Molly, the trojan horse

In all of my relationships, I can recall the times when the moods shifted and changed from wildly happy to completely upset. Those moments stick to me like honey to fingers. I remember the way the new mood brings down everything around you with it, but this is nothing new, misery loving company and all. In those moments, all I can think of is when isn’t there a time where I’m absolutely crushed?

Sometimes I feel like my life can be filed by the chapters I’ve spent in and out of love. Winter of 2007 with Rose, the flick of April’s tongue on my lips in 2011, cold, cold Allison shortly afterwards, and all the other ones, big and small, that filled the gaps in between. I can’t believe how frequently this story happens. Is my luck so bad that I can only find the briefest of happiness?

I can understand it when people write deep, meaningful things during the darkest parts of life. It’s a humbling feeling to allow an experience to shape yourself. It’s also a challenge, because you have to look inside the complexity of things. For example, allowing someone close to your heart even if you’re to be let down in the end. It could be days, weeks, or years before you’ve moved on, all the while you’ll be considering why it happened during a whirlwind of emotions. It’s tough to experience heartbreak multiple times and, quite literally, have the heart to stand back up to give someone else a try. This cycle could potentially continue forever; there’s no guarantee that it’s worth fighting so much for. There’s that offer for just giving up completely waiting for you, a chance to avoid all the pains that come of letting the drawbridge down and opening the portcullis to a potential love.

I am in a tough spot, because as much as I’d like to give someone else a shot, my recent fall into heartbreak with Molly has forced me into rebuilding the castle around my heart again. Hello darkness, my old friend.

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There Will Be Something I Love About You

I’ve been writing about love and heartbreak for about five years now, and I’ve written a lot of short side posts that aren’t stories. This was one of the ones I found in my archives from mid-2011. Good read for when I’m feeling down. The photo I found back then, too, but now-a-days it reminds me now of the song called “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” from A Song of Ice and Fire (holla at me with your tinfoil theories!).

There will be something other-worldly about what we’ll have. I’ll only find out when I meet you, get to know you, and experience how the mundane things I’m used to are made better by you just being there. Maybe it’ll be how you talk about what book you’ve read last, how you stare at me in that one way when you have something silly to say, or how you hold on to me when we’re out dancing.

I know you’re out there and, just like am I, you’re waiting the moment our hearts meet. We’ll want things to be perfect at first, but then we’ll realize how the little mistakes just made every success better. We help each other open the doors to a version of ourselves we never realized we could be. Then we’ll run away, build a spaceship, Continue reading

Rebecca, the needle

Rebecca, the needleUnderneath the scarlet and white lights, an all girls punk band thrashed about the tiny stage in much the same way that children do when they’re let loose on a playground full of energy. The lead singer clutched the microphone in one hand while her other held tightly to a black, cushioned bar positioned under the ceiling and just in front of the stage – a move that was cool the first few songs but was getting difficult to get excited over again. The guitarist and the bassist strummed and plucked consistently as their feet carried their banging heads and flailing black and blonde hair in every which way across the stage. A big, bright green glowstick hovered in the background, surrounded by a pair of teeth that belonged to the relatively calm drummer plunged in the dark behind the others. The whole ensemble reminded me of the way I’d jam out in my own homes over the years. Any and every door frames substituted for the overhead, padded bars, cheap chopsticks, other utensils, or my hands stood in for the drumsticks, but they were hardly used; I much preferred the pretend, Rock God strumming of a plastic, yellow broom with the imaginary image of a microphone stand in front of me.

The place was called Sonset Strip, a basement level punk rock experience tucked inside a space as large as a two bedroom apartment. But this was a city in Japan, land of space saving, so this didn’t come as a surprise. Neither did the random placement of English words in some of the songs the bands played. Neither was the consumption of highballs, or the seemingly uninterested Japanese audience who just stood as if the music only placated them over time, or the forty or fifty year old mother with the small child in her arms in the center of the crowd. This was all only of mild interest. While the bands may have been inspired by all the punk rock bands and shows in the world, the crowd was Japanese to the bone, they wouldn’t be doing much dancing anytime soon.

Rebecca and I had been conversing for a week over the internet, getting to know each other and feeling pretty good about what we had been seeing. I hadn’t put a lot of weight into online dating before but it was something I felt was worth a try considering my newness to the country. Good vibes came from our conversations, though, so it felt a little different. We exchanged recommendations on books (it all kicked off on books – we had both read a book that was both incredibly uncommon and described ourselves well), talked briefly about music we liked, and a little bit more about ourselves. It was an unnaturally natural online conversation between two people who were obviously looking for something.

