Holding On

I think the first time I realized I loved him – well, I shouldn’t use the word love, because I have believed, ever since I was little, that no one really understands what love is, and, being a clumsy, ditzy twenty-something, certainly have no claim to it.  So perhaps I should more precisely state that the first time I realized I felt something greater than mere friendship, and something quite disconcerting and uncomfortable at that, was at the Halloween party.

Not that I actually went to the party, of course.  My roommate is, to put it gently, a prude.  It’s not her fault, of course, it’s the way she was raised.  She can’t wear clothes that expose her collarbone, knees, or elbows, she can’t touch guys, and God forbid you leave her in a locked room with a guy.  I’m not sure what would happen but I’m pretty sure nothing good would come of it.

I feel bad whenever I leave her on Saturday night to go to a party, because a girl who refuses to wear a tank top will definitely not go to a party with everyone dressed in underwear and grinding on each other, so I had stayed home on this particular night to help her bake cookies, which we were distributing to people who had been drinking.

(Do chocolate chip cookies go well with beer?  I wouldn’t know.  My tastes tend more towards caffeinated soft drinks, which definitely do not go well with cookies.)

He appeared shortly after midnight, just as my roommate had exited the kitchen with a fresh batch of baked goodies.  It was one of those parties where everyone removes most or all of their clothes, so he was wearing exactly no shirt and one pair of briefs, and when he saw me, I swear he blushed.

(I’m not sure why he blushed.  I’ve seen quite a few naked or semi-naked people in my day, but for some reason seeing him, specifically, in a semi-naked state was like seeing him for the first time.)

His mouth formed an and he stumbled a little when he said, “Ollie.  I’m sorry, I’ll leave.”

“You don’t have to leave!  Eat a cookie!”  If I could have inserted an emoticon I would have.

“But I – I didn’t know you would be here.”  He paused.  “I’m sorry, that came out awkward.”

“You need a cookie.  Cookies solve everything,”

“Especially when you’ve been drinking, huh?”  He was meticulously selecting the smallest, most crunchy cookies.

“You have been drinking?”

“Only a little.  Three drinks tops.  Two here and one at the party, but the party drink was punch … it kind of tasted like they were trying to use up all their leftover liquor.  Like cough syrup.”  Cue woozy smile.  “God knows what chemicals were in that one.  Let’s go outside.”

“Luke, it’s 12:30 in the morning.”

“So what?  It’s hot in here, man.  That oven takes up this entire kitchen, I swear.”

That’s how I ended up in an elevator with Luke Wilkes early on a Sunday morning.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll say that I was thinking, maybe a little, about just how few clothes he was wearing, and the narrowness of his waist.  I was also thinking about how it would feel to slide my arms around that slender waist.  And really deep down in my mind, underneath all those decidedly non-Ollie thoughts, I was wondering why I hadn’t been thinking those thoughts all along.  Maybe I had been.  It was getting increasingly hard to remember.

There aren’t many stars in the middle of the night in the middle of a big city in the middle of October.  I kept looking up at the sky anyway out of a vague conviction that that was the right thing to do under such circumstances.  But really, in all the romantic outdoor nights I’d read about as a girl, there had always been stars in the sky.  Also, the man had always worn more clothes than just cotton briefs with a psychedelic pattern.  And the woman wasn’t covered in rapidly cooling sweat and cookie crumbs, hair gradually escaping her ponytail in sticky tendrils.

Luke wasn’t looking at the sky.  He was crunching his cookies and looking ahead at an angle of perhaps 25 degrees below the horizontal.  (I’m in physics, okay, don’t judge.)  Thinking about Luke and looking and angles got me to thinking about something else, and like an idiot, I asked it before my brain had even finished processing the thought.



“Are you wearing contacts?”


This was shocking.  Luke had notoriously bad vision; without his glasses he was nearly blind, and even his contacts went only so far.

“Why not?!

“You don’t need to see when you’re at a party, dumb butt.  Just go with the flow of the crowd.  Plus, I can still see shapes, colors, and gradients of light.”

“So your life is an abstract painting.”


We sat.

“It’s really weird, you know.  I feel like there’s a certain combination of tiredness and intoxication that makes the universe make sense.”  He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees.  I looked down at his bare back and again felt that strange urge to touch it, to feel the muscles and smooth skin and the small ridges of his backbone, and that’s when I noticed his skin was covered in goosebumps.

“Are you cold, Luke?”

“Hmm?  A little, I guess.  Mostly because I’m only wearing underwear and it’s October twenty-eighth.”

“Twenty-ninth, now.  Do you want to go inside?”

“And miss out on this?  Of course not.”  He looked up at me, his pale eyelashes feathery in the light of the streetlamps.

My heart was beating a little faster than usual for a reason I could not fathom.  Why is it that in these situations one’s heart always knows what is going on before one’s mind does?

“You’re right, you know.”  Shitbiscuits, do I have a problem with blurting out half-formed thoughts.  Blurting prematurely, as a character in my favorite sitcom would have said.

“About what?”  And when did he get so close to me?  Since when was he looking, not at me, but into me?

“Everything making sense,” I said.  “Sometimes I feel like I’m standing still and time is rushing away from me, into the past.  People’s faces get blurred.  Memories fade as soon as they happen.  And that’s when I remember that it won’t matter to the universe, not tomorrow and not in a million years, what I do or don’t do.  It’s a thought that’s terrifying and comforting at the same time.  And I wonder why I’m so afraid of doing so much.”

“I understand,” said Luke.  Then, “Do you have freckles?”

“Yes?”  He was close enough now that I could feel the coolness radiating from his skin.

