Monday, February 6, 2012

How To Say Goodbye

First, feel guilty.
Your mother will have hounded you, in her sweet little way, saying—without saying—you may not have much time left.  You'll have felt weird going to seniors' homes, and even more weird going to hospitals or nursing homes or anywhere that your grandmother lived in the last few years.  You'll have had a thousand half-formed reasons for not going which you'll have been unable to explain to your mother, but which will have been more than enough to keep you from visiting.  You'll have Kept promising that you would visit, sometime, because you will have thought you were going to.
When she calls—your mother—to say you better get up to see Grandma, she may not make it through the night, you'll be shocked.  You'll have a thousand different things flying through your head.  You never visited.  Oh my God, you never visited even once.  You thought she'd pull through.  She always pulls through.  She's going to pull through.  You'll think she can't die.  What is Mom going to do?  Is she ready?  Is Mom ready?  She's probably ready.  She's had a long life.  Grandma.  You'll wonder what she will look like.  You'll wish you had visited more. So feel guilty.
"I'll be right up," say.  "In five minutes."
Park as close as you can to the hospital and forget about plugging the meter.  The ten dollar ticket, if you get one, will make you feel good when you pay it.  You'll feel like you deserve a ten dollar ticket, you didn't visit earlier.  Walk fast.  Don't run, but walk as fast as is comfortable past the gift shop.  You'll think about getting some flowers, or a balloon, but your grandmother will not care at all, and your mom will think you're crazy.  Your dad would smile and set it on the windowsill.  He'd pat you on the head, or rub your back, and say, 

