The Ark (Chance, 1.9)

A/N

These are a couple entries from the weeks after I met Chance, when he started introducing me to his friends.

~*~

November 2009

Chance talks about Sean constantly — he was apparently the very first of Chance’s inner circle. he’s a very good guy, gentle, but what Chance calls “aggressive” — I think partly because he works out and is physically oriented and adventurous. I myself have found him to be quite warm, welcoming and conversational, as many of Chance’s friends are. he is also no joke in the looks department — thick, wavy light hair, nice build, elegant features. all in all, I could be pretty intimidated by him between his reputation and his dazzling appearance, but he has always put me quite at ease with his sincere and friendly overtures.

the others in Chance’s inner circle, as far as I know, are Morgan, Zeb and Demus. Morgan is a lovely young Skidmore sophomore with long brown hair who is endearing, mature and as warm as Sean — she only knows I’m a friend of Chance’s but she hugs me and says hi when we meet at school. Chance described her as one of the more attractive of the circle (she’s the only girl). she’s also the youngest.

the two of them were going to do an experiment one night and Morgan came storming out of Chance’s room, clad in a pair of his soft pants, her hair loose and her face a mask of frustration.

“I can’t do it,” she said. “I just can’t concentrate. I TOLD you I didn’t think we should do it tonight — it’s not a good idea.”

“at least she’s taking it seriously,” I said to Chance, who had been pushing hard for this project.

“listen, it’s really easy,” he said to Morgan. “just relax. try again.”

Morgan exhaled sharply. “I really don’t feel –”

Chance was now watching her sharply, which she did not seem to notice.

“maybe I should just DO it,” she said. “maybe I should just try. okay, I’ll try again –”

she whirled and headed back for Chance’s room.

one statement from Chance stopped her in her tracks. “we’re not doing it.”

Morgan spun around. “I thought we WERE doing it.”

“not anymore.”

in that moment, I saw child-Morgan, contrasting sharply with mature, inner-circle Morgan. she didn’t get that it was all about the attitude, the frame of mind. she was tired and getting petulant. I think I started to like her even more after that. I’m guessing it’s at least part of her appeal for the others.

“doesn’t matter they’ve known me longer,” said Chance to Morgan once, “they’d throw me to the wolves for you. any of them would do almost anything — no, anything for you. if it were a choice between saving you or me, they’d save you in a heartbeat.”

“she’s the more likely to require protection,” I suggested, inserting myself into the conversation. “your friends know you can take care of yourself.”

“true,” said Chance. “but I am also the more useful. no offense,” he added to Morgan.

he has told me that he would rather see Morgan a strong enemy of his than a weak ally. that perplexed me a little, because Chance is big on looking out for himself and would not lightly take the idea of a strong enemy, whoever it was. but he and Morgan have an unconventional and pretty intense relationship. they are like brother and sister, or even closer, frequently hurl themselves at each other for very, very long hugs and declarations of love, and have never slept together.

“everyone who meets us thinks we’re having sex,” Morgan declared from within one of these prolonged embraces. “I have never even kissed this man.”

“that’s what’s so great about us,” said Chance. after he and Morgan released each other and she wandered off, he murmured to me, “you, on the other hand, I will kiss.”

which did not exactly seem like a bonus, given the depth of what two people who weren’t physically involved could evidently share.

~*~

November 2009

Zeb, the second of Chance’s circle, is an edgy-seeming Skidmore senior whom I met on one of my first nights at Chance’s apartment. I liked him for his quiet, mild-mannered, receptive personality.

“so what’s your majoooor,” I asked when I met him, in the lilting and playfully sarcastic tones of a girl asking cliche questions. also a girl who is in danger of lapsing into silence as chatter continues all around her and who is therefore striking up inane conversation just to prove she can.

“English.”

“do you write?”

“yeah.”

“what do you write?”

he summarized one of his short stories, in which a guy assigned to protect another guy goes through hell to deliver him safely to an appointed location, at which point the goons running the show thank the bodyguard for his efforts and promptly shoot his charge in the head.

I was of course delighted with the idea. “what else do you write?”

“I lost all my files when my hard drive failed,” said Zeb. “I don’t have any of my writing left.”

