Cast of Characters (Chance, 1.3)

 

There’s a saying that every seven years, you become a new person.

It’s reflected in the scientific truth that apparently every seven years, all the cells in your body are replaced with new ones, making you literally a new person.

It’s also true in a human development sense. I don’t remember where I read this or all the details, but the gist is that as a human you go through phases that are seven years long, bookended by drastic neurological growth and / or transformative events in your life.

That’s my only explanation for what happened to me that summer and fall of 2008 at 21, when my social life inexplicably blew up.

That summer I had flings and flirtations with the following boys:

Alex, The First Love Ex. I was sleeping over at his house several nights a week. We were having dinner, camping in his backyard, taking trips to the beach, to the city, to the mountains, etc. etc. (We were not together.)

Holden, The Toxic Ex. I was trying and failing most of that summer to keep him at arm’s length, but we were in touch online. he visited me once on the condition that we wouldn’t have sex, but We Did Anyway. we were both in our college town at the same time, and had an awkward walk and talk before I drove by him as he kissed another girl.

Lije, a friend of B’s. we cooked dinner, took walks, went to the beach, watched half a movie, and got to third base on two nights, before I fled his house and vanished from his life forever.

Gene, Vlad and Dima, also friends of B’s. Gene was picking me up and swinging me around and in general competing to take me home on that night I went with Lije (and then abandoned him). Vlad and Dima were also competing but in a less hard-charging way, mostly jostling for my attention and for positions where they could put their arms around me.

Jeremy, my childhood friend from the Days of the Fort Down the Hill from the Playground. At a party at his house one night he took me by surprise and kissed me, although he had a fiancee.

Besides boys, I had met my first female soulmate, Ali, in June. Ali, if you didn’t read the posts about her or don’t remember, was that beautiful, pixie-like girl with the throaty voice who was always laughing at a joke no one got, who had kissed Holden and then become my best friend.

We moved in together that fall with Kayla (another girl who had both kissed Holden and become a close friend, although in reverse order, in case you’ve forgotten). Nearly every night that September, the three of us were together, cooking dinner, watching movies, buying groceries at the Chopper and curtains at Target, drinking wine.

Kayla soon went MIA, staying over at her Motorcycle Man’s place every night, but autumn winds soon blew in a whole new dizzying swirl of people:

I started spending more time with Sam, a gay Latino guy who’d been in my Spanish class, whose favorite activities were dancing with much hip-swinging, singing as loud as he could, judging people, getting offended and laughing hysterically.

Sam introduced me to his best friend Samantha, a Long Island girl with long, frizzy hair dyed copper-red who managed to be both extremely worldly and oddly childlike. One night I was lying on the grass outside the English department building, looking up at the stars; she happened to walk by, and lay down next to me without question or comment.

The three of us became inseparable, going downtown and dancing, going for drives in Sam’s car with the radio turned up so loud the whole car shook, drinking rum in Samantha’s dorm.

Sometimes we were joined by Ali’s friend George, a homeless musician who had asked to “be my wolfie” that summer and still held a torch for me.

A few times we were joined by Samantha’s friend Marv, who was a writer like me (theoretically; I hadn’t written a word in years).  Marv had been a London freshman with Samantha, and had suffered a schizophrenic episode where he thought he was Jesus. Samantha stayed with him and took care of him until his mom flew in.

Marv was a chain-smoker; he would leave our marathon hours-long conversations every half hour or so to go outside for a cigarette. This gave him the constant smell of smoke, as well as taste, as I found out one drunken night in my room when Marv started pushing me and Samantha down on the bed in turn and shoving his tongue down our throats. We kept telling him to stop but he didn’t seem to understand and kept laughing.

Later that night, as we all ran around the park and climbed trees, Marv kept coming up behind me and wrapping his hands around my neck, or sliding them down the front of my shirt. In the morning, he was trying to get me alone in my apartment and wouldn’t leave. We had to physically kick him out.

We stopped hanging out with Marv after that.

