Monday, July 20, 2009

Turbulence: The Worcester Diaries

[DISCLAIMER: Sometimes, the majority of the time, when I write, I do it very informally, sitting or sprawling on my bed. My room, as I’m sure many young people in cities across America can sympathize with me here, is abysmally tiny. No—if I were to ever be incarcerated, my bedroom in this apartment will have already trained me for it. I have about 12 by 6 feet of bedroom, complete with funky wall angles that eat up more room, leaving me with about 10 cubic feet of walking space, total, plus extra-long twin bed, desk, bookshelf, and closet. My dresser is in my closet. My desk is a flat space for important things to rest on. My desk’s chair is where my purses, Uggs, slippers, and often-worn lounge clothing live. This leaves my bed to be where I sleep, and sometimes multi-task entertaining, watching movies, eating, doing homework, working, and writing. (If you were wondering, sex falls under “entertaining.” I’m trying to bring some class to this place.)

Because of this, I rarely use my desk. The only time I actually EVER write at my desk is when I’m feeling particularly unproductive, scattered, uninspired, and unprofessional. The Desk whips me into shape. It makes me feel all Carrie Bradshaw because it’s in front of a window. (I believe in good desk karma.)

I am writing this, after it has sat open in Microsoft Word on my desktop for 2 weeks in bits and pieces, at The Desk. I’m sorry it’s taken so long. You have my heart-felt apologies. Now do you see what I’m working with here?]

I’ve been getting naked a lot of different places lately. Two weeks ago, on the 5th, it was in Worcester alongside Minister Brook Road, which from now on will be The Road I Got Naked On The Side Of, and not so much The Road Perfect Lives Off Of. (I’ve always been one to eclipse things that my men do with things that I do. Hence, one of the reasons I’m going to study abroad in Italy at the same college in Florence that Legs did. I want Italy to be nice, and not associated with him anymore, and mine.) This also may be why I, although not someone it really takes a lot of convincing to strip down in the first place, was so blasé about dropping trou right next to the swimming hole on a fairly well-trafficked road. Also, I was feeling a little reckless at that point.

Yesterday, it happened again, on a different road next to a different swimming hole in Worcester that also happens to be another road Perfect lives off of. However, this road was far less trafficked. And Perfect was actually in my town, and not his. Safer. (Granted, and I mean, hello—it’s nothing he hasn’t seen before. Or anything the people I do swimming with haven’t seen before. If you can’t tell, I was raised in a Naked House.)

July 5th was the first time I saw Perfect since before The Conversation. Alli, Cait and I had gotten bored with Lake Champlain, and were hungering for some river water. Cait offered to take us back to her hometown of Worcester, where the water is cold, the rivers are clear, and the waterfalls are abundant. Also, where Perfect lives. (Cait doesn’t know about Alli and my little adventure. There was some wonderful play-acting from the peanut gallery about being surprised about certain things. Oscars could have been won.) Cait’s been going through a rough patch in life lately, so when she called me the night before our excursion and I couldn’t do anything to help her or figure out what the right things were to say, I grappled for about five minutes with the idea before saying to her, “You know, I’d love to, but I really don’t know what to say to help you. When you went through this before, Perfect was the one who helped you through it. We’re going to be in Worcester tomorrow—do you either want to call him and see if he can meet up with us, or do you want me to text him and let him know what’s up?”

“Are you sure?” Cait asked, always sensitive to the feelings of others, in her own distress.

“Yeah,” I said on an exhale. “We have to see each other sooner or later, and it might as well be tomorrow. You really need him, so I can deal with it.” What I didn’t say was that I knew in my bones that it was the longest since meeting each other that Perfect and I had gone without seeing each other, and I was ready to end that streak. Also, I needed to see him in person to figure out if the weirdness that I was feeling over text and message was for real, or just imagined.

“I’m calling him right now,” Cait told me. “I’ll call you back after to let you know what he thinks and what’s going on tomorrow.”

