love story

How Kyle and I met. And if you read to the end, you'll know why we think love is an adventure. Chapter 8 coming soon!

CHAPTER 1

Love is a piano dropped from a fourth story window, and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Ani Difranco
There’s a tiredness that comes after a good cry. Maybe it’s the way the sinuses feel like pinched, old sea-beds or your cheeks crack with salt or that impossible way your limbs fold inwards as if to wrap themselves around you again and again. And it had been a good cry. The kind of cry that makes you think 17 is the most brutal year to have your heart broken. I’m sure the other years suck, too, but at any rate, it was a January night. A January night and freezing, when the 15-passenger van began to spin out of control and directly into oncoming traffic. They warn you about black ice but until you experience it on a dark Idaho highway in the middle of the night…well, it’s hard to explain the sleepy, slow motion feeling of sitting up and staring out at the semi-truck that’s about to hit you. A wide-eyed second where you think if the van doesn’t move in the next 2 seconds, you will be dead. But that cry made you so good and tired that for a moment you actually think, go ahead and smash me into smithereens. I can’t possibly feel worse. By the way, I turned out to be very, very wrong. And no, that semi-truck did not hit the van. Metaphorically, though…Well, let’s just say until you’re almost hit by a semi-truck, you’ll go on thinking that little Chevy pick-up is the real deal. You’d be wrong.
Two days after I survived near-oblivion by way of semi, I walked into the theatre building at my college. It was a first read-through for a play called Our Town. I am not even kind of exaggerating when I say that Thornton Wilder is responsible for all of this. It was at that read-through that I first saw Kyle.
Smithereens
Sometimes I imagine there were fireworks or explosions or dancing beams of light haloing around his head while The Bangles sang “Eternal Flame” and a choir of heavenly angels announced, ELIZABETH, BEHOLD, YOUR SOULMATE DOTH ARRIVE AND LO, HE IS WEARING A GREEN BEANIE!
That did not happen.
In fact, it was days, weeks even, before I would really notice the shy skateboarder with the long green hair who hadn’t really wanted to be an actor but was there, all the same. It would take longer than that even to know what I know now. That I was a goner the second I walked into that first rehearsal. I didn’t need a semi-truck to smash me to smithereens. I was about to go humpty-dumpty all over the place. And if you think comparing falling in love to being hit by a truck is a little melodramatic…you ain’t seen nothing yet.
CHAPTER 2
I never thought that you would be the one to hold my heart.
- Christina Perri
In my defense, I was 17 and an idiot. It’s completely like escargot. You have to try it to know you don’t like it (or love it). I had to date a cuckoo-pants to a) know he was a cuckoo-pants and b) know that I’m not really a cuckoo-pants kind of girl. Everyone gets one cuckoo-pants freebie. And so I was an idiot romantically involved with a bigger idiot when rehearsals for Our Town first began. Coupled with the inexplicably large amount of attention I was getting from the male population at the time (did I mention that I was 17 and an idiot and boy-crazy?), I hardly noticed Kyle.

Kyle has always been calm. If you ever meet him, you’ll know what I mean. Kyle just exudes like…an oasis of calm. This is what makes him so fantastic in a crisis. It’s what makes him an insanely good stage manager. He just has this way of making you feel like if the world is about to end, you might as well eat that last slice of pizza. He’s quiet and he thinks a lot and when he listens to you, he looks at you with these big sea-green eyes that somehow say, “I know what it’s like to be sad and I can be sad with you right now. And that’s okay.” (7 plus years later, I’ve learned that his eyes also say things like, “I don’t want to take out the garbage. You do it.” and “Me Kyle. Me want buffalo wings.” His eyes are very verbose.)

But I didn’t pay attention to any of this because I was busy being heavily stalked courted by a young man with an excessive amount of bling, a man living in his parents’ basement, a teenager I had to drive home after rehearsals, a dude that started bets about the state of my maidenly honor, and aforementioned Sir Cuckoo-Pants himself. And me (the idiot, you’ll recall), I’m like “lalala, I’m so popular and pretty and I’m the star of this show.”

Then a couple things happened that really altered the course of our lives. One, Sir Cuckoo-Pants was like, “I’m going cray-cray, ain’t nobody gonna stop me…” and started being more of a royal you-know-what than I had imagined possible. Secondly, Kyle’s older brother Orion, his hero, his mentor, passed away very suddenly.

