Press Play

I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve broken up with a song because of its association to certain people. It’s sad to leave these songs behind, but there are just tunes that completely take over your memories when they play, and you are instantly transported back to a specific instance and emotion you’d rather forget.

You know how sometimes you’re not sad but then you listen to a song and all of a sudden it depresses the hell out of you? Then there are your go-to songs when you’re in need of a good cry for whatever reason. Well, there are also times when sad people happen to happy songs. That’s when you are in a state of loneliness so deep that the song doesn’t cheer you up even a little bit, instead you bring it down with you. Bawling your eyes out through Owl City’s Fireflies won’t exactly make sense to others. Neither will silently weeping through the chorus of Orson’s No Tomorrow.

The truth is I’m better at moving on from people than I am from songs. People you can hide from your newsfeed, delete from your contacts list, and pretend never existed. Songs sneak up on you in a shuffled playlist when you thought you’ve deleted them forever. They play on the bus radio, they become movie soundtracks. When you go out to watch a gig, the band does a cover of them.

When people leave you, songs are your litmus test for moving on. You can tell yourself over and over again that you’re okay, but the only way to find out is if you’re brave enough to press play.

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Love and I Have Reached an Impasse

“I’m not emotionally unavailable. I’m emotionally unwilling.”

“You don’t have to justify everything all the time, you know? We’re not judging you. We just think that it would be better for you if you go out with someone and at least try to have fun.”

“RJ, You don’t get it. I don’t want to date. It’s not a rebellion against men or dating or marriage. I. Just. Don’t. Want. To. Just because I don’t want to fuck someone right now doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with me. Not everything is that simple.”

“But you shouldn’t make things too complicated, either.”

“Well, love and I have reached an impasse. So that’s that.”

The Story That Never Happened

Others drink themselves to oblivion, I watch Firefly reruns instead—which actually isn’t saying much because it has only thirteen episodes. So you can just imagine the state I’m in. Only three days into total emotional wreckage and already I feel a hundred years older, a thousand pounds heavier, and light years away from who I had been on Sunday.

Sunday. Huh. Hard to imagine that was only three days ago, when I was dancing clumsily to Singing in the Rain and telling myself, damn was Gene Kelly fine, but thinking—rather stupidly now that I look back to that moment—that you are fine, too. And I smiled. I actually smiled with that thought, as if your existence in my life could make up for the fact that I had been crushing on a guy who has been dead for decades. But that wasn’t entirely true, was it? Not Gene Kelly being dead for decades, obviously. But the part about your existence, especially the “in my life” part.

If I were to be totally honest (and let’s face it, what choice do I have?), you have never really been in my life, were you? All you were, at most, was someone between a close acquaintance and a creepy neighbor to whom you smile out of courtesy. Apparently, all we ever had was innocent flirting—that’s a perfect oxymoron if I ever heard one.

So why am I in such a slump now? I had been thinking about that since I started the fifth episode of Firefly (yet again) twenty minutes ago, and not even Simon and River getting lost in the woods could get me to focus on the show.

My best friend Jake nagged me about the whole flirting thing. He wanted me to “show some interest” but flirting may very well be second on the list of my greatest fears, the first of which is being buried alive, of course. It was easy for him to advise to flirt. Basically, we’re a walking cliché. He’s the hot one and I’m the smart one, according to people. We’re like Chandler and Joey, only I’m a girl and he’s not actually dumb like Joey. In the end, I bailed out from flirting and opted for actually conversing like a normal person.

“Exactly why are you feeling like shit? You had coffee together and sat across each other,” Jake said when he arrived at my house earlier and found me in a sorry state in front of the television.

“We talked,” I repeated. “That counts for something, and I liked him. He was really fun to talk to. I hate to admit it but I was comfortable with him.”

“Okay, talking is good… being comfortable, sure,” he said, as if trying to wrap his head around the entire foundation on which I’m basing my phase. “But that still doesn’t explain why you’re practically shitting yourself right now watching Firefly. You didn’t sleep together or anything. I mean, you didn’t even kiss.” I punched him on the arm right then.

“First of all, fuck you. Second of all, how is a meaningful conversation less intimate than casual sex?”

“What?”

“Never mind.”

Okay, I may have been exaggerating a bit about him not being dumb like Joey.

“Dude, it’s not exactly the end of the world because the boy you had—okay—a great conversation with isn’t talking to you anymore,” Jake said for the fortieth time today.

The thing is, it’s frustrating. You take away a relationship that has blossomed and developed over time and it’s perfectly acceptable for you to go ape shit about it. But you take away the hope of a relationship you want to blossom and develop over time, and people don’t understand how you’re so fucked up all the same.

