I try as hard as I can to focus on my face in the mirror; this is a very hard task to accomplish when the room is spinning at full speed. For a quick moment I think back to my childhood; I’d sit on roller coasters with my friends and watch as the world would spin around me.
Eventually, I would always have to close my eyes and focus on the darkness behind them. There I couldn’t see what was going on in front of me.
I just want, so badly, to be able to catch a glimpse of happiness in my now dark, sunken eyes.
All I can hear is a familiar shrike of laughter in the next room; I’ve decided that fifteen year old girls should be prohibited from laughter all together simply because of the fact that at times (especially a moment like this), their laughter can seem ear piercing and excruciating.
“What are you doing in here?” I glance up to see Nick standing above me, his chocolate eyes now red and hazy.
Months ago, Nick and I had sat in my driveway smoking Camel Lights and drinking cheap, cold beer. Maybe it was the alcohol, or maybe it was the fact that Nick realized, within only a week or so of knowing me, that I was his Cinderella. Maybe he foresaw his future and realized that there would never be another girl as innocent as me that would trample upon his path; there would never be another girl like me that would drift away from her own smooth road in order to tumble down hi gravel road with him.
Whatever it was, Nick had decided to be honest. I remember him taking a long and slow sip of his beer before telling me that he had only been out of rehab for heroin for a few months.
I don’t know what it was in me; maybe it was the alcohol or maybe it was the fact that when I saw this look on his face; this lost, helpless, unloved look, I wanted to fix it. I wanted to tend to this man and mold his life into an event so extraordinary that individuals would come all around the world to prove to their children that love, still, always wins. And hadn’t The Beatles always been right? Weren’t we all just trying to give peace a chance?
So, when I leaned over and took his head in my hands, kissing his cheeks, I knew I was agreeing to hold him like a wounded dog.
I wake up suddenly the following morning, next to Nick, when I hear a soft tapping on the bedroom window. The morning sunlight is dancing around on the ceiling with a certain kind of enthusiasm I can’t seem to muster up as early as ten o’clock in the morning. My head is pounding. My throat is dry. I’m glad that I remembered to call my parents last night to let them know I wasn’t coming home. They would wait up all night for me otherwise. They promise me that this is something I will understand when I one day have children.
The tap has turned into a loud knock. I shove Nick.
“Wake up. Someone is tapping at the window,” I say as I shove him with my foot. He looks up at me, groggy eyed. He smiles and leans over and places a hand on my thigh. His eyes question me; beg me, for morning sex. I sigh.
“There is someone at the window, Nick,” I mumble flatly. He rolls over and opens the blind. We see Lowell standing outside among the bushes, vibrant red hair peeking its way under his Northside Pool baseball cap. A wide smile spreads across his face.
“Great. You’re not fucking. Can I come in?” I roll my eyes and search quickly for a pair of boxer shorts so I’m not simply sitting in a tank top and underwear.
Nick is already up, placing a cd in the stereo. Lowell doesn’t wait for an answer before climbing through the window and placing his body next to mine on the bed. He smiles and wipes sweat from above his lip.
“Julia, have you ever seen a picture of Nick from his younger years?” he asks as he reaches insides his cargo pants and pulls out a tye dye velvet case.
“Shut up, man,” Nick says as he struts around his room in just boxers, looking for his pack of cigarettes. I see them under the pillow, take one and toss the rest to him. Lowell hands me a lighter.
“No, I haven’t.” Nick is a few years older than me, and although we went to the same high school, he was thrown out many a time for suspensions and expulsions. I, on the other hand, got straight A’s and B’s throughout high school.
“You gotta see this shit,” Lowell says as he laughs. I have never met a guy like Lowell before in my life. He’s unusually smart, and will often treat us to his philosophies on life. For example, Lowell feels that when a great musician dies, his spirit lives on in the bodies and souls of his most beloved fans. Hence the reason we cannot go a night without listening to the Grateful Dead when Lowell is around.
“What you got there?” Nick asks as he points to Lowell’s case, attempting to chance the topic.
“Oh. Yeah. You guys wanna smoke some reefer?”
“Aren’t you soupposed to be at work, Lowell?” I ask as I ash into an old Coke can. He glances up at me, a blank stare.
“Julia, I work at Northside Pool. I take care of people’s pools at their homes while they’re out of town. Are you kiddin’ me?”
“So…you just don’t show up?”
“Hell no, I show up and then over charge the motherfuckers. I just let the hose run while I go out and get high. Then, walla!,” he snaps his fingers, “I go back to the mansions on East side, take the hose out, and say that I endured the most torturous and scalding hot day of my life…and I let my boss know that he should give me a raise.”
“You are such a fucking hippie,” Nick says. I laugh.
