Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.
Two a.m.' He swallowed, then said, "You know. The person you can call at two a.m. and, no matter what, you can count on them. Even if they're asleep or it's cold or you need to be bailed out of jail...they'll come for you. It's like, the highest level of friendship.
It was amazing how you could get so far from where you'd planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.
I mean, it's not surprising, really. Once you love something, you always love it in some way. You have to. It's, like, part of you for good.
But in the real world, you couldnt really just split a family down the middle, mom on one side, dad the other, with the child equally divided between. It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again. It was what you couldn't see, those tiniest of pieces, that were lost in the severing, and their absence kept everything from being complete.
Outside, the ocean was crashing, waves hitting sand, then pulling back to sea. I thought of everything being washed away, again and again. We make such messes in this life, both accidentally and on purpose. But wiping the surface clean doesn't really make anything neater. It just masks what is below. It's only when you really dig down deep, go underground, that you can see who you really are.
Accepting all the good and bad about someone. It's a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.
You want to take me to a movie?" I asked. "Well, not really," he said. "What I really want is for you to be my girlfriend. But I thought saying that might scare you off.
There's something nice about the silence of a car ride in the dark, going home. When you were tired of the radio and conversation, and it was okay to just be alone with your thoughts and the road ahead. If you're that comfortable with someone, you don't have to talk.
You asked me to go out with you. I know you probably changed your mind. But you should know, the answer was yes. It's always been yes when it comes to you.
He thought about this for a second. "True. But if you never really make friends, you probably don't have anyone to be your 2 a.m. Which would kind of suck. I just looked at him as he stirred his soup, carrots spinning in the liquid. "Your what?" "Two a.m." He swallowed, then said, "You know. The person you can call at two a.m. and, no matter what, you can count on them. Even if they're asleep or it's cold or you need to be bailed out of jail...they'll come for you. It's, like, the highest level of friendship.
I mean, it's impossible to fake anything if you've already seen the other person in a way they'd never choose for you to. You can't go back from that.
If only you could really use a fail-proof system to know who was worth keeping and who needed to be thrown away. It would make it so much easier to move through the world, picking and choosing what connections to make, or whether to make any at all.
Yeah. I mean, acknowledging is easy. Something happened or it didn't. But understanding... that's where things get sticky.
It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again.
Suddenly, I was just sure he was going to kiss me. He was there, I could feel his breath, the ground solid beneath us. But then something crossed his face, a thought, a hesitation, and he shifted slightly. Not now. Not yet. It was something I'd done so often - weighing what I could afford to risk, right at that moment - that I recognized it instantly. It was like looking in a mirror.
All those clean, fresh starts had made me forget what it was like, until now, to be messy and honest and out of control. To be real.
How it felt to have the world moving beneath me, a hand gripping mine, knowing if I fell, at least I wouldn't do it alone.
Odd how it was so easy for a stranger to assume such familiarity. Especially when those who were supposed to know you best often didn't, not at all.
Home wasn't a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together.
Pretend to be a delinquent?" I asked clarifying. "You can do it," Dave advised me. "Just don't smile, and try to look like you're considering stealing something.
So," he said as we turned onto the main road, the muffler rattling, "I've been thinking." "Yeah?" He nodded. "You really need to go out with me." I blinked. "I'm sorry?" "You know. You, me. A restaurant or movie. Together." He glanced over, shifting gears. "Maybe it's a new concept for you? If so, I'll be happy to walk you through it." "You want to take me to a movie?" I asked. "Well, not really," he said. "What I really want is for you to be my girlfriend. But I though saying that might scare you off.
But anyone can begin. It was the part with all the promise, the potential, the things I loved. More and more, though, I was finding myself wanting to find out what happened in the end..
I walked over, my eyes scanning Luna Blu, my house, and Dave's. But it was the building behind them, that empty hotel, that had the tiniest light, provided by one word, written in fluorescent paint. Maybe it wasn't what was once there, in real life. But in this one, it said it all: STAY.