"Thanks," and you'd feel silly for buying it, if you bought it.  Just leave it.  You being there will be enough.
When you get to her room, you'll feel strange, as if you're not feeling properly.  Before, when you were young and death was a distant haze way in the future, you'll have thought an experience like this would be really heavy.  You'll have had a picture of yourself at your grandmother's bed, maybe.  Your mother's is more likely.  You'll have been crying, weeping, unable to control yourself.  Now, as you're walking into the room where your grandmother will die, you'll feel numb.  You'll feel bad for your mom, your dad, but you'll be surprised at how you're not at all about to start blubbering all over.
Standing in the door, looking at your grandmother's roommate–tubes in her nose, coming out of her neck, needles in both of her wrists her daughter, or at least some woman your mother's age, dabbing at her cheeks with a handkerchief—you'll wish you could leave.  You could easily turn around and hope, pray that she'll make it through the night, make it to breakfast at Denny's on Saturday morning.
Don't leave.  She's not going to make it.
Nod at the roommate's daughter as you walk past.  When you get around the corner, you'll see your mom, sitting on a little stool beside the bed, holding your grandma's hand.  You'll see your dad, sitting on the other side of the bed, sipping on a coffee, reading a Reader's Digest.  He'll see you first and toss his magazine on the table and say, "Well, here he is," in a voice you'll find way too excited for the situation.  Your mom will stand up and hug you.  Just let her hug you, for as long as she wants.  She might cry, a little.
She'll tell you to sit in the stool beside the bed.  "She loves to hold hands," she'll say.
Hold your grandmother's hand.
"Why don't you say something to her?" your mom will say. "They say she can still hear us."
Look at your grandmother.  She'll be curled up on the bed, under her covers.  She'll look so small.  You'll think to yourself she's so small you could pick her up and hold her in your arms like a bundle of clothes; you could slip her into a suitcase, if you had one, and cart her down the hall.  You'll feel stupid for thinking these things.  Her hair will be up in the same curly permanent it has always been in, though you'll think it looks a bit thinner than usual.  Her eyes will be closed, but her mouth slightly open, her grey teeth showing through.  Her temples will be sunken.  They'll remind you of the birdbath in her back yard that was nearly always empty.  A vein in her neck will be pulsating, faster than you would have imagined, if you had imagined it.  Her hand, when you take it, will squeeze yours lightly.  So lightly you'll wonder if it was even a squeeze.  She'll be terrifying, yet stunningly beautiful.
Try to think of something to say.  You could say I love you.  It wouldn't hurt, of course, but you'll search through everything in your brain, trying to think of something meaningful.  Think about your fondest memories with her.  Think about the flowers in her backyard that made it seem as if you were entering another world the second you step through the back door, about the smell of them.  Think about the stories she'd tell you, stories of the good days, when she'd pay a nickel for a candy bar, when she'd play tennis with her sister and how the men would watch them.  They were always watching but would never go talk to them.  How she had dated a professional baseball player.  How she could remember her late husband's—your grandfather's—thick black hair and deep blue eyes.  Think about how she loved to watch baseball, how she'd sit and watch any game, no matter who was playing, and she'd smile and say, "Can you believe they throw it so fast?" and she'd cringe when they'd get hit with a pitch, and she'd say, "How could they stand it?"  You might cry.  You might not.  You will start to feel comfortable, holding her hand.
You won't think of anything to say.
Your mom will be up and down.  She'll be too happy, telling jokes about morgues, or stories about people coming back to life, after death.  Then all at once, She'll be crying.  You'll wish you could fix everything.  For a while, the three of you will sit, watching your grandmother.  She'll take deep breaths, and hold it for unnatural amounts of time.  It's normal, they'll say, for someone in her situation.  It won't be long now.  You'll be certain she's going to pass as your sitting there, staring, counting the seconds between breaths.
Out of the blue, your mom will say, "I'm glad she's not so hot today.  Yesterday she tasted like peanuts."
Look at your mom.  Just watch her.  Your dad will say, very quietly, "You... you tasted her?"  and your mom will laugh, and your dad will laugh, and you'll look at your grandmother and imagine what it might be like to taste her salty forehead.  Look back at your mom and laugh.  The three of you will laugh so hard, you'll start to worry the roommate's daughter will get up and storm out of the room.  You'll laugh and laugh until you're crying, tears streaming down.
Then your mom will be crying, for real, unable to stop.  She'll put her face her in hand and rub her eyebrows with her pointer and her thumb. She'll get kleenex and try to stop the tears with them.
"I kissed her," she'll say. "I kissed her and she tasted like peanuts."
 You'll see your mother as someone young, a child who already misses her mommy.
Bring your grandma's hand to your mouth and kiss it.
"Last week," your dad will say, and you'll think he's trying to change the subject.  "Last week, I was visiting her.  Just watching baseball and she asked me if I felt like having ice cream."  He chuckled a little.  "I thought she was just trying to say she wanted ice cream," he'll say, which is what you would have thought.  For a long time, you will have thought that elderly people turn into little kids once they get to a certain age.  They start to think about themselves in that way a 5 year old thinks of themselves.  Everything is about making them happy, or at least comfortable.  "So I told her I could get ice cream if she wanted.  She pulled out her purse and gave me ten bucks and said, 'You get yourself a treat on the way home.'"
Look at your grandma then.  You'll see her in a way you've never seen her before.  You'll feel as if she's a song, one you've loved and have listened to a million times before, but this time, as you listen, you hear a different bit of harmony that makes the song something completely new.  You'll think she's lived her life, every day, the same as you have.  She wondered about what she'll be doing next year, what she'll be having for supper, what her kids will become.  She wanted to be happy, to do things she loved, to care for her loved ones.  She worried about her kids, her grandkids, her hair.  She had her own thoughts and dreams and favorite things.
"Grandma," say.  "It's me....  Uh... I was watching the Bluejays play."  You'll be embarrassed.  You'll feel your face burning red as your mom and dad look at you, hopeful.  You'll feel stupid for talking about baseball, but you'll feel, somehow, that it's important.  "Vernon Wells.  Uh... He got traded, but he came back to Toronto for the first time with his new team... When he came out to bat, the whole stadium gave him a standing ovation."  You'll start crying.  You won't understand it at all, and you'll wish your mom would stop staring at you.  She'll start crying soon enough, and she won't be able to see you.  "They still love him there," say.  "And then... the first pitch they threw him... He hit a homerun.  It was pretty awesome."
You'll be hoping for a squeeze from her hand.  You'll have all these ideas from romantic movies where your little speech about baseball will wake her up and the Bluejays will win the world series.  They won't.  And she won't squeeze your hand.  She won't wake up.
Sit for a little bit longer, until you think you can get control of yourself.  When your ready, stand up.  Take one last look at her.  You'll be surprised at how you find her more beautiful in this very instant than you have ever found her before.  You'll wonder how you could have ever missed it.  You'll wish you had known her longer, better.
Bend over to kiss her.  As you bend, you'll notice the vein in her neck has nearly stopped pulsing.  You'll notice her eyes, under her eyelids, are moving ever so slightly.  You'll see a tear drop from your face and land on her forehead and slide down into her sunken temple, filling the birdbath.  Her hair will feel funny on your cheek as you kiss her.
Say, "Goodbye."  Whisper it if you want to.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

How to Be Religious

First, stop going to church.

