Closer Issue 2
There's nothing quite like rejection, the cold burning shock of recognition that, once again, it just isn't your day. It's harder every time, harder to pull yourself back together and get on with business. If it's easy, you're in danger of losing the part of your soul that allows you to feel anything for anyone. Pretty soon you're just a hollow shell with dried kernels of emotions rattling around inside.
That was running through my head as she sat in the passenger seat, explaining herself. I was determined not to cry, not to show weakness, despite the stupid macho attitudes that perpetuates. I rationalized it by saying I was driving and couldn't break down but I was simply trying not to show how much I hurt.
It was hard to believe I was hugging her while we listened to Dave Smalley sing "hold on to me, hold on to me ..." as Down By Law finished their set at the Palladium only three days before. I suppose I could feel it slipping away even then, but it seemed like the perfect moment. After the concert, I took her to meet one of her friends and headed back to San Diego alone, trying not to fall asleep at the wheel.
I finally stopped in a motel parking lot to doze off for 20 minutes or so. I tossed and turned in the back of the van, feeling the car shake each time I moved. People laughed as they walked from room to room. Eventually I gave up and started the car, as ready to go as I would be for some time. I had a bag of chips at my side and I listened to songs from my childhood on the radio.
Even after I walked in the front door and went to bed, I didn't really lose consciousness that night. I could feel her absence. It was a tangible thing, moving and breathing next to me. I wandered around the house for most of the night, hoping it would go away. It didn't. It still hasn't. I can smell her perfume on my pillows and I'm still finding her hair in my car.
Three days later, whatever we had was over. She told me somewhere on the 405 as we were driving to LAX. The setting sun played on her sunglass lenses. She talked for about an hour. I don't recall saying much other than suggesting I just go home. She said she didn't want to be alone. We found a place to stay the night and talked for several hours. We didn't eat dinner. We weren't particularly hungry. We just sat in the room, me feeling numb. I don't know what she was feeling.
Eventually, we fell asleep with our arms wrapped around each other and our legs tangled together. I don't know if I'll ever sleep like that again, at least, not with someone like her. Not with someone I cared for like her. I suppose everyone has the sneaking suspicion that they may have already met and passed over the great love of their life. I don't know about that. All I know is she's one of my best friends and I miss her.
When I dropped her off at the airport, I was intending to keep my farewell short. It was already hard enough to say goodbye, knowing she would be out of the country and I wouldn't see or talk to her for about four months. I unloaded her luggage, hugged her, said see you later and turned back to the car. Then I thought better of it, turned around and hugged her again, this time not worrying about hiding anything. We held each other for a few minutes as I cried into her hair. I said goodbye again and turned around so I wouldn't have to watch her walk away. The drive home wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. Somewhere on the road, Bob Marley reminded me everything would be all right. And when I got home, my answering machine had a message on it from her thanking me for being a good friend. I smiled.
So what's the point? I don't know. I may never know. I can tell you this much - I've never had a friend like her before. And I don't regret anything.
I don't mean for this to be depressing. If it is, I'm sorry. I remember a line from a song I heard recently about being able to make one good minute last a whole year. She and I had hours together, laughing and talking and being silly. We sat down at the beach, watching bonfires. We spent a lot of time driving places, and I showed her as much of the town as I could.
She's in Italy now. She left Thursday. I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to talk to her one last time before she boarded the plane. I spent quite a few hours at work that day, keeping busy and trying to avoid thinking about her on a trans-Atlantic flight, reading a book with a tiny overhead bulb illuminating the text while everyone around her slept, unaware of the miracle of her fingers turning pages only a few feet away. Roughly 42 hours later, I'm still trying to deny her absence. She's in Europe, I'm at home. It reminds me of that X song when Exene sang something about taking a chance and falling for someone 3,000 miles away. Right now there's an ocean between us and a few more miles.
I don't claim to know why things happen, or why I met her or why things ended up as they did. I just know they happened and that I remember everything. Sometimes, memory is a burden. Thoughts weigh you down and prevent you from moving forward. I spent quite a bit of my high school years living like that, chained to my past and hoping for a brighter future, one where everything worked out the way I wanted. I haven't found it yet, and I may never find it.
In the process of searching for it though, I found an entirely different path, one I barely noticed while I sat in class, waiting for the bell to ring. And somehow, despite everything I lost, it ended up all right and I can see what's ahead with a clarity I once thought was impossible. I still don't know what I'm going to do or where I'm going, but I have an unshakable belief that no matter how difficult the future may be, it's all for the best. Life's funny that way.