Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On Not Having Any New Year's Eve Plans for the First Time, Like, Ever


Last night, I couldn't sleep because I was so upset about not being able to find plans for New Year's Eve. I worked myself into a full-scale panic about it, like it was the worst thing in the world.

It's not, of course, but somehow, right then, it felt like it. I LOVE New Year's Eve, & I've always to come up with fun plans for it - sequins, champagne, dancing, laughter. This year, I bought a pretty new gold-&-black skirt & brainstormed ideas for plans with friends, but I couldn't get any of it to pan out. And the idea of ringing in a new year in my pajamas, 30 & alone & living in my mom's house, was just about the most depressing thing I could imagine.

Eventually, I fell asleep around 3am (thanks, Ativan), & when I woke up this morning, I was surprised to find that I felt much more zen about the whole thing.

Maybe I don't have to always be doing something, surrounding myself with other people to fend off my deep-seated Fear Of Missing Out. Maybe I don't need sequins & champagne & dancing on December 31st anymore - or maybe I do, but it would probably not be the end of the world to take a one-year hiatus just to take it easy. Maybe, for once, it wouldn't kill me to ring in New Year's Eve with Ryan Seacrest & a spiked hot chocolate & a pair of sweatpants.

It's been a long year. A hard year. A busy year. An indecisive year. A go, go, go year. It's been a long December, & there's reason to believe maybe this year will be (please, universe, please) a little bit more settled than the last. Might as well start now.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Great Holiday Card Mess of 2014: It's the Thought that Counts


I've always taken great joy in writing out holiday cards to, like, everyone I know. I make a list, I check it twice, I divide it up by who celebrates which holiday, & then I select pretty, denominationally appropriate boxes of cards, usually from Target. I commit two or three days to banging out the project, writing, sealing, & stamping for hours until all my cards are neatly stacked in piles next to me, ready to be sent to their respective recipients.

This year, though, I dropped the ball. I had good intentions, & I started out started strong, organizing my address book using Postable. I chose three kinds of cards - a Christmas card, a generic holiday card, a Hanukkah card - & I made separate lists of who should receive each of them.

But I didn't dedicate any block of time to getting the cards finished. I wrote a few in early December, sending about a third of them out with plenty of time to spare. And then, on December 22nd, right down to the wire, I finished another third. In some of my messages, I admitted that I knew the cards wouldn't arrive until after the holidays. Haha, oops, silly me! I got them out late, but I still got most of them out. Not all of them, but a lot of them. (My apologies to the 20 or so people who I just didn't get to. It wasn't personal or alphabetical; I just didn't make it through the list.)

I thought I'd done an OK job, but then a few things happened:
  • I realized that I'd addressed my friend Akirah's card to her & her husband with her maiden name, which she no longer uses. I sent her an embarrassed & apologetic Facebook message, to which she kindly responded, "It's the thought that counts!"
  • On Friday, I got a text from my friend Sammi that just said "So..." with a photo of the Christmas card I'd sent to her & her boyfriend. Though the envelope was addressed to them, the card inside was written out to... Akirah & her husband. Apparently, when I'd re-addressed Akirah's envelope using her married name (which I don't remember doing), I mixed up the two cards, putting them in the wrong envelopes & sending my friends mail meant for one another. Each friend was kind enough to photograph the sentiments I'd scrawled inside the cards they'd received so I could text them to their intended recipients. It's the thought that counts?
  • I figured that was the end of my card mix-ups, but today I got a text from my friend Rence: "I've never been so lucky to receive two Christmas cards from someone!" Indeed, I had sent him two separate but nearly identical cards - one in the first round & one in the second, apparently. He then added, "You were consistent in your thoughts," sending a photo of the cards' insides, where I'd written nearly the exact same messages. It's the thought that counts.
So I guess I, uh, didn't do quite as good a job at my holidays cards as I thought I did. This year's debacle is in keeping with how I've been feeling lately: like a mess. It's been a long December, y'all...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New Hobby: Being a Crotchety Grammarian on the Internet


I did something totally obnoxious this week. I am under no illusions that this wasn't an obnoxious thing to do, but I felt compelled to move forward with it anyway: I called a Dunkin Donuts - on the telephone - to tell them that they'd misspelled a word on the electronic sign outside their store. It read, "CROISSANT DONUT IS HERE! GET YOURS BEFORE THERE GONE."

