Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Internet trolls of all ages… I hereby welcome you to the second post on this blog (website? I should probably figure out what to call it), but the first excerpt of my book. Before posting, I have a question for all of the more experienced writers out there in Internet land: How paranoid should I be? I'm paranoid enough that I'm even afraid to post the name of the book out into the wild. What should or shouldn't I post online to avoid plagiarism?
I mean, it would be pretty strange that someone wholesale stole the chapter from what is technically classified as an autobiography, but it's conceivable that someone might lift paragraph or two. Anyway, without further ado I present:
As Lovers Go
"He's an hour FUCKING LATE," said Ali, hissing between clenched teeth.
It was going to be a good day. No, really. I know it doesn't look like it right now, but before too long we were going to go see Dashboard Confessional. At the moment, I was getting my ass handed to me by my five-foot-one spitfire wife. You see, the deal was that Dylan was supposed to come pick us up from Chris's house – where we had spent almost the entire previous week – to go see the previously mentioned concert together. Unfortunately, Dylan was doing his trademarked "60+ minute late" routine. A crowd favorite that for some reason, Ali was not appreciating.
I sighed heavily, already weary of a type of situation that we'd rarely found each other in for months. I tried to be Zen, tried to tell myself that this moment would pass. It would, and in only a matter of weeks I would curse myself for not being more present. For not appreciating even the arguments. We're not there yet, though. So let's stay in this moment while we can, like I should have.
A telephone was pressed against my ear. Dylan's number was dialed, and I was to berate him for at least the third time in an hour. I looked at the phone, the hand holding the phone, then up the arm and shoulder, to the face of the woman I told "Forever and Beyond". It was creased with concern, flushed with frustration and emotions that she was still trying to learn to manage. She WAS managing them, though, and I found it difficult to get caught up in the turmoil of the conflict surrounding us. The person I was half a year ago would feel the need to snap back, to "win". As the dial tone droned on for the fourth time, my mind drifted to my childhood, and a memory of my grandfather on the phone, my grandmother passionately instructing him exactly what to tell the poor son of a bitch on the other end. My grandfather, placid and smiling. I tried not to smile. Ali wouldn't have gotten the humor of it in the moment, and I told myself that I would have to explain it to her later. I don't know if I ever did.
I told Dylan he needed to hurry up again, and tried to get an ETA. He told me he was 20 min. away, and I told him I would see him when he got there.
"Well?" Ali asked.
"He's 15 min. away," I replied.
"That's not good enough! We're going to be late!" she said, gesticulating wildly. Again, it was vital that I didn't smile. Not yet. With a stifled scream, she turned and marched (yes, literally marched) out of the room. In that moment, some people might have described her as a "curmudgeon", I described her as "beautiful".
The whole thing was stressful, however. I was worried this patch of turbulence could be indicative of the future of the relationship. Maybe the serenity that we had discovered after my hospitalization was a kind of honeymoon period, something that couldn't be reproduced for long. I was worried that Dylan would never show up, and we would miss the show completely. I would probably have to fire Dylan. Probably.
That's not how things worked out, though. Thankfully, he showed up shortly after when I said he would, and we began the process of leaving. Ali was short with both Dylan and I, but as long as she was talking to us, it probably meant she would be okay soon. I said the "process" of leaving, when I probably should have said "stupidly dangerous stunt required to leave". To describe it, it sounds completely mundane and rational: two people ease a wheelchair down some steps. No problem.
The reality of the situation takes some clarification. The people in question were of course, Dylan and Ali. Two good people, who for whatever reason, seriously grated against each other. If you're paying attention, you'll remember that one of those people is EXTREMELY pissed off at the other one, something not conducive to teamwork and good communication. The stairs – two flights – were steep, extremely narrow, and halfway down had a right angle turn. The cargo in the wheelchair… me… being made of glass for all intents and purposes. Fun.