There were a lot of new things that fall. I was living in my first apartment. I was interning for a daily newspaper. I’d cut my hair short and streaked it red earlier that summer. I was single for the first time in five years.

But as always, it was people who created the biggest shifts in my life. Sam and Samantha, by creating this constant, easy friend group I’d never had before. Ali, who was opening my mind and heart to the magic in the world.

And then there was the last person we met that fall, before Chance, the person who would destroy our friend group forever and usher me into the next phase of my life.

Eben.

Purple (Chance, 1.1)

When I was eleven years old, I became a witch.

“Wiccan” was the technical term, although “witch” was the word I’d had in my head since I was seven, when my friend Hannah and I had watched the movie “Escape From Witch Mountain.”

Seeing the two young girls in the movie press their hands together and produce a purple light that freed them from their kidnappers had a powerful effect on us, two second children who felt overlooked by our parents, dismissed by our older brothers, outshone by our more social first-grade classmates.

Gathering week after week in the upstairs linen closet at Hannah’s house where we discussed our most secret plans, we would press our own palms together under the sloping ceiling, willing it to happen, that flash of violet, that hot, brilliant spark of magic.

Of course none came. And as we grew older, as it became increasingly clear that there was no such thing as magic, that movies lied to you and made you want what was impossible, like all our other games, we gave it up.

But deep down, the very impossibility of it only made me want it more.

At eight and nine, living in the Philippines, I tricked my sister into believing I was telekinetic, telling her to stand at the bottom of the stairs to the roof deck, then throwing erasers and playing cards down at her, claiming I’d never touched them. I would sit in class and stare at the pencil in its little groove on the dark wood of the desktop in front of me, commanding it to move, to give even the slightest little twitch, the way the chalk had done for Matilda as she’d practiced with her teacher Miss Honey.

And as the years passed and nothing happened and the encroachment of reality grew ever stronger, so did my struggles, my clinging to the belief that these powers were possible, they had to be — because otherwise the world was simply the world, enormous and dull and cold and indifferent and bereft of possibility. Otherwise I was simply myself, a girl just like all the billions of other girls out there, hoping she was special but knowing deep down she was not.

Which was why, at age eleven, I became a witch.

It started with my sometime-friend Ris, who herself wasn’t well-liked due to her strong, almost masculine features and brusque demeanor, who would later come out as gay when she went to college (those two statements were not intended to be linked).

Ris, as you may recall, had snubbed me at snacktime when I’d first moved to town, inspiring fantasies of leaving her languishing in prison. She would later dance with Alex in seventh grade, breaking my heart.

But at the time we must have still been friends, because I remember her approaching me with the idea, like an embarrassing secret — not knowing that I would leap on it with even more ferocious a commitment than her own.

Every morning, the two of us huddled on the playground, having intense, hushed conferences about our initiation. Every afternoon, I’d go straight to the non-fiction section of the library, where I’d pore hungrily over books I’d never known existed — books with dry, matter-of-fact explanations of magic as a Real Thing that real people practiced.

One book began with a first-person account in which the author observed the color of a woman’s “aura” the same way she observed the color of someone’s hair or eyes. It was purple, she wrote, the same bright purple as her dress and her fingernails, tipping her off that the woman was not to be trusted.

I remember closing the book and turning it over and over in my hands for some clue that this was a joke, a trick, a lie, a work of fiction accidentally shelved in the wrong section. I remember flipping to the back of the book in trembling shock and joy to stare at the photo of the author, a real, live, ordinary, responsible grown-up who swore this was true.

In another book, a thick paperback manual with deep purple covers decorated with golden pentagrams and runes, I found calm, clear instructions resembling those that had struck me in the Young Wizard series, whose particular brand of magic was based on math and science — instructions about how to start your own Book of Shadows, how to begin to practice spells, how to make your first wand.

I followed these instructions to the letter. For my Book of Shadows, a journal in which you chronicled your development as a practitioner and your favorite spells and their results, I chose a dark blue spiral-bound notebook, delighting in its very ordinariness, which seemed to confer a legitimacy upon the endeavor that I’d never dreamed possible.