No, first, go to church.

If your parents go to church, that's perfect. Go with them. Especially if you're young. You'll get to go to Sunday School where they'll tell you great children's stories: Cain kills Abel; The Israelites escape and Pharaoh's army is killed; David kills the giant; The furnace spares Shadrach and his buddies, but kills the guards; the lions spare Daniel but kill the officials; Samson kills a thousand men with the jaw bone of an ass, then kills all his enemies with his final living act; The Flood kills everybody. Jesus is killed for us.

They'll also teach you most of the major rules of religion: Don't have sex; Don't drink, do drugs, or watch bad movies; Don't talk about sex; Don't think about sex; Vote conservative, because they don't believe in abortion or homosexuals; Don't even talk to anybody from the opposite sex.

If you're older, you can pick your own church. Go to a few different ones. There'll be great big ones with loud music and a lot of people your own age. But it'll be nearly impossible to make any friends because they all have about a billion friends already. There might be an elderly man, or woman, who seems nice enough, but asks your name three weeks in a row. Try a smaller church with less music and more scripture readings. Here, you won't find a lot of people you feel you can be good friends with, but you will find a lot of old ladies who will be enthralled by your youth. They'll bring you soup, or squash, or homemade cookies. You'll think they're the sweetest things.

The big church and the little church will both tell you have to "ask Jesus into your heart" and then you need to get a "firm foundation" in your Christianity. It will be a little abstract and vague, but eventually, you'll figure out that it has something to do with praying and reading your Bible, every day. If you aren't doing that, then you are not really religious.

At the big church, you'll see a lot of people dancing and making a hulabaloo during the music at the start. They'll even yell during prayers and wave their hands and they'll hug you -though you've never met them- and say, "Isn't God good? I could dance with him all day." Make sure you say, "Yes, he is good. Very good," or else they'll try to ask you what's wrong and try to pray for you.

At the small church, the people will be more solemn. They'll sway as they stand as the piano serenades them. They'll usually have their eyes closed, unless they're looking up at the ceiling. Some of them will even sit during the music and put their elbows on their knees and rest their foreheads in the palms of their hands. Later, they'll shake your hand -extra firm- and say, "Isn't God good?" You can just nod, here, or say "Mm hmm," and raise your eyebrows a bit. They'll pat your arm and move on to the next fella.

Notice things you don't like about both. How the Pastor says, "It's getting nicer outside, Amen?" substituting 'Amen' for 'Eh.' How they preach about 'servitude' the same week they ask for helpers to paint the outside of the church, or about 'giving' when they need to pay for the paint. How people get up to talk about the wonderful lives they've touched in poor countries all over the world, but haven't spoken to you - and you've been going there for 6 months. How different people do come to introduce themselves with big smiles, but by the end of the conversation, they've asked you to volunteer for bathroom duty after church. How, at the pot-luck lunches after service, even the old ladies complain and gossip about nearly everyone, even ladies who were sitting there with them last week.

Now, stop going to church.

That doesn't mean you need to forget about religion altogether. You couldn't do that if you tried. It just means you can forget about wanting to impress the people at church, or worrying about going every week, or what you should say when people ask if you do go to church. You can just say, "I used to," and they'll smile and say something like, "Yeah. I know what you mean."

If you go to school, take an ethics class, or philosophy, or religious studies.

If you work, listen to people when they talk about being 'good' or 'religious' or even when they're talking about the people they think are assholes.

Wonder what it means to be 'good' or to 'live life properly,' and think about it all the time.

Ask your friends what they think. Ask your girlfriend or wife or whoever. But don't ask too much, because people don't always like to think about the 'deeper questions of life' all the time. They'd rather just live and drink beer and date whoever and breakup and work and go to school and forget about it. But talk about it here and there. You'll get some interesting answers: "I gave that guy at 7-11 a twonie yesterday. I got baptized as a baby. Who cares? I pay my taxes. I never murdered nobody. I kiss my grandma every time I see her. My sister called me, crying all over cause her boyfriend broke up with her and she got her jetta stuck in the snow, and I went to help her even though I had a test in the morning and I was totally about to get some chick's number right when she called."