“that’s… awful.” I recalled my and my writer friends’ despair over losing their work.

“not really,” said Zeb.

I was taken aback and quite intrigued. “why not?”

“I’m not attached to my writing,” said Zeb. “I’m not attached to anything.”

in the face of this unusual idea, I fell silent. also my conversational energy was draining. the group talked and laughed. the TV blared.

twenty minutes later I turned back to Zeb and said, “so if you’re not attached to the end result of your writing, it must be the process that interests you.”

“yes,” said Zeb emphatically. “and that is one of the main ideas of Daoism.”

there our conversation ended.

Demus, the last member of Chance’s circle (if I am not mistaken), I may or may not have met… it’s hard to keep straight the constant stream of people coming in and out of Chance’s apartment.

he speaks very highly of these valued friends to me, and I started wondering today how he speaks of me to them — if ever. he’s made enough references to exchanges about me to make me believe my name comes up every so often in their group. all I know is they like my thought processes and they think I’m pretty, which means next to nothing considering their plethora of intelligent, attractive female friends who in addition are confident, spunky and social.

like Debbie, for example. or Haley, or Marian, or… the list goes on and on. and on.

what’s funny is that Sean, Demus and Zeb all have Asian fetishes and Chance, who does not, is the one who’s… partners… with me.

“she’s more like me than the rest of you” was how Chance described me to Sean in the bookstore. “she’s a scholar.”

I wanted to laugh at the word scholar because I fret and daydream constantly while I’m reading and am more ambitious about the amount of material I can get through than anyone with my track record has any right to be.

Chance later let me know that his friends, harsh critics of people’s thought processes, liked mine. I must conclude that their judgment was based on that one comment I made to Zeb, because it was basically the only thing I said all night. there’s the upside to saying little — when people formulate opinions of you, you get a good idea of how these opinions are formed and therefore how these people think.

“I was watching you quite a lot that night,” Chance told me.

I blinked. I’d been watching him, too, and had never caught him watching me. then again, I did tend to retreat into a shell and look at nothing and nobody for long periods on end. I didn’t respond.

Chance lit a splif. “if you’re waiting for me to share my observations, I’m not –”

“I wasn’t.”

it hadn’t even occurred to me to ask.

Real magic (Chance, 1.8)

Chance and I started hanging out every few days. At first I think we must have been just talking about normal stuff — our families, our childhoods, people we knew, books we had read.

Then we started talking about other things.

I don’t remember how it started. I think maybe I brought up something Ali had said — about the energies we cannot see, that drive what happens in the world and swirl around people.

And Chance responded completely seriously. It was clear where he stood: There was magic in the world. All of that was real.

And not only that, but he had seen things. He had done things. He had been a part of things that were beyond the realm of understanding. And now he was a student of these mysterious forces, teaching himself how they worked, gaining a measure of control.

This was his life goal, he told me — to move back to his beloved Hawaii, and explore his own mind and his own energetic potential as a human being, and to become a master of these invisible forces.

Because all you had to do was read the news, or look around you, he said. People sleepwalked through their own lives, never even knowing their own potential, or what a vast, beautiful, terrifying place the world was — and as a result, the world was on a fast track to destroying itself.

And so it was his mission to evolve, to become a realized being, to overcome the mortal condition, and escape the destruction of the world. He had a group of friends he’d known since they were all young, and they were all in on it, too. They called their project The Ark.

I think that’s when it started to feel like a movie. The stuff Ali and I had talked about, the mind-bending ideas about the interconnectedness of the universe and the synchronicity at work in relationships, that all started to feel like a child’s game. This was real, this was dire, this was imminent. It wasn’t just about “vibeing” with someone — it was about saving the world.

At first I held back, maintained my air of skepticism, remained critical and detached as I leafed through Chance’s huge leather-bound, gold-embossed copy of Osho’s Book of Secrets and his other books on magic and psychology and the power of the mind, as I watched him mull over the candles and incense at Magic Moon, as I listened to him talk matter-of-factly about a human being’s untapped power.

But I could not deny that at a fundamental level, it all made sense. It all felt true. It was as if I had known it forever, but dismissed it as a dream.

