She sits a little too close to me on the couch because she is drunk and happy and she shows me all of the pictures on her phone. Her fake nails are too long and she swipes hard at the screen. “Here’s where I grew up,” she says, “back here along the coast.” She is from Hawaii and she tells me the names of the islands and I have never even heard of them before but I nod along as she points them out in the picture she took from her airplane window seat. It’s raining outside, it’s that sort of drizzle that hangs in the air while at the same time falling and making unavoidable puddles on the ground. Everything is wet and everyone’s hair is turning into frizz and the man with the large beer belly passes out beers and pours strong drinks into tiny plastic cups. I cut lime slices for him and stand behind the rickety table that was never meant to hold so many bottles of alcohol. Everyone adds ice to their cups and the ice melts and their cups stay full and strong and no one ever needs to leave the couch for a refill. People sit closer and closer together and talk louder and louder over each other. “More ice!” Says the beer belly man’s father, bringing a fresh bucketful and sliding it onto the table in front of all the bottles. The table is littered with half-squeezed lime slices and half-moon rings of water and empty cups and full cups and beer bottles and pieces of ice slowly melting. Outside the workers from Jamaica pass back and forth with their maid carts and luggage carts and garbage cans and wagons full of grass clippings and hedge clippings and gardening tools. Everyone is interested in the people who are so clearly from somewhere else but are so friendly and hardworking and kind. I think about the boy I knew in college who was from Jamaica, and knowing someone from there makes me all-knowing. “I knew a boy from Jamaica,” I say to the people on the couch. “He was happy, too.” I watch the people as they pull their wagons and carts and cans and I wonder if they are happy or if they hate all of us for being loud and fleeting and cheap, for not tipping when they bring our bags to our hotel rooms, if they want to go home, if they are excited for this adventure, if this is just an easy way to make money, if they hate this island like I do sometimes, if they love it like I do most of the time. It is raining and my bike is outside rusting even more. The man with the beer belly is loud and he thinks he is very important. He is happy pouring drinks and talking to everyone about sports and hurricanes and the one time he was in a tornado and his father’s lack of hair and the city he is currently living in. He tells us all about the earthquake last week and the flooding in Texas and the tornadoes in Missouri. My drink is finally gone, the one tiny drink that became an endless, watery drink. I walk outside into the other watery drink, my hair curls more, people ride by on bikes and others pull wagons and carts and cans. I walk and I wonder if the man I pass hates me, if he cares at all, probably not, he’s fine, he’s happy, I’m sure, I’m not sure. They go on walking and I go on walking and the drizzle hangs in the air and the woman pushes hard on the screen of her cell phone and shows everyone who will listen and the beer belly man scoops more ice cubes into cups and tells everyone about floods and earthquakes and Ann Arbor and how he shaves his head because he’s bald now just like his dad.
1. Who do you think you are?! No, really, who are you? Putting on different fake faces for different people isn’t a good way to live life.
2. Here’s the thing you forgot, the thing you’ve been searching for: it isn’t that you want to do it, it’s that you must do it.
3. If you leave the music on your iPod long enough, you’ll start to like at all again! (Might take several years.)
4. I’m pretty excited (geeked!) for the new Stars Wars movie. I didn’t even think I liked Star Wars that much! Where’s the VHS box set?! Dig it out of the basement, please. Yes, I did forget what VHS were called! I googled it.
5. I haven’t practiced French in 6 months. Oops! But really, when are they going to come up with an “upgrade” for my brain?! My computer has to update every once in awhile, why can’t some program add “French V.1.0” to my head while I sleep?! #questions
6. Being cruel in an attempt to be funny, isn’t. It just makes you an asshole.
7. “You found out what kind of person to be from your parents.” “But I’m nothing like my parents.” “You found out what kind of person to be from your parents.”
8. It’s all okay.
9. Where are we going? Why is it so confusing? Why is it so hard? Why is it so easy for some people? What’s wrong with them?!
10. Where to now?
1. It’s so hard when someone you care about is hurting. There’s only so much you can say (over and over again), only so many smiley emojis to send. You really can’t fully understand what they’re going through. You can be there for them, but how useful is that?
2. Stop filling time. You’re not supposed to be that person. Remember all that stuff you want to do? Why aren’t you doing it?
3. More and more I appreciate people who say offensive shit because people are becoming so SENSITIVE about EVERYTHING.
4. Do what it is you do.
5. People told me about Bob’s Burgers. They said I should watch it. Did I listen? Sort of. Did I listen soon enough? NO! It’s so good.
