But only just-
Hey Sarah, can you read this little thing?:
She’s got that older boyfriend and I bet he’s a genius. And if they knew just a little more about me they could explain the anger and the tunnel vision in clear, stoic academy, with words I have yet to freely use. They spot me from their cozy Cambridge window, sipping coffee-
“Awwwww, look at him walking up Mass Ave, in that button-down shirt that’s just a little too big.”
It was vague, and brief, like all the early stuff. It’s probably accurate to say it was more vague, and more brief.
With her, it was like his mission. He had to knock it out of the park. Wait for it. When you know, you just know. You can’t force it or rush it.
She was more than a person who occupied that space in his mind. That space was always taken. Before drugs, that space was the drug. A woman to fix him and save him. The night he met her, another woman occupied that space and she continued to occupy and be that drug long after. Because the night he met her, he was convinced he would never be with her. He dreamed of all kinds of women. Short, tall, blonde, brunette. Pretty. Medium smart, super smart. Cute, brash, strong, loud, quiet. But he’d never dreamed of anyone like her.
The night he met her, he also met her boyfriend. She was only 21. Her boyfriend on the other side of thirty. He was a little short, had curly hair, and was clever. Real good with words. No competition. Also, the guy had nice guitars and knew music. He explained that Tarantino’s musical taste was largely influenced by the Rhode Island surf-rock revival from the early nineties, a revival that he, the boyfriend, was present for. It was an influence that had expanded and had now permeated Somerville and Cambridge. In short, the guy knew everything that the kids were doing. And don’t be mistaken, the young man we’re talking about, merely four years younger, was just a kid.
The kid was alright though. The youngster he palled around with, with the guitar, played a little that night and the boyfriend uttered under his breath:
Kid’s got talent.
Damn right his friends had talent. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe he was just a fuck up. Maybe he couldn’t finish anything. Maybe he was never gonna get it together. But his friends had talent. He didn’t need to be told that. People always told him like he didn’t know.
Anyway, our over-grown boy left that night, blown away. She had to wake up early and give some speech at Simmons. In front of whom? What was it? What kind of undergrad gives a speech? She was something else man. He’d never met anything like her. They talked about Weezer in between art history. She could talk about anything. And she had heart. She burst into laughter at tiny little things with an energy and excitement he’d never seen. She’d come back down while analyzing a concept someone introduced with focus and intensity, because she really listened. It looked like a tennis ball was bouncing around in her head, causing subtle movements back and forth, and diagonally. Then she’d speak. And she always had something smart to say. Always.
No chance. No chance with a girl like that. He didn’t even let her occupy that space, not for one night. Instead it was a barista he worked with. Or the friend of a friend at a party. The less he knew the better, and more importantly the less the occupant knew of him, the better. The occupant couldn’t know that he was just a slacker. A fake. The occupant couldn’t know that he was all talk. And the occupant certainly couldn’t know about the anger he carried around.
He wasn’t recognizing patterns yet.
He saw her a year later. She came to a tiny little roof-top party in Beacon Hill. He played the bass while his buddy, the one with talent, played guitar. She came late, and missed it though. And thank God, because they were terrible. I mean, you could see the talent if you were looking real hard, but he was beginning to realize that most people weren’t looking too hard. He hadn’t even been playing the bass for a year and he screwed up a million times. She wouldn’t have been impressed.
She had a new tattoo or two. She’d just come back from Europe of course. She might as well have seen them play because she seemed wholly unimpressed at the tiny little party. Who was he kidding? It was at his girlfirend’s house. His girlfriend’s rooftop. He finally had a girlfriend again, by-the-way, and she wasn’t saving him or fixing him. Either way, no chance. Not with this girl.
He was feeling extra rebellious. He was playing the “punk bass” as he liked to say. He told his pals that he didn’t envision himself working at Starbucks much longer. What was he gonna do? He didn’t know. But he was done making frappa-fuckin-cinos.
He went to a party thrown by one of Sarah’s friends. All those cute Emerson girls. His buddy who played guitar wasn’t there yet. Where the fuck is Jason??? Jason made everything alright. If the girls noticed this near-thirty-year-old, it would be alright if Jason was there, charming the pants off all of them.
This is too hard, I’m switching to first-person.
Jason was in between the girls and me in age. And he wasn’t there. And without Jay Ray, I was just an old creeper.
I sat down on the floor. The girls were talking about Haiti. Sarah had organized the trip. Those who were back discussed their shell-shock. America, commercialism, consumerism. Nothing came easy in Haiti. They had trouble just driving to certain parts of “town.” They had no food. They never slept. I drew parallels to coming home from my mission, even though I’d only gone to Colorado. My uncle told me that I’d come back and it would be a different world. It was. But the world had changed a hundred times over since then. So I just kept my mouth shut.
I sat on the living room floor cross-legged, waiting for Jason, nervous as hell. And then she sat next to me. With her new tattoos and colorful skirt. Black glasses. She wasn’t all emo like she was at my ex-girlfriend’s rooftop party. She was interested. She asked me questions. I told her that my tenure at Starbucks was coming to a close. I could feel it. I told her a thing or two about writing pursuits but felt like a complete jack-ass. I was feeling my age. Feeling failure. I gave her the regular lines.
You know how there are those books like The God Delusion and stuff? There’s a lot of scientific writing about God and belief and all that lately. That’s not me. And The Church calls books against it Anti-Mormon. I don’t necessarily think that I’ll write Anti-Mormon, even if some people will call me that. Jason says I shouldn’t even say Mormon. I mean, that’s not my job. If you want to read those sorts of arguments, and books- they’re out there. I just want to tell my story, you know, tell the emotional side. I think. And the critics can do what they’d like with it.
I wasn’t going to impress. I was almost thirty. I couldn’t believe I gave her that bullcrap. I had nothing to show anyone. But she nodded her head and seemed interested. Where the hell was Jason? The girls loved Jason. They trusted him. I could just take my place behind him. People would accept that I was his pal and everything would be fine.
He eventually showed up with a couple of his childhood friends. San Antone. They had been at some other party of course. Back then, I was constantly meeting people, but Jason always knew about twice as many.
He told me that I should probably go for it. He really had to spell it out. He said that if I made any sort of move, that it would be accepted. Something like that. My heart started racing, like it does.