Again, this post was written in 2009, not too long after it happened.
the night that I consider the one I met Chance was, as we have established, two nights before Eben left for Fort Knox, which means it was at the very beginning of November.
it was a Monday night. earlier that weekend, Eben and Samantha and I were sitting in our cafe downtown after coming back from the gun show and somebody pulled a chair up to our table and started reading a newspaper.
it turned out to be John.
I’d met him my first weekend in town that summer, a day or two after I met Ali, the evening I was supposed to leave for home. I needed toll money and John gave me a prodigious amount of change as well as a dollar bill or two. I thanked him profusely, and then it began to rain hard and my departure was delayed until the following morning.
John had been interested in Ali, though she was, of course, taken (though I am sure that she enjoyed his interest. and that she was not surprised… she never is. maybe that’s why she handles these things better than I do).
I was intimidated by him at first, with his beard and his nose ring and the tattoos covering both his arms. I have since learned that John is one of the friendliest and most harmless people around here. he looks like such a tough guy — and he is… he used to be a heavy heroin addict, actually, it was really bad — but he wouldn’t hurt a fly (same story as Dorian, who looks frightening but is quite gentle). he is so nice and genuine and hugs me hello every single time we meet.
anyway, that day in the cafe, it turned out he knew Eben, and he invited the three of us over to his place on Monday night. I called him to confirm, not sure if he would even answer — we didn’t know each other yet so I was bemused by his ready invitation to hang out — and he said it was fine for us to come over at 10, after I got out of the newsroom.
Samantha and I got sidetracked talking to Ali, who decided not to come with us due to weirdness with Dorian. I remember calling John to let him know we’d be late.
“that’s okay,” said John. “I mean, Chance is going to start freaking out and turning over tables, but it’s all right.”
I had no idea who he was referring to, but assumed Chance was just one of the friends he’d told me he’d have over that night.
when Samantha and I arrived at John’s place, the small living room I remembered well from our last visit was full. on the couch nearest to the door were Eben, a girl with long hair and a pretty top (a high schooler, quite stoned), and a girl with boy-short hair and a long-distance girlfriend who turned out to be Jennie.
I felt vaguely threatened by the long-haired girl… I was somehow sure Eben would put the moves on her. it was just the way these things worked, especially with him.
on the perpendicular couch sat a cheerful-looking chubby guy — Luke — and another two guys, one of whom I think was Ed.
the low, body-enfolding armchair in front of the door was occupied by a big guy with long dark brown hair and a bandana tied around his head.
the atmosphere was the same as last time. very chill… so chill, in fact, that nobody seemed inclined to move themselves to speak at all. we had all gathered in this room, but there was no lively chatter. I knew how they felt… I myself had no will to socialize with these strangers, none of whom sparked any sense of connection in me. shortly after arriving, I wondered what I was doing here.
(I realize now they were probably mostly just stoned. except Eben, of course, who couldn’t risk any trace of THC in his blood. the Army doesn’t take kindly to that sort of thing.)
there was, however, one exception to the no talking rule: bandana boy.
he would not stop talking. he kept up a constant dialogue with the unresponsive room — whimsical comments, waxing philosophical, addressing one or another silent body. the lack of an answer didn’t faze him in the slightest. his default state seemed to be halfway through an irrelevant sentence. I remember him inventing stories of homosexual exploits with his friends, saying things like “John was gone that week, so no sex,” tackling Ed and pinning him to the couch while roaring at him to stop fighting.
eventually bandana boy prevailed upon the group to begin emitting short comments and then people were talking.
at that point he asked me in a familiar fashion, “how are you doing?”
I still didn’t remember him from either the Price Chopper parking lot or the grilled cheese generosity, and I was far from being in any sort of mode in which I wanted to engage with people, least of all this goofball.
“fine,” I said.
then I recalled being out with Max (my motorcycle) earlier that day and nearly being hit by a car. “I almost died today.”
bandana boy didn’t ask how. “you didn’t, I see,” he said.
“no,” I agreed.
“we should celebrate.”
“celebrate not dying?” I was tickled. “let’s have a cake.”
social gatherings are always comprised of these conversational fragments.
also by people moving, switching places and conversation partners. a little later, I got up — probably to get away from Eben in a semi-flirtatious gesture — and sat on the end of the couch onto which bandana boy had also migrated.
the physical proximity made me consider him for the briefest instant as what he was — a young, normal male, and therefore, according to those biological and social drives, a potential mate.
but the automatic response fell away in the next second. I never even thought of flirting with him. which is funny, considering that I usually flirt with everything male that walks… haha, that’s an exaggeration. but it’s still interesting that it never occurred to me.
bandana boy did not comment on my change of situation, but shifted to make room, which jostled the cushion I settled on and tipped me over a little.
“sorry,” he said. “can you forgive me?”
