This is Your Life
Part I (Winter 2001)
Ever since I could remember, with little exception, I felt numb to everyone and everything. During my late teens when I was about seventeen years old and in my last year of high school, Chelsea transferred for the remaining seven months. At that time, we were never officially friends. We were more like acquaintances, but I often saw her hang out with that stoner girl who lived a few houses down from me, Barbara. Sometimes I waited in my car for an hour just to see a glimpse of Chelsea coming or going out of Barbara’s house. Rest assured I was no stalker. I simply wanted to look at her. That was me, a skinny, ragged clothed wearing teenager with greasy hair and I was smitten by Chelsea’s beauty. Unfortunately, I didn’t run into Chelsea for another year. But still, nothing happened. I was nearly thirty when I saw her after that.
When I was twenty, though, a semester in college filled with people I didn’t know helped me change my image. As far as others could tell, I finally grew up, taking that next step to really becoming an adult. I kept my hair short and clean. I dressed nice and I stopped using juvenile phrases so I could look and speak the part. It paid off because I found myself involved with Lucy, a girl from a different school, city, and county. She smelled like peaches the first time we met, and again the first time we kissed. She reminded me of Chelsea because when Chelsea walked by me at school, I recalled the floral aroma of peaches lingering alongside her. It always made me smile. I didn’t pretend that Lucy was Chelsea the first time we kissed. It wasn’t my personal first kiss, but soon after two long weeks of making out and heavy petting; we did have sex for my first time. I thought it would be more exciting. It wasn’t boring, but it wasn’t fulfilling. Something was missing.
I started dating Lucy toward the end of the semester, so it was Christmas before I knew it. She gave me a gift for Christmas that I would have never expected to get. She gave me a mixed breed basset hound puppy. His name was Samson, according to the people she got him from, and after we were acquainted, he always wanted to be at my side. I got away with bringing him to classes as long as he stayed quiet, which he did. I expected him to want to smell and lick the other students, but he didn’t. For the most part, he remained well behaved.
Lucy and I thrived until Valentine’s Day. I was low on cash and busy with my new classes for the semester that I was unable to find the time to buy her a gift, let alone a card. I realized that I could have probably made her a card and the particular situation I found myself in, well, there wouldn’t have been one. I showed up at her place on Valentine’s Eve with Samson and knocked on her door. She opened it, looked at me and smiled.
“Hey! I missed you. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day to you, Luce.”
I stepped in and Samson wriggled around our legs and feet as we kissed. He was maybe looking for something to eat and smelling Lucy’s apartment like it was his first time there. Lucy had boiled some potatoes and baked a chicken and when the rosemary and garlic hit my nose, I felt inadequate. I was new at the whole serious relationship thing. I could speak and look like an adult, but I was still developing. We sat down and she served me my food while I tried to think of an excuse as to why I didn’t get her something. I could see a gift for me waiting on the counter and I knew after we ate dinner, it was going to be awkward.
Lucy did the talking while we ate, telling me about her day. I ate slow and tried to find words to say in between my bites, but nothing came to mind. We finished eating and she brought the bag over to me.
“Do you want to exchange gifts at the same time?”
“Luce, I don’t really have a gift for you…”
“That’s okay. It’s not about the gifts. It’s about showing our love for each other.”
“I came completely empty handed.”
She sighed as she stared at me. She set the gift bag down, out of my reach. I didn’t want to open it anyway.
“Not even a card?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
The look of disappointment strapped on her face made my stomach feel hollow. My heartbeat increased and I uttered the only thing I could think of, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s painful…” she started to say. I looked her in the eyes and listened. She continued, “…that you couldn’t find two minutes to rip out a piece of notebook paper that wasn’t full of notes, grab an old pen, and write something like: Lucy you mean the world to me. Happy Valentine’s Day, Love-“
I interrupted her and said, “I do love you though. Isn’t saying it enough?” I had said the “L“ word, but I didn’t feel it. I simply didn’t want to break up yet.
“This is the one time of year you can show someone your love by taking time out of your life and doing something for them, and you couldn’t do it.”
I pondered her words for a few moments while Samson plopped in front of my feet. If only he could understand what was going on. Maybe he did.
“I suppose it’s too late. But I understand what you're saying.”
