there's the trope of the letter written to a past self, filled with trite yet well-meaning urgings to not worry so much. to tell that one guy to fuck the fuck off right when you should have (though he kissed like an animal and your mind full of scarcity would not know there were to be plenty others later). to eat the goddam cake.
the hope is to make less (but more so different) mistakes, to waste less time. to make sense of experiences that maybe don't need connective threads and squeaky clean outcomes. it's a compulsion lately that i'm training myself to not be super interested in anymore. both this wishing of doing things differently and also wanting to scrub my past stories up real nice for supper.
while swing dancing about 7 years ago (yikes, STELLAR INTRO) i developed a friendship with an m.i.t. grad student named ivan. he was a regular sight on my cambridge wednesday nights. that time in my life is full of this one peppermint smell i could never place from one of the buildings on mass. ave, the chill from the fast bike ride cooling off my dance sweat, the classic pink soap in the m.i.t. student center, and talks with ivan.
when partner dancing, sometimes, it's ideal to not talk. either because the guy is an insatiable creep (but fuck, does he KNOW HOW TO DIP) or talking distracts the hot newbie's newfound confidence and the dance becomes a thing you can't wait to fake-excuse yourself from to the bathroom. but ivan and i had a really natural knack to keep dancing in rhythm and talk about things from storytelling to electrical engineering (like how do you get the electricity into things? lol?). he asked me a question i'll never forget, after i told him i've been writing and sharing that writing on the internet since i was 18, citing a knack for stumbling into bizarre situations as my compulsion to write and share my disbelief:
"do you think you seek those things out so you can write about them? like, do you live your life so you can then write?"
FUCK. WHY you gotta play me like that, ivan.
i lied. i said, of course not. HA!!!!
i was destined for this! these experiences found ME. there's something comforting about believing something was gifted to you only, and that was writing about the absolute garbage situations i would put myself into for the sake of an eventual good story. i dated awful (and often abusive) men for years. fled situations that might have behooved me to settle into. i lived my life by the rule of thirds, waiting on the third, final punchline to wrap it all up neatly, all corners tucked in.
i’ve been wanting to break up with this thinking for years. this rom-com stumble into the arms of stories not meant for me. on the one hand, i want the stories to continue so i get to retell them over and over again, a veritable rock polisher of experiences. my love of essay writing pits me against this constantly. i rely more on the actual experience rather than my own ability to build and connect. it’s laziness mixed with self-consciousness, that i can’t dream up anything unless i’m in the middle of the tornado. to be in trauma means to have an endless fount of stories. to cozy up in the arm of chaos means i’ll never worry about running out of ideas.
but yet, here i am so grateful for the ones i didn’t know i was falling into: the excellent date with the erotic audiobook narrator nursing a broken heart (thank you for the screenplay idea. i will give you 17%). the summertime rodeo romance i had with a sun-addled roofer boy in montana (you’re a character in a book draft. you get nothing). the abusive manipulative ex i held on way too long to (you got me to move to new york that first and second time, and subsequently forced me to flee to la, where i became a fully crystalized person. i gave you too much. you know this.)
while i love this space and the writing that fills it, i am not unaware of how i portray myself here either. in the past, i have gone on dates where, unbeknownst to me, the guy had formed his own idealized version of the me i write about on this blog. this girl is still me, i know, but she seems to lack the reality that real-me is. i am anxious, yet chill. i am independent but needy (i never not want to be touched, held, hugged). i have complaints and express them openly. i can’t save you from whatever boredom you’re experiencing. i fuckin fart, ya’ll.
one guy, a person i’ve known since high school, and i went on a date a few years ago and he expressed how disappointed he was that i wasn’t like the blog-me he expected, having read my blog over the years. i wasn’t peppy all the time. i had real world worries. i am sometimes passive and settle. my life can sometimes be really small. it was gross and disturbing to have been type-casted by a guy who would always be disappointed in real-me and it made me wonder if i had owed him anything other than what i truly am. i clearly didn’t, but it never left my mind how i write about myself. i write for my own entertainment, first off, but i also get a lot out of sharing. it strips away pretense when i can quickly launch into a story about my past without a hint of shame, because i don’t feel shame for what’s happened to me, or what i’ve allowed to happen because of a hope of a story or nice ending. it’s allowed me to connect to people i never would have. it comes naturally, it’s where my mind goes first, and i’m not going to police that need.
i had two stalkers in college who pretended to know me (“i’ve heard lots about you from xyz!”), but it was only from the experience of reading my blog that i shared via facebook. one even yelled at me over text when i kept ignoring him at a party, ignoring his invites to go for bike rides, and he even came to my goddamned HOUSE. JEFF, KINDLY GET BACK IN YOUR LANE.
i'm always glad when my monkey mind gets too tired to imagine a snappy outcome to these dumpster fire experiences and that's precisely where the intersection of the road and me converges.
without hope of a story to share, mostly because those memories are so hard to take out of their context and recreate in their entirety, the seams and boundaries of a story from the road gets blurry. the words go flat to anyone other than my car passenger. oftentimes, nothing really remarkable or monumental happens. only sometimes do i get moderately good ideas. i get to just settle.