I considered. “no,” I said flatly. “I don’t think I can get over it.”
“I don’t think this is going to work,” said bandana boy seriously. “I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but I’m sorry — it’s over.” he looked at me earnestly for a second. “I’m keeping the dog,” he said.
my poker face slipped first. I dissolved into giggles.
“god, you always do this!” bandana boy exclaimed, got up, and stormed out of the living room.
it was exactly the playful comment I’d been about to make. that was the first flash of connection I felt with him — someone who appreciated that sort of game, that bizarre kind of banter, and could play along without missing a beat. that awareness has always appealed to me.
later, bandana boy invited all interested parties — me, Samantha and Jennie — into his room to smoke so we could open the door to the balcony to cool off.
his room was bare-walled and full of scattered clothes and harsh white light, with only a mattress and some blankets instead of a bed. we passed a splif around and I sat on the floor, only halfway listening as bandana boy conversed with Samantha about his habit of smoking and reading late into the night and his dreams of being a masseuse. he massaged Samantha’s hands and then mine.
back in the living room, bandana boy constructed a bong out of a blender full of water and the top part of a soda bottle floating on the surface.
I refused to take the first hit he set up and he was forced to take it himself. the next time, annoyed that fear of the contraption had defeated me, I recklessly gave it a try.
it was rather like suffocating/drowning oneself in the midst of a roomful of curious and judgmental onlookers. perhaps because that’s exactly what it was. I spilled water all over the table and didn’t even manage to clear the bottle.
I tried again — unsuccessful once more. and I still felt nothing.
I felt like a noob. the room full of experienced smokers did not help. Jennie was laughing at me. bandana boy was now talking to Samantha again. I’d let him down.
he did not seem concerned.
“you’ll know when it hits you,” he said in an aside to me. “you’ll be talking to someone and suddenly their voice will seem like it’s coming from a million miles away.”
standing in the middle of the room, he showed me how my belly was supposed to expand when I was inhaling properly. he had me put my hand on his stomach while he demonstrated, which made me feel awkward.
(Luke teased me about it afterward. “your finest moment together,” he said. “I’ll put pictures of it up all over the internet.” he’d been snapping shots with his phone all night. “then you’ll be embarrassed.”
“about what?” I wondered.
“oh, you know,” he said.)
I was sitting on the couch by the door, when things started to change.
at first I felt a little lightheaded. then, very suddenly, it was like everything had receded. I wasn’t sure where I was sitting anymore, or if I was even sitting anywhere. people would talk without my hearing anything they were saying until seconds after, when I abruptly became aware that words had been spoken, or were being said that moment.
my consciousness seemed to be spiraling slowly off to the right as my body spun slowly off to the left. I felt trapped and in danger of sinking so deep into my own body that I would never be able to emerge again. it was as though the aware, cognizant part of me was now separate from the part of me that was feeling and controlling my body.
I felt numb and unable to feel anything I touched, and yet strangely enough, I simultaneously felt hyperaware of physical sensation. the fabric of my clothing against my skin, the temperature of the air, my body against the couch, my limbs against my limbs (I had my arms and legs folded). every point of contact with anything tingled with an insane sensation of pressure.
I gradually realized that the feeling I might have described as numbness actually only seemed like numbness because it was exactly the opposite — I was feeling EVERYTHING, uniformly and totally. with the exception of the points of most pressure, like where my leg rested on my other leg. I kept shifting, not just to prove to myself I could still move, but to relieve the weird feeling that someone was pressing down hard on my leg.
my heart started to race.
determined that everybody at least be aware of it if I died, I announced:
“guys, my heart’s going really fast.”
nobody seemed concerned.
“that’s normal,” said bandana boy, whom I’d interrupted. he was now back in his armchair, opposite my position on the end of the couch. he studied me with interest. “your body is adjusting to the chemicals.”
I slowly came to terms with the fact that something might not be terribly wrong, and tentatively relaxed into the sensation, deciding to go with it.
that was when it became fun. at some point someone said something and I laughed and Eben, on the other couch, gave a low whistle.
“you are REALLY stoned,” he said.
startled, I realized that the laughter had just been bubbling out of me, effortlessly and constantly. it wasn’t even something I would have found particularly funny normally. my behavior had actually changed and I hadn’t even noticed.
“oh, wow,” I murmured to myself.
“wow,” bandana boy echoed from in front of me.
I glanced at him. he was leaning forward in his chair, all his attention focused on me, peering into my face as if spellbound.
“you’re stoned,” he breathed. “it’s beautiful.”
our eyes locked — the awe in his was tangible. flustered and self-conscious, I dropped my gaze and ducked my head, my hands coming nervously up to my face. I hid behind my hair.