It was definitely over. She was in tears before I could speak again. We sat in silence for several minutes. I was waiting for her to finish crying, and I wished I could cry, too. I didn’t. I allowed my right arm to go limp and let it dangle in defeat. The soft brush of my hand sliding against my leg got Samson’s attention and he perked his head up, looked up at me and licked my hand.
I stood up and bit the inside of my lip.
“I know,” she whispered back.
“It wasn’t really working was it?”
“I don’t think so,” she said, then sniffled.
I extended my hand to her, hoping she would take it and we could at least be amicable. I didn’t like the empty feeling I had inside me, and thought if we could just mend this misunderstanding, then it would be alright between us. She extended her hand and grabbed mine. We shook hands. I said goodbye, and walked out the door with Samson following me. I wondered if he knew what transpired. Except for the smile I could get from looking at Samson, I was numb again.
After a few days of moping around and missing Lucy, missing the sex really, I did my best to keep my mind occupied with different activities like school assignments and studying. There wasn’t much else and I was too young to buy alcohol, anyway. The weight of a heavy heart was not easy, as all I really did was reminisce about my parents. I didn’t exactly grow up in the most loving of environments. I always felt like a roommate from the age of six, on. Well, at this point I just felt like a juvenile loner and I was still numb to nearly everything. And then Samson got sick and died prematurely a few years later.
Part II - (Spring 2008)
I was barely beginning to realize that I had in fact fallen asleep on her couch. I opened my eyes, allowed my vision and comprehension to sink in, and then stared into her eyes. She was in my lap, facing me and rubbing my ear lobes. It tickled and I shivered. Chills. She gave me a coy smile and slipped her hand over my crotch and started to rub me. She leaned in to kiss me and I gave in. A few gentle pecks, lip against lip. She then made her way into my mouth. When our tongues touched, I could taste the sour, salty saliva that had marinated in her mouth from the white wine we drank a while earlier. It was still refreshing after having a dry spell for about six months. I maneuvered just enough out of my pants and then she pulled her panties aside and it only lasted for about five minutes before I finished inside of her. It was an accident. I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. She didn’t seem mad though, she just continued to make out with me while sitting on top of me. To be honest, it was like she didn’t even notice, but she felt me get soft.
Afterward, I considered how I longed for that intoxicating peach scent that I remembered in high school, but now it was just stale and bitter, as was the entire experience. I wondered what went wrong and why it took me this long to get the courage to even talk to her. The worst part was that I was so apathetic about this treasure I had yearned after for so long. I don’t think she was sober in the three days we had been hanging out and I felt nothing. I imagined that maybe I was an Olympic pole vaulter who had spent the last ten years working on my form, my style, my technique for the perfect jump. I finally get into the Olympic Games and not only win a gold medal, but set a new world record; only to not give a shit. It made me wonder why I worked so hard for the idea of something I no longer desired.
“Chelsea!” I don’t know why I said her name so excitedly, but I looked at her and she looked at me, “I can’t fuckin’ believe it.”
“I’ve had a crush on you since high school. I never thought this day would come.”
I humored myself. Maybe I humored her with my pathetic performance. I didn’t really seem to care either way. Whatever idyllic future I thought I had, this was not it. She went to the bathroom, telling me she would be right back in a lazily sultry voice. I got dressed, darted out of her house and drove away before she returned. I didn’t leave a note or my number or anything. I was cognizant of the fact that it should have felt wrong to leave her like that, but that isn’t what felt wrong, it was the fact that I spent three days fucking her and much like when I was with Lucy, it was empty. What a sad pedestal.
I got home about thirty minutes later and I was feeling so sick I threw up in my kitchen. I felt foggy and carefully made my way to the bathroom before I made a bigger mess in my apartment. I vomited until my stomach felt as empty as the rest of me. I fell asleep on my bathroom floor and woke up several hours later to the sound of knocking.
I figured it was the police, there to evict me for being such a pathetic loser. I ignored the knocking and it went away. I checked the door a while later and there was a pamphlet on my door about the Watchtower. In another life, I suppose whomever was at my door could have been a friend. Not today, not this year, not this life. I hated being a lone, but I was so good at it. I could function at my pace and I could feel bad for myself without anyone judging me. I was reminded of my numbness toward others and I found some sort of pseudo-solace in believing that one day, things would happen for me, and my life would change for the better. I guess. Too bad I didn’t know what that was.