For my first spell, I chose a simple incantation to make my then-boyfriend, Paul, call me and invite me to hang out with him and his friend Sam. Start small, the purple manual had suggested, with something whose outcome is already likely.

Consulting one of the small, practical spells in the manual, I took a piece of blue-lined notebook paper and a colored pencil, and drew a rune of my own devising — a heart to represent affection, green in color because that was the color of the sour apple Tootsie pop Paul had given me when he asked me out, as well as the color of the sweatshirt he was wearing in the photo he had given me.

I folded up the paper. Heart beating fast, I clasped it to my heart and with all my might, imagined the phone ringing, my lifting the smooth, heavy, tan-colored receiver, Paul’s awkward, stuttering, adoring voice on the other end, my own uncontainable joy.

Then I went out to the kitchen, lifted the phone, and slid the folded piece of notebook paper underneath.

I was just walking away when the phone rang.

I remember this jolt of true shock. Despite my hope, despite all the work I had done, I think a part of me had held itself apart, not believing.

It felt like a dream, like a movie. Slowly I turned to face the phone, this object that until now had seemed the epitome of ordinary life, that was now responding as if I had spoken to it.

I picked it up.

I said, “Hello?”

It was Paul.

He invited me to come over and hang out with him and Sam.

At that moment, I knew it was real — everything I had dreamed of. I envisioned myself committing to my study of magic, filling up that dark blue notebook, moving objects with my mind, making my own wishes come true, levitating in the air. I imagined my powers slowly growing and growing, sitting in school, looking at my family across the dinner table, knowing I had this secret.

But as it turned out, Wicca wasn’t the only supernatural force in my life.

This whole time, as I’d been reading these books, a sense of unease had been quietly growing, every time I saw a mention of the Goddess that Wiccans worshipped. I had ignored it, dodged around it, convinced myself I could keep going with the other stuff and put off this question of whether to swear my immortal soul to this new endeavor.

But finally I came across a sentence where it stated in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to be a true Wiccan and to move forward in my practice, I had to worship the Goddess. Not acknowledge her, not pray to her — actually worship her.

The idea of doing this created a terrible knot in my stomach. Because worshipping another deity, as I knew from four years of Sunday school, was an unforgivable sin.

I searched for ways out, struggled and agonized. Was I was willing to give up my ticket to heaven, and incur the wrath of God — THE God, whose existence I took for granted, whose power to determine my fate I believed in utterly, to the point where I was afraid to tell lies, to use bad language, to say “God” or “Jesus” in vain, to disrespect my parents, and to skip church on Sunday?

I couldn’t come to answer. Reading my books, writing in my notebook, I felt less and less good, until one day it came to the point where I had to make my wand. The instructions called for hollowing out the pith of a branch, then inserting a cotton ball containing a drop of your own blood.

And this, ridiculously, was the line I could not cross. No matter how long I held the end of that safety pin, sterilized in the flame of a candle, to the pad of my index finger, I couldn’t bring myself to actually prick myself and draw blood. I felt like I would faint at the very thought.

And that was how it ended. I lost interest in the books, stopped renewing them; back they went, one by one, to the library. My Book of Shadows vanished under a pile of papers on my desk, slowly buried, and with it my belief in magic.

Until a day nine years later, when I stood in a blazing hot parking lot waiting for Ali to come out of the Price Chopper, looking at a guy and a girl who were looking at me.

The guy was wearing a backpack. I remember this because it was odd to see a guy that age wearing one, and because it wasn’t just a plain backpack — it had an eye-catching pattern, covered in big white Hawaiian flowers.

But the one detail I really remember is its color:

Purple.

At that moment, as the girl hung back, the guy stepped forward and held out out his hand.

My mind on Ali, reluctant to engage with these strangers, still not grasping the enormity of this moment, I took it.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m M.”

“Nice to meet you, M,” said the boy.

And he clasped my hand in both of his.

“I’m Chance.”