I wrestled with this fight, with what I thought of as my common sense and my rational mind on one hand, and my gut instinct on the other.

“There’s a stigma on all this stuff,” I burst out one day.

“There most definitely is,” Chance said. “And that’s the way they want it.”

Magic and New Age-y stuff, energy and conspiracy theories, it wasn’t an accident that I thought of these things as ridiculous and out of the realm of possibility, Chance said — they had actually been branded this way, on purpose, so that people would not learn the truth, so that their potential would be stifled, buried, deadened under whirling circles of neurotic thought.

“Would you say it’s true, then,” I said on another afternoon, “that all human beings are… mentally ill?”

“Yes,” said Chance.

And the only chance to heal, as it soon became clear, was to do what at first glance seemed to be the opposite — to do something crazy.

And, through plunging down this crazy road, to finally start on the road to sanity.

~*~

November 2008

cosmic energies. karma, action reaction. our subconscious, acting… is it possible that this restlessness actually began so that something like this would have the opportunity to happen?

this restlessness did drive me to meet new people, try new things… open my mind, look for the most drastically different and promising, edgy thing I could do.

are we really on the brink of the next stage of evolution?

can it be true that humanity is in danger? that there is cause for serious alarm that everyone is overlooking? that there is really the potential for this kind of transformation, both on the individual and the humanity level?

everything just seems so dimmed down, muted, far away, in the light of these immediate, pressing concerns. this for once is what I feel in my bones to be a worthy mission. dangerous — more danger than I once thought I would accept. but so incredibly worthy.

is it crazy that I believe in the excitement, the value of this cause, the sheer worth of the potential results, more than anything anyone I know is currently pursuing? that I feel the heady and terrifying potential to exceed everyone I’ve ever known in all ways possible?

is this an indication of authenticity, truth — or lunacy?

I have to think. who can I talk to about this? what can I do? I have to calm down, clear my head. will this last?

and yet I can’t ask questions like this. I can’t doubt.

this is really scary. I can see why “magicians” need grounded lives.

can I keep from floating completely off the ground?

what if I go crazy?

I can’t think about things like this. I won’t. I need to believe… just start slow and believe. and don’t give all of myself away. how much of myself can I keep?

can I afford to trust him?

can I afford NOT to trust him?

for all my life it seems, I was looking for an endeavor that would lift me, set me apart, give me a purpose, something I fiercely believed in and utterly hoped in, something that drove me. a higher calling, a mission, a secret identity.

how is it that I get all of these things so suddenly dropped in my lap?

A different story (Chance, 1.7)

November 2008

my life can be summed up like this:

!!!

and

???

simultaneously.

he may be anywhere from 23 to 25. I put his age at 24. I can see some of the resemblance to his brothers. Luke is rather stout and has that distinct look of someone who spends a good amount of his time indoors being a nerd. Chandler is… well, Chandler. sculpted features and dazzling dark eyes. Chance is sort of a compromise.

at some point that night, he was lying with his head in my lap and I was staring at him and suddenly it hit me that he was gorgeous — sort of rugged and older looking with really intense dark eyes. at that moment he was the most beautiful thing in the world.

later on I came down and through normal eyes he was cute, just not spectacular the way he was when that one glance drew all the air out of my lungs. I can’t find him online (though it’s true I haven’t looked that hard) so I tried to recreate him from my memory, sketching him in my notebook in blue pen.

I will likely never see him again 😉 he has a very nice body it is true and I dig the bandana he wears. in addition he is very funny, witty, intelligent and profound, and his personality is the type I’m drawn to — as Ali explained it, he’s an alpha male, always the dominant one in his house and among his friends. he’s quick to get poker-facedly, monotoned-ly aggressive if he feels threatened

this very masculine personality also carries over to the way he treats women — courteous, chivalrous and considerate, but never in the pansy way of guys who make the error of being too sensitive and hesitant because they’re afraid to offend the girl or do something she doesn’t want. there’s definitely that aggressive, dominant aspect to the way Chance approaches females.

it’s nice to finally see some confidence in a guy who isn’t a total jerk.

***

Chance didn’t call that night.

