Falling in Love on Summer Street

The first time I fell in love, it was to a soundtrack of Sufjan Stevens, The Shins, Nada Surf, and Broken Social Scene. Our first kiss happened in the front bedroom of a house on Summer street with a group of hardcore straight edge guys playing video games in the living room below. Chicago was playing, because why would it not be playing during a first kiss?

His name was Eric and he made me feel like the manic pixie characters I was constantly writing about in my fiction at the time. In his eyes, I was thing to be constantly in awe of. It began so tentatively, I can’t remember exactly how we met. My earliest recollection of Eric-induced butterflies were his responses to my away message on AIM that I read upon returning a youth symphony performance. He somehow found out I wasn’t going to senior prom and wanted to take me, but couldn’t afford it. I was embarrassed by his enthusiasm. Not only was I not accustomed to attention from boys, but he was three years older than me and had graduated from another high school. I imagined introducing him to friends and classmates. I told him I was flattered and thanked profusely, but told him that I was fine. When you’re 18 and awkward, romantic attention is impossible to process.

We started spending time together under the guise of starting a band. He wanted to write songs & I had no idea how to accompany unwritten music. Somehow we got promo photographs taken without so much as a name or song established. Eventually we stopped using song-writing  as the reason for spending time together and then we just started kissing a lot.

This probably would have been our band's first album cover.

This probably would have been our band’s first album cover.

He wasn’t the boy I thought I would date. I was acutely aware that my parents didn’t understand my attraction to him. He gardened. He had a pair of male and female vintage Schwinn bicycles just because. He wore slim-fitting Levis, tired Converse sneakers, and a perpetual red hooded sweatshirt. He had a habit of making sly observational remarks that surprised new acquaintances.”You just don’t get him,” I felt compelled to explain when I saw this happening. “He’s just commenting on the absurdity of life! It’s just what he does!”

Our timing cultivated the perfect setting for a doomed first love: dewey sunsets, rickety vintage bicycles racing down the hill by the river, ipod classics and auxillary speakers, dusty box fans, virginity’s farewell, and my impending first semester of college just months ahead. Though I maintain the swing shift job I worked that summer was my worst ever, my only memories are those of complete bliss. I was carefree – I had two hilarious best friends, a boyfriend, a convertible car, and an endless supply of mix CDs. I didn’t need anything more.

It’s been ten years since this brief relationship, but some of my most vibrant romantic memories are with him. They’re embarrassingly innocent and naive. I think that Eric was (and perhaps still is) an extremely self-aware person who translates well only to a niche audience. Sometimes it felt like he was directing the scene, ensuring maximum nostalgia for years to come. Sometimes he would change a song before it ended, only to arrive on the one I realized should have been playing all along:

  • Sufjan Stevens: Chicago –  for our first kiss
  • Nada Surf: Your Legs Grow – a sticky night, tacking photographs to his wall
  • The Shins: Those to Come – the timid and moon-bright night when I inaudibly told him I loved him
  • Broken Social Scene: Shampoo Suicide – the night I wore a lime paisley boatneck tank and he breathlessly told me that I was amazing
  • Kenny Chesney: Summertime – driving to Woodman’s in his truck, listening to something like the Getup Kids, and Eric saying he had heard a country song that made him realize he liked the way my toes looked on the dash
  • matt pond PA: Lily Two – sitting on a quilt in some field off of highway 76 with our instruments, Eric trying to get me to loosen up by singing “leaves of grass, leaves or grass, leaves of grass…” at the top of my lungs
  • Silence – lying on our stomachs, watching rain fall beneath a streetlight, then him saying “You know how they say your life flashes before your eyes right before you die? I hope this is one of those moments I see.”

Eric was mindful about creating memories. He was a complicated person, someone I don’t think I ever fully knew or understood, but I knew that if he was choosing to spend time with me, he thought I was special.

I only have the one, but I think it’s safe to say that first loves are magical. I could go on to describe its end, but it doesn’t matter, really. What matters is that it happened and that it was special.

Humblebrag: Things You Should Know About

Because I’m constantly doing awesome things, I decided it’s only fair to share the wealth. Here’s a quick rundown of some things that made me happy last week:

Runkeeper’s Running for Fat Loss I’ve been pretty lazy for the last month or so when it comes to running. I have another 5k coming up in about three weeks, so I decided to get back into training a few weeks ago. I’ve used Runkeeper for my training over the last seven months, usually using the Beginner 5k workouts as my guide. I switched over to the Running for Fat Loss program to focus on maintaining a slower pace for a longer amount of time versus the widely varying (but, in my experience, highly effective) Beginner 5k workouts. I’ve seen great increases in my endurance and stamina. With time, I expect my speed to increase as well.

