The Rose Hotel

Before I even started grade school, I spent most of my nights at a homeless shelter.

I grew up with a dreamer. My father saw opportunity no matter where he looked, and his kindness knew no limits. He was a jack-of-all-trades kind of guy, a contractor by day, preacher by night/weekend, and a philanthropist by heart.  To me, he hung the moon. Try and convince me otherwise.

We never had much money, but he always found ways to give to others without his family’s suffering.

The Rose Hotel was an old dilapidated hotel located downtown in the city in West Texas where I grew up. My father managed to get a deal on cheap rent for the building and turned it into a shelter for the homeless.

the-rose-hotel -2

Every night, my mother made big pots of stew, chili, soup, etc, and we drudged downtown to The Rose Hotel to feed the hungry and offer as many as we could a warm bed for the night. Every night, I sat on a stool at a long cafeteria table and ate my dinner chatting with people from different walks of life. Alcoholics, drug addicts, a few prostitutes, people who were just down on their luck, and sometimes even children.

My parents never told me that the people who we helped were poor.  I never knew they were any different than us. We all ate at the same table. We all ate the same meal. My dad preached every night, and then we left and went home.

My dad hired one of the men to be his “supervisor” when we were away, which basically meant that the people who slept there had to follow the rules. No drinking, no smoking inside, and no swearing.

One night, as my dad preached to the adults, I helped my mother clean up the kitchen area. A woman and her daughter walked in, immediately grabbing mine and my mother’s attention. The mother wore a battered coat with holes and stains, some scuffed up white pumps and held the hand of a little girl, blonde with blue eyes wearing a hooded sweat shirt and pants that showed her mismatched socks that peeked out of the worn toes of her shoes.

For the first time in my short life, I felt something. An aching to do something. Perhaps it was pity.

Perhaps I felt compassion.

I couldn’t define it, but my heart went out to that woman and her poorly clothed daughter as they stood there in the doorway looking cold and very tired. After taking them to McDonald’s to get them a quick bite to eat since the shelter had run out of food for the night, my mother convinced me to give the little girl one of my barbies. I struggled and tried to argue, but my mother gave me the look, that look, so I handed over one of my barbies to this strange girl who would become my playmate for a few nights. Her name was Casey.

I made lots of friends within the walls of that old hotel. One will forever occupy a little corner of my heart. I met him when I was six years old. We called him Willy.

Willy came to us in the dead of winter wearing overalls and a dirty white undershirt, no coat , a worn out train engineer hat, and a partially toothless smile. I remember the first night he walked through the door. He smiled with his whole face. My dad greeted him with a handshake, but Willy pulled him into a hug and patted his back.

“Is this a church or a hotel? I hears there’s preaching here,” he announced.

My dad chuckled and said, “Yes, sir, there’s preaching. And a warm meal and a bed if you need one.”

Willy clapped his hands and said, “This ain’t no church. There ain’t no crosses. Gots to have crosses to be a church.”

I sat next to him that night at dinner. He made me laugh. When no one was looking he made cross eyes at me or opened his mouth to show me his chewed up food. He laughed when I did it back to him and said something I’ll never forget, “You and me, we is friends.”

Later that night, we sat on the floor and played checkers. He let me win.

I looked forward to seeing him every night. He was kind and always paid attention to me. He laughed, full body shoulder shaking laughs, at almost everything I said, and he always seemed genuinely happy to see me.

One night, he grabbed my hand and pulled me into another room. He whispered, “We’s about to do something, but you have to promise me you won’t tell you’s dad.” I nodded.  I trusted him. He put his finger over his mouth shushing me and guided me on tip toes to the room where my dad usually preached. He handed me a marker. I noticed he had one in his hand, too. “Ain’t no church if it ain’t got crosses. Can you draw a cross?”

I nodded then giggled as he drew a big cross on the wall. I watched him draw two or three more before he noticed I wasn’t drawing. “What you waitin’ for, girl? Draw some crosses on this wall.”

He was an adult, and I was a child, and I was told to trust and obey, so I pulled the lid off of my marker, and Willy and I drew at least a hundred crosses on the wall of the former lobby of the Rose Hotel. My dad came in as we completed our masterpiece. I heard him chuckle behind me and dropped my marker. I knew better than to draw on walls.