You'll feel there's something more to it than that.

Dig through your closet until you find that little red Gideon Bible you got in grade 9 from some guy in a suit and tie. Flip through it and read from here and there. You won't find any definitions of 'good' or 'holy' or anything like that. You will find some interesting stories: People dying and coming back to life; People with demons; Pigs with demons; People talking in crazy languages and other people understanding them; People killing Jesus.

Eventually, though, you need to get frustrated with it. Read and read. You won't understand everything and you'll get confused and you'll get mad. Do it, though, and then throw your Bible at the wall. It will bounce off and land on the floor face down with the pages spread apart. Leave it alone for now. Go out with your friends and try to forget about it. You probably won't be able to, but just try.

When you get home and after you brush your teeth, sit on the bed. Look around your room and see your Bible and remember throwing it. Pick up the Bible. Tell yourself you'll read just one chapter before you go to bed. Make sure you keep the page that it landed it on, though. It's a good one.

Read about when some guys ask Jesus what the greatest commandment is. Get excited because if anyone knows what it means to be good, it's Jesus, and his favorite commandment would have to be a tip. Jesus will say, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."

Get mad and roll your eyes. Say something slightly ironic like, "What in the hell does that mean." If you're brave, say something even more ironic: "Jesus Christ! How am I supposed to do that?" Shake your fist at the ceiling for emphasis.

The sky might open up and God might smite you down right there, in which case you'll know he's real and you won't have to worry anymore. Probably, though, you'll be greeted with a crushing silence. You'll want to throw your Bible again, but don't. You have to keep reading. Jesus will say -even though nobody asked him- "The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Decide that second best must mean something.

Over the next few weeks or months or however long, think of ways to love your neighbor as yourself.

You love to eat; Go feed someone who is having trouble feeding themselves.

You'd love for someone to shovel your sidewalk; Shovel someone else's.

You'd love for your girlfriend or wife to rub your feet; Rub theirs.

You'd love it if someone helped you study for English; Offer to help someone.

You'd love for someone to ask you to church; Ask someone to go with you.

You'd love for someone to introduce themselves to you while you're there; Introduce yourself to someone.

You love it when people take down the chairs after church so you don't have to; Take down the chairs.

Eventually, you'll want people to notice. You'll smile and look people in the eye when you do it, and it'll annoy you slightly when they don't say anything. Start looking for more elaborate things to do. Pay for your friends lunch. Volunteer to help shingle your pastor's house. Make a meal and take it to the old ladies at church to say, "This is for the young lady who just had a baby."

The lady will smile and say thank you, but she'll have a certain look when she eyes up your food. Try to ignore it. Outside, you'll hear a car revving over and over. Look around back. There'll be an old man who has gotten is car stuck in a snow bank. Help push him out. He'll have dug a hole in the snow with the revving of his tire, so it will take a while. Right when he's finally out, the old lady who took your meal will come outside, blabbing with another lady. She won't notice you, and you won't say anything because you notice she's carrying three garbage bags AND your meal. Watch as she throws it in the trash.

Get pissed off.

Think ''of all the people who should be so ungrateful, of course it's the little old lady from church.'' Remember all of the good things you've done and try to remember if anyone had ever thanked you for it. You'll be so mad you won't be able to remember even if they had. Convince yourself it's stupid, completely stupid to even try to be good. Say, "Yeah whatever," when the old guy in the car says thanks for pushing him out. Don't look at him to see what his reaction is. Just run to your car and zoom off.

In the car, scream. Don't scream at the old lady, or the old man or anyone really. Just scream. Say something like, "I don't get it. What am I supposed to do? I can't do this." Crank the music and drive home. Take the long way.

By the time you get home, you'll be less riled up. Think about the verse you read. Go get your Bible to reread it to see if there was little extra secret you missed. Read it again. It's exactly how you remember it. Nothing more than You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Think about it all night. Get more and more frustrated, then give up and try to go to sleep. Right when you're about to fall asleep, you'll think, 'That's the secret.'

There is nothing else.