Call Me by Your Name Want to get swept away by a romance? Want to remember that feeling of a budding crush that drives you absolutely insane? Want to remember that excitement of the first skin-to-skin contact with your beloved? Want to remember falling in love in the most exquisite language? Then read Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman. I read this book over the weekend and promptly gave to it a friend to read because the poetry in the description was to beautiful to leave it to myself. It reminded me that falling in love isn’t something you make happen. It happens to you in a uniquely earth-shattering way. This is basically a novel-length musing on love and lust that takes place on the Italian riviera and it’s gorgeous because how could a novel whose setting is the Italian riviera not be beautiful?

Best read by Oshkosh's version of the Italian Riviera. This angle does capture the screaming children feeding the dirty gulls.

Best read by Oshkosh’s version of the Italian Riviera. Unfortunately, this angle doesn’t capture the screaming children feeding the dirty gulls.

Videogum’s Breaking Bad Recaps Not to belabor the point, but I really like Breaking Bad. I also really like humor. And when the two are combined, it’s like my wildest dreams coming true. Not be dramatic or anything. I first heard of Videogum from Stereogum, back in the days when I was a music snob and only listened to music produced by weirdos in New York basements. Videogum is great for topical and viral humor, as well as tv show recaps. I forgot about the site for a while, but when Breaking Bad came back, I remembered their hilarious recaps. I don’t want to give anything away, but they definitely called Todd an “obedient child-murderer who ruined our Jesse” in this one. New recaps are posted each Monday.

Child murderer. Straight up child murderer

Jaggerbombs & Sushi: Determining Romantic Compatibility

A few months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend about new relationships. He was developing a theory (he’s always developing a theory) about how you can usually tell if you’re compatible with someone by just a few criteria. It varies between individuals, but everyone has some small collection of questions he or she uses to weed out potential partners.

When I asked him to clarify, he gladly did (he’s always happy to clarify). “I like to ask a girl what kind of sushi she likes,” he said. “And if she says she doesn’t eat sushi, then why the fuck am I even talking to this girl? And if she’s like,” he paused to change his voice to high-pitched and squeaky. “‘Oh, I like california rolls,’ then I’m like meh, okay, we’ll see. But if she’s like, ‘I get octopus, yellowtail, squid salad, and a new roll each time,’ then I’m like DAMN GURL. ”

I didn’t bother asking for another example because I knew he would go on.

“Second point: the kind of car she drives,” he said, probably pausing to drink wine (he likes wine). “I mean like, the car she chooses to drive. If we’re younger and it’s just like a matter of circumstance that she’s driving a Geo Tracker, I won’t judge her.”

“The Tracker was awesome and you know it,” I said. He wasn’t going to get away with dissing my bitchin’ ride during high school.

“But the car she chooses to drive – the one she bought when she could choose what ever she wants. If she drives something like a Neon, I’m probably going to hate her. And she probably doesn’t read a lot.”

“Just like if a guy picks me up in a truck. I bet he’s listening to Big and Rich and probably won’t get my Arrested Development references,” I said.

“Yes. Point three… how does she like her steak done? If she gets it well-done, then shit – why not just order a hot dog?”

“Might as well be eating leather,” I said.

“Point four….I haven’t thought of. I’m still developing this theory,” he said, then probably changed the subject to something he saw on Twitter the other day.

I wanted to come up with a list of my own criteria, but I liked his too much to get rid of them completely, so I decided to include them in my list. Before you judge me, just know that I can do ridiculous things like this right now. As a girl woman who is 1082974937% single, it’s responsible to be thinking about how to distinguish between the men I tolerate and the ones with whom I’d like to drink craft beer.

I don’t pretend true compatibility is so easily reduced, but these are a few points that will need to be addressed or determined by some means within the first few dates.

  1. What kind of sushi do you like?
  2. Realistically, what kind of car do you see yourself driving?
  3. How do you like your steak?
  4. Red or white wine?
  5. Have you done a jaggerbomb unironically in the last two years?
  6. How often do you talk to your mother?
  7. What do you wear when you work out?
  8. Do you use Netflix for tv shows or movies?

