Talking to Strangers

When you’re a kid, they tell you not to talk to strangers.

It seems like these days I do exactly the opposite of that. I talk to strangers. I go out, drive long distances by myself at night, and then dance with strangers.

Recently I went on a blues event on a cruise ship and I roomed with a stranger. We slept in the same room having only just met that day.

I took an acro-yoga class from a stranger. I then joined a group led by this same stranger to go wander around a strange country for the first time. On that excursion, I had lunch sitting beside that stranger. I ate the organs of a strange animal (I don’t speak Spanish, the natives tried to warn me, it smelled good, it was good, I ate it) on a taco.

I went to a tequila shop and a bar, and I drank a good quantity of liquor with that same stranger. When we kept accidentally uttering the same phrases as each other or finishing the other’s sentences; I stopped speaking my thoughts out loud because it was eerie.

That stranger asked me to dance that night (if you’re not familiar, I do Blues dancing, it wasn’t some seedy cruise ship club grind) and then spent a good amount of time sitting and talking with me in a dimly lit corner. We danced again.

And again.

And the last song.

It was the last night of the cruise and we took a “survivors photo” of everyone who made it to the end of late night dancing at nearly 5 am. The stranger tucked me in next to him and smiled.

I didn’t want the night to end.

Neither did he.

We had to be out of our rooms in 3 hours for checkout.

The stranger asked if I’d be up for roaming the ship instead of sleeping.

The stranger’s hair was purple, blue, teal, just a touch pink, and tied away from his face in a long unicorn tail down his back. His coat was gold brocade. His smile was soft and warm and I wanted to wrap myself in it. He didn’t feel so strange.

I said yes.

He followed me to my room so I could get a jacket. My dress was short, and thin, black linen with delicate puffed sleeves in lace.

I tucked my hands into the pockets of my hoodie and followed him back up the winding stairs. We glided along the empty, silent hallways of the ship together. For once there was no ambient noise. No frat boys falling off of deck chairs. No one smoking. No music.

We found our way into the balcony of the theater. There was large high-backed, circular booths overlooking a stage hung in gaudy glittering gold curtains that blazed appallingly in full light, but in the quiet hours, under the dimmed chandeliers, merely twinkled softly. We slipped into a center booth and sat side by side.

He tucked me under an arm and I leaned in, comfortable, tired, eyes still aglow. The day had been so full and lovely. I peeked at his face and our eyes met. There was no pressure in his gaze. Everything was soft, neutral.

I knew from our conversation at that dance that we had a good amount in common. I also knew this was the last night of a cruise in an event that drew people from all over the country and while he lives in the same state I do, he’s pretty far away. If he was looking for something in me, logic dictates that it probably wasn’t the start of something serious.

When I looked in his face, I saw no expectation but I also knew he was going to kiss me at some point. I looked away quickly and said something vague. I felt like the situation should scare me. I felt like I should distance myself. I felt like I should feel something other than the utter calm and peace I felt sitting so close to him.

He’s a stranger. He was a stranger.

I have a good amount of guilt in me. It follows me. It dictates a lot of what I do. For some reason, I felt like I should feel guilty or ashamed. I felt like I should feel that I was doing something wrong.

For the life of me, though, I couldn’t muster the guilt.

He read my palm.

This may seem like nothing to some people. Or hokey. Or occult. To me, it felt like home.

My childhood best friend used to read my palm. The library of our Junior High had a selection of nonfiction on fortune telling. We read palms and tarot. She bought me my first set of tarot cards and used to swear “Goddess!” instead of “God!”

As readings go, the one that took place in the theatre wasn’t anything to write home about, but when he finished with the love line and the markings of old loves that he said on my palm were thin and “fading away” (and indeed they are), I realized I wanted him to kiss me, just like I’d wanted him to ask me to dance,  and that if he didn’t do it soon, I was going to kiss him.

I just wanted a kiss. It didn’t have to mean anything.

I liked him, and I wanted to kiss him.

There’s this dumb quote I had on a piece of “room decor” in college which I secretly hold a firm belief in- the soul can be seen through the eyes and felt with a kiss.

I wanted to sip ever so slightly from his soul.

If we’re being honest, at this point in the night, I knew I wanted to know more about him. He’s too fascinating and too similar to me not to draw me in. The more we talked the less “strange” he became to me.

He did kiss me.

He leaned in slowly. That same soft, smile on his face. No expectation. No force. His movements were very clearly defined and so, so very slow. He gave me every opportunity to move away, give him my cheek for the friendly Europeanesque greeting that had become so commonplace on the ship among the dancers that weekend, or otherwise decline the advance.

I leaned in ever so slightly and my eyes drifted shut just as his lips touched mine for perhaps (not exaggerating) the softest, lightest kiss I’ve ever had. It was just a soft, drawn out, lingering brush of lips. Think of how you’d kiss something incredibly valuable but made of spun sugar.

