A Lofty Sound

Another Flashback story.  This happened about six months ago:

I love where I live.  Everybody comes to Hawaii because it’s a dream vacation destination.  The landscape is pristine and picturesque.  People who live in Hawaii, come up to a particular scenic point to admire the view– this is where people in paradise, come to view paradise.  And my apartment is smack dab at the top of what could arguably be the best view of the island.  So the drive up to my place is its own natural aphrodisiac of sorts.

My apartment itself is not particularly big.  It’s a single bedroom studio with a full bathroom and kitchen, and a loft storage area that can be reached by a ladder.  My apartment is joined by one wall to a larger central house where my landlord and his family live; a father and two teenage sons.  In addition to being tied into the same electrical and water lines, my apartment shares central AC with the rest of the house.

Why am I telling you all of this?  Well any storyteller worth his salt knows it’s important to create a sense of place and setting before telling his story.  It’s rude to just dump an audience in the middle of things.  And a couple of these facts will come into play in just a minute or two depending on how fast you read.

So, anytime I bring a new friend to my apartment, the first thing she wants to do is climb the ladder and look around the loft.   Not sure what it is, but that space up there seems to convert everyone to a simpler time of playing pillow-fort as a kid.    When I first moved in I lugged my 30 gallon aquarium up there, along with most of my diving and shooting gear, so there is a lot of cool stuff to poke around at.  I also tossed a sleeping bag and an extra pillow up in my loft to add to the whole, secret-grown-up-fort element.

Loft

So I have a friend up in my loft, and she’s cooing at my fish, and looking out the skylight, and she sprawls across the sleeping bag and decides this would be a great place for an impromptu game of Backgammon.   Awesome.  That’s what the sleeping bag is there for, that’s the whole point of bringing a friend back to my place.  The problem is, I’ve never played backgammon against this particular opponent.

And.  She. Was.  Loud.

Every time I would advance my pieces she would grunt and moan.  When she made her moves, she was equally as audible. Now I like enthusiasm, and I like encouragement during a rousing game of backgammon, but this was something new entirely.  I had unlocked a wailing banshee who puts the pipes of Axel Rose to shame.  When the game reached its inevitable conclusion, her voice arose in a cacophony of screams and wails, so much so that I think even my fish were scared.   We finished,  laying there panting and laughing on my sleeping bag.

And that’s when I started to hear voices.   Clear as a bell:

“Did you hear that?”  

“Yeah I think they’re done.”

“She must’ve enjoyed it.”

I look above me, and less than a foot above our laying heads is the vent for the central air.  Normally these vents are well above any normal activity going on in a room, but with the height of my loft… it put us right at face level to the vents.  In fact at one point she was mashed up right against the vent, her fingers interlocking into the grate.   I can hear voices, their laughter clear as day, as if they were sitting right across from us.  Obviously if we could hear them… they could hear us.

The Fire Starting-Pencil-Fighting-Super-Saiyan

pencil fight
(Best stock photo, ever)

Every relationship lately feels like a game of emotional-pencil-fight.  I take what I fundamentally am’ and hold it between my hands.  *whack* you take a nice hearty swing.  Then you do the same, grasping your smooth polished veneer, pulled taught’ over your tender timber and graphite bones. I lean in close and I take a big overhead chop.  *whack*  I just can’t settle without testing your mettle.

Because I’m terrified that I’ll lash my hobbled-heart to you, and somewhere down the line you’ll need to shoulder some of my burden I’ll discover you crumble under the weight of my uneasy gait.  So instead I instigate– I set a fire to see how quickly you immolate.  Wait!  stop drop and roll, and soldier-crawl to the nearest exits.  Do you touch the handles for heat, or do you kick down doors and hopefully… escape?  How long can you hold your breath?  How well do you perform under duress?  These are things I need to know.

I am the Fire-Starting-Pencil-fighting-Super-Saiyan.  Each encounter leaving me a little more battered, but a little more true.  A little less prim-and-polish-“yellow #2” and a bit more wood and grit.   But if you get to the core of things, I promise you’ll see what makes me write.  And I’ll scribble both our names and circle them a thousand times.  I am the Fire-Starting-Pencil-fighting-Super-Saiyan.  But clearly there’s nothing super about me.

