I have somewhere to go, but I can’t remember where it is. I’m fuzzy most days because of the medication. I wander around my apartment staring intently at the objects there. Especially a wonderful piece of pottery I remember I just had to have when I saw it. It’s green with purple and pink glazes dripping down the sides. It’s a pitcher, but I use it as a vase for flowers when I can afford them or find them. I feel nothing when I look at it. The colors make my heart skip a few beats, but I’m waiting for that feeling of excitement at having an object I love. It’s not there.
Most of my days are like this. When I’m not at work, I tend to study the things in my apartment and gather emotions from them. I’m a collector of emotions. I think I’ve felt every one. It was exciting once, I was so eager to experience everything. But now, I’m just tired and I’ve experienced so many bad emotions, I’m not too sure how much my mind can handle. I feel like I’m on acid most of the time. The most simple things involve great interest on my part. I’m fascinated by things like birds on the stoop, TV commercials, knick-knacks…you name it. It sounds strange and someone without this awful, fuzzy medicated feelings might not have the slightest ideas what I’m talking about, but some of you do. The lack of focus forces you to concentrate deeply on things and so you concentrate on things that really don’t deserve the time and energy.
You’re probably wondering what kind of medications can do this. Well, probably not all, but most psychotropic drugs I’ve taken leave me feeling this way: Anti-depressants, mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety. There’s a pill for everything as I’ve so often heard. Well, I’m on all of them and it’s a cocktail of wonder and awe that helps me function through days that would otherwise be unbearable. Woe is me, right? Nope. I’d rather not have pity, I feel enough for myself as it is.
The phone rings its loud shrill ring and I stare at it for a few seconds trying to read the caller ID from across the room so I don’t have to get up from the couch. I can’t see it, so I get up and answer it.
“Hello?” I answer.
“Yo girl, what are you doing?” It’s my friend Autumn. She’s an inspiration to me because she used to be just like me and somehow she got out of the muck. However, now she sometimes goes off on tangents that are liken to some schizophrenic dream land.
“Nothing. I’m deciding whether or not to throw out that green and purple pitcher.” I say.
“No! I love that pitcher, don’t throw it out…give it to me before you trash it. Anyway, you need to get up off your ass and come out with me. There’s a kickin band playing down at the Spikenard. Come with me? Please?? I think Neil will be there.” Neil is a guy I had a “thing” with a few months before. We’re still friends, but I still have a tendency to lust after him like a dog. Autumn has few friends because a lot of people are a little weirded out by her. But, she’s like a kindred spirit to me. I love her like a sister. Unfortunately for her, her only good friend is a lump of tar that likes to sit around and look at pitchers.
“Oh, that’s incentive. (pause) that was sarcastic. Anyway, yeah I guess. I have nothing better to do.” I’m not a miserable person, but pretty damn close to it.
“Don’t be such a sour-puss….cheer up. You need a man, Karen, that’s what you need! Or maybe a girl..which are you in the mood for tonight?” I have to laugh at her..she knows me too well.
“I’m sorry. I’m just really depressed. You’re gonna have to get me good and liquored up if you wanna have any kind of good time.” We both laugh and I feel grateful that I have her to laugh with about this kind of thing.
An hour later, I’m sitting on a bar stool of the Spikenard night club with a strange older man with wild gray hair breathing beer breath down my neck. He’s trying to talk to me and I’m making it abundantly clear I find him revulting. Autumn isn’t helping much because she’s too wrapped up in talking to some new guy that she’s suddenly in love with.
“What the fuck dude…what do I have to say to get you to leave me the hell alone?” Just as I say fuck, the loud song that was playing stopped and I’m left in a hall of silence while everyone looks at me. I see Neil across the room smiling and he starts to come over. Meanwhile, the guy has drunkenly wandered off to molest some other poor soul.
“I love your attitude, Karen.” He’s smiling and is perfectly serious. He’s made it very clear that he likes me and is even attracted to me, but he doesn’t want a girlfriend with “issues” as he calls it. I hug him and smell him discreetly. Ye gods, he smells delicious!
“What’s up Neil?” He stares at me through those striking blue eyes that first attracted me to him and he looks like he wants to take me right out of here to his apartment.
“Nothing much. This band sucks, huh? What brings you out, I hardly see you anymore. You never call me.” He says.
