16 November 2005

(Red Journal Excerpt 7 - "Crush")

"Please select another channel" is what vibrates in white pixelated letters on the small, blue screen in front of me. I just flashed on the image I saw on the Jet Blue flight- a white plane, seemingly peaceful in Californian blue sky- and wondered what the news cameras are focused on now. I am listening to "Rhubarb" by Aphex Twin, the third song on his Selected Ambient Works II album, and the first selection on an ambient mix I made for [omitted], or- as she's more easily referred to by my friends and me- [omitted]. The synths are half-drowned in the wind-like hum of clouds passing by at hundreds of miles per hour outside.

Then comes Pole, "Modul" from his first album. I remember listening to it in Carlisle, watching thick snow fall in the darkness of the courtyard beyond my windows. It is so odd how many memories music can hold. On the way to the airport, on the A train I took to make boarding this morning by the skin of my teeth, I listened to Cocteau Twins' "Four Calendar Cafe" and shot through image after image: Reggie, my old suite mate at Columbia College, singing along to "Oil of Angels" in our living room; his then crush (and one of mine as well), Amy, who is now married to another person from that era- Justin, whom I used to visit on the second floor. If I remember correctly, they used to live across the hall from each other. That's the beauty of dormitories: those same hallways I'd decorate with highlighter pink, blue, and florescent yellow bubble letters spelling the word "love" would ironically spawn it.

And I thought of Jenny, who put "Know Who You Are At Every Age" on a mix CD for me. I can't think of what company's tag line was "Give The Gift of Music" (I want to say it was Sam Goody, but Sam Goody's is "Goody's got it," which is painfully gay), but when you do that, you include yourself within it, and remain there forever- somewhere in the melody, or the chords on which it dances, or even in the reverb saturating a voice. And now, all these songs will have a once-secret girl named [omitted] in them, a girl I never met while at NYU. She saw the same snow through her window, walked the same sidewalks littered with stares, headphones, and people passing her by. We could have passed each other a million times on Broadway or University Place, or eaten across from each other at Weinstein or Third North, but I feel I would've remembered her. She has a face you wouldn't forget.

Instead, we met at a time a little later, on a summer morning on the upper-east side. I sat next to her at breakfast. Her friend had gotten up to get food and I offered to save their seats so she could as well. And, quite honestly, I didn't mean to get a crush on her. I didn't mean to talk to her the entire day, sitting away from her at lunch out of guilt- guilt because I had just begun living with my girlfriend a couple weeks before. I didn't mean to have her come in between, but you never "mean" for these things to happen.

*

The mature, mellow taste and deep foamy head make Kirin Lager Beer a wonderful harmony of refreshing taste and refined quality.

*

But, none of those things really make much of a difference in terms of how everything worked out. I feel I could've continued on with [my girlfriend] until the same thing happened and we broke up for the same reason, because [omitted] had nothing to do with our problems. Yet, in the midst of it all, she was there, and she wasn't someone whom I'd just let go. There was and is something there- what it is I can't explain- but it draws me to her in this really pure way. It's not a crush like I've had before, and I don't know if it's because I'm getting older and have been tiring of shallow encounters, or if it's that- after being with [my ex]- everything else pales in comparison. And I am not writing this as praise or prophecy; it's simply what I feel, and I have no idea what will happen between us, if anything.

That's what I have to stop doing- for my sake, if nothing else. I have to stop analyzing, stop skipping ahead, stop making everyone "the one," even if that's who they eventually turn out to be. In the meantime, I need to enjoy each moment of each day. And I am lucky to even have someone that compels me to write in this way no matter what it means!

At our first dinner together at the Organic Kitchen on St. Marks & 1st Avenue, we couldn't stop talking. It was to the extent that the waitress asked us to leave after we were the last among tables all covered in overturned chairs. We went outside, and I fed her a cactus pear we bought at a bodega up the street. At her door, she apologized for being so distant and "slippery" when we first met, and explained unnecessarily that it wasn't me. I had "intense energy" she said. Having spent those few hours together made me think of her even more incessantly. She agreed to go ice skating with me the next weekend.