It’s funny the things that stick in the memory. I remember our director, Courtney, making the announcement to the cast that Kyle’s brother had died, that Kyle had understandably left the show to go and be with his family, that he was welcome to return to the production but that we, of course, would understand if he did not. And then she passed around a sympathy card for us to sign. I remember this clearly. I remember holding in the card in my hand and suddenly feeling ashamed because I couldn’t exactly remember who Kyle was, couldn’t remember ever having spoken to him really, and I couldn’t think of anything to say. I read the many comments: “You’re in our thoughts and prayers.” “You’ll get through this.” “Our hearts are with you.” “So sorry for your loss.” All well-meaning. And all utterly pointless. I was sorry for his loss. But that wouldn’t matter to him. I sat there with the pencil in my hand, staring at the card and thinking, I can’t even remember if we’ve had a conversation. What on earth could I possibly write that wouldn’t be completely irrelevant and arrogant? I signed my name in small letters and passed the card on as quickly as possible, strangely wishing I had known Kyle well enough to be allowed to care. What I didn’t know until much later was that Kyle had looked for my name on the card, that he had paused when he saw my signature, that he had been grateful for it. “Honesty. Nothing fake,” he would tell me, “That meant so much to me.”
Sorry

I consider this a pivotal moment in our love story because if Kyle had chosen not to come back, if he had decided to stay with his mom after the funeral, to help look after his family…it would have been completely understandable. And he and I would never have spoken.


CHAPTER 3

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.
-Edward de Bono
Remember

I had an interesting conversation with one of my professors about memory. There’s a theory that memory never stands still, that the process of remembering is a process of re-making our memories. Every time we retell a story, the details take on new significance and reorder the way that memory is stored in our brains. And the more important a story is, the more we tell it, and the more it becomes something other than “just the facts” because we can’t actually remember “the facts” exactly as they are. If that’s true, then memory can never be a duplicate of what exactly was but instead our impression of what was, colored and shaped and shaded by all the experiences and knowledge that has come after. Most of us don’t go through our day-to-day interactions thinking, I better remember this moment exactly because it might turn out to be the conversation that changes my life. But somehow, when I look back at these early conversations with Kyle, they take on a huge amount of significance.

I do remember the day Kyle came back to rehearsal. “We’re glad Kyle was able to come back and join us!” Courtney said at the cast meeting at the beginning of the night, gesturing to the back of the theatre where Kyle sat. And guys, I seriously do not know what possessed me but I suddenly, impulsively, without any real thought, jumped out of my seat and turned fully around to look back at him. “Hi, Kyle! We missed you!” I think people laughed. I don’t remember. Before he could say anything, before I could even feel the red flooding my cheeks, I whirled around and sat back down in my seat. Not before I caught him smiling a little. Good, I thought. I’m glad he smiled.

We circled up for warm-ups and I remember our eyes locking for a second. His face was tired, sad. He hadn’t slept for days but I didn’t know that yet.

Our first conversation was later. Maybe the next day.

I had brought my old walkman to review my lines before rehearsal and I had snuck into the back of the dark theatre to practice. Down on the stage, Kyle was mopping. He looked up and out into the audience to where I sat, lifting a hand to shield his eyes from the bright stage lights. "That’s pretty old school,” he said, gesturing to the tape player in my hands.

Chapter Two Again

And I reaaaaaaaaaaaaally wish I remember what I said back. Since I don’t know, I’ve taken the liberty of coming up with several options. You can vote below.

Did I say...
a. “Well, that’s just how I roll, bro-seph.”
b. “Your MOM is pretty old-school!”
c. “Hee hee, what?”
d. Long pause. “…Yeah.”
I remember wanting so badly to impress him. Something about the way he’d talked to me, the way he’d made that comment, so over the shoulder, off the cuff. It felt so cool. He felt so cool. Mysterious. Deep. Like he didn’t care that much. According to Kyle, he already cared a lot and was trying desperately to think of an icebreaker, any icebreaker.

So there we were. Both thinking the other couldn’t be cooler. But all of this was before the cast party…because let's not forget...I was still kind of dating a psychopath at the time.


