The Parking Lot

Essay

I found myself trying to get into your old parking lot last night. I swore I would never go back, but I did. As I drove to the entry gate the sign on the button said, “Out of Order”.

“No shit.” I stammered to myself as I backed up and drove around to the 2-hour street parking.

As I climbed out of my car old habits came back to me. I began to scan the parking lot for your yellow truck, even though I knew it wouldn’t be there.  I wanted to start walking up the back alley to those steep stairs that led to your loft, even though I knew you wouldn’t be there. I almost got out my phone to call you and say I’m here, even though I knew you wouldn’t pick up. So instead, I walked past everything as if I had never seen it before.

But I couldn’t just walk past it without memories flooding back into my weak mind. We met in that parking lot. We had our first kiss in that parking lot. We walked hand in hand for the first time in that parking lot. You took my dog for walks around that parking lot. You surprised me with beer and ingredients for BLTs in that parking lot. You danced with me while we waited for an Uber in that parking lot. You were generous to strangers and let them use your key to exit and enter that parking lot. You listened to me sing off key in your truck in that parking lot. And you walked me to my car each morning, gave me a kiss, and told me to have a great day at work in that parking lot.

But I also have to remember the painful memories that my weak mind tends to ignore. Like all the nights I walked myself back to my car in that parking lot. Or the night I ran out of your place after a fight and waited for you to come find me in that parking lot. All the times I would pay for my car to sit there overnight in that parking lot. The nights I would come over but sit and debate with myself if I should actually get out of my car or just leave that parking lot. And of course, the night I came over to check and see if you had really left me and if your truck was still in that parking lot. Because now that I’m walking down memory lane I can only think of a handful of times I saw that parking lot in the daylight.

So when I saw that the sign said “Out of Order”, I knew it was over. It was an actual sign telling me that our time was up and I couldn’t go back even though a part me still thinks about it every day.

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My Note to Her

Essay

There is no good way to start this, so here goes nothing. I’m not even sure if you know who I am. I hope you know I exist but if you don’t I’m sorry. I’m sorry I ever hated you. I’m sorry I thought you were the terrible person this whole time. And I’m sorry you’re dealing with the same pain as me right now.

I’m going to be as honest as possible. You knew him a few months before I knew him. You were his someone during one of his dark times of transition. You seemed to have really liked each others company but then I came along, and I swear I knew nothing about you. Well, I take that back because I knew of you only on his social media account. I didn’t think anything of you because, for some strange reason, I trusted him. That was my fault. I should have known he was hiding someone from me.

He must have known I was falling quickly so he left one weekend to go see you without my knowledge. He told me later that you invited him up there so I initially blamed you for his misbehavior. But I blinded myself from your name constantly popping up on his phone. I blinded myself from the pictures you took together that weekend and a few weekends after, that I knew nothing about until much later. I wanted to be his someone but now I know I was just a silly distraction.

I was dumb and naive to think that you were just a friend of his. Honestly, so was I. The part that hurts the most was seeing that you had a daughter. I couldn’t imagine letting him meet another part of me that was more important than myself. But you let him into her life for a short time and for that you’re brave. I thought him meeting my dog and taking care of him was a big deal. But that’s just another part of this sad story where I’m wrong.

Can I tell you something embarrassing? I was beyond thrilled when he didn’t like your pictures on Facebook during our brief exclusive phase. Can I tell you something even more embarrassing? I cried on my kitchen floor one night all by myself after I came back from his place. I cried because he had just liked a picture of you and your daughter from that day. He must have thought about you a lot. He must have cared for you deeply. But I was never cared for by him in that way, and for that I hated you. After he left me I realized it was never your fault.

He left me because of reasons I’m still trying to sort out in my head. Reasons that I’d like for him to explain but I know I’ll never get the closure I so desperately want. When he was gone I was beyond upset. More than anything though, I wanted to know if he was still talking to you. I wanted to know if he was gone because he was finally ready to commit himself to one person; maybe he was ready for you. I checked your social media to see if pictures of him would pop up, but they never did. He continued to like your pictures though, which confused the hell out of me. I’m sure it did the same, if not worse, to you.