Five minutes later, my cell rang again. Cait was almost border-line laughing. “He said the same thing you did,” she told me. “It was the whole, ‘I don’t know if she wants to see me, but we have to see each other at some point, and since we’re both your friends and you need us, it might as well be now.’”

Frankly, I wasn’t so surprised. For two people who are so opposite physically (if you want proof other than the written, that picture heading the “Perfection, Or Lack Thereof” post is of Perfect and I. He’s hulking and dark and manly, and I’m small and blonde and feminine. There, at least. He brings out the girl in me;) and in the way we deal with things, Perfect and I are startlingly similar when it comes to the way we approach things about each other. We’ve always been on the same wavelength, from the very beginning. I think that was the magic of the ‘click’.

And so on the 5th, I woke up, had an orgasm, ate fruit salad, did laundry, and worked out so that I would be glowing, toned, clean, and fresh when I saw him. I wore the teeny green bikini that was my mother’s when she was my age, one of my good luck charms. We got to the Mills about twenty minutes before Perfect, and I was sitting on a rock in cut-offs and my bikini when he appeared emerging from the trail down to the river behind me.

What was it like seeing Perfect again for the first time since we called it off? Oh, lord. I said before that it would be a success if I either didn't burst into tears when I saw him or tried to scale him like a very sexy tree. So I guess it was a success as I did neither, but for starters, the Earth dropped approximately two to five feet from beneath me, like it always does. If there is one thing that remains constant with that boy, it’s that every time I see him, it always feels like the earth drops out from beneath me. It leaves me a little short of breath, a little anxious, and more than a little nervous. The rabbits that always gnaw on my stomach lining went into flurried overdrive like they always do about him. With other guys in my past, there were cute, sweet butterflies of nerves. With Perfect, they were replaced by much larger, much more ravenous, much more solid rabbits. Then it became apparent after the initial “hey,” “hey,” “what’s up?” “not much,” that the weirdness was omnipresent and effusive. I realized that a lot of the bravado about being ready to see him again was just that, bravado. Seeing him, actually seeing him, standing there in the afternoon sun in green shorts and a guarded look made me turn unsure and off-balance. There was some shifty eye contact, and some very brief face-searching on both our parts. He looked tense, guarded, and a little bit unsure. I’m not sure what I looked like to him, but I’m pretty sure awkward and trying really hard to keep cool would top the list.

I was nervous; he was shielding. Though I may be adept at keeping most of my feelings and emotions to myself, when it comes to romantic things, I am an open book, hurling my feelings around through the air. I may not ever say the words; I may not ever be the girl who can talk about her emotions or what she wants or needs to whoever she’s with, but if you’re even passably good at picking up vibes, you’ll know how I feel. I’m not talking freaky-deaky paranormal bullshit here, even though I do believe in all that. What I mean is reading good, old-fashioned body-language, noticing small details, and opening yourself up to what feelings another person is projecting. I do believe it’s called “empathy”—you try to feel what the other person is. I am a very empathic person—when it comes to relationship feelings, I can’t wait to pass them off to the next person and try to lighten my load. I think this comes from being single so much, so often, for so long. I’m so used to having to live with myself and try not to hurt my own heart that when I meet someone like Perfect, I can’t rip my own heart out of my chest and hand it over to them fast enough. I tend to trust men to take better care of my own heart than I do. It doesn’t tend to work, as evidenced, but, I keep doing it. Someone once asked me if this is why I “fall in love over and over and over.” But I don’t fall in love over and over and over. To me, I have been in Love once. That’s capital Love, not “oh, I love you too. I love being with you and I love spending time with you. I mean Love as in, “I would move mountains for you, I would have your children, I would die for you, I feel like you complete me and I can’t be without you.” To me, that is Love. Love is not a word that I pass around freely. It seems like a lot more people are willing to just toss it out there. I’m trying to keep the meaning of Love sacred. What I do tend to do, however, is to fall for a guy hard, and fast, with all of my heart and head and soul. I never do anything half-assed.