“Preacher, we’s making you a church,” Willy said to my dad.

“I see that,” my dad said as he walked over and stood next to me. He reached down and picked up the marker I dropped. I looked down at the floor, ashamed of myself for ruining the building my dad worked so hard to keep up.

“You missed a spot, Willy,” my dad said and drew a few crosses on an empty space on the dirty wall of that dilapidated old hotel.

I  learned much later that Willy was mentally challenged. He had the mind of child, which is why he became my best friend. I only saw a person who smiled with his eyes, who enjoyed my company.

I don’t know how long Willy lived at the hotel. It seemed like years and also like minutes. One day, my dad sat me down and told me that Willy wasn’t going to be living there anymore. Already he had stayed longer than any other person. The shelter was supposed to be temporary. The goal was that my dad would try to help people get back on their feet, find work, find a home, but seeing the relationship I had with this kind man, my dad couldn’t turn him away. Plus, finding work for somebody with Willy’s disability proved to be a challenge.

He had found him something though, something that was perfect for Willy. A job with the circus. The next day, my parents took us to “The Greatest Show on Earth” and I watched my best buddy experience a whole new kind of happiness. He jumped up and down and clapped during every part of the show. After the finale, we went back to where Willy would be working. We met his boss, an old wrinkled man with a curled up gray mustache who greeted Willy with contagious warmth.

“This my new boss, Mandi,” Willy said shaking his boss’s hand.

At some point, my parents explained to Willy and me that he would be leaving town with the circus, traveling to different cities to help them get set up before the show and break everything down when the show came to an end. That meant Willy was leaving the next day.

We shared an emotional, and very tough goodbye.

The next year, when the circus came to town, my parents took me to see Willy. He walked us around like he was ten feet tall, introducing us to his friends, telling us all about all of his responsibilities. So proud and so happy. He asked me what my favorite part of the show was, and I told him it was the monkeys on the bikes. He disappeared for a minute telling us not to move. Then he came back with a little stuffed monkey. “I’s allowed to take this. It for you,” he made monkey sounds and chased me around with it before placing it in my hand. I still have it.

I never saw him again after that day, but I never forgot him. He lives in a little corner of my heart, and I see him in every homeless person I come across.

We helped so many people while we ran that little shelter. We also turned people away. We saw some really ugly things, but my parents never gave up. They saw the good in people, and they offered their assistance whenever and however they could.

That person on the street holding the “will work for food” sign is not just trash, littering up the view at your stop light. He’s a person. He’s somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, and maybe even a little girl’s best friend. Don’t look at him with irritation or loathing. Remember, he has a story, and maybe he made bad decisions, maybe that needle is the only thing that gets him through his day, but perhaps he’s just a man who needs a hand to reach in and pull him out of the darkness.

My dad is a dreamer, and his dream is to help people. He’s also my hero because he taught me that valuable trait we all need: compassion. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Laters, Baby

***This post is rated NC-Christian Grey. If you’re not old enough to watch the movie, scroll on.*** 

Ropes,  and cable ties, and whips…oh my! Don’t get your panties in a twist, or maybe do. I’m about to talk Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie.

I saw it last night. My panties are still…never mind.

My friend, Nikki, and I have anxiously awaited this movie since we read the book series way before the masses flooded Sara’s Secret in search of silver jingle balls. With anticipation of our fun night out, we exchanged text messages throughout the day of our impending plans. We discussed hand cuffs, penises, and of course…sex, which is typical on any normal day but a definite on Fifty Shades of Grey Day.

I arrived at the theater an hour and a half early to stand in line in hopes of securing seats  before all of the horny housewives took all of the good ones. I was shocked to see that there were only thirty-ish people in front of me. I love people watching, so I looked around and observed my fellow bondage movie goers. I noticed first the expected groups of women sitting in circles, giggling and talking all things Christian Grey, and then there were the couples. The men obediently sat next to their wives/girlfriends scrolling through their phones as visions of nipples and orgasms danced through their heads.