i’m anonymous when i drive, almost gender-free. driving is what i think as traditionally masculine, and masculine activities have often been my favorite to master and, by proxy, love because of their difficulty. i grew up with macho men, so being dragged into masculine activities (the amount of times i was the only girl at baseball camp, i swear to goddess) was a form of emotional currency that i tried to rack up in pockets full of holes.
perhaps due to my lifelong love of enamelware, these experiences tend to happen as i drive west.
last spring, i drove cross-country with a dear internet friend i had probably spent maybe a collective total of 7 hours together prior to this, but her wonderful DMs and life updates came naturally. i detected our travel needs and tendencies (frugal, experience-based spending, only spending money on coffee + 2 meals/day [1 small, 1 extremely large and medium-fancy]) to be compatible enough to live out of my car for two weeks.
while driving, it didn’t take long for coincidences, people, and just the lull of the road to summon up all kinds of stories from our lives. many of mine became what i’d call of the “oh no it gets so much worse” vintage, because wow they did get SO much worse.
that time i did acid with my former airbnb host in san diego? and we made out in a club and then he rejected me mid-make-out for another girl? and then my current airbnb host was going through some sort of stoned trance and locked me out of my rented room? and her dogs ate my boots? yikes! please don’t tune in for more.
there was a day that i think to this day lizzy and i would say was the best of all. three days of driving later and completely spent on all kinds of talking, in austin, texas. we holed ourselves up at an outdoor cafe booth that provided all of our essentials (music, coffee, beer, breakfast tacos, lunch tacos) and we didn't speak to each other for most of the day, despite being so close as to be able to tap the other on the shoulder from around 10am to 4pm.
i think we'd share a missed glance at each other every few hours to check in, but largely never crossed eyes, usually because the other was taking a sun nap.
i have come to really adore people i can have what i now call "together-alone" time, where you can be nearby but don't feel the pressure or compulsion to do anything or say anything. it's rare and necessary in my core relationships, and strips away any pressure i put on myself to be the court jester i’ve forced myself into being. i am forever endeared to anyone who allows me to be boring and quiet and small and maybe a little sad for a bit.
that day in texas was a day of few wants left wanted. but then again, there was also travis from travis county.
we clocked him a few hours before he made contact, when we decided he was “too pretty to be interesting” (like johnny bravo in the flesh, but a little gawky and seemingly well-read in his gawkiness). he asked to join us after a bird tried to pee on me twice and i narrowly dodged it, but not without a large dramatic flailing show from me. queue two rounds of beers and laughing and asking each other’s answers to all our probing questions. as travis continued to charm us in his very specific way, it felt almost custom to our sort of mousy sensibilities; these two silent women not looking for anything, not prey to just any guy chatting us up.
he asked to borrow my tinted lip balm, which according to the transitive property of still-kind-of-being 13 years old, means we totally made out. he had a jaw so strong and defined i wanted to bite it.
he asked how he could make our last night in austin complete. we had been campaigning for brisket and line-dancing, but folded our cards for travis’ idea for the night, whether it involved him murdering us or not. he invited us over to his house so he could make us dinner, lizzy and i exchanging another glance. this time our eyes eyes all saying “are we getting ourselves into a threesome situation here?”
and that’s precisely where i have to stop telling that story. not because anything bad or absurd happened, not even because a threesome erupted (i don’t even think we even hugged him), but precisely because nothing bad or absurd did happen. it was just a nice evening of being made three different kinds of burgers by a strangely good man that just wanted to treat two strange, good women on their last night in austin. at around 1am, he turned to us both and calmly said “well, ladies. i think it’s time i drove you both back to your car.” and he whisked us off this cloud of an evening. we didn’t exchange numbers or addresses or social media handles (of course, travis wasn’t on the internet.) we decided to leave the night where it was, as just a really nice night. a night we spent the rest of the trip trying to retell to friends and hostel strangers but never could summon up the right words for.
and that’s sort of how i’d like to live from now on. knowing or forcing an outcome or narrative to my life’s previous events is the equivalent of a netflix movie synopsis written by a dummy intern at 4:57pm, where they went ahead and blurted out the obvious plotline that renders it formulaic: "...until Robert (Paul Rudd) comes into the bookstore, that is." please, no spoilers. please, no silver linings. sometimes shit just is. thank god it is.
while driving and traveling with lizzy, we’d often turn to each other with all these grins of knowing i imagine only true sisters share. we’d experience such strange things together and she’d quickly urge, “i can’t wait to see how you write about this,” to which i started to respond “it will probably take me at least a year to figure out how to do so!”
to have that same patience with myself from now on means having a lack of haste in running into stories with a starvation mentality. i’ve been writing (and living) from a place of lack, that was my baseline.
this blog has been my letter written backwards, i think. the unnatural leap towards these stories has been so fun, but stale. it’s the same white cheddar popcorn taste, dulling my tastebuds with salt and artifice. there are just so many more stories i’m just downright hornier about writing right now. people i can’t wait to dream up their backstory, without the limitation of things i’ve already seen and experienced. unfortunate situations i can side-step, knowing i can survive without a schtick. experiences that just are.