I caught my breath and he backed up just enough to give me space to initiate the next kiss. When I leaned in, his hand came up and tangled in my hair.

We kissed for a while and traced each other’s hands. He traced the line of my cheek with his nose and traded me Eskimo kisses. It was peculiar and perfect.

The rest of the night (wee hours of the morning as it were) is a blur of talking, kissing, joking, lips brushing throats, laughing, kissing, his nails trailing over my calves, watching the light play through the ocean of colors in his hair, and kiss after kiss after kiss.

We were interrupted when the staff started walking in through the doors downstairs on their way to other parts of the ship. Music came back on through the speakers. We ducked lower in our booth and listened to the ship coming back to life.

We eventually decided we should leave the theater. It wasn’t that we weren’t supposed to be there, but it also wasn’t that we were allowed to be there. “American Pie” came on over the speakers and he offered me a hand to dance. We did until another staff member burst through a door and we guiltily broke apart giggling and ran for the doors.

I’m almost certain we weren’t supposed to be in the room overnight because only one of about 10 doors was unlocked. We’d been sealed in and hadn’t noticed.

The magic was over. If ever I understood how Cinderella felt at midnight it was that night. We walked apart from each other and I felt the distance. There had been enough talking and laughing through the night that I didn’t want it to be all there was.

I began steeling myself for it being a “cruise fling”.

He kissed me quite passionately in the elevator but stopped when the doors opened.

He said “see you at breakfast” and I agreed but only half believed it.

Oddly (and nerve-wrackingly) enough, I was wrong.

When the ship officially came into port and the wifi came back on, I was seated across from the man we’re now going to refer to as The Unicorn because (spoilers) he is very much not a stranger to me any longer. Our shoes were tucked under our seats and we each had a foot resting on the other’s thigh.

He watched me sleepily push scrambled eggs around my plate and winked or blew me a kiss each time I met his eyes.

He eventually made a friend of his switch him places so he could sit with an arm around me in the booth.

Six of us napped in the booth, waiting to disembark. There are a couple photos of me sleeping tucked under his arm, head cradled on his chest.

He added me on Facebook.

His last name is my first name.

When we disembarked, I wanted to cry.

We didn’t find a moment alone for a goodbye kiss between the booth and customs and when we tried to kiss each other on the cheek at the same moment at breakfast resulted in an accidental and public peck on the lips, I didn’t think he’d kiss me goodbye in the group outside the port. In front of people.

He did.

Hugged me, then pulled my face close and kissed me soundly.

Smiled and said we should keep in touch.

Yesterday, I bought the plane ticket for my second trip out to see him. [The first trip is a fairy tale for another time]

We have 2-hour conversations about food and 6-8 hour conversations about everything into the wee hours of the morning. He still reads my mind, and I still accidentally finish his sentences.

It’s still a bit early to say, as it could still all go to Hell in a handbasket, but at this point, it’s looking like talking to strangers is something I could stand to do more often.

Occasionally you might find a Unicorn.

 

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Morning is Broken

{I was searching for the sketch I did of the nightmare I recalled in my last post when I came across some assignments I saved from college. This one was supposed to be recounting part of a normal day in the minutiaist style of James Joyce’s  Ulysses. It gave me the most powerful flashback to the morning I recounted that I thought I’d share it here.}

The mirror bids me good morning as usual. Nightshirt off. Panties on. Good morning to the closet of a bedroom and ugly white walls covered in black and white photos of other people kissing. Good morning to the spots on my face, too small breasts, too wide hips. And now a head of hair that’s about eight colors because I can’t leave it alone. Idiot.

     …ugly. Say it, say you’re not good enough. 

     I’m not good enough. 

     That’s right. You’re lucky, aren’t you? So lucky I keep you. 

Stop it. Stop.

A shake of the head. Hands ball into fists far too late to act as any real defense.

     Don’t think of him. 

A sigh. Stomach flat. Edge of a hip. Okay. Better. A turn. Cellulite.

…not good enough….not good enough….not good-STOP! 

Debating breakfast. I run hands over the straight lines of my collarbones, down arms, almost skinny enough. Grip breasts. Fuck it. Shower.

After the shower, it’s quiet. Anna is asleep still. Elyssa gone. Dance probably. Theatre major. Daisy… probably upstairs in her boyfriend’s bed.

Lonely. Still and lonely.

There’s a tiny patch of sunlight that hits the corner of the living room. It glints off the edge of a bit of fingernail clipping, caught in the buzzcut carpet. Silver polish. Not mine. Should vacuum. Swear I’m the only one that cleans. But that’s all right.

I don’t mind. Keeps my mind busy.

     You’re everyone’s mum then. 

     Not really. 

     You are. But it’s endearing. 

THERE’S a happy thought. Daniel. Lips. Hair. Eyes. Voice. Accent. Hair on his chest. Man. Man. Love. Eyes. So new.

     They’re hazel. That’s what you were wondering. I saw it. 

