Saturday, December 11, 2004

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

Nine: Is This Love?

You've got five minutes
To tell me what I needed to hear
You've got five minutes
To show me that you're really sincere
That's not much time to change my mind
It'll take a miracle no doubt
And you've got five minutes
To figure it out
-Lorrie Morgan

Ahh…I could tell everyone was thinking that was the end of that. Nope. Not by a long shot.

Lisa and I spent the week working and coming home to unpack and fix up the apartment. By Wednesday evening we were unpacked and I decided to undertake sanding my iron bedstead that had been painted about four different colors sometime in it’s past most of it by a brush. I went to the hardware store and picked up sandpaper, primer and black spray paint. I also bought new sheets to go with the bedspread Lisa had gotten me for Christmas: black and white.

Carlos got my number from Diane and called our apartment. Lisa answered the phone, “Kansas, it’s for you.”

“Who is it?” I was in my bedroom hanging some pictures

“It’s Carlos. He wants to talk to you.”

“Well, I don’t want to talk to him.”

“Kansas,” She came around the corner and stood in my doorway, “He wants to apologize.”

“Mmmm,” I took the phone, “Hello.”

“What’re you doin’?”

“Unpacking. What’s up?” I was in no mood to spend the evening talking about why he was an asshole.

“Well…I wanted to see you again.” That didn’t sound like an apology.

“Look, I don’t think this is going to work…”

He cut me off, “Wait, just give me a minute…”

“Look, I think we should just be friends…”

“Friends? I don’t want to be just a “friend”.”

“I don’t know what else we can be…”

“Can I come over and see you? I want to talk to you and I don’t want to do it over the phone.” He was starting to sound a little desperate and I was starting to waiver a little.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Why didn’t I just say “no”, dammit? Because I was still torn about being all goofy over him.

“Can I speak to Lisa?”


“Let me speak to Lisa for a minute.”

I might be from Kansas, but I watched enough football to know an end around play when I heard one. He was going for the “get the girlfriend’s sympathy and she’ll help you out” play. That’s a tricky play and only works if the guy can be sure that the girl’s girlfriend actually likes him enough to run interference for him. She could decide that he’s an asshole, too, and sideline him with a karate kick to the balls.

“I don’t think we need Lisa…”

Lisa was being a busy body and standing in the kitchen door listening, “He wants to talk to me? Let me have the phone.”

“Lisa, I’m taking care of this.” I was getting flustered and they started tag teaming me.

“Let me talk to Lisa,” from the phone, “Kansas, let me have the pone,” from Lisa.

“Look, you guys…” Lisa was approaching with her hand out.

“Let me have the phone,” now Lisa, now the phone, “Give the phone to Lisa.”

Now I was irritated, “Fine. Here.” I passed the phone to Lisa and stomped back to the bedroom. Why couldn’t the guy just take “no” for an answer? Lisa had better be telling him to buzz off. But all I could hear from the kitchen was “Uh-huh. I know. Mmmm. Maybe. I don’t know…Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Alright. Bye.”

Lisa came back to my bedroom, “Kansas, you know he really likes you,” here we go, “why do you have to be so harsh on the guy?”
“Lisa, I don’t expect a lot,” maybe I do, “but I expect when somebody tells you they’re going to do something that they’re going to do it, especially, somebody who wants to be “more than friends”. You know what I mean?” I was a little exasperated that my friend had decided to take the guy’s side.

“You could at least give him a chance to apologize.” Lisa was such a softy when it came to romance.

I let out a long, suffering sigh, “Look, I really don’t wanna talk about it right now, okay? I just want to hang these pictures and finish unpacking, alright?”

“He seems like a really nice guy. You could do worse.”

“Jesus, if you like the guy, why don’t you date him?” I started hammering a nail into the wall for my giant poster of Garth Brooks.

“He doesn’t want me, he wants you.”

“Whatever.” I returned to hammering the nail in the wall. Lisa threw her hands up and walked out.

We finally went out again on Saturday night. Dawn joined us and we went down to the club again, taking our usual spot. Maybe we were just looking good or maybe it was because we were three women determined to have fun or maybe women who just broke up with their boyfriend emit a strange pheromone. Whatever it was, we couldn’t have been more popular than we were that night. I was dancing my legs off.