“awww, you’re embarrassing her,” Samantha chastised the others.
bandana boy ended up sitting next to me again. he said something that I didn’t catch and I turned to him.
he repeated it.
he laughed. “I’m sorry,” he said, catching one of my hands between both of his palms and clasping it with a slight bow of his head to emphasize the apology. “it’s just the way you’re talking right now.”
the defining point and peak of that night was when I suddenly became aware of two glowing points, beacons of existence in a suddenly nonexistent world, on my left arm — one at my elbow and one at my wrist.
they were the points of contact with bandana boy’s arm, which was lying next to mine. it immediately came to me that he’d done it on purpose and though he wasn’t looking at me, that he was laughing in his head as he waited for me to comment on the transformation he’d worked on the world. it was simply unignorable. it was all that there was.
then it dawned on me that this incredible phenomenon was entirely in my head.
“do you feel that?” I breathed.
bandana boy glanced at me to find me staring at him in wonder.
“what?” he asked. “the tingling?”
so he did know what I was talking about.
but it was life as usual for him.
“those points of light,” I said.
it occurred to me as I tried to explain it that I wouldn’t normally even have noticed such a thing, much less become so caught up in trying to analyze and convey it.
“they’re like… the center of gravity,” I said. “it’s like they’re the only things that exist.”
I was looking down at our arms so he looked, too.
“here,” he said, and broke contact — unbearable! — to roll up his sleeve. I did the same, and we returned our arms to their original position, again completing the energy circuit, the magnetic field. the sensation of warmth and light intensified — contact plus body heat.
I was absorbed with these points for a while longer. Samantha came to join our human circuit for a bit, but moved away again.
“my arm is shaking,” I told bandana boy.
“so put it down.”
I lowered my arm to rest on the couch. he followed suit.
little by little, the high faded.
that was when bandana boy stretched out on the couch with his head in my lap.
this move, finally, startled me. he lay there for a long time. after a while he started methodically massaging my hand, arm and shoulder, reaching up without opening his eyes.
this was still acceptable because it had been established that he cared a lot about being a masseuse and wanted the practice.
but I did start feeling very self-conscious when he progressed under my sleeve.
there was a bit of tension between him and Eben at this point.
it started when Luke asked me, “what are you thinking about?” he’d been accusing me of looking angry all night.
bandana boy rose to my defense, telling his brother I was just pensive.
“I do that, too,” bandana boy said. “I’ll stare into space and people will always ask me what I’m thinking about. I won’t even know where to start.” he held up a hand. “high five.” I obliged.
Eben snickered, and turned the sound quite unsubtly into a fit of coughing.
“what’s funny?” bandana boy asked, deadpan.
“is something amusing?”
“no.” Eben smoothed his grin, managing to do it in an insolent manner.
“all right,” said bandana boy. “if you’re just laughing, that’s fine. if you’re laughing at something I said, I want to know.”
(“you really didn’t guess?” Eben teased me the next day. “not even when he was stroking your arm? not even when his hand was under your shirt?”
“it was not UNDER MY SHIRT!”
bandana boy was exploring my arm. I was exploring the texture of a lock of his hair with my fingertips and the feeling of his cheek against the back of my hand. this lasted quite a while. bandana boy’s brow was knit, as if he was concentrating. my head was bent in scrutiny.
this was when the idea finally crept into my head that he was a viable potential partner.
I didn’t actively want it to happen and it still didn’t occur to me to pursue it, but the concept turned itself over in my mind. and in one shining, crystal clear moment of surprise and (yet again) wonder, while I was looking down at his face — the dark hair, the clear skin, the even, masculine features, the relaxed but focused expression that indicated the strength of the mind behind — it hit me.
I was shocked. I had completely missed the fact that he was quite simply one of the most good-looking people I’d ever seen. in that instant, he was the most amazing thing in the world, and it knocked all the air out of my lungs in a heady rush.
then of course I wasn’t high anymore and the feeling faded.
when Jennie and Luke stood up to go, bandana boy rose to his feet. he saw them courteously out the door, and then turned back to the three guests still left in his living room.
without preamble, he asked me, “would you like a massage?”
I don’t remember if Eben laughed. I do remember that I hesitated for a long while — I didn’t want a massage but I didn’t want to offend bandana boy.
ultimately I decided I would rather Eben mock me for eternity than insult the hospitality of our host. I knew that he would be a gentleman. and I knew that I could take care of myself.
“all right,” I said.
bandana boy extended the offer to Eben and Samantha of staying the night in his living room, but I told them I’d be out again in a while — how long, I didn’t know — and we’d go.
bandana boy again suggested we stay, for convenience’s sake. I again insisted we go.
and I followed him through the door into his bedroom.
okay now I’m vacillating between wondering if I’m decreasing Chance’s power over me by writing and analyzing, or if I’m increasing it by devoting this amount of attention to him.
I’ll let you know when I decide.