Believe it or not, it was really, really NOT fun. Although my worries about lack of communication due to the holding of a grudge was unfounded, I found myself bouncing down every step, one at a time. No matter how carefully Ali and Dylan coordinated their efforts, each step sent a shock-wave up my spine and into the top of my head. I might've had something to do with the over-a-foot height difference between the two carrying me. If you've ever seen a home movie where the cameraman gets hit by a heavy object, causing the video camera to shake violently, then you have an idea of what my vision reported back to me every one of those steps.
Before I knew it I was looking into Ali's cloudy blue eyes. They were wide with alarm and adrenaline. I blinked a few times, and realized we were done. We had made it. She asked me if I was okay, and I assured her that everything was fine. I informed her that my neck hurt like a bitch, but we had done it. I might've told her I loved her, I hope I did. In that moment it seems like the only thing that was relevant.
After a few inconsequential hiccups, I was loaded up into the Van. I took various anti-anxiety and pain medications to try and deal with both the staircase behind us, and the noisy crowded room before us. We said goodbye to Ali's family, and eased away from the home that Ali had grown up in, the house that I hadn't seen since I had arrived in Massachusetts almost five years prior. Every groove in the pavement sent shock waves of pain up my spine, but I said nothing. The experience was a kind of team building exercise for the three of us, and I didn't want to ruin the positive effect it was having on our banter.
Dylan's phone bounced around on the console as it dutifully processed the directions between our location and the House of Blues in Boston. I eased my eyes closed for the drive into Boston, and contentedly eavesdropped on Ali and Dylan's polite conversation from the front seats. The highway hummed a lullaby, the cars passing by hitting all of the right notes. The monotone female robot inside of Dylan's phone informed us that we would be there at least 10 minutes early. Unsurprisingly, all of our stress earlier had been for nothing, and now it seemed so far away. As I finally allowed myself to relax completely, the medication washed over me, deepening the sense that everything was okay. From the unknown depths inside my head, a voice whispered quietly, telling me that this was all synthetic. A pharmaceutical memory that had little bearing on reality.
I opened my eyes, and immediately had to squint them again; momentarily dazzled by the sun setting over the Boston skyline. Ali's profile was silhouetted against the windshield. She had chosen that moment to look back at me, and our eyes met meaningfully as Dylan confided details about his problematic relationship. Ali and I shared a knowing smile like kids with a secret as I advised him to stick with it. Ali flipped her green hair out of her eyes, as she expertly doled out dating advice.
There you go, I told the voice in my head. Tell me this is synthetic. Do it, bitch, I demanded of the voice. The voice from the depths had no response, and I gloated unabashedly. I realized I was talking to myself inside my own head, and couldn't help but smile again.
We parked, unloaded me, and entered the venue. Dashboard wasn't a band like Green Day for Ali, but they did contribute to the soundtrack of our relationship, and thus was relevant. More relevant though, was the fact that this was to be the norm for our new life together. A life truly lived. Together. For as long as possible.
Ali stood next to me up against the second-floor railing. The lights dimmed, and the band took the stage. Chris Carraba was energetic, charismatic, and sang every song as if he was a fan. I felt Ali's hand rest on my shoulder, and once again I looked at it, following the arm up to the shoulder and face of my wife. A single tear rolled down her cheek as she was momentarily carried away by the music. It was one of the songs that held deep meaning for us (we had fallen in love with each other to this song), and we hit the sing-along portion of it. She must have sensed my gaze upon her, as she returned it. Out of my peripheral I could see Dylan intently looking down upon the stage. He, and the rest of the crowd disappeared.
Fog, strobe, and colored lights framed the outline of the only thing that mattered in that moment, in my life, and in my mind. I watched her mouth the words of the chorus, unable to hear her until her she leaned forward, and hesitated momentarily before kissing me. Our eyes closed, and we were young again.
“I'll be true,
I'll be useful... I'll be cavalier… I'll be yours my dear,
And I'll belong to you... If you'll just let me through,
This is easy as lovers go…”