But then it all stopped. His name was nowhere to be found on your Facebook likes and I wondered for days what had happened. Then, without warning, we both came to realize he had moved on without us. He had found his new someone that would carry him through another dark time and be his saving grace. This girl got to meet his whole entire family only after two months of dating. This girl became his best friend, his leading lady, and we were just the supporting characters.

Unfortunately, when you’re a supporting character you don’t necessarily get the recognition you deserve. Most supporting characters share a commonality throughout a story. Our commonality being him. We shared the same boy for a little less than a year. We shared the same burden digging into our shoulders day after day. And now we share the same unfair treatment by this boy who refuses to admit what he’s done to us. I’d like to think we’re one in the same, but then again I could be wrong.

I had a dream about you a couple of months back. I hope that isn’t too weird to say. It was during the storm of emotions I felt every day I saw a new picture of them together. I dreamt that I was the one to come up and visit you this time. Like most girls do, we sat and chatted about boys. I don’t remember the conversation per se, but I do remember getting a feeling of relief after we were done talking. The problem here is that I don’t see you as a friend. I don’t even see you as an acquaintance. But now more than ever I feel like we should be friends because we share the same pain. We could fill in gaps of our stories that never made sense. But if you don’t know who I am, I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I never share this letter with you.

Homes

Essay

My fingers graze your skin as I outline the four great lakes permanently inked on your side. Superior. On the first night we met, you thought it would be fun to test my knowledge of the lakes you grew up next to. Michigan. But I would not see your tattoo until the first time I slept in your bed. Huron. This is not that night. Eerie. At this point, I have lost count of how many times I have stayed over. Ontario. 

You resemble a bear with your scruffy face down in a pillow and your firm arms wrapping around both sides. Watching your burly physique slowly lift up and down to match your breathing keeps me occupied, as I lie there wide awake. My mind is lit with numerous thoughts, and my awareness of the lack of touch between us makes me crave your connection even more. I so badly want to be your pillow and, the sad part is, most of the time I was that soft item you held onto during the night. I want you to wrap your arms around me, not some silly pillow. I need you to intertwine our tired bodies like you used to, but for some reason tonight is different.

Spending the night at your place has become such a habit that I didn’t realize this is how you actually sleep when I’m not here. It has been a week since I’ve seen you last, and this is only the second time I’ve come over since our fight about another girl. We haven’t communicated about what we are, what we are doing, and why the hell we are doing it. And I can’t sleep thinking you don’t want me to be here; maybe that is why we aren’t tangled in each other’s arms. It’s possible that you want her but, since she lives seven hours away, you settled for me instead.

My fingers continue to softly trace the lakes, which help keep you aware of my body lying next to yours. I think of the acronym you used the first night we met to help me remember the name of each lake. H.O.M.E.S. stands for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Eerie, and Superior. In my mind, a home stands for multiple places. Even though we both came from opposite ends of the country, we each had a lot of homes under our belt. Both of us had moved at a young age to a neighboring state with our families, leaving behind the ones we were born in. We each chose an out-of-state college that was close to home, but far enough. After college, you had a job that kept you moving to where projects needed to be completed and I had, as my mother puts it, a gypsy soul that wanted to travel. I had a home in six states; you had a home in eight.

“Do you ever get worried that you’ll never find your home?” I say abruptly.

Your eyes are closed but your whole body shifts to face me. With a heavy sigh and little hesitation you say, “No, everything happens for a reason.”

After our simple exchange of words, I toss and turn and wonder where I belong. The feeling of loneliness creeps into my tense body as I begin to think about us and the current state that we both consider our home. I look over my shoulder and see you trying to hold on to some part of my nervous body.

“What’s wrong?” you finally whisper.

“I just really don’t like that saying. It’s always bothered me.” I reply.

I don’t want to tell you that I’m afraid I’m considering you a part of my home. We have never caressed in an awkward manner before, and for once I blame myself. I can tell you were uncomfortable with what I brought up, and I have never felt an ounce of discomfort with you before.