Carlos and company arrived and took up a spot about ten feet down the rail. On our side of the floor, the rail was in front of a wall that gave about a five foot walkway. The guys were downing beers and Beam and Coke as fast as they could and hooting and hollering. Carlos danced with several girls. Looking back, I think we were both doing the little “fine, you don’t want me, I can get somebody else” dance. I think I matched him dance for dance, although, not drink for drink. I was drinking Red Death that night, but, I was only 5’4 and that many drinks would have knocked me on my ass.

Finally, the DJ started playing a slower Garth Brooks song, to the beat of a waltz, A New Way to Fly, and it seemed so appropriate. Carlos and the guys were singing it at the top of their lungs, clinking glasses and beer bottles:

Like birds on a high line
They line up at night time at the bar
They all once were lovebirds
Now bluebirds are all that they are
They landed in hell
The minute they fell from love's sky
And now they hope in the wine
That they'll find a new way to fly

A new way to fly
Far away from goodbye
Above the clouds and the rain
The memories and the pain
And the tears that they cry
Now the lessons been learned
They've all crashed and burned
But they’d leave it behind
If they could just find
A new way to fly

By the end of the night
They'll be high as a kite once again
And they don't seem to mind all the time
Or the money they spend
It's a high price to pay
to just find a way to get by
But it's worth every dime
If they could just find
A new way to fly

A new way to fly
Far away from goodbye
Above the clouds and the rain
The memories and the pain
And the tears that they cry
Now the lessons been learned
They've all crashed and burned
But they’d leave it behind
If they could just find
A new way to fly

They'll leave it behind
As soon as they find
A new way to fly
-Garth Brooks

When the song ended, the guys let out a wolf howl, clinked their bottles and glasses some more and took a big swig.

The DJ wasn’t done yet. He had to keep on playing some sad ass songs, turn the knife a little bit more.

I knew I was the one that told him to get lost, but part of me kept saying the real reason I told him to go was because I was scared. I had started to feel something for the first time dating somebody and it scared the hell out of me. Always before, when I was dating, I held something back, didn’t totally just get into it. Even when I’d kissed other guys, I had always felt like I was standing outside of it, watching, analyzing it. For the first time, I couldn’t do that when I was in a guy’s presence. I couldn’t think about it or anything until we were not in each other’s company. The thought of losing myself to somebody else just scared the hell out of me.

The cautious side of me kept saying it was better this way, safer. I couldn’t get hurt if I didn’t give in. We could just be friends. It would be okay. It wouldn’t hurt that way. The only problem was, as much as I was trying to have a good time and play it safe, not get hurt, I still did, hurt that is and it made me question my decision. But, the cautious side of me was still strong.

I was leaning against the wall behind the rail, drinking and staring at the dance floor. Lisa and Dawn were giggling about something, “Kansas, c’mon. Don’t be a stick in the mud. You wanna another drink?”

“No. I’m okay,” I flashed them my still half full glass.

“You wanna dance?” Carlos had walked up on me and I didn’t even notice it, “Please?” He was holding his hand out.

The cautious side of me was telling me to say “no”, we’re just friends. The other part of me kicked the cautious side of me in the ass and said, “Just do it. It won’t hurt just to dance.”

“Okay.” What? What the hell was I doing?

We went out on the dance floor, but, unlike the times before, he didn’t take my hat from my head and hand it to me nor press my head to his shoulder. We danced around not talking for a bit and finally he took my hat from my head, “I wanted to see you,” was all he said and he held the hat behind me in his hand at my waist. I kept looking at his shoulder (I couldn’t look over it because he was so tall). “Kat, I just…can I get another chance?”

I glanced up at him, but the cautious side of me was still strong, “I don’t know. I don’t know what it is that you want.”

Some part of me knew that I was pushing him, backing him into a corner, “I want us to be more than just friends.”

“I don’t know…I don’t know if I can be that right now, more than friends.” Yeah, because I was scared, because I didn’t know what to expect and he’d already took a step away in some regards, doing his own thing and disregarding a promise, which made me think that he didn’t want what had been happening. Maybe, looking back, he was scared, too. But it seemed to me then that I had been dangerously risking my heart on something that was only in my imagination.