“Well, you never call me either.” I smile at him and he smiles back with his perfect teeth. I often have wondered what its like to have perfect teeth and not feel like Dracula every time you open your mouth. “Autumn dragged me out, I was busy with a pitcher, but I came anyway.” He looks at me strangely at that one, but he’s somewhat used to my peculiarities.
“Well, I’m glad you came out, it’s good to see you.” He knows exactly how to get to me. The fact that anyone finds it good to see me not only shocks me, but makes me feel like some precious gem that I know I’m not.
“Yeah, it’s good to see you too, Neil.” He leans over and kisses my cheek and whispers in my ear:
“Wanna come by my place for some drinks?” I stare at him for a few minutes trying to decide whether or not he’s drunk and that’s why he’s suddenly so friendly. I decide he’s not and my excitement gathers.
“Hmm…are you flirting with me?” He winks at me and gets a little closer when the guy behind him suddenly bumps into him.
“Maybe, we could have some drinks and have one of those long talks we used to.” Yeah, right, long talks…I find myself thinking of going home alone and I almost panic at the thought of it. So, I decide to go with him.
I walk over to Autumn and let her know I don’t need a ride home. She questions Whether I think it’s a good idea and I say of course not, but I wanna go anyway, I’m lonely.
At Neil’s house, we’re sitting on the couch drinking white Russians and watching a music video channel of some sort. It’s not long before he leans over and starts to kiss me.
“I’m so attracted to you.” He purrs in my ear while he takes off my shirt. He knows just how to talk and just how to touch me.
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My usual black days are interrupted with the excitement of meeting someone new. Tonight is the night I’m going to meet Gabriel, Neil’s friend. We’re going to get something to eat before going to a movie. It’s sort of a double date, Autumn and Neil, me and Gabriel. Autumn and Neil like each other, but the only thing they really have in common is me. So, its more like they’re coming for moral support.
Autumn picks me up at 8:00pm and we drive in her mini cooper to the restaurant. It’s a Cuban restaurant with real Cuban dancers. Neil and Gabriel are going to meet us there…at least I don’t have to deal with a long car ride in awkward first meeting silence.
We get there at 8:30 and I almost immediately pick out Neil’s car, a silver Hyundai Tiburon. He loves that car, although I can’t quite figure out why. They aren’t in the car, so they must be waiting for us inside.
Inside, we’re accosted with loud Cuban music and red, yellow and green lights. It’s somewhat dark, so I can’t pick them out right away. So, we go up to the hostess and ask if there is a party of two waiting for us. There is of course, and she leads us to the table. My anxiety grows like a fungus all over me, I’m afraid they will see how nervous I am. But, I’ve always been good at putting on masks to hide how I really feel and so I try on one of those masks to hide my nervousness. This mask is a lovely friendly, but somewhat indifferent person. Indifference always seems cool to me, I don’t know why. I probably come off as an ice queen.
Its seems like forever until we reach the table and in the meantime, I take stock of what I’m wearing to make sure I look okay. A pink broomstick skirt with a white, tight-fitting blouse and white sandals. Autumn is wearing a black miniskirt that is just like her and a sequined black tank that shows off her figure fabulously.
Finally, we reach the table and I peer around the hostess to get a look at Gabriel. He’s as cute as Neil said he was. Black straight hair to his chin, somewhat disheveled which I find very sexy, beautiful blue eyes that are staring right at me as if they’re taking an inventory of all my parts and features. His lips are full and there is a little scruff around them, which I also find sexy. He’s wearing a casual off-white shirt and some sort of slacks I can’t see until he stands up to greet us. He’s tall, but not real tall, maybe 6’. He doesn’t look at Autumn once and she turns to look at me and smiles as if to say he’s already into you.
“Hey guys.” Neil says, “This is Gabriel, and Gabe, this is Karen and Autumn.” He shakes our hands and his hands are warm but not clammy. I can only hope mine are the same.
“Nice to meet you, both.” Gabriel says, finally turning to look at Autumn and shake her hand.
“Nice to meet you, too.” We say almost simultaneously. We look at each other and laugh and the boys join in. This is enough to calm my nerves quite a bit. We sit down and almost immediately, the waitress comes up to take our drink order. I don’t want to seem like a lush by ordering any hard liquor, so I order a strawberry daiquiri. Autumn orders a sex on the beach just as I expected and the boys both order beers.
“So, how was the traffic for you guys, it was awful out by us.” Gabriel starts off.