CHAPTER 4

This is the closest thing to crazy I have ever been, feeling twenty-two and acting seventeen, now I know that there’s a link between the two, being close to craziness and being close to you.
- Katie Melua
When I was little, the woman who took care of me, Mrs. Oh (my adopted Korean grandmother) would tell my mother, “Agee on the outside, ajumma on the inside” which roughly translates to “Baby on the outside, grown woman on the inside.” I think it’s important to clarify that, at this point, I was a 17-year-old in college. Perpetually the baby and always trying to be the grown-up. Everyone was older than me and being old for your age doesn’t prepare you for everything. I was a kid in some pretty adult situations, trying so hard to be an adult, too. Not always succeeding. I think about that now and I think about how I could try to help my own daughter navigate being 17. I can’t imagine how.
Here’s where things start to feel more like snapshots than clear narrative. I can’t honestly remember which flirty moment happened first but they were there, these little moments between us. They come back like flashes…
The day the director finally demands that Kyle get his haircut (which he does…in a backstage corner). It’s before a dress rehearsal and my hair is in these plastic blue curlers. Someone says I look like a little blue alien. Kyle says I look pretty.
FLASH
Kyle squeezes my arm as we stand near one another in the dressing room. Every time I look at him, my face feels hot and I can’t think of anything to say.
FLASH
I stare at his sneakers during warm-ups. They’re black Chuck Taylor’s with permanent marker scrawled all over them.
FLASH
And then there was the cast party.
I guess, at this point, I need to talk a little bit more about Sir Cuckoo Pants, aka the chapter of my romantic history I find most embarrassing. I won’t dwell here longer than necessary because, honestly, it all makes my skin crawl and it’ll probably make yours crawl, too.
SCP, as we’ll dub him, was older. 21 or 22 maybe. I’ve tried to forget as much as I can about him. I think most of us have people like that in our pasts. Or maybe I’m just hoping I’m not the only 17 year-old girl who let an older boy manipulate and use her most unjustly. At this point, SCP had been leading me on for a good while with a line that sounded like, “Well…MAYBE I might like it if you were my girlfriend…it’s just…I’ve had my heart broken so badly and I don’t know if it can ever be put back together. But maybe if you’re patient…I’ll decide we can really be together, officially.” (Go ahead. Roll your eyes. Sometimes I fantasize about inventing the time machine I will use to go back and slap myself silly. You can come, too, if you want. It’s a two-seater.)

TimeMachine

But even really dumb 17-year-olds can eventually spot the difference between a good guy and a bad guy. Especially when someone like Kyle shows up and is completely sincere and gentlemanly without thought of personal gain. In fact, the more time I spent around Kyle, the more I felt that horrible, sick feeling in my stomach when SCP called. I was weary of him, even dreading the sound of his voice. SCP made me feel stupid and small and powerless.
But it was the cast party that was the clincher. There was a snowstorm that night, late even for a spring in Colorado, and Kyle and his roommate Richard had followed my car to the party. I remember climbing out of the mini-van I was driving at the time, into inches of freezing, wet powder, regretting my pink ballet flats and thin corduroy jacket. That jacket, a pale green color with puffed sleeves, had been purchased specifically for the party. The guys stood awkwardly in the road, waiting for me. There was a second of silence and daring myself to be brave, I looped an arm through Kyle’s and we started towards the house. We didn’t say anything. And once I’d done it, it felt like I had been holding on to Kyle’s arm always, like maybe I’d done it earlier that day or the day before or the year before or every day since I knew I had arms. I distinctly remember the sound of snow under our feet, under his old gray sneakers, under my pink ballet flats, flimsy and slippery now. There was a steady crunch-crunch-crunch as we went up the walk and into the house. As if we always did that. Walked up to houses together and rang doorbells and stamped the snow from our feet together.
The house was humming with people, actors and stage crew laughing and talking. Someone had started a fire in the living room and Kyle and I sat on the couch next to another cast member, a friend of Kyle’s, a guy who would later attend our wedding, G. Another actor, J, had worn an enormous gold dollar sign around his neck and now Kyle was trying it on and J was laughing at him. I remember sitting there, watching him, wanting to know about him. Someone got me a glass of water. And then something really, really embarrassing happened.
I still don’t remember why he said it, what prompted it, but Kyle was tending the fire with a long poker and he suddenly says, “Yeah, I was actually born with the disease that the Elephant Man had.”
Do not ask me why I found this so completely and suddenly hilarious but I proceeded to spit the water. that I was drinking. all over his face. And all over G. And the couch. It was like the most epic Looney Tunes style spit-take of all time. Kyle sat there, his face dripping with my spit-water, a little shocked. And G was laughing. And I was mortified. Mortified and still choking and hacking up the water that had entered my lungs. I prayed for the earth to open up and swallow me whole.
And, as if God had given Kyle the personal mission of proving how good a guy he was and how terrible a guy SCP was, he just laughed and took the hand towel someone offered him. He didn’t make me feel bad. In fact, he seemed hell-bent on making sure I stopped feeling embarrassed as quickly as possible. “Hey, I needed a shower, anyway,” he said. Questions raced through my mind. Deep, thought-provoking questions like, Where has this guy come from and why were his eyes so green and what had I ever seen in SCP and was the Elephant Man story true and what would it be like to kiss him right now, in the middle of the party, by the fireplace? And then my phone buzzed.
It was Sir Cuckoo Pants. I looked at Kyle and then back at my phone. A short private phone call later, I was back next to Kyle.
“Was that your boyfriend?” he asked.
“He’s not my boyfriend,” I said. “He’s a jerk.”
The rest of the party was spent exchanging shy glances, the ends of our fingers almost touching on the sofa, and round after round of karaoke with the rest of the cast. Kyle gave me his hoodie to wear over my impractically thin clothes and at the end of the night, he traded shoes with me so that my feet wouldn’t be cold walking through the snow. He wore my pink ballet flats all the way to the car where he left me with a smile and a hug like the gentleman he was. On the way home, the sweatshirt still wrapped around me, my small thumbs fitting through the holes along the sleeve edges, I buried my nose in the soft gray fabric and wondered why it had taken me so long to tell the difference between a good guy and a bad guy. At home, I dug my hand into the pocket of the jacket and texted one final message before drifting off to sleep:
SCP, I don’t think this is working out. I’ve met someone else who treats me well and I’d like to see where it goes. I’d just like to be friends, if that’s okay.
Cellphone
Oh, if only it were that simple.