“What is it you want from me?” he was getting agitated. Honestly, I didn’t know right then what I wanted.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what this is or what we’re doing. I just know that it went too fast or something and I need to step back.” Probably the closest thing to the truth I was ever going to say. I felt dangerously close to tears for a moment and it was very disconcerting. I’m not going to cry, dammit, I was thinking, but it didn’t seem to matter what I wanted. The song ended, I took my hat from him, “Excuse me,” and I walked quickly over to my friends.

“Kansas, what’s wrong?” “Are you alright, Kansas?” both of the girls were asking me.

“No. I know it’s early, but I want to leave. Can I take your car Lisa?” Oh my God, I was going to let loose right there in the bar.

“I’ll drive you home.” Lisa put her drink down and started digging for her keys.

“No, no. No reason for you to go. You just stay here. I’ll be fine.”

I was sucking the tears up, but Lisa wouldn’t hear of it, “No. I’ll drive us home. I’m done tonight anyway.”

We left the earliest we had ever done from that club and Lisa drove me home. Wisely, she didn’t ask me anything. I really don’t know what I would have said anyway. We were just talking and all of a sudden I wanted to cry? What the hell was that about anyway? It wasn’t like we’d been together that long or said anything that meant anything. It was just me wishing for something that probably wasn’t going to happen.

Oh how painful and complicated we can make things when we are thinking and not just feeling. When we have to analyze everything to within an inch of its life. When we have to rationalize the problems, pull them out, stick them until they bleed and then tell ourselves we know all along that we were right in the first place. Should have listened to our minds and told our hearts to go to hell.

Sunday afternoon, Lisa and I went to the Chi-Chi’s around the corner, ate Mexican food and drank Margaritas, something that became a ritual over time. Lisa finally got around to hammering me for some answers, digging at it with the scalpel and making me voice whatever was bugging me. What else are friends for?

“So, do you like Carlos or don’t you?” she said, sipping her frozen margarita. We had a pitcher of them between us.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know? Seems like you’re all messed up about him.”

“Lisa, I’m not messed up.” Okay, maybe I was, but I didn’t want to hear that. I was going to get it together. I had thought and thought about it last night in the big creaky iron bedstead and I had put together a list of reasons why it wouldn’t work. The list I used to convince myself this was the right idea. Lisa just gave me a skeptical look, “First of all, he’s in the Navy.”

Lisa put her margarita down, “What’s that got to do with anything?”

“Well, this is not his permanent duty station. He’s only here for a short time and then he’ll go someplace else.”

“But the ship’s here for another year and a half. That’s a long time. You don’t know what will happen in that time.”

“Precisely. You know long distance relationships just do not work.” Lisa had had a boyfriend who only lived three hours away and they had broken up not long before our move to the Media area.

“Kansas, you don’t know, you guys might hit it off and be married by then.”

I rolled my eyes, “Right. Uh-huh. Second of all, it seems he just wants to hang out and have a good time and go around with whom ever. I don’t play that game. If I’m going to be with somebody, I want to be “with them” and not wondering who they’re out with tonight. In which case, I’d rather we just stayed friends and danced or something.”

“Kansas, you don’t know what happened last weekend. He probably did just get too drunk and passed out.”

“That’s not the point, Lisa.”

“Well, what is the point? Do you like him or don’t you?”

“I don’t know.” Yes, I did, but the part of me that was scared about what I was feeling told me not to admit to anything. If you didn’t say it, it didn’t happen, right? “Can we just drop the subject for now?” Yeah, run away.


“Lisa, seriously, I don’t want to talk about it.”

You know, I always loved my friend Lisa. She was like the sister I never had. The one that I didn’t know I was missing. The one that could be a serious pain in your ass. The one that would never let anything go. The one that would pick at your wound until it bled again and again until she was satisfied that she wouldn’t get anymore blood from it. Of course, she did it with the best intentions, with equal parts of love and sadistic desire to see me either really happy or totally miserable as long as it was really, really, what I wanted.

In this case, she shut up and I thought the subject was all over. I was busy convincing myself that this was for the best. We’ll just be friends and it won’t bother me a bit if he dances with other women and I’ll definitely dance with other men. That’s what I told myself.