Except maybe my hair.

Bump it with:

Blind Date: Now You See Me… Now You Don’t.

I walked out on a blind date.

I think this might’ve been the single most asshole thing I’ve done since I’ve been single.Ten  minutes in, I just realized “nope this isn’t for me” and there was no pleasant way to say all that without needing a significant amount of explanation, so I just walked out, got into my car, and drove off.  This may need a little back story and explanation to really understand the whole experience.

So I’m semi-active on two dating sites, Tinder and OKCupid. While on OKCupid matches people on algorithms and levels of compatibility, Tinder pretty much boils down to:

“Does your face want to fuck their face?

[  ] Yes
[  ] No”

And for the most part my response to this is,  “Meh… what the hell.”  I read somewhere that the way to optimize dating with Tinder is to just like every single person’s picture, which statistically expands your dating pool to everyone who likes your picture, and from there you can prune down your matches to people you actually like, all while getting a slight ego boost from the ones you un-match.  So I do that.  Because maths.

Tinder Unicorn
Unmatched.

This girl, was a Tinder girl.  Our conversation was very light and easy at first.  We talk about beer, and about our careers and any number of that small chit chat people do. Within the first day, she was already talking about meeting up.  Suddenly I became acutely aware of that slow sneaking, heavy musky reek of desperation.  Most girls exercise a bit of caution before meeting with a stranger, y’know there are crazies and serial killers on the Internet too.  Heck, I’ve had to submit a credit report, a blood sample, and a carfax before getting to go on a first date, (not literally, but you get the picture).

But she was completely gung-ho: “Hey stranger I just met on the internet, and know inherently nothing about aside from a picture and a little blurb about yourself (remember this, because it will become important later)… lets meet up!”

That was red flag number one.

I’m off the next day, and she’s been pleasant so far and again she asks me if I want to meet up… I figure heck why not. So we start figuring out where to go for dinner, and she begins rattling off the names of a few high end sushi places in the area. And now I’m thinking to myself, I like her, but I don’t necessarily $150 worth of dinner and drinks like her… maybe not even $75 and a Groupon.  Which to me should have been a good warning that subconsciously, I was already trying to minimize my losses, like a part of me had already made up my mind how much I wanted to date this girl, and that monetary sum was somewhere between ramen and happy hour.

That was red flag number two.

So we settle on a ramen shop that’s in the area.  And as I’m driving over I get a series of three texts from her almost simultaneously.

“Oh by the way, I don’t drive.”
“Can you pick me up from work? ”
“Oh and I picked up juice for my dad because he’s sick.  Can we drop it off to him afterwards?”

Christ, I’m not a taxi cab.  Again, I should’ve trusted my gut.  Because instead of feeling like I was given the opportunity to curry favor with my potential future father-in-law, I’m feeling irritated and used.  I google her work place, and it’s two blocks from the ramen shop.  How hard is it to walk two blocks?   Wait what’s that guts?  More foreshadowing of the impending doom to come?

That was red flag number three.

So I get to her work place, and inside are two male patrons, and a girl behind the counter and another girl leaning on the counter from the opposite side.  It’s in these first few seconds, I realize– I’ve been duped.

– – – –

Now I will be the first to admit that my profile pictures on these dating sites show me in the most advantageous light.  It’s the picture where my hair looks awesome, and my chin looks chiseled, and for some reason my biceps look extremely ripped like I was lugging telephone poles around all day.  It’s the picture where I’m at the top of a mountain, or skydiving, or surrounded by a bunch of friends.  But in truth, I’m not that muscular, I hike infrequently, I’ve been skydiving twice and I screamed like a girl the first time (and most of the second time too), and I don’t really hang out with people that often because… well I’m an insufferable dick.  My profile pictures are a glossy, hyper-saturated representation of my life, but for the most part that is me.  If you see me walking down the street, and someone where to show you my profile picture, you would recognize that it was clearly me.

