As I’m on my trek back home, sitting on the MegaBus once again, I keep listening to an alternating duo between “Greyhound Bound for Nowhere” and “California King Bed” because you have the whole I’m on a bus and I’m traveling between here and there and I’m so interesting thing going on, and surely, there’s some kind of hidden melodramatic moment in all of that. But, like most of the moments in my life that I purposefully try to make into a big deal, it’s not. There’s this woman in front of me with an airbrushed shirt that says Deonna in stereotypical airbrush cursive handwriting, and then in a surprise turn of events, Chris Metts is sitting behind me, and right when I get into super melodramatic mode, I have to re-convince my dad that the Indian woman that keeps glancing back at us is A) not going to blow up the bus, B) probably wearing a red jewel because she’s Hindu, and that they have a pretty okay record when it comes to not blowing up buses, C) probably confused because she’s never seen a mustache that size before. By the time I get settled back in to have my melodramatic moment, the time is gone or I’m just too tired to try again. You can imagine my frustration.
I shouldn’t be surprised because I had to come to terms a long time ago that the world isn’t nearly as eventful and emotional as I would like it to be, and when you try to make these moments happen yourself, it’s kind of more of a wreck than it would have been before. Regardless, I make it a point to at least try. And in a way, what are we without those moments? Sure, none of them have ever worked out, but in a way, that’s the beauty of it… trying to live up to what we believe is perfect in our mind. That’s what happened this past Valentine’s Day… and on spring break… and with my first girlfriend… maybe this happens too often.
In my first relationship, we didn’t have nearly enough in common to be in a relationship; actually, there wasn’t much holding us together beside the fact that we both loved to make out. So that’s what we did. We made out and we argued, and that was that. So as part of our ritual, we were making out on the trampoline one day, as sixteen year olds do, and we started getting into an argument. I can’t remember what it was about, but it was something absolutely pointless, I’m sure. She stormed off the trampoline, and I followed behind, trying to make the situation better when it hit me. This could be a moment. She started up the steps of my back porch that my dad had built. Apparently, when we built the porch, he didn’t choose treated lumber. The difference between treated and untreated lumber is that if it’s treated, it protects the integrity of the wood. The boards were beginning to warp after time, so some boards stuck up farther than the rest. My plan was to kiss her. Just kiss her mid-sentence. It would be perfect, so as I went in for the kiss right in the middle of her saying something, my foot caught a board. I knew it was all out of my hands, as my body starting falling forward. My headed collided with her chin, and if I remember correctly, that was one of just a very few times I ever heard her cuss. Moment gone. It seemed like the right idea at the time because I had seen it in movies and read about it in romance novels, but there was something terribly difficult when it came to executing it.
But it was nothing in comparison to the disaster that was this past Valentine’s Day. I had never been involved with someone on Valentine’s Day, and regardless of who you are, you want to be involved with someone on Valentine’s Day. The closest I had previously gotten to something romantic on Valentine’s Day was splitting a heart shaped pizza from Domino’s with Kasi our freshman year. At the end of the evening, we watched Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, drank Bloody Mary’s in my room, and smelled like garlic. So even in the ruins of a doomed relationship, I was determined. The night before, we had stood on the steps of the library and decided that things were falling apart. We were nearly broken up, when we were interrupted by practically the sixth or seventh person walking up to say hello when I was jarred with the obvious: Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. Don’t screw this opportunity up. There’s a moment to be had here. So I prolonged the break up, promising that we would continue to try, and at the time, it seemed totally feasible.
|There’s the actual dinner in discussion, in all its trendy
The next day, I skipped all my classes and went to the grocery store to buy mushrooms and green beans and chicken. I would make the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner, and it would be enough to turn everything around. If I believe one thing about this world, it’s that food has the ability to make everything better. That’s why we bring casseroles to funerals. As I was making the dinner, shuffling between the filling for the stuffed mushrooms and the breading for the chicken, my friend Bridget asked me, Why are you doing this? And it was obvious: because Valentine’s Day is supposed to be special. And it wasn’t until after dinner that I heard I’m not a big fan of chicken, and I hate mushrooms that it hit me. I had wasted a bunch of time trying to make a perfect moment when I could have just let some kind of perfect moment come to me. Soon after, I found myself sitting in my room, toying back and forth between throwing a half eaten chicken breast and two stuffed mushrooms away. My theory was: I mean, I’ve kissed this person, so there’s really no shame in… yeah. I ate it. But my second theory, and arguably more important, theory was: if a moment is supposed to be perfect, maybe you shouldn’t have to work so hard for it. Working hard is for goals. Working hard is watching Silent Hill when you absolutely know that you hate video games, and thus, will most likely hate the movie equally as much. Working hard is for the long-term, whether or not it will eventually work in the end… not for simple moments.
And after I finished the abandoned chicken breast and mushrooms and then starting eating mashed potatoes straight from the pot, I started thinking about Bridget. Bridget, like me, seems to try way too hard to make things work. Also like me, Bridget is great at giving advice but terrible at taking it herself. But that night, as I spooned the bottom of the pot for what I’m sure finished off at least a pound of mashed potatoes in my stomach, her words hit me again: Why are you doing this? And it applied to a lot of things. Why was I trying to make this train wreck work? Why did I even make this dinner? Why are you a 22 year old man sitting in his kitchen eating mashed potatoes out of a pot originally intended for two? And most importantly… how in the hell did you learn to make mashed potatoes taste so delicious?
And at the end of the night, I sat at my desk and stared at the window overlooking Maryville for a long time and decided that there’s not really time to try and create these perfect moments (unless you’re on a nine hour bus ride, then you can do whatever the hell you want) because if they’re supposed to be perfect, wouldn’t it make sense that they would be perfectly random? Also, understanding that is half the battle… knowing that to an extent, we’re totally not in control of our lives, or at least the things that involve us and other people. That’s why going and seeing The Vow with Bridget and announcing that Whitney Houston had died to the Walgreens cashier was more of a romantic date than the well thought out dinner on Valentine’s Day. And if you can’t go through the streets, candidly informing people of the death of pop’s arguably most talented voice with your significant other, then what kind of moments do you really have to live for?