Rough Starts

I was apprehensive about Jason from the start. I had moved to Chicago from Los Angeles to pursue a graduate degree and to escape a painful relationship gone sour. I had not intended to meet anyone new. In fact, a big part of me didn’t want to. I began writing a future memoir titled, “Why I Chose Cats.”

 Our first meeting was inauspicious. A friend at school liked him for about 10 minutes. She was drunk and told him that she had a crush on him after he had let her borrow his laptop after hers had crashed. She later claimed that she actually didn’t like him, insisting that the confession was, rather, the insane ramblings of an alcohol-addled conscience.

 She was embarrassed, nonetheless, and would avoid eye contact with him for the remainder of the year. A short time later, another friend would confess that she had been hooking-up with him for a while, “but it meant nothing.” After all, she was a practicing bisexual, and “it was all very caz…”

 I wondered what was so special about this gangly boy from Rhode Island who looked more like an econ professor than a heartthrob. But, as an avid girl code abider, I realized that this boy was off limits— at least for the standard six-month mourning moratorium.

 Jason was 6’3 ½”, blond, green-eyed and an identical twin. His twin, John, was two minutes older and looked nothing like him. John’s face was rounder and his hair was longer. John lived in Boston, while Jason lived in Chicago. Their remoteness, however, did not mitigate my fascination for their birthing anomaly.

 “Do you guys experience full feelings or only half feelings?”

 “Did you sleep on top of each other or side-by-side, during your womb-stay?”

 “If you fall and scrape your knee, does your brother bleed?”

 “Do you feel slighted by singular actors who portray twins on film and television?”

 Jason answered all of these questions.

 “Half feelings only. I don’t even know what a full feeling is.”

 “We had a bunk bed arrangement. I slept on top. I think it’s why I have back problems today.”

 “Internal bleeding only. He doesn’t see it, but he feels it, and calls me immediately to check if I’m okay.”

 “I take it as a compliment that you ‘normies’ want to be like us, so no, I don’t take offense.”

 We never talked during those six months, except once. Our conversation occurred when he showed me a photograph of a woman he had interviewed for a story and asked me to look at her teeth. It was horrific. Her central incisor was growing a twin incisor right in front of it, though the new one was yellow.

 Though not a dentist, I was somewhat proficient with Photoshop. I extracted the additional tooth and turned the photograph into a highly offensive animated gif, which blinked from pre-doctored to post-doctored image.

 I e-mailed the improved photo to Jason and wrote in the subject line: “What do you think of the surgery?” He never responded.

 So it came as quite a surprise when a month later, I was at his apartment for a Fourth of July barbeque, and he began drunkenly hitting on me.

 As I was no longer in my early 20s, I was not as susceptible to lascivious one-night stands contingent upon intoxication and droopy eyelids.

 In other words, I clung to sobriety, as he caressed my shoulder and kissed my neck— incoherently slurring that I was “really purty” and “the smartest person in the room.” I batted him away like a fly, dismissing him as a mild and inconsequential annoyance.

 Perhaps, somewhere in the crevices of my mind though, I was attracted to him— I liked the attention, even if it was sloppy.

 “Can I kiss you?” He asked me several times throughout the course of the night.

 “Absolutely not. Get the fuck away from me.” I responded with affectionate zest.

 Jason looked at me incredulously. It seemed he had never heard the word, ‘no.’

 “I don’t do drunken first kisses.” I told him. “I might consider it if you took me out on a proper date, but we must be sober.”

 I figured that his male translator would hear: “Marry me. I want to bear 500 of your children.” He would scurry away. Problem solved.

 Instead, he replied, “I think you and I should spend some time together.”

 The next morning, he called me (which I screened and promptly ignored) and then wrote me an e-mail.

 I had fun with you last night. (I’m not just talking about the time I kissed your neck, which most likely was inappropriate.) 

 And I was serious when I said that I think you and I should spend some time together. (Without the drinks.)”

 So we did. Four months later, while on top of me on a hotel bed, he told me, “I am 100 percent, without a doubt, madly in love with you.” It was a declaration I had never heard before, filled with absolutes usually reserved for fiction. It was that good.

 Later, I met up with my friend Theo who has always displayed a healthy interest in my love life. Theo was a good friend of Daniel, my former infatuation in Los Angeles—the one I had been trying to escape.

 “Tell me about this guy,” Theo’s interrogation began. “Is he tall?”

 “Yeah. 6’3 ½”

 “Yeah, I knew he’d be tall. He’s smart right?”

 “Very smart.”

 “Is he funny? I bet he’s funny, you wouldn’t be with someone who wasn’t funny.”

 “He’s hilarious.”

 “What kind of funny?”

 “He knows Arrested Development forwards and backwards. Better than me even.”

 One of the most impressive qualities about Jason was his ability to quote supporting characters from Arrested Development. Referencing Buster or Job is a piece of cake, but quoting Carl Weathers requires talent.

 “Is he kind of dorky?”

 “What do you mean dorky?” I did not date dorks.

 “You know, like Daniel. Daniel’s got this dorky vibe about him.”

 Theo and I rarely talked about Daniel. I made it a point never to ask questions about Daniel, except for generalities (Is he still alive?), and even that was rare.

 Daniel and I also shared an inauspicious beginning. When we first met, he harbored both a girlfriend and an inexplicable attraction to me. Though Daniel and I dated for only a short time, I believed he was my soul mate. When he broke it off, Daniel reasoned that he didn’t want anything serious. I had never asked him for anything, not even love. The truth was, he just didn’t want me.

