Observin Self

April 14:
It seems as if I am a broken record, playing the same out of tune again and again; in fact, this instance has me recalling my past lessons. Here makes nine, beginning in West Virginia; feeling as at times I was pulled apart, whether it be in intoxicated states I ran away from parties back home, leaving a warm bed in the middle of the night, or ultimately refusing to open my apartment door; that was the end of it, the conclusion of my first relationship. As I’d mature, slowly, none would seem as drastic, yet, I can’t say that was the end of my heartache. Instead, it allowed the self-inflicted pain to once four times in Harrisonburg, then to two well-recorded relationships; along with a third closure, but with it understanding coming during my three years in Richmond. At times I have been aided by departures; whether leaving the country or city, but unfortunately can not take solace in that thought now. In fact, perhaps most disturbingly, is the clear knowledge of the absolute inability to pursue this present interest; being that she is one of three women that I work with daily.

These past two days have been my most reckless playing with fire mutual flirtation instances; and while it understandably sounds harmless, here is a girl that I from day one found attraction too. In fact, I questioned; despite, her being a fantastic addition to K1D, whether it would be good for me. Now here I am, walking home from work thinking about her, how I have erred, and what I must do to correct myself from consumption. While not trying to be too hard on myself; I can’t help but call this what it is, pathetic, and yet, the simple act of writing provides me with my canvas of a physician. All I can simply do is reflect, and most recent recall my past, words from Mitchell, “Don’t shit where you eat,” easy enough, and then to a future! There is the thought, what is to gain; sure present in the moment excitement, warmth felt within the stomach, and an overall comforting feeling; yet, what does it do to me, but only exaggerate my problem. Here I find myself, once gain.

To begin, while a romantic interest and connection with a co-worker is not the sole, nor majority stake in my own addressing, it needs to be stated; since it brought me here to along this avenue. As the push that has often been the case; looking back to October 2015 following Haley, or then November 2018 with Mahogany, I have learned my trigger toward a downward depression. In analyzing the progression of what got me here; with the evident interactions each day, it leads toward my life here in Hangzhou as a whole; no different than in my past instances. Questions now arise, am I not fulfilled, do I lack excitement, can I not stand upright alone; an unfortunate yes, to all; yet, that does not come to me as a surprise. The addressing of my present, and the acceptance of the unfortunate are just the beginnings; a silver lining if you will, since then, and only then, can I begin to dig myself out toward a greater horizon. This last part, I can take comfort and confidence in; something that I know well from my many failed relationships that had led me to pick myself up time and again. While the past me saw only time healing the pain; endlessly waiting upon the heartache and trying times to disappear, I have since found that I am able to put that time on my side; use it for my own healing, instead of the prior continuous sulking.

In earlier months, whether following the conclusion of the first unit in November, or before the change in team in September and October, I saw myself immersed in challenge and strife in work. Questions of my fit at work, the chemistry of our classroom, and the many issues clouded what I aim to put in the forefront; me. I am happy to say now, that for the most part, all have been improved and removed; while it is easier to ignore without the present of children at the school, I have now the time to address my priority again. Before arriving back to Work, just weeks ago, I remained in peace; dedicating hours and hours each day to self-derived passions. These days, while not full regarding social happenings, allowed me to focus solely on myself and work toward present-future growth; they now seem long ago. Now, I am happy to be back at work; perhaps, a necessity, considering the prior near three ten-week break was a widespread escape from my reasoning for being in Hangzhou. The heights certainly are not overcome by the self-inflicted challenge incurred, yet, I am back in a situation that pushes me forward in correcting my behavior.

This is then what I set out to do; for I fear that I am not able otherwise, to ensure that I work toward the goal. Fortunately, I am able to build upon what has worked for me in the past, while tailoring it to my present situation; one which will require me to address the mess (of me) head on. Simple actions; like the complete cessation of flirtation and the removal of myself from close-knit situations can aid, but the aim here is grander. See, the unfortunate yes, to questions of self-reliance, of present fulfillment, and a lifestyle of worth have me leaning toward the solutions; which calls for research, trial and error, reflection; essentially, I need to put myself under daily observation in order to correct. In prior instances of similar strife, I ultimately turned to a lack of guidance (since found in my writing of Extracting Guidance), and in the lack of a proper routine, and aim (again, addressed in writing: Grounding-Flight). Here, I am not in these predicaments; instead, it seems that I am lacking in proper behavior. While I perform my reading, writing, and daily routine, I still err. This I suppose, along with correcting my thinking; by destroying the illusion of a possibility of being with an interest, are avenues that can lead to prosperity and aim to change those unfortunate yes.

April 19:
It’s a strange situation to be in; desiring someone, all the while knowing that it is completely against the best-interest. Like the past interests and relationships, I find myself desiring an individual that I can’t fully explain. For my head, keeping me as aligned as possible, finds it hard to support and agree with my feelings; considering the situation and the clear differences. Perhaps, it is my thing; a consistent longing for a person that does not align with my character, interests or goals; an oddity, really. Putting aside the clear controversy of working directly alongside an interest, it then becomes absurd to think of the personal barriers; language to begin. Then, as I have learned from the past, what we study in school; often the indicator for young people’s intellectual curiosities, and the line of work; what comprises an individual’s day, it again comes in direct opposition. While, I find myself now working at a kindergarten, it is certainly not a field that I envisioned pursuing. Nor is kindergarten education the study that fascinates, no more than providing the young children with a smile, laugh, and a positive learning experience. Yet, here’s a clear distinction, for she; being twenty-three, recently graduated with that degree, and clearly has shown her aptitude for the career.

In combining the two bulks of action, and thought; interest and employment, it would appear that two people do not have much in common. To a logical person, it would appear that would be enough, and yet, the argument can be made that when the topics of passion and desire are brought about, I am anything but logical. My past interests, beginning at eighteen at WVU; pursuing a friend for months before she discovered interest in me, or most recently, creating and then, keeping afloat a futureless relationship in my final months in Richmond, have taught me the hard lessons of what comes, when I ignore the mind in favor of the heart. Of course, in the midst of those, there has been other factors that pushed forward; most evidently, a desire for physical lust. This would, unfortunately, prove more of the bulk than the former two; which often voided communication with the heart, while at times utilizing the head for consideration. Thus, we have a line of relationships, connections, and a series of interactions that amount up to emptiness. Perhaps, one day, I will be able to align the three together; finding a mutual connection with the head, heart, and body. Yet, more than likely; judging upon my past, I will opt for one of the two options that I have found; either continue the trend of abstaining from relationship, or neglecting the logic, in favor of contact.

I sympathize with the individuals who continue that apparent struggle to find another, as a part of me finds that pull within; and yet, I am driven by something within that tires of the seemingly useless. If a goal is in mind, a partner, spouse, confidant, or the children, and picket fence, then I can better understand; but, at my age and with the path, I do not desire either situation toward settling down. I must remind myself this, when I see my teacher’s assistant propping up one of the children, and behaving in that role; it is for another, not me, not yet. Here, then, is the most frustrating part, a divided whole; one that preaches what I long for, and near wholly agree upon; a path. Then, there is the pull without the logic, within the stomach, and in the chest; half-heartedly asserting the desire to pursue, and yet, how, and to what aim? I guess, it never thinks that through, it isn’t in the ability; instead, it just acts in urges and emotions. I tire of the pull, the separation; yet, something that once used to dominate me, now only arises in certain moments; some would note improvement, I question why it still looms. Here, with this question, I must continue to address; if not with this girl, then will it come with the next? How strong is the sway of the heart, or body, can it overpower the rest of me; the me that I attest to and take pride in, or will the part that remains intact, since the years of adolescent and young adulthood prevail?

April 22:
This morning, I find myself, yet again, in a position of self-induced strife. While, I have worked to prevent such internal intensity to awaken within me, I have not been able to stop the desires to arise when we interact within our classroom. I, fortunately, for several reasons; first, am able to look back into the past, and see that time will assist me in it’s due time. The break from work, following three days together, I do believe helps; however, I find at times thinking about her, and creating an illusion of being together. In time, if all goes well, the children will also return to school; hopefully in a matter of weeks, which allows the attention and sight to turn away from each other, and toward what matters. I am not aided in recent instances, whether this week or last, that have opened up the belief that the interest is mutual; considering videos of me, simple interactions, or smiling friends acting with a secret to hide. All this is for not, yet, what continues to trouble me, is the further push into illusion; I can now only admit my situation, and work. Seeking aid and truth, I find a past text.

It is not the first time, that I have returned to Ram Dass’ Be Here Now, most evidently, needing the wisdom to remain in the present, and not drift off to the realms of past, or future. Yet, that is not my present problem, in fact, I see myself very much absorbed into my day to day; considering I find strong interest in the moments of daily life. While, some may perceive that as improvement, I unfortunately, am only aided by another vice; which, once without, could propel me back into constant contemplation away from the present. With needing wisdom, to further strengthen my mind to continue on the path of resistance on action, along with additional aid, in detaching my thoughts from delusional desires, I turn back to the passage revolving around the seven chakras.
In recognizing familiarity to the lower stages, previously more consumed by the first profane three; survival, sexual, and power, I turn my desired attention to the fourth, compassion. A year ago, and more so, I found; once driven to truly work on myself, during the Grounding-Flight period, bliss and a feeling of oneness as Ram Dass explains. “If you had crossed the first great barrier (between the third and fourth chakras) so completely that all your energy were localized in the fourth chakra, then you would experience only the compassionate feelings of the brotherhood of the Spirit with all other beings.  Whether in a sexual embrace or in a business or social contact, the only feeling towards the other person would be one of “us-ness,” of brotherhood.  Since you would no longer have any investment in yourself as a separate entity, all of your actions would be in perfect harmony with all the forces acting in the field at that moment.  You would be living in the Tao.” Now, while I did not, nor do consider myself living in the Tao, what I did find with such disgust and lowness; seeing myself consumed with selfish desires of lust, was a turn around that produced a heightened feeling of compassion. This period, spanned over the months of late winter into spring, brought upon a selfless desire to better the lives around me. I found true joy, and a greater unity with the people around me, as I worked daily to help a man on the street, with the children and adults at both work, and volunteering, or ultimately with the international friend group; giving them my best.

No doubt, the desire to free myself from residing in a deep well of my own ill-consumption, lead to the realization that I could be better. This turns me back to K1D, and the need to find an avenue, or better course to properly use the energy that I feel bubbling within me, when desire and interest begins to take hold. I turn to the words of Ram Dass, “Every time you live out an act in terms (habits of thought) of a lower chakra, you strengthen the hold of that chakra.” It is simple then, just as when I questioned if I could release myself from the sexual desires that held me down for so many years, most disturbing in my relationship with Mahogany, I now wonder where my interests one being with another aim to go? I see a difference here, even if the lack of raw lusts, but disturbingly, there that same me which is holding on to a delusion; in the past, desiring to have her more often to myself, and now, to be together with someone that I know is for not.

With aim toward improvement, I again find his words, “As you come to understand fully that you will be finished with human suffering only when you are living in the fourth chakra (or higher), and you become strongly committed to “getting on with it,” then the method is straightforward.  Keep converting every relationship into one of compassion.  Keep a compassionate model uppermost in your consciousness at all times.  Every time you slip back into one of the lower chakras, don’t pity yourself or damn yourself.  Merely redefine the situation in terms of the fourth chakra … in terms of compassionate love for all beings.” Ram Dass here, aware of the plague that engulfs us all, indicates what I must turn back toward; that what I lack, compassion. In favor of holding to my selfish desires, I am not fully equipped to be the source of compassion, nor am I able to keep the thoughts of compassion on my mind. I learned this back in Richmond, when once released from my grasping of another, I found a surplus of energy and compassion roll within me. Here, I must go, again.

Yet, to find solace, and remedy myself, I must acknowledge that I have a looming problem; not solely exposed in the fall of 2018, but time and time, again. Over the span of nine years, I have used countless interests, along with vices of other sorts, to distract and ultimately, replace the inner void in me. In addressing myself here and now, it is evident that I have never truly corrected or solved what is lacking in me; instead, I have only, at best, performed patch work. Those in the moment repairs, have aided me in the moment, yet, provide no help for me down the line; thus, I am here again, working to correct the same root problem that has resided for the whole of my adulthood. There is hope, however, a plan of sorts, that I turn to the guidance of a guru, “Everything must be rerun through your compassion machine.  You must revisit, at least in meditation, all your old attachments and re-see them in the light of the Spirit.  As you do, they fall away … unless, of course, the attachment to them is so strong that you are not able yet to re-see them with pure compassion.  To stumble in that way on the path merely indicates the work yet to be done.  Thus it gives direction to your sadhana … which is work on those desires that cause you to stumble, by bringing them into the light of mantra or the witness until they fall away of their own.” I admittedly have work to be done, and yet, the very acceptance of that excites me, a goal, and an avenue to walk along; all the while, acknowledging that my way, the lifestyle and thought process that I have allowed to reign, is not the way that leads to me becoming more whole, and content with myself. Here, I must address.

April 24:
Just yesterday, feelings of loneliness crept in once again; something that seems to rise at moments of calm in these last two weeks. While the inner strife takes hold for longer than desired, and seems to return at will; I find solace and excitement in what lies away from my present. In working the memories of my past, fused with the aims of the future, I encounter an elongated story; one that removes some of the ache from me presently, and adds it to the greater line of my time. In looking to my past, I can see that not only am I well familiar with this longing feeling for another, but continue to be ailed by the same core issue; of feeling empty. If my experience does not offer enough insight, I turn to a future; that calls for me to be on the move, living in different cities, and countries; essentially, leaving me in question for why I am caught up on a cause that brings me present pain. I have well-documented my future aims in other writings, and under the belief that I shouldn’t stake too much attention to the unforeseeable; only prepare for it, I then, must turn to what I already have within me. Here, as the above paragraph states, I desire to gain from the suggestion of Ram Dass, and use my past experience, to better myself through facing my emptiness.

He speaks of revisiting the old attachments, something that I still struggle with today; evidently putting me here in search for aid. Yet, in reviewing my past, I can take pride in the lessening the number of attachments; an improvement that I credit to continually pushing forward, with the aid of traveling. See, as an eighteen year old leaving home for the first time to attend West Virginia University, I was untested, and certainly unsure of myself; it was just something to be forced to make a whole set of new friends. I would be introduced, and allow two a vices to take hold during this early period; effectively sticking with me through the two years in Morgantown, and unfortunately for years later down the road. I cannot blame anyone but myself, an unconfident boy, but whether through the company or situation, I’d find continuous distraction in drinking and smoking. The former, finding myself tired of it early on, would ultimately not stick for as many years as the latter; which needed to introduction to traveling abroad, to first find brief detachment. Traveling would also do well to remove me from the clutches of what constituted my bulk attention; sports. Like with smoking, the two month removal from home, and the traveling about in Europe for two months, provided me a glimpse of a life that was no longer immersed in these two distractions. It would take years later, after spending six months abroad, that I would begin to see myself existing outside of the dominant culture of sports fanatics; a strange thought considering my shear consumption for nearly fifteen years. While, all three of these vices; effectively distracting me away from myself, continued to dissipate in importance, it would take the most recent move abroad to firmly push myself away from their grasps. Thus, again, I thank traveling in forcing me to look at me. Now, I find myself pulled by one last outside distractor; the desire for female companionship.

I would be remiss to address my present longing for my co-worker as a singular issue; instead, once viewed through the lens of my flowing attachment of ten years, I begin to see the connection and the problem, not of the present but one that has never stopped ailing me. If I am to properly address myself, and the void that represents itself in the desire for a female companion, then I must work through my past, putting them all through the light. In this hope, perhaps, I can learn something from that eighteen year old kid that was strung up on a friend, or the same fool, years later, that shed tears as he drove away after breaking up with his girlfriend. It is a long road, it seems, yet, with aiming to fix myself presently, I turn back to the past interests; ten lessons, that pulled me in one way or another, in the hope that I will finally take the reins for myself; working to control my life, and stand alone happily.

May 1:
Lately, I have felt; albeit to a lesser degree, much the same as the lowly days, in my withdraw of desired companionship. Yet, I find it hard to focus the attention solely on the present attention; despite, my slight continued attachment with her, due simply, to the clear differences. I have indicated, and must continue to remind myself, of the facts; for what I desire in a partner, and what she offers are far from matching. In fact, the clear three, that I aim to add in my life; an activity partner, a conversation partner, and a companion that fits a similar lifestyle-interests, are missed on our part. Then, the answer and question, through reason, comes back to me; I do not desire her, but what I see I have established with my teaching assistant. In reflection, what I desire from her, or in general, is no different, than what I have sought in my past; a companion that allows me company, and the removal away from myself. This predicament, then, is no different than my first feelings for Paige in the summer after high school, and ultimately came to a head; with action, when I met Jenn. Looking back to freshman year, and a far different person; yet, seemingly fighting the same battle. She gave me, even more reason to come up to the eight floor; as if my entire friend group spread around in a variety of rooms, was not enough. Jenn was one of those friends, yet, early on, I found that I looked at her with more desire than just a friendship. That was far before she saw the same in me; it would take another girl’s advances toward me to get her to act. From that moment, a night in March; months after liking and indirectly, innocently pursuing her, we would push forward.