Nooope.

I prefaced my call with a disclaimer - "I know this is a super-weird reason to call you..." - & then laughed nervously as I relayed my message. Luckily, the guy on the other end laughed, too, & thanked me profusely. "How embarrassing," he told me, "We'll change it today. Seriously, thank you."

This is within the spectrum of things I do these days, apparently. (P.S., thanks for that turn of phrase, Lena Dunham.)

In the last month, I've tweeted corporate misspellings to not one, not two, but three companies. While I never call out individuals on such errors (unless they're really hysterical, like runaway autocorrects), but I tend to think brands have a responsibility to do/be/look more professional than individuals. And as someone who helps manage a brand, I know I appreciate it when someone lets me know where I've made a mistake (even if I also want to crawl in a hole about it).

The new hobby of mine started -where else? - with Starbucks, who I hoped might give me a free drink as a thank-you for my eagle eye. No dice; I guess public humiliation is not the best way to endear myself to my favorite coffee shop. Still, they corrected their typo the next day:



My streak continued with this TV show that I'd never before seen but still felt compelled to correct. I know Ohio's got some strangely named towns (Wapakoneta, anyone? Tuscarawas?), but if you're a TV segment reporting on Ohio towns, please get your ish together. (They did not respond to me.)



And then I found this tricky little typo hidden on a nicely designed yogurt lid. To this company's credit, they did respond to thank me for letting them know, though I assume it takes awhile to correct a mistake like this.


And then I called Dunkin Donuts, because apparently I'm a militant, fighting the war against corporate typos every day of my life.

Now accepting freelance copy-writing opportunities & prestigious full-time copy-editing job offers... or your company can just make a very public mistake & I can very publicly call you out on it. Ball's in your court, corporate America.*


*This sentence makes me sound like a total jerk, & I am seriously just kidding about it. I just really like spelling, OK?!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shit Happens. Literally.

I'm not the kind of person who discusses or blogs about bodily functions, so bear with me. This is actually a story about my new car, I promise.

Look, I'm terrified of driving. As much as I hated relying on full buses & delayed Metro trains to take me where I needed to go, one of the best things about living in a city was not driving. I'm not very good at it, & I am very, very anxious about it (you're shocked, I know).

But you can't live in the suburbs of Ohio without a car. You just can't. For four weeks, I've lived like a 15-year-old, relying on my mother to drop me off everywhere & coordinating our schedules so I could borrow her car for a taste of independence every now & then. Cars are expensive, & car-shopping is terrifying, & I am not a fan of driving, but the suburbs don't care about any of that. I had to get a car, & soon.

After a frantic Facebook post about my plans to shop for a car on my own, my uncle offered to accompany me. He did all kinds of research, found a few cars he liked for me, & we went out for a few test drives on Monday night. I found a blue 2011 Mazda 6 I liked (zoom, zoom), & we made plans to go back & seal the deal on Thursday. I was excited to be able to get places without my mother's assistance, but I wasn't necessarily excited about having a car - mostly because I was (am) still terrified of everything that accompanies the having of a car.

I talked to my therapist about some of my nervousness surrounding the whole process - getting a loan, signing my life away, making huge payments every month, &, especially, trying my damndest not to die in a fiery car accident (which is my biggest fear). Last night, when the car was finally in my possession, I told her that I was afraid to drive it because it seemed likely that I would mess it up somehow - that I would quickly destroy this pretty, shiny, new thing that I just spent a startling amount of my money to obtain.