Movie theater. Valentines Day. Walking home. Hollywood after dark. Down those streets a thousand times but not with him. Hands, laced in the dark. Lips. Chest. The curl of brown hair, chest, stomach, lower. God, how I love…

   …the way “Robo-Cop” sounds with an English accent. 

I sit in the patch of sun. Wedge in next to the sliding glass door, press my back against the wall, heartened by the feeling of my vertebrae pricking my skin from the inside against the plaster and at the same time hating that the feeling cheers me up slightly. I brush my hair, eyes closed. Copper tipped bristles scrape my scalp. The sun’s glowing warmth hits a shoulder and a hip first. Spreads from the points. It’s the wrong angle to be hot, just the sensation of being touched by light. A hum starts in my throat.

No one’s around to hear. Lonely and still. Quiet, so quiet. It’s not that bad.

Two sips of whisky in the flash but I’m not gonna drink it

Swear I’ll make it last til we’re

Drinking out of the same glass again

The rythm of my brushing keeps time to Passenger tunes.

Ahhh Passenger. 

Daniel, Daniel. Where’s my phone? Eyes open. Done with the brush. I stretch in the sun. Curl my toes like tender leaves of grass in a breeze.

My legs are skinny at least, thought they look sickly and pale in the direct sunlight. I can see every tiny blue vein through the vellum I’m made of. Blue. Wormlike. No one will love you. My skin is so easily broken. I’m made of tissue paper.

I’m still in my towel. And I’m sure I should getting off to somewhere. Class perhaps.

Who am I kidding, of course class. I’ve missed far too many days already.

Dress. Leggings. Shoes. Eyeliner. Halfassed and smudged. Powder. Nothing else. I might have a date tonight and that calls for the full nine. Though I get the impression that this one wouldn’t mind if I skipped the makeup. Simplify simplify. Maybe that’s why I l-ike being around him.

Though the sand may be washed by the sea.

The old may be lost in the new

Four will not wait for three

I like my voice at least. Soft, husky, good ear for pitch.

Class. Too hot. Took the stairs and am out of breath. Sitting against the wall, my own misshapen citadel, I fan myself  with the yellow legal pad I keep with me for my lists. And the letters.

Daniel: I miss you. Is that selfish? Very well then, it’s selfish. You’ll never read this. 

     You’ll never know…

     I love him, I love him. It’s pointless. He’ll just go back to England. But I love him. 

Check the ipod, finally. I have to wait. Can’t just check it constantly. Have to have some boundaries. Inbox. Empty. Refreshrefreshrefresh. One message. Not him. Leave it. Glance up. Professor’s chatting. Down again, reach for the watch I left on the bathroom countrer. Stupid. I crane at the clock and feel hideously rude. Two minutes left.

Refreshrefreshrefresh.

Nothing.

     Three never waited for two. 

     Though you will not wait for me

Scratching a heart on the corner of one yellow sheet in pencil. Graphite smudged on my fingertips. Scratching it out again.

     I’ll wait for you. 

Stomach growls. I pretend it’s upset. It is, but for the lack of foord, rather than what sort. Tap my foot, tap the tip of my pencil against the desk. Tap the toes inside my shoe. The usual anxiety building. I should focus on something else.

     I can’t take this deep slow panic. 

     Teach me, teach me not to dream

     Dream deeply

Tap in time to the shift in soundtrack.

Professor. Erin. I call her Erin. Even when I’m not in class. Hands me something. Journal. Never know if I’m doing these right. Wish I could compare with other people. But I don’t talk to them.

What? My hair. I touch it.

It doesn’t look bad.

A grin.

Thanks. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

I cling to the wall. I needed that. Shouldn’t have dyed it. Shouldn’t mess with it. Why do I bother trying to be pretty? Why. But she was kind.

She’s always kind. I wonder if she knows.

Orientation. 3? 4 years? English advising. Saw the tattoo on her wrist. Her smile the first that didn’t make me want to hide under a table. Or run. No more school. Please no more people.

I sat to her right. Or left? So long ago. Only her face left, her wrist. It’s the little things that stick. Most important.

Maybe I won’t be weird here. Maybe… 

She’s my favorite. Role model. Something. Has been since day one. Never told. How would I even go about doing that? So infinitely awkward. I don’t keep my mouth shut enough as is. Maybe at graduation.

You kept me here. 

     I just wanted to be like you. 

Erin, green gem of the silver sea, or at least hope for a place where I’d be comfortable in my skin.

One minute to class time. Attendance poll. The routine.

Blergh

I like class. What I don’t like is leaving my closet of a room. The bathtub, no water, knees to chest, huddled. It’ll be okay. It’s okay. I’m okay. Class is great. Rooms are too big. The walk there too open. Too many people. Like cattle lowing and ambling from one pen to another.

Let the day begin.

Refresh the inbox one last time. One message. Him. Wrong him.