The J Parade

This is in response to our love life topic. This post is probably going to end up being a snap shot of majority of guys I’ve been with or dated or made out with. For some odd reason when I begin to tick off all the names (at least the ones I know and remember-yikes!) they begin with the letter J. Why? I have no idea. Maybe I have a fetish for the letter. Maybe it’s just some crazy coincidence.

Maybe it’s cosmic fate and I’m destined to be in love with a J named guy forever (right…because we all actually believe in cosmic fate).

Or maybe it’s just the universe trying to tell me that I should really stop seeing the J’s. I mean, look at my luck.

Sit back and I’ll enlighten you all. Enjoy the J Parade. I’m not sure if I have.

-Nightingale.

*

It begins with Joel. I’m four or five years old. I don’t really remember to tell you the truth. I know I wasn’t in kindergarten yet and it was during my “Snow White” phase so we’ll put me at the tender age of 4 or 5.

Joel is my best friend. We’re the same age. We go to the same preschool and church. His dad is the vet for my dog. Our older brothers are friends. Our moms are besties. They’re also stay-at-home moms (at least for the time being, they both went back to work when they got bored), so Joel and I have plenty of playdates.

At some point, I decide Joel is my prince. Boys and girls are supposed to be together, so very clearly Joel and I will someday get married. Honestly, I’m pretty sure we play acted marrying each other more than once. One of those times, I decide to take a page out of my Disney story books. I want to be kissed. I had my Snow White costume on. Joel and I were playing in the basement when I grabbed him by the arm.

Then I yanked him to me and kissed him smack on the lips.

It was messy and it was slobbery. Neither of us really understood what was really so great about it. I think we tried again. If we did, we were both left scratching our heads. Nothing changed of course. We continued to be best friends and I continued to plan on marrying him.

Two years later Joel moved to another state. I never saw him again.  Sometimes I wonder where he is and what he became. I’m just curious to know what became of that little boy I kissed when I was pretending to be Snow White.

Fast forward to middle school. Everyone is all awkward with braces, acne, and oh yeah, the first stages of puberty. I’m not the most awkward, but I’m also not the coolest person on the planet. I’m average. I’ve got plenty of friends. And my one friend just happens to like this one boy. My almost thirteen year old self can’t contain it, so I run up to him and spout off, “MAGGIE HAS A CRUSH ON YOU!”

And that, is how I met Jack.

Jack has the largest presence in my parade of J’s. We met in seventh grade and somehow became friends. By eighth grade he was one of my best friends in school. We sat next to each other in algebra and he’d pass me the dumbest notes (some of which I still have…yeah, let’s not talk about that). He’d continuously steal my writing notebook and read whatever story I wrote no matter how mushy or cheesy or romantic. I always pretended to not know why he was doing any of it.

I knew he liked me, but I was 14. What could I do about a thing like a crush at 14? It wasn’t like we could date. I wasn’t about to have my  mom drop me off at my dates. For some reason I decided that 16 was the age at which I could really try dating. Maybe 15 depending on things.

Jack and I bonded over algebra. Years later my mom ran into that math teacher and they did the thing where they ask questions about where your kid is now and what they’re doing. My math teacher asked if Jack and I had ever ended up together.

My mom said no.

Jack and I remained best friends during our freshman year of high school. When I went to Hawaii, he snuck a tiny plastic palm tree into my locker and told me to have fun (he’d already been). When I got caught cheating on a stupid review game in his mom’s class he offered to sneak into her computer and change any bad grade she would give me. She didn’t give me one, and maybe he talked her into not doing it (it was a stupid game for extra credit after all, 3 of the 4 of us in the group had decided to divvy up the leftover cards so we could all get the same amount of extra credit points; person number 4 decided to tattle). He gave me his sweatshirt when I was cold, and on the one time when he bumped me and made me spill Diet Coke all over my shirt.

I hung out at his locker (the cool thing in high school) and he hung out at mine. We were 2 of the trifecta of freshmen in our geometry class and the only ones who covered our papers. He still read everything I wrote.