She told me a story of her own Mazda, purchased brand new a few years ago, which she immediately drove to a relative's house for a visit. When she came outside a few hours later, she discovered that someone had backed into her brand new car while it was parked in the street. It wasn't totaled, but she did need to get a new bumper - less than 24 hours after getting the car. The moral of the story, of course, is that shit happens, & that you can't always control it, no matter how hard you try. And that cars are just material things -  expensive material things, but material things nonetheless.

I was trying to remind myself of her guidance as I sat in my new car today, trying to psych myself up to drive it. I couldn't get it to warm up, couldn't figure out how to defrost my back window, etc. etc. etc. As I flipped through the user's manual, I remembered something I'd left inside, & I got out of the car to run back into the house. That's when I saw it.

Shit. Everywhere. Literal shit.

Turns out, I stepped in a pile snow-covered dog doo in our driveway, likely deposited by my neighbor's tiny canines. And it was everywhere. All over the ground, all over my favorite black boots - and all over my pretty new car. Just... a big pile of shit, smeared into the driver's-side floormat the way an infant uses fingerpaints.

I called my mom. I sobbed. I got some carpet cleaner, & I scrubbed. I looked into the cost of having a singular floormat professionally cleaned. And then I sucked it up, wiped away my runny mascara, cleaned off my shoe... & laughed. Because what else can you do? At least I didn't have to replace my bumper.

Shit happens, man. Sometimes I feel like it happens to me a lot more than it does to the general populace, but it sure does give me a lot of stories to tell. I mean, of course I covered my new car in dog crap within 12 hours of purchasing it. Of course I did.

So much for that new car smell.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Four Things I Don't Like About Starbucks in Ohio (a.k.a. The Whiniest Nothing-Post)

You've probably already figured this out, but, uh, I spend a lot of time in Starbucks.

Like, a lot of time.

Because I work from home - & because working from actual home is sometimes more conducive to cabin fever than it is to productivity - I often choose to work from Starbucks. Yes, it would be nice of me to choose someplace independent & locally owned, but I really like Starbucks. I like that the soy lattes taste exactly the same no matter where I go. I like that when I buy a dozen of them, I get the next one free. I like that Starbucks feels cozy, & that no matter what city I'm in, they mostly feel the same.

Except when they don't.

Disclaimer: I am very well aware that this post is complainy & first-world-problemy, & that none of the things I'm about to rant about are serious or important or even really worth saying. But sometimes it just feels good to get it all out, you know? And so, without further adieu, a laundry list of reasons I'm in a fight with Ohio Starbucks.
  1. They're far, far away: It's painful not to be within walking distance of a Starbucks. Even in New Jersey, I lived walkably close to my beloved grande soy lattes. Here in suburban Ohio, Mondays are a whole lot harsher without the comfort of caffeine. The closest Starbucks is a two-mile walk, which isn't too bad but also isn't quite feasible for a weekday walk in the 'burbs, especially when it's 15 degrees outside. (This isn't Starbucks's fault, obviously. This is just the suburbs' fault.)
  1. They make me hangry: In other cities, I'd become accustomed to eating lunch at Starbucks, staying for a few hours with a latte & then buying one of their protein boxes (crackers, cheese, almonds, dried cranberries, & apples) later in the day. The first time I went to "my" Ohio Starbucks, with an empty stomach & a full day ahead of me, I realized they only offer boxed, microwaved pastries - not even a damn tray of bananas! When I asked why, the manager told me that Akron isn't a big enough market to warrant real food. Now, if I want lunch, I have to pack it myself, sneak it in from the Panera across the street, or make do with a slightly wilted croissant.
  1. Ughhhh, the bathrooms: In D.C., a 2006 regulation designed to prevent discrimination against transgender people prohibited single-occupancy public restrooms from being labeled as gender specific - which is also pretty convenient at bars, coffee shops, & other places where the line for the women's restroom is always longer than the men's. Here in Ohio, which is notably less progressive than our nation's capital, Starbucks' single-occupany bathrooms are gendered. At least once a day I find myself waiting for the women's restroom despite the fact that the men's is empty & that there are only, like, four people in the whole damn place. Whyyyy?
  1. They're frickin' freezing: Most suburban Ohio Starbucks stores have drive-thru windows, which is great when you're on the go. I have no complaints about that... except when I'm not on the go. When you're camped out inside a Starbucks & it's below freezing outside, that constant open-&-close of the drive-thru window makes the entire place freezing. In fact, one of the stores near me is so frequently freezing that I've decided I can't sit inside anymore - at least until spring.
Ahhh, it feels better just to get these complaints out of my head & onto my computer screen.

