Former

The velcro strap of my bag comes undone and before I know it, I’m balancing the bike below me one handed, trying not to crash into the cars parked on the side of the street. I manage to stop, and pull over in an empty spot to collect myself, when Former rides by in the opposite direction, on the phone with one of his friends.

“Is that Jess? It is Jess! Hold on, let me call you back!” He says into the receiver.

He pulls up next to me and awkward small talk ensues.

We’ve both been doing the same, both slightly surprised to run into one another. He asks where I’m off to and he tells me where he’s been. We agree to get a drink sometime the following week, though the energy between us says it’s not going to happen. A lack of correspondence from either side hours after we part ways confirms that.

Even still, I find myself wishing there was more traffic in the seemingly open lines of communication, not for sake of love lost between us, but because I occasionally find myself missing his general presence in my life. I miss how high and staccato his voice gets when he’s uncomfortable. I miss the happy buzz about him when he’s in his kitchen cooking. I miss the mirrored blind loyalty we both share for our own groups of people.

On the other hand, I don’t believe he fits into my life anymore and I think the feeling is mutual.

But I still hope he misses me, subtly, in the same way the trees miss their leaves after they’ve fallen, knowing future seasons will bring fuller branches. Quietly, in despite nature, when no one is paying attention. And if not, I hope when he catches himself thinking of me, time made his memory of me a good one.

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Ian at the Punk Show

Ian stares down at me from his tall frame, grabs my emptying beer, and shakes its contents. Not quite ready for another round.

“So I was thinking about you the other day, and I’m going to need your input.”

He goes on to discuss the song he’s writing about Lex; its overall creation and how he would talk about it to other people if he ever had to.

(As a creative type, you find yourself manufacturing alibis for your work, in the event you ever had to defend it in the court of law, or at a bar to some drunk asshole with sports cap with the sticker still proudly on it.)

I sink back into my bar stool, half listening to his defense of the piece, half admiring how boyish he gets when talking about his music. He’s nine and just found out his parents would let him watch a scary movie. It’s his first time fishing and he’s never been on a boat.

And then I think back to Lex, a young woman lost too soon who was apologetically herself in an artisanal sense. She left Ian and I with a lot of uncomfortable ideas about honor, an a myriad of misplaced one-liners. She also left us with each other-something I forget to be grateful for until I’m reminded of the evening we learned of her passing. October. His birthday. He picked me up in his green jeep after band rehearsal and we drove back to his place. A liter of vodka later I wake up next to him on his kitchen floor, having fallen asleep on his shoulder.  We’d give ourselves a week of this.

Rinse.

Lather.

Repeat.

We would not come to any conclusions in that time other than the logically deciding to quit the bottle for a while.

I bring myself back to center as Ian shakes my beer can one more time and opting to buy me my next one.

He closes our conversation and looks into the back of my eyes, hooking the darkest corners of my pupils with his. I’m reminded that intimacy can be as easy as sharing a mutual hell, or trusting someone with the softest sides of yourself you won’t even give daylight the luxury of seeing.

Tangents About People I May or May Not Know

You’re the memory of what chocolate tastes like and squawk of a crow at midnight in a New England October. You are the smell of the air right before it gets cool and everything promising about the changing of seasons. When I look back on our history, I am reminded that sometimes we get lucky in ways we didn’t ask for, but in ways we got anyway, like the universe somehow knew better than we did.

The window is broken, and as the interior of his Corsica gets drenched waiting in head to head traffic, he is reminded of the cliches his mother used to speak in.

Ian is the exact same person at 35, as I would have imagined him to be as a little boy.

In a southern state, she fakes another orgasm and then updates her Facebook status on how happy her boyfriend makes her.

She loves Ohio so much, making it sound like a place I’d like to spend a considerable amount of time in.

Asterisks: On Loving Someone With A Footnote

A couple of weeks ago, my Facebook time line was all up in arms about Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set A Watchman. Many of my friends and acquaintances posted scathing preliminary reviews, refusing to read the book claiming their childhoods have been ruined.

Why?

Because I’m sure as you have read already, the beloved Atticus Finch, emotional surrogate farther to many a adolescent reader, is learned to be racist.

It’s been well over a decade since I’ve read To Kill a Mocking Bird, and if I’m honest, Lee’s sequel is not yet on my must read list. I’ll spare you most of the preemptive literary analysis for sake of this post. Though if you’re in the Chicago area and have time, I’d gladly share my options with you over a pint. That being said even weeks after the news broke about the novel, one thing that circling in my head is how upset everyone got about it. The reason being is that a beloved character was discovered to have an unforgivable flaw.

Then it got me thinking. It’s easy to dismiss Atticus because he’s not real. As long as we don’t read Watchman, he technically can be the shining example of how a father should be. But what about someone in real life? How do we love love someone with an unforgivable flaw?

***

In a Boston suburb, my father is watching my niece play in the living room while he’s on the phone with me. I’m talking to him about work, the upcoming convention I’m attending, along with my recent pay raise.

“I’m really proud of you!” He says to me, a compliment which is typically only reserved for milestone achievements, like graduations.

I pause for a second, basking in the glory of the moment before he continues,

“Now if you could only get a boyfriend, you’d be all set!”

My father has always been a fan of women climbing corporate ladders and breaking glass ceilings. As a child, he would cut out articles in the newspaper about female doctors and politicians, telling me that if I worked really hard, I could be like them. He raised me to be strong, articulate, motivated, and fierce. I understand that I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without his guidance, for better and for worse.

But that all goes down the drain whenever my dating gets brought up life. He softens the blow by saying, “I just want you to be happy,” like “joy” and “coupling” are mutually exclusive. He’ll say that he raised me to be too independent, and because of that, I will never find a husband. Mind you, I spent most of my early-mid twenties almost embarrassingly boy crazy, so the fact that I’m devoting all my time and energy into something more lucrative should be a relief. But that’s neither here nor there, because let’s be honest, I’m not getting any younger, right?

So I just laugh it off-not wanting to give his thought the energy.

***

While I understand the misogyny-lite mentality that my father carries, pales in comparison to racism, I feel like the concept is overall the same. Here is this person who I love and respect, that possesses a belief that is outdated and hurtful. It affects our relationship in ways that he will never be able to understand because he can’t even fathom the notion that he could be wrong. As far as he considered, he’s looking out for his daughter. Maybe he doesn’t see how I can be happy single because he’s never been able to emulate that same behavior. Maybe he doesn’t understand that no one can to take care of me on the level he’d want-not him, not me, and not someone I haven’t met yet.

Regardless, I still love him, though it comes with an asterisk and a wince every time the topic comes up. When he meets my Chicago friends his next visit, I will prep them by saying that his view on women in relationships is kind of archaic, and to just smile and nod, like I have been for the past 5 years or so.

I think that we can still love Atticus for who he was in Mockingbird, because that’s the character we needed him to be when we came of age, as much as we will begrudgingly wince through Watchman.

And I think a lot can be said for that.