Subject: YOU

Body: need to get back to me. You don’t get to do this. YOU are MINE. Call me. NOW.

-M

And this routine’s back.

 No one else will want you, say it, say it. 

Don’t think of him. Don’t. Don’t. Ipod away. Hiding. Routine. Fear. Loathing. Also routine.

Face in hands. Phone lights up.

New message from: Daniel

Temptation. Class has technically started. But I need this. I need this.

I can resist anything but temptation. Just a peek.

Morning angel. Walk with me tonight? It might rain : ) xx

Worth it. I do love walking in the rain. So does he. And his umbrella’s a perfect fit for two.

Nobody else will want you, say it, say it SAY IT you are MINE….

Morning angel…

I’m nobody who are you? Are you nobody too? Well there’s a pair of us, don’t tell…

Phone away. NOW the day can start.

The Fear in Knowing

I was talking to the Viking the other night. I hadn’t seen him in about a month since I’d been gone one week and then he had a couple trips he’d gone on.

After a hug on the stairs that lifted my feet from the top landing of the stairway where they’d been planted  and felt like the most cinematic reunion ever he followed me into the Blues room and sat with me for a while.

I’d come alone because Kay bailed to watch Civil War with her church friends instead and I’d had a rough week with a lot of things happening outside of my control so I was already feeling rambly and vulnerable.

He teased me gently about being a wallflower and then laughed when he realized I was wearing the very floral dress that started a bit of an inside joke of referring to me as the wallflower, or sending me Wall Flowers songs through facebook.

I explained I’d just got there and was still feeling slightly overwhelmed and he smiled and at the same time I started to say that I enjoy people watching, he said it. I mentioned coming out is always less horrifying for me if I have a friend to hide behind or use as a buffer between me and people. He said something about hoping he didn’t overwhelm me, but in a soft way, like he knew he wasn’t. I told him he wasn’t. That I know him, kind of. He smiled and looked away and tripped over saying “as much as two  people who see each other on a-” he paused and finished with something along the lines of on a regular basis as if he’d only just noticed we see each other at least once a week.

I nodded. We don’t really KNOW each other. Not like I know someone like Kay: her family, all her stories, her tics. “But you’re… familiar.”

The Viking eventually asked me to dance and we did and I could barely follow because he’s so tall and warm and I’d missed him and after a literal month of thinking of him he was finally touching me again.  I don’t remember the song that that was playing and I’d been making a conscious effort to do so since “Ray of Sunlight” solidified the last dance we’d had so perfectly in my mind.

The song ended, because we’d started halfway through, and he asked if I’d like to dance a full song.

So my hand stayed tucked in his and we picked up the next song.

Out of nowhere, really, he got a peculiar look on his face and asked if it was scary for me “being known by someone.” He floors me, sometimes.

It was an oddly deep question and its been all I can think about, since.

I asked him whether he meant in general or- and he followed up by saying, like we were talking about getting to know people and how we kind of see each other regularly and then in relationships, is it scary to be KNOWN by someone.

What I wound up incoherently rambling at him was something along the lines of big-picture, end-goal, no it’s not scary, its something I want. It’s getting there that’s scary. Then he wanted to know why. I rambled some more as we finished up the dance.

I don’t specifically recall much of what I said after that, but I do remember he put my name into the last line of the song we were dancing to and sang it in my ear. He sang my name to me and I don’t remember the words surrounding my name, because I was already flustered, and he confuses me, and it was such a sweet moment that all I can remember is those two drawn out syllables resonating in my ear.

The question remains though: am I afraid to be known?

After days of agonizing over the question I’ve come to the conclusion that like so many other things with me, its not as simple as I am afraid or I am not afraid.

There are stages of knowing someone. I happen to have a LOT of stages. If knowing me came in levels, I’d be like the stairs of some ancient French Cathedral: steep, winding and seemingly endless.

On the outside, I’m “the girl with the outfits” (this is actually something more than one person has called me out dancing because I’m apparently always dressed to kill AND its never the same dress). Watch the outfits long enough and you’ll notice I play at acceptable fashion. I know how to put an outfit together, but I like an edgy sort of comfort in my clothes. Start looking at me to make sense of my outfits and  I have a sunny personality, I laugh easily and appreciate wit and peculiarity. Talk to me and you’ll catch me swearing or letting out a morbid or innuendo laced joke. My humor leans towards violence and self deprecation. I can’t take a compliment.

If you make it to a landing, higher up the staircase, you’ll know I suffer from Major Depressive Disorder but manage it with diet and exercise and meditation, journaling, art therapy: anything to not be on medication. I am also an agoraphobe using social dancing as my exposure therapy. I manage my anxiety and panic disorders with breathing exercises, tapping, grounding, and the occasional self medication with a nip or two from the bottle. I’ve had an eating disorder since I was about 14 that rears its ugly head when I feel like I need more control in my life.

