Eloquent, but not with you.
I could never tell you how
much you meant to me or
how much I love to see you.
With you, I’m distracted by
your eloquence and the way
you carry yourself like you
matter. And you do, and it
distracts me. I’ve never met
someone who matters like
you do. And I think it scares
me how little you know how
important you are. And you
and I listened.
I talked, too
but you only heard
what you wanted.
You heard me when
I was disinterested
and when I was upset,
but you didn’t hear
the love I had for you
and all the admiration
I once felt
And it’s still there
but you never wanted that,
I remember the night that I realized I was going to be okay. There’s been a few nights like that, but this one was special. I was driving. It was at some point during the lowest part of my adult life. I remember I was driving; I was nineteen, and I didn’t know where to go, but I needed to be distracted. I remember I was about a half hour from home and I came across a beach I used to go to with my ex who lived in that town. Not the ex that had broken up with me a few weeks prior. An ex from what felt like a lifetime ago.
I remember a song was playing. I was in my old car. It was a convertible, but I had the hood up. I usually did and it made sense that I did because it was February on Cape Cod. It was cold. I had the heat blasting and I felt warm.
I remember the song that was playing. I remember the lyrics resonating with me. I remember sitting at the beach after sunset, and I nearly cried. I didn’t know what the world was going to throw at me, I didn’t know all the mistakes that were to come in the following year that could’ve been avoided if I just didn’t date my ex that came next.
I didn’t know what would happen and if I would be happy again soon, but I knew I would be someday. I remember snow started to fall. I didn’t even know it was supposed to snow. And I remember I made a playlist of all song that reminded me of my ex who broke my heart more than anyone ever had, and I remember thinking I’d never be the same. And it’s true. I’m not who I was then, I’m better.
And I knew at the time that I was in a bad place, I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew I was. But I also knew I’d come out of it as I had time and again. I didn’t know when, but I knew I would.
I met a man once who talked like everyone was listening. He had straight brown hair and big brown eyes. And when he spoke, people listened. And I listened, too, but I didn’t want to. He looked at me one day like he was seeing me for the first time.
From then on, he talked to me like I was always listening. And I still didn’t want to, but how could you not? And I was young, only just eighteen. He was twenty and didn’t once think about his future. He would talk to me and I would listen.
He told me about how he got his license taken away and I ignored the red flag. He lived ten minutes away and I would pick him up in my old, beat-up Saturn. And one night specifically I remember we were out late after work, somewhere between 11 pm and 1 am. And we were at the convenience store down the street from his house and I still didn’t realize he was trouble when he went out of his way to go into a full-blown politics talk with a stranger who stood outside the convenience store the whole time we were there.
I remember overhearing the stranger say to him, “Who’s piece of shit ride is this?” and he said it was his friend’s car. I laughed at the time, but I remember thinking I wish we were more than that. And I can’t believe I ever wanted that.
This twenty-year-old actor who only wanted one thing and he got that from me, and he cared for a week or so, but then ghosted. And this eighteen-year-old unsure of their place in the world let him take whatever he wanted because it was summer and that’s what you do when you’re eighteen in the summer.
And at the time I remember I didn’t think he was taking advantage of me because I wanted it, too. But really, I just wanted to feel like I mattered.
I’ve had this goal since I was seven. Who can say that? I’ve wanted the same thing since I was in the second grade. And some days it feels like I’m barely any closer than I was back then. Of course, that’s not true. I’ve started and scrapped countless novels that just didn’t work or had some flaw or I got bored of. And every time I scrap a novel, I feel like I’m back in second grade again, the only book I finished being one I wrote about the boys in my class. It was three pages long and in the end they all turned into vampires. It seems that ever since then, I haven’t been able to finish anything but a poem. And half the time those don’t even feel finished.
But it’s fine, I tell myself. I’m only 22. There’s still time to write a full-length novel. I should cut myself some slack, writing a book is hard work. It takes years for most people to finish a book, and not to mention I’m still in school. And there was a point where I was going to give up writing altogether. Which now seems insane to me. When I’m writing is mostly the only time I ever feel like I’m truly accomplishing something, like I’m genuinely happy. And I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
Sometimes when I’m pouring my coffee, I like to imagine I’m a server at a small diner in the middle of nowhere. I’m getting that table of four their coffee first thing in the morning. They’ve clearly been up all night. Their rugged attire and laid-back attitudes had me assuming they’re musicians. No one around here had ever seen them before.
I brought them their coffee and asked if they were ready to order. The one wearing a leather jacket and smelled strongly of cigarettes turned to me with a flirtatious smile, I made another assumption that he was their lead singer.
“We’re ready.” He said kindly. I couldn’t make out his accent, but he definitely wasn’t from around here. It sounded southern. But this was upstate Maine, three hours from the nearest city.
I took their orders and their accents became more prominent. It was southern, no doubt. Maybe Kentucky or maybe Texas. I asked where they were from.
“I thought you’d never ask.” The charismatic lead singer said with a grin much too big. I didn’t trust him. He reminded me of my ex who would go on vacations with his friends and come back with more notches on his bedpost. I know it was unfair of me to assume this of him, but when you’ve been burnt like I have, it’s hard not to.
It was early. We had just opened. The rush hadn’t yet begun. Around here, the rush doesn’t start until 8. The table of four were the only ones in here besides a few older folks at the bar.
I watched the table of musicians talk among themselves. The radio being right next to me, I couldn’t make out what they were saying. All I could hear was melodies and an off-tune voice. I realized I never knew if they were musicians. I just assumed. I always assume. It’s how I stay safe.
This is just a little fictional piece I thought of this morning while making coffee, based on my bad habit of assuming things of people before I get to know them.
I had gone bitter, I realized, lying on my floor at 7 pm. Lights off, music playing, thoughts ruminating like a bad storm. I tend to relate my feelings to the weather, and the weather affects my mood. We have that kind of relationship. And today it was windy, cold, and dark. I felt it deep inside my chest.
I spent a long time forcing myself to fall in love with boys who weren’t worth it while hating myself. Under the impression that having someone else love me equated to me loving myself. If he could do it, I wouldn’t have to. Maybe if someone else loved me, I could understand what there was to love about myself. But that’s not how it works.
And I spent so much time in half-assed relationships with people who only wanted to hurt me, and I don’t blame them. I should. And I did for a while. But I realized they hated themselves just as much as I hated myself, and I understood why they stayed for so long.
And I sit here, laying on the floor in my darkened room, and I realize I’ve gone bitter. I’ve always kind of been bitter, but I got just bad enough sleep this week to acknowledge my bitterness. And the music, its own agenda about breakups, have me thinking back on my exes and all the damage they did.
And I don’t blame anyone for my bitterness. I don’t even blame myself. I know it’s just today. It’s just the weather and it’s just my lack of sleep. But there’s moments when I’m not so sure.