We were just friends. Nothing more. But I always knew about his feelings. When we would instant message, he’d sign off in German. One night, I translated it.

“Goodnight, my beautiful flower.”

Yeah. No feelings at all. I lied to myself all freshmen year. When he decided to date another girl, I had to have an emergency slumber party with my BFF because I was so distraught over the prospect. He was supposed to wait for me. Ultimately, that relationship lasted 2 weeks, mostly because she couldn’t stand how he and I were together.

When we came back to school the next fall, I realized that I was fast approaching 16. It was the age I told myself I could finally date at. I hung out at Jack’s locker before school, and since it was on the way from my last hour class to my own locker, I stopped and waited for him to say goodbye. I used to play this game (his locker partner was NOT thrilled with it) where I’d stand in front of it and wait until he arrived to move me just because I liked how his hands felt on my arms, my sides, my back when he’d gently, laughingly move me aside.

One morning while we were sitting next to each other doing homework, I finally felt emboldened. I tore off a small piece of paper, scribbled, “I think I might like you,” on it, and slid it over to him.

I still remember his megawatt smile as he read it and turned to me and said, “Yeah, me too.”

The questions swirled. What were we? Were we together right then? Were we dating? I still wasn’t quite 16, but he was. Did that matter? Nothing changed then. We talked about going on our first date, like a movie or something. We instant messaged. We emailed. I still stopped at his locker every day after the final bell.

Until one day when it became awkward and I didn’t know why. He kept pushing our first official date further and further away. I thought we were going to go to Fall Ball together in November. We’d pretty much confirmed it with that one small note.

But Jack and I didn’t have any classes together.

And he and Jessica did.

I still thought we had a chance until about a week before the Fall Ball. Everyone was talking about who they were going with at our new haunt by the leaky staircase. Jack wasn’t part of this friend group, so he wasn’t there. We sat there talking and I said how I thought Jack and I were going together and that he’d promised me.

One of my friends looked at me aghast.

“He’s going with Jessica. Didn’t you hear? They’re dating now.”

My 16 year old heart split right in two. I stared at the lockers thinking that it had to be wrong, that my friend had to be lying, but I knew she wasn’t. I knew it was all true.

I went to the Fall Ball single. One of my friends (who I’m sad to say has drifted away from me) stayed at my side all night despite her blossoming new relationship. All I could see was Jack and Jessica. I didn’t want to see them. My friends new boy offered to punch Jack and I quietly turned him down.

I didn’t realize how devastated I was until I had to watch them together. My friend took me to the girls’ bathroom and locked the door because I started almost crying on the dance floor. An hour later, I ended up calling my dad in full blown tears from some corner of the room, begging him to pick me up.

When I got home, I cried and my mom held me and smoothed my hair.

“Didn’t realize you were in love, did you? First loves often do that.”

I don’t know if I loved him then. I still don’t know if I ever loved him. I spent many nights crying in the shower while “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts played on the other side of the curtain. Everything I had with Jack was gone. I tried once that year to try and rekindle it, but it was useless.

I had trouble dating for the rest of high school because of him. Because I still wanted him. Because he was always still there. I think I had a harebrained idea when I was a junior to ask him to prom. I wrote him a letter about us and giving us a chance for old times’ sake. I never gave it to him because shortly after I finished I learned he’d turned another girl down because of some athletic play off he had to go to, but he’d promised her if they got ousted he’d still go with her.  So I threw the letter away and brought a guy from another school who my mother set me up with, who also did not have a J-name. I ended up dating that guy my senior year, although we never called it dating, but then when things started getting serious, I ran.

On senior day, I decided to write in Jack’s yearbook despite the fact we hadn’t talked in over a year. He wrote in mine and we exchanged numbers. One of us became bold enough to text the other and shortly after graduation we ended up hanging out together.

And then one night we ended up making out together on his parents’ living room floor. I was 18 and it was my first real kiss.

