Sometimes things hit so close to home, I can’t be sure that I didn’t write it.
Sunday night I got in my car and drove from Jacksonville Beach, FL to Southern California- San Clemente to be exact. I think I decided that it’s time to focus on my future and stop hoping for the past. Life is a huge adventure, it’s as great as you make it. When people leave, they’re just making room for people who will stay. Love hard and never regret it, but understand not everybody’s heart is the same as your own. The things you say and mean, the things you think are important, the memories you’ll never forget, could be nothing to them. Smile. Graciously let go. Continue the adventure.
One day it’ll all make sense, and if it doesn’t, at least you didn’t waste time dwelling on something that will never work out.
So I was at the gym. Next to me at the bench-presses there were two bro’s working out. I always find it kind of funny how guys have work out buddies and they talk about and compare themselves to each other and flex their tri’s in the mirrors.
These dudes were doing all that and then began having some other conversation. I can’t help eavesdropping, it’s a part of what I do every night. As a bartender, it’s my job to listen to people’s private conversation to see if there’s anything I should hear. Like a few girls talking about how their fake IDs worked; how some people might not like what they’re drinking for this reason or that reason; angry guys with too much alcohol pumping through their veins plotting a fight in the bar; and even just simple things like saying they thought the service was great and are having a great time. When you’re an employee who works for tips, it’s important to overhear these things and surprise your customers by letting them try this beer they were saying to their friend they thought sounded interesting or replacing the one in front of them that they didn’t like, but didn’t complain about to you. It makes you seem competent and people like it when it seems like you can read their minds. Unfortunately, it’s not a skill that is easily turned off once you step out from behind the bar and into the rest of the world.
Well apparently these two bro’s also play in a co-ed softball league together. One of them had just made a girl on the team his girlfriend and he was talking about her to his buddy. He was saying great things: she was pretty, smart, funny, they liked the same music, and he could see himself being with her for awhile. Overhearing these things always gives me mixed emotions these days. I was stoked for this new relationship and impressed that this dude was telling his buddy about this girl, almost bragging on her. I wondered if any of my past relationships used to do that. Ok.. you guys caught me, I wondered if Nick used to do that with his work out bro Randy. I knew he didn’t.. even when Nick and I were engaged, Randy would ask Nick to accompany him on double dates and Nick never understood why I hated Randy because of that. I figured if Nick had ever spoken highly of me and his affection for me that Randy probably wouldn’t have done this. If Nick just would have stuck up once and been like “Bro, that’s the girl I’m going to marry, I don’t want to go hang out with any other chicks with you. Stop asking.” I feel like Randy would’ve stopped asking.
As these feelings and thoughts started to rush through my head, I added another plate to each side of the squat rack and began to work out a little harder. I began listening in again on the work out bro’s conversation. The recently relationshipped up bro had finished his rant on how great his new girlfriend was. The other guy said “yeah, but you better not break up because it will ruin the rest of our season. she’s one of our best hitters”. To this, the same guy who had just been saying such nice things and speaking so highly of his thoughts and expectations of his new relationship replied, “Nah bro, I’m not going to screw it up. Unless Ashley decides she finally wants to hook up. She’s so fucking sexy, I couldn’t turn that down.”
I don’t think I need to say it, but Ashley was not the name of his girlfriend he had just been stoked about.
What the fuck. What. The. Fuck.
I have officially lost faith in the whole male sex, especially the ones in my immediate age bracket. I racked my weights and left. My heart cried a little bit for that girl. It also hated Ashley, probably for no fault of her own. This is why I took a year off dating. This is also why even after the year has finished on April 24, 2015, that I’m not sure if I’m ever going to start again.
Fuck. I’ve heard all my married/engaged friends say it and I know they’re right. “I’d be scared to have to start again. To go through it all these days with people the way they’re becoming.”
I told Nick once that I was going to get a tattoo of a compass, with the arrow pointing north, and only the “N” labeled. I told him I was going to get it because it would symbolize him, that he was the “N” that I was heading towards. This was during our “weird time” as I call January-April. He told me not to and laughed at me for wanting to do that. Looking back, I question that laugh because I wonder if this conversation happened before or after he slept with someone else. Then came back to me, again.