The one time our eyes actually met for an extended gaze, I was shocked by what I saw there: hurt, and wariness. I wanted to reach up and grab him by the shoulders to shake him while screaming, “I’m not the one who did this! I was willing to hang on! You were the one who jumped ship! All I want is things to be normal; why won’t you be normal? I need you to be normal!”

Thankfully, he brought one of his best friends, John. I’d actually met John for all of about ten seconds previously at U-32’s high school graduation. It was a fly-by introduction—Cait got a hug and a “how are you?” and she pointed Alli and I out to John by our names. I rapidly realized that Perfect’s decision to bring John was a very good one when another ten seconds after he appeared behind Perfect, he looked from Alli to I and went, “Hey! I remember you!”

As normally out-going and effervescent as Perfect normally is, so is John. When it became apparent by his standing apart and lingering minutes standing on the various concrete jumping obstacles that the Mill has to offer suicidal swimmers that Perfect was not going to be his normal out-going self, John stepped up to the plate and jumped in to join Alli and I in the pool of water beneath the falls. He’s an easy conversationalist, instantly likable, and easy on the eyes to boot. (I think the word that comes up most often when I talk to someone about him is “adorable.”) He is someone I would really like to kidnap and stuff in a closet and keep them around for bad days when I need an instant pick-me-up. The kid has a great aura. (Excuse the New Age-ery.)

So what was it like watching Perfect, the first time I’d seen him since we called it off, dive head-first off of things into churning water in apparent suicide attempts? Here I was, watching one of the few guys that I actually deemed worthy of potentially being the father of my children (i.e—I was willing to have sex with him. I felt clarification was needed. I like to protect the few men that hold the chromosomes I would consider meshing with mine. It’s biology, baby. It’s just natural,) jumping off of a concrete bridge 40 feet that sloped out above the churning and rocky water. I may have screamed once, I’ll admit it. Even though he’s been doing this since he was knee-high to a grasshopper, I still got the feeling of “I could watch him die right in front of me.” Waiting for his wet brown head to break the surface felt like one of the longest-held breaths of my life. Both John and Cait also agreed, and they’ve been watching him do this for years. I’m pretty sure the only thing in my head during that time was a desperate repeated mantra of “oh please oh please oh please oh please.”

It’s the waiting for people to surface that always takes the longest.

Growing up fuck-nuts crazy and jumping off of things like the Mills have given Perfect a sort of Superman complex that is completely at odds with his emotional self, which is what really drives me nuts. The cliff-diving, wheelie-popping, discus-throwing, weight-lifting, tree-hauling, adrenaline-freak, while willing to put himself through all sorts of potential physical damage, is so cautious of emotional hurt that he refuses to take chances.

At the beginning of Perfect and I, Alli made the premonition that I would break his heart. I countered with a vehement “no, he’ll break mine.” Neither of us turns out to have been right, but the fact still stands that both parties involved know it’s a possibility. Perfect saw this and made his decision about what to do, which was the right one. I’ll even admit it. He saw possible heartbreak in his future, so he let go now while it was easier. Maybe it’s the masochist in me, but when I looked into that same future and saw that it could fall apart at some point, I thought, “ok, whatever. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I can hurt myself again—I lived through it the first time; I can live through it a second time.” Myself, I’m of the school of thought that feelings should conquer all—if you feel something, you should fight until the end of the earth for it. This is how I live my life—very focused. I see something, I want it, I find a way to get it. Perfect is more of the "things-just-come-to-me-and-I-assess-them-and-make-logical-decisions" way of thinking and living. I think this makes him the wiser one, but I also think this makes me to one who stands to gain more in the end.

But then the strangest thing happened. We were all standing on the sandbar, chatting as John told us about his new girlfriend, who was actually a girl he had previously dated a few times before. Cait asked him how it was going, and he admitted that he really liked her.

“So are you going to keep dating her?” Cait asked.