Realize you are selfish. What you would love most is for somebody to do whatever you wanted them to do without ever having to ask them. You would like them to notice every time you do anything impressive. You would like them to treat you like the most important person in the world, because, to you, you are the most important person in the world. The most important person in the world doesn't need to say thank-you or appreciate anything because the people doing things for him aren't important.

It doesn't say to wait for gratitude. Jesus basically said, "Stop thinking of yourself as important."

Stop thinking of yourself as important.

It will change your life. Of course, it won't be easy and you'll need to remind yourself of it all the time, but it will change your life. You'll do things for others without looking for approval or thanks, because you'll know that you are treating them like you would like to be treated. As if you are important. You'll start to enjoy it more when nobody thanks you. Then you'll even stop looking for it. You'll do these things just because you love the way you feel when you make others feel important. You'll feel happy.

In your room, thank God for how his second favorite commandment changed your life. Sit on your bed and say, "Thank you." Look at the ceiling for emphasis. The thought will come, you may think it's God speaking to you, or you may think it is just your own profound thought, but it will come: "You can't do one without the other."

Sit there, and say it over and over to yourself. You won't really understand it, but you'll feel like you're on to something. Get your Bible and read the two commandments again. Read how it says, "The second is like it." Read it about twenty times.

Realize that when he says 'like,' he doesn't mean 'similar,' he means 'having the same characteristics or qualities.'

They are the same.

To be religious, you need to get over yourself. You need to love God and Love people. It's as easy as that.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How to Know if You're in Love

First, realize you’re not in love.

Tell your girlfriend, over and over, you’ll tell her you love her when you’re ready. It’s not an easy thing just to blurt out for reasons as ridiculous as you took the garbage out, you picked her up from work, you roll over to fall asleep. Don’t tell her to stop saying it to you though. She’ll only start crying and saying you’re a terrible person

Take a step back and look at her every time she says it to you. Smile. You have to smile, but wonder deep down if she really means it. Wonder why you won’t -or can’t- say it to her. Decide you’re going to figure it out, and start thinking about it.

At work, the bar, the gym, on drives, during movies, think about it. You’ve been with her for almost two years. You didn’t hesitate when she asked you to move in, though you thought first of the rent being hundreds less in this tiny apartment, with two of you, than in your condo. It did surprise you when she first said it. You were flattered she felt so strongly about you.

You did take that step back, though, the same one you’ll take every time she says it. But you won’t really be able to imagine life without her. You’ll have developed a consistent life, full of predictable patterns and void of surprises.

Decide, at work, you’re going to tell her when you get home.

You’ll want to drive right past the apartment, cruise around the block, maybe even take off to Mexico. Don’t. Just pull into the drive-way. Run up the three flights of stairs, say “Hey,” when you walk through the door, “I wanted to tell you something.”

She’ll mute the TV, look at you for a second, then look back at the TV.

“I’ve been thinking about it,” Say. “I think I...”

She’ll look at you quick, but go back to the silent opera.

“Are you listening?”

“Well, yeah, but my show’s on.”

“Nevermind then,” say and throw your bag down and go to the bathroom. You’ll hear the TV turn on and you’ll want to get angry. Don’t. Just stare at yourself in the mirror for a couple minutes and think about how to say it. Practice a few times, even though it’ll never come out the way you practice.

When you think you’re ready, go out to the living room. The Soap will be heading to commercial just as you sit on the sofa beside her. So she’ll mute it, and look at you.

“Ok,” she’ll say, “What did you want to say?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking. And. Well. I think. I love you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” she’ll say.

You’ll feel nothing. It will be so anti-climactic you’ll wonder if you’ve actually said it. You start thinking about movies and novels, fairytales where ‘I love you’ was THE climax of the story. There’s hugging and kissing and raising of one leg (the girl’s) and smiling and credits and THE ENDs and Happily Ever Afters.

Here, there’ll only be her questions.

“Was that a question? Do you love me? Why did you say it right now?” She’ll probably say your name over and over too, trying to get your attention.

Say, “Nevermind,” and get up.

“Nevermind? You say ‘I love you,’ and then tell me to nevermind. What is your problem? What made you say it?” She’ll say, and she’ll keep asking a hundred questions as you tie your shoelaces and walk out the door.

Second, get into the independent music scene in your city.