The following weekend, it was one of our friends’ birthday and we went down to a club on Columbus Ave (Which is now Delaware Ave after the Delaware Indians petitioned the city of Philadelphia to change it because the Delaware Indians had been there before Columbus and, besides, Columbus had persecuted, oppressed and killed the Indians, why should he have an Avenue named after him and the Indians did not?). We didn’t hit the country and western club that weekend.

By the middle of the next week, I had convinced myself, again, that this was for the best. Better to not get involved. Keep it light. Wednesday after work, I dropped Lisa off at the apartment and went to the mall that was about a mile up the road from us, Granite Run Mall. I bought a book and then bought some Chinese food to take home for our dinner. We were seriously addicted to the food from the Peking Duck in the mall. When I opened the door, Lisa and Carlos were sitting on the floor with their backs against the wall (we still didn’t have any furniture and I was young enough to sit with my legs crossed for hours at a time; where does that time go to?). Talk about a surprise. You could have knocked me over with a toothpick.

Carlos had a big brace on his left leg and a pair of crutches sitting on the floor next to him. “Hey.” That was Carlos. “Hi, Kansas!” Lisa was all animated.

“Hi, yourself. What’s going on?” I didn’t know what the hell to think. Just when I was convincing myself that it was a done deal, he shows up again. I stood there in the doorway of the apartment, door still open, trying to put it together.

Lisa got up, came over and took the bags of Chinese food from me. She carried them to the kitchen and started talking very quickly, “Well, Carlos called me today and told me that he had fallen down a ladder between decks and had to have a bunch of stitches. Since we work in the business, so to speak, he asked if we had some gauze and tape and something to keep the water out so he could change his bandage and take a shower, so I told Carlos to come over and we’d fix him up.”

“You did, huh?” I had set down the rest of my bags and closed the door.

“Yeah, and he brought some video tapes, too. We’re going to watch movies and eat Chinese. Here, you take this plate to Carlos and I’ll fix ours.”

I was very confused, but I carried the plate in to him anyway, “So, you hurt your leg, huh?” The brace was the cheap wrap around kind made out of foam and Velcro. It had an opening at the knee and I could see a little blood on the gauze covering.

“Yeah, I fell down the ladder during a fire drill and had to have eighteen stitches.”

“That had to hurt,” What the hell was I supposed to be saying anyway?

“Here, Kansas, take your plate and sit down,” Lisa had come in with two plates. She handed me mine and sat down on the other side of Carlos on the floor, “C’mon, sit down.”

They were both staring at me and I just kept standing there like a big goof. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. Lisa had decided to run interference for Carlos. I was torn between being really angry, really confused and, frankly, really jittery inside. This was completely new territory for me. I knew he hadn’t just come over because he hurt his leg, which meant that he was still in pursuit and I’d never had anyone pursue me to that degree. I mean the guy was just not going to give up.

“Let’s watch a movie,” Lisa put in a movie and I don’t remember what it was. I think it was a comedy because I remember laughing a few times, getting up, putting away the dishes and the Chinese food. Finally, the movie was over and Lisa stood up with a big fake yawn and said she was tired and going to bed. All of a sudden, I was really nervous. She was leaving me alone and not doing a very good acting job, either.

“You’re going to bed?” It was way too early and I was way too nervous. I know my face was saying, “hold on, wait a minute. Don’t leave me here alone.” But she paid me little attention and traipsed off anyway.

“Yeah, I’ll see you in the morning.”

When she left the room, we sat there quietly for a few minutes. Carlos reached over and took my hand while we sat facing each other, me with my legs crossed Indian style and he with his legs stretched out. I felt like I couldn’t breath for a minute. My mind knew something was going to happen, but it had shut down to some degree and it wouldn’t let me think about it. “Kat,” he said, looking at our hands, “I just wanna know why you won’t give me another chance?”

“Carlos…” I was going into self protect mode right then.

“It’s not just about the weekend is it? I’m sorry about that, okay? I mean, I just got scared about how fast it was all going and I got drunk and passed out at Hank’s. When I got back to the apartment so late, I didn’t know what to do. I messed up, okay. I know I did. When you wouldn’t take my calls or talk to me, I started drinking myself stupid and then I realized that I was making another mistake. I want another chance. Why won’t you give me another chance?”