I will also be the first to admit, I’m a shallow person.  I know what type of girl I find physically attractive, and I know what type of girl I find physically un-attractive.  The media has attempted to guilt men into believing liking one type of shape over another is somehow a form of shameful discrimination, but honestly it’s like getting mad at someone for saying their favorite ice cream is mint chocolate chip instead of rocky road.  You can’t argue or reason why you like one more than the other… you just do.  And in the grand scheme of things there are people who really love themselves some rocky road, so by all means more for them.   As for me, I know what I like and I know what I don’t like– and I like mint chocolate chip.

But… what I got was a gallon tub of cookie dough, with a bunch of red warning flags sticking out the top like she was a double black diamond ski slope.

Looking back, her first few profile pictures were strategically cropped photos of just her face and cleavage,  so I already knew she was a bigger girl coming in to this.  But her third or fourth picture was a slightly out of focus shot of all of her her doing some sort of cheerleader-esque pose in a t-shirt and shorts.  Not quite big, more like Penny from Big Bang Theory when she puffed up a bit in the later seasons.  (which coincidentally, is how I figure out how far along into the series I am when I’m catching a random episode) That’s who I was expecting to meet today.  In retrospect, that was probably an old high school or college photo, at least five years and fifty pounds ago.

The Bait     And Switch
The bait…                                              …and switch.

You lied.  That’s my first thought.  I’m not angry that she’s big, I’m angry that what little information I know about this girl, has been falsified.  That picture was you at some point, but it’s definitely not you now.  You know what you look like.  You see you in the mirror every day, and that picture, is – not –  you.  That little picture, that little blurb… it’s the twist of the truth; it’s an omission and misrepresentation of facts.  I’m reminded of the days of picture brides, where middle aged women would send a picture of themselves in high school, but by the time they arrived, “ha ha too late Husband, I already here.”  I’ve been tricked.

I lock eyes with her.  She looks away and busies herself.

“Hi” I say.
“Hi.” she says back.

And I stand there awkwardly.  At this point I’m already committed to the date.  I said I would do it so I’m going to do it, pride, wallet, time, and happiness be damned.  She makes no effort to continue the conversation, and resumes talking with the girl across the counter.

So I walk five feet off and flop down in a chair by the door, fumbling with my phone absently.  Maybe she’s busy.  Time passes, and I’m stuck sitting in this chair ever aware of each passing second and the growing discomfort in my guts.  What else has she been dishonest about?  What else will she be dishonest about?  “daddy’ is just the nickname of my drug dealer, and ‘juice’ is what we call our meth, you didn’t ask” or  “You asked if I had AIDS, technically I only had HIV… should’ve been more specific”

I look over at her.  There is so much more of her to look at than I was expecting.  Am I an ass?  Yes I am an ass.  But still… I am an honest ass, with an ass the same size as my picture.  She makes no effort to end her conversation with the girl at the counter.  I stand up again, and walk over to the register.  I hover there awkwardly, like a fourth grader trying to find the right moment to interrupt the teacher from correcting papers at her desk, before returning to my seat unacknowledged yet again.  I’m still willing to bite the bullet and take her out for some food and chock it up to poor reconnaissance on my part.  All she had to do was say something.  Just make some eye contact– something!

I saunter back to my chair.  It’s at this point my guts I’ve been suppressing all this time, begin to take over.  Like a trapped animal, the fight or flight instinct begins to take over me.  Maybe I can pretend like I didn’t see her in there, because I was looking for a girl half her size like in her pictures.  Ha ha.  Yeah that’s fucked up.  Is it?  But if I had told her I was 8′ 2″ and she didn’t see me because I’m actually 5’7″, that would be the same thing right?  All I want to do is not be here, not in this uncomfortable awkward situation with this person I am beginning to resent more with each passing second.  Maybe tell her I’m sick?  Tell her something came up?  A family emergency?  I don’t want to drive extra to give her dad juice, or meth, or whatever it is.  

And then a turning point.

Fuck it.

…I don’t need to spend the next hour talking to someone that I already don’t like.

So I stood up, and I walked out.

And that might’ve been the worst thing I’ve ever done on a date.  And I’m pretty sure the Universe  will be punishing me soon.

