the new guy

My best friend gave me a new mantra this weekend. “Trust,” she said. Mostly I do. Mostly.

Not very long ago, I stumbled into a new relationship. I was still figuring out the dating thing, finally having fun with it instead of constant stress and anxiety. I was learning how to show up without any expectations and how not to be devastated by someone I’d known only a few weeks. Honestly, I was kind of looking forward to figuring out the process, to the excitement and butterflies and romance of being pursued. F-i-n-a-l-l-y.

woo meSo at ten on a full-moon Sunday night, I decided to have a beer with some boy who’d recommended an album of pretty songs and made me laugh over a text message. I thought I was in for a fun and interesting evening, but not much more. I arrived first. While I waited for the bartender to finish up his break the boy walked up behind me, and that was that. My switch flipped, and I knew. This is it for me, for a while.

And it’s been lovely, more than I could have guessed. More on that as I go, but I’ve never felt this quality and strength of connection paired with thoughtfulness and caring. The other time(s — it’s happened once for sure, and maybe twice, but the end of the second one scoured out my memories of the beginning so I can’t say for sure) this feeling has come tied up with ups and downs and drama. This is calm and comfortable and I feel so, so happy. And grateful. And lucky. And very, very infrequently, scared to tears because I’m so very open and exposed, and my poor heart has been through so much in the recent past.

But those moments are short and infrequent for now, and I’m trying. Trust.

As always, writing has gone to the wayside during the honeymoon period. I’ve often wondered why I don’t write when I’m happy, why I don’t record those moments in words. Images, yes, but not words; I think I’m afraid that putting those sensations into words will take away the magic. Make the living version less real, less valid. It’s not true, I’m probably  just too wrapped up in the experience of it to sit and write, but still. I’d like the words to come easier.

Because it would be nice, when I feel those flashes of anxiety over opening my heart again, when I realize just how much I have on the line, during those moments where I don’t trust, but need to: it would be nice to have a record of happiness to backs up that faith.

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The only boy who could ever reach me (and all the rest of them)

He always was the kind of boy that Dusty Springfield ought to sing about; the son of a preacher man, gentle and sweet with a hint of wicked. I loved him in that aching, desperate way teenage girls do. I wrote poems, lived to hear him play guitar, clung to his image with wanton abandon. I kissed him in the backseat as our friends drove, held his hand as we ran through dirty festival grounds and tangled up together in stacks of straw. I fawned, and pined, and waited for him to fall in love with me.

He didn’t.

Somehow he never knew. Maybe that’s why we remained friends. Tangentially: the love that filled the room when we got together could suffocate you, but we didn’t get together that often, keeping up with each other through word of mouth, pictures on the internet, that special metaphysical gravity that you develop with the people you love when you’re young. Miles, states, coasts apart, we continued to orbit each other and the sun of a shared history. Then, something shifted. We aligned again.

Summertime, he came through my town for seven hours: ready, set, go. Lord, I’d missed him. Stealing kisses from me on the slide.

Winter found me on a bus headed toward Baltimore and familiar arms. Taking time to make time. Twirl me, I said before I came. Show me your city.

Teach me again is what I meant.

Teach me again how to dive into love like I did back then. Teach me how to offer the back of my hand for a kiss, how to rest my hand on your chest before we kiss. Take my face into your hands and send lessons firing like sparks up and down my spine. Climb up on the roof and give me the sunset, flirt with the people selling food on the street. Dance with me while we wait for dessert, because they played your song and because we can. Decide this will be our anniversary, and remind me every year. Be wild and tender and romantic, then hold on to me tight, I’m leaving in the morning. Remind me how it can be. I’m leaving in the morning.

He did.

He plays bass now, mostly; upright, an instrument you embrace and coax notes from. His hands are still graceful and wise. He writes in verse, even if we don’t call it poetry anymore. And he will forever, ever, ever reach me.

*****

When I was younger I fell in love hard, and frequently. I suppose I still do, to a certain extent. I love making eyes, flirting, first kisses and the moment right before when the world swims through closing eyes.

