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Creative Nonfiction Romance

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"I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end."

                                                                                 -Richard Brautigan

2022 will be here in less than six hours. This is the first New Year's Eve of my life I've spent alone (relatively), which is the result of decision I made solely myself and more willing than not. I found myself more enthused, if only slightly, by the opportunity to spend another night alone in bed than I did by any of the handful of tentative plans I had made earlier in the week. This feeling is not an unnatural one given my current set of circumstances. Single and grieving the recent loss of two separate relationships, both with men I had to convince myself to love, the bounty of friendships I had in my early twenties had significantly dwindled, despite the fact or maybe because of the fact I still live with my parents in the house I grew up in. Throughout the month of December my depression and anxiety worsened progressively, though I experienced the first effect of my declining mental state on the day I turned 29 last October. 

This does not change the fact that I am a Pisces through-and-through. On a sober weekday afternoon during one of my lengthier periods of unemployment, I paid a black man in the part of town I still think of as ours twenty-five dollars to inject black ink into the back of my neck in an attempt to bolster my position. My precious moon tattoo, of course, does not actually make the fact any more or less likely, as most evidence doesn't. Whether or not a piece of evidence "proves" anything is entirely subjective to the person it has been presented to, though I did make a D+ in Evidence my 2L year of law school, which many might say is a valid reason to question my authority on the subject. For what it's worth, my grades did improve in the following semesters, but by the time Stephen Dawson Richarson made his emblematic entrance into my life, I had only marginally made it to my final semester and the possibility of graduation was hanging on by a thread. 

This was hardly a period of success for him either, having recently moved back to our hometown from college after getting a DUI conviction, drowning his GPA, and a conglomeration of trouble resulting from both his usage and entrepreneurship of cocaine, prescription benzos, weed, and less occasionally, various psychedelics. This change in geographic location was not accompanied by a change in lifestyle, and he had already established a pattern for quitting jobs to avoid getting fired. On the second Wednesday of 2019, I had a 10 am class and Stephen was scheduled to report at 7 am to his first day of yet another new job. Despite such responsibilities, I sent a Pinot Noir induced text to a brother-like friend sometime around 11 pm the night before. 

Less than an hour later inside Mac’s Bar and Grill, located across town and less than a mile from my parents’ house, the self-proclaimed outlaw was packing up his guitar as Erica shouted last call. After closing his tab, Chris pulled his phone and read my message as he exited the smoke-filled structure. He was accompanied by his best girl friend Lacy who, like myself, never inquired into his homosexuality, and a guy Lacy claimed was her friend though Chris hadn’t heard her mention his name before that night. Though he was generally quite introverted and cautious of surrounding himself with unfamiliar people, Chris was in the mood to party and when the lanky bar rat who, only hours before, introduced himself as Stephen asked what their plans were, Chris didn’t hesitate in inviting the group to continue their drinking at my apartment.

In the early hours of that Wednesday morning, the risk of destruction was boastful and threatening, parading around with the empty bottle I had recently finished alone on my bedroom floor. Sirens were going off in my chest before he had the chance to knock. It was approaching 2 a.m. when Stephen walked up the hallway and through my front door for the first time, carrying candy in the pockets of his un-ironed khakis, and every time thereafter, always at 2 a.m., candy not once missing from his pockets. He wore the hood of a navy or black North Face rain jacket on over his head, its repellant purpose being tested by the heavily and steadily falling January rain. 

I felt a droplet wink at me as I fixated on the condensation sliding from his 6'4" frame onto the hardwood floor where I sat inside. I claimed it as a sign - it was raining, just like in all my old favorite dead songs. I'd never felt someone in those before him. 

Through anonymity alone am I able to relay to you the degree of intensity most accurately I experienced Stephen's energy, and as someone who is often paralyzed by the thought of putting myself out there, I am grateful for the song writers who have given me both an escape from the world as well as starting points that give me security should I choose to re-enter. In my attempts to connect Stephen’s oblivion with my delusion, Waylon Jennings and Zach Bryan have been loyal participants in my spirals. Call me Anita, I've been dreaming ever since. ❤️

Six months after the night we met, sometime during the summer of 2019, for the first time I began recording what I had memorized about Stephen throughout the first half of that year. Inside of a purple spiral-bound notebook, I wrote his initials on the inside cover and a list of all the reasons he was bad for me in the back. Falsely characterized as analysis, I drunkenly transferred my mental state of denial onto a blank page in green ink. There is a questionable amount of irony in the fact that the half-truths I allowed to bleed into that purple notebook went on to form the first memory I have of my true self ever existing outside of my own head. Despite their questionable reliability, a recent review of all the memories I’ve recorded in the past three years led me to a conclusion I think I can finally find closure in. Written during a period of anger and heightened delusion, I scribbled ‘a bitch in corduroy pants' at the top of the page.