CHAPTER 5

“There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters... I could be their leader.”

-Charlie Brown


Ever notice that the ugliest, scariest moments of our lives happen, like grenades dropped into our living rooms? Sudden. Surprising. Terrifying.

The text I had sent to Sir Cuckoo Pants was simple enough. And the text I got back was simple, too.

It figures because I had just finally realized that I love you, that I wanted us to be together forever. I’m too late. I have nothing left to live for. I have a gun and I know how to use it. Bye.

I know I make a lot of jokes about how cuckoo-crazy this dude was but I will straight up tell you right now that I was involved with an honest-to-goodness, certifiable sociopath. I had seen the edges of SCP’s anger before. He’d occasionally say pretty aggressive things on the phone. I was familiar with his reputation. So when I saw the word, ‘gun', my heart felt like it was stopping in my chest. My bedroom felt like it had grown small, tiny and like all the oxygen had been vacuumed from the air. Honestly, it’s difficult to relive. I don’t want to think about all the frantic calls I made to him, to his friends, trying to get someone to answer. How I ran out into the dark 2 am so that my parents wouldn’t hear me crying on the phone from their room. I don’t want to talk about how when he finally called me back, he actually pretended that he had shot himself and was calling “just to hear your voice…one…last…time.” About how for hours and hours, I was convinced I had caused someone’s suicide. I seriously wish I was making this part of the story up. Let’s just say that after that, Sir Cuckoo Pants really, truly went crazy. For months after (almost a year actually), he would call me in the middle of the night and make threats or leave scary voicemails or just laugh into the phone. He followed me. He spied on me. But you know what? SCP lost his power over me a long time ago. And this is the last time I am going to mention him in this story.

I think you have to know where you came from to know where you’re going. And seeing SCP’s true colors (whoops, one more time) made Kyle’s gentleness and depth all the more real to me.

The day after the cast party, Kyle handed me a note before rehearsal. It was written on a piece of lined notebook paper and had been folded again and again into a perfect little rectangle. I sat in the dressing room before curtain and read it all. The original is tucked away in a box back in Colorado but when I find it this summer, I’ll publish it on the blog for your perusal. He had doodled little cartoons in the margins and he signed it…I’ll never forget this as long as I live…Your friend, Kyle Surname (I try not to publish our real last name on the blog so ‘surname’ will have to do…) And then I did that girl-thing where I analyzed every last sentence of the letter. You know, like, was the cartoon of the duck supposed to be him and was that exclamation point enthusiastic or sarcastic and MOST IMPORTANTLY, WHAT EXACTLY DID HE MEAN BY ‘YOUR FRIEND’?????