I am a loyal member of the cult of Starbucks, & that's probably not going to change anytime soon, at least not as long as I work from home. But mannnn, Ohio, why you gotta make it all so annoying?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kaleidoscope of Loud Heartbeats Under Coats


I am sitting on a bench at a bus stop just off of Dupont Circle, the one in front of my favorite bookstore, & it's begun to rain a little bit. It's not enough to send me running for cover, but it's enough to make me hope the bus arrives quickly, especially in this cold. In front of me, a sedan with its windows down rolls to a stop at a red light; inside it, two burly men with Boston-sounding accents are waiting to drive north on Connecticut Avenue. "Look at all these poor fuckers waiting on the bus," the passenger cackles, & they both have a nasty laugh at our expense.

I want to tell them that their window is down & that their car's metal skeleton is not a barrier to sound. I want to tell them that given the choice between waiting on a mostly-reliable city bus & driving in the District, I'd choose the former every time. And I want to tell them that we are not "poor fuckers," just plain old people, like him, who are trying to get home at the end of a long work day, & that he is not better than we are because he has access to a private vehicle.

The bus arrives a few minutes later & we board slowly, shuffling on & swiping our Metro cards to the loud buzz of approval that says we've paid what we owe for the privilege of a ride home in the rain. The bus isn't as full as I'd expect it to be in inclement weather at rush hour, & I find a seat quickly, one of the sideways spots meant for elderly folks & people with disabilities. I'll get up if someone needs my seat, but for now, there are plenty available, & I'm not passing up an opportunity to rest.

I put my phone down & watch the people around me instead. 

The clean-cut twentysomething hipster across from me is on his laptop - a full laptop, not a phone or a tablet, balanced upon his lap on the goddamn city bus. In an argyle sweater & green Vans, he looks better suited to start-up culture in San Francisco or Austin than to D.C., too quirky for this place but with the same sort of work ethic.

The young woman next to him is playing the Kim Kardashian on her phone; I can see it reflected in the bus window behind her. She's wearing the same winter coat as me, but we look like low-budget versions of one of those "Who Wore It Better?" features in celebrity fashion magazines. I can't tell which of us wears it better, but I make a mental note of her patterned tights & shiny Oxfords. I like your style, girl with the matching jacket.

I turn my attention to a tired-looking middle-aged man with long, thick locs spilling out from under a pilled Redskins hat, standing even though there are seats still available. He's wearing a Safeway apron, & I wonder if he's just getting off of work or just heading to it. I hope he's on his way home, because he looks like he deserves a nap, but he's still smiling in the direction of every single person who shuffles past him to exit through the bus's back doors.

There's a guy next to him in the thick Patagonia jacket & L.L. Bean hiking pack who looks far too outdoorsy for D.C. What's in there, man, a campfire stove & an ax? I can't conceive of any city situation in which his get-up is needed, but I have fun trying. Maybe he's from Portland, & he just misses home. Maybe this is just his style. Maybe he's a tourist, & he's carrying all of his travel gear in there because he doesn't want to leave it to be stolen at his hostel. I find myself impressed by his grasp on public transportation in a foreign city.

Sitting next to him is an older woman who looks like she'd be better suited to the Middle Ages. She's wearing a brooch, the old-fashioned kind, pinned to the lapel of a woolen plaid blazer. It's an airplane or a hummingbird, maybe, something silver with wings. Her hair is pulled into a severe bun & over it, she's wearing headphones, the kind we all wore before earbuds in the advent of the Discman. The result is a look that is somehow both contradictory to her image & perfectly in line with it.