Bump it with:

Shallow Waters

“Shallow” is such a funny word.  We write off people for being shallow, for not having more depth and dimensions, or for not digging for meaning and significant layers of character in others.  Because a “shallow” person keeps everything on the surface, and is looking for everything on the surface.  But when you really think about it, isn’t that just another way to describe… “Honest”?

Because honestly, I’m shallow.  And I embrace my shallowness as an intrinsic part of me.  I can use all the big words and read all the thick books I want, but at the end of the day I’m still googling  and ogling “big tits” and “skinny waists” and not “character” and “personality”.  Thank you Internet.

Because we can’t all be onions.  Some of us are just skin deep.  And that’s me.

Shallow Waters
“No Diving.  And No Deep Conversations.  And Don’t ask about Nietzsche.”

– – – –

I met this girl through Tinder.   And I knew right away she wasn’t like any other Tinder girls.  She was smart and articulate; she had a clever comeback to just about everything I said.  The written word flowed from her so quickly and spontaneously, I knew she wasn’t musing and mulling over her answers.  No she was lighting quick,  her thoughts manifesting as fire-from-the-hip quips.  And we exchanged volley after volley of clever turn of phrase, like a game where something is volleyed back and forth and back and forth in rapid succession.  Volley after Volley Like, with a ball… Like lacrosse.

I remember, I messaged her for the first time just as I lowered myself my hot bath to soak for the night.  And I typed and she typed.  I was still grinning and laughing  as our conversation filling up the memory of my phone even after the water had long gone cold.  And my pruned fingers stopped making my touch-screen work after awhile, but still I stayed not wanting to lose the glory of that evening.

She was amazing, and I had to meet her.  So five days and a lifetime of glowing-screen finger-roaming hours later we agreed to see each other face to face.

She was ordinary and comely, so much so that I walked right past her the way to our first date.  “Looks fade” my father always said, “find someone who you can have a good conversation with”  And in the grand chromatic scale of vibrant colorful girls… she landed somewhere between khaki and beige.  But once she opened her mouth, I was reminded of everything I was drawn to. She had a dry piercing wit and a near encyclopedic knowledge of all things movies, pop, culture, and TV.  So we had a lot to talk about.  Imagine an Asian Julia Stiles before she did that crappy escort series for Netflix.   More like, Julia Stiles when she did that dance movie with where Hip-Hop meets Ballet… and Hip-Hop doesn’t steal Ballet’s purse.   Damn, She would know exactly which movie I’m talking about.

2001_save_the_last_dance_005
“Oh noes, interracial dancing!”

So we dated.  Somehow I squeezed myself into the ill-fitting facade of a gentleman, where I didn’t get us liquored up and laid out on the first night, instead I was opening doors and we were holding hands, and the prospect of kissing her was something I strategically planned’ on the third date instead of my usual, blitz-kiss-do-or-die-dive-bombing-strafe attack.  And it worked.

Fighter-Pilot-and-Active-Shooter-Prevention-Advice
(pew pew pew… hormone missiles away!)

So after several dates, weeks, and a healthy grownup investment of time later, she comes back to my place.  And between the wine and the movie, and the hormones and the uncertainty, things get heavy and we begin a game of backgammon.

She was always wearing long pants and these flowing tops, like a cross between a poncho and maternity wear that seems to be so popular with girls these days.  So most of her was mostly covered most of the time.  But I felt like this always added to the allure, like a modern-day self-imposed body-burka of sorts.  And because I had been doing my best impression’ of a gentleman this whole time, I never tried to grope, poke, or magically David-cop-a-feel.  So I began to undress her, eager to explore the treasures beneath.  But as I removed each subsequent layer (notice how I’m alluding to my first paragraph about depth and shallowness here, because I’m fuckin’ clever and shit) I became more confused.