I get it. Nothing official ever happened between us. All I’m holding on to are conversations. And conversations don’t make up a relationship. A relationship people want these days should be physical. But being the way I am and finding someone comfortable to talk to like you is as intimate as I could get without actually getting intimate, if you know what I mean.

When I told you about the books I used to read when I was a kid or what my lousy dormmates were like in college, I was letting you into my world little by little. Whenever I told you random adventures with friends and asked you about yours, that was me hoping we’d have stories in common, stories we’d tell our grandkids later. The questions I asked weren’t courtesy questions you ask people to whom you don’t have anything to say. They were borne out of genuine curiosity about you, about how you became this terrific person I had the pleasure of knowing. If those things don’t count, I don’t know what does.

But Jake is right. The world doesn’t end when the boy you like suddenly decides to stop talking to you. There wasn’t exactly a relationship from which you move on. We’re the story that never happened. And probably never will.

Today, I acknowledge defeat

A year ago, you didn’t merely come into my life. You joked and laughed your way into what I can only now call a too-normal existence. I was not ready, but it didn’t matter. There you were. I was instantly smitten. And so a year of internal struggles, denial, and an everyday dose of You’re-Stupid-and-Dense Talk from friends began.

I was winning in the beginning. Someone would throw the Destiny card at me and I would gladly lash back my People-have-a-choice defense. Another would cleverly point out that I have fallen, and she, victorious, for having predicted correctly. But I would rise up to the challenge and say that I have not, in fact, fallen. I was thinking clearly and had a lot of facts to back me up, namely: Time, Distance and Logic. I have not fallen, I would say. I am on top of things. I can see clearly from my point of view and I am nowhere near the bottom. It became a ruthless fight of who liked whom and why, at which point I stopped and reassessed the situation.

Somewhere along the way, it got more and more difficult to justify things on my end. I could feel things inside me shift. I could sense change. Logic began to betray me. I have never felt like this before. I have loved others, and others have claimed they loved me. But I have never had someone sincerely—in his own quiet, perceptive way—figure me out. Not point out obvious things such as, “hey, you write,” or “wow, you really like books. Salinger is great”.  I feel as if those observations take no effort at all. But you. You know things about me I didn’t know you even notice. And why would you, I ask myself more often than I would care to admit. Sometimes, it feels as if you know me more more than I know you. And that’s saying something. I thought I had secrets, but you are reticent extraordinaire. But let me tell you something. If actions speak louder than words, yours are deafening. Others could sing the sweetest songs, while you just stand there and smile—and you would still have my heart.

So, today is a momentous day. I am allowing myself to feel and to fall—for real—and still retain sanity at the same time. I should be clear that I am still not ready to take the long road ahead. I want nothing to do with commitment and that’s just the way it is. I’m not sure if I will be ready tomorrow or the day after that. Maybe I will never be ready again and today will always be all that we have. But that’s okay.

Today, I acknowledge defeat. I admit, I love you.

Thoughts

His

Look for the girl with the messy hair; it is that way only because she worries more about important things inside her head than outside it. She will engage you in conversations you never thought you will make. You will think nothing of her at first, but you will find yourself thinking about her more and more constantly.

She will get annoyed when you tell her she is beautiful because doesn’t believe in such shallow observations. You will disagree with her silently, resisting the urge to tell her that coming to the conclusion of how beautiful she is doesn’t come from merely looking at her, but from being entirely captivated by her presence.

Be careful about what you say about her, but not about your opinions on certain issues. She will appreciate someone who takes a stand about price hikes, climate change, and other global challenges. She will not, however, appreciate you making hasty judgment about these issues. Realize that she is somewhat difficult, but that this doesn’t bother you any more than knowing Santa doesn’t really exist.

Hers

Note that he is never bothered by the fact that you never remember to comb your hair; take this as a positive sign. He will try to figure you out—but not the version of you that most people think you really are. He will look at you with such tenderness, and you will feel that he really wants to get to know you. You will smile when he talks to you, and your heart will beat faster every time he mentions things you both find interesting.

Don’t try to tell him how cute he is, even if by “cute” you mean unaware by how interesting he really is. By now, he is used to girls wanting to marry him immediately after hearing him play his music. He will not care for it. He has more depth than people give him credit for. He doesn’t show it a lot, though, because people—mostly girls—don’t take the time to get to know him. They get one word out of him and they swoon, which he finds more annoying than flattering.

Understand that it is difficult for him to completely trust someone immediately, but that it doesn’t translate to not wanting to trust you. He will take his time and work with a quiet determination to make up his mind. Remind yourself not to worry that he doesn’t rush about these things because, at the end of it all, you appreciate him for it.