KyleSurname

I asked my friend, E, (who happened to be in the show with us) this exact question. “What did he mean by ‘Your friend’? Do you think he likes me?”

“Well, I mean, yeah,” she said, after a minute. “I’m sure he likes you. I just don’t know if he’s like…the boyfriend type, you know? I mean, I don’t know if he wants to, like, date you.” (This was exactly what I was afraid of, by the way.)

Your friend, Kyle Surname. He just wanted to be friends. That’s what he was trying to tell me. Crap. I had been clingy and pushy and had made him uncomfortable and Kyle Surname just wanted to be my friend. Ugh.

We got called to places and as we stood backstage in the dark, our eyes met. “I WANT YOU TO BE MY BOYFRIEND, KYLE SURNAME!” I wanted to proclaim, throwing myself into his arms. “YOU SIMPLY MUST BECOME MY BEAU!” I didn’t say anything. Until I felt someone walk up behind me.

Remember J? The guy with all the bling from Chapter 4? Apparently news of my previous relationship’s demise had spread quickly and J was making his move. RIGHT IN FRONT OF KYLE.

“Hey, girl, so I heard you were single.”

“Yeah…”

“I’d really like to take you out sometime.” Crap. Crap, crap, crap.

Here was a dilemma. How could I possibly keep from hurting J’s feelings while still maintaining my interest and availability to Kyle?

“I…uh…you know, J, that’s really sweet of you. I just broke up with someone and I’m not really looking for anything right now.”

Poor J. All I could do was think about how I had most assuredly ruined my chances with Kyle. And that’s how I spent that whole week. Wondering if I had totally blown it. Wondering if it was possible to blow it if he had just wanted to be friends all along.

Years later, I would discover an old journal of Kyle’s where he had started and re-started that letter to me about five times before he had finally written the note he had handed me in the dressing room. I didn’t know it then but that I had received that letter at all…was a miracle.

Kylesjournal


World


CHAPTER 6


It was a long week and I couldn’t stop thinking about Kyle and the letter. So when Friday rolled around, I hadthose kind of butterflies. The does he like me, does he not ones. Do you know hard it is to be cool when all you can think is OMG, I’M NOT MADE OF BRONZE, TAKE ME IN YOUR ARMS AND KISS ME, YOU SILLY FOOL??

Kyle likes to tell the story about his family and friends coming to see the show on Friday night. It was a big deal that they had come, at all, so soon after Orion’s death, but they were all there. He loves to tell people that after the show, when he informed his younger brother Aaron and his best friends, A and K, that he was going to ask out that girl who played the Stage Manager, that they almost laughed in his face. Apparently, Aaron said something like, “Yeah, right. She’s way too hot for you.” I have asked him to tell me this story many, many times (partly as an ego boost when I’m having a bad day and partly to find out if this actually happened). The story has never changed so…good job, Kyle, for telling such a consistent whopper. Little did his family know when they came to see the play that they’d be stuck with me forever.

Kyle also really likes to talk about that Saturday night. We’d wrapped up curtain call and people were leaving, calling their ‘good nights’ to one another across the dressing room, the lobby, the parking lot. We would be ending the run soon and the cast was getting nostalgic. And I was on my way to a birthday party. Kyle must have felt concerned about me attending a wild party that late at night and alone because he and his roommate R informed me that they would be following me to this party. It was my friend S’s 28th and let’s just say, parties at S’s house did usually involve cake or balloons. When we arrived sometime after 11, the entire house seemed to be on its 9th tequila shot. I walked up the stairs and into the kitchen, Kyle and R in tow, at which point, we were greeted by a large man in chainmail with a sword (S spent her summer weekends working at the Renaissance Festival and well…if your job is that cool, who wouldn’t want to bring it home with them?). In fact, it seemed like the majority of partiers were dressed to the sword hilt in various and assundry pieces of armor. This wasn’t so unusual for a party at S’s and I forgot that I had brought unsuspecting guests into the medieval realm until I turned to see a very surprised R and Kyle being embraced by a pirate and a knight. We sat in a corner of the room, near the drinks, and I perched on Kyle’s knee. (Yeah, okay, I was looking for ANY reason to get close to him!)

