Dear Mr. II
Part Two: Polyester Suits and Rattlesnake Skin Boots
I heard you on the radio, when I was on holiday, visiting one of the several towns I grew up in. I was in the car with my parents, we were driving back from downtown, back into the suburbs. The sun was setting.
Sixteen years old, sweetly fucked-up, and impressionable, I needed an escape. Your baritone voice was a comfort to float off on while my parents talked about “charming homes”.
When we got back home from vacation, I friended your band on MySpace. I don’t remember if I sent you a message or not, but within days, I got a message from you, asking where I’d heard your music, because I lived so far away. You seemed nice.
Your band was basically a bar band, and not a remarkable one, either. You had a few decent songs, and the rest was specifically designed for an audience that was a few whiskies deep and jammed into a bar in the Gaslamp District. Your song titles were all play-on-word jokes about booze and drugs and women.
I thought you were wonderful.
Your deep bass voice, Brian Fantana fashion sense, and lusciously overgrown sideburns were right up my alley. Someone should have warned me that this was a terrible idea. Maybe you did. Maybe I warned you. Whatever the story, I kept it a secret, only telling a few very close friends about our invisible relationship.
I doubt you ever told anyone.
I’m not sure what the fuck you thought you were doing talking to a sixteen-year-old, but those were some of the best conversations I’d ever had. You started calling me Mini, and I started wishing I’d never moved away. We loved Wes Anderson (so contrived), we imagined a world where we lived in the Black Forest together, we loved drawing sexual innuendos out ad nauseum. Because, of course, we couldn’t ever explicitly say anything. We were Margot and Richie, siblings emerging from decades apart.
Even at that young age, I knew you weren’t going to be good for me, too old and uncommitted to possibly be trusted, and that whatever was going on was too weird to last.
Zsa-zsa, Lolita. Keep walking.
Time passed, and we kept talking.
It became a daily conversation. I was surprised at how much time you actually spent talking to me. We lived in our own world in those messages, we had our own language and it sat well with me.
However, I still wasn’t sold on the fact that it was anything other than a complex diversion for you, even after we started making plans to meet. I’d had enough experiences with casual encounters to assume that this was just a drawn-out edition.
I was obsessed with misbehaving, and this was a level of mischief that I could keep all to myself. So it continued.
And, I was falling for you.
Then, I came back to town.
We were staying in a hotel outside of the city, so I made up a story about going to hang out with an old friend. I slipped out of the hotel, started walking towards his house, turned around a corner, and there you were.
You were leaning on your car, in a polyester suit and absurd snakeskin boots. I feel like you may have been wearing a bolo tie. I tried not to laugh, it was absolutely inconceivable to me that you went around like that on a regular basis. I guess you can take the boy out of Nashville…
You were tall. The sun was shining. It was glorious, and perfect. My doubts slipped away, even as I got into your car.
I was seventeen.
What the actual fuck was either of us thinking? You could have been a rapist or a murderer. My parents could have figured out what was going on. Anything could have gone wrong. But it didn’t.
Off we went. I couldn’t keep a big stupid grin from pasting itself across my face. I lived for trouble.
The feeling as we drove through town was genuine. We were ecstatic to see each other. After months of talking online, we were together in the Black Forest.
We drove past your favourite bar, but I was too young to go in. I had a brief fantasy of being twenty-one and going in there with you to eat steaks and drink beers. That never happened.
Did we see a movie? I can’t remember.
I started feeling nauseous when I realised how ridiculous we looked as we walked along the street. It was pretty clear you weren’t my dad, I wasn’t your sister. People of our particular age difference didn’t have casual friendships. I hadn’t thought of that. The feeling wouldn’t go away.
I don’t think we kissed. I think we just hugged for a long, long time, somewhere far away from people. There was Jaegermeister involved.
I hate Jaeger now.
I went home. We missed each other. We started talking on the phone, once in a while. I think I still have your phone number somewhere. My parents asked who I was calling in San Diego. I lied and said it was my old friend from school.
I started applying to universities.
This probably isn’t your fault, but I really should have gone to San Francisco, to a more practical school that cost less. But no, I went to Los Angeles, to an exorbitantly expensive university, just to be closer to you. I don’t know if I ever told you that.
That’s what happens when you’re eighteen and you think the older guy you’re seeing knows best, and would tell you if something was a bad idea. I guess in your book, we didn’t actually have a relationship. I just thought we did.
