing fine, no worries), my apartment isn’t a mess and I manage to feed myself and every now and then some friends but that’s about it. So kudos to you guys, you are amazing.
But I digress. This wasn’t actually my point. I was talking about recapitulating, because that’s what I meant to do. So here we go: I’ve had to take cold showers for more than a week because I couldn’t reach the plumber and when I managed to reach him, he forgot about me in the course of his busy day (maybe he should have paused and recapitulated as well). He did come by today, though, and fixed what needed to be fixed – let me tell you: I’ve never been happier about the blessing of running, hot water! So that’s that. I’ve also spent the afternoon with my grandma who just moved into a nursing home. I don’t know about you, but I find the thought alone really depressing. Sleek linoleum covered floors, each and every wall painted in light yellow (because of the soothing effect … yeah, right), people moving around equipped with their emergency medication and wheeled walker. All of this may not be that interesting to you, but to me personally, it matters a lot. Sometimes it’s nice to share something even though it may not be the most earth-shattering of things. Because they are still things that have shaped your reality and maybe they’ve even changed bits and pieces of you as a human being while you weren’t paying attention because you were so busy.
Now, something else entirely! I’ve also written another piece that belongs to my last past, technically. At least, they’re part of one and the same overarching idea, even though it may not yet be apparent. Anyway, I still wanted to share it in its early stages, if anyone has any thoughts they want to share – please do! Enough of my Monday rambles, though. Here goes the next part of the story.
Transatlanticism, pt. II
He was saying that he knew where to go but, of course, I didn’t trust him until we were there. Because I never trusted anyone and also because Nathan’s sense of direction was worse than my own; and my own was already pretty bad.
“Are you sure it’s on Huntington?”
“Yeah, it’s just down the street – I double-checked. I won’t lead you around in circles again, I promise.” He smiled and I could feel that tense muscle in my neck relax a bit.
I smiled back. “At least now I do know my way around Providence.” Okay, armistice.
Not that he could really blame me and my skepticism. When he took me out to dinner the week before, we first ended up getting lost on our way back to the car and then he took the wrong exit which resulted in a two-hour long detour. Not that I minded terribly. I also learnt more about cranberry bogs that night than I thought there was to know about them, ever. You never know when knowledge like that might come in handy, though; especially when you’re a teacher (that’s what I like to tell myself anyways). When he finally rolled into my driveway it was already two in the morning and he felt so bad that he didn’t even kiss me goodnight. I minded that a little bit.
In the end we found the Museum of Fine Arts right away and I tried my best to hide my surprise. I was also still busy trying to figure out why he’d insisted on taking me to a museum, of all places. He didn’t strike me as the type who’d willingly spend his weekends wandering up and down museum halls, eager to learn, looking for inspiration or whatever it is that brings people to museums. That is, unless it had something to do with cars, motorbikes, maybe planes if the design was cool enough.
When we looked at an exhibit of different paintings and drawings, it turned out I already knew him well enough after all.
“Okay, so this just looks like a bunch of shit if you ask me” he snorted.
“Okay, so we should have just gone to see a movie if you ask me” I should have said.
Of course, I didn’t. Because I was the type who would willingly spend her weekends wandering up and down the halls of a museum, getting lost in the wild dabs of blue and green of an impressionist painting; reading about the origins and background of a collection of historical artifacts and other things I’d just forget as soon as I would leave the building. Maybe he’d taken me there because he knew me well enough, too.
I’d realized that we had absolutely nothing in common on our first date already, but I liked his cynicism and his light blue eyes. I also liked that he took me out on real dates and that he openly announced them as such. He always picked me up at home and called me beautiful (and it always seemed like he actually meant it) and so I didn’t really mind that he had a terrible taste in music, movies and that he was rooting for the wrong team. I also didn’t mind that he was constantly complaining about the state and possible decline of America as a hegemon in the world and about the American people as such, even though he was such an all-American guy himself, with his beige khaki slacks and his degree in business and finance. I didn’t mind a lot of things simply because of the way he treated me. I’m sure we’d have had beautiful children. I’m also sure we’d messed them up terribly (then again, who doesn’t?).
The last night I saw him was Valentine’s Day. He came over to give me a single red rose; to say goodbye or maybe I’m sorry or both. Not because he’d also figured out that we didn’t really have anything in common. He simply had to fly all across the Atlantic for work. He seemed to feel just as bad as the night we took the 2-hour detour but at least he did kiss me, his beard rubbing against my chin until it was red and warm. I took his hand and pulled him out of the doorway; gently pushed him into the apartment. Later I took his hand and pulled it out from underneath my shirt; gently pushed it under my skin. There was nothing else left to do.