One group of women who turned out to be elementary school teachers wore shirts that said “Laters, Baby” on the front and “Mr. Grey Will See You Now” on the back. Totes adorbs. When they opened the doors to the (very tiny) theater an hour before showtime, I chose to sit next to them because fun is contagious, and I’m hot for teacher.

I guarded my five seats that I was saving for part of my book club until Nikki finally arrived to help. Bitches with lady wood be crazy and more than once I had to summon my inner doberman and mark my territory with a growl to keep the pre-masterbaters away from my sweet seats.

Finally, after all of the anticipation, the lights turned down, and it was time for us to watch a little S & M a film.

The opening scene seemed to be in line with what I remembered from the book. Clumsy and awkward Anastasia Steele subs (no pun intended) for her sick roommate to interview the mysterious sexy millionaire, Christina Grey for their college newspaper.

“Mr. Grey will see you now.”

She stumbles (literally) into his office. He falls in love, takes her to his red room of pain and spanks her ’til she comes….or something like that.

Here is my review.

Dakota Johnson (the beautiful love child of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson) completely stole the screen. She portrayed the naive, vulnerable, blushing/lip biting virgin beautifully. Plus she looked really good naked. The perfect Anastasia Steele. My favorite part of the book was the interjections of her inner goddess, which is basically her thoughts when Christian tells her his rules, expectations, etc. Because we couldn’t hear her thoughts, her facial expressions were key. She nailed this. In addition to that, her timing of her comic relief was spot on. She was a nice surprise.

But what is Fifty Shades of Grey without our Christian? Jamie Dornan landed the role, which left him with big ahem shoes (and ripped up faded jeans) to fill. The first thing, and I mean very first thing I noticed was his inability to hide his native accent. It drove me crazy. I have several pet peeves, and one is fake accents. Could we not have found someone with a natural American accent to be our fifty shades of fucked up leading man? I guess not.

Christian Grey is confident and stoic, brooding and sexy, a larger than life character which Jamie Dornan fell short in capturing. He seemed to be spitting out lines rather than embracing the darkness behind this highly anticipated character. He did grow on me throughout the movie and not just when he was naked…wait, what? I thought several times about Robert Pattinson’s portrayal of Edward Cullen in the first Twilight movie. Just like Pattinson, I think Dornan has potential to be very big. *insert teenage girl giggle*

Another part of the book that I loved was the way their relationship grew through text messages and emails, which made the story relevant and current, and I was happy to see that they kept that in the movie version. Ana’s and Christian’s back and forth banter was playful and adorable and probably the way a lot of real life relationships start out now that almost everyone keeps a smart phone in their pockets.

Let’s talk about sex, baby. As most of us know, the bones of this story center around a lot of steamy often risque sex. Dakota and Jamie had incredible on screen chemistry. They brought the sexual tension with full force. There were several moments when I had to gasp for air, and more than once, I squirmed in my seat…in a good way. They brought such intensity to the first sex scene, the vanilla sex and came together seamlessly (mind out of the gutter, people)  which they carried throughout the rest of the movie. They even managed to make the red room of pain moments tastefully hot without being raunchy.

I rolled my eyes several time at the instrumental score that coupled some of the scenes. Maybe I kept thinking about Edward Cullen because the music sounded almost identical to the soundtrack from Twilight. Pianos are sexy, and I wasn’t mad about a naked scene that took place on the piano bench, but come on. Haven’t we already seen the long pale fingers playing Bella’s Lullaby (or insert cliche melancholy song) once already? A little more creativity here would have gone a long way.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie. I laughed. I squealed. I had fun. If I had to give it a rating, I would give it 3 1/2 moist panties stars. If you don’t like nipples, you should go ahead and sit this one out because it is nip city up in Christian’s high rise apartment.

Now for all of the haters. Haters gonna hate. I know, but let’s get one thing straight. If you haven’t read the book, you really don’t have enough facts to be critical. E.L. James took a story from her imagination and put it on paper. Isn’t that what writers do? We can say that it’s poorly written or that it lacks depth, and lots of other unnecessary comments, but her pocketbook would disagree.

As for the fact that this book is about abuse and rape:

SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!