Drive around the city for who knows how long, forgetting about your girlfriend. She’ll text you, “Come back.” Mute your phone. When you don’t reply she’ll send about a billion texts. “Come back please? I do love you. I’m glad you love me. Where are you? ??? Are you coming back?” Some of them, eight, will only say your name with a question mark. Then she’ll be angry. “Well, maybe I’ll leave too. How would you like that? ??? I am leaving. I’m serious. Keep the shitty apartment. I’m going to my sisters. Don’t even bother calling.” The last one says, “I think. I might. Hate you? You Asshole.”

Smile to yourself. Feel bad about smiling, but smile anyway.

Call your brother and ask if he wants to do wings. He’ll tell you he’d love to, but he’s going to a show with a buddy from work. Ask him what show. He’ll tell you some band you’ve never heard of. Tell him you’ll meet him there. It will change your life.

At the show, get a beer. Sit there and drink it and listen to the band. Just listen to the band. Watch them move with the music. Watch the weirdos dancing at the front with their eyes closed. Laugh at the lame stories the lead singer tells while tuning his guitar. Have another beer. Lean back in your chair. Relax a little. Notice you’re tapping your foot without even noticing. Scream for an encore.

Tell your brother you should do this more often.

“Where’s your girlfriend?” he’ll say.

Smile and raise your pint in the air as a type of solute. Your brother will laugh then, and sip from his own beer. He never did like your girlfriend. He could never have lasted so long with someone so clingy.

Look at the posters on your way out and tell your brother to meet you on Friday for one of the shows that looks interesting. He’ll be pumped. The show will be better than the first, and you’ll be hooked.

Go with your brother. Call your cousin when your brother can’t go. Go with a guy from work you barely know, but who, you just found out, likes independent music too. He’ll know a lot of bands, even secret shows that come to your city. You’ll love these shows the best. You’ll feel like you’re a part of something awesome, something awesome that not a lot of people know about, so it makes it that much more awesome.

You’ll think, every now and then, you’d rather go to these shows than have a girlfriend any day. You’ll even go by yourself when you can’t find anyone to go with.

Third, always go to your contact list on your cell phone to click on your brother’s name (instead of memorizing it) when you call him.

That way, when you lose your phone, and you want to text him because you’re sitting in the most amazing show in the world, a band you’ve never even heard of but that is ripping up the stage with a collection of diddys that is utterly blowing your mind, you’ll forget the number.

That way, when you want to text him to tell him, “Maybe the best night of my life. Get to the Undergrime Right Now!! This band is Friggin Awesome,” You’ll screw up the last digit of his number and it will go to the wrong person.

“Um...Sorry. Whos this?” They’ll say.

Tell them your name, then say “Isn’t this [your brother's name]?”

“Haha No its Karlee,” They’ll say.

Be a little embarrassed and put the phone in your pocket. But then think about how you can’t sit in this incredible show without telling anyone, and pull the phone back out.

“Heh, sorry. I meant to text my brother to tell him of a killer show at the Undergrime. Evidently I’ve got the wrong number,” say.

“Haha Wats the Undergrime?” she’ll say.

“It’s a sweet venue. They have a bunch of Indy Bands play. Downtown. Corner of Lone St. and Leigh.”

“O cool Jus start?”

“Just started.”

“Cool,” she’ll say. Then, “Hope you find yur bro,” and she’ll stop texting.

Wonder, for a second, why you feel nervous. Then realize it’s because you are wondering if this girl is going to come to the show.

Keep watching the door. Keep feeling the music and being amazed by it, but keep watching the door. Soon -after a couple of songs, But what will feel like forever to you- a girl will walk through the door all on her own. You won’t recognize her. She’ll be looking around as if she’s lost. Even from across the room, you’ll see she has green eyes. She’s taller than you would have thought, almost as tall as you are probably. She has short blonde hair that frames her face perfectly. She has red, red lipstick on, which -you’ll be surprised to find- you’ll think is irresistible. She’ll have a cute little sundress on with a navy cardigan over it. She’ll lean against the wall, hold her left elbow with her right hand, cross her right foot over her left leg and rest its toe on the floor. She’ll bob her head with the music. When the lead singer tells a lame story and every one laughs, she’ll smile. Blush and look down at your table when you notice her bottom lip moves off the right side, just a little, when she smiles.

