The Vigilance of Naivete

The Vigilance of Naivete

A Story by Java Bum

Winter was supposed to have been there, looking heavily upon the bright sunlit sky. In the grasp of the autumn morning light, I saw her getting out of her car like an angelic mermaid basked in the colors of the ocean.

“I’ll have to call you back,” I said into my cell phone.

“Why? What’s going on?” the woman on the other end said.

“Because I think I’m in love.”

I hung up.

She had driven nearly a day straight to reach me, and as I stood on that balcony looking out at her, I was at a loss for words. All burgundy hair and perfect curves, decked out in her blue and brown skirt, and a zip-up brown hoodie. God, she looked perfect. I smiled down to her because I knew of nothing else that I could do. She smiled back.

Every ounce of fatigue that my life had brought me"and I had inflicted upon myself"over the past three years washed away in a wave of relief and desire. There she stood, like she said she would, against the silver of her Corolla. Even with her there, I couldn’t believe it. She was everything she led on for a person to believe, and so much more.

I went down to her, taking the steps two at a time; how I had managed not to trip over my own feet and send myself"embarrassingly"tumbling down that staircase, I will never know. Maybe the fleet of feet was tied to the yearning burning within me. Something old; something new. I swooped her up into my arms and we both hugged each other. I could smell the tiredness the driving built upon her, and I was exhilarated by it.

“Even now, I can’t believe you’re here,” I whispered into her hair.

“Hey, you, stranger. I’m here.”

I couldn’t believe it, even as I held her. I knew that I should let go, but I didn’t want to"not for the life of me.

Eventually I eased up.

Her words shook me from my reverie that was more possible future than it was factual past. “It’s good to see you again.”

Words couldn’t express what I really wanted to tell her at that moment. Everything that had boiled over was evaporating as it hit the open air. I remember that I had said the lamest thing I could possibly think of at that moment: “You must be tired.”

She smiled at me, knowingly. She was four years younger, just a single semester into college, and she was reading me in a way that made my heart skip. I would have chided myself, but I knew it was futile…so did she. “Yeah, I am.”

I took her upstairs to my room and let her crash onto my bed; she was numb and weak in both mind and body, having made that drive in such a short span of time. I stroked her hair for a long, long time. I admired the color texture of auburn and blondish streaks that lined her curly hair. I think I was coaxing her to sleep…or I was feeling a piece of what I wanted so badly that I did what I could when I could, just to be near.

I remember her calling me constantly throughout her drive from southern California to Kansas City, where I was. Talking to her in New Mexico, and Texas, where she all but ran out of gas and had to wait until the station opened up in the morning before she could fuel up and continue on. It was a time that I fretted for her, because this was someone I knew and wanted to know better, and she was stranded, because of me, sleeping in her car because she was out of gas, trying to reach me. I had lain awake for hours thinking of her and her wellbeing…even after she had been on the road for hours.

The plan  was that she was going to spend a couple of days with me and then we were going to head back to southern California together so I can spend time with family and go to the dentist that my mother personally knew. The kind of deal I would get to get my teeth fixed was literally a quarter of the cost even if I had had insurance. But this woman here was the kind that you latched onto and didn’t let go; she was an inspiring person and a wonderful friend. Over her Winter Break, in the wake of her grandfather passing away, she drove across half a dozen states just to be here. For me.

There was a timeliness to her approach that was for the better for me, though I am still uncertain if it was a good one for her even after all these years.

Next thing I knew she was asleep with her head in my lap. I hadn’t seen anything so wonderful for as long as I can remember. I had had women; I had had girlfriends and sex and love; I had had everything that a man could have been content with for the rest of his life. But this was one thing that still stands out in my mind above everything else. It’s the one feeling you get inside you that sparks the desire for more. It’s the emotion inside of you that you get when you want to get to know the person you’re with and you’re happy to merely be in their presence.

I think that was what it was to me: I was falling in love heavily for the first time in my life. I know that now, though I hadn’t known it then. The timidity to touch, to want; it was a thing of making everything seem innocent. I must confess that even though this was what I was doing"and I readily admit it"it isn’t a thing that is done in full deliberation. It’s being scared so much that you bashfully hide behind any and all chances to simply touch or look.

This is a blessing and a curse; though how much gravity it holds for the latter I still have never truly known, though I have come close.

Eventually I eased myself out from under her, and I let her sleep. The roommate I had at the time called me, and I answered. Feeling good about my day and my life ended up coming to a skidding halt in that instant. It brought back memories that were hazy because of their lack of actual substance. Though, everyone has to remember that what may be ineffectual for you, may be very important to others, especially when it’s misconstrued by the game of Telephone.

“Hey, I heard you called me an a*****e earlier.” His words were bitter and hushed, as if he was trying to hide the content of what he was saying away from everyone else around him at the time. To them, apparently, it was blasphemy.

To me it was idiotic.

“What?”

“Jenny told me you said I was an a*****e and that I’m just being a dick to you.” His words were incredulous, as if he hadn’t done a single thing wrong.

By most accounts, he was right. Then again, the conniving b***h he was with was tearing him apart inside and out, and even though I had learned my place in the game of Love and War, I wasn’t about to step onto that wire again.