“Baby, at least he has a job.”
“That’s right, Julia. Lay it on him.” He sparks the bowl and the sweet smell of marijuana fills the air. The haze fills the room, and we smoke until Nick’s dog scratches at the door. We smoke until our eyes are bloodshot red. We smoke until my memories become faded.
Canines always smell trouble and a broken heart.
I remember lying on your bedroom floor, staring up at the ceiling, shivering because I’m now face to face with the truth. You threw the door to your room open and before long you’re above me. You’re screaming at me; accusing me of cheating on you with Rick, who stood outside the door and tried desperately to explain to you that this is all one of your illusions.
I know I antagonize you, but I couldn’t help but push you around when I honestly felt that you had gotten me into this trouble all by yourself. I screamed at you that you were useless, and I wondered myself where I had found it in my heart to yell such vulgar words to the man I slept next to at night.
Before long, you grabbed me by the arms, telling me to get out of your fucking house. You called me a whore and a slut; only a cheap woman would sleep with one of your best friends.
I would have never laid a hand on another man. Your
Your friends looked on our episode in shock. I couldn’t believe that no one was baking me up. I couldn’t believe that Rick had left. Most of all, I couldn’t believe that I’d let myself get pushed into such a situation that rendered me to stay the night. I couldn’t possibly go home like this.
I remember slamming your bedroom door with such force and anger that it nearly broke down. I locked it quickly, trying my best to ignore your screams outside. I covered my ears, lied down on your bed and cried myself to sleep.
The next morning when I woke up, the only imagine I still had of you were the bruises on my arms.
Eventually, you managed to sneak your way back into bed with me, showering me with tomato soup and a grilled cheese. You kept reassuring me that our relationship wasn’t like that; you weren’t like that. You didn’t hit girls and I didn’t cheat. You still loved me. I still saw it on your eyes, and somehow, I still felt it in my heart.
When Lowell finally leaves to go back to work, we watch old movies on HBO for hours and I rest my head on your arm; it seems like there’s a spot on your shoulder that caves in at just the right parts to fit my head exactly. Maybe you were meant for me; maybe God built you just for me.
I love to watch your hands slide across my body; I wonder if it ever occurs to you that you alone have all of me. I wonder if you even realize that when I let you touch my stomach with your fingers and I let you kiss my breast that I let you do this because I can feel the place within my heart where you live. I hold you there, and I love when your fingers tip-toe across my belly button, and I love when you kiss my lower neck. I feel my heart begin to beat faster and then faster, and that, to me, is your place. You speed my heart up, you slow it down. You melt it, carve it and shape it.
You pull me into the shower with you, and I stand naked in front of you. A smile spreads across your face like a crescent moon; you pull me into your arms. The water is hot and moist against my sweaty body and it finds its way into my mouth as we kiss. I love to see you like this; natural and fresh in front of me. Showering is so intimate; no one else sees you like this besides me.
We sit on the roof of your car, sharing a beer and watching the annual town fireworks for the Fourth of July. We’re listening to a classic Grateful Dead song; Scarlet Begonias. Although I have a horrible voice, I’m singing anyways. I know that you love this about me; you adore my love for life and music. You love my energy.
I hop off the roof of the car and dance. The bold, florescent lights explode above me, crack…crack…pop. I look at your for a mere moment, and I see this look of pure honesty and faith in your eyes.
“Julia Mauro, I fucking love you.” I smile at you for a long moment, blow you a kiss and continue to dance.
We crack our first beer for the day after our shower. I love the smooth, crisp taste on my lips. It wakes me up; refreshes me. Your kisses seem sweeter now, after the taste of Heineken fills my mouth.
“What do you wanna do tonight, babe?”
I shrug. For right now, I’m satisfied with lying in your bed, sipping a cold beer and letting the mid summer night air dry off the water from my body.
However, you’re already on your cell phone.
“You guys goin’ over to the carnival?” I roll over and stare at your blue paint chipped bedroom wall. You sit on the bed next to me and pull on a pair of Gap boxers I bought for you and a pair of cargo pants.
“Really? Alright. Well, let me give you a call back.” Nick turns to me. I sigh, rub my hands through his thick, dark hair and smile.
“Alright…we’ll go to the carnival.”
I hate carnivals because I hate roller coasters. Who needs to jeopardize their life by sitting in a cheap, tin box? However, somehow I ended up in line for the Ferris Wheel.
“Okay, I’ll sit right next to you.” I glare at Nick as if that was even a question. He shrugs.
We are placed in our seats and I hold Nick’s hand tightly.
When we are finally above the crowd looking down, watching the town we have grown up in from a bird’s eye view, Nick puts a hand on my leg.
I hate heights, but it’s comforting to know that when he and I are this high up, no one can see our faces.