She would provide me my first experiences in the up and down rollercoaster, that I now equate to the dealings with desires. Immature, unsure, and dealing with the difficulties of trying to be adults, we would encounter a lot together. I’d learn a great deal from her, unfortunately; at the time, mostly due to the struggles of an unfit relationship. Pressing forward, we faced difficulties that in hindsight should have called for an early ending; instead, we fought through the early months of difficulty in our relationship to make it to the summer. That would prove to be challenging, three months apart; only keeping a connection through a spotty Skype connection. We’d each visit our homes once that summer, showing that the spark remained, which then made the start of our second year all that more confusing. That brought us to the first weekend back, a reunion of the eight floor, and the newness that comes with moving off campus. We’d, after all leaving our District apartment, to head to her new place, downtown, face the beginning of our new turmoil. She’d claim, that it would be better to break it off; putting the pain of a spike through my heart. Blindsided, that would begin, our periods of arguments, and strife; leaving me to retreat course back to the District. I would make that run, throughout the course of the next half year, several times; whether it be from the reaction of a drunken spat, or due to a blow-up argument while in bed. Our drunk fights; her blaming the genes she inherited from her mom’s addiction, my attachment to detaching myself in clouds of smoke, or pushing forward of some topic, should have been the indicators that this wasn’t to be. Yet, it didn’t matter; whether being screamed out, told to leave her apartment in the mid of the night, or any of my inherent feelings of disbelief in our future, I would ignore them all. It would seem, at the time, that I enjoyed being in a conflict driven relationship; but in all reality, I looked past it all to the good times. The date nights along the river at the Wharf District, the drives to random activities, and the constant enjoyment of discovering each other; that had her looking into different positions for us.

Despite, being told by both her roommates, and mine; I couldn’t relinquish the grip that she had on me, or more so, the leash that I gave her. It didn’t matter to me, how much I excluded myself from the group, who’s concert I missed, or what our verbal spat appeared to be; all I could see was a girlfriend for me. Perhaps, that was our trouble, for we both were each other’s first, and that led to us not knowing what to be; or what we should expect. This inexperience, mixed in with a strong lack of confidence; on both parts, caused us to go on this continuous rollercoaster for far too long. Sure, we broke up several times, most notably, as she drove to the bookstore, I remained in her car and called mom; she would calm me down. This didn’t help, when she returned, to find me more sure of our abrupt end; she’d in turn, revert back and work to double back on her decision. If I had more in me, perhaps, I would have stayed stead fast, and allowed myself to be less consumed by another during my second and final year at West Virginia; instead, I jumped back in with her. The afternoon, would be like much of our others, to her room, lay down the blanket, and mess up the sheets. All I could think about, was the desires to continue the joyous actions, and to prevent those feelings of emptiness, when I thought of her not being with me. It didn’t matter that I had my extensive, close-knit friend group, all the weed I could smoke, and the distractions of my apartment, I constantly desired her company. I guess, it was the same for her; even, after our second break up in the week before, Valentine’s Day. Thought that it could be it, yet, the night of the 14th, I’d get a call and head on over in a jiffy. A romantic evening of consuming each other, and a nice dinner, couldn’t replace what was lacking in me. Sure, times weren’t always bad, but the sure dependence upon each other; much the same as mine on smoking, should have acted as a red flag. If that wasn’t enough, her random outbursts, and repeated calls to keep tabs, would have led a more confident, and self-assured man to move in his own independent path. I’d instead, soak up the yelling about why I needed to go to the gym and play basketball, or how it wasn’t good that I smoked so much.

In the final months of the spring semester (second year), we successfully tore each other away from the other aspects of our lives; even, if only in thought. On paper, still going out together, me dressing the part to attend her now sorority formal, and spending time at each other’s apartments, we were as we always were. Our arguments showing our distinctive differences in personality; her with a short temper to match her size, and me holding to an all too carefree laid back, could never be put fully past us; even, if we couldn’t admit it at the time. The physical relationship would fade, in lie of an attempted friendship; an oddity considering I only remained a dear friend due to my interest. Now, it seemed with the come of Spring in Morgantown; her continuous move to focusing more on her sorority, and my indecision about what to do, had begun to show me the way. This understanding would ultimately come to head, on a Saturday, with the refusal to accept her company and a driving trip outside the city. I’d ignore her calls, in favor of guys time, smoking on the couch, which lead to an uncomfortable moment of her banging on our front door. The knocking turned louder, as I didn’t answer, but her yells eventually faded; then my thoughts turned to what if see would take her anger out on my car. A thankful no, but the memory remained; it would mark a regrettable closure for the two of us. The parting of ways was only further cemented with my decision, during finals week, to not attend three of my exams; this only finalized my end at WVU.

It would take roughly a half year to get over my Jenn, seemingly plaguing my throughout the period of living back at my parents’ house. Naive and unsure of how to navigate this new circumstances; much the same as the time with her, I questioned at times whether I would really ever rid myself of the feelings. It would take moving twice; first out of my parents house to an apartment in Hunters Ridge, then into a nearby townhouse to live with three friends, to offer up relief from my past with my first interest. While, I entered back into the relative carefree lifestyle of being in my young twenties, and encountered brief encounters, into wouldn’t be until nearly two years after Jenn, that I would meet Samantha. Through the help of Chandler, accompanying him on school group assignment, I met a sophomore at James Madison University. Instantly, I noticed several differences; considering from what I had learned in my past encounter, that seemed to check the box. First, while I know it is not accurate, I essentially wrote off Northeastern, Pennsylvanian woman; yes, off just one sample size, but it was my only experience. Sam offered, aside from being a Virginian, a more innocent and mild mannered personality that appealed to me. Still unsure of myself, I would rely on Chandler to help secure her phone number. In the coming weeks, we’d go on several dates; memories of a picnic in the park, a walk around the arboretum, and a foot race to her nearby apartment. These simply fun experiences, my desire to try again, and her insistence of not becoming intimate unless dating someone, led me to make a move on the third date.

After a kiss in the park, behind a tree, and the setting down on some ground-work understanding; confiding in me that she desires not to be with a guy that smokes, I formally asked her out. In hindsight, a realization that would never come to awareness; due to her innocent naivety, but I should never have promised that she would have a boyfriend who doesn’t smoke. Early on, we found the times shared together at my townhouse; whether it be Chandler smoking in his room, or Jared knocking on the door, to be unfit. We’d instead, begin to spend some time at her apartment, although she lived in a dorm style building off campus, with a friend of hers in the room. Soon, once the school year ended in early May, her parents would come down; I’d meet them, and help her move into a different apartment, the Commons, just down the hill on Port Republic. This mostly empty apartment would become our preferred spot, where we would better get to know each other. With increased time alone, behind a closed door and void of potential interruption, we became more comfortable through my urging. Recognizing her innocence, and timidity to address my interest head on, we took baby steps, until finding ourselves unprepared for the present predicaments. Aside, from brief times in a shower, my persistence of our mutual appreciation of our bodies, led us to engaging several times unprotected. Regrettably, I did not take prior precautions, instead relying on relative paranoia to take hold afterward; that would lead to our first trip to Wal-Mart for Plan B.

As the weeks continued into May, I would have her over to my parents house for lunch, following the five of us attending a wedding of one of Julia’s high school friends. With such an easy demeanor, and a smily charm, it wasn’t difficult to like her; however, as they tell me later on, my family saw her as too innocent for me. It wasn’t something that they would confide in me at the time, only leaving their thoughts for the news afterward. Despite, our easy going personalities, and continuing mutual exploration, cracks began to show. Highlighted by my inability to stay faithful to her desire, I continued my attachment to smoking; just working to ensure that I cover my tracks (smell, eyes, etc.) Her kind character, prevented from being a skeptic; yet, on a couple occasions it became uncomfortably clear. The first, one day following a run, I had smoked, to my surprise she desired to see me afterwards, still sweaty I opened the door to her response, “why are your eyes so red?” The next, prior to our date, I had smoked; which would lead to an odd argument during an evening stroll through the arboretum. With most of the park in darkness, we walked along the path, until my paranoia, questioned why she walked, along the path, so close to the large bushes. My explanation, of preventing oneself from being within grabbing distance of a potential threat, understandably threw off balance; questioning my mindset. These instances, while never breached directly, brought me back to my past; to a relationship that was consumed by the irritation of a girlfriend angry with her clouded, bloodshot eyed, boyfriend.

June came, roughly two and half months together, and several more thoughts took ahold of me. With an increasing busy lifestyle; working to balance three jobs, and her preparation for a move to townhouse across town, I began to question how to best use my time. Perhaps, it was not the jobs, nor the added ten minutes of driving to see her, but a now evident dissatisfaction in our physical connection. It began to become clear that while I appreciated her innocence, that it did not align itself with my present desires. Working now behind the line at Macados, seeing plenty of young female students from JMU, and becoming more comfortable with a few of my coworkers, behind the customer service desk at Lowes, had led me to see myself differently. I noticed a lessening desire to become intimate with her, considering her insistence upon only one position, and began to wonder about the other females that I now saw as more real possibilities. My roaming eyes, and the looming question of another, presented itself with the budding connection between a server and I. Working each day flirtatiously, one day Rachel inquired about my status; which I responded the truth. Her direct response, of “let me know when you’re single,” entered into my mind, yet, was not enough to drive the spike into a still active relationship. That moment would come several weeks later, after Samantha had officially moved into her new apartment.

I helped her move into the townhouse off of Country Club Road, and noticed her excitement of soon living with her three friends. We’d spend a little time at her new place; most memorably, provoking another scare that led me to insist upon making another trip to Wal-Mart for Plan B. The guilt seemed, at the time to be non-existent, yet, would soon pile up following a drive to meet her at her house. I arrived, with picture frame in her, and met her at the front porch. After asking her to sit down with me, I handed her the frame, and, as politely as possible explained that it was over. For the first few minutes, she seemed to soak it all up, and then reacted with passion; throwing the frame into the ground. I couldn’t truly explain well. I didn’t feel it appropriate to confess that I wasn’t satisfied sexually in our relationship, that I found her too innocent for me, and that I desired to freely smoke without harboring any guilt. I tried to explain that with the three jobs, and soon, coming in the fall, increasing attention to my classes at the community college, that my time was limited; yet, I believe we both knew that not to be the reason. The ease of our time together; despite not having the highs of being with Jenn, did lead me to gain much from her, yet, none of that would helpful to confide in that moment. As I left her, driving away from the apartment, I thought back to what she had claimed several times early on in relationship. Her claim that she has been consistently broken up with within three months, acted; perhaps, as a foreshadowing.

Exiting the relationship with Samantha, while feeling guilty for continuing a trend for her, I felt better than the prior. With good reason; first, I had learned additional aspects of myself and what I desire in a companion, and I found myself to be more successful. It, also, helped that unlike the past, where I felt that I had completely removed myself from the realm of talking with potential interests, I was immersed. Between two taken, but flirtatious co-workers at Lowes, and the many seemingly carefree servers at Macados, I felt myself in the hub of possibility. Yet, it didn’t take long for me to draw back on one co-workers words, now that I was single. Soon after, in conversation with Rachel at work, I told her that I was now single; her interest seemed to peak. We’d see each other soon after, meeting at her apartment complex not far down the road from our restaurant. That first night should have been an indicator for me, her wildness of rear ending a car in the parking lot; yet, I’d look past that, only one thing was on my mind. The same must have been for her, as we’d quickly find common ground, where I previously had missed such experience and familiarity.

Instantly, there was a certain level of convenience; both working together, and having similar lifestyles and interests. Yet, what became clear that first night, for a budding enthusiast that still considered himself more inexperienced; compared to her, was the totality of it all. I brought over a sandwich, she cleared her bed of all the laundry, and we sat down, smoked and ate the halves. Experiencing acceptance for the first time, better yet, a mutual partner in smoking, was a high on its own. After consuming her each, we’d turn to handing the bowl back and forth. We listened to music, some instrumental wood instruments; she claimed it to be derived from Native American music, and talked. We had further similar interest, as our bodies showed; her’s with rugby, and mine with anything that I could put attention toward. We’d finish talking, and smoking for that bit, and start up again; soon it rugby made sense for her. Early on, she would introduce to me, a different side of my physical desires; one that is more aligned with the physicality of a full contact sport.

Now, there was no thought of acting unprotected; something that I wasn’t concerned prior to with Sam’s lack of a past. Nor, was there any insistence upon just one position; we’d instead, aim to explore all the ways we could enjoy it each other, from the bed, to the floor, and cleaning up in the shower. Coming off a relationship, so recently, as she knew, I insisted that we were to begin as what we both sought and discussed. The decision was easy end for me, for that first night, and many of the nights to come, I was to return home; leaving her for the comfort of my own bed. I felt in this way, that we would better compartmentalize our relationship strictly into its physical essence; I also, informed her that I enjoyed sleeping alone. Naturally, after our sessions going late into the night, or to the early morning, she would put up resistance; urging me to stay. With being at her place, I felt in command of this decision; first, in making the short trip from closing up the kitchen to her bedroom. This left me not in a situation, relationships prior, where I could not leave; considering it was my own home. Yet, I couldn’t hold on to this forever; as one evening, she arrived outside my townhouse door, after an evening of drinking at FoxHill. With some reluctance; yet, without worry of any non-existent housemates, I opened the door to her. Our first night together at my place would go as like prior; although, I referenced to her later on that I prefer her not to be intoxicated.

Afterward, one issue arose, the intoxicated state led her to fall asleep in the middle of my bed; peeving me to change course. I woke her up, led her to the next room, provided her a pillow and blanket, and encouraged her to find comfort in this bed. We’d discuss the next morning of why she slept in that room, how I prefer her to not find me if she is that drunk, and that her bedroom is better suited for us. None of this seemed to be a problem, yet, one fact began to become clear; while, I fondly enjoyed our very much physical relationship, she wanted to continue my company in the form of sleepovers. I worried this might lead us down a road toward a relationship; something despite our clear chemistry, was not worth undertaking, considering we had only but a part. It was evident that we connected, as strong as I had found with anyone in terms of physical desires, but, just as clear were our polarizing views about other aspects of our lifestyles. This opinion remained in my mind throughout, never allowing me to fully attach feelings toward her, but; unfortunately, she did hold on to such thoughts. It was to seem that our time was coming, when a decision was to be made; due to her now increasing desire to make something more permanent of us.

Two evenings and a morning, in the weeks to follow, led us to eventually break off our mutually beneficial arrangement. The first, came at the invitation to a house party at Aspen Heights, about a mile down the road on Port Republic. Being our first social engagement together, aside from each other’s company, I was reluctant; yet, accepted due to the importance of being at one of her friend’s. Hindsight, mistake made, as my inability, or lack of desire, to partake in the drinking festivities; instead, innocently talking to a lone, shy girl in the kitchen, led to her irritation. Soon, I’d see across the party, Rachel making out with a party goer; which my new conversation partner pointed out. I’d indicate that we are casual, and that I’m not too interested in drinking, she brought me here. Minutes later, she would confront me, causing a minor scene, and prompting that guy to come and apologize to me. It all was so messy, for a clouded guy that was just interested in smoking and getting physical. As we’d leave, in the car, she apologized and explained that her actions were provoked by jealousy from my connection with the girl in the kitchen. Admittedly, the shear unimportance with the scene, in terms of how it affected me within; or didn’t, made me happy.

I found enjoyment in existing, and participating in a relationship that didn’t seem to pull at the heartstrings; prompting me to act out of character. Yet, that unfortunately was not the case for both of us. I drove back to her apartment, we agreed that all was good, and then she worked to ensure that I held no animosity for her actions with that guy. Despite, the up-down moments of that evening, I felt fine putting it behind me; yet, it did only further my case that she was not girlfriend material for me. Our next instance, one the regrettably occurred at my townhome, now with the emergence of housemates, made further damage to the credibility of our relationship. After, submitting to continued pushes for her to stay over at my place; to ensure that she woke up the next morning for an important weekend geology class field-trip, we returned to my place. Upon waking, she found herself, yet again, in a situation that she slept through the alarm clock. I tried to relax her, but her blow up soon became loud enough to wake the whole house. Insisting that people were trying to sleep, and that she was doing no good with just yelling in panic, I prompted her to work to catch the already departed bus. After she left that morning, I apologized to both roommates, unaware of what really to say; side note, it did prompt an interest conversation with my Korean housemate about girls. He’d claim that he never had dated, or gotten intimate with one; I jokingly sought to ensure that they all not all like her. I’d catch up with Rachel, in the following days during work, she caught up with the bus and, again, felt the need to apologize.

I accepted the apology, but now felt our time together on its last leg; with her continued push for us to take the step into a relationship, I visited her the following week. The evening, early on, went as most, smoke, enjoy, repeat; yet, this time, I intervened once she spoke about her adopted parents. The claimed that her dad voiced his disappointed in her, which clearly was affecting her, I intervened; perhaps, with bad execution, but with right intentions. I told her that he was wrong to say such a thing, and that she was doing what she ought; working, attending classes at JMU, and actively engaging in extracurriculars (not referring to me.) Understandably, she took offense to this, which began a heated argument. With the continuation of this, bleeding into our past-present situation, I felt the need to explain the two of us through the drawing of a scale. I positioned her far on one side of the spectrum, and then, indicated that I lived her and the complete opposite side; admittedly just as far. She agreed that we were both crazy, in our own ways, but just difference sides of the coin. Simply examples, of her trying to get into my bed with her shoes on, worked to explain how; perhaps, some guys wouldn’t mind that, but I don’t even want to eat or smoke in the bed. It appeared that we had come to a determination, one that would become cemented in the coming days, our passionate arrangement had come to pass, and now what existed were to co-workers who knew each other quite well. With the rugby season soon picking up, and her desire to put more attention to classes, she would fade from working as much; making our mutual departure easier.

In my final days being with Rachel, I had something on my mind, entirely different then the normal thoughts that ran through during our time together. Beginning in September, a new wave of servers had come in; with the coming of a new semester at JMU. One of them, Sarah, had caught my eye. When it began to become clear that Rachel sought a relationship from me, I was no longer entirely against the idea of being someone’s boyfriend; I just didn’t want to be hers. Instead, I started to see my attraction in Sarah, and wanted to get to know her. I’d confide this to Rachel one evening, hoping that it would help further our separation; in hindsight probably wasn’t the most thought out approach. Nonetheless, in the early instances of Sarah training as a server, and familiarizing herself with the restaurant, I made efforts to talk with her. Whether behind the line, asking questions, or informing about something that she showed to have so trouble understanding, I found enjoyment just reaching out to her. One day, big burly Chris (my favorite manager) and I were talking as she passed by and smiled. He mentioned that she had a Little House on the Prairie look, a reference that didn’t register, but I generally understood his point; she had such a picturesque, innocent beauty.