I would have thought things would be much different than they are right now, even just a few months ago. I would’ve guessed that Nick and I would either be back together or that I would have pretty much moved on. Well, I guess that last part would be me lying to you. You know when you absolutely just know that someone is going to change the rest of your story, no matter how many chapters they show up in? I felt that immediately with him. I guess we all hope for the best, being humans and dependent on love whether we like it or not. That’s one thing that always makes me laugh and want to yell out bullshit in the middle of people telling me about themselves. We, as humans, are all hopeless romantics- men, women, cynics, realists, the whole lot of us. I don’t care who you are or what you say, there is not a single one of us that doesn’t wake up wanting to find that feeling that just makes us scream in liveliness. We are all just searching for a purpose and, for many of us, that feeling of life and being alive is found in another person.
See, “love” as a whole is overrated to me. Mostly a word used falsely by children in high school or people who just don’t know how to say that they just want company. It’s used by a whole bunch of people who are scared to admit that it would be wrong to just want sex, so they tack on a whole bunch of stresses and pressures under the mask of love just to get the nod along from society. Love has become so commercialized and holds so many expectations that it has been essentially ruined. I don’t think the divorce rate is going up because people are falling out of love. Quite the opposite actually, I believe the divorce rate is going up because people never fell into love. That a couple had been together having fun for such a long while that people and family and friends and movies and country songs and society as a whole began to pressure and push and pick at the relationship, until the two involved in it felt that they had to take the next step. Now the next step for many people is moving in together, but sometimes that is even frowned upon without an engagement ring or being married. Soon, that couple who was completely happy in each others arms has been forced into a house they don’t want, with a ring on her finger, and a general feeling of uneasiness if this was really their own choice or just what they are supposed to do. Some people don’t even realize this isn’t what they wanted until after a wedding, which tragically eventually will lead to a divorce.
So, “love” is not something I truly believe in. Finding your kindred spirit is a completely different story though. I believe that there are people that you will meet in your life that will teach you things that you will never forget, that their presence will nudge you towards the path that you are supposed to be on, and that being with them, even if it is only temporary, will leave lasting memories and flashbacks that are activated randomly for the rest of your life. These people you are immediately drawn to.. as if some stronger force was pushing you and saying “this one, pay attention! they’re right there!”. Sometimes you end up in a relationship with yours and sometimes they just become just a teacher and a friend. The thing about it is that you love them regardless. Your soul delights in them, it finds so many things in common that you can’t contain your excitement at the fact that someone just gets it, gets you, gets everything. I don’t know how else to explain it, I guess if you’ve ever met yours, you’d understand.
Not a lot of people read these days, like really read. Not just shit books either, like Tucker Max and whatever that damn shades of grey book was, but like real books. Books that make you feel something with authors that have talent and such a voice that you can put yourself in that exact setting, picturing that exact character, feeling those exact feelings they have put down on paper for you to feel. Steinbeck, Wolfe, London, Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Bukowski, Orwell, and the rest. There are hundreds of thousands of amazing books out there by amazing authors, and it is almost impossible to find someone who reads, like really reads. Not just to read so they can say they read it or take a picture of them reading for instagram or to improve their “hipster” image they pride themselves on. I wanted to find someone who read, and enjoyed reading, as much as some people enjoyed television and movies. I remember my soul cheering when I went to Nick’s apartment for the first time and saw a bookshelf in his living room with actual titles on it that meant something. I remember the volumes of national geographic that were thrown about his bedroom.
In my profession I get to eavesdrop just about every second of every shift I work. I’m a bartender, its part of the territory. I have come to notice that the majority of my generation is just plain stupid. Now that’s not exactly the nicest thing to say, I’m sure I have conversations from time to time that if they were overheard people would immediately question the intelligence of me and my friends as well. But there is no lack of dumbasses coming into the bar talking about absolutely nothing or things so completely vapid and shallow and just bullshit it would almost be better if they said nothing at all. I see everything from couples filling in the silence with ridiculous, trivial conversations about this piece of gossip or that article in void to groups of friends commenting on “did you see her facebook status?” or amazing one liners like “when we’re all old and gross, we’ll be happy we have these” after taking fifteen group pictures in a row with multiple duckfaces and poses. I’d hate to be one of the girls that peak in high school or college, but apparently a large part of the population is becoming just that. Their bodies are so tired, beat, and worn out with pores full of makeup and cells full of alcohol, nicotine, and other party substances, that I guess they really do need the multiple pictures of themselves now. I laugh because I find myself starting to like my age and how it looks on me; I finally feel like my external and internal selves are catching up to each other. I sit there often and I question if this is really what people have become. Just so superficial and shallow and just the complete opposite of deep in any form. There is no meaning behind anything, its all for show and social media and to fill in the “awkward” silences. Maybe I’m just getting too old for it all. I like silence. I like real conversations that don’t include judging people or trivial gossip. I remember once, in the toyota, when Nick told me he thought we didn’t talk enough. I never thought we needed too really. I think some of the most meaningful conversations I have had in the last few years were with him. I also think some of the most comfortable silences I have ever had were with him. I didn’t want or need to fill the silences with bullshit and stupid stuff, it was nice just to be around him. I was content in our silences because between the silences I was content with our conversations. I felt like he taught me a lot when he talked, and I felt like I taught him what I could when I talked. Silence is amazing, it is far under-appreciated and often covered up with bullshit that just dumbs down its glory. I still cherish a lot of memories I have of us, just sitting in silence on the couch or in the woods, passing a blunt back and forth, and thinking our own thoughts quietly to ourselves. I get scared to think that maybe he looks back at it as a weakness while I still see it as a strength. We fit together without words, and in a world so filled of meaningless ones, my soul was ecstatically wrapped in the comfort-ability of our silence.