When she walks, a little pigeon-toed, to the bar, follow her over. You’ll be incredibly nervous, but you have to follow her over.

Stand behind her in line and wonder what she’ll order. Smile to yourself when she orders the same drink you have every time you’re at the Undergrime. Order the same drink right after her.

As you’re waiting, right before the bartender gives her her drink, ask her, “Are you Karlee?” You’ll feel like a total idiot, but just ask her.

She’ll grab her beer, back up a little bit, take a sip, and say something like, “Um...I am,” and she’ll look around. “How did you know?”

Tell her your name, then say, “I’m the guy who texted you. Uh...I kinda saw you come in. You looked like this might be your first time here.” and then laugh a little embarrassed laugh that will embarrass you even more.

She’ll laugh then, and say, “Oh my gosh. You could tell? I’m so embarrassed.”

“No, don’t be embarrassed,” say.

“I was just turning onto Lone,” she’ll say with her crooked smile. “I thought I’d check it out. Since I was so close.”

“Well, you’ll be glad you did.”

“Yeah, the band sounds cool.”

“I got an extra seat over here,” say, and point to your table. Someone will have swiped it already, so you’ll both laugh and she’ll say there’s room over on the wall she was leaning on.

Stand with her. Listen to the music. Keep sneaking little peeks of her, wondering how she could be so cute. Ask her what she thinks during one of the lame stories. She’ll tell you they’re awesome, she can’t believe she’s never heard of them before. or this place. Tell her you come here all the time. She’ll smile then and say she’ll have to start coming more often.

When the band is finished and everyone’s cheering for an encore, you’ll wonder if you should scream as usual or if she’ll think that’s weird. You’ll be shocked to find she steps away from leaning on the wall, cups her hands around her mouth, and yells -as loud as anyone in there- “Encore! Encore! Encore!”

Text your brother, “This might be the best night ever!”

After the encore, ask Karlee if she wants to go for coffee. She’ll definitely say, “Sure.”

Go to a 24-hour place. It won’t be as nice, but the nice ones close at Midnight. You’ll want more than an hour. You’ll be nervous on the way there, but just gather your courage. She’ll be easy to talk to once you start. You’ll forget you were even nervous.

Just get something you’ll like. Don’t try to be macho and order a triple shot of espresso or something stupid. She’ll order a girly little drink -a caramel machiato or something. She’ll probably just think triple espresso drinks are lame.

Offer to pay for her drink. But don’t insist when she says, “No, that's fine.”

Talk. Talk and talk. You’ll be surprised at how much you can talk about. You won’t have a ton in common, yet, but you’ll still be incredibly interested in everything she has to say. You’ll start to feel like you’ve known her forever. Talk until you notice she’s getting tired. Look at your watch and say, “Holy crap. It’s almost 3AM.”

She’ll yawn and say, “Oh my gosh. I didn’t even notice.”

Ask, “Can we do this again?”

She’ll scribble her number on a napkin.


When you get in your car and are just about to leave the parking lot, you’ll get a text. From Karlee, “Haha i think it might have been.” Realize you sent your last text to Karlee, not your brother.

Call her the next day. You’re friends will tell you to wait a few days or a week. You can if you want, but she won’t care if you call her. She’ll be excited if you do.

Take her to shows, to movies, to dinner. Take her on picnics, mini-golfing, bowling, walks. Go with her to art galleries, pose for her pictures, go shopping with her. Take her to a hockey game. Take her to the lake. Go swimming. Go on hikes. Have barbecues. Eat chips and watch movies with her. Introduce her to your brother before your parents. He'll like her. "She's totally opposite from your last girlfriend," he'll say. "Mom and Dad will love her." She'll blush and grab your hand with one hand, your arm with the other. She'll put her head on your shoulder.

Say, "Do you want to meet my parents?"

She'll say, "Sure," and she'll smile.

Don't worry about her meeting your parents. They'll lover her. You're mom will hug her when she first meets her and say, "I'm so excited to meet you. I've never seen my boy so happy before."

You're dad will sip his coffee, then offer his hand for a handshake. "He does seem to be bouncing around with his stupid grin lately," he'll say, and he'll laugh, and your mom will laugh, and you'll be embarrassed, and Karlee will laugh, and you'll say, "Whatever, Dad," and he'll say, "What?" and Karlee will kiss your cheek. Your dad will look you in the eye, raise his eyebrows with a smirk, and sip his coffee. Supper will be perfect.