A petite blonde girl is wearing a Newsies cap over her pixie-cut blonde hair, a bouquet of flowers in hand, & I wonder who they're for. Is she headed to dinner at someone's house, & they're a hostess gift? Did she get into a fight with her girlfriend & pick these up on the way home to make amends? Maybe they're for herself, just meant to brighten her studio apartment on a cold, rainy weekend.

As I continue to take in the people around me, these characters in my city story, I press play on my iTunes & the synthesized starting notes of Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York" pipes through my headphones & into my brain. The song is meant for someone else's city, but I can tune that out, modify it for my own. It works here, too, this song about a city full of people trying to become the best version of themselves, living small lives but dreaming big dreams.

I love the way that cities brings you together with strangers, allows you these moments of closeness, of intimacy, with people you don't know & will never see again. A city full of real-life Sims, people with their own lives & details & goals & fears & everything, moving along in tandem, crossing paths for a minute & making an impact whether you realize it in the moment or not. We are never alone here, even when we feel most like we are, & it is that feeling - of being just one tiny moving part in a much larger whole - that helped me gain the perspective to feel just slightly less overwhelmed by the maddening magnitude of my own sadness.

Everybody here was someone else before, Taylor Swift sings into my ear, & it's true of me, too. This has always been my number-one city, from the time I set foot here in June of 2006. I knew I would come back, knew I would make it my own, knew that this would be the place that changed my life for the better.  I remember who I was then, when this place first took me in: broken but reassembling the pieces, desperate to shed an image & a mental state that I was ready to move beyond. This is where I became myself, & later, when I started to slip, it's where I found myself again. And I know now that even when I find a new one - like I've done before, like I'll do again - this will be the city that made me. This place changed me - once, twice, forever.

I'm ready to leave now, & I don't think I'll be coming back this time, but just like before, I will carry a piece of this city with me, quiet & tucked away, a perpetual reminder of just another one of the many ways that I became who I am.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch Except When You Live at Your Mom's House and/or in the Midwest


I saw a psychic of questionable legitimacy* in the fall of 2013, right before I moved back to Washington, D.C. from New Jersey. She told me a lot of things that turned out not to be true, but at the time, life in chaos, it was a conversation I found comforting. The one thing she said that I found particularly reassuring was that when it came to finances, I wasn't going to struggle as much as I feared I would. At the time, my then-boyfriend's military career had been paying for my life, & I had become fairly irresponsible with money. I was looking at a serious standard-of-living downgrade when I moved to the city & started paying $1430 a month to rent a singular room, & I was terrified I was going to end up destitute.

D.C. is expensive, to be sure, & the cost of living is one of the reasons I left after only a year - but I think calling myself "destitute" would be a biiiit of a stretch. For that, I am relieved.

Still, something I've noticed right off the bar about being on the East Coast versus being in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, is that when it comes to Midwestern living, my sense of expensiveness is severely skewed. To some extent, I already knew this. During past trips home, I was absolutely giddy to rediscover that I could get pleasantly tipsy on a mere $3. But as I readjust to real life here, I find myself constantly surprised by the cost of things - or the lack thereof, really.
  • I'm in a Facebook group for residents of my hometown, the absurdity of which I've written about in the past. Recently, a woman posted to the group saying that she was hoping to rent a three-bedroom house in town for no more than $650 a month. I had to re-hinge my jaw to my face after it slid to the floor in amazement. In D.C., you can't pay rent on a goddamn cardboard box for that price.
  • In that same group, a number of people have complained about the cost of hamburgers at BurgerFi, a new fast-casual burger joint that opened in town last weekend. Their customizable, grass-fed burgers are approximately $6. Every time I read one of these complaints, I want to type-scream, "Don't like it? Go to McDonald's, man, & let the rest of us have some nice things that aren't even that nice!"
  • My best friend & her husband were in town over Thanksgiving, & we met up at my favorite hometown restaurant. I ordered a size of mozzarella sticks & a cup of soup, like I have every time I've gone there since age 15, & then I ordered two cups of soup to go. My whole bill - for three meals - was $14, which is just a few bucks more than what I paid for lunch on a near-daily basis in Dupont Circle.
  • A new movie theater opened in town on Friday, & today I looked into a midday showing of Mockingjay. When I exclaimed to my mother, "A matinee is $6.75!" she responded, "That's crazy! That used to be the cost of a night-time movie!" Turns out, she felt $6.75 was expensive... whereas I felt it was basically free.
  • My mom was really, really excited the other day about gas being $2.54. In fairness, I have literally no idea how much gas normally costs because I haven't had a car in a year (& even when I had one, I rarely drove). Is $2.54 cheap? I think so? Cool? (I'm scared of the cost of having a car, which is a fear I need to face real soon.)
I am relearning what counts as expensive here - though to some extent, I hope I don't lose my sense of East Coast pricing, either, because I don't want to be one of those people who travels back to The Big City & gasps, "My God! I don't know how anyone manages to live here!"