That same night he also confessed that some part of him still wasn’t over the girlfriend he’d had (not me alas) who’d treated him horribly. If he hadn’t said that, I might not have let the fact that he was going to college two states west get in the way of things. But he said it. And I hated her for what she did to him, and he still loved her.

So I pushed Jack away, at the one moment where I could have finally had him.

Jack gives way to Jon in college after a mess of a freshmen year (very few non-J named boys involved, although I did crush HARD on a guy named Jared). Jon discovers me while his sister who happens to be my older brother’s best friend in college is watching a funny video my brother and I made on vacation. He wanted to know who the girl in the video was.

The girl was me.

My brother and his sister made us friend each other on facebook, which is where we first started talking. Then we switched to texting. Then we met in person.

I liked him. I mean, I really, really liked him and that was something new for me. Our first date went well. We were pretty much together from then on. We talked ALL the time. We saw each other a lot. I helped him move into his dorm room.

He was the first and only guy I ever called my boyfriend.

He loved to talk about the future with me. About what we were going to do. He was 23 and graduating that fall. I was 19-almost 20 and just a sophomore. We’d spent the summer as long distance, so we didn’t think there would be any problem after he graduated.

I thought about losing my virginity to him. He was supposed to be the guy.

I trusted him with my soul. We told each other everything and even though we’d never said it, I was pretty sure we loved each other.

We were together for 3 months. I went over to his dorm one night after work. He’d taken me out to celebrate his friend’s birthday the night before. He’d kissed me goodnight. He’d kissed me in the hall at school that morning and I promised to come over later. When I arrived he was standoffish. I could tell something was bugging him, so being the kind and caring girlfriend I was, I asked him to talk to me.

Shoulder to shoulder, we sat on his tiny single bed. He couldn’t even look me in the fucking face. I stared at the wall as the words came pouring out of him. I still remember what I was wearing-a maroon tee, black sweats, and fuzzy clog slippers-because that matters for some reason.

He was scared of his upcoming graduation. He was scared of the future and he was stressed and he just couldn’t do a relationship right now. But we could still be friends. He wanted us to be friends.

And then after hitting me with that blow, he asked me to stay. I shook my head and got up.

“I have to go.” I didn’t even know how I got the words out because I was shattering inside. Jon stood with me, his hand still on the small of my back. Why the fuck was he doing that? What the hell was this even? We were FINE last night. We had a future last night.

I stood there, quivering because I was trying to hold the flood inside. I think he asked me to stay again. I denied him one more time.

“At least can I have a hug?”

What a mother-fucking bastard. But I couldn’t think that at the time. I just thought about how much I cared about him and how badly he was breaking me, so I turned to him and mechanically wrapped my arms around him.

I tried to leave with dignity. I let myself out. And when the door closed behind me I fled. I launched myself down three flights of stairs, sobbing by the time I reached the bottom. My phone was already to my ear as I called my best friend. She waited for me at my house and stayed up with me until almost 4 am.

I had a test the next day.

I still got an A. Take that asshole.

We didn’t stay friends. I tried, but agony ate me up every night before bed. I lost 15 pounds. I cried. I tried buying things to fill the void he left. I was numb for months.

Stupidly, at Christmas I tried to reconnect. He was long gone and graduated. We texted like we had in the early days and it almost felt like we were going to get back together.

Until one day he stopped.

And I broke one more time over Jon.

Then I purged. Deleted him from facebook. Deleted his phone number and pretended he didn’t exist.

I ran into his sister at my brother’s wedding a year ago. I found out he’s married with a kid now. I smiled and said that’s nice. She complemented my dress and gave me a hug.

I hope she told him how gorgeous I looked.

In the end I know we never would have worked. I think he broke up with me because he realized if he didn’t, I would end up breaking him. I never really was his. Eventually I would have flown away from him.

Junior year of college was one of the most fun. I spent plenty of nights out with my friends having the times of our lives. Jeff has a brief interlude here.

I made out with Jeff. I was dressed like a pink fairy at the Halloween dance, he was a gladiator. He was also victim #3 of the night according to my friends (I’m surprised I didn’t end up with mono). We danced and I pressed him up against the pillar in the converted cafeteria and shoved my tongue down his throat.