6. It doesn’t have to be your fault. Maybe it’s not anyone’s fault. Really.
7. “You’re so chill.” I am?! When did that happen? Huh.
8. When did everyone I talk to start using slang all the time? It’s like I no longer speak English! It’s like I’m old!
9. I should probably stop assuming every super awkward person I meet has Asperger’s. Oooops. I’m like a walking, very specific, WebMD!
10. I feel like not having a cell phone is going to add years onto my life, just in the amount of stress reduced alone from not having to wait between each text message.
1. Sometimes to have hope is to be a fool.
2. How much longer is “the news” on TV going to be a thing? The internet is way better/more efficient/effective/faster/way better. Yeah?
3. If your Facebook doesn’t say you’re single, and it doesn’t say you’re in a relationship, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
4. There’s no way anyone can mess up painting with watercolors. Instant artist. Just add water!
5. My grandpa taught me when I was little how to quickly tell how many days were in each month by using my knuckles. I guess I do have a party trick! But life is sort of like my knuckles, too. Up and down and flat. Moving and falling and staying. Over and over. Searching, growing, laying silently in failure on the ground. Yeah!! Thanks, grandpa.
6. That might have been the best thing ever written. You’re welcome, world.
7. OK here’s an important life question that I’ve been thinking about: Why don’t boys/other people in general just somehow magically know that you want to hang out with them without you having to say something to them?! Isn’t this the modern age? Why don’t we have this technology? SPARRRTAAAA. (Also, I’ve never seen 300.)
8. Have you noticed this, because I have: Everyone’s current favorite movies of all time are all from Netflix! Yeah, I saw Ida, too. I get it. But what else? There must be movies you’ve enjoyed before you got your Netflix account, right? I mean listing those is just sort of telling me what everyone else is watching right now. It doesn’t make you or your movies interesting! We need a new source of information. There must be thousands of movies/great short films we’re just completely missing out on because we’re spending all of our time scrolling through huge lists of movie titles on Netflix, all of which we’ve already read the descriptions of and turned down multiple times weeks ago!
9. Here’s a really great video for you if you haven’t seen it yet. Hank Green, guys! He totally gave me a high five once. (AKA he’s a credible source.)
10. Listen to yourself talk with other people. Are you a kind person? Try to be.
1. Many things are bearable until they don’t have to be.
2. blue eyes.
3. I LOVE you! I think you’re SO interesting! Let’s be friends! No, wait! Come back!
4. I just finished (finally) The Wind in the Willows which I read because it was a free e-book on this app on my ipod and I would read a few chapters every time I took the subway… Anyway, it’s a sort of simple story about these animals in this world where they somehow communicate with each other and humans… and it’s a children’s story according to Wikipedia. But it’s really good. You should read it. Simple words don’t mean simple ideas.
5. You can do a lot of cool things or you can spend all your time thinking about all the cool things you want to do.
6. Maybe you are the thing that offends you the most.
7. You’ll regret it if you don’t try. You’ll regret it if you try and it doesn’t work. And so then you’ll try again! Who knows?! Maybe next time it’ll happen…
8. I thought roller-coasters were terrifying until I let my younger brother drive me somewhere.
9. What are you people listening to these days?! As in, what are you listening to?, and, WHAT are you listening to?! I can’t even talk about it. It’s too painful.
10. It’s good practice to open your mind and accept things that don’t affect you personally, because they just might in the future.
“I’m so happy to be home,” she says.
“It’s so different. It’s just like it was when I left. It’s so different from where I was. I just can’t explain it. And no one is asking me to.”
“It’s like PTSD,” she says.
“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or maybe it’s the opposite of that. But it’s sorta the same. Like I just experienced something terrible. And I come home, back here, and this place is not terrible at all. It’s so normal. It’s identical to life before I left, like nothing here has changed. Because it hasn’t.”
“And anyway, I felt it right away, when I got here. This anti-PTSD thing.”
“Oh, and I’m allowed to talk about PTSD, because I met soldiers over there when I was gone. I learned some stuff about their lives. Anyway so it’s not like I have no idea what I’m talking about.”
“So, I stepped out of the airport, after 24 hours of traveling, and, bam, here I was. And maybe that doesn’t sound very impressive. And people don’t seem very impressed. And that’s the thing.”
“I can’t explain what I’ve been through or much of the things I’ve seen. It’s a different world. You have to experience it yourself before you can understand me. So, PTSD, right? You’re living in this world, like me, but at the same time, I’ve lived in another one, and that world’s not completely gone from me. It’s like jet-lag, but culture-lag; experience-lag. It wasn’t really wonderful or beautiful. And you’re not asking, either. And to talk about it just feels like complaining. I can’t describe it right. And you’re not listening to what I’m not saying.”