So, I was feeling incredibly nervous. More nervous than I had in recent times, in fact. I had been feeling a standard confidence in myself since I left the States, riding on a couple make out sessions and some language that could only be spoken by eyes. I even had a first date not two months before and felt nothing of worry during that time, despite it not going well at all. Its ending was more reminiscent of Arthur Dent’s meeting with Trillian in Hitchhiker’s Guide more than anything else, only shittier. All in all, there was no reason for me to be considering anything other than, “Yes, yes, yes. A thousand times yes!” when Rebecca sent me the invitation to join her and her friends at Sonset Strip.

I dithered about while I tried to make up my mind to go. I checked with a friend to see what he was doing to see about getting a wingman, someone familiar to help me with adjust to the unfamiliar, but he was busy celebrating a half of a year with his Japanese girlfriend. Ah well, I told myself, at least that’s forced me to make a decision. I pulled out some extra month from a Seven-Eleven ATM near central park before I made the trek, on foot, to the location.

Striding across a quiet section of downtown, opted to find the landmark that was three convenience stores located almost right next to each other. It took me about forty-five frantic minutes. Most of that time I knew I was on the right path, but when I figured that I was looking at the wrong block, for a few minutes, I thought I was heading in the opposite direction. A unnecessary fear gripped me. As it turned out, I was indeed, heading to the right place and eventually happened upon the three “conbinis” that were across from Sonset Strip.

When I found Sonset Strip, I was clad in a new, gray jacket I had just bought hours earlier and my small laptop bag which housed my Nook reader, a charge pack for my phone, and a pair of wireless earbuds. I suddenly felt improperly equipped for the task at hand – wooing a lady of which I felt a decent deal of admiration for. Even in the best of situations, equipment wise, I’d have felt a tad nervous. But with that sudden realization, I started doubting myself.

I stood out on the sidewalk, looking at the building’s off-white colored stone business board which displayed a number of places including Sonset Strip on B1. A slim staircase led down into the first basement level and to Rebecca, but I wasn’t quite ready. I peeled myself off to the other side of the sidewalk and took off my jacket, thinking that maybe I could fit it into my small bag. Somehow, it fit, but it looked ridiculous, I decided. So I removed it and put it back on. Then I looked at my phone and tried to give myself some excuse for standing outside for a little while to let the jitters go away. It didn’t work. I looked back up at the stone business board, illuminated in it’s modest, dirty yellow under glow and decided it was time to get a move on.

And so it came to be that I watched three Japanese punk bands rock their faces off while the crowd stood around, save for the four gaijins and the few close friends of the bands who took up positions in front of the stage. During that time I got along swimmingly with Rebecca’s two friends, who were a couple themselves – both of different countries – and had stashed my jacket and bag in a convenient personal item locker that was provided by the venue for 100 yen. We drank, rocked, and talked whenever we could between songs or sets, her English accent fighting through the ringing brought on by the music in my ears.

Rebecca and I danced together, too. Timidly, at first, as I felt like she was out of my league entirely, and then constantly. Her long, curly golden hair moved playfully along with her moves and her big, white grin made me feel good and silly. She was wearing a short sleeved blouse of a deep red, a silver necklace that tracked its way between the curvature of her breasts, and a nose piercing on her right nostril. It could be that it glimmered silver like her necklace, but I seem to recall a deep blue as well. The blue could have easily come from her eyes, however. Even in the darkly lit and sporadically flashed area that was the venue’s dance floor, I could see the deep set of light blue eyes that she had. Gorgeous would be the descriptor I’d give for her eyes, though I find myself overusing the word. Not everyone is made for blue eyes; I remember a previous girlfriend who had colored contacts for a while and kept wearing blue iris contacts. They didn’t fit on her at all. Rebecca, however, made the oceanic blue eyes as they made her. I’m sure I was just one of many fools to float myself along in the beautiful reflection.

I certainly found myself thinking about her eyes when I pulled her in for the first of many kisses that night. That was the last thing I remember before I kissed her for the first time. It was true for the remaining long kisses we had on the middle of the dance floor, around a bunch of passive Japanese people and bands who longed for a return of the energy they put out. They certainly got it from us, singular in our moments entwined.

