Saturday, January 9, 2010

20.) Contemplating the Future

Soundtrack Song - Kings of Leon, Cold Desert

I took the long way home. I wound my way through the streets, allowing the feel of the wind around my body to soothe me. Riding always gives me a sense of control; I have to use my entire body as a synchronized system to operate the motorcycle. Feet to shift and break. Hands to accelerate and break. Entire body to lean into the turns. It requires my entire concentration. James said it was like playing hockey: skating and gliding and stick handling and shooting, using our bodies as a working, single unit instead of independent limbs and appendages.

By the time I got back to my house, I felt less agitated but no less confused. Like always, I called Tubby, and he agreed to come over. He brought a little pot with him because I asked him to; I didn’t have any left.

Tubby let himself in as I was showering. I heard the door to the bathroom open. “Yo, Tubs.”

“Hey, Jo. How was the game?”

“It was a hockey game. They’re all the same,” I sighed loudly over the splash of water against the ceramic.

“I am a self-respecting black man,” he replied. “I don’t watch hockey.”

I laughed. “Touché.”

“I didn’t expect to hear from you yet. Thought you’d still be working now.”

“Boss let me out early,” I told him evasively. Then I shut the water off and poked my head around the curtain. “Hand me my towel?”

“I thought you told me your boss was a jerk.”

Grabbing the towel, I began to dry off behind the closed curtain. “Usually he is. Must be a full moon or something tonight.”

“Are you going to tell me what’s really going on, or are you going to make me guess?” I wrapped the towel around my body, pulled back the curtain, and stepped out of the shower. Tubby was leaning against the sink, watching me. “You think I can’t tell when something’s bugging you? We’ve been friends since kindergarten.”

“Not right now, Tubby.” I walked past him and out of the bathroom, leaving a trail of water droplets on the floor behind me. He followed, and we entered my bedroom. I slipped into my clothes as gracefully as possible while still wearing my towel. As I dressed and dried my hair, Tubby packed my pipe.

I dove onto my bed and took it from him, lighting it up first and inhaling deeply, before I tried to pass it back to him. He shook his head and refused. “I’m not smoking tonight.”

Holding in the hit until I thought my lungs would burst, I exhaled slowly and watched the smoke make curlicues in the air. “Dude, I can’t even remember the last time you smoked with me. What’s up with you?”

“I’m getting too old for that shit,” he responded.

“You’re twenty-fucking-years-old. You’re not too old for shit.”

He chuckled in a serious manner. “But I’m not getting any younger, either.”

I looked down my nose at him. “Twenty. Even if you only live to seventy-five, you’re not even a third of the way through your life. There’s so much time for you to worry about the future later.”

“This coming from Ms. Carpe Diem.”

“Exactly!” I replied enthusiastically. I could feel the high start to lift me up, and I began to focus. “Seize the day. Have fun now. Deal with what needs to be dealt with in the future when it needs to be dealt with. But no earlier than you need to, because you should use the present best to your advantage.”

“I don’t think that’s what it means. ‘Seize the day’ means to jump on the opportunities you’re given. Opportunities for the future. You can’t avoid it, Jo. You need to formulate some kind of plan, before it’s too late and you’re thirty, still working a crap job and living here with your dad.”

“Where is this coming from? Why are you saying all this now?” I asked, turning to look at him. Tubby usually didn’t talk like this to me. Typically, when he’d try, I’d roll my eyes and he’d change the subject, not wanting to stress me out. But he was never this direct about it. Often he’d just ask if I when I was planning on starting university or if I was going to apply for a normal, nine-to-five job.

Sighing, Tubby explained, “I’m going back to U Penn in January.”

“U Penn?” I felt like I had been stabbed and my lung was punctured. I couldn’t breathe. “You’re going back to Philly?”

“I’ve missed two semesters already, Jo. If I don’t go back now, I’ll lose my scholarship. You know my family can’t afford it any other way.”

I nodded; it made sense. Tubby had taken his temporary leave because of me. He attended the University of Pennsylvania for one semester after graduation, but I had been going through such a rough time that he didn’t go back after Christmas break. There had been too many desperate, tearful calls from me. After losing everything I had ever known, I felt like I had lost my best friend, too, since he wasn’t around in the flesh. So after he had completed his first semester, he had decided to take some time off to stay with me as I continued to cope.

But I wasn’t quite ready for him to go yet. I still needed Tubby; he was my best friend. He was the only person left from my old life. “I’m gonna miss you,” I whispered.

“I’m not dying,” he said, then he grunted and shook his head furiously. “Bad choice of words. I’m just gonna be across the state. I’ll come home for breaks and vacations, and you know I’ll only be a phone call away if you wanna talk. And that’s not for a few months yet.” Tubby slid a little closer to me. “I need to do this for me. And I think you need me to go, too.”

“What? No. I mean, if you want to go, if that’s what’s right for you, then you know I want you to go. I’ll support you in what you want to do. But if anything, Tubs, what I need is for you to stay.”

“I thought you needed me, too. But you don’t. You need... something that I can’t give you. I’m just enabling you.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” I asked, confused and a bit angry. That made me sound like an addict or a crazy person. Even with my heightened focus, I couldn’t follow his line of logic to figure out what he was getting at.

“What were you upset about, Jo? Why did you call me today?”

I pulled my knees up to my chest and hugged my body into a ball. “Because I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“You’re getting high,” he joked. It’s what he always does to lighten my mood when it gets too heavy.

“No, Tubby. I mean, what am I doing with myself? Should I be doing something more, since I’m capable of more? Realize my potential?”

“You can do anything you want, Jo. You’ve got the world at your feet, and once you set your sights on something, you go for it.”