This is a story about two adults who enter into a Submissive/Dominant relationship.  He gives her a contract that details everything he expects from her. She negotiates the contract and determines what she is willing and what she is not willing to do. He tells her the safe word for “be more gentle” and the safe word for “stop,” and they both sign the contract, which was written by a (fictional) attorney. If that is not a consensual (fictional) sexual relationship between two adults, I don’t know what is. Plus, a romance brews between them that frankly is pretty believable and more than a little swoon worthy.

In addition to that…spoiler alert…she tells him…spoiler alert…that he can never do that to her again, and spoiler alert….she walks the fuck out on him, and he watches her go.

“Anastasia.”

“Christian.”

Laters, baby.

And now some photos of our night:

The Before Grey

The Before Grey (all smiles)

The After Grey (meh face)

The After Grey (meh face)

Our Anastasia Lip Bite

Our Anastasia Lip Bite

A random condom siting

A random condom siting

Lovepocalypse – The End

You’re about to read the ending of a three part story. If you haven’t read Lovepocalypse Take 1 and Take 2, you’re behind. Click here for Take 1 and here for Take 2.

*******

It started with a wink, an infatuation, a genuine, deep, and inexplicable connection.  And in my young inexperienced world, it took flight, soaring with eagle wings and crashing straight into my heart.  That summer, in the cool intimate darkness of my apartment, I would venture into a new world, exploring uncharted territory, uncovering new feelings in my heart and with my body, and on that journey, Brendon would teach me what it felt like to be adored, to be cherished, to be loved, to be treasured. To be a woman. Those three unnecessary words never escaped our mouths.  But I knew. I had no doubt.

i_love_you

As the days grew shorter and the leaves began to lean toward fall, I started my second year of college.  Optimistic and happy but financially strangled, I was forced to take a second job.  Between classes, studying, and working two jobs, free time was scarce.  We still managed to sneak in a lunch, a cup of coffee, a beer if I wasn’t too tired, and other sprinkles of precious moments, but the days of jumping in his jeep and spontaneously driving to the lake for an afternoon disappeared.

The leaves fell around us, and whispers of winter cooled our ears and our noses as we celebrated his birthday in early December.  Strangely, he couldn’t see me on his actual birthday due to family obligations, so we had a quiet celebration at my place the next night after I got off of work. I had to travel to my brother’s house for Christmas, so we celebrated early at my apartment in front of a tiny tired tree where he gave me a charm bracelet with a single charm (a grand piano) and a stuffed teddy bear, which I didn’t quite understand but accepted graciously.   On New Year’s Eve, I worked at the piano bar, which forced us to bring in the new year apart.

Icicles littered the buildings on campus, and winter fell harshly around us, and before I knew it, candied hearts and bouquets of roses lined the aisles of every single store announcing in bright red letters “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

It was on a Saturday that year, and the piano bar was not only celebrating Valentine’s Day, we were celebrating the anniversary of its opening, so the owner, Karl, a short stout ginger headed man, made a huge fuss about all of the preparations. He wanted big and over the top.  Instead of waitressing, he gave me his stool at the piano for several songs. This would require a great deal of rehearsal and even more of my already depleting time, but I couldn’t say no.  Karl had become like a second father to me reaching into my scared little girl soul and pulling out a confident performer.  If he trusted me on his piano that night, there was no saying no.  I would rock that grand piano.

Brendon and I made plans to celebrate the next night.  No big deal.

So Saturday, the day of the huge Valentine’s Day Extravaganza arrived, and I decided that since I wouldn’t see my boyfriend on the day of love, I should at least drop by and give him his gift. I awoke early to a cool gray day, rubbed my tired eyes, showered, clothed, glossed my lips, spritzed on some perfume, and headed over to Brendon’s place.  When I got there, I knocked on the door, but he didn’t answer.  I thought it was strange since his jeep was in the driveway, but I figured it was early.  Maybe he was asleep.   I decided it would be nice if I left him a note for a change, so I pulled one of my college spiral notebooks out of my backpack and sat in my driver’s seat trying to summon the right words to say that I both loved and missed him without saying that I loved and missed him.  I slumped over the notebook staring at the blue lined sheet, waiting for the words to spill from my pen.  I managed to write “B” before I heard a knock on my window.

