There’s a modern apartment in Bastille,
hidden in an elevator-less building
up four flights of creaking stairs.
Under a duvet printed with the New York skyline,
you wrapped an arm around my waist, our legs entwined.
Ear pressed to your chest, I listened to your heart’s steady beat.
“We haven’t talked about us in awhile…
I just wanted to see how you were feeling and to know where you were at.”
Floodgates for words and tears swung open.
“If there’s anything you’re keeping from me, you know you can tell me.”
“Why – is there anything you wanted to say to me?”
“Nope – just asking you.”
There’s a retro apartment in the Highlands,
a cozy unit in a former hotel
up three flights of clanging stairs.
After scrambling to find lamb and a roasting pan,
I walked through the door, noticed you cooking in the kitchen.
Deftly dodging snippy remarks, you rubbed my shoulders and said,
“It’s just a regular night. You need to sit down and relax.”
Upon telling you about work, you were right.
It wasn’t a fine day.
(I appreciate how perceptive you are.)
“I also got some groceries – they’re in the fridge.”
“That was really sweet – thanks, mister.”
“It’s cool, no big deal.”
(Except the sum of all the little things is.)
There’s an office in West Midtown,
a corporate tower emblazoned
with the company’s red logo.
Coasting into the driveway, I parked the car curbside.
An unabashed grin stretched across your mouth.
Shyly, I squeezed your hand and asked,
Widening your eyes, you continued smiling.
(I love your silly moments as much as your serious side.)
Giggling, I leaned over and kissed you goodbye.
“Talk to you later.”
(I love your hello and goodbye kisses equally. But mostly –)
“See you tonight!”
(I love you.)
“Samantha, do you think you can fix it?” Andrea squeaked nervously.
“I’ll do my best.” I gingerly tugged the stubborn ponytail holder entangled in my roommate’s waist-length brown hair.
We were taking a creative writing class and staying in the dorms at the University of Southern Mississippi. Though we only met the day before, we knew we were kindred spirits. Neither of us fit in with our classmates at private schools (a Catholic one in Birmingham and an Episcopalian one in Orlando, respectively). Neither of us liked math or scary movies. Both of us had quirky little brothers and enjoyed pop punk music.
Please don’t let the one friend I’ve made in so long hate me because I ruin her hair.
I sat Andrea in the chair facing their room’s mirror. After several attempts to extract the pesky ponytail holder, I eyed a pair of scissors on her desk.
“At least you won’t be walking around with it stuck in your hair forever.”
Andrea flinched, but nodded. “Just do it quick.”
A few minutes later, I held up the ponytail holder triumphantly. “No hairs lost, either!”
Andrea jumped up and played the Josie & The Pussycats soundtrack in my stereo.
“When’s the last time you brushed your hair?”
“Maybe we can brush and do our hair together every morning.”
“Sounds good to me.”
High school provided polar opposite experiences for Andrea and me. Andrea attended an arts school in downtown Birmingham, while I attended a public school in the suburbs thirty minutes away. Andrea honed her creative writing skills and took the arts school versions of math and science classes. I stressed myself out with honors and AP classes. One of Andrea’s classmates got kicked out for hoarding pain killers in her dorm room. My friends played croquet after the dance on prom night.
After we made it to college, we improved our schoolwork/fun balance. During winter vacation of freshman year, Andrea visited me at UGA. Athens was a ghost town whenever students were on vacation, so it was the perfect time to sneak drinks into the dorms.
“M’dear, it’s finally happening.” Andrea daintily sipped her forty.
“What is, m’dear?” I drank her Parrot Bay rum and fruit punch.
“We’re getting drunky drunk together.”
“That’s true! We need a picture to capture this moment.”
Surprisingly, our self-portrait looked like all of our sober photos together — Andrea looked high, while I looked like I was on speed.
“It’s so great to see y’all!” I greeted Andrea’s dad and stepmom with hugs.
Dr. J chuckled amusedly. “I can’t believe how much you guys have grown up.”
Susan laughed. “Get ready — he’s going to tell the story.”
Andrea groaned. “C’mon, Dad. It’s my birthday!”
“I remember ten years ago, we talked Andrea into going off to camp at USM for a creative writing class. She wanted to get out of Florida, so we provided her that option.
“When we got to Hattiesburg, we were having lunch and Andrea said, Dad, I’ve never had a roommate. What if we hate each other? And I said, What if she becomes your best friend for life?”
Andrea interrupted, “And I said, I never thought of it that way before. So yes, Dad. You were right.”
We linked arms and ordered margaritas at the bar. Giovanni’s was one of Andrea’s favorite fancier restaurants in Nashville, but the margarita was her preferred cocktail to order there.
“To your birthday, m’dear!”
“And a decade of being The Ridiculous.”
Holy Saturday, 2011
“We’re going to hell, bro.”
“Let’s toast to that, sis.”
I tapped my glass with Raf’s — bourbon & Diet Coke and rum & regular Coke respectively — and drank. We delivered the tithing envelope to St. Benedict’s earlier that evening. Rather than staying for Mass, we went to TJ’s, a sports bar, instead.
Our parents were never the wiser after these excursions. Raf always picked up a weekly bulletin from the vestibule and I kept Febreze in my car to neutralize the lingering stench of bar smoke. Reasoning with our parents about our lack of connection to the church resulted in the same monotonous lecture about faith and tradition.
“A toast — to our tradition –”
“– of having fun, instead of sitting through Mass.”
A random Sunday, summer 2012
Starbucks was surprisingly empty for a Sunday morning.
“How about a table on the patio?”
“Will we be able to hear anything?”
“You brought your earbuds, didn’t you?”
“Yeah — plus, we don’t wanna be those people watching a show while people are trying to do work in peace.”
“Watching and reacting to the show, you mean.”
Initially, I was skeptical. Game of Thrones sounded nerdy as hell. However, once we started watching the day before, we only stopped the marathon to eat and sleep. Somehow, we were more compelled by these fictional storylines than by any sermons we had heard.
Easter Sunday, 2013
“What is this — you guys get drunk so you don’t have to go to Mass?!”
We shrugged at our mother, wine glasses in hand.
“Too bad, you’ll just have to sober up. We’re going together as a family.”
An hour later while driving to church, we ignored our parents’ typical pre-church conversation.
“Stupid asshole just cut me off, Ting!”
“He’s probably a Korean. You know they can’t drive, Fran.”
“I hope it’s not Father Charles today. His sermons are so boring.”
“His Nigerian accent is hard to understand.”
I finally cut in. “You always fall asleep during his sermons. So what’s the point of going to Mass, when you get nothing out of it?”
“It’s important to go to Mass, anak.”
We exchanged exasperated looks. Our dad’s Filipino accent suddenly materialized, as it did whenever he was trying to impart wisdom. We tuned out the rest of the lecture. Today was no different from any other Sunday.
Still, we had hope. Treating others the way you wanted to be treated was the message we internalized from years of being dragged to church. Perhaps one day, our parents would realize the same.