Trying to justify myself, I had said: “No, that’s not it. I was"“

He cut me off without hearing me out. “If I’m such an a*****e, then I’ll be one. Be out by noon.”

Enraged, but knowing that I had to bite my tongue, I did. It seems like a foolish thing to do at the time, but I felt I should stick by my guns regardless. I’m not a complete a*****e, and I had more gratefulness inside of me than people gave me credit for, regardless of how often I let them know it, they seldom ever try to accept it. “I have one thing I want to tell you before you go.”

As if about ready to hear a mouthful without having the time, he grunted, “What?”

“Thank you, for everything you’ve done for me.”

He didn’t know what to say, and he did the one thing that I expected from him. He hung up on me.

Now in a pinch, I looked at the clock. It was almost eleven in the morning.  As quietly as I could, I went into my future ex-room and packed up my belongings, as few as they were. I took her keys gently into my hands as to not even give her a reason to break from her slumber, and I went down to the car and packed up my things. There wasn’t much, but I could see how hard the trip was upon her. It was difficult for me as I stood there, knowing that I couldn’t give her that time she needed to recuperate.

At a quarter to noon, I was kneeling down at the edge of my bed. I coaxed her into wakefulness and gave her the gist of what had happened, and what we had to do. With little bickering, maybe because sleep still infested her conscious mind, she went with me back down to the car. I drove.

Cutting across Kansas, I called my friend who lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I asked her if we could crash with her for the weekend. With leave from her boyfriend, we were given the consent, which became more than a saving grace. It’s amazing the people you meet from off of the internet. She was the kind of person that had a strong sense of will and power, one that would take a dedicatedly powerful man to make her life worthwhile. Let alone the fact that she had three kids and a history that would make most manly men shy away. The one she was with was one that I respected immensely. The only difference between then and now is that I respect him that much more as a man and a person. Great is a hard word to achieve in my mind, and he has surpassed that in all regards, past and present.

I hung up and looked over at that mermaid slumbering so determinately in the passenger seat. I had to smile. She was bred through those same lines with me. We had been acquaintances before because she dated my best friend, but we had become steadfast friends over the course of the years. This was something that we both did because he wanted us to, albeit in the end it was simply not good enough for him to have a best friend and a girlfriend who cared and respected each other; he had to assume we were creating something behind his back. It came to the point where he prefabricated an entire scenario and presented it to her. He gave her an ultimatum unto himself: he would choose her over me. She never even insinuated that to him, and when this self-proclaimed offer came to her, she turned it down, since her and I had become friends. In turn, she had sent me a log of these things, since they had come over a messenger. When I ended my friendship with him"after fifteen years"her and I continued to speak. It was a thing that quickly developed into “what could have been” even if it would never be acted upon.

I have to be truthful here, that idea of what could have been was just that. To me, I had never once thought that I would have a chance with a woman like her in all my life and any that came close to her would be based off of new developments without the past to shift things. That can’t work the same way, and the reason why I say that is because of the few great conversations her and I had had.

One that stood out for me was her leaning against the dropped tail of her boyfriend’s truck as we were parked outside of her house. She was sixteen, while he and I were twenty. We had spoken of many things that summer night, and the one thing, laughing, we had both agreed upon, was that if neither of us were married by thirty, that we would get together to give it a shot together. Amazing how people are. It’s an absolutely spectacular phenomenon how ignorant people can be to the moment when it appears, and never act upon it.

Should we have tried it then? No. It would have fallen apart faster than if we had tried when we were both in our twenties.

Over the course of the years, we kept in contact, even though I was in New York. She had gone to Vienna for the summer, after graduation from high school, and she so thoughtfully sent me a postcard. It was simple, it was platonic, and I still have it even today.

The phone calls over that time were ones of desire and simply enjoying the company. I believe that these were the reasons why she drove all that way. And I can remember the scenery of the drive through a barren Kansas better because I remember this travel. I remember, years later while we were at Mecca Café in Seattle, my friend and his girl had driven through Montana and its Spring Thunderstorms, and how majestic they were. I can remember that drive in the dead of ’02 and how her and I hit the snowstorm through Flagstaff, Arizona and caused us to find a hotel for the night, since the little four-door was sliding on the freeway due to black ice. I remember her bare feet flitting across the snow, I recall chiding her but smiling because that kind of free spirit was so beautiful to a cynical realist as me.

You have to remember that a cynic can be a realist, though they are not the same thing, and most often not. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

When we reached my friend’s place at nightfall, her and I spent some time catching up. We had been friends online for roughly three years and this was the first face-to-face meeting we had ever had. The sudden force-trip westward was turning into something worthwhile. How worth it never spoke itself there, though the flutters should have expressed it.

Over the course of two days, we all hung out and got to know each other; all people who knew each other learned new things, while the newcomers were seeing something different from an outside experience that only comes from being thrown into an atmosphere well out of your own league and too far away from your own comfort zone to escape to.