On a cold Saturday night two Novembers back, you found me sitting on top of a picnic table behind Mac’s. I was flicking a cigarette with my knees pressed together, barely bothering at all to be a part of the conversation being had between my then-boyfriend and his buddy. Despite our relationship status, there was considerable space between my body and his to my left. When you walked up from behind and hugged me, it lit me up in the way that only you have ever done before or since. Planting yourself on my right, i felt a warm shot of adrenaline in my blood, my left thigh touching your right, i found safety in your continuing touch. i don't doubt we were both being purposely obnoxious, our laughter echoing past its due date over the fact we were both wearing cordaroy pants, mine hot pink, yours brown. Through my happiness i could feel the tension penetrating from my right, but i refused to pause my high in an effort to console. to be unapologetically happy no matter the insecurity it caused someone else was a stark contrast to my usual demeanor. though i must have felt at least a little bit shitty i can't recall. we were joyful and rowdy, perhaps even touchy, and your attention that was on me was visible to everyone around. to be in this space with you had me on top of the world, characterized by adoration and respect that i have experienced with no man before or since you. 

You wasted no time getting me alone that night, first in the bathroom and then out front sitting on the grass. our lips were like magnets recognizing each other's opposite. i crave your touch even now, my hand being held by yours and my body being wrapped in your arms, interactions i am surprised i had the strength to break, as i recall that now i can't help but wonder what would have resulted had i refused, and im presently filled with regret. only weeks later my relationship would begin to take a deep turn south, and to be saved from all that did result would have no doubt been a blessing. i feel with certainty that my decision to publicize what i felt would not only have ended my relationship, in which my home for the night would have been with you, only to be kicked out the following day. if i were as strong then as i am now, i would have have taken that chance regardless, welcoming any resulting rejection from you in the aftermath, because if you're not going to be my last page then i need you to break me for good. 

As if im not delusional enough, allow me to entertain the possibility that such a public and catastrophic decision is actually what your ego needed all along, requesting of me the level of loyalty like a mirror of the loyalty i've long needed from you. For me its always been between me and him, but what if for you its always been between Patrick and you, then Dereck and you, and finally - causing your behavior at Lacy’s housewarming party - between you and Ezra. maybe i failed the test, fearful to be left by him and you both. you saw straight through me - your only uncertainty was whether i was actually that weak, or if my feelings towards you fell short - but knowing my true desire to be with you, my hiding and leaving with him to go back home with someone i could share the couch gave you enough of an answer nevertheless. the hope i have found in this alternative perspective is weakened as i consider the year of inaction on your part sitting neatly (assuming you don't know the truth) between the time of my breakup and you leaving for basic training. though our distance during that time allows me the ability to manufacture endless excuses even still, december 26, 2021 remains to be a date that broke me, unable to locate any path at all through the confusion and indifference you left me with. my apologies and attempts to make it up to you via phone calls and texts you didn't bother to acknowledge, leaving an unrepaired crack in us inevitable to spread as the miles and time between us grow. 

Perhaps this was the final break i asked you to initiate before, but i can't convince myself with definitive certainty. something tells me you'll come back once again, whether its your history of ebbing and and flowing in and out of my life how you do, your presence surprised me long ago but now i can expect, or my own longing i'm not sure. either way i see  the potential ending more clearly than i have since the first time you made an exit, but i pray that the only severance to come is the period of inconsistency. 

You used to say that timing was the reason to blame for us not being together, and well before receiving an explanation i held onto hope with closeness and relative ease. i will use this to give me strength and a renewed determination to finally become the version of me i want you to have. months down the road by the time i finally get a text from the name only I call you by, my response telling you of my relocation will be a curveball for you to digest, which will be followed shortly thereafter with an invitation to enter a renewed period of magnetism. You will recognize in me what you hadn't previously witnessed, and the draw we both felt that first night sitting at my rain-soaked green kitchen table, our sub-par attention spans focused like a lazer on each other while the rest of the world continued to spin around us, taking root years later than intended, firmly at its center.

April 05, 2022 04:55

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1 comment

Tricia Shulist
16:28 Apr 11, 2022

Interesting story of the evolution of a relationship. Thanks for this.


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