I answer, “Not too bad, especially since Autumn drives like she’s in the Indy 500.” Laughter again.
We’re sitting at a small round table and I’m closest to Gabriel and I can smell him. He’s got a soft musky scent I can’t quite place but that is very familiar. Almost like some exotic oil of some sort. I wore a gardenia perfume that I hope isn’t too overwhelming.
Neil and Autumn start joking about school and leave me and Gabriel sort of sitting alone.
“So, Karen, what do you do?” He asks.
“I work at a health food store, but I’m trying to get published as a poet. I was in school for awhile, but couldn’t find anything I wanted a degree in, so I dropped out.” Great, start off sounding like a quitter.
“Yeah, I have a hard time dragging myself to school too. That’s cool that you write poetry. I’ve written some myself, but it’s not very good. What health food store do you work at?” He asks.
“The Banyan Tree. It’s down on sixth street across from the big catholic church that looks like a medieval castle.” He smiles at me.
“So, are you a big health nut?” He laughs
“No, not really actually. Just interested in alternative medicine. There’s so much out there that we can take that comes directly from the earth instead of poisoning ourselves with chemicals. I’m sorry, I sound preachy.” I look away slightly embarrassed.
“No, I agree with you. I’ve tried herbal regiments, I just kept forgetting to take them.” He laughs and I see he too has perfect teeth. Why does everyone have perfect teeth but me.
“So, do you work or are you just in school?” I ask him.
“I work at that big book store down on Main St.” He says.
“Wow, I’m there all the time, I’m surprised I haven’t seen you there before.”
“I work mostly in the back finding used and out of print books for people. It’s really interesting the stuff you can come across that people are selling for only a few bucks.” I’m completely fascinated. Someone who’s into books as much as I am!
“That sounds so cool. I’ll keep that in mind next time I need an out of print book.” I smile at him and he’s looking at me in the sweetest way.
The waitress comes back to take our food orders and I feel self-conscious, not wanting to look like a pig so I order a salad with grilled spicy chicken. He orders some big Cuban dish with pork.
“We’re gonna go dance, ok..you guys wanna come?” Neil asks.
We both look at each other and see neither one of us wants to, so we both say no. Neil and Autumn get up and go to the dance floor.
“Do you like dancing?” He asks.
“No, I’m a terrible dancer.” I say
“So am I.” He laughs.
“ I just don’t have any rhythm.” I say.
“Same here. So, Neil says you like to read. What kinds of things do you read?” He asks.
“Lots of things. Literature, science fiction, horror…anything I find interesting I guess. I especially like Hermann Hesse.”
“Oh, I like him too! Especially Demian.” He says.
“That was the first book of his that I ever read, so its always been a favorite of mind too. I’ve pretty much read everything he’s written. There’s one book I can’t seem to get through and that’s the one he won the Nobel Prize for.” I say.
“Yeah, that’s a hard read for some reason. It’s so long…” He’s looking at me with great interest and friendly eyes. I can’t believe how comfortable I feel around someone I’ve just met. I wonder if it will last.
The food comes while Neil and Autumn are still on the dance floor, but they see it and come over. Everything ends up being delicious and I hate that we have to leave soon to go to the movies where we won’t be able to talk. It’s mostly chit chat while we’re at the table eating, but its comfortable and we all seem to be having a good time. Since talking with Gabriel, I haven’t looked toward Neil once in the longing way I usually do. I wonder if he notices this and how he feels about it. But, I don’t want to focus any more energy on Neil when I have a chance with this seemingly wonderful guy in front of me.
On the way out of the restaurant, Neil and Autumn walk ahead and Gabriel walks beside me. His hand moves to my lower back as he guides me through the aisles of the restaurant. His touch is warm and sensitive and brings shivers up my spine. We talk as we walk to the car and he seems genuinely interested in everything I have to say.
We decide to all take one car to the movies and Neil stole the front seat so I had no choice but to sit in the back with Gabriel as Autumn was driving. Gabriel is taller than Neil, but seems to have no problem sitting in the tight quarters of Autumn’s back seat. We’re close together and I can smell him again. That delicious musk and the smell of his clean hair mixes together and I can’t ignore the tightness I feel just below my belly.
I notice at this point that my depression has lifted, at least temporarily. My usual fuzziness has turned lucid. I’m clear on the things going on around me and I’m excited. A feeling I haven’t felt in a long time.