Soon enough, I walk up to her and ask if she’d like to she each other outside work, her response gave me something to look forward to as I worked to plan our first date. It would turn out, in our early stage of texting, that she lived in the same apartment complex at Chandler and Drich’s new townhome, Pheasant Run. I’d visit her apartment one Sunday, sitting at the bar top; between the living room and kitchen. Her roommates, fellow early education degree students at JMU, sat nearby watching TV in the living room. We talked about our day before; they had gone strawberry picking, as she worked in the kitchen cleaning a few dishes. Afterward, we walked along the path in the complex, getting to know each other better. Soon, with the coming of dark, we returned to her townhome; her readying for the upcoming week of classes, and me to visit my former housemate’s home. Like a schoolgirl, I’d tell them about my day, how different she was from Rachel; who they had briefly met in a late evening exchange when she had picked me up from a party, and my thoughts about her. We’d smoke and watch Sunday Night Football, our normal routine when it came to the weekend; smoking, of course, everyday, just the activity changed with the addition of sports.

The following shift, later that week, we work together again. She was now out of training, serving her own tables, and unfortunately, showing that she was having a difficult time. Big Chris would even point it out to me, referring to beauty doesn’t make brains; my response, perhaps, a slam toward the art of serving, but the adjective of intelligence doesn’t come to mind with this profession. Nonetheless, there does take a certain cool headed, level of managing multiple aspects, all at seemingly razor speed to properly excel at serving. She was beginning to show that her prior experience, studies in the education field, and personality wasn’t the best suited for serving; yet, she consistently tried. I’d work to aid in correcting her mistakes, or in calming her stress level down, as food tickets came to the kitchen incorrect; after all I knew all too well about making consistent errors as a server. In working to remedy her ajar state, I felt it necessary to put it all in perspective; you are an aspiring teacher, not being a great server is perfectly okay. I told her of my many troubles in the past, right in the position she was finding herself. Then, I turned toward us, inquiring about when I could see her again, this weekend possibly? I already had an idea, we’d work in the kitchen together; I’d have her over and we could cook something. She agreed for Saturday, allowing me to begin to put the thoughts into motion, as I cooked behind the line for the rest of the evening.

Saturday came, I arrived to her townhome, knocked on the door, complimented her, and then opened the shotgun door for her. We drove back to the Camden Townes complex, I again, opened the door for her, and led her into my townhouse. She remarked of her previous long-time boyfriend, and how he was never so kind, or gentlemanly, as what I was displaying; a quick boost for my efforts. I had decided upon fajitas-quesadillas, something easy but enough work involved that would allow us to both work together; cropping her veggies, shredding cheese, and making guacamole. This date was a rarity, bringing me back to Jenn and our time cooking together in her kitchen. During dinner, continuing the gentlemanly theme, I asked if I could kiss her, her response; and the subsequent leaning in, led me to learn we had a connection. The evening was delightful, and after evening, I filled up most of my tub-o-ware with veggies, cheese, and then, wrapped up some tortillas for her to make this at home. We returned to her house, said goodnight, and I left back home with a skip in my step. With good reason, I now felt more giddy than before; thinking with pride, this is by far the most beautiful female I have had in my direct company. The opportunity together, and thinking about further dates excited me, giving me butterflies in my stomach. A few days later, in thinking that she must have eaten the remains of our food together, I messaged asking if I could get the plastic containers back as I needed them for my own prep work in the kitchen. I jokingly referred to their importance, and did not receive a reply. I wrote back a few hours later, and then, left for Chandler’s townhouse, leaving my phone in the car; not wanting to be consumed by it.

I returned to find still no reply, the next day I message again, and nothing, then, a few days later, she’d response that I could come get them. We met outside her townhome, she gave me a plastic bag with the containers, and we briefly discussed us. That would be our last time together outside work, something that baffled me into continuously reflection. In seeking answers, mom offered up her thoughts that I could have come across as needed, although I didn’t desire to be so. We’d see each other later that week at work, where I felt the need to explain myself. I understood now, with my mom’s thoughts, but wanted to ensure that we could work together without any weird feelings. Her response, and our conversation led me to believe that, while there would be no us, that we could both work together. The next day at work, I’d learn that she had been fired, something I think she was expecting, with our previous discussions about her inability to serve. After those brief two times together, in a short span of two weeks, I now sat back and looked at myself. It was now early October, a lot had changed, I had begun classes at BRCC again, become more comfortable in my two roles at Lowes and Macados, and had seen changeover at 1450 Bradley. Most evidently though, beginning in April, I had gone from girl to girl to girl. Without thought, or regard, I jumped from a relationship with Samantha, to one of a physical nature with Rachel, and then became enamored by Sarah. It had been six months, and I felt to be lost within, focusing the bulk of my attention and desire outward; as if I had just finished a semester of study, putting all my efforts into the courtship of females. It wasn’t an easy realization, and took some time, but it became evident that I needed to put focus on being more comfortable with being me.

Naturally, the smoking continued, and now being alone; without the aid of friends living within the same townhouse, I felt the opportunity primed for me to grow away from my past. Now, without the daily attachments of friends living within the townhouse, I sought a greater connection to my work. With my attention being divided between work; Lowes, Macados, and Rocktown, and then, classes at Blue Ridge, I found time to be sparse, and enjoyed the opportunity to be free at home. Months down the road, after becoming more familiar with the new wave of servers; arriving each August-September, I found myself in position to create more work-based friendships. Time spent each weekend working late in the kitchen, either closing or the last cut, led to a budding friendship with Kirsten, a housemate of Olivia’s. Nearing the end of the semester in December, she’d invite me over to her house after work, for a small get-together. After going home to shower, I arrived in my pjs to find some familiar faces; Todd (fellow cook), and his girlfriend Kayla; along with Olivia, and Kirsten. I’d met their other two roommates, and their friends as well. We’d spend the night playing drinking games, and joking; something Todd, and I often did behind the line. As the night winded down, a thought popped into my head, as I neared the decision to drive home. Kirsten’s words about her roommates actions, seemed to now align themselves with the desires of her roommate, Haley.

For weeks, on occasion at work, Kirsten voiced to me that her roommate was friendly in giving; something that I always jokingly perceived to be interested in. Now, as everyone decided upon their next moves, I found myself hand in hand, being led downstairs to Haley’s room. No doubt facilitated from alcohol, we’d enjoy our company in her bed; until the next morning when, perhaps, due to sobering up, she seemed to angrily respond to my notion of leaving around 6. I questioned her irritation with me, thinking that we had just met, and responded with my desire to remain warm under the covers. Without any worries, we’d listen to Ed Sheeran and relax together, before being interrupted by scratches at the door; the pesky cat wanted in. Several hours later, once everyone else had woken up, we’d join together in the living room; me looking at Kirsten as if nothing had happened, her knowing quite well how she foreshadowed this encounter. Despite, the enjoyable evening of being intimate with Haley, I found it nice to just be in the company of a friend group; reminiscing back to my early college years. We’d remain in the living room, watching tv, and chill, waiting out the cold, until I decided to return to my townhouse, roughly a five minute drive away.

The next week, came finals and the subsequent departure of that group; away from work, school, and Harrisonburg, to their homes in the Chesapeake-Virginia Beach area. I’d spend the next few weeks, ruminating about that evening; first the party, being invited and welcomed into a group, and then, later into the companionship of another. I oddly felt without for those weeks of winter break; as Macados is not as exciting without all the JMU servers, so, when they returned back to Harrisonburg, I felt eager to join up again. This time, roughly a few weeks into the spring semester, another party, at a larger scale was thrown at their Copper Beech Townhouse. Excited to attend, I saw some familiar faces, but encountered more people than expected. During the party I was provided with another opportunity to hang out with the group, but, surprisingly, did not find the same success as the time prior; instead, I saw Haley leave later in the evening with another. Later, that evening, Kirsten, would explain that she didn’t expect me to come. Despite, not finding haven in her bed, I join a group of four, in sleeping in Kirsten’s large bed. On our insistence, I found myself sleeping on the outside as, Kirsten and Courtney slept in the middle, Douce on the outside against the wall. The next morning, Courtney would leave, and Haley would return to find us three in the bed, she’d join. We’d remain in the bed, and argue about what to watch; Douce and I adamantly agreeing upon Spartacus, while the girls pushed for Gossip Girl. We’d get a little of both, but admittedly have to concede, in order of house rules. In the coming weeks, we’d find this to be a constant; as a group laying in Kirsten’s bed during the snowy and cold days of January-February.

Perhaps, due to seeing that I was now a consistent part of the group, or more so, for showing mutual interest in her, that evening would be the last time, Haley would be away from the house. I’d start to come over more often, as did Douce, just for smaller hang out sessions; something that went beyond the need of a large scale social gathering. On occasion Todd would come too, providing me with a view of an intimate friend group that revolved around work; Douce, Todd, Kirsten, Courtney, Olivia, Erica, and I all working together; only Haley remained the outside peace. She naturally was connected due to living with them, and now the budding non-attached relationship we were building. I’d come over in the evening, now with the expectation that I’d have a place to sleep; previously ensured with a sliver of Kirsten’s bed, but now, a half of Haley’s. I’d notice in our early weeks together that alcohol seemed to help, since she couldn’t show herself in front of the friend group of our attachment; that was only privy in private. I’d jokingly reference this Kirsten; a confidant of our relationship, and push her boundaries of comfort, by closely sitting near of the living room couch, or asking her to sit on my lap. We’d all get a laugh out of it, yet, I wondered why she felt such a need to be so shy about us. Weeks later, I find her to become more comfortable in cuddling together, as we continued to be together in Kirsten’s room; continuing to argue about what to watch. If it wasn’t Douce, it would be Troy, another Macados cook, who also, helped to be a wing man for me; acting as a friend Kirsten in prevention of her feeling as a third wheel.

Whether Troy, Todd, Douce, or the expanded group of girls in the group, they’d all notice our heightened attention toward each other; highlighted by more increased time spent at the townhouse. While, I couldn’t quite discuss it with Haley; learning that she was just shy and introverted by nature, I would be able to talk with Kirsten, who also had discussions with Haley about me. It felt odd, being unable to fully address our situation, but I neglected the concern due to our now comfortable nature, and the inclusion of being part of the group. One evening in late February, while at the library, the group discussed their Spring Break trip to Panama City Beach. In still planning, they asked if I wanted to come, working to make out the number of people. I gladly accepted, since my spring break from BRCC, was aligned with theirs. Weeks later, Douce and I found ourselves tightly positioned in the backseat of Devonte’s car, with Robert in the shotgun spot. The group was divided into three cars; the four girls in one car, us four in ours, and a third card of Issac, Erica, and Ariel. The drive seemingly took forever, yet, the fourteen hours was well worth the coming week of carefree fun. This week would provide present and lasting effects; first with the solidifying of a friendship with Douce, and the creation of an enjoyable friendship with Devonte, the former a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Lastly, and most present on my mind, was the full conversion to a connection with Haley; now no longer hiding our nature from the group. Instead, with most people seemingly paired together; relationships of Robert and Kirsten, Ariel and Issac, we would be seen as a couple. This gave us precedent in order of bed arrangements.

Each night, whether it be in either room, or the one evening everyone had on the air mattress, we were a set couple to sleep together; an interesting change, being clearly defined together as a unit. Naturally there was some resistance, mostly by me, with ensuring that we were not a set couple; and that I was still very much single, as was she. Intoxicated, without thought for feelings, only attraction, I worked to show this through the pursuit of a fellow Virginian that we met. One of the guys would Snapchat me making out with this beautiful and fit runner, something in hindsight might have led to a negative reaction to someone with feelings for me. Nonetheless, each night, I only desired, and found myself laying beside Haley, making it interesting if we wanted to be intimate; a frustrating challenge, to wait for people to pass out. After the week, and upon our return to Harrisonburg, our first encounter showed how we had developed. As Kirsten and Haley had arrived home hours earlier, they waited for Robert and I’s arrival. Kirsten would tell me the next day, that her desire to forgo a shower until her boyfriend could accompany her, perhaps, influenced Haley. That steamy evening together, filled with passion, and heightened desire for each other, pushed me to now see ourselves differently. In the coming days, I thought about us, and acted upon my desire on the next time I saw her alone. Laying on the bed together, I acknowledged that it wasn’t absolutely mandatory, but that I liked the idea; then, asked her to be official with me; a yes.

That was my decision in March; despite, both working at Macados, with plenty of distractions, and some clear differences between us, I felt that it would now only improve. We’d spend our time together, now me directly coming over to just to see her; no longer bidding my time with the group to see each other afterwards. Spring Break had changed that, yet, it didn’t change our clear differences; all evident from the early weeks together. While, alcohol was no longer a contributing factor in our intimacy, as it was in the first few instances, I saw a clear divide in our physical natures. At the time, I took it as a challenge; a regrettably thing really, for an experienced guy to be banging his head against the wall (metaphorically). I certainly tried, yet, with clear indications, after several attempts, it seemed that we were more fit to remain in our present comforts; mutual enjoyment, but I couldn’t push aside what was missing. Nonetheless, the failed attempts did not prevent me from visiting her; our lone location to hang out. Aside from group outings, I brushed aside that she never came to my townhome; something that I preferred, nor did we ever go out on a date. We’d spend our alone time during the summer; since she stayed for summer classes, making simplified dinner in her kitchen, and then, doing what we always did, sit around.

After fighting off the constant urge to progress our relationship in intimate physical terms, or failing to do so, I fell into the consumption of providing our level of intimacy. Knowing that my visits would be less about in-depth conversation, a level of intimacy that we never reached, I’d find comfort in smoking often before my visits; a drastic contrast considering my past relationship. Weeks continued on, and one day, I arranged a hiking day trip with Danielle; an old co-worker and friend from Lowes. I hadn’t seen her since I quit back in January, and yet, it was like we hadn’t missed a beat, talking, joking, complimenting each other, etc. We’d enjoy each other’s company during a hike that took us into the night, escaping out by the light of our phones. I’d tell her that I now had girlfriend, surprising her, but happy that I joined the team of relationships; yet, the day indicated something missing to me. After the hike, I’d pick up an intoxicated Haley and her friend up to take them to a nearby bar; she’d ask why I had no shirt, I responded, I gave it to Danielle when she fell in the water. There was no sense of jealousy, or mistrust, which I appreciated, but thought, afterward upon the nature of two different relationships. I felt a closer connection, in all; personality, interests, and ability to communicate, to Danielle, than I did with the girl that I was dating.

I’d push past these present thoughts and continue on, but knew that there remained some, unfortunate, tread of truth. Instead of the appreciation of mutual fitness level, shared interests, and strong commonalities in personality, all experienced in a day’s hike, I had a person to lie around, talk little and watch absent minded tv shows. Perhaps, I desired to have the simply; not have to worry about being constantly high around her, nor in arranging actual dates. Summer was nearing the end, August approached and she left for the week to attend a family vacation. That week, I was surprised to find; in my clingy nature at the time, that she was near impossible to communicate with, something that I questioned. It was frustrating to have text after text without a response, nearing the end of the week, I began thinking more in-depth about our different natures. Yet, by the next week, she had returned with the now intention of staying to prepare for the upcoming fall semester; more so, soon Kirsten and Olivia would arrive and they would move to a different apartment complex. The following week they moved to a massive three bedroom townhome, with her having the lone bottom floor bedroom; giving us more privacy. I’d soon find a draw-back of this, in staying over one evening during a party. Instead of attending the party, as I used to do, a tired Haley remained to her room; so, I spent all of a few minutes upstairs before retiring to her room. We’d find it difficult to sleep with all the racket, her ensuring me that she warned me of this.

As the early weeks of the fall semester went on, I’d continue to spend more time directly in her company; dividing myself from the group, although now without Douce (moving to Richmond) that I once so desired to be apart. Yet, I couldn’t shake all that seemed to be missing; I recalled my past relationships, and how I held a higher level of intimacy, in both a physical and social nature, with many of them. I’d talk to mom, before I moved toward a decision; her words, “don’t leave something if you’re happy with it, without having something else to go to,” similar words with leaving employment. I considered this as I arrived one evening to he apartment. As she showered, I remained outside sitting in the downstairs living room, until I heard her out in the room. No doubt influenced by being in a cloud, I didn’t think about joining her in the shower, I only thought over my words. After nearly nine months, official or not together, I could no longer shake what was missing in us. As I told her to still down on the bed, I knelt down in front of her, as I had on many occasions and voiced what I had recited in my head. She just sat there quiet, near emotionless, then, I offered, regrettably, for one last to enjoy her. Naturally, her response was a no; so, I got up to go.

It would take a few minutes, driving down the road, for tears to begin, as I played Elsewhere and contemplated my decision. I’d return to my room that evening around eleven, and just smoke myself further away from the present. The month of August, first brought change into my townhouse; I was no longer alone, but again with three friends, all fellow cooks at Macados. I wouldn’t voice it to Zach, but he knew of my intention; previously having met Haley during an early party at their townhouse. I tried to fight the pain of regret, and the continuous questioning of my decision, through the use of smoking and distraction within 1450 Bradley; yet, only two things would seem to help me. As has always been the case, time, then, secondly, the beginning of my focus toward greater remedies. I had begun to plan a trip to Europe, following the expected graduation from BRCC in May, and allowed myself to further dive into that future endeavor. Next, following the binging of many Netflix shows, one episode of Gotham introduced to me Marcus Aurelius, and Stoicism. With the constant smoking, I began preparing, reading, and thinking about different things that helped to slowly remove me from my present discomforts. It wasn’t easy, throughout the remainder of September and October, I lustfully looked for a replacement to take the place of Haley. In my times of loneliness, I noticed myself missing the little things; like how she would move over and share the pillow with me, and early mornings waking aside her. Frequently I viewed girls, at Macados, or in my classes to be a potential filler of my void; yet, I continued on hoping that the pain and loneliness would pass. It would take months, until becoming comfortable again alone; eventually, finding a groove with a new group of people at work, and doing my own thing.