He didn’t call the next night, either — or the next. It was like a rollercoaster — I was way up high, hovering, hovering, then starting to fall, and then I was plummeting. I kept my phone in my hand, waiting for it to buzz, checking the screen even if it didn’t. I couldn’t focus on my classes or the campus paper, of which I was now an editor.

I’d been had, I realized. As special as I thought the night had been, the ugly reality was that it was just a typical, sleazy one-night stand. Why had I expected anything else?

Then , Wednesday night — deadline night for the campus paper — I was in the newsroom, when my phone rang. On the caller ID was the name John.

John, as you may recall, was Chance’s roommate. My heart started going really fast. I picked up the phone.

“Hello?” My voice came out sounding high and inquisitive.

“Hi,” said Chance’s husky, quizzical voice.

“Hi,” I said as if I didn’t know who it was.

“It’s Chance,” he said.

“Okay,” I said.

“I was wondering… if you would like to come over tonight,” he said, playfully formal, enunciating clearly.

“Yes,” I said promptly.

So much for playing it cool.

He gave me directions back to his place, and after I was off deadline, I headed over. At his place, John greeted me warmly, without batting an eye although he had seen me emerge from Chance’s room a couple mornings ago. He and Chance were watching a movie.

I sat not on the couch, but on the floor — another small declaration, just like when I hadn’t taken my shoes off when I lay down for the massage. I wanted to assert to Chance and myself that I was making no assumptions, that I was perfectly content to be free and independent over here, while Chance was over there.

On the other hand I was also trying to impress Chance with how unconventional I was (sitting on the floor instead of a chair) so you decide how independent I actually was.

At first it was a little awkward, but soon we were talking comfortably. I learned that Chance worked at a pizza shop (I didn’t know how to take this — I’d never actually been friends with someone whose job had been at a restaurant rather than an office or a lab). I learned that he’d been in the Army, and that he had lived in Hawaii and loved it there more than anywhere else in the world. He learned a little bit about my classes and the books I liked to read. “You have a good head on your shoulders,” he told me.

Soon the warmth and the sparks were flowing back and forth between us, as they had been a few nights ago. At some point John went to bed, and Chance stood up too. “I would like to invite you to stay over,” he said, extending his hand, in the same playfully formal tone he’d had on the phone.

“I would like to accept,” I said, taking his hand.

In his room, he lay down on the left side of the bed, and I lay down on the right, not touching him. For a few minutes, neither of us moved and I was stricken with panic — that he wasn’t as interested as I’d thought, that this whole thing was just going to get really awkward.

Then Chance said in a light, teasing tone, “There’s a window of sixty seconds, if you want to kiss me.”

I rolled over and kissed him, and that was night two.

~*~

November 2008

coming back from Albany last week, I was falling apart — there was this massive energy pushing at my seams and I felt like I was going to fly apart in a million different directions.

the whole time on the bus, I had my arms wrapped around my stomach and was rocking back and forth to stay grounded and hold myself together. when the bus arrived in town, it was dark. I stepped off and the cold and the rain were jarring — they hit me like a sack of bricks and I found myself taking huge gulps of the icy air like a person almost suffocated, walking fast and crying with relief and frustration.

Ali was home and as soon as I came through the door she could see things were very wrong. she gave me a hug. I told her I thought something was happening cosmically; everything was being shaken up. I couldn’t kick that feeling of intense restlessness. I went out for a ride on my bike and it helped a little to calm me down, but not much.

it was just like the week before, when I was sitting through a four-hour shift in the writing center and ended up feeling physically ill from all the energy coursing through my body with nowhere to go.

it’s that feeling of endless potential and being trapped in a single moment while wanting to realize everything at once. it’s the opposite of the attacks that used to plague me before… when all I’d want to do was curl up in blankets and not do anything.

two days after that first reckless attack, I met Eben. a few days ago, about a week after the second attack on the bus, I met Andy. yesterday, I met Chance.

Eben is leaving (and I’m not his type), and Pete I haven’t gotten a complete read on yet.

now Chance is a different story.

Give me your hips (Chance, 1.6)

A/N

Returning to my Chance serious after two and a half months! I have re-ordered the posts to it goes more chronologically. Still a bit confusing to follow, sorry.