I felt wild.

I felt free.

And even though the alcohol had long worn off (dry dances, really?), I was completely intoxicated. Jeff was the only one of the 3 who knew my name that night. The next time we saw each other, we both pretended that it didn’t happen.

And then there was the repeat at the winter semi-formal.

Nothing ever came of it. Jeff was Jeff. There were no strings, because I wouldn’t let them exist.

My junior and senior year were both filled with a lot of meaningless kisses.

And Mark. But we won’t go there. Not this time. Not tonight.

He’s not a J anyway.

That spring is the first time Jack returned to my life.

It started out as a simple like on my artwork on Facebook. I’ve never deleted Jack, no matter how many times I’ve wanted to. I still won’t, but now that’s because I’m not petty.

Sometimes.

Jack liked my painting. We start talking again. Then, miraculously, we both wind up in the same city for a weekend.

We went to the Hunger Games.

We texted.

Then he went to Iraq.

That summer I meet Jack #2 at the club. Same name, different boy. I’m drunk as fuck and we’re all over each other. We think we might want to date. We spend the entire night entangled with each other.

I spurn the guy I dated my senior year of high school (why, oh why did I do that? God, hindsight is such a bitch) for Jack #2. That he’s also a Jack has nothing to do with it. He’s new and he’s fun. And even though I like my high school ex, he currently lives in a different state.

Story of my life really.

So it’s Jack #2 and I. We dance. We kiss. We dance some more. We exchange numbers and text when we’re finally sober.

We never date.

Just as quickly as it started, Jack #2 fizzles out.

Senior year is relegated to bar kisses and dirty dancing. Like a drug I just can’t quit, the original Jack comes back. I don’t know why. I think I just felt bad. Or maybe I thought since I was graduating college that this would actually be our time.

How sugary sweet would that have been? Me and Jack FINALLY together after almost 10 years?

Like before, we go to a movie. This time it’s the Great Gatsby. We drink before. We drink after. And as soon as it starts, I’m running away again for a reason I really don’t even remember.

I think I didn’t feel anything when we were together.

I thought it was finally over between us.

So I let go.

And for a while I did good.

Until I read a book almost 2 years later. A book about a couple like Jack and I who just never got the timing right. And it made me think that Jack and I were Cosmic Fate.

You know those chain emails you used to get about the old man and old lady, neither of whom ever made a move on the other and alas when one of them dies we finally find out that BOTH of them have loved each other their entire life? Yeah. I thought that could be Jack and me.

Except for we’d both actually tried and failed.

So one day out of the blue, I messaged him on facebook. He was in Afghanistan at the time, and he was there for almost the entire spring and summer. We talked a lot about TV shows, my boring life, and just stupid things. When I told my mom we were talking she leveled me with this one:

“And how many girls do you think he talks to while he’s in Afghanistan?”

Jack always responded to everything I ever sent him. Even when he was over there fighting a war. I can’t even fathom the things he witnessed, but I’d like to think my descriptions of mundane life helped him while he was there.

He texted me the me the moment he was stateside to let me know he was back.

I texted him back immediately.

We agreed to go out again, give it one more try.

But my work schedule didn’t cooperate.

And there was also this other guy named Eli.

The date never happened and I found out a month after that first text that he’d moved 2 states west of me via Facebook. He never even told me he was planning on moving there. Didn’t tell me that we had a deadline.

It was a gut punch that I quickly got over.

Fall of 2015, with no fanfare or catastrophic explosion of fireworks, I finally put Jack away forever. I stopped comparing everyone I met to him. I stopped thinking about him.

I stopped thinking of Cosmic Fate and that we were destined for each other.

Clearly we weren’t. This boy, now man, that had consumed me for ten years, left my life without a sound. Not even a whimper.

Summer 2016. The next J enters the picture. I’ll call him Jamie. Yeah, I’ve changed all their J names throughout this, you really think I was going to tell you their real names? I won’t even tell you mine. But I do promise you this: I’m not lying about them all starting with J.