Now, two months to go before parting from Virginia to head to Europe for the summer; and seven months following Haley, I found myself on the cusp of another physically led relationship. Turns out my past with Rachel, now working at Macados again, paired with the continuing social interactions I had with many of the servers, had led to one friend taking interest. It must be noted that Shay had just come off a recent breakup with her long-time boyfriend, yet, I had no expectation of us, like I did in years past with Rachel. One evening, she would reach out to me to park her car nearby our townhouse, then we’d walk to the nearby party; a common occurrence on the weekend for a bulk of the Macados crew. Her text, “Hey bae, it’s Shay,” with such simplicity, just brought me to a warmhearted smile. We’d attend the party, as did my housemates at 1450, and much of the kitchen crew, and servers; now evident with many dating each other. Thought nothing of it, but now she had my number; fast forward a week later, and I’d be invited to her house one late evening. I find her and Tashia watching tv in the living room, I’d gladly joined and began slowly drinking with them. Sitting next to her, our lower bodies underneath the covers, I quickly learned the nature of my visit; it felt oddly enticing to be so covert with a friend nearby. That night would amount to just that, and I’d spend latter hours sleeping on the couch, in prevention of any intoxicated driving.

I’d learn the next week, first at work, then afterward, that night worked as a feeling out stage; no pun intended. She first visited over to my house later in the evening, following work; being dropped off by a friend. Clearly intoxicated, she led herself up to my room; asking a few simple questions to bide the time, I continued to smoke. Afterwards, we’s spend the next two hours working up a sweat, and unfortunately; considering waking up Zach and Cailey, on the floor below. The four of us would go to Mr. J’s the next morning; Cailey couldn’t stop smiling, telling me that she was inspired to follow suite with Zach. I apologized for the noise, but informed them I couldn’t help myself; it was clear, whether in using the furniture in the room, or in our desires, that we had a connection. That night, as I discussed with Zach and Cailey, was the first time that I could implement what I had come to like during my time with Rachel. The next time, working alongside Rachel, I worked to thank her; as Shay would indicate she had inquired about me, and that Rachel had given me a worthwhile review. With holding Cailey, and Zach to remain mute about the situation, and thankfully not having to worry about Chris; that evening he was still at work, I was surprised to find that several people had learn about us. I’d come to find out, that Shay would tell a few of her close friends, co-workers; I noticed this with the ones that offered up a cheeky smile. She come over again, in the middle of the week; me now, ensuring that I had my phone on loud to hear the sudden call. We’d go back at it, and further learning what we both desired from another.

The weekend came, and with that another party, I’d now be immersed at a party; the same destination as before, where many of the people knew about the two of us. This made it easy, to feel no need to hide our desires; separating ourselves first on the porch, and then, leaving off to first my car, then the apartment. I’d argued not for the car, considering I had no desire to be cramped; instead, I wanted to be free in the comforts of my own bed-room. An hour later, we’d return, to find several friends now more drunk than before, and others now giving us a smile from cheek to cheek. That week, I learned that I shouldn’t reach out, but instead wait for her contact; a helpful understanding for a mid twenties guy full of lustful thoughts. Whether following a late night of work, she’d go home shower, then come over, or during the middle of the week, I’d become accustom to enjoyment of surprise. Weeks continued on, and another party, now at Kirsten’s townhouse for the nearing end of the Macados gang; soon, many would be graduating to enter the real world. That was the case with their townhouse, all expecting to move back home to the Chesapeake area. I’d confirm with Kirsten if it was okay, considering my past relationship with Haley, if I attended; her words of approval, gave me questioned confidence. I’d see Haley throughout the evening, among the other twenty party goers, and even, get a chance to talk about the moves post graduation. She had accepted a position to become an accountant at some firm in Richmond, an exciting upgrade from Harrisonburg; I didn’t mention to her my same intentions to attend VCU. In hindsight, thinking it over the next morning, it probably wasn’t favorable to see an ex, intoxicated and absorbed by the attention of another at the party. Yet, during the night, I gave little thought to that; instead, I drank and partied with friends, knowing that soon our time together would soon end.

The night, including on the wall dancing with Shay, beer pong against Haley and J.D.; a connection that I foreshadowed, and much smoking; eventually brought me back into Haley’s bedroom. It felt odd standing in her room again, nine months after leaving it in tears, yet, Zach needed the nearest empty bathroom; thankfully Haley offered. As I helped him work through too much alcohol, I stood there and briefly talked with Haley; very similar to our past, just speaking base level. He’d be taken home, and a few of us would find an Uber to return us to our beds in Camden Townes. The next day, at work; for some in the morning, and me, thankfully in the evening, we’d all see each other and reflect. J.D. would tell me that Haley offered him her bed, something that his naive self appreciated, but then took surprise, as she intoxicatingly made a move. We’d joke about this, as I explained I saw it, and then, considering she sees her ex-being intimate with another, thought it as expected. This occasion made me feel slightly bad, for the uncomfortable situation that she must have been put into, with seeing us; yet, I couldn’t help it. With having her around me, and being so often, high and/or drunk, I felt the ease of neglecting the surroundings; just fixed on enjoying the fun size in my company.

This disregard for our surroundings would come to pass soon, at another party, now at another Macados house; Jake, Ben, and Stephen’s. As the party was winding down, Shay would arrive, just fresh off returning from Northern Virginia; following the completion of the Spring semester, she had set up to attend classes at a community college up there. When she arrived, much of the house was intoxicated, and working toward furthering the dive into unconsciousness. He’d greet each other, and she’d explain her progress in solidifying an apartment, and a job, for the summer. Later, she’d find me downstairs with the four housemates taking turns dabbing; taking a different avenue toward our unconsciousness. Being the lone female in the room, she commanded the attention, only facilitated when her shotgun soaked her thin shirt. She enter the nearby attached bathroom to remedy the situation, I’d join her to offer her my shirt. Fifteen minutes later, after closing the bathroom door, we’d return, me far more relaxed than before. The four guys seemed mute, but Stephen holding to his common thought ‘I know you Andrew, we are the same’ gave me his smile of pride. We’d both return to our townhouses, her just down the road, and me with Zach and Cailey. I thought about the uncomfortable situation that I must have put my friends in, them all sitting playing Fifa and smoking, and us in his individual bathroom, just behind a door.

The following week, we’d put ourselves into a similar situation; albeit at least with a little more privacy about what we were doing, and in the comfort of my own bathroom. Again, another party, at Adan’s, just up the hill of Port Republic. Aside, from being with all friends, mere weeks until I was to leave, one drunken conversation vividly attached itself to me. Leaning over the porch, Adan made a reference to how cute Shay and I were together, then, adding “you two would make cute babies.” Stunned, I turned my full attention to him, put my hands on his shoulders, and stressed the fact of me leaving soon; there would be no babies, even if I stayed. Nonetheless, upon arriving back at my apartment, now with Shay, and her two housemates; Tashia and Bailey, we’d perform the action to create those babies. If only not for protection! As her friends sat watching Netflix in my bedroom, and waiting for the pizza to bake downstairs; we’d claim to be going to check on it, instead, we took to a different room and closed the door. While, not as evident, nor invasive; considering it was the confides of my own bathroom, the situation showed again how close it could to two young intoxicated kids making their own. All it would take, is a break, or perhaps, simply forgetting; or maybe one side, decides upon a rash decision, and boom, lives changed. We would not have that happen, just wanting more innocent enjoyment, biding our time until the pizza was complete, then we’d bring it up and all eat together, as if nothing had happened.

With May continuing on, and the semester ending, Shay moved up to Northern Virginia, only coming down now on the weekends; leaving me in a difficult position. She proposed the idea of me visiting her, and with acknowledging that our time together was coming to an end, I decided I could make use of an evening drive up to two hours. I borrowed a bowl, and packed up enough for a few go rounds, packed my bag for an evening and headed up to Arlington. It felt strange to admit that I was driving two hours for physical enjoyment; yet, I could hardly say that I was now only attached physically. We’d make use of each other, and the vices within our grasps that evening; following each break with either a smoke or some wine. We acted as if we hadn’t seen each other in months, or perhaps, we both knew this would be our last time; nonetheless, we made it count, over and over, again. Following clear exhaustion, and getting the munchies, the made me something simply, we ate, and then passed out. The next morning, she needed to prepare for class, and I wanted to get back; now thinking more about preparations for my nearing future. We’d eat together, kiss goodbye, and I’d be on my way; unaware if we’d have such time together again.

We’d see each other, during my last week in Harrisonburg, attending a cookout at the house of a married couple; the main bartenders at Macados. It seemed all of the restaurant staff was there, and many of the regulars that came to the bar to see Brad and Devon. Now, evident that this evening party was the last hoorah for the kitchen crew, and for my friendship with many of the servers, I divided my time up, ensuring to see everyone. It felt weird to be saying goodbye; as I encountered some who were seemingly unable to grasp my plans, or perhaps, the appeal of traveling Europe for two months. I’d see Shay throughout the party, getting more and more intoxicated; recognizing that things are changing for her too. First Bailey, and then, one of our co-workers would bring up odd references of dating, that only made me realize; perhaps, my actions have led her to believe that I desired more than what we were. It made sense after all, I had just driven two hours to see her. Weeks prior, at the restaurant she had introduced me to her friends from her sorority, something that seemed strange to pull me away from the kitchen line to meet people. Yet, I came to see a trend; similar to my difficulty with Rachel. While, I voiced my assurance that I was leaving, thus we had no future together; following Europe, I’d go to Richmond, my body spoke its own language of affection, and pairing that with my actions, it was understandably to consider such a relationship.

That would be our last physical interaction, each of us going our own way that evening; me now all too consumed about how I can best utilize my final days for preparation, before an unknown leap. We’d communicate, once I was up in D.C., staying with Dad, and Tracy in Adams Morgan. He texts continued on in the theme of us, not recognizing that I was now two days away from flying across the sea, and yet, I was not ready. Certainly, seeing her wouldn’t help; instead, I knew that only the duo in Adams Morgan could further prepare me for something that I knew nothing about, solo travel. I don’t know if she understood, then, or ever, and while we’d continue on in text conversations in my first few weeks of Europe, it would fade out. Early on, most notably in just updating her; I’m in the Paris train station, or look how beautiful this building is in Italy, we held a connection. I found it frustrating to admit, but leaving her was heart wrenching; just in a matter of near two months, I had become infatuated by her. Leaving a connection like that is tough, but with what I found on my horizon each day; a different city, country, etc. to explore and learn about, all the while exploring me, I soon became detached.

Upon returning to Virginia, two months later, I’d soon set course from another new city, Richmond. It would take months to become comfortable enough, whether in taking classes at a university again, living with two females, or at a new job. Perhaps, most evidently new for me; something that excited but also, intimidated, was the stark difference in representation. I’d notice this early on, whether each day on campus, or in one of my classes; African American Literature. Over the course of the semester, a class mixed between black-white, and in between; we’d explore the concept of race, and the history of being black in America. Several classmates offered up an interesting new conception of race, living in the middle ground; having parents of both European and African ancestry. One of these students, Leslie, fascinated me with her perspective, and it didn’t hurt that her Mariah Carey-esque look attracted. Throughout the whole semester, I timidly sat and listened to her; on occasion either responding to her in class discussion, or if sitting nearby, making small conversation. It wouldn’t be until the last class that I would bring up the courage, to ask if she wanted to have coffee with me. The upcoming weekend, after getting her number, we’d schedule and meet up at Alchemy coffee shop, right off West Broad St. It had been nine six months, since I had even, really approached a girl in such a manner; now being far removed from the comforts and confidence of being at Macados, I was nervous. We’d sit outside, despite the chilly December weather, and talk. Then move inside after the coffee, and continue to talk for hours.

It seemed as if we could not stop talking; what happens when you pair two talkative conversationalists. Nearly three hours went by; discussing our pasts, interests, childhoods, ideas and beliefs surrounding a country, or religion. I was enamored, and inquired, before parting each other, about seeing each other again, she’d respond perhaps, tomorrow, I’ll text you. We’d meet the next day on campus, arriving outside her apartment complex, where she parks her car. I hoped in, and we drove to a nearby restaurant for brunch, Black Sheep. Again, at a table for sat and talked, only aided now with food. She further tell me about her family, how her materialistic mom acts as if she is Mariah Carey, and her parent’s divorce. I confided in my experience with divorce; telling her about that conversation Julia and I had with Dad about why he couldn’t be married any longer to our mother. She felt a commonality, responding about her sexuality, and how it is most accepting her, in a larger city to be bi-sexual; compared to somewhere smaller. She’d tell me of the difficulties in finding herself when she first arrived to Richmond as a freshman, sleeping around, and being in an abusive relationship. Despite, never thankfully experiencing an abusive partner; nor being one, I could relate to the inner whole that show as lustful desires that propel us to outwardly seek love. We’d talk on about inner peace, how we each see spirituality, and her aspirations to live in India to be a yogi. Her open mindset, fit quite well; I’d explain, to my desire to see the entire world.

Following our southern style brunch, and coffee, we’d hope in the car and drive downtown. As we drove, continuing to talk, I had simple urges of placing my hand of her thigh; just to indicate my desired affection for her. I’d disregard these thoughts, instead, keeping the verbal interaction as the sole-driving factor; it was in fact only our ‘second date.’ We’d park, walk to the cobblestone street of West Cary, until we’d get to a different cafe downtown. We spent hours talking there; diving further into future desires, and thoughts of ideas much bigger than us. As the time went on there was just one draw back, I had work at 3pm. We’d leave in time for me to get to my car, off of Catherine Street, back on campus. Again, I fought off the desires, and later, as she dropped me off, found myself for whatever reasoning, acting awkwardly about a goodbye. The time and opportunity were right, even it seems her aim to be; and yet, I used solely words. I walked away thinking how I mishandled that situation, words couldn’t express how quickly I have caught feelings for her; after all, we did enough of that. I needed to cement them, and show to her that she had completely enamored me, but I left out with just a goodbye and hope to see you soon. That was the last weekend of the winter semester; yet, unfortunately, I had a few days at work before leaving Richmond. I’d arrive to work, tell her about her, how strong our connection was, and then, be forced to stand or sit around in the cold garage. That made it all only worse, with so much time on my hands, to be forced to ruminate over the last two days of encounters with her; conversations, etc.

I’d leave out for D.C. the following Monday, to then fly to Florida to see the Scordo side of the family for the holidays. As, I found myself again with too much free time, I couldn’t stop thinking about her; so, I reached out by text. No quick response, then hours went by, a day, and nothing. We’d return for Christmas, and spend the day at Dad’s, before returning to Harrisonburg that evening. Following brunch, the two of them already well knew my predicament that took my attention away. They could probably see, if my description of our brief time together during those two days didn’t confide enough, that I was consumed. Dad suggesting that calling her, on Christmas, just to wish well wishes wouldn’t be a bad idea, and it could help confirm my worries. So, I called, to find a tired, surprised sounding Leslie on the other line. It was as if I called a complete strange, and to be fair, perhaps, for many we were too far off from that; yet, I had such a connection with her. I’d explain to the two of them of my failure to show my physical attraction, which they suggested could have indicated to her, something that I did not intend. After that phone call, I had it; whether it was time, or my slip ups, I had an answer, that I didn’t wanted. Yet, I soon found it better than the unknown, and the constant reflection upon our nature; like a sort of closure. So, it would take a couple weeks, to forget, and months, even, to act upon desires for another girl again; as I’d continue being shy in my new city. Thankfully, I had Douce to help alleviate that.

It wouldn’t be until spring, following one intoxicated evening with Nabeel and Douce at ChaChas that I would have a guest at 2014 Princess Anne Avenue. Who would expect, with such directness, as we sat side by side, to work. That would be an entertaining evening and morning, but at that time, I knew; seeing Douce and Leondra’s relationship, that I desired something more. In becoming more comfortable within in Richmond, and soon having the time on my hands I desired a real connection. July would come, and in using Tinder, I would find a brief fling, that showed in three rapidly moving dates, that we had a connection; at least physically. Yet, following a week long trip to Italy, that would spiral in favor of something else; someone else. The week prior, to leaving for Napoli, I joined Douce in helping him move items into Leondra’s new home. I’d meet her housemates, three friends from freshman year; ultimately sitting in a circle and smoking in the room opposite of her. I briefly recalled, months ago, her talking about her upcoming housemates; now I sat nearby the Korean-American girl that recently broken up with her boyfriend. At the time, while sitting in Douce’s room, and Leondra informing us of her friends, I responded with joking confidence that I will pursue her; the joke didn’t go over well. I was dismissed, but Douce did respond that Katie liked white guys.

Now, harmlessly, we all sat, talked about travel and interests, while we smoked. Her room varied greatly from Leondra’s, most notably due to her having two rats in a cage. Douce would mention, in effort to further gauge interest from Leondra, about a trip Harrisonburg in two weeks to see an old friend; Issac, and his brother JD (my old workmate). We left that day, and with the addition of Jorja, would seem to have a full carload of people; five of us. Following Italy, and the return to Richmond, the weekend would come, where Douce, Leondra, Katie, Jorja, and I would pack up and head to Harrisonburg for the weekend. The first evening, spent at Issac parents’ house, provided an outdoor party for us to drink and dance; even some familiar faces from Macados showed up. I’d find great joy being among Zack, JD, and Adan again, while the Richmonders, drank; Leondra more so relaxed being the DD. I’d take it easy as well, preferring to smoke with the guys, and enjoy the reunion. Well past midnight, the party would wrap up, we decided to head back into Harrisonburg. We arrived to Dayton, and had our arranged rooms; but Douce would angle for the bed with Leondra, considering his ‘back.’ I’d cave, once the intoxicated Katie and Jorja showed to not care. So, the three of us; the two ladies on an air mattress, and me sleeping on a collection of blankets on the floor, took to the bonus room. After a while, I was awoken to Katie trying to cuddle with me; thinking to odd that she left the comfort of her air mattress for the floor with me. Nothing prior gave me the reasoning as to why she worked to be next to me; aside from drunkenness, yet, I wouldn’t complain. Instead, I’d take her advances to my own desires, and soon take a more dominant physical approach. She’d explain it was her period of the month, and we couldn’t engage in that; yet, we’d change to solely benefit me.