“Are you okay?” you ask.

After a few seconds of silence, I quietly whisper “Yeah.”

However, you know a big part of me is not, so you pull me in close and give me a gentle kiss on the back of my neck. Every part of my small frame wants to burst into flames and scream. So instead, I close my eyes as they begin to water and I take a deep breath before I pretend to fall asleep in your arms.

It’s in that moment I realize there are some things we can’t do to each other anymore. You can’t talk to me about your troubles at work. I can’t bake sweet treats for us to share. You can’t hold me in your arms and tell me everything will be all right. I can’t skim my fingers through your hair to help you fall asleep. You can’t use the toilet while I brush my teeth. I can’t make your bed for you after we wake up. And we can’t kiss goodbye and tell each other to have a great day at work.

All of these actions make me feel at home. I feel comfort in a routine that we both know will not last. I know for a fact this is not your last pit stop. You and I have other homes in our future, and it’s concerning how content I feel in the home we’re living in right now. So should we stop this and reconsider?

The Pink​ Starburst

Essay

For the Red Sour Patch Kid 

I catch myself staring at your back as we peruse each aisle in the market. I stand behind you, trying to help in some way, but my mind is occupied. My hands decide they are lonely so I begin rummaging around in my purse hoping to find some lip balm, but I pick out a piece of candy instead. I squeal in utter excitement, and the convenience clerk glares in my immediate direction, but I don’t care. Then you walk over with a wine bottle in your hand laughing at my childlike fetish.

“We’re gonna go with this one.” you say with a giggle.

“Perfect,” I reply with a half eaten Bit-O-Honey in my mouth.

The clerk tells me I look young but doesn’t ask for my ID as we checkout red wine and two containers of freshly cut vegetables. We laugh about my candy addiction and the clerk’s strange attitude on the brisk walk back to your loft. The candy begins to melt away in my mouth as we descend down the back alley of a busy street. I have never been to your place before and as we begin walking up a set of steep stairs behind a noisy bar all I can think is… What the hell am I doing?

I continue up those stairs with you because I crave the mystery hiding behind your hazel eyes and rough exterior. I want to know why I am with you and what we will encounter next. Our stories intertwine easily with our similar experiences and sense of humor. I feel pain in my face from smiling and laughing with you tonight. My cheeks become flush because of you but I want to blame it on my second glass of wine.

“Let’s play a game,” I say while positioning myself crossed legged on your couch.

“Alright.” you reply with a glazed over grin.

It’s one of those silly questions, something we have been asking each other all night like… What’s your spirit animal? What song would play as you walk up to bat? What high school clique were you a part of?

“If you were a piece of candy, what kind would you be?” I ask.

I see your face change in an instant. Your eyes glue to mine and your lips clench together. It takes you awhile to contemplate your answer, which seems silly to me, but I wait patiently.

With your eyes glued to mine, you ask, “What kind would you be?”

“Easy, a pink Starburst,” I say with no hesitation. The question was something I had never thought of before but I knew right away what I would be. It wasn’t my favorite candy but it was a candy craved by many, and I wanted you to know I was a hot commodity.

“I guess I would be a red Sour Patch Kid.” you finally decide.

And that was it, nothing else was said on that topic. But sometimes a simple question can lead to a complex answer. Let me break it down for you. We both picked a candy that represented us for the next several months. You, a candy covered in sourness and me, a candy tightly wrapped inside of her package.

I hate sour candy. It makes me cringe and pucker up but once you get past that phase it’s all sweet; just like you. That rough exterior was hiding this silly little boy just looking for happiness in this big lonely world. The first half of our relationship was all distasteful because we both realized how alone and lost we felt. You drank and I felt used. Once the sourness was gone the last half of this so-called mess was bliss. I finally got to meet the witty boy who cared about our waiters and wanted to make sure I got to work safely. The sweetness didn’t last for long though because then you were gone, just like the advertisement.