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Allison, the obelisk

In a winter season that seemed to be running for the title of “Most Depressing Season Yet,” I met the alluring Allison. I was going through a meltdown due to various problems in my life. My car had been incapacitated for a month and would be the same for another two months still, my friends were all going home or away for the holiday break, and nearly every day off I got from work was met with rain or high speed, cold winds. I was effectively reduced to staying inside my apartment, alone, when I wasn’t at work. This was one of the few periods of my life where I’d look forward to going to work during a holiday break. It wasn’t easy. There was only so much I could do to entertain myself to keep myself from exploring the question of how fast a person would have to run in order to break a window to find the asphalt below. It was even more difficult maintaining a resistance to this after Allison.

On a day that looked terrible for tennis, running, or doing anything other than listening to traffic, I rolled my way over to a Border’s bookstore. Sitting over books with a cup of my favored chain-coffee shop java in hand, I read details on travel trips in Spain, read through the short stories in the latest Analog, and barely endured the narcissistic and jaded car reviewers in their articles.

As I traveled back and forth between aisles, I noticed Allison each time. I began opting for trips that brought me within view of her in the hopes that I might get her attention in some way. She was stunning, wearing a forest green peacoat with a gray painter’s cap covering the length of black hair she had. She was sitting on the floor in the photography and architecture section, surrounded by books and writing diligently in a small, brown notebook. When I sat at my table for the last time, intending to look into the next chapter of James Bond’s adventures, I took a minute to think of how far I could go with pretending to be good with the subjects in that aisle. Deciding I could hold my own for a solid minute of literature related to conversation, I replaced the James’ Bond book I had grabbed, approached her and made the first move.

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Catherine, the old worlder

The OldworlderUNDER THE STRONG AND SLOWLY PULSING GLOW of the colored lights, a band was closing out their set on stage with bowing and gracious appreciation to the crowd for being there. The lead singer and the bassist shared a one handed hug as the singer asked for acknowledgement for the bassist’s fantastic performance and stage presence as blue light panned across his face and against the bassist’s plain, black t-shirt. A spattering of voices from the front of the stage and above on the balcony shouted back in approval and the stage began to clear for the headliner to make their appearance.

The stage was small and flanked by two towers of speakers and surrounded by lights in three dimensions that rotated and danced. Behind the stage a banner declared this building “Club Suntouch” in an inglorious silver cursive print with a tape cassette dividing the first from the final word. The primary lighting that shined over the stage was the same color as what painted the entrance to the club and across the back of the open dance floor – a dimmed yellow reminiscent to an old, suede armchair from the 1970’s. Along the back of the floor was a recessed and slightly lowered area with dark brown, faux leather couches and signed posters of famous bands and artists lining the walls. The couches weren’t set there for their beauty, it was plain to see, as the faux leather on each couch presented an easily visible foible – a cracked seat cushion, a large, dark stain on an armrest, a gash at shoulder height against a back cushion revealing the yellow cushion inserts. The club’s interior design was obviously made to fit the settings of what college students were most familiar with.

Glancing around the first floor of the club, I watched the crowd of strangers become painted in a steady flow of red, blue, and green. I had gone there on my own, just as I had many times before. My friends all had a taste for music and scene that was fairly different than that of my own so it didn’t feel strange hanging out alone there. I enjoyed the mingling of people all around me, the sounds, the lights, the warmth, the smiles, the shouts, applause, the vigorous movement of it all. The atmosphere was so different than what I was accustomed to at home, and I loved it. My bedroom in my shared apartment was mostly clean, mostly tidy, and definitely ordered to fit functionality for my needs. A no frills room of solitude with some rhododendron green paint and some canvas wall art of some street in Tokyo. Unlike others my age, I was found interest in books and video games rather than social amusements. But in Suntouch, I could stand in my tan brown leather boots, gray jeans, and plain, sky blue t-shirt and feel like a part of the chaotic energy of what might happen, even if I was simply observing. A band member may fall off stage in a drunken stagger or from struggling with audio cables or a stranger, usually a girl, could walk up to me and offer to sell me some odd drug after feinting interest in how I was doing. The dancing of red, blue, and green lights and all the people has a way of making me happy, even if I just stood there, danced, and sang along in my lonesome.