His words sent a shiver up my spine; James used to say the same thing about us, that we were young and determined and we were going to have it all. “I know that. And I thought that this was what I wanted. But I sat with these girls at the game. Typical jock girlfriends,” I explained, knowing that Tubby would understand because he played on the varsity football squad. “And this one girl, she said to her boyfriend that I was trying too hard to be different, but that I pretty much was nothing special.”

“That’s not true, and you know it. You’re special. You’re my best friend.”

“Thanks,” I said with a blush. It’s not that I didn’t believe him—it’s just that we so rarely say to the people we care about what they mean to us. “But she said that I was just ‘a fucking janitor,’ and you should’ve heard the way she said it. It really kind stuck with me. It’s not like I always used to be this way. I had big plans.”

“You can still have big plans. It’s never too late to change your mind, again. Isn’t that a woman’s prerogative? To always change her mind?” he joked again.

I laughed this time. “But is it for the wrong reasons, Tub? Shouldn't I be doing it because I want to? This is the first time that I’ve felt like I needed to prove myself to someone, and it makes no sense to me, because I don’t even like the stupid bitch.”

“Maybe because she’s Kris’s friend?”

“Why does it have to come down to him?”

“Because he affects you. You guys have this connection. You’ll talk to him about stuff that you won’t talk to me about.” I shook my head, but Tubby continued. “It’s true. I don’t know why, but for some reason, since you met him, you’ve been acting different. You’re partying less, and I, for one, think it’s a good thing. Go with it.”

“He wants to change me,” I stated. “How is that a good thing? Is there something so wrong with me that he can’t like me for me?”

“Whoa, whoa. Calm down. There’s nothing wrong with you, and if he told you that, then he’s the wrong one.”

I shook my head. “No, he didn’t say that. He just makes me feel that way sometimes.”

“How?” he asked, cocking his head to the side and waiting patiently for my answer. When I didn’t immediately respond, he added, “Come on, Jo. I know you like him. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Looking at him point-blankly, I told him, “He doesn’t like me riding my bike.”

“There’s more to it than that. What aren’t you telling me?”

“His friend died in a motorcycle accident.”

“Fuck. No wonder. Then cut him some slack.”

“I don’t tell Kris that he can’t play hockey just because James died! It’s his life. His decision. And my life is my decision.”

Tubby sighed. “You’re so selfish.”

“What? How does that make me selfish? I’m not the one placing demands on someone else’s life.”

“When you like someone, you don’t just do things for yourself anymore. When someone else is in the picture, you have to take their feelings into account. You like Kris, and if you want him, you’re going to have to be a little more open to how he feels. He won’t put up with your bullshit the way I do,” he teased.

I pursed my lips in thought. I couldn’t deny that Tubby had a point; however, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be open to accept Kris’s stance. After all, he seemed like a relationship guy, which would mean a lot of giving and taking. But how much of myself would I have to give up in order to satisfy him?

“So, what are you going to do?” he asked me.

“That’s a really open-ended question. And I have no fucking idea,” I confessed, feeling like I was stuck at a fork in the road: turn left and stay the same, or turn right and try to assume the same dreams I had adopted years ago. Be uncompromising and alone, or sacrifice and make a friend. I laid down on the bed, and Tubby joined me.

“I’m glad you’re at least thinking about this stuff. I know it’s not easy, but I’m proud of you, Jo.”

I pushed on his shoulder playfully. “You’re such a fucking sap. Whatever happened to being a self-respecting black man?”

“Hey. I am. But I worry about you sometimes, and I’m willing to put my pride aside and act like a white girl if it’ll help you out.”

I laughed. “Thanks.”

“I meant it when I said I’m proud of you,” he quietly repeated. “This is a huge step for you. I want you to trust Kris, because I want to know you’ve got someone here for you when I go.”

We laid in silence for a little while longer. I had so much to think about, but I didn't want to confront that yet. Instead, I changed the subject. “I thought about what I want for my birthday. But I have to ask you, what’s your price range?”

Tubby smiled. “No price range. Whatever you want. You’re gonna be in your twenties, so it’s gotta be special.”

“Good answer,” I replied, proceeding to tell him exactly what I wanted.

5 comments:

  1. My favorite line:“Hey. I am. But I worry about you sometimes, and I’m willing to put my pride aside and act like a white girl if it’ll help you out.”
    So funny, so sweet, so loving. He's a great friend.
    Beautiful update as always.

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  2. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I love Tubby!!

    I was super excited for this one once I saw Tubby was gonna be in it.
    I'm still super pissed off at Jessica... but I'm almost glad that she's making Jo want to better herself.

    I'm not sure if I actually agree with the assessment that Jo is selfish... but I do hope she opens up more to Kris.
    The way I see it, she just doesn't want to get hurt anymore, she's protecting herself... there would be nothing wrong with that; except that she doesn't need to hide from Kris =)

    I love them together so much... I really hope she ends up going out with them.

    More, more, more!!

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  3. Hmm, I wonder what a girl like Jo could possibly want.

    I like Tubby. He’s a good influence...most of the time.

    Hey, I know a pretty smart girl that went to Penn. :)

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  4. Tubby is the bomb, and I hope everyone has a friend (male or female) like him. I am glad he is moving on with his life, which in turn forces Jo to make some choices to move on with hers, and the fact that he sees there is something between Kris and Jo is awesome.

    Great update! Can't wait for the birthday chapter (s)!

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  5. Did I mention that I love Tubby?! The man knowns exactly what he's talking about! I don't care if Jo thinks he's sappy and/or corny, I completely agree with everything he said.

    Jo has so much potential and I know that she's ready to be on her own (well without Tubby and with Kris). I'm so excited for her to make this step into the future!!

    Also! I agree with Val, I can't wait for the birthday chapter(s)! =D

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