It was as if her body was a stage and once the curtains were raised, her bra and panties were a series of pulleys and straps designed to keep the scenery in place.  And once those came undone the sandbags and catwalks came tumbling to the ground.  She was a work of art, assembled from a mix of parts by a blind schizophrenic reading Ikea instructions in Chinese.  The worst was the hair.  She had a unkempt hedge of black curly brambles so thick and so deep that David Bowie was wandering around in it twirling glass orbs while rocking a codpiece.  Her tangled mass sprouted a long and winding misery-trail that traveled up and into the valley of her navel like a reverse Rapunzel… with Bran climbing his little unbroken-legs to the top to see incestuous siblings mid-coitus.  There were oddities and novelties of her naked body too numerous and confusing to explain.  Like, don’t you girls have meetings about these things?

broken stage
“Grooming?  Tweezers?  Exit, stage left.

She was always talking about “going to the gym” and “just leaving the gym” and “can’t hang out tonight because I’m at the gym” which only added to my confusion.  How could she be at the gym so often, but have what seemed to be… the opposite of results?  Was she battling gym leaders for badges while trying to Catch em’ All?  Or did Gym stand for something else entirely, like Generous Yogurt Man?  or Gravy, Yams, and Meat?

Fully clothed the next day’ we make plans for our next date.  Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was my lights I tell myself.  Maybe I was nervous, maybe it was all in my mind… Oh I know!  The beach!  Under the harsh truth of the sun all shall be revealed.  I pick her up a few days later, and the conversation in the car is great.  We laugh and we share.  And when we get there I’m elated and happy.  And we sit on the sand and she begins to strip…

Her sprawling mass of curly black brambles spilled out.  It peeked out of the corners of her bikini to greet me, with creeping tendrils climbing up her pale thighs eager to escape, no longer hidden in the shadows of my drunken bed but out in the open for the world to see.   And she waded out into the shallows beckoning me to join her, and I noticed the water turned her fuzzy patch into a waterlogged sponge, that hung and clung in a thickening mass of damp hair between her legs.  And I kept thinking, if she just went in a little deeper maybe I could forget it was there.

So I joined her in the water and she hugged me and our stomachs touched with hers meeting mine more than half way with just’ a little too much fuzz.   And her hairy pubic-pseudo-penis tucked into her bikini brushed against me.  And I… I couldn’t pretend to be a better man than I am.

She wasn’t polished or glossy.  She didn’t tilt her chin and angle her chest for pictures.  She didn’t wear makeup, or own any dresses.   She didn’t wax, she didn’t shave.  And all that plastic bubble gum pop, superficial surface that I profess to hate– I realized I secretly crave.  More than scintillating, stimulating, intellectually-titillating conversation.  More than an emotional fit.  And  didn’t want to change her.  So things ended.

Because I’m shallow.

I am shallow.

But I embrace that.

Bump it with:

The Bridge of Closed Doors

I’ve closed doors that can never be reopened, and on the other side are the unborn ghosts of a lifetime together; big house, big dogs, children, and laughter.   But I know, She goes on to find someone better, to grow old with someone who can cherish her in a way I could never.  And in a way, I did that, with a graceful bow and a sidestep through the curtain, and I’m certain I’ll never be at this point again.  And it’s just as well.  Sad smile, exit left.  Chin up.  No regrets.  

I pull down each closed door and stack them one upon the other on the floor.  Each one raises me higher and takes me a bit further– planks for me to walk, out over uncharted seas in an an ever growing arc of my history, of who I was leading to who I could be.  But eventually it’s no longer one more step’  over the restless black abyss, until we plummet to our death… no it was that last moment until our long lonely walks– intersect.  And our feet are steady, and the wood holds fast.  A bridge.  Abridged. We meet– at last.

Bump it with:

The Porcupine and the Pine Cone

I loved you the way
the Porcupine loves the Pine Cone.
kindred hearts
sharing shape and form,
pressed together for warmth
through the night’s chill.

But between my spines and your spurs’
one of us was bound to get hurt.

So I kept my distance,
closer though you inched
in the growing days.
We wore a groove
in the ground as our tiny legs
made plans upon the looming hills.

But in my heart,
I knew we could never reach them…
and I know we never will.

I miss you,
the way the Porcupine misses the Pine Cone.
I’d carry you with me if I could.
But being born of barbs and bristles,
it’s hard to shoulder anyone’s baggage but my own.