“Yeah,” John said, a cute and shy grin on his face.

That was promptly wiped off when Perfect, in the most un-Perfect voice I have ever heard come out of his mouth, butted in with a “But only until college.” That was it. Final. Perfect said it, so it was going to happen that way. And that’s when I knew, hearing that voice and those words, that what Cait had said was true—Perfect had gone to Baby Mix for advice, and Baby Mix had nixed me. I got the Kiss of Dating Death from the best friend due to the best friend’s own fucked-up long-distance relationship. Because in Baby Mix’s world, if it didn’t work for him and Cait, it wouldn’t work any better for me and Perfect. That was Baby Mix talking out of Perfect.

Now, I know you’re thinking I’m fucking crazy. I know you’re thinking I’m one of Those Girls who just can’t understand why they’ve been broken up with an grasps for straws and excuses and possibly answers. But you haven’t met Baby Mix. I have. I’ve spent HOURS talking to both Perfect and Cait about him. I spent HOURS of my birthday talking to the man himself, trying to prove to him that I was a good girl for his best friend, whom goes to him for everything and values his opinions and thoughts above all else. (When Baby Mix says “jump,” Perfect asks “how high, and would you also like me to orchestrate some music to go along with it?”) I would know a Baby Mix statement coming out of a complete stranger’s mouth. And the hard truth of the matter is it’s because Baby Mix and I are so alike. We’re both cunning, calculating people who spend more times planning and plotting in our heads than most people ever do. I actually knew, within moments of being introduced to him by a very nervous Perfect, hoping for the best, that Baby Mix and I weren’t going to get along because we are so similar, as you often know with people like you. You generally can’t tolerate them. I see Baby Mix as cold and self-serving, and he probably sees me the same and as his greatest threat to his best friend and their time together. (It also didn’t help that Perfect was staying at Baby Mix’s place during this time and was seeing the hours and hours of texting we were doing, combined with the fact that the next day, Perfect ran away to my apartment and me for over five hours, leaving Baby Mix behind. I’m sure he loved that.)

John, to his immense credit, didn't back all the way down, instead sputtering a little bit and shrugging, giving a “Well…uhhhh…” while Cait looked at Perfect, as horrified as I was, and leaned into John to comfort him with a “Just see what happens—you can always try long-distance.”

Perfect remained stony. In other words, Perfect remained a (not so) miniature Baby Mix. I have never, ever, not even during our dissolution, liked Perfect less.

Between the suicidal diving, brooding and ice-cold water temperature, (guaranteed to give you hypothermia!) Perfect and I managed to maybe say five complete sentences to each other before he decided it was time for him and John to leave. Bereft of our men, Cait and Alli and I decided that was our cue to leave as well. As we all walked back to the car, John kept the conversation going while Perfect toweled down and hopped in his 4Runner. Come to find out when he complimented my Civic, which NEVER gets complimented being the Plain-Jane of the car world, John works at a Honda dealership. When the words “Let me know if you ever need expensive parts and I can get them for you at my discount,” came out of his mouth, I knew he was one of my new Favorite People. John is my white knight in shining Honda armor. Him, I love. He promptly responds to Facebook messages and is optimistic and charming and eager. His best friend, the one who now can be surly and unresponsive and cynical, is the one who drives me crazy.


A week after this less-than-stellar encounter, I was over at Cait’s and finally managed to speak up and ask for some help with the whole “what’s going on?” thing. Generally, I tend to try and not exploit Cait and the trust that Perfect puts in her by talking to her about things, because I know that like a five-year-old, unless expressly told not to repeat something, Cait will regurgitate it to the first person who asks. Which, sometimes, works in my favor. I’m sure it works not in my favor a lot of the time when Perfect talks to Cait.

Seated on her kitchen floor, both a little inebriated, I managed to finally say out-loud, “So. Things have been kinda weird between Perfect and I lately. You saw it at the Mills. What’s going on with that?”

