Thursday, December 8, 2011

He & She & The Baby

He wanted to do something. He wanted to say something. He wanted to help in some way, some little but meaningful way. He wanted to be that guy. Instead he was the guy doing his best to not get caught shooting glances her way.

They were two strangers sharing the same small space, shivering outside the gas station while they waited for someone to come pick them up. Of course, they were waiting for different rides. They hadn't shown up together and they weren't going to be leaving together -- but that wasn't his intent. He didn't want her phone number. He didn't even need to know her name. He just wanted to know that for the five minutes that their paths crossed, he was the man she needed him to be.

He turned to her. She glanced at him. They locked eyes. Her eyes were brown -- melted milk chocolate brown with flecks of stubborn, unmelting dark chocolate.

"Um," was all he was able to say before she turned away, and he knew that she had not even heard his "um." He had been drowned out by the baby she was bouncing on her hip. The baby did not like being out of bed this late night and that sporadic, stiff wind wasn't making the little one any happier.

She bounced the baby softly, shushing it and whispering love into its ear. She was a good person, he could tell. She looked sad. She looked like the kind of person who was used to laughing. The wrinkles beside her mouth said she was usually smiling -- or used to be. Maybe it was the cold night air, maybe she was just cold, but she looked like the life had been drained out of her. For a moment he wondered what she used to look like, he wondered if this was just a shell of who she had once been -- and that was an intimidating thought. Because she was gorgeous.

Her make-up was smeared an uneven. Her hair was untidily pulled back. She was wearing a velour track suit. But her cheeks were soft. Her lips were pouty. Her eyes were deep. Even drained of her color, she looked robust and full of life. She was, he decided, what every woman who bought a track suit hoped they looked like in it.

She shivered and he thought about giving her his coat. But then they both stiffened when, across the street, a man came out of the hotel yelling. They couldn't understand what the man was saying, but he wasn't happy. He took a half-step closer to her, hoping to silently convey that there's safety in numbers, and she didn't step away.

That gave him the courage to finally say, "hey."

"Oh good," she said, shifting the baby to her other hip. She stepped out into the parking lot and towards the rattling car that was just pulling up.

A man drove the car, probably the baby's daddy. She handed the driver the baby through the open car window and then opened the door for herself. The driver was complaining about something and she was saying something back to him in a tone that sounded defensive, and then the car door slammed behind her and the car, and its tail lights, disappeared into the night.

And then he was alone with his thoughts and he wondered what opportunity had just passed him by. And then he wondered if there had been any opportunity at all. And then he wondered if he would ever be able to live outside of his head long enough to actually do something, and not just wonder what it would be like to do something.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Epilogue: Three Months Later (We've Gone Full Circle)

Happy Birthday!

well hey there stranger.

today's the big day, isn't it?

it is. thanks for remembering.
I take it you got home safely?
It's been a while since you've been online.

Oh, yeah. Sorry. Been super, super busy.
Work stuff.

i know how that goes!



what happened that night?
or maybe I should ask what happened that week?

don't worry about it. what's done is done.

but what was done?

nothing. please don't worry about it.

don't worry about it?
you were the best part of that week

that wasn't hard to do

then what?

your dad had just died
you weren't here to see me. you were here for his funeral.
i was just a distraction

no, you weren't

if I was so special, why didn't you put up a fight?
you just walked off at the first obstacle
if you're so heartbroken, then why's it taken three months for you to contact me?

I thought "no" meant "no?"


How am I supposed to know the difference?

it seems to me that if you really want something, you're not going to let a two letter word get in the way.

Holy hell.
Can I forward this to all the convicted rapists in the world and let them know that not only do you forgive them but you understand and support their position?

Please do because that's exactly what I'm talking about.
Look. I'm fine with the way things are.

I just want to know what happened. One minute you were hot and heavy, the next you're giving me the cold shoulder. You have no idea how depressing it is to be the guy who relates to a Katy Perry song.

I needed to know.

Know what?

I needed to know how into me you were.
I needed to know that you were kissing me because it was the only thing you could do to express how you felt about me.
I needed to know that when you held me it was because you never wanted to let me go.
I needed to know that you would fight for me.
But I get it. I really do. When I lost my dad I needed to know there was a reason for all this. But I'd settle for feeling good again.
If that's what you needed, then I'm glad I was able to help.
Honestly, I really didn't expect more than that. I mean, you are your father's son and your brother's brother.
I needed to know if what we were doing was just for now or if we actually were building something.

It had been two days.

We didn't have time. You had to get back home. So I had to demand an answer.

Don't apologize.

I feel bad.

I'm the dumb one for not realizing it was a test.

Don't look at it that way.
Who knows what the future may bring?

Maybe my brother'll die and we'll get to make out again!

don't say that!
but maybe. ;)

If I ever get the chance again, I'll fight for you.

I'll see it when I believe it.


I'll *believe* it when I *see* it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What Kind of Week Has It Been

"What's next?"

The question hung in the air more awkwardly than Russell was expecting. He had thought it would be the perfect, smooth segue into confessions of love, lust, desire, and dreams. He had hoped Ainsley would turn to him with her big blue eyes and say something deep and throaty like, "you tell me."

Instead, silence.

Ainsley watched the sun slink behind the hills of Happy Valley, waving good-bye to the day in large swaths of pink and orange. There was a sad look in her eye that Russell didn't understand. He wanted to ask her about it, to find out where it came from and see if there was anything he could do to fix it, but instead he just leaned against the rail and watched the sunset with her. As the sun slipped from view, Ainsley cleared her throat.

"When's your flight?" she asked.

Russell shook his head. This isn't the conversation he wanted to have. But he answered her question. "Eleven," he said.

"Then that's what's next." Ainsley's voice was cold and matter-of-fact.

"It doesn't have to be what's next." Russell offered.

"But it is," she shot back. "We could stand here and talk and pretend like you're not flying back to California tomorrow but it won't change the fact that tomorrow morning, at eleven o'clock, you're flying back to California."

There was finality in her voice. Russell recognized it. She was shutting down all potential, denying any hope, and doing everything else she had to do to protect herself from the inevitable. He wanted to fight that. He wanted to keep hope alive. He wanted to kiss all her fears away but more than anything . . . he wanted to protect her. He wanted to know she was happy, even if that meant he could never see her happy. Ainsley was so amazing and Russell didn't want to do anything to change that.

So instead of prying, pleading, or making promises he knew he couldn't keep, he kissed her one last time. He kissed on the top of the head and walked away. He looked back only once, as he climbed into his car, to see if she was watching him go.

She wasn't. She couldn't. Even she had wanted to, she couldn't see through her tears. She listened to him start his car. She heard him slam his car door shut. Then she listened as he drove away. Only then would she allow herself to turn around.

Russell was gone and Ainsley was alone.