Following our encounter, I’d encourage her to return, so I could sleep. The next morning as we all laid around, before breakfast, and as people showered, Katie and I would get a chance to lie in the bed. Douce, returning to the bedroom, would come to be surprised to see us lying together and cuddling. They all make their comments; and yet, it was extremely comfortable, and pleasant to be together with someone. The majority of the day, following Douce and I making breakfast for all downstairs, would be spent at his mom’s house; an opportunity for his family to meet his girlfriend. Again, I start to notice a desire to sit nearby Katie, and be as comfortable as possible with her company. Our return to Richmond, like our departure, required two cars; breaking up the two guys, and three girls. In the week following, back to my routine and home, I begin to question a continuation of my time in Dayton with Katie. I reached out to Douce and Leondra for her number, in the desire to get similar physical satisfaction that I had already received. I’d be surprised to face push back, later explained to be from Leondra, seeing that the two of us wouldn’t be a good match. Yet, Katie would explain, on her first visit over to Princess Anne, that despite Leondra’s advice against, her interest had been peaked during our time together in Dayton. Aided by her other housemates advice, she accepted an invitation to come over one Friday night; an interesting evening.

We’d enjoy each other’s company, getting to know each other better, while also, building off of what we encountered the brief time together in Dayton-Harrisonburg. The memorable, and clearly alarming instant, came the next morning when we decided to shower together. It was clear that we had found a level, when she started to cry in the midst of the shower; in an attempt to resolve the issue, I consoled her, both verbally and physically. She’d explain further about her break up, months ago, and how she felt consistent grief and regret about how it ended. The grief came in two fold; first in admitting to me that she cheated on him, and then, how in confessing to her mother about their breakup, she was told how she had screwed up, and would never find better. This saddening, and surprising encounter in the shower should have been a drawing in the sand; and yet, I must confess over the span of months it would be a theme; albeit less frequent and intense. Not everyone was happy we were together; as Leondra had stated earlier, but I was able to find a silver lining with Douce. I explained to him early on, following our first night together; something he already knew, how it was just nice to have company again. I’d discuss the same with Jorja at work, who came to see me more apt to check my phone in the midst of the weekend chaos. In my brief pauses, finding refuge in the server room, I’d check my phone or message out for desired company after work. In the early weeks, where we’d only see each other during the weekend; waiting the week for each other, I’d find simple excitement in reading her snapchat messages about how she was ready and longing for me.

It was clear, in my rushing back to home following work, how I was becoming entranced by the idea of becoming intimately attached to someone again. In spite of my excitement, I didn’t allow it to be professed, nor showed too much to Katie; slightly pushing each time following for her to return home to sleep. I explained how it worked in the past with Rachel, or Shay, but clearly she was not in favor; instead, needing that outlet of distraction to comfort her. I couldn’t deny that I minded it, and found her to provide multiple avenues of enjoyment. First, the obvious, the reasoning I pushed for our time together, and yet, I also missed the cuddling and intimacy that wasn’t truly warranted since my time with Haley. Lastly, learning from Rachel, I insisted; once learning that she regularly had a full jar at home, to bring enough for us to smoke together. Yet, after several visits during the month of July, change was coming; something she was hesitant about. The move to the dorms, West Grace North, meant her return to campus; after graduating in the spring, and added difficulty in getting her into my bed. It would become slightly more awkward, once we learned that my new roommate, Paul, was a present member of her former academic-pre med fraternity; DEM.

This, paired with my continual time spent with Douce, would lead toward the idea of trying her home out. We’d soon become comfortable there; a three floor house that offered friends, a place to freely drink and smoke, and her room for the two of us. The perks were clear, and having Douce across the hall, made our outings, day or night, very easy as we’d just end up in the same location regardless of our present state, or time. This would soon become a quick theme, whether in early agreed upon intention, or in a drunken late night state. The first, the trio of Douce, Korey, and I, stayed over one evening after a night of collective drinking games. It was nice, again, to be immersed in a coed outing where I felt comfortable with both parties. The two of us, would find comfort with our counterparts upstairs on the third floor, while Korey took refuge on the couch. It was clear that her place; offering a more homey environment than my fifth floor dorm style apartment provided, gave me nice solace away from home. Yet, there was a draw back; drawing back to the noisy rat cage located not too far from the bed. Early on, I stressed the hindrance it was; not to mention the pure oddity, in my sleep, as the two guys would squeak and run around on their wheel. She didn’t like my solution, put them in the closet; so, folding, she, or I, would decide upon placing it outside the room. Our second evening venture to the south side, out past the river, would require a Lyft driver, after an evening of drinking downtown. We’d arrive, now fully aware of how simple it was for our after hours location to be the same spot. Upon arriving, he’d go on upstairs, smiling at me; as I worked to wake up a passed out Katie, she too had an evening of drinking. That night, I would learn; following several attempts to wake her, something Douce didn’t need to see.

Despite, desiring the comforts of my room and bed; void of any animals, we found one true roadblock that gave us both some hesitance in being together at WGN. She’d become adamant, something I would early on try to push aside, that it was awkward for her to have Paul there; normally intrigued by the thought of the two of us together. Whether in seeing her arrive, if we stayed out in the common area, or if the bedroom door was open, it prompted potential conversation about her recent past. He found it of particular interest that the once girlfriend of the president of their mutual fraternity was now in his apartment with me; asking early on what happened between the two of them. It would be something that would take awhile for her, and I, to get past; perhaps, never truly overcoming. The relationship between the three of us would become more comfortable, and overtime, it seemed that she no longer hid, or feared talks with him, but liked to pry herself about his budding romantic pursuits. While, I soon became glad that it wasn’t an obstructive as it initially was, it worked as a constant reminder of the situation that I had immersed myself in. If the conversations weren’t enough, still there came times; something behind closed door, or causing me to close the door, that her emotions would take over. As I did in the first instant, and continued throughout, I worked to alleviate her depressive states but ensuring her in time it will improve; and perhaps, this is the goal for her. In fact, early on we both had goals; unfortunately, requiring neither of the others attention or help. Hers, that I stressed, was to become complete by herself, and mine was for the desire to a return to Europe; to study abroad in Italy in the spring semester.

Throughout the semester, beginning in September; after doing my research for months, I kept slight attention toward Italy. I’d eventually find the program I thought fit, Viterbo, and apply; paired with classes and work, all I could do was wait. To blur away the constant worry, and anxiety about the potentiality of such an exciting occurrence, I found even more distraction in her presence. I’d explain to her; perhaps something that she didn’t need to hear, that she provided me with two of my most desired vices, working well to allow me to enjoy and relax myself far from any thought of the future. Following the acts of smoking and drinking, and in her bed, or in the second floor shared shower, we’d throw caution to the wind; something that she insisted upon early on. For a while, I rejected her persistence that it felt better without protection, and yet, would eventually fold making it a theme to risk it half the time. It seemed to be a constant fun argument-challenge for us; for we knew it would be happening, and yet, who was going to fold, or maybe, just to see how persistent I was willing to be. She dismissed the concern of another, and noted that I could just manage myself when the time came; and yet, while I allowed it, and agreed upon the clear improved feeling, I could never escape the fear of getting the timing right. She worked to ease my concern, by assuring if it were ever a potential issue, that it would not arise; whether in acting immediately or later on. So, we continued on, despite clear signs, and seemingly found it okay to sidestep, or at least push all pressing issues underneath our rug of a relationship.

My desire to push past anxiety, through the way of vice, went beyond making our intimacy of a more risky business; I’d also, submit to her avoidance of any concern of the dormitory rules regarding marijuana. With the evening time together at my apartment, following a day’s worth of class and work, we’d confine ourselves for brief moments in the bathroom or bedroom, in order to hit from the packed bowl that she would smuggle in through her purse. That after all, smoking, would become an arrangement; her providing the continued means to smoke, in return of us now extending our relationship to now have official dates. My only requirement, if we were to now go to dinners, was to eat somewhere that offered food that we could not make at home. I’d convinced myself that the money I now would spend on our dinners was to supplement the expense that I previously spent to smoke. In the coming weeks, we’d frequent a restaurant a week; between Vietnamese, Chinese, and Jamaican. Yet, soon, an exciting wrench was thrown into our relationship. For, like my desire to travel and study abroad, she held a more pressing trip to Europe; Munich and London, to experience Oktoberfest. Initially, I held pure excitement for her, but would soon learn that her experience; once she departed, would send me into a swirling mess of emotions.

For starters, as I’d admit to her before she left, and then to the guys; Korey, John, and Douce, she put herself; even for a brief trip, where I wanted to be (at least in the right continent.) My anxiety about being accepted into the Viterbo, Italy USAC study abroad program was growing, and now I only felt it to be heightened with her departure; that was day one. In the time; nearly ten days that she was gone, I impatiently waited, and prepped my documents to soon be sent through the mail; off to UNLV for final approval. In viewing her first day’s timeline, paired with messages and knowledge of her plans, I notice myself diving into a pit of jealously and emptiness. Here, despite, being rich with friends, and having commitments in Richmond, I felt void; as if my basket that I invested in was now experiencing an improved lifestyle, removed from Richmond, without me. Several aspects would come out of this whirlwind of emotions; beginning with the direct reaction to me. I set out, stemming from the two months in Europe, to individually explore the city; back to scouring the web for ideas. In the first four days, immediately following class; in effort to fight out the coming feelings of being without, I biked to experience the city. I found a renewed sense of enjoyment with visiting the Richmond War Memorial, and soon, the following day, encountered the strange bliss of being immersed within the Hollywood Cemetery. The third day, I biked downtown to visit the observation deck, located above city hall, and walked about the capitol square. The three days were eye opening; a wonder how I had neglected such beauty and unique aspects of a city for over a year. While, I gained the joy that I had sought; something similar to that of the traveler mentality, I couldn’t shake the knowledge of her being with others. To counteract this, I put myself in direct position to interact as well; first, with an old friend Kara, on the fourth day of newness.

We visited an African American art showcase at one of the VCU buildings, where one of her portraits was being displayed. It was a unique opportunity, followed up by an evening at the Virginia Fine Arts museum for Jazz night. A delightful friendly date night; we even ran into Douce and Korey in the midst of a strange triple date. Afterward, we headed back to her house off campus; however, not far from WGN. We’d buy a bottle of wine, and continue to drink and reconnect, since our last meeting back in March. While, we became more comfortable lying on her bed, it didn’t seem as normal as I had become accustom to with Katie; perhaps, that was the problem. For if, my mind was clear of her presence, or of the desire to be with her, I imagine myself being more proactive in our close quarter interaction; instead, I’d leave that evening with holding attraction but seeing a lack of chemistry. That wouldn’t be the only interaction that week; after hearing word from Katie about a fellow traveler, I’d be more pressed during the weekend, in our trip to Cha Chas to put her behind me. In an intoxicated state, and only becoming more so, I became enamored by a fellow international studies student. Her beauty first caught my attention, but the conversation kept me aligned in pursuit; I’d even get her number, only to then, in minutes wash that unique opportunity around. When she went to talk with her friends; her group standing by as we first became introduced, I’d see an old mutual friend, Jazmine. She, like me, clearly was too drunk; this would show to everyone, as we started dancing and making out. Soon, we’d be pressed up against the pillar, and by the time I came too, the looks from Sophia (the international studies student) proved discouraging. My chance there was done; so, in finding Douce for our departure from the bar, I bring Jazmine along. The three of us would get a Lyft back to campus, he’d go his way, and I’d join Jazmine up to her apartment. An hour, or so later, I’d come back down, and question what I had down. With no protection, we didn’t engage, but worked forward with the same desires, but to lesser effect. This would be something I would admit to Paul, months later, confessing to him that it was an encounter that shouldn’t have happened; with both parties inhibitions drown in liquor.

Following the week and weekend of branching out, Monday came; and I still found myself holding to feelings each time I was reminded of Katie. Finally, after delaying the submission of my paperwork; due to fears of it all becoming more real, and the potential rejection, I went to the post office and mailed in my application. I’d call dad several times throughout, first to ask how best to insure of the safety of my passport and application; he’d suggest priority mail, and then, afterward for what was really pressing me. Forty five minutes later, he’d thank me for including him in what the inner workings of what plagued me; I thought it strange, and yet, I couldn’t see myself at the moment being aiding any other way. I’d tell him all about the past week, and of some what in the steps that led to my present dilemma; his metaphorical advice regarding the cheating doctor stuck with me, and provided some clarity. He agreed with me, how the explosion of emotions dealt with my desire for a return to Europe, and helped ease my mind about the whole approaching situation. It was a comforting conversation, one that while helped me detach in the moment; unfortunately did not stick me with for the coming weeks. The next day following class, I spent the evening at North Ave, hanging out in Douce’s room, smoking and catching up with John and Korey. Naturally, with Katie nearing her return the conversation turned to her, and their thoughts about me seeing her again.

It would be three days later, that we’d find each other in the same car, similar to just mere weeks ago, and yet, something was different. I, while, she had encountered an exciting and emotional trip around London and Munich, had my own battles that caused me to see myself and place differently. Despite, her insistence about taking a break, following her confusion, I persisted to just met to hear about her trip in Europe; it all seemed like a proper angle, but was clearly driven poorly. I’d pick her up, drive about, and find Mamma Zu’s, an Italian restaurant once suggested by dad upon my decision to make Richmond my home. As we ate, I listened to her experiences; seemingly full of a pack travel mentality, led by one of her friends and her boyfriend. She’d explain a few encounters with fellow travelers, and how, in the brief period in London, she caught feelings for an Australian guy. While, I listened it seemed sad to hear; considering from what great discoveries I’ve found through travel, and yet, in her explanation it seemed oddly too related to life here in Richmond. Over the span of the time at the table, we breached the topic of us, something that we both seemed to be weary of starting up again; adding to the fact of her recent emotion destress abroad, she stressed the aim to work on herself. I, begrudgingly agreed, although, parts of me inched forward with the desires of intimacy. Following our dinner, I’d take her back home, and return home to WGN. Now, I felt feelings of division, with the seemingly logical mind fueled by dad’s words now stronger, and yet, the emotional needy side now more fully grasping at its void. I couldn’t blame her, but acknowledged how my free time was set up to be supplemented by her presence, yet, now?

A week would go by, I’d have my conversations with Jorja at work about the whole situation, and even, laughingly explain to her later on, about my failed attempt at a tinder date. I felt guilty upon meeting the girl downstairs my apartment, but couldn’t hide my lack of desire; so, with a firm I’m sorry, she’d leave and I return to 5206 to tell Paul. It was clear, in this moment that I was grasping, something Jorja assured me that I needed to get over. I agreed, but felt the sting of the void without Katie, and didn’t know how to properly yet address it. Soon, as another week went by, it would address itself with a text from her, leading to another meeting. I’d meet her outside her apartment, to talk about the recent weeks; about her aims, and what has transpired since we last made our decision. She explained her thoughts about the reeling feelings about the Australian guy, and our time together, coming from her inability to come to terms with the breakup back in May. Understandably, I worked to assure her that she had never truly allowed for the time to do so; and yet, with all my voicing of such importance of it, I had not helped with my company. She explained how she saw Eric, and despite, becoming intimate with him once more, had collectively closed the door of their past. It seemed to aid her present condition, which then allowed for her to turn the attention toward us. We decided to further our conversation over food, and a nicer venue, leading to a pizza sitting atop Libby Hill and watching the sunset. It was here that I further explained my week without her, how she had left a void in me; and yet, I understood her dilemma, to which I did not want to distract her attention. As we ate and further caught up, she explained how this period has shown her that she’s very much a work in progress, a process that I liken to my own period of strife.

We’d, perhaps with both indirectly pushing for it, would return to my apartment that evening, and continue our discussion of us, while falling back into the comforts of each other. I confessed about my own attempts in replacing the desire for her with three different ladies, in three instances; she’d find in ironic, like Paul would, that I’d manage to find another DEM member in Jazmine. The next morning, it appeared as if we were back in our routine; waking up together, and readying for the day; her for a day of work and me, for the gym and class. We were back in the arms of comfort, and soon, would find ourselves facing similar questions that remained throughout. Paul would seem to find enjoyment with the sight of us back together, often thankfully in his own pursuit of a DEM member would leave out in time for us to take over the common area for dinner and tv. These instances alone would give us the freedom to cook together, find comfort on the living room couch, later take to my room for either to smoke, and eventually be lead by desires to either the shower, or bed. While, I cherished at her house not having to worry about dorm monitors and their insistence upon no alcohol or drugs, I did not like having to share the shower on the second floor. It always left for awkward moments following the shower, after knowing that the music did not drown out the sounds coming from the bathroom, and then, to walk up draped in a towel up to the third floor. This type of encounter, as long as Paul was gone; a commonality in his routine, would allow us to plan an evening better suited at my tighter and more confined apartment; despite, any illegal concerns.