And there was that feeling again…that feeling that we had been doing this always, that when I woke up tomorrow, I might not be able to remember if we had sat like this once or 687,000 times. Someone who had possibly just taken their 10th tequila shot pushed past our chairs and my face pressed closer to Kyle’s. He looked at me and I just knew he was going to kiss me. “Not here,” I said brazenly, like he was Leonard Whiting and I was Olivia Hussey, because I really, really did not want to associate our first kiss with chainmail and booze. (Although, apparently, I have anyway). It’s another weird example of somehow knowing before we knew. Somehow…in the back of my mind, I thought, this is going somewhere long-term and I have to remember it. We said our goodbyes pretty quickly and as R headed for the pick-up, Kyle walked me to the door of my van. I opened it and climbed up onto the step. When I turned around, I was taller than he was. I put my arms around his neck. And he kissed me.

firstkiss

First kisses can be terrible. They’re nervous, sweaty things with bad timing and ill-placed noses and awkward finishes. Not this one. This one, I can objectively say, was perfect. There was like a choir and bells and a twenty-four gun salute and it was awesome. He kissed me again and R honked his horn and began cat-calling loudly.

“See you tomorrow.”

“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

Kiss.

“Night.”

“Night.”


CHAPTER 7

By this time, the reality of our budding relationship had been pretty widely circulated through the cast and crew. But what exactly that reality was we hadn’t discussed. I hesitate to use this metaphor but it’s all I’ve got….because magnets don’t ever really sit down and talk about why they’re attracted. They just move until they can’t get any closer. Being around Kyle felt like breathing. I didn’t have a profound reason to keep breathing, except that it hurt when I stopped.

But the show was about to close and that meant that our relationship was going to have to be defined, regardless. There were not going to be any more excuses to brush past one another in the dark behind the stage, no more reasons to show up early for call. Curtain call came. Curtain call went. The set went down. The costumes were hung and put away. The stage door was locked. And the cast went out to celebrate and to say good-bye.

We all ended up at Old Chicago which is why, to this day, everyone who drives past an Old Chicago with me must endure the story of why Old Chicago is the best mediocre pizza and brew pub chain in the entire history of mediocre pizza and brew pub chains. We all ate and talked and laughed and it felt like no one wanted to leave. Kyle and I ended up crammed in a large booth with about six other people. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about or how long we had sat there before this sixteen-year-old kid in the cast (the one who had tried to kiss me when I drove him home from rehearsal one night) began tapping Kyle repeatedly on the shoulder and talking loudly in his ear.

What, dude?” Kyle snapped finally.

“DID YOU ASK HER OUT YET?” he asked, in what I can only assume he thought was a covert whisper.

Kyle smiled. It was a smile I have seen hundreds of times now. The tight, zen-like smile of a man who wants to strangle you but has decided it’s better to smile instead. The entire table had grown quiet. "Thank you,” Kyle said. I don’t think it was an entirely sincere response.

AskingMeOut

He turned his head to look at me, next to him. “Will you go out with me?” he said, somewhere between sarcasm, exasperation, and deep anxiety.

And with all eyes on me, I tried my very best Sandy-in-the-black-leather-pants-from-the-end-of-Grease impression. “Sure,” I said, shrugging, not really looking at him, not really looking at anyone.

The rest of that meal is a mystery to me. I have no idea what I did or said, what I ate or didn’t eat.

And then I drove Kyle back to his campus dorm. I remember pulling into the parking lot and it was dark, late. And raining. We talked about his brother. He’d only been gone a few weeks at that point.

“I can’t sleep,” Kyle said into the silence. “I haven’t been sleeping.”

“When’s the last time you slept?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Five, six days…”

It was so quiet in the car with just the rain hitting the windshield. What I didn’t know until much, much later was that Kyle was living in a nightmare. That he was living with post-traumatic stress from childhood abuse and from being jumped and beaten up in an alley the previous year. That after his brother had died a month earlier, he had spiraled into a confusing, jumbled mess of drugs and alcohol. That only two weeks earlier, he had found his friend in a bathroom, unconscious and overdosed on crack cocaine. That he had driven his friend to the hospital where he never regained consciousness and later died. I didn’t know that he was so depressed he had stopped going to all of his classes at the film school. That he had no money for food and was essentially living off saltines and toaster strudel. All I knew was that he hadn’t been sleeping.

“I miss him. So much,” he said and his voice broke. I crawled across the seats and into his lap. We sat there in the dark car and we cried and I thought, I’m not brave enough to handle this. So we just sat there, two magnets, and he talked about Orion and how much he missed him. I thought about how I didn’t know anything about this nineteen year-old boy who was pouring his heart out to me and how had I gotten here and what was going to happen next. We kissed and we cried and we stayed there in the car for hours. I could tell he was dreading going inside alone, back to not sleeping, back to staring at the ceiling of his dorm room while the blue light of his stereo blinked into the darkness.