Anyway, I'm saving money here, & it feels pretty good. A nice thing about living with my mom is sometimes she sometimes makes me food, which means I don't spend all of my hard-earned money on meals out. (Note: I still cannot cook & do not really try. When left to my own devices, I usually eat almonds, Craisins, & large chunks of Brie. Together. Like salad or trail mix.) This morning when I woke up, she had a plate warming on the stove for me: blueberry sausage with a sweet potato & apple hash, topped with real maple syrup. Remind me never to complain about living with her ever. (Hi, Mom.)

Moral of the story: Ohio is, like, free. I'm having a hard time readjusting to a lot of things here, but the cost of living is not one of them.



*REDUNDANT, I KNOW.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

We Always Could Count on Futures

I knew it was coming, but when it hit me today, it hit harder than I'd expected, still felt too crazy to be true: Today, Dave would've turned 30.

That means that 10 years ago today was the day that the love of my teenage life began to feel overwhelmed - by the idea of being in his twenties, of entering adulthood, of whatever came next. Of not being successful enough. Of not moving quickly enough. Of not being clear enough on what he wanted. Of life, literally. On this day 10 years ago, he turned 20 & then, somewhere in the two months & eight days that followed, he decided he would go no further. I know this because the letter he left behind named his 20th birthday as a turning point.

A decade ago today.

When someone you love hangs himself from the rafters in his garage on a cold February afternoon, his neck later covered by a high collar to shield funeral-goers from the unspeakable bruising that belied his final decision, well, it can be difficult to remember anything but the way he died. I have spent nearly 10 years now trying to become someone other than the crazy girl whose ex-boyfriend committed suicide, someone other than the crazy girl who lives with the nagging fear she might've had a hand in driving him to it. Some days, even now, I'm angry at him for it - for the way he screwed me up, for the way he left me here to deal with the absence of us for a fucking eternity. Some days, it's hard to remember who he was before he became the ghost of all our mistakes & mental illnesses past.

But I still remember.

I remember that I fell in love with him in SeƱora Olivera's Spanish class, starting the day he wore an "EMO IS AWESOME" shirt before anyone, least of all me, knew what emo was. I remember that we first talked during a fire drill & that our friends helped us nervously exchange numbers. I remember that the first night we spoke by phone, I sat in my mother's dark, dank basement for hours, for once not giving a damn about all the spiders that surely lived down there.

I remember that he insisted on calling me Kate even though everyone else called me Katy back then, because he said he'd always imagined it would be the name of his one great love. I remember that our first date was to the Oktoberfest downtown, winter hats pulled low over our ears as we sipped apple cider that steamed into the cold autumn air. I remember that our first kiss happened in the parking lot of a local park called the Gorge - in his junky teal car, set to Dave Matthews Band, like every good first kiss from the early aughts did.