~*~

I wrote the last post when I was 20, which is why it ends with “fade to black.”

This is what happened:

We went into Chance’s room, which was pretty messy. There were clothes and mugs all over the floor and tapestries tacked crookedly over the windows. One thing I noticed right away was the number of books — stacks of them by the walls, a small overflowing bookcase by the door.

Chance had me lie on my stomach on his bed, which was a pallet on the floor. I did so, but left my shoes on, as a small declaration to myself that nothing was going to happen. He got on top of me with a knee on either side of my hips, and massaged my back. It was a little painful because his hands were so strong.

After a while, he suggested that I take off my shirt and bra so he could rub my bare back. “I won’t look,” he promised. I hesitated, then decided I felt OK — and I didn’t want to look lame for turning down something that was standard procedure in a massage. I stripped down from the waist up, then lay back down on my stomach.

Chance unscrewed a bottle and oiled down my back. He went up and down my whole body, even thoroughly massaging my butt — I remember feeling a bit embarrassed, and impressed by how clinical he was.

Which as it turned out, was not very. “Take off your pants,” he suggested next. I laughed a lot to cover my embarrassment. “Why?” I asked, stalling. “I can give your hips a much better massage,” Chance said. “But I like my pants,” I said. “Do you feel safe with me?” Chance asked. I considered. “Yes,” I said. “Then give me your hips,” he said seriously.

I wavered, was right on the edge of doing it — but finally I decided that was where I wanted to draw the line. “It’s OK,” I said. “You don’t have to do my hips.”

He didn’t seem offended, but was a little subdued after that. He kept massaging me, but eventually his hands got slower and slower, until finally he stopped.

I turned over to see what he was doing. The ceiling light was behind his head, blinding me. He was looking down at me with his brows knitted, this really intense look on his face. He got down and started kissing my breasts, then lowered himself down until his face was inches from mine.

I thought he was going to kiss me, but he didn’t — he just hovered there, his mouth right over mine, as if he was waiting for permission. Figuring we’d already rounded second base with the breast-kissing thing, I freely gave it: I leaned up and kissed him.

I remember he did this little thing like he was startled — he sort of froze and shuddered at the same time. We kissed for a while, and then he stripped down. He took off every single piece of clothing he was wearing without a pause or a hint of self-consciousness. I remember staring with amazement at his body. He was very fair, covered with copious amounts of very dark hair, and he was absolutely ripped — I could see the muscles standing out in his shoulders and chest and abdomen. (Holden was a pudgy; Alex was skinny).

He took off my shoes and I felt a sudden surge of panic: my lack of organization / girl credentials were about to be exposed, just like with Holden. “My socks don’t match,” I blurted. Then I added, “Sorry.”

Chance paused, one ankle in each hand. He looked at the black sock on my right foot and the white one on my left. “Huh,” he said, then pulled both socks off my feet, followed quickly by my jeans.

It gets a bit hazy after this. I’m pretty sure I gave him a blowjob — I’m not normally so take-charge-y, but he was kneeling there totally naked and extremely clean and soapy smelling. I didn’t have time to get anxious about whether I was doing it right, because after only a minute or two he pushed me onto my back and we had sex. He pulled out, reared back onto his knees, and came onto a pile of dirty laundry in the corner of his room (for some reason I laugh whenever I remember this).

At some point he must have turned out the light, and then the next morning I woke up with daylight shining through the tapestries hanging on the windows. I was super thirsty and no longer stoned. Chance was behind me. I didn’t know if he was asleep or not.

The question was soon answered as he put his arm around me from behind. He spooned me for a second, during which I felt him go from zero to sixty, and we had sex again in that position — which was cool as well as surprising (again, Holden didn’t recharge that quickly). “Sorry,” he said breathlessly when we were done. “You are just… really hot.”

We got dressed and crept out of his room, to find Eben and Samantha and Luke (Chance’s younger brother) awake and on their phones. The living room was right on the other side of the wall from Chance’s bedroom, and I was so flustered by the idea that they had heard us having sex that I said barely anything as Chance walked the three of us back toward campus.