So here I am covered perfectly in pink wrapping. Perfect was a word you once used to describe me but I was far from it. Scared would have been a better name for it. I was wrapped up so tightly that it became a roadblock for you. It was hard for me to open up about anything and when you picked at my paper I would tremble. You unwrapped me like it was second nature and tossed my paper in the trash. I felt bare and alone when you were sour but that sweet phase kept me from going through the garbage to find my shield. Because now we were uncovered as a pair and it finally felt as if we were on the same page.

Both of us had our barriers but I couldn’t stop you from leaving. I tolerated your bad behavior waiting for some sweetness. And my unraveling showed my helplessness for your kind. Maybe it was because the pink Starburst wasn’t your favorite candy, just like sour candies weren’t mine.

Words are Hard

Essay

My whole body froze the moment I saw you through the windshield of my car. We had just ended a phone conversation where I was instructed to wait on you to come find me in the crowded parking lot. Before we met in person, the only interaction we had was through texts and short phone conversations like this one. It wasn’t until I locked eyes with you, without the security of my phone in my hands, that I realized I was in big trouble. I watched your tall, dark, and dangerous frame strut its way across the parking lot towards my car as I slowly began to thaw out. Your bad boy demeanor still had me fixated, and I could no longer hold in the cuss words that began spewing out of my mouth.

That first date still haunts me. What we had that night was extremely natural and comfortable. When I met you I felt an instant connection. It seemed as if I was with someone I had known forever. I couldn’t explain that rare feeling to anyone, not even myself. And that’s why it has taken me this long to write it all down, because words are hard. So I decided to put this so-called thing into stages.

I guess we can call the first stage flirty and naive. I’ll make the month of April simple. We met, we hung out several times, and then I found out about someone else in your life. Things got messy. I didn’t want to freak out when I found out about her, I just wanted to know what this interaction meant for us. I came over, we talked about it some, but nothing was resolved. That was one of the only times we communicated about what was going on. I knew we weren’t anything official, but when you told me that I was in the same category as her it hit me to the core. And when you wouldn’t answer my main question about the circumstance we found ourselves in, I knew I had to leave without another word. I’m afraid to admit that neither of us could muster up the guts to say what we really wanted to say at that night, because words are hard.

The second stage was when I became foolish and careless. Also known as: whatever happened after the month of April. It was plain and simple we were hooking up though. I knew it, you knew it, and it was discussed… but not really. When we were together everything felt typical. You were drunk, we were both tired of work, and I was more than willing to come over to try and make things better. I didn’t care though because I knew I could always be myself around you. I felt at ease in this familiar routine. But at one point we weren’t on the same page during that summer. You were working your ass off and I was traveling across the United States trying not to think about my job. But I know that didn’t keep you from talking to her and it didn’t keep me from talking to other guys. I would try to contact you when I was back home for a bit, but there were times I didn’t get a reply. I thought this meant you had moved on, in a literal sense. You had to leave and move to the next project for work. No reply was fine, at that time, because continuing something that would eventually have to end wouldn’t make much sense. But I learned in July that you were still here and we saw each other again after my travels. That time together was short but when our hookups turned into you sharing personal information about work or your family I’d wonder… why? Are you just trying to make conversation before getting me into bed? Or are you truly sharing this information because you felt comfortable doing so? Either way I didn’t get it. Your behavior suggested that you wanted something legitimate, but at one point you told me you didn’t want that. That’s when this whole thing became confusing and difficult for me. But I guess I understand now why we didn’t talk about it, because words are hard.

That final stage was when I turned into someone hopeful and observant. Time had passed and it had been awhile since our last interaction. July was over and my school year was about to begin when I found out something awful had just happened to you. I wanted to make sure you were fine, so when we met up again I pretended like you hadn’t ignored me for the remainder of July. You told me about the surgery and I found out about the next place you were excited to move to. This time around it seemed as if everything would get better. This incident brought out a new side of you that I had never seen before. Your injury was a difficult subject to talk about but you weren’t afraid to tell me. Just like you weren’t afraid to tell me about your new home you would be moving to in October. A place I had considered home for twenty years. I wondered if your incident brought us back together again for this reason. A reason I couldn’t yet explain. We spent the next two months learning more about the other person through dinner dates and honest conversations. I like to think that we evolve as people, and I knew during this time that you weren’t the same guy I had met back in April. Just like I wasn’t the same naive, flirty, careless, and foolish girl. But there are certain parts of us that we can never change. You seemed afraid of goodbyes and I couldn’t find the courage to tell you how I really felt during each of these stages. I thought I knew you better this time around, but I guess I was wrong. You left me in October without a simple goodbye and then moved ten minutes away from where I grew up… because words are hard?

