September 13, 2011

Honesty and Something More

I practiced smiling at my reflection in the store window before I walked through the doors. It looked strained and felt tight and I worried that it would never feel natural again. The night temperature dropped below seasonable; I assumed I looked ridiculous in a winter jacket on a mid October evening. I walked in that evening and watched the floor numbers rise without caring enough about the tight smile and the unseasonable winter coat and the sense that this evening mattered. I dismissed and dismissed and dismissed.

I knew his face, his stature before the elevator doors opened. His eyes met mine on a warm June night during a rare break in the summer rain. On the outside beer garden deck where I drank a glass of wine ordered by a man who didn't have to ask while I sat with my best and my best and my best and still had it all together. Together but restless. Ready to run, ready to break free. Ready for something else, something more. Before the rain stole the summer, before I learned to turn on the faucet to muffle sobs each afternoon, before I felt the sting of failure and dark nights of lost. Before the tight smile, before the cold October night, his eyes found mine on a June night from across the deck. I turned away and smiled. And sank gently into the warm night air.

I spotted him from across the room when I stepped out of the elevator and he confirmed when he stood up. I dropped my napkin right before or right in the middle or right after introductions. He quickly swiped it up for me and handed it across the table as I took a deep breath and quickly tried to assess whether or not I cared and how tight my smile felt. I didn't have the heart for any of it; I dismissed and dismissed and dismissed.

The minutes and the tightness melted away. I thought of my reflection in the dark window before I walked in the doors. The silhouette and stretched smile. What's really there now, below and below and below? I couldn't answer, so I talked about everything else. Honest with him, but hardly with myself. As shelled as I felt, he put me at ease. Calm and safe, despite and in spite - an admirable feat for that season.

When we looked over my shoulder at the empty room and realized it was time to leave, we made a detour from the elevator on the way down, stopping on a floor straight from a horror movie. I thought about running. Faster and faster down the long hall until we landed in a heap of laughter and hiccups at the end. Instead, I smiled quietly and dismissed the thought, that act of freedom. But the smile stayed, as I drove out of the parking garage that night and slipped quietly into bed.

And I went about my week.

The second night I wanted pull his sweatshirt over my head, still zipped up, and walk down by the pier. I wanted to jump into the water without feeling its chill and dunk myself under and under and under until I could breath again. I wanted to crawl into his car and blast the heat until I fell asleep with my hand over his heart. Instead we went to the quaint place I suggested for drinks and sat at a tiny table and looked everywhere but at each other and sighed and both went home and said that this probably wasn't going to work. I said it out loud and crawled into bed believing in nothing more than black nail polish and the sound of the pouring rain, but he said it directly to me shortly after. And I said, yes, that is fine, and I thought yes, that is fine.

And I got to work breathing life into my own lungs. (It has taken years.)

My junior year of college, a boy called me out on my beliefs not aligning with my heart. At that point in time, no one had navigated my heart better than he and somewhere, somehow he found a key, a door, and a lock that matched. It knocked the wind out of me, the fact that he was right.

Alignment has never been my specialty. (It has been years.)

I have done the work. I have cried the tears and written the words and unearthed the buried parts and healed the cuts and spent the time and asked the hard questions and packed the bags and danced the steps and sang the lyrics and took deep breaths and spoke honestly and honored my values and let go and held on tightly.

I know now.

I believe in hard work. I believe in kindness. I believe in words. I believe in plans and savings accounts. Emergency money in the glove compartment and checking twice to make sure the iron is off. I believe in saying thank you sincerely. I believe in health insurance and car insurance and any kind of insurance, really. I believe in the practical, the rational.

I believe in sunsets over the Pacific ocean. I believe in coffee each morning and in saying goodnight before bed. I believe in holding hands with my friends and writing emails at midnight. Hooded sweatshirts and maple candy. Full moons and wishes on shooting stars. I believe in tears, tears from laughter and tears from sorrow. I believe in the magic of everyday.

How easy it is to believe in the practical, rational, everyday. How easy it is for me to be honest about these beliefs. Honest to you. Honest to me.

After those chilly October nights, our paths crossed again not so long ago. I was surprised, and I got goose-bumps and tongue-tied and I grabbed her hand. Two years later, on a Saturday night with friends turned family, I had an easy smile, a light heart, and a sharp memory. I know now, what is below, and below, and below. And I wished I could have suggested a walk to the pier and a promise not to dive into the water. He would have said no. And I would have said that’s fine. I believe in the rational as much as I believe in the magic of everyday.

I found myself face-to-face with him the other night. In the corner of a dark, abandoned warehouse where he sat on an old, broken chair and I perched on the edge of a torn blue sofa. I believed it too late and inconsequential, but I took a deep breath and emptied honesty into the hopeless space. I started from the beginning and told him everything. And then I told him something more. Without hope, I released, my eyes on his hands until the words stopped and I looked up. His eyes met mine. Full of everything I hadn’t known to hope for.

I woke up.

I woke up uncertain of where I was. Certain I had been floating on a cloud of nirvana and uncertain of anything else. What had been a dream and what had been true? The sky grey, before the sun broke through.

There is something more. I believe in something more. I believe in June nights, when I find myself  smiling to myself and sinking softly into the warm night. I have to start being honest about that, if not with anyone else, then at least with myself. I have to align my heart with my beliefs. I have to be honest that I was not surprised our paths crossed again a few weeks ago. Perhaps that’s rational, perhaps that’s something more. And maybe, I don’t have to decide which.

I believe in more than black nail polish and pouring rain. I believe in the rational, I believe in the magic of everyday, and I believe in something more.


  1. i totally love your writing. i just thought id share.
    i write too but not prose like this. more random crap poems. :>

    i will be coming back often. 

  2. Gahhh, why can't I write like this. 

    sometimes when I see a post this long, I'm too lazy (or maybe more too busy) to spend the time reading it, but I read yours (because I know from your past ones that they're good) and I soooo enjoyed it. 
    And each time I read a post that someone writes so well I can't help but envy them, I wish I could put my thoughts into words as beautifully as you just did!  :o) 
    also, I'm sending you that graffiti email right now :o)

  3. Thank you!! Um, and your poems are not random crap, which I can totally say confidently because I just hopped over to your blog (and totally intend on visiting regularly). =) 

  4. You are so sweet, thank you! Confession: I usually assume people won't read the long posts because they are way. too. long. So it makes me so, so happy when someone takes the time to read them. xo