I let out a huge annoyed sigh and looked over to see a wild haired, dark eyed girl staring at me.  She knocked again.   The motor was burned out on my automatic window, so I opened the door to see what she wanted from me and why she was so frantically knocking on my window.  Then I recognized her from the hospital.  Adriana from Respiratory Therapy.  She barked, “What are you doing here?”

I looked around.  What was I doing here?  “I just came by to drop off Brendon’s Valentine.  I have to work tonight, so we won’t be able to see each other,” I answered.  The “none of you goddamned business” was implied in my tone.

“Oh.  I didn’t realize you guys were such good friends.”

“Um….er….well,” I said confused.  Who was this chick?  “We aren’t friends.  We’ve been seeing each other for a while.”

“For how long?”  She folded her arms across her chest, raised a black eyebrow, and tapped her sneaker on the concrete sidewalk.

“Since this summer,” I responded wondering why it even mattered to her.

She blew a stray curl out of her face offering me a death stare as she said, “That’s funny.  He never bothered to break up with me.”  Then she grabbed my hand and said, “Come on.”

“Oh.  He’s not home.  I just knocked on the door,” I said as she pulled me toward his house.

“He’s here.  Trust me.  I just left to get us breakfast.”

What the fuh?

She pulled a key out of her purse and opened the door.  His mother greeted us in the doorway.  (Did I not mention that he lived with his mom?   Yeah…awesome.)  She looked at Adriana and then at me.

She said to Adriana, “You can come in, but she has to go.” And pointed her fat index finger at me.

I turned to walk back to my car when Adriana gripped my forearm and pulled me back inside.

“She’s not the one who’s been fucking two girls.  Where’s Brendon?”

His mother folded her arms and stood protectively in the doorway.  I stood there wondering where the lady who made me jalapeno muffins was and why all of a sudden she was making me feel like a whore.

She has to leave, Adriana.” She nodded with her head toward me.  She never even addressed me.  I was third person to her.

I threw my arms up in the air and mumbled something incoherently as I turned and bee-lined it to my car.  Adriana ran after me.  “Give me five minutes,” she said.  “I’ll go in there and see if I can get him to come out here and face us together.”

I sighed, slumped back into my car, and waited obediently per her request.  I was young and dumb and incredibly naïve.  Clearly.

It could have been ten or a hundred minutes later, but finally she emerged from the house looking dour, with swollen eyes and a red nose.  “He won’t even look at me,” she cried.  I naturally reached out my arms and pulled her into a hug.

“We should go,” I said after her sobs became quiet hiccups.

“Where should we go?” She asked me.

I was thinking this would be where we parted, where she went back to her place, and I went to the bar where Karl would wrap his chubby arms around me and tell me how wonderful I was and make everything all better, but Adriana had other plans.  She walked around my car and got into my passenger seat.

“Do you need a ride home?”  I asked her.

“I don’t want to be alone right now,” she replied and continued to cry.  “What’s your name?” She asked through snorts as I started the car.

“Mandi.”

“I figured.”

I’m not quite sure how, but we ended up at my apartment.  I pulled out two glasses and made us each a heavy rum and coke.  We cheered to assholes and downed the first glass.  Then I poured another. It was 9:00 am.  After the second, and some awkward conversation, I invited her to rehearsal with me.  “Where there’s a bar, there’s booze,” I said, “Might as well drink to assholes all day.”

When we arrived, we told all of my coworkers about our twisted love triangle, which earned us glasses running over with various assortments of spirits.  Over the course of the day through many drinks and lots of Adriana’s tears, we learned all about the clever little game our Brendon played.  Turns out my busy schedule worked right into his infidelity.  On nights where I worked, he stayed with her.  On nights that I didn’t work, he stayed with me and said he was at his mom’s.  He spent the holidays with her, and his birthday, well, it wasn’t “family” obligations.  He told her that I was a good friend who he had met at the hospital and that I was really lonely because my boyfriend was in the military and stationed in some other country….and she bought it.

As we compared notes, I couldn’t help but notice a very familiar bracelet with a solitary diamond ring charm dangling from her wrist. He gave it to her for Christmas promising to marry her when he completed his degree. That one pierced my heart a little.