I never wanted to tell you any of this because I always thought it was bad timing. I never wanted to tell you any of this because I always thought that you wouldn’t be here for long, so why bother. I never wanted to tell you any of this because I always thought we were just having fun, no strings attached. I never wanted to tell you any of this because communication is my weakness. I never wanted to tell you any of this because at one point I thought we would be fine. But now I have run out of excuses of why I never wanted to tell you any of this. So here it is. I guess words really aren’t that hard.

The Coffee Table

Essay

After knowing you for only a month I considered your brown leather couch a close friend of mine. It had become my safety blanket in your small studio apartment full of memorabilia from all the places you had experienced. Every time I came over to see you I felt a sense of uneasiness until I saw your couch. I know it sounds crazy, but it had this enchanting ability to draw me into your place and relax the butterflies soaring around in my stomach. When I found my spot on it I would sink deep into the cushions and hide from you, until you found me and captured me with your alluring presence. At the time, nothing made me feel more comfortable then when I was lying down on the couch wrapped in your sturdy arms. But unfortunately this isn’t about your couch; this is about your coffee table.

Your coffee table sat gracefully in front of your brown leather couch with its vintage gold legs curled up to hold a rectangular glass top. The glass held our beer and blueberries on the night you randomly told me I could have this piece of furniture. It shocked me that you wanted to give something of yours over to a girl you had only know for a few weeks. But that surprise feeling quickly faded when you told me about your new coffee table, sitting alone in the corner by your front door just waiting to be stained. You were trying to make your place feel more like a home, and you thought this wood coffee table you had just built would do the trick. I did not understand why you needed something new. I thought the fragile demeanor of the coffee table that you already had complimented the masculinity of your couch; they were the perfect fit. But you did not ask for my opinion, and I could tell you were excited about staining your new coffee table.

On our first date we ate deep dish pizza, veggies, and red wine at your place. That was the night you served me our first, and only, dinner on the coffee table that I would come to admire. We shared a night filled with background music from your Spotify playlist and plenty of banter as we began to eagerly learn about one another. Both of us had lived in at least six states so far, which led us to looking at maps on your iPad. You zoomed in to show me the road you grew up on in Michigan, and I tried to test your knowledge on big cities in Louisiana. Our bodies were close as we both bent over the coffee table to look at a bright screen in pure excitement. Nobody had shared this commonality of moving with me before, which made liking you that much easier.

After awhile I would notice the bridge designs you kept in a binder on the table. You made sure to scan over these designs almost every night before another long day of work. I would sit back and watch in awe as you looked over drawings of a bridge as if it were an absolute mystery. You wore a serious face and concentrated on each point, while silently talking to yourself, until you looked back at me with a goofy grin. Instead of being awkward, you made it a joke and pretended like I was a buddy of yours at work who knew exactly what you were talking about. Work became a serious topic for both of us, but we knew there were times when we just had to let it go and make a joke out of it. However seeing your blood shot eyes every night and your lack of presence indicated to me that you were extremely stressed. Saying this to myself was the easy part, but I secretly knew that sometimes you would drown yourself in alcohol to make the pressure of everything fade away. When talk about our jobs would get overbearing for either of us, we quickly learned how to make the other person less tense. You would feed me fruit and tell me crazy stories, and I would watch you drink and try my best to create diversions.

