He never kissed me.
I met him in a coffee shop, the year I moved back to California.They had hired me to be live music for Friday night, but no one wanted to be in this coffee shop when the brewery next door had just released a whole slew of new porters and stouts. He was walking toward the brewery, stopped when he noticed the music was live and walked inside. He stayed for my entire set.
He brought me home that night. I was enamored by his Bob Dylan musicality and his James Dean attitude. He played all sorts of instruments himself, and there were a few moments over the years of our friendship where we’d play and sing together and it would feel perfect, at least to me.
“Let’s go to the desert,” he said one day, as we lay awake on the floor of his apartment after an evening of dancing with and exploring one another’s bodies. “Let’s go to Mexico. Let’s go to Mexico today,” he said to me.
“Okay,” I said and I excused myself so I could head home and look for my passport. I showered and straightened my hair and put on makeup and re-did my lipstick three times until I got it just right. He asked me on a trip. Maybe I wasn’t just the girl he called in the late evenings, just a girl he kept around so that night wasn’t so lonely.
It started to rain. He called and said he didn’t want to ride his motorcycle in the rain, but how about we meet at the Yellow Deli and have lunch?
Hours pass. He called again and said the rain is pouring too hard, he doesn’t think he can even make it to the Deli but how about I come down there?
I said no.
That’s the way it was with him. He was endlessly disappointing and I was so caught up in what it might be like to be loved by him.
“Why don’t you ever kiss me?” I asked once, as we both lay naked in his bed.
“It’s too intimate,” he said, and he fell asleep, turned away from me.
I’m in my twenties and I’ve got an unlimited metrocard and that means that New York City is mine for the taking any time of the day for as many days as she’ll keep me here.
It’s 2am. I get on the subway. I try not to listen to music when in transport, but sometimes the loneliness swallows you when you’re surrounded by so many people who are so seemingly uninterested in who you are and what your story is so you put in the headphones and you turn on the sounds because it makes it feel like someone is talking to you. Someone is singing to you.
But when the noisy silence of the subway car is broken up by an announcement of, “Ladies, gents, we’ve got a show here,” I shut off my phone.
A little boy who can’t be more than 7 years old is dancing. It’s happened so fast; I didn’t even notice music getting turned on. His older brother (dad?) is bouncing along on the side and eventually joins in. Two brothers, looking at one another, smiling big smiles as if it doesn’t even matter that there is a subway car full of audience members.
Little boy takes off his cap and walks around the car. I reach into my purse and I give the duo a dollar. Part of me wonders why they are out so late, curious if they are using their talents to hustle the necessary cash to survive in this expensive city or if they are simply using their talents for the sake of using their talents.
I’m 5 years away from being in my thirties. I’ve got to get my life together. I can’t keep chasing crazy dreams. What if I became a mother projecting singer songwriter dreams onto my child? What if, at 2am, I was playing a guitar to my baby girl’s voice on a subway platform? I wonder how much I would hate myself should that be a necessary action rather than a purely joyful one.
The subway door opens. A final thought drifts through my mind:
At 25, I am young, but I’m not free--I am now shackled by tomorrow’s worries.
I don’t know the moment I realized it was true. I think it was a gradual understanding rather than a click of a switch: I was not a girl he wanted to dance with or plan the future with. I was not a girl he wanted to make happy with surprises or flowers or sweets or wine. Instead, I was a girl he dined with to bide away the lonely hours. I was a girl he kept tucked away in the shadows, in the places where I could not harm or even touch the things that were actually important to him.
Our first time was in a bustling city, where I could hear alcohol singing and shouting just outside our window. We were friends, splitting the hotel room, trying to save money. Later, I would blame that first encounter on the tequila I had consumed that evening. He would blame it on my painfully obvious loneliness.
A year into our relationship we were out with a group of his friends and I was cold. I asked to borrow his sweatshirt. He smiled, looked uncomfortable and, as politely as he could, said no.
“I’m sorry,” he said later.
“It’s okay. I’m okay,” I said, even though I wasn’t.
Years have passed since the end. As a reader, I sometimes look back on his particular chapter in the text of my life, trying to analyze it, searching for the themes that maybe I was supposed to pick up somewhere along the line that may have been blurry through all the hurt.
I sometimes wonder if there is something I could have done differently. I look for things to blame: I was young, he was fickle, our drunken beginning, our fragile friendship. But maybe there is nothing I could have done. Maybe those years were simply not the season for our successful relationship.
It is a shame that time has never been a friend of mine. I always run out of it or am impatient with it when it is excessive. In my adult life, it has dawned on me that perhaps I should have been more careful to befriend her--so much of love is simply right timing.