We met at Bryant Park. She had made it there first and phoned me to ask where I was. I walked up the stairs and looked for her at the fountain, then noticed a girl watching the skaters round the rink. She wore her beautiful red hair down with her back to me. It was her. We hugged hello, and got in line for our skates and bag check. Our initial lack of balance on the ice necessitated us holding hands for support, and I felt the slightest shift in energy when she smiled, regaining composure or helping me to do the same, dizzying ourselves in circles and conversation. The moon shone brighter than all the skyscrapers surrounding us. She'd compliment me on my skating, and when either of us got too far ahead, we'd slow and turn our heads in a smile, looking for the other.

When we were out of our bright blue skates and back on the street, our natural walking momentum felt thickened in molasses. I still yearned to slide and to turn, and my mind felt the same. When she apologized for becoming less talkative, I suggested we stop speaking altogether. Thus began one of the more memorable times I had recently spent with a person, absurdly gesturing and humming on the way to- and aboard- the subway, heading to dinner. We shared what remained of my Sweet Tarts, and she'd stick out her soft tongue to show me the broken colored pieces.

I grabbed her hand as we exited at Union Square, and she gave it the slightest squeeze as we crossed the yellow square tiles onto the platform. We had started talking again after trying to plan dinner without words proved too difficult, and we slid past drunken and under-dressed bar patrons, shivering in perfumed packs and heading to their next haunt. We sat at Yaffa Cafe against a window in the back, underneath two statues illuminated in a dim red and surrounded by black and white checkered tiles and paintings of women. She sat next to a mirror and occasionally glanced at herself to fiddle with her hair; she claimed it was wind-blown. We both laughed about this and, without thinking, I held her face gently in my hands and told her she looked fine as I brought it to mine for a brief kiss. She mmmed when our lips came together, and soon we were nonchalantly looking back at our menus as if nothing had happened but knowing full-well that it had.

We talked passionately the entire time as usual, and got to learn more about each other. I felt increasingly comfortable with her, and she was even looking away less. I took that as a sign that she, too, was becoming less nervous. She is a chocoholic, so we shared a piece of cake with a warm, gooey and rich center. When the waitress had explained that detail, [she] had looked at me smiling as if seeking my approval; I could've told her then that she didn't need it. We ate our cake and I fed her the first spoonful, smothered by sweet whipped cream.

At her door this time, there was a different energy, a more familiar feel. Her hug was stronger and longer, her smile maybe a little wider, but what set this time apart was what followed. Our lips met in the gentlest way, candy slightly masking chocolate and the taste of sweet gloss covering that freckle on her bottom lip: the one I had guiltily imagined kissing the day we met. My scarf was wrapped so tightly around my neck that it was almost difficult to cock my head to the side. When I pulled away, she remained still, eyes closed and lips apart, completely motionless in the light from her stairwell, my hands on her hips. Before we kissed again, I not-so-elegantly spat my candy on the sidewalk. We locked fingers. I touched her face, then her hair, and breathed in the moment so slowly I would've forgotten it was happening had it not been for the feel of her warm mouth and my heart and stomach tingling as a reminder.

"What are you thinking about," she asked as I cradled her face in my hands.

"Nothing," I said.

And it was true. My mind was a blank. I could've stood there until we both collapsed on the pavement. It's strange to daydream of something for so long because when it finally happens, it's seldom easy to differentiate those thoughts from reality itself. You are left with a meta-experience, almost oblivious to the fact it's actually happening outside of your own mind. But, with [her], I was just there for most of it- that is, when I wasn't doing cartwheels in my head. Meanwhile, I am on the plane to Tokyo feeling fatigued after drinking two Kirin beers and watching three movies in a row, all of which were- at their core- love stories. I am going to close my eyes for a while. According to the little image of our plane in the monitor, we just crossed the international dateline. That means I have to ignore the fact that it's 8:38 PM Wednesday night; it's now Thursday at half-past-nine or so if I am doing the math correctly, and I should at least try to sleep.