All of a sudden, I knew why I didn’t want to. It wasn’t just about the weekend or him blowing me off. It was about the thing that I feared most: being left. When it hit me, I felt a dam had broken somewhere inside of me. How do you explain to someone that you barely know, yet have these intense feelings for, that twenty years of your parents’ screwed up marriages had put this scar on you and made you scared to be with somebody because they might leave you? It sounded so disgustingly psychotic. The more I thought about it, the more upset I became. I felt my face getting warm and I suddenly burst into tears. Oh my God, what was wrong with me? I don’t cry, dammit, I never cry.

“What’s wrong? Tell me what’s wrong and I’ll fix it.” He scooted forward, put his arms around me and pushed my head against his shoulder and that made me cry even harder.

We sat there in that awkward position for a few minutes until I got myself together some, then I said the first stupid thing I could think of, “I’m sorry. I got your shirt all wet.” I lifted my head a little way off his shoulder and plucked at his shirt. I was so embarrassed because I knew men hated when women cried I just couldn’t seem to help myself.

“That’s okay. Just tell me what’s wrong, will you? How am I supposed to know what to do if you won’t tell me?” Jesus, I started crying again. I just shook my head. I didn’t want to tell him because it seemed so damned lame even to me. He just pressed my head to his shoulder again while I bawled like an idiot. He laid back on the floor, taking me with him, my head still on his shoulder, me still crying like a baby. I can’t imagine how red, blotchy and extremely unattractive I was looking right then. Shallow, I know. But a girl worries about these things at the oddest moments. I just buried my head in his shoulder and hoped he couldn’t see. I could tell the continued crying was making him desperate, “Would you just tell me what’s wrong?”

Finally, I sucked up my tears and found the courage to just say it, “You’re going to leave.” Saying brought on another round of crying. I was turning into a regular water fountain, for the love of God.

“What? I’m not going to leave.” He was genuinely confused and didn’t actually understand what I meant.

“Yes, you are. You can’t help it. You’re in the Navy. Sometime soon they’re going to send you someplace else. You won’t have a choice.” I cried some more.

“Hey, I’m not going anywhere soon. I promise. Besides, I’ve already done my time at sea. When the ship leaves, I won’t be leaving with it. They’ll probably give me a land based station. Besides, even if I do have to go, it won’t mean we’re over. Now, stop crying, will you.” Yeah, the tears were making him desperate.

“It won’t?” Now, my tears were drying up and I was sniffling unattractively loud. I am definitely not the kind of woman that cries prettily.

“No, it won’t. Kat, I love you.” He whispered in my ear as he pressed my face to his shoulder.

What? Holy shit! What did he just say? My heart stopped beating for a second and then took up the beat in triple time. I felt like I was holding my breath and getting dizzy. “Oh God, don’t say that,” I said, clutching his shoulder. Why did he have to say that? I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what I felt. I knew that, when we were together, I always felt happy, nervous, excited. But, was I in love? I’d never been in love before and I didn’t know if that’s what it was. Was it this? What the hell was I feeling when it was equal amounts of happiness and pain?

“I love you. No matter what.”

He was very earnest. I still didn’t know what to say. I felt something, something intense, but I didn’t want to call it love. Not yet. We’d only known each other for four weeks. “Carlos, I don’t know…”

“You don’t have to say it. You don’t have to say anything, right now. I just wanted to tell you. Okay?” I thought for a minute he was going to start crying, too.

I was so scared right then. No guy had ever said that to me. Never. I knew it wasn’t just about me, that moment that is. But it was so hard to think about what it meant to him, mostly because my mind was going around in circles. Over analyzing as usual, but I couldn’t help it.

We stayed like that for an hour or so, just lying on the floor with my head on his shoulder and he was brushing my hair back. It seemed like an eternity. Finally, he said that he had to go home because he had to get up and make sick call in the morning and find out what he was supposed to be doing for light duty. Before the accident, he was “DC” or “damage control” which are the guys that are supposed to take care of fires on board or if a jet crashed on the deck or if there was an explosion or other damage caused by munitions or the jet fuel that was on board. Obviously, he wouldn’t be running up and down any ladders anytime soon.