Between rehearsal and the actual show, she asked that I take her home so that she could change clothes and make herself decent.  When I walked into her house, the first thing I noticed sitting on her couch was the exact same teddy bear that he bought me for Christmas.  I almost punched it.

She came to the show, which was wonderfully fantastic in spite of my being incredibly tipsy by that point.  I took out every ounce of anger and despair on those keys, closed my eyes and let the music that pounded through my fingers take me to a different world, a world where I ignored the piercing pain boiling in my chest.  Billy Joel’s carnival piano had nothing on mine that night. (But don’t tell him that.)  After I took my bow and the curtain came down, we decided to seek a tiny bit of revenge.

Because he had frequented Blues (the bar next door to the hospital where we all three worked at one time) with both of us on numerous occasions, we thought it might be funny to pop in together.  We laughed as we jumped up on the bar stools and ordered drinks from Craig, who never seemed to have a night off and had served us both on the arm of Brandon.  He looked at us strangely but poured our drinks with a smile.  As immature as it was, we wrote his name all over the bathroom wall in sharpie saying things like, “If you love herpes, you’ll love Brendon” and then added his number.

At the end of the night, I dropped Adriana off at her cottage style house where we shared numbers and promised to chat again soon.  I drove home exhausted, depleted, and heart broken.  I had yet to shed a tear.  I sullenly walked through my apartment and went straight to my bed, sunk into the sheets that still held traces of his smell, and passed out.

The next morning, as I sat at the piano in front of an entire congregation of my dad’s church, the anguish finally caught hold of me, and I ugly cried, sobbing big giant tears that dripped onto my fingers as they danced robotically across the black and white keys.  When I got out to my car, there was a note on my windshield.

I’m so sorry, kiddo. ~B

I crumpled it up and threw it in the parking lot.

Anger ate at my soul for a very long time. I grew bitter and cynical and lost, but only temporarily. At some point, I realized that I was too good for resentment. I was too valuable for all of the anger. I chose to learn from the experience, to let it help me become better.

Brendon taught me a lot of things. He helped me understand what I want and what I’m capable of giving. He helped me to learn that being a woman is wonderful and empowering but sometimes heartbreaking. He showed me that red flags were everywhere when I finally opened my eyes to see them.

I’m no longer mad at him. I no longer feel hatred toward him. We were young. He made mistakes, lots of them, but so have I, and as much as I want him to be bashed for what he did, I also know that he’s human and that there was a big reason he came looking for me.

I will, however, never celebrate Valentine’s Day again. He forever ruined it for me.

Have you ever been heartbroken? On Valentine’s Day? Do you have an epic love story that ended tragically. Share them. I like to wallow in my own self pity, but I’d rather not do it alone.

~Come back next week to see what happened after the heartbreak.

Valentine’s day was never a big deal to me.  Never a sappy girl who needed roses and love notes, it always passed with little attention.  Still to this day, I don’t care to celebrate.  I don’t need a holiday to show me that I’m loved.

Lovepocalypse Take 2 (again)

(Click here to read Take 1)

That phone call set my heart to flight.  Brandon, who I had a huge high school girl crush on, just called me at my mom’s house and asked me on a date.   It was Friday.  He suggested that we go to dinner on Saturday night, but I had to waitress at the piano bar, so I begrudgingly said “no.”  He thought for a second and then told me that he already had plans that night with some friends to meet at Blues, the bar next to the hospital.  He invited me to join them.  He didn’t know my age. Eighteen. He offered to pick me up, but I told him I would meet him there.  I was nervous and socially awkward, and I wanted my own car in case I needed to bolt if my anxiety got out of hand.

I drove to my apartment giddy with excitement about our impending date.  I appealed to my best friend/roommate to find me the perfect outfit since I had/have zero fashion sense, and Brandon had never seen me in anything but my hospital uniform:  Green polo shirt and khaki Dickies.  She found something she said was perfect “first date at a bar” attire that most definitely would make him swoon.  I looked at the outfit, bit my lip, and shrugged my shoulders.  I had only been on a few dates and had very little experience with men, and Brandon was a man.  A beautiful Latin man.  So I took her advice and donned something other than my usual t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers.