Now that those pleasures are available to me again, I’ve been taking advantage where I can. I wouldn’t have guessed, but the best new connections I’ve made have been old ones. I’m being taken apart and put back together by a small army of familiar small-town boys.

Most of them are new to me in one way or another, but the difference between old-new boys and the new-new ones is that I don’t have to be anything for the old ones. There are no expectations; they already know me as someone, so I don’t feel like I have to change to please them (which is something I do with new people). And surprise surprise, they want to be with me anyway.

And each one of them who remembers me who I was before I knew to hide her, and loves me anyway? Each one of them chips off a little bit of the plaster I used to cover over myself. Each one peels another onion layer, leaves me a little more vulnerable and a little more safe in that vulnerability. Each one heals me a little more.

He’d kiss & tell me everything is all right…

and that’s a year

One year ago today I logged in to Facebook and found a message from S, the first contact we’d had in ten years.

One year later, today, I haven’t talked with him in nearly a month, and it had been a month before that, and we are well on our way back out of each others’ lives. Like we always are. In and out, brief flashes of frenzy followed by years of nothing.

Honestly, I thought this time would be different. I think he did, too. But then I admitted that if I wanted to live I had to leave my marriage, and I became available, and that ruined the fantasy for him. Or something. In any case, that was the beginning of the end.

So today is the anniversary of one of two major heartbreaks I’ve undergone over the past year.  And I’m doing my best not to confuse those heartbreaks with the feelings I’ve been developing over the new guy who has come into my life, though after five fantastic, comfortable, familiar, and building dates, it seems like maybe that’s drawing to a close as well. Of course, I could be getting ahead of myself or conflating everything, but the memory of the two previous abandonments, S and my ex, have my reflexes primed for rejection and pain. Any and everything that I let myself feel is another step toward an inevitable ending, or so it seems.

Anyway, I hope I’m getting ahead of myself.

wearing it well

I have never been a pretty girl. Or if I have I never knew it.

My whole life, I have defined myself by being something other than pretty. I have always had stunningly beautiful friends, and I considered it my role to bring something else to the table, to work with what I had rather than try to become something I was not. I would call myself the the funny friend or the charming one, mostly. I considered myself something of a mascot; everybody loves the mascot, but nobody takes them home. I still wanted to be considered beautiful, but I made peace with myself and got to a point where I felt pretty happy with charming. I didn’t think I had it in me to be a heartbreaker anyway.

Since I’ve been single and gained a shred of confidence, I’ve been treated like a pretty girl. A funny, charming, pretty girl. This is the first time, at least that I’ve been aware of, and it’s a very strange experience. My mother insists it was always this way, but my memory is very different. I’ve always maintained romantic connections, but they were friends. I was rarely with someone, and I always saw myself as the rebuffed pursuer, not an object of anybody’s affection.

That’s changed; I don’t know when or how.  A lot has changed. So much of what I thought was true of myself just plain isn’t. I’m still figuring out what to do with it all.

alone is not lonely

Because I like to think of myself as an overachiever, I started dating last month. I’ve been on my own for four months now — a whole third of a year. Might as well get my feet wet…

Bad idea.

I never thought that having a good time with another person could make me feel lonely. I should have thought about it, considering that the loneliest I’ve ever felt was in the company of someone else, but I didn’t. I figured dating would be all fun and cocktails and flirting. And it is, kind of, except it’s more than that. It’s also expectations and chemistry and the upsetting combination of good rapport and zero sexual chemistry. Fantastic evenings would be overshadowed by someone standing too close, or trying to pin down a second date before the end of the first. I am not a platonic person, generally, and I’ve never felt so little desire for people whose company I’ve very much enjoyed.

This is a very new development.

Ultimately, trying to connect with people made me understand how happy I am on my own. Enjoying my friends, making new ones, letting someone buy me a drink without feeling the need to pay it back with my number (or more), enjoying a little arrangement with someone sweet and fun without trying to make it more than it is. I’m still going out here and there, but the intention is different. I don’t need (or want) more than to enjoy that evening, that moment.

It’s about time.