We pass through the town going to the movies and I notice how many places are around that I’ve never bothered to go into before. Antique places and other little bauble shops that have little things I love. But don’t I have enough stuff in my life? What I need is right here. Relationships. I need companionship. I can be complete on my own but I’ve just realized that I’m very, very lonely in this dark cave I live in, in my mind. I hate when people whine about not having a relationship, like they can’t be whole without someone else in their lives. Being alone for awhile has taught me that I can be complete and whole all by myself, but it certainly doesn’t exclude the fact that I’m still lonely. I crave to know people and to be able to share things with people and I long to be touched by a caring hand. Neil can touch me and make me feel special, but does he really care? Sure, we’re friends, but does he care about me as a woman?
I’m out in space thinking of these things when Gabriel touches my shoulder.
“You alright?” He asks quietly.
“Oh, yeah, sorry, I was a little spaced out there for a second. Have a lot on my mind.” I smile at him and he smiles back.
“I know what you mean.” I feel a little flutter in my chest when he says this as its as if he’s saying that he’s thinking about me just as much I’m thinking of him.
Suddenly, he reaches over and touches my hand before lifting my fingers to slide his hand within mine. I look up at him and he’s smiling and his eyes are soft. I smile back at him and want so badly to reach over and kiss him.
We arrive at the movie theatre and get out of the car. When we get around to each other, Gabriel grabs my hand again and this time, Neil notices and I see him smile and nudge Autumn. So, hand in hand we walk to the movie and I’m happier than I’ve been in months. Happier even than when I thought Neil and I were going to be an item. It felt too hard to be with Neil. This feels easy even in the first evening of meeting Gabriel.
Inside the dark theatre, Gabriel is still holding my hand and in the middle of the movie, he reaches over and whispers in my ear.
“Do you want to come over my place afterwards, nothing expected, just to talk.” I look over at him and see how nervous he is to ask this.
I lean over and whisper “Yes.”
After the movie, we split up and I go with Neil and Gabriel back to Gabriel’s car. He owns an older BMW, but its sharp looking anyway. I say goodbye to Neil and hop into Gabriel’s car, which has soft black leather interior.
“Oh, this interior is so nice and soft.”
“Yeah, but its hell in Summer time. It gets really hot!” He says.
“I can imagine.” I say.
We arrive at his apartment building a short time later and my anxiety grows. I feel like I wanna crawl out of my skin, but at the same time, I don’t want to go home and miss whatever might happen.
He opens my door and we go into the apartment building. It’s a nice building. Clean and modern. His apartment is amazingly neat for a man’s apartment and very colorful. It has a definite bohemian feel to it with a lot of fabrics about and lots of pictures on the wall. He puts on some nice music. It’s sort of eerie sounding, but beautiful at the same time. Just how I like it.
We sit down on his couch and he looks over at me and smiles nervously.
“Is this ok? I know this music isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.” He laughs.
“Yeah, I like it, actually. It’s kind of soothing, I might end up falling asleep…not to say you’re boring or anything.” We both laugh and I enjoy his laughter. It’s also very soothing. He has a calm but joyful laugh that makes me feel neither nervous or high strung.
“Yeah? Good. Seems like we have a lot in common.” He says this kind of nervously and I feel my own face turning pink as the blood rushes to my face in excitement at the truth of this.
We talk for hours after the initial ice breaking about our lives, how we grew up. I even start to confide in him about my illness and my past. Things I haven’t told many people. Like about how my dad left when I was 12 and how this impacted my life in so many ways. How I can’t trust people because of that and someone who betrayed my trust at the age of 18. Then I tell him how this same person forced me into an abortion I didn’t want and how I’ve regretted it ever since and that its something I’m still not completely over.
“God, you must think I’m a total screwball.” I look away shyly.
“No, I think you’re human. You’ve had a lot of tragedy in your life. You seem strong. You seem to be handling things a lot better than I think I would.” He reaches over and caresses my cheek as he says this. I close my eyes and let him touch me. His hand creeps down to my neck and pulls my face closer to his as he reaches to kiss me. It’s a warm, sensual kiss. The kind of first kiss you only dream of. He’s soft and gentle and not too eager. His hand on my neck makes my stomach clench and twist in anxiousness, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
He pulls away first and smiles his perfect sweet smile at me.
“I hope that was okay, I don’t want to seem pushy.”