So I meet Jamie. On tinder. Yeah. I swiped right, he swiped right, we started talking and we set up a date.

The day of our first date, he ends up bailing on me. I didn’t really give a shit, because it’s tinder and I’m really not expecting much from a dating app. But then Jamie drops this bomb on me: he just found out his friend died and he’d be in no shape to give me his best self at our date.

I roll with it, even though my friend says it’s bullshit. I’m a nice girl and I would never use that as an excuse to back out of something if it wasn’t real. I don’t think he’s lying either because tinder tells me we have mutual friends on facebook and I checked their pages. Several of them have made posts about the dead friend.

A day later the obituary is in the paper. Jamie wasn’t lying.

I give him space. A week later I strike up the conversation. We set up a date once again.

The first date goes really well, despite how damn nervous I am. I beat him there by ten minutes and ended up walking around the block and buying a pack of gum at the gas station. I end up being the late one as I’m still walking the block when he texts to tell me he’s arrived.

Everything goes smooth from there. We laugh. We talk. We mini-golf (which I try to forget I did with Jon on one of our first dates, bad juju you know). I even get to touch the giant deflated rubber ducky. At the end of the night, I think I might like him.

I want to give him a second date, which after my recent track record of awful first dates is definitely a surprise to me.

We part ways. I’ve barely been home for ten minutes when the texting starts. Apparently in this day in age texting incessantly daily is a must do in the dating world.

It’s also something I have a really hard time doing. I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m not in college. I work, and when I’m off, I want to enjoy my free time and not be attached to my phone 24\7.

I try to reason with myself. He’s just excited. He’s so nice. We have so much in common, but honestly, all the texting is starting to turn me off, especially when he sends one that says this, “You better make time for me.”

Was I being coy with him the night before while we texted? I don’t know. But that is what I woke up to. And I almost ended things right then.

I talked myself into giving him another chance. We met up for our date. I drank too much because I was trying to feel something, anything. He held my hand. I let him, but I didn’t lace my fingers with his. While his wrapped around mine, I kept mine flexed.

I laughed. I let him lead me around. I talked with him. And I thought for maybe a minute while we were talking that things could work. That I could be with him. We sat side by side on the beach. Eventually he laid down and started drawing pictures on my back.

I kept my eyes fixed on the water. I threw rock after rock, distracting myself- and him- from the moment that was inevitably coming. For hours I sat there and let it go on, even though I KNEW it was headed nowhere.

We really would have made great friends.

But that’s not why we were on tinder.

Eventually it got really dark and we decide we’d better call it a night. He walked me to my car, holding my hand once again.

I still kept my fingers flexed.

At my car, he asks if I want to go watch the sunset with him the next day (even though we pretty much did that already that day, although our backs were to it). I shift from foot to foot and mention something about the next day being my last day before I had to go back to work and I had a lot of things I needed to get done.

A lie probably, I find I’m really good at that when trying to get out of dates. It’s easier to pretend to be busy than to flat out say to their face that, no, I’m sorry, I don’t like you that way.

He was okay with my answer. Before I could open my mouth to say goodbye, he leans in and kisses me.

Much like my first kiss with Joel, this one is wet and sloppy. I stand there stunned for a moment afterwards. That was not supposed to happen. My brain cannot compute and my stomach begins it’s override.

I haven’t eaten in over ten hours and as we say our goodbyes, all I can think about is how much I want a burrito and thank God there’s a burrito joint on the way home from there.

The goodbyes finished, I got in my car and drove off. Pretty sure I squealed the tires too. I just wanted my burrito. After buying it and shoving my face at 11 pm, I ignored his texts and went to bed.

I wanted to continue to ignore him, but my friend pointed out that I owed him an explanation and that he didn’t deserve being ghosted (I’m a fucking pro at this). So I got up the nerve and I texted him.

I broke things off in two sentences.

I apologized in one more text after he replied.

And thus ends my parade of J’s. At least until the next one.

 

xNightingale.