I literally made a life-changing decision in order to be closer to a man who was twice my age, who clearly had bigger priorities than figuring out how to fit me into his life. Who could blame him?
What an idiot I was. You should have told me.
You should have just told me to fuck off.
Somewhere in that time, we had finally broken the rules about directly addressing our situation. You told me you loved me. I loved you too. We wanted each other, with eyes like wild animals. Wary, unsure whether the situation would collapse beneath us just as we got comfortable. We circled each other, through messages and phone calls. We lived our lives separately, but I had your voice in my head, even as I fucked someone else, and I felt a sliding sense of regret. Time was slipping by.
I was excited to be only a few hours away from you. I felt confident when I talked to you, like someone worth knowing actually took me seriously, all the time. Very few people did. Very few people do, even now.
I finally got to university, and as soon as I could, I drove down in my car, savouring the California sun as the ocean rolled by.
When I finally got into town, you suggested that we go to a hotel.
I remember my face falling, but I tried to hide it. A hotel. A fear that had lodged itself in the back of my mind for the past two years finally started having some legs, too many legs, and crawling its way into the forefront of my narrative.
You were embarrassed about me. A person. Me. I was a liability. Regardless of whatever feelings you had, if they were even genuine, I had to be treated as a complication.
We went to the hotel. We had a time.
I went back to school, and felt pretty horrible.
Why didn’t you just take me home?
I couldn’t ask you that question. I already knew the answer, but it took me months and months to finally get around to admitting it to myself.
We met up a few times after that, and the veneer started to wear thin. I wasn’t impressing anyone by sneaking off with you, especially not myself. You weren’t willing or able to put anything into our time that might compromise your personal life.
I met someone else, and even after that came together, I still talked to you. I held out hope that you’d change your mind about me, that I was worth making an effort to incorporate into your existence. You’d ask me to come see you. I’d say no, stalling.
I remember two things about our last encounters.
At one point, we were sitting in Saugus diner, and I had ordered Jello salad for some (probably anxiety-influenced) reason. I still have a photo of me that you took. I’m sitting in front of that plate of Jello covered in whipped cream, smiling as if everything is fine. It wasn’t. I was trying very hard not to cry.
On another day, we were sitting on the beach. You were not-so-subtly trying to cop a feel, and I was doing a pretty bad job of pretending to stop you. I Pretty much sums up the whole thing, eh? Hah. I finally said, “I can’t see you anymore.”
In any case, I finally got around to asking you why you wouldn’t take me home with you. Your response? Exactly what I thought would come sliding out of a can of Progresso Cream of Bullshit.
“How would I explain you to my family?”
The king of the Black Forest.
I guess reality had to set in at some stage.
You were a dude who spent a lot of time making music, playing music, and hanging out in bars. Your friends wouldn’t get it, your family definitely wouldn’t get it, and your image would be damaged. It would never work out.
That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t completely lost when everything stopped. Just because I was the one who actually pulled the plug doesn’t mean that I was fine afterwards. I ended up playing babysitter to a chain-smoking, alcoholic manic depressive experimental guitar player who demanded that we live as far away from civilisation as possible. I missed you.
None of what happened left me feeling OK.
Every so often, I’d wonder what you were up to. I’d get close to sending you a message, even texting you to see if you were around to meet up one day. I’d never do it. I felt like I had been used. Like what happened was cold.
I left that relationship, I graduated, I ran out to the desert. I met someone. I left the country.
I cut off all my hair. I got tattoos. I look older. I am older. My eyes are tired. I’m getting married now. I live far away, across the sea. My life isn’t that exciting anymore, and I’m OK with that…most of the time.
From what I can tell, you’re up to the same shit, different day routine. I don’t know.
I’m sorry to be blunt, honest, and probably rude. I have to tell this story to you so I can move on with my life, once and for all.
I still have some questions, I guess.
Why didn’t you ever get married? Did you?
Why didn’t you ever tell me anything about your actual life?
Aren’t you afraid of being alone when you’re old and unattractive?
Do you just have casual relationships with all the women you flirt with?
Does it matter that I still give a shit about what happens to you?
I would have loved you forever, you know. Even after all the dancing around the fact that I was an embarrassing secret, I would still have been up for it. My heart still skips a beat whenever I remember your name.
But, I’m glad that’s not what happened, it probably would have been a waste of my talents.
I guess I’ll see you in the Black Forest when our time finally comes, and we can hash this out the way we were supposed to. With teeth and claws.