I hadn't said goodbye. It had been easier, like always, to just disappear, sparing myself the messy details of another farewell. Now, my fingers hovered over my track pad, moving the cursor down to his comment section before I stopped myself. What was the point? Anything I said now would only be an afterthought. Elizabeth who goes by her middle name.
It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again. It was what you couldn't see, those tiniest of pieces, that were lost in the severing, and their absence kept everything from being complete.
You could just tell when a person belonged somewhere. That is something you can't fake, no matter how hard you try.
I'd known enough people for every minute of the day, and yet still didn't have anyone as my two a.m.
The first thing I did when I got inside was turn on the kitchen light. Then I moved to the table, putting my dad's iPod on the speaker dock, and a Bob Dylan song came on, the notes familiar. I went into the living room, hitting the switch there, then down the hallway to my room, where I did the same. It was amazing what a little noise and brightness could do to a house and a life, how much the smallest bit of each could change everything. After all these years of just passing through, I was beginning to finally feel at home.
It was so quiet, I could hear my own breathing, loud in my ears. Outside, the ocean was crashing, waves hitting sand, then pulling back to sea. I thought of everything being washed away, again and again. We make such messes in this life, both accidentally and on purpose. But wiping the surface clean doesn't really make anything any neater. It just masks what is below. It's only when you really dig down deep, go underground, that you can see who you really are.
Like a blinking cursor on an empty page, it was just the first thing. The beginning of the beginning. But at least it was done.
So much had happened that morning. Yet it was this image, this moment, that i kept going back to hours later, after we'd made it safely to the walkway and gone our separate ways to classes. How it felt to have the world moving beneath me, a hand gripping mine, knowing if i fell, at least i wouldn't do it alone.
She was so emotional, on the verge of tears. This was what I'd wanted to prevent with all those quick disappearances, the tangledness of farewells and all the baggage they brought with them. But now, looking at Deb, I realized what else I'd given up: knowing for sure that someone was going to miss me. What happened to goodbye, Michael in Westcott had written on my Ume.com page. I was pretty sure I knew, now. It had been packed away in a box of its own, trying to be forgotten, until I really needed it. Until now.
It was kind of soothing, these sounds of lives being lived all around me, for better or for worse. And there I was, in the middle of them all, newly reborn and still waiting for mine to begin.
Fifteen minutes later, a meeting was called. "Okay, look." Deb's face was dead serious. "I know I just joined this project, and I don't want to offend anyone. But I'm going to be honest. I think you've been going about this all wrong." "I'm offended," Dave told her flatly.
He's very nice. He's something I replied. She considered this zipping her purse shut. Then she said Well everyone is. Everyone is Something. For some reason that stuck with me simple and yet not every since she'd said it. It was like a puzzle as well two vague words with one clear one between them.
From this distance, in the dimness, the model looked surreal, made up of parts filled with buildings, bordered by long stretches of empty space. It reminded me of the way cities and towns look when you are flying at night. You can't make out much. But the places where people have come together, and stayed, are collections of tiny lights, breaking up the darkness.
I'd been running for years: there was nothing scarier, to me, than to just be still with someone. And yet, there on that dark road, going home, I was.
Like so many before them, they didn't care that my dad was only the messenger. They still wanted to shoot him.
Despite my dad's assurances I was strangely nervous my stomach tight ever since we'd hung up. Maybe Deb had picked up on this and it was why she'd pretty much talked nonstop since I'd approached her and asked for a ride. I'd barely had time to explain the situation before she had launched into a dozen stories to illustrate the point that Things Happened But People Were Okay in the End.
You didn't have to take a punch for me, you know,' he said. 'I'm a lover, not a fighter.' 'You're a freak is what you are,' I said.
I thought of all the times we'd been together, how I kept coming closer, then retreating, while he stayed right where he was. A constant in a world where few, if any, really existed.
Hey, think fast!' I just looked at Fave as he chucked the basketball at me with possibly the worst overhand throw I'd ever seen. It landed to my far right, then bounced past me, banging against my dad's truck. 'Do you have a vision problem of something?' I asked him. 'Just keeping you on your toes,' he replied.