I used to self mutilate but haven’t hurt myself in a while and won’t again because I can’t stand that the last group of scars hasn’t flattened out and turned white but remains raised and ugly and purple for the world to see and judge.

I’ve been abused, stalked, assaulted, threatened- more than once and its left me with an awful lot of triggers and trust issues.

The ugly parts of me are so closely tied to what you find out first about me. They come out early on because a lot of things are triggering for me and I often find I need to explain why I reacted the way I did to something seemingly innocuous.

I’m difficult. I try to be as functional as possible, but I’m under no illusions. The jagged edges of my person are tricky to get around.

Still, it’s not being known that scares me.

I am afraid of being known halfway. I’m afraid of someone starting to know me and stopping before they get to the good parts. I’m afraid of being known only to the point of being crazy, and sad, and angry, and afraid of everything.

I’m afraid of not being given the chance to be known in all the ways that matter. That I’m funny and enjoy taking care of people. That I’m a good cook and like feeding people. I’m a loyal friend but will tell people they’re being unjust or overly judgmental. Dogs, horses, and small children inherently trust me. That I am afraid of everything but that it’s never going to stop me because I can make myself work through anything.

I’ve been hurt in many ways but I love deeply and permanently.

People who see the whole picture, stay.

Its just a rare occasion that they take the time to get that far.

So is being known scary? No.

Playing the crapshoot of letting people get into the gnarly stuff necessary before the finish line and hoping they’ll make it?

Positively horrifying.

 

And of course, because I’m still caught up in this silly crush, I’m stuck thinking of those earnest blue eyes locked on mine and that warm voice singing my name.

If I had to pick someone to let know me, I’d want him.

Desperately.

But I’m afraid to let him get past the charming exterior.

I went on a date…

What the heck, right?

Unless you read the last ramble about how I’m inept in the romance department. In which case you knew about all this.

So now like some weird, less fashionable, less horse-faced Carrie Bradshaw let me tell you about my experience.

The son of my high school History teacher asked me out last week. As I mentioned before, we have a TON in common and have been aware of each other for years, just never really spent much time together or really talked until he started being all up on my social media starting about a month ago.

My problem is this: I feel NOTHING for him. Cognitively I know we like the same movies and tv shows, our upbringing and families are similar. I was good friends with his sister in high school. He goes to church but doesn’t seem super serious about it, so that matches up. He work out daily, as do I. He likes animals. We can nerd out and drool over food together. It’s great. On paper, we’re perfect.

We had a great date on Saturday. We started out going to the Arboretum at our old university campus but it was closed off for some reason so instead we trekked all over campus revisiting the old sculptures put out by the college of art. We talked, we laughed. We spontaneously went to a movie. Then he took me to dinner.

I had a really good day. I felt happy. We work well, together. I had a very low level of anxiety being around him. HOWEVER, it seems to stem from the fact that I don’t care. Which is a problem.

I talked to all of my friends leading up to this date. I actually started thinking that maybe I should call it off. I don’t want to lead him on. I’ve been led on. I don’t want to do that to someone else. Everybody seemed to be of the opinion that I should give him a chance. That I might like him if I’d take the time to think of someone outside of my massive Viking-related crush. So I did. I resisted the urge to cancel the date and I had a good time.

We came back to my apartment and finished the last couple episodes of Daredevil and then I subjected him to Archer. He kissed me.

That’s all that happened. There wasn’t even any attempted second base action, just kissing, and hand holding; it was very PG. He’s a good kisser, aside from the fact he rocks one of those stubble-goatees so I kept getting jabbed in the face. He’s also very attractive. He’s athletic, with strong arms and shoulders, a hard, flat stomach, and that V that cuts down his hips and into his jeans(I’ve seen pictures, no live action, it was PG!); he’s droolworthy, really.

I just don’t care.

I started making lists in my head while kissing him, thinking of other things, other people, other places. I just zoned out.

I don’t want him. I know we’d make a good team but I don’t want him, no matter how hard I try to make myself and I don’t feel like wasting time with some distraction. I also definitely don’t want to lead him on.

I also don’t want to shoot something potentially healthy and functional in the foot without giving it a chance, though. So I’m torn.

HE seems really into ME, though. I’m having trouble keeping him at arms length.

Besides that I keep comparing him to the Viking.

I CARE about the Viking. I find little things he does so perfectly adorable I can’t put it into words. I stare off into space dreamily when I think of him and my friends notice. I feel safe with the Viking.

He’s not cut like an athlete. He’s older, and softer. He doesn’t have that metrosexual snappy-dresser thing down like my date. He’s sweet and funny, not dashing and charismatic. On paper the Viking should be inferior.

But I want him.

So I’m stuck and confused and this would all be SO simple if I could just flat say all this to the men involved and get straight answers and understanding out of both of them, but that’s not the way the world works, so I guess I’ll just suffer.

Hooray.

Affect(at)ion

All of my chill is gone and we’re officially in trouble.

I THOUGHT I was in trouble but now I’m REALLY in trouble.