I remember that he saved me from a lifetime of Dave Matthews Band & Matchbox Twenty & Counting Crows by introducing me to good music, which was the real love of his life. I remember that the day he gave me Jimmy Eat World's "Bleed American" CD, he hid it in his glove compartment & affixed to it a Post-It that read, "J.E.W. for my favorite Jew." I remember that one Valentine's Day, he rewrote Jonah Matranga's "A-L-L-Y-S-O-N" for me, even though K-A-T-E isn't quite enough syllables for its beat.

I remember that he did spot-on, hilarious, kind-of-mean impressions of people he didn't like, that he said one of my male friends resembled a baby hippopotamus & that I still think of it when I look at him now. I remember that his wardrobe consisted primarily of thrifted T-shirts that he thought were quirky & ironic, that he wore Chucks before anyone else we knew. I remember that I used to run my fingers over the smooth, silver hoop in his cartilage to straighten it out & as an excuse to touch him.

I remember that I once made a spaghetti dinner for him, the first time I'd ever cooked, & that I did a terrible job of it but that he thought it was romantic anyway. I remember that he took me to his senior homecoming even though I was a freshman in college, the first school & last school dance he ever attended. I remember the Fourth of July we spent kissing on a grassy hill under fireworks, laughing with embarrassment when an elderly couple passed us & commented on our characteristically teenage displays of affection.

I remember that he hated pizza & ate chicken fingers almost exclusively. I remember that my driving made him sick & that he put his seat down every time I was behind the wheel lest he throw up in my front seat. I remember that he had a terrible singing voice but that I could never bring myself to tell him because he wrote such beautiful music & loved it so damn much.

I remember the scavenger hunt he sent me on when I turned 18, the one that ended with a guitar lesson in the park. I remember that one Christmas, he bought me a Frank Sinatra CD & an American Eagle belt I'd wanted for months but couldn't afford. I remember the paper hearts he lined on the carpet of his home, winding a path from the front door to his bedroom, each of them bearing a handwritten note about why he loved me.

I remember that sometimes I would open my eyes as we kissed just to sneak a look at the face of the prettiest boy I had ever known, much less been so close to. I remember how hurt he was that I wasn't ready to take it further, but that he still respected the boundaries I set. I remember that he lit a room full of candles just so we could lie next to another on the futon in his attic, covered by the fleece galaxy-print blanket I made for him one Christmas.

I remember that he bought me a star for my birthday, a real star somewhere up in the night sky with my name officially attached to it. I remember the night that we drove out to the fairgrounds with his brother to watch a meteor shower from the hood of his car in pitch-black darkness. I remember that when he turned 18, I accompanied him & his best friend as they got matching tattoos, the same red star I'd later have inked upon my own skin in his memory.

I remember that we dreamed of living in New York City, him a teacher & me a journalist, renting a studio apartment on some busy street where the sounds of traffic lulled us to sleep. I remember the question he asked one April that haunts me even now - "What are you passionate about?" - that I couldn't answer then & maybe still can't today. I remember vaguely that the last conversation we had was via IM, disagreeing about the merits of the new Brandtson & Jimmy Eat World albums.

I remember other things, too, of course. I remember the arguments & the anger & the guilt & the grief. I remember all the ways we ended, & how they tore us apart every time. But I choose not to think about those things anymore, not now & maybe not ever again. Instead, I choose to remember who he was before all that happened, who he was when he was my first love & my first real experience with another human being's emotions & existence. He was the first person I was ever bound to, & now it seems I am bound to him in perpetuity, whether I like it or not.

I wonder if he would like me now, if I would like him now. I wonder if we would even know one another anymore, were he still alive. I wonder what he would be like, what kind of job he would hold, what kind of friends he would have. But I suppose it doesn't matter, does it? Somewhere, in another story, maybe, but not in this one.  

This is our story. I know that he changed me, both in life & in death. I know that I am better, stronger, alive because of him. He once wrote, "Regret, you'll find, at best is a waste of your time" - & I know that, despite all the pain, I regret nothing.

Happy birthday, my Dave. I promise that as long as I live, so will you.


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