If it hadn’t become clear already, evident during the morning after our first evening together, the desire to be involved in the comforts of a relationship continued pushed all the mess that was us. Similar, to my past relationship with Rachel, I felt a clear divide between Katie and I; despite sharing some commonalities, our difference was consistently noted. In fact, if it wasn’t for receiving word, weeks following her return, that I was accepted into the USAC Viterbo program, we might have called it. Instead, now with an end in sight, or an out, I felt slightly more at ease to accept all the nonsense; as perhaps she did with me, of our daily routine. On any given weekday, following a dinner together, or an evening together leading to the next morning, we’d encounter frustrating instances that almost seemed to provoke a break; at the very least, the feeling of give me a few days. This would perhaps happen, following a gym session where we’d go around looking for her car keys, which would cause her to be late, and the both of us stressed. Another morning, nearing the departure of WGN, while still in the lobby, we’d cross paths with Juan; my old ASB buddy, and a present member of DEM. His look of shock, to see Katie and I together said it right; something that would put her into a whirlwind of emotions. If this wasn’t enough of a painful reminder of her past; one evening following a date together, we’d be set to park on West Grace Street to return to my apartment. When entering into the spot, she saw to the right; through the windows, a DEM member and in the front, in direct eye line, Eric. She’d freak out, pull out of the spot and continue driving down the road, now adamant to return to her house. I’d insist to just park further down the road, but her fear of being seen entering into the opposite building, directly across from them, led her to act without sense. I’d call for her to pull over, exit and bid her adieu for the evening; yet, another uncomfortable moment to realize what type of situation I was involved in. Despite, all the awkward, irritating, and uncomfortable moments, we’d continue on, pressing past for the comforts of each other. With working evenings, often until eleven or twelve, on the weekends, our time together; nor our frustrations, just last during the week. In completely two different states, and yet, both grasping outwardly, we’d put ourselves in several emotion fueled positions following a hectic shift of serving for me, and a night of drinking for her. I, began to question, after a few instances of becoming tired of drunk Katie, why I insisted on answering the phone to pick her up from a party or bar; and yet, there I was all too often. These instances, at times, led to arguments, pushes for me to instead return her back across the river, and then find the comfort of my own bed; and yet, eventually, one of us would fold. It seemed to be a theme; irritation, a divide, argument, and settle.

Our dinner dates, smoking sessions continued on during the week; however, she soon became aware that smoking led her to think too deeply about her situation, causing a further depression. I, grasping for another vice that she provided, insisted that I wouldn’t press but did desire to consistently smoke. Our smoking for dinner exchange would become slightly more difficult beginning in late October, early November, once I ramped up efforts toward the coming move to Italy, in late December. Like Douce, Katie didn’t seem all that excited, understandable considering my own emotion storm of her being gone for under two weeks; now I was setting myself up for a departure of five months. This would become a theme throughout our six weeks together, a continuation of all that preceded, but now joined in with the nearing thought that I was to leave her. It appeared, at times, that emotions became heightened; and the grasping, on both sides, worked a little harder to hold on to what couldn’t be. A few evenings, following instances of enjoyment and times of peace, she’d even work to persuade me; insisting that I don’t go and how we could be better together. All of us; the emotional strife, the irrational spats, and the eventual settling for the comfort of company, would now become more in my picture of the present, as I saw the light of getting out of Richmond in a couple months. The looming future began to become more apparent each day, led first by the growing desire to save money; leaving me to insist upon cheaper, or less frequent dates out. Once instilling my desire to put money away in the bank account, in preparation for months in Italy, it became more evident of my nearing departure and of my growing detachment with the present situation in Richmond; this would create a constant divide felt by both parties, that was near impossible to avoid; like an Elephant in the room…like I said all along, we have no future.

Weeks, and simple interactions seemed to now pass at a faster rate; seeming as if the time now raced, before it slowly crawled. This time with each other would soon come to acknowledging our lasts; ending with our final night together. She’d after work, like we had done for months, come over we’d spend time together in my bedroom, with the door closed, then walk to a nearby Italian restaurant on campus; Edo Squid. On the second floor, we ate at a tiny two person table, amongst the bustling atmosphere that seemed to be sparked by a noisy, large party, business meeting. Neither of us could really reference how we were feeling, her probably kicking herself for being in this position of nearing departure, and me, nervous and unaware of what the near future will hold. The evening ended like most; the only difference seemed to be the heightened attachment when we held each other, as if we could hold tight enough to prevent any type of separation. That wouldn’t be our last contact, we’d talk on the phone following Christmas, as I was riding the train from Port Authority to the Newark Airport. It felt strange, to acknowledge how close we had become; considering where we started, and how I knew of the difficult situation she was in. It wasn’t like in the past with leaving Shay for Europe, separating from enjoyment and a connection; this, with what I had with Katie for an extended period went beyond that, a level of complete comfort that allowed for the both of each to show ourselves at our worst. There was no worries of judgment, nor humiliation; instead, the other side, a friend and lover was there; perhaps, just because we both know how much we needed and desired to have that person for us. Now, I was leaving that alone.

For the next month, or so, we’d keep a connection, as I first spent a week in Barcelona, then off to Rome, for four days before turning up in Viterbo. We’d talk on the phone one evening in Rome, as I sat outside the shared hostel bedroom dorm. We’d catch up, and soon, I find myself plunge into an irritated and jealous state, with her admittance of an encounter with some guy at a bar. Following the conversation; perhaps, even during it, I knew of the absurdity of my emotions and sought to destroy this level of attachment that existed for someone thousands of miles away. My involvement, and the shear excitement of all new happenings in Viterbo, Italy, would aid in that; until we’d confide in another emotional charged conversation a near month later. Following a video call from Douce in the late evening, lasting until 2 am (EST); an occasional occurrence to keep our connection together, I’d get an odd feeling. With him and Nabeel drunk; like the two of us so many times, now headed to Leondra’s house, I contemplated the inevitable. When it was proposed by Nabeel, too intoxicated to speak clearly, that he would try his hand at Leondra’s one roommate; Douce and I individually considered the next alternative. Knowing that he would fail for his first option, and yet, hearing a drunken Katie in the background, I acknowledged to Douce that I wasn’t there; therefore, I didn’t care what would undoubtably happen. Despite, the acknowledgement of it, and the belief that soon the two drunken friends would find each other in the house, my stomach was in knots. That day, I tried to keep myself busy, but couldn’t stop wondering about the believed happenings on the third floor bedroom that I once considered to be my bed away from home.

It didn’t come as too much of a surprise, albeit still painful and emotionally charged, to receive a call from Katie to inform me of what I had imagined. Between her being drunk, and Nabeel too, the two had managed to engage each other; prompting Katie, now in a crying state, to apologize. As I tried my best to hold back the feelings of pain, not allowing her any ammunition, she then, referenced how I essentially gave Nabeel the go ahead. I confided to her, just as I had with Douce the night before, that I saw it as near definite; so, I played off the inevitably nature of it, without an apparent care. Yet, as I expressed to her, of course I cared; and her saddened state, explaining to me that of the two instances with my friend were full of regret and a lack of enjoyment, didn’t help at all. The situation would continue to be a thing, leading into the afternoon; as our conversation drove on toward more feelings of pain, about my departure and a lack of present connection. That is where I aimed to draw the line; ultimately, while I didn’t like the choice, I couldn’t stop her; nor did I desire. If it wasn’t evident already, that two people once together for the comfort of having someone alongside them; whether it be in the car with them, at a table, or next to them in the bed, are divided. I expressed how I didn’t like being attached to a person in Richmond, causing me to question and think about her, without being able to touch her; and she didn’t need to explain her side. She needed, as she had before with me, the company of another to help ease her day to day trials; that was essentially it, now we found ourselves on two different wavelengths without a commonality of mutual need, and location. That would be the beginning of the break of us, much needed; and yet, we’d as friends talk about a month later. She called, as I took comfort in a Krakow hostel bed, to catch up and talk. Now, I felt it completely different; no longer driven by feelings!

Months would pass, I’d dive deep into immersing myself in life in Italy, and even, begin to see other females as potential fits; whether while in Italy, or with touching base with feeds from Instagram friends back in Richmond. I’d return to Richmond in June, and while I didn’t know what to expect, I knew that life would continue to change. I’d soon move into Douce’s old room, in the North Avenue house, and spend the next two months working as a summer middle school teacher. We’d touch base, within my first week back in Richmond; seeing each other, at her house for a brief afternoon conversation. It seemed contently platonic, as we caught up about all that life brought us in the last near six months; diving into her attempts at further relationships, and the next moves for us both. See’d be soon moving to NYC, something that allowed me to look toward a clean slate; and yet, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was still a spark. Like the slight desire following her Europe trip the year before, I felt divided; soon receiving a slight rejection upon inquiring about our connection. A week would go by, and she’d reach out; again, I come over, yet now to find a different attitude. She’d explain later on, as I’d come to realize quite quickly, that she didn’t feel comfortable in our prior encounter due to not being cleanly shaved. The initial start up, in the kitchen; coping a feel of the smoothness underneath her dress, led to a continuation of what we were for months, a near half year ago. Now, it just felt more heightened, with the separation we had; and the feelings that were suppressed for so long. The strange collection of frustration, abandonment, resentment, and excitement collided between us; causing us to make full use of the kitchen, enjoying the fact of an empty house. We’d go on up to her bedroom, and return to our struggle of ‘wear one or not,’ something the first go round I won, only then to lose in the second round. That day, while it felt to be the conclusion of us; would not be our last encounter.

Instead, she’d come to visit me, four times over the course of June, July, and August; twice while I endured the summer at North Avenue, sleeping on an air mattress each night. I felt a heightened excitement, while at work, upon learning each time that she’d be heading to Richmond; ultimately, making her way to the back door of the house, directly in my room. Following those two nights, I’d feel a slight dragging feeling at work; contributing to pushing me outside my normal evening-sleep routine; paired with the difficulty of being comfortable with two on a slowly deflating mattress. Thankfully, I’d find more comfort come August, with moving into a five bedroom house at 1430 West Clay Street with John. She’d help me christen the room, and be surprised to find the second time around; the evening before my Globe orientation, that I had rearranged the room. It was far more comfortable back on the queen mattress that we previously had become accustom to, and an added bonus to have plenty of window closets for viewing. After the second time with her departure, she’d leave me in an un-chartered territory; the now true closure that we desperately needed for far too long. I’d now find myself absent of a companion in Richmond; with school soon to return, and still reeling from never having addressed what I had learned, and encountered in Italy.

I wouldn’t be absent no, choosing to continue the rejection of myself in favor of an old acquaintance; a girl I met at the VCU Opera, in the fall of 2017. Like Kara, we’d stay in distant touch throughout my time in Italy, with several responses to each other’s IG posts. She’d show interest in my study abroad trip, and I simply wanting to prevent any further thoughts of Katie, liked the thought of detaching myself from the most recent grip of a relationship. Upon VCU getting back in session, and recently separating from Katie, I had a noticeable void in my social life; now without my previous companions of Douce, Korey, and Jorja. Fortunately, I had John, but my attention; once seeing flocks of ladies around campus, turned toward sheer desire. I’d reach out to Mahogany, and within a week, we’d schedule a Saturday afternoon date. Oddly enough, considering I have never had it happen, she’d ask for a photo of my license plate before firmly taking comfort in the shotgun seat. I’d get a thought provoking reasoning after giving her phone back, with the picture; turns out, she’d reference the prevalence of university age female abduction along I-95. Being at Monroe Park Towers, her shared housing, we weren’t far from the interstate; something she stressed was an unfortunate fact that was aimed to be prevented by sending a photo of the plate to her friend group chat. Surprised, due to the answer, I’d respond I had no intention of taking the highway; Maymount Park is located in the opposite direction. Again, I was surprised to hear that she had never been to Maymount Park; a place that Douce made sure to familiarize me with.

In the days preceding, I held excitement in the knowledge of an impending meeting; something about the planning and preparation in a first date. I compliment her appearance, she’d respond that due to only meeting one evening, she’d had forgot what I had looked like; and yet, was now pleased. As we made our way to Maymount, we’d catch up; her further asking about my in Italy, and how the classes linked to my course of study. We’d quickly find common ground, in inquiring into the other studies; a politic science major, and an International studies/history major. It was quite clear, early on, that we could dive into a variety of topics; ranging from past, present, and thoughts of future. Upon arriving to the park, I’d grab my bag holding our blanket, and lead her to the entrance. We’d walk for a while, enjoying the sights and each other’s company; eager to find somewhere more peaceful and secluded to take rest. Eventually, we’d find somewhere to lie down, removed from the crowds of people closer to the entrance and main attractions of the park. Soon, she’d get a call, ensuring that it was her mom; prompting her to walk away from ear distance. After she returned, we spent another hour there, before deciding to pack and leave; with my insistence that I’d like to take her to my favorite park. We drive across town, from Carytown to Churchill, in the hope of catching the sunset from Libby Hill. I explained how, the year before, I lived so close that this place became a haven for me; and admittedly has worked well for me in prior dates. We’d find comfort sitting on one of the many benches, talking away and getting more comfortable with each other. The latter, only was aided once I told her that I had brought wine and two cups in my bag; prompting her to question why it took this long for me to reference an additional aid for us.

It became progressively more clear, throughout the date; now most evident here sitting and drinking wine past sunset, that we had a connection, and yet, I still didn’t know to what effect. Soon, I’d understand; like past situations showing public affection in the public park. With excitement, I inquired into her desire about a continuation of our evening together, her response, showed to me that she was already there and was itching for the same desires. We’d find ourselves now back in the car, headed to West Clay Street; and yet, my enthusiasm couldn’t wait. Continuing our actions from the park bench, I’d now go further with the cover in the car; ultimately, at the stoplights calling for here to tell me when it was green. I’d pick my head back up, and drive gingerly back to the house, again across town. That night we’d fully learn how compatible we were, while exploring in our multiple extended rounds, various positions on the bed and ultimately on the yoga mat; both of us desiring to be in direct sight of ourselves in the mirror. As I thought it, she’d verbally make not of it, we looked good together; both fit, tight and contrasting drastically. I didn’t know the reasoning at the time, marveling the duration each time around; yet, later considered how the various bouts with Katie, unprotected, perhaps, led me to feel less sensitive to the now more ramped up movements with Mahogany. I felt the whole evening as an intensely enjoyable ego boost; gaining compliments for my appearance, creativity, performance, and endowment. The visually satisfaction in the mirror didn’t hurt either. Following our on and off; finally taking comfort in exhaustion, she referenced her desire to eat. We’d drive to a nearby Chinese restaurant, off of West Grace Street, get the food and return. The next morning, after an evening with her in my bed, I felt warm; not physically as the two fans rotated throughout the night, but warmly delighted with her presence next to me, to cuddle and prompt a return to our actions the night before. I’d return her to Monroe Park Towers, and later on that day, message her the image of the fortune cookie she had left behind for me, “Plan for many pleasures ahead.” Her witty, playful response, that’s up to you, left me further longing till the next.

Following the next two days, with having her in mind, I eagerly looked forward to our next encounter. We wouldn’t wait long, now agreeing to meet for an on campus academic lecture about Ona Judge, the enslaved person that escaped and eluded George Washington. When first seeing the news of the evening lecture I thought it would be an interesting ‘date,’ right down my alley of interest, to pair that with seeing if we could exist outside the sphere that we had already shown to shine. Strangely enough, as we sat side by side up high in the lecture hall, holding hands and listening to the powerfully provoking narrative, my two professors sat two rows behind me; I’d greet Pr. Weinfeld and Pr. Dickinson upon our entrance. Following the lecture, we headed to southern style restaurant, putting me in a familiar situation and gladly standing out in representation; as if I was with Douce once again at some party or his home. Yet, it made no difference, the restaurant, serving up fried catfish, collard greens and biscuits was a quite comfortable date spot, and a chance to be in yet different another setting. The evening had seemed to go perfectly as planned; much the same as the time before, and now, we were all set to return to my room for what would be a hopeful continuation of what we provided to each other before.

We’d make one stop before returning home, as she explained she wanted to smoke; so, we drove to a row house located a street behind the gym, to a dealer that she said previously lived with her boyfriend. Upon parking, and hearing the news; ‘boyfriend,’ I just sat in amazement, as she left the car, walked up the stairs and entered the house. It would be about ten or so minutes until she returned; in that time I’d receive and answer a call from mom. We’d briefly catch up, I’d explain my present day, and happenings, and what now seemed to linger on my mind…boyfriend? Soon, she’d be back, I’d be off the phone, and we’d head back to West Clay. During the ride, I’d poke a little to inquire about her meaning; to which she began to quickly explain of how they had recently broken up, and yet, remain close friends that see each other. We’d get further into matters later on, as we laid on my bed during the intermissions, smoked, and discussed more about where we are. She’d confide that tonight she was celebrating her birthday with me, and yet, from what I gathered, following the succession of a lengthy and closely knit relationship, she had apparently damaged the relationship with her closest friends. The whole situation seemed to deeply affect her, something she now presently worked to smoke away, and distract herself from by using me; first with the sight of us together bare skinned in the mirror, and then, the actions following. The former, our beautiful contrast of dark and light, as she put it, was picturesque; something that she would later request for us to pose for in pictures, albeit covering up from what shouldn’t be captured in our intimate photo.