I almost kissed the Viking.

Unconsciously.

Without thinking about it.

I freaked out when I realized I trusted him without thinking about it.

Now I am absolutely climbing the walls from how uncomfortable I am with myself and my feelings and instincts and the whole weird situation.

It happened on Saturday.

He showed up at an event he’d previously said he wasn’t going to. It was Fusion, and so far as everyone knew, he didn’t really do the whole Fusion thing. Then as I’m working the door he came up the stairs. I put a wristband on him and when I managed to get the sticky bit stuck perfectly straight on the band (which is a FEAT let me tell you), grinned “Perfect!”

He sort of murmured “Wouldn’t expect anything less” with this tiny smile on his lips and glowing in those baby blues. He walked away and I hid under the desk (literally) while Kay fetched my (vodka-laced) Powerade from my bag so I could knock enough back to hopefully stop my hands from shaking with anxiety.

I am such a classy broad.

So I work at the front desk for my hour shift and then Kay and I go looking for him. But subtly because we’re adults (I think). We find him in the Blues room and he’s dancing with someone. I go back to the Fusion room because I actually very much enjoy Fusion. I dance and can’t manage to get away for a while but I see the Viking poke his head in now and again, always retreating to the Blues room.

Evan comes in eventually and snags me for a dance but drags me into the Blues room to do it where the Viking is dancing with someone else. Evan and I dance and he nods in the Viking’s direction before saying in a tone usually reserved for oh la la “You should ask him to dance, I think he’s been following you.” He then wiggles his eyebrows at me.

Now I told Evan a secret on Thursday. Long story short he knows about my crush.

[Long story, medium Evan was playing “pick a boyfriend for Kay from the dance floor” on Thursday. She rejected all of his picks and then later, dancing with me he asked if she’d be into the Viking at which point I jumped at the chance to confirm whether a rumor from the previous Thursday that the Viking has a long-distance relationship with some swing dancer from Canada was true or not. Evan seems to think they broke up but either way “they’re not married.” He pressed on with setting up the pair and I was then stuck making lame excuses as to why Kay wouldn’t be into Mr. Viking until I finally just told him she wouldn’t touch him because she knew I liked him. Evan then pronounced himself Switzerland in the whole thing and nothing more was said.]

So then the whole night was spent thinking maybe Evan had mentioned something to the Viking (they ARE friends) and that THAT was the reason for the unexpected appearance. But after dancing with him that once I never got the change to actually ask him what he’d done.

I slipped into the Fusion room to calm down leaning against wall of the dance studio like a coward and not ten seconds later the Viking appeared in the doorway and casually leaned against the pile of dance barres next to me. We chatted, he said he’d seen me flitting in and out of the Blues room but never really staying. I said something about looking for songs I like and then mentioned I did go in a few times hoping to snag him for a dance.

I asked him to dance, we danced. He thanked me and disappeared for another hour until he pulled something similar and I found him back against the dance barres watching the Fusion dancers.

The wall was more crowded than it had been when he’d joined ME there so there wasn’t a ton of room. I grinned cheekily at him and told him to “budge up” so I could fit between him and the stack of barres. There was just enough room for me, he didn’t need to move, but it would be close quarters. He grinned at me and said “no.”

I wedged in next to him. resting my elbows on the higher barre build into the wall where his were. The line of our sides touched. Just enough to feel the warmth, but not the weight behind him. We talked. I cannot recall what about.

He had to lean down a bit to talk to me because he’s tall and it was loud. It meant his face hovered over mine. I was practically tucked under his arm. He could have shifted away a bit but he didn’t.

At some point in the conversation I found myself turning from the dance floor, smiling, and looking up at him and he was smiling and looking down at me and I just felt this tug I haven’t felt in a long time. Like a knee jerk reaction I wanted to lean up those last couple inches and press a quick kiss to his face.

I didn’t want to make out with him. I didn’t even necessarily want to kiss his mouth. But in that moment I instinctively, unconsciously, FELT that I should kiss him.

My mind or body or some combination of the two feels affectionate towards this man I’m just barely getting to know. Just like my mind/body/hybrid knows he won’t drop me when he sweeps me into a fast dip.

It makes sense. I was naturally at one point a very affectionate person. Leaning over to kiss someone, or slipping my hand into someone else’s was easy as breathing.  Hugs. Shoulder bumps. Brushing an arm.

Then I dated someone abusive who didn’t allow me to touch him without permission and certainly never in public and a couple emotionally distant people who wouldn’t hold my hand or otherwise touch me around other people. I now have a learned habit of deliberately, physically distancing myself from people.

It helped me recognize the sensation and squash it before I did something awkward like lean in.

But a small (very small, miniscule, really) part of me wonders if it would that have been the worse thing I’ve ever done. It may have solved all our problems.