I walked into the bar feeling out of place without my normal gang of hospital friends, tugging at my shorts that I was certain were at least 2 inches too short and pulling at the shirt that hugged me a little too tightly.  Then I saw him.   He was sitting at the bar, drinking a Bud Light wearing a white Nike baseball cap, a perfect contrast to his tawny skin.  He turned around and noticed me standing in the doorway.  His smile reached all the way to his dark eyes as he walked over to greet me.  He pulled me into his chest in a surprisingly comfortable hug.  “Wow.  You’re here,” he said offering me that killer smile.  “I wasn’t sure you’d come.”  What?  He wasn’t sure I would come.

He guided me to the bar, his hand barely grazing my lower back.  He ordered me a Bud Light and another for himself, and we sat side by side sharing familiar and easy conversation.   We talked about college and classes.  He told me he was 23 and almost finished.  I hesitated but told him I was only 18, that I had just completed my second semester.  He looked at me and said, “You’re just a puppy, Kiddo.”   “Kiddo” would become his pet name for me, a name that I would grow to love being called.

He introduced me to his friends and his brother who met up with us later, and we all talked and laughed, and I found myself floating in his attention.  He was smart and funny and unbelievably sexy.  We closed down the bar.  He insisted that I let him drive me home…in his jeep…with the top off, which took his hotness D&B to a whole new level.  On the drive home, we learned that we shared a passion for music of all kinds.  When we got to my apartment, we sat in his jeep in the parking lot, listening to Fleetwood Mac.  When the last song ended, I reluctantly said, “I better go in.”  He walked me to my door where he planted a soft, sweet kiss on my lips and said, “Goodnight, Kiddo.” He pulled me into him in a warm embrace and let out a quiet sigh that went straight to my…ahem.   I wanted to invite him in, but I didn’t know how.  I was young and dumb, and incredibly naïve.   I opened the door and walked into my apartment, trying to summon the words to tell him that I didn’t want the night to end, but the words never came.  Instead, I just said, “Goodnight.”  He winked and turned to walk to his jeep.   I went to bed smiling, with his scent still lingering on my skin.

The next morning, my roommate drove me to my car.  I started to pull out of the parking spot when I noticed something on my windshield.  A note.  From him.

Can’t wait to see you again. –B        

Just like that, he hooked me even more, and I was in my first “grown up” relationship.  We took advantage of every free opportunity we had to spend together. It was challenging since I worked most nights, but we made it work.  We didn’t see each other often, but when we did, we cherished the time.  We shared a twisted sense of humor and spent most of our time together laughing.  He had the best laugh, and anytime I said something funny, he would grab me either by my arm or my hand, and hold me while he shook with laughter at something witty that I said.

His touch ignited my skin.

He told me I was way too funny to be a girl, which was even better than all of the times he told me I was pretty and smart and perfect.

He took me to his childhood home, introduced me to his mom, and called me his “girlfriend.”   She made us jalapeno muffins and told Brandon to be nice to me when he made fun of something that I said.   After she went to bed, we cuddled on the couch and watched some old movies on her big screen TV.

Another night, he took me to an abandoned mansion rumored to be haunted.  We crawled through the window and crept through the dark empty rooms, waiting for a ghost to jump out at us, my heart pounding in my chest.  But nothing made my heart stutter more than when he pushed me up against the grimy wall, wrapped his arms around my waist, and kissed me.

We spent countless hours at our favorite music store, standing side by side at the listening stations, ears covered with huge plastic headphones, smiles plastered on our lips discovering new music together…all before iTunes and immediate internet downloads.   Our love of music became our bond, another pull to my heart.

He often surprised me and showed up at the piano bar to listen to me play, which was a huge adjustment for me since I preferred to play for strangers.  That first night, he sat at a table by himself.  He didn’t order anything to eat or drink,  just sat there.  Listening to me.  I forced myself not to look in his direction.   I didn’t even notice that he left before I finished.  I was hugely disappointed when I discovered his empty chair until realized later as I counted my tips that he snuck  a comment card in my tip jar that said:

I didn’t think it was possible for you to be more beautiful, until I heard you play. ~B

That night, when I left the bar, he was waiting by my car.

“I got you this,” he said and handed me a CD.  George Winston:  December.  “It’s really a Christmas album, but I think you’ll like it.”