You hate the fact that I’m leaving for school soon; you claim you can’t be away from me for more than five minutes.
You find the need to sit me down one night.
Apparently, you used to steal cars. I looked at you as if you were about to laugh or, at the last, grin.
Where was the Nick I knew? I tried to remember the day when I saw you disappear back behind those eyes. That must’ve been the day that your gazes got shorter and simpler; your kisses innocent and guilty.
You never laughed though, or even smiled. I glanced at you for a long moment. I had been trying so long for you to see my heart.
You were blank.
I got up, slammed the door to your room, and fell asleep on your bed. I used to be the girl who helped those whose cars had been stolen. I gave money to the homeless and my old clothes to the poor. Where had I gone?
I know that I can talk Nick into anything. So, when we fall asleep that night and then alarm wakes us both up at seven o’clock the next morning, I turn to him.
“Baby, don’t go,” I plead. His eyes are still gazing over the obvious and falling into oblivion. Turning towards me, he turns and pulls me towards him.
“I have to go to work.” Nick kisses my head gently and then attempts to roll out of bed.
“You’re not going,” I say as I pull Nick near me. Without must persuasion, he’s back in bed with me.
A few hours later Nick’s boss calls and fires him. I see him rub his eyes and I know that he’s crying.
He’s messed it all up again.
He hangs up, throws the phone across the room and then leans over to me.
“Looks like we’ll have a lot of these days together now.”
“Why did they fire you?” I asked as I closed my eyes; there was nothing I loved more than lying in bed on a Summer morning with Nick’s arms linked securely around my wait.
“Drug suspicion.” My eyes pop open.
“Some kid told them I was doing coke or heroin in the bathroom. Oh, and they said I’ve been late a whole lot of times.”
“Why would some kid say that?”
“Julia, it’s bullshit. I don’t know. Come here,” Nick says as he kisses my forehead. His lips are so soft and sensual that I fall back to sleep immediately.
My first week at school is the most horrible experience of my life. I miss your touch, your soft skin next to mine. I miss waking up next to you. I call you and beg you to come see me.
You make the two hour drive without any complaints. The next morning you grab us grilled cheesed sandwiches and milk from the cafeteria. And when it’s time for you to leave me again, I get hysterical. When had I turned into this kind of woman? I felt and even knew that I could barely breathe without you. I didn’t want to get out of bed; I didn’t even want to make friends.
All I wanted was you. You were my air, water, food, shelter…everything I needed to stay alive.
So you stay with me. You come every Thursday and stay until Sunday. You skip class. You drive two hours to stay in my dorm with me.
This all seems perfect until you fail out of school and I begin asking myself why I’m not dating a pre-med student.
As the days pass, I begin to realize that I’m loosing myself. All I can think about is you, and I’m a smart enough girl to know that this can’t be good. All the friends I have made at school so far smoke too much weed and drink twenty beers to themselves in one night…
Sadly, it occurs to me that if I weren’t with you, I’d most likely not be hanging around kids like this. Yet, how do you tell your heart to stop loving?
Sometimes it takes a smack of reality; it takes your heart breaking, in order for you to make a decision that should have been made many, many nights ago.
When I see that your room mate has called me five times while I was in class, I automatically become nervous. When I get him on the phone, he pauses a long moment before telling me that you have relapsed on heroin.
I stare at the cars passing by me, the colors running together, and wonder if I’ve heard him correctly.
“Nick hasn’t done that in a long time…he went to rehab…” I trail off. He pauses.
“Julia, Nick’s an addict.” There. It was said. The obvious statement that I had been pushing into the back of my mind for months. He continued:
“You know, Nick’s my best friend and all, but can I be honest with you?” I nod and then realize he can’t see me.
“Please do. That’s all I’ve ever asked,” I say softly. I feel the hot tears running down my cheeks.
“You deserve better than all of this. Honestly. He’s not the guy you think he is. You’d be better off picking a name from the Yellow Pages.” Somehow I conjure a bit of laughter, and briefly after that I hang up.
At that point, I don’t care who sees or hears me. I bawl uncontrollably in front of my dorm. I throw a tantrum, which I haven’t done in years. I kick and I scream. I punch the side of the building, and my hand winds up swelling up a few days later. I know people are staring at me, but I don’t care.
I realize that the one person who will understand and listen to my tears, the one person who has known this all along, is my mother.
Days and then weeks pass after I break up with you and you still call. You’ll leave messages on my cell phone, send me packages of flowers and candy, anything that you think will win my heart back.
But, what you don’t realize is that once you decide to take your heart back, to no longer let a certain person hold it for you, there’s no amount of candy or flowers in the world that can change that. Not even my favorite yellow roses.