After a few more hours of sleep, I woke up feeling more hungover. I went for a walk and got myself a coffee. I poured some Jameson in it to ease my stomach and walked around town, looking for nothing. I walked by a diner; and, to my surprise, saw Lucy. I really felt nothing. I didn’t even consider going in and saying hello. I then walked over enough to see that sitting in the booth with her, a husband and two little children. I guess that was nice. I can’t remember anymore, but maybe I was a bit envious as I walked away.
Part III - (Summer 2011)
Meeting a girl at a bar was never my modus operandi, but it happened anyway. Don’t get excited, this isn’t a love story where we finally got to be together. Nothing romantic happened, at least not yet. I just had met her that night while drinking a few two dollar beers by myself. She was smart, cute and unique; and seemingly very independent. She was younger than me, but wiser and more mature. She seemed to have enough figured out that she could survive a lot better than I could no matter what the world threw at her. All I could do was dread my thirtieth birthday that was quickly approaching in a few short months and could do nothing but look back and pretend I didn’t regret my complete lack of accomplishments in my life. I did this of course by drinking two dollar beers.
We struck up a brief conversation like I have been known to do. I figured it was that superficial friend of the night type of situation and didn’t get too involved. I should have noticed earlier that by ordering drinks with brandy in them, she obviously had a defined palette, which is just another metaphor for her life. However, I didn’t notice that immediately and we talked like we were old chums just getting to know each other and I figured I would never see her again, so what did it matter? We had a similar cynical and sarcastic sense of humor which was a good sign. We saw people stumble or look funny and made harmless remarks to each other. We weren’t being bullies, just having a bit of fun until the conversation went less superficial and more personal.
I brought up music and she jumped on the subject. We spent a good hour or so talking about bands we liked and didn’t like. We didn’t agree on everything, but we had similar tastes, so she could actually relate to me about my music choices. Before we left, she mentioned a band by the name of Low vs. Diamond to me, and said I had to listen to them. In what is usually one of those like a dramatic moments in a movie, she told me they would change my life. But, it wasn’t that dramatic, it was very matter of fact, like she knew what she was talking about and I was missing out on something. So, of course, when I got home, I checked them out. I listened to the entire album.
One of the song resonated with me. It haunted me for days. Part of the lyrics echoed throughout my head: “This is yourself; Falling away; You reach for the sun; Afraid of the day; Quit counting your tears; 'Cause we're in the world; And this is your life; It's not just your girls.”
I kept repeating it to myself. This is your life. This is your life. This is my life. For the first time since I was six and my parents had passed, I cried. Not a lot, but enough. I shivered. Instinctively, I grabbed my ear lobe, but I remained choked up. A few deep breaths later and I felt a little more normal again. I decided to let my tears stain my cheeks. It tickled for a while, but it was nice to feel something.
A few nights later, I went back to that bar and sure enough, she was there. It helped that I told her I would be there, because I did get her number the night we met, but I wasn’t sure if she would show. I bought us drinks and we caught up a bit more. I finally changed the subject when I decided to be a little clever for once, so I told her “Tell me something thought provoking.”
She didn’t even have to think to respond, “Why are the simplest questions the hardest to answer?”
However, I wasn’t as quick witted as her. I thought about what she asked.
“They’re not… not always…” I gave her a confused look. “Right?”
She smiled and shrugged. “I think you proved my point.”
She was right. I always asked myself why I was so numb, and I never had an answer. It took me over two decades to come to the answer that I wasn’t. I chose to be, and couldn’t figure out I had more choices. I thought about it longer as we sat there, enjoying our drinks and the idea occurred to me that maybe I wasn’t so much numb to everything as I was just a selfish asshole. I mean, sure, I was dealt a shitty hand early in life, but who hasn’t had something bad happen to them? I just needed to find something real that I wanted and go after it. I was playing the victim role for so long I ignored the fact that the only person who could save me, was me. It just took her talking to me and the suggestion of a simple song to get me to realize it.
The last thing I remember that night before going home is that when we hugged and I was able to smell her, she didn’t smell like peaches. In fact, she smelled more like vanilla. Subtle, appealing, spicy, yet soothing all at the same time. That three second hug was the most comfortable I had ever felt. I went home that night, no longer feeling numb, no, just with a new feeling: hope. Sure, we connected, and for me, it was on a deep level, but I didn’t know if she was going to see me again, or how things were going to go between us; but that wasn’t important then. What was important was what I did after that day and the next, and the next.
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