I once suggested that we play a game of cards on top of the table. Speed was the name of the game and we laughed so hard as we tried to remember the rules from our youth. I ended up winning two out of the three games but seeing you smile and have a good time was the real win in my book. Though I will never forget the fun game you had planned for us during one of the last evenings I would come over. I walked in towards the couch and saw two cacti, two ceramic holders, and one small bag of dirt sitting on the glass top of the table. You were giddy and ready to get started without any prior planting experience, so I felt the need to help out. I kind of knew what I was doing but we ended up making a bit of a mess anyways. After we finished moving the cacti into their new homes, you swept the dirt off the glass and began to think of names out loud for your new “roommates”. I sank back into the cushions where I watched your strong back lean from the couch to the coffee table, as you continued to clean and look back at me with your sweet smile.

Deep into the cushions is where I knew you would always find me. And when you did, you would crash into me and find every possible way to make me melt into your arms. I remember the way you looked into me with your hazel eyes on our first date where we sat close and talked about work, friends, food, and everything in between. I could not stop you from moving into my personal space that night and the rest of the nights to come. The Spotify playlist was there to set the mood and keep me coming back for more music that would eventually remind me of you. Everything felt natural when we were together on the couch listening to your favorite songs. We would tease each other and canoodle as we searched for something to watch on Netflix each night. And some nights just lying there and watching you clean or do laundry was enough for me.

But there were some moments on the couch that made me begin to wonder. Like the night you were scrolling through your phone trying to find a text from your brother. You stopped mid-scroll and showed me a picture of myself that you had sent him. You had told your best friend about me and my sister, who was also my best friend, knew nothing about you. The only reaction I could muster was a soft grin and an awkward eyebrow curl. You always caught me off guard and reacting to situations in the best manner is not my strong suit. Kind of like the time you whispered baby in my ear when you wanted me to move positions on the couch so you could get up and use the bathroom. I moved because I thought you were just sleep talking but you got up, kissed my cheek, and gave me a wink as you walked into the bathroom. You left me there sitting up and unable to move like some silly statue. But the couch took care of me while you were gone and every single soaring butterfly in my stomach soon became calm. When you came back I was able to let you in as you wrapped me up in the safety of your arms once again. 

You took me into your whole body on that couch, and I had never felt more protected by someone outside of my immediate family. You were so gentle when you stroked my hand and then held it as you used your other hand to caress my ribcage. I knew your work schedule kept you from getting adequate sleep, so I let you embrace me as I watched Netflix and you snored loudly in my ear. I honestly did not mind the snoring in the least bit because. I remember thinking it was cute that you could feel comfortable falling asleep holding someone you barely knew, and then breathing loudly in their ears. But I also thought it was cute when you would not let go of me some nights. You held on to me tightly and grunted so I could not get up and leave. You would not let me get up and leave that stupid brown leather couch. So that is when I began to stay. We stayed on the couch until it was time for bed. But this is not about the bed, it’s about the coffee table and sometimes it’s about the couch.

The last time I came to your place I did not touch your couch or my coffee table. I could not even look in their general direction as I perched myself on your kitchen wall. There was no kiss hello, and we both pretended like the reason I came over was to get my sweater that I stupidly left next to your bed the last time I stayed. You wanted to talk like everything was normal, but it was apparent that I could not do that. The tension between us became unbearable as you slowly poured yourself a glass of whiskey. I had the recent pictures of you and her burning in my mind just like the whiskey that was currently burning down your throat.

We began talking about things that I never wanted to talk about with you, which made me wonder if I was in a nightmare I would soon wake up from. But when I didn’t wake I was naive enough to think that this could possibly be our first real fight. That was until I realized I needed to ask the question that was going to burn us instantly. And when you stood there with no response and a blank stare, I became irate and stormed out of your place with no words other than a harsh goodbye. As I was rushing to the door I saw the new coffee table still sitting in the corner and I wanted to kick it so badly. But I stopped myself, and I took one last glance of the coffee table and vacant couch just sitting there without us. I hate that this is the last memory I have of these pieces of furniture. There are times when I wonder if all you think about is what happened on the couch, because I am constantly thinking of that damn coffee table and if I will ever get a chance to get it from you.