It was mostly him and Eben walking ahead and talking, and me and Samantha following behind. The ease of last night was gone — I was a bundle of nerves, worrying about what I was supposed to do or say now that I’d had my first one-night stand practically two meters away from my two best friends.

As we got to the headquarters of the daily newspaper, where I had to stop in to go to my internship, Chance finally dropped back next to me. “I guess I should get your number,” he said.

Just like that, the anxiety vanished. I felt on top of the world as I gave him my number and he wrote it down. “I’ll call you,” he said (yes he actually said that), and then he and Eben and Samantha continued back to campus, and I went into the newspaper offices.

I was delirious with excitement. Sitting in the newsroom, I wrote a long message to Liz, who was in Japan. And I started a blog to record what to me seemed like Fate finally taking hold, sweeping me into a new destiny.

 

 

Points of light (Chance, 1.5)

A/N

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.

“what?”

he repeated it.

“what?”

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.

“oh, nothing…”

“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!”

“oh really?”

“NO.”

“whatever.”)

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.

-2009

Eben and Andy (Chance, 1.4)

Eben was one of the few black students at our college who didn’t hang out solely with the other black students, or really with other students, period. This may have been partly because he was a townie and lived with his mom.

Eben was well-read, well-spoken and frighteningly smart. He wore a leather jacket and a do-rag and could dance like no one’s business. His sole ambition was to enlist in the Army; in fact by the time I met him, which was through Samantha and Sam, he was planning to ship out in six weeks.

We decided to make the most of our time, drinking and dancing and having philosophical discussions all night, sleeping all crammed together in my bed. (We called this a “three-in-a-bed,” which I think Samantha picked up from her time in London.)

Every few days Eben Skyped with a beautiful blonde girl with whom he’d had a months-long fling before she moved back to Sweden. Oh, Elissa, Samantha and I would tease him when he kicked us out of my bedroom to take her calls, and then catch each other’s eye and pretend to stick our fingers down our throats. (We were both jealous of Elissa.)

It was through Elissa that Samantha and I received our first glimpse of who Eben really was.

Eben and Elissa had started seeing each other against the wishes of the parents for whom she worked as an au pair. Elissa was distraught about sneaking around and bearing the weight of the continued disapproval of her employers. Several times she told Eben she had to stop seeing him, but he said he still wanted to see her, and so they continued.

Finally the parents were threatening to forbid her from leaving the house and Elissa was crying all the time, which upset the little girl she was caring for. The parents ended up sending her home.

To me, the way Eben had reacted to Elissa’s dilemma was a bit… cold. He had known he was putting her in a difficult situation and compromising her job. And yet when she’d wanted to stop seeing him, he hadn’t backed off or tried to make things easier for her. He’d effectively said no, he didn’t want to accept her decision. He advocated only for himself, and she had gone along.

She could have stopped at any time, Eben pointed out. She still wanted to see me, too. Yes she WANTED to see you, but it was BETTER for her to leave you, I said. Then it was her responsibility to walk away, Eben said. And she tried to, I said, and you made it even more difficult for her. That’s her problem, Eben said, not mine.

And somehow it became a conversation about Holden, and whether it had been his fault or mine, that whole miserable year I’d spent trying to get away from him but always getting sucked back in, that awful summer when he’d persuaded me to have sex when we both knew it wasn’t good for me and I’d initially told him no.

Yeah that’s on you, Eben said. He was sticking up for him; you should have stuck up for you. If you wanted to walk away, you should have walked away. It’s on you.

I ended up feeling really annoyed with him and shitty about myself, with no way to explain why.

At the same time, I was becoming hyper-aware of him as a strong, smart, confident and good-looking male. It wasn’t the same as my obsession with Alex or my pining after Holden, but it was enough to make me spin my words to impress him, to pay attention to what I wore around him, to act braver and more nonchalant than I really felt.

It was probably also a factor that he was so blunt in his assessments of both me and Samantha. During casual conversation, it came up that he liked “curvy women” and thought Samantha was more attractive than me — he was a bit critical of my small size (and bust). This recalled Holden, and brought back a shadow of the insecurity I’d felt around him, which translated into a determination to prove myself worthy of him.

