First Crushes & Other Misunderstandings
The intro to my favorite song, which I first heard coming back from the beach after eating a handful of mushrooms with a boy who didn’t trust me except when it came to drugs. Now when I heard the intro I sometimes sing really loudly to it even though there are no words for almost two minutes. The da-da-duh-da-do-duh. When I hear it I see you instead, in slow motion. Blinking. And a creasing of the outer corners of your eyes, cracking wide open into a smile so big I could fall in. The notes soften, sunlight pouring through your hair, my head in your lap, your hand in my hair. I am sleepy and every time I open my eyes and my cheek has sweat to your leg I feel lucky to be in a hot car with you. I feel lucky. I hear those notes and I am sinking naked into a hot spring filled with luck. Every moment I spend here I get luckier. I get healthier. I glow from the inside out. A laugh that comes from some point far off, like watching a hole in one recorded but backwards. The laugh is where it started. That laugh is the root of it all.
I sang loudly in the car by myself. I lost my keys and I had to climb over my fence again last night. Yesterday was a disaster. How many disasters begin with watering the plants at 8 am after a night of light drinking? I am glad I have good friends. People in my life who I can trust. But not that scary trust that is dependent on how good you’ve been. How closely you’ve followed the rules, or, traps that have been laid out for you.
This fence is tall and there is nothing near it to step on and honestly I don’t have a lot of strength left in me. I was halfway up it when I realized I didn’t think I could make it and I could either let go and scrape my entire body down along it or I could wait until I slowly fell which might be worse but instead I was just like I guess I have to do this, and so I pulled my body up along this fence and forced my arms over pieces of wood that were not so welcoming and I got to the top and looked up at the clear sky and the stars and heard the sound of running water and took a deep breath and I thought you really are a dumb bitch aren’t you? I spent some time up there, part me trying to get something positive out of the experience and part trying to catch my breath because that was a lot of work and then mostly just that below me were rose bushes and darkness and, I’m sure, spiders. I was mostly afraid of the darkness and the rose bushes and so I sat there thinking about how I’m not really worried about spiders but that most people are and maybe I’m supposed to end up with someone who is just real afraid of them so I can swoop in and be the hero. So then I leaped to my death. Not true. Then I lowered myself down into a rosebush and felt my slow tread get slower because lots of little thorns were saying wait don’t go and tearing through my skin and I thought of summertime as a kid. All the business I used to think I was starting. All the friends I made on the blacktop and never saw again. How scrapes and bruises were something I always had but never remembered where I’d gotten them. How I was hot and sweaty all day until one moment I was just freezing and had all these bug bites from the dusks where my mind was busy buzzing with fantasies of future colonies and past lives and different versions of the sitcom I felt was unfolding around me. One where the neighbor boy was actually the mailman, one where tiny bears were traveling through Alaska with my family and you have to be careful because they want to see the view but if you sneeze you might blow them away and they’ll fall off the boat.
Upon the fence, I thought about how high on all the trees on every playground are skin cells from kids who stood up to bullies. And skin cells from the bullies, ‘cause bullies climb trees too. And kids who were hiding from their crush or who were angry with friends or playing hide and seek. How we have a timeline, of skin cells many feet up. How many trees did I scrape my own shins on? How am I twenty-four and still getting scabs and cuts every other day?
When I was seven I decided I was in love. It was fun to joke about. He brought beef jerky to the summer birthday day we had during the last week of second grade. It was the best birthday gift I’d ever gotten. When I was twelve years old I remember ending another school year without saying a god damn thing. Little girls and boys are so funny. I carried this crush with me for at least ten years. There were a couple of really messy years, lots of crying, lots of wondering why he didn’t love me back. It was a full-time job, it was all my interests. I was pitifully heartbroken all the time regardless of having never uttered a romantic word (or many words at all) to my apparent beloved. Love is funny. When was the first time you decided you were in love? When was the first time you now decide you were in love? I remember when I was a kid I had a version of the sitcom where all the time I was at the hospital I was just on a secret mission. My favorite fantasy was that I wasn’t sick. My favorite favorite fantasy was the real one, how when I was young I was oh so grateful I didn’t have cancer. My favorite favorite favorite fantasy is believing cancer was worse than what I had. My favorite favorite favorite favorite fantasy is that cancer is the worst thing you can have.
The guy and I never dated. I still think of that. How for so long I thought I was in love and I never once talked about it. Now I’m the girl to turn you around and tell you I am in love with you regardless of whether you want me to be. I am the girl that says “you looked happy here and I just wanted to ruin it.” I approach people. I make the first move. I am too brave for my own good. I buried a letter once with all of my secret crush information. Someone dug up that letter and knows about my decade-long crush. I hope they don’t tell him. I was so sad when we went back to dig it up five years later and it wasn’t there. I was pretty impressed with us for being closer than ever and remembering where we buried it. I always imagined time capsules as never getting dug up. Playgrounds as graveyards. Friendships buried just below the soil because when you’re young you don’t really understand how burying stuff works. And then they are abandoned there and nobody ever actually comes back for theirs. I am afraid if I got to mt. Shasta, ours might be gone too. I am afraid to find out that all of the new information I had to learn about Garrett will have been gone for many years and all of my imagining it beneath the lavender fields will have been false comfort. I will feel a ghost inside all of my memories and feel betrayed, confused. Hurt. Even the dirt in a lavender field smells like lavender. Even Garrett smelled live lavender.
Sometimes I look at someone else looking at my body and I wondered what there is to love about the fat deposits I at one point prayed for. I wonder what is wrong with them for finding me and my body beautiful. I remember waiting to break 100 pounds. I remember the concern in everyone’s faces like I wasn’t trying. It was all I did. All I did was eat. All I did was hate my body for not working properly. As a kid, always having a stomach ache. I don’t remember not having one. Now, I think, I always have a stomach ache. I always feel physically uncomfortable there, but I’m just used to it. Now I hate my body for the hunger that was instilled in me and the pain that comes with eating and how I used to eat for survival and now I’m just used to eating all the time.
Is it normal to be afraid to tell people the things you know they don’t want to know? Is it normal to decide for yourself that you won’t let love be the deciding factor?