I know he felt some sort of pause and the pink that found its way into his cheeks when we broke the silence and looked back at the dance floor before I asked if he wanted to dance some blues with me says its something along the lines of my complimenting him, saying he’s handsome or talented or witty.

So I almost kissed him.

My unconscious tried to kiss him.

Which means the crush and our growing friendship has turned to some rosy shade of affection, for me at least.

I am horrified and more anxious than ever before. But it’s also exciting, and I still don’t understand anything on his side.

 

The Golden Afternoon

I garden.

Not particularly well. But I plant, cultivate, and if I’m lucky things grow.

My parents had an enormous yard when I was growing up so in the Spring they would always clear out the flower beds and put in new plants where they were needed. For a while we had a fenced vegetable garden in the front yard.

I am one of the rare Millennials that knows the taste of a fresh sweet pea snapped straight from the vine. I always say I hate tomatoes, but that’s not quite true because if I can pull a wobbly, not quite spherical, fruit from the vine and eat it warm there is nothing better. Store and restaurant tomatoes are disgusting and NOTHING is worse than ketchup or tinned tomato sauce.

I don’t have a big house. I live in a teeny apartment with an even teenier triangular patio, but I garden.We got a lot more rain than expected this year, so a lot of my plants drowned but in general I grow flowers in little (and bigger) pots. I had a corn plant that I grew from a 6 inch tall sprout into  a stalk taller than me in pots of varying size until the wind took it and snapped it in two.

Since Spring is upon us, I thought I’d better start sprucing things up. So this weekend I went out and did some thinning and repotting, and pruning. In doing so, I realized I’ve learned a lot of things about life in general from my dabbling with my tiny urban garden.

I thought I’d share some of them.

Pruning: Pruning used to seem awful to me as a kid. You spend all this time putting so much effort into growing things. You tend plants through all sorts of weather and then with the change of season, or when they grow past a certain point, you hack giant pieces off of them. Sap flows out and it just seems like it should hurt or even kill the plant. Particularly the more severe pruning of trees or rose bushes. But it’s for the plants good. In life sometimes you can put a lot of effort into things and there comes a time when you need to strip what is dead or dying away from you. There are times when you need to cut out pieces that appear completely normal but if allowed to continue growing unchecked could become detrimental to your overall health, happiness, or well-being.

I have done a lot of pruning in my life. In college, I left my sorority for a while to focus on getting help for my numerous mental health issues. I lost a lot of “friends” that way. At this point I’ve paired down to a handful of women. Kay and Jo are two of them. I could have kept the lot, but I would not have been able to continue thriving.

More recently I cut a man out of my life who treated me well, was handsome, and talented, and passionate. He thought I was lovely no matter my mood, or weight, hair color or style. But ultimately the relationship was going nowhere. He wasn’t my boyfriend. He wasn’t going to marry me. We were great together but he wasn’t serious about us and as long as I was seeing him, I was going to keep shooting my every opportunity for a happy committed relationship in the foot. A snip with the shears and I’m free. It hurt for a bit, but I’m better for it.

You don’t even just cut away people. You can cut out Netflix before bed and start reading again. You can cut out Facebook status rants and start blogging or journalling instead. You can cut out meat. You can cut out refined sugar. You can cut out gluten if you want, but I think THAT just makes you an asshole unless you have an actual condition. The point is, sometimes people, just like plants, could use a trim.

Pesticides: I don’t use them. I feel like this says a lot about me as a person,  but I don’t believe in chasing away creatures who appreciate my plants. This doesn’t just go for bugs. Birds like seeds. Cats like wheat grass. Caterpillars REALLY like my Basil. I don’t believe in poisoning or shooing things away. I plant two patches of cat grass: one down (by the cat-castle I use as a garden shelf because it wouldn’t fit in our living room corner) where stray cats can easily get it. One out of the way, harder to reach, for trimming and giving to my cats or juicing into wheat grass shots (which I have only ever done once because they taste like a fart of themselves). I let my basil grow tall and then strip away a bald patch on the stalks midway up. Caterpillars munch the lower leaves and when they hit bare stalk, usually don’t venture farther up. I keep my birdfeeder stocked and no one digs up my planters.

In life I think this roughly translates to realizing that not everyone is out to get you. Not everyone is deliberately trying to ruin your day or be mean to you. They’re just trying to find their own way through life. So be kind where you are fortunate enough to be able to. Don’t take the easy way out and assume someone is just angry, or just naturally has some vendetta against you. And be creative with your solutions.

Patience: Kind of goes without saying. Things take a long time to grow. Waiting pays off. Waiting for home grown basil instead of using the weird flaky dried stuff from the supermarket is infinitely better. But harder. Just like waiting for the right person to come along instead of settling for serial dating, or someone okay, but not quite right. Or waiting to get to know someone before jumping head first into a relationship.