“I didn’t pull away, did I?” I reach over and quickly kiss him on the lips then slowly move over to kiss his soft cheek. I want to do more than this, but know its unwise to go any further. Sex on a first date can seriously screw up a relationship. I don’t want him to think I’m easy and if it doesn’t work out, there are usually more hurt feelings.
“It’s late though, I think I should go. What are you doing this week? Do you want to get together?” I ask.
“That would be great. How about if I cook you a nice dinner and we can go catch another movie. Or we could rent one and stay in, its up to you.” He’s running his fingers through my short black hair while he talks and I’m finding it harder and harder to leave.
“Renting sounds nice. I get tired of those sticky, crowded theatres sometimes and there’s a lot out that I’ve been meaning to rent.”
“Ok, is Sunday night too soon?” It’s Friday night, so he’s eager to see me again. I can’t believe this is happening.
“No, that sounds nice. Will you bring me back to my car, its at Autumn’s. Or I could have her pick me up here.”
“No, no, I’ll drop you off. I’m not gonna make your friend come out here this late to pick you up.”
“Ok.” We get up to leave and as I walk to the door I feel his hand on my lower back again. Something he must like to do. I’m wishing upon wish that this is real and he’s not just trying to get me into bed. Neil will give me the scoop though. He’s honest and wouldn’t want to see me hurt.
I don’t want to leave him, but I can’t wait to get to Autumn’s so I can tell her all about this.
The drive over is quiet as we sit and listen to music. We chit-chat, but nothing serious. When we pull up to Autumn’s I feel the slightest bit of regret that I have to leave him.
“I had a really good time, Gabriel.” I say.
“I did too. I’m really glad Neil introduced us.” He leans over and kisses me softly again but this time his lips part and I can feel the tip of his tongue on my lips. I open my mouth and let his tongue in to caress the inside of my mouth.
I get out of the car and see that Autumn is peeking out and I stick my tongue out at her. She quickly folds the curtain back and walks away from the window. I wave to Gabriel as I walk up the sidewalk to Autumn’s house that she rents. It’s a green and white rancher with little plants everywhere that she planted herself and a beautiful lawn that she tends. Of all the things that she loves, gardening is surprisingly her favorite. Gabriel watches me until I get in the door and then he backs out of the driveway and drives away.
As I’m walking in the door, I hear Autumn screeching.
“Oh my god!! Did you just make out in my driveway!!!” She’s laughing and jumping up and down as if she had just had the most amazing date of her life and not me.
“Maybe. He’s fucking incredible!!! I can’t even believe this is happening. I mean stuff like this doesn’t happen to me, he must be gay and using me to repress his homosexuality or something.” I say.
Autumn comes over and hugs me. “I’m so happy for you, girl!! Let’s call Neil.” Autumn jumps onto the couch and grabs the white cordless phone on the table next to it to call Neil. I look around and see Autumn has similar tastes to Gabriel’s. Bohemian with lots of art on the walls, most of it hers. She has one painting that I did of a dark fairy with gray mountains in the back. Somewhat depressing, but she loved it so much I had to give it to her.
“Neil. Yeah, she just got back. They were totally making out in my drive way!” She’s cackling on the phone with him and I suddenly wonder how close this has brought the three of us. It’s as if we’re the best of friends yet Autumn, I thought, barely knew Neil. They are closer, I suppose, than I thought they were.
“Here, talk to her, I’ll go grab the other cordless.” Autumn throws the phone at me and goes to grab the other phone so we can have a three-way phone conversation.
“Hey Karen, how did it go?” He asks.
“Better than I would have imagined. He’s amazing Neil! Where on earth did he come from?” I’m laughing and Neil starts to laugh too. I start to get nervous though and decide to drill him a little.
“Tell me the truth, he’s not a player is he?” I ask.
“No, he’s genuinely a nice guy. He even talked about how much he hates one night stands. What kind of guy hates one night stands!?” I can’t help but laugh and feel relieved when he says this.
“A nice guy that’s who!” Autumn chimes in. We’re all laughing and giggling as if we’re all in high school and not our mid-twenties.
“Neil, I have to thank you on this one. I think you really picked out a winner for me. I never knew you were such a good match maker!” He’s about to answer, but there’s a moment of unusual silence.
“I got another call, it’s Gabe. I’ll call you ladies tomorrow ok, I’m sure he’ll want to talk for awhile…hahaha.” He hangs up after we say our good byes and Autumn screeches again.
“This is so awesome! When are you gonna see him again?” She asks.