I thought it strange, sitting at the edge of the bed and staring into the mirror of each other, as she draped herself over me with phone in hand, to take a photo; and yet, I couldn’t deny her insistence that we made a beautiful image. The stark contrast of us blending perfectly together, her long braids flowing off my shoulders, and our tight frames offered up two different viewpoints; first, appealing to the visual gratification (more to her delight), and then, for my consumption, how we moved and flowed together, working for a common goal. We’d soon wear ourselves out, the smoking and intimacy tiring us out for the evening. The next morning, I’d return her home, and return myself to prepare for a day of classes. Yet, I found myself just reviewing the night prior, stuck in a gratifying replaying of our evenings events, aside from one disturbing truth, her admittance of her boyfriend. Despite, her claim that she wanted to be open and see other people, something that I had accepted the night before, I couldn’t quite understand; I had always been a one person guy, and didn’t know how to handle the news I had been given. All I knew, as I evidently found out following our first evening together, was that I wanted to see her again, and soon. Saturday would come, and with that our next opportunity; so, I’d plan another outing to a nearby park, Byrd park. Not having the evening, since work began at five, we planned to meet in the early afternoon and try our hand at not being so handsy; something frowned upon in a public park. We’d walk around the lake, eventually finding a place to lie down on the blanket in my bag, and talk more in-depth about us; what we are looking for, and how our past brought us here together. Here I learned more about her boyfriend, or ex, Drew who from much of what she claimed about him, shared commonalities with me; even, drawing similar reference. Following the lake park, we left for a nearby favorite (for me), Hollywood Cemetery. We’d drive up to the Pr. Monroe, park, walk about and continue our conversations; even, finding comfort looking over the river. Despite, my liking to it, she wouldn’t find such interest in being among the dead. Albeit, different from our previous two dates, the day spent talking in the park, worked to be the feeling out period; without the prior periods of intimately feeling up. Yet, we wouldn’t stop there; instead, agree to meet up after I got off work at nine or ten.

So, throughout my time at Tulsi, standing around in my all black attire, waiting to refill water, run food, or remove dishes from the tables, I thought about her; an easy distraction. Following work, I’d call her, park the car and wait for her come down from her apartment. As had become the case, I’d ensure proper music was playing; perhaps, my playlist for us, and greet her with opening the door. Soon, we’d be back at my place, to find a relatively happening and full upstairs; with John having two friends (girls) over. We’d greet them, make our introductions, and them escape to where we wanted to be; in each other’s grasps and removed from all eyesight but our own. We’d see John and the girls the next morning, and hear about her evening of drinking, before departing back to her place, which offered us a different place of scenery. She’d invite me up to the eighteenth floor, and show me her apartment; a rugged, four bedroom place with an open floor plan. Most excitingly, the balcony looked across much of Richmond; able to see the various neighborhoods going to the west, north, and east. We’d smoke out on the balcony, closing the door to ensure that her one flat mate wouldn’t take issue, and to get a little privacy on the balcony; leaning against each other. Later, we’d find comfort in her bed, now acting out our roles but with the challenge of having a smaller bed, and a lesser mirror; to which she explained my place was preferred. I’d be back at her apartment in a matter of days, finding myself drawn there before class on Tuesday. For what would become a slightly concerning theme, I find myself neglecting the need to leave for class by eleven; instead, choosing to stay in her reach and smoke. This would begin a routine for Tues/Thur morning.

In the next couple weeks, causing me to use up five of my allotted six missed classes for Italian, I spent furthering my entrenchment into the feelings for Mahogany. It was beginning to seem, despite having a full docket of classes, and hobbies, that the majority of my free thoughts ran toward seeing her. It would become evident when receiving a message, or with the confirmation of a plan; take the visit to the newly built art museum at the intersection of Belvedere and Broad street. As we planned our evening to meet outside, I arrival on time and waited, only to then see her in a red tight dress walking across the street. Captivated, I was ready to enter; the first floor was getting progressively fuller due to an art class tour, so we’d look around for seclusion. Eventually, we’d find it in a dark room playing a film, and reconnect; I’d jokingly inform now I needed to cover up, or find a bathroom to fix my present dilemma. Her reaction wasn’t against, yet since I arrived unprepared, it would only be necessary for later. We’d further explore, then return to my house later on, to fulfill desires, before returning her home in preparation for the next day of classes.

Several days later, high and alone in my room, I reached out in hope of her company. We’d agree give it to the evening and we could meet, so I worked to come to; presently too clouded for my own good. Soon, after messaging I left out to find my car to go pick her up; yet after twenty minutes, to no avail in my seemingly aimless searching. I’d find that I had forgotten I parked it on another street, but I was still lost once arriving to my car. My phone read that she was going to stay in, and had cancelled our plans; something that brought me crashing down from my high. I walked back the several streets to the house with my head lowered and irritated, with lustful desires unfulfilled I passed out. I’d begin to notice it wasn’t only when I was alone and smoking at home that she entered into my mind; instead, it seemed wherever I found myself to be, the thought of her would find me. This was especially the case in classes, whether reviewing a prior encounter, or in preparation for one to come; or in the lull of work at Tulsi. I came to find a continuous theme of losing my awareness of the present situation, in lieu of being consumed by desirous emotions.

Despite our beginning, the quick recognition of her situation with her ex/present boyfriend and the appearing depression that she indirectly showed me, I couldn’t help but see that I had feelings for her. Operating with a sense of shame, considering I valued my prior approach with Rachel over the failed relationship aim with Katie, and yet, here it seemed I was choosing the path of the latter. A dangerous road, and yet, I sought some insight. I’d work to bring up the conversation with Pr. Conrad in an evening together at a local brewery. Sitting outside, enjoying our talks and the subdued weather, we reconnected about what has changed in the previous months, and our thoughts on the new semester. Being the first extended time to discuss new happenings, paired with now introducing thoughts of the future, it was to his surprise that I brought up my chemistry with a girl. Aware and internally acknowledging that the topic has never existed in our typical wheelhouse, it wasn’t until several beers in that I breeched the matter presently on my mind. His reaction, almost an ‘are you kidding me,’ look toward me inward to question if I was so immaturely smitten with a girl that had me reeling all too often. Yet, considering the messages and plans to meet following the evening at the brewery, I was consumed by the thought of having her company once again.

I’d, even, cut the evening short, choosing to leave the brewery, and not extend it to getting food, so I could meet her in time. We’d meet each other outside my house, me now slightly inebriated, yet excited to soon have her in my bed. That night, would be my first suggestion of using additional means in our activities. Inquiring into her thoughts about using handcuffs, or a blindfold. She seemed surprised, but with prior experience; whether it be Jenn or Shay, I knew the joy. In the next several encounters, I’d take enjoyment in putting her in a more submissive position; hands behind her back or a blindfold covering her eyes. In one instance, without the use of her hands, and after repeated calls from her roommate, she’d stay restrained now just with the phone next to her ear. She’d explain that we had a few more minutes before her locked out roommate would come by to get the key from her. This led to us finishing up, then to take an intermission, free ourselves and meet her friend outside. As she walked to the adjacent Kroger parking lot, to meet her roommate, I’d stand on the porch. Upon her return, a provocative yell of approval came from the car, paired with Mahogany’s words that her friends gave their blessing. We’d return, relax and continue on.

Following our evening activities, we exhaust ourselves to fall asleep, leading to an all too similar morning; me trying again, perhaps gaining entry or being told we have no time. I’d then return her to home, and then return myself to be lost in the most recent past. It was a continuing theme to ruminate about how time together, thinking about my performance, her reactions, and how we could build off it for next time. Our next interaction, would lead me even further into gratification with our sexual advances; crossing off a long, but questionable sought after encounter. After, picking her up from her apartment one weekday evening, we’d head back to my spot. It wouldn’t be until we had just parked that she would notice that she was without; desiring to smoke together, and asked if we could go back to get her bowl and jar. Being only a normal five-eight minute drive away in times without traffic, I made the argument that we had just escaped rush hour, now only to return to the busy intersections. The look on her face, paired with my ever present desire to smoke, led me to propose a happy medium; considering my impatient lust wanted to act now up in my room, and not wait for another twenty minutes. So, I inquired into her helping me while we drove back through traffic to her apartment; ultimately taking about twelve to fifteen minutes, due to sitting in lines and lines of traffic. It felt wrong, yet all the enjoyment from our normal occasions, paired with the excitement of receiving from the shotgun passenger, as we drove down the street to merge into the busy street of belvedere.

I drove slower than I normally would, ensuring our safety first, considering she was no longer buckled up. I also, like most times, worried about the time, as if it would take too long, and we’d arrive to no avail. This wouldn’t be a problem, as the enjoyment paired with the sight of cars all around; whether stopped in traffic alongside or in passing, made it slightly heightened. As if the situation wasn’t peaked enough, I’d venture in our last few minutes, nearing her street to remove my right hand from the wheel to get a feel. Soon, we’d arrive to her apartment, me feeling the combination of as if I had just finished a workout, and had just woken up from a refreshing nap. She’d show the normal pride of satisfying me, as she gazed into my eyes following completion; again, it showed our connection, the same that I found myself each time upon seeing her go into that same heightened, relaxed, exhausted state. I stressed that I needed a minute to come down, and come to, but she insisted that we wait and then go up together; soon, we’d see her flatmate in the living room. I first made my way to the bathroom, to wash my hands, and then meet her in the bedroom for our desired object. Before leaving, we’d make use of the closed door to further show our desires of attraction, then back down to the car to face the traffic yet again. That evening, following the first emphasis toward me, would be focused on her, to catch up; and smoking to relax.

The next morning, after her departure, I’d find Steve and John in the kitchen, a rare occurrence of the three of us downstairs; instead, normally just together in his room to smoke. Like an eager young school child with a toy in hand to show, I confessed of my encounter in the before; being the first time. Hindsight, would come later on, with self-reflection; addressing how I acted like I had never received attention from a girl before, unable to hold in my exciting news. This moment in particular, two weeks removed now from contact, entering in the first week of October, would be difficult to accept. As I started to see, yet not understand, a sudden divide between the two of us; apparent by our lack of recent contact, I looked back to how I was so hooked. It would be one memorable Saturday, without the aid and distraction of her company, and John being gone at work, that I started to see a concerning truth; I was completely uncomfortable alone. All I could do was think about her, how I wanted to reach out, see her again, and be with her, and yet, thoughts turned to future; how could this work? At this moment, I hoped on the bike and rode four miles across town to Libby Hill Park; a refuge for me. Here, I sat on the grassy hill, surrounded by hundreds of people celebrating a beer and food festival, taking to the food trucks and vendors. I felt so alone, and worse off, miserably alone; which, forced me to see how this present me could not work with the future aims that I hold. Something must change, which began a slow process; first outward.

I learned something that evening, while I spent a lot of time in my room, the very place that we had become so acquainted with each other in, I needed places to retrieve myself. Libby Hill worked in that way, as so did Hollywood cemetery in the past with Katie; now, I sought the escape to the parks when I the wave of approaching emotions. At the library, I started to print out quotes; from the books I read, people I admired, and from songs that drove me back to the thought of a purpose; James Baldwin, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Tracy Chapman, etc. This would be a continuous theme, until the entire ceiling of the large bedroom was covered, exhausting much of my VCU prepaid printer card. Several days later, on Wednesday, following the week prior in being forced to sleep outside my bedroom door; in my intense high state I had forgot/lost my keys in the VCU gym locker room, I continued up on that theme. It was an odd night laying in the hallway of the second floor, informing John on what happened, so he could provide a pillow and blanket; yet now, I learned something from it. The experience had shown me, just in that moment how a sudden, slightly difficult change could put things in perspective; so, I sought to take that and go outside.

In the cause of the next month, in which I wouldn’t see Mahogany at all, I would walk the streets in effort to find a safe, dry spot to sleep (Oct 10, and then Nov 1), see mom in Charlottesville and gain from the stories of her strength following the turmoil of separation and divorce, and then, begin a new way. One of the videos from Eric Thomas, talking the importance of setting up a routine (in this case a 21 day routine) led me to implement change beginning in early November. This 24 day routine would provide me with a distraction from the seemingly ever present internal pain, while also, setting the way for something that sought to be bigger than my present situation. All this, would come to be since I was missing the one proud distraction and enjoyment in my life, that had become what I would later see as a crutch. Halloween night, in missing out on a chance to reconnect; I was already passed out from smoking too much, would continue our separation; now nearing a month. This break was far longer than I had ever expected, nor it would seem could apparently deal with. Now, I worked to find any way, to find fixes to remove, or at least distract me from the lowly longing. What would come to pass in the time without her, albeit full of strife, was a necessary growing period, with a full focus on myself; considering it was all I could do to manage.

Between my two evenings out; finding my spot to sleep at Taylor Hills Park, the many trips to the city parks, the implementation of a routine aimed at growing towards something bigger, and the inspiration from mom’s story about her struggles following their separation, I saw myself as slowly improving. This growing attention toward myself, and therefore, additional confidence would be exposed on the day John left for Vietnam. In the morning of November 18th, we awoke at 3 am to drive to the airport. This plan would give me time to get back in time; in fear of traffic, for my Cuban presentation at 9. Following, a surprising phone call the night before, and the subsequent plans, I found myself on the return consumed by the thought of seeing her again. This would be evident throughout the day, whether it be once my presentation was finished, the free time following, or most disturbingly during my evening class. As the professor discussed the Nelson Mandela reading that we were supposed to have read, I was day dreaming about how it would be with her again; I even went to Aldi earlier in the day to get wine and grapes. With butterflies in my stomach and excitement, I’d rush back from class, shower, prepare myself and the room. Hours would go by, and around 9:30, I’d receive a text that she couldn’t make it; just like that the air went out. I’d go into a darkness, smoke myself until I wasn’t very aware of my sulking and crawl into bed. Despite, the growing attention toward myself these last few weeks, and aids, I was here again.

That was that, and I was shown yet again, how I could not stand on my own; now, pathetically back to where I was before. The emphasis on the routine, reading, writing, and lingua would pick up, and for the next few weeks, I kept that moment in my head; as a constant reminder and reference to be better. Well, I’d receive another call the last day of the month, and plans again were proposed; yet, this time, I couldn’t allow myself to be lost. I reminded myself how I was just weeks ago, and how easily this would become just nothing, but surprisingly soon, she drive over. That night, we spent together with the attention to the writing of VCU Globe assignments; most importantly for both of us, the completion of the final, a website addressing our Globe progress. As we playfully sat side by side in the bed, with laptops on our laps, we’d become partially reacquainted; she’d offer due to her bad timing to help me out, while I helped her to reword some of her paragraphs. It oddly felt like old times, just months ago, and yet with everything that happened, I couldn’t forget, nor forgive; partially her, but mostly myself. Later on, we’d eventually finish; for her the school work that night, and for me, as I didn’t get another accomplished, the pulsing desire to be with her. The next morning, we’d awake to having a free Saturday together; one which meant some time together and in me completing a much needed errand. We’d drive separately to the mechanic shop, I’d drop my car off for an inspection, and then be off to breakfast. Afterwards, we’d get groceries, go back to her apartment; a place I hadn’t seen in nearly two months, and spend time there, to smoke and chill.

That day, between my attempts at getting intimate in the kitchen, propping her up of the countertop, while her flatmate sat in the adjacent room, and our time together smoking on the couch, showed my divided affliction. First, there was the ever present strong attraction to her, and yet, later as we smoke and talked about the world, and life, I’d stared off into the large map on the wall. It was clear, as I went away from her words that I was now somewhere else; in prior times, I’d listen, hang onto and respond to her words. I’d soon leave, choosing to walk back with my groceries in hand and then run to the mechanic shop the next day. We wouldn’t see each other again, before break, instead I’d be introduced to a classmate in a different light, two weeks later; following the final class of the semester. That evening, at our professor’s house, would be the first evidence that I was now over Mahogany, as I sat at the dinner table nearby Haben and got to further know her. It would take me being in Florida, and taking interest in her socially minded/opinionated posts about the president and the sad happenings in the present, to reach out to her. The back and forth conversations would led to thoughts and eventually plans; for when we both returned back to Richmond, a week before school.

The plans were set for the first weekend, following the turn of the New Year, for us to meet at a local hangout, Circuit, January 7th. After going there with Professor Conrad, I figured the arcade-brewery would provide enough for us two to casually have fun together, while also getting time to get to know each other. This occasion was something, I felt excited to try; perhaps, most importantly I wanted to test myself. Considering the recent past with Mahogany, I desired to see if I could be together with a girl and not lose myself; becoming consumed with lustful, physical desires, and unable to stand my own company. Yet, three days before meeting with Haben, Mahogany wanted to see me; so, we’d meet once again, this time at the sushi restaurant she was working at. It was here, in one of the booths, that we caught with complete privacy; as most of the place was empty. Most notably, I felt myself no longer striving for her attention, or grasping at her; maybe, due a sought after month long break from my sexual desires. The winter break, paired well with my aim to separate my concerning attachment to release, originally in thanks to her; now, I found myself sitting side by side in our booth, working to reject thoughts about us together. She, as said had back with our last meeting, explained further her situation; how she had gone back together with her boyfriend, he even knew she was here. It was evident, with her phone on the table, how much he kept on texting her; her response that this instance with me pushed him over the edge. I could relate to his feelings, and yet, I never had the title boyfriend, nor lived with her; that was my first question of what we were doing here. Yet, despite the noticeable improvement, it felt nice to be publicly intimate with her again, hands on each other, underneath the table and leaning against each other.

The conversation, and dinner date would eventually come to an end; yet first, I needed the bathroom, a single door uni-sex style room. Soon, as I explained I had drank too much water, she’d join and look into the mirror, waiting until afterward to move forward. We’d begin up again, against the wall, soon prompting her to ask if I had brought a condom. No, of course I didn’t; considering I never thought of us trying in such a place, and then, following my break from myself, I didn’t have the aim. Yet, despite the excitement, something that took me a few minutes to come down, we’d be out of the bathroom; me questioning how much noise we made in the public one person use bathroom. Soon, I’d drop her off at her apartment, and we’d be separated once again. Despite, receiving random texts and calls, all as I was sleeping, over the course of the next three months, we wouldn’t see each other again. Just days later, I would meet Haben at the arcade, on a cold dark night, and enjoy the thought of a more stable evening full of activity that wasn’t driven by sexual desire. The time with her would prove sufficient, between freely playing arcade games together; video games, basketball shootout, and skee-ball, and then filling our beers at the self-pump we’d become more comfortable with each other. Later on, it would show as we’d turn to just sitting and talking in one of the booths. It seemed we had a lot in common; led by our open minded mentalities, socially conscious thinking, interests with travel, food, and culture, and thoughts of future aims.