As a matter of fact, this time the random chaotic event would be a man falling off of one of the staircases that lead up to the second floor balcony and the bar. Unfortunately for him, the staircase in question was not the one with the landing and was instead the staircase with the shallow, curved steps. Once he had lost his footing the first time, there was no obtaining it again unless he somehow sobered up within the quarter second of his initial fall. I watched as the man flung his green and nearly full beer bottle out in front of him and put his hands out with open palms to brace his eventual embrace with the hard, two-tone gray checkered floor. In the end, the man’s hands did little to help due to the hefty weight of his body. A loud and unforgettable thump of flesh and clank of glass against the concrete floor brought the attention of everyone within earshot. The poor drunk laid on the floor for a few seconds as his friends caught up to help him. The police officer running security at the door also came to check on him and, eventually, let him know that his night there was over.

When man of beer, stairs, and concrete had been carried towards the door, I noticed someone making their way to the entrance. The dim, yellow light cast itself across the man, shouldered by two of his friends, as the police officer held the door open for the group leaving and then for the girl entering.

As she walked from the darkness of the entrance through the field of dim, yellow light, I found myself gazing at her for what felt like several minutes. She was about half a foot shorter than I was, making her about 5’5”, with straight, black hair at shoulder length. The sleeves of her gray cardigan were pulled up to her elbows which revealed the array of bracelets she wore on each arm; less on the left arm to make room for her small, white wristwatch. She wore a red skirt with a pattern of white, yellow, and orange colors that seemed to change with the highlighting of the yellow lighting overhead. I continued my creepy stare until she disappeared into the crowd of people resuming their socializing after the interruption of the falling man.

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Erika, the damsel

THE PARALLEL LINES OF TREES PAINTED an image of a never-ending mural along my periphery. Driving along at a steady 70 miles per hour, I felt the serene calm that comes from traveling through the countryside. Autumn leaves flanking the road provided a pallet of color in which I moved between.

The co-worker I had been driving home stirred in the passenger seat, lulled into a deep sleep by the smooth undulation of the road. Donald had fallen asleep while they talked about the bullshit of work and what they had done on their last days off.

“I don’t know how some people have the energy to keep up with hobbies with irregular work schedules like ours, man. Like they never had left home to do anything else that day. I’m envious.” he said before he dipped into silence and slipped into unconsciousness.

I thought Donald was a decent guy, good hearted despite how he talked himself up all the time. One quality that Donald certainly had, without a shadow of a doubt, was that he was quite odd and liked to bring that into focus through conversation. For example, Donald would, from time to time, bring up the fact that he subscribed to gay magazines, yet he always maintained that he was straight.

“‘Out’ and ‘Butt’ are great windows into the gay community and allows you to appreciate the lives they live. But just because I read them, doesn’t make me gay,” Donald asserted one day during a break when a few co-workers badgered him about seeing him out at a bar the night before with a male friend.

Exiting the interstate was like funneling through a narrow corridor of streaking paint and lights. I normally take off-ramps with a generous amount of speed. The pleasure of putting the car on the edge of grip, finding the apex of a huge corner, and feeding the power as the bend turns into a straight is a rare thing to be able to enjoy, but this time I had held back for my passenger. Instead, I took it slow and took in the scene around me. The sun gleamed and struck one side of the road and created a scene with the the trees and the multitude of Fall-seasoned leaves that I had, for a moment, considered pulling off the road and to fully appreciate it all.

Making it to the apartment complex, I waved farewell to Donald from my lowered window and began to make my way to the exit to begin the drive home. The complex was large and complex. Large enough that it nearly sustained itself with a nearby convenience store and liquor store. The only thing it was missing was a Wal-Mart and it would be a picture perfect American location. There was even a golf course within walking distance for the citizen with a bit more disposable income to burn on regular tee-times with the more established, home-owning members down the road.

Eventually I got lost in the maze of the complex, so I stopped the car in frustration and referenced my GPS for the way out. After a few accidental clicks and referencing the map with the route dialed in, I heard the soft knock of her knuckles on the hood of his car and looked up to see her approaching my window, cigarette in hand. Continue reading

Rose, the summer breeze

BEING SINGLE, AWAY FROM HOME, AND WORKING RETAIL taught me to hate the holidays. Commercials feed everyone recycled bullshit emotions like a sick cycle. Social media and news was constantly previewing, reviewing, and bullshiting about “This thing was so beautiful it’ll make your face fall off if you just click here,” and reminding everyone who doesn’t have a special someone or a family that was big into exchanging gifts that they’ll hardly find a glimpse of warmth in the dead of winter. That’s how I began to not care about holiday spirit and scorn the thought relationships. That’s also what made Rose so special to me.