That second night led me to hover, on my knees, beside her as she readied herself to sleep. We would leave in the morning, and I knew it. I was too excited and nervous to sleep yet, but I spoke with her quietly, her red hair hanging in front of her face. Sea-colored eyes stared at me through the half-dark that the living room was doused in. I remember unneeded conversation, a need to be close, a need"without any reason"to touch her. I remember so much and so little, and yet I remember when I built up my nerve and stopped acting like a child; I know now as always when I kissed her.

I can elaborate on the taste and the feel and the elation that flooded through me. I can do the best I can. I won’t bother. I know how wonderful it was, and how I could still swear she felt my heartbeat pounding from my lips to hers as we kissed. I remember the only look of approval that my friend ever gave me when I walked back to the dining room table. That expression, with the desire of the girl I knew I wanted so much, have been a part of my conscious, sober mind for a long, long time now. And I doubt that they’ll stop inspiring me any time soon.

We drove south through Colorado into New Mexico. We joked about the Las Vegas “strip” in that state, as we stopped for gas even though we didn’t need any. Then it was into Arizona; as we hit the northwestern end, the winter weather hit us. Climbing up the side of the mountain range did wonders for the temperature. In a car you cannot feel it, literally, but you could sense it. There was a strength to the wind, even if it wasn’t enough to move the car while it was in motion. The snowfall thick and sure and it derailed us on countless occasions over the miles. It was to the point where we were forced to find a hotel.

Her bare feet upon the snow was a sign of a time that has been lost in lore since man can remember and people tried to recreate in the seventies. I won’t ever disrespect the desire of that time, because I saw it there, for a brief moment of my life. I saw it in her, before age stripped that innocence away. My private secret from that night I will hold until the day I die. It is a secret that has been the heart upon my sleeve since we met again.

That night in the hotel, I remember being on the verge of sleeping with her, and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I had felt so alive with her and yet felt so young. I was that teenage boy who wanted to please her but was unsure if he could. I didn’t want to disappoint her; all that self-confidence that had been built and solidified over the years was nothing more than a breath in the wind.

I know now how foolish I looked in her eyes; I doubt if she ever forgave me.

She accepted it, though. She was a better woman than I was a man, though she was four years my junior.

A question goes out to every man out there"hell, I’ll put this to women, since your lack of judgment is just as bad as ours. How do you handle trying to be the person you’re perceived to be and still maintain yourself in the torrent of emotion? Too many times people falter here, and now I can see why, just like I could before. I just couldn’t help myself. Is it wrong to be out of control when we are doing something wrong for the right reasons?

That first night in California, when I was sleeping in her CSUN dorm, we slept together for the first time, while her roommate was away. It took a while to build up the strength although the urge was almost too much. I knew she saw me as a sexually potent person, but hell, I won’t lie when I said that I felt held back by a will to be right by her. Over and over I felt like I could shake the bug of me being a freshman in high school.

It wasn’t beautiful like the movies, but I held upon her like she was nothing but my entire world. I was upon her and my arms beneath her, hands holding her close and upon me, though I was fervent. My eyes were pinched closed and a breathed heavily into her hair. I didn’t hold back despite my holding on.

Of all the years, I’ve tried to write the next morning, and what it was like for me. I never succeeded before, and I doubt now. Though, at least with the honesty of who I was with and the truth of where I was can give me the freedom to finally express it.

It was a beautiful morning, bright and aggressive in its subtle softness of greens and pale blue pastels across the southern California winter sky. It was airbrushed with cirrus clouds that did nothing more than look beautiful. There were trees from her balcony that I could see that lined the university between our street and Prairie not too far up. I watched her run the track to the right of the apartment. The way she moved was something that I was addicted to. The freshness of the day was a contrast to what I was used to. Spring only came once a year to every other place in the country, but to California it was every morning.

I can’t remember being exceptionally happy to see my mother, because she has always harassed me about being the last one (of three) to settle down and start a family. She wanted grandchildren and expected me, her youngest, to give her them first. When I presented this woman to her, she looked at me in satisfaction. It was the way that a mother does when she knows she is looking at a future daughter, much less daughter-in-law. I know that it was obvious to everyone what my mother saw; she’s a crazy woman, so I doubt anyone but me took to heart what that expression meant in the short"and long"run.

Even though I couldn’t go back to Kansas City, I decided to do what it was I wanted to do before I had heard of that push out by a friend in a confused spot. I asked her to be with me, solidifying something that only fools do in the need to assuage their forlorn. I hadn’t been in school for over half a decade, and yet I wanted to make sure that I wanted her with no one else. Her assent was conveyed, but it was in a way that made me feel like a kid all over again. So much for acting the adult when you end up being the child.

Of everything in my life, I never forgot the way she made me feel. There is more to the story that molded the shape of my life, and this has always been my own need to live it over and again, whenever something truly reminds me of our beginning together. This is my vigilance to naiveté, because if it isn’t that, I don’t know what is.


© 2010 Java Bum



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Added on March 18, 2010
Last Updated on March 19, 2010
Tags: story, love, new relationship, real, real life, romance

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Java Bum
Java Bum

New York, NY



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While my writing spreads over a few different genres and categories within them, I like to focus my work here on fiction and nonfiction titles that center on pieces of me as a person. My website will .. more..

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