Soon you’ll be taking roots
and kissing thistles to the wind.
So you take the high road,
and I’ll take the one less traveled,
and we’ll see if it makes any difference
where we come out at the end.

Bump it with:

Robert Frosting all over the top of this cupcake.

A Chance Encounter

“Do you know where the longs is?”  She asked me.  Her eyes peering over large sunglasses, her breasts, peeking over her close cropped top, an unlit cigarette in her hand.

I was dressed in my dress shirt and tie having just slung some resumes and done some interviews; she was mistaking me for somebody worthwhile.

“It’s right this way” I said with a smile.  “In fact I can walk you there.”  As we walked, we spoke.  Her name was “Joanne” on vacation from the mainland her luggage in tow.  This was her last night in, but she the hotel had under-booked her reservation so she was a day short.  She stopped right outside of the doors of the store, “do you mind if I smoke?”  I didn’t so she did, and I waited.  And she laughed at the jokes that I made, and we were good company so I exclaimed:

“Would you like to get a drink, somewhere?  …with me?”

“Sure.  The things I need, I don’t really.”  She was clever.  And over a pitcher of beer at a tiki-tourist-bar I became all the more enamored.  We spoke about politics and art, and hikes and beaches, we talked about eating animals, and the potential flavors endangered species.  And the more we spoke the more, I smiled and the more she twirled her hair.  One pitcher became two, and then food.  As the sun was setting across the water, and the masts and sails like a thousand little toothpicks sticking out of the glowing sea.  With an equal red glow on her cheeks she whispered, “You might just be the best thing so far about Hawaii.”  To which I replied, “Volcanoes.”  The red was creeping up both our faces and we leaned in closer with each of our exchanges until our stools were practically intertwined.

“So that hotel?” I asked.
“If you don’t mind, if I could get a ride.”   And we drove.  And in the morning I awoke to unfamiliar paintings, and unfamiliar settings and  a tangle of her.  Grateful she had asked me that one question, that changed absolutely everything.

– – – –

“Do you know where the longs is?”  She asked me.  Her eyes peering over large sunglasses, her breasts, peeking over her close cropped top, an unlit cigarette in her hand.

“That Way.  I pointed.”  And she walked away, stopping once for a long moment to look back at me.  And by the time I realized the opportunity I missed, she was already gone.

The Orange Dress Part IV: Social Media is Killing me

A breakup is like twisting an oreo cookie with a partner.  One person is indubitably escapes with most of the proverbial cream filling, while the other person is left with various smudges of their dignity clinging to an empty chocolate wafer.  I am the raw cookie.  Whatever was shared between us, she took most of it with her.

The internet, and namely social media is slowly killing me.  In the wake of a breakup, as the one broken I am left wondering constantly as to where she is or what she is doing.  But thanks to Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and twitter I know exactly.  I know what she ate, I know what music she’s been listening to.  But it’s not really her.  The internet makes no mention of the pile of dirty clothes on her floor, or the way she grinds her teeth when she sleeps, or the way she’ll stubbornly believe anything her gut tells her to, regardless of the copious amounts of proof to the contrary.

There’s a study published in the Newyorker: How Facebook Makes us Unhappy naming the “social comparison” we feel when we look at others on the internet, measuring the satisfaction and the happiness in our lives compared to the lives of others.  Social comparison is kicking my ass.  The internet provides a 24 hour voyeuristic view into her personal life.  At my weakest moments, when I am the most alone, her whole life can be sprawled out in front of me on a glowing screen.  Only it’s not her whole life, it is the “best-of” reel of everything she’s ever done or experienced.  Each glossy photo is meticulously chosen among many.  The one where her hair falls perfectly.  The one where the light catches her face just right.  The one where her breasts look heavenly.  It’s a clean and tidy storefront of exactly the life she wants to portray.  It’s ribbons and lace.  It’s perfume and polish.  And my aching heart, battered and bruised as it is becomes all the more damaged each time I look.

Twenty years ago this wasn’t a problem.  Maybe a friend would see her out somewhere, and that would get passed back along eventually, but for the most part people were left alone with their thoughts to mourn.  In this modern day and age, all of the internet works against me.