I suggested that we hop in his jeep and go for a drive to listen to it.  As we drove through our West Texas town, the sound of George Winston’s piano mingled with the warm summer breeze.  Then I heard a familiar song, Variations of Johann Pachelbel’s Canon.  He said that he loved this version and that it was his favorite song to hear on the piano.  We drove for hours that night until he took me back to my car.  He gave me a simple kiss, and said, “Goodnight, Kiddo,” handing me the CD.

I drove home listening to my new album and made it my mission to learn his song.   I listened to it incessantly, always playing it in my head.  I spent hours at my parents’ house practicing it over and over.  When they went to bed, I went to the one place that I knew never closed, the hospital chapel, and I banged my way through it until it was…perfect.

The next time he came to listen to me play, I surprised him and played it for him.

That night, I didn’t have to invite him into my apartment.  He practically pushed me through the door.

heart-music

Originally posted February 10, 2014

Lovepocalypse Take 1

It started with a glance from across the lobby, a slight upturn of his lips, a sexy wink.  He introduced himself with a handshake that lingered a little too long.  His pheromones danced through the air mixing with mine, releasing a thousand tiny butterflies into my stomach.  Instant chemistry.  I walked away, giddy.  I reached up with my fingers to touch the perma-grin on my lips and said to my co-worker, “I want to marry him one day,” as little prickles of excitement scattered across my skin.

I purposely passed through the hospital lobby where we worked at every opportunity, stealing as many fleeting moments with my potential future husband that I could.  He often had patients at his desk, but when I walked through Admitting, he always stopped, said, “hello,” and offered me that naughty wink.

Just like that, I was hooked.

Every single time I saw him, he pulled me in even more, always remembering unnecessary details about short conversations we had in passing, laughing with his entire body about something that I said, flirting with me to no end.

Then one night, a car collided with mine, which left me with a broken pelvis and forced me to take a long leave of absence from my job at the hospital in order to recover.  I never went back.

Once I could walk again, I took a job at a piano bar.  The opportunity to work as a waitress at a bar seemed much more glamorous than pushing sick people around a hospital.  When the owner discovered I too could play the piano, he gave me a standing gig:  Every Monday and Wednesday during happy hour, I tickled the ivories of a beautiful grand piano for strangers.  Best.  Job.  Ever.

One day, many months later, I happened to be at my mother’s house, taking advantage of a free meal, when the phone rang.  “It’s for you,” my mom said.  I figured it was a bill collector and told her to tell them I wasn’t available.  She looked at me like I had a frog growing from my head, rolled her eyes, and handed me the phone. “Pay your bills,” she whispered.  I frowned at her and raised the phone to my ear.

“Hello.” I said annoyed that I was going to have to give some schmuck at least $25 that I didn’t have.

“Hi.  It’s Brendon.”

“Brendon?”

“From the hospital.”

“Oh, hey, Brendon,” I said visioning Brendon, a nurse in the emergency room who always bought me beers at the bar next door that we frequented after our shift even though I was under age. “What’s up?”

“I heard you had an accident.”  I looked at the phone confused.  ER Brendon was there in the emergency room the night of my accident.  Too there, in fact, because when I came back to consciousness on the ice cold table in the ER, the first thing I noticed was my lack of clothes.  I was completely naked, as in no clothes at all, and ER Brendon, my beer buddy, was standing over me.  SEEING MY GOODS!!!

“Um, Brendon.  Are you high?  You were there the night of my accident.”  I couldn’t decide if I was happy or horrified that he didn’t remember.

There was a long pause.

“I think you’re confused.  This is Brendon from Admitting.”

I dropped the phone and jumped up and down whisper screaming to my mom, “ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod.”

I picked the phone back up, with my heart jump-roping in my chest.  “Oh, okay.  Hi, Brendon from Admitting.”

“Are you better?”  He cleared his throat.   “I’ve missed you.”  My entire body tensed, shoulders raised to my chin, eyes wide with excitement.  I happy danced in my mom’s kitchen, as she watched me bewildered.  Brendon from Admitting was on the other end of the phone, and he just said he missed me.

Heart beat

That night we had our first date.

hearts notes

Originally posted 2/6/14.