Cait, always a beautifully cheap date, looked me dead in the face. “He’s not over you. He’s realized that the feelings that he had for you were a lot stronger than he thought and he still feels them. He’s having a hard time.”

I didn’t know if I wanted to dance on the rooftop or rip the shelving behind me apart by hand.

“He’s not going to get over you if you guys keep texting and talking and seeing each other,” she continued. My first thought was, apparently the “hostage relationship” thing works, to mixed results. My second thought was, keep texting and talking and seeing him and possibly rattle the teeth in his head around until he admits his mistake and fixes it. Or, at least, it’s time to have a civil conversation about “what we both feel.”

“Are you over him?” Cait asked suddenly, looked much more sober than she had a minute ago.

I didn’t answer.


The next day, I jubilantly sent Perfect a few casually flirty texts, which he responded to promptly and similarly, talking about when he’d be in town next. (To see Baby Mix, the relationship-ruining fucker. No, really—I can be civil to him in person, and really, I try. He means a lot to Perfect, ergo, he should mean a lot to me, and he does: I value his thoughts on me, and I value his friendship with Perfect. But he’s screwed-over one of my best friends in a long-distance college relationship, and now helped screw me over with some biased statements about long-distance college relationships. There are some hard feelings involved.)

After some continued nice texting and planning, despite Baby Mix and all, I now realized I had the upper-hand, and something that Baby Mix couldn’t control—Perfect’s feelings. I'm feeling like I need to write something like "He's Just Not That Over You." Hello, truth.


Yesterday, Alli, Cait, Cait’s boyfriend Justin and I all went back to Worcester to go swimming at another place called the Pots, complete with two deep swimming pools, four waterfalls, and a natural stone water-slide. I like to now call it “Heaven On Earth.” John, who has kept in touch with me since the day at the Mill, was planning on meeting us, but a family dinner came up. Perfect was back in Burlington visiting Baby Mix. So Alli and I scrambled over rocks and trees and pine needles and stones and water, and Cait and Justin cuddled on the rocks. Alli and I, an original native backwoods Vermont Girl, got back to nature, while Cait and Justin got back to basics, otherwise known as first and second base. We had a perfectly lovely time, and Alli and I found the place we were searching for that makes summer feel like summer. We’re planning on heading back this weekend, maybe to meet up with John and/or Perfect.

In the meantime, I’m getting very familiar and comfortable with Worcester and Montpelier. Worcester reminds me very much of Tinmouth, where my best friend lives, and I’d always spent at least half of every year there through high school. I now know where I can get gas or food, where the house with the cool mural is, and what two roads I can take to go swimming or get to Cait’s old house, Perfect’s house, or John’s house. I can now find my own way from swimming to the Dairy Crème with no directions asked. My stomach, sometimes like my vagina, is my compass. And the supreme fact of comfort—I get naked there, which we have decided needs to be a new tradition, even if swimming isn’t involved. (I’m one of those people who can’t stand to stay in a damp bath suit, so I would rather shuck it off on the side of the road and change than marinate in it for the drive home. Mold, people, MOLD.) Especially if Perfect and I get involved again and visiting becomes a common thing, (re: we really need to have that talk about the lingering feelings on both sides,) I foresee some very interesting introductions to people, maybe sans clothing, because I’m that strict with tradition. Thank god I’m not that shy.

So there you have it—the good, the bad, and the naked. A lot has happened in these past few weeks that has either cleared some things up or made others more complicated, but hey—I have the facts, and whatever happens, happens. Sometimes, surprises can be good, like Perfect and I again being mutual with the feelings, and sometimes, they can be bad, like the whole Baby Mix advice debacle. To wrap this beast of a post up, men need to stop surprising us. I know we women always bitch about how we want them to, but really—when they actually start to, it throws us for a loop. Another male friend who was previously given up for a lost soul started being decisive—even doing things like making reservations. Clutch you uterus and hold on for dear life, ladies. The men—they are a-changin’.


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