At the time, it seemed like love at first plight. I was behind the counter, explaining to a customer for the fourth time that day through a chiseled grin that a medium skinny vanilla latte in a large cup with extra steamed milk is, in fact, a large skinny vanilla latte. He was sitting in the lobby of the coffee shop I was working in reading some ostentatious, "la di da," something or another book. Being the 20 something try-hard intellectual that I can be, seeing someone actually reading a book is an instant turn on for me. Seeing someone read something like Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer could turn me into a drooling lap dog. Unfortunately, the timing was unbelievably wrong. We met shortly after his girlfriend had left him for her yoga instructor. Sure, maybe I should have seen the red flags, but I was diagnosed as colorblind in the fourth grade after a horrific Rainbow Road accident on Mario Cart.
It seemed as though we would always have those cherished nights, stumbling around Fremont St. under neon signs that glowed only for the sake of a lost nostalgia and illuminating our transgressions. As we walked through the casinos, we'd pass old women hooked up to respirators, still puffing away at cigarettes. We could hardly hear ourselves over the "clank, clank, clank" of coins against metal as we attempted to impress each other with our knowledge of Melville's Moby Dick (which I had, of course, read in secret at a record pace so that I would hold his attention that much longer). I truly thought these divine summer nights would never end until it did in September when autumn started.
From the casinos, we would quickly make our way to our favorite bars. If we made it to the last bar on our usual list, we knew we were in trouble. It was a cowboy themed biker bar, and we would have fun shouting over the dancing cowgirls who would scream into megaphones to mock the patrons, ask girls to dance on the bar, and then patronize the men if they didn't buy the ladies drinks. Needless to say, I danced on that bar…on more than one occasion. This was a superb setting in which to drink until sloppy enough to feign ignorance to the fact that we were about to make love.
There's really nothing quite like getting two self-deprecating, manic-depressive existentialists together in the same bed. It usually started like a race to the finish line and ended with one of us dribbling out some comment on how the climax is just as meaningless or meaningful as the foreplay. This helped to extinguish our post-coital drop in serotonin and prolactin levels, but kind of put a damper on the whole sex bit. Of course, whenever I did that with someone that wasn't in a similar state of mind, I typically woke up the next morning with an empty bed and a vague recollection of the person I had been with the night before darting out the door after tripping over my waist high pile of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton compendiums.
It took me so long to figure out what was going on, I missed two entire seasons of Lost as I twittered half of my time away with him, and the other half making excuses for why he always called me "Rachel" in the middle of sex. I would have occasional moments of clarity, but they usually ended with me getting a 40 of Pabst into my system and forgetting what I was thinking about ten minutes prior. Five beers, three shots and a pack of cigarettes later, and I would wake up the next morning in bed with him, and occasionally someone I had thought was him the night before. My friends all pointed out the warning signs, but my oxytocin levels, unconscious desire to create offspring, self-doubt and deep-seated adoration for anyone that quoted Allen Ginsberg in inappropriate settings wouldn't allow room for any kind of rational thinking.
After approximately a year of frantically attempting to win over his affection, the thin foundation that held up my little "play pretend" fairy tale crumbled after a strange night out on the town. As I sat back listening to him describe all the little things that made his ex-lover the perfectly consistency of frosting on his cupcake, I discovered what it was like to be a rebound, and apparently a foul frosting. Picture this: you throw on your favorite Spice Girls album and are dancing and singing naked in the shower with your eyes closed, but then open your eyes to realize that you aren't in the shower at all, but in a circus where you're the main act, your shower curtain is the audience, the sound of water falling their guffaws. I don't take humiliation or heartbreak well, so I of course tried to retreat behind the curtain, but then ended up falling off the stage after one too many tequila shots. Every time this happens, I end up finding myself in some sort of quantum leap accelerator that only leads to my bathroom floor. It's difficult to not laugh yourself into nihilistic mania when you take a step back from the absurdity in such situations, but only after a few nights of crying into the Care Bear teddy you've held onto since you were five, specifically for such occasions. My friends would always look at me sleepwalking through work the next day and say, "Kaleigh, you're killing yourself. Slow down, man" My response was typically along the lines of, "sure I'm killing myself, but at least I'm not doing it all at once." I found this hilarious, but they were always embarrassing me by jumping out behind the supply shelves, trying to throw a straitjacket over my chai encrusted apron. Fortunately, I played a lot of League of Legends at the time, so I found it fairly unproblematic to escape these superfluous ambushes.
Once the dejection waned, a fury rivaling Howard Beale's began to emerge like The Elder Things emerged from the Mountains of Madness. Unsure of what to do with such a high volume of pent up rage in a 100-pound body, I began running ten miles a day with the melodies of great composers like the vegan hardcore artists Cattle Decapitation to accompany me. (Yes, this band actually exists. I saw them on a date with another guy in case you were wondering...but that is a story for another day.) I would then head home to fanatically paint six-foot oil portrayals of Dante's Inferno. These portraits sold for a few hundred a piece when I left town for a liberal arts college full of yuppie intellectuals trying to impress their own sadistic companions. Ok, maybe I didn't do anything quite so dramatic, but I did begin putting time into art and writing again, started hitting the gym a few times a week, and delved into school in a manner that would have made The Breakfast Club's Brian Johnson proud. As an added bonus, I was in the best shape of my life between the running and discontinuing the habit of getting sloshed and then pulling into the Taco Bell's drive-thru through the exit every other night.
It's strange how a single person out of 7 billion can come crashing into your life like a bull in a bong shop and shatter everything you've built your foundations on; how you have to try to pick up the pieces that you never realized were so fragile. And of course, the pieces never quite fit back together in the same way. Yet this is a good thing. I'm still not entirely over the chain of events that led the implosion of a relationship I feebly hoped would last forever (or at least until I met a six foot, dark haired Yale graduate that has a penchant for giving foot rubs) but I have undoubtedly taken a few tidbits away from the experience. Who wants to live a stagnant life with a picture of the same guy they've been screwing since junior prom staring back at them from their cubicle desk, anyway? In a great flash of insight that probably should have come 12 months earlier, I realized how my great aunt Tabitha's tabby cat must have felt when fell out of that jumbo jet over Malibu last summer...I may have fallen off the stage that night, but I accomplished notoriety and a roaring round of applause among the crowd when I somersaulted and ended up landing on my feet. I may only be 24, but I still have only so many birthday cakes left to eat. It would be silly to waste my time crying at my own party because that one person in 7 billion doesn't love me in the way so many others will and already do.