The ideal solution is to just not look.  To put it all away and think of this as a growing moment.  But I know I can’t shut out the internet.  It travels with me in my pocket, it courses through my television set, and sits atop my lap at night.  Lap – top.  It takes a second of weakness in the dark of my bed and I can have her prettiest face in front of me on my tiny screen clutched in my hand.  I can’t beat it.  My own curiosity eats me alive on the daily. So instead I will counter it.

For a while at least, this blog is going to be for remembering exactly what I need to remember.  So every time I see this face:
Pretty

I can remember that it’s also this face:

Sushi Mouth

…and who she really is, is somewhere in between these two extremes.  Not the perfect made-up fantasy the internet and my imagination has created to haunt me.  But the girl I took out to eat sushi with no makeup on Halloween because we were sick.  Someone human and flawed, full of perfect imperfections.  This is going to be my fighting chance for maintaining my own sanity in an otherwise insane time.  Wish me luck.

Edit:
http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/four-factors/

The Orange Dress Part III: Reconciliation

We miss each other… the way two warring snipers miss each other for hours or days on end.  The battlefield is littered with fog and smoke, obstacles and corpses of who we were and the wreckage of it all.  We fought a prolonged campaign of long distance tag.  A text message.  A late night phone call. Both hiding and shooting but never truly making any real contact.

We waged this war for weeks.   All I thought about was her.  All I wanted was her.  But all I could muster is a stray shot every few days.  Missing her was a constant gnawing pain, a fever that pulled at my bones and muddled my head.  But missing her, taking that chance to start a dialogue only to have it ignored or brushed aside, that killed me.   No matter how many times I thought over the phrasing or the timing, how many times I rewrote the lines it always came out like the sharp crack of a bullet spiraling down the barrel of a rifle.  There would be no re-connection, no rekindling.

I knew there were guys taking her out on dates… social media let me be eaten alive by my own curiosity-monsters as they gnawed at me relentlessly.  I checked in on her frequently, now an outsider peeking through a window on my lap into her quickly fleeting world.  I hoped somehow she was doing the same.  I buried myself in other girls, each one more shallow and hollow than the last.  No amount of rouge or soft skin could satisfy me.  Each experience left me feeling all the more alone and missing her.  I hoped she was feeling the same.  I hated every single one of the guys she was out with.

Finally, she texts me that she’s dropping off my stuff.  She’s leaving it outside of my car in my parking spot, unwilling to face me directly.  This makes me furious, to have my things so casually and cowardly discarded.  I tell her I have things of hers to give her.  She says she’ll wait.  I bolt down the stairs with the tattered Orange Dress in hand.  I see my things piled neatly outside of my car.  She’s parked on the side.  I stride up to her and throw the dress through her open window.  I go back to my car and begin putting my stuff away.  Weights.  Books.  Heavy things from our past life I was too quick to grab, things she laboriously carried back to me.

She exits her car.  I hear her car door close and see her approaching me  I ignore her and continue stuffing my belongings into my truck.  I hold tightly to my anger, unwilling to feel anything else.  She catches me in an embrace.  We stand there in silence for what seems like an eternity.  Reluctantly, my arms wrap around her.  I’ve missed this.  I’ve missed her warmth.  I breathe in the familiar scent of her hair.  My mouth finds her mouth, it’s a salty and hungry kiss.  I press my body against hers, feeling the squish of her breasts against my chest, the curve of her hips against my own.  Instinctively I put my hand between her legs, reaching up her skirt.  She stops me.  I can see the the same passionate hunger gnawing in her eyes, pulling at her.

“Do you want to go driving somewhere?”

We go barreling up the mountainside in her car.  I look over at her; she’s more beautiful than I ever remembered.  More alive, more vibrant than ever before.  This time apart has refreshed us, renewed her energy and renewed my thirst for her.  The orange dress is on the floor of the passenger seat at my feet.  I wrap it around my foot, like a fork twirled in rancid spaghetti.  It clings to me like a wounded animal.  The road we’re on is a series of hazardous switchbacks, zigzagging back and forth.  I can’t take my eyes of her.  She keeps looking over at me.  There’s a strong likelihood these longing gazes will end up getting us killed.  The dress is in my lap.  I stroke it, like a super villain stroking his cat.  There was something important I was supposed to remember about this dress.  Something about the texture.  Something about the color.  Something tugging at the nape of my neck, ready to unravel everything.