“When did you get them?”

“I’ve always had them, you dork.  Ever since I can remember.  I don’t like them because they’re pale and weird looking and the biggest one is right under my left eye and is shaped like a teardrop.  I’m destined to go through life looking like a gang member.”  Shut up, Ollie, you’re babbling again.

“I think they’re charming,” he said, and touched my face, his right thumb resting right on my teardrop freckle and his head tilted, in the way that most people’s heads do right before they kiss, at a thirty-degree angle from the vertical.

I was expecting him to kiss me.  I really wanted him to kiss me, even though he had been drinking and was therefore off limits for any girl with morals, and even though he was in normal life just Luke Wilkes, my lab partner and next-door neighbor, and even though I could already see him sliding away from me as I closed my eyes.

But at the last second, just before our lips touched, he mumbled, “Sorry,” and kissed my cheek instead.

“Why are you sorry?” I said, my blush, which should have started in the kitchen, just arriving.

“I taste like alcohol and cookies,” he said, bowing his head so his face was hidden from me by a wall of white-blond hair.

I don’t know what possessed me to do it.  Maybe it was the late hour, or the sugar molecules I had been inhaling all evening, or just his presence that gave me courage, but I reached out and tilted his chin up, like the men in those romantic stories did, only I was tired of waiting.

“Luke Wilkes, you are my favorite person,” I said, and kissed him.

TMIM: What A Wonderful World Edition

Dear friends and people who have the capacity to become my friends,

This week.  Was.  Awesome.  (And cray.)

Let me start out backwards this time: I am currently sitting outside enjoying a fine Southern sunset.  The air is cool, the bugs are mostly dead, and everything smells of big old healthy oak trees.  We will be rehearsing outside all this week.  Not that I mind; quite the opposite, in fact.

Check it out, yo.  Courtesy of the Rice U VADA department.

Yesterday I traipsed blithely to Target and bought myself $30 worth of costume goodies, which might not seem like much but to a starving artist is a sad, sad amount.  

(And yes, I make art, and I’m hungry a lot, so I do in fact qualify as a starving artist.)

Anyway, it’ll all be worth it to go trick or treating fr the first time in many years.  The houses around campus are very wealthy and used to 20-somethings materializing at their door asking for candy, so it’ll all be good.  Plus, since my friends and I are all female, it doesn’t *exactly* carry the same creepy connotations that a bunch of college-aged dudes going trick-or-treating would.

And Saturday.  Oh, Saturday was the Night of Decadence, and I did caregiving at the party.  It was crazy, fun, and exhausting, and I’m definitely doing it again next year.  I would’ve taken pictures, but cameras were banned for everyone, for obvious reasons (don’t want those drunken naked girls getting exploited,)

All the weekdays were a haze of mountains of work and a lot of sleepless nights, and I don’t expect anything different this week, except for Halloween and Night of the Naked.  Wish me luck with the last full week of rehearsals!

Also, I think I’m going to buy a pizza after rehearsal is over.  Yes, I’m running out of money, but I’m starving and it’s worth it.

I would die for you.  And probably die because of you.

Automatic Writing Before Dinner (10/28/13)

The document says “continue where you left off” but I’m not sure if you really could; it’s a different day, a different you, really; some of your cells died overnight and were replaced, if you’re lucky, with new ones.  If you’re not lucky you get some sort of terrible disease like leukemia, a fulminant disease which killed people in days before chemo.  I’m not sure why people hate chemo so much.  Well, I do know.  I’ve seen what it does.  But to say it’s a trick, a scheme?  Probably not.  His blood looked like porridge.  I feel like that was part of a story I read when I was little.  Stirring blood into porridge to put a spell on the person who eats it.  Now-a-days all that would get you would be another illness.  Hepatitis, maybe.  My dad got hepatitis in college, from chicken, he says, but who knows?  My uncle recommended the best place for me to get beer.  Odd but true.  I don’t drink beer; it tastes of yeast.  Yeast and maybe sugar, the wrong kind of sugar, a different sugar than the glucose that hangs in bags, a different sugar than the sheen of sauce on my strawberries.  There are no strawberries in college, either.

“Late Valentine” – Dean Young

We weren’t exactly children again,
too many divorces, too many blood panels,
but your leaning into me was a sleeping bird.
Sure, there was no way to be careful enough,
even lightning can go wrong but when the smoke
blows off, we can admire the work the fire’s done
ironing out the wrinkles in favor of newer ones,
ashy furrows like the folds in the brain
that signal the switchbacks and reversals
of our thought and just as brief.  Your lips
were song, your hair everywhere.
Oh unknowable, fidgeting self, how little
bother you were then, no more
than a tangerine rind.  Oh unknowable
other, how I loved your smell.

“Well Thought Out Twinkles” – Silversun Pickups

I’m not sure why I like The Silversun Pickups so much. Must have something to do with their technical skill on the guitar (I am not, as you may have guessed, particularly proficient with musical terms.)

Anyway, whatever it is, it makes their music positively galactic, and even though I don’t usually like alt rock/metal, I’m a giant fan. Probably going to set aside a day over winter break to listen to their entire discography, as I do with things I like.

The Works of Zinaida Serebriakova

I can’t remember when I first saw a self-portrait of Zinaida Serebriakova, but I was immediately entranced.  Maybe it’s because I see a little bit of myself in her – the hair, the facial structure, the wicked expression in her eyes … or rather, I see the idealized version of myself, the “me” that is much more beautiful than the real “me” will ever be.  Regardless, the portraits are enchanting, and Serebriakova remains one of my favorite artists of the twentieth century.