By evenings end, I’d fight back thoughts to extend forward, whether with physical desires, or with solidifying plans for next time; instead, it was nice to let the evening be what it was. Soon, about a week later, and days before school started back up, we’d meet up again; this time at the gym for another active date. We’d spend about two hours there, playing ping pong; again, ultimately turning our attention to conversation. I found it nice, now in two outings to not be consumed with the thought, and aim of how I was to get this girl into bed; instead, striving to see if I can succeed in in the company of an interest without the bulk of my attention toward her being physical. I found some success here, with the aim to continue my dissociation with my sexual satisfaction and see if I could work to develop a relationship not led solely by the physical desires. This aim would be put in the test on our third date, now at her place, in her bed and watching an Italian film, for our Italian cinema class. Yet, aside from lying next to each other, becoming now comfortable in each other’s arms, I’d take pride in not moving too fast, nor being solely fixed on how I can fulfill the lustful desires. Her place, in particular her bed, would soon become our hang out spot; choosing to lye in bed together, to watch tv/Italian films, smoke, drink and talk. We’d become accustom to being intimately close to each other, without the direct need to act upon my past physical thoughts.

In the weeks to come, I’d find enjoyment in her company, both within her apartment, or outside; whether it be sitting in class, attending Italian club meetings, returning to her room after class for a brief period before work, or cooking dinner together. The weekends in particular, not having to worry about the next day with class or work, provided a nice reprieve from my home just blocks away. After a night together, we’d walk up next to each other, make breakfast or I’d to go to the Kroger bakery to return for her having made Italian style coffee, and relax. I started to feel a slight dip in my desire for continuing my morning routine; preferring to stay with her, talk and smoke. The comfort together seemed all too easy, especially considering the turmoil I had been consumed within just months ago. Yet, that isn’t to say that there wasn’t some noticeable differences, nor any strife to come. Despite, never acknowledging our desires for a relationship; considering we were both to graduate in a few months, there was a growing conflicted feeling inside me. In two parts; first, I noticed a clear divide between our schedules, I’d stay with her to just mostly lye around, and our sleep times were dramatically different. She’d prefer to stay up, whether with drinking or smoking, and watch tv in bed, while I’d be nodding off. She would reference this in our moment to come; something I had acknowledged within, but pushed aside in favor our continuing our thing.

Well, one evening, after about a month together, she’d bring up a grievance with me about how I treated a fellow classmate and a friend of hers, Kay. Apparently, as she stated it seemed that I favored her and she thought that the two of us would be a good couple; if I so desired. Surprised and put off my such a comment, I was even more taken aback as her comments continued into more spiraling. This would turn to our coming future, and how it appeared pointless to be together if we were to only separate in a matter of months. After, correcting the first comment about Kay, ensuring that I only had interest in her, the second would take more convincing. Oddly, in discussing us and how we could mutually improve each other, I used Mahogany, a past partner as a reference; which only dug me deeper, upon learning that she knew her. Now, it would take the next hour to talk her down from ending our non titled relationship then and there. During this conversation, I felt a warmth within, that urged me to hold on to what and who I had become accustom to; as if everything I could say would swing the pendulum one way or the other. After, not pushing the physical aspect of our relationship to that point, following the successful argument of how we should and effectively stay together; stamping out four different reasonings, we’d enter a new level.

We’d first try our hand, the morning following Valentine’s day, where we had spent the night together full of strife. It felt nice to be recommitted, and yet, some of her arguments were for not; especially considering our different lifestyles. Yet, I couldn’t accept the thought, nor action of separating at that point; I enjoyed far too much leaving my home, and my struggles for the recess at her place. Our physical side, unlike my past partner, would never take off; and yet, it seemed completely okay for the both of us. We’d even discuss it, and how it was perfectly acceptable to be more about our other aspects; considering both of our pasts with being in relationships that revolved around the sexual desires. In the next month, following our discussion about if we should be, and then how we could be, we’d focus on several aspects that I have considered desirable with a partner. We would start to put more attention to cooking in the kitchen together; I’d buy accordingly at the grocery stores, and focus our efforts on what we could control, the here and now. For me, at this time, meant the growing attention toward the TEFL course and what my readings-writings could be in the future. This would culminate on occasion of informing her of my desires, first in the process of teaching English; and my experiences in Italy, and then, in my findings from what I was reading. I recall, once telling her about my aim in reading-writing, her telling me to read her a short essay by Petrarch. After, explaining the importance of it to me, I’d read it out to her, and then, work to decipher its meaning.

Both of these opportunities to confess integral parts of my present self presented a new avenue toward what I sought in a relationship; being true and comfortable with each other. Yet, as March came, and the breaks separating us for two difference instances, we’d encounter a bump. It would take me some time to ruminate about the situation, and yet, in the matter of a week of not seeing each other, I believed to have come to a conclusion. One evening, just ten days prior, we laid in bed together, as I encountered a longing feeling. I fought back the butterflies in my stomach, and the thoughts that sought to become words; I couldn’t tell this girl that I loved her, and yet, it felt as though, with our connection that it was mutual. In hindsight, it was the heat of the moment, something that would only become clear after our untold break; yet, due to not having that conversation I worried it was due to me having bronchitis. Following, the time away from each other, during spring break, we’d reconvene for a night like usual, but soon, in seeking out her company the next time, nothing. That would come to be our last time together, something I worked to pry into, but never received an answer; instead, I’d see her IG timeline, get the cold shoulder during class; and ultimately, be forced to accept it, asking to retrieve my items one day after class. The timing would end up working out well, with just eight weeks until graduation, and soon the invitation into the group of internationals; making me soon forget about her lost company outside class. There it was awkward for some time, no longer sitting next to each other, nor talking.

With our time together ending all of a sudden, just like with Mahogany would leave me confused; as if I had done something wrong that forced me to question myself. I was given a perfectly timed distraction, soon diving into the group as the improved replacement for the now free time. Months later, with graduation just a week away, I’d receive a call while watching Game of Thrones. It was unlikely, and yet, not unwelcome; for it had been nearly five months. Mahogany would later explain our day-evening together as a sort of closure, something that she wouldn’t have let slip away; especially now being single. We’d catch up, nearly slip back into old ways; only now being prevented with several factors. First, the clear reasoning for our sudden meeting; her desire for distraction upon the mountain of tasks that laid before her coming graduation. Second, in later being told that she was allergic to latex, we would spend the bulk of our time prior enjoying simple errands. It was clear, now in being with her again, how far I had come; in my no longer pulsating desire for her, and in the necessary changes toward improvement upon losing her. She, unfortunately, seemed very much the same, still driven by a chaotic lifestyle that drove me toward seeking my own peace. In our driving around, I’d thank her for helping me; albeit she didn’t know it at the time, nor I. I’d confess the damage she had caused, and yet, being removed from the pain of it, for months now; and only seeing the results of it all, I could entirely give her my gratitude. She’d offer the same to me, in a different light for providing insight into pursuing a different course following VCU; with now looking into the peace corps in Thailand. That evening, following a return to her apartment, we’d act out our previous natures, still finding attraction to each other, but with the inability to fully act on it; I wasn’t going to Kroger for a single lamb skin. So, following our heated start ups, she’d offer and I gladly accepted, seeing her once again in the life of pleasure.

So, I am brought back to my present, following the remembrance of my past separations from myself in favor of the attraction, distraction, and desire for pleasure from another. Whether it be ten years, two years ago, or just yesterday, it seems to be the same thread, the flawed me chasing what is not in my best interest. In fact, just yesterday at work, I sat on the couch, following snapping a photo of Averie posing; one that she very much wanted, that I couldn’t get up upon being called to join a meeting. Here at work, whether it be in the classroom as the kids sleep, waiting for them to arrive, or apparently down in the library for all to see me wait, I have found all too many instances of losing myself; putting myself at risk of who knows what. Certainly, having this occasional problem, with my teaching assistant, is not only unacceptable, but counter to my very reason to be at Wesley. So, the acceptance of such behavior had to be addressed; bringing me to discuss with her following the lunch time, I laid out my feelings and how I must no longer fly into the fire. To address myself to her as a moth, that is unable to prevent from being burned; by my own doing, with a co-worker that I acknowledge I cannot pursue is bad enough. Yet, there is another level to it; with everything I know, we would never work, so, in effort all of this unacceptable desire is certainly, in many regards, for not. Here, the day following in my reflection, I am brought to a sort of shame, and yet, if I am to remedy my previous actions, and correct myself from the path of continuous error, then I must accept improvement. For, in looking for further guidance, I am brought to read,

“What makes a man unworthy of the Temple is the cowardice which prompts him to avoid the experience of shame, for this avoidance breeds oblivion.  For shame accepted is the greatest treasure. The Door will open before your eyes when you have understood this:  the only thing that is humiliating is helplessness. The cause of such helplessness lies in ignorance of your errors; awareness thereof, on the contrary, attracts you to the power of your God. If you deny the existence of your fault or error, it will strengthen its hold over you. If you recognize it, your awareness will destroy it. He who rejects this will never know the entrance to the Temple.” — de Lubicz

It is clear, that I am unable to avoid such inappropriate behavior, which could ultimately jeopardize my standing at work, and my very reasoning for being in Hangzhou, China. Knowing, as if I wasn’t already well aware of it beforehand; choosing to continue to dive, off and on, deeper and deeper into my regretful state, I must now choose a different path. In reviewing my past actions, it seems as if I have never fully; at times having no desire at all, aimed to advance what was truly best for the self. The continuous grasping of all external distractions have not directly led me here, to a life that I can call my own; instead, I have managed in spite the constant missteps. Yet, perhaps, the persistence takes at achieving a life outside of myself has given me insight, and provided lessons to take with me as I continue on in this process. It is clear if I desire to move forward, to a life greater than my present; as I have in my past, putting my here, then I must push past all desires to settle down with the external desires. In this case, as we discussed, the K1D team will be separated following the end of the semester in July; yet, that is in six weeks. I fear I cannot trust myself, considering my clear acknowledgement of this being a problem (nearly two months ago), and then despite that I continued to persist. Yet, I know I cannot afford to manage the same way; whether it be this year, or all the years prior, I must change my path and the tune that I seem to march along.

It has become very clear, something must change; perhaps taken away, or added; I am not sure. So, in acknowledging the shame, and confessing my pathetic, flawed desires, I must now work towards a new way; one that is in line with connecting my present to the aimed future. My behavior and more disturbing the evident truth of being unable to manage myself, perhaps hitting its peak two weeks ago, has now been a constant theme on the mind. Whether it be at home, watching videos, reading, or in meditation-yoga; or then at work, alone or amongst company, I now aim to address a problem that never occurred to me. It seems strange to admit, yet, while I have confidently taken pride in elevating myself and moving toward a life more complete (outwardly), I haven’t put the proper work and attention inward. With the helpful push of being unable to pursue Averie, and yet being around in in close company, her five days a week, I have strived for assistance; which has led me to now address myself differently. This slight change in thinking, only in the way that I have been introduced and work to immerse myself with the mentality; unfortunately unable to fully make the necessary change, is accredited to Sadhguru. His many videos on Youtube, one of his books; recently finishing his Inner Engineering, and insistence on yoga have aided in managing within.

Some days it seems as if I am managing, at least with the much sought after guidance provided, before, after work, or during the weekends, and yet, then I will have days like the last two. Here, I now see, perhaps, I am not strong enough, and must only rely on the closing of the semester; in three weeks, to offer up the much needed break. Averie put it well yesterday, in talking as she worked out next to me, the break-vacation (separation), and then the change of the classes will help; distance will finally offer up some sort remedy. Whether it be; her showing me a photo of her posing, showing off her stomach, me massaging her arm (the apparent workouts have caused them to be sore), me happily accepting her to feed me a cracker, or her asking to film telling her how she will have no trouble finding a man with her beauty and big heart, it is clear, in many cases we are not far removed from that Saturday, nearing a month ago. Yesterday, with my inability to control my thoughts, and desires, resisting in my internal battle to go talk to her during nap time; one of the few instances throughout the day that I feel compelled to try (with little to none eyes on us), I found great concern. It is here, that with the push to be better today; no longer can I be forced to wait out my excitement to die down before standing up to go to lunch, that I turn the whole of my focus.

What she thinks of me, how I am doing in my job (granted I am properly performing it to the best of my abilities), the status of my relationships with people, and what the world looks outside can be of no concern; not that I find it irrelevant, but that none of it matters, if I am a mess internally. As we perceive the world, and our place in it, once we have ourselves pinned down, then, I must attend to myself with the complete disregard to the bulk of external matters; granted of course, that I am attending to them with external focus. Yet, the mind, where I found myself, and so often in the past, to be a complete and utter mess, must be focused to run smoothly; then, and only then, can I find that peace within, and make the proper upliftment of my outward surroundings. It appears otherwise, that I am just faking; of course happy to see the kids, and more than willing to bring smiles to their faces, only making me gleam with happiness, but what does it matter when I am carried away so easily. It is as if, I must put on a fake face of happiness the moment, or just play the part, in a role that I could never have dreamed about being so fortunate to star in. Seriously, just Monday, and parts of yesterday; particularly with having the full attention of the class during the reading of the Big Bad BullyBug book, I see how incredibly fortunate I am; and yet, then I waver away, down the hill, or at least off the path. Do I just prefer to take steps backward, or leave the trail that I see paved for me; to instead, trek through vines and wade through tall grass, just to realize I cannot go on this way; then, back to the path. Weeks ago, lying in bed, I determined to no longer see myself off the path of prosperity; which simply requires the focus to stay on me. Seeing in my past, and in this writing, that I have lived; since leaving for WVU ten years ago, a life that wasn’t attending to me. Now, even in admitting my faults, and questioning the possibility of a path upward with the unwavering attention on my upward incline, I have continued to divert.

Perhaps, more sickly, is I am doing all this knowingly for nothing; not only can I not act, I don’t want to, or don’t know what to do if I did. I am like one of the many cats, or kittens, we have had in the past; seeing them come in the house with pride, a bird or small creature in their grasps. Place it down to show, a face as if to say look what I got, now to just watch the small little captured animal play the role of the dead and defeated; completely unaware of what to do next. That is, at best, what I would be; ok, so I have desires, and perhaps, if I truly pushed forth they would be gladly received. Then what? I would just sit, quickly becoming disinterested; realizing, oh so much attention to her, for what? We don’t work, on all levels, and yet, here I am pursuing; still feeling the pull of the warmth of that flame that I depicted to her weeks ago. In recent days, I noticed a trend; a quite fascinating one, gratefully indicated by Sadhguru. Follow your mind and one’s breathe, they are connected; as the mind wanders, turning to be engulfed by the peaks of pleasure and passion, the breathe goes out of tune. It is all in one; the heart pumps faster, the rate of the breathe steadily increases, and here as I have found in my observations, that I become more irrational. All it takes it to center back in with the controlling of the one or the other; mind or breathe. When one is subdued, the other quickly comes in line; here, today I must focus on this strategy at work. Perhaps, then I can control my passion, prevent that warmth from rising and taking ahold; hopefully giving me more control of the only thing in life that I am inherently given to control and manage, me!

Here I sit wrought

By disgust—division,

Seeing motives for naught,

Crash course—collision.

Of two aims here fought

Opposing sides; indecision.

So lost, sadness caught—

Provoking, go ahead envision

Life together, no thought;

Answer clear-face derision

In oneself, known—taught

Coming from past—provision

Needed, yet, strength got?

Unsure of me—make incision

To correct, remove spot

stain of present—here comes revision?

In the weeks that have since followed, I credit a continued improvement; first in my attention-intention, and yet, the progress does not dominantly resolve to me. For, I still find myself in class; albeit progressively less than in weeks-months prior, leaning towards her direction. Whether, we be working out together in close proximity in the morning; seemingly pushing each other, or close together during free moments throughout the day; or the newest development, biking together on our mutual way home, there still exists a slight longing. It thankfully now, though, is overshadowed by a collection; first with the rapidly increasing demands of work, with only weeks remaining of the school year. To add, when finding myself returning to the past fits of passion and lust for her, I turn to thoughts, songs, or words that work to direct me back to where my attention should lye-me. I think, we’ve actually found a good rhythm; aside from my occasional still excitement but without further fuel of emotion-thought, inside and outside the classroom. Strange, in just two weeks we’ll be apart; the whole K1D staff a break from each other, before starting anew with a different team, offering me a fresh start. I’ve explained this to Averie, how it will help all of us, and me in particular to not be in such close proximity with someone that I view with such beauty and desire, her response of sorry, just further adds the allure of her.

Perhaps, due to a language barrier, but more fitly connected to a perceived different line of thought, I don’t believe I will ever be able to rely my gratitude to her; like I was to Mahogany during our last time together for a closure like reunion. Not that I won’t expect to see her around, but it should be different, thanks in large part to the drama that existed; mostly in my mind, forcing me to realize the mess that I was in, and what I was missing. These past three months, just like the periods in my past; most evident in the last five years, have aided me in the continued and necessary growth. It is a continuous fact for me that content comfort carries me onward along the flatlands, and yet, it is only when I find myself striving for something external and artificial that I fall to the depths of me. Here, dwelling in the depths, I see my errors and seek the only perceived aid that can bring me back up; not the flatlands, not anything relating to anyone else, but the peaks of what I long to be; contently-solo me. Yet, what I could be, is far different than my present, so, I go searching for what connects my present turmoil to the desired future me; here I credit all the influences, aids, and predecessors that provide for me what I am not yet, a path.

And that is because the only solution for all the ills that plague humanity is self-transformation. Self-transformation is not incremental self-improvement. Self-transformation is achieved not by morals or ethics or attitudinal or behavioral changes, but by experiencing the limitless nature of who we are. Self-transformation means nothing of the old remains. It is a dimensional shift in the way you perceive and experience life.” —Sadhguru, Inner Engineering

Dilapidation