years ago

by Amy Turn Sharp


The father of a boy I once dated got remarried and I went to the wedding. While I was there I met some people who were smiling at me during the whole reception. Big cheesy grins. I thought they were just really friendly and I started up a conversation with them at the buffet line. It was summer in Southeastern, Ohio and muggy and sweaty through our cotton dresses and suits. All around the perimeter of the country lodge were the screeching sounds of summer sexy bugs and songbirds. I wiped my face with a cocktail napkin, mopping up the sweat from my young tan face. I held the small plastic cup of punch and listened to them tell me who they were. I had met them last month they told me as they urged me to think back to the tiny apartment on ------ street that I sometimes went to when I had lost all control of my stupid heart.  I just looked at them and then started looking right through them to the green lush hills in the distance. Really? They nodded their heads like bobble dolls and laughed at me. Yes. They said things about how funny I was and that it was a crazy night and I must remember all the things we said and did. I started to feel sweaty and the historical origins of my panic and anxiety presented. I fingered the gingham red checked table cloth as I made a plate of food and laughed and started to pretend that I remembered them. This couple who looked older than me and seemed harder and tougher than I could ever be. Like Harley Davidson tough. I had to know them because they said I did and so I joked and sloshed my cup in the direction of my new friends. I gave in and loved them like they wanted to be loved.  It was so long ago that there was not an immediate way to check reality. There was no social media or text archives from that night and there was not an easy way to call my sometimes lover on ------ street out there in the mixed-mesophytic forest of my discontent. I just let the slow songs of a wedding DJ take me away. I swayed like the willow tree. I rocked like the corn fields.

I stood on a milk crate and looked into his window. Sometimes you just have to go back to the source of something and let it wash over you. It was the first time that I ever really scared myself. He wasn't there and it didn't matter. What mattered is that for a month of Sundays I had been trying to forget that I lost a whole night of my life. It was just gone and I could not even find it when I touched his face again. It was just gone and it frightened me. In the months that followed that wedding I did start to flash memories from that night. I know I drank an entire bottle of whiskey with this man. I know this much is true. I also know that mostly things were over after that and the funny thing is that they were really over before we drank the whiskey and I had a teenage blackout. I knew this. I just had no idea how little I really knew back then. How the lyrics from a song could make me cry and now I would just laugh like a son of a bitch at the words. I would punch the wall and point my finger in someone's face who didn't love me now. I would sass you now. I would stomp you. But back then I was just putting me together by tearing me apart. I was building a girl from spare parts and glass cervaza bottles filled with lacerated heart bits. I was like some sort of experience junkie for love. I was trying to be a mad poet like someone I read about in a book I think. I was collecting all this information for a later date. For the time when I would need it. For the time when I never had to think twice about who I was. I am a writer and it's time to write it all down.

Sometimes I have to control myself from taking my sweet teenage babysitter by the hand and making her walk the long Norman Rockwell sidewalks of our neighborhood with me. I want to tell her about how the world will be. I will whisper to her that it will be beautiful and scary and often like this. I will tell her to wrap leather around her heart to protect her from the people who don't know how to love. I will tell her how very much she will hurt herself with her beauty and her open and brave heart. I will tell her that not everyone can live so much and with such passion. I will warn her of everything. I think I need to warn her of everything because she sparkles that much that you can see her across a crowded someplace. You can see her through any old crowd.

But sometimes I don't. Sometimes I just cross my fingers that she will end up like me in one little way.

Lucky.