Toward the end of October, I remember lying in my bed with him on my left side and Samantha on my right, watching the movie Shortbus, which in case you haven’t seen it is about a woman who has never had an orgasm and discovers her sexuality. There’s a scene where she puts an egg vibrator in her underwear and gives the controller to her husband while they’re at a party, and a threesome scene with her and a couple (man and woman), and a scene on a park bench where she’s trying to teach herself how to masturbate.

During the whole movie, I was really aware of Eben pressing against my left side, and the way he smelled, which was very clean and masculine. At some point I started to test things, moving a little closer to him, hoping he’d put his arm around me, trying to detect whether or not he was aware of me too.

I think he was, but he was either not interested or not assertive enough (there’s actually a case to be made for the latter, as you will see coming up), and the movie ended with me frustrated (in more ways than one — at this point in my life I had gotten used to having sex every couple days if not every day, and now it had been two and a half months since the last time).

Andy

On Halloween, Eben showed up at my place and hogged the bathroom for nearly an hour — he emerged in a silk shirt, leather jacket, and do-rag. I was dressed as a slutty purple fairy,  wearing a discount costume from the local mall — Eben whistled when he saw me. “Very fae,” he said. Samantha was, in typical Samantha fashion, dressed as a hooker, in fishnets and a super tight, low-cut dress.

We went to the campus dance, and before long a dark-haired boy started dancing with me. We started talking, yelling over the music to be heard. He had a heavy Russian accent.

We’d been talking for about an hour by the time he turned to me with a sheepish grin and said, with no hint of an accent, “I’m not really Russian. I was just kidding.”

For some reason, whether it was the Captain Morgan’s we’d consumed in Samantha’s dorm before the dance, or the adrenaline of the dance, this completely floored me. I was flabbergasted. I kept telling him I’d totally believed the accent, he must be really good at accents. I couldn’t stop laughing.

We talked and danced till the campus center closed — by this time Eben and Samantha had backed off and were snickering and shooting me sly looks from across the dance floor — and then the boy asked me to come outside and we sat on the wall in the cold, talking some more. I learned he was a government major (like Holden!) and grew up right outside New York City (like Holden!) and played the drums. He kept asking my name but I wouldn’t tell him. I think he’d put my back up with his pretense at the Russian accent.

I did finally tell him my name as we were leaving, and he asked for my number, and I rejoined Eben and Samantha (who were lurking nearby). I endured quite a lot of teasing from Eben about the way I’d been dancing with Andy, which had apparently been more PG than G, and about how I’d been hanging off him.

The next day, Andy texted while the three of us were walking downtown, and we made plans to meet up that night. I was really nervous — I was pretty experienced at having a boyfriend, but not so much with courtship / first dates. The closest thing I could remember was the aquarium / Friendly’s with Alex nearly five years ago, and that night at the restaurant where Holden had corrected my use of a fork and a wineglass.

When Andy and I met up, I got a look at his phone and saw he put me in as “girl.” “GIRL?” I demanded. “You wouldn’t tell me your name!” he protested. “But I told you my name before I left,” I said. “Er,” he said, and I rounded on him: “WHAT’S MY NAME?” He couldn’t remember. I remember finding this hilarious, but also being slightly miffed.

We walked around campus till it was dark out and talked a lot. But mostly I remember feeling weirdly distant from him. I remember being a little bit cautious and uneasy because it seemed like we were talking past each other, like we were both putting on these social masks and I couldn’t get to the real him — and maybe he wasn’t even interested in getting to the real me. At some point I think I started to get mad. I wanted to grab him and say, Actually say something.

It was relief that I met up with Eben and Samantha later that night. As we analyzed the night, I found myself feeling better about it, like maybe this was normal and I could do it a second time and things would get better.

A couple nights later, Obama won the presidential election. I was doing a shift tutoring in the writing center at the time, and Andy texted me and told me to come outside. When I emerged from the library, a mob that was marching by, chanting, “YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!”

I found Andy and we grabbed onto each other — we were both out of our minds with excitement. Then I found Sam and Samantha, and promptly abandoned him — he and his friends were marching along behind us most of the way downtown.

So I thought maybe the third time I saw him would be the charm. But as it turned out, before we could even get to the third time, something else happened: Chance.

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.