“This world doesn’t seem real,” she says.
“I can understand what those soldiers must go through. This is a dream land. It’s like nothing happened, like those terrible things never happened. But they did. And it’s so confusing. And you can’t talk about it. See? I’m talking in circles. But I have to say something.”
You still make me smile. But the thing that long-lingers on my face afterward is no longer caused by a happiness, or an excitement for something that is just beginning; Now sadness is there, helping to pull up the corners of my mouth. And it is a strange feeling, happiness and sadness mixed on my lips, frozen on my face.
I’ve always felt that I expect too much from people. I hold people to too-high standards. I want too much, jump in too quickly, take too much of them.
And it makes me feel bad, when a friend doesn’t see the point in going on a one-day trip to a different city for the sole purpose of going there. What for? they might ask. Why so soon? Can’t we wait a few days?
No, no, I’d say, mentally frowning, shaking my internal head at them. You need to be better. You need to want more. Can’t that thing you were planning on doing today wait? Can’t you just go with me, run away, drop it, forget about it, do it later? This is an adventure I’m talking about! This is so much better than feeding your cat, watching that movie, making dinner, talking to your boyfriend. Hello? Are you still there? Why are you still there?
1. Stop calling yourself an “unknown poet”, EVERYONE is an unknown poet!
2. Things you are not allowed to say: “I miss you”, “I had a dream about you”, “I think your baby is actually quite ugly”.
3. We’re all scared. That shouldn’t stop you.
4. Some girls speak poetry as their first language and don’t know how to stop. They wear dark eye makeup and thrift store sweaters and listen to music they choose to like. They take pictures day after day from the exact same angle of the exact same face until they’re convinced that they’re beautiful. Sometimes they all look the same.
5. It’s never going to be simple.
6. Horrible things just keep happening in the world, don’t they? And it seems so terrible and evil and sad. And it is. And then you talk to your friend or meet a nice lady at the grocery store who tells you about her daughter or someone does something nice for someone else. And at least there’s a balance of terrible and wonderful.
7. I’m currently growing daisies in a tiny pot in my room under my desk lamp. It’s a tiny rebellion against winter. Or something. Maybe it’s just tiny daisy plants.
8. You should read Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. It’s a really simple and beautiful book.
9. Tell them, just tell them! UGH!
10. “When I save up lots of money, I just buy piggy banks.” – small girl with, apparently, lots of money, and, most likely, lots of piggy banks.
Once upon a time — wait, no. This is real life. Let’s start again.
The one that got away. What a great catch. These sentences are fishing metaphors. They also, when girls I know tell me love stories that have these as the plot lines, seem to be magical, romantic, mysterious, beautiful. What could have been. If these phrases were movies we’d see soft sunny filtered images of smiling beautiful people in fields of flowers. But no story is one sentence long. Only distorted memories begin with Once upon a time…
The one that got away is a complicated tale. Maybe “one” is actually many. Maybe this isn’t even a Rom-Com. Maybe the one is someone’s father. Maybe it’s someone’s dream.
I love people because they are so complicated. If you dig deep enough everyone has a story; everyone is still writing it as they go along, just like me. Just like you. Good stories are always complicated. Good stories are hard to tell. Good stories get sliced into tiny pieces and boiled down to What could have been so we can try to share our stories with other people. We use words and we use pictures. We have Instagram (that comes with the soft sunny filter), and we have Polaroids of our grandmothers when they were young.
Our stories will always be incomplete. Memories fade or change so that every morning we are remembering and living a slightly different life. The people we love die or fade out of our lives in different ways, and the houses and cities we grew up in get torn down or repainted, or they stay exactly the same and our memories of them change so they end up feeling different just the same.
I have a Polaroid picture of my grandmother. She is not young in the picture, but I am. We are sitting together on the steps of her back porch some sunny Spring day in the early ’90s, a bright green apple in my hand and a grin on my face. I do not remember this story. My grandmother died when I was four. But luckily there are more pictures, more sentences from the story of her life.
Loving people and their stories is dangerous, of course. It’s not romantic or mysterious, though sometimes it seems magical, and often it is beautiful, at least for some of the time. People are like our memories, in a way. They change unexpectedly, they surprise you, they make you cry. The worst thing of all is when someone abruptly leaves your life when you were still writing your life stories together — cliffhanger forever. And if you don’t fully understand that person’s story, and your own story is still uncertain, how do you tell someone else about it, even if they care to listen?
The (other) one that got away.