“Throw it out the window!” she yells.

“Just like that?”

“Do it!”

I dangle the dress out the window, my clenched fist unwilling to let go.  The wind whips it from my grasp pulling it out into the black night.  With that one sweeping gesture, every past slight is forgotten.  Every wrong and every fault of who we were and the damage we did to each other leaves the car with that horrible tattered garment.  At the top of the mountain, we’re together.  Talking, reconnecting.  The misery that I carried with me for months drops off of me like a heavy iron cloak and instead we are draped together in a joyous veil of each other.  It colors the night so the stars sparkle brighter, the air tastes crisper, and every breath every second is better than the one before it.  Eventually words fail and steam fills the windows, we’re doubled over each other in the backseat.   We drive back to her place and the night fades in a tumbling blur of sex and ecstasy.  I wake up with her face inches from mine.  I spend the morning just gazing at her, trying to relearn every curve, every line, every nuance of her face, a memory I tried so hard to repress.  This is the happiest I’ve been in months.

It isn’t until the next morning, the glowing morning haze when she’s driving me back to my apartment.  I spy something on the ground of the passenger seat.  A torn strap from the orange dress, a little twisted larva wriggling for survival.  She hasn’t seen it.  I tuck it into my boot.  I don’t know why I kept it– but I did.

The Orange Dress Part II: Cursed

I’m packing up my things.  The hampers I bought her now serve as baskets for me to haul my clothes away.  I see her orange dress, crumpled on the floor.  I scoop it up and shove it down to the bottom with the rest of my dirty laundry.  It’s a thoughtless gesture.  I know she’ll never wear it again.  I take it with me as a reminder, as a keepsake so I’ll never forget what it’s like to be cheated out of happily-ever-after.

I’m home, and in the days to follow I begin unpacking.  Funny the things I now have doubles of… two toothbrushes, two deodorants, two hair gels…  Now single… I have doubles of everything.  I have so much stuff, but I feel so empty.  My life is full of vast tracts of time where I sit and do nothing.  My life slips away from me, minute by minute.  Hour by hour.

The orange dress… it sits in a torn heap in the corner of my room.  There are probably thousands of dresses just like this, bought and sold around the world.  Dresses made out of the same fabric, produced by the same sewing machines and stitched together by the same needle and thread. Thousands of girls wore those dresses to dinners, parties, prom even.  Girls, who had their first slow dance in their dress, girls who got their first kiss, or even lost their virginity in their dress.  Not this dress– This Orange Dress is the shredded pelt of a slain monster.  It is the vile shadow that lives between the veil of sleep and awaken-ness, the bitter pain created by failed love This dress has been imbued with all the rage and violence of our a slowly dying relationship, and that anger has fermented and seethed into the fabric, filling it with sorrow and guilt.

I contemplate cutting that orange dress into strips.  I imagine weaving those strips into a thick braid, and those thick braids into a rope.  I see myself folding and bending that rope into a noose and lashing it up someplace high for her to find.  I can feel the scratch of the material against my cheek as I poke my head through the eyelet of the noose.   I can feel the coarse fabric against my throat as I position it just right.  I can picture the gradual weight of my own body pulling me downwards, with nothing but the thin rope of that orange dress holding me up.  I can feel the soft tissue of my larynx and windpipe crushing under my own weight, the sputtering choking sounds clinging to the very last traces of life in my throat.  The flesh of my neck flaying away like a slow Indian burn that pulls the skin from my meat like a roasted pig.  I imagine the world slowly going hazy, dim and dark as my body begins to shudder in its final thralls.

But most of all, I imagine Her… finding my blackened bloated body hanging in her room, and the look on her face and the noise that comes out of her mouth at that very moment when she realizes what I’ve done.

Eventually I shove the tattered orange dress into a drawer.  Surely this dress is cursed.

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