Endurance:  I have a tomato plant that I ‘d thought was dead until a single, tiny, red fruit budded and ripened from one withered vine last week. The thing was brown and barely anchored in a broken pot. A sudden storm that caused flash flooding and power outages got it. I let it go. I figured it would wither and then compost into the soil and be good nutrients for the next thing I planted. Then it flowered. One tiny white blossom and one green leaf dangled from a vine snapped almost completely in two, brown and twisted, and dry on a big brown plant so dry it rattles in the breeze.

Living things endure. The places you think are broken beyond repair can knit themselves together again. I’m a good example. I am made up, essentially, of scar tissue and fears. I went from not being able to walk with a back injury to dancing every weekend. I suffer from mental disorders that should be (and honestly still, sometimes are) crippling but I have a pretty busy social life and spend most of my time being happy.

BUT Some things are beyond help: Plants are really great at looking dead and then suddenly springing back to life with a little TLC – but some things are just dead and need to be left that way. Roots can rot. Fruit can mold. You don’t want anything that springs up tainted. People try to come back into your life and the interim has lessoned the pain they caused you and because you remember the work you put into the relationship you’re tempted to keep trying. Or something be it a person, a job, a hobby, a habit is dead and dying and clearly poisonous to you but again, because of the effort you’ve put into it and the positive memories you have like the first flowering buds have you hesitant to make a clean break. Trash is trash, rot is rot, and just because something once was strong, healthy, even beautiful, if it has molded and decayed, there is nothing to do but throw it out. Let the past be the compost for new experiences.

Being dirty feels good: Wait, no, hear me out! That is not what it sounds like!

Oh wait, yes it is.

Dirt feels good under my nails. Walking barefoot outside recharges me. Splashing in puddles or leaving footprints in the mud is fun.  Stiletto heels and a short skirt feel good. Unabridged fantasies of a saucy nature are delicious and make the workday go faster. Scandalizing your friends with an explicit joke is wonderful. Deliberately pressing your chest into your crush’s when they hug you goodbye creates a lovely little electric zing that lasts for days. Living a little and not always doing what everyone else things is right is a great way to make yourself happy.

Dirt washes off: Even the most rank fertilizer, darkest soil, and most pungent mulch comes off with water. It may take a little effort, a little scrubbing under your nails, or behind your eats (I don’t know how other people garden) but you will get clean again and be better for the experience.

Similarly even the darkest experiences in life are not permanent. You can come clean again. I have had awful experiences. I have done awful things and had awful things done to me. But I am whole.

It takes some effort sometimes to convince myself that I am whole. I will always remember that I once was broken. I still remember the stains from the rotten vegetables, insect stings, and black reeking compost that I’ve come into contact with, but I am not made of those things. I am something completely different. I am me. I am whole and separate and clean. It may have taken some effort, some heavy duty detergent, a scrub brush, but I am more than the dirt I have touched.

Dirt don’t hurt, possibly, the most valuable lesson I’ve taken from gardening.

(Though the caterpillar trick is a close second, tbh)

Zero to Awkward REAL Quick

There’s a guy I see at all the different Blues (and now Fusion) events and he’s super nice, a little quiet, and one of my favorite leads. He’s actually the first person who ever asked me to dance the first night I tried Blues.

He always asks me to dance at least once, and usually towards the end of the night when people thin out and the music gets slow, we wind up dancing 2 or 3 songs in a row to a nice Slow Drag (I would link to the wikipedia page, but their definition just makes Slow Drag sound kind of sleazy, so if you’re really interested, maybe try youtube?).

Either way, he’s just nice and not intimidating at all and it’s very comforting to dance with him at the end of the night.

I went to a Fusion event a couple weekends ago and he was there it was VERY lead heavy so I didn’t sit practically the whole night and towards the end of the night he snagged me and we wound up dancing a slow song together. He pulled me into a closed embrace and leaned our heads together, tucked my hand into his and let them fall to our sides. We kind of just swayed there talking. It was relaxing and a nice break from the high energy of the night.

The song ended and since we were still talking I asked if he wanted to go another round. He did and we picked up where we left off.

I mentioned he did a lot of different dance events.

Then he mentioned he didn’t really come for the dancing. He spun me and then back with his head next to mine said he came to “see what his options are.”

INSERT THE SOUNDS OF SCREECHING TIRES HERE.

Now, in my mind, I’m like “IS THAT WHAT THIS IS??? AM I AN OPTION???? ABORTABORTABORT!!!” The cozy snuggle took on a new meaning.

Outwardly, we continue our endless bluesy circles on the floor and I pipe up:

“I come to events because I’m using it as therapy for my crippling Agoraphobia!”

There was a long pause before he asked if that was like Claustrophobia.

At which point I began with “That IS a common misconception but-” and followed with the DSM definition in a rambling deluge.

Needless to say, that was the last time we danced that night and he got REALLY quiet after that.

The good news is, I now have a tried and true method for shutting down a potentially awkward romantic approach.

 

I may think you’re hot. 

I may be ABSOLUTELY BATSH!T!!!

 

Can’t go wrong.