I met her at a basement bar in the slowly beating heart of December on the corner of Franklin and Mellow, where the strip felt like a makeshift police station almost every night. The bartender was a large, red headed man with a massive red beard mounted on a completely flushed face of matching color and so jolly that he gave out free shots for simply following ridiculous orders. That night, the bartender was like Santa Claus for all the kids away from home.

Surrounding the bar on all sides, self-loathing graduates and college kids mingled together. I was one of the former; having spent a year putting out applications that lead to absolute nowhere. Anyone who was not already spoken for spent their time there that Christmas Eve searching for either a person who would reach the bottom of a bottle with them or sleep with them. Or both. It was pretty obvious from all the eyes that darted from person to person, sizing up possibilities and efforts required. I found myself there because I knew it was only a matter of time before I would waste away my night either drinking alone and tricking myself into thinking I wouldn’t want to be getting distracted somewhere else. There was self-loathing alone and there was self-loathing together. I figured that I may as well make it a group project.

The basement was flooded with noise and the building vibrated in response to the music from the club above the bar. A million conversations could be made from picking out words coming from the crowd in a span of just ten seconds. Taps flowed, cigarettes were lit and snubbed indiscriminately, and people left the restroom with seldom a cell of skin washed. A proper college area bar.

“Well, you see, gun control is a useless debate. If we all had guns, we’d all be far safer,” I cringed, overhearing the conversation that came from a booth I passed on the way to an empty bar stool.

I had visited this place a number of times before, but always with my friends and never without good reason. This would be the first time I really just couldn’t stand being alone and knew my friends were all cuddled up alongside their warm companions. Instead of being able to spend it with someone else, I huddled up with a nice double Crown and ginger ale and descended into the chatter around me.

During that evening, the bartender suddenly produced a megaphone and shouted through it as if a king were passing through and we were to make way, “Hey everybody, we just wanted to thank ya’ll for coming out to our little Christmas Eve shindig so we brought in a little gift! Our very own Christmas tree!” The gift was brought out by two staff members, one of thick dark hair and a scruffy, wild beard who seemed to be falling asleep between every other stride. The whole event was met with a shower of applause and incoherent noise and the eventual realization that it was, despite the amount of drinking going on at the time, really Christmas Eve.

I shrugged it off and turned to put my attention on the trivia game that was taking place on the televisions around the bar while the tree was swarmed by drunk people wanting to take a picture around it. “Those thick motherfuckers,” someone said to himself. For me, the night, the random conversations, and the drinks kept going like nothing had happened.

Rose happened upon me when I was returning from the restrooms, passing by the Christmas tree. A group of girls had asked for me to take their picture in front of the tree and I obliged. While I took their picture, I realized why everyone had been so interested in the thing. The tree was a huge, enormous thing that just barely scratched the top of the low ceiling. It had been draped rather terribly with ornaments that the staff had left out for all the patrons. This would be a contender for the worst decorated tree of all time, I thought. After the picture was taken, I lingered in front of the tree for a moment, looking at all the tangled ribbons of shimmering garnet and gold and random, mostly broken ornaments. Someone had removed an ornament from it’s metal hanger to pierce it through a condom package, leaving it hanging on the top quarter of the tree.

After what could have only been a few seconds, I noticed someone standing next to me. I took them for someone I knew, and turned to make a comment about the decoration of the tree. Rose stood there, eyes darting from the ornaments on the tree to the decorations on the wall. Finally, she stopped and spoke with a sudden expression of disappointment on her face. “Damn, I thought there’d be a mistletoe here! Uh.. this isn’t going how I expected it to go in my head.”

I stood with my mouth hanging open, a result of realizing that she wasn’t someone I knew and had just said something I don’t think I’d have ever imagined to hear. Grasping the situation slowly I replied, “Does there need to be a mistletoe?” I don’t usually don’t pick up hints, even if they were full outright comments that left nothing to the imagination. With me drinking, I was even more likely to question something rather than pick up clever dialogue.

Rose, however, didn’t reply. She just grabbed me firmly by the waist and kissed me.

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