 “I guess he is kind of dorky, but not really,” I replied, with some hesitation.

 “Yeah. I know what your type is.”

 Theo was implying something that I didn’t want to admit. Daniel and Jason were eerily similar, almost twins.

 “Shut up, Theo. You don’t know me,” I protested.

 But the truth was, Theo was onto something. I had a pattern of dating the same type of men. Didn’t we all?

 The significant difference, however, between Daniel and Jason, was that Jason wanted to be available for me. He wanted to love me. He wanted me. Daniel, on the other hand, did not.

 I had not spoken to Daniel for nearly half a year, so when he randomly signed onto Skype, right after I saw Theo, I figured it was fate.

 I called him and we video chatted like old friends. We discussed the holidays, our current work and gazed at each other when the other wasn’t looking, hoping to find a semblance of familiarity, of comfort, of ease.

 We did not talk about our personal lives. We never did. Do we really want to know the details of each others’ sex lives? No. That was the stuff of romantic comedies starring Jennifer Aniston, not me.

 “What do you want now?” Daniel asked, suddenly serious.

 “I want stability. I want to belong somewhere,” I told him, wistfully. The only thing missing was Sophia Coppola and her film crew.

 I caught myself before spurting out, “But one thing I no longer want is you.”

 It didn’t matter if it was true or not, no one wants to hear that. No one wants to be the recipient of, “I just don’t want you.” Just like, no one wants to hear, “I don’t want anything serious.” Even if it is years later.

 I told Jason about my complicated feelings for Daniel and how as a result, I was wary of relationships, including ours. Jason listened, stroked my hair and told me that anyone who didn’t fall in love with me was a complete moron.

 For so long, I felt like I had to stop myself from wanting a secure love. It wasn’t that I didn’t deserve it— I just never thought it existed. In my future lurked only ephemeral bouts of passion and maybe, cats.

 It was six months into our relationship, while Jason was a continent away, and trying to video chat with me via Skype, that my apprehension faded away. We had spent the last hour and a half getting signed off by his shoddy Internet connection, but instead of getting frustrated and giving up, he continued trying. And we eventually were able to communicate, albeit, in brief five-minute increments.

 The conversation was banal— just day-to-day nonsense, sprinkled with jokes and silly observations. But it was effortless. Loving him was effortless.

 No. Jason was not Daniel’s twin, not even John’s. Jason was 100 percent, without a doubt, madly one of a kind.  An ocean away, and I had never felt closer to anyone.

 What a relief when the same kind beginning can have a different kind of ending.

 

[I’m not sure any of this actually happened. But there is a good chance it did.]

Writing prompt

Write a poem using only these words. One on each line.

mango -

ridge -

harp -

necessary -

fruit-roll-up -

army -

residual -

gypsy -

relations -

kindness -

***

It always smells like childhood—a fruit roll-up

A fresh-cut mango in summer

The residual juice dripping down my fingers

It’s hard to remember the necessary in those moments

Before the army arrived

Before our relations disowned us

And we stopped hearing the soft harp of the angels

I don’t know if I’ll ever escape this perilous ridge

There is no more light or kindness

Just the curse of yet another gypsy

NaNoWriMo, day 21

Have you ever set yourself up for failure? Like deciding to run a
marathon, when your three-month training consists only of eating
sausage deep dish and watching the entire season of “Khloe and Lamar”?
Or in my case, attempting to partake in my first National Novel
Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

For those of you who don’t run in literary circles, NaNoWriMo is a
writing challenge where authors try to pen an entire novel during the
month of November. The goal for each writer is to reach 50,000 words
without killing themselves and or others.

Before you protest that writing a novel in such a short amount of time
is impossible, think again. Some of the world’s most beloved books
were written in less time I wait in line at Hot Doug.

Charles Dickens allegedly finished A Christmas Carol in just two
weeks, whereas Richard Carlson wrote most of Don’t Sweat the Small
Stuff during a transatlantic flight.

Still, I have to admit that the vast majority of writers who begin
their novels, rarely finish them— just three percent, to be exact.

Will I come out of this Battle Royale of aspiring New York Times
bestselling authors as victor?

Only time will tell—actually, less than two weeks, as I just passed
the halfway point on the 15th. And let’s do a quick check to how I’m
faring on my word count:

1189.

Just 48,811 more words to go. In other words, I have written less than
3 percent of my goal word count and am more than 25,000 words behind
from where I should be.

Things are not looking too great. But I have a plan, a brilliant plan
in which I will channel the sparkly and cultish power of Stephanie
Meyer.  Simply put, I am going to give up on trying to write anything
good and just straight diarrhea words onto the page as fast as I can.

After all, the goal is to write something—no one said it had to be any
good. Right Steph?

Lack of literary merit didn’t prevent her from becoming one of the
best-selling authors (and film franchise creators) of all time.

In fact, all struggling mediocre authors should be grateful to Meyers.
Not only does she give us hope that we, too, can be billionaires for
writing crap books, but we can also go to Hollywood movie premieres
infested by rabidly forgiving fans who love our books so much that
they are willing to deform their bodies with tattoos of our poorly
fleshed out, one-dimensional fictional characters that sparkle for no
rational reason.

Yes. I foresee this same glittery destiny for my own nascent novel.

No more foolishly devoting hours and hours to crafting the perfect
juxtaposition, searching for the most evocative metaphors or creating
the most compelling and charming characters:

Instead, I’m just going to channel my inner 13-year old girl and start
writing. Whether it’s about starfish, the color yellow or potato
people from Mars—as long as I throw in a cameo by a sparkly vampire, I
know I can’t fail.