Whenever I think about it, it almost makes me laugh (one of those stories that doesn’t hurt anymore, you might as well turn it into an anecdote – maybe not for dinner party’s; maybe for drunk and confessional nights out): I watched him climb into his old and way too spotless BMW one last time; I didn’t wave, I just stood on the porch, staring at the tail lights disappearing around the corner.
Sometimes nothing is said and yet: you still know it’s over – despite the promises (“Of course, I’ll call as soon as I get out of the plane”), despite the exchanging of e-mail addresses; even despite the fear of loss, lonely nights and the possibility of falling back into old habits (too many drunk nights in a row and never enough Advil in the medicine drawer to fix all that needs fixing, dear God).
I thought of his eyes and hands one last time and I thought that just couple of hours later he would be able to visit my family as easily as he’d been coming by my apartment for the past months.
Sometimes it’s really hard to beat the irony of life.
What’s been going on this weekend: It’s incredibly hot. I got a fan! I died my hair (which isn’t nearly as spectacular as it sounds because it doesn’t mean “Hey, I have blue hair now!”, but more something like “Hey, I just died my hair!” – “Really?” – “Yeah, it’s darker now, what do you think?” – “Really?”) and I also just started writing different parts of a longer story I’ve been meaning to write for a while. Okay, this is a weird preface, but here comes the story!
After seven hours on two different planes the city welcomed me with a six hour time difference, the funny smell of a bunch of people who’d been in the same clothes for too long and five different but equally long lines at customs.
I spent about an hour watching the same “welcome-to-America” commercial on a large screen above the official’s booth over and over until it was finally my turn. I was half-expecting him to quiz me on it – he surely could have; I would have aced it, hands down.
Instead, the guy simply looked at my German passport, took my German finger prints and told me that he’d been to Oktoberfest about 11 years ago. He loved the German beer. Of course, everyone does – or so I’ve been told. He was still daydreaming about it whenever he had a Miller lite, quite understandably. I smiled politely which, apparently, was good enough for him; then I left him to his beer-filled memories. There’s nothing better than having your entire cultural heritage reduced to one single stereotype. You travel a lot lighter.
When I stepped outside it was already dark. The fireworks would probably start any minute now and I doubted that I would be able to see anything at all standing just outside of Logan. I quickly got into a cab and gladly paid the heavily overpriced fare when it stopped in front of the hostel just 20 minutes later. I wouldn’t have been surprised to be stuck in traffic or just stuck in front of a barrier for a lot longer this late on a day like this, but even the roads were free on the 4th of July. Go figure.
I quickly got my key and dragged my luggage up to the third floor to be able to at least catch a glimpse of the fireworks above the city. I took some blurry pictures for my mom and enjoyed the warm evening breeze. There’s something about having the ocean right at your fingertips; at the tip of your toes. I took a deep breath because that’s what people always do in books and movies when they want to hold on to that one moment; really live (whatever that means). I’m not sure why, but it does help. Maybe it’s because of all the oxygen that’s suddenly pumped through your system – a sudden and brief high of O2; O2 and fumes.
For quite a while after the fireworks I was so tired I couldn’t sleep. I watched a couple of innings of a Red Sox game rerun in the community room and would have killed for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, I didn’t know who in the hostel I would have needed to threaten in particular so I decided that the next morning wasn’t too many hours away and that I might as well wait and be civil about it.
I texted Michael to let him know that I’d made it safe and sound. That summer, I fell for this city and for him. Sometimes I wonder whether two summers later the same city was what made it all fall apart. And then I think it probably wasn’t the city. I’m not exactly sure what made me fall for him, but I’m sure he’s loved me for all the wrong reasons; he’s been in love with someone that wasn’t really me and, which may have been worse, never wanted to be.
When he finally did see me (behind all the things he’s imagined me to be), he was so full of disappointment, that there was no room for anything else anymore; let alone something like love. This city, really, never had anything to do with it. It was just the one thing that remained; a road sign that remained and kept me aware of everything that didn’t.
It’s easy to get worked up about love, even if you’re not sure that that’s what it is; it’s easy to get worked up about something you’ve lost, even if you’ve never really had it.