Not long after that, you'll see a poster on a street-lamp advertising the band -the one you accidentally invited Karlee to- is coming back to your city. They'll playing at a bigger venue this time, and they'll cost a lot more. Buy two tickets anyway. You can't, under any circumstances, miss this show. Take the tickets over to Karlee's apartment. Run up the stairs and burst through the doors. Don't waste any time. Just show her tickets. Tell her the good news.

She'll get excited at first, but when she looks at the tickets closer, she'll say, "Awww. This is for the 28th."

"Yeah, so what," say.

"Well, I have that big photo-shoot that night," She'll say. "I can't really skip it. They've already paid half of it."

"Are you serious?"

She'll just look at you, sad, but smiling a little. "I'm sorry," she'll say.

Try to shake it off. Tell her you'll be fine. You'll take your brother.

She'll say, "I'm really sorry," again.

Go give her a kiss, a passionate kiss that you lose yourself in.

Finally, go to the show with your brother.

He'll be pumped. In the weeks leading up to the show, neither of you will be able to stop talking about it. You'll go early to get the best spots. You'll bring extra cash to buy Karlee a t-shirt. You'll talk about staying after the show to try to wait for the band to leave so you can get their autographs. You'll feel like a high-school girl going to see Justin Bieber.

At the show, you'll get spots right near the front, so close you could almost touch the stage. Your brother will say he's going to catch a guitar pick when they toss it. You'll say, "Yeah, that'd be sweet," but you'll start to feel it right then. You won't know what it is at first. It'll be something like the feeling you get when you're sitting in the waiting area at the dentist. The feeling that says, "When you're done this next little bit, you'll be happy. You'll have nice, shiny teeth and a sexy smile. But still, you just can't wait for the next little bit to be done." It won't make sense at all. Stand there. Watch the stadium fill up with excited people. Try to figure out where your excitement went.

Go buy a t-shirt. You'll tell yourself once your decked out in a sweet new T, you'll be more in the mood for the show. While you're in line, think about which shirt to get Karlee, which colour, which size. Imagine what she'll look like in it. Smile to yourself, but then stop smiling cause you'll remember that she won't be coming to the show. You'll get a little fidgety then, wishing the line would hurry up, so you could hurry up to get back with your brother, so the show would hurry and start so it would hurry up and finish, so you could hurry up and get to Karlee's apartment to give her her t-shirt, to see her.

"What's wrong with you?" your brother will say when you finally get back beside him.

"Nothing," Say.

"This is going to be awesome," he'll yell and raise his hands and a bunch of people will scream.

"I gotta go," say. "Can you find you're own ride home?"

"What? Seriously?"

"Seriously," Say and turn and squish through the crowd to leave.

Drive straight to where Karlee has her photo-shoot. You won't even think about it. You'll just want to see her. When you get there, just burst in. You might interrupt everything and the happy couple will be startled and screw up their pose, but that's all right.

Karlee will say your name, then "What are you doing here?"

"I just wanted to see you," say.

"It couldn't wait?" she'll say.

"Well, I’ve been thinking about it,” Say. “I think I...”

She’ll look at you quick, but she'll start taking photos again. The couple will go back to posing.

“Are you listening?”

“Well, yeah, but I'm kinda busy right now.”

"Nevermind then," say, and go the bathroom. Just stare at yourself in the mirror for a couple minutes and think about how to say it. Practice a few times, even though it’ll never come out the way you practice.

Karlee will knock on the door. "Are you ok?" she'll say.

You'll get startled a bit, but don't lose focus. "You have a sec?" say.

"They told me I could take a minute if I wanted."

"Ok. Well, I’ve been thinking. And. Well. I think. I love you?” You'll be scared for a second, because it will have the same anti-climactic feeling as last time. You'll think it's stupid. You'll never tell anyone you love them again.

But then she'll hug you. Then kiss you. Then look at you and say, "I love you too. So much."

It's then you'll feel like the climax of a movie. You'll feel like you should have said it before. You'll feel like it's always been true. You'll feel like you'll do anything to hear her say it again. You'll feel like you should have known it's not how you feel after you've said it.

It's how you feel after someone has said it to you.