Hoodie

When we finally said ‘good night,’ he put up the hood of his sweatshirt and stepped out in the rain. And then he turned around and looked at me with the most honest, clear green eyes and said, like he’d been saying it for a hundred thousand years, “I love you.” Then there was a flash of surprise in his eyes. Like he hadn’t meant to say it out loud. Like it had slipped out. But it was too late.

I felt my heart squeeze. I stared back and all I could think was, Crap. Crap, crap, crap. What had I gotten myself into? He’s already telling me he loves me? Well, THIS is going nowhere good!

I smiled and told him ‘good night’ as politely as I could. Because telling someone you love them on the first date is foolish but loving them on the first date, that’s impossible…right?
Leap

CHAPTER 8

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”

- John Green, The Fault In Our Stars

I guess when it comes down to it, love is all about leaps. It’s not there until it is. At least, that’s the way it was for me. I had left Kyle that night, completely freaked out by his sudden declaration of love. But two days later as I again drove away, I rolled down my window and shouted at the top of my lungs across a parking lot, “I LOVE YOU, KYLE SURNAME!”
“I LOVE YOU, TOO!” he shouted back.
And that…was that.
There are two important things to know about the summer of 2005. (I mean, outside the scope of this story, there’s probably about fifty billion things to know about the summer of 2005.) But contextually…two things.
The first. From the second Kyle asked me to be his exclusive lady and from the second I said yes, there was a ticking clock on our relationship. I had accepted a summer stock job for a tiny theatre in the mountains and Kyle was going to California to see his older sister, who was pregnant at the time. I remember informing Kyle that we really couldn’t get serious because I was going to be leaving. “So this isn’t going anywhere, okay?” And those two months just FLEW by. We were spending every second we could together but the closer the summer got, the bigger the knot in my stomach. I didn’t want to say good-bye. Still, I knew how foolish it was to try to make it long-distance. It seemed like an unfair thing to ask. So I didn’t ask. And the summer crept closer.
And secondly…gulp….my relationship with Kyle was kindofatotalsecret. I was still living at home and I had gotten it into my head that my parents wouldn’t approve.So rather than risk losing him, I just didn’t tell anyone. I was so scared that I kept Kyle a secret for almost six months before my family found out. I think there are probably lots of people who still don’t know that except… now they do! It’s crazy how fear (even misplaced fear) can so motivate you. Right now, my mother is reading this and rolling her eyes heavenward. It all worked out, Mom, but I’m sorry for putting you through that, anyway.
As May rounded the corner and this unspoken need to make a decision grew, I was also desperately trying to keep this heavy secret from my parents. So when Kyle announced somewhat abruptly one afternoon, “I don’t want to break up,” I somehow knew that this moment was a turning point; that my answer, that our answer, was going to change the course of our lives, that we were somehow inextricably tying ourselves together. I imagine one of those grafted trees in which the different branches are cut open and brought together, lashed together, and they just somehow keep growing, sharing chlorophyll and sunlight and water because their fates are tied to one another.

Tree Graft

I felt like I wasn’t just saying, “Yes, I want to make this work over the summer.” I was saying, “I want to make this work…forever.” And so I made a ridiculous demand. “Okay,” I said. “Then here’s the deal. If we don’t break up, we’re agreeing that this is going to work no matter what. That we have no doubts about the future of our relationship.” (???? Seriously??!!? I had some major GUTS back then!) It honestly didn’t occur to me at that second what exactly I was saying.
But Kyle didn’t even pause. “Yeah, okay,” he said.
“Okay, “ I said. “No doubts?”
“No doubts,” he said.
And to this day, every time one of us leaves the house or hangs up the phone, we say it.
“No doubts?”
“No doubts.”
Which is good because it would end up being one of the hardest summers of my life. Without a doubt.

TO BE CONTINUED

3 comments:

Nomali/Minenhle said...

Oh my word!!! I want a Kyle, thanks.

Love from Jo'burg

Karm said...

I just started reading this. And OMG you two are so cute. I love it. (:
Awesome stuff.

Emily said...

Hi! So I've never been on your blog before, but I just sat and read through your entire love story. And for some reason, I think it might be the best one I've ever read. You write so beautifully. Please, please finish this.

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