Sometimes, it’s hard to convince yourself things are over. Sometimes, it’s not. I don’t know where I really consider myself with Nick. I can only hope he is out there hanging out with all the duckface-selfie-taking vapid girls at the bar and occasionally finding himself question if this is all there is left out there; and maybe, just maybe, looking back at the very untypical, deeper-than-most bond our spirits formed. Maybe pride will stop him from admitting it, or maybe he’ll be too drunk and easily replace me with some pretty, stupid girl that either will or won’t matter in the morning, or maybe the fleeting memory of a real connection will discourage him from being like all the other dudes at all the other bars. Maybe I took an amazing, deep, intelligent, handsome guy and transformed him into some kind of bar fly, image-prizing, womanizing asshole. Maybe that’s all he was ever going to be, or maybe that’s all he ever was and I just couldn’t see it. Or maybe, his spirit attracted another intelligent, pretty girl who sees through all the superficial bullshit and he’s happy with her like he was with me. Maybe she won’t screw it up. Like I said, I don’t really know where I consider myself with Nick. I know, right now, we don’t even speak. [His call and choice and I respect that]. I do know that yesterday I finished a Steinbeck novel and my soul longed for his the entire time I read it. I can’t say if we’ll ever talk or see each other again, but I find it hard to swallow the large lump in my throat when I think that we won’t. I do think that our paths will eventually meet back up, one way or another, regardless of if my spirit will still cheer for his, I’m not sure. I do miss his friendship and advice often.
And I do know that I got that tattoo of that compass pointing towards the N. Fuck it, I’m from Maine anyways. Should be easy enough to change the story behind it to being based on being from up north one day if the hope and longing for Nick is ever officially dead. I don’t know if I would bother lying about it’s history though. He taught me enough that he deserves to be commemorated in ink regardless of the questionable future of us ever meeting back up. I mean, not everyone gets to meet their kindred spirit these days and I’ve seen worse, more meaningless tattoos.
When you sign a lease, you never really know how many things can change over that year. You make plans and you try to map out your life, but usually, it turns out nothing like what you planned. We signed the lease to our first place together and he had plans to propose and I had plans to accept if he ever asked. I spent a lot of time decorating and trying to make it feel like a home.. building a “nest egg” most of my customers called it. I started planning a wedding, he started planning our financial future. It was planned, everything was mapped out. The date, the venue, his job path, all planned and ready to go.
What you never seem to include in your plans are: the fights, the speed bumps, the social media lusting, the time apart that separates two people who called each other best friends, the temptations you get presented with by being a bartender, the friends who have terrible intentions for your relationship, the distance, the stress, and the toll all these take on you. Nobody ever plans a break up, especially to an engagement. When you’re caught in the spiderweb of it, you don’t even really see it coming. Maybe because it’s too close, ya know? Maybe it was just so much focus on the future and some day and a year from now that you get blindsided by the present. Maybe it was all the times that we didn’t say what we thought, that I didn’t ask for help when I started noticing other people, that he didn’t ask for help and tell me he used instagram to stare at other girls. Maybe it was pride or a lack of a true feeling of protection in our relationship that stopped us from addressing our weaknesses and struggles in our present and covering them with plans for our future.
The first night we had the keys, we had a mattress on the floor of our room, a record player and a modest mouse album, a bottle of champagne, some vodka and orange juice. We were happy. We drank to our plans. Enjoyed our new, empty house and slept in each other’s arms on the undressed mattress.
It’s funny how one year, twelve months, can change everything. I walked around the empty house, drank a bottle of champagne to honor our failure, and slept on the floor. I woke up and took one look around. Left the keys on the counter, locked the door, closed it, and left. Called the office and told them everything was out.
12 months. Huh. What a fucking difference.