I walked him to the door and we kissed a long kiss good-bye, he touched my face with his hand, “I’ll call you tomorrow.” And then he hobbled down the hall to the outside door of the complex on his crutches carrying the little bag of gauze, tape and tegaderm, a clear thin plastic covering that was supposed to keep the stitches from getting wet.

I went around and started turning off all the lights, trying not to think, because thinking was making my heart and my head hurt. I started walking down the hall to my bedroom and Lisa came out, “Was that Carlos leaving?”

I stopped by my bedroom door, “Yes.” I didn’t know if I wanted to say anything else.

“Well?” she said half hopeful and half worried.

I just looked at her and burst in to tears again. Oh God, I was turning into a regular watering pot, but I couldn’t seem to help myself. She came over quickly and put her arms around me, “What happened?” After a few more seconds of me weeping and unable to speak, Lisa started getting really concerned, “Kansas, tell me what happened? Do I need to call Carlos and yell at him or what?” Yeah, she should be concerned. She had orchestrated the whole thing.

I sniffed loudly and said, “He said he loved me.” Sniffling again.

“What? Oh my God, Kansas. He did?” I could tell she wanted to be happy for me, but was worried because I kept crying, “But what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know,” I finally answered, “It’s just, too soon. I don’t know what I feel and I’m all twisted up inside.” She was my best friend and the only one I thought I could tell.

“It’ll be okay. Hang on a second.” She went back in her room and came out with a box of Kleenex, “Here.”

I took some tissues, wiped my eyes and blew my nose. All of a sudden, I started laughing, “I am such a freaking mess. I’ve been crying half the night. I got his shirt all wet.”

I laughed some more and Lisa joined in with me, but she still had a concerned look on her face, “I’m sure he didn’t mind, Kansas.” She smiled. She was always good for making me feel better.

I smiled back, “Yeah, well, I feel like an idiot.”

“Been there, done that.” She kept looking at me and then finally asked, “So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. He said he was going to call tomorrow when he got off shift.” I knew that wasn’t exactly what she wanted to hear, but there were some things I wasn’t even ready to admit to myself, much less talk to even my best friend about.

“Oh,” Nope not what she wanted to hear.

“Well, we gotta get up early tomorrow for work, so I guess I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” I opened the door to my bedroom, ready to walk in.

“Alright,” she walked over and gave me another hug, “It’ll be alright, Kansas. Goodnight.”

Maybe, I was thinking, maybe it’ll be alright. “Goodnight.”

I went in, got ready for bed and lay down on the big creaky iron bedstead with the blankets and sheets pulled up to my chin. In the morning I knew I was going to look like hell with puffy eyes and blotchy skin. I kept thinking about it, about what I felt. Was this love? This feeling like I was flying and falling at the same time? Like I was standing on the edge of a big cliff looking down to some very deep waters below. The water looked so inviting, but it was a long fall and I’d never done it before.

I was so tired from all the emotions that I finally started drifting off to sleep. I hadn’t decided anything yet.

“Tomorrow, I’ll think about it tomorrow,” I thought as I drifted off to sleep.

Yeah, tomorrow I’d wake up and be just as confused as I was that night. Nobody ever said we make things easy for ourselves and I always made it as hard as possible on myself.

I should have known better
Than to let you go alone
It's times like these
I can't make it on my own
Wasted days, and sleepless nights
And I can't wait to see you again

I find I spend my rime
Waiting on your call
How can I tell you, babe
My back's against the wall
I need you by my side
To tell me it's alright
’Cause I don't think I can take anymore

Is this love that I'm feeling
Is this the love that I've been searching for
Is this love or am I dreaming
This must be love
’Cause it's really go a hold on me
A hold on me

I can't stop the feeling
I've been this way before
But, with you I've found the key
To open any door
I can feel my love for you
Growing stronger day by day
And I can't wait too see you again
So I can hold you in my arms

Is this love that I'm feeling
Is this the love that I've been searching for
Is this love or am I dreaming
This must be love
Cause it's really got a hold on me
A hold on me

Is this love that I'm feeling
Is this the love that I've been searching for

Is this love or am I dreaming

1 comment:

peterC said...

Love it. Sounds very romantic - Love ? - whichever emotional state - just living I suppose. Regardless I enjoyed reading all your reasons to date. But surely you need better reasons, and I can't think of any.
And I like you style of writng; I keep looking for the next chapter.