While there aren’t correct answers to these, their answers will indicate the level of our compatibility. I’d like to date someone who is adventurous (tries new food), responsible (doesn’t waste money on needlessly jacking up a car), unafraid (steak is rare to medium-rare), spontaneous (red and white, OBVIOUSLY), intelligent (idea for a thing: jaggerbombs that lower sperm count), independent (a pleasant conversation or two each week), confident (no t-shirts cut from the shoulder to the hip, showing off his pecs), and easy-going (tv shows).

That being said, if Ryan Gosling picked me up in a rusty Fiesta to drink Coors and jaggerbombs while he talked about how much he benched that morning, I’d probably still look forward to his “Wut up” text the next day.

Hey girl. I heard you like Cinderella's pumpkin, so I decided to drive it.

Hey girl. I heard you like Cinderella’s pumpkin, so I decided to drive it.

SWOON.

SWOON.

My point? Ryan Gosling is hot & women are fickle.

I used to be a nostalgic person.

Good god. I love that sentence. For more reasons than one.

It just a few years ago when I furiously scribbled in a notebook about how special I felt the night I wore a swirly boatneck tank and Eric told me, breathless, “You look amazing.” For years, I hung onto a piece of torn neon green paper to remember when Jon taught me to play cribbage while we drank mint juleps at the rented cottage. My heart gets a little sore whenever I listen to disco, because I remember the nights I spent dancing and kissing Bill between sets.

I feel like I’m not investing as deeply into my life right now. Maybe it’s because I’m not forging memories with somebody right now. Maybe it’s because for the first time in my adult life, I’m doing this all on my own. At the moment, I have no perspective on my immediate life, not that it’s possible anyway. But even back when Eric and I lied on our stomachs, watching the rain in the streetlights, I knew I was experiencing a moment I would remember forever. I don’t ache to solidify moments anymore.

My moments are an endless series of facades – like I’m just passing by it all. Life has turned into a collection of muted repeats – the same drive to work, the same cubicle, the same empty bed at night. Weekends offer a bit of variation, giving me glimpses of striking honesty and glee with my friends. Where are the moments that I’ll be able to look back five years from now and tell what temperature it was, what song was playing, how my mouth tasted, or what sounds were echoing off the streets?

I think this is part of growing up. Though the moments I described above happened in the same order, the vividness of the memories is reversed. It was late evening and Eric’s bedroom was filled with this cool amber light. He rarely turned a fan on because he said it made it warmer, so my face was damp with perspiration. The neighbors across the street were talking loudly, but it all seemed to fade out when he looked at me that way. Later that night, Eric would give me a copy of Wuthering Heights and we’d spend twenty minutes saying goodbye, stopping to kiss on the stairs, in the dining room, in the living room, and on the porch.

I know that Jon crushed the mint leaves and the whiskey made me shudder. The windows were open and the air was steady with the hum of boat motors. His breath smelt lightly of cigarette smoke as he jotted notes on the piece of paper he had found in a drawer. We went to bed early, he played sudoku while I read a book – Anna Karenina, I think. The next morning, he brought me coffee and we ate powdered donuts and did a few games of sudoku in bed before we went on a hike.

Bill is different. He played so many gigs that most of them blend into one. I would either go to the bar with him to set up, or I’d go later on, joining a friend on the dance floor. I liked to watch him play – he always seemed so focused on the music that I was surprised when he would catch my eye and grin. At the end of the set, he would walk over to wherever I was sitting and give me a hug that stunk lightly of sweat, polyester, and the Dolce & Gabanna cologne we picked out together. I remember feeling this strange sensation – a mix of excitement, affection, and pride – when he came over. I felt most at home when his arm was around me, but my favorite part of the night was after we had loaded his drums into my car, when we finally slipped into my twin-sized bed, our bodies laced together, and slept until 11 the next morning.

The memories are all still there and to illustrate them, I obviously have to fabricate some details, but it’s easiest with Eric and hardest with Bill. Maybe it was the length of the relationships – it’s harder to process two years than three months. Maybe my my brain chemistry was different at 18 than at 23. Maybe it’s self-preservation; I’ve become hardened and have subconsciously decided that shallow memories will hurt less than visceral ones.

I think romance just lends itself to nostalgia. While I’m actually very happy to be writing two nights in a row, it doesn’t make for a very memorable night. Maybe someday I’ll hear an Alison Krauss song and remember when I lit candles and popped off the cap of a hard cider before opening my laptop. And maybe I’ll be filled with a warm contentedness when I remember my apartment smelling like a late autumn rain and a peppermint candle.

For now though, this dreary weather and melancholy music just makes me think of times before. Not in a way that makes me depressed, mind you. I’m appreciative. I’m glad to have such charming moments to recall.